"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)
carlson CHRIS


So now what do the governing bodies of Idaho’s private colleges— Northwest Nazarene University, the College of Idaho and BYU-Idaho— do? The Idaho Legislature, taking leave of all common sense, and abetted by a governor who approaches all issues from a purely ideological standpoint (One doesn’t have to think when ideology has all the answers.), swallowed whole hog the latest gambit by the National Rifle Association to make the Second Amendment an absolute right as opposed to the qualified right the Supreme Court has ruled it is.

By over-whelming majorities they kissed the NRA’s ring and passed legislation allowing students over 21 who have taken an eight-hour enhanced training course to carry concealed weapons on a public college campus.

Even the patron saint of the NRA, Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion in the precedent-setting case (District of Columbia v. Heller) establishing the individual right to keep and bear arms in order to defend one’s home or self, and separated that right from the Constitutional language appearing to tie the right to keeping and maintaining a militia, even the great Scalia wrote that it was a qualified right. He then went on to state that government could in the interest of public safety restrict carrying and bearing arms from high use public places such as courts and schools.

So the NRA pooh-bahs decide to push legislation that will further restrict the “qualifications” Justice Scalia says government can impose in the interest of public safety even when it runs counter to another sacred belief, that of local control. You see NRA executive director Wayne LaPierre, sincerely believes that had their been an armed and trained in proper firearm use one individual in the building when a Virginia Tech student went on a killing rampage that took 38 lives, the perpetrator would have been shot dead and many lives saved.

One can neither prove nor disprove it. All those in Idaho charged with the in loco parentis role of providing a safe learning environment in our public colleges and all those charged with providing police protection in those places believe otherwise.

Common sense says even with the qualifications written into the bill the mixture of immature young people, combined with alcohol or drugs and a dose of depression is a prescription for disaster. The fact that every college and university president and the Idaho State Board of Education as well as every jurisdictional police chief in college communities opposed this legislation meant nothing to the Idaho ideologues hell bent on kow-towing to the NRA’s desires regardless of how stupid it might be when given the common sense test.

Now sit back and watch the number of challenges this legislation will generate. Somewhere in the ranks of students attending Idaho’s private colleges there is probably a 24 year old ex-Marine who has taken the eight hour enhanced safety course even though he maintained an expert rating in both pistol and rifle while a Marine, has the permit to carry a concealed weapon and knows how to shoot to kill.

He sues that he is being discriminated against because his school does not afford him the same protection right that a public school does.

Equally disgusting was the manner in which the bill’s Senate sponsor, Meridian State Senator Curt McKenzie, gave the NRA’s lobbyist 41 minutes to testify and then shut off all dissenting testimony including that from college community police chiefs. When it came time to vote in the Senate only three Republican state senators showed they at least possessed common sense and understood this vote was all about trying to circumscribe Justice Scalia’s “qualifying” the Second amendment right.

The three—Senators Shawn Keough (Sandpoint), John Goedde (Coeur d’Alene) and Dan Johnson(Lewiston)—joined with all seven Democrats in opposing the bill. Sit back now and watch Tea Party challengers to these three try to distort this common sense vote consistent with Justice Scalia as somehow being anti-Second amendment rights.

It will be a deliberate lie by those who try for political advantage by misportraying their sensible vote, but when the end justifies the means to these purists the truth is always an early casualty.

So, where does this drive to make the Second amendment an absolute unqualified right stop? Ask yourself that. And ask where is the common sense in all of this? Rest assured Governor Otter won’t ask because if he did, he would veto this camel’s nose under the tent attempt to circumvent even the NRA’s patron saint who did retain some common sense as he wrote the majority view in the precedent-setting District of Columbia v. Heller case.

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Idaho Gov. Butch Otter converses with Dakota Bates, who chairs the ISU College Republicans, as Mike Webster, Otter’s eastern Idaho field representative, listens. (photo/Mark Mendiola)


mendiola MARK


Top elected Idaho Republicans did not fritter away their time on the Friday afternoon before the evening Bannock County Republican Lincoln-Reagan Banquet Feb. 21 at Pocatello’s Clarion Inn, which drew about 250 of the party’s faithful, including the state’s GOP elite from Boise and Washington.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little discussed education issues at Idaho State University shortly after U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo warned business people at a Mystique Performing Arts and Event Center lunch in Chubbuck of the nation’s worsening fiscal crisis.

Questions about the controversial “guns-on-campus” bill wending its way through the Legislature in Boise were among several questions fielded by Otter and Little in the ISU Student Union Building ballroom. On the previous Thursday, they spent time with Dr. Arthur C. Vailas, Idaho State University’s president.

Vailas told them he had been notified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it does not allow nuclear research and development on campuses where guns are allowed because of security concerns. “I had never heard that,” Otter said, noting about 60 percent of ISU’s R&D is nuclear-related.

Another complication if guns are allowed despite the opposition of the state’s university presidents and law enforcement officials is ISU’s Meridian campus is shared with a high school, and state law forbids guns to be carried at high schools, the governor said.

Asked if he would sign a “guns-on-campus” measure if it is passed by legislators, Otter says he never signals his intentions as lawmakers finalize a bill’s provisions, mentioning he has been a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association.

Little defended the controversial Common Core curriculum being implemented by school districts nationwide that is supported by governors and superintendents. While the U.S. Department of Education puts money into it, it’s really driven by the states, the lieutenant governor said.

In November 2010, the Idaho State Board of Education adopted Common Core standards. In January 2011, the Idaho House and Senate Education Committees gave final approval to adopting Idaho Core Standards in mathematics and English. Some Idaho school districts have implemented those standards, Little noted.

Many Idahoans are concerned that Common Core is part of a national curriculum and the federal government is developing a massive data base on each student in the United States, Little said, noting his father and grandfather had to meet standards to graduate from high school.

Otter noted that of Idaho’s $2.85 billion budget, 68 percent of it goes toward K-12 programs. The State Board of Education has set a goal that 60 percent of Idahoans 24 to 35 will get a degree or certification by 2020.

Right now, Idaho boasts a high school graduation rate that is relatively high at 88-89 percent, but only 38 percent of high school graduates go onto college and even fewer graduate, making Idaho’s college graduation one of the nation’s lowest.

“Work force development is the key to economic growth,” Otter said, commenting that when he became governor in 2007, business organizations would complain they could not hire Idaho students out of high school because of their poor English and math skills.

A surge in Idaho’s community college system has helped reverse that trend at significantly reduced costs per credit hour, and high school students now can buttress their higher education by taking college courses, Otter said.

Since its inception in 2009, the College of Western Idaho in Nampa has become the fastest growing community college in the history of the nation, Otter said. As of the fall of 2013, CWI had 9,200 full-time students and, as of Fiscal 2013, 10,660 non-credit students. Its Fiscal 2014 budget totals nearly $54 million. In 2007, the Albertson Foundation committed $10 million to help start the college.

Otter defended the troubled Idaho Education Network, which recently was given $6.6 million by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee to cover the federal government’s share of funding the broadband network. A lawsuit alleges the state awarded the IEN contract illegally.

The governor noted that 196 Idaho high schools and 89,000 high school students are hooked up to the network, giving them access to courses they otherwise may not be able to take. Otter said he hopes the network also can be extended to middle and grade schools.

“We compete in the real world,” he said.

Before Otter and Little met with constituents at ISU, Crapo explained the monumental fiscal challenges confronting Congress in Washington when he addressed a packed house at the Mystique. It’s generally agreed the debt crisis is seriously putting the American dream on the line, he said.

At the start of the Obama administration, the national debt stood at $10-12 trillion, but it has now swollen to $17 trillion and continues to grow unabated. Crapo warned that Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security all are “screaming toward insolvency” and direly need reforms.

“Congress has a 100 percent perfect record of breaking every budget,” he said.

An economist who testified to a congressional committee said America now faces its worst financial/economic crisis ever with the nation staring at annual budget deficits of $500 billion to $1 trillion for the next decade. Crapo sits on powerful Senate banking and finance committees.

“We’re getting closer and closer to collapse,” Crapo said, warning if the government does not deal with the crisis, the bond market will. “We’re precisely close to when the bond markets will step in and cause it to collapse.”

Frustrated with Congress, Americans are fed up with gridlock, partisanship and personal attacks, but are discouraged and feel they cannot make a difference, Crapo said, urging his audience to get informed and engaged.

Those in attendance robustly applauded when Crapo said he has co-sponsored legislation that requires every bill in Congress to include a description of where the U.S. Constitution authorizes it to be introduced.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Quiet negotiations over ‘add the words’ (Boise Statesman)
Magic Valley water curtailment stopped (Boise Statesman)
Board of Ed criticizes campus guns (Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal, Moscow News)
Idaho Democrats seek FBI look into CCA (Lewiston Tribune)
Debate over proposed Lochsa land exchange (Lewiston Tribune)
WA Supreme Court on text privacy (Moscow News)
Tom Dale will run for Canyon commission (Nampa Press Tribune)
Dispatch fee funding okayed by Caldwell, Canyon (Nampa Press Tribune)
Legislator: ‘Add the words’ efforts ineffective (Pocatello Journal)
Panida Theater board fires staffer (Sandpoint Bee)
Ski season running longer (Sandpoint Bee)
Campus gun bill protests (TF Times News)
Bill on eminent domain, irrigation districts (TF Times News)

Vaccination efforts, low turnout (Eugene Register Guard)
Florence mulls 1-year moratorium on pot shops (Eugene Register Guard)
Moore candidacy for Klamath commission (KF Herald & News)
Campaign on Jackson County GMOs organizes (Ashland Tidings)
Merger of White City, Mountain View schools (Medford Tribune)
Foothills developments advances (Medford Tribune)
Wolf population rises in Oregon (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Debate over wedding services initiative (Portland Oregonian)
Effects of OR pot revenue on kicker (Portland Oregonian)
Cover Oregon tax credits extended (Salem Statesman Journal)

Why did Everett school bond fail? (Everett Herald)
Hanford tank waste an issue for Inslee (Kennewick Herald)
Layoffs after Umatilla chem plant demolished (Kennewick Herald)
Court says text messages are private (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Longview OKs zoning for pot (Longview News)
Strong smelt harvest expected (Longview News)
Supreme Court on biomass plant pollution (Port Angeles News)
Nippon Paper mill stopped over tech issues (Port Angeles News)
Seattle viaduct work won’t finish till 2016 (Seattle Times)
Seattle regulates car service driver numbers (Seattle Times)
ID Democrats seek FBI review of CCA (Spokane Spokesman)
Chambers Bay may get new development (Tacoma News Tribune)
Oil transit companies won’t attend new forum (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima job picture improving (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

ridenbaugh Northwest

After commenting a couple of weeks ago that the Idaho legislature was mistaken not to pass legislation to “add the words” to provide employment, housing and other other protections on the basis of sexual orientation or identity, Republican former Governor (1995-99) Phil Batt followed up with this opinion article widely reprinted in Idaho newspapers.

The Idaho Legislature has once again decided to take no action to include sexual orientation under our anti-discrimination statutes. Instead, lawmakers seriously considered state approval of anti-gay incidents if they are done because of religious convictions.

These procedures and the protests generated by them have attracted the attention of major news outlets in large cities and even that of London newspapers.

Idaho leaders have said this is of no interest to present or prospective business opportunities in our state. In my career as a legislative leader and as a governor, I found otherwise. Large Idaho corporations, and particularly Hewlett-Packard and Boise Cascade, were very much concerned about Idaho’s reputation regarding tolerance.

The long presence of practicing Nazis in North Idaho caused negative press coverage of our beloved state worldwide. HP executives and other Idaho businesspeople helped force these scumbags out. However, the main credit goes to North Idaho citizens, who detested their abominable presence.

When an Idaho congresswoman said people of color would not live in North Idaho because it was too cold for them, we got another wave of bad publicity. She recanted her views and our good name was again restored.

Our Idaho executives told me that the state’s reputation is important to their businesses. If it is damaged, sales are hurt. Perhaps more important, it becomes much more difficult to attract outstanding, well-qualified and forward-thinking people to apply for Idaho employment.

Such is the case for a couple of my grandchildren. Max is gay. He attended Boise schools. He felt marginalized and troubled by some of the treatment he received from students and teachers. Ultimately, he dropped out, obtained his GED and moved to San Francisco.

He waited tables and washed dishes until he became a legal California resident. He then obtained a fine arts degree from a leading design school.

Max achieved a bachelor’s degree, then a master’s degree. Even before he left school, he had several job offers in the computer design field. He accepted one at a high salary plus valuable options. He is now earning considerably more and has had numerous opportunities to advance further.

His sister, Anna, followed him to California, became a resident and entered the higher education system at Cal-Berkeley. She was a great student and was shepherded through her bachelor’s and master’s degrees by professors who took a special interest. She is now pursuing a doctorate degree in biochemistry at the University of Southern California.

These young folks love Idaho and I wish they lived here so that I could see them more. However, they will never make this their home again as long as we maintain our disdain for people who are “different.”

I would like to have somebody explain to me who is going to be harmed by adding the words to our civil rights statutes prohibiting discrimination in housing and job opportunities for homosexuals.

Oh, I forgot, that might hurt the feelings of the gay bashers.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Trader Joe’s coming Friday (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Closed talk on CCA prison agreement (Boise Statesman)
Legislature on advisory board for treasurer (Boise Statesman)
WA starts issuing pot permits next week (Lewiston Tribune)
JFAC OKs $1 million to fight gay marriage (Moscow News)
Board of Ed study on high wage jobs (Moscow News)
Obermayr tries again for Latah commission (Moscow News)
How Materne got to Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
School budget ‘flexibility’ reviewed (Nampa Press Tribune)
Treasury oversight board progresses (Nampa Press Tribune)
Children/faith healing bill gets no hearing (Nampa Press Tribune)
ISU’s hillside I to be replaced (Pocatello Journal)
Campus gun bill will raise security costs (Sandpoint Bee)
Gooding charter school sees mercury spill (TF Times News)
Idaho Youth Ranch will leave Rupert in 2016 (TF Times News)

Police, landlords working on issues (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Indian mascot bill goes to governor (Corvallis Gazette Times)
New Lane County administrator picked (Eugene Register Guard)
Homeless center Whoville closes this spring (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene library branches could remain open (Eugene Register Guard)
Not enough money to accept Klamath Project bids (KF Herald & News)
Tribes in NW blasting pot legalization (KF Herald & News)
Dispute over gravel business at Gold Hill (Medford Tribune)
Southern ed service district loses Grants Pass (Medford Tribune)
Splits among Republicans at Dorchester (Medford Tribune)
Hermiston will oppose pot outlet (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Future of Hermiston ag station (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Oracles reduces its Cover Oregon staff (Portland Oregonian)
Wolf tracks found on Mount Hood (Portland Oregonian)
Lottery reform bill fails (Portland Oregonian)

New Snohomish precinct delayed (Everett Herald)
House Democrats: charge OR residents sales tax (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Plan to reduce liquor tax (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Vancouver labor dispute tensions remain (Longview News)
Nippon Paper plant at PA idled (Post Angeles News)
Seattle considers universal pre-school (Seattle Times)
Seattle police misconduct cases reviewed (Seattle Times)
Spokane incinerator power bill fails (Spokane Spokesman)
Pro-death penalty advocates blast Inslee plan (Tacoma News Tribune)
Franciscan Health leader retires (Tacoma News Tribune)
Schools built by lottery money? (Tacoma News Tribune)
Yakima: share pot revenues with cities (Yakima Herald Republic)
Sunnyside plans center remodel (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


When someone has an asset or significant advantage in life, it may’ve come from hard work, inheritance, luck or just serendipitous circumstance. Most of us don’t give such a situation much thought and go on our way.

But when someone so advantaged – regardless of how that advantage was acquired – brags about it or expects the rest of us to construct a special pedestal from which the wealthy can gaze lord-like over the rest of us, I get pissed. Such is my state at the moment.

We poor plebeians are suffering a torrent of billionaire bitching as some of them suddenly come out from the secured grounds of their compounds to complain we don’t appreciate them sufficiently. We’re being told they don’t deserve our scorn – that we’re treating them the way Nazis treated Jews – we “have-nots” should stop complaining about the “have’s” and spend more time admiring their success – voting should be based on “one-dollar-one-vote” – people who pay no taxes shouldn’t be allowed to vote – yadda, yadda, yadda.

Much of the arrogant blathering has been so ridiculous as to make me wonder how in hell they were smart enough to make a pile of bucks. Maybe Daddy left it to ‘em.

One of the craziest voices is that of Bud Konheim, CEO of a luxury fashion brand. I’m not going to give the bastard a dollop of publicity so if you want to know which one, look it up.

He says 99% of Americans should stop complaining and realize how lucky they are. He says our “poverty level is wealth in 99% of the rest of the world. Exact quote: “The guy’s making, oh my God, $35,000 a year. Why don’t we try that out in India or some countries we can’t even name. China. Anyplace. The (in America) guy is wealthy.”

If you’re trying to make sense out of that blather, don’t bother.

Konheim’s disconnect from reality interested – and revolted – Yale School of Management prof Jeffrey Sonnenfeld who said such “thinking” shrieks of “insensitivity and grandiosity.” “It makes you wonder about other decisions he’s making,” Sonnenfeld said.

Then there’s billionaire Tom Perkins who believes the mass of us poor folk are making “progressive war on the 1% as did the Nazis on anti-Semitism.” Perkins also has proposed giving each of us as many votes in elections as we have dollars in the bank. He, of course, would get a billion ballots or two. Damn! The last 15 years of her life, my mother – with only Social Security and family care for income – paid not a dollar in taxes. But she never missed an election in her life. Doubt her citizenship record could be matched by ol’ Perk.

Fellow billionaire Sam Zell defended Perkins with this gem: “The 1% works harder.” Said it with a straight face, too.

AOL’s Tim Armstrong slashed corporate contributions to 401(k) programs of thousands of employees because of high medical costs of two births. Said his self-insurred company just couldn’t afford it. Lululemon CEO Chip Wilson even blamed the failure of his company’s latest line of yoga pants on the women who bought them. “Some women’s bodies just actually don’t work,” he opined arogantly. And unfeelingly. Bet he sleeps alone.

Several years ago, social psychologist Paul Piff rigged a Monopoly game, sat back and watched the players. He found those who were given more money at the beginning of the game – those who used the advantage to get richer quicker and acquire more property – got ruder, less sensitive to “poorer” players and more demonstrative about their own “successes.”

When the game was over, Piff asked the winners how they did it. Most replied it was their wise purchase of property, handling their money well, quick thinking and making the right decisions. None of them brought up the privilege and extra bucks they got at the beginning.

In another dip into our social connection – and behavior – with wealth, Pitt found people making less than $25,000 a year gave 44% more of their income to charity than people making upwards of $200,000.

For every Warren Buffett among the monied class there seems to be a significant number of rich deadheads who’ve forgotten where they came from, how to relate to others not so privileged, are isolated in their “thinking” and totally divorced from the realities of people who make up the vast majority earth’s population providing their wealth. We’re currently being verbally assaulted by such monied flatulence.

One of my favorite lines from the theater was written by Philip Barry for “The Philadelphia Story” in 1939. A working stiff photographer was standing to the side of a large group of millionaires. All were jovial and enjoying the company of each other in their plush surroundings.

“Nothing like watching the idle rich enjoying their idols,” he opined.

As a proud member of the 99% or the 47% or the pick-any-percent crowd, I’d advise these guys – and the others hiding behind their security systems – to read up on Dr. Piff’s rigged Monopoly game and its findings.

Oh, yes. As Flo used to say, they can also “Kiss my grits”.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Maximus workers surprised by job losses (Boise Statesman)
Limited funds for roads in Asotin (Lewiston Tribune)
Pot zones approved for Pullman (Moscow News)
Zoning design control may be limited (Moscow News)
WSU sets up undocumented student help board (Moscow News)
New Walmart at Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bill to allow 80 mph speeds advances (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa teacher negotiations center on health (Nampa Press Tribune)
Grace, North Gem School Districts may merge (Pocatello Journal)
CSI might spend $100k to deal with gun bill (TF Times News)
New transparency at TF economic group (TF Times News)

Benton considers new jail plan (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Corvallis school board paying some legal costs (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Corvallis property maintenance draws crowd (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Titling undocumented drivers license ballot issue (Eugene Register Guard, Ashland Tidings)
Natural Grocers coming to Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath Union HS remodel considered (KF Herald & News)
Hoppe plans circuit court run (Ashland Tidings)
Eagle Point shop owner plans commission run (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher vote still ahead (Medford Tribune)
Tamastslikt wind turbine starts (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hermiston officials planning ahead (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Debate over small town chicken ban (Portland Oregonian)
Mexican narco-lord arrest ripples to Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
Local governments may get lottery funds (Portland Oregonian)
Salem develoiper faces big tax lien (Salem Statesman Journal)

Management at morgue changes (Everett Herald)
Senate Democrats would end tax breaks, fund schools (Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian)
More urban growth acreage okayed (Kennewick Herald)
New welcome sign at Longview (Longview News)
Sheriff warns of jail bond loss impacts (Longview News)
Problems with Bertha began in Japan (Seattle Times)
PA Lincoln theatre will close (Port Angeles News)
Spokane Valley bans texting by council at meeting (Spokane Spokesman)
KPBX public radio moves to new digs (Spokane Spokesman)
School testing at Tacoma (Tacoma News Tribune)
Park at Gig Harbor opens (Tacoma News Tribune)
C-Tran shows off bus proposal (Vancouver Columbian)
Snowpack at Yakima now at average (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

We’ll see how this goes … but the plan is to start posting podcasts here from time to time. We’re trying out a service called Spreaker.com, and if it works well our hope is to start including here the voices of a number of people, most (not necessarily all) associated with Ridenbaugh Press.

This first is really just a tester; don’t judge it too harshly. Keep watch and we should be back with more, and better soon.

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trahant MARK


President Obama’s next budget, due to be released soon, will be good news for Indian Country.

The Washington Post describes the plan this way: “With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans. Instead, the president will focus on pumping new cash into job training, early-childhood education and other programs aimed at bolstering the middle class, providing Democrats with a policy blueprint heading into the midterm elections.”

So does this mean austerity will end in Indian Country? Unfortunately, no. But this budget is a new approach — and it will have many implications in Indian Country.
Let me explain. It starts with this whole business of “austerity” or a government that shrinks itself and the economy.

The problem, essentially, in recent years is that Democrats have bought into the premise of austerity. There is this idea that a smaller government will somehow right the economy because the private sector will then create more jobs. Nonsense. There is far more evidence that when government invests in the economy there will be growth ahead.

The president’s budget adds an important twist to this debate by calling for sharp reductions in military spending. This will not be popular with Republicans (even though the U.S. spends $600 billion a year, more than the next ten nations combined on defense.)

There should be little debate among tribal governments about austerity. There is not much of a private sector in tribal nations to pick up the slack. So any significant reduction in government, whether it be welfare payments or support for law enforcement programs, reduces the number of jobs at home.

Spending for programs that directly benefit American Indians and Alaska Natives — such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs or the Indian Health Service — are from the portion of the budget that’s considered discretionary spending. Every dollar has to be appropriated by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president. There has to be a “deal” to spend the money.

And discretionary spending is shrinking. Last year it totaled about $1.2 trillion and is projected to drop by $7 billion, less than 1 percent, in 2014.

The budgets that are growing are “mandatory” spending, money that’s automatic, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The difference between the growing mandatory spending and the shrinking discretionary accounts are why it is so essential for American Indians and Alaska Natives to sign up under the Affordable Care Act. It moves funding for Indian health into the automatic spending category.
The president’s new budget does not change that landscape. There are still huge fights ahead over discretionary spending and mandatory spending will continue to grow.

But now, at least, the budget negotiations will not start off with concessions to Republicans. Every part of the budget will be negotiated with the president’s party calling for investment and Republicans countering with more austerity.

The bad news for tribal communities is that any budget that this Congress enacts will be less, far less, that what the president proposes. There are not enough votes in either House to end austerity.

This, of course, is why elections matter. The philosophical debate between austerity versus investment ought to be front in center in November 2014.

It’s not enough, it seems to me, for a candidate to “support” Indian programs all the while advocating for budgets that shrink government because Indian Country cannot escape that larger ideology. On the other hand, should the investment argument win, Indian Country will benefit.

In its budget outlook, the National Congress of American Indians said that “shrinking resources due to sequestration and the Budget Control Act have adversely affected tribes’ ability to meet the needs of their communities.” NCAI called for “an honorable budget for Indian Country will empower tribes so they can provide their people with good health care, quality education, decent and adequate housing, and a level of public safety that any American citizen has the right to demand.”

We won’t know for a couple of weeks if the president’s budget meets the test of “an honorable budget.” But at least we know it’s headed in the right direction. It’s time for austerity to go away.

Mark Trahant is the 20th Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is a journalist, speaker and Twitter poet and is a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Comment on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TrahantReports

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Ex-wife of Sen. McKenzie won’t be charged (Boise Statesman)
Job losses at Maximus call centers (Boise Statesman)
Increases in school funding unlikely (Boise Statesman)
Assessing college degree value (Moscow News)
WSU Floyd contract continued (Moscow News)
Lamar running for Latah commission (Moscow News)
Simplot closure at Nampa (Idaho Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Expansion at Plexus electronics plant (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nuclear research, guns on campus (Pocatello Journal)
Rangen water call held off (TF Times News)

Redesigning Henley Elementary (KF Herald & News)
Temporary manager at fair (KF Herald & News)
Eugene city looks at sick leave (Eugene Register Guard)
Lane County audit released (Eugene Register Guard)
OR House would allow local pot bans (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
TriQuint Semiconductor will merge (Portland Oregonian)
Legislators work on metro land use deal (Portland Oregonian)

Arlington losing its Olympic theatre (Everett Herald)
Naturopath’s cancer practices questioned (Seattle Times)
Spokane won’t oppose tribal casino (Spokane Spokesman)
Protesters try to stop deportations (Tacoma News Tribune)
New CEO at MultiCare Health in Pierce (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark County may outsource some labor work (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


Idaho Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter has lost all touch with reality. His slandering U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill at a Capitol for a Day in Craigmont by accusing this distinguished jurist of not being in touch with Idaho values goes beyond the pale. Sadly, it demonstrates the great degree to which the governor himself just doesn’t get what is going on in this world.

Otter is the one who doesn’t get Idaho values.

Idaho values education. Otter clearly does not. His eight years have seen educational support eviscerated by him and the Legislature. Idaho now ranks 50th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of per pupil spending on education. The Albertsons Foundation is running ads pleading with him and the Legislature not to fail Idaho. They ignore that a third of Idaho’s third graders can’t read at grade level and only one out of 10 Idaho high school graduates actually obtains a college degree.

Idahoans soundly rejected the Luna/Otter reform initiatives. Otter’s Pollyanish response was the people rejected the process not his proposals.

Idaho values honesty. Otter clearly does not. His shuck and jive on Corrections Corp. of America’s bilking the state of millions by falsifying pay stubs regarding its management of the Idaho Correctional Center outside Boise, and then settling for $1 million before the results of any investigation are known is patently deceitful and dishonest.

He claims not to have raised taxes but three-fourths of Idaho school districts have had to pass supplemental property tax levies to compensate for state decreases. That is a tax shift and a tax increase pure and simple. But go ahead and keep up the Big Lie that it isn’t, governor.

Idaho values its wilderness and its public lands with access to all. Otter does not. He has opposed fellow Republican Mike Simpson’s carefully crafted Boulder/White Clouds legislation on the simple grounds that there’s enough wilderness in Idaho.

He is supporting the stupidity of the state looking into taking over federal lands but, of course, there’ll be no new taxes needed.

Idaho values its children. Otter does not. Early childhood education benefits are well known, but Otter does not support the state providing funding for preschool classes.

Idaho values offering a helping hand to those need — a hand up, not a hand out. More than 100,000 Idahoans living at or near the poverty line would benefit from a Medicaid expansion, which would pay all the costs now absorbed by the state and county indigent funds.

After three years Idaho would have to pick up 10 percent of the cost. Otter and the Legislature are literally standing by while hundreds of their fellow citizens will die prematurely. But does he care? Idahoans value compassionate conservatism, but Otter, secure in the bubble of his millions, has no idea of the daily struggle most Idahoans face.

Idaho values hard work and an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Yet Otter brags about having the lowest required minimum wage in the country. He has no idea what a living wage is that a family needs to survive on today.

Idaho values competition, but Idahoans understand what their governor does not get: Because of an inferior educational system and a low wage scale, Idahoans don’t have a chance to even get on the field in future competitions.

Idaho values fairness and abhors discrimination. Yet despite support for adding the words of “sexual orientation and gender identity” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act from his supposed mentor, former Gov. Phil Batt, Otter supports continuing to maintain the image the rest of the world holds that we’re a backwards state full of bigots.

His failure to speak out in support of “add the words” is simply deplorable.

Idaho values a fair and equitable tax policy. Otter does not. He continually supports property tax relief for the rich and large landowners and doesn’t mind sticking it to the middle class and the poor.

Idahoans value unity as in being a state in the United States. Otter plays footsie with the Tea Party types who believe in nullification and secession. He forgets that when he says the Pledge of Allegiance he says the words “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Butch Otter is the one out of touch, not Lynn Winmill. Otter ought to resign now and let Lt. Gov. Brad Little step up.

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So what emerged out of the Medford teacher strike, the labor uproar that dominated news in southern Oregon virtually all of the first part of this year?

Medford Superintendent Phil Long said the settlement means “moving forward, putting our schools back together and repairing relationships with people.”

You might think they could have gotten that far without a strike.

In fairness, the details of the terms weren’t supposed to be released publicly until the teachers had a chance to see them and vote. That is the way these things usually go.

But you might think too a little more transparency would help.

It might have in Portland too, where teachers and administration came very close to what would have been the district’s first strike ever. (For some reason, the leadup to strike got a lot more media and local attention in Medford than in Portland.)

Portland is a fairly union-friendly city, but many people there may have felt a little confused: What was the dispute really about, at base? What was each side asking for, what did it insist on? The district’s patrons and taxpayers might have been better able to decide who to root for if they had known.

There wasn’t much such information last week. Spokesmen for negotiators seemed to characterize the outcome as a compromise, which might at least make the patrons feel better. But, a compromise between what?

The main indicator at Medford seemed to be that the issue related to “the financials” – but exactly what that translated to was less than clear.

Strikes, and near-strikes, often leave hard feelings behind. Best way to resolve that, to move forward and maybe avoid conflict to this level next time around, might be opening the process to a little more public airing.

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