Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Day: February 9, 2014”

Immediate and longer term intentions

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

There's the short-term and immediate, and the long-term and the eventual.

The political side of discussion within Idaho about the arrest last week of more than 40 protesters for gay rights at the Idaho Statehouse – wearing “Add the 4 Words” shirts and hands over their mouths – tended to focus on the first. That's understandable, because it's what's most immediately right in front of us.

The protesters did not settle for rallying on the sidewalk outside, or even in the Rotunda, where such events sometimes also happen. They stood in front of the main doors (there are others as well) to the Senate, shortly before the floor session started for the day, blocking the doorway from being closed. Since that ran afoul of Senate rules of procedure (as they surely knew, especially since their ranks included a former senator, Nicole LeFavour), they were removed by law enforcement, and (as they also expected) arrested. The Senate even passed a suspension of one of its rules to allow for arrest of LeFavour, who as a former senator was (by rules) allowed on the floor during sessions. Be it noted that the Senate Democrats voted for that rule suspension alongside the Republicans.

The incident ticked off quite a few legislators, including a few who might sympathize with the protesters' cause. Whatever miniscule chance they had of progressing their cause in this session, to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to anti-discrimination law in the state, was squashed.

That's the short term. But it's not the whole story, as some legislators realized. Senate Majority Bart Davis, for one, was quoted as saying, “Today, it hurt their cause. But as time goes by, I don’t think it does. She’s [LeFavour] not the only voice on the issue.”

To see what he meant, try Googling “Idaho gay arrest” - look for news stories – and see what comes up. KBOI-TV's website headlined, “Arrest of gay rights activists in Idaho gets national spotlight,” and they weren't kidding. On a quick try I pulled up 177 news article on the incident, many well illustrated (there were good photo ops), which guaranteed visible play. Large national blogs carried pieces. The news organizations ranged from the Guardian in England to the Province in Vancouver, British Columbia, from the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise to the Tribune in Seymour, Indiana. In USA Today: “Dozens of gay rights activist arrested in Idaho.” There was a lot of TV coverage as well.

The story had staying power because it reinforced something else: The controversy associated with progress through the legislature of Representative Lynn Luke's “religious freedom” bills. That has drawn no lack of attention either, from the Everett (Washington) Herald to the Danbury (Connecticut) News Times to the Houston (Texas) Chronicle. The Greenfield (Indiana) Reporter headlined, “House panel votes to keep religious freedom bill alive, dozens say it enshrines discrimination.”

Guess what Idaho is getting renowned for these days?

That reputational damage will have its effects. Idahoans do pay some attention to what people think about them, much as many would like to think otherwise, and the national attention will not go unnoticed, or un-responded to. The 44 protesters last week may have irritated and turned off legislators in the short run, but they got attention. If their intent is to play a longer game, they may have taken a step forward.

On the front pages

news

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)

Legislative cottage-related contributions returned (Boise Statesman)
Indigent defense changes ahead (Nampa Press-Tribune)
Pocatello gay rights petition (Pocatello Journal)
Sheriffs officequit over lack of PERSI (TF Times News)
Elder abuse penalties would rise (TF Times News)
Hot springs may become aquaponic farm (TF Times News)

Snow storm turns icy (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, KF Herald & News, Roseburg News Review)
Medford teacher negotiation still on (Medford Tribune)
Spotty work history for Cover Oregon exec (Portland Oregonian)
Trains stopping at intersections (Roseburg News Review)
Many ansentees at area schools (Portland Oregonian)
Salem YWCA alters name, purpose (Salem Statesman Journal)

Obstacles for Skykomish River mini-dam (Everett Herald)
Scale-back for health exchange (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Longview port tax increase reviewed (Longview News)
Root fungus may be taking hold in trees (Port Angeles News)
Tribal fishing Boldt ruling in review (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
Varied backgrounds for area homeless (Spokane Spokesman)
Pierce County property taxes rise (Tacoma News Tribune)
Ice storm replacing snow (Vancouver Columbian)
Developer: oil terminal would kill waterfront plan (Vancouver Columbian)
Arrival of stink bugs (Yakima Herald Republic)

What the storms may do

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

The latter half of last week was dominated by weather, some serious weather. Snow dumped hard on western Oregon, and across much of the Cascades and parts of eastern Oregon too.

The storms weren't fierce (the snow wasn't accompanied by much wind), but the sheer volume of snow was greater than the region had seen in five years. It was enough to shut down the Legislature, along with all sorts of other organizations – schools, universities, some businesses and a lot of what didn't really have to be open.

As Oregon moves past that unexpected mass of weather this week, what will be most notable to watch will be … statistics.

Thing is, Oregon (and most of the west) has badly needed a lot more precipitation this winter than it has been getting. Look at this week's snowpack chart (in the environment section), and you'll find that while most all the basins around the state last year at this point were running about normal in terms of available water, this year they tend to be running about half as much – low enough that if the trends up to the last week or so maintains, Oregon could hit some serious drought this summer.

That conclusion isn't foregone, though. There are meteorologists who think Oregon could have a wet spring, and that surely would help avert a bad case of the dries. So would some good snowfall now.
So watch the numbers on the chart this week, and then again next week. They could be something of a forecast of the months ahead.