Writings and observations

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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Oregon Oregon column


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)

Hotels interested in downtown Boise builds (Boise Statesman)
Smaller turnout at Hampton jazz fest (Moscow News)
Taliban and Bergdahl exchange (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Rain rising in southern Idaho (Nampa Press Tribune)

Oregon tries cutting vaccine waivers (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Gay marriage backers get signatures (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teachers back in school (Medford Tribune)
Rogue whitewater instruction offered (Medford Tribune)
State lottery numbers up (Medford Tribune)
Increasing medical costs at jails (Salem Statesman Journal)

Hastings tenure in reviiew (Kennewick Herald)
Bar cost for alcohol might go up (Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Longview Tennant landfill may close (Longview News)
Vaccinations in Oregon (Longview News)
New PA port director named (Port Angeles News)
Legislature considers supplement budget (Port Angeles News)
Seattle growing faster than suburbs (Seattle Times)
Does Clark County excessively fine felons? (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

idaho RANDY

Backers of the CAFO anti-videoing legislation – “ag-gag” – have already lost the war, even if the legislation passes.

Especially if it passes.

Senate Bill 1337, which has passed the Senate, bars a person who “without the facility owner’s express consent or pursuant to judicial process or statutory authorization, makes audio or video recordings of the conduct of an agricultural production facility’s operations.” More specifically, it’s intended to ban (though various existing laws already theoretically do) the videotaping of what happens to livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations. This is significant in Idaho, home to some very large CAFO operations in the Magic Valley and southwest. The new bill would punish violators with up to a year in jail or a $5,000 fine; critics note that’s the same as the state penalty for animal abuse.

Similar legislation has been proposed, most often failing to pass, in more than a dozen states; a Utah law is being challenged in the courts.

The Idaho bill was specifically prompted by a video shot in 2012 at Bettencourt Dairy at Hansen, showing workers beating on livestock. Last week another video shot at an Idaho CAFO, which added animal sexual abuse to the mix, was released. Both have had many, many views, and they’ve gone viral on social media.

We can’t know if the videos alone would have generated massive international attention. We do know the videos, combined with legislation to ban shooting more of them, has sent interest in the subject sky high, in news reports nationally and overseas. The story is irresistible: An attempt to keep the lid on what people have already seen. But memories aren’t so easily erased. Nor is the technology, which keeps moving in the direction of disclosure, as privacy advocates regularly remind us.

Among other responses to the bill are petitions, some inside Idaho, some by national animal advocacy groups. Petitions usually do little by themselves, but they can assist organization efforts, and they keep the subject visible. Not only smaller and relatively hard-core groups like Mercy for Animals, which released the Bettencourt videos, are involved in this, but also larger and better-funded groups like the Humane Society of the United States. The subject of CAFO livestock has gone mainstream.

If you doubt that, watch the latest series offering from Netflix: The satirical but pointed “Farmed and Dangerous.” (The initial plot hook involves an exploding cow.) Once issues like this get into cultural discussion, national regulation and legislation may, in time, follow. It’s in the spotlight now.

The Magic Valley has benefited recently from arrival of a number of food processors who came there largely because of the easy supply of dairy products. Don’t be surprised if boycotts of some of them start – and lead to business responses. To see this playing out, Google the Wiese Brothers Farms in Wisconsin, and read about the videos and other reports that led a frozen pizza company to cut all ties with them.

Nor is that all. If SB 1337 is signed into law (as seems likely), watch for this: An activist who deliberately violates it, shooting more video intending to get caught – and insisting on a very public trial that could draw more national and international attention, kicking in the cycle all over again.

The problem for livestock operations is not insoluble. The simplest out is to improve and closely monitor operations, then throw open the doors for public viewing. Some CAFO advocates have argued that much of what’s been shown on the videos has been unusual aberrations, that most livestock is treated better before slaughter than the videos suggest; an open door policy would be the one practical way to prove it. Some of what inevitably happens in the best of meat processing businesses is of course difficult for many people to stomach, but the operators could fairly argue that if you want your meat at the supermarket, this is how it has to get there. Since most people do want their steaks and burgers, the argument might settle down, on at least higher ground than it occupies now.

Legislation has its uses. But CAFOs here have among other things a PR problem, and these kinds of laws seldom are much help with that.

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Idaho Idaho column


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)

Reviewing Crane’s treasury investments (Boise Statesman)
Idaho as anti-gay, or not (Boise Statesman)
More rain still needed (Nampa Press Tribune)
Hixon bill to push hospital transparency (Nampa Press Tribune)
Guns on campus v nuclear research (Nampa Press Tribune)
Tribes and team mascots (Pocatello Journal, Sandpoint Bee)
Rangen water call hit region (TF Times News)

Many Chinese studentes coming to UO (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath Union HS renovation, maybe (KF Herald & News)
Medford teacher strike concludes (KF Herald & News)
Limited inspections on OR oil trains (Portland Oregonian)

Boeing’s deals with the state (Everett Herald)
UW says race enters into death penalty (Kennewick Herald)
Hastings record at Hanford (Kennewick Herald)
Reviewing plans for methanol plants (Longview News)
Students at UW subsidizing sports (Seattle Times)
Reviewing coal traffic in WA (Spokane Spokesman)
Battle over minimum wage in WA (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian)
C-TRAN may move to electronic fares (Vancouver Columbian)
Many disable people don’t have services (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take


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)

Plan for two new downtown condos (Boise Statesman)
Trus Joist tech office shuts at Boise (Boise Statesman)
ID House passes wolf control fund (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Tribes criticize Indian-related mascots (Lewiston Tribune)
Cantwell visits Pullman on pulse crops (Lewiston Tribune)
ID Commerce wants new business incentives (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune, Sandpoint Bee)
Land battle continues at Lochsa (Moscow News)
Nampa considers vicious dog cases (Nampa Press Tribune)
Local zoners oppose new zoning bill (Nampa Press Tribune)
High avalanche danger (Sandpoint Bee)

Coos community enhance man draws comments (Coos Bay World)
No-vaccine school exclusion day hits (Coos Bay World)
KF considers synthetic playing field (KF Herald & News)
Medford teacher strike comes to an end (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Battle over medical pot at Phoenix (Ashland Tidings)
Legialative session reaches last two weeks (Portland Oregonian)
At port, $70K for no work (Portland Oregonian)
Douglas oks natural gas pipeline (Roseburg News Review)
No state defense on same-sex marriage provision (Roseburg News Review)

Debate over growing pot on Puget Island (Longview News)
Clark County workers may be allowed to carry guns (Longview News)
Mayoral reversal on police discipline (Seattle Times)
Sears closing Seattle south-downtown location (Seattle Times)
Heavy snowpack falling into place (Tacoma News Tribune)
36K+ enroll in health care at Clark County (Vancouver Columbian)
Inslee in DC, meets with Obama (Vancouver Columbian)
Toppenish school district pays $6.9m in accident (Yakima Herald Republic)
Toppenish may shut off some sewer service (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


I gotta admit. Writing a think piece or two a week can be tough when you hit a dry spell. “Writer’s block” it’s called. Just nothing in the tank. But every so often, inspiration comes along like a lighting strike. BOOM! Such a “loud” inspiration struck the other day – easy enough for even that Palin woman to put it together. Well, almost.

Idaho’s attorney general has been trying to make the case with legislative budget types for a larger legal staff. Eight years he’s been scratching on that door without success. Of course, what success can you have when your hard-to-focus governor passes the idea off wittily by telling the media “We don’t need more money for lawyers. We need fewer Idahoans suing the state.” Butch always was a “big concept” guy.

Last three years, Gem State paymasters – read “taxpayers” – have coughed up $18 million for outside attorneys to help the state’s understaffed staff. $18 million! Downtown legal beagles charge $125 $400 an hour for their help. A.G. Wasden bills his staff lawyer’s work about $54 an hour. As I said, even that Palin woman could subtract a smaller number from a large one and – with help – see the problem. But – alas! She’d be wrong. Again.

Here’s the problem. The 105 people on the third floor of the Idaho Statehouse euphemistically called “legislators.” If you replaced that number with about the bottom 10% of any local high school graduating class, you’d solve the issue. Because “the issues” are outright stupid bills written, passed and sent to various governors. Session after session after session. Year after year after year. And they are SIGNED! Over and over and over.

Case in point. A state senator named Vick has put one of these “ain’t-got-a-chance-in-court” bills in committee. It would charge any Idaho cop who tried to enforce any as-yet unwritten federal gun law with a crime. If the guv signs it into law, which legal meter starts running? The $54 an hour in the A.G.’s office or the $400 an hour downtown? You guess.

Case in point: At a speed to make Carl Lewis proud, the folks on the third floor are ramming through a bill allowing concealed carry of guns on Idaho college campuses. On public record already: no college president wants it – no police chief wants it – most students don’t want it. Teens, alcohol, drugs and concealed 9mm’s. What could possibly go wrong? This one will be in court before the first shot’s fired.

Case in point: Another Senator – Thayne by name – has put this little gem up for consideration. If the current POTUS somehow declares war on another nation – which he can’t – Idaho and all who live there would be exempt. Wouldn’t have to fight. Just ignore the war. Now, even I know only Congress can declare a war. But nobody told Thayne – er – Sen. Thayne. Or George Bush, for that matter. So if a majority of the other 104 upstairs sent this bowl of idiocy down to the governor – and he forgot his one constitutional law class of 50 years ago and signed it – whose legal meter starts on this one? And at what per-hour cost? With what outcome?

Terrible case(s) in point. Ol’ Rep. Luker and his two ALEC-written pieces of guaranteed court time that would allow Idahoans not do business with gay or homosexual citizens – or others who “offended” someone’s “religious sensibilities” – to refuse service regardless of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or other laws. Say, a gay man was robbed but a Pentecostal-believing sheriff refused to do anything based on his “sincerely held religious belief” that the gay man’s “lifestyle” was an affront to the sheriff’s way of life. Can’t you just see the worms struggling to get out of the can on that one? Do we hire the $54 an hour Deputy A.G. or does Idaho government turn to the $400 an hour private folk downtown? Again, to what end? It’s a loser. Mr. Luker has withdrawn his paperwork while he “thinks” about it. Prediction? It’ll come back in some form. This year or next. Bet the farm on it.

NOTE: Arizona has just put this on their books. Let them pay the big legal bucks!

I’ve watched the Idaho Legislature for 50 years or so. And I can tell you – without hesitation – the quality control department has closed. For decades – with assistance from a series of governors on the second floor – Idaho taxpayers have underwritten a permanent “Idaho Lawyer’s Perpetual Retirement Fund.” ILPRF for you government readers. And the won-loss record isn’t even close. Big bucks paid. “Laws” shot down in flames.

Even with pretty constant use of several search engines, I have yet to find a state that’s had to go to court to defend dumb state laws more often than Idaho. Or one that LOST more often! I’ve tried to get my attorney daughter to quit her job on a neighboring state’s A.G.’s legal staff and open up a small office in Boise specializing in just defending the Idaho Legislature. My grandkids could not only GO to Harvard. They could BUY the place!

The kicker to all this: more often than not, Idaho’s A.G. Wasden has told the legally obtuse upstairs – well in advance – what they were doing was likely wrong – probably unconstitutional on its face – another legal loser. To no avail!

The breakdown of quality control in selection of Idaho’s legislators really rests with voters. Most specifically Idaho GOP voters, since that party took almost all the keys to legislative bathrooms away from Democrats years ago by keeping the number of the opposition down to a point they need only one. It’s been those same voters who’ve gullibly given anything breathing with an “R” after it a seat in the chambers. Many sent annually to Boise in recent years have failed the admission test of pounding sand into rat holes but they’re not being exposed by keeping the failed efforts classified. The absolute proof has been this record faulty “legal”output.

Many states are racking up more bad legislation cases these days with the advent of ALEC. The one-size-fits-all effluent coming from that right wing “Hall of Legislative Horrors” has meant poorly-conceived bills on abortion, taxes, limiting voting rights and outright racial and religious discrimination. So, duplicate laws in more states have gone down in flames more often because of thoughtless rubberstamp enactment – time after time. One state loses and eight carbon copies fall as well. But the lawyers. Yes, Virginia, the lawyers – they win. Win, lose or draw. The ILPRF keeps paying off.

So, give a thought to Idaho taxpayers from time to time. They’re paying higher – much, much higher – costs-per-vote than you because they have to pay for all that time in court. And they lose so often.

But the lawyers? The Idaho lawyers. As long as the legislature refuses the A.G. more staff attorneys – and his legal advice – theirs is a splendid life of just staying near an open Statehouse window, listening for the scratching sound of the governor’s pen on the next piece of unconstitutional legislation. The well-worn road from downtown to Statehouse and over to the courthouse is a definition of perpetual motion.

Good old ILPRF. More assured than state retirement.

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ridenbaugh Northwest

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said on February 20 she would not try to defend in court the state’s constitutional provision barring same-sex marriage. Here’s her explanation.

Good morning. As many Oregonians are aware, four couples have brought suit against the state, asking a federal court to find that Oregon’s ban on marriage by couples of the same sex violates the right of equality enshrined in the United States Constitution. I am named as a defendant in the lawsuits, along with the Governor, and it falls on my office to appear on behalf of the state before the court and answer the couples’ claims.

Usually — though not always — my office defends the state in litigation. As Attorney General, I have sworn an oath to uphold our state’s constitution. The lawyers in my office have sworn the same oath. The oath we took also requires us to uphold the Constitution of the United States – which is the supreme law of our land. Of course, we all take these oaths very seriously.

So it is after much careful study and consideration that I stand before you today to announce that the Oregon Department of Justice will not defend the prohibition in our state’s constitution against marriages between people of the same sex. A document called an “answer” filed with the court earlier this morning informed Judge McShane of our decision. Copies are available for you.

Because our office also represents the people of Oregon, a brief explanation is in order.

The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to be treated equally by their government, unless there is a good reason for unequal treatment. That is, any time the government establishes different sets of rules or laws for different sets of people, there must at least be what the law calls a “rational basis” for those differences.

The law in this area is developing and it is now clear that there is no rational basis for Oregon to refuse to honor the commitments made by same-sex couples in the same way it honors the commitments of opposite-sex couples. Marriage is the way that loving couples become family to each other and to their extended families, and there is no good reason to exclude same-sex couples from marriage in Oregon, or from having their marriages recognized here.

Because we cannot identify a valid reason for the state to prevent the couples who have filed these lawsuits from marrying in Oregon, we find ourselves unable to stand before federal Judge McShane to defend the state’s prohibition against marriages between two men or two women.

We will be explaining our legal reasoning to Judge McShane as this case proceeds. Those of you who are interested will be more than welcome to review our pleadings as they are filed. Legal papers that are due by April will fully address our analysis and that of the other parties in the two cases that are now consolidated.

Thank you.

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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)

Big story in the region today: Oregon’s attorney general not defending the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage.

Candidates for supt public instruction (Boise Statesman)
Labrador on religion and marriage (Lewiston Tribune)
New district judgeship at Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
More gay activists arrested at Statehouse (Moscow News)
Caldwell parents consider common core (Nampa Press Tribune)
New rescue mission at Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Legislation on court interest rates moves (Sandpoint Bee)
details released on Gooding school superintendent (TF Times News)
More issues on canyon jump plan (TF Times News)

KF medical pot shop will open (KF Herald & News)
May election will feature 911 tax (KF Herald & News)
AG not defending gay marriage provision (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, Pendleton East Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
More on Medford school strike (Medford Tribune)
Sprout Springs ski area closed (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Court kills Metro land plan (Portland Oregonian)
Real estate vacancies at Salem drop (Salem Statesman Journal)
Bill may help Hynix site renewal (Eugene Register Guard)

Death in jail leads to lawsuit (Everett Herald)
New Snohomish exec on state of county (Everett Herald)
Ferry design could save fuel (Everett Herald)
Storms helping water supply, flood? (Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Columbia County may re-try jail levy (Longview News)
Schools consider obesity issue (Seattle Times)
New Tacoma Amtrak station considered (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark County may let workers carry guns (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take


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)

Top story of the day in:
ID – Death of ‘religious freedom’ bills
OR – Rain and snow pack
WA – State adjust pot rules, revenue

‘Religious freedom’ bills killed (Boise Statesman)
Nampa library project finds efficiencies (Nampa Press Tribune)
Gayle Manufacturing re-bases to Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
State investigates Oneida prosecutor (Pocatello Journal)
Blackfoot and core standards (Pocatello Journal)
Ex-Simplot Aberdeen workers retrain (Pocatello Journal)
Snedden joins race for House 1A (Sandpoint Bee)
Sandpoint council adds Fragoso (Sandpoint Bee)
More dairy video released (TF Times News)
Avalanche risk growing (TF Times News)

More rain, some snow (Corvallis Gazette Times)
OSU students won’t divest on fossil fuels (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Benton DA supports OSU non-release of pay data (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Record earnings for Lithia (Medford Tribune)
Still no teacher strike settlement (Medford Tribune)
Fair manager at KF resigns (KF Herald & News)
KF K-Mart will shut down (KF Herald & News)
May ballot will feature county charter (KF Herald & News)
Ashland still reviews gun options (KF Herald & News)
Phoenix considers pot store ban (Ashland Tidings)
Google may bring ultra-fast fiber to PDX (Portland Oregonian)
Review of school strike avoidance (Portland Oregonian)
Commission candidate blasts anti-strike charges (Roseburg News Review)
Maybe no local pot store bans (Roseburg News Review)
Secretary state website hacked (Salem Statesman Journal)
Marion County tries restricting med pot sales (Salem Statesman Journal)

Snowpack accumulating (Everett Herald, Kennewick Herald)
Hanford cleanup cost estimate $113 billion (Kennewick Herald)
Longview downtown renewal stalls (Longview News)
Rainier schools close over water leak (Longview News)
State reduces pot farm numbers, size, but revenue up (Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Murray visits vet clinic expansion (Port Angeles News)
Longer hours for PA city hall (Port Angeles News)
Some city contractors must use apprentices (Port Angeles News)
Big salmon run expected (Vancouver Columbian)
Legislative status overview (Vancouver Columbian)
Sheriffs deputy labor battle at arbitration (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take