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Posts published in February 2014

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)

Tract near library may be developed (Boise Statesman)
Farm bill helping forests (Boise Statesman)
Counties on who pay for indigent health (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow considers pedestrian routes, disabled (Moscow News)
80 mph speed limits? (Pocatello Journal)
Keough wants boating act revised (Sandpoint Bee)
Tablets in jail (TF Times News)
Schools getting set up for wireless (TF Times News)
More debate over Snake canyon jump (TF Times News)

Benton County cracks down on e-cigs (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Regional climate center set for Corvallis (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Parking plan draws outrage (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Independent board for OIT? (KF Herald & News)
Drought called for Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Ashland monitors drought conditions (Ashland Tidings)
Viral hit on Ashland ISP (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher battle goes critical (Medford Tribune)
Medford might expand sports park (Medford Tribune)
Abuse at Eagle Point school, legal settlement (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton discusses drone tests (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Bill to end some chemical in child products (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon cub removed from endangered list (Portland Oregonian)

Bed bugs at Snohomish work center (Everett Herald)
Former school chief gets reprimand (Kennewick Herald)
Kelso considers drug shelters (Longview News)
Clallam corrections continues lockdown (Port Angles News)
Clallam hearings examiner named (Port Angeles News)
Elk deaths tagged to infection (Port Angeles News)
Microsoft's new CEO reviewed (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
New police contract released (Spokane Spokesman)
Avista seeks higher rates (Spokane Spokesman)
Boeing South Carolina work said incomplete (Tacoma News Tribune)
Special transportation session proposed (Vancouver Columbian)
Farm bill helps Yakima area crops (Yakima Herald Republic)

Will you die waiting?

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

On a tribal bulletin board this week these chilling words were posted: “Due to budget issues, Contract Health Service will be on Priority One until further notice.”

Why are these words frightening? It means the underfunded local unit of the Indian Health Service is out of money on an important line item. It means that unless your illness is serious -- threatening life or limb -- you will have to wait.

Sometimes that wait can be deadly. And it’s wrong. It reflects a system that is out of balance and the consequences are life threatening to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

A couple of years ago, at a Senate hearing, a story was told about a heart attack patient who was left on a gurney with a note taped on her thigh that read: “If you admit this person, understand we're out of contract health care money. Do it at your risk.”

The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is supposed to eliminate this underfunding. The complicated mechanism is designed to increase the number of American Indians and Alaska Natives with basic insurance, Medicaid, tribal insurance, or a policy from a marketplace exchange, money that then goes into the Indian health system directly. The Affordable Care Act is designed to substantially increase third-party billing, a revenue stream that does not require appropriation from Congress. And, I should add, a revenue stream that could add a couple of billion dollars to the Indian health system. Full funding ... in theory.

So what’s the problem? Why is there a bulletin board warning patients that’s there is not enough money?

The main reason is that critics of the Affordable Care Act are determined to make certain that this law is a wreck. Instead of figuring how to make it so, many so-called leaders are working overtime to tank every aspect of the act.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson said it was time to “recognize reality” and “deal with the people that are currently covered under Obamacare.”

But that was then. Now three Republican senators, Richard Burr (N.C.), Tom Coburn, (Okla.), and Orrin Hatch (Utah), are launching a campaign to start the debate all over, promoting a “replacement” plan for Obamacare. That plan would make it even more difficult to fund the Indian health system. “Under our proposal, restrictions that limit the ability for veterans, service members, and individuals receiving care through the Indian Health Service would be removed in order to ensure that these individuals also have the ability to benefit from health savings accounts in managing their health care needs and expenses,” according to the plan. (more…)

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)

Crane says financial controls improved (Boise Statesman)
Gay rights demonstrators arrested (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Deaths of owls along I-84 (Boise Statesman)
Guns on campus opposed (Lewiston Tribune, Nampa Press Tribune, Pocatello Journal, Sandpoint Bee)
What's 'local' in farmers market? (Moscow News)
Twin Falls blocks lease for canyon jump (TF Times News, Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello bird die-off mysterious (Pocatello Tribune)
Ammonium nitrate spill studied (Sandpoint Bee)
Halverson, former sheriff, re-jailed (TF Times News)

Civic stadium may go to city (Eugene Register Guard)
Willamette fish delisted from endangered (Eugene Register Guard)
Rainfall near KF 15% of normal (KF Health & News)
3/4 of county dogs aren't licensed (KF Herald & News)
Ashland reconsiders gun rules (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher negotiations going public (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Harry & David sales improve (Ashland Tidings)
Good bond rating for Pendleton school bond (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Legislature's gun debate begins (Portland Oregonian)
Patent trolling targeted in legislation (Portland Oregonian)
Trader Joe's drops NE Portland plan (Portland Oregonian)
Debate over SEIU local sm merger (Salem Statesman Journal)
DeFazio wants hearing on drought (Salem Statesman Journal)
Oregon Legislature opens (Salem Statesman Journal)

College business degree response (Bremerton Sun)
Road widening at Belfair (Bremerton Sun)
Senior snared in gambling prohibition (Everett Herald)
Costly sewer repairs ahead (Everett Herald)
USDA will buy grapes to raise prices (Kennewick Herald)
Super Bowl win celebrated (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Port Angeles News, Longview News)
Many speeding tickets at school (Longview News)
Casino pays gambling tax to Longview (Longview News)
Bowing 787 errors corrected (Seattle Times)
Gay rights protesters at Boise (Spokane Spokesman)
State bill seeks to block NSA spying (Yakima Herald Republic)

But not too much

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

The Seahawks might have won and they might have lost on Sunday.

Prognosticators were split; might thought the contest would be tightly fought. Last week Stephen Colbert has a string of football greats on his program, and he asked them who was likely to win. Most guessed Seattle, but the universal attitude was one of caution: This is a back-to-the-wall prediction, but the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos are two closely matched teams, one (the Broncos) with a better record in officer, the other (the Seahawks) better on defense, but overall a very close call.

The 43-8 blowout was a stunner. The cheers in Seattle could almost be heard from hundreds of miles away; from the beginning of the game to the end, their team dominated.

It was a big high – and the implications of putting it that way go beyond any easy jokes about legalized marijuana.
The city will, in many respects, be floating on this for a while. And there's nothing wrong with a bit of cheer.
But remember: Big Bertha is still stuck in the underground of downtown. The city still has all the problems it had last month and last year, and so does the state of Washington. A Super Bowl win, however satisfying, isn't a cure for anything; it's a temporary high.

The question is whether Seattle simply enjoys it and moves on, or whether it becomes addicted, whether its people start to feel such a win is something they must have – again – if Seattle is to take its proper place among cities, or in their hearts and minds.

That would be a problem. Super Bowl wins are transient things. Repeat winners do come around, but not often; the odds are someone else will be on top a year from now.

Seattle would be none the less for it, just as – today – it would be none the less if the 2014 win had been Denver's. And remember, from the perspective of a few days ago: The Seahawks might have won and they might have lost.

So celebrate, brag a little if you must, and enjoy it. Just … not too much.

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)

The Super Bowl was of course on just about every daily newspaper front page today. In Washington, a simple Super Bowl graphic covered the whole news space for the front pages of most dailies in the state.

Caldwell cops rousting crows (Boise Statesman)
Trustees at CSI say no guns on campus (TF Times News)
Delay in Canyon West mall build (TF Times News)

Gelser plans mandatory sentence for cop killers (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Possibly YMCA next to civic stadium (Eugene Register Guard)
Ashland more increase filmmaker regulation (shland Tidings)
Teacher negotiations mediated (Ashland Tidings)
Legislature begins anew (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)

Super bowl graphic only (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic,Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Minimal snowpack (Port Angeles News)
Cleaning in mill area next year maybe (Port Angeles News)
Signatures on local petitions considered (Vancouver Columbian)

The Luna scenario

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Before the conventional-wisdom version of the departure and replacement of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna sinks in further, it's time to poke a few holes.

The scenario was laid out in the January 28 Idaho Statesman: “Tom Luna takes one for the team.” His announcement of not seeking re-election this year, in that telling, had partly to do with clearing politics out of this legislative session's consideration of the schools reform package, and partly to allow the Republican Party to move on from the “Students Come First” package Luna once championed, and which was trounced by the voters. And – snap of fingers, in a puff of smoke, in the public's view – the name of Melinda Smyser emerged as the all but unstoppable replacement come this November.

We'll not descend here into trying to read Luna's mind, or anyone else's. But before anyone thinks they've been given the final word on the matter ...

Luna announced his non-run on January 27. About a month earlier, on December 20, he was quoted as saying he fully intended to run. The logical question is: What changed? Certainly not this year's schools package at the legislature; it and its proponents and opponents were well known before then. If that were the consideration, a better time to announce would have been before this year's legislative session started. Luna's big annual appearance before the legislature, at the budget committee, already happened before his announcement; if damage to the school package was being done (which is doubtful anyway), it was done already.

The other part of the purported equation involved Luna harming Republicans by running. Again, that calculation, however valid or not, could have been made as easily a month ago, although it's possible that polling or other maybe informal research might have been underway in that period. If so, we haven't heard.
So you have to wonder: Did something else change as regards Luna, and his plans public or private?

The quick rise of Melinda Smyser, who as it turned out didn't want to run, as the sudden frontrunning Republican nominee seemed a little odd too, though her name apparently has been spitballed as a possibility in Boise conversations for a while. It's not that Smyser was an unrealistic candidate for the office; she has been a teacher and counselor and had been a member of the Parma School Board, and she was a state senator, not a bad resume combination. But no one seems to have asked her if she was even interested; as it turned out, within hours, she wasn't. Usually when a name surfaces quickly that way it's because that person had been quietly promoting it, but evidently that wasn't the case here.

No other names seemed to rise so quickly to the surface, not those of the little-known educators in American Falls and Grangeville who have said they plan to run for the Republican nomination for the office, nor Steve Smylie, a former Republican legislator and educator who did run for superintendent in 2006, who was exploring the idea. Nor, at first, state Senator Steven Thayn, who evidently is very interested.

Was there interest in some quarters in foreclosing some of those options? The possibility of an incendiary Republican primary, based on the names of people already certainly interested, is quite real as matters sit.

These are all points that probably ought to be factored in considering the succession, and are likely to be shown up as relevant when more of the story is told.

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)

Light on the front pages this Sunday, accounted in large part by Super Bowl preoccupation (Seattle and Spokane's front pages were completely turned over the big event).

Low water expected in Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Syringa Bank closed (Lewiston Tribune)
School levies ahead, considered (Nampa Press Tribune)
School district asks priorities (Sandpoint Bee)
Beckley canyon jump considered (TF Times News)
Reviewing federal farm subsidies (TF Times News)

Tech companies growing at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Pot shop risks in S Oregon (Medford Tribune)
CRC still alive for federal funds (Portland Oregonian)
Legislative session ahead (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Work on GMO rules not yet started (Salem Statesman Journal)

Edmonds wants 3 new schools (Everett Herald)
Possible future Super Bowl at Seattle (Kennewick Herald)
State bill on worker paid leave (Vancouver Columbian, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Pierce County adds legislative clout (Tacoma News Tribune)

An initiative session?

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

The core thought about this year's regular legislative session – the month-long “short” session – is that aspirations for it should be kept modest.

The idea behind it, originally, was that it would allow legislators time to make course corrections in between the odd-numbered longer sessions. Budget and revenue adjustments would be part of that. If other external emergencies or new conditions arise, those might be considered too. But in general: Let's not try to do anything too sweeping.

A segment of legislation more or less falls in between, though: Dealing with matters that might land on the November 2014 ballot, whether by legislative intent or by outside activism. And those subjects may provide some of the most interesting action in the session.

If, for example, the state is going to take a crack at carefully and professionally crafting statutes to cover a legalized marijuana regime, this would be the time to do it. The subject surely will be coming up in November, one way or another. The drafting is likely to be better coming out of the legislature than out of an activist group, a number of legislators realize that, so the subject of pot legalization may get legislative action of a sort it has not yet gotten in any other state, even Washington and Oregon. In a short session.

We may see action related guns, gay marriage, liquor privatization and other topics, with similar thoughts in mind: They're going to be out there for voter consideration, there's a good chance a number of these proposals will actually pass, and the legislature might be better off dealing with the structure and details up front, rather than chasing glitches after the election.

Not all legislators are going to be anxious to do this, and on some (guns, maybe gay marriage) there may not be as much point in getting ahead of whatever the voters do.

But the initiative process seems fairly likely to provide some of the more memorable scenes from this session not many people seem to have high expectations for.

On the front page

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)

Auditor criticizes treasurer transfers (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Syringa Bank closed, taken over (Boise Statesman)
Balukoff and Fulcher self-fund campaigns (Boise Statesman)
Dry times in Washington (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow city tree maintenance (Moscow News)
Liquor privatization, who profits (Moscow News)
Rice proposes militia bill (Nampa Press Tribune)
Vapor shops, e-cigarettes, young smokers (Nampa Press Tribune)
Low stock of guns and ammo (Pocatello Journal)
Water to thousands of users may shut off (TF Times News)
Water project funds approved (TF Times News)
Jerome savings on wastewater bond (TF Times News)

Coos Bay Oyster recalls more oysters (Coos Bay World)
Bay Area Hospital growing (Coos Bsy World)
Mercury in McKenzie River? (Eugene Register Guard)
Hermiston committees reshuffled (Hermiston Herald)
Klamath County keeps out of basin deal (KF Herald & News)
Klamath sheriff prepares for budget loss (KF Herald & News)
Snowpack low and staying so (Portland Oregonian, Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Ashland council considers gun limits (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Legislature ahead on culture debates (Ashland Tidings)
Medford teacher mediation (Medford Tribune)
Bill might let cities ban pot shops (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Pendleton Grain Growers may partner (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Pendleton urban district not growing fast (Pendleton East Oregonian)
State kindergarten tests not good (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)

Puget air agency said to make false statements (Everett Herald)
Lake Ketchum toxicity to be treated (Everett Herald)
Low snowpack portending drought? (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Senate approves immigrant aid (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Bertha blocked again in Seattle (Seattle Times)
Might Gates leave as Microsoft chair? (Seattle Times)
More shakeups in Spokane police (Spokane Spokesman)
More liquor buyers cross to Idaho (Spokane Spokesman)
Council applicants won't get much privacy (Yakima Herald Republic)