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Posts published in February 2014

Oregon’s got it together

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

At the end of 2013, United Van Lines checked moving tickets for the year and found the greatest percentage of people for whom the company hauled household goods went to one state. Oregon.

More than 61% of all interstate moves made in Oregon last year were for people coming from some other place. Lest you think this is some small sampling, the company tracked 129,000 trips in the country for the period. And Oregon topped the pack. Washington D.C. had led the list for the previous five years but - in 2013 - dropped to fourth,

Why Oregon? Why do so many folks want to come here? What is it about the place? What makes our real estate so desirable? Oh, lots of answers could be the Pacific Ocean, the Cascades, Mt. Hood, a good and varied climate, better environment, outdoor activities, cleaner water, better air quality and on and on,. You hear all those a lot.

My take is - as usual - different. I think people come here because we’ve “got our s*%t together.”

“Oh, Momma, look what he said!”

Well, it’s true. We do have it together. Especially politically. Compared to a couple dozen other states, we’re downright - rational. Oh, we’ve got some dim bulbs and political zeroes. One of them is actually the chairman of the Oregon Republican Party. But we’ve got him right out there on a stick where he can be seen so we know what foil-hat-idiocy he’s up to. That’s different. In North and South Carolina, Florida, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas - especially Texas - residents have allowed them to go underground - into the legislatures and governor’s bedrooms. Real folks lost control.

But here - in Oregon - we’ve kept the system pretty balanced and most of the loonies penned up. When you think back a couple of years, we ran an evenly divided House of Representatives with dual Speakers from different parties and duplicate committee chairs and, all in all, it went very, very well. How many other states could do that today? The two major parties get along most of the time around here. That sort of sends messages to folks in other states that we’ve “got our s*%t together.”

“Good Lord, Momma. He said it again.”

And it’s still true. Nobody here is trying to stop “undesirables” from voting. Nobody here is living under legislated “uterus attacks.” The governor is not talking secession. We’re not drug-checking people who just happen to be unemployed at the moment for whatever reason. We’re not even making food stamp recipients take a leak in a bottle!

Idaho, for example, used to have a slogan: “Idaho is what American was” which they really can’t say anymore ‘cause the nation’s reddest state is falling further behind with an increasingly flat earth contingent that has pretty well contaminated government. Idahoans have lost control. Oregon’s Republicans and Democrats still “Howdy” each other and the state is better for that. “Oregon is still what it was,” I guess.

We, in Oregon, even vote differently than voters in most other states. By mail. And it works! The only fraud we’ve had in recent years was a couple of over-zealous office volunteers messing up a few ballots. We caught ‘em. I think they were escorted to the border. Idaho, maybe. (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)

Idaho State Police not investigating CCA (Boise Statesman)
Barbieri's spending count way off (Boise Statesman)
DBSI finance trial begins (Boise Statesman)
Debate over 'religious freedom' bill (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
More profits for Clearwater Paper (Lewiston Tribune)
Regulators hit Syring home park at Moscow (Moscow News)
Pre-K pilot effort proposed at legislature (Moscow News)
Sex abuse charge at juvenile facility (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa school levy considered (Nampa Press Tribune)
Winter storm compning (Pocatello Journal, Sandpoint Bee)
Approval of Chubbuck events center (Pocatello Journal)
Power County may change utilities ordinance (Pocatello Journal)
Would be jumper not giving up (TF Times News)

School graduation rates varied (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette Times)
No money for climate hub at OSU (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Winter storm coming (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene schools still quiet on civic stadium (Eugene Register Guard)
Utility district funds rejected (KF Herald & News)
Klamath reviewing pot dispensary options (KF Herald & News)
Ashland still considering filing regs (Ashland Tidings)
Teachers at Medford on verge of strike (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Jacksonville may ban pot stores (Medford Tribune)
No bond measure for BMCC this year (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Stanfield's new fee on utlity bills (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Teachers at Portland vote to strike (Portland Oregonian)
Video lottery public health issues (Portland Oregonian)
Nordstrom pulls out at Lloyd Center, Vancouver (Portland Oregnian)
Did Cover Oregon mislead feds? (Portland Oregonian)
Gun legislation arises (Salem Statesman Journal)

Boeing cost-cutting may be damaging itself (Everett Herald)
Quarter-mill donation for wine center at WSU-Tri (Kennewick Herald)
Annexation process bill dies at legislature (Kennewick Herald)
Seahawks celebration (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Smelt dipping legal for a month (Longview News)
Jail levy could go to voters (Longview News)
Death of oldest member of Klallam Tribe (Port Angeles News)
Third day of Clallam corrections lockdown (Port Angeles News)
Idaho law may bar 'revenge porn' (Spokane Spokesman)
Nordstrom closes at Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark considers effect of waiving fees (Vancouver Columbian)
Money possible for Yakima water projects (Yakima Herald Republic)

Justice delayed, justice denied

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In 40 years of public service, one of the more egregious examples of government misconduct I witnessed was endured by Wallace McGregor, a Spokane businessman, geologist and entrepreneur. Now in his 80’s, he is decency, honesty and tenacity personified.

His fortitude is inspiring; and, the callous disregard displayed by the National Park Service for he and his partners’ valid property rights is deplorable. They have been victimized by an uncompensated taking, pure and simple.

It is a cautionary tale inasmuch as it could all too easily happen to any citizen who inadvertently gets in the way of an agency of the federal government that chooses to operate as a rogue elephant and a law unto itself.

Wally’s case is a classic example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” The origin of this unbelievable account was their recognition that a valid, proven up patented mining claim containing literally billions of dollars worth of copper, silver and gold was better off not being developed. Their 360 plus acres ended up within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park created by the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980. They accepted the higher and better use Congress opted for by placing their Orange Hill claim and surrounding area into a National Park.

They expected the Park Service would commence negotiations that would result in a reasonable buy out of their in holding, one that would reflect their investment and some modest return on that investment. By no means were they asking for an exorbitant amount, but rather a reasonable return on a modest investment and recognition of their valid property right. If they made a “mistake,” it was not filing a Mine operating plan.

They reasoned why engage in a charade when they acknowledged the higher and better national interest determined by Congress. They never dreamed 30 years later they would still be subjected to what can only be described as unconscionable shuck and jiving, obfuscation, outright lies and legal wrangling all designed to outwait Wally and his partners.

Governor Andrus calls it “hornswoggling.” He even wrote a letter to the then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggesting that the secretary could resolve this conflict by ordering the Park Service to engage in an “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) process. Salazar refused to do so.

The NPS may have succeeded in ignoring one man’s property right, but in a larger sense it is coming at a cost - loss of public faith and confidence in the agency - that is the sine qua non of any government agency. (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)

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.