Writings and observations

idaho RANDY

The Obama Administration’s budget proposal will not be adopted as is by Congress; that much you can take to the bank. Many of the bits and pieces may survive though, and other parts may be adopted in some future year if not right away.

Given that, Idahoans have some reason to think about the possibility of moving its Air National Guard (ANG) from Boise to Mountain Home.

That’s separate from the proposal to eliminate A-10 warthog planes – the kind flown by the Idaho guard, a basic unit in the military’s air operations, but now the Department of Defense says should be superseded by more up to date models. (There’s a heated debate over this.) Apart from that, DOD suggests the Idaho air operations could be more usefully meshed with the substantial Air Force base at Mountain Home.

Long-time Guard spokesman Colonel Tim Marsano was quoted as saying, “We’re looking at the possibility of things happening where we would actually take some of our folks and move to Mountain Home and learn how to operate and maintain the F-15E Strike Eagle. And we know we would be welcomed there with open arms, should that happen.”

The idea may survive because there’s a logic to it. It also will not happen easily, because there are reasons for pushback.

Mountain Home, far from other communities in a large flat high Idaho desert, is a good spot for running military aircraft, one reason the base has survived since World War II. And there have been periodic complaints in Boise about military aircraft there, which are based on the south fringes of town near the municipal airport, and the noise they produce. A merging of aircraft training and other operations in one large site might have some efficiencies and lead to technical advances.

A lot of jobs – maybe 1,000 – could be involved in the transfer. But the Mountain Home AFB is only about 45 minutes in a straight shot on Interstate 84 from Boise, so commuting certainly is possible. (Many Mountain Home residents commute now.). And while the Boise economy might feel a ding, which in broad terms could amount to $100 million, Mountain Home’s might be greatly advantaged.

The city of Boise is pushing to keep the ANG, and it has a case too. Idaho’s National Guard also has an army component, and it and the air divisions traditionally have worked closely together, with a command structure that’s often been closely interwined. Much of that might survive a Mountain Home move, but it would be complicated by it. There’s concern too about recruitment to the ANG, which has been strong out of the Ada-Canyon population base but could be weakened if the operation were moved down the road.

And besides that, any large operation like the Idaho Air National Guard develops over time a network of vendors, contractors and others whose business and other operations are closely involved with the larger organization. That’s as true of a federal agency as it is of, say, a large corporation. Uprooting much of that could be as complicated as uprooting the guard itself.

An ANG move to Mountain Home, in sum, isn’t likely to happen soon. But it could resurface as a serious option down the road, and Idahoans have been given due notice: Give some careful thought to this, sooner rather than later.

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Idaho Idaho column

carlson CHRIS


Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter may have to decide down the road one of these days whether to go with his libertarian free market instincts or pay the piper that has orchestrated so much gaming money for his re-election effort. Stick with his principles or go with the dough? Which will it be? A safe bet is he opts to dance to the tune played by the money interests.

The issue is Internet gaming, which is currently the subject of a raging, bitter debate within gaming circles. On the one side is billionaire Sheldon Adelson who chairs Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and the Palazzo on the Vegas strip. He believes allowing Internet gaming will doom the entire industry.

In particular he sees major Internet interests like Google and Facebook expanding into Internet gaming because of their huge customer bases. He believes such a move would doom current gambling set-ups and there are many who agree with him.

Others of course just see more players, a bigger market and more money to be made. Plus, they believe present law allows individuals states to decide the matter. Adelson and his allies are pushing federal legislation that would ban Internet gaming by closing a three-year-old loophole in the law.

Adelson is reportedly worth $38 billion and during the last election cycle without batting an eye poured $100 million into various Republican campaigns. He is fully prepared to battle the issue out state-by-state, but closing the loophole in Federal law is the easier path to pursue and Adelson has recruited not only top talent like former New York Governor George Pataki, he also has canny South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on his side.

Adelson also successfully neutralized the industry’s powerful trade group, the American Gaming Association, by threatening to withdraw and bank-roll a rival organization if the group weighed in for Internet gaming as it appeared inclined to do.

Opposing casinos and online poker companies have formed their own lobbying group, which calls itself the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection. Two of their chief lobbyists are former Republican members of Congress Michael Oxley of Ohio, and Mary Bono of California. The group also has reportedly retained Boise-raised, Capital High graduate and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, as well as former Mississippi Governor and uber-Republican lobbyist Haley Barbour. Politics does make for strange bedfellows at times.

Governor Otter knows all these players, having served in Congress with Oxley and Bono and his gubernatorial terms coincided with Barbour’s.

Follow the money, though, to get a pretty fair idea where Otter will be when and if legislation comes before him (Assuming he is re-elected) that would either ban on-line gaming, which he would probably sign, or allow on-line gaming which would potentially generate some nice tax money for the state, which he would probably veto.

Why speculate this way? A little noted item in the excellent story the Idaho Statesman’s political reporter, Dan Popkey, did when he reviewed and identified almost $80,000 in donations to Otter’s campaign from Vegas gaming interests in January was that the Governor had become acquainted with Steve Wynn while in Macau, the world’s largest gaming enterprise just off the coast of China, owned and operated by Mr. Wynn who also owns and operates a large Vegas casino.

Mr. Wynn, his wife, parents and companies all maxed out at $5,000 a piece for Governor Otter. One has to ask just what in heck was the Governor doing in Macau while on a trade mission to the orient since there is virtually no way an island gaming operation can offer anything of trade to the state of Idaho? But Macau is where Otter told Popkey he first became acquainted with Wynn and family.

Wynn is now reportedly siding with Adelson and while somewhat more quietly is nonetheless opposed to internet gaming. He reasons that there is no way to police internet gaming and keep children off the computer making wagers they can’t cover and he also believes the government would confiscate most of the profits in what proponents see as a potential $8 billion annually in profit.

Idaho’s Native American casinos are also throwing in with Adelson and Wynn for they too see on-line gaming as a threat to their future success. Otter’s last report showed the Coeur d’Alene Casino had contributed the max $5,000 to Otter also.

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind, then, that the governor’s libertarian free-market principles have already given way to money that tells him to stick with those that are sticking with him?

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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)

Transload industrial park maybe near I-84/Boise (Boise Statesman)
BSU aggressively defends blue turf trademark (Boise Statesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide community impacts (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Wheat prices increasing (Lewiston Tribune)
Obamacare enrollment climbing (Moscow News)
Idaho’s rural-urban shift (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello Skyfest celebration returns (Pocatello Journal)
Bannock population fell in 2013 (Pocatello Journal)
Debate over mental health rules on gun buys (Pocatello Journal)
ID may allow megaload in Bonner County (Sandpoint Bee)
CdA casino might add poker games (Sandpoint Bee)
Delta/Skywest changing Twin Falls flights (TF Times News)
Simpson campaign Blaine chair resigns (TF Times News)
Health insurance enrollment deadline (TF Times News)

Corvallis pot dispensary approved (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Return of Lake of the Woods retreat (Ashland Tidings)
Cops relying on public for dui reports (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Pendleton hunger group Helping Hand seeks prize (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Diversion dam on Umatilla may go (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Stillaguamish aftermath begins (Portland Oregonian)
Jason Conger searches for traction (Portland Oregonian)
Cover Oregon looking for options (Portland Oregonian)
Salem bus ads going away (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish searching continues (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic)
Bankruptcy rejected for Green Power (Kennewick Herald)
Army Corps bird kill for salmon (Kennewick Herald)
Deadline ahead for health plan (Kennewick Herald)
Seattle Zoo growing its elephant efforts (Seattle Times)
Violence-prone gun limits signed into law (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma city wades into battle on hotel project (Tacoma News Tribune)
State reviews school senior project requirement (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima area campaign against graffiti (Yakima Herald Republic)

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