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Posts published in March 2014

On the front pages


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 Air National Guard might move to Mtn Home (Boise Statesman)
Wolf pups watched by biologist (Boise Statesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide: more victims (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Nez Perce assessor argues with URS estimates (Lewiston Tribune)
Syringa may face judicial injunctions (Moscow News)
Pullman develops priority list for year (Moscow News)
Balukoff campaigning in Palouse (Moscow News)
Sheriff lists problems with enhance carry (Nampa Press Tribune)
Price of sugar down, costs up (Nampa Press Tribune)
Fired women's b-ball coach returns to work (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint looks at timing for widening bridge (Sandpoint Bee)
State plans for road work in Magic Valley (TF Times News)

Stillaguamish mudslide: more victims (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Mail Tribune, KF Herald & News, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Pot dispensaries opening (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Lane sheriff's deputies at issue on contract (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath moratorium on pot dispensaries (KF Herald & News)
Jackson dog rabies policy increases licenses (Ashland Tidings)
Pot dispensary shut in Medford (Ashland Tidings)
Federal bill allowing Hermiston ag station move (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Evaluating economic effects of seniors (Portland Oregonian)
Boarding house draws complaints at Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide: more victims (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Port Angeles News, Longview News)
Employment growth at Tri-Cities (Kennewick Herald)
PUD sets executive pay rules (Longview News)
Many applicants for new marina panel (Port Angeles News)
Pot still banned for soldiers (Tacoma News Tribune)
Grandview suit over deaf student continues (Yakima Herald Republic)

Transparency and the ACA

trahant MARK


The Affordable Care Act is a grand promise. Basically it’s a complicated insurance mechanism that’s designed to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, including those who rely on the Indian health system.

But one thing the ACA is not: Transparent.

This is a critical flaw because we are near another major deadline — March 31 — and some six months into the Act’s implementation and there is not one official scrap of information reporting how well Indian Country is being served. We don’t know how many folks across the country have signed up for Medicaid or how many have purchased insurance or how many individuals have policies that were purchased by tribes as sponsors.

Why does this matter? Because policy is being implemented on assumptions, not data. We don’t know what we don’t know.

This we do know: March 31 is an odd deadline. It’s the day when open enrollment ends for most Americans, including Native Americans who are not tribal members. But that deadline does not apply to American Indians and Alaska Natives who are tribal members. Then a monthly enrollment is possible. (I know, confusing, right?)

Native Americans still can receive a life-time exemption from the insurance mandate. Fill out a simple form and mail to get a certificate that could be included in your next tax return.

But we also know that the individual exemption is not enough. The Indian health system is underfunded and third-party billing — money from private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs — is the only way funding will improve. Like it or not, Treaty or not, the Congress is not going to pay for Indian health through appropriations. The $6 billion budget for the Indian Health Service shows the agency collecting more than a billion dollars from Medicaid and only $90,307,000 from private insurance. So there is a lot of room for growth. Again, if folks sign up, the Affordable Care Act is a different course from appropriations; it’s a money stream that’s automatic.

We also know that Indian Country has some of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, roughly one in three people. So every new insured American Indian and Alaska Native adds resources to the Indian health system (and especially medical care that is purchased outside of Indian health facilities).

This week there is a last minute push to get people in Indian Country to sign up. On Monday there was a national Tribal Day of Action sponsored by the White House. And in Montana, the state’s Insurance Commissioner, Monica J. Lindeen, has been traveling to the state’s reservations and urban Indian centers to sell the plan.

But it’s hard to know how well those efforts are working. There are too many questions: How many people signed up early? What’s the goal? Where is the transparency?

Early Affordable Care Act numbers are found in Washington state. Ed Fox, who directs health services for Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe of Washington, said the Washington Health Care Authority released preliminary figures to tribes for consultation. These are early numbers and will change, but they are an open important look in a state where the Affordable Care Act is working.

Some key findings: Washington probably ranks first in the nation in Medicaid “take-up” for the newly eligible. Some 6,000 or so of the newly insured Native Americans were enrolled by urban programs or tribes, and one-third with state worker assistance, and one-third a bit uncertain (possibly by someone with assistance or on their own). Washington also shows some 7,000 Medicaid re-certifications. (more…)

On the front pages


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)

Treefort Music nearing profotability (Boise Statesman)
Parking garages move toward auto-pay (Boise Stastesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide toll hits 14 (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Lewiston High plan released (Lewiston Tribune)
More building activity in Pullman (Moscow News)
Supercomputer arriving at UI (Moscow News)
Nampa district, common core tests (Nampa Press Tribune)
New apartment group planned (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho Youth Ranch plans second Nampa store (Nampa Press Tribune)
Big game hunting rules changed a bit (Pocatello Journal)
Otter signs bill to nullify federal gun laws (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint Arts Alliance shuts down (Sandpoint Bee)
Library bond ahead for Boundary County (Sandpoint Bee)
Rancher at Hailey kills wolf (TF Times News)

Cities deciding whether to hold off on pot (Eugene Register Guard)
Stillaguamish mudslide toll hits 14 (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, Pendleton East Oregonian, KF Herald & News)
PUD at Klamath may dissolve (KF Herald & News)
Liquid gas terminal okayed for Coos Bay (KF Herald & News)
Mt Ashland Ski borrows to stay afloat (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Pot store at Medford closes (Medford Tribune)
Loren Parks contributes big to Barreto, H58 (Pendleton East Oregonian)
New critics of Salem Civic Center plans (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide toll hits 14 (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Port Angeles News, Longview News)
Hanford Reach expansion concerns (Kennewick Herald)
Pot options other than smoking (Longview News)
Troubled Seqium museum seeking help (Port Angeles News)
Group Health ending employment plans (Spokane Spokesman)
McMorris Rodgers on campaign finance issues (Spokane Spokesman)
World Vision will hire same-sex marrieds (Tacoma News Tribune)
Possible replacement high school at East Valley (Yakima Herald Republic)

On the front pages


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)

Conservatives on pot legalization (Lewiston Tribune)
Reviewing new ed budget (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pumpers see resolution for Rangen call (TF Times News)
Senators touring INL (TF Times News)

Mudslide at Stillaguamish kills 8 or more (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Health insurance still eludes some in Oregon (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Concerns about flood insurance in Oregon (Eugene Register Guard)
Ashland may try temporary pot ban (Medford Tribune)
Jacksonville city hall may mov to old courthouse (Medford Tribune)
Oregon 35th for toxic releases (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mudslide at Stillaguamish kills 8 or more (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Difficulties ahead for pot businesses (Longview News)
Flood insurance difficulties (Yakima Herald Republic)

Gridlock explained quickly

rainey BARRETT


Not all columns herein need to be lengthy to make a point. To prove ‘tis so, just consider this brief set of facts from the National Journal’s vote ratings of members of Congress.

“For the third consecutive year, no Republican Senate member had a more liberal voting record that ANY Democrat. No Democratic Senator had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican.

“In the (435 member) House, just 10 Democrats had a more conservative score than the most liberal Republican. Just five Republicans were more liberal than the most conservative Democrat.”

Put another way, there are nearly no ideological crossovers anymore. Democrats are “liberal” - Republicans are “conservative.”

For three decades - the Journal started this annual survey in 1982 - it was the norm to find a handful of ideological crossovers in the Senate. Even more in the larger House. Now, the norm is “purity.”

No more middle ground in which to seek compromise. No middle ground in which to exchange positions. No more middle ground. Period!

With those findings, you’re going to have a breakthrough? You’re going to find reasoned solutions to our immense national problems? You’re going to find political leadership?

That’s it. Short and sweet.

Gridlock explained in 60 seconds.

The outsider run

idaho RANDY

Last week a veteran of Idaho Republican politics pitched to me a simple case for a big reason the outsider candidates – insurgent or Tea Party-aligned by other verbiage – are unlikely to do well in the May primary elections.

The idea is that many pro-Republican voters do not self-identify as Republicans.

They may consider themselves “conservative” (a slippery term these days, but employed in self-definition) and may vote for Republicans, but they don't really consider themselves part of the party. These people are individualists and by inclination not joiners. Many of them may decline to sign a paper identifying themselves as Republicans.

And that could impair the base of support for the insurgency campaigns, such as for Russ Fulcher for governor and Bryan Smith for Congress. The self-identified Republicans may be more establishment in temperament, may be more willing to sign the paper (as may some Democrats who become “primary Republicans”) which may help people like current Governor C.L .”Butch” Otter and Representative Mike Simpson toward re-election.

There's certainly good reason for taking this line of argument, which seems to be accepted wisdom among many Idaho Republican leaders, quite seriously, as at least some people associated with the insurgency campaigns certainly do.

One reason is that in 2012, when the Republican primary was closed to declared party members only, insurgent candidates (mainly for the legislature) did poorly at the polls.

Another, more subjective reason but evidently quite real, is the description of the insurgent base by other Republicans as “a herd of cats” - the standard description, and often spoken in frustration. It makes sense. These are, after all, people who don't like to organize, aren't big on strong commitments to groups (their most in-common complaint, after all, is against government and regulation generally) and aren't notably trusting of political types. (more…)

On the front pages


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)

Many pro-exchange legislators not primary-opposed (Boise Statesman)
Many Idaho colleges will again raise tuition (Boise Statesman)
SAT may match up to Common Core (Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing 2014 legislative session (TF Times News, Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello has no panhandling rule (Pocatello Journal)
Simpson gets NRA support (Pocatello Journal)
Schools get some funding boost (TF Times News)

Questioning future of Chambers businesses (Eugene Register Guard)
Idaho wolf hunting on private land (KFF Herald & News)
Wyden forestry bill draws criticism (Medford Tribune)
Roseburg medical pot store plans dropped (Roseburg News Review)
Who takes over at Cover Oregon? (Salem Statesman Journal)

Big Stillaguamish mudslide at Oso (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Huge pubic records request via BPA (Kennewick Herald)
Alcoa, Reynolds cleanup plan reviewed (Longview News)
New businesses rely more on tech, less on workers (Seattle Times)
Limited funding for mentally ill (Tacoma News Tribune)
No transportation package: back back to locals (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing elk damaging property at Yakama (Yakima Herald Republic)

On the front pages


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)

Kuna plans for new school levy vote (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Legislature okayed one business tax measure (Boise Statesman)
Legislature closed for year/local (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Sandpoint Bee)
Lawsuit against CCA progresses (Lewiston Tribune)
Potlatch plans on economic development (Moscow News)
WA state wants Handford tank pumped (Moscow News)
Goesling drops from Latah commission contest (Moscow News)
Wolf control board approved by legislature (Nampa Press Tribune)
ID unemployment rate drops (Nampa Press Tribune)
Glock sale bid land gun shop into dispute (Pocatello Tribune)
New Pocatello business expansion plan starts (Pocatello Tribune)
Veterans still waiting pon disability claims (TF Times News)

Still a dry winter overall (Eugene Register Guard)
Cascade Sierra Solutions closes over debt (Eugene Register Guard)
Jim Compton dies at Seattle (KF Herald & News)
Medford bans medical marijuana outlets (KF Herald & News)
Ashland mulls pot moratorium (KF Herald & News)
Medford on what to do about redevelopment funds (Medford Tribune)
CenturyLink drops Medford call center (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton oks medical pot permits (Pendleton East Oregonian)
East Oregon trade center taking form (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Health insurance deadline ahead (Portland Oregonian)
Search and rescue helpers, sex abuse charges (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem pot dispensary licensed (Salem Statesman Journal)

Nurses, maybe, for Everett jail (Everett Herald)
Arlington rolls with riverfront plans (Everett Herald)
State orders tank pumping at Hanford (Kennewick Herald, Yakima Herald Republic)
Pasco biofuels firm in backruptcy issues (Kennewick Herald)
PUD recall activist sought, investigated (Longview News)
Reports on crashed news copter (Seattle Times)
Spokane firm works on Sinclair sex abuse case (Spokane Spokesman)
Digging into storage unit of alleged drug dealer (Tacoma News Tribune)
Reviewing federal pot research (Tacoma News Tribune)
Vancouver rail derailments unlikely (Vancouver Columbian)
Camas plans for new major lodge operation (Vancouver Columbian)
Lentz probably would not run for commission (Vancouver Columbian)
4th district got most stimulus help (Yakima Herald Republic)

Hyperventilating over Putin

carlson CHRIS


Media hypocrisy and hysteria never cease to amaze. One should not be surprised to learn what low regard the general public has these days for journalists who all too often the public sees as editorializing instead of reporting. The bully pulpit the media has had for several generations is endangered because its practitioners see the sliver in the eyes of others but fail to see the log in their own eye.

Coverage of Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine is a classic example where the media, which thrives on conflict, has been little more than a propaganda perpetuator of the State Department and the President’s angst over the Russian move.

Tortured analogies of President Vladimir Putin acting like Hitler in his annexation of Austria, and the German-speaking areas of the Czech Republic as well as the Sudetenland, have been all over the media.
It is disgraceful and Putin has every right to be angered by it.

The plain fact is that were the roles reversed virtually every president since James Monroe would have done exactly what Putin has done, and no amount of finger-pointing nor imposition of sanctions is going to change it.

In the parlance of international geo-politics, President Putin acted to protect what the Henry Kissinger’s and the Brent Scowcroft’s of the world would call “Russia’s soft underbelly.” Set aside that the vast majority of the people of Crimea are Russian-speaking, and that under Communist rule Soviet leaders like Nikita Khrushchev used to spend their summer vacation on the shores of the Black Sea.

Focus instead on the concentration of what’s left of the Russian Naval fleet, as well as a variety of other military installations in Crimea and one can begin to see where in the interests of future Russian security President Putin could not let the area fall into unfriendly hands.

A more appropriate analogy is our own “Monroe Doctrine,” promulgated by our fifth president, James Monroe. He served notice that the America’s, north and south, were for Americans, not Europeans. Hence, naval and military forces from Europe and elsewhere were to butt out and stay the hell away. And this is mostly what occurred.

Another analogy would be that of New Mexico deciding to align with Mexico, throw out the Border Patrol and open the border to any Hispanic or Central American immigrant or migrant worker to flood into the southwest. It’s a safe bet the President would declare martial law and send the Army to resecure the border. (more…)

Keys to the Senate: AK, SD, MT

trahant MARK


Is it a foregone conclusion that the Senate will go Republican in November? That’s the talk coming from many strategists in both parties lately.

On Fox News Sunday, Karl Rove said it’s “highly likely” that the Republicans take power. He said seven seats could shift to the GOP control in November, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. That’s one more than the Republicans need.

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, on NBC’s Meet the Press, is saying something similar. “There’s a real, real danger that the Democrats could suffer big losses,” he said. (Current White House officials are saying — as they should — that Democrats will hang to the Senate.)

What’s pushing this speculation is a special election last week in Florida. It’s not that Democrats lost (it was a Republican seat, anyway). It’s that Democrats didn’t turn out. If that happens again in November, then Republicans win easily.

One of the states in play, Montana, is a good example of the problem.

There are a higher percentage of American Indian voters in Montana than in any other state except New Mexico, a registration that tops 64 percent (a slightly higher percentage than white voters in Montana). This made a difference two years ago when Sen. Jon Tester and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau both won re-election. But two years before that, those same voters disappeared. Conservative candidates won easily.

So is 2014 more like 2012 or 2010? Will Native American voters show up?

Montana is raising questions for other reasons, too. Senate candidate Steve Daines, a member of the House, has visited the state’s reservations and is making his case with tribal leaders.

There is also a difference of opinion in Montana over strategy. As Stephanie Woodard wrote in Indian Country Today Media Network, a voter access organization, Four Directions, blames Democrats for not expanding satellite balloting on the reservation.

The good news is that it’s early. There are months ahead to sort out a Native vote strategy and engage voters. But right now, Montana Senate race is looking like a pick up opportunity for the Republicans.

“If we lose the Senate,” Gibbs said, “turn out the lights. The party’s over.” The final two years of the Obama presidency will be one of defense, limiting the damage, instead of promoting any sort of agenda of growth.

For Indian Country that means more budgets cuts, GOP leadership for the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs, and more whittling away of the Affordable Care Act. (more…)

On the front pages


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)

FBI agent in DBSI case dies (Boise Statesman)
Idaho Legislature adjourns (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News, Sandpoint Bee)
Syringa park water cleared (Moscow News)
Guns on campus still under review (Moscow News)
Raises for elected officials cut back (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Aberdeen man sues over shot dog (Pocatello Journal)
Sho-Bans battling over FMC waste (Pocatello Journal)
Water will rise by American Falls dam (Pocatello Journal)
Melta geothermal operation may mean 800 jobs (TF Times News)

Kitzhaber orders shifts at Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, KF Herald & News, Corvallis Gazette Times, Pendleton East Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
No pot sweets at medical dispensaries (KF Herald & News, Pendleton East Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Police unions criticizes bike-friendly street (Eugene Register Guard)
Medford might block pot dispensaries (Ashland Tidings)
Battle over GMO ballot verbiage (Ashland Tidings)
Reviewing routes for oil trains (Portland Oregonian)
Detained mentally ill can be force-fed meds (Portland Oregonian)

Tidal power plan by PUD okayed (Everett Herald)
Everett city hits budget trouble (Everett Herald)
New Hanford budget might slice work at river (Kennewick Herald)
Mentally ill may be force-fed meds (Kennewick Herald)
Possible developments at Lake Sacajawea (Longview News)
Olympic trail will reopen (Port Angeles News)
Investigating news copter crash (Seattle Times)
ID Greyhound Park may get instant games (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane officials react on oil train shipping (Spokane Spokesman)
Pot convention at Tacoma Dome, smoke free (Tacoma News Tribune)
Vancouver business group launches PAC (Vancouver Columbian)

The why session

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

This year’s Legislature should be remembered as the session of “Why,” as in “Why Bother?” Of course, nobody should be surprised.

My best preview of the “nothing to come” session was visiting with House Speaker Scott Bedke in his office. He took a call, and the conversation went something like this: “I don’t see the Chairman Wood (Health and Welfare Committee) moving away from the health exchange and I don’t see Chairman DeMordaunt (Education) moving away from Common Core. Next question.”

The next question should have been, “Why not bring up those issues?” It would be reasonable for the Legislature to discuss one year after the health exchange was created and to talk about some of the problems that have surfaced. On Common Core, it’s legitimate to ask, “Is this really where we want to go?” Common Core sounds good (like No Child Left Behind), but one of the worries is the execution of government standards for education.

Opposition to Common Core is one of the centerpieces of Russ Fulcher’s campaign for governor. It would have been interesting to hear more of his views on the subject.

Medicaid expansion certainly is a hot topic for discussion, but that horse died well before the session got under way. Proponents, including the Idaho Association of Counties and a leading business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, were pushing for Medicaid expansion as an idea that could save the state millions of dollars in the long run. But the issue apparently was too hot to handle in an election year.

The “going home” bill, for practical purposes, ended up being the one to allow guns on university campuses – with the premise being that universities would be safer places if retired law officers and those with enhanced permits were allowed to carry guns. Let’s pray that the legislators are smarter than the university presidents on that issue.
This session, to me, has created a great argument for biennial sessions. If the governor and legislative leaders are hell-bent on avoiding tough issues during an election year, then why have them at all? Or, maybe they could have 30-day budget sessions every other year. (more…)