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Posts published in March 2014

Government investment works

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In a sort of bipartisan piling on, critics of federal support for auto makers or of that proposed oil pipeline from Canada or lost tax dollars in failed alternative energy company Solyndra have captured a lot of attention. Filled with political expediency, what all the critical voices have failed to articulate is any sort of long term view or alternatives dealing with each subject. And there are many.

Before dealing with them, here’s a basic fact: government - and government alone - is often the best (if not only) entity that can make major investments in very large undertakings. Despite our love of “independence” and those who cling to our lost system of “free” enterprise - which hasn’t existed for 150 years - sometimes government has to go first, pay the heavy bills for development and then step aside for private capital to take over at some point.

There are many examples but the best I can think of is our space program. If President Kennedy had not led us into it in 1961, we would likely be speaking Russian. No private company - no group of private companies - could raise the billions and billions of dollars to do what government did. As a nation - and as individuals - we are massively richer for that undertaking. And it’s almost impossible to count the ways we benefitted from computers to cell phones to - well - thousands of things.

And where are we now? Private companies are using that taxpayer-bought engineering, incalculable experience, hundreds of thousands of patents and thousands of highly-trained taxpayers to open space travel to all. We’ve got hundreds of private satellites and even private space shuttles flying around.

For those who say government had no business putting billions into the auto companies - that we should have let them sink - Road Apples! Anyone with any economic smarts knows it had to be done to avoid even more massive unemployment, disaster for thousands of small businesses and a financial mess that would have been incredibly costly.

And look what happened. GM has closed its most profitable year in history - reopened several plants - ramped up production - and has built more and better vehicles than ever. It’s paid back most of the taxpayer loan while GM stock many Americans own has gotten even more valuable. Chrysler basically avoided corporate death - threw out many bad models while developing new lines - reopened closed plants - rehired thousands - and has paid off the loan. And both companies are using new, cutting-edge technology to build the best cars in both their histories. A lot of that new technology the government pioneered in other programs.

No private companies were ready to do what government did. No investors or venture capitalists were willing to ride to the rescue. The results will be taught in business schools for decades to show how government and an entire industry can build huge successes in the face of certain disaster. (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)

Kuna school district may vote again on levy (Boise Statesman)
Report on death penalty costs released (Boise Statesman)
School budget of $1.35B approved (Lewiston Tribune)
WA legislators review session (Moscow News)
On tests, Latah schools beat average (Moscow News)
Fewer pot cases, more legal resources elsewhere (Moscow News)
Pioneer, Caldwell may settle water case (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho a leader in construction jobs (Nampa Press Tribune)
Romney at Idaho Falls for canddiates (Pocatello Journal)
Assessor explains politicos property value drop (Pocatello Journal)
FMC corporate changes won't affect cleanup (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint debates 10 Commandments monument (Sandpoint Bee)
Rangen call hearings complete (TF Times News)
Filer will mandate dog training (TF Times News)
Wendell reconsiders after bond loss (TF Times News)

New online news for Lincoln County at Dispatch (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Corvallis gets fifth pot dispensary request (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Italian restaurant company opens at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Ordinance would cover property seizures (KF Herald & News)
Ashland moves on gun rules (KF Herald & News)
Jackson County sets 120-day moratorium on pot (Ashland Tidings)
Drought disaster in Jackson County (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford loans money for Ashland welcome center (Ashland Tidings)
GMO ban impacts at Jackson considered (Medford Tribune)
Problems at diesel cleanup site (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hearing awaits on same sex marriage case (Portland Oregonian)
In OR: a brewery for every 21K people (Portland Oregonian)
OR high in child bone cancer (Salem Statesman Journal)
Liquor revenue in OR expected stable (Salem Statesman Journal)

Drop in WA pot cases (Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic)
New machinist leader profiled (Everett Herald)
DOE closes a Hanford waste lab (Kennewock Herald)
Deadline for health insurance buys approaches (Kennewick Herald)
Lumber production rising (Longview News)
'Smart' traffic meters protested at PA (Port Angeles News)
Dungeness water rule reconsideration? (Port Angeles News)
Seattle bus ridership increases (Seattle Times)
News chopper aftermath (Seattle Times)
Debate over Spokane anti-sprawl ordinance (Spokane Spokesman)
Most of Vancouver council opposing oil facility (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing legislative session for Clark (Vancouver Columbian)
Fire season arriving (Yakima Herald Republic)

Education and Idaho

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Idaho’s natural beauty and the inherent decency of its people can mask serious problems confronting the state, Idaho Business for Education’s president and chief executive officer says, comparing the Gem State to an old, stately, beautiful mansion whose foundation is rotting, cracking and direly in need of repair.

Addressing a recent City Club of Idaho Falls luncheon, Rod Gramer said unless its owners get to work and invest money, the foundation will crumble and the damage will worsen.

Answering an audience question, Gramer -- a veteran Idaho Statesman and KTVB news professional who recently returned to Boise after working in Oregon and Florida -- said it has been estimated that it will take $82 million to $120 million to replace the education funding lost in Idaho the past six years.

He commended legislators for this year pumping $32 million in new dollars for education, stressing that that money should be viewed as an investment, not an expense, emphasizing the dots need to be connected between education and Idaho’s economy. He called it “the best public school budget in seven years.”

Gramer said simple formulas mean a weak education system, plus a weak economy, equal a poor quality of life as opposed to a strong education system and a strong economy combining to boost Idaho’s standard of living.

“Fate won’t determine this. The people of Idaho must decide. The choice is ours,” he said, warning that like the Roman Emperor Nero, Idahoans can fiddle while metaphorical Idaho burns.

Gramer noted that in 2012, Idaho ranked 50th among the states in per capita wages. Idaho was No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of hourly workers -- 7.7 percent -- who made the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 or less in 2012. Nationally, 4.7 percent made minimum wage or less in 2012.

The Idaho Department of Labor reported that more young people are leaving the state than moving to the state.

“These are statistics we ignore at our own peril,” Gramer said. Rebuilding starts with education, which is “a passport to the American dream.” Government for and by the people cannot and will not succeed without an educated populace who can make wise decisions, he added.

Only 39 percent of Idahoans have earned college degrees or have post-secondary trade certification, but 61 percent have some college, high school or less. That level of education was fine in the past for most of Idaho’s history when mining, logging, farming and other such jobs sufficed, but that is not now the case, Gramer said, noting manual work such as driving trucks or working in a body shop now requires computer training.

When the J.R. Simplot Co.’s new 380,000-square-foot Caldwell potato processing plant opens in April, its robotics will make it the most state-of-the-art processing plant of its kind in the world, but only 250 will be needed to operate it. Its existing plants in Nampa, Caldwell and Aberdeen will be shut down with a net loss of 800 jobs.

“The shift in the job market is all over the United States, causing a dramatic effect on the economy and the lives of people,” Gramer said. (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)

St Luke's legal antagonists claim large legal costs (Boise Statesman)
Bill Drake, major ad director, phasing out (Boise Statesman)
EPA nullification bill dies on House floor (Lewiston Tribune)
WSU basketball coach fired (Moscow News)
Moscow sees improved economy (Moscow News)
CWI considers how to deal with guns (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bill to spread out delivery of food stamps (Nampa Press Tribune)
School groups have united voice at session (Nampa Press Tribune)
Is Blad endorsing in Nye-Bloxham race? (Pocatello Journal)
FMC cleanup plans okayed by EPA (Pocatello Journal)
Filer cop who shot dog keeps job (TF Times News)
Sex discrimination case against Twin sheriff (TF Times News)
TF charter school may let guns on campus (TF Times News)

Unemployment falls again (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
Debate over wild animal kills (Eugene Register Guard)
KF sets medical pot dispensary regs (KF Herald & News)
Ashland reviewing gun restrictions (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford helps finance Ashland welcome center (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton moves on pot ban (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Crash new news chopper near space needle (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Report says poor contracting hurt Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
AG says same sex marriage could start quickly (Portland Oregonian)
Parts of Portland benefit from property tax rules (Portland Oregonian)
Salem tweet-suspended students may get clear record (Salem Statesman Journal)

Kimberly-Clark site sale still up in air (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
New copter crash at space needle (Everett Herald)
Still plenty of pot moratoriums (Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald)
Bill to rename Palouse Fall signed (Kennewock Herald)
Kelso rejects traffic aid to businsses (Longview News)
Waste ordinance brings hearing (Port Angeles News)
Port Angeles palm tree may be lost (Port Angeles News)
Spokane county plans commemorative coin (Spokane Spokesman)
County 'Stuart sucession' in process (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima turns down new billboard ban (Yakima Herald Republic)

A national view on the Stallings entry

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

From a political update today on the left-leaning Daily Kos site, which each day reviews political developments around the country.

Idaho's filing period closed last Friday, revealing a welcome blast from the past who had previously flown under the radar: Democratic ex-Rep. Richard Stallings is running to get his old seat back. You might put the stress on "old," though: Stallings is 73 and served from 1984 to 1992. He gave up the seat to run for Senate, lost to Dirk Kempthorne in the general election, and tried again to get it back when it was open in 1998, but lost to current occupant Mike Simpson (by a not-awful 53-45 margin).

This isn't quite so crazy as it sounds: Stallings seems to be taking a page from Joe Donnelly, in that he probably senses an opening here thanks to the GOP primary battle. If the establishment-flavored Simpson loses to tea partier Bryan Smith, and Smith subsequently goes on to insert his foot in his mouth repeatedly, he might have a bank-shot opportunity here, despite the district's dark red leanings. On the other hand, though, Donnelly made the leap straight from House to Senate, while Stallings has been out of the congressional picture for decades.

However, while you might imagine that this district has shifted dramatically over the decades, it was actually almost as red back when Stallings represented it. In fact, Stallings was also one of the most conservative Dems in the House at the time. The question, though, is whether he can re-find a niche in a decidedly more polarized national landscape. (David Jarman)

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)

Jewell awaits delegation invite before White Clouds talk (Boise Statesman)
Evaluating Boise grocery stores (Boise Statesman)
Congress looks at fire-fighting funds (Lewiston Tribune)
Pistol club still set for eviction by Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
Lawsuit filed over ag-gag (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Nampa Press Tribune, Sandpoint Bee)
Moscow Syringa park water woes may be over (Lewiston Tribune)
Lighting upgraded on Paradise Path (Moscow News)
Schools could opt out of Idaho wifi deal (Moscow News)
Caldwell subdivision still battled over (Nampa Press Tribune)
ID Senate approves big biz tax credit (Pocatello Journal)
Boating negligence law clears legislature (Sandpoint Bee)
Masive windstorm in southern Idaho (TF Times News, Pocatello Journal)

Downtown Philomath leader speaks (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Snowpack still below average (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Local governments consider pot moratoria (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Cougar 2 captured, seeking No. 3 (Eugene Register Guard)
Uproar in Klamath commission race (KF Herald & News)
Two KF fire district directors face recall (KF Herald & News)
New federal wildfire funds sought (KF Herald & News, Ashland Tidings)
Ashland looks at seismic upgrades (Ashland Tidings)
Adjusting schools with Common Core (Mail Tribune)
Wyden reviews area for teest drone (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Massive diesel spill near Pendleton (Pendleton East Oregonian)
The 27 unchallenged legislators (Portland Oregonian)
Possible lawsuit from former Cover Oregon leader (Portland Oregonian)
Debate over hatchery fish degrsding natives (Portland Oregonian)
Possible connection: OHSU and Salem Health (Salem Statesman Journal)

On complaints of Woodland principal (Longview News)
Tulalip Tribe leaders change (Everett Herald)
New ferry to be paid from car tabs (Everett Herald)
State alleged fraud from PS ex-employee (Port Angeles News)
Seattle sets ceiling on rideshare drivers (Seattle Times)
Amazon grows ad sales business (Seattle Times)
Many physical forms of pot sales (Tacoma News Tribune)
State supreme justice retires (Tacoma News Tribune)
Spokane limiting outlying utility service (Spokane Spokesman)
FEMA money could go to wildfires (Spokane Spokesman)
No agreement on oil train state bill (Vancouver Columbian)
Vancouver gets $200K for brownfield cleanup (Vancouver Columbian)
High Medicaid signup in Yakima (Yakima Herald Republic)
Common core examined in Yakima (Yakima Herald Republic)

More about Fulcher

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Opposition to Obamacare and Common Core are two of the hooks Sen. Russ Fulcher has used to attract conservative voters in May’s gubernatorial primary race. But he says the “fun part” of his challenge to Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is discussing his vision for the state, which goes beyond ideology.

He’s thinking big and dreaming even bigger. As he sees it, Idaho is sitting on a gold mine of untapped wealth and prosperity – the kind that could put Idaho on the same economic path as North Dakota, Wyoming and other energy exporters that have bulging state revenues.

“It’s a game changer,” he said. “Washington and Payette counties have natural gas that is pure and plentiful, and a lot of it is on private land. We haven’t done anything with the resources we have, but we know they are there. There’s no reason why Idaho can’t be powered with Idaho’s natural gas and generate all of the benefits that come with it.”

He says that the natural gas could be harvested with little, if any, environmental impact and no fracking.
The holdup, he said, is with the state – not the federal government. “It’s the state that’s putting up hurdles in front of private individuals who want to develop this resource.”

Fulcher says that, as governor, he would provide the leadership to open the doors to a new industry and a new era of prosperity. “It’s a matter of getting with the Department of lands and saying, ‘here’s your charter: Knock down those hurdles and let’s get this thing cranking.’”

North Dakota, with its explosive growth, might not be such an attractive role model. But at least, Fulcher is talking and thinking beyond business as usual. It’s far more interesting than Otter’s bit part in a low-budget movie more than 20 years ago.

Fulcher has plenty to say about Otter – and not about movies. (more…)

The siren call

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

There’s an old saying that politics is a disease cured only by six feet of dirt. It seems especially true for those who have served in high public office, even those who fulfill the classic prediction that headlined an article written in the 1950s by Oregon Senator Richard Neuberger for The Saturday Evening Post: “They Never Go Back to Pocatello!”

Even those who stay inside the beltway to become high-paid lobbyists will sometimes forsake money because they miss the subliminal joy derived from the exercise of power, and the deference received from those courting their favor.

The itch to serve by a former holder of high office saw its latest manifestation on the last day for filing in Idaho on March 14th. Former Second District congressman Richard Stallings (1984-1992), the only Democrat to hold the seat in recent years, filed to reclaim his old job---again.

The now 73-year-old former history professor at BYU-Idaho attempted to move from the House to the Senate in 1992, but lost to the non-Mormon Republican, then Boise Mayor Dirk Kempthorne, by a 57% to 43% margin. Kempthorne’s victory largely lay to rest the false notion that a good Mormon Democrat would draw better in Idaho’s Mormon counties than a non-Mormon Republican.

Stallings wisely chose not to challenge the hugely popular Mike Crapo, a former Senate Pro Tempore and a successful Idaho Falls attorney, who easily won the Stallings-held seat in 1992. However, when after one term in the Senate, Kempthorne decided he would rather be governor, Stallings thought he had a fairly clear path for returning. Unfortunately for Richard, he ended up facing the talented Speaker of the Idaho House, Blackfoot dentist Mike Simpson. Richard went down to defeat by a narrow 52% to 48% margin.

Simpson has held the seat ever since and will be seeking his ninth term in November if he can dispatch Tea-bag Idaho Falls Republican attorney Bryan Smith who is mounting a serious challenge that will be decided in the May primary. (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)

New plans for Boise parcel near JuMP (Boise Statesman)
UI will get massive supercomputer (Lewiston Tribune)
Survival rates for wolf pups reviewed (TF Times News)

Ashland council holds session on guns (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Shakespeare Festival 2015 lineup announced (Ashland Tidings)
Phoenix petition would delay pot shop (Medford Tribune)
Republicans hope for Portland gains (Portland Oregonian)

New Mukilteo mayor cuts city jobs (Everett Herald)
About two departing legislators, Hope, Roberts (Everett Herald)
About the growing diversity in Bellevue (Seattle Times)
Challenges facing pot businesses (Tacoma News Tribune)
MultiCare Health sued over medical liens (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislature owes court a school report (Vancouver Columbian)
Common core trial tests next week (Yakima Herald Republic)

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)

Kratom drug overview (Boise Statesman)
Dog park efforts in Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
School broadband budget in review (Nampa Press Tribune)
Stallings running in 2nd district (Pocatello Journal)
Indian mascots in review (TF Times News)
Guiding on private land would be unlicensed (TF Times News)

Criticism of prospective subdivision (Eugene Register Guard)
In SW OR, calling firemen instead of police (Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Rainbow trout dying at Cole Rivers hatchery (Medford Tribune)
Oil trains contain flaamable gases (Portland Oregonian)
defining cyberbullying in re-tweeting case (Salem Statesman Journal)

Managing open records with new tech (Everett Herald)
State, feds setting new hanford goals (Kennewick Herald)
Colorado got head start on pot sales (Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald)
Gun accidents rise, no change in gun law (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Internal battles at Sequim museum (Port Angeles News)
What's next in health reform? (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane arena still paying off costs (Spokane Spokesman)
Legislature on education funding (Tacoma News Tribune)
Concerns ongoing on oil terminal spill (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark Commission gets another candidate (Vancouver Columbian)
Talk of a Columbia bridge east of 205 (Vancouver Columbian)

An election year session

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

You can't necessarily rule out political motivations in very much when it comes to this year's Washington legislative session.

Certainly not the fact that, as matters stand now, they're done for the year – no special session, no undone budget. When time came to get the deal done, both parties were there to deal.

And no doubt part of the reason was that the election was coming up, right around the corner, and no one wanted to be seen as too obviously obstructionist.

Governor Jay Inslee said his happiest moment as governor so far came during this session when he was able to sign the Washington Dream act – for undocumented, immigrant students, for they could obtain grants to go on to college. A headline in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called it “The Legislature's lone big accomplishment,” and probably that headline wouldn't be changed after sine die day. But it happened in large part because (and this isn't a merits argument against) a broad enough coalition developed around the state to ensure that people standing in its way would risk becoming road kill.

This will be a tense and close-fought legislative election in Washington. Without much at stake by way of major offices, attention will go to the legislature and especially to the Senate, where control of the chamber rides on the future of only a couple of seats. Because of the coalition nature of the current ruling majority there, the emotional stakes are even higher than usual.

None of this could ever have been far from the minds of many legislators this short session.

Now, the session done, they can fully commit to dealing with Topic A.

And hope the session next year operates on somewhat more straightforward motivations.

A different kind of AG

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Attorney general is a technical job, held only by a lawyer, which may lead you think there's not a lot for a voter to decide between its candidates other than resume.

Not so. In deciding where to exert the state's legal muscle and in how he evaluates a legal situation, an AG can have real impact. Idaho's incumbent since 2002, Republican Lawrence Wasden, was a surprise: A long-time chief of staff in that office, he might have been expected to carry water for other powers at the Statehouse but instead marked out a careful but frequently gutsy course, displaying willingness to take on powers in the state when he saw reason to.

He seemed headed for a free ride in his fourth run for the office, but now has a primary challenger, Eagle attorney Chris Troupis. And that means some night-and-day voter choices lie ahead.

Note up front that Troupis is an experienced attorney of more than 30 years and evidently a capable professional. Also that judging an attorney by his clients can be unfair; representing controversial people and ideas go with the territory. And, a lot of Troupis' law practice concerns basic business law.

But you could key his practice too (acknowledging his supporters may argue with this) to the name he long has used - “Christ” Troupis. At his announcement last week he said he's changing that to “Chris,” because “I don’t want the election to be about my name.” He has used it for decades, though, in his law practice – it still was on its web site as of last week - and as a reference in news stories and elsewhere, and it was his ballot name when he ran for the state Senate in 2008. (In a thinly Democratic-leaning district, he pulled 42.4% of the vote.)

His law practice web site notes, about one of his higher-profile cases a decade ago, “I represented the Keep the Commandments Coalition pro bono in a lawsuit brought by the City of Boise after it denied my client's request for an initiative election on the return of a Ten Commandments monument to Julia Davis Park.” And there was Richard Peterson v. Hewlett Packard: “I brought suit against Hewlett-Packard Co. for Federal Employment Discrimination and wrongful termination under the Civil Rights Act and the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. My client was terminated by Hewlett-Packard for posting scriptures in his work cubicle that were critical of homosexual behavior.” (more…)