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Posts published in March 2014

Reinvesting in their homeland

carlson CHRIS


Recently, Joe Pakootas announced his candidacy for the fifth congressional district seat in the state of Washington. Most experts think he has little chance against incumbent Cathy McMorris-Rodgers.

A member of Speaker John Boehner’s leadership team, she has served ten years and last time out defeated her Democratic opponent, 62% to 38%.

Besides, Pakootas is a Native American, a member of the Colville Nation and conventional wisdom is faux Americans do not elect first Americans to high public office. Occasionally there is a rare exception.
Coloradoans elected Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell to two terms in the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1993 to 2005. A member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation he eschewed pursuing a third term.

And voters in Idaho elected Larry Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation, to the Attorney General’s office in 1990 and in 1994 he came within a whisker of becoming the first Native American to be elected governor of a state. Idaho was also one of the first western states to elect a Native American to its State Legislature with Chief Joseph Garry of the Coeur d’Alene Nation serving in the State Senate for the 1967 and 1968 sessions.

Another member of the Coeur d’Alene Nation, Jeanne Givens, was one of the first Native American females to be elected to a State House of Representatives, serving from 1985 through 1988. She left the Legislature to challenge then First District congressman Larry Craig, but was soundly defeated in the November, 1988 general election.

Pakootas should not be dismissed lightly. A former tribal chairman and now head of the Colville Tribal Enterprises, he has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Washington. He took over the Tribal business operations when they were deeply in the red and within a year had the operations in the black.

He is smart, articulate and savvy. In his initial expression of candidacy he clearly lifted a page from Republican campaign uber-strategist Karl Rove that says go after your opponent’s chief area of strength. Pakootas said he would go after the congresswoman in farm country.

Smart move. All over this nation farmers are angry with their incumbent largely Republican representatives because of their so far abject failure to get together and pass a new Farm bill. It is especially true in Washington’s 5th. For years they were represented by Tom Foley who was thoroughly familiar with the most arcane parts of farm law. On his way to the Speakership he also served as chairman of the House Ag committee. (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)

More funds for education, not tax cuts (Boise Statesman)
Condos may rise near main Boise library (Boise Statesman)
Rails to trails lands may be RR owned (Lewiston Tribune)
Flood stages nears in some places (Lewiston Tribune)
School WiFi still raising questions (Moscow News)
Domestic violence protections bill in WA (Moscow News)
Bill could require twice-daily sobriety checks (Nampa Press Tribune)
Disabled veterans helped by Caldwell garden (Nampa Press Tribune)
School safety cut from state budget (Pocatello Journal)
School bonds on ballot (TF Times News)
Insurance bill for firefighters stopped again (TF Times News)

Increase in garbage fees possible (Eugene Register Guard)
Lane considers administrator salary (Eugene Register Guard)
Cougar killing creatures at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Homeless site approved at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
SOU president on no-confidence vote (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Another dog park possible at Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
Jackson seeks to reduce cat euthanasia (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton Roundup's first paid manager (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Umatilla River running high (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hanjin Shipping will stay at Portland port (Portland Oregonian)
TriMet loses service, repute (Portland Oregonian)
Legal questions on rails to trails (Salem Statesman Journal)

More nurses for Snohomish jail (Everett Herald)
More goat by allowed at Lynnwood (Everett Herald)
Roads at Arlington area falling behind (Everett Herald)
Nuclear plant inspected three times (Kennewick Herald)
Fishing restricted in three rivers (Longview News)
PUD pay standards to be discussed (Longview News)
New prosecutor at work at Clallam (Port Angeles News)
Port Angeles economic developement director (Port Angeles News)
Big crack found at Alaska viaduct (Seattle Times)
Rails to trails jeopardized (Spokane Spokesman, Yakima Herald Republic)
Dispute over public docks on Lake CdA (Spokane Spokesman)
Employment agency for pot business (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark County generating legal pot (Vancouver Columbian)
New manager expected for Ridgefield (Vancouver Columbian)

Improving quality, cutting costs

trahant MARK


The challenge in health care can be boiled down to two ideas: Improve the quality and cut the costs.

It’s a fact that the U.S. spends too much, both private and government money, on health care, nearly nearly 18 percent of all goods and services. The good news is that cost has been slowing, partly because of the economy, and most partly because the Affordable Care Act.

But this is just a first step. We have a long way to go. The reason is the country’s demographics: We have smaller population of young people, a huge baby boom generation, and people are living longer. Add this all up and the numbers are not sustainable by any metric. So math, not politics, ought to determine the route forward and that means looking for innovation to make health care less expensive. So when something comes along that does just that, you would think that it would be worth a celebration. But that’s not how change works.

As I have written before, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Dental Health Therapist Program is such a model. The Alaska program trains young people to practice mid-level dentistry, something that’s common around the world. This program expands access, improves quality, health, and is less expensive. It’s backed up by rigorous studies, that show mid-level providers offer “safe, competent and affordable care.”

So where is the celebration? Well, that will have to wait until the fight is over.

Washington state is considering legislation that would expand mid-level providers and the Washington State Dental Association is opposed saying that “midlevel providers will not make dental care more affordable, how dental residencies are a superior alternative, and how dentists in private practice are reimbursed 25 cents on the dollar for adult Medicaid patients.” (more…)

This week’s Briefings

Zawadi Mungu, proud father of the pride, is now spending time with his cubs. He’s a 500-pound mega-carnivore capable of pulling a buffalo to the ground, but Zawadi Mungu now plays a new role: cat toy. Last week, the male lion ventured outside with his trio of energetic cubs for the first time, and demonstrated a remarkable tolerance for a flurry of pint-sized attacks on his mane, tail and patience. The cubs were first introduced to their dad in their indoor den a few days earlier.. (photo/Oregon Zoo)


The end of the legislatures - concluding last week in Oregon, probably next in Washington and possibly the week after in Idaho - were persistent subjects in this week's Briefings.

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)

CdA lakefront may sell in bitcoin (Boise Statesman)
Schools can change WiFi plans (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bill would set Internet sales tax account (TF Times News)
Battle over wolves, a colt (TF Times News)

OR Supreme Court on eyewitnesses (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Rest stops being upgraded (Eugene Register Guard)
Low-snow problems at Mt Ashland (Medford Tribune)
New healthy forest plan near Bend (Portland Oregonian)
Republicans at Dorchester (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem considers its public rest rooms (Salem Statesman Journal)

Monroe MusicFest losing money (Everett Herald)
Possible closure of drug, detox programs (Everett Herald)
Green Power at Pasco may be sold (Kennewick Herald)
WA Catholics review Pope Francis (Longview News)
All-electric buses at Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
WA cell phone alerts sometimes flawed (Vancouver Columbian)
Upgrade to Ft Vancouver visitor center (Vancouver Columbian)
WA has high min wage and good economy (Yakima Herald Republic)

A new phosphate project

A large truck hauls phosphate ore from an Agrium open pit mine on the Caribou/Targhee National Forest. (photo/Mark Mendiola


mendiola MARK


An earlier version of this column appeared in Green Markets

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved the transfer of operating rights for the Dry Ridge Phosphate Project in southeastern Idaho from Solvoy USA Inc. to Fertoz USA LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Fertoz Ltd., an Australian company with phosphate operations in Australia and Canada.

Fertoz joins Canadian companies Agrium, based at Calgary, Alberta, and Stonegate Agricom, based at Toronto, Ontario, as foreign companies hoping to realize hefty profits by developing phosphate mines in southeastern Idaho, but at great up-front capital investments.

Agrium has operated Conda processing plant for decades as Nu-West Industries near Soda Springs and runs the North Rasmussen Ridge Mine. Stonegate Agricom is developing the Paris Hills underground phosphate mine near Bloomington and Paris.

In December, Fertoz acquired an option to explore and acquire up to 100 percent of the Dry Ridge lease on the phosphate-rich Caribou/Targhee National Forest, expanding into the United States as it embarks on an ambitious expansion.

It has engaged World Industrial Minerals as a consultant to provide additional geological services to develop an exploration program in alignment with BLM requirements. Cascade Earth Sciences also has been contracted to start environmental permitting as required by the BLM. CES has teamed with Sound Ecological Endeavours and Sundance Consulting to expedite the biological and archaeological processes, respectively.

The approval process is expected to take 12 to 15 months. Fertoz Managing Director Les Szonyi said the BLM’s approval of transferring Dry Ridge operating rights will allow Fertoz to accelerate the permit and exploration approval process and begin drilling at the end of 2015 in Idaho.

Exploration in the United States requires significant third party input and reports before drilling can be approved, he noted, adding he expects Fertoz will submit in the next few months an exploration application, which outlines the proposed exploration plan. An environmental assessment of the project’s impact also must be submitted. (more…)

Only a short session


It was only a short session, and if not a lot got done outside the budget basics, you can more or less understand that. The idea of these shorter even-year sessions – of which this was the second – wasn't to address the whole smorgasbord, but rather just do some touch-up and adjustment on items that needed to be handled right away, or on an emergency basis.

Fine Having reached that understanding, legislators would do well to remember it in 2015 … as they didn't remember it in 2013, when a string of items including a number that some legislators just didn't really want to deal with (from pot to guns to the Columbia River bridge) were pushed to the side, occasionally with the remark that they could hold another year.

The idea of a 2014 ballot issue on liquor privatization or pot legalization, both of which probably could have been handled better within a legislative context than through the writing of ballot issues, were among the items legislators didn't really want to deal with in 2013. Part of the argument? It doesn't have to be handled now, because the ballot issue wouldn't come up until more than a year away anyhow.

After this session, that kind of argument never should be heard again at Salem in the odd-numbered years.

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)

Materials needed for Common Core teaching (Boise Statesman)
Old ethics conflict re Denney, Toryanski (Boise Statesman)
School bond levies just ahead (Nampa Press Tribune)
Kimberly meal service accused of Medicaid overbills (Nampa Press Tribune)
.22 ammunition locally hard to find (Pocatello Journal)
Overview of Magic Valley food industry (TF Times News)
Wolf kills won't get $2 million (TF Times News)

Financial concerns about Civic purchase (Eugene Register Guard)
OR Republicans, gay marriage (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune)
Reviewing speeding tickets at Medford (Medford Tribune)
Plenty of initiatives coming this year (Portland Oregonian)

What's a head at legislature (Everett Herald)
High housing foreclosures at TriCities (Kennewick Herald)
WA passes new medical marijuana bill (Tacoma News Tribune, Longview News)
Sewage entering Port Angeles harbor (Port Angeles News)
Nippon Paper plant reopens (Port Angeles News)
First Federal close to stock offering (Port Angeles News)
Investors mass-buying homes (Seattle Times)
Are string of rural bar fires linked? (Spokane Spokesman)
State goes to poor-scoring school (Tacoma News Tribune)
Benton paid by state and county (Vancouver Columbian)
Clergy sex trial to begin (Yakima Herald Republic)

Look back … a century

idaho RANDY

One way to get some perspective on Idaho government today is to look back to how it once was. Let's go back a century and see what happened then.

The governor then was John Haines, a Republican real estate developer who was elected on a small-government platform; he was serving just one two-year term (and would lose a bid for re-election in 1914). The Legislature was even more Republican then than it is now, 21-3 in the Senate 56-4 in the House.

So what did they do in the 1913-14 term? What follows is a short description, extracted from the book Idaho 100 (by your scribe and Martin Peterson, published in fall 2012); Haines ranked number 54 on that list. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it: Compare and contrast to their present-day counterparts …

An Iowa native, Haines spent his early adulthood dealing real estate in Kansas, only to be wiped out by a severe drought in the late 1890s. Along with many others, he headed west, to Idaho. On the way, he encountered several other would-be realtors, and when they got to Boise they formed the W.E. Pierce and Company real estate firm. It rapidly became the leading realty firm in Idaho, and played an important role in the development of southwest Idaho—Boise in particular. That development became all the more important because the senior partner, W.E. Pierce, was elected Boise mayor in 1903, and Haines succeeded him in 1907. The office of mayor gave Haines the platform to run for governor in 1912, in a race he only barely won over Democrat James Hawley, after running hard on a campaign of fiscal austerity.

He turned out, once elected, to have a head for reform, in all sorts of areas. He pushed for non-partisan election of judges (who then ran on party tickets; his suggestion would be taken after a few years). He pressed for the full range of progressive political issues, including the recall and referendum.

Governing during a session when legislators were preoccupied with choosing a new U.S. senator, he argued for passage of the 17th amendment to turn that over to the voters. And, amid the political confusion, he became central in the 1913 session in setting an agenda for passing what he considered very important items. He got them.

One was creation of a state Board of Education. Idaho already had a board of regents for the University of Idaho, but the new board would be united with it and oversee education statewide. That same system survives a century later. (more…)