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Posts published in March 2014

Another reason Ryan is wrong

trahant MARK


Paul Ryan is wrong. Way wrong.

On Monday the former Republican candidate for Vice President released a review of programs that attack the “war on poverty.” The House Budget Chairman said: “This 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty is an opportunity to review the record in full. And we should seize it.”

Ryan said the federal government has “measured compassion by how much we spend instead of how many people get out of poverty. We need to take a hard look at what the federal government is doing and ask, ‘Is this working?’ This report will help start the conversation. It shows that some programs work; others don't. And for many of them, we just don't know.”

The premise that underlies this report is Ryan, and Republicans, firmly held philosophy that government is not capable about solving problems. This is another push to shrink the federal government.

That said: A debate about the role of government is fair. It’s worth Republicans making their case that a smaller, stingy government would be effective. Then those candidates can take that message to the voters for affirmation (or more likely, rejection).

However when it comes to Indian health, Ryan’s War on Poverty review is factually incorrect. The Ryan report lumps the Indian Health Service in with other social programs. The history is described this way: “The IHS was officially established within the Department of Health and Human Services in 1955 (then the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare) as part of the Transfer Act. But the federal initiatives designed to increase access to health services for tribal members existed as far back as 1830.” (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 classrooms, teachers (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
House construction on rise in Treasure Valley (Boise Statesman)
Nez Perce call out the wolf kills (Boise Statesman)
New UI president settles in (Lewiston Tribune)
Farmers questioning farm bill impacts (Moscow News)
Latah candidates begin filing (Moscow News)
Oakesdale school tries for another bond (Moscow News)
Nampa superintendent candidates arrive (Nampa Press Tribune)
Preschool pilot bill advances (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho group: feds can't impose same-sex marriage (Nampa Press Tribune)
Revenge porn bill advances (Sandpoint Bee)
Snow storm hits Panhandle (Sandpoint Bee)
TF County jail sued by inmates (TF Times News)
Candidates filing for Idaho offices (TF Times News)

Corvallis grants Witham Oaks proposal (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Pot dispensary applicants roll in (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Eugene Register Guard, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Old Red Lion Hotel at Eugene demolished (Eugene Register Guard)
Big R stores of KF sell to Coastal (KF Herald & News)
New rules to block unwanted animals (Ashland Tidings)
Cover Oregon may miss another deadline (Medford Tribune)
Hermiston prohibits pot dispensaries (Pendleton East Oregonian)
State will pay more to Oracle (Portland Oregonian)
Considering coach sex abuse allegations (Salem Statesman Journal)

Boeing plans major Everett addition (Everett Herald)
$200k state grant: Was it a payoff? (Everett Herald)
Record grape crop harvested in Washington (Kennewick Herald)
Federal shutdown cost local tourism dollars (Kennewick Herald)
Minimum wage discussions hit slow patch (Seattle Times)
Microsoft execs reshuffle again (Seattle Times)
Idaho legislator seeks ethics review of herself (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma's Simpson mill sold (Tacoma News Tribune)
Vancouver adopts pot regulations (Vancouver Columbian)
Washington mileage tax considered (Vancouver Columbian)
Snow hits northern Cascades (Yakima Herald Republic)

Listening to Batt

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

Leave it to former Gov. Phil Batt to provide a sane voice of reason to a controversial social issue. He played the role of a statesman marvelously during his years in political office and he is just as relevant today as he encourages his fellow Republicans to “add the words” in the battle to end discrimination against gays.

Batt made a compelling argument in a recent op-ed that appeared in the Idaho Statesman. As Batt accurately points out, Idaho continues to feel the sting of the practicing Nazis in North Idaho. Large corporations, such as Hewlett-Packard and Boise Cascade, are rightfully concerned about Idaho’s negative reputation in regard to human rights.

But Batt’s reasons go beyond economics and politics. In his op-ed, he wrote about two of his grandchildren who were gay, or sympathetic to gay causes, and found success – in another state.

“These young folks love Idaho and I wish they lived here so that I could see them more,” Batt said. “However, they will never make this their home again as long as we maintain our distain for people who are ‘different.’”

The biggest battle that Batt and other proponents face is the mentality of his fellow Republicans in the Idaho Legislature. Batt’s thinking in more in line with Idahoans in North Idaho who successfully fought against the Aryan Nations, the Nazi group that settled in the area, and worked hard to restore that area’s proud image. Unfortunately, it’s people such as Rep. Lynn Luker, who seem to take their lead from the likes of the late George Wallace – the old George Wallace of the segregation era. Luker might as well be saying, “Discrimination now, discrimination tomorrow and discrimination forever … in the name of religious freedom.” All that’s missing from Luker’s rhetoric is a southern drawl.

Legislators should realize two fundamental concepts as they ponder this issue.

Discrimination in any form is wrong – whether it’s on the basis of age, race, gender or sexual orientation.

Idaho looks pretty stupid in continuing to tolerate discrimination against gays. Attitudes are changing even in Arizona and that takes some doing.

If Arizona can change, then so can Idaho. Years ago, Idaho was a white-knuckles holdout in acknowledging Martin Luther King Day as a holiday – which turned Idaho into a national laughing stock. The embarrassment ended in 1990, with the courage of Sen. Lee Staker of Idaho Falls and leadership of Senate President Pro Tem Mike Crapo.

The same kind of courage and determination can turn the tide on the “add the words” debate. Republicans may not listen to former Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour, who seems to widen the partisan divide every time she opens her mouth. But they can, and should pay attention to the words of Phil Batt, one of the great Idaho statesmen of our times.

A digital cost


The dots weren't often connected, but we spotted some commonalities this week between local headllines in places like Arlington and Port Angeles: Much-loved local downtown single-screen movie theaters will be closed, playing their final movies this week. Read closely, and you find a lot of them are going through the same thing, at about the same time.

The reason is not hard to find: Technology.

Movie theaters nationally are moving toward new digital approaches to playing movies, and there will be advantages: No more broken tape reels, no more off-kilter sound. The quality will be better. Long-term, the costs may be be less too.

But the costs are high in the shorter term, and owners of some older theaters say there's simply no way they can afford the high upgrade costs. So the theaters are shuttered.

More than just those businesses are closing. Movie theaters in many places but especially in smaller cities are real community gathering spots and points of pride. Once closed, many communities have gone to extraordinary efforts to try to revive them, if not for movies then as community event centers. Large sums of money have been raised in some places (Pocatello, Idaho, is one that comes personally to mind) to keep those centers alive.

Given that, might some of these communities try to find ways to help the theater owners before the theaters go entirely dark – or at least, before they've been sitting there too long?

You have to suspect some of the theater owners would love some help interaction on this. And the communities might find some of those dollar spent early on would be money well spent over time.

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)

Cities blast anti-aesthetics rule bill (Boise Statesman)
Private ambulance service starts in Palouse (Moscow News)
Senator Schmidt at constituent meeting (Moscow News)
School safety study may have effects (Nampa Press Tribune)
Where would more TF industry go? (TF Times News)
New Jerome administrator moves in (TF Times News)
Reviewing the scope of Idaho wolf efforts (TF Times News)

Same sex marriage ballot issue ahead (Eugene Register Guard, Corvallis Gazette Times)
More repairs on Corvallis boardwalk (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Water line fees at Ashland, Medford (Ashland Tidings)
Religious exemption bill introd at Salem (Ashland Tidings)
Medical marijuana dispensary rules up (Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)
Even-year legislative session questioned (Portland Oregonian)

Sunset Falls Dam considered (Everett Herald)
Edmonds trouble confirming new council member (Everett Herald)
Kennewick may buy more land (Kennewick Herald)
More regulation of marijuana (Langivew News)
State may reimburse Clallam for murder costs (Port Angeles News)
Alpacas rescued at Oregon State (Seattle Times)
Oregon sees same-sex marriage battle (Seattle Times)
Public opinion opposes oil terminal (Vancouver Columbian)
Fire district has organizational issues (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima considers billboard limitations (Yakima Herald Republic)

The tentpoles of religious exemption

idaho RANDY

In 1874 George Reynolds, a secretary to Mormon President Brigham Young and husband to two wives, was charged with the crime of bigamy. The case didn't come out of the blue: The LDS church (with Reynolds as volunteer) had sought it as a test.

Reynolds argued his marriages were constitutionally protected as his practice of his religion, since the LDS church then supported polygamy on religious grounds. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 1879 decision in Reynolds v. United States didn't deliver as hoped. The court drew on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, who argued that “religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God … the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions.”

The court closely followed his reasoning: “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship; would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband; would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?”

So: How would the Idaho Legislature today answer those questions?

Freedom of religion has been at least the rhetorical premise for several pieces of legislation this year.
The best known, effectively killed for now on February 19 after initially working up steam toward passage, was House Bill 427, which would have barred government in Idaho from pulling or restricting a professional or occupational license for “Declining to provide or participate in providing any service that violates the person's sincerely held religious beliefs or exercise of religion except where performing emergency response duties for public safety. ” Though the potential scope was broad, it was widely described as allowing professionals not to do business with gay people.

A bill cutting the other way didn't even get a hearing.

Idaho law currently says “The practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.” Representative John Gannon proposed House Bill 458 to add: “However, this exemption shall not apply whenever a child's medical condition has caused death or permanent disability.”

Gannon's prompt was not hypothetical. The Oregon-based Followers of Christ church was a locus of infant and child mortality, including a number of cases deemed to be easily treatable by conventional medicine, and it eventually drew state legislative response. Church members were prosecuted in Oregon for failing to obtain medical treatment for their children. Since then, Oregon journalists found a remote Idaho graveyard where many of the children of the sect, denied medical treatment, are buried. (more…)


rainey BARRETT



That“Washington Post” headline of a week or two ago struck me on two counts: it was some experienced observer’s recognition we have a totally ineffective branch of federal government - as I’ve speculated for some time; it was not unexpected news.

Both the conclusion and the fact it was not unexpected combine to make a powerful statement that this nation - for all intents political - is blind, lost and leaderless in one-third of the constitutional government we’ve been taught to respect. In reality, the U.S. Congress has become an employer of last resort for too many folks incapable of doing - or even understanding - their jobs.

That headline was further reinforced last week when the U.S. Senate was unable to pass a bill to put $21 billion on the table to provide additional education benefits, an unemployment extension and badly needed improved medical care for veterans of our most recent unnecessary wars. Democrats put up the legislation - Republican killed it. They did so despite the fact it was Republican presidents who got us into those wars-of-choice.

Can you come up with a single, acceptable reason why the people who got us - and those veterans - into extended, unwinnable wars in the first place won’t honor the other side of the accompanying commitment to provide the best possible support for those we sent onto the battlefield? I can’t!

Veterans aren’t the only Americans being screwed by their own elected government. You can add millions more who’ve lost food stamps to help with basic family needs - long-term unemployed who’ve been unable to end the downward economic spiral many got caught in through no actions of their own - elderly who’ve lost housing and even food program assistance they need to survive - school lunch programs on which millions of kids rely for at least one good meal a day - local government infrastructure assistance for highway construction, updating sewer and water systems, law enforcement, environmental programs and more.

All of these things - and many other necessary if not outright life-saving government programs - have been decimated by members of a congress so wrapped up trying to stay publicly employed that the needs of their own constituents have been ignored. (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)

Boise city hall artwork chosen (Boise Statesman)
Efforts to curb dog shootings (Boise Statesman)
Debate over massive Caldwell subdivision (Nampa Press Tribune)
Water levees at risk in Pocatello (Pocatello Journal)
Maybe a new roundabout at Sandpoint (Sandpoint Bee)
Dairies promise to self-regulate (TF Times News)
CSI copes with guns on their campus (TF Times News)

Eugene Water/Electric land by river may be renewed (Eugene Register Guard)
Legislature nears end (Eugene Register Guard)
KF public safety levy planned (KF Herald & News)
PacifiCorps at Link River may be closed (KF Herald & News)
Health exchange still has bugs (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing the marijuana dispensary regime (Salem Statesman Journal)

Funding sought for new mental health court (Kennewick Herald)
Crack in Wanapum Dam deemed serious (Kennewick Herald)
Yakima wants pot money, but not sales (Longview News)
ACLU, judge on pay-or-appear (Port Angeles News)
Flaws in Hanford tanks (Tacoma News Tribune)
Supreme Court wants school fund changes (Tacoma News Tribune)
Still long calls on health exchange (Vancouver Columbian)
Critics of oil terminal speak out (Vancouver Columbian)
Candidates for Hasting's House seat (Yakima Herald Republic)
Concerns about changing medical pot law (Yakima Herald Republic)

Do you see a pattern?

carlson CHRIS


Once again high officials in the administration of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter have been caught misrepresenting "facts" and manipulating data in order to present a less than honest picture to the people of Idaho. It is intentional, done with malice aforethought, and it is deplorable as it is deceitful.

It is the latest issue in the long-playing saga surrounding the questionable award of a lucrative contract five years ago to a subsidiary of Qwest, the telecommunications giant and a contributor to Governor Otter over the years even though their bid was not the low bid. From e-mails produced in the subsequent lawsuit by the low-bidder, Syringa, which includes in its principals members of former Governor John V. Evans' family, it was clear to Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones that the then head of the Department of Administration, "First Bud" Mike Gwartney, had predetermined that Qwest would win. Justice Jones denounced this fix in scathing language.

Purpose of the contract was to deliver broad band width primarily to most of Idaho's many rural school districts so that they could offer their students dual credit courses, classes whereby students could get both high school and college credits for the class. Many states have these so called "running start" programs whereby a student can get a jump on going to college and earn early credits that reduce the cost of college for the student and save having to take heftier student loans out to finance a college curriculum. While nobly intended there is obviously something rotten in /Denmark that cries out or further examination: the cost!

Leave it to an enterprising reporter, Judd Wilson, for the St. Maries Gazette-Record, to ferret out the cost and ask the obvious questions on behalf of the taxpayer. Wilson looked at a press release put out by the Department of Administration last month which claimed that 5,010 students had earned 15,905 college credits through IEN, thereby saving families over $2 million in tuition at typical rates, thus saving Idaho families hard earned cash. Give Otter's Department of Administration an F in Math if one is kind. Call it deliberately deceitful if you're not so inclined.

Since its inception in 2009, the Idaho Education Network has cost federal and state taxpayers $28,552,670. Do the math yourself. It averages out to $1,795.20 in taxpayer dollars for each of the 15,905 college credits touted by the Department in the report - except of course that number isn't there.

Hello! Is anybody there? How can this be justified? A dual credit at North Idaho College costs from $65 to $107 per credit. At Boise State the per credit cost is $260 and at the University of Idaho it is $311 per credit. So, can anyone explain why the IEN delivered dual credits cost almost six times as much as a Vandal credit?

Well apparently not. All one hears are vague statements about hard to measure intangibles that broadband brings to rural districts, such as - President Jimmy Carter appearing in some program presented to a government affairs class in some school like Kendrick? Give me a break. (more…)