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Posts published in April 2014

Otter at Pocatello

mendiola MARK
MENDIOLA

 
Reports

Facing a May 20 Republican primary election challenge from Idaho Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter touted the state’s economic advancements under his leadership when he spoke at an April 29 Greater Pocatello Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Fulcher, Senate majority caucus chairman, hopes to derail Otter’s drive to secure a third term as the Gem State’s chief executive. During his morning speech to a crowd of about 400 at the Red Lion, Otter said after his 99-year-old mother urged him to run for re-election, he helped her fill out her absentee ballot.

Otter paraphrased Anglo-Irish statesman Edmund Burke who said all that needs to happen for a good organization to go bad is for good people to do nothing. “Idaho is in pretty good shape,” he said. “The economy in the state continues to grow.”

Publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes have ranked Idaho as the fifth best state in which to do business. The top five states are all governed by Republicans in the West, with Utah topping the list, Otter said.

While much has been said of North Dakota’s oil and natural gas boom, it is not well known that Idaho is now a natural gas producing state with 4.2 million cubic feet a day of “sweet gas” pumped in southwestern Idaho’s Payette County, where Idaho Power runs the Langley Gulch Power Plant capable of generating 300 megawatts of power, the governor said.

In 2008, Otter launched “Project 60” to boost Idaho’s Gross Domestic Product from $51.5 billion in 2007 when he took office to $60 billion last year. The state’s GDP is projected to hit $62.4 billion this year, creating jobs and broadening the tax base, he said. “We’re running ahead of economic projections a little bit.”

Idaho’s unemployment rate went from 2.7 percent about seven years ago to a peak of nearly 9 percent about four years ago before declining to its existing rate of 5.2 percent, which is 1.5 percent better than the nation’s jobless rate, Otter noted. (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)

Meridian becomes Idaho's boom town (Boise Statesman)
Republican groups split on ticket support (Boise Statesman)
Superintendent prospects and politics (Boise Statesman)
Trucker seeks higher road weight limits (Lewiston Tribune)
Reevaluating economics of Snake dam breaches (Lewiston Tribune)
Legislature, Supreme Court on WA school funds (Lewiston Tribune)
Inslee goes after green house gas emissions (Moscow News)
Mitchell profiled in Senate race (Moscow News)
Latah Democrats prepare for primary (Moscow News)
Common Core draws candidate comments (Nampa Press Tribune)
Otter travels SE Idaho (Pocatello Journal)
Energy plant at Bannock landfill unveiled (Pocatello Journal)
Curtailed water delayed with new mitigation plan (TF Times News)

Dispute over siting for OSU at Bend (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene may try library levy (Eugene Register Guard)
Lane County, Eugene may trade downtown land (Eugene Register Guard)
Pot dispensary opens at Klamath (KF Herald & News)
SOU president considered for Ohio spot (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Tech park envisioned for White City (Medford Tribune)
Big increase in hunting, fishing fees (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla public health director quits (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Middle school principal leaves Hermiston (Pendleton East Oregonian)
State presses completion of school compacts (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Lack of preparedness for oil emergency (Portland Oregonian)
State child support agency accused of sexism (Portland Oregonian)
Budget issues at corrections schools (Salem Statesman Journal)
Lower Cinnamon Lakes Dam deemed risky (Salem Statesman Journal)

Causes of Oso mudslide considered (Everett Herald)
State of the Site Hanford meets opened (Kennewick Herald)
New sewer line won't go in yet (Kennewick Herald)
Woodland principal accused of misconduct (Longview News)
Longview sewer project switches gears (Longview News)
Sequim officials get raises (Port Angeles News)
Key sea creature dissolving in Pacific (Seattle Times)
Inslee on greenhouse gases (Tacoma News Tribune)
Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls nearly done (Vancouver Columbian)
Heritage University at Toppenish rebuilding (Yakima Herald Republic)

Cover perspective

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Oregon

The embarrassing decision this week about Cover Oregon – that its website operations in Oregon, under contract through Oracle Corporation, have filed so completely that the state will resort to going online via the federal website – most certainly calls for more answers than have been received so far. Heads have rolled already, and possibly more should as well.

We are after all talking about a couple of hundred million dollars that didn't deliver what they were supposed to. That's not a small deal.

But:

The uproar over the website should not obscure the larger picture, which is a lot brighter. The web site had to do with providing one option – not the only option – for people to sign up for health insurance policies. It was never intended as the only route to get that done. The website was not, many reports t the contrary, a complete failure: It did succeed in providing a good deal of information about what policies, at what costs, were available, and helped people locate assistance for finding human help to get covered. Personal testimonial: In our household, it worked in exactly that way. We got online, found relevant information and where to go for help, and got covered in the space of an hour and a half or so.

That one-time transitional element of the health insurance picture is a tiny slice of the overall, which is the expansion of health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who had not had it. That expansion, which is the point of the effort, has in fact happened, delivering results more or less as predicted.

A good deal more reporting attention ought to be focused on how well the new insurance regime is working. Our impression is that for the most part, it's working not badly, but more inquiry in that area could be useful. Oregon's health care picture is changing in big ways, and very little of that has much to do with the blinkered website.

Accountability is proper in a case like this. But one relatively small piece of the puzzle shouldn't be so overwhelmingly preoccupying.

More on McCleary

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

The Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation today released its plan to meet McCleary v. Washington, the 2012 state Supreme Court decision holding that the state isn’t adequately funding basic education. Below is Washington State Superintendent Randy Dorn’s response to the plan.

In January, the Supreme Court bluntly wrote that the state “cannot realistically claim to have made significant progress” in addressing basic education funding. It ordered the Legislature to produce a complete plan by April 30.

The 58-page document released today says very little, and is far from complete. It isn’t even a plan. It reads like a small history lesson. It includes a list of bills that “are meaningful because they show significant work is occurring.”

The problem is that “none of these bills passed the Legislature.”

The document concludes with the plea that the Court “recognize that 2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement needed to meet the state's Article IX duty by the statutorily scheduled full implementation date of 2018.”

In other words, Wait until tomorrow.

But I have to ask: Will tomorrow ever come?

The Legislature isn’t going to take its responsibility seriously unless the Court forces it to do so.

The 2018 deadline was created and passed by the Legislature. The required education funding levels were adopted by the Legislature.

I urge the Court to do what it can to keep the Legislature’s feet to the fire, and keep the promises they’ve made to our students.

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)

Reviewing primary for treasurer (Boise Statesman)
Clarkston planning ahead for pot (Lewiston Tribune)
Finance problems in Whitman County (Moscow News)
Moscow may craft new off-leash dog park site (Moscow News)
Candidate forums planned in Canyon (Nampa Press Tribune)
UI worked on managing new gun laws (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho cost of living rises toward nation's (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello groups to oppose LGBT ordinance (Pocatello Journal)
Capital for a Day at Bonners Ferry (Sandpoint Bee)
2nd district candidates battle on earmarks (TF Times News)

Lane Community College may raise tuition (Eugene Register Guard)
Heat wave in Western Oregon (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Voting registration period ends (KF Herald & News)
Henley Elementary ground breaks Friday (KF Herald & News)
Frogs and cattle grazing working together (KF Herald & News)
Jackson County commission races reviewed (Ashland Tidings)
Heavy road work coming at Phoenix (Medford Tribune)
Kitzhaber opposes coal exports from NW (Pendleton East Oregognian)
Hermiston preps for full-day kindergarten (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Coach Ramsay dies (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Seeking more catchable fish from hatcheries (Portland Oregonian)
Landslide closes Silver Falls trail (Salem Statesman Journal)

Hot weather in western WA (Everett Herald, Longview News)
Ferry fees rising again (Everett Herald)
Scaling down mudslide efforts (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Stress found in common core testing (Kennewick Herald)
Cowlitz housing cuts payments for disabled (Longview News)
Seqium moves its transit hub (Port Angeles News)
Looking ahead to cruise ship stops at PA (Port Angeles News)
Seattle considers tax for city parks (Seattle Times)
'Brenda' back to work on tunneling (Seattle Times)
Spokane plans re-fo tax ballot issue (Spokane Spokesman)
Idaho health exchange draws way past target (Spokane Spokesman)
Blazers coach Ramsay dies (Vancouver Columbian)
New I-5 bridge coalition forming (Vancouver Columbian)
Union Gap rejects pot businesses (Yakima Herald Republic)

In the Briefings

Obama at Oso 
President Obama looks out an airplane window at the effects of the mudslide at Oso. He also stopped nearby and met with officials and survivors of the incident.

 
The Oso mudslide saw a few more big developments last week, but it appears likely to be generating fewer large news headlines from this point.

Meantime, political activity began picking up in Oregon and Idaho (candidate filing deadlines are still ahead in Washington), and campaign ads began hitting the airwaves in some force.

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)

Downtown Boise bike lanes underway (Boise Statesman)
Idaho sanctions doc over online prescriptions (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
UI reviewing concealed weapons rules (Lewiston Tribune)
Domestic violence help lacks funds (TF Times News)

Schools begin annual budget work (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Jackson County commission race reviewed (Ashland Tidings)
Critics of cable firm's switch to high def (Ashland Tidings)
Panel considers banning GMO crops (Medford Tribune)
Richardson, governor candidate, in profile (Portland Oregonian)

The geographic limits of Oso aid (Everett Herald)
Trinity College works on housing (Everett Herald)
Sequim council considers city raises (Port Angeles News)
Tunnel contractor aggressive on billing (Seattle Times)
Midnite Mine cleanup deadlines approach (Spokane Spokesman)
Gun ballot issues in conflict (Vancouver Columbian)
Growers concerned about stick bugs (Vancouver Columbian)
Enrollment growing fast in some WA schools (Yakima Herald Republic)

The crystal ball

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

A conservative friend has challenged me to predict the outcome of the major Republican primary races, and “to say something nice about the projected winners.” Hokey dokey. Here goes.

Prognosticating a “closed” primary is difficult because no one can say with certainty who will actually vote. A poll may show one person far ahead, but if the expected winner has not mobilized his or her supporters to vote an underdog who has could surprise.

Governor: Butch Otter easily turns back the challenge mounted by State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian. The margin will be 60/40. While many Republicans are hard pressed to say what the governor has done to merit a third term and share my dismay at the evisceration of public school funding that has happened on his watch, they cannot buy Fulcher’s Tea Party beliefs nor the absurd Republican platform. Butch is one of the most personable people one will ever meet which causes many to overlook his managerial shortcomings and his ideology. He will also benefit from a well-organized but little publicized effort by mainstream Republicans to regain control over the GOP’s apparatus as testified to by precinct committee races across the state.

Boise school board president and businessman A.J. Bulakoff easily wins the Democratic nomination. To win in the fall he will have to dip into his considerable fortune and spend several million dollars informing Idahoans who he is, his far better support for education, and why he can do a better job than Governor Otter. If he doesn’t spend at least $4 million in his campaign, he will lose.

Lt. Governor. Brad Little turns back Tea Party candidate Jim Chmelik and likewise in November rolls over former Pocatello State Senator Bart Marley. Little is the most qualified persons currently in Idaho to be governor and Butch should have retired and let Brad assume the mantle. Thoughtful, intelligent, practical, a problem-solver who is not driven by ideology, he is one of the few public servants I know in whom one can safely posit trust.

Attorney General: If Tea Party challenger Chris Troupis has any political moxie he could make this a closer race than it should be. His “discovery” of an amicus brief in a gun control lawsuit filed by a Wasden subordinate which slipped by Attorney General Lawrence Wasden temporarily aligned Idaho with the “government ought to do more to restrict the sale of firearms” crowd led by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. While the brief was quickly withdrawn, the AG said nary a word hoping that it would go unnoticed, which it did for six years. Wasden’s mishandling of this creates an opening that if Troupis exploits with any skill could make his challenge more viable. My guess is Wasden will be forgiven by voters who even know about this and that his solid record and non-partisan approach to his duties will see him safely re-elected. (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 levy fight returns (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
The Simpson-Smith battle over earmarks (Boise Statesman)
NCAA blasts UI on academic rules (Nampa Press Tribune)
The East Idahoans running statewide (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello police lawsuit progresses (Pocatello Journal)
New app on cyberbullying (TF Times News)

Little progress on Dorena hydro effort (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath ballot includes administrator issue (KF Herald & News)
Meth still prevalent around KF (KF Herald & News)
The contest for Jackson County sheriff (Medford Tribune)
Conflict in Jackson circuit judge contest (Medford Tribune)
Two Oracle-led projects both non-functional (Portland Oregonian)
TriMet facilities crime scaling back (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing restaurant inspections (Salem Statesman Journal)

Impacts of mudslide on Darrington (Everett Herald)
Evaluating why school bond failed (Everett Herald)
Can feds provide water to pot growers? (Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald)
On spill risk for NW oil shipments (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Kitzhaber rejects coal export from OR (Longview News)
Spokane jail overcrowded (Spokane Spokesman)
A troubled baseball league provider (Tacoma News Tribune)
Tacoma Symphony conductor retires (Tacoma News Tribune)
Remembering Val Ogden (Vancouver Columbian)
School districts struggling with growth (Vancouver Columbian)
Big growth in WA Medicaid (Vancouver Columbian)

Suburban Idaho

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

For all that a lot of people in Idaho like to see themselves as rural, outdoorsy folk, and for all that their governor likes to present himself as a cowboy out of the old West, the face of the people of Idaho is becoming something rather different.
What that is was brought home by a statistic about the city of Meridian that even some of the people of Meridian didn't at first believe.

Meridian's mayor, Tammy de Weerd, wrote an article describing her city as the second largest in Idaho. The local newspaper, thinking she must have erred, deleted the reference. That couldn't be right – could it? I remember driving through Meridian back in the mid-70s when it was a little dairy town of 4,000 or so people. It's still hard for me to wrap around the idea of the mellow-yellow-water-tower-town as a dynamo with 20 times as many people. It's probably hard for a lot of long-time residents to grasp. But so it is.

Then the newspaper double-checked, and it found her seemingly odd factoid actually had solid support: The Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho, which among other things develops a good deal of demographic and economic planning data in the area, has estimated Meridian's population for this year at 85,240, for the first time pulling ahead of Nampa (84,840) and trailing only Boise (217,730) in the region – and for that matter, in Idaho. The next largest cities (Idaho Falls and Pocatello) are tens of thousands of people smaller.

The Ada-Canyon population now is estimated by COMPASS at 620,080, almost 40,000 more than at the last, 2010, census. To put that in perspective: The average population size of a U.S. House district is a little over 700,000, so Ada-Canyon is coming nearly large enough to form one by itself. If it keeps growing as it has, by 2020 it might be about large enough.

Farms and ranches still can be found in the Ada-Canyon area (as the governor, living on one, would be quick to point out), but the area no longer is defined by or, broadly, has much connection with them. The Boise-Eagle-Meridian-Nampa-Caldwell area is defined these days by suburbs, tracts a lot like what you'd see in most of Phoenix or Provo or Bend or Lancaster. Probably a half-million of the people in Ada-Canyon live in what could be at least loosely described as a suburban area.

That's close to a third of the population of Idaho; and it is far from all of the state's suburbanites. You'll find another large congregation of them in Kootenai county, especially west and north of Coeur d'Alene. Kootenai's population now is upwards of 142,000 people, and close to 100,000 of those people live outside the city of Coeur d'Alene, most of them in the massive suburban areas around Post Falls and Rathdrum and Hayden.

Idaho has a lot of other, smaller, suburban-type areas too; you can find them around nearly all of the state's larger population centers.

The effect of this is that more than half of all Idahoans are, for practical purposes, suburbanites. Increasingly, that is where the people are, and that forms the central definition of their physical world. And it is to suburban people, not rural people, that Idaho politicians increasingly are going to have to appeal.