Writings and observations

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)

Fulcher blasts Otter for one-debate limit (Boise Statesman)
Otter appoints public records ombudsman (Boise Statesman)
Port, hockey group, negotiate on building (Lewiston Tribune)
Latah jail okayed in review (Moscow News)
Chaney halts campaign for House (Nampa Press Tribune)
Sportsman’s Warehouse returning to Pocatello? (Pocatello Journal)
Sandpoint may go after roundabout finances (Sandpoint Bee)
Review of early voting options (TF Times News)
Cassia upgrades county properties (TF Times News)

Corvallis works on water main break (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Court hearing on state same-sex marriage (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medfodd Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Boyd farms at KF look to sell (KF Herald & News)
Boost in oil trade in the Northwest (Ashland Tidings)
Ashland rolls ahead with water line (Ashland Tidings)
Dispute over Medford’s alley cleanups (Medford Tribune)
House candidates in 58 debate (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Morrow blocking pot dispensaries (Pendleton East Oregonian)
ODOT seeks info on oil trains (Portland Oregonian)

Snohomish buys peat bog near Maltby (Everett Herald)
Snohomish may try building moratorium (Everett Herald)
Hanford dispute resolution effot starts (Kennewick Herald)
Yakama Nation seeks end to wildflower tours (Kennewick Herald)
Legal case on pot license lottery (Longview News)
Olympic park plans would cut tourism (Port Angeles News)
Sequim reassessing after bond loss (Port Angeles News)
Transit supporters want another fall vote (Seattle Times)
Boeing backs moving engineering jobs away (Seattle Times)
More than 600k newly health-insured in WA (Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
Zombie TV series to be filmed near Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
Gas conversion plant proposed for Tacoma (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Sheriff Lucas plans retirement (Vancouver Columbian)
Changeover in oil train tank cars (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

It’s just one small step, and the putting into practice will be the real test. But this move by Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter to appoint a public records ombudsman for the state is a good idea, and one his counterparts in Washington and Oregon should consider.

Idaho recently wound up, with a small group of other states, at the bottom of a survey of openness in state governments. That may or may not have been a prompt for Otter’s decision, but it underscored the need.

The problem, often enough, isn’t always Idaho’s law on public records (like many other states good in presumption but also larded with exemptions to sunshine) but in the follow-through: Agencies (certainly not all, but some) where the ingrained attitude is that the records are theirs, not the public’s. Pulling those records may be doable, but costly; if you have to go to court, the effort may not come cheap. Larger news organizations historically have been willing to do that anyway, but the public records law is not supposed to be a news media-only proposition. It is supposed to allow any member of the public to examine public records.

The new ombudsman position, filled now by attorney Callie Younger, could turn out to be a fig leaf, offering little practical help. We’ll see how it works in practice and assess accordingly. But for the moment, this looks like a show of good faith from Idaho’s governor.

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Idaho Stapilus