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Posts published in April 2014

Suburban Idaho

idaho RANDY

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.

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)

Reviewing state controller race (Boise Statesman)
A bunch of retailers coming to Nampa (Boise Statesman)
Historical Statesman edition showed (Boise Statesman)
Latah non-indigent aid program may be shelved (Moscow News)
State cops contest Colorado profiling case (Nampa Press Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Nampa pushes for more sidewalk funding (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bannock Fair Board suspended (Pocatello Journal)
No charges for Oneida prosecutor on funds (Pocatello Journal)
First debate in 2nd CD race (TF Times News)
State ready to take over private prison (TF Times News)

Chemical leak into water near Coos (Coos Bay World)
Tread light in wish plan, coast says (Coos Bay World)
State help sought for school roofs (Coos Bay World)
State moves Cover Oregon site to federal (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Pendleton East Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
About the I-5 Phoenix work (Ashland Tidings)
Ashland ranger station closes, mostly (Ashland Tidings)
Unexpected deaths at Two Rivers prison (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Construction soon on events center (Pendleton East Oregonian)
School overcrowding a concern at Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)

Oso access road nears open (Everett Herald)
Money sought for Standwood heritage park (Everett Herald)
Hanford interpretive center comes closer (Kennewick Herald)
Study will examine vapors from tanks (Kennewick Herald)
Longer rap sheet seen for Kelso council member (Longview News)
Longview pot license in legal question (Longview News)
Weyerhauser earnings rise significantly (Longview News)
3 finalists noted for Seattle police chief (Seattle Times)
Stalled tunnel driller wants more pay (Seattle Times)
Downtown Coeur d'Alene park nears finish (Spokane Spokesman)
Pierce charity Gateways wants bankruptcy (Tacoma News Tribune)
Campaign disclosure data may go online (Tacoma News Tribune)
Big explosion in North Bend smashes buildings (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
State pot licensing procedures glitchy (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
WA tribes call for climate change action (Vancouver Columbian)
Synthetic pot makes way to retailers (Yakima Herald Republic)

Suicide at Bunkerville

rainey BARRETT


Cliven Bundy is dead. A suicide by his own The hero of the far right - and Faux “News” - belched up a string of lies and racist B.S., drowning in a sea of disclaimers by former Republican supporters.

I swore I wasn’t going to revisit the Bunkerville mess again until something definitive happened. But suicides are hard to overlook. And this one in particular - so much of a “surprise” to right-wing politicians and Hannity - begs some last attention. There needs to be some separation of facts from all that B.S. - some definition of what “was” and “wasn’t.”

Let’s deal with the “wasn’t” first. The story wasn’t “ a Constitutional confrontation.” Wasn’t “First Amendment.” Or “Second Amendment.” Cliven Bundy wasn’t and isn’t a hero. For the purposes of this mess, he’s not a “patriot.” Neither are the whackos who’ve congealed around Bundy and proclaimed him a “freedom fighter.” He’s not a “freedom fighter.” Bundy’s family did not settle his ranch in the late 1800's. The BLM wasn’t singling Bundy out for some kind of special “persecution.” The story wasn’t about who controls the cattle at any given moment.

Now, what “was.” Bundy WAS - and IS - a deadbeat. Bundy WAS - and IS - a liar. Bundy’s family didn’t buy the ranch land until 1948 as proven by a recorded deed. Bundy IS in arrears to the federal government more than $1 million and has ignored legitimate payment demands required under his deal with the feds for more than 20 years. Bundy WAS - and is - in receipt of valid court documents - apparently served several times - ordering his cattle off the BLM land and requiring him to pay off his massive debt. The fact is, neither has been done. Bundy has a long history of being a local trouble-maker and has had numerous run-ins with county, state and federal authorities over the years.

The real issues here are cut and dried. Proper, clear and repeated court orders have been issued. And ignored. Bundy did stop paying two decades ago. When the BLM moved to take the livestock, it did so with well-supported authority. Facts show Bundy was spoiling for a fight for years and used this excuse to crank up his crackpot, verbal effluent to garner support from others who are similarly constitutionally illiterate. He has deliberately attracted several hundred well-armed folk to his side who are as deluded, as ignorant of history and as mentally vacuous as himself. They’ve been pumped full of phony right wing B.S. at the hands of the Limbaughs, Becks, Hannity’s, Coulters and others using wing-nuts to make millions. Bundy has absolutely no legal ground to stand on to have a face-off with the feds. If he did, he’d have gone to court many years ago.

But the feds DO bear some fault for this powder keg - most by the bureaucrats who didn’t step in two decades back when Bundy first stopped making payment on a duly executed grazing contract. A contract similar to thousands of others with ranchers and cattle operators - executed in good faith in dozens of states by BLM and the U.S. Forest Service.

Now the feds are in a corner. On one hand, they’ve let Bundy “cow” them while he’s gotten rich by not honoring his legal obligations. On the other, if Bundy is not prosecuted, other lessees in other areas may stop making the payments due on their contracts. That can’t be allowed to happen. For many good and legal reasons. (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)

GOP infighting hits grass roots (Boise Statesman)
Gold mine exploration draws lawsuit (Lewiston Tribune)
WA loses no-child waiver, mulls path (Moscow News)
Chaney not running, still could win (Nampa Press Tribune)
Update on captured soldier Bergdahl (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Nampa Press Tribune, Twin Falls Time News)
Lead-Lok company at Sandpoint bought (Sandpoint Bee)
Wings charter middle school to close (TF Times News)

Feds taking over Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune, Astorian, Corvallis Gazette Times, Pendleeton East Oregonian)
About Corvallis first pot disensary (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene, Lane County may swap downtown land (Eugene Register Guard)
Environmental groups sue over bird refuges (KF Herald & News)
FDA may reconider spent grain proposal (Ashland Tidings)
Oregon poor at moving people off aid, into jobs (Portland Oregonian)
Marion County quits medical waste disposal (Salem Statesman Journal)

Sex harassment suit filed against Snohomish (Everett Herald)
Plenty of failing WA schools (Everett Herald)
Fish viewed closely after mudslide (Everett Herald)
WA losing no-child waiver (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Kelso councilman charged, jailed post-accident (Longview News)
Methanol firm may build at Tacoma too (Longview News)
Violent crime up a bit in Longview) (Longview News)
More discussions on $15 minimum wage (Seattle Times)
Transit cuts all over King (Seattle Times)
Cover Oregon will use fed system (Spokane Spokesman, Yakima Herald Republic)
Raises for Vancouver officials (Vancouver Columbian)

The mortgage fight

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

Sen. Mike Crapo’s legislative effort to shake up the mortgage industry is the tale of two bills – and an example of why nothing gets done in Washington.

This is the best of bills and it is the worst of bills. It places stability in the mortgage industry and it destroys the mortgage industry. It preserves the 30-year mortgage and it destroys the 30-year mortgage. It saves taxpayers from potential economic disaster and it smashes the American Dream to bits. That’s what the special interests and hired guns are saying from both sides of the debate, and it raises the question: Who’s right?

This is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats, because Crapo has been working with Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., on the legislation that would phase out the two government mortgage giants, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. This fight is between special interests, which are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even millions, to either move the bill forward or kill it. Both sides say they are only out to protect the people, but I don’t buy it.

The intense lobbying effort tells me that the special interests are trying to protect themselves.
In this political dog fight, you have Crapo at odds with former Sen. Phil Gramm with a cast that includes the CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association weighing in against a member of the Securities Commission’s investor advisory board – all of whom are creating different levels of confusion.

The only clear and concise message I’ve seen has come from a group called 60 Plus, which has run a series of attack ads against Crapo. Are the ads totally accurate? Probably not; but who cares? Run the ad enough times and a new truth emerges. The effort by 60 Plus has Crapo scrambling to try to reverse the negative perception. Unfortunately for him, dull op-eds and long-winded statements don’t cut it.

The 60 Plus ad shows side-by-side photos of Obama and Crapo as partners in a scheme to take over the mortgage industry and drive a wrecking ball into the financial futures of millions of Americans who have their financial futures tied up with Fannie and Freddie. The ad says that “ordinary Americans,” such as teachers, police officers, firefighters, could have their retirement savings taken from them. “The federal government will seize all profits,” the ad claims. (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)

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)

Opening up

stapilus RANDY

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.

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)

Will Army take Idaho helicopters away? (Boise Statesman)
Medicaid enrollment shooting up in state (Boise Statesman)
Obama touring Oso (Lewiston Tribune)
Whitman auditor grilled on bond rating (Lewiston Tribune)
Looking at 1st District House race (Lewiston Tribune)
Couple of court losses for Syringa's owner (Moscow News)
Renovations okayed at Moscow schools (Moscow News)
Nampa schools change benefits plans (Nampa Press Tribune)
New research building dedicated at INL (Pocatello Journal)
Storms and power outages in southeast Idaho (Pocatello Journal)
Sewer fees rising at Kimberly (TF Times News)
Looking ahead to a season of fire fighting (TF Times News)

Corvallis superintendent in line at Salem (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Water main breakage flood at Corvallis (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Obama visits Oso site (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal)
Same sex marriage in Oregon court (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
County careful on hotel backing (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath County sets pot shop moratorium (KF Herald & News)
Mixed indicators on Jackson gang activity (Medford Tribune)
Designing new schools at Pendleton (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Events center gets governmental OK (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Split opinions on banning GMOs (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Cover Oregon budget considered (Portland Oregonian)
ODOT won't seek oil train information (Portland Oregonian)
Marion County quits accepting some batteries (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem school may reduce class sizes (Salem Statesman Journal)

Obama visits Oso (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
Oso-area ban on construction considered (Seattle Times, Everett Herald)
Sequim school construction bond fails (Port Angeles News)
Forest considers timber harvest balance (Port Angeles News)
King transit proposition fails (Seattle Times)
Bertha fix costs rising (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
Spokane voters OK one library issue, fail another (Spokane Spokesman)
State works on medical insurance rules (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma parks bond passes (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark charter adjusted by board (Vancouver Columbian)
Standard train cars bad for oil transport (Vancouver Columbian)
High birth defect rates at Yakima (Yakima Herald Republic)
Perception of high crime at Yakima (Yakima Herald Republic)

Downtown Boise, fate unknown

frazier DAVID


The GUARDIAN has been doing some preliminary inquiries regarding the fate of downtown Boise after the Central District urban renewal project expires in 2017.

As it sits currently, no one can offer us a definitive answer to questions of ownership, management, and responsibility for certain Capital City Development Corp. properties.

For instance, CCDC owns 8th Street. It was vacated by the Ada County Highway District and is no longer a public street. It is privately owned from store front to store front between Bannock and Main. Despite that “parking lot” status, Boise parking Nazis continue to issue tickets at meters and enforce the private parking hours as though they were passed by the city council.

No one seems to know exactly who will own the Grove Plaza and the fountain area after CCDC’s district expires. Under current law it appears they are not allowed to expend funds outside a district and if a district no longer exists, who will own the real estate?

We have heard talk of splitting the Grove Plaza ownership among the Auditorium District, the Grove Hotel, and the Gardner Company in order to control access for protest groups that could offend guests at any of the venues. We strongly oppose that move because the area was purchased and improved with public funds and should remain public.

While some folks are enthralled with “private/public partnerships,” we urge caution with the deals. Developers like Gardner sound like great visionary planners when they include public transit centers and open spaces in their plans, but another view would see the taxpayers providing structure foundations and restricted access to public areas.