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Posts published in April 2014

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)

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
MALLOY

 
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

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)

Opening up

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.

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)

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
FRAZIER

 
Boise
Guardian

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.

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)

Improving crime rates at Canyon County (Boise Statesman)
Steve Antone dies (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Dredge miners blast EPA on rules (Lewiston Tribune)
Bond ratings stopped for Whitman County (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Nampa mayor reviews downtown construction (Nampa Press Tribune)
Updating the ag-gag lawsuit (Pocatello Journal)
Judge wants Google to ID email writer (TF Times News)
Little recycling, but uptick, in area recycling (TF Times News)
TF planning commission membership reviewed )TF Times News)

Corvallis reviewing OSU parking plan (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Whole Foods may take site (Eugene Register Guard)
Veterans health clinic groundbreaking (Eugene Register Guard)
Reviewing solar energy in Oregon (KL Health & News)
Phoenix I-5 work held off (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Lithia moving from downtown to edge of town (Medford Tribune)
DEQ dredging rules draw protests (Medford Tribune)
Oregon long-term insurance rates rise (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Tight Portland-area rental market (Portland Oregonian)
Criticism of state forest land sale (Portland Oregonian)
Group files in court to defend marriage provision (Salem Statesman Journal)
Marion Commissioner Milner retires (Salem Statesman Journal)

Obama coming to Oso (Seattle Times, Everett Herald)
Everett changes port renewal plans (Everett Herald)
More teacher molestation claims at Kennewick (Kennewick Herald)
Wahkiakum county takes over riverside park (Longview News)
Dungeness flooding a concern (Port Angeles News)
Representative Kilmer at Port Angeles (Port Angeles News)
Bertha inactive for narly a year to come (Seattle Times)
Special election voting day in Washington (Seattle Times)
How much surgery room does Spokane need? (Spokane Spokesman)
Pierce Transit may spend $450k on PR (Tacoma News Tribune)
Medical provider needs at Yakima area (Yakima Herald Republic)

An Idaho original

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

His name was Rollie Bruning, though some called him “RJ” as his by-line in print was always R.J. Bruning. Thought about him the other day when I took our grandchildren to Wallace to visit the old train depot. On our way there we walked past the store front office of what used to be The North Idaho Press.

My first journalism job was a brief stint at the paper during the late summer of 1968. The paper’s owner, Wallace mining magnate, Harry F. Magnuson, had hired Jay Shelledy to run the paper for two weeks as Bruning had suffered a heart attack. Shelledy, already doing a summer stint with The Spokesman-Review, subcontracted the job to me and gave me a two-day crash course in journalism.

When I showed up on a Monday morning there sat Bruning as if chained to his desk and his trusty old typewriter, cigarette dangling from his mouth. Be damned if he was going to let some snot-nosed kid run his paper for a couple of weeks. He convinced me though to stick around for the two weeks and help out. I learned quite a bit from him.

He was a classic Idaho original - opinionated but well-read, boisterous but with an ability to tell great stories, and a wonderful, infectious laugh. He could handle his whiskey and loved to play poker. Like Harry Magnuson, he was a rock-ribbed Republican, when Shoshone County was the most Democratic county in the state. (There was one precinct in Mullan that Andrus routinely carried 100 to one.)

He also was an outspoken supporter of Governor Don Samuelson. Wallace, and Kellogg, then was totally dependent on mining. Bruning was well-versed on the Mining Law of 1872, and on all aspects of the industry itself. During the 1970 gubernatorial election, he often criticized Andrus for his opposition to Asarco’s proposed molybdenum mine in the White Clouds.

So, I was somewhat surprised when in late 1974 Andrus told me to put out a press release announcing that Bruning was joining the gubernatorial staff as a special assistant and an unofficial envoy to the business community. In a politically astute move, Andrus recognized that RJ was the perfect ambassador to Idaho’s business community and to the various clubs they belonged to - the Rotarians, the Kiwanis, the Lions, the Elks. Wherever two or three business folks gathered, one would find RJ in their midst, and he must have spoken to every club in the state.

When Andrus became Interior Secretary, almost all the Idaho Mafia he took along was under the age of 35, except RJ. Though in his 60s, his vast knowledge of mining and his good relations with the industry, made him indispensable. Besides, he had gray hair and whiskers. Andrus installed RJ as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Minerals - a move well received. (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)

Canyon Fair ousted from Simplot Stadium (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho water situation improves (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho: nation's highest payday loan rates (Nampa Press Tribune)
Poachers digging deep into game (TF Times News)

Reviewing Republican U.S. Senate race (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Big expansion by Eugene Urgent Care (Eugene Register Guard)
Farmers in conflict over GMOs (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Jackson budget funds libraries (Ashland Tidings)
Looks like more rain in the spring (Medford Tribune)
Salem Health pushes to demolish building (Salem Statesman Journal)
Long-term health insurance costs rise (Salem Statesman Journal)

Oso mudslide cases tax revenue loss (Everett Herald)
Everett schools hope for bonds (Everett Herald)
Haven Energy promises strong safety at terminal (Longview News)
Replacing Neah Bay pier (Port Angeles News)
Debate rises over Seattle $15 minimum wage (Seattle Times)
More work on Spokane-Cheney road (Spokane Spokesman)
Debate over 'culminating projects' for high school (Spokane Spokesman)
When Obama visits Oso (Tacoma News Tribune)
Cutting trash costs with lower frequency (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark sees more cases of identity theft (Vancouver Columbian)
Starting repairs on Wanpum Dam (Yakima Herald Republic)

Uncertainty chills our economy

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The number one thing keeping our national economy - and thus all lesser economies - from growing as quickly as conditions would otherwise dictate - is the monumentally constipated and completely ineffective U.S. Congress. And you can take that to the bank.

Geoff Colvin, Fortune senior editor-at-large, has been talking to CEOs and economists. While hearing the usual bitching about regulations and taxes, the dialogue this time has been far overshadowed by one thing: uncertainty. In terms easily understood by economic dolts like me, the issue could be framed this way: “What the Hell’s going to happen tomorrow?”

Regulations and taxes have always been topics of discussion when people making large business decisions gather over their martinis. It used to be, no matter what changes and challenges there were in those two areas, business adjusted and life went on.

BUT - uncertainty has become the largest impediment to business - large and small. For example, the new healthcare law - regardless of what you think about it - is law. Republicans have vowed to repeal it. They can’t. But, as they keep trying, if you’ve got 50 to 100,000 employees in your business, how do you adjust your future planning? For what? Taken another step, if Republicans ever posed a serious legal challenge to the ACA, how long would Democrats tie the whole thing up in court? And to what outcome?

Then, there’s the “fiscal cliff.” With no congressional action to the contrary, there are those huge mandatory cuts in federal spending. Sequestration. Crippling cuts and possible tax increases to offset some of them. Despite how you feel personally about all that, remember the current crop of ideologues, naysayers and the ignorant will still control what Congress does - or doesn’t do. Wanna bet your farm on the outcome? Neither does General Motors. Or your neighborhood grocer.

Then, there’s the Federal Reserve. Its governing body holds the outlook that things economic are “more uncertain than they has been in the last 20 years” so no major actions have been taken. You get any sense of corporate direction out of that?

Life has always been a crap shoot. That’s just life. So, is all this something new? Yep, it is. Normally, as the government moved, changes it fostered affecting marketplace conditions could be anticipated and planned for. You knew what was coming and could adjust. Not now. Polarization in Congress has badly crippled oversight of federal agencies and their regulation-writing and enforcement. Congressional action that was supposed to happen last week - last month - or next month - has ceased. No new-from-the-ground-up federal budget for several decades is likely to be matched by no new-from-the-ground-up federal budgets for the next several years. Contracts expected by the private sector are still sitting on some bureaucrat’s desk. New programs languish in the congressional swamp because there are still no decisions on old ones.

And on and on and on and on. (more…)

In this week’s Briefings

car dragged
 
Marion County Sheriff's Office last weekend responded to the 2900 block of Wintel Road SE because Kyle Randall, age 24 was knocking on doors and asking residents for a place to sleep. After arriving deputies noticed a plume of smoke in the distance that turned out to be a car fire. When they went to investigate the fire they located the burned out carcass of the vehicle Randall had been driving. So after interviewing Randall and evaluating the scene deputies believe the following occurred. At around 5 a.m. Mr. Randall was driving east on Wintell Road when he drove through a stop sign and ran into a passing train. The train hooked his vehicle and drug him approximately 300 feet. Randall came to a rest, exited his vehicle and then sought out shelter from nearby residents. Randall was not injured in the crash, he was however arrested for DUII and taken to the Marion County Jail. At the jail his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. (Photo/Marion County Sheriff's Office)

 
Political news is ramping up in this week's editions of the Briefings, along with a range of other activities, from recovery at Oso (and plans for President Obama's visit there) to the odd case pictured above of a car crashing into a train in Oregon, dragged 300 feet - after which the driver walked away apparently without a scratch.

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 supt public instruction race (Boise Statesman)
Recovering after the Oso landslide (Boise Statesman)
Major changes possible for Canyon shelter (Nampa Press Tribune)
Looking at criminal case mediation (TF Times News)
Reviewing secretary of state candidates (TF Times News)

Little rule guidance on measuring pot (Eugene Register Guard)
More energy than expected in geothermal field (KF Herald & News)
Reviewing GMOs (Medford Tribune)
Where the Columbian Crossing $ went (Portland Oregonian)
Looking ahead to same-sex marriage ruling (Portland Oregonian)
Taxpayers funding battery recycling (Salem Statesman Journal)

New gun range planned near Sultan (Everett Herald)
Web crowdfunding on Oso mudslide (Seattle Times)
Puget Sound oil traffic on rise (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Spokane neighborhood considers renewal (Spokane Spokesman)
Previewing Obama visit to Oso (Spokane Spokesman)
Jails part of the Medicaid picture (Tacoma News Tribune)
Which parts of Vancouver have higher crime (Vancouver Columbian)
Big pay increase for city attorneys (Vancouver Columbian)