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)

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)

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First Take

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.

Dealing with change is a constant in life or business. Dealing with uncertainty should not be. Or at least held to a minimum. Congress has brought uncertainty up to the maximum. Investors are not willing to risk hundreds of millions – or even billions – of dollars on new products, plants and larger workforces when even the Federal Reserve meets, complains about the uncertainty and goes home.

As I read editor Colvin’s story of all this in Fortune, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Will we – and business – be in any better shape under a new Congress after the November election?” The answer for me – “not likely.”

If congressional majorities remain the same, a billion-dollar election will have changed nothing. No matter how you approach the issue of getting this country moving again, if the presidency and congressional majority are not in the same party, I don’t see anything but more gridlock and stagnation.
The overriding consideration at the polls next November is not so much who’s elected for the next several years. It’s more an issue of giving one person the keys to the White House and a majority of the same party in Congress. Anything short of that could create – and continue – the most uncertain political and business climates in our nation’s long history.

You think you’ve got uncertainty now? If we and our economy have to endure another two-four-six-eight-years of the current climate on Capitol Hill, there may not be much left to save. And you can take THAT to the bank.

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Rainey

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.

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Briefings

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)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Idaho these days may be more likely to have a truly competitive contest for its Supreme Court than for its major partisan offices – a complete reversal from a generation ago.

It had a competitive race in 2008 won by Joel Horton, and in 2010 won by Roger Burdick. The challenger in both of those, John Bradbury, now is in a competitive 2nd district judgeship race. The 2008 Horton race, which he won by a sliver – 50.1% – was the closest Idaho Supreme Court race since at least the 1940s.

Horton is up for re-election this year, and this time the challenger is a well-known and long-time Boise attorney, Breck Seiniger. Mostly, these Supreme Court races have been calm and magisterial, even when they’ve sometimes featured energetic personalities. But this one has become a knock-down, and even drawn other candidates into the fray.

Seiniger has unleashed several blasts in the direction of the court, but this one (posted on his campaign web site) aimed directly at Horton got the most response: “Since Justice Horton has chosen to make impartiality an issue in this race, let me share with you Greg Obendorf’s story. In 2008, Idaho Supreme Court Justice Joel Horton was in another very tight race for re-election. . . . During this time, the Idaho Supreme Court deliberated on an appeal filed by J.R. Simplot, Co. to overturn a Canyon County jury’s $2,435,906 verdict in favor of a group of Idaho farmers, including Mr. Obendorf, and against Simplot.

“While the Obendorf case was under deliberation Justice Horton appointed one of Simplot’s in-house attorneys as his political treasurer. After doing so, not only did Justice Horton fully participate in the Idaho Supreme Court deliberations on this case, he wrote the opinion which resulted in all of the damages awarded by the jury were taken away, and the case being sent back for re-trial. Justice Horton’s opinion in favor of Simplot was issued on May 1, 2008 and Justice Horton was re-elected on May 20, 2008.” (He placed his supporting information online at www.seinigerforisc.com/simplot).

It’s not hard to see how that would get some attention. It led to an April 9 letter signed by Lieutenant Governor Brad Little in Horton’s defense, which said Seiniger “is mischaracterizing a Justice Horton opinion that received the unanimous agreement of the Idaho Supreme Court. This failure to objectively review the matter before the Supreme Court showed his opponent is not qualified for the position.”

In a reply letter sent to the Idaho Statesman but eventually spread afield, Seiniger responded, “The fact that the decision in question was unanimous is beside the point. The point is that a judge is to identify a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict and recuse himself before writing the opinion or participating in deliberations. Mr. Horton failed to do this and the public deserves to know it and draw their own conclusions. I have no intention of backing down on this, but my voice may be drowned out by heavy weights willing to condemn me for exposing the facts.”

That the Horton-Seiniger conflict has gotten so heated seems a little odd. Horton has no controversial demeanor or background: A Nampa native, he was a deputy prosecutor in Ada and Twin Falls counties, a deputy attorney general, a magistrate and a district judge before his appointment to the high court, made without controversy, in 2007. He didn’t generate a lot of headlines anywhere along the way. His campaign co-chairs this year are Denton Darrington, the former Republican senator (a long-time judiciary committee chair), and Keith Roark, the former state Democratic chair. And Seiniger didn’t seem to have targeted Horton in his run for the court; news stories from early March said he was considering filing for either of the high court seats that were up.

But when they say politics is war by other means, there may be this to consider too: Once you open a political battle, as in the case of a military one, you never know for sure where it might lead.

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Idaho Idaho column

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)

New Albertsons CEO talks corporate plans (Boise Statesman)
Lewiston kindergartners heading to Clarkston? (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow preparing for road construction (Moscow News)
Feds, state at standoff on Hanford cleanup (Moscow News)
New UI president settling in (Moscow News)
More cops for Nampa schools (Idaho Press Tribune)
Poachers a heavy load on Idaho wildlife (Idaho Press Tribune)
Busy Pocatello Cr Rd area land for sale (Pocatello Journal)
New Sandpoint stadium design set (Sandpoint Bee)
Bonner assessor candidate has $448k federal tax liens (Sandpoint Bee)
Earthquakes around Challis (TF Times News)
But $18m grant for Friedman airport (TF Times News)

UO Foundation asked to avoid fossil fuels (Eugene Register Guard)
Whole Foods considering Eugene site (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath water deal signed (Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Charter cable conversion draws critics (Medford Tribune)
Kenton will lead EOU (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Public has questions on events center (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Expansion at Boardman Cheese plant (Pendleton East Oregonian)
WA state blasts Hanford cleanup plan (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Draining Portland water due to yuck factor (Portland Oregonian)
Water shortage at Crater Lake? (Salem Statesman Journal)

More Oso mudslide answers wanted (Everett Herald, Longview News)
State may ease on fish pollution rules (Everett Herald)
Hanford cleanup plans roundly blasted (Kennewick Herald)
Allegations of abuse at Woodland school (Longview News)
WA may lost No Child school waiver (Seattle Times)
Sandpoint plans solar paving project (Spokane Spokesman)
Sterling-Umpqua merger is complete (Spokane Spokesman)
Iconic Vancouver Steakburger closes (Vancouver Columbian)
Newhouse leads in 4th district money (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

The Idaho Republican Party endorses repeal of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which allows election of U.S. senators by popular vote – and not the Legislature.

I say get ‘er done, because it makes no difference. Election by the people and the Legislature would produce the same results in this Republican state. Idaho has not had a Democrat in the U.S. Senate since Frank Church and, since Democrats are so inept, I doubt if I will see another Democrat in the Senate in my lifetime.

So what kind of U.S. Senators would we get if they were elected by the Legislature? We’d have Mike Crapo, for sure. He was a former president pro tem of the Idaho Senate and a member of the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate. Who would fill the second slot? Why, it would be Jim Risch – a former Senate pro tem, majority leader, lieutenant governor and governor.

Both would be slam dunks in the Legislature.
In the past, Idaho has had Jim McClure, Steve Symms, Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne. They, too, would be easy choices for the Legislature.

So why bother with the formalities? Election to the U.S. Senate in Idaho would be like electing a pope, or appointing a Supreme Court justice. It would be for life – or until the senator decided to quit. Or, in the case of Craig … you get the point.

The argument for keeping the 17th Amendment is that election by the people produce a better and more accountable government. In most cases, and probably most states, that’s probably true. But, not in the Gem State. Idaho Republicans have no problem force-feeding repeal down the throats of the rest of the nation, and they damn well expect their elected officials to support that part of the GOP platform.
Elected officials, naturally, are reluctant to take away voting rights from the people. But I have no such problem since the electorate automatically votes the Republican ticket anyway.

Think of the time and money that could be saved if the Legislature elected U.S. senators. Crapo and Risch would not have to spend any time kissing up to big-money lobbyists and padding their campaign accounts. They wouldn’t have to worry about doing annoying little things like holding town hall meetings, or spending millions of dollars on advertising. The only people they would need to talk to are the Republican leaders of the Legislature. Get them on your side, and the rest will follow like sheep.

Repeal of the 17th Amendment would be one way to remove the influence of money in politics. It would be kind of nice knowing that we didn’t have a U.S. Senate that was bought and paid for by lobbyists.

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Malloy

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)

Coroner yard sign draws attention, criticism (Boise Statesman)
Board revises guns on campus rules (Lewiston Tribune)
Idaho could get more med school space (Moscow News)
W Washington U needs minorities, president says (Moscow News)
Closed ‘for remodel’ store a problem (Nampa Press Tribune)
Gas & oil auction pulls $1.1 m (Nanpa Press Tribune)
Kuna considers school levy (Nampa Press Tribune)
ISU museum in National Geographic (Pocatello Journal)
Bonner County may see megaloads (Sandpoint Bee)
Idaho militia looking for recruits (TF Times News)

Klamath water agreement signs today (KF Herald & News)
Considering Klamath public safety funds (KF Herald & News)
Preparing for drought in Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
Construction around I-5, Phoenix (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Audit on welfare urges job emphasis (Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton East Oregonian)
Big increase in oil trains in Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
Marion County ends immigrant jail holds (Salem Statesman Journal)

Meeting reviewing Oso mudslide (Everett Herald)
Inslee visits Olympic tribes (Port Angeles News)
Ride service petitions stall on signatures (Seattle Times)
Western Washington U enthic comment (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian)
Release of CRC spending records (Vancouver Columbian)
Zoning debate over pot production (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima downtown design seeking ideas (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

The Washington official candidate filing week is now exactly one month away. From there, candidates in races contested by more than two people will have three months to try to pull into the win or place slots so they can advance to November.

Usually, by this time, the ruckus is clearly audible.
The general quiet we’re seeing right now may relate, in addition to the absence of statewide and federal senatorial candidates, to the point that only but so many contests will feature more than two serious candidates. Only for that relatively small number of races will the August primary really matter, other than as a kind of distant early polling.

As matters sit the primary shouldn’t be notably decisive on the U.S. House level. Of course, there aren’t likely to be many serious contests there anyway even come November. But even in the 1st district, widely perceived as the most competitive, there’s unlikely to be more than one serious challenger in the field.

The major exception may be in the 4th U.S. House district, which not coincidently is the one where a retirement (that of Republican Doc Hastings) is opening the seat. The 4th will very likely remain Republican in November, but the name of the Republican nominee is far from settled, and so is the field. Of interest: Will this be a case where two Republicans face each other in November? (There’s a good chance, however, there will be enough Democratic votes in the primary to at least secure a second-place slot for the general.)

Among candidates, that may be far and away the most interesting result to watch in Washington on primary day. A handful of legislative races could work the same way, where one party or the other draws just enough strong contenders to throw the primary result into doubt. But that’ll likely be only a few.

The top-two system has its advantages, and it may wind up making the general election more interesting than otherwise.

For the primary, maybe not so much.

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Washington Washington column

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)

Tuition increases cut at UI, BSU (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
WA transport commission visits Palous (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Moscow works out play field funding (Moscow News)
Tulalip state senator visits WSU (Moscow News)
Library square funding still discussed (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa school district faces employee suit (Nampa Press Tribune)
Fair board looks at 20/26 location plan (Nampa Press Tribune)
Employees sue Chubbuck WalMart for various (Pocatello Journal)
Prescribed burns at Pandhandle forests (Sandpoint Bee)
Sandpoint considers stimulus for jobs (Sandpoint Bee)
Magic Valley veterans form new political party (TF Times News)
No SAT cost for many Idaho students (TF Times News)

Corvallis looks at plan code updates (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Water deal signing on Friday (KF Herald & News)
Klamath commission debate held (KF Herald & News)
Klamath public safety funding considered (KF Herald & News)
Gun debate in Ashland (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Port dispensaries banned in Jacksonville (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Wildfire risk high at Ashland (Medford Tribune)
All Umatilla cities ban pot stores (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Cover Oregon not Oracle’s fault, it says (Portland Oregonian, Pendleton East Oregonian)
Inadequate oversight alleged in welfare (Portland Oregonian)
Polk’s pot dispensary closes, county order (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviving Oso-area, Darrington economy (Everett Herald)
Linking pot business, movies (Port Angeles News)
Future of buried landfill considered (Port Angeles News)
WA Medicaid rolls increasing fast (Seattle Times)
Help with Oso mudslide (Seattle Times)
New Seattle police chief chosen (Seattle Times)
Legislator Shea supports Nevada rancher (Spokane Spokesman)
CdA tribe offers poker, provoking state (Spokane Spokesman)
Gig Harbor mayor dismisses administrator (Tacoma News Tribune)
Audit of CRC wonders about $17m (Vancouver Columbian)
Pot vending machines in state? (Vancouver Columbian)
Cantwell on oil terminal concerns (Vancouver Columbian)
More discussion of WSU med school (Yaking Herald Republic)

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First Take