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Posts published in April 2014

Abuse of officials

carlson CHRIS


Why do we abuse our public servants?

What is it about so many Idaho voters who seem to enjoy abusing those they have elected to public office?

Over the last 65 years the Gem State has produced some real gems, fine public servants in the highest sense who see public service as a calling, people who revere the public trust they hold, and would literally die rather than bring disgrace to their office - people like Cecil Andrus, Jim McClure¸ John Evans, Len Jordan, Marguerite McLaughlin, Edith Miller Klein, to name but a few.

Idaho has also had some real turkeys - some corrupt, some who make a fence post look intelligent. Others were scoundrels, drunkards, skirt-chasers. Eventually they are defeated but are seldom subject to the abuse the fine ones endure.

It was common knowledge, especially among the media, that Steve Symms, Idaho’s First District Congressman in 1980, had a roving eye and liked a well-turned ankle and/or an ample endowment. Steve, though, was a good ole boy, quick with a quip, easy-going, and had the gambit of taking a bite out of an apple (he was an apple farmer) to symbolize the bite he would take out of government.

His opponent in the 1980 Senate race was Idaho’s distinguished four-term Senator Frank Church, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, and a man of probity and virtue who had brought nothing but distinction and honor to Idaho during his 24 years of service.

Guess which one had a St. Maries dogcatcher mount a recall campaign against him? Guess which one was the subject of a series of nasty, “hit ads” a full year before the election? Yup. Senator Church, who was not surprisingly defeated by the “beloved infidel,” Steve Symms, in that 1980 Senate race.

Idaho’s Second District voters displayed unusual loyalty to their gad-fly congressman (two stints totaling fourteen years) “Big George” Hansen, and despite serious allegations of fraud and income tax evasion, stayed loyal to him until he was actually convicted. Go figure.

All of this history came to mind as I listened to and read accounts of the incredible abuse endured earlier this month by one of Idaho’s fine State Senators, Shawn Keough, from Sandpoint, at public forums in Blanchard and Sandpoint. She has served 18 years with distinction, is an incredibly hard-working public servant, and is vice-chair of the powerful Senate Finance committee and thus vice-chair of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. She does her homework, is thoughtful and pays attention to her constituents. (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)

St. Luke's may operate Elks Rehab System (Boise Statesman)
Balukoff rejects NRA questionnaire (Boise Statesman)
Lewiston dollar theatre closes (Lewiston Tribune)
Coldwater Creek out of business (Sandpoint Bee)
Capital for a Day at Bonners Ferry (Sandpoint Bee)
Frulact says it will open processing (TF Times News)

Oregon reserve unit heads to Afghanistan (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath tribes protest water agreement vote (KF Herald & News)
County budget action just ahead (KF Herald & News)
Bike thefts drop with 'bait' program (Ashland Tidings)
Crime task force founder charged (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Umatilla area short on water (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Lack of clarity on drone rules (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Tough finances for ODOT (Portland Oregonian)
Better water in northern than southern OR (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem housing market improves (Salem Statesman Journal)

Machinist union prepares for key vote (Everett Herald)
Coping with debris at Oso (Everett Herald)
Landslide closes Longview area road (Longview News)
Seattle may vote on ride service companies (Seattle Times)
Point Wells development gets OK after years (Seattle Times)
Coldwater Creek closes (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane retail land deal, playing field (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma charter review commitee hearing (Tacoma News Tribune)
CenturyLink says little about 911 failure (Tacoma News Tribune)
Pearson Air Museum stays afloat (Vancouver Columbian)
Study on nitrates in Yakima Valley (Yakima Herald Republic)

Primary’s bigger picture

idaho RANDY

What's it all about, this big Idaho primary pitched battle between two neatly-lined up sides, incumbents and challengers? The most striking, original and daring take on that, the quote of the season so far, comes from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.

Unexpectedly independent-minded, willing to act against the preferences of much of the state's Republican leadership, Wasden came on very differently after his first election from his previous role as a quiet, little-known, behind-the-scenes chief of staff in the office. But those differences mainly extended just to legal opinions, his expression of what the law was (as opposed to what some people would have preferred it to be). He certainly has been no kind of ideological flamethrower, and has been low-key in manner.

Last week he may not have been throwing flame but, speaking with the Lewiston Tribune, he was uncommonly blunt. In talking about this year's primary contests, which includes his first primary contest since 2002, Wasden cast it in large-scale terms as “a fight, really, for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.” And the terms of the fight? Simply, “Are you out there on that far edge, or are you rational? I certainly hope that the rational message comes forward.”

He just called a large portion of his party's base irrational, living in the world of fantasy rather than reality, and set the terms of the debate he proposes to have. Truly powerful stuff, and it has the potential to recast the terms of the debate, and the campaign.

That it is a stick of dynamite ready to explode is easy to see. One would expect that the cohorts on Wasden's side of the divide – Governor C.L. “Butch Otter, Representative Mike Simpson, Lt. Governor Brad Little and others, including legislative candidates – would quickly be asked about the comment. That would mean they either would have to risk infuriating much of the base, or breaking with Wasden and splitting (and making unclear) their side's messaging.

There's an upside to their seizing on it, though: It would bring some clarity to characterizing the insurgency.

State Senator Russ Fulcher, running against Otter, has seized foremost on Otter's support of a state-run health insurance exchange. Otter could point out that the opposition is simply unrealistic, that (as he has said, repeatedly) Idaho would be getting an exchange regardless, the only difference being how directly involved the state would be. He could even argue that sheer opposition to Obamacare has become beside the point; it's the law of the land, like it or not. That's reality.

Congressional candidate Bryan Smith has been describing (in his ads at least) Simpson as a “liberal.” Second-district voters have observed Simpson in Congress since 1998, and probably only a few would use the word to describe him; Simpson could use Wasden-like language in blasting back.

Retorts structured in these ways would have the advantage of cohering, working together, in coloring the opposition.

For the incumbent candidates, their messaging needs to do something like that. Simply defeating the insurgents, or most of them (a result that seems broadly expected), isn't really good enough, because the insurgent voting base still would be seething, and that could have consequences down the road. The best way to defang it would be to de-legitimize it. Wasden may have seized on one potentially effective way to do that.

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)

Boise's Central Addition blocks may be sold (Boise Statesman)
Weitas Creek bridge may be replaced (Lewiston Tribune)
Luna visits Latah schools (Moscow News)
Palouse restaurant fire cause still mystery (Moscow News)
Nampans move ahead on library project (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon ag coalition: its not anti-growth (Nampa Press Tribune)
Scientists speak on wild predators at ISU (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello considers return of baseball (Pocatello Journal)
Coldwater Creek hits fork in road (Sandpoint Bee)
Planning for jump moves cautiously (TF Times News)

Corvallis city budget at $135m (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Lots of potholes eat up dollars (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Phone wire cut wipes Internet, more (Corvallis Gazette Times)
New Eugene clinic for veterans launched (Eugene Register Guard)
Chiloquin High launched FM radio (KF Herald & News)
Downtown KF 3rd Thursday event boosted (KF Herald & News)
Jackson Sheriff candidates profiled (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Medford plans licensing streamlining (Medford Tribune)
Mulling Cover Oregon options (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Bad bacteria in wells at Milton-Freewater (Pendleton East Oregonian)
New leadership named for Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Regence closes at Salem, jobs to Medford (Salem Statesman Journal)

Planning for the landslide's highway (Everett Herald)
Data remained on sold state computers (Seattle Times, Everett Herald)
14 Hands wine grows, moves to Presser (Kennewick Herald)
Airport work okayed for Pasco port (Kennewick Herald)
9-1-1 outages in Washington, Oregon (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Sequim grain elevator for sale, $600k (Port Angeles News)
Judge approves Elwha fish release (Port Angeles News)
Boeing kicks 1,000 engineering jobs to CA (Seattle Times)
New oil terminal at Grays Harbor? (Vancouver Columbian)
C-Tran closed doors criticized (Vancouver Columbian)
Pot farmers may not get federal water (Yakima Herald Republic)

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)

Gay rights, religion battle in Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing 2014 legislative session (Lewiston Tribune)
Pullman cuts gambling tax (Moscow News)
More Latah prisoners than expected (Moscow News)
Canyon sheriff opposing jail expansion (Nampa Press Tribune)
Justice reinvestment bill signed (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon legislative candidate has court history (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bannock commission limits fair board clout (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello schools refinancing their debt (Pocatello Journal)
Candidates at Bonner County debate (Sandpoint Bee)
TF urban renewal of $17 million planned (TF Times News)

Corvallis house code may not change (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Mining firm seeks permit in Linn (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Adjunct profs at OSU wronged (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene may require paid sick leave (Eugene Register Guard)
Water deal okayed by Klamath tribes (KF Herald & News)
KF plans on thin budget (KF Herald & News)
Low water at Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Rogue Valley Manor rehab planned (Medford Tribune)
Regence adds 70 jobs at Medford (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla port blocked from warehouse plan (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Cover Oregon battles computer bugs (Portland Oregonian)
Innocence Project opens Oregon effort (Salem Statesman Journal)
State task force plows into GMOs (Salem Statesman Journal)

Surviving the Oso mudslide (Everett Herald)
New boeing building underway (Everett Herald)
New terminal pursued at Port of Longview (Longview News)
Stadium at Forks may be replaced (Port Angeles News)
Port Angeles port wants economic data (Port Angeles News)
Commission: Spokane Council pay should rise (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma sewage plant addition underway (Tacoma News Tribune)
Death of former legislator Val Ogden (Vancouver Columbian)
Old Yakima jail might be reopened (Yakima Herald Republic)
Difficulty noted in controlling burns (Yakima Herald Republic)

Spending on waste or investment?

trahant MARK


All you need to know about the November election is found in dueling documents: Paul Ryan’s budget and the House Democratic alternative. One is down, the other up. One “cuts wasteful spending,” while the other proposes investing in the future. Two radically different approaches to governing.

The Republican plan is in a hurry to balance the budget — slashing federal agency spending so that in a decade from now the budget will be balanced. These cuts would impact low-income populations, such as American Indians and Alaska Natives. Deeply.

And the Democrats’ budget is smart in the short-term — we do need investment now — but it fails to account for spending over a longer time frame. It leaves the answers to some big questions for a later date.

Then, truth be told, neither plan is designed for the long haul.

The United States (and much of the globe for that matter) is facing a demographic imbalance of a rising number of older people. Every day, for the next twenty years, some 10,000 people are turning 65. Think about adding that many people every day added to the rolls of Social Security and Medicare.

The good news is that Social Security is the easiest to fix, adjusting age and benefits, could make the plan solvent for the next generation.

But Medicare is wrapped in a bigger problem: the cost of health care in America.

A graphic from the Congressional Budget Office explains this well by breaking federal spending into four distinct categories: Social Security (growing); Interest on the debt (growing); all other federal spending (shrinking dramatically) and health care (growing faster than everything else). Or, as the CBO describes the problem, “Federal spending for the major health care programs and Social Security would increase to a total of 14 percent of GDP by 2038, twice the 7 percent average of the past 40 years.” (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)

Boise Concert Association concludes activity (Boise Statesman)
Lawsuit may be filed over lynx trapping (Boise Statesman)
Pullman hears state of city (Moscow News)
Retaurant burns at Palouse (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
WA Representative Fagan reports home (Moscow News)
New playing field project at Moscow schools (Moscow News)
Canyon fair considers new venue (Nampa Press Tribune)
Less sugary stuff for Pocatello students (Pocatello Journal)
Greenway at AMI shuts after coyote attack (Pocatello Journal)
Heavy cuts at Pend Oreille schools (Sandpoint Bee)
Recall planned for Filer officials (TF Times News)
Kimberly does away with city administrator (TF Times News)
Former lawmaker Patterson to sue Ada sheriff (TF Times News)

Corvallis OSU at odds over parking (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Gazette Times moves to NW Corvallis site (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Considering prospects for Eugene homeless (Eugene Register Guard)
Floyd Boyd stores sell to Pape Machinery (KF Herald & News)
Debate roars on pot dispensaries (KF Herald & News)
Ashland plans redecorating pre-tourism (Ashland Tidings)
Debating guns for Eagle Point teachers (Medford Tribune)
Helicopter company hit on herbicide spray (Medford Tribune)
Plymouth gas storage explosion still mystery (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Plans near release for events center (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Hillary Clinton speaks in Portland (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
Cameron wants early start on Marion commission (Salem Statesman Journal)
Oregon gets A- in budget transparency (Salem Statesman Journal)

Obama will visit Oso site (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald)
Plymouth gas explosion evacuation (Kennewick Herald)
Cowlitz IDs possible slide areas (Longview News)
Sequim firm gets pot grow licenses (Port Angeles News)
Sequim considers renewal options (Port Angeles News)
Restaurant burns at Palouse (Spokane Spokesman)
BIA evaluation sought on Spokane casino (Spokane Spokesman)
Possible Cowlitz tribal casino deal (Vancouver Columbian)
Franchisees sue Papa Murphy's (Vancouver Columbian)
Delays, delays on legal pot (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima park funding set to ballot (Yakima Herald Republic)
Prices for using public lands rising (Yakima Herald Republic)

Keep the change

rainey BARRETT


I’m at an age when I’m slow to accept change. If something has worked well most of my life, it should continue unabated. The comfort zone should not be disturbed. Even as I remember that old saw “change is the only constant,” when it happens it’s still unsettling.

Two recent discoveries are causing my current discomfort. One is that more and more new cars are being sold without spare tires. Now that may be acceptable to those who live in large urban areas where service stations, tire repair shops and tow trucks are readily available. For those of us used to driving several hundred miles at a stretch through empty Western landscapes, the idea is most certainly unacceptable. Most of Oregon’s Harney and Lake Counties fit that empty description. Idaho’s Owyhee, too.

Car companies claim putting a spare tire in each new model costs about $30. Now if you have an annual production run of 200,000, that fifth wheel and tire will cost about $6 million. I once had a flat in Harney County, so far from civilization, that I would have personally paid the $6 million. But, apparently, CEO bonuses are being threatened so we are being asked to sacrifice. Again.

Car makers argue new generations of tires are made of better rubber, are stronger and less apt to have problems. There are also the new “run flat” tires on some of the more expensive models that will normally get you to the next service station. If that service station fixes flats - which many don’t. And is less than 50 miles away. Which many aren’t.

Their weakest argument is that taking out the weight of a tire and wheel makes the vehicle lighter so, therefore, you get better mileage. They make that claim but the savings are so small they don’t try to put a number on it. I could make the same argument that removing all seats but the drivers would probably increase mileage as well but, again, statistically insignificant when compared with convenience.

The second upheaval in my life recently came with the news that fewer K-12 schools, colleges and universities are publishing the traditional yearbook. Again, cost is the reason given. As one principal said, “We’re firing teachers so, when it comes to teachers versus yearbooks, yearbooks are going to lose.” At least that makes more sense than the effect of no spare tire on gas mileage. (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)

Few converts outside GOP for Fulcher (Boise Statesman)
Boise Co-op in review (Boise Statesman)
Looking at 'Part Time Indian' book, Meridian (Boise Statesman)
National Forest review, megaloads on Hwy 12 (Lewiston Tribune)
Lewiston may get new swimming pool (Lewiston Tribune)
Court asked to reject ag gag lawsuit (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News, Sandpoint Bee)
Kiva Theatre at UI may be razed (Moscow News)
Nampa mulls traffic around new library (Nampa Press Tribune)
Caldwell urban renewal may end (Nampa Press Tribune)
Coldwater Creek may file for bankruptcy soon (Sandpoint Bee)
Filer cop in dog shooting case resumes work (TF Times News)
Lots of lunch subsidies in Magic Valley (TF Times News)

Corvallis moving toward new parking rules (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Glenwood conference center moving ahead (Eugene Register Guard)
SkyWest ending flights, issues created (KF Herald & News)
Tribal members consider water deal (KF Herald & News)
Watershed thinning planned, trails close (Ashland Tidings)
CostCo may open in Medford Northgate area (Medford Tribune)
Timber bidders watch for burn results (Medford Tribune)
Extra watching for medical pot dealers (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Strike averted at Portland State (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon perforance in voting procedure reviewed (Portland Oregonian)
Deputy corrections leader investigated (Salem Statesman Journal)

Aid coming for Oso people and others (Everett Herald)
Smaller school classes, ballot issue (Everett Herald)
B Reactor gets a virtual tour guide (Kennewick Herald)
Searching continues at Oso (Kennewick Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
West Main road work nearly done (Longview News)
New Olympic human society next year? (Port Angeles News)
King County transit tax vote ahead (Seattle Times)
Tacoma gifted kids get new options (Tacoma News Tribune)

A fourth? A fifth?

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

If Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter wanted to turn the governorship into his personal kingdom for life, the system is solidly in place for him to do so.

Otter will be 72 on May 3, and he doesn’t look it. He describes himself as “healthy as a horse,” and h every well could be feeling that way for many years – and decades -- to come.

So why not seek a third term in office? I didn’t think there was any way in the world he would be seeking a third term in the most demanding job in Idaho politics. But as long as he is feeling so well, then why not a fourth term? Or a fifth term? In 2034, he’ll only be 92 years old, so maybe he could think about an eighth term. Stranger things have happened. It has not been all smooth sailing for Otter in his two terms as Idaho’s chief executive. But, apparently, he loves his job. The perfect storm is in place for Otter to stay around for as long as he desires. Consider:

There are no signs of widespread “Otter fatigue.” People may get angry with him from time to time, but a lot of that melts away when the governor gives a friendly handshake, a pat on the back and shares some laughs. He doesn’t always give the greatest speeches, but nobody relates better to people on a one-to-one basis than Otter.

Money is always the name of the game, and the big donors are likely to continue to line his campaign war chest as long as he stays in power.

The majority of Senate and House leaders are backing Otter, and for good reason. He stood up to the Legislature just one time: That was 2009 when he promoted a 2-cent gas tax for Idaho roads. The Legislature took him to the woodshed on that issue and he has been as tame as a house cat ever since. A neutered governor always makes life much easier for legislators. (more…)