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Posts published in April 2014

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…)

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)

Idaho scientists talk global wrming (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing Common Core (Lewiston Tribune)
Studying the Oso mudslide (Moscow News)
Not enough space for female jail inmates (Nampa Press Tribune)
Kimberly city administrator under review (TF Times News)
Wolf population holding about even (TF Times News)

School bomb investigation evidence (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Partisan battle over health reform in OR (Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Financing Lane commission races (Eugene Register Guard)
Big money opposing GMO ban (Ashland Tidings)
Strike at Portland State averted (Portland Oregonian)
Veterans Administration wrongful death pay (Portland Oregonian)
Cherriot buses return to transit center (Salem Statesman Journal)

Mental illness and jail population (Everett Herald)
Management of aid on mudslide (Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald)
Cowlitz River flushing out silt (Longview News)
Survivors of mudslide reflect (Longview News)
Nippon Paper sensors and air readings (Port Angeles News)
Microsoft plans for innovation (Seattle Times)
Traffic cams planned for Highway 195 (Spokane Spokesman)
C-sections reduced at PeaceHealth hospital (Vancouver Columbian)

Pick a theory

idaho RANDY

The day after election day – any election day – people publicly and privately will offer up their theory as to why the results happened as they did. Usually, in truth, there's no one single reason, but the dominant theory gives people some comfort: An easy explanation.

The Idaho secretary of state Republican primary is an especially juicy theory-fest. At this point, six weeks or so ahead of election day, the outcome is not at all clear, to the point you can make a credible argument for any of the four candidates to win. Usually an incumbent would be the likely winner, but here incumbent Ben Ysursa, holder of the job since 2002, is retiring. The Republican winner will oppose Democrat Holli Woodings in November.

The four: former house speaker and current representative Lawerence Denney; former state senators Evan Frasure and Mitch Toryanski; and Phil McGrane, deputy Ada County clerk.

Read the theories below and reflect that one, but only one, of them will look prescient on election day.

Denney is the best-known (by election day all will become better known), though many of his headlines have been negative. (Will voters remember those headlines, or just the name?) He does have a strong base of support, however, and many Tea Party members and allies may rally to him. His recent Duck Dynasty fundraiser will raise his visibility and identification with this sector. In a four-way primary, that could be enough for a win. And though he lost his bid for a fourth term as speaker in December 2012, he retains plenty of allies in the legislature and elsewhere.

Frasure is the only one of the four who has run statewide before – he lost the Republican primary for this same office in 2002 to Ysursa. Before that he was in the legislature quite a while, experienced in campaigning in difficult territory (Denney, though a long-time legislator, has been opposed only sporadically), and he is one of the best campaign organizers and strategists Idaho has seen in the last generation. He has played a big role in legislative redistricting for three decades now, and few people know the intricacies of Idaho voting patterns better. He is the only candidate from east of Boise, and more than 40 percent of Republican primary votes are cast in that region. (The other three contenders all come from southwest Idaho.)

Toryanski, a former deputy attorney general, has a base in Boise and has been thought likely to generate strong support from business interests and some of the mainstream Republican Party organizers, a core of backing that shouldn't be lightly dismissed. Like Frasure, Toryanski has campaigned in difficult territory (southeast Boise), winning once and losing once, both fairly narrowly, and he did both in the last few election cycles.

Unlike the others, McGrane never has been elected to office, but he does have experience helping run the office – Ada County Clerk – that most resembles the secretary of state's office. He also has an endorsement, nicely timed for delivery last week, from Ysursa. Most endorsements carry little weight, but this one may be more significant given Ysursa's sterling reputation in the job not just since 2002 but also for decades before that as chief deputy secretary of state. He also, of course, has a strong endorsement from his current boss, Ada County Clerk Chris Rich, whose Republican activism goes back several decades, and on top of that one from former Governor Phil Batt.

What's the winning theory for secretary of state? Take your pick: They're all pretty good.

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)

Crapo blasted in ads on mortgage bill (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing secretary of state race (Boise Statesman)
Wine development possible around Riggins (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon Fair Board reviews fair location (Nampa Press Tribune)
The local meth industry today (Nampa Press Tribune)
Amtrak schedules changing (Sandpoint Bee)

Tagging sage grouse (KF Herald & News)
Snowpack going away (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem Statesman Journal (Snowpack still low)

Oso mudslide services (Seattle Times, Everett Herald)
Vietnam vets losing out in groups (Longview News)
Washington wine industry growing (Seattle Times)
Renters displaced by tower buildings (Seattle Times)
Tacoma considers expensive parks proposal (Tacoma News Tribune)
About filling open Clark commission seat (Vancouver Columbian)

“The most dangerous man in Britain”

carlson CHRIS


It must have been sometime in early 1979. The Interior Secretary and I had just finished our morning review of public and government affairs matters. Andrus turned and asked, “What can you tell me about a member of the British Parliament, Anthony Wedgewood Benn? The British Embassy called to set up a meeting for him with me.”

“All I know is the conservative press has called him “the most dangerous man in Britain,” I replied, adding “I don’t know why but I’ll do a briefing page for you before you see him.” Andrus added the Embassy had not said why, they had just asked for the meeting.

A week later one of the more fascinating figures Andrus ever met was sitting in his office. Memories of the meeting came back to me as I read the news of Benn’s death on March 14th at the age of 88.

A voluminous writer and speechifyer, Benn was long-time member of Britain’s Labour party, but a more apt description was that he was a true socialist. He waged an eight-year battle to renounce his peerage because rather than take his father’s seat in the House of Lords he wanted to sit in Parliament where the action and power really were.

He won a seat from the Bristol Southeast and Chesterfield riding and his native intelligence soon captured the attention of his party’s leadership. He first served as Minister for Industry in the Labour government of Harold Wilson, then as Minister for Energy for Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.

His reason for visiting Andrus ostensibly was to discuss energy policy in the United States under Carter and since Interior oversaw offshore oil leasing and onshore coal leasing, programs that generated through royalties considerable income for the U.S. Treasury, he wanted to probe Andrus’ views. I couldn’t help thinking though that Benn was trying to take the measure of Andrus, that the Brits knew the former Idaho governor was one of the very few stars in the Carter Administration.

By the time he came to see Andrus critics were charging that he had almost single-handedly destroyed the Labour Party (And thereby helped to clear the path for Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party’s rise to power), and Rupert Murdock’s press was calling him “bonkers.” (more…)