"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)
idaho RANDY

If it worked the first time . . .

You can understand what probably is the temptation facing Sherri Ybarra right now: It worked once, so it should work again.

During the just-finished Republican primary campaign, she raised scarcely any of the money serious statewide candidates usually do (just $2,850), and apart from debates and forums campaigned, hardly at all. She won her race for the Republican nomination for superintendent of public instruction, leading a field of four. And she could look across at a bunch of hard-working, exhaustively-campaigning, solidly fundraising candidates, for her office and for others, who on election night went down to defeat.
The quote from Senator Russ Fulcher, who lost a run for governor after campaigning solidly for months, probably spoke for quite a few of his counterparts: “Holy cow. Ybarra for superintendent? I was on this campaign trail start to finish. And she might be a fine person, but she was not engaged. She was not engaged heavily in this campaign.”

It’s easy to conclude in the circumstances that you’ve just got the right stuff to go all the way.
Anyhow, why mess with what worked once?

In military terms, such thinking is called fighting the last war: Usually a prescription for losing the next one.

Her primary circumstances were unusual. Explanations about her win flowered after election day. She was presented as a teacher, while the others in the race were administrators. (Not entirely true anyway; and administration, not teaching, is what the superintendent’s job is all about.) She had a Basque name, which seems not to hurt in Idaho elections.

Maybe a bigger factor: Voters working their way down the Republican ballot encountered no women at all until they got to her – and she was running for an office many voters are accustomed to seeing go to women. Also, she was the only woman among the four candidates, none of whom were well known statewide. Some combination of these things probably account for much of her vote. And remember, she won by just 28.5% – barely more than she would have gotten if the four candidates had split the vote evenly. This was no sweeping mandate.

Since the primary, instead of using the surprise to her political advantage, she seems to have avoided the spotlight and retreated.

Her Democratic opponent, Jana Jones, is quite a contrast. She ran for the office before, in 2006, and only barely lost to Republican Tom Luna, who himself has been a capable and energetic campaigner. Jones has raised more money as of this point in the cycle than any candidate for this office (Luna included) ever has. Jones has direct campaign help from Luna’s predecessor, Democrat Marilyn Howard, who won the office twice, in 1998 and 2002. (In the last two decades, Democrats have fared better with the superintendent’s office than any other in the upper rungs of Idaho politics.) She was Howard’s top deputy for several years, so she knows the office well. And she has been campaigning strenuously for several months.

Jones, of course, has a D behind her name, which in anything like a battle between two equally-equipped candidates that is a severe disadvantage. But as of today, these candidates are not evenly matched.

Ybarra is not yet too far behind the curve to get up to speed. The period just after winning a primary is good for fundraising and roping in campaign organization around the state. Some intensive study about the politics of the office (which is unavoidable) would help. Name familiarity can be purchased and expanded through energetic campaigning.
There’s still plenty of time to campaign around the state.

Doing all of that, though, will mean running in a way drastically different from the way she did it in the primary.

Because there’s this: What worked for Ybarra in the primary is very unlikely to work in the general.

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Idaho Idaho column

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

The popular notion is that public schools, which receive just over $1.3 billion, is the largest item in the state’s budget.

But there’s one other item that eats up $1.7 billion, and it does nothing to help schools, roads and state services. That’s the amount it takes to maintain the 80 or so sales tax exemptions, many of which have been in place since the sales tax was implemented almost 50 years ago.

It’s the elephant in the room that politicians don’t want to talk about. Several lawmakers have tried to tackle the issue over the years and all have failed. Sales tax exemptions should be an issue in this year’s election campaign, but it’s more likely that they won’t in the interest of political self-preservation.

Imagine what could be done with another $1.7 billion. Idaho could double what it spends for the public schools and have money left over. It could be enough to take Idaho out the race for the bottom in just about every funding category for education. Maybe some of that money could be used to take our universities off the road to mediocrity. Or maybe the quality of lives of Idahoans could be better with improved roads and social services.

Of course, the odds of winning the lottery probably are better than eliminating the sales tax exemptions. There is a strong constituency for every one of those exemptions. And there are lobbyists lined up to protect all of them. It would be easier to push for increases in the income and sales taxes than ending the exemptions.

Eliminating exemptions would be tax increase on the business world and business operators don’t like higher taxes any more than Republican legislators. Given the choice between improving state services and company profits, business operators will favor the bottom line. That doesn’t make business operators the bad guys. In some cases, a sales tax exemption could make the difference between a business surviving, or going under.

But the fact is that Idaho needs revenue – especially in education – and the state cannot expect to grow its way into prosperity. Idaho’s $1.3 billion budget for public schools is not enough. Every year, swarms of school districts pass supplemental levies to help compensate for what the state does not give to public schools. Those levy increases, as with sales tax exemptions, are tax increases.

The Legislature doesn’t have the expertise, or the will, to objectively evaluate the exemptions. But there is plenty of expertise within the State Tax Commission. Two of its members, Ken Roberts and David Langhorst, are former legislative leaders; Roberts is a Republican and Langhorst is a Democrat. But neither one is pushing for the assignment, and they can’t do it on their own. Their job is to enforce tax policy, not make it. The commissioners would need a directive from the governor or the Legislature and more resources.

Offhand, I can think of 1.7 billion reasons why putting this issue in the hands of the commissioners would be a good investment for Idaho.

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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 says expansion would help efficiency (Boise Statesman)
Geothermal water will heat Boise natatorium (Boise Statesman)
What are the Snake River black globs? (IF Post Register)
New cleanup project manager at INL (IF Post Register)
New Lewiston gun manufacturing plant open (Lewiston Tribune)
Whitman Co financial report in (Moscow News)
GOP establishment gaining more party control (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon Co asks for jail review input (Nampa Press Tribune)
Megaloads still pursued at Bonner (Sandpoint Bee)
High school graduations (TF Times News)

North Bend school budget reshuffled (Coos Bay World)
Gazette Times slows move, a little (Corvallis Gazette Times)
500 Lane ballots still under review (Eugene Register Guard)
Kingsley Field will expand, 84 more people (KF Herald & News)
DFW biologist gets KF support (KF Herald & News)
Mt Ashland ski area could expand, but no money (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Rogue Ales co-founder died (Ashland Tidings)
High school graduations (Ashland Tidings)
Fire season starting early (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla port, city at odds on zoning (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Morrow Pacific project delayed again (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Law enforcement staff falls in rural area (Portland Oregonian)
Dispute over Portland zoo analysis (Portland Oregonian)
Court orders change to liquor ballot title (Salem Statesman Journal)

Granite Falls saves summer lunch program (Everett Herald)
Hwy 530 reopens today (Everett Herald)
Rainier HS sees battle over bullying (Longview News)
Smith talks about Benghazi committee (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Heavy construction on 520 bridge (Seattle Times)
Ballmer buys LA Clippers; fallout (Seattle Times)
Tacoma spends $300k on new strategic plan (Tacoma News Tribune)
Did Clark commission violate meeting law? (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima prosecutor accused of bias (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima will open new pot testing lab (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


Here they come again! This time it’s California. Again. But, over the horizon, we could be talking about several counties in Oregon. Again.

The secessionist birds are flying once more in California’s Tehama and Del Norte Counties where they’ll be voting Tuesday – officially, of course – to have county commissioners – they’re called “supervisors” South of our border – push harder to pry certain counties loose to create the State of Jefferson. Butte County folks will deal with the same issue on the 12th. Glenn, Modoc, Siskyou and Yuba have already voted to go – stage right. Far right. And out.

Given how long malcontents in Oregon’s Josephine, Jackson, Douglas and Curry counties have been trying to bring the issue of secession to a vote, this new effort may “juice” them up to try yet again. Wouldn’t be surprised.

At the root of these useless expenditures of time and money is, of course, frustration. Some of it real. Some not so much. A guy named Aaron Funk in Del Norte, makes the “frustration case” for leaving California.

“We have 11 counties up here that share one state senator while Los Angeles has 20 and San Francisco 10 more,” he says. “Essentially, we have no representation whatsoever.”

There is some tiny, frustrated logic to that. Except for laws requiring equal representation based on nose-counting. One basic point adding to Mr. Funks angst is the real isolation of Northern California from the rest of the folks. The seven counties that have voted to leave – and the others who likely will next week – have a combined geographic area twice the size of New Hampshire but only about 467,000 souls residing. Mt. Shasta and all the redwoods are there along with some of the state’s poorest citizens. Racially, the population is nearly all white.

But Washington and Oregon residents living east of the Cascades could make almost the same case for almost the same reasons. Far from the seats of power, less political representation, lower economic scales and heavily white. So far, they haven’t. Officially.

Siskyou County Supervisor Marcia Armstrong already wants to pull out. She’s one of the Tea Party secessionists and says there are “too many nanny laws” coming out of Sacramento.

So how would the secessionists handle the financing of a separate state given that all states are required to take care of citizens therein? Well, depends on who’s doing the talking. Most often cited example of how things would be better is pretty plain. And plainly not possible in the real world. Just get rid of the feds, dissolve all those pesky state agencies that keep messing up their lives and build a government made up of only what’s necessary. But – when it comes to defining “necessary” there isn’t much commonality.

Other voices in the separatist forests go on at length how there are so many minerals and forests and agricultural lands that financing a whole new state government would be a piece of cake. Sell a bunch of it. Rent out a bunch of it. Sounds good unless you remember most of those assets are federally owned and would almost certainly remain so – new state or not. Ask other Western states about that immutable fact..

Other voices wanting to split up California have a different bone to pick. The state, they say, has become so large, so populated, so ethnically and economically diverse it’s not possible to effectively govern it all. So, you hear schemes of dividing all that real estate – and all those people – into three to six new states. But – if you just took those 13 counties that want to be in the new State of Jefferson, the state legislative analysis office puts them right on the economic bottom. Again.

Some thinking folks in those counties are damned scared. Specially educators. They don’t see any of this helping out their school systems. In fact, they fear the loss of hundreds of millions of federal dollars that currently underwrite their districts. In Del North County alone you’re talking about 32 million state dollars which is 90% of annual operations costs. Where would that – or any meaningful percentage – come from if the California Department of Education dropped out of the picture? Or the hated “feds?”

Lots of more responsible folks want all this whole secessionist B.S. to go away. They see worse economic conditions and higher unemployment in counties where there are already too many jobless. They see less law enforcement in counties where cuts in the number of sworn officers and prosecutor’s staffs have already left law-abiding citizens vulnerable. They see infrastructure of roads, sewer and water districts and transportation issues deteriorating even further.

Voting takes place Tuesday and a week from Tuesday. Street gossip says all – or nearly all – counties will vote “yes.” Then what?

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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)

BMC building firm mostly relocates to George (Boise Statesman)
Potatoes get fed approval for food program (Boise Statesman)
Maxican markets opening for Idaho potatoes (IF Post Register)
Supreme Court IQ ruling may shift ID case (IF Post Register, Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow schools adjust their zone map (Moscow News)
Historical society digitizes old newspapers (Nampa Press Tribune)
Debate rages over fairgrounds site (Nampa Press Tribune)
Black globs infesting Snake River (TF Times News)

Basketball player case records redacted (Eugene Register Guard)
Major expansion for Springfield hospital (Eugene Register Guard)
Kitzhaber wants to sue Oracle (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Tuition may rise at Klamath college (KF Herald & News)
Klamath Falls plans for drought (KF Herald & News)
Medford cops concerned of black market pot (Ashland Tidings)
Most OR teachers like their jobs (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Many rural OR counties have too few cops (Portland Oregonian)
Syphilis, gonorrhea increase in OR (Salem Statesman Journal)

Hwy 530 at Oso will reopen (Everett Herald)
Battle over potatoes on federal programs (Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald, Olympian)
A good fishing year on coast expected (Longview News)
Ballmer buys LA Clipper; whither Seattle? (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
I-5 Traffic questions surveyed (Olympian)
Port Angeles pot business okayed (Port Angeles News)
Port Angeles city hall building underway (Port Angeles News)
$15 minimum wages progresses in Seattle (Seattle Times)
Wyoming presses for coal ports in WA (Vancouver Columbian)
Increase in liquor thefts reported (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


Think about this: if State Senator Russ Fulcher of Meridian had won the Republican nomination for governor and upset two-term incumbent Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter, he would have been a prohibitive favorite to win the governorship in November. After all, he’s a Republican.

Now ponder this: a Governor Fulcher would have been nominated and elected by just one out of every eight eligible voters. That’s correct. Do the math. The Secretary of State said the turnout was approximately 25% of the eligibles and with 12,000 more votes Fulcher would have captured slightly more than half of one-quarter, or one eighth of the vote.

Something is rotten in Denmark, to quote Shakespeare. Why don’t more Americans and Idahoans use their God-given, patriot-blood derived precious right to vote? The percentage of eligible voters who withstood threats to their very lives had a higher degree of participation in the recent Ukrainian election.

While campaigning with Governor Andrus, I sometimes saw this scenario unfold: usually before or after an Andrus speech or a Capitol For a Day, some loud-mouthed, white male in his 40’s or 50’s would come up to Andrus and demand the answer to some incomprehensible question.

Once they swore, or got obnoxious, Cece would invariably stop their diatribe cold with a question: let me ask you this—are you registered to vote and did you vote in the last state-wide election? He had a sixth sense because invariably they were caught so flat-footed they answered honestly and admitted they were neither registered nor had voted.

In general, Cece was an excellent listener, but he always wrote these folks off. Yes, he knew represented all the people of Idaho, even the none-voters, but if they couldn’t take time to register and vote, he seldom took the time to listen. “There are real voters to meet and help,” he would say.

Another voter “tick” that neither of us could understand was why so many of the few Idaho voters who showed up, would only vote on the marquee races – governor, U.S. senator and maybe lieutenant governor, and then not vote on the down ballot races.

It happened again in the May 20th primary.

Unofficial, uncertified vote totals indicated 155,333 voters cast ballots in the Republican gubenatorial primary with Governor Otter receiving 79,786 votes. In the Republican Senate primary there was a drop-off of almost 7,000 votes with the total being 148,824 ballots of which incumbent Jim Risch received approximately 118,000.

Amazingly, almost 30,000 ballots were cast for the Senator’s virtually unknown challenger. That figure tells one there are a lot of Republican voters that just plain don’t like Risch.

The next highest vote total occurred in the Republican race for Lt. Governor with 144,895 ballots cast of which 96,790 were for incumbent Brad Little who easily dispatched with his Tea Party opponent. Note that 18,000 more Republican voters cast their ballot for Brad but did not vote for Butch.

In the attorney general’s race there was another drop off of about 3,000 voters with 141,555 ballots cast and incumbent Lawrence Wasden easily taking care of his Tea Party challenger by taking 83,651 votes.

Now look at the Republican primary for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Despite polls showing that education still ranks as the highest and most important issue for many Idahoans, especially parents, only 106,372 ballots were marked with Sherri Ybarra, a virtually unknown Mountain Home school district curriculum director, winning the nomination.

In other words, almost 50,000 Republican voters, a full one third of those that voted in the gubernatorial primary did NOT mark their ballots in the SPI race. If Ms. Ybarra, as the Republican, wins in November, she will effectively have been elected by just over 1/16th of Idaho’s eligible voters.

One has to ask why? One can anticipate the excuses with “I didn’t recognize any of the names so rather than cast an ignorant ballot I chose not to vote at all” leading the pack.

This is simply inexcusable. Between voter guides, newspaper inserts, debates and social media who these candidates are and what they stand for is easily ascertainable. It’s just plain laziness and a total failure on the part of non-voters and the all too many ignorant voters who can’t be bothered to exercise responsibly the most sacred aspect of a participatory democracy – the right to cast their vote and have their say.

Perhaps it is time to start culling the eligible voter lists by a “use it or lose it” requirement. That someone like a Sherri Ybarra could have responsibility for handling a multi-million dollar budget and be the lead advocate for education is inexplicable and inexcusable. It is quite simply the tyranny of the minority.

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First Take


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)

Magnida plant at AF fought by Conida (Boise Statesman)
Fire chief, deputy at IF resign (IF Post Register)
Otter helped by Simpson in election (IF Post Register)
Same sex marriage backers seek court costs (IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune)
WSU studies low-income legal assistance (Moscow News)
Moscow business finder departs (Moscow News)
Bannock Development points to successes (Pocatello Journal)
TF theatre downtown closes (TF Times News)
PUC rejects Idaho Power solar plan (TF Times News)

Covallis executive sessions on garage (Corvallis Gazette Times)
State revenues on increase (Portland Oregonian, KF Herald & News, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Eugene shifts land use for more homes (Eugene Register Guard)
Regional fish/wildlife position may be cut (KF Herald & News)
Pendleton prison remains in lockdown (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Land shift allows Hermiston OSU site shift (Pendleton E Oregonian)
In mass survey, teachers say classes too big (Portland Oregonian)
OR health exchange delivers report (Salem Statesman Journal)

Darrington considers renewing tourism (Everett Herald)
Transfer deals pump WSU TriCities (Kennewick Herald)
Should Rachel road extend to preserve? (Kennewick Herald)
Wyoming gov will promote coal terminal (Longview News)
EPA seeks to publicly hit polluter (Longview News)
Sequim could get titantium business (Port Angeles News)
Police reforms draw copy lawsuit (Seattle Times)
Spokane schools rejects armed teachers (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma considers ridesharing rules (Tacoma News Tribune)
Oil terminal plan hits zoning rules (Vancouver Columbian)
Bridge near Sunnyside closed to trucks (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

harris ROBERT


Oregon primary voter turnout for the 2014 primary was 32.7% . The lowest percentage of any primary since the Secretary of State started keeping statistics online. This is an acceleration of the trend reported on Oregon Outpost a week ago.

One obvious reason – the drop in major party registered voters. In April of the 14,661 new voters, only 36% joined the Democratic or Republican Party. Thats COMBINED. While 64% opted to not join any party, or to join a minor party. Non Major party voters get ballots full of judicial races – usually with a single candidate – low profile non partisan races, and a few ballot measures.

My ballot – I assume typical for a non major party voter – had two contested races. Both for Washington County Commissioner. While I did vote, I understand why turnout of non major party voters was a paltry 18.9% statewide. There’s little for us to vote on or get excited about.

With the continuing crash in the numbers of registered Democratics and Republicans, expect to see:

Lower voter turnout in primary elections, because there are simply less D’s and R’s to vote.
A tighter grip by financiers of the major parties on financial issues (public employee unions, traded sector corporations), as it takes more money to reach non i/Independent voters who are locked out of the primaries and less interested in finding out about D’s and R’s.
More influence within major parties by those with special social issue interests (anti choice, environmental). When there are less foot soldiers for campaigns, the most motivated become the most valuable and important.
A firmer stance against any democracy reforms that would encourage more participation by non major party voters (tightening election laws that favor the Dem’s and Rep’s, defeating reforms like approval voting, and assuring unfettered money to major party candidates directly or through third parties)

This inevitably will lead to a spiral of reduced primary participation as more voters, particularly new voters, become disaffected from the major political parties power structure and opt to register as i/Independents.

Over the coming days, we’re going to be taking a look at various primary races around the state. Where there was only a single candidate from one party on the ballot. Where each major party had a single candidate on the ballot. And where one party had multiple candidates, but the other party had none.

Stay tuned to see how democratic our election process really is. Or isn’t.

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Harris Oregon


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)

Still family farms out there (Boise Statesman)
Environmental groups helped oust Pearce, Barrett (IF Post Register)
Tourists arrive in northern Fremont Co (IF Post Register)
Clarkston continues pot moratorium (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow’s north of downtown area under review (Moscow News)
Greenleaf continues alcohol ban (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon canvasses election results (Nampa Press Tribune)
Raven poison plans held off (Nampa Press Tribune)
Magnida fertilizer plant appealed by ConAgra (Pocatello Tribune)
Population loss in Pocatello, Chubbuck, Blackfoot (Pocatello Journal)
Long waits for state lab results (TF Times News)

Traffic backup leads to ODOT apology (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene’s Willamette St goes bike-friendly (Eugene Register Guard)
Hoopa Valley Tribe complains on water deal (KF Herald & News)
Grass fire hits near Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
Supreme Court rejects claim by Jacksonville Bush protesters (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Pendleton prison lockdown after fights (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Loren Parks contributes to driver card battle (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon divides on GMO battles (Portland Oregonian)
GMO task force will convene Friday (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem ends downtown improvement district (Salem Statesman Journal)

New trail may run from Arlington to Stanwood (Everett Herald)
Kennewick schools call for road extension (Kennewick Herald)
Longview tries to clean Lake Sacajawea (Longview News)
Return of an off-leash dog park (Olympian)
Seattle sets new 6-month record for rain (Olympian)
Spokane councilor Salvatori resigns (Spokane Spokesman)
Standoff on filling Clark Co commission spot (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark Co prohibits marijuana business (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark Co considers new charter (Vancouver Columbian)
Union Gap will allow poty business (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

frazier DAVID


The Greater Boise Auditorium District (G-BAD) is tiptoeing around the law once again. This time they are aiming to deprive voters of their constitutional right to approve long term debt for a $38 million dollar kitchen and ballroom.

Article VIII, Sec 3 of the Idaho Constitution requires a vote of the people to approve debt. G-BAD lawyers have formulated a convoluted plan to have CCDC go into debt (which it can legally do), but not use CCDC funds–all on behalf of the auditorium district.

The plan as it stands now is to launder a loan through the Capital City Development Corp (CCDC). The terms of the so-called lease agreement call for CCDC to sell 24 year bonds in the amount of $22 million using the G-BAD credit and ability to repay.
G-BAD figures they can somehow convince a judge through a “judicial confirmation” petition they will merely be leasing the “project” on an annual basis. The project is actually a condominium portion of the new building proposed by the Gardner development group of Zion Bank fame.

The lease agreement blatantly uses an interest and principal component and even bases the rental payments on the cost of the bonds. Those close to the project refer to the CCDC role as a “pass through” which will not use tax money diverted from schools, city, county, and ACHD to fund urban renewal.

In layman terms the deal is like renting a house with the intent of owning it after making payments for 24 years, but using someone else’s credit rating and including a “non-appropriation” clause which says you don’t have to pay the rent.

Even though the intent is to OWN the project after 24 years, G-BAD is asking a judge to find they are not really going to PURCHASE the project, just LEASE it and magically get title at the end.

Ada County Treasurer Vicky McIntyre testified at a G-BAD public hearing last Wednesday and told the board she is a frequent purchaser of bonds on behalf of Ada County, but would never invest in bonds which have a “non-appropriation” clause and call for a third party to ultimately own the project.

GUARDIAN editor David R. Frazier also testified before the board urging them to hold an election as mandated by the constitution. He said the project at $38,000,000 was “so profound it deserves the vote of citizens, not just a single judge.”

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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)

Otter lost the 1st congressional district (Boise Statesman)
Splits remain among Idaho Republicans (IF Post Register)
Tough superintendent race for Ybarra (Nampa Press Tribune)
New UI president projects safe campus (Nampa Press Tribune)
Lake Pend Oreille court pass flood stage (Sandpoint Bee)
Dalay ordered for raven kill project (TF Times News)

Concerns in region about oil trains (Eugene Register Guard, Corvallis Gazette Times, Pendleton East Oregonian)
Coping with high tuition costs at UO (Eugene Register Guard)
Oregon rates on school spending are low (Portland Oregonian)
Salem reviews beautification (Salem Statesman Journal)

Risk acknowledgement on some build permits (Everett Herald)
Still tighter parking around Statehouse ahead (Olympian)
Gates reduces Foundation spending (Seattle Times)
Same sex partners convert to marriage (Tacoma News Tribune)
Unkown what pot revenues will amount to (Vancouver Columbian)
Concerns in region about oil trains (Vancouver Columbian)
Debate over how much fish people eat (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
Concerns for future of bighorn sheep herd (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


Alaska’s long-time senior senator, the late Ted Stevens (1968-2008), had a vicious temper. He could erupt in a split second. Turnover on his staff was constant for few folks would take his berating their competence for long.

He was demanding, would not accept excuses and expected one never to make the same mistake twice. His caustic criticism often was aimed at the press. He rarely hesitated to call a reporter and let them know how badly they’d screwed up.

Behind all the anger, bluff and bluster, though, there was one decent person who had a tender heart, truly cared for those less fortunate and was devoted to his wife, Ann, and their children. He was a man of his word, a tireless advocate for Alaskans and a formidable adversary. He rarely carried a grudge, with one major exception – his senatorial colleage, Alaska’s junior senator, Mike Gravel.

He hated Gravel, and with good reason Stevens truly believed, and it was plausible, that Gravel brought about the situation that led to the death of Ann.

Gravel, born in Massachusettts, went to Alaska with the not so secret desire to achieve high public office. He drove a cab for awhile but soon got into real estate and was successful enough to seek office. An intelligent, charming fellow, he was liked well enough by his House colleagues to be elected Speaker.

In 1966 he trried to parlay the Speaker post into election as Alaska’s sole member of the House but was defeated in the Democratic primary by Ralph Rivers.

In August of 1968, though, he shocked many Alaskans by upsetting the venerable Ernest Gruening, one of Alaska’s last territorial governors and, along with Bob Bartlett, one of the first two Alaskan senators. Gruening, who will forever be remembered as one of only two sagacious votes against LBJ’s Tonkin Gulf resolution authorizing the president to do whatever he had to do in Vietnam, was in his early 80’s. To his regret he ignored Gravel and did little campaigning. Gravel went on to win the first of two terms in November.

Twelve years later Gravel himself was knocked off in the August Democratic primary by Ernest Gruening’s grandson, State Rep. Clark Gruening. Gravel had by then alienated many Alaskans but the clincher was the move Stevens quietly organizned to have a massive Republican turnout vote in the open Democratic primary for young Gruening. Stevens exacted his revenge.

Had Gravel been resonsible for Anne Stevens’ death? You be the judge.

Throughout much of 1978 Congress had been wrestling under a deadline to settle the quid pro quo in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which had enabled the oil industry to move forward with the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline. Section 17-d-2 of that law called for the designation of up to 92 million acres of public land to be set aside in the four preservation systems—national parks, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and wild rivers.

The House had passed its version easily, but the Senate was struggling. With a deadline looming, in mid-October negotiators from both the House and Senate, along with the Carter Administration’s Interior Department, hammered out a compromise. Senator Gravel, who previously had told everyone he would not stand in the way, suddenly reversed field and blew up the agreement by threatening a floor filibuster. He would not even agree to an extension of the deadline.

Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus, knowing that Gravel was a liar, was prepared for just such a move. He had already prepared for President Carter’s signature a declaration placing most of the previously identified “d-2” lands into National Monument status and protected the rest with his withdrawal authority under the 1976 BLM Organic Act.

It then became necessary for the Alaskan delegation to meet with the main Alaskan business opposition group, the Citizens for the Management of Alaskan Lands (CMAL), to devise a new strategy in response. The strategy meeting was scheduled for Anchorage on December 4, 1978.

As the Learjet carrying Senator Stevens, his wife, and others was landing at the Anchorage airport a terrific cross-wind hit the plane flipping it over. Ann died from a broken neck along with five others.

Senator Stevens survived along with CMAL chair Tony Motley. Stevens, in a display of true grit, had his injuries quickly addressed at a nearby hospital, then immediately caught a flight to Denver so he could personally inform Ann’s father before the news was released to the public.

Stevens knew neither he nor Ann would have been on that flight had his colleague not blown up the negotiations. From that day forward he held Gravel personally responsible and vowed vengeance. Controlling his anger, less than two years later he had the pleasure of getting even by ensuring Gravel’s defeat. Stevens not only got mad, he did indeed get even.

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