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Posts published in May 2014

If it worked once

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

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. (more…)

Exemptions on the table

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
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. (more…)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

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)

Voting on secession. Again.

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

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. (more…)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

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)

Tyranny of the minority

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

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. (more…)

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

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)

Voter turnout plummets

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

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.

On the front pages

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

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)

Avoiding voter approval?

frazier DAVID
FRAZIER

 
Boise
Guardian

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.”