Writings and observations


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 launches children’s bike trail (Boise Statesman)
DOE shows master plan for INL waste cleanup (IF Post Register)
Sheep station at Dubois loses federal funding (IF Post Register)
Campus gun law draws varied responses (Moscow News)
Moscow teachers, districts still stuck on contract (Moscow News)
Latah economic development group wants expansion (Moscow News)
Nampa library repurposesd for veterans (Nampa Press Tribune)
Ag-gag ruling expected soon (Nampa Press Tribune)
No inquiry into Bergdahl issues yet (Lewiston Tribune, Nampa Press Tribune)
Raving committee sessions in GOP fight (TF Times News)
Hailey tries to refocus on tourism (TF Times News)

Corvallis still mulls railroad right of way (Corvallis Gazette)
Eugene schools chief leaves after next year (Eugene Register Guard)
Chemicals on some trees may be killing bees (Eugene Register Guard)
Portland lawyer key in Scotus cell phone decision (Portland Oregonian)
State buys 357 acres on coast (Salem Statesman Journal)
PGE seeks to build solar power plant near Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)

Sliding is continuing along Stillaguamish (Everett Herald)
Property condemned for new Snohomish courthouse (Everett Herald)
New Delta High School sees groundbreaking (Kennewick Herald)
Wanapum Dam cracks to be repaired this year (Kennewick Herald)
Longview business mixes coffee, pot (Longview News)
Peninsula involved in orca study (Seattle Times, Post Angeles News)
Boeing execs explain recent cutbacks (Seattle Times)
New Seattle police chief O’Toole, union talk (Seattle Times)
Pot retailers to open July 8; supplied? (Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune)
Amtrak, old rail station bumping heads? (Tacoma News Tribune)
Killing hoof rot infected elk (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

peterson MARTIN

The consensus seems to be that June was a disaster for first district Congressman Raul Labrador. First he presided over what most people are saying was the worst and least productive Republic state convention in Idaho’s history. Then he ran for House Majority Leader and appears to have been soundly trounced.

If his long-range plans call for building a career as an influential member of Congress, or for running for higher office, then the month was largely a disaster. But what if his long-range plans have goals unrelated to remaining in elective office?

The truth is, Labrador hasn’t seemed to be strongly driven by the need to deliver measurable results to his district, other than occasionally jumping on the bandwagon in support of legislation being sponsored by other members of Idaho’s delegation. Certainly not the way that former senators Jim McClure, Frank Church and Larry Craig were driven to address constituent needs. Nor the way that his second district counterpart Mike Simpson has been able to focus on strengthening the Idaho National Laboratory or trying to address issues related to wilderness.

Rather, most of his focus has been on pushing for a Congress that is philosophically true to the most conservative political dogma of the day. And he has been unflinching in this, with few exceptions. So unflinching that it has endeared him to many of the most conservative elements of our country. This unbending support of the far right philosophy and his natural ability to communicate in a calm and pleasant way has made him a favorite of the media.

Given all of this, why might June have been a great month for him? As chair of the state Republican convention, he was able to effectively work with the tea party group to keep the “regular” Republicans from controlling any element of the convention and actually keeping the delegations from two of Idaho’s largest counties, Ada and Bannock, from being seated. He was also able to assist in bringing far right standard bearers Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee to address the convention. While the convention accomplished absolutely nothing, the party gave no ground to those representing centrist Republican thought, even though tea party challengers were defeated by centrists in all but one statewide primary race.

The race for House Majority Leader was also an opportunity for Labrador to demonstrate that he is true to the interests of the far right. He was unafraid to take on the existing House leadership, along with most of the rest of the House, to voice his concerns about the need for the party and the House to shift much farther to the right, even though it likely further marginalized him as an effective House member.

So, given all of that, how does Labrador come out a winner?

He comes out a winner if, at some point, he contemplates leaving elective office and pursuing a career more financially lucrative than being either a Congressman or an Idaho immigration attorney. Former Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina followed this course, leaving his $174,000 a year Senate seat and becoming head of the Heritage Foundation earning over $1 million a year. According to reports filed with the IRS, leaders of seven prominent conservative groups average salaries well in excess of $500,000 a year.

The billionaire Koch brothers pump hundreds of millions of dollars into such organizations, including, in addition to the Freedom Foundation, Freedom Works, Heritage Action, Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners. The Koch brothers probably see little to disagree with in Congressman Labrador. In fact Freedom Works supported his candidacy for House Majority Leader.

Labrador is comfortable before both the camera and microphone and has become something of a national media favorite when it comes to the far right. He has appeared on most of the major national news programs and has made repeat performances on some Sunday talk shows, such as Meet the Press. In fact, during his brief campaign for Majority Leader, he indicated that one the strengths he had over his opponent, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, was his ability to work effectively with the news media.

So another financially lucrative path that could be open to the Congressman is would to join the ranks of former elected officials such as former Congressmen Newt Gingrich and Joe Walsh, and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who have become highly paid broadcast personalities. In fact, in late March, Congressman Mike Rogers, chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, announced that he was resigning both his chairmanship and his House seat to become a radio talk show host.

Although Glenn Beck, another talk show host, has never held elective office, he and Labrador are cut from much the same cloth and appeal to similar audiences. According to journalist Zev Chafets, Beck’s annual income “is greater than the combined salaries of the entire U.S. Senate – and you can toss in a few dozen congressman and cabinet secretaries for good measure.”

Labrador’s wife and five children have remained in Idaho, perhaps largely because of the expense of housing and living in the Washington, DC area. If at some point he decides to leave the House and accept a high paying job with one of the options I have suggested, June 2014 will probably be viewed as a great month that helped make it all possible.

Marty Peterson is a native of the Lewiston Clarkston Valley. He is retired and lives in Boise.

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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)

Indian poker hinges on chance or skill (Boise Statesman)
Most Idahoans are OK with state’s roads (IF Post Register)
Who’s in charge at the Idaho GOP? (Lewiston Tribune)
WA pot must be kept from minors (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Palouse farm tracts increase in value (Moscow News)
UI prepares for guns on campus (Moscow News)
Nampa elementary school building becomes church (Nampa Press Tribune)
St Luke’s contests loss of property tax exemption (Nampa Press Tribune)
Budgets come to Nampa city council (Nampa Press Tribune)
Shifts in state workforce training after Chobani (TF Times News)
Questions about new 80 mph speeds on interstates (TF Times News)
Ag-gag critics may try using drones (TF Times News)

Criticism of planned Eugene sick leave policy (Eugene Register Guard)
UO accused of unfairness toward ousted players (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene garbage rates may rise (Eugene Register Guard)
Debate over ATV use on state park land (KF Herald & News)
Klamath faces public safety vote (KF Herald & News)
SOU book store sold to Barnes & Noble (Ashland Tidings)
Jackson Co has limited pot restrictions (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Construction market grows around Medford (Medford Tribune)
Illegal forest harvesters at work (Medford Tribune)
Hermiston gets new city manager (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Some Round-Up events will be broadcast (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Washington prepares for pot sales (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Some Cover Oregon execs paid not to leave (Portland Oregonian)
More bee deaths reported in Oregon (Salem Statesman Journal)

Cannabis may be sold from food truck (Everett Herald)
Burlington Northern reports 10 oil trains/week (Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian)
110 goats chomp overgrowth near mall (Everett Herald)
Kennewick waterfront hires architect (Kennewick Herald)
Culture of vit plant on safety a concern (Kennewick Herald)
Washington readies for pot sales (Vancouver Columbian, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Traffic lights change on Longview’s W Main (Longview News)
Movie released on dam-less Elwha River (Port Angeles News)
Seattle City Light seeks refund on PR effort (Seattle Times)
Port of Seattle raising minimum wage (Seatttle Times)
McMorris Rodgers takes on ex-im bank (Spokane Spokesman)
Avista branch looks into natural gas (Spokane Spokesman)
Questions about Tacoma gun turn-in (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Co economy still growing (Vancouver Columbian)
Survey says Hanford workers fear blowing whistle (Yakima Herald Republic)
Aftermath of the Cottonwood 2 fire (Yakma Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


For many, many a moon, it’s been hard to say anything positive about our miscreants in congress. Especially those in the Grand Old Party of “NO.” About the time you think they’ve reached the bottom, one of ‘em digs a little deeper and any thoughts of saying something positive about recalcitrant elephants are immediately dashed.

But one fella – Idaho’s Second Congressional District part-time dentist – has acquitted himself with more positive job performance than a majority of others in the herd. Mike Simpson can be honestly castigated for making a number of wrong-headed votes in the name of Republican “unity” – a phrase rapidly becoming inappropriate for anything GOP. He’s gone along with his leadership on some things unnecessarily partisan. Still, on the whole – as far as his folks at home are concerned – he’s been quite helpful.

But now, he finds himself doing something for the sake of some of those same home folk that may be politically smart but it’s also politically abhorrent to a lot of us – and maybe even him – because it’s wasteful of our tax dollars and is little more than pork wrapped in the old American flag.

The brass hats in the Pentagon maze have been trying for years to thin out our inventory of obsolete, costly and no-longer-effective weapons systems. Things change. We move on. Technology keeps getting better. We can kill more people with less. And, sometimes, we can even kill them one-at-a-time from 5,000 miles away – if everything operates properly. So, some of the deadly toys we bought many moons ago should be retired or recycled.

But – when the folks on Capitol Hill – the ones who think holding elective office is a tenured “career” regardless of performance – hear such talk, there’s an immediate reaction of sphincter puckering and a rush to head off any loss of defense spending in the home district. One of the leaders in this embarrassment of pork preservation has been the Speaker himself. The Army has been telling Congress for years it doesn’t want any more copies of certain models of current tanks – wants to stop building ‘em – and it wants a particular company to stop refurbishing the ones damaged on current battlefields. Stop, already!

Ah, but the company that does all that tank rebuilding is where? Where? All together now – OHIO! And that district is represented in Congress by whom? All together now – SPEAKER BOEHNER! And in his mind, we’ll never have enough tanks – especially not enough rebuilt tanks – until Hell freezes over. It’s called “pork,” boys and girls. P-O-R-K!

So, what about Mike Simpson? Well, he’s now caught up in something very similar. He’s “going to the mat” to save a flying weapons system the U.S. Air Force doesn’t want anymore – the A-10 Thunderbolt. Or, as it’s more informally known, the “Warthog.” The “Hog” first flew in about 1976. It’s been called an “airborne tank” because it can take a lot of punishment and keep on flying. It’s a twinjet craft used in close support of combat troops for strafing, rocket launching and putting a lot of hurt on those threatening our people. It’s been a great airplane and the most effective aerial weapons carrier for such work.

But times have changed. Technology has improved. We’ve got new planes – drones – better ground weapons. USAF equipment buyers want to phase out the old “Hog” and spend our tax dollars on better, newer and more effective killing stuff. And therein lies the trap drawing Mike Simpson’s “Luke Skywalker” over to “the Dark side.” Fight for the folks at home. Support that pork!

Gowen Field is a small Idaho National Guard base on the South side of Boise’s busy commercial airport. It should have been moved years ago. One of the prime reasons it exists is to be Idaho’s home for “Warthogs.” A couple dozen of ‘em. And all the support personnel, local payroll and purchasing power it takes to keep ‘em flying. So you just know any USAF decision to disrupt that flow of federal dollars is going to bring instant screams from Idaho And that’s where our GOPer Simpson is caught.

I’ve known Mike for years. He’s a good head. And he’s done his share of pork banishment. But now the pork on the political spit is his. Gowen Field is about the distance of a Peyton Manning pass inside his congressional district. Just inside the line. So, after years of campaigning on the old Republican lie – er, line – of “lower taxes” and “an end to unnecessary spending,” our legislative tooth fixer is hoist on his own pork petard.

His chances of winning are very slim without some pork-passing help. The defense bill has cleared the House and is buried in the Senate. Of course, there’ll be some amending and some cutting and some pork added. But the lift to pull the aerial pork out of the fire is gonna be a heavy one. Unless senators from Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Utah jump in to help. They’ve got “Hog” bases, too, you see. Or “Hog” maintenance facilities. Got to spread that tasty “pig meat” around, don’t you know?

Given his long-standing, squeaky-clean conservative record, Simpson’s in a strange place. He’s waging a good fight. But whether he’ll have his whole Republican “cost-cutting” heart in the battle is another question.

Still, seems to me quite fitting that the pork at the center of Simpson’s political conundrum is a “Hog.” And remember, boys and girls – pork is always – ALWAYS – in the eye of the beholder.

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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)

Micron’s quarterly report shows improvement (Boise Statesman)
Public opinion says Idaho roads are okay (Lewiston Tribune)
Noise on the Snake River near Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow changes its groundwater efforts (Moscow News)
Candidate Silver thinks Crane should be fired (Moscow News)
New Canyon County admin building opens (Nampa Press Tribune)
Lanes shift along I-84 in Nampa area (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa city begins annual budget work (Nampa Press Tribune)
Republicans still at odds on organization (Pocatello Journal, Sandpoint Bee)

Three UO basketball players banned (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene limits fireworks a little more (Eugene Register Guard)
High fire risk in southern Oregon (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Unemployment rate falls in Jackson County (Ashland Tidings)
Wolf fund used mainly for prevention (Ashland Tidings)
Burglary rates rise at Medford (Medford Tribune)
Lack of law enforcement at Josephine hurts (Medford Tribune)
Milton-Freewater gun club approved (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton schools will increase Indian offerings (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Legal challenge filed in PERS case (Salem Statesman Journal)

Snohomish takes another look at slides (Everett Herald)
Governor discusses safety at Hanford cleanup (Kennewick Herald)
Major shootout near Rainier (Longview News)
Longview looks at using Cowlitz River water (Longview News)
Hoof diseased elk mught be killed (Longview News)
Seattle Council proposes preschool options (Seattle Times)
Long-ago planted trees now being harvested (Spokane Spokesman)
Pot businesses concerned about transport (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

yakima fest
Yakima last weekend held its first Blues and Brews Bash on North Front Street.

A little more emphasis this week on economic news, which is looking up a bit: The jobs picture is improving a little (the percentage rate stayed about the same in Washington, but the number of jobs is up, and the jobless rate fell in Idaho) and, as an indicator, state tax revenues are coming in higher than expected.

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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)

More houses sell at cash (Boise Statesman)
Democratic convention closes without disputes (Moscow News)
Rapidly rising garbage at Canyon landfill (Nampa Press Tribune)
Oregon sets up radio helicopters for fires (Nampa Press Tribune)

Corvallis library opens Sundays again (Corvallis Gazette)
Oregon tries drones to watch fires (Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette)
Richardson hit over spam accusations (Ashland Tidings)
SOU reduces water use, plans for drought (Ashland Tidings)
2014 looks like a good travel year (Ashland Tidings)
Obscure manual sets free repair fees (Portland Oregonian)
Marion County looks at noise ordinance (Salem Statesman Journal)

Snohomish jail death results in lawsuit (Everett Herald)
Researching sea star wasting (Port Angeles News)
Ship bell brought up for research, show (Port Angeles News)
Business concerned about $15 mininum wage (Seattle Times)
Boeing automatic, pilot errors in review (Seattle Times)
Fewer big road projects in southwest WA (Vancouver Columbian)
Scientists study magma below Mt. St. Helens (Vancouver Columbian)
Farmers markets adding to producers income (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take


You really do get the sense sometimes that people pay attention only to bad news.
Oregon, like many other states (its neighbors among them), has been seeing not spectacular but steady improvement in its economic picture this year. More numbers to that effect came in this past week, with (for one major example) unemployment numbers running closer to the norms of reasonably prosperous times.
You have to qualify a lot of this. There’s been some diminishing of what’s considered the full work force, so practical unemployment is still higher than Oregonians would like to see.
But it is getting better.
Take a look too at the story (in the local government section) on Metro construction receipts, which starts, “It’s been a banner year for construction in the Portland region – so much so that the region’s construction tax has generated about 20 percent more than its original forecast for the current grant cycle.”
That’s not a small deal, and the overall pace of construction around the state seems to bear that out.
In a good many places, you do get the sense of people taking a breath of relief.
Now, of course, would be the right time to look at areas of restructuring the state could do with. The long-discussed talk about rejiggering the state’s tax structure would be a good thing to get underway at this point, maybe peaking about the same time the state’s economy does. Economic reorganization talk tends to yield a little more productivity during times when money is flowing more freely.
There’s work to do now, too.

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Oregon Oregon column


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)

CEOs of ID public tradeds saw raises in 2012 (Boise Statesman)
Idaho guardsmen reflect on Iraq situation (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register)
Democrats hold harmonious convention (Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal)
Chaney gears up for House 10B race (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa seeking a branch of Boise Co-op (Nampa Press Tribune)
Harkness Hotel opening at McCammon (Pocatello Journal)

New Eugene math instruction criticized (Eugene Register Guard)
New Klamath library branch opened (KF Herald & News)
Reviewing the work of corrections officers (Portland Oregonian)
Most state employee performance reviews not done (Salem Statesman Journal)
Attempts to build Minto Park still delayed (Salem Statesman Journal)

Snohomish Council splits on expanded air terminal (Everett Herald)
PUD leaders paid more than $60k (Longview News)
State initiative focuses on class size (Longview News)
Washington’s national parks face budget crunch (Seattle Times)
Uncertainty as pot stores plan openings (Spokane Spokesman)
Pierce County home values rise nearly 10% (Tacoma News Tribune)
Pettit Oil collapse leaves customers chilled (Tacoma News Tribune)
School recesses cut back (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY

The Idaho Republican convention’s closing hours in Moscow last weekend were so unusual and so conflicted that they’ve taken on a character of their own – a poison pill of sorts for Idaho’s dominant political party, an event so embarrassing that, in some views, it might cost the party control of state offices.

Let’s step back just a bit.

Will the chaos convention in and of itself change much in Idaho politics? Probably not. Even amid all the headlines, most Idaho voters likely are only vaguely aware that a convention was held, and far fewer could explain to you just what happened there. So what if they failed to elect (in the normal way at least) a chair or adopt a platform? Outside of people really active in Idaho politics, who would notice? When’s the last time either of those things elicited a lot of discussion two weeks after the event?

Short term, the party has a mess in front of it – disagreement even about whether it has a chair and officers in place. Meetings last week didn’t seem to go much better than the convention did. Some of that may be resolved in the next few weeks in meetings various party people are trying to set up; or those efforts could collapse as well.

Still, as a one-shot event, this and the botched convention was not a big deal in the broad reach of Idaho politics. It will pass.

That doesn’t mean it’s insignificant.

It (and the ongoing conflict) could turn off some party workers and volunteers who, out of anger or disgust, won’t be going out there and working the way they usually do. That could hurt the party in the case of races which are otherwise close.

But there’s also something bigger.

Much of modern politics is driven by a narrative – a story of people, parties and issues, what they mean and how they fit into the story of individual lives. In the news, aberrations from those established narratives tend to fade. When news erupts that reinforces a narrative, it tends to strengthen the power of the story. It makes it more believable and harder to dismiss.

Earlier this year, we saw an unusual and maybe unprecedented split of Idaho Republicans into two distinct sides – slates of candidates competing ferociously in the primary election. The rhetoric was often strong, sometimes hyperbolic, well beyond what you usually hear from intra-party fights.

Toward the end of that campaign, Idaho got national attention for its Republican gubernatorial debate which featured two fringe candidates who got much more attention than the two mainstream candidates; and who spoke (in effect) of being on a mission from God and the like.

Now, the same party’s state convention falls apart because anger and disputes flourish, compromise vanishes, and party leaders cannot cooperate well enough to conduct basic organizational business.

These are only three recent examples – if you’ve been watching, you can come up with many more – of a long-building narrative about who and what Idaho Republicans are all about, and what is the meaning of Republican governance in Idaho. Each day with another tale of anger and non-cooperation will add to the list.

Take these pieces together, and what sort of a narrative about Idaho Republicans are voters constructing as they consider politics in their state? What does this narrative tell us about who and what they are?

This is how political narratives are made. And elections really do rise and fall on the basis of them.

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Idaho Idaho column