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Posts published in July 2014

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)

Investigation into bulldozer operator death (Boise Statesman)
Adds the words protesters go to court (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Sockeye salmon recovery plan released (Lewiston Tribune)
Nampa turns down 4-plexes proposal (Nampa Press Tribune)
Caldwell wants bigger property tax slice (Nampa Press Tribune)
Fires in Idaho easing office (Pocatello Journal)
CNN suing Blaine Co over Bergdahl records (TF Times News)
Idaho gets No Child waiver extension (TF Times News)
Gas prices in Idaho rising (TF Times News)

Lane Co: Eugene can't dictate on sick leave (Eugene Register Guard)
Springfield mill may not rise again for 2 years (Eugene Register Guard)
Odell Lake has toxic algae bloom (KF Herald & News)
Vic Atiyeh remembered (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tidings, Portland E regonian, Ashland Tidings)
Lightning storms may hit area (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Report on Oregon kids' health, poverty (Portland Oregonian)

Contest in 38th House seat (Bremerton Sun)
Hoover Motors at Bremerton plans closure (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish finance director job long vacant (Everett Herald)
Inslee restricts most burning outdoors (Kennewick Herald)
Carlton complex biggest fire ever in WA (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman,, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Kalama grain terminal expansion nearly done (Longview News)
Olympic National Parks develops goat plan (Port Angeles News)
I-90 traffic hit again with Obama visit (Seattle Times)
Tearing down Spokane downtown fountain (Spokane Spokesman)
4th US House seat up for grabs (Spokane Spokesman)
Pot shipments slow in wildfire regions (Vancouver Columbian)
Dam planners try new type of fish passage (Yakima Herald Republic)

Campaigning on your dime

carlson CHRIS


Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter brought his “dog and pony” show called Capital For A Day to St. Maries on July 21st. My, oh my, how it has changed since Governor Cecil D. Andrus, who initiated the program in 1973, and I walked the streets of the temporary “capital” (usually a county seat).

No entourage. No security detail. No advance team. No “show and tell.” No setting up a town hall meeting and expecting the citizens to come to us.

Nope. Just Cece and I, popping in and out of various businesses on Main Street, chatting with the owner and asking if they were having any difficult issues with any facet of state government. The day’s agenda usually included a noon speech at a Rotary or a Kiwanis Club and in the afternoon drop by visits to the local paper and other media to report on what he was hearing.

My role was to take notes, handle any media that might want to tag along and pass out the “Capital for A Day” post cards wherein folks could write a brief description of their issue and their contact info.

When we got back to Boise the governor would deal the cards out to appropriate staff with instructions to have an interim report back to the constituent within two weeks and a definitive answer within four weeks.

There was another significant difference. Once the Republicans selected their nominee to challenge Andrus in the August primary, the governor suspended the program.

“Butch” should take note and follow the Andrus lead. No matter how one slices it, or rationalizes it, to continue Capital For A Day in an election year after your opponent is selected is to have the taxpayers underwriting a campaign-like endeavor.

It's a clear "conflict of interest" and a clear illegal contribution to the governor's re-election effort by the taxpayer. Frankly, I'm amazed that no one has called Governor Otter out on this matter. State senator Russ Fulcher from Meridian should have confronted Governor otter on this in his closely contested primary challenge. (more…)

In the Briefings

lookout view

Taken from Scott Mountain Lookout, 11 miles to the north and with a straight view towards the fires. It was taken at 5 PM on July 18. Wash Fire is the smoke on left, Grimes Fire is the smoke on right. (photo/Boise National Forest)

Fire became the big story of the week all over the northwest (at least, from the Cascades east). The fire sizes were not notably large – yet – but a number of them were aggressive, and at least one ravaged several human settlements. This is an early point in the year for this sort thing; it portends a rough season ahead.

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)

ParkCenter Mall turns into charter school (Boise Statesman)
Winchester well tried to help city (Lewiston Tribune)
Mars research at Craters of the Moon (TF Times News)

ODOT looks at Medford-Phoenix bike lands (Ashland Tidings)
Cluster hiring affects OSU rankings (Eugene Register Guard)
Former Governor Atiyah diies (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal)

Battle over Senate seat in 35th (Bremerton Sun)
State-county commission will review Oso slide (Everett Herald)
Former judge CC Bridgewater dead (Longview News)
Fish advocates will sue over weir (Port Angeles News)
WA wildfire fights still underway (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman)
Battle in 3rd US House district (Vancouver Columbian)
Growing numbers of motorcycle crashes (Vancouver Columbian)

An irreducible minimum

idaho RANDY

No community in Idaho would relish the loss of 21 jobs. Boise would not; Nampa would not. The east side of Seattle just lost more than 1,300 jobs at Microsoft, and certainly didn't welcome that.

But Boise, Nampa and Seattle weather these losses, however unpleasant. The loss of just 21 jobs is more critical in some places than in others, as the people of Dubois could say emphatically.

Dubois is like one of those places the writer Dayton Duncan wrote of in his book Miles from Nowhere (1993), which was about the remote and small-population places of western America. Among Idaho communities, he happened to focus on Stanley and Yellow Pine.

His most striking instance, in a chapter called “Below the Irreducible Minimum,” was Loving County, Texas, population 107, and its one community, the seat of Mentone. It raises a question: When does a community become too small to remain a functioning community?

Clark, with a reported 867 residents (down from 1,022 in 2000), is Idaho's least-populated county, and the 30th least-populated county in the United States. It's a rugged place; many residents here head south in the winter. Among the country's lowest-populated counties, it has the highest percentage of residents born in a foreign country – presumably, many reliant on agricultural work. The Census reports that Clark has 18 non-farm businesses employing 83 people.

Aside from farm employment ad local government, the largest employer in the county may be the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, located a few miles north of Dubois but managing operations scattered around the Clark County area. Its job, simply, is to research sheep: Its website lists one goal as “an understanding of the interactions between sheep and the environments in which they are produced that can be used to improve sheep production systems and ensure the sustainability of grazing land ecosystems.” (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 downtown condos under development (Boise Statesman)
Idaho, congressional politics and minimum wage (IF Post Register)
Work training grants to firms that moved, closed? (IF Post Register)
2006 Nampa growth plan was over-optimistic (Nampa Press Tribune)
County budget hearings ahead (Nampa Press Tribune)
IU researchers look at Mars, Craters of Moon (Pocatello Journal)
Filer employees will get dog training (TF Times News)

Eugene, Lane Co at odd on sick leave law (Eugene Register Guard)
String of Medford fires grows to 17 (Medford Tribune)
Cover Oregon moving toward a revival (Portland Oregonian)
Heroin making a comeback (Salem Statesman Journal)

Four-way battle for Kitsap prosecutor (Bremerton Sun)
The cost of investigating juvenile detention (Everett Sun)
Benton Co says public safety sales tax needed (Kennewick Herald)
Wildfires still roaring (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Reviewing Inslee's water quality plan (Longview Daily News)
Amazon's new warehouse set for Sunday delivery (Seattle Times)
Reviewing challengers to Herrera-Beutler (Vancouver Columbian)
Candidates in 14th legislative district (Yakima Herald Republic)

Oregon’s timber harvest is, um, up

ridenbaugh Northwest

In 2013, Oregon’s timber harvest rose to 4.2 billion board feet, marking four consecutive years of increase from the recession low of 2.72 billion board feet in 2009. “This was the first harvest above four billion board feet in seven years,” said ODF principal economist Brandon Kaetzel, “and represents a 12 percent increase over the 2012 harvest of 3.75 billion board feet.”

Approximately 49 percent, or 30.2 million acres, of Oregon is forested. Federal forestlands account for 60 percent of these forestlands, industrial forestlands for 19 percent, family forestland owners own 15 percent, state-owned forests comprise three percent, and all other forestland owners (counties, Tribal, etc.), three percent.

Timber harvest increases can be attributed to a strong export market for Oregon logs in 2013, coupled with a domestic market recovery, particularly in housing. Whether this trend will continue for the 2014 harvest is uncertain due to housing forecasts being revised to lower numbers and a sudden cool-down in the export market that occurred during the second quarter of 2014.

The largest increase in harvest came from non-industrial private forestlands where harvests increased 61 percent to 511 million board feet from the 2012 total of 318 million board feet. “This is most likely due to small forestland owners taking advantage of higher prices as a result of a still strong export market in 2013,” Kaetzel said. The harvest on industrial forestlands rose from 2.56 billion board feet in 2012 to 2.75 billion board feet in 2013, for an eight percent increase in harvest.

Harvests on Native American forestlands increased five percent from 2012 to 2013, rising from 63 million board feet in 2012 to a total of 66 million board feet in 2013.

On Oregon’s west site, federal forestland posted modest increases in harvests; an 11.5 percent increase on Bureau of Land Management lands (for a 2013 total of 165 million board feet) and a six percent increase in harvests on U.S. Forest Service lands (totaling 392 million board feet in 2013). State public lands, which include Common School Fund and Board of Forestry forestlands, posted a slight increase from 251 to 252 million board feet.

Klamath County continued to lead in eastern Oregon with a 2013 harvest of 124 million board feet. Even with a diminished infrastructure, harvests on the east side rose approximately four percent due to increases on tribal, private, and other public (e.g. county) forestland. There was a marked decrease in federal timber harvest on the east side for 2013. In western Oregon, Lane County continued to lead with a 2013 harvest of 620 million board feet.

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)

Homeless numbers rise in Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Boise Catholic bishop plans to resign (Boise Statesman)
Washington fires destroy houses (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Mixed job picture in Idaho for June (IF Post Register)
ID national parks, monuments draw $29 spending (IF Post Register)
No changes planned for guns on campus law (Nampa Press Tribune)
Fetal pain abortion law in court challenge (Pocatello Journal)
Preacher fire calms somewhat (TF Times News)

Coos Bay contractor accused of government fraud (Coos Bay World)
State GOP won't back House 9 candidate Runyan (Coos Bay World)
Owners of burned mill consider rebuilding (Eugene Register Guard)
Wildfires roar in Oregon (KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian, Ashland Tidings)
National Guard unit heads to Afghanistan (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Oregon governor candidates debate (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)
Salem coffee shop shaken by social media reports (Salem Statesman Journal)

Heavy fires roar across state (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
New Hampton Inn opens at Everett (Everett Herald)
Research on Mt St Helens planned (Vancouver Columbian)

The nature of the debate

idaho RANDY

Debates are about perceptions, and the two gubernatorial candidates at the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association debate hit in that hard enough. Both were a little hamstrung, but not barred from pitching their case.

The core case that Republican state Representative Dennis Richardson made against Governor John Kitzhaber was not one that this very conservative (in the conventional sense of the term) might have been expecting to make. It was not at all ideological: Instead, he described the governor as detached, disinterested, too often not showing up, “not tuned in to governing.”

“The first principle of leadership is showing up,” Richardson said near the start of the debate, and said near the end, “Our governor no longer has the passion to serve . . . The governor has been AWOL, and when he's here has been distracted.”

He did not make any strong suggestion of a basic, fundamental change in direction, limiting his areas of dispute to more specific ideas – Kitzhaber's handling of Cover Oregon or aspects of his support for the Columbian River Crossing bridge, for example, rather than the overall need for action on health care or bridge infrastructure. He almost seemed – whether it was the case or not – to have conceded those issues. On the subject of legalizing marijuana, he sidestepped completely, saying only that he would enforce whatever law Oregon voters passed; it fell to Kitzhaber to say that he would vote against the measure (and, like his opponent, try to learn from Washington's experience and enforce whatever the voters ordered).

He did not, as most Republicans would, blast away at the idea of big government, even to the extent that Kitzhaber's last opponent, Chris Dudley, did.
Richardson is known as a philosophically-oriented conservative, and won his seat in the legislature originally on that basis, but in a day of sharply-drawn philosophical lines, almost none emerged here. He seemed to stake his gubernatorial bid on the idea that Kitzhaber has been phoning in his job as governor, even pointing out more than once that he's been in Salem a minority of the time.
That may not be an easy sell, and Kitzhaber's de facto response was telling. He did not specifically say that he still had a passion for the job or worked hard at it, which would have sounded weak and would have simply repeated Richardson's argument.

Instead, he pointed to the things he has done, over a third term in which the length of large-scale accomplishments – from education reorganization, health care policy, PERS changes and many more items – is quite long. And he could, and did, point out that he had Republican support (including, in several key places, Richardson's) in doing those thing.

Kitzhaber's best piece was his closing, when he describes, after falling short on several objectives in the 2013 legislative session, he spent months traveling around the state crafting a legislative package which, in three days last fall, passed in spectacular fashion. It was an effective rebuttal to the notion of a passive or disinterested governor.
Both said they supported open primary elections, ad Richardson even said he saw a benefit in the tendency to press candidates on both sides toward the electoral middle.

In one place, Richardson called for a truly massive government project I've never heard anyone else propose: “A freeway from Coos Bay to Burns to Ontario.” (The price tag on that would be interesting to read.)

Interestingly, Richardson never bore in specifically on the matter of Kitzhaber's long tenure of what would 16 years in the state's top office if he wins. He suggested only that he would do it better.
With one major exception, one place where he specifically sounded more clearly like a conservative Republican.

That concerned federal lands, which amounted to 53% of Oregon. Kitzhaber, who dryly noted that “I don't think the feds are going to hand over control of federal lands,” spoke with some optimism about “federal forest management reform.” In this area, Richardson said he would press for exactly that, a turning over of federal lands to the state: With like-minded governors, he said, “I will lead that charge, I will be in Washington. D.C.”

That much formed a basis of a major policy difference between the candidates. How far it sells in the more populated sectors of Oregon may be another question – as is whether it constitutes a argument for firing John Kitzhaber.

Facts more than balance

rainey BARRETT


A small, informal discussion has started in some media circles - the first quiet conversations about a most basic journalistic tenet - balance. Balance in coverage of the news. Balance in representing all sides. Balance to assure fairness. The discussion is long overdue. It’ll call for judgments and - for that reason - there’ll probably never be a satisfactory solution.

There isn’t much left of the days of really responsible journalism - the professional output that was traditionally expected and - for the most part - traditionally produced. Given more than one side to any story, efforts were made to present all. That, of course, was in the days before “gotcha” journalism, reporters mixing opinion with reporting and the need to report otherwise worthless B.S. that fills too many pages and far too much airtime.

The most recent stimulus for this self-examination is climate change. Yep, simple as that. Or, if you will, as complex as that. With the preponderance of scientific evidence that such change is happening all around us and our world is already the poorer for it, some news organizations are asking how much time - how much ink - should be given those who deny both the science and the reality. What is the media responsibility for reporting the scientific facts accepted by the overwhelming majority of experts, then giving time and ink to the distinct minority denying reality? Denying fact?

It’s long been said the media should just report the facts and let those facts speak for themselves. I buy that. But when what’s on the front pages and what’s leading the nightly news contains no factual merit - climate change denials - irresponsible and baseless impeachment ranting - conspiracy claims without proof - phony stunts of one branch of government to sue another - what facts are being reported? Where does news start and “Entertainment Tonight” end?

Take the climate change story, for example. One very significant fact is that the chairman of the House Science Committee is a climate change denier and flat-earther who loudly proclaims his ignorance by telling all who’ll listen the earth is just 6,000 years old and man lived with dinosaurs. Why is that not reported with such a repetitive assault that he and half a dozen other “deniers” on that important panel are removed? This nation and the world needs strong, responsible and effective political leadership to deal with the terrible realities of climate change. But the power to do that is in the hands of idiots - a distinct and irresponsible minority - who’re blocking attempts to deal legitimately with facts that - ignored much longer - could end our world. Why? (more…)