Writings and observations

idaho RANDY

Maybe states should do this every so often: Consider the people whose visages grace the statuary at the U.S. Capitol, and whether there might be better choices.

Oregon is doing that now, by way of a panel selected by the governor (see the Culture section), reconsidering whether the state’s two representatives at the nation’s capitol ought to be John McLaughlin annd Jason Lee.

McLoughlin seems a logical enough choice, even he was in Oregon as head of the British-based Hudson’s Bay Company; he eventually helped Americans organize the area and has been called the “Father of Oregon.”
Lee, though, was a missionary who played a significant but not decisive role in the early development of Oregon. Even a century ago better choices could be made.

If Lee is to be replaced – and let’s say the betting might reasonably run that way – who should take his spot?

Right now, the inside track may go to Mark Hatfield, the former governor and senator who served as a Republican but for many years has been pointed out by people in both major parties as an exemplar of Oregonian public service. His relatively recent death would make him a sentimental favorite too.
A couple of other choices, at least, might also get some consideration.

Probably Oregon’s best-known political figure of the last few generations, even more than Hatfield, is Tom McCall, the flamboyant governor more controversial in his own time than many people remember now, but can fairly be pointed out as an innovator and true leader. Some of what people think they recall about McCall doesn’t hold up perfectly to scrunity – he had less, for example, to do with the state’s bottle bill than many now would suspect – but what he stood for matches up well with the way Oregon likes to present itself.

Or you could back a little further, to early in the 20th century, and seize on a man who never held a major public office but changed the state’s politics and political outlook more than many who did.

William U’Ren was a legislator, but he did his major work as an activist, pushing through the initiative and referendum (often called the “Oregon system”) and a list of other reforms.

Oregon has some good choices for the capitol, if it chooses to make them.

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Oregon Oregon column

rainey BARRETT


Story placement is always a bugaboo for print journalists. Sometimes the rule is the most important story of the day goes at the top. Other times, the editor reaches for one that will “grab” readers because it’s cute or funny or sensational. But my latest experience in lousy headline juxtaposition came the other day with these two. Side by side. Both treated equally.



Now I suppose the value – importance, if you will – found in those two items depends on how you look at world events. Personally, I find stories of cataclysms and threats to our worldly existence a tad more of interest than the color of Mr. Obama’s sartorial selection of the day. Apparently not so for the editors of The Huffington Post and nearly all other national media.

I checked seven national news sites after finding the breathless reviewers comments about that suit. All had similar stories: one had three! Only two mentioned “Doctor K’s” rather mind-numbing remarks.

Henry always has had a flair for being quotable if not just a bit over-the-top. In this instance, it’s hard not to agree with him. Look at a Congress where order has already crumbled into chaos and stupefying inaction. Check out Vladimir Putin’s barefaced international lies denying invasion of another country while his military does just that. At the moment, the civilized world is absolutely flummoxed about the merciless killing machine known as ISIS or ISIL and what to do about the mindless slaughter being perpetrated on thousands and thousands of innocent people.

If these world order-defying items don’t hit home, there’s always the climate change that’s redesigning and eliminating parts of the earth as we stand flatfooted and take no meaningful steps to reverse it. Or, the many longstanding racial injustices leaving young, dead bodies on the streets and thousands of innocent people in jail.

There’s the outright racial hatred of our duly elected President and the piling on of blame for anything and everything never exhibited with any other President in our nation’s history. Add some of the most ignorant and dangerous people elected to public office with no thought of the responsibilities they’ve sworn to undertake. They make a mockery of the very Constitution a lot of ‘em have never read but use repeatedly as a verbal dressing gown.

“Doctor K” was also referring to the widening disparity of economic well-being in this and other countries. Disparity brought about by self-indulgent thieves with billions of dollars at their disposal to buy whatever elected officeholder is necessary at the moment to gather more power and privilege. You can add to that category the sell-outs in public office who feel their own employment – and their own bank accounts – are more important than the honest conduct of the business they were elected to perform.

Kissinger’s discussion of national and world conditions was predicated on these and any other factors – breakdowns in political and economic orders – mayhem and lawlessness – elected impotence in this and other countries – wrongs against civilized nations going unpunished and a lot more. I read the details of his interview more than once. And – in the main – agree.

In his prime, Kissinger could have been lumped in with some of those irresponsible politicians. As it did with his bosses, Viet Nam spilled blood on his resume and made him a liar many times. He had many moments in his storied career he’d like to forget. Historians will not let that happen.

But, he also had moments of leadership and brilliant decision-making to handle many tough situations. Despite some flaws in the performance of his public duties, he was right a lot more than he was wrong. He’s right in his most recent public utterances. His words deserve a much larger audience.

In nearly universal fashion, the media – all media – is failing its most important reason for being – informing. Telling us what we NEED to know rather than what it thinks we WANT to know. The ratings-watching bean counters who worry more about return-on-investment or the economic interests of some vague group of stockholders are leading this decay in the traditional role of media information necessary in our society. They’re being ably assisted by too many media people more attuned to trivia than history – gossip than reality – too many unable to distinguish the important.

And that tan suit? I don’t give a damn if a president wears jeans, a t-shirt and is barefoot. What he says – how he says it – what it means. Those should be the criteria reported.

And speaking of clothing and fashion – check out the media next time you see some of those folks at one of your local news events. A tan suit would be more welcome.

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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)

Long-term maintenance of wilderness difficult (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
String of Boise tech startups sold off (Boise Statesman)
Will Tea Party turn in GOP in November? (Boise Statesman)
Feds examine troubled Idaho contractor Optum (IF Post Register)
Idaho considers for-profit college accreditation (Nampa Press Tribune)

Taxpayers on hook for EWEB redevelopment (Eugene Register Guard)
Birds dying in Tule Lake botulism outbreak (KF Herald & News)
Students and teachers face new tests (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
How will cops cope with pot-infused driving? (Portland Oregonian)
Efforts start to preserve Devil’s Staircase (Salem Statesman Journal)

Getting an accurate rider count on ferries (Bremerton Sun)
New housing development at Spyglass Hill (Bremerton Sun)
Everett port director chosen on Tuesday (Everett Herald)
WA schools preparing for common core (Longview News)
State House staff lose unfair firing suit (Longview News)
Tough work saving wilderness chalet (Post Angeles News)
Olympic Peninsula news get poor federal ratings (Port Angeles News)
On the Supreme Court-Legislature school fund battle (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Inland NW hot summer may be a harbinger (Spokane Spokesman)
Law enforcement splits on gun initiatives (Tacoma News Tribune)
Complexity in measuring THC in pot (Vancouver Columbian)
Grant County apple crop growing rapidly (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY

Why did it work in Idaho?

It’s really improbable, the idea that this massive governmental-legal project called the Snake River Basin Adjudication would be an Idaho effort demonstrably more successful than any others of its kind anywhere in the country.

On Monday, when panels discussed and the final decree was signed, there was that cause for wonderment, of how it happened. In the new oral history book of the SRBA “Through the Waters” (disclosure: I published and helped edit it) this was a recurring theme. In their interviews, judges, attorneys, administrators and water users took a stab at how Idaho succeeded in this thing when other states have done less well or failed outright.

The answer boils down to trust, cooperation, and luck.

The trust and cooperation go together, of course. One recurring point (in interviews, federal attorneys especially told me this repeatedly) has been Idaho’s collection of adjudication parties and attorneys who were willing to cooperate and trust each other enough not to challenge the process in fundamental ways that might have ground it to a halt or shut it down. Just that sort of thing has happened in other states. In Idaho, the need to accomplish the adjudication was taken as a given. The cooperation extended to the legislature, which kept the adjudication funded well enough to keep it rolling without interruption.

The principle applied in legal ways too. When the adjudication launched, the state Department of Water Resources was a party to the case just like each of the water users, which meant it was adversary to the people for whom it was filing records and conducting field investigations. It also was limited in how it could communicate with the court. In the mid-90s the department was removed (by the legislature) as a party, which meant it could work with the court in exchanging critical information, and work with the water claimants on a friendly basis. Most people in the middle of the SRBA today say that change was a turning point.

Luck was a piece of this too.

Two pieces of terrific luck come especially to mind. One is technology. When the adjudication began, its managers quickly saw they were looking at an impossible mission: Producing, copying, distributing and storing hundreds of millions of pages (or maybe more) in court documents not only at the SRBA court but at courthouses across most of Idaho. In 1987 there seemed to be no way to process all that material: It was just too much. At the right moment, then, computer storage became available and cheaper by orders of magnitude, data storage on CD-ROMs became practical, and the Internet made sharing of masses of information almost easy. Technology galloped to the rescue. A decade earlier, the SRBA might have foundered on a mountain of paper.

The adjudication was lucky in its judges, too. Not all judges are good judges (nor all people in any other category), but the SRBA’s five judges all have been highly capable and well-suited to the job. And a stroke of luck: The adjudication not only got good judges, but also in the order it needed them. The first of the judges, Daniel Hurlbutt, probably was the only judge in Idaho really well suited to cresting the architecture of the adjudication court, and his talents might have been wasted later in the process. The current judge, Eric Wildman, has had the best sweeping education (working as a court counsel for years before becoming judge) in the details of how the adjudication works – perfect for winding it down.

Could Idaho bring such trust, cooperation and a dash of luck to bear elsewhere?

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Idaho Idaho 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)

Reviewing the origins of Idaho wilderness (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Boise River running with mud (Boise Statesman)
State teacher licensing system blasted (Boise Statesman)
Cities can pre-empt pot sales, helping state law (Lewiston Tribune)
Students returning to UI, WSU (Moscow News)
Canyon Co approves $1k bonus for employees (Nampa Press Tribune)
TF County eases gun carry rules (TF Times News)

Oakway Center again plans expansion (Eugene Register Guard)
Cover Oregon turnaround cost about $600k (Eugene Register Guard)
Fires easing back in Cascades (Eugene Register Guard)
Conservation district picks up funds (KF Herald & News)
Lands director explains coal permit rejectiong (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Will Oregon see low voter turnout? (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Behind the Gert Boyle $100, OHSU donation (Portland Oregonian)
Plan evolved on Portland police violence defusing (Portland Oregonian)
Pendleton inmate dies in fight (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bremerton may get foot ferries back in 2015, with tax (Bremerton Sun)
Lowest orca population in 30 years (Bremerton Sun)
Cities can ban pot sales, avoiding fed ruling (Tacoma News Tribunne, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Olympian, Longview News)
Chinook run turning in record runs (Longview News)
Agency blasted for $600k on morale workshop (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Plenty of bike deaths in downtown Seattle (Seattle Times)
WSU clinic rules changes, set as secular (Spokane Spokesman)
Bike thefts increasing heavily (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima school board member resigns (Yakima Herald Republic)

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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)

Environmental groups sue on timber sales (Boise Statesman)
D street underpass reopened at IF (IF Post Register)
IF council passes annual budget (IF Post Register)
Lapwai levy failure slices physical ed (Lewiston Tribune)
Fife lawsuit tries to shoot down pot law (Moscow News)
Otter interview on schools, GOP (Moscow News)
Parking warnings at UI campus (Moscow)
Music Theatre of Idaho moves, Nampa > Caldwell (Nampa Press Tribune)

Crews battle Oakridge area fire (Eugene Register Guard)
Preparing for demolition of old Eugene city hall (Eugene Register Guard)
Smokey air and forest fires (KF Herald & News)
Hermiston considers natural gas supply (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Ds, Rs speak on state ballot issues (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Cover Oregon costs growing (Portland Oregonian)
Neighbors worried about Pacific gas pipeline (Portland Oregonian)
military surplus at Polk County (Salem Statesman Journal)
OSU getting lots of foreign students (Salem Statesman Journal)

Barista accused of promoting prostitution (Everett Herald)
Fife battles state pot initiative (Yakima Herald Republic, Olympian, Longview News)
Coalition forms to help blue herons (Olympians)
Clallam denied pot growing permit (Port Angeles News)
Olympic National Park bans drone craft (Port Angeles News)
Backlash in Seattle against micro-apartments (Seattle Times)
Seattle police complaint about new rules (Seattle Times)
Different fireworks plans for north, south Clark (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima contests viting rights decision (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

trahant MARK


I remember getting in trouble as a teenager. The story beat me home. I was stunned at the velocity of information in a small community. The chain went like this: Something happened. People talked. And the story spread. Fast.

I guess that’s why social media, to me, is an old form of storytelling. It’s how we naturally tell stories, spreading the word to one friend (or follower) in real time. And then another. And again.

But while the forum is essentially the same, there are two new twists, the use of digital tools and the increased size of our network. (A generation ago our “network” might be a few friends gathered for coffee at the trading post. Today it’s a thousand friends on Facebook, their thousand friends, and definitely more on Twitter, Tumblr or Snapchat.)

The ice bucket challenge to raise money to prevent ALS — Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a great example of how social media works. The brilliant campaign has earned more than $70 million with the goal of creating a world “without ALS!”

Every day my Facebook feed has new posts from someone taking this challenge. (Of course this whole challenge thing is familiar anyway. It’s a lot like the Winter Challenge that spread across Canada and Indian Country. Carielynn Victor, from Chilliwack, B.C., told Global News Canada that the idea was not a new one, but the concept of taking it public was new.)

So why ALS? It’s a fabulous cause and worth doing. That said: What if Indian Country could harness social media to impact the diseases that are killing most of our friends and family?

So heart disease is the leading killer in Indian Country. What if we raised money for research and action for American Indians and Alaska Natives? Or diabetes? Or any disease that impacts most of us. It could be money targeted to make a real difference in our lives.

Then, the power of social media is not just about money. Imagine what we could do to health disparities if social media challenged tens of thousands of people to walk more. Or eat better. Then post results in real time so that we all stay on task.

Beyond disease and public health, social media could be used to “challenge” American Indians and Alaska Natives to register and vote at levels that are unprecedented. If the same intensity of the winter challenge, or the ice bucket challenge, or any social media phenomenon, was applied to November’s balloting, well, it would upend the status quo. Guaranteed.

One reason the winter challenge and the ice bucket challenge worked so well is that they were simple to do, and easy to pass along virally. It’s fun to see a friend jump in a creek. We laugh at the way people met their challenge. (I did a snow angel in the shadow of Denali courtesy of Laura John at the Montana Policy and Budget Center.)

So any election challenge must be simple and fun. And be specific. Laura challenged me. Then I added friends, creating an exponential network.

There have already been some really smart efforts to increase Native voting. Indeed, the last election cycle produced record numbers. In New Mexico and Montana, for example, Native Americans voted at a higher percentage than the general population, 77 percent and 64 percent. That could be across the country. Especially in Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, the Dakotas. Already this year, the National Congress of American Indians has called for a summer of action for the Native Vote (there’s a Google hangout posted that explores details) to to just that.

Now it’s time to add to those efforts and tap the awesome power that is social media. If we can ask our friends to jump into a creek, we sure as hell can ask them to vote. We ought to do that in a video and on our Facebook page. Let’s take the ice bucket into the voting booth and really change the country.

Mark Trahant serves as the Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

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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)

Optum Idaho mis-routes some medical data (Boise Statesman)
New 80mph speeds lead to more tickets (Boise Statesman)
Conditions at Syringa mobile park: ‘3rd world’ (Lewiston Triune, Moscow News)
School test results released in WA (Moscow News)
Salary issues at Canyon Co budget session (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello mail processing plant will close (Pocatello Journal)
Twin Falls Co may drop parks gun ban (TF Times News)
TF urban district buys downtown building (TF Times News)

State approaches level for tax kicker (Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette, KF Herald & News)
Springfield road blocked by megaload (Eugene Register Guard)
Wolves one kill away from hunt order (Pendleton E Oregonian, KF Herald & News)
Salem emergency room getting packed (Salem Statesman Journal)

88% of WA schools not making enough progress (Bremerton Sun)
Bremerton may make a street for MLK (Bremerton Sun)
WA grape growers may get record harvest (Kennewick Herald)
Statewide test results show good, bad (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Olympian, Longview News)
Desert Hills middle school may move (Kennewick Herald)
Tacoma cops using cell phone data grabbing (Tacoma News Tribune, Kennewick Herald)
St. Helens port industrial plan snagged (Longview News)
Wahkiahum football stand closed over rot (Longview News)
Reviewing the end of Elwha dam (Port Angeles News)
New chief exec for Port of Seattle (Seattle Times)
ACLU calls for secular clinic at Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
Still patient barriers in some insurance plans (Spokane Spokesman)
health plan options expanding (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

ridenbaugh Northwest

A conservation staffer examines sage grouse policy and writes that “Following science is the way to maintain greater sage-grouse.” The writer is Steve Holmer, senior policy advisor for American Bird Conservancy and works to conserve endangered species and wildlife habitat on western federal lands.

The Obama administration’s largest proposed land and species conservation initiative – protecting the Greater Sage Grouse – appears to be falling short of promises based on early returns. And while these current federal approaches could do an about face that could ultimately prove successful, that seems unlikely given the analysis just released by conservation groups that is based on the government’s own scientific expert’s recommendations.

The Scorecard for Greater Sage-Grouse Conservation is a checklist of standards to conserve the Greater Sage-Grouse and its habitat that can be used to determine if proposed management plans are effective and based on the best available science. It is available online.

The Scorecard’s standards are the government’s recommendations contained in the National Technical Team report. If followed, the Scorecard is a recipe for conserving grouse habitat, and providing the “adequate regulatory mechanisms” federal agencies need to implement in order to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing of Greater Sage-Grouse as a threatened species next year.

The Scorecard was used to evaluate the Bureau of Land Management’s Lander Resource Management Plan. This is the first completed management plan that addresses the conservation of the Greater Sage-Grouse in a critically important sagebrush habitat in Wyoming.

The review finds that the Lander plan fails to meet most of the conservation measures recommended in the NTT report, and based on the best available science is not likely to ensure that conservation measures will be effective in conserving the sage grouse. Because the Lander plan does not pass muster, if the other fourteen management plans follow this Wyoming model, the sage-grouse will likely continue to decline, warranting the species’ protection under the Endangered Species Act.

While the Lander plan did not designate sage-grouse reserves as recommended in the Scorecard, it did designate an extensive 481,000 acre National Trails Management Corridor to preserve historic and scenic trails that also provides some of the conservation standards known to benefit grouse. The Lander plan highlights the need for stronger standards and the potential for designating protected areas in the remaining fourteen resource management plans still to be released.

For the Obama administration, these remaining plans are a golden opportunity to advance public land conservation, provide balance in the face of a stampede of development hitting the region, and leave future generations of Americans a legacy of wide-open spaces that harbor abundant wildlife.

Unfortunately, the Scorecard’s Lander review reveals that unless the Obama administration changes course and starts following the best available science, we are headed for continuing controversy as a result of ineffective management plans, declining grouse populations, and ESA listings.

Fortunately, the Scorecard also provides policymakers the formula needed to change that and to conserve grouse habitat. What we need now is a demonstration of the leadership necessary to make that change happen.

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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)

West Ada defeats school bond proposal (Boise Statesman)
Kuna school trustee survives recall vote (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Boise police unveil military equipment (Boise Statesman)
IF police want to expand the force (IF Post Register)
School levy fails in Teton County (IF Post Register)
Iona ends try to force subdivision annexation (IF Post Register)
Lapwai levy proposal rejected (Lewiston Tribune)
State won’t release name of tax break applicant (Lewiston Tribune)
Viola working on new community center (Moscow News)
Demographics report shows city growth (Nampa Press Tribune)
Labrador talks at town hall (Nampa Press Tribune)
Train derailment at Blackfoot (Pocatello Journal)
Wendell again turns down school bond (TF Times News)
Police defend military surplus program (TF Times News)
Twin Falls area battling black fly invasion (TF Times News)

Group formed to support parking districts (Corvallis Gazette)
UO blasted in response to verbal set-to (Eugene Register Guard)
Car remains, still, in McKenzie River (Eugene Register Guard)
Irrigators see tight water supply (KF Herald & News)
Medford council candidates talk pot (Medford Tribune)
Watchers checking out new black wolf in area (Medford Tribune)
Med Columbia Bus Co looks for more drivers (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Biologists consider new collar for OR-7 (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Looking at how gentrification happens (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing the Oregon v Oracle battle (Salem Statesman Journal)

Building found for Silverdale library (Bremerton Sun)
Homeless nonprofit slated for Belfair (Bremerton Sun)
How much psychiatric board happens in WA? (Kennewick Herald)
Inslee looks until Roza irrigation project (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennwick Herald)
Longview resident complaint of bad water, again (Longview News)
Final piece of Elwha River dam gone (Port Angeles News)
Weyerhaeuser sells Federal Way, moves to Seattle (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
AG urges court not to hold legislature in contempt (Spokane Spokesman)
High Times says pot shop infringed trademark (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma cops have been hoovering call phone data (Tacoma News Tribune)
Port labor group okays grain shipping deal (Vancouver Columbian)
Train official assert oil shipment safety (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima dismisses candidate for county clerk (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take