Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT


Live long enough and that old saw “all things old are new again” will have more meaning. The six communities of Idaho’s Ada County may be about to step into a time warp and make the “old new again.” It appears political bubbling and boiling just beneath the surface could soon break out with a decision – likely in court – to return control of county roads to cities. For many of the same reasons the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) was created in the first place 40+ years ago. How’s that for irony?

In the ‘70’s, the hot topic was how those six local governments could save taxpayers so much money on road and highway care if they threw all their various road departments into a central unified “highway district.” After all, six highway departments were just “creating lots of duplication.” Just made all the sense in the world!

And it was so.

But, shortly after creation, you could hear whispers of discontent. “We’ve lost control of our streets.” “Our taxes are subsidizing all the others.” “Another level of government we just don’t need.” “Boise’s going to get more money than us.” Etc. Etc. Etc.

And it was so.

I don’t recall a year from creation of ACHD to now that there hasn’t been bitching about something. Though directors of ACHD are elected from districts more or less representative of all six communities – plus the rural areas – there have always been battles about distribution of dollars, cars versus bikes, mass transit versus more roads, who gets what, where the new roads will go, snow removal, where maintenance should be done and how much. And on and on and on. Long ago, ACHD should have hired Ann Landers or “Dear Abby” to keep peace in its multi-governmental “family.”

Case in point. Boise recently installed some new computerized parking meters around town. If a car left a spot with time remaining on the meters, these electronic bandits would “zero out” so the new occupant couldn’t get a break. After an expensive installation, ACHD said Boise didn’t own the parking spaces, had not applied for “permission” and should take ‘em out. Post haste!

And it was so.

With a whole new round of bitching.

Now, with issues of bike lanes, parking, mass transit – what kind and where – whether Boise should build a downtown transit system and an accompanying terminal of some size – all these have candidates and local governments in a war of words. Boise law firms must be salivating on the sidelines as the cities and ACHD edge ever closer to the courtroom.

The old arguments of “cost savings” and “avoiding duplication” are still at play. What’s added now is the fact that Ada County’s two largest communities – Boise and Meridian – have physically grown so close together through urban sprawl that issues of mass transit and local freeways are more important than ever according to new traffic counts. The other locales – Eagle, Kuna, Star and Garden City – are fearing they’re going to be left out because those issues aren’t their issues.

The most contentious subjects in the current ACHD director’s election are mass transit and bike lanes. There are strong supporters. There are strong opponents. Both camps vocal. Both camps firmly planted. Middle ground seems impossible to find. So, the elections have taken on a new and higher level of importance. The winners will have made some pretty solid promises to go one way or the other.

That means the issue of whether the combined district should continue, or be returned to the six communities because of their different needs, is likely to be the central question to be solved before movement on future transportation plans. Which could mean idle hands at ACHD until some answers are found and a direction determined.

Some 40 years ago, ACHD was born out of a desire for everyone to work together and realize better economics. Cooperation and better use of tax dollars. Motherhood and apple pie. Now, a lot of voices are saying there would be more cooperation if each city was allowed to determine local needs and taxes would be saved if not all of them were required to contribute to transportation needs that didn’t affect them. More motherhood. More pie.

“All things old are new again.”

And it was so.

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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)

Meridian firm DBSI ex-exec sentenced to prison (Idaho Statesman)
Treefort back, though yet profitless (Idaho Statesman)
Boise tailgating ordinance permanent (Idaho Statesman)
Energy conference at IF focuses on nuclear (IF Post Register, Pocatello Journal)
Rural post offices set to be downsized (IF Post Register)
Latah county hold summit with solid waste people (Moscow News)
Whitman Co microwave dishes may be replaced (Moscow News)
Burnett moving back to law classroom (Moscow News)
New Terry Reilly clinic opening in Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Parking fees considered for Nampa library area (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho gas prices above national average (Pocatello Journal)
Gas explorer credit downgraded (TF Times News)

Profits rising at Eugene-area hospitals (Eugene Register Guard)
KF health department moves to new site (KF Herald & News)
Earthquake swarm hits Lakeview area (KF Health & News)
Josephine County sheriff has staff problems (Ashland Tidings)
Medical pot dispensary reopens at Ashland (Medford Tribune)
Boating hazards with low reservoirs (Medford Tribune)
Crop yield low in n-central OR (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Reduction in members on convention board (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pot shops in Vancouver have uneasy time (Portland Oregonian)
More fire funds soought by Forest Service (Salem Statesman Journal)

State working on ferry issues (Bremerton Sun)
Lake management district proposed in Kitsap (Bremerton Sun)
North Kitsap schools cut class sizes (Bremerton Sun)
Hanford contractor ordered to rehire whistleblower (Kennewick Herald)
Liveability at Jefferson/Clallam assessed (Port Angeles News)
One person crews for trains? (Vancouver Columbian)
Long waits for users at Kaiser pharmacy (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima schools increasing teacher spots (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


Republican Senator Mike Crapo, and his political advisors, lost little time this past week in reading and reacting to First District Congressman Raul Labrador’s hiring of Idaho Statesman ace political reporter Dan Popkey as his press secretary.

Some pundits speculated the move indicated Labrador was contemplating a possible run for the United States Senate. The next Senate election is in two years with Senator Crapo presumably standing for re-election to a fourth term, but there has been additional speculation that Crapo might retire and stay in D.C. to earn some big bucks like his former Senate colleague, Dirk Kempthorne.

The message to Labrador was unequivocally clear: “If you think this is going to be an open seat you can just waltz into, you’re whistling past the graveyard.” The senior Idaho senator’s move is considered somewhat unusual in that his current colleague, Senator Jim Risch, is up for re-election this year. One’s colleague normally waits until the other’s race is finished before declaring his intentions.

Crapo wants there to be no doubt in anyone’s mind that he intends to serve a fourth term. His announcement specified unfinished work on addressing major national issues such as coming up with an acceptable formula for reducing the debt and federal spending with a plan that will put the nation’s fiscal house in order without itself becoming a catalyst for furthering economic doldrums.

Despite the Senator’s staunch conservative credentials, his willingness to include tax reform and even some possible “revenue-enhancers” as part of a solution package is one of the reasons Labrador may challenge the incumbent. Labrador of course has signed the Grover Norquist “no new taxes will I ever vote for” pledge, whereas Crapo, to his great credit, endorsed the Simpson/Bowles Commission approach to resolving the national debt crisis.

One presumes that Labrador can read the message. Whether it scares him off or not is another issue.

It does, however, draw additional attention to his hiring of Popkey. Normally, a congressional delegation in which all seats are filled by one party, would be expected to work in some degree of harmony.

Labrador’ hiring of Popkey, though, is going to cause both the congressman and his new press secretay some real problems for the simple reason that neither is going to be trusted. Harmony in the delegation will disappear and in particular Popkey is going to find out that the many mainstream Republicans from Idaho who have remained in D.C. are never going to include him on the inside.

Craig loyalists like his former chief of staff, Greg Casey, now the president of the powerful business political action group, BIPAC, or Sandy Patano, Craig’s talented former state office director, or former Idaho Senator Steve Symms, or Dirk Kempthorne’s former chief of staff, Phil Reberger, none of these incredibly well-connected “inside the beltway and inside Boise players” will ever, one can speculate, trust Popkey.

A story is already circulating through the delegation and the group of Idahoan ex-pats regarding Popkey having had his “ears pinned back” by a senior GOP figure who with relish explained to Dan that his request for a meeting or meal with the senior official was being rejected because Dan no longer had “Idaho Statesman” behind his name.

This is due not just to Popkey’s reporting over the years having bitten many of them, but also due to their suspicions about just where his new Boss intends to go.

Indeed, every time one runs the political calculus through the computer of the brain, no scenario comes out as “win/win” for both of them. Labrador’s weak excuse for hiring Popkey, when he spoke at a recent monthly “Idaho Breakfast in D.C.” meeting was almost laughable.

Reportedly, Labrador said they had become good friends and the friendship eventually led to his making Popkey an offer. Labrador even indicated he ran Popkey’s hiring by his entire family to get everyone’s take and their buy-in. Give me a break.

Senator Crapo and his well-oiled team, both office staff and the campaign, are not buying it either. They are going to keep a well-honed eye on Labrador and will not be sharing critical inside data that could possibly subsequently be used against them.

They have sent the proverbial shot over the bow in Labrador’s direction and one can bet it is but the first of many still to come.

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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)

Military hero Bernie Fisher of Kuna dies (Boise Statesman)
Luna will go to new national ed nonprofit (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Profiling new state GOP leader Steve Yates (IF Post Register)
Energy conference talks up oil, gas use (IF Post Register)
Former Lewiston councilor guilt on child porn (Lewiston Tribune)
Prolonged heat hits wheat crops (Moscow News)
Moscow students do well on SAT tests (Moscow News)
Nampa city outsourcing more engineering work (Nampa Press Tribune)
Funeral ceremonies for George Hansen (Pocatello Journal)
Twin Falls opens dog park (TF Times News)
Crop losses at Jerome lead to disaster ruling (TF Times News)
New teacher certification system concerns (TF Times News)

Pot legalization campaign hits $2.3m in ads (Coos Bay World, Roseburg News Review)
Springfield hospital patient data stolen (Eugene Register Guard)
Movie shot at Lake of the Woods (KF Herald & News)
KF will hire groundwater consultant (KF Herald & News)
The reopening of a pot shop at Ashland (Ashland Tidings)
Pendleton sends bond to ballot in November (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Schools obtaining more tech equipment (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Hermiston looks at joint fire district (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Courtney seeks $200m in school bonds (Salem Statesman Journal)

Anti-Sheldon forces get big donation (Bremerton Sun)
New taxi relying on smartphones (Everett Herald)
Cross-base connector planned to I-5 (Olympian)
Port Angeles opens door to pot businesses (Port Angeles News)
Closure of Hwy 99 for four days may be a mess (Seattle Times)
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board (Seattle Times)
Inslee calls for ferry reliability improvement (Seattle Times)
Albertsons says user data not compromised (Spokane Spokesman)
Ethics panel says 12 free lobbyist means ok (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima council approves art project (Yakima Herald Republic)
Still lots of meth in Yakima County (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

frazier DAVID


The Guardian had a chance Tuesday to ask Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff about his thoughts on state ownership of businesses.
The State of Idaho owns and operates “Affordable Storage” at 450 South Maple Grove, competing with local businesses in a tax-exempt facility.

The businessman and Boise school board member was direct with his answer when he declared, “The state should not own and operate businesses.”

He also proposed that businesses operating in state-owned properties should either pay property tax or a fee in lieu of taxes to local governments.

“Businesses should not get a free ride on the state’s tax exemption,” said Balukoff.

The issue is of particular importance since the Governor sits on the Land Board which administers state land and endowment funds. Those funds are dedicated to education and the current board claims it is “a better investment” to sell off timber and grazing land and invest in rental property and own businesses in urban areas.

The Guardian has written often about the burden placed on local governments and business when the Idaho Land Board purchases rental property–such as 10 Barrel Brewing and more than 20 other parcels in downtown Boise. Those buildings are exempt from local property taxes previously destined to the city, county, schools, and highway districts.

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malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

Gov. Butch Otter, the longtime “Happy Warrior” of Idaho politics, who prides himself on running “positive campaigns,” has taken on a far different approach against his Democratic challenger, A.J. Balukoff. And Otter is going against political scripture in the process.

Republicans are supposed to cater to the rich while Democrats promote class warfare. What we’re seeing here is a wealthy Republican governor attacking his challenger, a successful businessman, for having too much money and spending large sums to finance his campaign.

“Help us beat our multi-million dollar Democratic opponent,” Otter says in a fund-raising appeal. “(Balukoff) has already started radio and television ads spending roughly $625,000 in the month of August. We need to stop him from buying this election with his self-funding campaign.”

Otter raises much of his campaign funds the old fashioned way – through lobbyists. Otter’s head cheerleader is the powerful Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, which bills itself as non-partisan and usually caters to rich businessmen like Balukoff. But in this campaign, IACI has opened a website (LiberalAJ.com) that lashes Balukoff for standing with President Obama and liberal Democrats.

There’s one big flaw with the premise. Balukoff says he supported Mitt Romney in the last presidential election and contributed generously to his campaign. That hardly makes sense for Idaho’s leading Democratic torch carrier at the moment, but as Balukoff says, he doesn’t care much for partisan politics.

A few things brought up by the Otter campaign are true. Balukoff is a multi-millionaire who plans to spend “what it takes” to get his name and message out statewide. If it takes more than $1 million out of pocket, then so be it.

“I am in this campaign to win,” he said.

Balukoff is taking the right path in this political environment in which money means everything. He cannot rely on the “free media” to run his press releases or cover town hall meetings – as Sen. Russ Fulcher found out in his unsuccessful challenge to Otter in the GOP primary. Balukoff is making many of the same points as Fulcher did regarding the economy and lack of leadership. The difference is Fulcher didn’t have the money to flood the airwaves with his message; Balukoff does.

It’s odd that IACI is putting so much effort into this race, because Balukoff is on the organization’s side on several issues – even more than Otter in some cases. Balukoff says he supports IACI’s positions on a constitutional amendment to reduce the two-thirds voter approval for passage of school board levies, Medicaid expansion and the state health exchange. He stands with IACI in support of Congressman Mike Simpson’s proposal for the Boulder White Clouds wilderness. Otter, by contrast, firmly stands with IACI on only one of those issues – the state health exchange.

IACI’s website, Balukoff says, “reminds me of second graders on a playground saying, ‘A.J. is a liberal, A.J. is a liberal.’

As for Otter, he has never had to go negative against an opponent. Of course, he has never had an opponent with a serious chance of winning. Education and the economy are Balukoff’s two biggest issues, and on those Otter’s record reads like Jimmy Carter’s Greatest Hits.

Before Otter took office seven years ago, eight states were below Idaho in per capita income. Today, only Mississippi has a lower per capita income.
Idaho has one of the highest, if not the highest, percentage of people making the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The rates of high school graduates going onto college has dropped dramatically over the years as tuition rises and financial commitment from the Legislature decreases.

Idaho is dead last in per-pupil spending under Otter’s watch.

Then, there was that disgusting televised primary debate in which Otter insisted on the inclusion of two political circus clowns, which prevented Otter’s chief opponent (Fulcher) from making serious headway. Otter, in setting his own rules, turned Idaho into a national laughingstock, which in itself is a firing offense in the business world. As time goes, Balukoff probably will bring up other issues – including the Corrections Corporation of America’s handling of the prison system – and he has a fat bank account to make sure Idahoans hear about all of them.

Otter and IACI may have started the fight, but Balukoff is prepared to finish it.

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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)

Debate over Boise school district teacher endorsees (Boise Statesman)
A look at Steve Yates, new GOP chair (Boise Statesman)
New Asotin sheriff will be Clarkston cop (Lewiston Tribune)
Major tax increase at Moscow (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Airport expansion may force move for WSU piece (Moscow News)
Blocks razed in downtown Caldwell, to redevelop (Nampa Press Tribune)
Report says Yellowston notably prone to quakes (Pocatello Journal)
Times News sets governor, superintendent debates (TF Times News)
FAA descusses flaws in Burley airport (TF Times News)

Full stop on center at Glenwood (Eugene Register Guard)
Big TV ad buy for legal pot initiative (Eugene Register Guard, KF Herald & News)
Summer has been unusually hot (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath schools send bond to ballot (KF Herald & News)
State kills coal export at Boardman (Portland Oregonian, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Fund for water projects gets organized (Pendleton E Oregonian)

Navy’s Hood Canal easement may be illegal (Bremerton Sun)
OR turns down coal terminal at Boardman (Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Cantwell definding import-export bank (Kennewick Herald)
Criticism over new PUD executive contracts (Longview News)
Wildlife return to damless Elwha (Port Angeles News)
Former Seattle police chief to King deputy (Seattle Times)
Downtown Spokane skywalk approved (Spokane Spokesman)
Will federal rules result in more tribes? (Tacoma News Tribune)
Drug paraphernalia must go under counter (Vancouver Columbian)
How do Democrats vote in all-R 4th CD? (Yakima Herald Republic)
Fires still burn around Kittitas county (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


Idaho has produced its share of congressional mavericks – folks who because of their character and style, were colorful and quotable. In the language of the time, they were “good copy.”

Senator Glen Taylor, the “Singing Cowboy,” who reported for duty in 1944 by riding a horse up the Capitol steps all decked out in his cowboy regalia, stands out. His autobiography also is remarkable for its candor. The first chapters cover his work as a youth in a north Idaho house of ill-repute and his loss of his virginity therein.

If any other Idaho political figure could match Taylor for generating questionable publicity, and being a character, it has to be Second District Congressman George V. Hansen, who passed away last week at the age of 83. “Big George” stood six foot six and weighed two ninety-five (Yes, think of the hit song from the 60’s, Big John). His ego and ambition matched his size. His flair for publicity included a one-man mission to Tehran to try to free the American hostages.

He had an uncanny ability though to inspire blind loyalty in voters not because he was a gifted speaker (He wasn’t), but like only one other Idaho political figure, Cecil Andrus, he looked you in the eye and even if just for 30 seconds, made one think they were the most important person in a room. And like Andrus, he had an incredible memory for names and faces.

That combination made the two of them hands down the two most formidable one-on-one campaigners in Idaho political history. To watch either working those attending a must-do event like the Eastern Idaho Fair was to watch two consummate professionals at the peak of their game.

Hansen rose quickly in Second District politics, first as the Mayor of Alameda before it merged with Pocatello, and after an abortive run for the Senate in 1962, won the Second District House seat in 1964 by knocking off incumbent Ralph Harding in the year of the Lyndon B. Johnson landslide.

That race though revealed early Hansen’s penchant for shamelessly exploiting his Mormon faith on the alter of his ambitions. Harding had rightly criticized Church President Ezra Taft Benson on the floor of the House for Benson’s questioning the loyalty of President Dwight D. Eisenhower for whom Benson had served as the Secretary of Agriculture. Benson was playing footsy with the ultra-right John Birch Society at the time.

Hansen charged Harding with publicly exposing a family’s dirty laundry so to speak and cast himself as the Church and the Church president’s defender. Harding was history despite his own “good standing” within the LDS Church.

Hansen played the “LDS Church” card on two other notable occasions.

In 1974 he reclaimed his old congressional seat by defeating in the Republican primary incumbent congressman Orval Hansen (no relation), a former State Senator and attorney from Idaho Falls who was widely admired for his decency and his moderation. Orval Hansen’s English-born wife had made the mistake of saying they occasionally served wine when hosting dinners and occasionally enjoyed a glass themselves.

This was an admission that the Orval Hansens did not strictly adhere to Section 89 of the Doctrine & Covenants which prohibits consumption of alcohol. It was all George needed to reclaim his old seat on the grounds that he was the better Mormon.

Earlier, in the 1972 Senate Republican primary to replace retiring Senator Len B. Jordan, Hansen had also played the “Church card.” Up against First District Congressman James A. McClure, the perceived front-runner, as well as former Governor Robert E. Smylie, and Kendrick doctor/lawyer Glen Wegner, Hansen’s calculus had him winning the nomination if he could capture a solid majority of the LDS vote.

When McClure in a D.C. interview appeared to be questioning the legality of “release time,” the practice of releasing students one class early at the end of the day to attend LDS religion classes at a private seminary usually across the street, Hansen leaped into action, personally delivering hundreds of copies of the offending article to bishops and stake presidents across southern Idaho.

McClure’s campaign manager, Jim Goller, immediately circulated a letter from McClure to newspapers carrying the column (and copies sent to the same bishops and stake presidents Hansen had visited) correcting the misperception he had created and stating his support for “release time.”

That McClure and Goller were truly worrried about Hansen’s threat to their candidacy was further demonstrated when they orchestrated two face-to-face meetings, one in Boise and the other in Pocatello, in which they brought along the lobbyists for all the major Idaho corporations to show Hansen that Idaho business was behind McClure.

They tried to entice Hansen to drop out with among other blandishments pledging that if he did he would be handed the party’s nomination to run for governor in 1974, against none other than Idaho’s other most formidable campaigner, Cecil Andrus. Hansen declined.

That just might have been the all-time greatest bout in Idaho history.

While others may recall Hansen’s antics, as well as his run-ins with the law, folks should not lose sight of the fact that “Big George” was a seriously flawed individual who could have done much good but for those flaws.

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 The Bureau of Reclamation prepared for turbine removal and disassembly by mapping the inside of the Third Power Plant at the Grand Coulee Dam to ensure laydown space and safe working conditions for 12 to 15 years of complex mechanical overhaul activities. (photo/Bonneville Power Administration)


Yet another week of heavy duty wildfires in Washington, in what’s beginning to look like an ongoing cycle that may last another month and more.

As stories emerged nationally about the arming of local police – with military surplus equipment, sometimes stronger than that used by soldiers in actual war zones – Oregon emerged as, in relative terms, one of the less heavily armed states. More on this in View in this issue.

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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)

Parole director Craven retiring (Boise Statesman)
UI building an innovation center (Lewiston Tribune)
WA gun initiatives becoming well funded (Moscow News)
Freshmen moving into WSU (Moscwo News)
Construction on library moving ahead (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa teachers union enrollment rising (Nampa Press Tribune)

Corvallis waits for housing study (Corvallis Gazette)
UO looking into sports products program (Eugene Register Guard)
Drone watches football practices at SOU (Ashland Tidings)
Fire, lightning danger returning to Cascades (Medford Tribune)
Oregon increases funding for disabled (Medford Tribune)
More people signing up for Medicaid (Portland Oregonian)
Courtney pushes school seismic repairs (Salem Statesman Journal)

Kitsap housing market rises again (Bremerton Sun)
Red Apple market changes owners (Bremerton Sun)
New water park considered new Monroe (Everett Herald)
Housing at college might be held off (Everett Herald)
Money pours into two gun initiatives (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
New federal Indian rules: more casinos? (Olympian)
Highway stretches named for Vietnam vets (Spokane Spokesman)
Education and jobs intended for $1.1m grant (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take