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Posts published in August 2014

Armoring up the Northwest

idaho RANDY

The national news stories about Ferguson, Missouri, the heavy-duty local arms brought to bear by local law enforcement and the general militarization of law enforcement raised the question: Here in the Northwest, too?

You bet.

In our small home town of 2,000 people, this isn't much an issue: The mode here is community policing, and it's worked just fine over the years; our town isn't much militarized. Our county (Yamhill, in Oregon) is among the small minority which hasn't received military surplus gear, which is where a great deal of the arms come from.

The New York Times has mapped, by county, the recipients of such surplus gear from coast to coast, since 2006. Bearing in mind the eight-year time frame, the number do tend to look a little more modest then they first seem, so that should be borne in mind.) The overwhelming majority of counties have participated. In Washington state, all but three of the 39 counties have participated; in Oregon, all but 10 of the 36 counties do; and in Idaho, all but nine of the 44 do.

(The counties not opting in are – Washington: Ferry, Columbia and Garfield; Oregon: Yamhill, Benton, Linn, Curry, Jacons, Lake, Harney, Crook, Jefferson, Wasco; Idaho: Adams, Payette, Elmore, Boise, Camas, Cassia, Custer, Butte, Teton).

What do they get? Assault rifles – defined here as including 5.56-mm and 7.62-mm rifles, were sent to nearly all Northwest counties that received any surplus goods at all.

You might expect the most expansive armory would be the region' by-far largest county, King, and it is: 201 night-vision pieces, 120 assault rifles, 105 body armor pieces – plus two helicopters and one mine-resistent vehicle. (One other Northwest county, Snohomish, also snagged a helicopter.)

Do they really have many road mines to worry about in King County? You might ask small, rural Lincoln County, Washington, the same thing: It also has such a vehicle. So do a number of other counties, including Snohomish, Pierce, Whatco, Yakima, Lewis, and Chelan in Washington, Clackamas, Polk and Baker in Oregon, and Canyon, Kootenai and Franklin in Idaho.

Multnomah County, home of make-love-not-war Portland, picked up 88 assault rifles (though nothing else). Lane County (Eugene) grabbed 490 night vision pieces (what's going on there at night?), plus 76 assault rifles, 36 body armor pieces and two armored vehicles.

Even many of the smallest, most lightly populated counties, with only a few law enforcement personnel, picked up some good. Little Clark County, Idaho, with fewer than 1,000 people and light law enforcement (not a lot usually is needed there), got three assault rifles. Up on the Canadian border, Boundary County got not only five assault rifles and one body armor piece but – and you really have to wonder about this – 203 night-vision pieces.

You also have to wonder about the counties that picked up on military grenade launchers. In Oregon, Deschutes and Klamath obtained them, and so did Bannock and Blaine in Idaho.

Several questions emerge from all of this. One is, what is the cost of maintaining and securing all this? Another is, how much of it is really needed? Another: What's the temptation to use all this fancy (and in some cases deadly) equipment that's just, you know, lying around?

And: Is the Northwest really dangerous enough that most of it could be described as a militarized zone?

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 school races debate features Common Core (Boise Statesman)
Intermountain energy summit comes to IF (IF Post Register)
Idahoans consider ERA revival (IF Post Register)
Priest Lake cottage sites being sold (Lewiston Tribune)
Blowback to Nampa gun ban on city property (Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing the 180 Idahoans who died at work (Nampa Press Tribune)
Former EITC VP says ISU should absorb it (Idaho State Journal)

Springfield evacuation plan under review (Eugene Register Guard)
Year may be needed for mill fire inquest (Eugene Register Guard)
Junior water right holders face cutoffs (Medford Tribune)
Oregon teachers prepare for common core (Salem Statesman Journal)

Trying to assess meaning of WA primary (Bremerton Sun)
Lake Stevens has grown fast, unprepared for it (Everett Herald)
What about Oso risks in next flood season? (Everett Herald)
Cowlitz PUD considering 'enhanced' contracts (Longview News)
Longview housing market still recovering (Longview News)
Poll of bar prefers judge challenger (Port Angeles News)
Followup on Olympic medical foundation funding (Port Angeles News)
Reviewing impact of a dam-less Elwha River (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Spokane transit hub may have to quit downtown (Spokane Spokesman)
East Clark bridge plan hits difficulties (Vancouver Columbian)
Meeting demand for new doctors (Yakima Herald Republic)

George Hansen

idaho RANDY

Idaho has seen no retail political campaigners better than George Hansen, the former member of Congress who died last week. A few may have been as capable, but none better.

In campaigning mode, he was tireless and fearless of going anywhere and talking to anyone. At the handshake he was charming and just a bit self-effacing; that touch of humility was the key added ingredient. I remember following him one day in one of his campaigns for the U.S. House – it may have been 1978 – culminating for me as he relentlessly worked the late afternoon shift change at the Pocatello Simplot and FMC plants. The plants were having a bad air day and the air was full of gunk which rained down on us. Hansen was oblivious to it. A lot of those workers were old-line Democrats, but Hansen's manner was impossible to dislike.

Afterward, I went home and showered. And rested. Hansen, if memory serves, was just getting started. Late at night, he'd work the bowling alleys and anything else still open through midnight hours. And his campaigns worked. He won seven races for the U.S. House. He also won the job of mayor of Alameda, a city which merged with Pocatello – with Hansen's support, though it eliminated his mayoralty.

Hansen started his adult life as a salesman (of insurance), and built on those skills. His problem may have been that he internalized his political pitch too much; while his manner one on one could be humble, he tried to build around him a kind of sense of historic destiny. His 1984 campaign (his last) featured a comic book called “George the dragon slayer!” in which Hansen was depicted as the courageous knight doing battle with the IRS and OSHA.

He was the personification of the growing anti-government attitude in Idaho, the crusader against big and evil government. His campaigns mark the point where demonization of government began to take hold in the state. (His contemporary, Steve Symms, made the case in a lighter, breezier way.)
A certain amount of self-confidence is needed for running for higher office. Hansen went from the Pocatello City Council to the U.S. House in 1964. Four years later he ran for the Senate, against the advice of many. But it eluded him that year and again in 1972, when he lost the Republican nomination to James McClure. Hansen went public with accusations that a Boise big business cabal had lined up against him. Whatever the truth of that, the Senate runs left him financially strapped, and financial problems would dog him for years. (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)

Albertsons says it stopped a data breach (Boise Statesman)
George Hansen dies at Pocatello (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register)
Variable results in Idaho SATs (Boise Statesman, Pocatello Journal)
Taxes may rise 11% in Moscow (Lewiston Tribune)
College students head back to universities (Moscow News)
New Highway 16 bridge near Boise opens (Nampa Press Tribune)
Mortgage consumer complaints cutting back (Nampa Press Tribune)
State board allows for ISU program reductions (Pocatello Journal)

New developer bridge over Delta area (Eugene Register Guard)
Path might endanger iconic rhododendrons (Eugene Register Guard)
Interfor may run biomass effort at Gilchrist (KF Herald & News)
Officials ask for revised rules on drought (KF Herald & News)
ODOT seeks Hwy 97 overpass for wildlife (KF Herald & News)
Students return to college campuses (Ashland Tidings)
State considers I-5 overpass for ducks (Medford Tribune)
Drones deemed hazardous to firefighters (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Drought still hitting Oregon hard (Portland Oregonian)
Wyden asks for surveillance changes (Salem Statesman Journal)
Prices change at Oregon State Fair (Salem Statesman Journal)

Ferries administrator put on leave (Bremerton Sun)
County property tax errors cost $1m (Bremerton Sun)
Everett devises anti-flood plan (Everett Herald)
Oso-area community finally reconnected by road (Everett Herald)
Waste burial tests suggest hope at Hanford (Kennewick Herald)
Potatoes damaged by heavy heat (Kennewick Herald)
Tacoma Dome hold convention for pot business (Longview News)
Overloaded ferry turned back (Seattle Times, Breemerton Sun)
Local police load up military gear (Spokane Spokesman)
Revised Sprague connector links to I-5 (Tacoma News Tribune)
Summer in Vancouver hottest ever (Vancouver Columbian)
Herrera Beutler, others discuss forest plans (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima schools chief Beraza will retire (Yakima Herald Republic)

What happened to ‘protect and serve’?

rainey BARRETT


About 25 years ago, I loudly and publicly complained about one of the many policies our government was engaged in at the time that had roused my ire. As I recall, the words were proper, the thoughts well-organized - as usual, of course - and the anger was not hidden amongst flowery phrases. In typical government reaction, my well-delivered suggestions for immediate change were ignored.

All these years later, my angst regarding the issue has doubled. And doubled again. But government persists. And the bad policy continues to exist - redoubling again a few times itself. The issue: equipping and training community law enforcement to be hometown armies rather than agencies to “ protect and serve” as is written on the doors of so many local police cars.

The black anger in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, these days is exactly what I was talking about two decades ago. These unarmed, frustrated, socially-suppressed and mad people are in those streets of their own neighborhoods - often their own yards - being faced by officers in camouflage combat fatigues, snipers in the open on top of armored trucks, nearly all cops wearing gas masks and carrying many, many automatic weapons. Anyone speaking “protect and serve” speaks pure B.S..

All of this was brought sharply together in my living room a night or two ago when one of the TV networks was using some stock video footage as the faceless voice was talking about much the same issue - inappropriate police dress, tactics and weaponry. What connected it all was one of the scenes shot in a Caldwell, Idaho, neighborhood some months back, showing police in the same type of combat dress and carrying the same types of weaponry. And they were prominently accompanied by an MRAP! An MRAP parked on someone’s subdivision lawn!

An MRAP is a terrifically heavy behemoth, designed to ward off bullets of nearly any size as well as land mines and rocket fire. While these armed monsters of steel have undoubtedly saved lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, they seem terribly out of place in a community of 25,000 or so near the Snake River in Idaho. Like machines from science fiction movies.

This “uparming” of local law enforcement began under President Bush-the-Elder and has continued under Clinton, Bush-the-Junior and Obama. It started after we “freed” Kuwait from Saddam. All that hardly-used military hardware was just going to be scrapped. Until some in-over-his-head political appointee decided America’s local law enforcement agencies would pay 10-cents-on-the-dollar for it. And pay they have. (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)

IF city passes new budget (IF Post Register)
Several small school districts plan levies (IF Post Register)
Republicans in conflict again over BBQ (IF Post Register)
Campuses look at open carry costs (Lewiston Tribune)
Plans ahead for dredging on lower Snake River (Lewiston Tribune)
UI cuts decrees and reorganizes academics (Moscow News)
Wheat inspections give Palouse farmers clearance (Moscow News)
Governor's group backs Medicaid expansion (Nampa Press Tribune)
Former Representative Hansen dies (Pocatello Journal)
Carmike 7 demolition on the way (Pocatello Journal)
Snake River jump preparations still in place (TF Times News)

Benton prepares to build roundabout (Corvallis Gazette)
OSU research gets help from Wal-Mart (Corvallis Gazette)
Protest at Springfield after cop dog shooting (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath airport expansion helped with grant (KF Herald & News)
Pendleton Grain Growers lays off 85 (Pendleton E Oregonian)
OR Transport Commission sets $42m for projects (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Board asks financial aid for 36k students (Portland Oregonian)
OR working on stronger autism therapy funding (Portland Oregonian)
Report calls for statewide OR retirement plan (Salem Statesman Journal)

Port Orchard gets discount on water from Bremerton (Bremerton Sun)
Western WA fires doused by rain (Bremerton Sun)
Port Orchard buys eyesore building to raze it (Bremerton Sun)
Longview approves big tap water study (Longview News)
Supreme Court: some state pension raises can be dropped (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Herrera Beutler: Republicans need Obamacare alternative (Longview News)
Reconsidering Everett noise ordinance, roosters (Everett Herald)
State will increase mental health beds by 50 (Olympian)
Port Angeles school converted to pot factory? (Port Angeles News)
Port Angeles said to solve financial issues (Port Angeles News)
Psychiatric boarding ruling putting some on streets? (Seattle Times)
Metro plans low-income low-fare cards (Seattle Times)
Top national pot conference at Tacoma Dome (Tacoma News Tribune)
Murray says VA is getting better (Vancouver Columbian)
Agreement would keep pesticides from salmon (Vancouver Columbian)

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)

Appleton's crash not due to mechanical failure (Boise Statesman)
Nez Perce Co sues Lewiston over urban renewal (Lewiston Tribune)
UI told it could change program offerings (Lewiston Tribune)
Wildfires in northern Idaho ease off (Lewiston Tribune)
Labrador holds Moscow town hall (Moscow News)
Clear cuts near Bovill debated (Moscow News)
Nampa sees less cost on new city attorney deal (Nampa Press Tribune)
Decision coming on Lodge residency issue (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho congressionals cautious on Iraq (Pocatello Journal)
Constitution party rejects own gay gov candidarte (TF Times News)
Wendell school gym would be closed if not repaired (TF Times News)
Rangeland grazing system may be changed (TF Times News)

Corvallis Clinic leader will depart (Corvallis Gazette)
Right to farm law challenged as unconstitutional (Corvallis Gazette)
Eugene drops plan for homeless site (Eugene Register Guard)
Aquifer levels in Klamath area dropping (KF Herald & News)
Eastern Promise school program gets praise (Pendleton E Oregonian)
State ed board highlights weaknesses (Portland Oregonian)

Eagle Habor sewer problems get severe (Bremerton Sun)
What now for psychiatric board in area? (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish leaders struggle with budget (Everett Herald)
Judge finds CH2M-Hill firm contract breach (Kennewick Herald)
Fault lines at Olympic peninsula reviewed (Port Angeles News)
Neighborhood conflicts over pot growing (Port Angeles News)
SPU shooter had access to lots of guns (Seattle Times)
Water use at Spokane running high (Spokane Spokesman)
Federal judge vacates award against police (Vancouver Columbian)
Charter school supporters raise big treasury (Vancouver Columbian)
Unemployment rate falls to 5.6% (Vancouver Columbian)
Expansion starts on casino at Toppenish (Yakima Herald Republic)
State-county conflict on pot licensing (Yakima Herald Republic)

The spending cure

trahant MARK


I’ve spent the past couple of months listening to political candidates in a variety of formats. I like most of them as people, but I am struck by how thin our political discourse can be.

Consider the federal purse. Politicians are quick to zoom in and focus on specific programs they’d like to trim. Cut the budget. Easy. Case closed. But what’s missing from that simple narrative is math.

Where is the real savings? What’s the cost right now and over the next few decades?

Three issues that jump out at me are higher education, immigration and health care.

A recent study by Goldman Sachs found that young people carrying huge student loans are purchasing fewer homes. As noted by The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: “Only a small share of young adults -- 6.6 percent -- are borrowing sums that exceed $50,000. But they carry a disproportionate share of the debt.”

And it’s not just fewer houses being purchased — it’s less buying of everything. This next generation is burdened with more than $1 trillion in student loans; the very same cohort we expect to pay for my generation’s retirement.

According to Pew Social Trends: The Millennial generation is “entering adulthood with record levels of student debt: Two-thirds of recent bachelor’s degree recipients have outstanding student loans, with an average debt of about $27,000. Two decades ago, only half of recent graduates had college debt, and the average was $15,000.”

So cuts in higher education “save” money — unless you look at the entire economic picture. The case should be made by citizens about why it’s sometimes smarter for the federal government to spend more money, not less, on key priorities. Educating the next generation, the one that’s going to pay all the bills, ought to be one of those areas where spending more now might save us all money down the road.

The economic impact of immigration is just the opposite. The same folks who would cut federal budgets want the federal government to spend even more money to secure the borders. But we are already spending record amounts. The federal government spends more on border enforcement than it does on the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Money is not going to “solve” the border issue. (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)

Idaho state workers get strong health coverage (Boise Statesman)
Fewer in ID high schools go on to college (Moscow News)
Moscow city looking at fee increases (Moscow News)
WSU planning online course expansion (Moscow News)
Constitution party, gay gov candidate, at odds (Lewiston Tribune)
More lighting wildfire starts in Idaho (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon sheriff will keep inmate program (Nampa Press Tribune)
I-84 lbeled at Vietnam veterans highway (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello audits out of city road working (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello Regional Transit center opens (Pocatello Journal)
Megaload shipment rolls through Panhandle (Sandpoint Bee)
First Idaho West Nile case at Blaine County (TF Times News)
State program paying toll for college classes (TF Times News)

More lightning-caused fires in Oregon (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune)
Electric board member recuses on riverfront (Eugene Register Guard)
Changes planned for downtown Ashland plaza (Ashland Tidings)
Jackson libraries considering tax options (Medford Tribune)
Did White City VA get false accusation? (Medford Tribune)
Student numbers to grow at Hermiston (Pendleton E Oregonian)
State DEQ will hear blasts at coal projct (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton Grain Growers will consider auto center (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Autism therapy ordered covered (Portland Oregonian)
MAX repairs start, traffic blocked (Portland Oregnian)
OR state employees pay less into health plans (Salem Statesman Journal)

Wildfires start in Washington (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Bremerton Sun, Olympian)
Everett Boeing gets trade representative visit (Everett Herald)
Billboard on Hwy 30 blasts Clatskanie PUD (Longview News)
Vancouver grain, longshoremen reach 2-year deal (Vancouver Columbian, Longview News)
Wildfires in Olympic peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Pot ban continued by Sequim (Port Angeles News)
WA moves to 6-year term on driver licenses (Port Angeles News)
High costs for taking the 520 bridge (Seattle Times)
Spokane city blocking border growth (Spokane Spokesman)
Clark County fair making record money (Vancouver Columbian)
Options considered for Yakima plaza (Yakima Herald Republic)

Stallings’ problem

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

The other day in Twin Falls, former 2nd District Congressman Richard Stallings approached a 24-year-old waitress and talked about this year’s congressional campaign. As any good politician, he saw an opportunity to win over a potential voter. What she saw was a man who was old enough to be her great-grandfather, which presents a problem for Stallings.

His mind is sharp, he has good health overall, but the 73-year-old Stallings looks every bit of his age – which does little to attract 20-somethings who already are detached from politics. The waitress was just more than a year old when Stallings left Congress in 1993. There’s a whole generation of new voters who were not even born when Stallings served in Congress.

He has other challenges that are even more daunting. Rep. Mike Simpson, seeking his ninth term, is fresh off a resounding victory over tea party candidate Byron Smith in the primary election – proving the 2nd District is not the bastion for conservatism as it was during George Hansen’s heyday in Congress. Simpson’s membership on the Appropriations Committee gives him clout and access to hefty campaign donations. Stallings has little more than a past history and around $17,000 in the bank.

“I have no illusions,” Stallings said. “When I ran before (1984) and was running against someone who had four felony convictions and I barely won. That is not the case now.”

But Stallings says he sees a “path to victory” by pushing for raising the federal minimum wage and immigration reform – issues that tend to attract women and Latinos. He welcomes support from disgruntled conservatives who are bruised from the primary campaign. As for everybody else, Stallings has two major platforms:

1. Throw the bums out.

2. All Republicans are bums – especially House Speaker John Boehner and Simpson, who is one of Boehner’s leading lieutenants. Stallings thinks any Democrat, including California’s Nancy Pelosi, could do a better job leading the House.

“I tell people that if you like Congress – and only about 12 percent of the people do – then stay with Simpson, because he will give you two more years of nothing,” Stallings said. “I am running against the worst Congress in the nation’s history. Simpson is one of the leaders of that Congress and he should be held accountable.” (more…)