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Posts published in August 2014

Flawed giant

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. (more…)

In the Briefings


 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.

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)

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)

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)