Writings and observations

news

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-Eagle corridor still filling in (Boise Statesman)
More Idahoans facing climate change (IF Post Register)
Geological tour center opens at Driggs (IF Post Register)
Big wildfire roars south of Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
Large scale changes planned at airport (Moscow News)
Canyon work release still active for now (Nampa Press Tribune)
Sudden flood hits Twin Falls (TF Times News)
TF finds West Nile in mosquitoes (TF Times News)

UO president quits after two years (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal)
Fire in Columbian gorge ousts residents (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
Early water shutoffs in Klamath Project (KF Herald & News)
Still more lightning wildfires (KF Herald & News)
State water supply fund still needs board (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Day care group blocks pot use (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bainbridge Island dog park opens (Bremerton Sun)
Area faces vias backlog (Kennewick Herald)
More wildfires in Okanogan area (Longview News)
Tea Party loses ground in Cowlitz precincts (Longview News)
Seattle house prices hit record levels (Seattle times)
Celis poor showing in 1st stuns GOP (Seattle Times)
Fife argues state can’t legalize pot (Tacoma News Tribune)
Retail pot store in rural Pierce planned (Tacoma News Tribune)
Columbia gorge fire ousts residents (Vancouver Columbian)
Benton complaint against Inslee dismissed (Vancouver Columbian)
Snag Canyon fire finds wind (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The primary – which it still sort of is, despite its top-two functionality – in Washington often is regarded as a massive straw poll, a clear indicator of where things are headed in the November general election.

Often it provides good markers, especially when the results are strongly decisive. The incumbent members of Congress, for example, all came away with big leads in the primary. (That includes Suzan DelBene in the 1st, who many observers insisted was facing a close general election. If she is, it would mark a huge reversal from the primary.)

Closer primary results are another matter. Two of them jump out for interest come November.

One is in the 4th congressional district, where veteran incumbent Republican Doc Hastings is retiring. The issue isn’t which party will control the seat; in the strongly Republican 4th, that seems a given. But a large number of Republicans were competing for the seat, and the outcome was unclear.

This week, the field was led by Clint Didier, a former pro football player now aligned with Tea Party and NRA interests, who has run for office twice before unsuccessfully, and Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator from the area who could be considered a more centrist conservative, who led the state’s Department of Agriculture in former Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire’s administration.

The contrast between the two is almost as clear as if their party labels were different. Didier will draw from the Tea Party and cultural right (his loud support for keeping the Redskins football team name helped ensure that), and Newhouse will draw from the left, probably including most Democratic voters. Didier led in the crowded field, but Newhouse seems to have most of the early money for the general, because he has the opportunity to grab backing from more blocks of voters.

It will be a clear-cut contest. Much more clear cut than the primary was.

So, likely, will be the contest in legislative district 35, where long-time Senator Tim Sheldon appears to have come in second place.

Sheldon is in a key spot in the Washington Senate. Nominally a Democrat, he often has sided with Senate Republicans and at the beginning of this current term joined with fellow nominal Democrat Rodney Tom, and the chamber’s Republicans, to form a majority coalition dominated by Republicans, which among other things blocked large parts of new Governor Jay Inslee’s agenda (and the Democratic House’s). The contest for who will control the Senate in the next term remains closely fought.

The results not being entirely final yet, there’s a possibility in that in this close contest – he was running against Democrat Irene Bowling and Republican Travis Couture – his vote might slip to third place, and he could be shut out in the general election. For the moment, however, the situation looks like Bowling is in first place, Sheldon in second and Couture in third.

If so, a surface reading at least of the situation would suggest Sheldon survives in November. He would seem likely to pick up most of Couture’s vote, which would give him a clear advantage. But how many Sheldon Democratic voters have stuck with him in general elections past because he was faced with a Republican? Might some of Sheldon’s traditional Democrats peel off under those conditions? And if the contest is close, what might result from the difference in voting population (and it will be different) between the primary and general?

There’s enough material here to generate a bunch of speculations. The coming weeks will give Washingtonians ample time to explore them.

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Washington Washington column

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Under Independent Party of Oregon rules, the nominating caucus may fill vacancies for any elective position.

Following the July online primary vote which nominated numerous candidates to office, The IPO has declared several House and Senate positions vacant. These seats are ones where no candidate applied, or was qualified by the caucus. Applicants have until August 15th, 2014 to apply.

IPO leaders indicate that they are particularly interested in candidates in districts where currently only one major party candidate will be appearing on the November general election ballot.

They say that in heavily gerrymandered districts where the winner of the dominant party primary is the presumptive winner in November, an independent candidate would offer independents, voters from the non dominant party, and even moderate voters of the dominant party, more choices.

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Harris Oregon

news

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)

SUPI candidate Ybarra no show at school event (Boise Statesman)
New plans for Boise downtown bike lanes (Boise Statesman)
Improvements in housing markets in IF (IF Post Register)
E Washington elections results (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Genesee grass fire threatens home (Moscow News)
Caldwell’s old Kings building to be razed (Nampa Press Tribune)
Rule Steel hit with OSHA ruling (Nampa Press Tribune)
Flooding hits parts of southern Idaho (Pocatello Journal)
Idaho issued reply in same sex marriage case (TF Times News)
Wildfire funding changes blocked (TF Times News)

Interim management director at Eugene schools (Eugene Register Guard)
Festival of Eugene gets site, needs more (Eugene Register Guard)
Water allocations at Klamath constrict (KF Herald & News)
Rain helping with wildfire battle (KF Herald & News)
Partial containment at Oregon gulch fire (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Virus killing southern Oregon deer (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Old hospital building demolished (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Forest plan blasted by local officials (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Housing scarce in Pendleton, Hermiston (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Tightened rules on pot, daycare providers (Salem Statesman Journal)

Election results (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Olympian, Bremerton Sun, Longview News)
Planning for new Paine Field projects (Everett Herald)
Franklin Co jail hit with abuse lawsuit (Kennewick Herald)
Federal official won’t inspect grain at Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)
Snag Canyon fire develops (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

At a Billings hearing in May, Sen. Jon Tester expressed frustration about the management of the Indian Health Service.

The Montana Democrat said: “We need to live up to our trust responsibility and offer tribes the health care they deserve. Ongoing issues around service delivery, transportation for critical care, billing and reimbursement issues abound. We need to prioritize these issues and solve them.”

Tester, of course, is chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. So his call for improving the agency is worth considering.

Then again, when former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) was chairman of the same committee, he also held hearings and published a report about the poor management record at IHS. “The investigation identified mismanagement, lack of employee accountability and financial integrity, as well as insufficient oversight of IHS’ Aberdeen Area facilities. These issues impact overall access and quality of health care services provided to Native American patients in the Aberdeen Area. Many of these issues may stem from a greater lack of oversight by the area office and IHS headquarters fostering an environment where employees and management are not held accountable for poor performance.” The year was 2010.

So what kind of progress has the Indian Health Service made during those four years? Unfortunately that’s the wrong question.

In the blink of an eye, the very structure of health care has changed and is continuing to change dramatically in the United States. Yet the structure of the Indian Health Service is the same.

Take the name: Indian Health Service. On the agency’s web page it adds the descriptive line, “The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives.”

Yet some 40 percent of the agency funds go directly to tribes, independent medical nonprofits or urban health programs. The federal health program is a mechanism for funding, not a federal health program. And that percentage is likely to grow because the system is no longer equal. The IHS has less access to a variety of funding pots that are available to tribal and urban health clinics.

A second problem with the IHS structure is that the United States for many policy reasons picked an insurance framework under the Affordable Care Act. And much of that insurance is built on an expansion of “entitlement” programs.

But the IHS is a health care delivery system, not an insurance regime. And, unlike the entitlement programs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance, the IHS is funded through congressional appropriations. So the agency’s primary source of funding is subject to the whims of a Congress that is deeply divided about priorities and the role of government.

This funding mechanism was made worse by the Affordable Care Act when the Supreme Court said states could choose to expand Medicaid (an insurance partnership for people on low incomes) or not. State-based “optional” insurance is creating a divide within the Indian health system. Under current law, IHS rewards facilities for bringing in third-party payers from either private insurance or Medicaid dollars. It’s money that’s added to a local clinic or hospital budget. But most of that money is from Medicaid and if a state rejects the expansion, that becomes, in effect, a structural deficit.
Almost half of the states, many with large American Indian or Alaska Native populations, have not expanded Medicaid.

So what should the Indian Health Service look like in the age of Obamacare? That is the conversation that should be occurring, but is not. It’s so much easier to blame underfunding or management instead of rethinking the entire IHS organization.

What would IHS look like if it’s primary role was to act as a funding agent with the goal of sending maximum resources — you know, money — directly to tribally-run and other health care delivery agencies? Or what if Medicaid was administered directly for tribes, leaving states out of the equation?

One thing I would change is The Story. As I have written before, it’s important that Congress know that past efforts worked. The creation of the Indian Health Service in 1955 and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act of 1976 both improved the health of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yes, there remain health care disparities when compared to the general population but the gap is far less than it was. And IHS did this by spending less money than just about any other health care delivery system in the United States.

Sure, there are management challenges at the Indian Health Service as noted by Senators Tester and before that Dorgan. But as we near the 50th anniversary of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, it’s time rethink the agency’s structure and demand reform. It’s time to imagine what success looks like.

Mark Trahant holds the Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.

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Trahant

news

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)

AG approves St Lukes takeover of Elks Rehab (Boise Statesman)
Ada County, Caldwell adopt police video (Boise Statesman)
Idaho Co: Nez Perce tribe owes $300K garbage bill (Lewiston Tribune)
Lewiston considering human rights ordinance (Lewiston Tribune)
Army Corps will review pollution at dams (Lewiston Tribune)
City pay raise in Pullman (Moscow News)
McMorris ahead in campaign funds (Moscow News)
Crime down a bit in Moscow (Nampa Press Tribune)
Caldwell chooses dog park location (Nampa Press Tribune)
West Nile mosquitoes on rise again in area (Nampa Press Tribune)
Rains eases fires in southern Idaho (TF Times News)
More whooping cough cases (TF Times News)
Twin Falls annexes land for elementary school (TF Times News)

Wildfire smoke hits lower Willamette (Eugene Register Guard)
Festival of Eugene still trying to organize (Eugene Register Guard)
Wildfires roaring across southern Oregon (KF Herald & News)
Salmon may get more water if die-off happens (KF Herald & News)
Phosphoric acid found on rail car (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Kitzhaber, Hayes note engagement (Salem Statesman Journal)
Ancestry.com accesses state history database (Salem Statesman Journal)

Gun club gets rejection in Kitsap (Bremerton Sun)
Ellensburg fire still roaring (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Army Corps will disclose pollution from dams (Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Lake Crescent wildfire stopped (Port Angeles News)
Seattle cops inadvertently turn on cell tracker (Seattle Times)
Voting deadline is here (Spokane Spokesman)
Benton blasts Inslee on Vancouver port (Vancouver Columbian)
Vancouver considers year-round fireworks (Vancouver Columbian)
WA Supreme Court sends fish/game cases to prosecutors (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

If you’re looking for the usual rant about this-that-and-the-other usually found in this space, there’s disappointment ahead. The historic mess we’re in at the moment – politically and congressionally speaking – has about left me rant-less.

Criticism after criticism and well-worded complaint after well-worded complaint by others more intellectually-gifted and less intellectually-challenged have made no mark on the consciousness of our politicians so historically bad at their jobs. The oligarchy we’ve become has left no sense of responsibility to the folks at home. None. As long as some billionaire continues to kick in big bucks to whichever party he wants to buy at the moment, those with their hands out will pay us no mind.

As Mitch McConnell has run rule book circles around the backbone-challenged Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate has become the place where common sense legislation goes to die. Operating as no other political sphere I’m aware of, the minority has held firmly to Reid’s gonads and dragged him and the will of the majority all over hell’s half acre. The wasteland that used to be a respected and fully-functioning part of our democracy is littered with crumpled legislation that never had a chance.

In the House, a gutless Speaker – trying hard to keep his limousines, the taxpayer jet aircraft, secret service details, his huge suite of offices filled with an overabundance of staff, his additional pay and private dining room – that guy has allowed a few dozen cretins to stifle an entire government. Cretins who deny science, deny law, deny common sense and even deny the multiplication tables – these beneath-the-bridge-dwellers have proven their next attempt to repeal something could well be the law of gravity. It’s this bunch of hypocrites that has brought about my political confusion.

I started having trouble with my civics education when these animal crackers drove Republicans in the House to find a lawyer hungry enough to take their meaningless “case” to sue the President! One branch of one branch of our three branch government suing one of the other two. As this lunacy slowly sank into my cortex, I quickly visualized Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and some other feisty founders rising from their graves to ask each other if this was what they intended when they created the three-legged stool of our democracy. Republic, if you will. The balance.

Trying to make sense of that portion of the court filing dealing with the reason for such lunacy, it all came down to this: faced with dead ends at every turn when dealing with Congress, our President took it upon himself to do something without crawling up Capitol Hill only to find a closed door and degrading voices making nasty references to his manhood. And this added curiosity. What he did is what they wanted to do but didn’t because they couldn’t get their own act together!

So they sued. Or are trying to.

But my confusion came to it’s current maximum state when those same political terrorists failed on another issue – immigration – just a few days later. Once again, the factually-limited minority forced a stalemate with its own majority and the whole stack of watered-down immigration legislation was trampled on the House floor to be replaced by a piece of villainy trying to deport half a million people. DOA legislation that was pure sewerage. It passed. Then the herd of 435 impotent officeholders raced back home to campaign for extensions of their employment contracts.

BUT – the precise second fog settled over all my rational thinking was when Speaker Boehner – the most ineffective politician to hold that office in this or any other century – that Speaker opined “If Congress adjourns without action on immigration, the President should do what he can.”

BOOM! CRASH! Fade to gray and then to black. Really black.

The ink is hardly dry on Boehner’s signature on those legal papers and he’s publically urging the man he’s suing to take action unilaterally. The same type of unilateral action that Boehner and his miscreants got so riled up about that they sued!

There’s no reason to believe the next Congress will be better than the one coming to an ignominious end in a few months. In the next 100 days, there are only about 20 scheduled “working” days on the Hill. There’s zero reason to think any of those 20 will produce anything positive or meaningful. No one – right or left – has reason to be hopeful for anything productive the remainder of this Congress or at the onset of the next.

No one I know – right or left – has come up with a prediction of when this long national nightmare of ignorant, self-serving political stalemate will end. No one has been so foolishly optimistic as to say “Just hang in there. This can’t go on. It will pass.” Maybe it will. I wouldn’t bet on it.

As I said, confusion reigns supreme. I can’t even work up a good rant anymore.

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Rainey

lightning
 
Fierce lightning hit the Willamette Valley on the night of July 31, in some places knocking down trees and doing other damage. This photo was taken near Carlton in Yamhill County. (photo/Brad Salter)

 
This week offered a little bit of a breather on the fire front, as burning on the massive Carlton Complex eased back. But emergency conditions persist across much of the state, and we’re still just about to enter what is normally the peak of wildfire burning season.

In Oregon and Idaho, political television spots for the fall general election season are just about to hit the airwaves – August being the month that starts to happen. Watch for some dark money ads coming in this time around. Meanwhile, Washington prepares for it top two.

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Briefings

news

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 paying more, not less, at gas pumps (Boise Statesman)
One hurting, CradlePoint growing fast again (Boise Statesman)
Appeals court reviewing Idaho law on marriage (Moscow News)
Fewer building permits at Caldwell (Nampa Press Tribune)
No winemaker school facilities in Idaho (Nampa Press Tribune)
Restoration plans for Twin’s Orpheum theatre (TF Times News)

UO profs working on sustainable city (Eugene Register Guard)
Ashland pot rules ready for Tuesday vote (Ashland Tidings)
Ashland water situation helped by conservation (Ashland Tidings)
Oregon Gulch, other fires grow fast (Medford Tribune)
Border children arriving in Idao (Portland Oregonian)
A look at donors to area races (Salem Statesman Journal)

Sheldon Senate race gets help from GOP (Bremerton Sun)
Republicans look to replace Mike Hope (Everett Herald)
STEM elementary school ready at Pasco (Kennewick Herald)
95 of 123 legislative races have only 2 contenders (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Clallam prosecutor candidates on race (Port Angeles News)
Seattle bans right turn at Dexter/Mercer (Seattle Times)
Vancouver considerd parking meter app (Vancouver Columbian)
Fires still burning hot near Ellensburg (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Dear Dan:

As you begin your new career as press secretary to First District Congressman Raul Labrador, here is some advice that will help you succeed. I preface it by saying I will miss your excellent political reporting.

I hope you understand skills you polished in your distinguished reporting career are not all transferable to making for a successful career as a press secretary. Thus,this counsel:

1) There is only one name on the ballot. Your job of course is to promote your Boss’ name. Too many “flacks” make the mistake of allowing themselves to be quoted directly. As a general rule speak only on background and not for direct attribution so that the information your Boss wants out is delivered but the quote is something like “an aide close to Congressman Labrador said. . . . .”

2) Physical proximity to your horse is critical. If you want to be the “go to” person for the media you have to be where he is, which is D.C., most of the time, not Meridian. I know Senator Mike Crapo has his media staff largely in Boise, but he does not seek the national profile your Boss is well along the path of obtaining. Already, your Congressman has established a record of sorts for the number of appearances on Meet the Press for a sophomore member. You want the producers of that show to be calling you when they want him, not some D.C. assistant.

3) You were a somebody in Boise; you’re a nobody in D.C. Your Boss has a right to expect you to start developing good relations with national, D.C. based media, many of whom may know you from your award-winning journalistic career but none who know you in your new role. All they will be interested in is can you return phone calls promptly, can you speak for your Boss and when necessary can you deliver him quickly. You’ll also have to court the veteran press secretaries as well as pay homage to the media “stars” for the press has indeed become major influencers of events not just reporters. Read This Town by Mark Lebovich, if you haven’t already.

4) Take a media training course and run your Boss through one periodically. There is an art form to talking with the media and delivering your message, then staying on that message regardless of what the media may want. Every interview is as an opportunity to get your message out and you have to control the interview. Thus, you’ll master such devices as “block and bridge,” where one learns quickly to block the thrust of a reporter’s question and bridge to the message you want. Pull Florida Governor Rick Scott’s CNN interview off of You Tube when he was a candidate. His message was “jobs” and every question he took he turned back into “I’m all about creating jobs.” His interviewers were frustrated but he sure got his message across.

5) Travel with Congressman Labrador. Wherever he goes, you go (See rule #2). As you know, media is now a 24/7 matter and it is critical that one be able to respond to inquiries if not instantly then within the same news cycle. Your horse may be anywhere in the world when a call comes requiring a careful response which has to be crafted almost immediately. You have to be there with him to provide the insight and advice for which he has hired you. Furthermore, the only time you and he will have to discuss your longer term strategy will be on plane rides where you won’t be interrupted as often as in the office. And I suspect part of your job is to think strategically about the goals your Boss has set and how to bring the media along in a supportive manner.

6) No secrets between you and your Boss. The coin of the realm is your credibility. Thus, he has to understand that for you to succeed you have to be in on the front end of decision-making, not the back end. There has to be total transparency as well as total trust between you and your Boss. It will take time to establish because this has to come from success in working well together, but I’m confident you two will achieve it.

While I don’t share much in common with your new Boss from a political standpoint, I do admire the skill he has thus far displayed and his political acumen. Your abiliy to help him achieve his goals should make for an interesting venture and I wish you well.

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Carlson