Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in September 2014

About a flaming hour

carlson CHRIS


Idaho has produced a number of officeholders and office-seekers who met untimely deaths, either in plane or auto crashes, or job accidents.

All had potential to grow and might have been quite successful. In two cases, that of Jim McClure’s and Cecil Andrus’, the deaths of their chief rivals cleared the way for them to become two of Idaho’s greatest office-holders, leaving one to wonder how the state’s political history might have changed.

In an odd quirk of fate, three of the *seven were from Kellogg: John Mattmiller, Vern Lannen and Jerry Blackbird. Mattmiller died in a plane crash while trying to land in the fog at the Kellogg airport in 1966. At the time he was the clear favorite to win the First District Republican Congressional nomination and would have probably won in November.

His death cleared the way for a Payette attorney named Jim McClure to win the primary and go on to a solid career that included 18 years in the Senate and chairmanship of the Energy and Natural Resources committee.

State Senator Vern Lannen, a big, gregarious logger who enjoyed working in north Idaho’s forests, died in a logging accident in 1986. He was appointed to fill the vacancy created in 1979 by the untimely death at the age of 34 of State Senator Jerry Blackbird.

Of the three from Shoshone County, Jerry Blackbird showed the most promise of achieving higher office. He was good, smart and charismatic. He was marked as a real comer when in his freshman session he authored and then shepherded through the Legislature a bill reforming log scaling to give the logger and the trucker a more fair share.

Needless to say, he defeated all the state’s major timber companies and their lobbbyists.

Several Boise observers saw the young Cecil Andrus in Jerry and thought he might easily win the Idaho governorship some day. Andrus has a saying about learning “through the school of hard knocks.” Jerry was certainly familiar with that.

Jerry is the subject of a loving yet unsparing and brutally honest memoir, One Flaming Hour, published this week by Ridenbaugh Press and written by his brother, Mike Blackbird, also a former Senator from Shoshone County (he succeeded Lannen and served three terms).

Jerry Blackbird was a true American hero. Over the course of 12 months in Vietnam he flew an incredible 1400 medivac emergency helicopter extraction missions. He won two Distinguish Flying Crosses and numerous other medals for valor and courage. Almost all his missions were “under fire’ especially in the landing zones.

He returned to an America that even in Kellogg was turning against the war and did not value his sacrifice. He started drinking heavily, his marriage failed, he couldn’t hold and keep jobs for long and candidly was well on the road to hell and self-destruction.

His letters home (which easily fill half the book) document his growing disgust with the war and the needless sacrifice of too many Marines and soldiers who gave their last full measure for a political war run by political generals and one of the most political presidents in American history, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who was obsessed with body counts.

One early sub-zero morning he was hitch-hiking on I-90 in Montana trying to get back to his job in a mine near Kellogg. He experienced what brother Mike calls his “road to Damascus” moment (Alluding to St. Paul being blinded by Jesus Christ who is asking the then named Saul why is he persecuting the Lord’s followers.) (more…)

Remembering Hopper


Wallace St

Saturday, Sept. 13, would have been Robert Dwayne Hopper's 75th birthday.

For those new here, or with short-term memories, Robert Hopper was owner and managing partner of the legendary Bunker Hill Mine in Kellogg, Idaho, from 1990 until his death in January 2011. He was an Elk, a Mason, a self-educated genius, and my dearest friend.

We met by happenstance in 1999 when a former colleague from the Coeur d'Alene Press who was working on the Milo Creek flood control project told me of this guy who had bought Bunker Hill, was making colloidal silver, and had just put the lie to the whole EPA Superfund fiasco in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin.

As to colloidal silver, try it sometime on a burn, or inhale a few drops to end your sinusitis: Silver is nature's oldest known bacteriacide.

No, despite the propaganda from Big Pharma, it won't turn you purple unless you chug a gallon of it every day. In jigger-sized daily doses it fights all kinds of disease, and over time even seems to give viruses a run for their lives. Big Pharma hates colloidal silver because you can't patent an element and charge a royalty for it.

Bob Hopper knew this, and many, many other things. His giant intellect inhaled knowledge and could not resist curiosity.

When the EPA-instigated “mining-caused lead pollution” debate in the Silver Valley was raging and every mining company was being sued to bankruptcy, it led him to postulate: If this is a lead-mining district, it's because there is lead here and has been for quite awhile. Where might one find a place where the normal, pre-mining “background levels” of lead might be found?

Simple answer: The Sacred Heart Mission at Cataldo, Idaho, chinked with mud from the Coeur d'Alene River and built between 1850 and 1853 – 35 years before lead-mining began here. He obtained permission to sample mud-chinking still in place from the Mission's original construction, split the samples from these tiny injections and sent them to two independent laboratories.

The results astounded even Bob Hopper, who was not easily astounded. The lead levels in the Mission's original mud were as high or higher than the levels the EPA was attacking and suing mining companies for.

Here's where the story gets funny. (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)

Eberle will leave Boise city council (Boise Statesman)
Yellowstone models possible 'supereruption' (IF Post Register)
Blast near old Teton Dam went well (IF Post Register)
Odyssey charter school revoked; no appeal (IF Post Register)
WA Supreme Court holds legislature in contempt (Lewiston Tribune)
WSU regents considering medical school (Moscow News)
Bolz running for CWI trustee (Nampa Press Tribune)
TF downtown stores seek more lenient parking (TF Times News)
Megic Valley emergency dispatch understaffed (TF Times News)

UO's different kind of presidential search (Eugene Register Guard)
Adding new names to Klamath 911 memorial (KF Herald & News)
Police shooting found justified (Medford Tribune)
Hermiston will map crime hot spots (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Emmanuel Community Services leader takes leave (Portland Oregonian)
Cover Oregon tax mistake hits Marion hard (Salem Statesman Journal)

WA Supreme Court hold legislature in contempt (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
WSU may build medical school (Spokane Spokesman, Kennewick Herald)
Engineering cranks up again at vit plan (Kennewick Herald)
PETA plans anti-hunting signs at Longview (Longview News)
Children hit with severe respiratory disease (Seattle Times, Olympian)
Well contamination issues at Liberty Lake (Spokane Spokesman)
State fires set 1-year acreage record (Tacoma News Tribune)
Wind cuts power at Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)
Uneasy transition to e-medical records (Yakima Herald Republic)

ACA is worth debating

trahant MARK


Newsflash: Republicans hate the Affordable Care Act. Of course they can’t even call it that; it’s only “Obamacare.” A word that’s pronounced with a sneer, derision and contempt.

Ok. That’s not news. The message about how evil the Affordable Care Act was branded around the fiftieth time that House Republicans voted for repeal.

But how does it stand as an election issue? Should candidates run on the merits of the Affordable Care Act?

If the question is asked and answered as a political one, then probably not. The law is still not all that popular.

A poll released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation reflects that unpopularity. “Registered voters are more likely to have an unfavorable view of the ACA than a favorable one (49 percent versus 35 percent),” Kaiser reports. “Opinion tilts even more negative among likely voters1 (51 percent versus 35 percent).”

But the health care law is also not as a big deal with voters as it was a few months ago. “Asked to name in their own words the two most important issues in deciding their vote for Congress, the most frequently-mentioned issue is the economy and jobs (21 percent),” according to Kaiser. “Thirteen percent of voters name health care as a top issue, including just 3 percent who specifically mention the Affordable Care Act. Those who view the law favorably are about equally likely to mention health care as a top issue in their vote as are those with an unfavorable view (12 percent versus 15 percent).

I would suspect that Indian Country is no exception to this polling. Most of the people I have talked to are not keen on the paperwork associated with the Affordable Care Act and don’t like the idea that insurance will be a major funding source for the Indian health system.

That’s an notion that makes sense — unless you consider the alternative. The alternative is nothing. There is no plan from those advocating repeal to improve funding for the Indian health system. (One funding test for Indian health will come from the House Continuing Resolution budget, a short-term spending bill, and those details are expected shortly.)

There are important questions that should be asked of every candidate: If you support repeal, then what happens to the funding mechanisms for Indian health? How will that money be replaced in this austere climate? I have asked many Republicans running for office across the country and I have yet to hear one single satisfactory answer. (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)

Payette Brewery (Garden City) poised to grow (Boise Statesman)
IF sees enterovirus cases (IF Post Register)
Hobby Lobby may open store at Ammon (IF Post Register)
Hixon said to have misused campaign funds (Nampa Press Tribune)
Panera Bread Bakery may build in Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bottled water only in Raft River for now (TF Times News)

NW pot producers will need mroe electricity (Corvallis Gazette)
More new school students than were expected (Corvallis Gazette)
Parts of Oregon at high fire danger (Corvallis Gazette)
Eugene city hall work closes some offices (Eugene Register Guard)
Unveiling new Made in Oregon on 5th street (Eugene Register Guard)
Running Y ranch may see major upgrades (KF Herald & News)
Oregon schools test scores released Medford Tribune, Pendleton E Oregonian
Question raised on prison inmate shooting (Portland Oregonian)
South Salem park plan draws neighbor critics (Salem Statesman Journal)

New state ferries chief chosen (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Bremerton Sun)
Changes in funding for Sheldon Senate race (Bremerton Sun)
Cowlitz, Wahkiakum approve garbage deal (Longview News)
Olympia church starts homeless shelter (Olympian)
Pot grow site will be assessed (Port Angeles News)
Senate challenge also backs zombie TV show (Spokane Spokesman)
Vancouver councils considers blocking oil (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima reconsiders massage licenses (Yakima Herald Republic)

Is Starr race a dead heat?

harris ROBERT


Last week Chuck Riley was busy working the phones telling voters and supporters that his campaign’s internal polling showed a dead heat between he and Sen. Bruce Starr for SD-15 in Washington County.

Riley lost to Starr in 2010 in SD-15 by 4.5% – or 1,849 votes. The 2014 match up features the same candidates while the Democratic voter edge in SD-15 has actually decreased. So how can the Riley camp be optimistic? Because Senate District 15 will feature Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchell-Markley.

Ms. Mitchell-Markley is an attorney and a member of the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors. A not insignificant position. She is also married to Kyle Markley, Libertarian candidate in House District 30. Kyle Markley also ran for HD-30 in 2012 and was blamed by some Republicans for the defeat of HD-30 Republican incumbent Shawn Lindsay. Mr. Markley received 1,441 votes in 2012 and Lindsay ended up losing to Joe Gallegos by less than 1,200 votes.

However, there are some big difference between the HD-30 2012 race and this years SD-15 race.

In 2012 Kyle Markley ran a vigorous race. This election Caitlin Mitchell-Markley didn’t put a statement in the voters pamphlet and has raised less than $1,000 dollars. And, while Shawn Lindsay was a first term Representative Bruce Starr has been a high profile State Senator and Representative for over a decade. He has much better name familiarity, and deeper roots in the community, than Shawn Lindsay.

Dead heat? Yes, I can see a poll result with Starr holding a 3%- 4% margin advantage being within the margin of error and therefore a “dead heat”. Riley and Starr ran against each other last time and it was close. But While Ms. Mitchell-Markley’s name on the ballot will make some difference, with her less active campaign she won’t get the number of votes Kyle Markley was able to attract in 2010. And combined with the fact that the Democratic voter edge has compressed since 2010, and the familiarity of these two candidates, it means we’re likely to see a repeat of the 2010 election.

Unless that is . . . some dark money independent expenditure group decides to help out Ms. Mitchell-Markley with her campaign.

And a point on Measure 90 may be in order here. If 90 were in effect for 2014, the November race would feature Starr and Riley, with Mitchell-Markley knocked out in May. Instead we’ve got a general election with a Libertarian who has no chance of winning on the November ballot who could effectively “spoil” the election for the preferred candidate. The point being there is a cost to always allowing non viable minor party candidates on the general election ballot rather than requiring them to compete in a preliminary election.

At the energy summit

mendiola MARK


U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other high-powered industry and government speakers generated a buzz of voltage at the recent Intermountain Energy Summit in Idaho Falls attended by some 300 participants from 19 states and two Canadian provinces.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper warned those in attendance midway through the summit that the Shilo Inn where they were meeting might be blacked out after a truck slammed into a power pole in the city. As it turned out, the lights stayed on, but many of those at the energy conference could not help but be bemused by the incident and see the irony.

Casper and Post Register Publisher Roger Plothow were driving forces behind the successful summit, which took 10 months to organize and drew Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Rep. Mike Simpson, Gov. Butch Otter, Idaho National Engineering Director John Grossenbacher, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Kristine Svinicki and other notables.

Featured speaker Robert Bryce, an energy issues author and journalist, pointed out that while the United States leads the world in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, even if it could cut those greenhouse gases to zero, global CO2 emissions would increase by 7 percent as Third World countries burn more coal to ramp up their economies.

Bryce noted that coal consumption in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia -- with populations totaling 400 million -- has increased from 2,500 percent to 5,900 percent since 1985.

“They are building their economies on the back of hydrocarbons,” following the examples of the United States, Canada and Europe, Bryce said, adding that China and India also are burning large volumes of fossil fuels to stoke their economic growth.

Calling himself a “resolute agnostic” in regards to the climate change debate, Bryce said he is adamantly in favor of nuclear energy and natural gas, adding “you can’t just wish coal away.” (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)

Boise police evaluate homeless policy (Boise Statesman)
'Part time Indian' book returns to West Ada (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Will WA property managers ban pot? (Moscow News)
Vallivue changes its tax levies (Nanpa Press Tribune)
Caldwell chamber seeks signature event (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon jumpers still planning event (TF Times News)

Variable school scores (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette, KF Herald & News)
Cameras watching for forest fires (Eugene Register Guard)
New ownership for Running Y ranch (KF Herald & News)
Charter cable may be bought by Comcast (Medford Tribune)
The path to eliminating Cover Oregon (Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)

Bitter debate over state House seat (Bremerton Sun)
Enchanted Valley Chalet moved (Bremerton Sun, Port Angeles News)
Clatskanie city attorney quits (Longview News)
Clallam officials pay may be cut (Port Angeles News)
Bellevue activists push for $15 minimum wage (Seattle Times)
WA court: Cell phone used for public use, public (Tacoma News Tribune)
C-TRAN okays labor contract (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima tries again on billboard rules (Yakima Herald Republic)

“All the way with Vernon K”

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

That was a campaign slogan for Democrat Vernon K. Smith in the 1962 governor’s race and the rallying cry that I heard a few times that year in my hometown of Osburn. My dad, especially, thought Gov. Robert Smylie had been in office long enough and it was time for a change. Smith’s pro-gambling platform was an attraction to the Silver Valley, where backroom betting was a way of life in the mining community.

Things were a little gloomy in our house when we found out that Smylie had won election to a third term. My dad explained that politics is controlled by those in the southern part of the state and it didn’t matter what people in Shoshone County wanted.
During my professional career, I lived in Idaho Falls for six years and I have been living in Boise for the past 15 – long enough to know that Idahoans in the south are good people who do not carry pitchforks and have horns growing out of their heads. But in politics, they generally get what they want. And at the moment, there seems to be a conspiracy to prevent Silver Valley people from getting the kind of legislators they want in the Statehouse.

In recent years, the Silver Valley has been represented by Democrats with a conservative bent, such as Marti Calabretta, Larry Watson and Mary Lou Shepherd. Today, the Silver Valley delegation consists of two conservative lawmakers from far away – Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Rep. Paul Shepherd of Riggins. The third legislator, Rep. Shannon McMillan, lives in Silverton, but wins by big margins without carrying Shoshone County. Her close ties with Nuxoll and Shepherd give her a lot of votes in the south, making it nearly impossible to beat her in District 7.

A longtime friend of mine who helped draw up the legislative district map understands why people in Shoshone County don’t like the geographic makeup of District 7, but says there was no other way for the independent commission to come up with a plan that meets judicial approval. To people in Shoshone County, District 7 looks, feels and smells like gerrymandering to help the most conservative members of the GOP caucus.

“It’s next to impossible for a Democrat to win,” said Casey Drews, who is opposing Nuxoll but has been more focused on preparing for her bar exam. “They have created the largest district in the state, which already has the largest county in the state – Idaho County, which covers 9,000 square miles. That’s bigger than multiple states in the nation. It’s impossible to campaign there effectively.”

Shepherd and Nuxoll are fine with the arrangement, because they live there. For McMillan, there’s hardly a need to go there. (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)

Revolution concert house sued as nuisance (Boise Statesman)
Idaho gay marriage case hits 9th circuit (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Former first lady Jacque Batt dies (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Clarkston looks again at zoning for pot (Lewiston Tribune)
Houses threatened by grass fire (Moscow News)
Syringa Mobile Home park case continues (Moscow News)
Evaluating changed Nampa downtown traffic (Nampa Press Tribune)
TF preparing for another canyon rocket ride (TF Times News)

Corvallis yield large crowd on pot debate (Corvallis Gazette)
Warning signs posted at Hagg drawning site (Corvallis Gazette)
Ownership change at Euphoria Chocolate Co (Eugene Register Guard)
Debate rages on old city hall building (Eugene Register Guard)
Cover Oregon works on correcting tax error (KF Herald & News)
Medford Rogues calls halt to cage fights (Medford Tribune)
Deer herds near Roseburg hit by disease (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton missed ballot deadline for bond (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Ambre energy appeals state terminal rejection (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton will keep crime lab (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Legislators too propose ending Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
What's the future for Treasurer Wheeler? (Salem Statesman Journal)

Senior projects end in WA schools (Bremerton Sun)
Tri-City schools see higher enrollment (Kennewick Herald)
Hop farmers grow big 29,000 acres of hops (Kennewick Herald)
Workers say prison violence data skewed (Kennewick Herald)
Wyoming joins suit on OR coal terminal block (Longview News)
Values of property still upward in Cowlitz (Longview News)
I-5 Olympia work will mean traffic jams (Olympian)
Seattle will turn vacant lots into mini-parks (Seattle Times)
Idaho gay marriage ban hits 9th circuit (Spokane Spokesman)
Mars Hill cut back at Tacoma (Tacoma News Tribune)
Longshoremen back 'superior' grain deal (Vancouver Columbian)
Spas at Yakima examined for sex trafficking (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima sheriff candidates do battle (Yakima Herald Republic)