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Posts published in September 2014

End of the food chain

rainey BARRETT


Collectively, Barb and I’ve lived in many different environments across our very large country. New York City (9 million folks) to Middleton, Idaho, when it was about 1,200. Always new experiences. But we’ve never lived in a more remote, end-of-the-food-chain location than the Oregon coast.

Lots of people want to live by the sea. Even many who’ve never seen more water in one place than a swimming pool. The idea’s been so romanticized - and commercialized - that many folks spend lots of time poring over computer-enhanced pictures of coastlines, ships, lighthouses and empty oceanscapes. Being an old Oregonian, I’ve fantasized about it for years. So, when the wife decided that’s where we ought to be, I was O.K. with it.

And here we are.

To make my point of being unaware of life’s little things we take for granted, here’s something you might not know. Every President of the United States during my lifetime has made the same personal admission after being in that office a few months. Different words, maybe, but same thought. Long-term politician or newbies in national politics, all of them - all - have admitted they never really knew the full scope of the job. Even Bush-the-elder - with decades of elective and appointive experience - said the day-to-day experience of being President was something he was not totally prepared for.

Well, my friends, so is the awakening to the realities of living on the Oregon coast. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. Most of the time. We like it. We’re adjusting. But, like Bush-the-first, the realities are not something we were entirely prepared for.

In the month of May, I wanted a new long-sleeved shirt for some reason. There was one “department” store in our area - the only one within 50 miles. I looked and looked but could find only short-sleeved. When I asked the clerk where the long-sleeved ones were, she said “We only stock them September through April.” I made do. We’ve learned to “make do” a lot.

There’s one store in our town that sells TVs. Just one. I was in the other day and counted six. Not six of one size. Six in ALL sizes.

There are three new car dealers 30 miles from where we live. All in the same town. I recently had the need for someone to apply some striping and decals to our new RV. At all three dealers I was told, “Well, there’s this one guy we use. But he’s going through a messy divorce right now and doesn’t want to be bothered.” The decals are still in the shipping box. And will likely stay there until that one guy gets his life reorganized. (more…)

In the Briefings

Ice Harbor Dam

Ice Harbor Dam, on the lower Snake River near Pasco, has been a fruitful site for technical innovations that are helping increase the survival of endangered and threatened fish passing federal dams. (Photo/ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, by David G. Rigg)


A week of fall kicking in: Football at Seattle and the opening of schools around the state. Otherwise, a relatively quiet news week. But with campaigns about to kick in, that won't last long.

Check the massive proposal project coming to the Port of Portland (see the economics section in the Oregon issue). This is a potentially major project, with all kinds of implications, which so far has gotten very little reaction or reportage in regional news media.

In Idaho: The decision was only preliminary – not deciding the case but only choosing to keep it alive – but the decision by Federal Judge Lynn Winmill on the state's “ag-gag” law will be closely parsed in coming weeks. A close reading finds some suggestion that Winmill sees significant argument for tossing the law. What kind of negotiations may be quietly underway in this area over the next few weeks?

If you're not subscribing to the Weekly Briefings, you're missing out on what's happening in your state and the Northwest. Send me a note for a sample copy.

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)

Gay marriage cases go to appeals court (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Ombudsman considers records law changes (Lewiston Tribune, TF Times News)
Public reviews Nampa charter school plan (Nampa Press Tribune)
Growing the Caldwell greenbelt (Nampa Press Tribune)
Luna awards $271 in staff bonuses (TF Times News)

Timberhill fire called human-caused (Corvallis Gazette)
UO program focuses on childhood obesity (Eugene Register Guard)
Western gay marriage cases in court (Eugene Register Guard)
Smoke from fire may go away today (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune)
State helps Phoenix employment hub (Medford Tribune)
Cogen becomes charter school group leader (Portland Oregonian)
Riverfront Park sees pipeline costs (Salem Statesman Journal)

New hardware tore in Bremerton (Bremerton Sun)
Possible new forest rules on logging safety (Everett Herald)
Jail considers ICE deportation procedures (Everett Herald)
Reviewing 4th district House race (Kennewick Herald)
Damage from abandoned crab pots (Olympian)
Lewis-McChord soldiers sent to Asia (Olympian)
Sequim considers city hall building options (Port Angeles News)
Mars Hill church cutting back, laying off (Seattle Times)
The battles over wind power (Seattle Times)
Massage parlor licenses yanked at Yakima (Yakima Herald Republic)
Look ahead to hospital consolidation (Yakima Herald Republic)

A gradual slowing down?

idaho RANDY

This is the point at which general election campaigns start to ramp up, kick into gear, run their ads and hit their top pace. Especially in places like Oregon and Washington, where the effective campaign season only runs until the ballots hit the mail in mid-to-late October.

A campaign that seems to be moving in the other direction: The Senate campaign of Monica Wehby.
The main point here is the cancellation by Freedom Partners – which is to say the Koch Brothers – of more than a million dollars of television advertising in the Oregon Senate race, on Republican Wehby's behalf.

The most likely reason is analysis showing that in a year packed with close U.S. Senate races, Oregon's increasingly isn't looking likely to be one of them. Last week also saw release of a Rasmussen poll showing Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley with a solid and persistent lead over Wehby.

There could be another factor, too. Ads taking after an incumbent senator necessarily have to go negative, but push the harshness too far and it can backfire, notably in Oregon, which generally likes its politics civil. Freedom Partners ads are not noted for their gentle touch, and someone may have started to figure out that their approach wasn't getting the job done.

They also provided a fine target for Merkley, who described the “Koch/Wehby agenda” as “reward[ing] corporations that ship jobs overseas” and “gutting the clean air act.” Wehby's campaign took issue with some of the specifics, but the link to the Kochs ensured the damage was done.

The early Wehby campaign TV spots didn't notably exhibit that problem; they focused on introducing the Portland physician in a positive way, and settling for a slogan, “Keep your doctor, change your senator.”

Going that far did no harm to Wehby's campaign, but it wasn't pushing it forward either. In an age when TV ads are becoming less effective generally, a video has to make a major splash to have a real effect. Her most recent recent ads, which have avoided directly mentioning Merkley, have not been a major departure, but neither are they likely to get people talking. With the end of native Koch ads, she may have to change tack. The problem is that the larger the splash, the more uncertain the potential fallout.

It all has the feel of a gradual slowdown.

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)

Ombudsman sees change to public records law (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register)
New security kicks in at BSU football games (Boise Statesman)
More complaints about Optum Idaho Medicaid (IF Post Register)
Profiling former senator McGee (Nampa Press Tribune)
More pot grow sites found in Cassia county (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello council seeks investigative audit (Pocatello Journal)
Looking at possibility of another canyon jump (TF Times News)

Wildfire rages west of Cottage Grover (Eugene Register Guard)
Civic leaders try to raise stadium funds (Eugene Register Guard)
Bates-Dotterrer race may be costly (Medford Tribune)
Lots of electricity for pot grown indoors (Portland Oregonian)
The thinness of restraining orders (Salem Statesman Journal)

Tree farm trails may proliferate (Bremerton Sun)
Boeing to revamp Paine Field production space (Everett Herald)
Cities will get charged more for jail costs (Everett Herald)
University battle over tri-city med programs (Kennewick Herald)
Debate over new West Main St in Kelso (Longview News)
Corrections whistleblowers claim retaliation (Olympian)
Microsoft hoping Windows 9 will be game changer (Seattle Times)
Reviewing solar power gains in WA (Seattle Times)
Reviewing status of aquifer beneath Spokane (Spokane Spokesman)
Lewis-McChord soliders sent to east Asia (Tacoma News Tribune)
Criticisms of Vancouver SWAT force (Vancouver Columbian)
State transportation plan draft nearly out (Vancouver Columbian)
Massage parlor raids yield 6 arrests (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima hospitals could consolidate (Yakima Herald Republic)
Questions over sheriff's discipline records (Yakima Herald Republic)

Underground school support

idaho RANDY

Here's a concept to get your mind around: On-line physical education in schools. That is, taught from outside of school. Or something.

This unlikely idea surfaced at the Lapwai School District after voters there on August 26 turned down a quarter-million dollar one-year levy. It wasn't close; just 41 percent of voters approved it. It was the second recent levy failure, after voters rejected a larger one in May.

Afterward, District Superintendent David Aiken said the effects will include elimination of in-person physical education. The school gym and equipment will remain available but, he told the Lewiston Tribune, “the teacher is on the other side of the computer.”

Try for a moment to imagine how well this is going to work.

Threats to athletics traditionally have been one of the last-ditch and most successful maneuvers to get patrons to cough up additional school money, but the Lapwai example suggests that in Idaho, at least in some places, even that isn't enough.

Levies and bonds failed in a number of other places as well, but Lapwai was one of the few places in Idaho where a financing proposal failed to pull well over 50 percent of the vote. That's all most levies need to pass, but bonds (because of longer-term indebtedness) require two thirds. In Lapwai, a majority opposed the tax increase. In how many other districts last month was that true?

Voters in just one district passed bond issues with the required two-thirds-plus: New Plymouth. But others cleared the 50 percent mark, sometimes easily. West Ada (formerly Meridian) proposed a truly massive bond measure, $104 million for a range of projects broad enough voters could be forgiven for not wrapping their minds around all of them. The bond plan failed – but it picked up 63 percent of the vote, a strong majority. (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)

Middleton council member faces sex charge (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Natural gas costs rising again (Boise Statesman)
Concerns about explosion at Teton Dam site (IF Post Register)
State denied dismissal of ag-gag suit (IF Post Register)
Luna talks about pay raises in department (Lewiston Tribune)
Students back, lots of Moscow cop calls (Moscow News)
Palouse found to have nuisance nematodes (Moscow News)
College of Idaho Coyotes football is back (Nampa Press Tribune)
Middleton drops sheriff contract (Nampa Press Tribune)
New York play named for Pocatello (Pocatello Journal)
State panel will consider teacher pay (TF Times News)
New state Republican leaders seeks end to fights (TF Times News)

Big brush fire threatens Corvallis homes (Corvallis Gazette)
Director of old Majestic Theatre resigns (Corvallis Gazette)
Veneta call center adds 100 employees (Eugene Register Guard)
Groups discuss elections reforms in OR (Eugene Register Guard)
Court review stops klamath water shutoff (KF Herald & News)
Kitzhaber proposes splitting up Cover Oregon (Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)
OR-7 and pups determined to be all wolf (Medford Tribune)
Deal reached on Monsanto wheat release (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Exchange miscalculated some tax benefits (Portland Oregonian)

State cuts mobile home dealer license (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish pays $575 in public records suit (Everett Herald)
Snohomish reviews finance employee actions (Everett Herald)
Lots of bicycle thefts this summer (Olympian)
Tree-crash survivors win $10m from state (Seattle Times)
Ben Burr bike trail at Spokane nearly done (Spokane Spokesman)
State prepaid tuition financially recovers (Tacoma News Tribune)
Rivers proposes new pot bill (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima looks to grow its mental health court (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima attorney disbarred (Yakima Herald Republic)

Crapo and the veterans

carlson CHRIS


Idaho’s senior senator, Mike Crapo, spent a large part of the August Congressional recess listening to Idaho’s veterans. He deserves genuine kudos for doing so, especially when one realizes he is neither a veteran nor a member of the Senate’s Veterans Affairs committee.

Asked if there was something in particular that had motivated the interest, such as a member of his extended family who was ill-served by the VA, an aide replied “nope.” The aide said it was a function more of the senator having encountered too many stories of average citizens who had served their country not being treated in a manner consistent with their service and sacrifice.

Additionally, with national attention focusing on the deficiencies of many VA hospitals around the country, the senator saw Congress typically reacting with a “just throw more money at the problem approach.”

Not necessarily doubting that in some instances more money might help, the senator, who soon may be in a position to chair the Finance committee when (not if, folks) the Republicans take over the Senate, nonetheless wants to know if the tax dollar is being spent wisely, efficiently and is effectively bringing about the changes many veterans say the overly bureaucratic, paper-heavy system needs.

(Somewhat surprisingly, Senator Crapo’s colleague, Senator Jim “No” Risch, also voted yes on the final funding increase bill for the VA .)

A good way to do that is to establish a baseline poll and then measure the audience a year or two down the road. Thus, Senator Crapo has on his website a short six question survey which can be filled out online or by folks who obtain a copy at the various town hall meetings he held as he traveled around the state.

Taking proper care of veterans should not be a partisan issue, either, the senator rightly says. For a number of years the committee chair was Washington state’s senior senator, Patty Murray. The ranking minority member was Idaho’s Larry Craig. He and Murray did work well together.

Murray was especially eloquent when speaking about the heavy emotional toll the Iraq and Afghan engagements were having on families. The divorce rate among those serving overseas was an astronomical 75%. Few marriages survived and the toll on children as well as spouses was devastating and costly.

What Senator Crapo has astutely done is establish a grass roots focus group and baseline of over a thousand veterans and/or family members. When he next surveys them he will have a good idea whether reform has really come to the VA and services are uniformly being delivered efficiently and effectively. (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)

Ballots in Boise school election compromised (Boise Statesman)
Idaho Falls still considering Odyssey Charter (IF Post Register)
New fire chief named at IF (IF Post Register)
New GOP leader Yates reviews state of his party (IF Post Register)
Website verbiage copied by superintendent candidate (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Moscow News)
Moscow helps affordable housing group (Moscow News)
Canyon reviews exemptions for hospital property tax (Nampa Press Tribune)
USDA calls TF, Jerome disaster areas (TF Times News)

Farm gear manufacturer heads to Coburg (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath activists join in GMO battle (KF Herald & News)
Pot tax considered by Medford council (Medford Tribune)
No medical pot tax in city of Talent (Medford Tribune)
Medford budgets $13m for North Foothill road (Medford Tribune)
County blasts state increase in landfill fee (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Portland nonprofit leader lied on resume (Portland Oregonian)
How Portland schools meet class time standards (Portland Oregonian)
State fish, wildlife director departs (Salem Statesman Journal)

Deputy Snohomish Exec Haakenson retires (Everett Herald)
Marysville schools get $1.3 million grant (Everett Herald)
State battle over organ donation (Kennewick Herald)
Position results in Hanford vapor checks (Kennewick Herald)
More coal ships may run through Longview (Longview News)
King sheriff's internal watchdog quits (Seattle Times)
Seattle Seahawks open season with win (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald)
Spokane law enforcement tested on shooting (Spokane Spokesman)
Stewart reviews couty office run (Vancouver Columbian)
Improved travel economy helping business (Yakima Herald Republic)

Remembering Atiyeh

jorgensen W. SCOTT

Conversations with Atiyeh

Friends, family, well-wishers, elected officials and Oregonians from all walks of life descended upon the state capitol in Salem yesterday morning for the memorial service of former Governor Vic Atiyeh.

The service was held on the floor of the House of Representatives, which began to fill up an hour before the ceremony. Smiles and friendly chatter flowed freely, with several stories about the former governor shared among those who knew him.

Speakers included Gerry Thompson, who served as chief of staff in the Atiyeh administration.

Thompson said that the administration faced 12 percent unemployment, a prime interest rate of 20 percent, 14 percent inflation and an “abysmal” national economy.

“Believe me, it was not an easy time,” Thompson said.

As Thompson told an anecdote about a trip Atiyeh took to Southern California to honor former President Gerald Ford, one could almost picture the two leaders reunited in the afterlife playing another round of golf together.

Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem) affectionately recalled the twinkle in the governor’s eye. She described how a cross-burning incident in suburban Milwaukie prompted Atiyeh to enact laws making racial and religious harassment a felony in Oregon.

“The governor had a unique understanding of diversity,” Winters said.

Another former governor, Barbara Roberts, described the work she did with the governor while she served as House Majority Leader. Those times involved multiple special legislative sessions and budget cuts, yet the two set aside their partisan differences and overcame those challenges.

“That’s the job of leaders, and Vic lead,” Roberts said. “He loved Oregon, and was so proud to be a native Oregonian.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) praised the way Atiyeh always took the high road.

“He never thought of someone else as an enemy,” Walden said. “Vic was genuine, and he was honest.”

Vic’s daughter, Suzanne, described the former governor as a patient and kind father whose true talent was love. She said he lead a lifetime of doing the right thing and taught his children that responsibility was an honor.

A flower bouquet sent from officials in China was on display outside of the House chamber during the ceremony. It was yet another reminder of the bridges that Governor Vic Atiyeh built over international waters for the good of all Oregonians.

W. Scott Jorgensen has worked as an award-winning reporter for various publications throughout Oregon, and was a news director and talk show host for the Grants Pass Broadcasting Corporation. He has also been an aide in the Oregon House of Representatives and a field organizer for a successful statewide ballot measure campaign.