Writings and observations


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)

Problems in Idaho mental illness system (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing the Simpson-Stallings race (Boise Statesman)
Following up on Marysville shooting (Moscow News)
Caldwell council president Blacker dies (Nampa Press Tribune)
App helps voters find polling places (Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing candidates resumes for superintendent (TF Times News)
Freight fees hitting Idaho exporters (TF Times News)

Eugene considers adding 700 acres (Eugene Register Guard)
Benton-Linn college issue would upgrade sites (Corvallis Gazette)
Medford homeless shelter has bedbugs (Medford Tribune)
Story behind $95k architect’s fee in Portland (Portland Oregonian)
Stability in Oregon unemployment rates (Salem Statesman Journal)
Salem considers water, sewer rate hikes (Salem Statesman Journal)

Another Marysville shooting victim dies (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Olympian)
Cowlitz law enforcement seeks new gun range (Longview News)
Tulalip Tribe confronts shooting (Longview News)
Raises for state nonunion workers surprise (Olympian)
State high court hears charter school case (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Port Angeles chamber leader nears retirement (Port Angeles News)
Hospitals around WA compared on web site (Port Angeles News)
Reviewing Seattle smart parking system (Spokane Spokesman)
Feeder reail lines looking for help (Spokane Spokesman)
Breast cancer license plates ahead (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


Donald Trump has been divorced more times than the number of people who’ve died of Ebola in this country.

I hate to do that to you but someone has to put the Ebola story in perspective. That statement alone is clearer than nearly any national media coverage these days. Or, most of the garbage emanating from the mouths of too many politicians. Seldom has this country heard more fear-mongering, baseless information and verbal garbage on any issue.

Just to be perfectly clear: one person has died of Ebola on U.S. soil. Well, Texas, actually, but close to U.S. soil. He died after contracting Ebola overseas and bringing it with him to a hospital that – through something close to medical incompetence – was where he died. One person. One!

National media coverage has been, more often than not, outrageous. Fearful headlines making otherwise respectable major newspapers and broadcasters look like tabloids at the market. Near-factless reporting from outside hospitals that simply repeated the same old minimal information over and over and over. Same crap – different faces.

The most absurd television “coverage” to me was the so-called “patient transfer” that consisted of nighttime chopper shots of an ambulance doing 25 mph with five cop cars ahead and five behind. For nearly an hour. No one had any proof an Ebola “patient” was inside and it really didn’t matter. Could have been two medics playing Gin, for all we know.

And the “news” conferences. Newsless in too many cases. The other night, Rachel Maddow wasted an entire hour showing many “continuing coverage” shots of an empty rostrum in New York where we were supposed to get an update on the latest Ebola patient. A whole hour. Not to be outdone, “Faux Neuws” did the same. That’ll show those damned liberals!

And the talking heads. Far too many have had no more to offer than what they’d read or heard in other media “stories.” Then, there were the two chiefs from NIH and CDC that literally raced from network to network for days to repeat the same comforting messages that things would be alright.

Of course, there were the politicians mouthing off without engaging brains. One in the House repeatedly shouted to all assembled he wanted all flights to this country from affected African countries halted immediately. It was days later he found out there are no flights directly to this country from that part of Africa. None.

And there was Rep. Jason Chaffetz from Utah’s Third District, loudly disparaging the Obama administration for not having appointed a surgeon general to take charge of these catastrophic events. What escaped him was the President DID make a surgeon general appointment earlier this year. One that spineless senators killed at the behest of the NRA because the nominee wrote, some years ago, gun violence was a public health problem.

There were more. Many, many more examples of politicians and media speaking with no facts, using inflammatory and/or ignorant language, trying to make stories where there were no stories and spreading unfounded information. All of which added to the fears of many viewers and readers simply looking for facts while finding few. It continues today.

With the exception of the NBC News cameraman who contracted Ebola on assignment in Africa while working extensively around Ebola victims, all who’ve been diagnosed in this country were health care workers obviously not trained or properly equipped for treating the disease. The one death was that of a man who came in direct and prolonged contact with an Ebola victim in Africa and then brought his contagion to this country. Even his family members – with whom he lived for a week before presenting symptoms – were not infected.

We live in a society conditioned to believe the worst in nearly everything. We’ve become comfortable with what we know and fearful of learning. Too many have surrounded themselves with like-minded people and like-minded media to the exclusion of facts they don’t agree with or don’t even know exist. Or both. I call it the “Palin Syndrome” – “I know what I know and I don’t need to know any more.” Like a member of Congress blaming an administration for no surgeon general appointee who doesn’t know other members of the same Congress scuttled the named appointment.

Ebola is not going to be a national epidemic. And that’s a fact.

People often say “Oh, I don’t believe the media – or politicians – anymore.” Much of our media – and too many of our politicians – can be faulted for cheap, surface and often questionable coverage or comments on events. The Ebola hype we’re living with these days is proof.

Not all reporting has been questionable, of course. But too many people see only the one perspective of the one media that most often agrees with their thinking. Same with their politicians. If the source is contaminated, Ebola isn’t our only national disease.

With apologies to the former Mrs. Trumps.

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idaho RANDY

The tragedy of this latest school shooting, Friday morning at the Marysville-Pilchuk school, is as they all have been, a sad and appalling loss of human lives, and especially of human lives with so much potential ahead.

And yet one different kind of lesson seems to come out of this new shooting, and it is this: Don’t lump them all together and imagine that all, together, stand explained.

We’ve had enough school shootings that a standard profile has developed. An outsider kid, a trenchcoat-wrapped loner with few friends at school and a fascination with guns and other weaponry, coupled with a super-heroic (or anti-heroic) complex, roars into the school like a would-be Terminator and opens fire with his automatic (or semi-automatic) weapon on whoever happens to be around, killing and wounding as many as possible. The mass murder is the point; the identity of the victims doesn’t matter.

Little of that explains this case. The student here, according to numerous reports (including those from families of the victims), was Jaylen Fryberg, a freshman football player, voted class “prince,” sometimes a class comic, and popular with both other students and adults. He was pegged by adults as a prospective community leader.

His weapon was not an automatic or even a rifle, but apparently a small handgun. He did not fire randomly, and he did not fire at anyone in authority. Walking into the school cafeteria, he took aim at specific people, people he knew – the two boys he shot were cousins of his – ad his motive may have been very specifically personal – one of the girls shot had apparently angered him for declining to go on a date.
None of this lessens the tragedy or the loss, or the shock in the community.

But there is this: It seems a little closer than some of the other shootings to being at least somehow explicable, a little less random.

And maybe too there’s this: Let’s not assume that all these shootings are all the same. They are all distinctive and consequently none have been entiurely predictable.
Maybe that’s just a little more true in this case.

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Washington Washington column


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)

Reviewing job of a coroner/death investigator (Boise Statesman)
An overview of Idaho’s mental health system (Boise Statesman)
Lead poisoning at gun ranges, from Seattle Times (Boise Statesman)
Inside the problems of Odyssey Charter School (IF Post Register, TF Times News)
Reviewing the Simpson-Stallings race (IF Post Register)
Wine returning to the Lewiston area (Lewiston Tribune)
Voters guide for Canyon County (Nampa Press Tribune)
Superintendent of Public Instruction race roars on (Nampa Press Tribune)
Big fossil found near American Falls (Pocatello Journal)
Talking to ministers on gay marriage (TF Times News)
Governor candidates talk about education (TF Times News)

Some parents opt out of Common Core (Eugene Register Guard)
Kaiser plans expanded health at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
What to do on fire-damaged forest acreage? (KF Herald & News)
Parties battle it out for legislative control (KF Herald & News)
A look at big-campaign finances (Medford Tribune)
More reviews of weed killer spraying (Portland Oregonian)
Another look comparing Merkley and Wehby (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon the center of the GMO label battle (Salem Statesman Journal)
The genealogical society looks for home (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviewing the Marysville shooting (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald)
Cowlitz homeless population may be dropping (Longview News)
Local impact of classroom size ballot issue (Longview News)
Assessing impact of Marysville on gun initiatives (Seattle Times, Longview News)
Looking at effects of gun initiatives (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Drawing out the numbers on crime’s impact (Vancouver Columbian)
What about tax free tobacco on reservations? (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY

Think for a moment of political news, background and impressions, falling from the skies upon the electorate, like rain. It may be the rain that soaks you and makes you wet and miserable or it may be the rain causing flowers to bloom and crops to grow. Depends on your perspective.

A good deal of such rain has fallen in Idaho’s campaign seasons this year. From the batch of scandal-like problems associated with Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (private prison, broadband for schools and more), to the financial issues attached to Treasurer Ron Crane, to the personal assessments of Secretary of State candidate Lawerence Denney, to the many missteps of Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Sherri Ybarra, and others too, there’s been a lot, especially of the negative kind. Republican candidates, who are the kind that almost always, in the last 20 years, have emerged winners in the November elections, have provided a lot of it.

This rain of bad headlines, gaffes, missteps and so on has been seized on by people watching Idaho’s elections, and with reason. Such problems have, in years past, derailed any number of Idaho candidates, and some of the complaints and criticisms have been serious enough to go to the heart of the jobs these people are seeking.

A meaningful political analysis has to go one step further, though. Even flood-level amounts of rain won’t make the crops grow or the flowers bloom if it does not fall on receptive soil. Rain falling on concrete simply runs off, at least in the short term.

Idaho’s electorate (to carry the analogy one uneasy step further) used to be gently rototilled, open to new information and ideas and news, willing to adjust its views. It has become less so in the last couple of decades – much more hard-packed, less receptive, than it used to be.

People looking for changes in, say, the governor’s race, need to look not just at the rain but at something that would churn the hard-packed soil, to make it more receptive to changes in the environment.

Maybe it’s there and just not very visible, but so far I’m not seeing much change on the ground. Nor am I picking up many indicators of it.

To explain this a little further, here’s a small plot of Idaho political ground where conditions may be more receptive: The race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. One factor is the many problems Republican Ybarra has faced, and the steady campaign of Democrat Jana Jones.

But as important as that is the ground surrounding Idaho voters’ relationship to the office. It was the last statewide office surrendered by Democrats, in 2006, and then only barely, so voters in recent years have been accustomed to and may be comfortable with a Democrat there, in a way not true in other offices. The job has been held for eight years by Republican Tom Luna, amid recurrent controversy, and in 2012 Luna’s signature education overhaul effort was decisively rejected by the voters. This was a distinctive message from the ground, a clear rejection of a major education policy backed by the state’s Republican establishment. The growing number of school levies, too, with their variable results, probably has affected voter attitudes toward education and state government.

In education and education politics, in other words, there’s been some churning of the ground. With that as a prerequisite, the steady rain of Ybarra’s problems – reaching a voting public listening to and absorbing the information, combined with a capable Jones campaign, may be enough to make a difference in 2014. The elements, at least, are there.

Has there been underground churning going on elsewhere? If you see many other Democratic wins on election day, that probably will mean there has. But if so, they’ve been quiet and underground.

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Idaho Idaho column


The overwhelmingly dominant news story today was the high school shooting in Marysville, one that seems to break the usual pattern of these events: The shooting apparently was not random or aimed at a large number of people, but was specific and personal, a more conventional murder. That will not make it less shocking.

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)

Gas prices fall at Lewiston area (Lewiston Tribune)
Two dead in Marysville school shooting (Moscow News)
More reports of sexual assaults at WSU this year (Moscow News)
Candidates closing in on last campaign days (TF Times News)

Action speeds up on I-5 cable barriers (Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette)
Two dead in Marysville school shooting (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Corvallis Gazette, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Much debate over drivers card issue (Corvallis Gazette)
Barnhart decries ads on killers early release (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath Trail Alliance digging at Spence Mountain (KF Herald & News)
Property taxes rising at Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Jackson sheriff defended in campaign fraud case (Medford Tribune)
House district 58 candidates both from little Cove (Pendleton E Oregonian)
DuPont Pioneer funds $4.6m against GMO issue (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Analysts look at predicting legislative races (Portland Oregonian)

Two dead in Marysville school shooting (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News)
Three new mental health facilities planned (Bremerton Sun)
Reviewing tornado damage in Longview (Longview News)
Pot ad features King sheriff, blasted by other sheriffs (Longview News)
Lacey budget maintains staff, programs (Olympian)
Ridgefield bans marijuana sales (Vancouver Columbian)
GOP officials filing ethics complain on funds transfer (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take



Being a second-generation Republican – Dad served the 6th District of Washington State as an “R” in the House for many terms, and was deemed a “troglodyte” by that state’s (also Republican) governor for his obstinance over raising taxes and his opposition to motorcycle helmet laws (“If the fools want to kill themselves, why is that our business?”) — this is a tough thing to say:

We are pulling a straight Democrat lever come next month’s county and state elections. Apologies to Butch and Lori Otter, who we respect and admire: If we thought our vote would matter we would throw it Butch’s way. But the reality is that loonies are running the asylum, and it’s time to kick the bastards out.

Never in Idaho politics has extremism so suffused Idaho’s governance. The Religious Right ought to re-think its agenda. They’re acting a lot like intolerant Muslims, and they are downright vicious. Toss ’em out.

There is so much cronyism going on in Shoshone County with this lot that your public profession for your love of Jesus Christ trumps your ability to run a calculator. If we may quote from the book of Matthew, it was Jesus himself who said:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Once again, let’s toss the Pharisees out. If we have to replace them with Democrats, sorry Dad, so be it.

On to Zipperheads, the rude bicyclists who infest our community in summer, buy nothing, and drive their bicycle-hauling Volvos and Priuses down Moon Pass at 50 miles an hour. Our column in the Shoshone News-Press was killed by an ex-Californian who is one of them. Forty years of reporting in northern Idaho silenced by this bozo, who has run for ever paying public office and never been elected.

We were feeling a tad chastened by this – maybe we got something wrong about these moochie, earth-loving humanoids – until breakfast this morning at the Snakepit on our way back from Spokane.

We were warmly greeted by the morning waitress who said, “We loved your column about rude bicycle riders.” Apparently, the Snakepit has to deal with these people every day, being a trail-head for the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. All these cyclists want is free water from them. She points them to the cooler, where the bottled water is, at a buck a pop.

Lastly, on to Wal-Mart. It’s a place everybody wants to pick on. Let us step aside from that noise.

On our hike back from Spokane, we were in search of a new computer modem because the local cable outfit “upgraded” itself without telling anyone, rendering everybody’s modem obsolete. We tried Best Buy first in Coeur d’Alene to buy one of these new devices but they were not yet open.

Two options for this needed new modem were left: Amazon or the Wal-Mart in Smelterville, Idaho. We took a chance on Wal-Mart.

(We do not shop at Wallyworld for groceries or other items our local stores stock, because we’d like to keep them open.)

But then we met Bmily, or Emily, depending on which way you looked at her name-tag. She gave us very savvy tech advice not only on the modem business, but with many other technical issues we have been tugging on this past year and could not get a straight answer from Google or our internet provider.

Bmliy/Emily was polite, enthused, courteous and well informed, and still has a few pimples. She was obviously not on commission: She sold us down from the $200 gizmo we were prepared to buy to the $100 gizmo, saying it would work just as well unless we were stuck on brand names – which we most assuredly are not. She helped us beat the System. Sam, if you’re reading this, give her a raise.

I pray for the US Senate to kick Harry Reid out even I wish for sentient Idaho Democrats to muck out this stone-bound legislature. And I thank goodness for the generation of Bmliy/Emily who might yet walk us out of this mire, by simple courtesy.

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jorgensen W. SCOTT

Conversations with Atiyeh

Last January, former Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh was the keynote speaker at an event put on by the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce at Happy Valley City Hall. Attendees included elected officials such as Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Canby) and Sen. Chuck Thomsen (R-Hood River).

Gov. Atiyeh was introduced by Verne Duncan, who has the unique distinction of having served in both the Idaho and Oregon legislatures. Duncan had worked as Oregon Superintendent of Schools during the Atiyeh administration.

The theme of Governor Atiyeh’s speech was “How to Use Statesmanship and Compromise.”

Atiyeh described the circumstances surrounding his initial decision to run for a seat in the Oregon House of Representatives.

Running for the Legislature

In his remarks, Governor Atiyeh provided much useful advice for the elected officials and would-be, potential and future officeholders present at the event.

Vic’s Words of Wisdom

Governor Atiyeh shared many of the principles that contributed to his success in the nearly three decades of public service that he gave to Oregon and its citizens.

The Virtues of Common Sense

The full transcripts of his remarks that day make up an entire chapter in my new book, Conversations with Atiyeh. It can be ordered by clicking here.

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books Jorgensen


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)

Otter talks with CCA on contract in 2013 (Boise Statesman)
Variable enrollments at state universities (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Another Jones-Ybarra debate, in Idaho Falls (IF Post Register)
Reviewing Idaho Fish & Game’s 75 years (IF Post Register)
Looking at building plans for WSU med school (Moscow News)
Otter paid, took footage from gay rights video (Nampa Press Tribune)
Simplot’s Nampa plant stays open longer, till 2015 (Nampa Press Tribune)
Magic Valley food banks need more food (TF Times News)
Write-in campaign for Lincoln Co commission (TF TImes News)

Rained hard on Wednesday, more ahead (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette)
Big campaign treasuries on GMO issue (Eugene Register Guard)
Studying links between ground and surface water (KF Herald & News)
H&N publisher Heidi Wright leaving, Mark Dobie incoming (KF Herald & News)
Oregon has been cutting time in class (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Release of GMO task force report (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Larger number of auto-wildlife collisions (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Problems with weed spraying by state agencies (Portland Oregonian)
Lawsuits with Oracle merged (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bremerton budget plan released (Bremerton Sun)
Renowned Four Swallows restaurant closed (Bremerton Sun)
Many errors in school bus traffic rules (Everett Herald)
County puts sewer repair on homeowner group (Everett Herald)
Tornado rips middle of Longview (Vancouver Columbian, Olympian, Longview News)
Former PUD execs fined (Longview News)
Reviewing local judicial campaign finance (Port Angeles News)
Amazon stock falls with earning report (Seattle Times)
Paul Allen will continue $100m against ebola (Seattle Times)
Judge won’t allow release of stripper license info (Tacoma News Tribune)
Cowlitz Tribe may get federal acreage (Vancouver Columbian)
Analyst: Yakima basin still needs more water (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


Men. Hang in there! Especially you unmarried ones. The numbers are shifting in your favor. Just wait for it.

There are currently 103 million folks over the age of 18 in this country who aren’t married. That’s 44.1% of all of us.

But, here’s the good news, guys. Of the 103 million singles, 53.6% are women – 46.4% men. Works out to 100 unmarried women for every 87 men. And the gap is widening. Sociologists have several theories. More women pursuing professional careers – many deciding against being mothers – some in same sex relationships which were not so numerous in the 2010 census – some not wanting to be married – some in long-term relationships while remaining single – more women living longer than men.

In fact, we’re told about 56 million households are maintained by unmarried men and women. That’s some 46% of all households.

There are about 17 million Americans over the age of 65 who aren’t married – some 16% of all single folks. A lot more women than men there.

Also, this statistic. In a population of just over 300 million, about 33 million people live alone. And that figure has increased about 10% in the last 40 years.

So, here’s what we have. More people keeping their single status. More keeping it longer – more keeping it permanently. More people creating households of families without being married. More people living longer and not marrying or remarrying. Legal recognition of same sex relationships in more states – married or not. Number of children per household going down. Just some of the social shifts taking place.

Which prompts this question. Is there now – or will there be – a political effect because of all this? Hard to tell. But those who call themselves political “professionals” should keep these stats handy. Because, just as we’re changing racially as a nation, there are many sociological patterns shifting under our feet. These are just a few. Demographers are finding people are living longer. They’re better educated. They’re forming different types of family units. There are more interracial and same sex marriages. All these factors – and a few dozen more – are just as important as that change of racial balance.

Now, add one more ingredient. An angry – very angry – voting population made up of these ever-changing groups. In the 2012 elections, many pollsters, many politicians and too many media sources badly missed determining – in advance – the mood of people at the ballot box. Too much statistical research was done to support a political point of view rather than pure analytics. A lot of politicians and their supporters accepted only their own sampling, weighted – in many cases – to confirm what they wanted to hear. In the end, their circuitous, closed process let them down – hard.

There were many elections over many years that simply built upon the rather static sociological patterns existing in the nation after World War II – patterns we now know no longer exist. In just the last dozen years, so much has changed in how we live, what we think and what we’ll accept as a society.

The 2014 elections are going to be very, very important for many reasons. Not just for the outcomes. But also for what the postmortems tell us about who we are now, how we live now and what we think as a nation. Now. Today. Researchers are already poised at computers – ready to sift through the mountains of information yet to be collected.

It could be – from a “getting-to-know-you” point of view – the 2014 elections may be the most important off-year balloting in our lifetimes.

You shouldn’t miss it.

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