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Posts published in October 2014

Let’s get together

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

We’re still killing people in our homeland prisons. Death penalty it’s called. Makes no difference whether you support such extreme societal retribution or you don’t, it’s always a bit jarring to read morning headlines telling of another overnight execution.

Texas has done it again. That’s nine for the year. While Texas is the “death penalty capital” of the country, about half the 50 states still kill someone from time to time. Happens often enough reporting of the details shouldn’t be unsettling. But it usually is.

Oregon hasn’t killed anyone for awhile. Not because the law doesn’t allow for it. The governor just won’t let it happen on his watch. Not sure what the legal entanglements are for having a law on the books that the chief executive won’t enforce. But, hell, we have sheriffs ignoring black letter law for all sorts of things. And that Nevada BLM freeloader backed down the government with no retribution so far. In fact, a lot of folks - in law enforcement and out - seem to treat laws as “suggestions” rather than requirements for some sort of action. Pickin’ and choosin’ so what’s one more governor, right?

But how ‘bout that death penalty? You for it? Opposed to it? Don’t give a damn either way? I think most folks fall into that last category. Haven’t given the subject a lot of quiet time to think on it and have no hard-and-fast feelings. Many who’re for it have personal experiences related to some horrible crime or know someone who has. And a lot of folks opposed have religious or other personal reasons. Unlike that old sure-to-arouse topic of abortion where people are hard one way or the other, the subject of killing bad guys (and bad women) seems mushy by comparison.

Every time I hear someone sound off on “state’s rights” or “get the government out of my life,” several subjects come to mind. The death penalty is one. How we vote is another. Drivers licenses, too. There are a few others on my list but the point is this: some times having 50 states do things we all do 50 different ways makes more of a mess of our democracy than it should.

Take driver’s licenses. I’ve had to apply for a license in quite a few states over the years. Aside from whether a school zone is 20 or 25mph or a particular states top speed on an Interstate, all the questions have been pretty much the same. Never had a single one about driving in snow which would make those same Wyoming tests valid in Florida.

The point is, some careful standardizing of a few minimal issues could result in a single license. Might develop some sort of short study requirement for unique local laws but that could be handled on the I-net and we could all avoid the dreaded DMV.

Same thing for insuring our vehicles. One set of standards for all. Liability is liability and most other driving issues are nearly all the same no matter where you live.

And voting? Just look at the current 50 state voting situations. Nearly a dozen of ‘em are trying (unconstitutionally I believe) to disenfranchise minority citizens because nutball Republicans want to win more elections. Sorry, my Republican friends, but there ain’t a state with a Democrat majority where the same thing is happening. Not one.

If more states like mine (Oregon at the moment) would go to our nearly foolproof system of voting-by-mail, using a single set of national voting eligibility requirements, we wouldn’t have civil rights lawyers running to the courts to protect the guaranteed rights of hundreds of thousands of minority citizens. In all the years Oregon has conducted hundreds and hundreds of elections - local-state-federal- you can count confirmed cases of voter fraud on less than the fingers on your right hand! And our turnouts for those elections have been notably higher than nearly any other state. Year after year after year.

Back to the death penalty. Is it a “state’s rights” issue? Or a moral issue? Should you be more likely do die for committing a crime just because you live in Texas rather than Idaho or Utah? Does that make death penalties more a “geographic residence” issue than a criminal one?

Take Idaho. Please! (Sorry, Henny.) Idaho has all the requisite laws to kill bad guys but doesn’t do it very much. There’s a guy named Creech who’s killed several folks over the years. Inside prison and out. He first went to Idaho’s version of death row in the 1970's where he killed again. Still there. And he’ll likely die there. Sentenced to death several times. In Oregon, as long as the current governor continues being our governor, Mr. Creech could get yet another four year guaranteed reprieve after the November elections. Which our current governor will win. See what I mean by “residence” issue? (more…)

Voting options for Oregon

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Almost a hundred people attended The Equal Vote Conference held at the University of Oregon Law School Saturday October 4th

Former Attorney General Dave Frohnmayer greeted the attendees/ The conference focused on election reforms and featured a debate between proponents and opponents of Measure 90 (top two primary).

The conference opened with explanations of two main voting reforms. Rob Richie Executive Director of FairVote.org presented the case for preferential voting with instant runoff elections (IRV), while Aaron Hamlin from the Center For Election Science, argued the benefits of Approval Voting as a superior voting system.

That session was followed by Jackie Salit, a national figure promoting the rights of independent voters and President of IndependentVoting.org. Salit humorously recounted listening to OPB’s “Think Out Loud” while in her rental car driving to Eugene from Roseberg, where she had met with an organization of independent voters the day before. The OPB analysts had seemed confused how the pro top two primary coalition could include both major candidates for Governor, the Working Families Party, wealthy philanthropists, independent voters and businesses, while opponents included the leaders of both the Democratic and Republican Parties. She was not shocked about the inability of the political establishment to understand the independent voter movement. However she noted the movement’s positive influence on politics already. “We’ve brought the Democratic and Republican Parties together and reduced partisanship” Salit joked.

A panel discussion followed Salit’s presentation. Salit Joined minor party leaders Barbara Hughes of the Working Families Party, Blair Bobier of the Pacific Green Party, Dan Meek of the Independent Party of Oregon. Hughes said the Working Families Party was in favor of M-90. Bobier explained that the Pacific Green Party was in favor of election reform, but not M-90. Bobier beleived it would lead to the elimination of smaller minor parties and business interests would dominate the general election.

Dan Meek said the Independent Party platform focused on anti corruption and that election reform was a major part of the anti corruption efforts. Meek said that the inability of non affiliated voters to participate in the May primary would be addressed by 2016. By that date, according to Meek, the IPO would have reached major party status and participate in the May primary along with the Democratic and Republican parties. The IPO intended to allow non affiliated voters to participate in IPO primary elections. Given the growth of the IPO and non affiliated voters, and the decrease in GOP membership, it’s likely an open IPO primary would have more eligible voters than the GOP primary. (NOTE: Shortly after the conference the IPO formally endorsed M-90)

The next main session was a debate on Measure 90 between proponents Chief Petitioner Jim Kelly, and co draftsperson Mark Frohnmayer and opponents Rep. Phil Barnhart and Lane County Democratic Chair Julie Fahey. There were two memorable things from the debate. First, Barnharts continued refusal to answer questions he finds difficult. He simply labels them red herrings. And Second, Barnhart revealed that Democrat Rep. Val Hoyle was drafting a Democratic Party election change that would allow non affiliated voters to participate in the May primary election. They would simply have to request a Democratic of Republican ballot and wouldn’t be required to change party affiliation. This is actually a more restrictive type of semi open primary.

While the Hoyle proposal is a concession to voters unhappiness with Oregon’s closed primary, it’s worth noting that in New Hampshire, the only legally recognized political parties are the Democratic and Republican. How any election changes based on a State where the election laws have resulted in only two legally recognized political parties can fairly be characterized as “reform” I’d like explained to me. (1)

Some observations/comments: (more…)

On the front pages

news

Oregon newspapers were enthralled by the Cylvia Hayes green card marriage story, in which the Oregon first lady acknowledged she had one engaged in a sham marriage (against the law) to help an immigrant from Ethiopia, for pay. It was an embarrassing story but its political impact is likely to be minor, and may have helped the Kitzhaber side politically in another way - it got far more attention than, and tended to obscure, another story about Hayes' consulting business getting contracts from people and groups who might be seeking a relationship with the state. That second story could actually be politically damaging, but few Oregonians will be talking about it today.

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)

Governor candidates have Idaho Falls debate (IF Post Register)
IF zoo kept employee despite inappropriateness (IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, Pocatello Journal, Moscow News)
Idaho gay activists file with Supreme Court (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Employers not easily finding skilled workers (Nampa Press Tribune)
New library dedicated at NW Nazarene (Nampa Press Tribune)
Work on Portneuf Wellness center has begun (Pocatello Journal)
PetCo and others look at Canyon West location (TF Times News)

Cylvia Hayes admits to sham immigrant marriage (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette, KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Immigrant driving on ballot drives debate (Salem Statesman Journal, Corvallis Gazette)
Lane Co won't allow golf course into houses (Eugene Register Guard)
KF considers IDEA grant funds for downtown (KF Herald & News)
Merrill, Keno schools rank high in state (KF Herald & News)
Jackson Co looks into renewable energy sources (Medford Tribune)
Dispute over plan for bear huts in the spring (Medford Tribune)
Cities review how property tax law affects them (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon sees enterovirus cases (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon lifted from No Child requires (Portland Oregonian)

Central Kitsap schools get permanent superintendent (Bremerton Sun)
Everett may change old libary to homeless site (Everett Herald)
Reviewing Snohomish executive race (Everett Herald)
State auditor urges better parks bookkeeping (Olympian)
Budgeting in Thurston Co delayed (Olympian)
Cost for new Port Angeles high school $120m (Port Angeles News)
Nadella blasted over women's pay remarks (Seattle Times)
Plans abound to expand pre-K in Seattle (Seattle Times)
UW will demolish two halls and increase rents (Seattle Times)
WSU's Floyd on breakdown of UW med school talks (Spokane Spokesman)
Idaho governor debate held in Idaho Falls (Spokane Spokesman)
Big development proposed at Vancouver waterfront (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing WA law on texting (Vancouver Columbian)

Small beginnings

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Oregon

Political parties draw their strength from organization. Political parties that win are those able to generate numbers on the ballots, and they don't do that by osmosis.

They do it on ground level, through people working in their counties and neighborhoods, and representing their party too – putting a human face on them. These things may sound old-fashioned but they're not: Just ask the hyperlocal Obama campaign of 2012, probably the best-organized political campaign ever.

That makes a headline from last week in the Pendleton East Oregonian, about a small meeting in a rural house out in small Morrow County, of some larger interest and maybe importance.

Morrow County is, politically, what you might expect. It is a small-population and rural county well east of the Cascades, with little tie to many of the interests that help staff and underwrite Democratic organizations in places like Portland. It is solidly Republican. In recent years Republican voter registration has run around 41% and Democratic has fluctuated around 28-31%. It routinely votes strongly for Republican candidates for major office and for the legislature.

That doesn't mean morrow doesn't have Democrats, but Republicans here have tended to do better than registration might suggest. One reason may be that Democrats here simply haven't been organized. That isn't a swipe at anyone; the East Oregonian said there's not been a Morrow County Democratic organization for 22 years.

The news was that Greg Hall, a relatively new resident new Boardman, decided to do something about it. A former North Carolinian, accustomed to a Democratic party sometimes outvoted but never nonexistent, he filed on September 5 to form one. Then he called for an organization meeting at his rural house early this month.

The article held a focus on Hall as he waited for people to arrive, and began to wonder if anyone would.

They did, no great crowd but a substantial number.
From the East Oregonian: “Every person who arrived was Hispanic. Because Morrow County is 36% Hispanic, according to the 2012 census, Hall hopes to find unregistered Hispanic voters to gain ground in an established Republican stronghold.”

They start, of course, from an underdog position; they're not going to outnumber Republicans in this county any time soon. Nor is this going to change the social sea water in this county.

But activity like this is where it starts: With county officers and precinct leaders, who in turn can bring into play people who hadn't been involved in politics before. From one voice in the county, you move to two; from non-competitive you may move, over time, to competitive.

And change is made.

On the front pages

news

Again, the top stop of the day was Idaho's struggle over gay marriage, and how the elimination of the same-sex marriage ban by the 9th Circuit Court was put on hold by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. the stories also told how word of Kennedy's stay hit courthouses just as they opened for business in the morning, and the word arrived so close to the initial applications that one couple in Twin Falls County actually walked away with a marriage license before issuance stopped.

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 gay marriage ban stays, for now (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Another look at higher tuition at BSU (Boise Statesman)
Rexburg July flood victims blaming city (IF Post Register)
Overview of state treasurers campaign (IF Post Register)
Idaho County asks to cut more wood (Lewiston Tribune)
Legislators urge change on teacheer certification (TF Times News)

Benton schools slip a bit in rankings (Corvallis Gazette)
Eugene will consider marijuana tax (Eugene Register Guard)
Whole Foods seeks some Eugene city wivers (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath research district needs petitions (KF Herald & News)
Timber acreage sold by JWTR to Green Diamond (KF Herald & News)
New studies set for Emigrant Lake (Medford Tribune)
Medford area schools improve in state report (Medford Tribune)
PacifiCorp asks to add renewables to mix (Pendleton E Oregonian)
VP Biden campaigns for Merkley (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
State schools report shows general improvement (Portland Oregonian)
Marion Co child report shows poor numbers (Salem Statesman Journal)

California company plans 2 WA mental hospitals (Bremereton Sun)
Kilmer critizes military per diem cut plan (Bremerton Sun)
Bainbrige rejects police, sheriff center combo (Bremerton Sun)
Oso homeowners can get financial help (Everett Herald)
State may update distracted driving laws (Olympian)
Supreme Court will consider Amazon pay case (Seattle Times)
Mercer businesses hit in e coli scare (Seattle Times)
Gay marriage in Idaho halted again (Spokane Spokesman)
Spokane Co will pay 350K in jail lawsuit (Spokane Spokesman)
Lewis-McChord airmen fly ebola missions (Tacoma News Tribune)
Judge rejects order on jailed mentally ill (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Co computers damaged by water (Vancouver Columbian)
More lights planned for Snoqualmie Pass (Yakima Herald Republic)

Talking with Atiyeh

jorgensen W. SCOTT
JORGENSEN

 
Conversations with Atiyeh

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s very easy to forget that we are living tomorrow’s history. It’s also easy to forget that there are historical figures among us, whose wisdom awaits those who seek it.

I came to this realization last year. One of Oregon’s great governors, Vic Atiyeh, had left office in 1987. His steady style helped steer the state through a time of tremendous challenges. The example that he set for subsequent generations was already very obvious. The lessons he could pass on from all of his years of acquired wisdom would be priceless.

At first, I had to consider the almost mythical figure that Vic Atiyeh had become in Oregon politics, the way that his work and legacy still surround every man, woman and child in the state, whether they know it or not.

It became clear to me that I might have the opportunity to interview and learn from the former governor. Mutual friends were able to put me in touch with him, and we conducted a series of long-long interviews on a variety of subjects.

The governor was a personable man, and I enjoyed our talks very much. I asked him about formative experiences, like his time in the Boy Scouts and playing offensive line for the University of Oregon football team. His anecdotes and personal stories are treasures in and of themselves, and paint a clear picture of the great man that Vic Atiyeh was.

He shared with me many aspects of his governing philosophy, along with many important life lessons. I learned much more from our talks than I even initially expected. My biggest takeaway from the whole project was that the governor felt good about the decisions he made in his life and as a public official, and about the legacy that he would ultimately leave.

Vic Atiyeh passed away on July 20. Our last conversation had been at the beginning of the month, and it was an attempt to schedule one last interview with him.

I never got that last interview, but I realized fairly quickly that I might not even need it. The last question I would have asked him was going to be the way he felt about his legacy. But based on our talks, I felt like I already knew.

The transcripts of our talks, some of the governor’s last recorded interviews, form the bulk of my upcoming book “Conversations with Atiyeh.” It is not the traditional historical biography. Rather, it’s about the ways in which wisdom is passed down from one generation to another. It’s a unique look at the life and times of one of Oregon’s great governors, in his own words. It’s the story of a young man getting to know someone he would otherwise only read about in books.

This is my contribution to the history of a state that I have grown to love very much. My hope is that it will also serve as a tribute to Vic Atiyeh. He was the kind of leader who sought to bring out the best in everyone around him, and we would all do well to learn from his example.

On the front pages

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 gay marriage ban falls at 9th circuit (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Pocatello Journal, Moscow News)
BSU enrollment rises even as tuition does (Boise Statesman)
Mike Simpson's conflict with the EPA (IF Post Register)
Traffic-calming circles installed at Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
Colfax airport expansion funded (Moscow News)
Canyon County Co-op sets guidelines (Nampa Press Tribune)
Teacher dislike new certification guide (TF Times News)
Profiling the Hartgen-Talking race (TF Times News)

Uncertain future for Majestic Theatre (Corvallis Gazette)
Benton County sets marijuana tax (Corvallis Gazette)
Power board gets UO foundation to redevelop (Eugene Register Guard)
Rick Steves favors pot in Oregon (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath Falls may tax pot (KF Herald & News)
Fish stranded in dry Deschutes River (KF Herald & News)
More western gay marriage bans fall (Medford Tribune)
Portland police chief Reese will retire (Portland Oregonian)
Review pot taxes across Oregon cities (Portland Oregon)
Governor candidates debate at Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)
Some 'natural' products contain GMOs (Salem Statesman Journal)

School lawsuits costing teachers $4.4m (Bremerton Sun, Olympian)
Reviewing Senate 26 Angel-Arbogast race (Bremerton Sun)
State Resources seeks to buy forest lands (Bremerton Sun)
More tests on Boeing tankers (Everett Herald)
Longview council will consider utility tax (Longview News)
Clatsop-Nehalem recognition vs Chinook (Longview News)
Silt adds to land size of Olympic Peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Clallam Board votes to restrict pot (Port Angeles News)
Seattle, Tacoma ports link for promotion (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribubne)
Bus advocates push on Prop 1 (Seattle Times)
City pay plan would raise mayor by $7k (Spokane Spokesman)
Idaho same-sex marriage appeal denied (Spokane Spokesman)
Fire famages much of Camas airport (Vancouver Columbian)
Advisory vote on Yakima plaza may be dropped (Yakima Herald Republic)
Looking to second year of health enrollment (Yakima Herald Republic)

The gutting of government

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The time has come to say it. So here goes. Government employment - especially federal - has, in too many cases, become a haven from the unemployment lines for too damned many people. In addition, holding elective office - especially federal - has become a haven for too damned many idiots who’ve proven they should be unemployed.

Strong stuff? You bet! But sometimes the total incompetency in both classifications is so overpowering you can’t reach any other conclusion. What follows is my small offerings of proof(s).

Take Ebola. Within hours of the arrival in a Texas hospital of the first known case in this country, Gov. Ricky Perry - trying to boost his hopeless run for president - leaped before the cameras to claim “I’m proud Texas has become the location for this emergency. We’re the best equipped state in the nation to deal with this - we’ve the best medical resources and the best know-how to defeat this before it becomes a national disaster.” Oh, Hell yes.

Within 24 hours, we found out the “best medical resources” in Texas had seen the guy and turned him loose with some pills. Seems the nurses with the “best medical resources” had an intake computer program with the right questions but it didn’t “talk” to the one the doctors use.

Then, with four of the man’s relatives imprisoned in a small apartment, the State of Texas ordered them to move and a hazmat team activated to delouse the place. Except. The Texas health department could find no place in the whole damned state to relocate the people. And the hazmat team was stopped from acting because it had only a license to transport and dispose of the garbage but no Texas permit to remove it. A private citizen found a new “home” for the sequestered four and the hazmat folks waited 48 hours before a permit was issued. But the State of Texas? “Best equipped?” Hell yes. And Perry left for a weekend campaigning in Iowa.

CDC and Ebola. CDC top brass has been living on TV with complete assurances our health system “is the best in the world,” “it’s working” and “this will soon be behind us.” Guess they were too busy in front of the cameras to catch the Texas mess. They also weren’t truthful about those congressional jackasses who arbitrarily cut the CDC budget through “sequestration” and, since those carefully-designed-but-very-expensive CDC programs to handle emergencies like Ebola hadn’t been used, they were cut back or eliminated. Don’t need ‘em ‘cause they ain’t been used, according to the Louie Gomer (SHAZAM) - er Gohmert - School of Deep Think. Texas again. Hell yes.

VA health care. Anyone else want to jump in here? The billions we’ve spent have propped up a system rife with duplicitous civil “servants” who’ve been a cancer within. Too few medical professionals - too few programs to take care of the new medical and psychological problems veterans suffer from these days and an indifferent congress cutting budgets with no regard for the human suffering caused by their indifferent and arbitrary actions.

How about the IRS? A couple of offices of people targeting certain political groups (left and right) for special audits. Administrative perversion on that scale can’t survive without a lot of folks knowing what’s going on. Whether they participate or not.

The Pentagon. Hundreds of examples. But one will do nicely. No one in the Pentagon - NO ONE - can tell taxpayers how much equipment the military owns and where it is. Or whether it still exists. No one. The claim is inventory is too big to - wait for it - inventory. (more…)

The certain superintendent change

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Two things are certain to come from this year’s race for superintendent of public instruction. One, a woman will occupy one of Idaho’s constitutional offices since Donna Jones was elected controller in 2006. Secondly, Tom Luna will ride out of office after eight years – which is good news to a lot of “professional” educators.

The bad news is that Idaho will be losing one of its most aggressive advocates for public schools since Jerry Evans held the office. Luna and Evans disagreed sharply on viewpoints and approaches, but both took strong stands on education issues without worrying much about political fallouts.

Luna came into office promising to shake things up in education and he delivered with a series of “Students Come First” proposals – commonly known as “Luna Laws.” Many of the criticisms were justified. He didn’t bring up these proposals until after he won re-election and the process wasn’t as inclusive as it could have been. Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter gave his full backing to these proposals and the Legislature voted them into law, which speaks well for Luna’s ability to navigate the political system. Voters had different ideas, sending the Luna Laws to a resounding defeat in 2012.

One thing that was positive in my mind was, at least Luna was trying to do something about an education system that has not fundamentally changed in 50 years.
Luna, a former member of the Nampa School Board, was not a professional educator. But he had something that few candidates running for the position ever had – the ability to communicate and articulate his vision about where he wanted to go and how to get there. Regardless of the audience – and even with editorial boards -- he came across as confident, strong and under control.

I don’t see any of those communication qualities in the two candidates running, Democrat Jana Jones and Republican Sherri Ybarra, both of whom have a stronger education resume than Luna. Neither candidate talks about grand ideas beyond supporting the governor’s education task force and Common Core.

Jones has more experience with office, having working with three superintendents and as chief deputy under Marilyn Howard, who was a capable educator but a horrible communicator. Jones thinks a Democrat can be effective in the superintendent’s office.

“Students don’t come to school with Ds and Rs on their foreheads,” Jones said in a debate in Twin Falls, covered by Idaho Education News. “We use politics to be elected, but once there, you need to put politics aside.”

Unfortunately, legislators do care about Ds and Rs and the reality is Republicans don’t pay attention to Democrats on big-ticket issues. If Jones talks about promoting an Internet sales tax, it will give Republicans even more reason to shoot it down.

Ybarra has a better chance of working with Republican lawmakers. But she also has stated repeatedly that she is not a politician, which is a terrible quality for a state superintendent. It takes a lot of political moxie to present budget proposals to the governor’s office and make a convincing case to the Legislature. Part of the job means sitting on the State Board of Education is not for the faint of heart, or non-politicians. She’s also not much for media interviews, as Jennifer Swindell of Idaho Education News discovered early on in a profile of Ybarra in May. (more…)