Writings and observations

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Alaskans from across the state met on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage over the weekend to talk about the transition to a new governor’s administration. The process itself was unusual, a crowded, open forum about ideas.

But even more rare: The depth of participation by Alaska Native leaders, chairing several key committees, participating on panels, and having a say in what happens next.

The co-chair for the Gov.-elect Bill Walker and Lt. Gov-elect Byron Mallott is Ana Hoffman, executive and president of the Bethel Native Corp. and co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives. She read a statement Sunday said the public transition process was designed as a “collaboration” and “to create a vision for Alaska.”

That vision represents a significant shift. Starting with this sentence: “We should identify best practices and utilize tribal structures to capture the values in our state,” Hoffman reported.

Think about that for a minute. In a state where the idea of native governance has been reduced to only a for-profit corporate model, the new leaders’ of the state are talking about using tribal structures to improve values and lives. In other words: Tribal governments matter. Even in Alaska.

Hoffman’s articulation of the transition principles carried forth some other radical notions.

— That Medicaid expansion can lead to self-sufficiency (as well as improved health care). This is exactly right. Medicaid dollars for the Alaska Native medical system, like the Indian health system in other states, is funded by federal dollars. That means more health care dollars; a bigger pie.

— “We have covered the entire spectrum from education to oil and gas and we recognize there are greater economic development opportunities ahead for Alaska,” Hoffman said.

— And, I love this, the document says, “We all agree to put fish first.”

This is how it should be. In a world where fish come first, there is a natural order, a sanctity of life, and a guarantee of clean water and health families.

Gov.-elect Walker praised Craig Fleener who had been his running mate until the fusion ticket came together with Mallott. Fleener, Athabascan, is a former deputy commissioner of Fish and Game and has worked for tribal governments. “This is the guy,” Walker said describing their conversation when he asked him to withdraw from the ballot. “He said, ‘OK. But you had better win.’ Without that, Byron and I would not be standing here today.”

The biggest challenge for the new state administration is economic. Alaska is a funny state; operating like some tribal governments where oil and gas contribute more dollars than taxes. (And like tribal governments, Alaskans want to protect their version of per capita, the Permanent Dividend Fund. This year that more than $1800.) Many of the state budgets were written when oil was more than $100 a barrel and it’s now around $80 — a significant revenue drop.

“Yes, I wish oil wasn’t at $75 or whatever it is,” Walker said Sunday. “But, you know, it is. And there is nothing we can do about that ourselves. We are going to work our way out of this because we’re Alaskans. … We’re going to turn this state into a future that’s very bright.”

Walker and Mallott will be sworn into office on December 1 in Juneau. Mallott told me he plans to be sworn-in wearing his tunic, representing the KwaashKiKwaan Clan of the Raven tribe.

I can’t think of a better metaphor for the new administration.

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

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Trahant

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Pot activists try kickoff in Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Statehouse Christmas tree lighting, early this year (Boise Statesman)
Clarkston set ban on pot businesses (Lewiston Tribune)
Lawsuit may emerge from dredging plans (Lewiston Tribune)
Panel kills proposed state public defender system (Lewiston Tribune)
AG says police legally clear for body cams (Moscow News)
Moscow looks at new food truck ordinances (Moscow News)
Major Ada-Canyon gang bust (Nampa Press Tribune)
State tax incentive for Pocatello airport business (Pocatello Journal)

Mall forbears non-opener fineson Thanksgiving (Eugene Register Guard)
Springfield votes to help displaced tenants (Eugene Register Guard)
Petition for research/extension center falls short (KF Herald & News)
Automatic recount on GMO petition (Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Mail Tribune, Pendleton E Oregonian)

Bremerton Port budget approved (Bremerton Sun)
Rotting trees lead to toledo park closure (Longview News)
Vancouver would absorb most oil trains of any terminal (Longview News)
AG says cops can use body cams (Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Seattle may write new rules on medical pot dispensaries (Seattle Times)
Watching Ferguson, Seattle sees protest ‘die-in’ (Seattle Times)
Spokane pay increases going away (Spokane Spokesman)
Herrera Beutler questions Cowlitz casino prospect (Vancouver Columbian)
High cost of moving Millennium Plaza artwork (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

Spalding bridge

 
Repair work was recently completed on the Spalding Bridge, taking state Highway 8 over the Clearwater River. See the story in the transportation section. (photo/Idaho Transportation Department)

 
This week will be a quiet stretch in official action in the Northwest states (as elsewhere), with the Thanksgiving holiday dominating the latter part of the week. There’ll be plenty of news stories, of course, about Black Friday (and Black Thursday).

Whatever your plans: happy Thanksgiving!

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Briefings

news

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Issues following on WA vote for small classes (Moscow News)
Weak funding for busy Valley Transit (Nampa Press Tribune)
Possible Crater of the Moon national park? (TF Times News)

Flooding, other issues at UO Capstone residence (Eugene Register Guard)
Sweet Home tries to find its wayy to a new future (Portland Oregonian)
Fed report collecting $11.9 in Oregon litigation (Portland Oregonian)

Kitsap officials will vote on pay (Bremerton Sun)
Independent cancer docs being pressured out (Seattle Times)
Solar and wind now almost as cheap as conventional power (Seattle Times)
Conair chooses Spokane for new firefighter planes (Spokane Spokesman)
On the largest proposed oil terminal at Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)
New park planned for Washougal (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The unemployment stats in Washington and Oregon are a study in popular confidence as measured against the realistic basis for that confidence.

In Washington, for example, the state unemployment rate rose (in the stats released this week) to 6.0%, even though about 5,600 jobs were added to the job market – and filled.

No one was in error here; you just have to know what the unemployment stats reflect. As an article in this issue notes, Washington “State labor economist Paul Turek said the increase in the unemployment rate is not necessarily bad news because it is directly related to an increase in the state’s labor force, which rose by 12,200 in October.

And he said: “These numbers demonstrate increased confidence by job seekers entering or re-entering the marketplace. Job growth continues to gain momentum—with the state adding roughly 7,000 jobs a month—but for this month, the increase in the number of new job seekers entering into the labor market’s civilian workforce was greater than the number of new jobs added. That explains the increase in the unemployment rate.”

That was even more dramatically true in Oregon, which added even more jobs – 9,900 – than twice-as-big Washington state. Oregon’s was in fact the largest one-month addition of jobs in 20 years. But its unemployment rate stubbornly stayed put at 7.0%, which sounds worse than it is. It did that because workers have been pouring back into the work force (and, probably, a number of workers have been arriving from out of state as well).

For decades, we’ve focused hard on the unemployment rates (and note them here regularly). But have we reached a point where the more logical measure is of the balance between jobs opening up and those closing? Maybe something measuring, over the haul, the growth/retraction in jobs compared with the overall working-age population?

Certainly, we need some better metrics. The old ones just aren’t as useful as they once were.

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Oregon Oregon column Washington Washington column

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)

Re-evaluations of Ada County’s homeless (Boise Statesman)
A movement to make Craters of the Moon a national park (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register)
Ball Ventures developing in IF, Ammon (IF Post Register)
About human trafficking in Idaho (Pocatello Journal)
Carmike 7 movie theatres being demolished (Pocatello Journal)

UO Chinese students collect ideas to take home (Eugene Register Guard)
Craft whisleys grow in sales, impact (Medford Tribune)
Election turnout much higher in Oregon than nationally (Medford Tribune)
Looking at finances of Corinthinan Colleges (Portland Oregonian)
Kitzhaber talks about the headling post-election (Portland Oregonian)
Other implications for raising the minimum wage (Salem Statesman Journal)
Chemeketa looks at ways to cut textbook cost (Salem Statesman Journal)

Many requests for police cam footage (Bremerton Sun)
Surprise sale of large chunk of Kitsap land (Bremerton Sun)
Sound Transit may build train line to Everett (Everett Herald)
Fewer foreclosures, house prices rising (Longview News)
Cowlitz County starts online building permit process (Longview News)
Considering levels of safety in Port Angeles (Port Angeles News)
Kenmore still fields requests to return to PA (Port Angeles News)
Suburban school districts getting crowded (Spokane Spokesman)
Rates for sewer service may drop (Spokane Spokesman)
Reviewing Clark Co’s many apartment fires (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

How many Idahoans watched President Obama’s speech Thursday about changes in the federal response to immigrants who got here against the law? Was Representative Raul Labrador among them – and did it spark any activist thoughts in his own mind?

Idaho generally has some particular reason to pay attention. A study by the Pew Research Center released last week showed that Idaho is one of just seven states where unauthorized immigration rose between 2009 and 2012. The population declined in 14 states – twice as many. Maybe more notable: Idaho and Nebraska were the only two western states where that segment of the population increased during those years; it fell in Oregon, Nevada, California and others.

Immigration has become so hot an issue that emotions often drown out facts. A lot of the responses to the Obama talk, pro and con, was suffused with emotion. The reaction from Idaho’s politicians was, as you might expect, harshly negative against Obama’s outline. Representative Mike Simpson said Obama’s actions “have the potential to throw us into a Constitutional Crisis,” though he also said “We cannot shut down the government, impeach the President, or allow this issue to impede progress on deficit reduction, tax reform, or other critical priorities for the American people.” Congressional Republicans will have a lot to talk about in the next few days and weeks.

Labrador does have some expertise in the subject, having worked as an immigration attorney in his private practice. After Obama’s speech he declared, “this is illegal,” and suggested in essence that the Senate reject over the next two years any appointments, budget requests or anything else coming its way from the White House.

The Obama policy may activate people on the other side as well, though. Recent national polling on the matter has been split on Obama taking a unilateral action on the subject. But many in the Latino community will be watching closely what happens next, and Republicans who hope to attract many of their votes in 2016 will have to approach the subject with some caution and diplomacy.

When Labrador went to Congress, one of his assets was strong personal knowledge of how the immigration system works (or fails to), the presumption being that he might be in a position to help move things ahead. So far – and not, certainly, to pile all this on him – a measure has passed the Senate, but efforts to come up with a compromise measure in the House have collapsed. Labrador’s stands on the subject, and his shifts in alliances on it, have been far from clear.

For a while, he was a central player in the group of House members working to come up with a House counterpart to a measure that passed the Senate, but then he dropped out of it, and for a year or so has argued against the House passing anything on the subject.

What Obama most clearly has done has been to place the immigration issue on the front burner – and, while taking unilateral action, he specifically asked Congress to come up with something better if it can. It’s a direct political challenge. House Republicans could avoid it by passing nothing, but do they really consider that a better approach? (And after all their disaster-has-struck rhetoric of this week, how would they defend it?)

If Labrador has any interest in playing a major role on this issue, as he is uncommonly well placed to do, this would be the time to act.

With substance, that is, rather than boilerplate.

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Idaho Idaho column

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)

Open Boise council seat draws 29 interested (Boise Statesman)
Boisean generates social media Black Thursday protest (Boise Statesman)
Debate over merger of eastern Idaho economic groups (IF Post Register)
Obama immigration plan irritates Idaho delegation (IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Rusche opponent won’t seek recount (Lewiston Tribune)
Asotin gets funds for bridge roundabouts (Lewiston Tribune)
Pullman pit owner must buy insurance (Moscow News)
Jobless rate declines to 4.1% (Nampa Press Tribune)
ISU won’t purchase new president’s house (Pocatello Journal)
Latinos praising Obama immigrant action (TF Times NEws)

Eugene shopping center sold (Eugene Register Guard)
Hot debate over Klamath commission and water deal (KF Herald & News)
Kingsley Field commander Jeremy Baenen retires (KF Herald & News)
Venerable Kim’s restaurant demolished at Medford (Medford Tribune)
Crater Lake plans entrance fees increase of 150% (Medford Tribune)
Governor says Columbia River deal near (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Republicans talk gun check legislation (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon has short deadline for rape charges (Portland Oregonian)
Layoffs at YMCA in Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)

State ferries operations director fired (Bremerton Sun)
Bainbridge plans $6.2m parks bond (Bremerton Sun)
Cowlitz pot businesses growing quickly (Longview News)
State, tribal leaders blast number of oil trains (Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Tacoma Bill Cosby show cancelled (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Washington reacts to immigration plans (Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Supporters of better state support for public education, both K thru 12 and higher education, awoke the day after the election, to the stunning news that Jana Jones, a former deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction under Marilyn Howard, had lost the SPI race by some 5000 votes to Sherri Ybarra, a Mountain Home educator/administrator.

Ms. Ybarra had committed gaff after gaff, all disclosed in excruciating detail by Spokesman Review capitol reporter Betsy Russell. The mistakes ranged from outright plagiarism of information on her website taken from Jana Jone’s website, to misleading reporters on how long she’d been in the state, how many marraiges she had been in and her failure to vote in any election in the last ten years.

Yet, because she had the R behind her name, said little of substance during the election, generally avoided the press, and stayed away from State conventions like those held by a state’s district superintendents and by school board direcrtors, she won.

That conclusion begs to be restated, and those who know Idaho has to increase public support for education have every right to be angry about this: Jana Jones lost the election that was hers to lose for a variety of reasons. She should stand up and be accountable. She really let down those who have worked so hard for so many years to put education on a better footing.

It’s not just that she ran a lousy campaign, she ran no campaign. She had just one person working with her and supposedly staffing the campaign. She refused to make fund-raising calls, even when friends like the former SPI, Marilyn Howard, would have her over, give her a list of people just waiting to hear from her before they opened their checkbooks, and she would still refuse to make the calls.

Despite this aversion to fund-raising she somehow collected and spent $125,000 on her “campaign.” Still, that was apparently five times more than the $25,000 that Ms. Ybarra reports having spent. That has to be close to a modern day record in low spending per vote – about 11 and ½ cents per vote. By comparison millionaire gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff spent approximately $16.00 per vote received.

Without any evidence, Ms. Jones apparently believed the National Education Association and the Idaho Education Association were going to step in and run an independent campaign for her election. She guessed wrong.

This may sound petty, but even supporters were non-plussed to see how uncombed her hair looked in the statewide televised debate. A photo of the debate that went over the wire made her literally look scatter-brained. There is ample evidence verifying a UCLA study that says 80% of a viewer’s conclusion on who won a debate is related to appearance and non-verbal signals.

What they say is seldom a factor unless there is a real mistake. Ms. Ybarra understood the importance of visuals. Her hair was neat, she dressed with some “power red” in her attire and remained cool and calm. She won the encounter going away despite media coverage saying she had lost.

From the returns it is also apparent Ms. Jones must have spent most of her time campaigning in Ada County and several of the higher populated counties, and pretty much ignored the smaller counties. They reciprocated.

Especially galling was how few votes she garnered in the rural LDS dominated counties of southeastern Idaho given the fact she is LDS.

Ms. Jones did carry her home county of Bonneville, 56% to 44%, but lost Canyon County by the same 56 to 44 margin. Ms. Ybarra also carried her home county of Elmore 61% to 39%, but where she was able to offset Ms. Jones margins in most of the urban counties was in rural Idaho. There she consistently won by almost 2 to 1 margins and compiled numerous thousand votes margins.

In Bonner county, Ms. Ybarra ran up a 2500 vote margin and in the county which probably elected her, Kootenai, she almost doubled Ms. Jones vote, winning with a 9000 vote margin.

If there’s any consolation, Ms. Jones did run ahead of Democratic gubernatorial nominee A.J. Balukoff in most of the rural counties, but he was one of six on that ballot as opposed to her head to head against Ybarra.

The most significant number was the drop-off vote between the top Republican vote receiver on the ballot, U.S Senator Jim Risch who received 285,358 and the number of Republican votes Ms. Ybarra garnered­ – 217,035.

That’s a difference of 68,323 votes. One might call that the possible number of well-informed Republicans and Independents who, knowing that Ms. Ybarra was a very flawed candidate, still could not bring themselves to vote for Ms. Jones. Given her non-campaign, can you really blame them?

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Carlson

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)

YMCA school at Meridian a new typ project (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Looking at purple Teton County (Boise Statesman)
Republicans backing Clark for Bonneville prosecutor (IF Post Register)
Stevenson wants recount in legislative race (Lewiston Tribune)
Body camera cop footage requests overwhelming (Moscow News)

Clatsop Co crime stats available (Astorian)
New finance director names for Astoria port (Astorian)
Astoria airports gets final piece of funding (Astorian)
Oregon immigration impact noted (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, KF Herald & News)
Snow headed for Cascades (Medford Tribune)
More homelessness among Medford students (Medford Tribune)
Legislators mull packing and edible pot (Pendleton E Oregonian)

Poulsbo council shaken up (Bremerton Sun)
Washington and the new immigration rules (Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
Longview council rejects oxygen idea for water fix (Longview News)
Clallam debates over electronic warfare (Port Angeles News)
Massive cop-camera data demand dropped (Seattle Times)
More additions to Mt Spokane resort efforts (Spokane Spokesman)
About text messagss from Marysville shooter (Tacoma News Tribune)

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First Take