Writings and observations

bighorns

 
The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife captured and relocated California bighorn sheep at several locations this week to improve genetic diversity among herds and continue efforts to restore this native species in Oregon. Bighorns were captured in the Deschutes and John Day River canyons and in the Branson Creek area of Grant County. Fifteen sheep captured in the Deschutes River Canyon were released at Alvord Peaks (Harney County) and 20 sheep captured in the John Day River Canyon went to McClellan (Grant County). (photo/ODFW)

 

As new officeholders prepare for transitions and the governor begins dropping proposals for the new legislature, things generally are cooling down in advance of the Christmas-New Years holidays.

One more Briefing in 2014 – next week – and then we’ll pause for a week during the Christmas-New Year’s interregnum.

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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)

New approaches tried in dealing with floods (Boise Statesman)
UI ends its 125th year (Moscow News)
Kuna considers urban renewal district (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho panel will review Common Core test (Nampa Press Tribune)
Unemployment declining in Magic Valley (TF Times News)
Hard to count Idaho’s homeless (TF Times News)

Troubles at Junction City biogas plant (Eugene Register Guard)
O&C counties don’t get federal funds (Portland Oregonian)
Salem may name bridge for Courtney (Salem Statesman Journal)

Agreement focuses on ER costs (Bremerton Sun)
New approaches tried in dealing with floods (Bremerton Sun)
Inslee budget plan to be released (Everett Herald)
Monticello school moves from letter to number grades (Longview News)
Judge backs Cowlitz tribe on casino (Longview News)
Correction Industries recycling cost state $1m (Seattle Times)
Seattle cops working with local techies (Seattle Times)
Pierce may try for mental health tax vote (Tacoma News Tribune)
Goldendale observatory fights light pollution (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

This is from a December 12 report on the University of Washington Health Sciences NewsBeat, drawing some interesting connections in health policy. It was written by Jeff Hodson.

Reducing obesity among children. Investing in early childhood programs. Devising strategies to reduce gun violence.

These three efforts illustrate how public health has risen to the top of the civic agenda in the Pacific Northwest. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray have all announced initiatives “putting public health at the center of their priorities,” said Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health.

“This couldn’t be a better place as well as a better time to be thinking about public health,” Frumkin said in his October State-of-the-School address. “That creates for our School enormous opportunities to be of service and, in the process, to educate our students while advancing public health locally and across the state.”

Frumkin serves on Inslee’s Council for the Healthiest Next Generation, a public-private coalition that kicked off in September. It aims to identify successful efforts already underway in communities and find ways to expand them statewide. One example is the YMCA’s work to install water-bottle filling stations at schools, a move to reduce the amount of sugary drinks children consume.

Other goals include increasing the number of children who breastfeed for at least six months and reducing the amount of time children spend in front of TV or computer screens. “Gold standard research shows we can bend the curve of childhood obesity if we act early in the course of children’s lives and by making health a focus in the places where children spend the most time,” Inslee said.

At the county level, Constantine is planning to ask taxpayers to fund a new levy in 2015 focused on pregnancy and early childhood, school-aged kids, and their communities. He announced the “Best Starts for Kids” levy during his annual budget address in late September. “What happens in early childhood and adolescence shapes health and well-being throughout one’s life,” he wrote to King County Council Chair Larry Phillips.

Details are yet to be announced, but School of Public Health faculty and students in the new domestic Strategic Analysis and Research Training (START) program are working on the county’s levy efforts. Constantine says early childhood programs show returns ranging from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested. That could reduce later costs for diabetes and other chronic diseases, mental illness, child abuse and neglect, and violence and injuries.

Voters in Seattle, meanwhile, approved an initiative Nov. 4 to establish a subsidized preschool program that would cover preschool tuition for up to 2,000 low-income kids through a four-year property tax hike.
In late October, the city of Seattle and King County hosted a gun violence summit of more than 75 public health and safety experts. The summit occurred just days before Washington voters overwhelming approved a referendum (Initiative 594) extending background checks to all private gun sales and transfers. UW School of Public Health faculty – including Frederick Rivara and Ali Rowhani-Rahbar – were on hand to facilitate discussion and share data. The two epidemiologists are conducting city-funded research on gun violence.
“Gun deaths are preventable and we must combine the best and sensible laws, smart law enforcement and public health to end this epidemic of violence,” Murray said after the shootings in June at Seattle Pacific University.

Constantine said gun violence could be approached as a preventable public health problem “through the kind of proven strategies that have reduced deaths from smoking, traffic crashes, and sudden infant death syndrome.” Smoking rates in the United States have dropped to an all-time low of 18 percent after widespread smoking bans in public places, higher taxes on cigarettes, and campaigns to raise awareness of the hazards of tobacco. Traffic deaths plunged after mandatory seat-belt laws, better designed highways and cars, and increased law enforcement.

Another state priority is advancing health reform in Washington, according to Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, director of the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice in the Department of Health Services. School of Public Health faculty served on a state panel to guide communities as they increase links between the health care delivery system, public health, and human services. They also helped the state develop a proposal for a multi-million dollar grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“The public health community in our region is really energized about change,” Kwan-Gett said.

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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)

Boise nears end to search for new police chief (Boise Statesman)
Right to work economic impacts reviews (Boise Statesman)
Call wait times at insurance exchange rising (IF Post Register)
Bonneville Co rezones may cut off IF expansion (IF Post Register)
Reviewing homelessness in Idaho (Lewiston Tribune)
COMPASS will look at improvements for I-84 (Nampa Press Tribune)
Where does sales tax money go? (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello humane says more local pets vanish (Pocatello Tribune)
Reviewing Dennis Patterson blast against INL (Pocatello Tribune)
Voters finding new school bond confusing (TF Times News)

Employees say hospital has severe staff shortage (Eugene Register Guard)
Low levels of Oregon health insurance signups (KF Herald & News)
Merger may be easing Ashland hospital money issues (Medford Tribune)

Bills filed at legislature (Bremerton Sun)
Reviewing oil train traffic (Everett Herald)
Schools using more Chromebooks (Longview News)
Turnout over 1,000 at Olympia gun rally (Tacoma News Tribune, Longview News)
Longview will send recycling to Asia (Longview News)
No more post-prison watch on property criminals (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Problems with state prison industries (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Microsoft has new allies in email (Seattle Times)
Law law going after auto theives (Vancouver Columbian)
School superintendent pay keeping rising (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

In about three weeks new administrations will take over in two important Idaho offices – superintendent of public instruction and secretary of state. That means, or should mean, the incoming officials in those places will be busy right now getting prepared.

Offered for consideration a little advice, from an observer of transitions, for Idaho’s new statewide officials, SUPI Sherri Ybarra and Secretary Lawerence Denney.

1. Apart from maybe one or two personal advisors, keep the existing staff in place, for a while at least. Yes, you will have authority to replace them wholesale if you choose, and as you eventually find (as you will) people who ought to go, they can be shown the door. But for the moment, remember that they, not you, know how things work in this place, and by that I mean all the little bits and pieces which make these offices tick; both the formal procedures (and requirements) and the informal methods and pathways that help work get handled. In any office, governmental or not, these things take a while to suss out. You’re going to have a learning curve. Accept that and let your staff, which mostly will probably be eager to help inform you, guide you through the early steps.

No one coming in fresh from the outside will understand enough of that at first. But both state offices are empowered and restricted by a mass of laws, rules, legal decisions and more. Former Superintendent Jerry Evans, who probably understood the SUPI world better than anyone in recent decades, had a gift for explaining the inner workings of “the coalition” and “the formula” – central to the office’s operations – in startlingly clear fashion to people like legislators and reporters. But so complex was his subject that many people (such as me) could not maintain comprehension of it for more than a day or so; after that we’d have to go back for a refresher. The details of this stuff are more complex than they look from the outside. Respect that.

2. Spend as much time as you can in the office. Get a sense of the patterns, personalities and rhythms there before you have to run it yourself.

3. Find a few old hands and, if not bring them into the office, turn them into a kitchen cabinet, an advisory group. Collect some expertise you can trust, and some people who aren’t your natural allies so you’re not just entering an echo chamber, telling you what you want to hear. And then make use of what you hear.

4. Reach out to the constituencies. Both newcomers are, for different reasons, making nervous a lot of people who will be dealing with the offices. Best advice: Pro-actively reach out to them and establish a line of communication. That’s most critical probably in the superintendent’s office, where many of the “stakeholders” in Idaho education (yes, in fact should include everyone in the state) aren’t sure what to expect. Keep a regular line of communication going. Institutionalize communications. Go to them, and let them come to you. You don’t have to agree on everything (and the stakeholders may often quarrel with each other), but you will fare best if everyone knows where they stand.

5. Engage the public on your priorities. Do this with the public too – and that means among other things communicating through the news media.

Jobs like secretary and superintendent are in part inherently political (something the new superintendent may be reluctant to accept). That means doing some campaign-type things as part of the job: Communicating with lots of people, building alliances, finding out where the differences are and figuring out how to bridge them.

Done in a useful way, it’s complex work. You’ll need all the help you can get.

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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)

Park Price joins Federal Reserve at Salt Lake (IF Post Register)
Legal drug overdoses increasing in area (IF Post Register)
Federal timber payments uncertain (Lewiston Tribune)
Weather turns warm around Lewiston (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow-Pullman airport could get federal funds (Moscow News)
Jim Boland named to Moscow council seat (Moscow News)
WSU Spokane health center design okayed (Moscow News)
Looking at local bans on pit bulls (Nampa Press Tribune)
CWI opening a free legal clinic (Nampa Press Tribune)
West Trail Creek Road becoming a garbage dump (Pocatello Journal)
Too much selenium found in Upper Blackfoot River (TF Times News)

Eugene YMCA may buy school land (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath water settlement won’t get presidential OK (KF Herald & News)
Reviewing dam funding, varied approvals (Medford Tribune)
Shooting reported near school, students hit (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing Cylvia Hayes private and public (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon prison reforms saving money (Salem Statesman Journal)
Long-ago pesticides found, are being cleaned (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bainbridge Fire says it needs more funds (Bremerton Sun)
Big storm, massive power outages (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News)
Debate over tax cuts for Boeing (Everett Herald)
Stillaguamish prepares for new hotel (Everett Herald)
Vote on KapStone contract expected next week (Longview News)
Paseo Restaurant set to live again (Seattle Times)
Spokane’s first police ombudsmann leaves (Spokane Spokesman)
Shots fired, 3 injured, near Portland school (Tacoma News Tribune)
Court sides with Cowlitz Tribe on casino (Vancouver Columbian)
Senator King will lead transport panel (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The Hell raising by most Republicans in Congress over publication of the Senate torture report is as off-base as it is loud. Not unexpected. Certainly true-to-form. And – as has so often been the case with them – dead wrong.

The outcry over the black and white evidence this $40 million report lays bare about the “official” actions the Bush administration conducted – then lied about – is baseless B.S.. Bush, Cheney, Tenet, Meyers, three of Meyers’ predecessors at CIA and the hundreds of Americans who conducted, who knew and who lied, over and over and over. Those should be your targets for condemnation.

The self-serving, political lying continues with hourly, ill-aimed blasts at the media and/or at Dianne Feinstein, Jay Rockefeller and all Senate Democrats on the Intelligence Committee. “Kill the damned messenger!!!”

What these liars, deniers and political justifiers ignore is fact. Had there been no torture – illegal, inhuman torture with this nation’s sponsorship – there would’ve been no report. Nothing to investigate. Nothing!

My strong personal “thank you’s” go out to each member of the Committee who voted to conduct the lengthy investigation, then publish the findings. Had the decision to put these grisly facts on the public record not been made by this week, the new Republican majority in the Senate would’ve buried it – every nationally embarrassing, humiliating, loathsome truth would have disappeared from any outside knowledge. Bet the farm!

In recent years, I’ve found it hard to say anything positive about the public utterances of John McCain – leading Senate militarist – who seems to have gone “round-the-bend” on many subjects. Following his usual urging, we’d be at war about everyplace in the world except maybe Kansas. But, this time, using his terrible life experience as the only member of Congress to undergo protracted torture at the hands of an enemy in wartime, McCain became an eloquent defender of both the public’s right to know and the facts that should be known. Alone in his party’s upper ranks, he stood on the floor of the Senate and soundly condemned those who tortured and those who covered it up. He was right!

Then, there’s the Bush-Cheney axis. The 500+ page executive summary seemed to say the President was not told what the CIA was doing. Maybe. Maybe not. But, you damned well can bet Cheney knew. And approved.

You see, there’s this tidbit – not part of the damning document. In the hours after release this week, CNN unearthed a piece of video from 2007 in which Bush-the-Junior said flat out “This nation does not torture anybody!” Direct quote. Yet the report says Bush was briefed on what the CIA was doing in 2005. Even gives the exact date. And by whom. Eighteen months before his televised press conference denial.

There’s an interesting Northwest side note. Faced with the possibility the report would not be published, Oregon’s Sen. Wyden loudly pledged to use every power available to him to get the document on the record. Then, when the document hit the table, Idaho’s Sen. Risch – himself an experienced attorney – twisted both fact and logic condemning all Senate Democrats – and their firstborns – for publishing. He publically screwed up in his own description of what’s in the report. My experience with him is that Jim’s often got a problem with candor. And truth.

Finally, the torture report makes a somewhat overlooked note about the Bush administration and who knew what. Seems, according to those who briefed the White House on what the CIA was doing all those years, one important official was left out. Secretary of State Colin Powell. He was named specifically as the one senior Cabinet member not told.

That fact needs more airing. If there’s anyone left in the Beltway media with any sense of curiosity and journalistic integrity, every attempt should be made to contact Powell and ask him two questions: was he told and, if the answer is what the report says, why does he think not? The Committee has documented a full 25% of all the countries in the world participated in our shameful torture program. So, why was the nation’s top diplomat – who was in continual communication with those nations – not told?

Given that fact – and additionally how badly Powell was used in the Iraq “chemical weapons” lie to the world – he might have some interesting insights to share. About both instances. He’s been speaking more candidly lately on lots of things. I’d like to hear his thought on this.

To those who became the messenger, providing the extensive and undeniable truth of our government’s cancer, we owe gratitude and deep appreciation for making us face the facts as they are – not as some sick political minds have covered up and lied to us about far too long.

To those who would kill that messenger – and, in doing so, continue the tragic betrayal we should’ve known long ago – shut up and sit down!

You too, Jimmy.

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Rainey

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)

Damage from housing crash continues (Boise Statesman)
OR US attorney says tribes may allow pot grows (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow-Pullman airport gets FAA approval (Moscow News)
Improvements sought for Moscow-Pullman bike trail (Moscow News)
Canyon Co-op store takes memberships (Nampa Press Tribune)
New Good News church in northern Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)
Banner Building proposed as new TF city hall (TF Times News)
State will review school testing questions (TF Times News)

Eugene schools say gov’s budget still not enough (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath group looks at building code changes (KF Herald & News)
Massive storm hits Medford, Ashland (Medford Tribune)
AG seeks authority for data protection (Pendleton E Oregonian)
GMO labeling advocates concede election (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Big storm rips downtown Portland (Portland Oregonian)
Did streetcar execs inflate numbers of riders? (Portland Oregonian)

Pot grows may be allowed on tribal lands (Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian)
Bremerton may demolish CenCom building (Bremerton Sun)
Poulsbo approves city budget of $27m (Bremerton Sun)
KapStone workers irritated by health plan (Longview News)
Heavy storm hits western Washington (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Republicans take full control of state Senate (Olympian)
Survey finds heavy pot use, driving (Port Angeles News)
Studies finding Pioneer Square cracks; due to Bertha? (Seattle Times)
Tesoro responds to Inslee oil planning (Vancouver Columbian)
Good news ahead for spring chinook (Vancouver Columbian)
Business growing fast at Selah (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

In the Governors election in Maine this year, voters had three candidates to chose from:

Current Governor Paul LePage of whom USA today wrote:

“Brutal” is also how critics describe LePage’s record since 2010, when he became governor with 39% of the vote in a three-way race. LePage cut welfare rolls, vetoed Medicaid expansion, passed an income tax cut and then reduced municipal revenue sharing to pay for it — all the while calling legislators “idiots,” state workers “corrupt,” and telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” “He’s piggish and bullheaded and not really listening to what the people are saying,” says Rebecca Kowaloff, 30, a doctor and Democratic voter in Portland.

Democratic candidate Mike Michaud described in that same article:

A third-generation paper mill worker who never attended college and stayed on the job until he went to Washington in 2002, he can compete with LePage for blue-collar and Franco-American loyalty. He criticizes LePage for kicking people off welfare — he wants to provide some benefits for people in low-wage jobs — and for “the negativity he keeps spewing.” Michaud has won six terms by hefty margins in the northern, more conservative half of Maine and before that served as president of the state Senate.

And Independent Candidate Eliot Cutler.

Cutler lost the Governors race to LePage back in 2010 by less than 2%. Cutler is an environmental lawyer and active in independent rights movement. In his 2010 campaign for Governor he was endorsed by virtually all the major newspapers.

Despite Cutlers nearly winning in 2010 in a one on one contest against LePage,this year in a three way race he received a meager 8% of the vote in 2014. Could his support have dropped that much? No. The reason is that our current system of voting – you select one candidate – means that in a three way race if you believe your favorite candidate can’t win, then you cast your vote against your least favorite.

It’s a sad form of Democracy that doesn’t let voters vote for their first choice.

But, luckily The Center for Election Science was on the scene in Maine on election day. They polled over 600 voters as they left the voting places and had them vote on the Governors race using approval voting and Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) with ranked choice. They also have them vote in head to head races between the three candidates.

The results should simply shock us and make people really think about whether the current voting method serves the people, or the Democratic and Republican parties.

Approval voting is a method of voting where a voter can vote for – or approve- of as many candidates as they wish. So many Maine voters who voted for both the Democrat and Republican also approved of Cutler as Governor. In fact, Cutler had the most voters approve of him.

IRV, or instant runoff, allows voters to rank their choices 1, 2 or 3. There is math done. The results in the graph show the result after the math is applied in a first round. Under this voting system Michaud would have been eliminated in the first round, and Cutler and LePage would have moved into a final head to head round. As you can see on the right side of the graph, Cutler would have slaughtered LePAge 60% – 40% in a top two runoff.

The circles are head to head races between the three candidates. The best candidate would be the one that could beat every other candidate head to head. That would be Cutler who holds a 20% margin over either the Democrat or Republican in head to head.

This should be shocking to voters. Simply shocking.

Cutler has the deepest and widest support among voters. It is clear that LePage’s victory made over 50% of the voters unhappy. A Michaud victory would have had the same effect. But a Cutler victory would have satisfied 55-60% of the voters.

Our system is structurally set up to not select the best most satisfying winner. Many of us cannot vote for our favorite candidate, we have to vote against our least favorite. At least as long as the psychology that only a Democrat or Republican can win a three way election.

And if that psychology can’t be changed, we need to change the way we vote from plurality to approval – or arguably to IRV.

A ballot measure switching our voting to approval voting should be the highest priority for election reformers. In fact, it should be the top priority for those who seek campaign finance reform. Because if voters are allowed to approve of third party candidates without the fear of throwing the election to their least favorite candidate, you may even see some third party or independent candidates win some state elections.

And approval voting doesn’t require an amendment to the US Constitution. It just takes some signatures on a ballot and educating the voters on the merits of moving our voting into the 21st century.

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Harris

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)

Big profits for Idaho gas retailers even as price falls (Boise Statesan)
Cattle rustling returns with beef prices high (Boise Statesman, Pocatello Journal)
Sage grouse get no protections in new budget bill (Boise Statesman)
Many WA respondents say driving while high okay (Lewiston Tribune)
Constructing rolling for new Vallivue high school (Nampa Press Tribune)
ID legislators told: invest in infrastructure (Nampa Press Tribune)
Koehler named interim chief deputy SUPI (Nampa Press Tribune)

Storms hitting central OR, cutting power (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune)
UO graduate staff strike ends with deal (Eugene Register Guard)
Uber contesting $2k fine from Eugene city (Eugene Register Guard)
No more timber money in Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Jackson Co defense of GMO ban underway (Medford Tribune)
New homes added fast at Pendleton Heights (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Umatilla still works on pot rules (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon Lottery considers retailer cut adjustment (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Legislators approve staff to manage marijuana (Portland Oregonian)
Fish lives upended by climate change (Portland Oregonian)
New bill would cap tuition levels (Salem Statesman Journal)
Looking ahead to Kitzhaber’s 4th term (Salem Statesman Journal)
Lawmakers consider changes to pot law (Salem Statesman Journal)

Assessing respomsibility for Port Gamble pollution (Bremerton Sun)
Bainbridge considers filling a council seat (Bremerton Sun)
Exec Lovick vetoes Snohomish budget; shutdown ahead? (Everett Herald)
Snohomish pays $750k to women harassed at juv center (Everett Herald)
Paper workers authorize strike at KapStone (Longview News)
Storm smacks into Longview area (Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Bering Sea halibut fishing may end (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Drones becoming big gift items (Seattle Times)
Spokane closely tracks speeds near schools (Spokane Spokesman)
Reviewing dismissal of Spokane planning directory (Spokane Spokesman)
Rough start for first WA charter school (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Co department plan called not political (Vancouver Columbian)
Per-mile road tax may be tried in WA (Vancouver Columbian)
Federal budget may increase anti-gang plans (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take