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Posts published in “Year: 2014”

Ending an embarassment

peterson MARTIN

The announcement that the United States and Cuba are attempting to normalize relations is over half a century overdue. For over half a century, we have attempted to change the course of the Cuban government through denying them diplomatic recognition, enforcing a trade embargo and numerous other activities. The thought has been that these actions would steer Cuba away from its communist form of government and get rid of the Castros.

So after 54 years, how has that strategy worked? The U.S. has gone through ten presidents in that time. In Cuba, the Castros are still in power and their government is still communist. At the same time, U.S. businesses have been denied the opportunity to profit from doing business in a county less than 100 miles from our shores and our citizens have been denied the freedom to freely travel there.

Obama’s decision will draw far louder cries of criticism that the previous decisions of Nixon with China and Clinton with Vietnam, which is troubling. In the case of both China and Vietnam, we had fought wars with them that cost tens of thousands of American lives. With Cuba, we lost four U.S. citizens in the U.S. launched Bay of Pigs invasion.

The Marco Rubios of Congress will rant that the Cuban government is guilty of having confiscated private property. Absolutely correct. But China, Vietnam, Russia, Mexico and other governments we recognize have done the same. They will also say that the Cuban government is a repressive government with respect to many of its people. Once again, correct. But we do business with numerous others governments guilty of the same charge, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Russia, Vietnam and many others.

Shortly after President Obama held his news conference announcing his decision to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, Florida Senator Marco Rubio appeared before the TV cameras. He gave all appearances of being in shock over the situation. And with good reason. He and a number of other politicians have built careers based on their opposition to the Cuban government. In most instances, they have represented states or congressional districts with a high percentage of Cuban-American citizens.

But times have changed. While the older generations of Cuban Americans – those who had lived in Cuba and immigrated to the United States – may still support things like the trade embargo, public sentiment has changed among the younger generations.

The U.S. maintains a fairly large interests operation in Havana. It will require little to simply change its name from an interests section to an embassy. Initially, confirmation of an ambassador will likely run into a roadblock, but with time that will also change.

Obama can take most of his actions to normalize relations via executive action. But the trade embargo is set in law and will require congressional action to be lifted.

Don’t expect that to happen any time soon. However, when a major effort comes to remove the embargo, it will likely come from the business sector, seeking to open new markets for their products. The petroleum industry will also likely make a push in an effort to gain offshore exploration rights from the Cuban government. Another U.S. economic sector that will make that push will be the resort and tourism industry. Cuba has huge potential for tourism and right now European companies are doing most of that development in Cuba. Unfortunately, the longer the U.S. drags its feet on lifting the trade embargo, the more likely it is that all of the prime beach front property will be developed by interests from other countries. (more…)

On the front pages


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

Micron's fortunes looking up (Boise Statesman)
Student paper plagiarizes in commont on Ybarra (Boise Statesman)
Looking at challenge to health care subsidies (IF Post Register)
Cooperative health insurance provider appears (IF Post Register)
Otter wants Supreme Court to see Idaho marriage case (IF Post Register)
Asotin aquatic center may be back on track (Lewiston Tribune)
Latah whooping cough case confirmed (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Latah officials look to next legislative session (Moscow News)
Canyon officials release plans for jail (Nampa Press Tribune)
Caldwell ethanol plant considered by county (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello cows may get national help (Pocatello Journal)
Pocatello schools asking for $9.25m levy (Pocatello Journal)
ASISU president quits as grades fall (Pocatello Journal)
Chobani finds way to use less water (TF Times News)

Historical park fees would rise to $10 (Astorian)
Pacific Power may sue Klamath on terms of use (KF Herald & News)
Jobs coming back in Portland (Medford Tribune)
Old state hospital building to be demolished (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Coal port case on hold till end of 2015 (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon gets new pot program head (Portland Oregonian)
Portland might go for new parking meter deal (Portland Oregonian)
Farmers could see benefits from Cuba trade (Salem Statesman Journal)
State seeks to have local school incentivize (Salem Statesman Journal)

Port Orchard has conflicts over email policy (Bremerton Sun)
Poulsbo transfer station added to Transit plan (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish County won't shut down, budget okayed (Everett Herald)
KapStone workers, execs still conflict over health (Longview News)
Islee looks toward carbon cap and trade (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Port Angeles Chambers keeps tourism role (Port Angeles News)
Weather mild, snow thin, not much skiing (Spokane Spokesman)
Port of Vancouver may develop Red Lion hotel (Vancouver Columbian)
Judge Johnson, female pioneer, will retire (Vancouver Columbian)
Concerns raised about Yakima fish recovery (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima won't contribute fundes toward trolley (Yakima Herald Republic)

Old gimmicks and governing

trahant MARK


We just watched the end of The Old School Congress. It passed bills with thousands of pages, giving permission to members in the House and Senate to sneak legislation into larger bills. And better: To do so in a way without transparency or consequences.

Arizona’s Rio Tinto mine giveaway is a case in point. Actual legislation to support an Australian mining company never found support; it’s not smart politics. Which senator (other than John McCain who has long championed the deal) was willing to go before voters and say this is a good deal? But tucking into a Defense Authorization bill? Old school.

It’s a similar story for Sealaska and lands that were part of a promise under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. This time the old school process worked in favor of Alaska Natives. “Words cannot describe how pleased we are that this lands bill has passed through Congress,” said Sealaska President and CEO Anthony Mallott. And, unlike the Rio Tinto deal, this one was transparent. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was clear about her role in the deal.

The budget bill that Congress passed — the so-called cromnibus — was very much old school. It was signed into law Tuesday. It’s a massive spending bill, $1.1 trillion worth, wrapping up all sorts of regular appropriations with one page or one paragraph special deals that were inserted into the nearly 1,700 page document at the last minute.

But old school has its benefits. Federal Indian programs — especially the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs — were funded with modest increases. This budget means the rest of the year — from now until the end of September — should be drama free. Agencies will know how much money is available and what can be done.

But this is when the Old School ends. In a few days a new Republican Congress takes over. While many leaders are fond of the process — the give and take of legislation — the core of the party’s constituency is dismissive. The new school sees legislation as simple, clear and transparent. Not bad values, at that. But they also see legislation as either good or evil. And federal spending is not good.

What’s missing from the discourse, then, is the reality that we are already in an era of austerity. Most federal spending has been declining for five years straight and cutting domestic spending even more will not produce the kind of results that the New School wants. (more…)

On the front pages


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

Boise discusses southwest annexation (Boise Statesman)
State may sell 607 acres at Nampa (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
New Cathollic bishop Christensen installed (Boise Statesman)
LDS temple at IF shuttered 18 months for renovation (IF Post Register)
Pocatello regional postal center shuts in April (IF Post Register)
Inslee proposes carbon tax paying for transit (Lewiston Tribune)
Poll says Washingtonians back WSU med school (Moscow News)
Nampa sued by former public works official (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello cows remain at large (Pocatello Journal)
ON Semiconductor manager leaves for Phoenix (Pocatello Journal)
Urban village gets okay from TF council (TF Times News)
Cassia seeks $37m school bond (TF Times News)

Piercy won't seek another mayoral term (Eugene Register Guard)
Lane Transit District may go after police powers (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath city, county may merge planning services (KF Herald & News)
New manager for Bureau of Reclamation named (KF Herald & News)
Umatilla port, city confer over land case (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Coming battle over pot taxation by cities (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Looking at Oregon's system dealing with addiction (Portland Oregonian)
Record number jobs in Oregon; many still out (Salem Statesman Journal)

Inslee transport plan would include carbon tax (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News)
Suquamish consider allowing pot (Bremerton Sun)
New Kitsap prosecutor looking to bring changes (Bremerton Sun)
Experienced school bus drivers hard to find (Longview News)
Lewison Co may not endorced I-594/gun checks (Longview News)
Olympia port pays $187k in records case (Olympian)
Pollutants found near former Payonier site (Port Angeles News)
Health ratings for restaurants, etc drop (Seattle Times)
Spokane encourages use of apprentices in projects (Spokane Spokesman)
Drivers using up gasolline glut (Tacoma News Tribune)
Plan to block department mergers in Clark fails (Vancouver Columbian)
Mixed reaction to education budget (Vancouver Columbian)
Tree Top fruits CEO retiring (Yakima Herald Republic)

An investigative legacy?

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

Assuming this term will be Gov. Butch Otter’s last, it would be a good time for him to be thinking about his place in Idaho’s history. That is, of course, if this ends up being his last term.

But legacy building is taking an ugly detour as a result of the Idaho Education Network broadband contract, which was thrown out in court and the private-prison contract with Corrections Corporation of America, which is under investigation with the FBI. Administration of contracts could be one of the big issues heading into the next legislative session. Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Bone, who chairs the House State Affairs Committee, has told the Post Register he is looking into investigating the IEN issue.

One person who is not letting the broadband issue go away is Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, who is giving the administration plenty of heartaches. Earlier this month, the Midvale Republican circulated a statewide column discussing the broadband contracts and pointing fingers in high places.

“I am not going to let this go away and I don’t think the people of Idaho should let it go away,” said Boyle, who has gained the attention from fellow conservatives and Democrats.

As one of the more conservative members of the Legislature, Boyle says “no” to a lot of things. The broadband contract was not one of them. She sees the value of connecting schools, libraries and state agencies with high-speed Internet and didn’t blink at the $60 million contract.

“Correctly done, it brings the world to Idaho students and citizens, especially in the rural areas,” Boyle said in her commentary. “However, when it becomes illegal and corrupt, I must speak out.”

As with the national debt, the costs for the illegal contracts keep climbing in the form of withheld federal funds and legal fees. And it’s all as a result of former Director of Administration Mike Gwartney, Otter’s right-hand man early in his governorship, changing the terms of the contract – eliminating Syringa, which was supposed to share in proofing the broadband connections. Quest’s name was left on the contract.

Boyle sees the arrangement as an example of “crony capitalism,” which gives special favors to campaign donors. In this case, Boyle says, “the children of Idaho will be the losers” in the deal.

Boyle says her commentary was only a start. The solution is for the Legislature, and possibly the state Department of Education, to investigate further. She has an ally in Democratic Sen. Grant Burgoyne of Boise.

“The Legislature needs to stand up and make sure the money is appropriated and spent properly,” he said.
On the CCA contract, he said, “how did we get in a position where we went for a long period of time with the contractor submitting false billings to us?”
Burgoyne and Boyle are miles apart on many legislative issues, but he admires Boyle for keeping the issue in the forefront.

“Representative Boyle has always stepped up and told people exactly what she thinks,” Burgoyne said. “She’s courageous and outspoken. She does not mislead anybody about what she thinks and her intentions. Those are very good attributes.”

Somewhere, the late former U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth – Boyle’s longtime mentor, employer and friend – must be smiling.

On the front pages


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

Boise could get easement for Dry Creek trails (Boise Statesman)
When Anheuser-Busch buys small brewery . . . (Boise Statesman)
Lewiston legislators look ahead to session (Lewiston Tribune)
Clearwater Paper does $100m stock buyback (Lewiston Tribune)
Former Pullman church land will be redeveloped (Moscow News)
Syringa Court case returns to court (Moscow News)
Health & Welfare sells North Nampa property (Nampa Press Tribune)
Amount of SBA loans in Boise area increases (Nampa Press Tribune)
Cows on the loose in Pocatello (Pocatello Journal)
Idaho Falls LDS temple may close for a year (Pocatello Journal)
TF council okays Banner building as new city hall (TF Times News)

Pay raise considered for UO president (Eugene Register Guard)
Hospice relocations considered at various sites (Eugene Register Guard)
Movie 'Wild' premieres in Ashland (KF Herald & News)
Pacific Connector Pipeline debated at meeting (KF Herald & News)
New tribal health clinic sited for 2015 (Pendleton E Oregonian)
School leaders: Gov's budget still not enough (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Could Tums help with ocean acidification? (Portland Oregonian)
Portland-Uber conflict continues (Portland Oregonian)
Planned Salem bridge to be named for Courtney (Salem Statesman Journal)

Inslee offers partial preview of budget (Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian)
Snohomish Co shutdown becoming possibility (Everett Herald)
Reconsidering rules for pot in rural areas (Everett Herald)
KapStone delivers health ultimatum (Longview News)
Olympia may shut a park and its well (Olympian)
On the economics of WA state auto license plates (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Tunnel could be impact key water main (Seattle Times)
Boeing may see cost overrun on tanker (Seattle Times)
People statewide favor WSU med school in poll (Spokane Spokesman)

In the Briefings


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.

On the front pages


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

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)

Health on the civic agenda

idaho RANDY

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. (more…)

On the front pages


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

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)

Some learning curve advice

idaho RANDY

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. (more…)

On the front pages


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

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)