Writings and observations.

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

In the spring of 1941 the United States, not yet at war but observing that much of the rest of the world was, was cranking its defense industry to full speed. It hit road bumps, one being a systematic unwillingness by some employers to hire certain workers, often on the basis of race or religion.

To counter this, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802. He declared that, “There is evidence available that needed workers have been barred from industries engaged in defense production solely because of considerations of race, creed, color or national origin, to the detriment of workers’ morale and of national unity.” And he ordered that defense contractors hire and treat employees the same regardless of “race, creed, color, or national origin,” not just as a matter of fairness but also as a matter of national security.

This long preceded the civil rights movement, but if the language sounds familiar, that’s no accident. The move toward equity seeded in World War II later set a kind of bar. In areas far beyond national defense, Congress and state legislatures declared that, in varying ways and for diverse groups of people, large-scale and commonplace discrimination has occurred, and that pushing back against it is in the national or state interest.

The 20-plus hours of testimony last week in Boise over House Bill 2, the now-rejected proposal to “add the words” of sexual orientation and gender identity, was an emotional event on both sides, but questions of broader interest, touching all Idahoans, got little attention.

The experience of other states and Idaho cities that have adopted similar language indicates that actual usage of the law probably would be slight. Since Boise passed a similar ordinance in December 2012, either two complaints or none (depending on your analysis) have been filed, and quietly handled, under it. That would be in line with most of the 20 or so states that have passed similar laws; the few much-noted cases involving cake-bakers and florists are rare enough to serve better as fluke news stories rather than as harbingers of trends.

Discrimination against gay and transsexual people, however, is not rare and not hard to document in substantial numbers, and in many places has mirrored the experience of people originally covered under the “race, creed, color” approach. Not many other social segments mentioned as prospects for “covered” groups (tall people, obese, smokers, others) can claim that scale of negative treatment.

Is there a social problem here, a need for action, as Roosevelt cited in 1941? Departing Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson offered one, saying that communities will be safer with the law in place because people afraid to report violent attacks became more willing to do so after Boise changed its ordinance. “We’ll all enjoy a safer community if we add the words to protect sexual orientation and gender identity in our Human Rights Act,” he said.

Some business owners testified last week they are concerned about the possibility of lawsuits under HB2, but many others have called for the change, in other states and in Idaho; the Boise Chamber of Commerce, for example, endorsed the bill.

There’s a specific state interest as well, of course, in protecting the right of people to exercise their religion. (Though this isn’t the religion-v-gay rights battle some people seem to want to pitch; quite a few in the clergy supported HB2, as others opposed it.) If harassment against people of faith in Idaho does emerge, the legislature should have some work to do. But it seems improbable. In a state with Idaho’s richly-churched demographics, the idea of freedom of religion being at risk, while churchgoing people carry on as they always have in places like Seattle and Portland, seems a little far fetched.

Some of the critics of HB 2 made the useful point that protections in one place can mean a loss somewhere else. That’s not only true, it’s the reality underlying all kinds of legislation (the “ag-gag” law, for example, benefits one group and disadvantages others). In the case of HB2, and eventual future-numbered bills (which will emerge with time), as with other anti-discrimination legislation, any real evaluation has to put these elements in context. Do the people of America get more out of the right to discriminate by race, which advantaged some people, or out of a defense industry where that wasn’t allowed? Do Idaho and the people in it get more out of the current silence on sexual orientation and identity in discrimination law, or out of protections like those in HB 2?

That question won’t go away. It may resolve in the end, as these things often do, more on calculation than on feelings.

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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)

Horse racing chief Frank Lamb retires (Boise Statesman)
Boise Centre may see expansion (Boise Statesman)
Idaho lags nation in reliable broadband (Boise Statesman)
Ludwig picked for council spot (Boise Statesman)
Task force advises state not to sue feds over lands (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Timber counties worried over congress, funding (Lewiston Tribune)
WSU regents hold off regents vote (Moscow News)
Optum contractor goes before H&W committees (Nampa Press Tribune)
Career ladder bills on their way (TF Times News)
Area jails more advanced tech (TF Times News)

Democrats outline legislative plans (Eugene Register Guard)
Cylvia Hayes won’t have governor’s office spot (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Former Klamath DA Caleb dies (KF Herald & News)
New owl attacks in Salem area (Salem Statesman Journal)

Fire districts in Mason County may merge (Bremerton Sun)
Six members depart Cowlitz United Way board (Longview News)
Heck will lead House Democrats recruitment (Olympian)
Yelm schools seek $53.9m bond for overcrowding (Olympian)
Fraud charged in Pierce vehicle registration (Olympian)
Boeing reports strong profits (Seattle Times)
Idaho racing director resigns (Spokane Spokesman)
Major powwow event cancelled at Post Falls (Spokane Spokesman)
Legislators dislink free meals limit (Vancouver Columbian)
Port issues have cost fruit industry $70m (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Idaho Department of Fish & Game Director Virgil Moore has maintained that many of the people active in the state’s wolf debates have been over- or under-stating various facts and distorting the issue. On January 29 he released this statement.

It’s important for state agencies to understand and respect differing points of view. But when a few advocacy groups try to grab headlines by skewing Idaho Fish and Game scientific wolf monitoring data in ways that simply aren’t true, it’s also important to set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

Idaho has more than 100 documented wolf packs and over 600 wolves. Idaho’s wolf population far exceeds federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves.

After meeting federal recovery levels in 2002, Idaho’s wolf population grew largely unchecked for the remainder of the decade, resulting in increased conflicts with other big game populations and livestock.

After 4 harvest seasons since the 2011 delisting, livestock depredations have declined. Wolf predation continues to have unacceptable impacts to some elk populations, but there are signs elk populations are responding positively to wolf management.

Wolves in Idaho continue to be prolific and resilient. Idaho will keep managing wolves to have a sustainable, delisted population and to reduce conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

Despite these facts, a few advocacy groups chose to take the breeding pair metric out of context to make claims that Idaho wolves are “teetering on the brink of endangered status once again.” That’s hogwash. And it’s the kind of polarizing misinformation that undermines responsible wildlife conservation and management in Idaho.

Confirming a pack meets U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s narrow definition of a “breeding pair” is costly and labor-intensive. With vast reductions in federal funding to the state and Nez Perce Tribe for wolf monitoring, Fish and Game has focused our effort on demonstrating Idaho has at least 15 “breeding pairs” to comply with federal recovery requirements. Idaho closely surveyed 30 packs and confirmed that 22 of them met the breeding pair standard at the end of 2014. Because Idaho has shown it is well above federal recovery levels, we may rely on less intensive monitoring for the other 70 + packs as we complete our final 2014 population estimates. One can assume these 70+ packs include some additional breeding pairs. We will publish our annual monitoring report in March.

As trained scientists, Idaho Fish and Game stands by our data and our wildlife management plans. We manage wolves to ensure we keep state management authority and address conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

I hope people who truly care about wildlife conservation ignore the exaggerations and misinformation and help Fish and Game focus on the real issues affecting Idaho’s wildlife.

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Idaho Reading

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)

Add the words effort will continue (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
McCall Wnter Carnival begins again (Boise Statesman)
Ybarra asks for Luna-level schools budget (Nampa Press Trbune)
Idaho women’s pay up, men’s down in 2013 (Nampa Press Tribune)
More dislike for school buses in Magic Valley (TF Times News)
Ybarra proposes career ladder phase in (TF Times News)

New design styles in Junction City hospital (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath schools trying advanced graduation (KF Herald & News)
Lakeview progresses with biofuel plant (KF Herald & News)
Medford may add red light cameras (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton policy chief says Aryans may be broken (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon still has stagnant high school graduation (Portland Oregonian)
Although another study shows an increase (Salem Statesman Journal)

Pot shops told they’re off limits for military (Bremerton Sun)
Everett-area schools using panic buttons (Everett Herald)
Schedule set for coal dock at Longview (Longview News)
Thurston tries counting homeless (Olympian)
Forks city plans a back to basics approach (Port Angeles News)
Amazon stock continues its rise (Seattle times)
Spokane environment initiative heads to ballot again (Spokane Spokesman)
Idaho gay rights bill fails (Spokane Spokesman)
Inslee tours around Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)
Panera bread may move into Union Gap (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

From the first day of hearings on the “add the words” bill (House Bill 2) at the Idaho Legislature. The hearing is being held by the House State Affairs Committee.

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Idaho

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)

Federal ID law may be impacting Idaho (Boise Statesman)
UI tuition halt not catching at other institutions (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Boise downtown grows in 2014 (Boise Statesman)
Add the words hearing concludes (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Forest service setting new snomobile policy (Lewiston Tribune)
Palouse water usage grew 1% last year (Moscow News)
Caldwell battling crow infestation (Nampa Press Tribune)
State House okays rules for oil and gas (Nampa Press Tribune)
Boise and Greenlead reach drain project deal (Nampa Press Tribune)
Vailas asks state funding increase for ISU (Pocatello Journal)
TF schools irritated at school bus service (TF Times News)

Leaked presidential UO documents returned (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune)
Local school graduation rates improve (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon Tech plans new building, improvements (KF Herald & News)
No snowmobile policy set by Forest Service (KF Herald & News)
Wyden warrns rural counties losing timber funds (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Hayes says she earned more than earlier reported (Portland Oregonian)
Stayton firm will build Salem bridge (Salem Statesman Journal)

DOE pays $45k fine on Hanford cleanup (Kennewick Herald)
Cowlitz United Way troubles found in audit (Longview News)
Cowlitz PUD has costly legal issues (Longview News)
People at risk for violence may lose guns (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Sheriff’s budget plans jail opening at Thurston (Olympian)
Homeless tent camps carry high permit costs (Seattle Times)
Spokane transit may add bus to Coeur d’Alene (Spokane Spokesman)
More federal funds for VA services (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislative criticism of state pay raises (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark County considers ‘In God we trust’ display (Vancouver Columbian)
Legislative support grows for transport package (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Consider the massive storm that resulted in a state of emergency throughout much of New England with temperatures in the teens, gusty winds, and snow measured by the foot not the inch. We know from the science that climate change will make storms more severe and more common.

It’s also the moment when the Obama administration stepped up to preserve the environment — as well as protect Alaska Native communities — by limiting future oil and gas development in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and along the Coastal Plain.

A White House blog put it this way: “This far northern region is known as “The Sacred Place Where Life Begins” to Alaska Native communities. The Refuge sustains the most diverse array of wildlife in the entire Arctic — home not only to the Porcupine caribou, but to polar bears, gray wolves, and muskoxen. Bird species from the Coastal Plain migrate to all 50 states of the country — meaning that no matter where you live, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is part of your landscape.”

But pretty much all of official Alaska saw this issue differently. On Capitol Hill, Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said the administration has “effectively declared war on Alaska. That’s my view of it.”

“It’s a one-two-three kick to the gut of Alaska’s economy,” she said, adding that the governor told the Secretary of Interior that Alaska has a budget hole of about $3.5 billion — a problem that will be made worse without more oil production.

And this is an odd time for Alaska. The state budgeted for oil to be selling at more than a hundred dollars a barrel — and now the price is less than half that. This is a state that an oil and gas trade group brags that 92 percent of the state’s revenues come from that single industry.

So Alaska has had a grand old time with its oil money. Instead of a personal income tax, Alaskans receive their version of a tribal per capita every year. In fact Alaska ranks second lowest in the country in overall taxes (Wyoming is first) but that figure is skewed because nearly all of the money comes from corporate taxes. There is no income tax or sales tax.

Perhaps this serious budget shortage might actually force Alaska citizens to contribute to their state and pay taxes the way, oh, 49 other states and the District of Columbia do.

But let’s talk climate. Neither the White House nor the Interior Department cited climate change as their reason for limiting development in Alaska.

Then again, a new analysis published in Nature in January said that more fossil fuels will have to be left in the ground in order to prevent further damage from climate change. The piece said that known reserves of coal, oil and gas, including the Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas, cannot be developed and still keep temperatures under current limits. The authors wrote: “Our results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves,half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target.”

That means no new Arctic oil and gas developments. No more tar sands. And, by extension, no Keystone XL pipeline.

What’s interesting about the research is how specific it is about developing Arctic resources.

The authors, Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins from University College in London, estimate “100 billion barrels of oil (including natural gas liquids) and 5 trillion cubic meters of gas in fields within the Arctic Circle that are not being produced as of 2010.”

That production alone could tip the globe and warm more than is considered safe. “The results indicate to us that all Arctic resources should be classified as unburnable. To conclude, these results demonstrate that a stark transformation in our understanding of fossil fuel availability is necessary. Although there have previously been fears over the scarcity of fossil fuels in a climate-constrained world this is no longer a relevant concern: large portions of the reserve base and an even greater proportion of the resource base should not be produced if the temperature rise is to remain below 2 degrees” above pre-industrial levels.

The president’s action is not final. Congress would have to do that. But this action means the Interior Department can manage the lands as if Congress had acted. (Congress could reverse Interior, but remember in the Senate that means finding 60 votes. That’s not likely to happen.)

Is this the Climate Moment? The turning point? There is a lot of work ahead, but the Obama administration is acting as if the answers are a “yes.”

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)

Idaho’s racing regulator a lobbyist in Wyoming (Boise Statesman)
Seattle enforces food compost rules (Boise Statesman)
Real ID hits Idaho drivers licenses for flying (Lewiston Tribune)
Hearing on ‘add the words’ goes into day two (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Dixie Drain dispute nears conclusion at Greenleaf (Nampa Press Tribune)
Community college presidents ask for more funding (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Transportation officials reviewing 80 mpg (Pocatello Journal)

Hundreds of Eugene trees fall for transit line (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath jail levy faces voters in May (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath tribes discuss water deal (KF Herald & News)
Darigold milk plant closes at Medford (Medford Tribune)
More wolves settle in parts of Oregon (Medford Tribune)
Ranchers authority to shoot wolves grows (Portland Oregonian, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton may add new skating, dog parks (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Kitzhaber reviewing home pot limits (Portland Oregonian)
Google still reviewing Portland for high speed (Portland Oregonian)
Heavy fog leads to numerous wrecks (Salem Statesman Journal)

Many heroin deaths in Snohomish County (Everett Herald)
Jobs rise above previous peaks at Tri-Cities (Kennewick Herald)
Kennewick may build bridge at Ridgeline (Kennewick Herald)
Pressure grows for mega-quake off Pacific coast (Longview News)
Longview port working on propane export dock (Longview News)
Thurston’s empty jail may be put to use (Olympian)
Hearing heldd in Inslee clean air plan (Olympian)
No more evian cases seen on Peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Clallam County may give $500k economic development (Port Angeles News)
Sea-Tac airport looks toward massive expansion (Seattle Times)
Spokane business development chief quits (Spokane Spokesman)
Liberty Lake end ban on pot businesses (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma mandates 3 days sick leave for businesses (Tacoma News Tribune)
Pierce Co building in south Tacoma pricing high (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark GOP censure of Herrera Beutler could help her (Vancouer Columbian)
Senate Republicans call for end to Bertha (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Do you think that taxpayers have an obligation to pay for the food, shelter and health care for the employees of certain businesses in Oregon? Because that’s what happens when a business pays less to it’s workers than is required to feed, house and care for their workforce.

A new report by Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office, prepared at the request of Republican Rep. Julie Parrish, really tells the story of how taxpayers subsidize low wage businesses. The report shows that if the minimum wage were raised to $15.00/hour an average minimum wage worker would see an increase in total compensation of only $49/month. Even though their gross paycheck would increase by almost $1,000/month. Why is that?

Because as that worker makes more money they lose taxpayer paid benefits that go to some low income workers. Housing assistance, Oregon trail card eligibility (food stamps), and other public benefits would all be reduced for that worker as the minimum wage grows. In fact, the study concludes that a single parent with two kids would lose $30/mo total income plus benefits if the minimum wage were raised to $13.10/hour. Which points out that in reality, workers may be better off if the minimum wage were left unchanged, or raised to at least $15.00/hour. Increases in the range of $12.00/hour would certainly help the teenager who lives with their parents, but would hurt workers who receive other public benefits and are arguably the neediest such as single parents with children.

Increasing the minimum wage reduces the amount of taxpayer benefits paid to the working poor, and shifts the cost of paying for a healthy workforce onto the businesses who use that workforce. A low minimum wage socializes the costs of business. A higher minimum wage allocates the costs to the users. And it’s perfectly fine if those businesses then pass that cost along to the consumer. That’s capitalism.

Increasing the minimum wage also promotes another conservative principle. Reduction in government spending and an increase in individual freedom. With an increased wage, workers should have more choices in their lives. Rather than housing vouchers to be used only for qualified residences, they could use their extra pay to rent whatever they wanted. Or they could live with relatives and pocket the difference. Workers would no longer be tied to the restrictions that come with how they may use some forms of government benefits. And of course, with less need for the administration of benefits, perhaps government could even be reduced in size.

And finally, as the study shows that there is very little net increase in total income for many workers after you take into account the loss of benefits, those certain conservatives who believe that low income workers don’t deserve any raise can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t really a raise for many, it’s just shifting the cost from taxpayer to the business that benefits.

Increasing the minimum wage is a much fairer way to allocate the cost of that business and is closer to what most conservatives want. Make those that use government services to keep a healthy workforce pay for it by raising the minimum wage. Quit socializing the cost of production.

There are some downsides here. It is calculated that an increase in the minimum wage would cost Oregon approximately 20,000 jobs, or about 1% of total jobs. And, riasing the minimum wage would be a huge increase for workers who don’t receive benefits so the taxpayers wouldn’t receive any savings for those workers. (Which is why the earned income refundable tax credit could be a better way to deal with the single parent worker than raising the minimum wage)

A good article in the Oregonian explains the details of the calculation a bit more.

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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)

UI president proposes tuition freeze (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Big crowd speaks pro, con on add the words (Boise Statesman, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Oil spill in WA reported a month late to state (Boise Statesman)
Southgate Plaza owner, legal issues over, renovates (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow-Pullman airport may see terminal expansion (Moscow News)
Flu kills 16 in Idaho so far (Pocatello Journal)
Simpson and Risch work on CIEDRA (TF Times News)
Avian flu battled by state agencies (TF Times News)

Eugene adjusting its growth boundaries (Eugene Register Guard)
PUD general manager returns to work (Eugene Register Guard)
Oregon’s 2013 graduation rate lowest in nation (Portland Oregonian, KF Herald & News)
Keno Tractors may try central American location (KF Herald & News)
Mt Ashland looking for new income streams (Medford Tribune)
Flu declining, ER visits still rise (Medford Tribune)
Aryan gang case at Pendlton proceeding (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Hermiston turns part of one street private (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Wine accounted for $3.35b in Oregon in 2013 (Salem Stateman Journal)

Plane reported as crashed into Hood Canal (Bremerton Sun, Port Angeles News)
State minimum wage under discussion (Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News)
New county building plans may be halted (Everett Herald)
Labor talks restarted at KapStone (Longview News)
Bills introduced to end WA death penalty (Olympian)
Numerous tax levies on ballot (Port Angeles News)
Legislators may expand distracted driving law (Seattle Times)
China will accept all apple imports (Spokane Spokesman, Yakima Herald Republic)
Former Tacoma mill subject of $16b merger (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislature may add 145 mental health beds (Tacoma News Tribune)
Big WA oil spill went unreported for weeks (Vancouver Columbian)
Layoffs hit Christensen Shipyards (Vancouver Columbian)
Some legislators would stop art/road spending (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take