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Posts published in January 2015

Eye on the nuclear rabbit

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

A guest opinion by Cecil D. Andrus, former Idaho governor, on nuclear waste at the Idaho National Laboratory.

There's an old country expression that the people of Idaho should take to heart: Keep your eye on the rabbit. In this case, the rabbit is the incontestable threat to Idaho's economic and environmental future presented by the storage above the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer of nuclear waste, whether liquid, transuranic or solid in the form of spent fuel rods.

It would only take one major seismic event to precipitate nuclear-tainted material migrating to and beginning to infect the aquifer. Idahoans would see a major part of the state's agricultural economy, particularly the downstream potato, beet, alfalfa and trout farm businesses destroyed, never to recover.

Imagine how deadly one political cartoon showing an irradiated potato "going viral" would be?

One out of two residents in South Idaho obtain their culinary water directly or indirectly from the Snake River and/or the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. If you are one of those two, how would you feel about continuing to draw your household water from a compromised source?

There are several key matters the public should keep in mind.

Gov. Phil Batt's historic 1995 agreement that, to his lasting credit, he drove through the "Red Zone" was premised on a mutual agreement between the state and the federal government that all nuclear waste above the aquifer was to be removed from Idaho by 2035.

My fellow citizens, you are not going to reach that goal by adding to the waste instead of continuing to draw it down. Gov. Batt said it quite well: "You take an ounce of waste from the federal government, they want to give you 10,000 pounds."

The issue is not so much what 50 spent fuel rods weigh (EPA states they could weigh up to 1,500 pounds each) that Gov. Butch Otter wants to allow, nor how much revenue-generating research is going to be generated by the spent fuel rods. The issue is that Gov. Otter and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are looking the other way as Idaho's National Laboratory increasingly becomes the de facto replacement for Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the nation's permanent repository.

The second fundamental issue is this: Who do you trust to look out for your interests with the "greatest good for the greatest number" as a guiding principle? Is it two governors who between them have served Idaho in one office or another for a combined 80 years and have stood fast against Idaho becoming a dumping ground, or is it a federal government with a long history of breaking promises?

By the way, this is the same federal government that Gov. Otter so excoriated in his State of the State on a number of fronts. Why does he think they can be trusted to serve as "co-guardians" of Idaho's future?

Gov. Batt and I are giving the people of this great state a solemn pledge that we are going to ask some tough questions in the next few weeks. We intend to get answers. This is not the first time Gov. Otter has sought an exemption. Exceptions quickly turn to norms, and we believe his administration has operated far too long in the shadows on this critical matter.

We take seriously the oath of office we both first took as governors to uphold the Idaho Constitution and to serve the best interests of the people. Though we no longer hold public office, we believe it still applies and we intend to do our duty.

Cecil D. Andrus is a former governor of Idaho.

Mormon mystery to miracle?

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is assessing his prospects for another run at the Presidency. His name indentification alone from being the GOP presidential candidate in 2012 would in normal times give him a leg up and make him the leading contender.

However, these are not normal times and there are some insurmountable obstacles standing in the way. That is not saying he does not have some assets, because he does.

First, he is adaptable, or, as he says with a new-found self-deprecating sense of humor, wife Ann says he learns from experience and is getting more experienced. Romney, his wife and their talented, attractive children are convinced that the warmer, human and humane side of the good husband and fine father he is was not allowed to show in 2012.

Second, they believe his executive and business skills will be even more obvious as an asset both in the primaries against non-business ceo’s like Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as well as presumptive Democratic nominee, former Senator Hillary Clinton. They will argue that only Mitt has the ability to capitalize on and make sure the nation’s economic expansion continues.

Third, supporters like Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz claim time has proven that in foreign affairs Romney was correct in saying one could and should not trust the Russians. Across the board they believe their man’s ability to understsnd better the “optics” of issues than the President has been bourne out.

His two biggest assets, however, have considerable downsides. These two assets are flip sides of the same coin, and that is Romney’s Mormonism. The plain fact is that the Church Authorities up to and including virtually all the membets of the 12 Apostles and the First Presidency, are very proud of Governor Romney and his viability as a candidate for the Presidency.

Publicly, of course, the LDS church and its leadership maintain a posture of neutrality and non-partisanship. However, privately and behind the scenes this “favorite son” quality enables Romney to be one of only two GOP candidates, the other being Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and only one Democrat, former Senator Hillary Clinton, capable of raising the one billion dollars (yes, that is a “b”) most political analysts believe will be raised and spent to secure a party nomination and then run a viable campaign for the Presidency.

Thus, from an organizational and fund-riasing standpoint, Romney’s faith and religion are great assets. Through the Church he has an ability to muster more dedicated followers than even the Clintons and the Obamas.

And through the Church he has an almost inexhaustible fund-raising base that will enable him at a minimum to wear down his lesser resourced opposition, again with the exception of former Flordia Governor Jeb Bush.

If Romney does formally annnounce one can expect his 2012 Fiance co-chair, Melaleuca chairman Frank VanderSloot of Idaho Falls, to again line up as many statewide elected Republicans, and others, such as the Legislative leadership, behind Romney. It migh not be as easy as 2012 for there is little doubt that former Idaho attorney general and lieutenant governor David Leroy will head up Jeb’s Idaho camapign.

Count on Leroy and othe Bush loyalists across the country to exploit publicly one great negative issue in Romney’s record that he cannnot walk away from: he will be linked inextricably to the hated President Obama and the ObamaCare Health Plan which Democrats themselves say was modeled on the RomneyCare Health Reform program promoted and passed into law when Mitt was the governor of the state.

Romney’s biggest negative though is that because he is Mormon he cannot win in the south. If he cannot win the south he can neither win the nomination nor the general election. The path to the White House goes through Florida both in the primaries and the general. (more…)

On the front pages

news

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

Reviewing presidential visits to Idaho (Boise Statesman)
Near-downtown homes may be moved from 5th st (Boise Statesman)
'Ag Gag' bill arrives in Washington legislature (Moscow News)
Local debate over genetically modified crops (Nampa Press Tribune)
As jobless rate declines, food stamp use rises (Nampa Press Tribune)
Water call for Rangen goes through (TF Times News)
Leading Idaho officials won't be at Boise Obama event (TF Times News)
TF courts move toward paperless operation (TF Times News)

Eugene council keeps discussing taxes (Eugene Register Guard)
Pacific Power talks about possible KF city lawsuit (KF Herald & News)
Impact of low gas prices (Medford Tribune)
Walden blasts Obama immigration order (Pendleton E Oregonian)
DNA says Kennewick Man was an Indian (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Regulations impacting drop-in day care efforts (Portland Oregonian)

One phone calls 911 thousands of times on fakes (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish evaluates 911 software (Everett Herald)
Longview looks at city manager finalists (Longview News)
Longview looks at "carbon capture' for port (Longview News)
Backers of more post-prison monitoring look for money (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
MLK Day rallies, speeches (Spokesman Review, Bremerton Sun)
DNA says Kennewick Man was an Indian (Spokesman Review)
State House bars open carry in chamber (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)

State of the Union mentions

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Indian Country is rarely mentioned during a presidential State of the Union. That’s too bad. There is so much a president could do to improve the administration of federal Indian policy.

The president could urge Congress to fund Treaty Right obligations as automatic. After all, it’s essentially the same kind of spending as interest on the federal debt. (A cost, by the way, that the Congressional Budget Office figures will triple in a decade, reaching some $800 billion.)

Or insist on multi-year budgets for the Indian health system, making it much easier to plan ahead, be more efficient, and improve health care.

In a perfect world the president would ask Congress to invest in the next generation of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Everyone talks about how important young people are — so why not do something and something substantial?

Funny thing about that last point: That’s exactly what President Barack Obama will propose in his annual message to Congress.

The United States “dedicated ourselves to cultivating the most educated workforce in the world and we invested in what’s one of the crown jewels of this country, and that's our higher education system. And dating back to Abraham Lincoln, we invested in land-grant colleges. We understood that this was a hallmark of America, this investment in education. But eventually, the world caught on and the world caught up,” he said in a Knoxville, Tennessee, speech, a preview of the State of the Union. “And that’s why we have to lead the world in education again.”

In an economy where knowledge and technology fuel the future the president said “the single most important way to get ahead is not just to get a high school education, you’ve got to get some higher education.”

Even though the president’s message was broad, he was also giving an apt description of the 37 tribal colleges and universities. Then again, the president is not new to this issue. He’s already championed increasing opportunity for Native students, most recently signing an executive order affirming that commitment.

So any boost in funding for community colleges will likely result in more money for tribal colleges too and that’s a smart investment for a lot of reasons.

First consider the big picture, the budget. It’s clear that the US government is on an austerity course. Money for education and other domestic programs has been shrinking not growing (measured by share of the economy). But the entitlement side of the budget —
Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare — is getting more expensive because of the sheer size of the Baby Boom generation.

The problem is that the country is not investing enough in the next generation; instead it’s saddling young people with student debt, now exceeding some $1.2 trillion (more than any other type of household debt). It’s we Baby Boomers who should be shouting about the stupidity of this policy. Fact is we need young people to be as successful as possible, as quickly as possible, to pay for our retirement. The generation called the Echo Boomers is huge, some 90 million people. (The most common age in America right now is 22 years old.) (more…)

In the Briefings

gun

 
Tactical Export Strategies has organized 13 Idaho recreation-technology (rec-tech) companies to create a complete and functioning firearm from Idaho-made products. This firearm will be on display at the 2015 Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (S.H.O.T) Show in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo Center January 20-23, 2015, in the Idaho Commerce booth (booth 2943).  (Image/Idaho Department of Commerce)

 
The Oregon Ducks’ loss at the national championship level stung, and it may not have been exactly the right note on which to launch the Oregon Legislature and re-swear in (for the fourth time) Governor John Kitzhaber. But the timing was fixed. A large portion of the governor’s combination inaugural and state of the state speech is in this edition along with a commentary on its unusual content.

The Washington Legislature launched last week, with much of the attention going to the governor’s state of the state address; much of it is reprinted in this edition. A pile of legislation was introduced as well, and some samples are referenced in the state section.

As per usual, the Idaho Legislature hasn’t immediately roared into action – things move a little slower in the first couple of weeks – but a lot of attention went to the governor’s state of the state address. A large chunk of it is reprinted in this issue, along with part of the Democratic response.

On the front pages

news

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

Supreme Court will hear Idaho Medicaid pay case (Boise Statesman)
DARE school programs generally in decline (Lewiston Tribune)
Getting into the Obama Boise events (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Most of Idaho has strong snowpack (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Southern Idaho will see 13 new solar projects (Nampa Press Tribune)
Zions Bank starts political website (TF Times News)

3 of 4 Wendy's at Eugene close (Eugene Register Guard)
New grant will help restore oak habitat (Medford Tribune)

Seahawks advance to Superbowl (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Kitsap Sun, Olympian, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
Plan suggests rilaroad loop at Everett (Everett Herald)
Lynnwood renting some land for $5 (Everett Herald)
Kilmer, constituents talk electronic warfare (Port Angeles News)
Reviewing legislator action on pot (Vancouver Columbian)
Vancouver oil terminal a divisive subject (Vancouver Columbian)

We lost the war

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

The war of terror is over. The terrorists won.

Before reaching for your friendly keyboard to throw electronic “rocks” my way, consider the evidence. As a matter of fact, consider a lot of evidence. The latest: three guys massacred 16 people in France. Though they met their own violent end(s) hours later, there are now 10,000 French army troops walking the streets of that country with 10,000 automatic weapons at the ready. Three dead guys - 10,000 armed troops. Plus God knows how many local cops, security types and various private guns-for-hire.

One guy - just one - puts some explosive powder on his shoe in an aircraft and tries to light it afire. From that day forward, hundreds of millions of us have had to walk barefoot in airport lobbies. One guy - millions barefoot.

Another guy - just one - had what appeared to be an explosive in his shorts while being an airlines traveler. From that day forward, hundreds of millions of us have had to endure full body scans and/or body scans with hand wands. One guy - millions of us being body scanned.

I could fill a few dozen more paragraphs but you get the idea. When dealing with terrorists, they almost always win by definition because, from the moment of the violence, everyone else reacts. Or over-reacts. Someone breaks into your house - you buy a burglar alarm. Or a gun. Or both. You buy new and heavier locks. More of ‘em. Somebody bashes your parked car. You fix it and park it somewhere else. You react - doing things you otherwise wouldn’t have done. Your thinking changes.

First the violence - the terror, if you will. Then the response.

Many moons ago, I landed in Washington D.C. - unemployed. Thanks to the late Sen. Len Jordan, I was hired as a uniformed Capitol police officer. Now days, Capitol officers are professionals - as well-trained as the D.C. cops. Patronage employees are now limited to copiers and staple machines.

I used to wander the halls of the Capitol and the House and Senate office buildings, first as a tourist and later as a reporter. You don’t do that today. Scanners, badges, armed police, body searches and more. All over the place. There are large cement planters everywhere on the Hill to block someone trying to ram a vehicle into a building. Acres of blacktop and more of just grass - cordoned off to keep open spaces on the Hill - open. Sharpshooters on the roofs of many federal buildings around the Capitol. Same with the White House and other locations.

Terrorists. Just a handful over the last 40-50 years. But billions spent in that same time reacting. Just in Washington D.C..

Checked your local court house or city hall carefully lately? Looked really close at those new cement planter boxes out front? The little security cameras in the trees or jutting out from the eaves? How about the new “No Parking” areas or the removal of parking spaces that used to be so handy? Noticed an armed officer or two in public buildings - or schools - in our little towns? How about all that new military hardware for local cops?

Terrorists. Winning. While we react. (more…)

Eclipse the bus rider

 

Eclipse, a black Labrador Retriever, has learned how to navigate the city's mass transit system - by herself. Occasionally, she hops on a bus to get the dog park... without her owner.

On the front pages

news

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

Hospital taxes continuing even for privates (Boise Statesman)
Mediation entering criminal cases (Boise Statesman)
New political website from Zion Bank (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Boise phosphorus facility in Canyon protested (Nampa Press Tribune)
Large rally at statehouse for 'add the words' (Nampa Press Tribune)
Muslims at TF plan mosque expansion (TF Times News)
Checking in on drug court grads (TF Times News)
Looking at a quarter century of the lottery (TF Times News)

Damaged Leaburg Dam impacting fish hatcheries (Eugene Register Guard)
Pot panel goes to work on new rules (Eugene Register Guard)
Wyden town hall held at Klamath Falls (KF Herald & News)
Some scofflaws run up huge parking fees (Portland Oregonian)
Homeless in Portland high numbers than national (Portland Orgonian)
Analyzing widely varied gas prices in Salem (Salem Statesman Journal)

Legislature considers carbon tax idea (Everett Herald)
Longview industrial park going green (Longview News)
Cuts at Lewis-McChord seem highly likely (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Looking at direct flights to SeaTac (Port Angeles News)
Genetic study finds more about Kennewick Man (Seattle Times)
Clark jail issues emergency body alarms to some (Vancouver Columbian)
Reviewing Yakima's homeless situation (Yakima Herald Republic)

The fight this session

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Of all the subjects under the purview of Idaho government and politics, few ought to be less controversial than roads and road repair.

There’s no dispute that this is something state government ought to be doing. There’s no disagreement anywhere about the need for good roads, and that we need them for all sorts of reasons. And yet roads – or rather, paying for their upkeep, repair and the occasional expansion – have been in recent years the most difficult subject for Idaho governors and legislatures for reaching common ground.

Roads were the reason for the longest legislative session in Idaho history, in 2003. Roads got then-newbie Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter into big fights with the legislature right from his first session, and in 2009 roads funding was the main driver behind the second-longest legislative session in Idaho history.

And here we may be again. Right on schedule, even.

Otter’s case for road and bridge work was touched on quickly in his State of the State address, but it was compelling. He said, “We know that after education, investing in infrastructure is among the smartest, most cost-effective and frankly essential uses of taxpayers' dollars to promote the public’s general welfare and sustain economic growth.” He’d probably not get much argument with that from the public – he pointed out surveys showing similar attitudes among Idahoans – or even among most legislators.

“We already have 785 state and local bridges in Idaho that are over 50 years old and considered structurally deficient. That number will grow to almost 900 bridges by 2019 even after completing work on the 68 for which we already have funding.”

And yet . . . it costs money. A lot of money.

Otter on that: “Chairmen Brackett and Palmer, legislative leaders, I am not going to stand here and tell you how to swallow this elephant. That would be contrary to all we have learned about each other and the people we serve in recent years. But we all know it must be done. I welcome financially responsible legislation that addresses steady, ongoing and sustainable transportation infrastructure in Idaho; however, I will NOT entertain proposals aimed at competing for General Fund tax dollars with education and our other required public programs or services.”

Sounds as if, on one hand, Otter is unwilling to trap himself into proposing a specific tax increase (which might fail), but on the other, telling legislators they have to do it, on whatever their own terms may be . . . so long as they’re not cutting other budgets to do it, which is another way of saying a tax increase will be needed. And Otter appeared to be saying he would veto any attempt to violate that proscription.

That would usually indicate a gas tax increase would be in the works. Given the wonderfully low price of gas right now, that may be the case. (The low price of gas also might help with gas tax revenues, since people may be buying more gallons than they were before.)

But the phrases “tax increase” and “Idaho legislature” haven’t gone together easily in recent years. Maybe recognizing that, Otter also proposed a few tax cuts – a sweetener for some legislators? – but at least one of those is likely to balloon over the next few years, slicing into state revenues.

What’s in development is an echo of those bitter road battles over the last dozen or so years. Don’t be too surprised if this shapes up as a longer, rather than a shorter, session.

On the front pages

news

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

Idaho same-sex marriage case still pursued (Boise Statesman)
School funding discussed at Kamiah capitol for a day (Lewiston Tribune)
Legislators vote 3% raise for state employees (Nampa Press Tribune)
County may sell court annex building (Nampa Press Tribune)
Obama coming to Boise (TF Times News)

Last year was hottest in Oregon history (Eugene Register Guard)
Second Hilton hotel for downtown Eugene possible (Eugene Register Guard)
Reviewing Klamath water documentary (KF Herald & News)
Pacific Power sues KF city over franchise license (KF Herald & News)
Health care district board troubled (KF Herald & News)
Medford will comment on planned Coquille casino there (Medford Tribune)
New interim director for Jackson fairgrounds (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton downtown vacancy rate steady (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Democratic candidates outspent Republican in 2014 (Portland Oregonian)
Healthier cohort in new Medicaid enrollees (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bainbridge Island council spot filled (Bremerton Sun)
Pot dealers now grappling with oversupply (Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Sea Mar health centers pay state $3.65m in case (Olympian)
Seahawks have have had economic impact (Seattle Times, Olympian)
No more open-carry in state Senate (Seattle Times, Vancouver Columbian)
Lawsuit dismissed on port open meetings (Tacoma News Tribune)

The Idaho winemaking tale

strickland MICHAEL
STRICKLAND

 
Literacy

The Idaho winemaking tale is ripe and ready for picking. It all starts with the grapes, according to the Idaho State Historical Society.

Peppershock Media Productions of Nampa, Idaho has adopted this story and developed an outstanding new film. The feature length Idaho Wine From Bud to Taste Bud is ideal for introducing students to documentaries and media literacy. The work also promotes local business in order to increase economic viability and to highlight Idaho’s vineyards and wineries in the national arena. It has uses for teachers and learners across the curriculum.

The video will explore from bud to tastebud–including culinary features. It will highlight the past and fruitful future, as well as educate and explore modern agricultural, specifically viticultural, practices by seamlessly blending the voices of those whose lives are impacted by the Idaho wine industry.

Idaho is considered, by some, part of the new frontier of grape-growing areas in the United States. The first grapes planted in Idaho were actually grown in Lewiston in 1864, according to an official state website, wine.idaho.gov.

“In Idaho we're the oft-forgotten 'other' state in the Pacific Northwest, said John H. Thorngate Ph.D., formerly a professor at the University of Idaho, now Applications Chemist, Research & Development, Constellation Wines U.S. “Which is rather ironic, considering that the first wineries in the Pacific Northwest were located in Idaho, and that Idaho had a nationally renowned wine industry until Prohibition, as in other regions, closed the industry down.”

Students will benefit from classroom explorations of many such little known gems of Idaho history. An article dated September 5, 1865 in the Idaho Statesman reported that a vineyard of Royal Muscadine cuttings had been planted early in the spring of the previous year (1864) and it had survived the winter well and was beginning to produce grapes.

Economics and business classes can learn more about Idaho’s fruitful future. Wine.idaho.gov says that the Idaho wine industry has been a steadily growing community for the last 30 years with remarkable growth in the past decade. With 11 wineries in 2002, Idaho is now home to more than 50, with over 1,200 acres of grapes planted. In order to see the impact Idaho wine industry is having, the Idaho Wine Commission completed an Economic Impact Study in 2014. The results were startling. It was concluded that the Idaho wine industry had a $169.3 million dollar impact in 2013 and created nearly 1,250 jobs. This growth led to an increase in visibility, more tourism, an enhanced reputation, and has created tremendous opportunity for expansion. (more…)