Writings and observations

idaho RANDY

When I want to check an official record for an indication of how wet or dry the region is, I usually go to the Western Regional Climate Center (wrcc.dri.edu), which among other things compiles snowpack information for the western United States. The numbers there rise and fall, but at the moment the numbers on its charts seem not to look all that bad.

Usually I look for the percent of normal accumulated precipitation, which shows how various areas – river basins mainly, but broken down to much smaller units – are faring. 100 percent at this time of year typically would indicate normal levels. 150 percent would suggest some risk of flooding (at least in some places, depending on the lay of the land); 50 percent or less usually means dry times ahead.

The “water year” for measurement purposes started at the beginning of October, and for some weeks toward the end of last year the numbers were looking good, even on the high side. But in the last couple of months there’s been a gradual drop.

They’re still not terrible, and if they maintain where they are now into summer Idaho would have ample water. The Spokane River basin, at this writing, was 90 percent; the Salmon River, 97 percent; the Little Wood River basin 80 percent. Some are lower, like the Medicine Lodge area (64 percent) and Bear River Basin (76 percent). These are areas not usually awash in water to start with.

The problem is that so far this year, week after week, the numbers have been falling. The omens are not especially good.

I’d be uneasy about interpreting some of this except for the road trip I took last week around the Northwest. I know what February usually looks like in many of the state’s landscapes – in most years past there’s a good deal of white out there, especially in higher elevations – and it doesn’t much look that way now.

The standout was the Long Valley – the McCall and Cascade area. February is when McCall holds its traditional Winter Carnival, the centerpiece of which is a large collection of ice sculptures. The dates this year were January 27 to February 5, and there were as usual some great sculptures. (The winner was a Sphinx and pyramid theme. McCall usually is bathed in white during and for some time after the event.

But this year they held it not a moment too early. By the time early last week I passed through McCall, the snow was almost all gone, and only a few small, melting sculptures remained.

Look up to the mountainsides around Long Valley and you’ll find checkerboard broad and white surfaces, nothing like the solid white of yore.

The story was the same almost everywhere I went. The good news was the roads were clear and dry, a contrast to many February road trips around Idaho. But there are some serious negatives.

I’ve heard a number of reactions to all this. One is a growing sense that the risk of major wildfires is rising rapidly, and that may be the case.

But it’s also looking like a low-water year generally. There’ll be some tense times ahead.

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Idaho Idaho column


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)

Middleton launches its own police force (Boise Statesman)
Nez Perce court has $7m in unpaid debt (Lewiston Tribune)
Teacher salaries would rise under Idaho legislation (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Idaho minimum wage bill appears but stops (Nampa Press Tribune)
Bald eagles in SW Idaho captured on camera (Nampa Press Tribune)

Employee of Shockley begin their own firm (Eugene Register Guard)
Bighorn sheep moving in around Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Cover Oregon dissolution bill goes to Brown (KF Herald & News)
Lowest snow ever at Crater Lake (Medford Tribune)
Kitzhaber email leak happened amidst audit (Pendleton E Oregonian)
State carbon plan called inefficient (Portland Oregonian)
More children in learning environments in Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
Senate Republicans kicked from gas tax talk (Salem Statesman Journal)
Oregon exports limitedwith port problems (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bellingham activists mull new civic event (Bellingham Herald)
Kilmer seeks local input on Navy training (Bremerton Sun)
Local governments take new records tack (Everett Herald)
New ferry starts runs at Westport (Longview News)
Gas tax bill blocked by new Senate rules (Olympian)
Seattle elephants headed for Oklahoma (Seattle Times)
CEO at Avista paid $5.5m last year (Spokane Spokesman)
Ruston may contract with Tacoma on permits (Tacoma News Tribune)
More debate over ‘In God we trust’ (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

trahant MARK


I have been writing for years about the success — well, at least mostly — of Native American voters. During recent presidential election cycles the turnout from Indian Country is inspiring, helping to swing elections from Arizona to North Dakota.

And just last year Alaska Native voters helped dump a hostile state governor and replaced him with Gov. Bill Walker, an ally, as well as electing Byron Mallott, a Tlingit leader, as the Lt. Governor.

But do you want to know something really cool?

The demographic shift that reflects Native voting power is only beginning. What’s more the landscape is changing faster than expected and should bring about dramatic changes in states as “red” as Alaska and Oklahoma.

A new report looks at the numbers and the results are stunning. In 1980 when Ronald Reagan was elected president the population of the United States was 80 percent white. Today that proportion stands at 63 percent and it’s likely to be less than 44 percent by 2060. The report, “The States of Change: Demographics and Democracy” is a collaboration of the liberal Center for American Progress, the conservative American Enterprise Institute and demographer William H. Frey of the Brookings Institution. One of the goals is to “document and analyze the challenges to democracy posed by the rapid demographic evolution from the 1970s to 2060.”

One lens that is particularly revealing: States where people of color are the majority. The report said: “Right now, there are only four majority-minority states: California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas. But with the ongoing demographic transformation of the country, our States of Change projections find that this will become more and more common.” So in five years Maryland and Nevada will be in that category. Then by 2060 the number of majority-minority states will reach 22, including seven of the currently largest states, making up about two-thirds of the country’s population.

American Indians and Alaska Natives are very much a part of this new majority because we are younger and growing faster than an older white population.

Alaska is the ideal example. The report says the state will be majority, minority as soon as 2030. Alaska Native voters, Asian Americans, Hispanics and African Americans will make up more than half the population then and by 2040 nearly 60 percent.

Another state that’s about to change dramatically is Oklahoma. That state’s white population dropped 20 percentage points — from 87 percent to 67 percent — between 1980 and 2014. This means Oklahoma is likely to be a majority-minority state by 2045 and should be only 43 percent white by 2060.

Usually I am not please when I see demographic tables that lump the Native American category into the “other” category. But this report clearly identifies Native Americans as a significant development in that category. The report finds that South Dakota, Montana and North Dakota are also seeing a rapid increase in the Native population — and potential voters.

So what do these trends mean for Indian Country?

We are going to have more say. Or else.

Political parties and politicians must compete for American Indian and Alaska Native voters if they want to remain competitive. So it will not be enough to say that Native issues are a federal concern. Soon each state with a new majority of voters will need to adapt, being a better partner with tribal governments. The new voting majority means a better shot at Medicaid expansion to support the Indian health system or to improve state funding for tribal community colleges (a hot issue in Montana right now) because legislators are going to need to address these issues if they want to remain viable.

Of course none of these demographic trends represent a sure thing. Fact is we still have a gap between the Native population and the number of eligible voters (something the report says is shrinking). And Indian Country doesn’t turnout as many voters as is even possible now. But then again, being in the majority might change that. There’s nothing better than winning elections.

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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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)

LaBeau profane blast at Siddoway discussed (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Small counties have hard time on death penalty cases (Boise Statesman)
Snake/Clearwater dredging project done (Lewiston Tribune)
Sangria Development to build at 6th & Jackson (Moscow News)
Pullman hospital contributes toward home health (Moscow News)
St Alphonsus plans new hospital at Nampa (Nampa Press Tribune)

Eugene probably moves on Civic stadium (Eugene Register Guard)
KF high school will be renovated (KF Herald & News)
Another council recall planned at Tulelake (KF Herald & News)
Jackson Co proposes pot dispensary buffers (Medford Tribune)
Medford schools may add health center (Medford Tribune)
Hayes tries to bock email releases (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)
State agency reviews market place for pot (Portland Oregonian)
Brown supports end to death penalty (Portland Oregonian)

Bainbridge Island may tighten dog ordinance (Bremerton Sun)
Legislature on more disclosure of landslide area (Everett Herald)
Battle develops on Inslee e-cig tax plan (Olympian)
Health exchange consumer to be refunded for overbills (Olympian, Port Angeles News)
Will legalization end pot black market? (Seattle Times)
Possible increase in I-90 speed limit (Spokane Spokesman)
Senator Benton charges many mileage bills (Vancuver Columbian)
What’s ahead for medical, recreational pot merge (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT


Our so-called “social media” has been filled in recent days with the totally embarrassing remarks of an Idaho Republican legislative troll during a public hearing the other day. And the state’s reputation took yet another prominent hit in the national media as it so often has in recent times.

This time the troll was Rep. Vito Barbieri of the crazy North Idaho Barbieri’s. Guy’s been elected three times because voters in his district all seem to come from the same shallow end of the gene pool and see nothing wrong. He’s a California transplant who says he’s a lawyer though he’s never taken the Idaho Bar exam. He eats his own shoe leather – regularly and publically – by inserting his foot in his mouth before engaging his brain.

This time, his question of a doctor testifying before an Idaho House committee – a woman doctor yet and in a very public hearing – was whether it would be possible to peek inside a woman’s vagina by putting a small camera down her throat. Now, if for some reason you haven’t heard this, I’m definitely not making this up. I swear!

The cherry on top of this dipstick? He’s a board member of a North Idaho pregnancy crisis group. How’d you like to have him answer the phone when your scared teenage daughter – or any daughter – was reaching out for help?

“Just swallow a little camera, Dear, and see if it’s all O.K. down there.”

Now, I grant the nation’s political bodies aren’t full of PhD’s. And not everyone who chooses to run for public office has the skills deemed necessary to tie both shoes. So, some political vacancies extant are filled in by … well, let’s just say the “intellectually under-served.” Like a Barbieri.

Yes, he’s caught his share of embarrassing shots for the last week or so. Yet again. He’s even tried to say the question was “rhetorical.” Rhetorical? To which one could legitimately respond, “What the Hell’s the difference?”

While it’s easy to make fun of this cretin, there’s a really serious side to this Idaho political mistake. Because, the fact is, he’s no mistake. Elected three times by his neighbors who know him for the empty suit he is, he really does represent a constituency. So did Michelle Bachman. So does Darrell Issa and Steve King and Louis Gohmert and Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and all those other riders on the clown bus. While the rest of us might think these and other self-serving members of that “intellectually under-served” class have no place making decisions for us on issues beyond their understanding, the fact remains they represent people who think they do.

As a nation, both left and right, most of us are bemoaning the ongoing display of childishness in Washington – John Boehner and Mitch McConnell at one end of the playground – the President at the other – a lot of juvenile-acting delinquents in the middle. Regardless of differing political leanings, nearly all of us are tired of the stalemate, the name-calling, the intransigence of the situation.

The state of our national politics is now causing legitimate concern on the part of leaders of other countries who wonder if we’re no longer able to govern ourselves. They’re nervous about us keeping our word on important world matters. And, given the already divisive and guttural level of discourse in the 2016 campaign for the presidency, they’re concerned about what our relations will be with them in the future.

Yep, it’s bad. In fact, we’re a crippled republic. We’ve put the levers of government in the hands of too many unqualified to operate them. Many have no idea what a republic really is – couldn’t really define democracy if they put down their worn Bible’s and took up a dictionary. Failing to understand the real role of government – or their elected role in running that institution – they’ve tried to replace knowledge with dogma – action with inaction – representation of all with representation of a few.

When I see the full-throated ignorance of a Cruz or a Gohmert or a Lee, I see a Barbieri. When I hear members of one house of Congress excoriate (by individual name) the other (or the president) in debate, I hear a Barbieri. When decorum, discipline and protocol are ignored by members or congressional “leadership” on the national stage, I think of the Barbieri’s we’ve sent to Boise – to Salem – to Olympia – to Washington D.C..

The ability of these people to embarrass us – to shame us by their inappropriate behavior – to fail us by their political misconduct – to betray our votes by resorting to flawed religious zealotry rather than common sense – these things too many ill-informed voters have allowed. We did it either by replacing expectations of competence with narrow-mindedness in our choices – or by not educating ourselves so we can make smarter, more well-informed candidate selection the priority of the voting franchise.

We’re the ones who’ve given the Vito Barbieri’s of this world the stage on which to stand – the spotlight in which to bask – and the seat at the head table from which they can embarrass and humiliate with their ignorance. We’re the sponsors that put him where he is. And where they are.

Better informed voters making better informed selections can put better informed people in positions of political leadership. And return the Barbieri’s of this world to the silence of ignominy they have proven they deserve.

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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)

University adjuncts protest for better pay (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
More research into how sagebrush survive (Boise Statesman)
Lewiston police short on ammo supplies (Lewiston Tribune)
Legislators says 2nd amendment activists harassing (Pocatello Journal, Moscow News)
Moscow-Pullman airport work near start (Moscow News)
Anti-bully measure introduced at legislature (Nampa Press Tribune)
Citizenship test bill runs into problems (Nampa Press Tribune)

Fewer hospitalist doctors available (Eugene Register Guard)
KCC leader will stay at Klamath (KF Herald & News)
Numbers of Oregon wolves on increase (KF Herald & News)
Kitzhaber’s appointees halted at Senate (Medford Tribune)
Heavy absentees in Oregon schools may affect budgets (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton tries to create public database (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Legislators prepare to fund schools budget (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Economy looking good for eastern Oregon (Pendleton E Oregonian)
IRS looking into Kitzhaber finances too (Portland Oregonian)
The difficulties of prosecuting bike theives (Portland Oregonian)
Vaccine requirement bill meeting canceled (Salem Statesman Journal)

Some health insurance recipients overbilled (Bremerton Sun)
About grizzly bear restoration efforts (Everett Herald)
Lovick delivers state of Snohomish speech (Everett Herald)
Inslee doesn’t talk taxes to air industry leaders (Everett Herald)
Longview community house has financial trouble (Longview News)
Impacts of low-snow winter on power weighed (Longview News)
Discussing costs of legislator travel (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Olympia courts might move to downtown (Olympian)
Feds study new arco protections (Port Angeles News)
Seattle downtown workers using more non-car transit (Seattle Times)
Microsoft managers fires over expenses (Seattle Times)
Gig Harbor tax activists want vote on building (Tacoma News Tribune)
Still more about ‘In God we trust’ (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

carlson CHRIS


To breach or not to breach the four lower Snake River dams is again being discussed across the region thanks in no small part to an excellent front page article in a recent Sunday edition of the Lewiston Tribune written by Eric Barker.

Thanks in no small part also to Jim Waddell, a long-time civilian employee of the Army Corps of Engineers, now retired, who skillfully took apart earlier Corps economic studies attempting to validate the thesis that it would be more expensive to breach the dams than to keep them running.

That just did not pass the common sense test for Waddell. So after he retired from the Corps as a deputy district engineer, he sank his teeth into a hard-nosed analysis of claims made by the Corps. To say he found skewed assumptions, ignored issues and cooked numbers would be seriously understating what he unearthed.

Allow me a chortle or two. Two years ago I published my second book, Medimont Reflections, which contained 13 essays on other issues and other people I had worked with during my almost 40 years of public sector involvement.

Two of the essays should have generated some controversy inasmuch as they dealt with the four lower Snake dams and with the Northwest Power Planning Council, of which I was Idaho’s first appointee and sat for almost a year.

In the essays, I called for the dams to be breached and the Council to be abolished. One would think a former member of the Council calling for its abolishment and for breaching the four dams would have made the news, wouldn’t you? Nope. Both comments sank with nary a surface ripple into the sea of indifference the smug and the ignorant can convey., Those arrogant few that knew and understood the hieroglyphics of power and energy production curves just sat back and smiled.

After all, old Carlson was not an economist, nor was he an engineer. They thought they could safely ignore me and at least up to now they have been correct.

One current Council member flat told me that the Council and most BPA engineers had decided not dignifying my thoughtful analysis with a comment would ensure no coverage. Take a look, if you get the chance ,sometime at the BPA budget for p.r., public affairs, community relations and the various other names for flackery. Add to it the p.r. budget for the Army Corps of Engineers, the Pcific Northwest Waterways Association and the Power Council itself not to mention state energy offices and you’ll get the picture of what the Save Our Wild Salmon people like Pat Ford, as well as Linwood Laughy and Ed Chaney, have had arrayed against them for years.

Now, however, Jim Waddell comes along. Once one of their own, he knows the numbers inside and out. He is not easily dismissed. So what’s the response of the Corps – another form of “let’s just ignore him and his analysis.” Thus one hears the gobblygook of “our mission is not to analyze past data, our mission is to do what Congress tells us to do, to look forward not backward’ or some version of this.

This head in the sand approach is sure prescription for letting nature drive the issue, particularly around Lewiston, as it will get harder and harder for the Corps to keep dredging a channel for a Port that is continuing to lose money.

To those who say Congress will never appropriate the money to breach the dams I say, “You’re correct.” But Congress doesn’t have to do anyting except maybe authorize the sale of the entire BPA system of dams to the four states represented on the Power Council.

And then the four governors should put JimWaddell in charge. I bet all us ratepayers would like the results. Keep up the good work, Jim.

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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 infill developments in Boise (Boise Statesman)
CCA settles lawsuit with nurse (Boise Statesman)
Legislature retains ban on imported elk (Lewiston Tribune)
New development planned for 6th & Jackson (Moscow News)
Legislative conflicts over violent offender list (Nampa Press Tribune)
Effort continues to toughen seat belt law (Nampa Press Tribune)

Astoria port hit by string of lawsuits (Astorian)
Warrenton debates what to do about pot (Astorian)
More vaccinations set at UO, on meningococcal (Eugene Register Guard)
Documentary over Klamath Basin appears (KF Herald & News)
More than 200 Jackson Co student miss shot deadline (Medford Tribune)
School moves into former grocery store building (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Growth seen in wolf numbers, but not attacks (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Irrigon public library prepares to reopen doors (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Poor tenants aren’t getting water bill discounts (Portland Oregonian)
Looking at cleanliness of Portland air (Portland Oregonian)
Early spring air hitting allergies (Salem Statesman Journal)

Hood River Chum numbers recovering (Bremerton Sun)
Refinancing bonding may save Kitsap $2.5m (Bremerton Sun)
Wildfire response law may be expanded for other uses (Everett Herald)
Toutle school bond passes by 1 vote (Longview News)
Donations to United Way drop off (Longview News)
Lewis-McChord group going to Afghanistan (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Resignation noted for businness development leader (Port Angeles News)
Seattle’s new seawall may help salmon runs (Seattle Times)
Reviewing new Spokane convention center (Spokane Spokesman)
‘In God we trust’ okayed for county display (Vancouver Columbian)
Bill would allow agencies to appeal audits (Yakima Herald Republic)
Selah rejects high density housing (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

strickland MICHAEL


Effective decision making is vital in the business world. Companies require access to information that is concise, easy to interpret and clearly presented. Many decision makers refuse to deal with reports or proposals that are over specified lengths. Reports must be useful to accurately assess situations, solve problems, and meet goals.
Imagine that one of your managers at work has given you an assignment to write a professional report. What should you do first? A good framework for how to proceed is found in the outcomes of Boise State’s English 101. In that course, students apply strategies for generating ideas for writing. They deal with planning and organizing material, illustrating their awareness of a writer’s relationship to the subject, context, purpose, and audience. In the BSU First-Year Writing program, students produce writing in non-fiction, inquiry-based genres, and use an academic documentation style. They use a variety of strategies to integrate evidence gathered from experience, reading, observations, and/or other forms of research.

With this in mind, you should begin by identifying clearly what you are writing about. A client or your supervisor may request a written document from you in the following way:

Our organization is interested in receiving a proposal that shows how we can lower our security costs with sustainable sources from our current base of employees, especially our essential personnel.

Once you have clearly identified your topic, explore its scope. What is “inside” and “outside” of the main idea? A good way to determine the boundaries of your topic is to create a concept map. Write your topic in the middle of your computer screen or a sheet of paper. Circle it, and then write down everything connected with it that comes to mind.

Good reports feature carefully constructed introductions, detailed bodies and logical conclusions. You need to clearly state your purpose. Workplace documents tend to be written for two primary reasons: to inform or persuade.

Write specifically for your audience. Who are your readers? Are they familiar with your topic or completely new to it? What are their needs and expectations? Will they be reading at their desks, in a meeting, on an airplane? Will they read your report from a printed page, a computer screen, tablets or smartphones?

Pay attention to the context of your document. External influences shape how your readers will understand, interpret and react to the report. They will be influenced by contexts including place, medium, and social and political issues.

Write paragraphs that are shorter than those in a traditional essay. Get right to the point. Provide lists of main points, followed by expanded descriptions. See 8 Steps to More Concise Writing by Mark Nichol http://www.dailywritingtips.com/8-steps-to-more-concise-writing/ on the Daily Writing Tips site.

Use headings and selective highlighting to draw attention to major points where emphasis is required. Where possible, include graphs, tables and diagrams. Express and justify your own point of view. Provide strong but condensed conclusions with recommendations for action.

To help develop this type of writing, Boise State professor Bruce Ballenger recently published a new edition of The Curious Researcher: A Guide to Writing Research Papers. The book offers full explanations of the technical aspects of writing and documenting source-based papers. It includes a variety of examples from student and professional writers. A unique chronological organization sets up achievable writing goals while the text provides week-by-week guidance through the research process. Ballenger also includes up-to-date coverage of MLA and APA styles.

The skills required in writing effective reports will help you get the job you want or succeed in the job you have. They can also help consultants gain and maintain clients.

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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)

Lemp Apothecary pharmacy will close (Boise Statesman)
AG figures a St Luke’s tax plan is illegal (Boise Statesman)
Work resumes in west coast porta (Lewiston Tribune)
Barbieri asks about swallowing a vaginal camera (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Legislators look at urban renewal statutes (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow-Pullman airport funds considered (Moscow News)
Profiling new state prison directory Kempf (Nampa Press Tribune)
Considering Pocatello school leader prospects (Pocatello Journal)

State looks into leak of Kitzhaber emails (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
BuRec looks into changing weather planning (KF Herald & News)
Obama community college plan debated in Oregon (KF Herald & News)
School districts deficient in anti-bullying effort (Medfodd Tribune)
No plans yet for fixing E Oregon bridges (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Moving rapidly on state ethics efforts (Pendleton E Orgonian)
Legislature would bar ‘gay conversion therapy’ (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Looking into anti-vaccination advocates (Portland Oregonian)
Ocean acidification threatening oysters (Salem Statesman Journal)
Brown will move into Mahonia Hall (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bremerton treatment plant will get a lid top (Bremerton Sun)
State plans major water cleanup (Bremerton Sun)
Student enrollment at Everett above expectations (Everett Herald)
Study notes ocean acification in WA planning (Longview News)
Measles quarantine ropes in 20 (Port Angeles News)
Oil industry opposes Inslee energy plan (Seattle Times)
Debate over sending money to Somalia (Seattle Times)
Pushing for vote on ‘In God we trust’ (Vancover Columbian)
Legislators, tribes talk pot legalization (Yakima Herald Republic)
Ports returning to work (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take