Writings and observations

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Oregon

A governor (or president, or other elected executive) who comes in by way of election can readily either embrace or dismiss the immediate past, depending on circumstances. A newcomer to the post who gets there not by voter approval but by succession – properly, legally and according to process as it may be – has a more subtle task. Some parts of that voter-approved past have to be acknowledged and portions should be stuck with. Other parts, bearing in mind the circumstances leading to the transition, need to be jettisoned.

Taking over as governor of Oregon last week from the scandal-plagued John Kitzhaber, new governor Kate Brown appeared to recognize that dual reality. Her sensitivity to it should be no surprise, given her nearly quarter-century of immersion in Oregon politics. But it’s a fair case study of how to thread the needle.

The ethical cloud of the old administration had to be acknowledged and responded to, and she did. The phrasing may have been a little awkward, but in her inaugural speech she pledged not to do what her predecessor did, and spoke strongly about the need to improve public transparency and ethics law – and somewhat sternly said that the legislature should not think about leaving town until those things ere done.

On the other hand, there was Kitzhaber policy, which was not part of the reason for the resignation. There, she has so far stuck generally to Kitzhaber’s path, maybe most clearly by continuing his moratorium on executions in the state. But she drew a distinction there, a fork in the road: She would allow no more executions until the state had undertaken a full and strong discussion of what to do about the death penalty. That last was a move Kitzhaber had briefly referenced but never pushed, and she gave some hint (albeit not much more than that) that her moratorium was conditional on a good faith effort to seriously grapple with the subject.

Moving ahead in a similar direction, with occasional forks in the road that provide distinction, may be a useful route for the new administration.

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Oregon Oregon column

crapotftn
 

Senator Mike Crapo (left) talking with two editors of the Twin Falls Times News, Matt Christensen (center) and Jon Alexander. (photo/Senator Crapo)

 
The Idaho legislature continues on, moving ahead on normal schedule – so far. Two bumps in the road loomed a little larger last week, one being the problem of the school broadband funding (which some legislators were hoping to resolve by end of the week) and the other road funding, for which a variety of options have surfaced. Battle lines appeared not to have hardened, at least not yet. This week may tell whether the back end of those stories plays easily or hard.

The arrival and swearing in of new Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and some of her initial steps as governor, dominated discussion around the state last week. This week, it may return to the legislature overall.

To the north, will this be an unusual thing – Governor Jay Inslee complimenting the legislature for sending him its budget ahead of expected schedule – or was it a one-shot? The ability of legislators to wrap up in a single session may hang in the balance.

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Digests

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 develops a sage grouse plan (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Life’s Kitchen plans startup in Garden City (Boise Statesman)
Group links dam breaching, food for orcas (Lewiston Tribune)

Developer plans subdivision on orchard (Eugene Register Guard)
Anti-vaccine activists defend their view (Eugene Register Guard)
Possible hazards in logjam at Los Creek Lake (Medford Tribune)
Bill to allow unpaid parental leave considered (Portland Oregonian)
Profiling new Governor Brown (Salem Statesman Journal)

Looking at roads plan in Snohomish (Everett Herald)
Anti-vaccine activists defend their view (Longview News)
Inslee’s teacher pay raise plan debated (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
State looks at money for escalator reviews (Olympian)
West coast ports going back to business (Seattle Times)
New approaches for teacher development (Seattle Times)
Vancouver council looks into affordable housing (Vancouver Columbian)
Protests underway for ‘In God we trust’ (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

“Kiss today goodbye; the sweetness and the sorrow. Wish me luck – the same to you. But I can’t regret what I did for love. What I did for love.”

Those words – written by Edward Kleban for the play “Chorus Line” – could probably serve as an epitaph for John Kitzhaber, Oregon’s former governor.

While there are several investigations being conducted into his activities covering the last year or so of his tenure, it’s doubtful anything of any criminal seriousness will come of them. Dumb? Yes. Criminal? Don’t think so. When it all shakes out, the bottom line will probably look something like lyricist Kleban’s words above.

A lot of folk are looking under the gubernatorial bed for conspiracy, double-dealing, illegal acts and other political flotsam. We live in that kind of society these days. If there’s something not quite right afoot, “there must be more serious criminality buried around here somewhere.” Again, doubtful.

Kitz seems to be a victim of what a lot of politicians crash into when they’ve been on the stage for a long time. Feelings of invulnerability creep in. A bit too much of ego, too. Thirty or so years of legislative and front office life can bring on those characteristics for someone who’s lost touch with the rest of us.

Trained as a physician specializing in trauma care, there’s no doubt the man is smart and talented. Not many of us can do that. Add those 30 or so years of political life in senior positions in the legislature and governorship without a major stumble and you’ve got quite a life’s record of achievement. Damned good!

Still, the guy’s human. Like John Kennedy. Franklin Roosevelt. Dwight Eisenhower. George Washington and his drinking buddy Tommy Jefferson. And a couple other occupants of the White House – one of whom stashed his mistress and bastard son in North Idaho 90 or so years back. All bright, successful men with lengthy records of achievement and accomplishment. Except that last one. All of whom fell prey to slipping into someone else’s bedroom. Or, successfully luring someone into theirs. Power and sex are fine separately. When taken together, they most often don’t work out well for all concerned.

Our former governor’s Achilles heel turned out to be one Cylvia Hayes, a woman of some beauty, smarts and – it seems from her public history – some very expert wiles that got to a number of men. What she did – and how she did it – we’ll leave to those investigations. But there’s no arguing she and her effect on the governor combined to form the catalyst that brought an end to his public life.

Love or lust, we’ll never know. But we can be reasonably confident Kitzhaber’s personality changed from a sort of loner to a more effusive and outgoing character after the two got together. He was not a detail guy for most of his career – preferring to use the “big picture” approach to his political work, then getting involved when others had perfected the details. But, after Ms. Hayes entered stage left, his public persona was more cordial with those around him and with his various constituencies. He blossomed, as it were.

You have to wonder, if we were back in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, would there have been a different end to this story? Eisenhower’s infidelities in England weren’t fully revealed until after his death. For nearly all his presidency, few Americans knew Roosevelt spent his days in a wheelchair – much less had a mistress. Even public confirmation of John Kennedy’s numerous peccadillo’s wasn’t widespread in the early ‘60’s.

But, now, we live in an era of voyeurism and character assassination with a public thirst for all the lurid details. Some politicians – for reasons I simply can’t explain – survive mixing politics and illicit sex. South Carolina’s Mark Sanford – he of the phony Appalachian Trail hike – certainly has. David Vitter – a self-admitted adulterer – still sits in the U.S. Senate. They’re among the most recent lurid exceptions to the public’s expectation of proper decorum and decency in our politicians.

Our former governor certainly doesn’t appear to have conducted himself in the same low life way as Vitter and Sanford. But he’s chosen to fall on his sword, take his public punishment – and embarrassment – retreating to private life. And that’s fine.

It’ll be interesting to see if Ms. Hayes become Ms. Kitzhaber in coming months. Somehow, I doubt it. With the exception of gaming our immigration laws with a sham marriage a few years ago, Cylvia has been notably unattached. In a legal sense, that is,

My wishes are for his success in whatever John Kitzhaber decides to do – whether it’s going back to medicine or tackling new career challenges. He’s not the first elected executive to be tempted into public humiliation over matters of the heart. Often happens in journalism, too.

So I’m told.

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Rainey

news

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

Looking at the justice reinvestment initiative (Boise Statesman)
Legislators consider indigent care costs (Boise Statesman)
On the difficulty of finding low-pay rural teachers (Lewiston Tribune)

Review panel blasts Lane Community College (Eugene Register Guard)
Gro-Volution aimed at small-scale farming (KF Herald & News)
West coast ports get back to business (KF Herald & News)
Brown and legislators match up on agendas (Portland Oregonian)
What should people do encountering panhandlers? (Portland Oregonian)

Ferry diesel spill deemed human error (Bremerton Sun)
Bainbridge considers bigger traffic corridor (Bremerton Sun)
Exploring the difficulties of pot business (Everett Herald)
Longview port argues for Haven Energy (Longview News)
State road funding has improved (Longview News)
Law enforcement bill would cut public access (Olympian)
Expanding occurrances of measles on peninsula (Port Angeles News)
Exploring superbig outbreak at Virginia Mason (Seattle Times)
Vast expansion in Washington breweries (Seattle Times)
Spokane area road reparing slipping (Spokabe Spokesman)
SeaTac expansion room increasingly limited (Tacoma News Tribune)
West coast ports get back to business (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian)
New U.S. District judge comes from Vancouver (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

About a dozen years ago, Martin Peterson and I started work on a book project. Peterson, who had spent a career and then some in the core of Idaho state government, is an Idaho history obsessive, and we had latched onto the idea of writing a book about the 100 most influential drivers of Idaho history.

We had a lot of ideas about who should populate the list and how to rank them, but we wanted to run those ideas (and our understanding of the facts and context) past an unimpeachable authority who knew enough about Idaho history to be able to tell us, conclusively, if we were somewhere running off the rails.

Exactly one name came to us both: Judy Austin. And from the beginning of the project until shortly before it went to print, she looked over our lists, provided sage background and suggestions, and kept us on track. At least, as much as anyone could have.

This week, Austin is receiving the annual Idaho Humanities Council Outstanding Achievement in the Humanities award for her work on Idaho history. That work, which has been ongoing since 1967 and continues at full speed today, is so wide-ranging as to defy any further definition. The center of it, probably, is her more than two decades as editor of Idaho Yesterdays history magazine, up until its closure in 2002. (That closure by state officials, depriving the state of its only major historical publication, was and is a travesty.) Along the way, as the IHC noted, she “became a mentor, writer, bibliographer, co-author, consultant, and general encourager to countless researchers, young and old, engaged in exploring the history of Idaho and the American West.”

Those range from national bestselling author Anthony Lukas, whose magisterial Big Trouble (about the Haywood murder conspiracy trial) benefited greatly from Austin’s help, to Lin Tull Cannell, an amateur historian at Orofino who turned her interest in the pioneer William Craig into a book (which – disclosure here – I published) called The Intermediary. And, among many others over the years and on other efforts besides the 100, me.

When she arrived in Boise in 1967, she went to work for the Idaho historian who more or less founded the field, Merle Wells. During the two decades they worked together and into his retirement, a foundation was set for research and publication of Idaho history. It was institutionalized, with strong staffing and steadily improving collections and public service.

The Idaho State Historical Society has better quarters these days, near the old Idaho Penitentiary on the eastern edge of Boise, than it did then. But budgets have been cut, and the hard-working and skillful staff there is increasingly stretched thin. Preservation and research into Idaho history has not been a state budget priority, especially not in the last decade. A lot of the institutional building, developing the field of Idaho history that made such progress in the mid-to-latter 20th century has been chopped away in the 21st.

These have been difficult times for many history programs around the country, and Idaho’s has been hit especially hard. A state that ties itself to tradition the way Idaho does – you hear it in state political campaigns every cycle – could benefit especially from a very strong understanding and recording of the facts instead of the myth.

Judy Austin richly deserves her award this week, not least for her work keeping the facts and the myths in their relative places.

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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)

Nursing shortage in Idaho still persistent (Boise Statesman)
Dredging near Lewiston nears finish for year (Lewiston Tribune)
Idaho House at odds over transport funding (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
West coast ports reach tentative settlement (Lewiston Tribune)
Deer Flat management proposal released (Nampa Press Tribune)

UO planning to inoculate 22k people there (Eugene Register Guard)
Motor voter bill progresses on party line (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
Brown plans continuation of death penalty halt (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Klamath fair may sue county on room tax issue (KF Herald & News)
Agreement reached in ports labor battle (Portland Oregonian, Medford Tribune)
$51.6m water fund remains in Brown budget plan (Pendleton E Oregonian)
More progress with English as second language (Portland Oregonian)
Brown considers secretary state appointment (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bremerton port offers incentive to keep business (Bremerton Sun)
Agreement reached in coast ports battle (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News)
Olympia rally backs Boeing (Everett Herald)
Analysis suggests Longview area safe from tsunami (Longview News)
Tommy Chong promotes pot at Seattle (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
State revenues rise a little, assist budget (Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Looking at bonuses for Boeing executives (Seattle Times)
New Spokane plan would limit nearly-nake baristas (Spokane Spokesman)
Options for state transport funding reviewed (Vancouver Columbian)
Clark clerk mail registration cards to voters (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima council continues to mull redistricting (Yakima Herald Republic)
Richland florist still in discrimination fight (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take



 
Some thoughts from legislators on what may happen with Idaho’s school broadband program.

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Idaho

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

Do Alaska Native tribes posses sovereignty?

A simple question. And, in Indian Country, the answer is usually a quick “yes.” Of course. But in Alaska just asking this question is an act of defiance. The state and many of its citizens have assumed, planned, and operated on the premise that tribal powers no longer exist, so the state is free to impose its will on Alaska Natives.

A simple question that’s framed by dueling narratives. One story says the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act — ANCSA — was a termination bill that should have extinguished tribal sovereignty. The other counters saying ANCSA was primarily a land settlement. A land bill that did create native corporations but did not answer questions about governance.

A simple question with multiple answers. Alaska, however, has stuck to a refusal to recognize tribal authority and has spent millions of dollars on litigation. In one such case, a federal court recognized tribal communities’ authority to put land into trust, removing lands from state control and a recognition of Indian Country (a status similar to reservations in other states). Alaska appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.

Then in November a new governor was elected. Bill Walker, an independent, and he promised a new way of doing business. A Walker transition team report said: “Where no tools exist, they must be created, such as establishing a mechanism (e.g., legislation, constitutional amendment, etc.) where Alaska tribes – as sovereign nations they are – negotiate and partner with the state of Alaska on an officially recognized, permanent government-to -government basis.”

But on Feb. 9, the state of Alaska fell into its old patterns. It asked the appeals for a six-month stay to rethink its policy followed by some sort of status report. The state said: “The central issue in this appeal is purely legal: whether the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act precludes the creation of new trust land in Alaska. However the decision whether to continue to pursue a judicial remedy, seek congressional action, or determine and implementing strategies for integrating trust land into Alaska’s ownership pattern — with the resulting impacts to state regulatory jurisdiction — are policy matters entrusted to a state administration that was inaugurated only a few weeks ago. As the state’s chief executive, the governor has the authority and obligation to frame state policy.”

I can think of a lot of governors who like the notion of absolute state authority, especially when it conflicts with tribal communities. But the hashtag would read: #NeverGonnaHappen. Native Americans have a right, even an obligation, to govern ourselves.

“Why now is the state choosing to continue its hostile litigation stance against tribes in Alaska instead of attempting to understand the potential benefits that would come to the state if it were to stop fighting and start working with tribes and start working with tribes and assisting those tribal communities in achieving the goals of public safety and issues that have been recurring problems in the state for years?” asks Heather R. Kendall-Miller, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, representing villages and individuals who filed the suit. “We believe the land into trust option is one very strong tool that can and should be used to enhance tribal autonomy.”

Last year’s federal Law and Order Commission report was particularly blunt about the state’s role in law enforcement. The “problems in Alaska are so severe and the number of Alaska Native communities affected so large, that continuing to exempt the state from national policy change is wrong. It sets Alaska apart from the progress that has become possible in the rest of Indian Country. The public safety issues in Alaska — and the law and policy at the root of those problems — beg to be addressed. They are no longer just Alaska’s issues. They are national issues.”

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act might have been the largest land treaty ever. But the act clearly did not resolve the issues of tribal authority (or a host of other issues). And now the weight of history is coming down on the side of Alaska’s tribes. So forget asking “do Alaska Native tribes posses sovereignty?” Instead demand to know when will the state figure out that a partnership with tribes is better for everyone involved? As it’s been said, the answer is not an Alaska issue. It’s a national issue.

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 considers creating benefit corporations (Boise Statesman)
Simpson says support grows for wilderness bill (Boise Statesman)
Esther Simplot Park project begins (Boise Statesman)
Disputes over status of juvenile corrections (Nampa Press Tribune)
Highway work bill clears Idaho House (Nampa Press Tribune)

Oregon likely will get kicker refunds (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)
UO pushing to vaccinate students (Eugene Register Guard)
Tribes concerned with Sinapore land purchase (KF Herald & News)
Bureau of Reclamation accused of mismanagement (KF Herald & News)
Hearing on pot pulls about 50 locals (KF Herald & News)
Medford considers homeless ‘feeding area’ (Medford Tribune)
Jackson Co deputy’s ticket dismissals reviewed (Medford Tribune)
Irrigon library may reopen (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Brown Administration kicks in (Portland Oregonian)
Public employee differential pay considered (Salem Statesman Journal)

Growth in Olympic park visits (Bremerton Sun)
State about to set Narrow Bridge toll raise (Bremerton Sun)
Gas prices rising, but slowly (Everett Herald)
Last Snohomish independent hospital may ally (Everett Herald)
Longview crime not greatly increasing (Longview News)
Hearing crowd concerned over Haven propane docks (Longview News)
Inslee signs first bill of session (Olympian)
Third peninsula measles case found (Port Angeles News)
Clallam economic board polls on smaller board (Port Angeles News)
Bertha drills through to repair pit (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune)
Senate looks for new audit of WWAMI (Spokane Spokesman)
Legislator pushes bill on revenge porn (Vancouver Columbian)
How far up Columbia would tsunami push? (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take