Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

So the state of Indiana has adopted a new non-religious “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA). The national media has come unglued with coverage every five minutes. “Breaking News,” you know. Corporations and governors and millions of individuals are threatening to boycott the state. Human rights groups are up in arms. Why? Why now?

What’s curious about all this attention is Indiana is the 20th state to put this garbage on the books. It ain’t new! And this. The National Council of State Legislatures says 13 other states have it in process. And this. Forty percent of the states have done it or something similar. And this. The federal government, too! Feds call it “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

RFRA was enacted in 1993 – signed by Bill Clinton – but was successfully challenged in 1997 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states wouldn’t have to comply. So, over the next few years, some states wrote their own.

But the dam broke a couple of years ago when the billionaire-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent out “sample” legislative bills so no one in the states would have to think too hard. Just fill in the blanks. Went by a lot of names but the guts were the same.

In our Northwest backyard, Idaho Republican bigots made the list of 20 with electronic copying (Idaho Code §73-402). Oh, there was local muttering from folks who could see this discriminatory trash for what it was. But the national media – the folks who’re now bombarding us with minute-by-minute updates – didn’t say “squat.” “What the Hell – it’s just Idaho. Again.”

Checking the list of 20 entities who’ve decided to discriminate “legally,” more than half are in the “bible belt.” All 20 – all – Republican-dominated. Though Arizona’s effort was repealed in 2014 after a lot of economic pressures were brought to bear – including playing the Super Bowl – the bill was passed and made law in 2012 so it made the list. New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are the only other western states among the 20.

Aside from the obvious targeting of gay and lesbian Americans in this trash, the thing that makes it so insidious is that it leaves the “discriminator” free to invent any sort of excuse to do his/her discriminating. You don’t have to be LDS or Presbyterian or Catholic or Lutheran or Hindu or anything else. You can just claim providing goods and/or services violates “your beliefs.” Whatever the hell that means. Make something up. That’s your “out.”

The one thing different this time is the national reaction to Indiana joining the other bigoted legislative cretins under the bridge. I have damned little use for the NCAA. But I think if this law had been enacted 30 days sooner, the final four playoff would likely have been played in Chicago or New York or Philadelphia and not Indianapolis.

So, here we are. The Republican age of cut ‘em off by law. These 20 GOP-run states are discriminating against different sexuality or race or anything else different from the “norm.” Some of them – and others – are using new laws to cut off voter access. More than a dozen are violating common sense and public safety by passing laws putting guns in schools, on college campuses, bars, churches and everyplace else. Some are abolishing training for concealed carry. U.S. House Republicans passed a budget cutting taxes for the “haves” while slashing food stamps, Medicaid and other critical welfare programs for the “have nots,” hitting seniors with cuts in Medicare as well.

Putting all this into some kind of perspective is damned difficult. But I found this on my Facebook page the other day and it makes the point about as well as anything I’ve seen:

“Isn’t it interesting that a country founded to allow freedom from religious persecution is now using religion to persecute freedoms?” Works for me.

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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)

Concern over British Columbian fish trends (Lewiston Tribune)
Tax measure clears Idaho house (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Syringa owner files Chapter 13 bankruptcy (Moscow News)
Agidius accused of spying on former opponent (Moscow News)
Eminent domain law could limit some local growth (Nampa Press Tribune)
Interim Pocatello school superintendent named (Pocatello Journal)
Monitors say tribal radioactivity not high (Pocatello Journal)

Annual economic forecast outlines trends (Eugene Register Guard)
State might ban bee-related insecticide (Eugene Register Guard)
New KF police chief takes over (KF Herald & News)
Bly terrorist camp case draws another ‘guilty’ (KF Herald & News)
KF Sportsmans Warehouse to open soon (KF Herald & News)
Republicans mostly sidelined at legislature (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla Co ranks low in health index (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Rethinking Milton-Freewater’s downtown (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Little support for light on legislators records (Portland Oregonian)
Looking for an elder-crime prosecutor (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bellingham waterfront rebuild decision arrives (Bellingham Herald)
Kitsap sewer rates rise more gently (Bremerton Sun)
Auditor Kelley inquest linked to 2008 fire (Everett Herald)
New Snohomish ombudsman hired (Everett Herald)
Seattle apartment rents keep rising (Seattle Times)
Spokane planning major biking routes (Spokane Spokesman)
Teachers arrive at Olympia on ‘no child’ rule (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian)
Boating marina was once a toxic site (Tacoma News Tribune)
Local debate weighs in on minimum wage (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

Yakima
 

Yakima City Manager Tony O’Rourke recently made a presentation to the Downtown Yakima Rotary Club about the proposed Yakima Central Plaza. Click on the link below to see the PowerPoint that was created for the presentation, which includes information about the origins of the plaza concept, how a design for the plaza was developed, and the return on investment the plaza is intended to provide. (image/City of Yakima)

 

Conflicting budget pictures are about to engage in the ring at the Washington Statehouse, as talk rises that one legislative session this year won’t be enough.

In Oregon, public school budget numbers were released last week by legislative leadership, and appear likely to run through the process. That may well drive the rest of the budgeting process in what’s now looking like a relatively low-key session, about halfway through its run.

Idaho legislators came close last week to resolving most of the key remaining issues at the statehouse – teacher pay and education funding (a committee budget bill has been approved), highway funding and several smaller-bore topics. Will they be able to adjourn for the year by the end of this week? Less than likely, but possible if they move efficiently.

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Briefings

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)

Major Treefort music event underway (Boise Statesman)
Longtimme humane society leader Dee Fugit retires (Boise Statesman)
Debates over who should pay for mental health (Lewiston Tribune)
Washington considers mental health service cost (Lewiston Tribune)
Caldwell auction house sold (Nampa Press Tribune)

Oregon ACLU director Dave Fidanqur retires (Eugene Register Guard)
In-n-Out, launched in Medford, may open more in OR (Medford Tribune)
Portland Mayor Hales will seek re-election (Portland Oregonian)
Reviewing state gun control plan (Salem Statesman Journal)
Help with the higher education costs (Salem Statesman Journal)

Massive storage facility being built at Lynden (Bellingham Herald)
Razor clamming season begins (Bremerton Sun)
Safety an issue at Everett transit station (Everett Herald)
State could ban powdered alcohol (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Olympian, Longview News)
State schools budget examined (Port Angeles News)
Growing numbers of applications at WA universities (Seattle Times)
Fort Vancouver West Barracks may be remade (Vancouver Columbian)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Oregon

A somewhat more receptive House last week went along with (and this was partly because it was lumped in with other must-pass measures) a rural school funding measure backed by the Oregon House delegation. Ultimate passage is now a matter for the Senate, but initial appearances were that the biggest hurdle had been cleared with the House action.
The House work was led by Republican Greg Walden of the 2nd district, working the Republican leadership side, and Democrat Peter DeFazio, working with his caucus. Walden is well-positioned within the leadership structure, and DeFazio has lots of seniority, but the House has been a high nut to crack over the last number of years, and passage of something to replace federal timber money, which Congress increasingly has been disinclined to renew, has become harder and harder. It will not get easier any time soon.
The stakes are high for the many Oregon counties, especially those in the southwest (Curry, Coos, Douglas, Josephine and others) especially accustomed to getting the money in hand. Walden’s release on the payments includes a number of examples of the impacts, such as: “According to the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, they would be forced to eliminate their remaining patrol deputies and 911 dispatchers by July without this funding. The Department faces worse patrol shortages than nearly two years ago when a 911 dispatcher asked a woman if she could just ask a man assaulting her to go away because there were no deputies to send on weekends.”
Up to now, the Oregon delegation has been playing a frantic game of catchup, trying to help these rural areas by keeping the traditional run of money coming.
But the time seems to be arriving when some new approach is needed. The contours of this revenue box are going to have to be re-examined, because the counties’ future will be tenuous indeed if they’re having to rely on annual strokes of good fortune such as this year’s seems to be.

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Oregon Oregon 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)

Reviewing year-old Army national guard crash (Boise Statesman)
Legislature nearing its conclusion (IF Post Register)
Reviewing the Church Committee on the CIA (IF Post Register)
Little help in region on mental illness (Lewiston Tribune)
Tribes contend radioactivity is in the wind (Pocatello Journal)

Oregon snowpack diminishes greatly (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
Some of Oregon’s small towns grow strongly (Eugene Register Guard)
Walden town hall features water deal (KF Herald & News)
More truckers using Highway 97 (KF Herald & News)
Conservation group looks to buy 352-acre ranch (Medford Tribune)
Prices rise high for many key drugs (Salem Statesman Journal)

Condition of Whatcom jail blasted (Bellingham Herald)
Who benefits from political spending? (Bremerton Sun)
Bremerton annexation may run afoul of state law (Bremerton Sun)
Legislators may toughen rules on oil trains (Everett Herald)
College may drop many student health policies (Kennewick Herald, Olympian)
Longview Port running into land limits (Longview News)
Democrats plan deal on class-size initiative (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
British firm buys Port Angeles composites make (Port Angeles News)
What’s the effect of sea lions on salmon? (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Companies with tax breaks still paying low (Seattle Times)

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First Take

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

A couple of years ago another writer and I were researching for a book on the Northwest’s newspapers (it would be called “New Editions”), which involved calling many of the proprietors one by one. One of the most memorable was Sandra Wisecaver, who would not have called herself – but who was – one of the more remarkable journalists in the region.

She was owner and operator of the Buhl Herald, a paper with a heritage going back more than a century. The area around Twin Falls sprang up like magic, as its valley name would attest, just after the tun of the twentieth century, and Buhl’s downtown was platted in 1906. In the manner of the day, the town’s newspaper set up shop (having moved several miles over from Filer) a few months later.

Through the decades since it has published consistently, running very much as it did at the beginning. It was never bought by a larger organization, but was run for decades by the Bailey family. In 2005 Sandra Wisecaver, who had worked there for some years, bought it.

It had not been, and she didn’t try to turn it into, a paper with lofty pretensions. It didn’t join the parade of many papers to the Internet, even to Facebook. (Today, there is a modest Facebook page for the Buhl Herald, evidently started last year.) And she seemed almost a little apologetic about the paper’s brand of journalism: It wasn’t a regular breaker of gee-wow news stories, of scandal or spectacle.

It was, rather, a small town community newspaper: “Business is a little slower, but we have advertisements every week and people read them. It’s probably because you’re not going to find the stories that we print somewhere else. The daily is not going to carry the applause for somebody who’s done something good in the community, or been a great volunteer. I think its important to have the kids in.”

She was exactly right, and the Herald’s kind of journalism helps provide the glue in a community. With all the disaster and catastrophe we’re daily exposed to, even on Facebook and Twitter much less cable TV, we need the reminders that the world around us is not all aflame. The Herald did that. The children got in the newspaper through the years, and many of them probably felt themselves part of the community in a way children in many larger communities never quite do.

(I should add: The Buhl Herald also did run this column for some years back in the 90s.)

Wisecaver added that “It’s a seven-day-a-week job if you own it,” and that was no doubt true as well.

Likely, it’s one reason the paper is now closing.

Sandra Wisecaver died in February, and her husband Joe has been putting out the several editions since. But it takes a particular kind of determined person to put out a community newspaper like Buhl’s, and after searching for a replacement, he will bring the Herald’s history to an end this week.

He told the Twin Falls Times News, “I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls. But what can you do when you run out of people?”

Good question. It’s a question one Idaho’s shrinking number of locally-owned weekly newspaper communities may well continue to ask themselves in coming years.

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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)

Meridian tries to plan substantial downtown (Boise Statesman)
Legislature approves $1.8b for schools (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
ER schedules at Pomeroy cut (Lewiston Tribune)
House passes fed lands control bill (IF Post Register, TF Times News)
Another run at Craters of the Moon park status (IF Post Register)
Analysis: Tax plan would help wealthiest most (Nampa Press Tribune)
Feds announce Oregon sage grouse deal (Nampa Press Tribune)
House may vote next week on road tax (TF Times News)

Gearhart mayor not recalled (Astorian)
State data hacked, Brown seeks review (Astorian)
Amanda Knox case ends in Italy (Eugene Register Guard)
State pot director fired (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Tribune)
Legislators meet with locals on state issues (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Sage grouse deal reached by ranchers, feds (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Possible tradeoff over road repair, software (Salem Statesman Journal)

WA Democrats may try for capital gains tax (Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bellingham Herald, Longview News)
Marysville school may seek $5 for cafeteria (Everett Herald)
KapStone deal still hands on health plan (Longview News)
Possible prison for mentally ill (Olympian)
Olympia will add officers to night patrol (Olympian)
Amanda Knox case ends in Italy (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribunne, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
WSU medical school plan still moving (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacomans sue to stop new government building (Tacoma News Tribune)
Inslee considers interchange for Mill Plain (Vancouver Columbian)
Union possible for Yakima clerks office (Yakima Herald Republic)

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First Take

trahant MARK
TRAHANT

 
Austerity

What will Alaska look like in 10,000 years? Who will be here? What will they do? And, most important, what will preserved from the past kilennium?

These are not easy questions. Even thinking about the next decade, let alone thousands of years, is interrupted by every crisis that requires attention. There is business to transact. Cell phones buzz. Unanswered emails compound. And, so, we think about the now, not the next.

What if we step back and only think about the future? We turn off our phones, don’t answer email, and ignore interruption.

The First Alaskans Institute recently gathered a group of people together for a week in Bethel to have that very conversation. Elizabeth Medicine Crow said that very idea is a part of the institute’s vision and came from the founding board members. “I think intuitively it makes a lot of sense for Native people. But I also think for most people it’s really hard to wrap their arms around, ‘what does that mean? For 10,000 years.’ It’s really not so much of a mystery for us because we can actually turn around and look directly at our past because we’ve been here for longer than that. We know that as stewards of our time, on behalf of our people, that we have at minimum a trajectory of that much time to look forward to.”

Medicine Crow, who’s president of the institute, said it was a chance to convene a diverse gathering of people who were eager to think deeply about “where we’re going.”

“So it’s not just corporations, it’s not just tribes, it’s not just non-profits, it’s also artists, it’s elders, it’s young people, mothers and fathers, aunties and uncles, storytellers, performers, it was a real mix” she said. “It’s non-hierarchical. So it’s not just people who have a title. Leadership to us is our Native people who are stepping up to help our communities and to help our people.”

Medicine Crow is Tlingit and Haida from Kake. She told a story about a lesson she learned from Polynesian navigators. “The traditional practice of sailing by the stars requires that they set their bow looking forward but they are navigating from the stars behind them because from that they can know the direction their bow is going. I think that is such a powerful analogy about the way our ancestors think about time. And the way we should think about it, too.”

The long story that reflects the Alaska Native experience — or Native America’s for that matter — is mostly about the interruptions from the past century or two. So the current challenges are not the norm, certainly not over a 10,000 year history, but nonetheless require our attention to get back on course.

And some of this course correction requires immediate action. In less than fifteen years, for example, Alaska will have a higher percentage of Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Hispanics and African Americans than white people. “The state is already super-diverse. It may not look or feel that way depending on where you’re from in the state but as a whole the state is really diverse. As we continue to march through time, especially for Alaska Native populations, most of our population is under the age of 25 and that birth rate is only increasing. So if you apply that to all the other populations, the same thing is happening, plus we’re having so many more people move up. What Alaska will look like on its face is going to be a lot different by the year 2040 than it does today.”

This means new sources of political power and coalitions will be formed to deliver change in Alaska (and in so many other parts of the country). Medicine Crow said people felt a sense of power, a recognition that it already exists, ready to walk out the door and do something.

One conversation focused on ending sexual abuse and decided to find a way to create more involvement with the Men’s and Women’s houses. “That was so powerful for the participants from the houses,” Medicine Crow said. “But they came out of it knowing that it was something that was good for our community … to be able to talk about the issue and to really say, ‘enough is enough.’ That was really exciting to see because they were not waiting for someone to say, ‘We now deem you authorized to take care of this, this is not your territory,’ but rather, we’re all Native people, it’s all our responsibility and this is something we can do.”

What struck me about the Bethel gathering (and I was only there part of the time) was a sense of optimism about the future. The benefit of a 10,000 year horizon is that it makes every problem solvable because at the end of the arc is people who continue to live and survive in land of their ancestors.

The goal of the Bethel meeting was not a detailed strategic plan, but a framework for conversations that will continue “to make sure that we’re cultural distinct people. Not the same. Not Alaska Natives being the all the same. But culturally distinct societies of people. And these aren’t even my words,” Medicine Crow says with a smile. “They’re my grandfather’s words.”

Mark Trahant serves as 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 luring international food processing (Boise Statesman)
Legislature repeals allowance of instant racing (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, Nampa Press Tribune)
State gets bad ethics report (IF Post Register)
State Senate approved teacher pay raise (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Looking further at Bergdahl case (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Fewer accidents on Moscow-Pullman road (Moscow News)
A couple of highway bills clear committee (Nampa Press Tribune)

Warrenton dam to be knocked out (Astorian)
New gun background check bill surfaces at Salem (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Debate ensues over whether UO worker was fired (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath still pursuing local air service (KF Herald & News)
New area Bureau of Reclamation manager sought (KF Herald & News)
Budget panel approves schools budget (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon pot agency director Burns fired (Portland Oregonian)

Night market proposed for downtown Bellingham (Bellingham Herald)
Backlog on park updates in Kitsap (Bremerton Sun)
Marysville fire chief retiring (Everett Herald)
Deal may be set for KapStone labor talks (Longview News)
Longview traffic cams bring in $1 million a year (Longview News)
State auditor inquiry may date to 2013 (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Tumwater looks at road repair tax increase (Olympian)
Cost of measles control could hit $200k (Port Angeles News)
High prices sending people from King to Pierce (Seattle Times)
Clark Co enrolls 42k in health exchanges (Vanvouver Columbian)

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First Take