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Posts published in March 2015

So what

rainey BARRETT


Ted Cruz is running for president. I’ve got to get the gutters cleaned this week. At most American homes, I’m happy to say, the latter is far more important than the former.

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) said it best on a weekend talk show the other day. “Ted Cruz is unfit to run for president,” was the quote. Note he didn’t comment on whether Cruz was fit to be president. Didn’t have to.

So, we’ve got the Cruz “missile” and about 15 politico’s of various intellect making noises about wanting to live in the White House. Any of ‘em qualified for the job? Any of ‘em strike your fancy? Any make you want to run to the polls today?

Or this. Any of ‘em running - or likely to - seem like a person of honesty, intelligence, compassion, sincerity, common sense or experience that you’d turn to for help if you had a problem? Either party? Any one?

We’ll be bombarded with presidential candidate B.S. for more than a year before we get to the first national political convention. Primary after primary will prove nearly nothing. Various names will surface as “flavor-of-the-month” signifying nearly nothing. The names Cain or Paul or Bachman or Santorum from 2012 mean anything these days? National media will coronate one after the other as “front runner.” Again, meaning nothing.

Unless Hillary Clinton hits some sort of unexpected wall between now and July, 2016, Democrats will meet in Philadelphia simply to kiss the ring and spend five days partying and singing “Kumbaya.”

But Republicans - ah, Republicans. Only people who’ll make bet on who comes out of that convention at this point are those 1-800-California psychics. We’ve got about 20 GOP primaries to suffer through before convention and, in the end, most of those will signify- again - nothing, But there is something to watch on that side of the rabbit run.

For many elections, Republicans have used a divide-and-conquer strategy. From courthouse to White House, they put up more than one candidate of their choosing. If you go back a number of elections, you’ll find that’s how we got Bachman, Gohmert, Issa, Paul and the rest won. Multiple candidates in their own races so they never had to reach 51-percent to be elected. Some won with way less than 30 percent.

At the moment, we’ve got at least 10 GOP names out there. Statistically, the one getting 11 percent wins. Not 51 percent. Not 40 or 30 or 25. Just 11. So, what about the 89 percent who voted for somebody else? If the minority crazies can get just a few other, similarly inclined minority voters to join the cause, you’ve got another minority winner. Playing the numbers just like Vegas. Now, add to that several hundred millions dollars from ambitious billionaires who want to own one or more officeholders and you can win all sorts of elections without a majority. Marco Rubio’s already signed one up. Or, has been “signed up” would be more like it. Santorum, too.

Then, there’s the “binding” and “non-binding” primaries that may - or may not - mean anything at convention. A state containing rational Republican voters may elect a rational GOP candidate. But that same state may also have a “non-binding” clause that allows delegates to go to other, less rational candidates at the national convention. Happens every four years.

And this. Conventions are mostly controlled by party officers who’ve worked their way up. The current Republican bosses no more represent the rank-and-file Republican voter than Mickey Mouse. (With apologies to Walt.) Even if a candidate comes into convention with the most states “won,” the crazies at the top can nullify that with one barroom deal. So, winning some primaries before convention is important. To a point. Unless sanity suddenly comes to Priebus and his hand-picked loons, they’ll go on their merry way to the edge of their flat earth and nominate a member of the loser Paul family while loudly pledging “purity-over-winning.” Again. (more…)

On the front pages


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 gets low score on ethics report (Boise Statesman)
Report says Idaho wasted $61m on school management (IF Post Register, Lewiston Tribune)
Washington asked to alter salmon fishing rules (Lewiston Tribune)
What's happening with WA auditor scandal? (Moscow News)
New Nampa library beset by weak budgets (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon liquor sales keep rising (Nampa Press Tribune)
Highway bill stalled again in House (Nampa Press Tribune)
House passes new concealed carry bill (TF Times News)

House agreed to county timber payments (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Klamath college considers bonding plan (KF Herald & News)
Medford considers change in rules on bees (Medford Tribune)
School funding bill for $7.3b advances (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Gay teacher sues local school district (Salem Statesman Journal)

Cold storage warehouse starts business in Lynden (Bellingham Herald)
Auditor inquiry focuses on employee (Tacoma News Tribune, Bremerton Sun, Kennewick Herald, Olympian, Longview News)
Sheldon returns to lead Tulalip board (Everett Herald)
Former Marysville mayor Kendall dies (Everett Herald)
DOE take new look at Hanford waste removal (Kennewick Herald)
Two leading Franklin co managers departing (Kennewick Herald)
State considers changing retirement benefits (Olympian)
Most Olympia voters support $15 minimum wage (Olympian)
Interest grows in Port Angeles air service (Port Angeles News)
Amazon taking over huge chunk of Seattle downtown (Seattle Times)
Grain elevator may become superfund site (Spokane Spokesman)
Report says Idaho wasted $61m on Schoolnet (Spokane Spokesman)
Fife won't let Tacoma use jail (Tacoma News Tribune)
Bill would allow state-tribal deals on pot (Vancouver Columbian)

On the House budget

trahant MARK


The House Budget Committee unveiled its budget Tuesday — and the details are not good news for Indian Country.

First: The budget calls for more spending cuts than any previous Republican budget, some $5.5 trillion over the next decade. The pay off would be a balanced budget. But most of those cuts fall into “domestic” spending and that’s the source of most of the federal dollars for Indian Country.

Second: The budget repeals the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. “Obamacare is not working for America’s families, doctors or employers. It is imperative that the President’s health care law be repealed so that we can start over and make targeted, common sense reforms that will improve access to affordable health care choices,” the House Budget committee said.

“This budget repeals Obamacare in its entirety – including all of the tax increases, regulations, subsidies, and mandates” the House Budget committee said. That includes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

The proposal would also transform Medicaid into a block grant program, giving the money directly to states. Medicaid now represents some 20 percent of the Indian health system funding.

In a language that’s not English, the report said, “the budget repeals Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion so the program is able to focus on its core mission of serving those in our communities most in need of assistance.” Translation: We’re cutting insurance for those who can least afford insurance. This is nuts. The Medicaid expansion has been the key to making health insurance more available. Since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act there has been a 35 percent decline in the uninsured, according to new data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly 17 million people have insurance coverage under the law. The House budget offers no replacement provisions for those who would lose their health insurance coverage.

This report is full of Orwellian language. Another of my favorites is this line: “We do not invite the across-the-board sequestration cut that would occur if we were to simply budget or appropriate a defense spending level that is above the existing cap mandated under current law.” In other words, the sequester applies to every other part of government, but not Defense. As I mentioned in my last post, this is an attempt to balance the interests of those in Congress who want deep spending cuts with those who want more money for defense.

The budget does not actually appropriate dollars. That is still the job of appropriations committees. But this document would be an overall limit to spending and would force the folks writing budgets to keep their numbers below the caps. This budget is similar to Paul Ryan’s recent approaches to spending and House Democrats said that would mean a cut of at least $375 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a $637 million reduction for the Indian Health Service. But that’s just in direct appropriations. If you reduce Medicaid that could trim as much as a billion dollars from Indian health programs.

The Senate will unveil its budget later this week as well. The goal is to have a budget enacted before April 15. The Senate’s budget will not require a supermajority, by rule it cannot be filibustered. So this budget will reflect the will of the Republican majority in both Houses. The budget still will face a likely veto, especially since it includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

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 freeTrahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.

On the front pages


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)

Legislature considers statewide Uber bill (Boise Statesman)
Instant racing bill could kill Les Bois track (Boise Statesman)
House clears teacher pay bill (Lewiston Tribune)
Lewiston district evaluates high school renovation (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow continues single-stream recycling (Moscow News)
College students warn of fair rental housing issues (Moscow News)
Feds will reconsider their Lake Lowell use rules (Nampa Press Tribune)
Has Add words backlash event drawn threats? (Nampa Press Tribune)
Tuition raise okayed at CSI (TF Times News)
Burley and Cassia police agreement still tense (TF Times News)

Springfield hospital ranks one of OR's priciest (Eugene Register Guard)
Pushing again for Klamath passenger air service (KF Herald & News)
Snow about to drop on Cascades (KF Herald & News)
Jackson joins drought counties (Medford Tribune)
Oregon's wildfire insurance may be dropped (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Oregon Supreme Court: animals not crime victims (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Researching possible gluten-free wheat (Portland Oregonian)
Lobby day brings school spending advocates (Salem Statesman Journal)

Anticipating lower dairy food prices (Bellingham Herald)
Arlington airport issues shown in report (Everett Herald)
WSU hopes for funds to expand at Everett (Everett Herald)
Gatherings around state will focus on Hanford (Kennewick Herald)
State auditor says he's complying with fed inquest (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Yakima Herald Republic, Olympian, Longview News)
Clallam Commissioner Chapman opts out in '16 (Port Angeles News)
Some debt still applies to destroyed Oso homes (Seattle Times)
Clark auditor cleared of GOP charges (Vancouver Columbian)

The $900 million ask

idaho RANDY

Some people will probably be calling it the billion-dollar tax proposal – a proposal that taxpayers will be asked to impose on themselves – which may be a small exaggeration but will certainly highlight why the correct number is $900 million.

“Oh, it’s not a billion? Excuse me – you’re right, it’s a mere $900 million . . .”

The ask is for the city of Seattle, whose leading officials including the mayor are the people doing the asking, and which is large and wealthy enough to make it not beyond the pale. And it’s not that transportation needs in the city aren’t great: They surely are.

It’s just that the number is so large it may cause a lot of taxpayers to blanch and decide against it before they’ve even had a chance to look at the large number of things it would do.

Which raises another problem. The list is extensive all right (see the local section in this edition), but so much so that your eyes tend to glaze over.

Then there’s the matter of what it doesn’t include, but will be an overarching consideration during the campaign ahead: Bertha. The mega-machine, that is, still sort of stuck in the ground and falling ever further behind in its effort to create a revised Alaskan Way viaduct.

Anyone seeking to blow the new tax plan out of the water will have only to recite that one name – “Bertha” – to punch the air out of any grand new transportation plans.
Optimism in that whole arena of Seattle transportation is in short supply this year, as it was last. The timing for this thing may be less than ideal, even if the need is demonstrably, yes, quite real.

In the Briefings

Boise reserve
hoto from the cover of the Boise Reserves Management Plan, released for public review in March. (photo/via Boise Parks & Recreation Department)

Spring kicks in with sadly diminished snowpack, and the legislature comes to grips with budget issues.

Transportation funding and school budgets (and especially the sub-component of teacher pay) are on deck this week at the Idaho Legislature.

On the front pages


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)

More gun legislation at Idaho legislature (Boise Statesman)
More wolves in Washington state (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Pullman looks at priorities (Moscow News)
State juvenile agency sued on abuse charges (Nampa Press Tribune)
Teacher speak on career ladder plan (TF Times News)
Concerns arise over wilderness gold mine plan (TF Times News)

Some snow expected in Cascades (Eugene Register Guard)
Overhaul planned at Howard Prairie near Ashland (Medford Tribune)
Saltzman missing lots of Portland Council meetings (Portland Oregonian)
Salem plans talks on Uber and land use (Salem Statesman Journal)

Tribes take opposing views on coal shipments (Bellingham Herald)
Looking at grocery conversions to Haggen (Bremerton Sun)
Army Corps hold Toutle River plan approval (Longview News)
Wolves doing well in eastern Washington (Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
Hargrove works on recidivist legislation (Port Angeles News)
REI stores prospering this year (Seattle Times)
Possible help for Seattle streetcars, fewer car lanes (Seattle Times)
Seattle ends race messages on cups (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic)
Millennial trends push transit policy (Spokane Spokesman)
Click cable faces higher station costs, again (Tacoma News Tribune)
Rivers medical pot plan draws debate (Vancouver Columbian)

When horses kick

carlson CHRIS


It was probably inevitable that a clash between Idaho’s Second District Congressman, Mike Simpson, and Idaho’s First District Congressman, Raul Labrador, would develop.

For the record of course and when with their senatorial colleagues they try to maintain the appearance of comity, that it is all one happy gang of Republicans working together for Idaho. Don’t be fooled, folks. There is growing evidence the two men hardly tolerate each other.

Last week’s not so subtle “tit for tat” columns revealed much even to the untrained observer. It’s not just the canyon-wide differences on political and policy matters. It is that their style is different, which reflects real differences in their approach to public service.

Mike Simpson is a true “work horse.” The veteran congressman believes he is there to solve problems which often means to compromise and even to work together with Democrats. Simpson has paid his dues. He has worked within the seniority system, paid attention to details, displayed respect for all members but especially the seniors.

Simpson is a good legislator. He learned his craft while a member of the Idaho House where he quickly rose to become the Speaker. In Congress he has become a confidant of House Speaker John Boehner and is considered to be a key member of the Speaker’s Leadership team.

He is also known as one of the “Cardinals,” the rare achievers who chair agency appropriation subcommittees. As such, Simpson has much to say about the tax dollars that go to the major cabinet agencies of Interior, Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Labrador comes across to veteran observers as a “show horse.” He is adept, almost gifted at attracting media coverage for himself. For a member only in his third term he has had an unusal number of appearances on television’s Sunday talk shows. He obviously likes publicity.

He is a darling of the Tea Party faction of the Party precisely because he is a young man in a hurry who has little use for protocal and traditional procedure. Two years ago he challenged his own Speaker because he and a large contingent of the Republican caucus are ideologues who prefer confrontation to compromise. Many of his Tea Party supporters applauded him. This January, when he voted for his Speaker, these same folks were angered.

Simpson and his staff were not pleased last year when Labrador did not endorse his Republican colleague. While he did not formally endorse Simpson’s challenger either, there were questions in the minds of some as to whether Labrador encouraged and even advised the challenger. Labrador denies having done anything to assist the challenger.

Labrador compounded his suspect behavior, however, by voting against the funding garnered by Simpson for the Idaho National Laboratory.

It came as no surprise then to see Labrador take a couple of not so subtle “potshots” in a column that ran in several Idaho dailies on March 9th. Labrador was part of a group of conservatives who sought to undue President Obama’s excutive orders on immigraion reform by tying up the budget for Homeland Security and making it a hostage. The goup not only threatened to cut off funding for Homeland Security, it threatened to once again stop all government spending except for Defense.

Labrador was critical of Boehner (and his leadership team) in compromising, saying he capitulated to the Democrats, and accusing the Speaker of weakening the Constitution. He ridiculed the so-called “adults’ of the Republican caucus. You can bet Simpson took every one of those shots personsally.

Within three days Simpson’s column with its not so subtle shots aimed obviously at Labrador appeared. Simpson excoriated those in the Republican caucus who practiced the politics of confrontation, who would use shutdown of an agency or the entire government as a tactic. He termed these types as obstructionits, pointing out that the Republicans had been given a chance to show America they could govern, but were fumbling it away. (more…)

On the front pages


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 next round of major school tests (Boise Statesman)
Ness credited with fixing Transportation Department (Boise Statesman)
St. Al's criticizes Lt Luke's Weiser takeover (Boise Statesman)
Jefferson's Restoring Integrity Project matters (IF Post Register)
Looking at Idaho health care costs (Lewiston Tribune)
Kerby juggles scholarship legislation (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho jobless rate falls to lowest in 7 years (TF Times News)
Cannabis oil test bill still alive (TF Times News)
Legislators still pursue federal lands takeover bill (TF Times News)

2-wheel vehicles could run reds under bill (Eugene Register Guard)
Crime victims falsely notified of prisoner releases (Eugene Register Guard, KF Herald & News)
Drought brings some federal assistance (Medford Tribune, KF herald & News)
Police getting trained for mental health issues (Medford Tribune)
School advocates blast Democratic state budget (Medford Tribune)
Looking back on Kitzhaber's final days (Portland Oregonian)
Food stamp program working with food farm (Salem Statesman Journal)

State auditor inquiry continues (Bellingham Herald)
Re-evaluating Port Orchard weekend foot ferry (Bremerton Sun)
Reviewing Oso slide at one year (Seattle Times, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic, Olympian)
What's happening with Cowlitz casino? (Longview News)
Very low snowpack in Washington (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Avista Utilities considering a power rate increase (Spokane Spokesman)
Rivers talks of supporting transport package (Vancouver Columbian)

Through the weeds

idaho RANDY

For the last couple of decades, much of the work at the Idaho Legislature during the opening weeks has been devoted to examining the state’s administrative rules – those proposed or tentatively adopted during the previous year – and deciding which if any should be rejected.

Usually there are a few, and there are this year. The legislature’s work on administrative rules is stretching out all the way to the end of the session this time; several concurrent resolutions (the legislative tool for acting on administrative rules) calling for rejections were introduced as recently as last week, when lawmakers theoretically were preparing for adjournment. (Don’t place any bets on that happening this side of April, by the way.)

After lawmakers finish parsing through fat binders of densely written legalese, which is some of the less-known and more tedious work they do, a relative handful of rules usually wind up facing possible rejection. Generally, these are rules which have drawn complaints or concerns from someone, whether the regulated, the regulators, legal counsel or someone else. At this writing, 11 such rejections have been proposed, and several of those have cleared the legislature.

Legislative oversight of the rules makes sense. Developed and published by state agencies, these rules have the effect of law, and they are imposed through the authority of laws passed by the legislature. They do it that way because most state laws are relatively general, even a little vague, and that’s not a criticism. It’s the business of the legislature to set the policy, not so much to bury itself deeply in the weeds of administrative rules, where things really get, ah, specific.

Very specific. Very detailed.

Here’s an example of a rule proposed for legislative rejection, from the “non-technical” (that is, reader-friendly) description offered by the agency: “The Board of Veterinary Medicine issues certifications to qualified veterinary technician applicants. Current rule provides several ways a certified veterinary technician (CVT) applicant can demonstrate completion of the educational requirements for certification. Two of the existing methods for an applicant to satisfy these requirements are to submit evidence of graduation from a veterinary technology program equivalent to a program approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association or, if a foreign graduate, graduation from a program of veterinary medicine from a foreign school approved by the Board. The Board has determined that it lacks the expertise and means to adequately evaluate whether a non-accredited CVT program is equivalent to an accredited AVMA program or to approve foreign schools of veterinary medicine. To ensure uniformity in entry-level knowledge of certified veterinary technicians in Idaho, IDAPA is being amended to delete these provisions.” (more…)

On the front pages


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)

About climate change in Idaho's mountains (Boise Statesman)
City of North Bonneville running its own pot shop (Boise Statesman)
State road funding bill dies in House (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Memorial calls for federal judge impeachments (Lewiston Tribune, TF Times News)
Teacher pay bill funds some consensus (Lewiston Tribune)
Planning for parks in Nampa, Caldwell (Nampa Press Tribune)
New concealed carry bill moves ahead (Nampa Press Tribune)
Buhl Herald newspaper will close (TF Times NEws)

Bear paws inquiry underway at Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Good salmon fishing at Oregon coast this year (KF Herald & News)
New asphalt plant gets planning approval (Medford Tribune)
Brown announces drone range funds (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Cops planning for more stoned drivers (Pendleton E Oregonian)
GMO potatoes, apples get FDA ok (Medford Tribune, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton nearing pot shop rules (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Ethics, transparency bills stall at legislature (Portland Oregonian)
Federal drought aid offered (Portland Oregonian)
Max will try pay-to-enter at two new Orange stops (Portland Oregonian)

Impact statement on coal terminal will take a year (Bellingham Herald)
Bill would add fiscal note to initiatives (Bremerton Sun)
Stillamguamish Valley pushes on (Everett Herald)
Snohomish County may yet change building rules (Everett Herald)
Homeless at shelter told not to call cops (Longview News)
FDA okays some GMO apples, potatoes (Olympian)
Federal inquiry into state auditor expands (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Will drought emergency areas grow? (Vancouver Columbian)
Feds ordered to pay farmer attorney fees (Yakima Herald Republic)

Journalism, whither?



It has been six months since a failed California carpenter,who has been hustling for public office in Shoshone County since the day he arrived, terminated my print newspaper career, aided and abetted by a clerk-typist. This, after more than 40 good years in the game exposing crooked people, ranting and raving, and other fun duties.

I never saw this sucker-punch coming and it still hurts and bleeds, and every day and night it makes me wonder if I deserved all the national, regional and state awards I have received from my peers. Oddly, I hold the son of the California carpenter, and the spouse of the clerk-typist, in high regard.

But whither?

Where will truth be spoken to power in our town? Who will give voice to an exhausted miner or a wrung-out Walmart clerk? The unions cannot do it; they've shot themselves in the foot, padded their executives' pockets and looted pension funds too many times.

Indeed, whither?

In my naivety, I believed newspapers would carry this load. They have not and will not. This is not about me. There are many far greater journos than I, but they're not working in the trade anymore, either. We are unemployable. 'You want the truth? You can't handle the truth." Lousy movie but a great line.

Again, whither?

Print is dead, and it's the only trade I've ever known. There is nothing like watching a block-long Goss or Cleveland press roll to a halt and the pressmen re-plate Page One at 11 o'clock at night with your story, the one you knew would rock the town and toss some bums out of office, and watch that baby fire back up.

The party is over. That's not a newspaper you're picking off the front porch in the morning, fuelled by the fire of young men and women who actually gave a damn about your town. It is a revenue-seeking device, counting upon your ignorance and absence of curiosity.

Once again, whither?