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Posts published in March 2015

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)

Nampa library, new version, opens (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
The growing cost of seeking open records (Boise Statesman)
Counting the homeless in N-central Idaho (Lewiston Tribune)
Looking at laws on public executive sessions (Nampa Press Tribune)
Should be mostly enough water this year (Nampa Press Tribune)
Magnida fertilizer plant progresses at Power Co (Pocatello Journal)
What's ahead for schools after bond election (TF Times News)

Legislature slows, resumes more normal pace (Eugene Register Guard)
Dorchester Republicans map route from here (KF Herald & News)
Capturing, maybe to kill, nuisance animals (Medford Tribune)
Oregon wine industry said to be worth $4b (Medford Tribune)
Long-term holds for material witnesses (Portland Oregonian)
What kind of funding for Oregon schools? (Portland Oregonian)
Wolf populations re-establishing in Cascades (Salem Statesman Journal)

New big Whatcom park, trails, planned (Bellingham Herald)
Getting expensive to seek public records (Tacoma News Tribunne, Bellingham Herald, Olympian)
Trial this week on jailing the mentally ill (Bellingham Herald)
About $338k in garbage bills unpaid at Bremerton (Bremerton Sun)
Reviewig local legislators so far (Bremerton Sun)
Teenager survey on pot: Little danger seen (Longview News)
Olympics included in drought declaration (Port Angeles News)
Is Seattle's Capitol Hill losing artistic nature? (Seattle Times)
UW medical seeks certification for face transplants (Seattle Times)
WSU Spokane plans major expansions (Spokane Spokesman)
With staff cuts, Pierce jail won't serve cities (Tacoma News Tribune)
Legislature considering school funding levels (Vancouver Columbian)
What to do about WA medical pot? (Vancouver Columbian)

Belated good news

idaho RANDY

The news is good. Very good.

But attached to it comes the ugly question: Did anyone figure this out earlier? If not, why not? And if so, why was the information kept under a rock?

The story here is about something gone bad abruptly gone good: the statewide contract for providing broadband service contracts for high schools. That contract, developed and signed through the Otter Administration, was the subject of bitter wrangling and battling and court fights, and finally last year was voided entirely by a state district judge. School districts around the state were warned, as recently as a few weeks ago, that their broadband access might be cut off, and no one knew exactly when it might be restored.

Hoping to patch the problem, the Idaho Legislature actually moved quickly to spend $3.6 million to keep the broadband signals alive. The money would go to the state Department of Education, which would distribute it to local school districts, each of which would have to find its own broadband supplier. It sounded like a band aid on a bullet wound.

But no: It has worked. And not only that, it has worked so well that it puts the statewide effort to shame. The broadband will not only survive, but do so in much better form than would have been the case. The Idaho Ed News site noted, for example, that “The short-term contracts — signed by school districts in the past couple of weeks — carry a projected price tag of slightly less than $2 million. Over that same time period, the defunct Idaho Education Network broadband system would have cost the state more than $3.2 million.”

Almost two-thirds of the districts and charter schools found less costly local sourcing. And many of those local sources provided much more robust broadband: “Fifty-five districts and charters were able to secure more bandwidth under their new contracts. The Jefferson County Joint District, for example, saw its broadband capacity increase from 84 megabits per second to 20,000 Mbps.”

The results have been so good that the legislature – quite rationally – now is likely to scrap the whole idea of a statewide system and just provide funding assistance for the locals.

Certainly, the local districts and the Department of Education deserve a good deal of credit for all this.

But loose-end questions remain. Spreading a service over a larger area usually means reductions in costs, so why did the statewide system cost so much more and deliver so much less than the patchwork local efforts?

Why did not one figure this out long ago?

Did no one, in developing the statewide school broadband system, look even casually at the idea of local provision and consider what the relative savings might have been? (Or might it have been that no one simply saw a financial incentive in doing it that way?)

Or if someone did figure all this out long ago . . . why is none of this coming to light until now?

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)

Garden City waterfront district almost done (Boise Statesman)
Who's living in WSU president's cottage? (Lewiston Tribune)
Fire smoldering near Kendrick area (Lewiston Tribune)
New UI provost named (Moscow News)
University of Washington fraternity accused of racism (Moscow News)
opening day today for new Nampa library (Nampa Press Tribune)
Nampa senator pushes for marijuana extract oil (Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News)
Congress delegation seeks Lake Lowell plan change (Nampa Press Tribune)
ISU replaces school symbols (Pocatello Journal)

Early spring throw bees off season schedule (Eugene Register Guard)
Keno landmark tavern closes (KF Herald & News)
Medford officials in conflict of interest on casino? (KF Herald & News)
St. Mary's school buys campus from landlord (Medford Tribune)
Farmers take issue with electric line route (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Wyden questioned by Umatilla students (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Reviewing bills from NE Oregon legislators (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Motor-voter law changes situation for parties (Portland Oregonian)
US Attorney's relationship in-office reviewed (Portland Oregonian)
Civic leaders Gretchen Kafoury dies (Portland Oregonian)
Legislators still push for tougher vaccine law (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviewing hardware trade negotiations, ports (Bellingham Herald)
Gun club operations may be reviewed (Bremerton Sun)
Boeing defending state tax breaks at Olympia (Everett Herald)
Inslee declares drought emergency in 3 areas (Spokane Spokesman, Yakima Herald Republic, Longview News)
Seattle plans to take over large area for pocket park (Seattle Times)
Boeing CEO made $29m in 2014 (Seattle Times)

To govern, to obstruct

ridenbaugh Northwest

An opinion piece released on March 13 by Representative Mike Simpson, R-ID.

“The American people used their votes last year to demonstrate a strong objection to gridlock while giving a modest endorsement to the direction Congressional Republicans offered as an alternative to Democrat policies in Washington. Their confidence, however, was conditional on an expectation that Republicans would work aggressively to move our country forward.

“Unfortunately, too many of my colleagues in Congress see the election much differently. They view gridlock and obstructionism as a means to appease the politically pure and point fingers at anyone who seeks a different solution. While I agree with my colleagues on the conservative principles in this debate, I’d rather be advancing solutions to stop the President’s overreaching policies and putting forward Republican answers that thwart the Administration’s ability to rule from the executive branch.

“Instead, a faction of my Republican colleagues see obstructionist tactics like shutting down the government, or one of its most important agencies, as just another tool in the construction of a manufactured crises. This small segment of Republicans voted to shut down the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a vote two weeks ago at the deadline – and they represent the most irresponsible, unrealistic, and ineffective segment of our Republican caucus.

“Even worse, they’re imposing a losing strategy while we are actually winning in the courts – the legitimate, and Constitutional, venue for resolving disputes between the executive and legislative branches.

“These members have no credible policy proposals to stop the President’s unlawful actions, instead they hold our national security hostage with shutdown threats, and then label any Member who opposes their strategy as “capitulating” to the President.

“They represent a segment of our caucus that would rather shut down the government than show the American people we can actually govern. They represent a segment of our caucus that would preach border security while defunding border patrol. They represent a segment of our caucus that defies the Constitution while preaching a strict adherence to its very principles. They represent a segment of our caucus that wrongly thought a government shutdown would spell the end of Obamacare. They got their shutdown. But we still have Obamacare.

“The majority of the Republican caucus has given ample opportunities for this loud minority to play-out their strategy. However, this small faction has failed to achieve any conservative victories and led our party so far astray that the Democrats have been able to exert influence in the absence of a united Republican party.

“My pro-shutdown colleagues are the same folks who pushed for immigration reform only to abandon the notion – leaving the American people on hold with a broken system, ineffective border, and overreaching President looking for any excuse to write executive actions.

“My pro-shutdown colleagues project Constitutional principles but they’re conveniently forgetting their own Constitutional responsibilities to fund the U.S. Government and, ‘provide for the common defense.’

“My pro-shutdown colleagues supported John Boehner for Speaker, before opposing him, then supporting him again, and now criticizing him. By undermining Republican leadership at every turn, the pro-shutdown minority has compromised our ability to pass conservative priorities that focuses on governing efficiently and effectively.

“The truth is my Republican colleagues and I have a critical and extremely short window of time to prove to the American people that we can govern responsibly. This brief window is our chance to demonstrate to the American people that they should look to a Republican as the next President of the United States. It’s also our chance to show that we prefer the Ronald Reagan model of taking 70-80% of what we can get…and then fighting united to get the rest in the future.”

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)

Nampa library nearly ready to open (Boise Statesman)
Will Idaho wheat go to Cuba? (Lewiston Tribune)
Judge rejects Clearwater road management plan (Lewiston Tribune)
WA teenagers say pot easy to get (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Palouse neighbors concerned about skate park (Moscow News)
Legislators create new urban renewal committee (Nampa Press Tribune)
Senate narrowly okays driverless car testing (Nampa Press Tribune)
Broadband contractors say state owes $6m (TF Times News)
Clif Bar does grooundbraking at TF facility (TF Times News)
KMVT-TV at Twin to be sold to Gray Television (TF Times News)

Another sickened UO student (Eugene Register Guard)
Eugene picks Balderas as new superintendent (Eugene Register Guard)
Swan Lake pumped storage plan at KF still a go (KF Herald & News)
Klamath college promises another year for diploma (KF Herald & News)
Medford considering pot odor issue (Medford Tribune)
Conflict of interest claimed in Coquille casino plan (Medford Tribune)
Oracle lawsuit bumped to state court (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Sexuality conference at Pendleton blasted (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Profiling Brown's approach as governor (Portland Oregonian)
Bicyclists may be allowed to run red lights (Portland Oregonian)
Why was state bounched from Kitzhaber inquiry? (Portland Oregonian)
Brown signs carbon reduction bill (Salem Statesman Journal)
Bill would simplify some name changes (Salem Statesman Journal)

Surveyed teens say pot easy to get, not harmful (Bremerton Sun)
Legislative overview story (Seattle Times, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun, Olympian, Longview News)
Bill would allow tax breaks for good jobs (Everett Herald)
Kalama goes after abandoned properties (Longview News)
Legislators consider nonprofits in political campaigns (Olympian)
WA legislators review Montana coal plant closure (Olympian)
Vaccine exemption bills die at legislature (Port Angeles News)
More teens get into e-cigarettes (Seattle Times, Vancouver Columbian)
Thomas Daly named to head Spokane Catholic diocese (Spokane Spokesman)
Kootenai sheriff deputies get pay raise (Spokane Spokesman)
More worker injuries in Seattle tunnel (Tacoma News Tribune)
Congressional delegation helps starfish wasting (Tacoma News Tribune)
Puyallup tribe buys cancer clinic (Tacoma News Tribune)
Clark Co officials deliver annual address (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima plaza has parking problems (Yakima Herald Republic)

The battle is about to get ugly

trahant MARK


The battle over federal spending is about to get ugly. Real ugly.

It’s been a Republican promise to balance the federal budget within a decade. And in an election campaign that promise look soooo easy. Cut a penny here, another there, and somehow, magically, revenues match spending and there’s a balanced budget. Since Republicans now control both the House and the Senate this should be a done deal, right?

But that’s not how it happens in the real world. In the federal system there are all kinds of fiscal obligations that move through the system automatically. If a person is eligible for Medicare or Medicaid … then the money is spent. Congress doesn’t have to appropriate a cent. The automatic side of the budget is growing because Baby Boomers are older and drawing more benefits such as Social Security.

But that’s only the beginning of this complex spending debate.

The money spent on American Indians and Alaska Natives is a tiny fraction, far less than one percent of the overall budget. Yet every idea to cut federal spending ends up significantly impacting tribal communities, making it impossible for tribal leaders to plan ahead, and disrupting ongoing initiatives ranging from education to economic development. The president’s budget would benefit Indian Country.

And while there are supporters of Indian Country initiatives in Congress, the bigger issue is the overall budget and how much pressure there will be to trim spending for all every federal agencies.

The president’s budget does address the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the spending plan would have “no net effect” on the deficit in 2015 but would reduce deficits between 2016 and 2025.

But that’s not enough for those in Congress who demand a balanced budget. And even the sequester was not enough to do that.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told a Senate panel that “the reality is that balancing the budget for any sustained period is probably not in our immediate future.” The budget would have to shrink by $5.5 trillion in ten years or eight times the size of the sequester plan and 65 times the Ryan-Murray budget deal (which didn’t last long).

You might think those numbers would be big enough, deep enough, to scare off even committed Republicans. And that’s true — when it comes to Defense spending.

Defense News quoted Sen. John McCain saying he will do “whatever it takes to avert sequester on defense. I will not agree to any budget that does not stop sequestration. We just had testimony this morning that will put the lives of American men and women in uniform in danger if we continue with sequestration.”

So that’s fight number one. Republicans who want to live up to a balanced budget pledge versus Republicans who want to end the sequester — at least as far as military spending. In a lot of ways this will be a contest of wills between the House and the Senate.

So which budget will prevail? The president’s budget — at least in terms of overall spending — has no chance. Congressional budgets will be unveiled shortly and then the fight begins and we can start to wonder what kind of last minute deal will be needed to keep the government operational.

As I said, the battle over federal spending is about to get ugly.

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.

Vaccine in Oregon

The bill to eliminate some vaccination exemptions failed this week. Here's a video on the subject.

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)

Boise council rejects barbed wire on greendbelt (Boise Statesman)
Snowpack stays minimal, February warm (Lewiston Tribune)
Budget panel holds off school funding, slows session (TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
WA Senate votes to cut college tuition (Moscow News)
More women in area carrying guns (Moscow News)
Sheriff has concerns about new Canyon jail plan (Nampa Press Tribune)
New state transport plan introduced (Nampa Press Tribune)
Buhl voters saw fake sample ballots (TF Times News)

Pro-vaccination bill dropped at legislature (Eugene Register Guard, Salem Statesman Journal, Medford Mail Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Eugene city may get into riverfront project (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath basin payment plan gets underway (KF Herald & News)
New secretary of state Atkins sworn in (Medford Tribune)
Jackson Co official urges pot tax vote (Medford Tribune)
Historic properties ordinance challenged (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Birds hitting wastewater building at Portland (Portland Oregonian)
Brown pushes to toughen state ethics laws (Portland Oregonian)

Members of Congress acting on sea star die-off (Bellingham Herald)
WA Senate moves to cut college tuition (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Bremerton Sun)
New park established in North Kitsap (Bremerton Sun)
Bill to end personal vaccine exemption fails (Everett Herald)
Legislators moving to restore 'no child' waiver (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Passenger airline considers Port Angeles service (Port Angeles News)
WA suing Super Bowl ticket broker (Seattle Times)
Pierce County shores plan updated (Tacoma News Tribune)
McLoughlin statue will depart Washington (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima gangs cop departing for Seattle (Yakima Herald Republic)
Kittitas group concerned on water storage plan (Yakima Herald Republic)

Governor Otter just doesn’t get it

carlson CHRIS


Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s failure to understand not just the nuances but the primary purpose of the nuclear waste agreement negotiated for the state in 1995 with the Department of Energy and the Navy by Governor Phil Batt is simply appalling. It’s the people of Idaho and their descendents who are going to suffer if Governor Otter’s obsession with money trumping environmental risks warrants his unilaterally abrogating the Governor Batt 1995 agreement.

The waiver he and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden are ready to allow for the importation of commercial spent fuel rods should be withdrawn or halted by a Federal district judge. It violates both the letter of the law and the spirit of the agreement.

Every citizen of Idaho, and every future Idahoan, should stand and applaud two of Idaho’s best former governors, Batt, the Republican, and Andrus, the Democrat, for coming out of retirement and dedicating themselves to reversing the folly of this successor. May the good people of Idaho recognize how extraordinary this is and rally to the cause.

As Governor Batt has pointed out recently, by a two to one margin the voters of the state ratified his agreement that states no more commercial nuclear waste is to be brought into Idaho. Furthermore, that which is here is to be gone by 2035. We know that won’t happen because work at the proposed national repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, was stopped and the Obama Administration has shut it down.

Now, there are reliable reports the federal government is going to ask Idaho for a 15-year extension of that deadline to 2050. Why shouldn’t they, since in Otter they have a compliant, asleep at the switch governor who rolls over every time he’s asked to do so.

Anyone with an ounce of common sense can see the handwriting on the wall - any additional commercial waste, including spent fuel rods, brought to Idaho for any reason is going to be here for a long, long time stored above the Snake River Plain aquifer.

Governor Otter’s response to the announcement that his two predecessors are getting ready to go to federal court to enforce the Batt agreement was pure blarney. It was nothing but a partisan, red herring designed to divert attention to the real issue.

Yes, Governors Batt and Andrus do see storing commercial nuclear waste above the aquifer as a liability. They also understand that legitimate research will continue with plenty of what’s already there available for research. Furthermore, they can see the best insurance for continuing research activities at the site is to clean up what’s there and not let the site become the nation’s de facto nuclear garbge dump.

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the Batt agreement’s emphatic, unequivocal “no more commercial waste” in Idaho?”

What doesn’t Governor Otter understand about the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that major federal actions impacting the environment have to be subject to public review and comment?

The NEPA process is to be an open, transparent process with plenty of time for citizen comments. On that point alone the former governors should prevail easily in a court of law. (more…)