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Posts published in July 2015

Boise’s ombudsman

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The office of the Community Ombudsman that did so much to restore community faith and pride in the police department has been reduced to a part-time position, it was announced today. No official word, but it is probably the only city department to have its staff cut in half in recent years.

The new person in the renamed “office of police oversight” is Natalie Camacho Mendoza, an attorney. Mayor Dave Bieter said the position, which has been without a permanent employee for more than two years, was made part-time because the number of complaints about police misconduct has dropped.

The GUARDIAN sees the position much like that of a fire department. If the city had fewer fires, you wouldn’t see a reduction in the number of firefighters. The ombudsman office served as an insurance policy to promote good law enforcement.

Here is the official announcement:
Mayor David Bieter today named Natalie Camacho Mendoza, a Boise attorney with 26 years of broad legal experience, including civil rights, as director of the City of Boise’s Office of Police Oversight.

In her new role, Camacho Mendoza will take a central place in the City of Boise’s continuing success in building public confidence in the professionalism and accountability of the Boise Police Department and its employees. She will serve as the part-time lead of the city office, which includes a full-time staff member, responsible for investigating critical incidents and complaints of misconduct brought against police and law enforcement officers.

The Office of Police Oversight was formerly known as the Office of the Community Ombudsman. The Boise City Council approved the name change earlier this month to better reflect its purpose and duties. Camacho Mendoza’s appointment will be considered by city council members at their noon meeting on July 28.

“This office has played an important role in improving the transparency of our police operations and building strong community trust between the police department and the public,” said Mayor Bieter. “Natalie’s experience and perspective will help us build on that success by deepening accountability and establishing herself as a robust partner in our law enforcement effort.”

Mayor Bieter pointed to the deep decline in complaints and inquiries into police actions since the office’s creation as evidence of the success of city’s policing strategy. In 2014, the office conducted just six inquiries into complaints about police actions compared to 76 when the office was opened in 2000. In that time, complaints about police actions consistently dropped from year to year.

“Building trust and accountability in the important work of our police officers has never been more important,” said Camacho Mendoza. “I hope to build upon Boise’s progressive and successful community policing efforts and further deepen the strong ties between the department and the community.”

Camacho Mendoza, the founder and owner of Camacho Mendoza Law in Boise, has deep experience as a litigator in the areas of worker’s compensation defense and civil litigation, as well as experience in governmental relations and policy analysis. She also has deep experience as a leader and manager communicating and interacting across different communities of color, ethnic origins, cultures religions and socio-economic status.

Camacho Mendoza earned her law degree in 1989 from the Washburn School of Law in Kansas and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Idaho State University. She has been an attorney and partner at law firms in Texas and Idaho, including work related to tribal law, migrant farm workers, immigration, insurance defense, business law, employee relations and criminal justice handling criminal defense and Tribal prosecution cases.

Camacho Mendoza’s appointment process included interviews with Mayor Bieter, Boise City Council members, community members and city staff. Because of the position’s law enforcement role, the process also included an extensive background check.

First take

Having just finished Paula Hawkins' The Girl on a Train, the big fiction seller so far this year, I was impressed. It was an enjoyable read, maybe better than that, but impressive for several reasons beyond that. One is its seeming simplicity and (in a way not meant as a criticism) almost a rote feel. Characters who are not cops or lawyers or supertalented spies but ordinary people doing, for the most part, ordinary things. A slow and gradual build toward a thriller ending - and the patience and guts to gamble that readers will hang in there through the seemingly uneventful start in hope that it pays off (which it does). It seems a lot simpler than it is, and the writing seems easier and more basic than it is, too. Ten thousand copycats will follow in this wake of this megaseller, if a single one works nearly as well, I'd be surprised. This kind of seeming effortlessness is awfully hard to pull off. Paula Hawkins has a true mastery of the craft.

On Washington’s ballot

From a report by the office of Washington's secretary of state's office, noting that Tim Eyman's latest tax ballot issue has made the ballot there.

FYI: Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1366, aimed at requiring a supermajority for taxes passed in Olympia, has qualified for a spot on the statewide Washington ballot this fall, Secretary of State Kim Wyman announced Wednesday.

It is the second of two state ballot measures that will face voters. Secretary Wyman certified Initiative 1401 to the ballot a week ago. That is the measure backed by Paul Allen to crack down on trafficking of endangered species/parts. Three nonbinding tax-advisory votes on recently passed revenue bills also will be on the ballot, under terms of Eyman’s previously adopted I-960.

Ballots go in the mail in mid-October. Voters will see initiative descriptions written by the Attorney General, pro and con arguments written by sponsors and opponents, and fiscal analysis from the state budget office. Print and online Voter’s Pamphlets will include text.

State Elections Division crews completed scrutiny of voter signatures on a random sampling of the I-1366 petitions and showed that sponsors submitted more than enough names to qualify for a state vote.

To earn a ballot spot takes 246,372 valid signatures of registered Washington voters – 8 percent of the last votes cast for governor. Sponsors turned in over 339,000 signatures and about 10,000 were randomly chosen by computer algorithm for a full check.

The check showed an error rate of 15.4 percent, compared with the average rate of 18 percent in recent decades.

The check showed that 9,143 signatures in the sample were accepted, 983 were rejected because the signer wasn’t a registered voter, 46 rejected because the signature didn’t match the one on file and 16 were duplicates.

I-1366 is an attempt to persuade the Legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the 2016 statewide ballot, to require a two-thirds vote in both houses to approve future tax increases in Olympia. The initiative says if lawmakers don’t place the amendment on the ballot by next April 15, the state sales tax would be cut from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, costing the treasury roughly $1 billion a year.

Only the Legislature may originate a constitutional amendment. That requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers and simple majority approval of the voters. The State Supreme Court has ruled that previous Eyman efforts to impose a two-thirds supermajority rule are unconstitutional, since current language requires only a simple majority for taxes and other bills to pass. The court said Eyman could succeed only if the constitution were amended.

The I-1366 text is here: http://tinyurl.com/pzosak4

The I-1401 text is here: http://tinyurl.com/kc2uq9b

First take

The protest on the Willamette has become the "talk of the town" - Portland, that is - Willamette Week reports. This may be the spot where a practical - albeit partly illegal - protest form has coaleasced. The executive director of one of the backing groups for the protest, from Seattle, remarked that “We really hit our groove here in Portland. The David and Goliath story is so irresistible.”

It's notably visual: Tiny craft in the river which, because the creation of a potential safety hazard, is blocking a large ship from progressing. Will we be seeing more of the like?

Early picks, fluid field

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It says something about the declining interest in politics as well as the media’s declining interest in substance, prefering entertainment instead, that the still presumptive Republican nominee, Jeb Bush, could fly into Boise in late April, meet with 35 prominent Republican activists, depart and not one media outlet was aware of the visit.

The long-time alpha wolf of the Idaho press corps, the Idaho Statesman’s John Corlett, must have rolled over in his grave.

The April 20 visit was confirmed by Emily Baker, a product of the Bush 43 White House and Nampa native who returned home and today is the Boise managing partner of Gallatin Public Affairs (Full disclosure: I am the founder of Gallatin but no longer have any ties to the firm). Ms. Baker helped put the event together on a volunteer basis, but she is squarely in the camp of largely mainstream, moderate Republicans who support the Bush candidacy.

She described the event as a meet, greet and learn session with the former Florida governor answering any and all questions. Jeb Bush can deliver information in a straight talking manner without engaging in the bombast and exaggerated but simplified rhetoric that has made businessman Donald Trump attractive to some.

Ms. Baker said they did not seek media but would, as she was now doing, have responded to questions about the event. She said it was not a fundraiser nor was it a pressure event telling people to get on early or they’d miss the train leaving the station.

At this early stage in the marathon Idaho Republicans, according to a Dan Jones poll done in June for Zions National Bank mirror the nation. The poll was conducted before Trump made his gaffes questioning whether Arizona Senator John McCain was really a hero because heroes don’t get captured, his insulting reference to Holy Communion and his admission he’d never asked God for forgiveness. Paradoxically, those gaffes sparked a temporary spike in his popularity.

In June, according to Jones, 17% of likely Idaho Republican voters favored Bush, 11% liked Trump and 11% favored Florida Senator Marco Rubio who had been in Idaho Falls just prior to Bush’s visit. Despite the low-key nature of the Bush visit it did generate some controversy behind the scenes in part because some long-time Bush loyalists were not invited. In addition, there was a charge made that some of Mitt Romney's supporters “hijacked” the event. Prominent Romney supporter, Melaleuca billionaire Frank
VanderSloot, however, did not attend the Bush event nor did his political and governmental vice president, Damon Watkins.

In talking on background with two long-time veteran Republican consultants, one pointed out that Travis Hawks, a Boise-based political hired gun, had been retained to put together the visit by Senator Rubio as well as working on the invite list for the Bush event.

Both operatives described the political ground as fluid in Idaho as well as the nation. Both thought Trump was more than likely to self-destruct. Both though acknowledged the media’s entertainment fixation was feeding Trump’s rise while serious candidates were literally gasping for air time due to Trump’s ability to suck all the oxygen out of a room. One cited what he termed today’s “low information voter” as the source of the decline in substance interest. He believes these voters are no more than 20% of the Idaho Republican base and mistake bromides for real thought, and pop-offs for substance.

While neither consultant was surprised by Congressman Labrador’s early endorsement of Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, they were surprised given his father’s popularity that the Senator was only drawing 6% support in Idaho. Neither were they surprised that Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was keeping his powder dry as are the other members of the delegation. Both expect Otter ultimately to endorse a current or former governor for the nomination. One said folks should keep an eye on Ohio Governor John Kasich. “No Republican wins the presidency without taking Ohio,” he pointed out. The other described Kasich as a “Republican version of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus.”

Both operatives believe immigration reform will be a major divisive issue for Idaho Republicans, “There is no one Idaho solution,” said one, which the next day was confirmed by a report in the Idaho Statesman regarding the differing views across the Idaho business community about immigration reform.

Thus, while it is still early, lines are forming, choices are being made. If the field is still muddled at convention time next year neither Republican operative discounted the possibility that Mitt Romney might emerge again as the nominee. There are more than a few in Idaho that would be happy to see that. Still the logic of a Jeb Bush/John Kasich ticket sounds compelling also.

First take

Any look I take at the new Windows 10, just released, come through the perspective of a confirmed Linux user - this is being written on a computer with a Linux OS, as have been all our recent books and much more. So when I look at the new Windows screen - like the image above - what hits me is how similar much of it is to my Linux (Mint, Cinnamon) screen. Same overall screen approach; same control bar at the bottom; similar view on pressing the start (on Linux, menu) button, except that we Linux users don't have that annoying checkerboard imagery. (But because Linux is so customizable, we could create it if we wanted to.) And something else: Microsoft is urging people to upgrade, for free, from earlier editions of Windows, promising "We’ve designed the upgrade to be easy and compatible with the hardware and software you already use." In the past, the wisdom I've always heard was, if you want a new version of the Windows OS, get a new computer, because such upgrades are problematic in Windows. (Not so in Linux, where such system updates are routine.) Has Microsoft made upgrading relatively seamless now? It'd be a big plus for the users if they have.

Compete to survive

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What do you do with sixteen candidates? It’s a thorny problem for Republicans. Why’s that? Because right now one of those candidates, Donald Trump, is loud enough to drown out all the other “major” candidates.

Wouldn’t it be fun if the nomination contest was more like a basketball tournament? Then top-seeded Donald Trump would battle 16th seed Ohio Gov. John Kasich a battle of ideas. Or how about dropping the bunch in the jungle Naked and Afraid. We could even start voting and eliminate a candidate every week, until it’s just the Republican versus a Democrat.

Enough. Back to the chaos. And Donald Trump.

As The Washington Post put it on Sunday: “For yet another week, Trump talk dominated the Sunday morning political shows, with several devoting roundtable discussions to his disruption of the GOP presidential primary and at least two of his GOP rivals using their clashes with him in recent days as a means of securing interviews on the shows — during which they continued to clash with him.”

On August 6 in Cleveland the first debate is set, an opportunity to raise serious issues. As if. It’s more likely that it will be Trump versus the other nine candidates tossing one liners back and forth.

Of course American Indian and Alaska Native issues don’t get attention this early anyway. Usually that happens late in the campaigns, during the general election, when a position paper is released that outlines the candidate’s official policy. That’s too bad. It would be good to press candidates from both parties about how they see treaties, the federal-Indian relationship, and the management of federal programs that serve Native Americans.

Then again it’s pretty clear where most stand. The Tea Party wing of the Republicans — Trump, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul — would dramatically cut federal spending. Paul has even called for the elimination of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and drastic cuts at the Indian Health Service. If any of this happened, the Sequester would be the Good Old Days.

Even a self-described serious candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, suggests its time to reshape government. A few days ago in Tallahassee, he said that as governor he used a hiring freeze to shrink state government. He suggested the same approach would work in Washington where only one employee could be hired for every three who retire or leave government service. Bush also said it ought to be easier to fire federal employees. “There are a lot of exemplary employees in the federal government, but they’re treated no better than the bad ones,” he said. “The bad ones are almost impossible to effectively discipline or remove.”

Candidate Kasich was chairman of the House Budget Committee when President Bill Clinton declared the “era of big government is over.” That suited Kasich then. And now. One proposal at the time was to “reinvent” the Bureau of Indian Affairs with a block grant program. “The reinvented Bureau of Indian Affairs would provide block grants, rather than engaging in the direct provision of services or the direct supervision of tribal activities,” the House proposal said. This “would reduce the central office operations of the BIA by 50 percent and eliminate funding for the Navajo and western Oklahoma area offices. It would eliminate technical assistance of Indian enterprises, through which technical assistance for economic enterprises is provided by contracts with the private sector or with other Federal agencies.” Congress would have ended direct loans and reduce loan guarantees.

The Republicans running for president all share contempt for the Affordable Care Act (and most don’t know that would include the provisions of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.) All are also supportive of more development, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, and generally dismissive of any action to limit climate change.

I don’t know. I’m still partial to a Naked and Afraid competition.

Mark Trahant 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.

First take

It's under pressure that (and fiction writers know this well) character is most readily revealed. We now have a great vise that stands to be a useful character-revealer, in the form of the first Republican presidential debate of the new cycle, a little more than a week off. In the interest of holding a debate in which the various candidates have more than three or four minutes to speak, organizers have limited participation to the "top 10" candidates, as determined mainly by polling results. There's a problem here. While three of the current candidates - Donald Trump, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker - hold a discernible lead over the others, the other 13 "major" candidates are all clumped together in the mid- or low single digits, and most within a margin of error. There's no easy way to differentiate among them in polling terms, which means there's no easy way to determine which six won't make the cut - and thereby risk being characterized afterward as the minor candidates with minor support. What is this leading to? The New York Times describes some of it in its email report this morning: "Until Monday, most of the Republican-on-Republican violence in the 2016 presidential contest had been along familiar lines — Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey against Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky; Donald J. Trump against almost everybody. But the impending first Republican debate, which has a 10-candidate limit that has already prompted some attention-getting stunts, is quickly turning the race into a food fight." Which may dominate news reports for some days to come. - rs (photo/Senator Ted Cruz, by Michael Vadon)

Real terrorist, bad judge

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There a few changes in military recruiting stations since I signed up in one many, many years ago. Most now are staffed by members of each branch of the military rather than just one recruiter who could sign you up for any service. Today, they’re often located in strip malls rather than office buildings as they used to be. Slick promotional DVDs of colorful military action have replaced the old, dog-eared pamphlets.

My recruiter back then was an old “tanker.” I wanted the Air Force but that old sarge was pure Army from his shorts out. He wore a back brace, had “locked” knees and gnarled hands that gripped two canes. He’d served in North Africa under Patton where temperatures in those steel coffins topped 120 degrees daytime and dropped to the 40's at night. Repeated exposure to cold and condensation caused crippling arthritis. He was overweight and deformed but he recruited with the best of ‘em.

These days, recruiters all look like they posed for “best-of-the-best” posters with tailored uniforms, all leather shined to a high gloss, smartly pressed pants, permanent-pleat shirts and regulation haircuts kept that way by nearly daily trips to the barber.

This description of latter-day recruiters probably fit all the personnel in that Tennessee recruiting station the day they were murdered. The day a deranged soul, with a semi-automatic, butchered five unarmed men. But “deranged” doesn’t stop there.

Flipping through Faux Neus a few days ago, I happened across “Judge Jeannie.” Her right wing rant was the recruiting office murders and how “Obama is to blame.” Not President Obama. Just “Obama is to blame.” And, from somewhere in the demented Faux audience, the network has dug up a Black police chief as much a racist as any white I’ve ever seen.

Let’s take a minute to discuss “Judge Jeannie.” Jeannie Pirro was 12 years a county court judge in Westchester County, NY. During that time, lobbyist husband, Albert, was convicted of tax evasion and conspiracy involving over $1 million. Jeannie was investigated by the feds for illegally taping her husband’s phones, trying to catch him committing adultery and other things. American “family values” at their best.

Jeannie made runs for lieutenant governor and U.S. senator with “significant contributions” from her ex’s friends while he remained in the slammer. But she couldn’t raise enough money or political support from the public and withdrew both times. Rejection. Then Faux Neus. With her non-journalistic background and political failures - a natural.

Back to the present. Jeannie’s charge was that “Obama” had prohibited recruiters from being armed. Not true. Except to her. If “Obama had not stopped recruiters from having guns they could’ve defended themselves and wouldn’t be dead.” The chief agreed! Repeatedly. Another “Obama failing.” said he. I flipped off - before I flipped out.

I’d bet the farm no president of these United States ever knew - or had given much though to - whether recruiters had guns in recruiting stations. I’d wager the same that no president - including the current one - ever ordered recruiters be armed or not armed. Like so many other Faux Neus charges about “Obama’s failures,” no thought has been given to cabinet secretaries, department heads, the IRS, Joint Chiefs of Staff or anyone else in government supervisory roles. Just “Obama.”

Successful recruiters have two main tools. First, they must look, talk and act like the best each branch of service has to offer. Many are combat vets with a lot of “salad dressing” on their chests. They’re smart, well-trained to “read” people, conversational, use proven sales tactics to make a case for new recruits to see “the best the military offers.” It’s a sales job. “Products” are patriotism, travel, education, lifetime careers, advancement and all the things young people look for and ask about.

Most recruiting offices are in malls or strip malls. Years of testing found access important for recruitment. The Tennessee office was next to an Italian restaurant. You can’t stash recruiters away someplace “safe” and you can’t arm them for defensive postures any more than you’d buy a car from a guy in a bulletproof glass cage. They are not in the offices to “return fire” when some nut - deranged local or terrorist - takes a shot.

Recruiting offices will continue to be targets for attack. They represent the American military - “the Great Satan” - and are not equipped repel armed cowards hitting “soft” targets. Like schools in Afghanistan or weddings in Iraq. There is no bulletproof way to change that. Not if recruiters are to be effective in their work. Before international terrorism made their offices hazardous duty.

The military will figure this out and do what it has to. No, I’m more worried about the “Judge Jeannie’s” of this world who keep up the lies and false propaganda to stir up people who fall for her B.S.. Far too many do. To me, she’s more the “enemy within.” Millions accept what she says without question - without checking - without confirmation of any kind - because she’s that “nice looking lady.” “And she’s a judge.”

No, my friends. She’s just another Faux Neus hack with clay feet up to her chin. She’s had her turn with both sides of the law. You want a friend? Go talk to a recruiter. They’re far more honest.

As for the civilian nuts showing up to “protect” the military, go home before you hurt someone and get sued down to your red-white-and-blue shorts.

First take

We've never seen Pluto like this. In fact, we've only just barely seen it until very recently, didn't know about it at all until within the last century. Now, with imagery from a satellite that only just shot past it, we have detail way beyond what we had before. And we can manipulate the date to generate more, as NASA officials noted this weekend: "New Horizons scientists use enhanced color images to detect differences in the composition and texture of Pluto’s surface. When close-up images are combined with color data from the Ralph instrument, it paints a new and surprising portrait of the dwarf planet. The “heart of the heart,” Sputnik Planum, is suggestive of a source region of ices. The two bluish-white “lobes” that extend to the southwest and northeast of the “heart” may represent exotic ices being transported away from Sputnik Planum." Imagination-provoking stuff.