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Posts published in July 2015

IPO on the edge

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The May, 2015 voter registration statistics were posted by the Secretary of State, and because of the IPOnormal May off year election inactive voter purges, the IPO numbers shrank. The IPO is now only 72 members above the Major Party status mark. Another month like May and the IPO will lose the right to be on the May 2016 primary ballot. Remember, the IPO opened it’s primary to non affiliated voters, so that means that if the IPO loses 72 members between now and August 15th, 2015, over 640,000 oregon voters, or about 30% lose the right to vote in the May primary.

Are The Democrats and Governor Brown, who passed the Motor voter law to get more voters registered concerned? Yes the are. They are concerned that the IPO will maintain major party status and are doing everything they can – even making league with their Republican Party opponents – to kill the IPO. And in effect, take a vote away from 640,000 Oregonians.

First the Oregon House Rules committee, chaired by a State legislator who thinks she should in charge of all Oregon elections, ambushed IPO leaders when she called a hearing – with less than 48 hours notice to the IPO – to examine major party organizations and how they engage their members. You can bet the Democratic and Republican party leaders were given plenty of notice of the hearing and subject matter.

That hearing was followed within 24 hours by a joint Democratic and Republican press release that claimed to prove that the IPO was a fake party. A March 2015 (!) poll paid for by the Democrats showed that over half of IPO members know they are IPO members. This actually disproves what Democratic operatives have been claiming for YEARS; that almost all IPO members mistakenly joined the IPO when they thought they were registering as not affiliated with any party. The Poll actually shows that only 24% of IPO members thought they were registering a non affiliated. No wonder the Democrats didn’t release this poll in March. The timing of the poll also shows it was commissioned shortly after the IPO reached major party status. No coincidence that.

The Democrats in particular are very concerned that the IPO could shake things up. Because right now things are working very well for them, and change brings uncertainties and unkowns. But IPO leaders and Democratic operatives have been aware of the dynamic the IPO could bring to Oregon elections for some time and how it could threaten the Democratic party’s special interests grip on power. Particularly the Public employee unions grip. And It’s why for the past few years as the IPO has grown, it’s the DPO that has become it’s main adversary.

Todays (July 3rd, 2015) Oregonian Editorial Board praised the IPO and encouraging non affiliated voters, and disenchanted voters of all parties to join the IPO in order to preserve the IPO’s major party status. It recognized that given the current state of the law, and with Democrats in control of the legislature, the IPO offers the only way independent voters can participate in the May primary. And make no mistake, in Oregon’s highly gerrymandered state, in 90% of al legislative races, and all of the statewide races, and all of the federal races, t’s the primary elections that decide who will be elected in November.

In fact, the OEBs argument on the importance of the IPO maintaining major party status was so compelling that several people who commented after reading the opinion volunteered that they had just registered with the IPO. And not one to ignore his own advice, the presumed author of the opinion, OEB Editor Erik Lukens, also posted that he had registered with the IPO to help preserve its major party status.

First take

This sounds about right: A difference in speed limits in Oregon east and west of the Cascades. West of the Cascades, limits about where they are, relatively low. East of the Cascades, open it up a bit, to 70 mph (from 65) from The Dalles to Ontario, and 65 (from 55) on many rural highways, with a special 70 mph limit on the long, open, flat, and lightly travelled US 95 in the southeast corner. The bill, from Ontario Representative Cliff Bentz, has passed both houses of the legislature; Governor Kate Brown has yet to act on it. But this feels about right. Eastern Oregon has some vast open spaces that easily could accommodate a little more speed. (photo/Ken Lund)

Oregon’s sine die

The Oregon legislature, which normally runs longer than Washington's or Idaho's, has adjourned. (It was a little later than expected, but not by a lot.)

Here's what the House leadership cited as the session's accomplishments.

Investing in a Strong Education System

A $7.4 billion investment in public schools will provide stable budgets for most school districts while also funding full-day kindergarten for children throughout Oregon for the first time.
A $35 million investment in Career and Technical Education and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education (CTE/STEM) will help increase high school graduation rates and better prepare Oregon students for high-wage jobs.
Students seeking higher education will benefit from boosts in funding for public universities, community colleges, and student financial assistance (Opportunity Grants) – including a new tuition waiver program for qualified community college students and a requirement that public universities justify any proposed tuition increases above 3 percent in 2016-17.
New investments in early childhood education – notably Healthy Families home visiting, relief nurseries, and quality preschool – will help ensure children arrive at school ready to succeed.

Expanding Opportunities for Working Families

The Sick Leave for All Oregonians Act will make sure most working Oregonians can accrue a reasonable number of paid sick days each year – a basic workplace protection that will make a major difference for families across the state.
Oregon Retirement Savings Accounts will give more families the opportunity to save for retirement via an easy, effective, and portable savings account.
Prohibiting employer retaliation for discussing what you earn will help combat wage disparities and help women who currently do not get equal pay for equal work.
Strategic investments in the Employment Related Day Care Program and the Working Family Child and Dependent Care tax credit will increase access to quality, affordable childcare for working families.
A landmark investment in affordable housing construction will help thousands of families and begin to tackle Oregon’s statewide housing crisis.
Removing questions about criminal history from job applications, commonly known as “ban the box,” will help Oregonians get back on their feet once they have served their time.

Supporting Job Creation and Local Economies

A $175 million bonding investment will enable seismic upgrades to K-12 schools throughout the state, and an additional $125 million in bonds will help school districts across the state to fix outdated, dilapidated, and hazardous facilities.
A $90 million investment in Oregon’s transportation infrastructure will provide much-needed upgrades, including $35 million to improve the safety of some of the most deadly intersections and dangerous stretches of highway in communities across the state.
Strategic investments will create jobs and spur economic development across the state, including: investments in multimodal transportation through the ConnectOregon program; pivotal resources for community-based initiatives through the Regional Solutions program; and support for converting unusable brownfields such as abandoned gas stations into development-ready lots.
The implementation of Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program will provide Oregonians with more choices at the fuel pump, cleaner air to breathe, and more jobs in an emerging industry.
Rural economic investments include $50 million in grants and loans to help meet water storage and conservation needs, resources to improve sage grouse habitats and maintain grazing lands, and funds to manage and build a market for Western Juniper.
A fix to Oregon’s centralized property tax rules will provide certainty for technology companies that want to build data centers and create jobs in rural Oregon.

Improving Public Safety for Oregon Families

A package of common-sense regulations will guide a safe and successful implementation of the voter-approved Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana for adults.
The Oregon Firearms Safety Act will help keep convicted felons, domestic abusers and people in severe mental crisis from buying guns online or through other direct private sales because criminal background checks will now be required for those transactions.
Barring domestic abusers from possessing guns and ammunition will help protect victims and keep families safe.
Establishing long-needed rules to define and prohibit racial profiling will help rebuild public trust in local law enforcement and make communities stronger and safer.
Doubling the statute of limitations for first degree sex crimes from six years to twelve years will give victims a voice and a real chance to seek justice.
Improving the state’s capacity to respond to accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials will make our communities safer.

Promoting Healthy Communities

Significant investments in mental health care and alcohol and drug treatment will strengthen communities throughout the state, including $20 million to build supportive housing for Oregonians impacted by mental illness or addiction.
Pharmacists will be allowed to prescribe and dispense birth control and insurance companies will be required to cover 12 months of prescription coverage – both of which will increase access to contraception and help reduce unintended pregnancies.
The Oregon Toxic Free Kids Act will require some manufacturers to incrementally phase out dangerous chemicals from kids’ products.
Cover Oregon has been abolished as a public corporation, which will add much-needed transparency and accountability to Oregon’s health insurance marketplace.
Vulnerable patients (victims of domestic violence, for example) will be able to keep their sensitive medical information private by having their “explanation of benefits” information mailed to an address that is different from the policy holder’s.

First take

I would have expected a little longer wait before this would have shown up on Wikipedia, or at least a shorter list. But here we have long articles on the endorsements to date in the Democratic and Republican campaigns for president - endorsements from political figures, organizations, celebrities, news media and more. They're extensive lists.

On the Republican side Jeb Bush and Rand Paul seem to be fighting it out for the longest lists, but just about all of the candidates have someone. Among those that caught my attention: radio shouter Michael Savage for Donald Trump; Dave Mustaine of the band Megadeath for Rick Santorum; Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for Marco Rubio; John Stossel and Geraldo Rivera for Paul; just one (a New Hampshire state senator) for George Pataki; Chuck Norris and Tony Orlando for Mike Huckabee; John McCain for Lindsey Graham; Adam Carolla for Ted Cruz; musician Kid Rock for Ben Carson (the only endorser listed for him); businessman T. Boone Pickens for Bush.

There's a longish list for Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, maybe in part because she still has such a presumption of getting the nomination. There's a long list of actors, singers and others in the entertainment area, and businesspeople from Warren Buffett to Larry Flynt. Her competitor Bernie Sanders has a fair-sized list too, though. His backing from Portland radio host Thom Hartmann, singer Neil Young (made famous in his recent dustup with Trump), musician David Crosby, comedian Lewis Black, radio host Ed Schultz, writer Matt Taibbi, and among organizations (though I'm not clear how they organized enough to endorse anyone) Occupy Wall Street.

Anyway, the lists are there. Check 'em out.

First take

That was a challenge, but it may pay off - well, in a lot of ways, surely already has . . . On June 5, a fire burned down four businesses in central Idaho City, a small and rustic (a proper present-day descriptor in this case) town that doesn't have but so many more than four businesses. This happened not far in advance of the 4th of July, which ordinarily is a big day for business and visiting in Idaho City. Would this be just a day of mourning? It turned out not. Some at least of the business owners had made a commitment to reopen at some point, and the Trading Post, which long has been one of Idaho City's larger businesses, did reopen just in time for the 4th - a cause for celebration, in addition to the national one. "Just to have people come and see that we're rebuilding ourselves and that we're moving forward I think that it's just wonderful," the Trading Post owner was quoted as saying. A path has been marked for the way back. Good luck.

On the border

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Across the border from Idaho, people are buying, selling and consuming marijuana – legally under state law.

As of July 1, the rules changed in Oregon to more or less throw the doors open, at least within a tax-and-regulate system.

If you think about the way Idahoans interact with their liquor sales system, you could draw a rough comparison, factoring in private businesses (not state stores) that can sell pot and some limitations on how much of it a single person or household can possess, or grow. But balanced out, the sense of the rules is not far from the level of regulation Idaho has for liquor; the Oregon argument called for legalizing, regulating and taxing it. (The Oregon agency charged with overseeing it is its state liquor control agency.)

The activity is likely to be thinner in the areas near Idaho, east of the Cascades, because a new state law made it a little easier for local cities and counties to limit or ban pot-related businesses (though not pot possession or use) locally. The provision applies to counties which opposed legalization, all of which are east of the Cascades. You can expect to see some headlines about whether Ontario and other border communities, for example, will allow pot shops within city limits.

That may soften the borderline effect a little, but it won’t do away with it.

The changes in Oregon mean, adding in the similar system in Washington state, the whole west side of Idaho now faces states where under state law – if not fully federal – the marijuana marketplace is largely open. There’s also Alaska, for good measure. And, of course, one state over, Colorado is the fourth state to approve full legalization. In each of these states, businesses are developing, local societies are adjusting and legal marijuana is becoming a billion-dollar industry.

That’s the recreation pot picture, but bear in mind that most western states now allow for medical uses. West of Texas and the Dakotas, all but three states (Idaho, Utah, Wyoming) have at least partial legalization. Nevada and Montana allow for medical use, and there’s a good chance one or both will move toward full legalization in the next election or two.

Idaho, Utah or Wyoming, of course, seem no more likely today to legalize than they ever have. What’s happening – and the change in Oregon last week emphasized it again – is that those three are becoming an island in the West.

To be clear, of course, that’s not the same thing as being an island in the nation. Across the Great Plains, the old South and the mid-Atlantic states, the rules on marijuana are mostly still unchanged. But the West (and the Northeast, and part of the Great Lakes area) have moved into a new regime, and in sharp contrast to a decade ago, Idaho is becoming part of the aberration.

This is of course just one issue, and most directly it affects only a minority of people – the number of legal pot users in the “legal states” surely will be limited, and the number of illegal users in the prohibition states even smaller. But the effects could be broader, especially if people from the “legal states” – including non-users – start reporting persistent experiences of being stopped and searched across the border.

There’s been some of this already, and the fact that most of the enforcement activity in Idaho, Utah and Wyoming doesn’t seem to have changed in recent years may not matter a lot.

The gaps in laws and permissions between the states long have been significant, but the change in marijuana laws is ratcheting things up significantly.

First take

The Idaho State Police on July 2 engaged in an unusually extensive and difficult high-speed pursuit in the Lewiston area. From a report by the state police:

On July 2, at about 9:43 a.m., the Idaho State Police initiated an enforcement contact on a 2002 Ford pickup on US-95 at MP 286, for speeding. It was determined the vehicle was stolen out of Gooding County, Idaho. The male driver fled the scene northbound and was pursued by ISP. The driver of the Ford operated the vehicle at high speeds and in a reckless manner. Assistance with the pursuit was provided by the Nez Perce Tribal Police.

Two unsuccessful attempts were made to stop the Ford utilizing spike strips. At MP 305 on US-95, the Ford began traveling recklessly northbound in the southbound lane almost striking a patrol vehicle and the motoring public at a high rate of speed.

At MP 308 on US-95, ISP utilized a pit maneuver to stop the Ford. The Ford lost control and rolled. The Ford stopped momentarily and as Troopers approached on foot, the driver then attempted to strike a Trooper with the Ford. The Trooper fired his duty weapon to protect himself and to stop the operation of the Ford without regard for the safety of others.
The Ford then traveled southbound on US-95 at a high rate of speed. At approximate MP 306, the Ford veered into a Historical site turnout, then over and down a steep embankment to the Clearwater Rivers' edge.

The male driver exited the Ford and jumped into the Clearwater River. The driver swam across the river and exited on the south bank then disappeared into the trees. The Idaho State Police, Nez Perce Tribal Police, Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office, and Nez Perce County Search & Rescue initiated a search for the driver. The Lewis County Sheriff K-9 assisted with the search. The Lewiston Police Department is conducting the investigation involving the discharge of the Trooper's duty weapon in accordance with the Critical Incident Task Force agreement.
The driver is identified as David R. Pegram, DOB 04/10/1984. Pegram is 5'9", 160 pounds, blue eyes and blond hair. Pegram was last wearing dark shorts, flip flops and no shirt. Pegram has a tattoo of a naked lady on his right chest area. At the time of this press release, Pegram is still at large.

(An update noted that Pegram had been captured.)

Shame enough for all

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It’s been about two weeks since South Carolina’s Governor Haley kicked off the “Ban-The-Confederate-Flag” Olympics. Living here in our far-removed Northwest neighborhood, we haven’t seen or heard much more about the aftermath. At least less than I would have thought. But don’t think all’s quiet in the Confederacy.

In these few days, seven Black churches in three states have burned, though two may have started by some means other than arson. Still, five out of seven is substantial for 14 days. Several Black women pastors have received anonymous letters threatening them and their families. Videos are surfacing of race baiters/rednecks with Confederate flags waving on gun-toting pickups, driving fast and wild through Black neighborhoods in several states. Southern talk radio is filled with demands to save the old banner and condemning all who disagree as “crazy racist Yankees.” White-on-black crime is up. Wonder how the How should all of us feel about that.

I’ve been tickled watching Southern politicians of all stripes trying to figure which way to jump on this one. Some Democrats - not all - have gotten on-board with the banishment. Republicans - most all - are trying to figure out which way the re-election winds are blowing before making “commitments” to one side or the other. A few GOPers have dug in their heels, issuing firm “maybes” in press releases while dodging the media.

Southern newspaper editorial opining is all over the Confederate map. Letters from readers defending the flag are running much higher than those wanting it gone. Paid ads supporting keeping the flag are commonplace. Radio and TV, too.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not defending the flag or other public symbols of the old Confederacy. Not by a long shot. No, what concerns me is some voices are going too far with this “cleansing” of public conscience. Ol’ Mitch McConnell wants a statue of Jeff Davis tossed out of the Kentucky Statehouse. Same efforts in Virginia and North Carolina. Certain members of Congress - with nothing better to do - are carefully scrutinizing replicas in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill, looking for candidates for the scrap heap. Funny thing about that is a lot of ‘em have been wandering to and fro in Statuary Hall for years without even a glance at the marble works.

Feeding all this is the usual mindless blathering of the national media. We’re being inundated with “experts” on this-that-and-the-other who appear as ignorant about Civil War era details as the makeup-covered faces posing stupid questions. Heard one chemical blonde the other day ask, “What do you think slaves would say about this issue today?” She obviously slept through a few classes in both journalism AND history.

But, lest we get too cocky in our geographical detachment from the center of the current Confederate issues, we should not forget our own historical wrongdoing and one of this nation’s most tragic sins - Japanese-American internment camps of World War II.

On orders of President Roosevelt - loudly and embarrassingly urged on by Idaho’s Sen. Borah - we abridged rights of citizenship, illegally confiscated private property in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and confined hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans in conditions sometimes less habitable than those of the South’s slave days. Our Northwest vastness was dotted with plywood and tar paper barracks in which people roasted while suffering in summer heat, then nearly froze to death while suffering in winter’s harshness. All the while surrounded by high, wire fences and armed guards. Under the American flag.

Often, some of those mixed-race Americans were farmed out to tend to land and crops formerly their own - holdings many eventually lost. We used them as conscripted labor for war projects. We provided poorly for their basic human needs. And we made them the butt of racial “jokes” and irrational thinking. Bad as it was then, what if today’s hate radio and I-net had been around in those days?

No, the Confederate flag and all its attendant issues may be geographically beyond our horizons. We may shrug and give little serious thought to the south’s history of bigotry, slavery and state’s rights dramas. But, in truth, we’re brothers and sisters in denying a generation of civil rights for thousands of innocent people here in our own backyard.
Bigotry comes in many forms. I dearly hope the South and employment-seeking politicians don’t sweep too much history of slavery and racism into the garbage heap. But, I also pray we, in our distant relationship to those matters, don’t forget our portion of the country created a period of time when we acted ignorantly and in haste to condemn and wrongfully punish hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters. Americans all.

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two wrongs simply make - two wrongs.
And we’ve all done ‘em.

First take

Idaho may be more like what America was, in some ways, but it's nonetheless getting more ethnically diverse, according to new numbers out from the state Department of Labor. The Hispanic share of the population now is 12%, compared to 11.2% in 2010. Consider this broader picture: it was 7.9% in 2000, and 5.3% in 1990. That's some major change in the last quarter-century. On the other hand, the department also offers this tidbit: "Hispanics between the ages of 40 and 64 had the largest numeric increase at 1,889, but the age group over age 65 had the highest growth rate at 8.2 percent. This ethnic section of Idaho’s population is aging slightly faster than the state as a whole."