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Posts published in September 2015

The Boise races

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Looks like Boise Mayor Dave Bieter will have an interesting football season and it won’t be on the gridiron.

Judy Peavey-Derr, former Ada County Highway District commish, former Ada County commish, and current Greater Boise Auditorium District commish, ran onto the field just before time ran out at 5p.m. Friday to get her name on the ballot, hoping to win the quarterback position so she can call the plays at City Hall.

Peavey-Derr was critical of Bieter’s “urban sprawl” policies and said she is up to the task of running the city following the death of her long-time husband, Allen Derr. She told the GUARDIAN she was not in support of the latest Foothills levy proposal, but would bring some substitute plays to benefit all residents of the city.

The filing deadline for the November Boise City Council and Mayor elections ended with all but one seat being contested.

Former Ada County Sheriff Myron Gilbert was apparently willing to toss his helmet into the game when no one else would challenge Bieter (he filed prior to Peavey-Derr). Gilbert is 84, but still active in local community projects. His biggest problem will be name recognition since he has been out of office for nearly 50 years.

Seth Holden, a BSU student, has also filed to challenge Bieter, but we don’t have any further info on him.

Lauren Mclean, the incumbent at seat 1 is running unopposed. She was a moving force during the first $10,000,000 Foothills serial levy campaign. She bucked Team Dave and voted against the “panhandling ordinance” which was overturned in Federal Court and has gained interest by the U.S. Justice Department. Boise citizens will be forced to pay tens of thousands in attorney fees to the ACLU, thanks to the ordinance.

Scot Ludwig, a Bieter appointee with support of the development community, including the Gardner Company–the big downtown builder–is running for reelection as an incumbent for seat 3.

Ludwig is challenged by Adriel Martinez, a BSU student. Rather than pay the $40 filing fee, Martinez filed a nominating petition with 10 signatures. At least two of the signatures are invalid because the people live in Kuna and Garden City–outside Boise City limits. The Ada County election clerk certified only 3 signatures on the Martinez petition and 5 are needed to qualify as a candidate.

The seat 5 race looks like a re-match, in part, of the election from four years ago. Incumbent Elaine Clegg is being challenged by former Boise FD Capt. Paul Fortin. Newcomer to politics is Andy Hawes, a 45-year old attorney who is also running against Clegg. Based on coffee shop chatter, the Clegg-Hawes race could be a liberal vs conservative contest in a supposedly non-partisan election.

First take/California

The hottest recent Oregonian story as measured by heated comments must be the piece about the vandal who's been slapping "No Californians" stickers on house for-sale signs. After the story made its way down to California, a bunch of Californians responded with the predictable "we'd never want to move there anyway" type comments. Some of the idea behind it may come from worries about gentrification and costs of homes, especially in the Portland area, being driven upward; although prices of homes in California are more widely variable than many people think. (San Francisco's through-the-roof prices aren't typical.) Some may have to do with ideas about who these Californians are; but in a state with tens of millions of people, who can say what's a typical Californian? The biggest fact about California is that it's big, and diverse, and the variations are vast. Of course, if you want to go back to the Tom McCall pull-up-the-drawbridge approach, covering entrants of any kind, that would be another argument entirely. - rs (photo/Alfonzo Jimenez)

The Stuck Pendulum

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The Stuck Pendulum page

The book Paradox Politics was written in 1987 and 1988, and published in that latter year - which, as this is written, was 27 years ago. Considering that it was intended as a current, up to the minute, review of Idaho politics and how it had gotten that way, that makes it heavily out of date now.

It's been out a long time, but it's not entirely forgotten. While most of its sales came in the 80s, it has sold copies ever since; Amazon has moved copies this year. That's nice to see. What's less easy to contemplate is that some of those people may think that Idaho politics in this new century is anything like what it was in the last one, and that would be a problem, because it isn't. I think, generally, it holds up as a good review of the subject as of the time it was written. And I think it may have helped prompt a spate of Idaho political memoirs and biographies that cropped up in the years following.

But since then, much has changed.

Hence, The Stuck Pendulum. It's a standalone book that also functions as an afterword - even a coda - for that earlier one, intended to bring up to date people who may have relied on Paradox for a look at Idaho politics. It doesn't unearth a lot of secrets and not much in it will come a a big surprise to people who have followed Idaho politics in the last quarter-century or so. But for those new to the subject, or who may have wondered what has happened since 1988, I think it can be useful.

I have gotten requests from time to time for a sequel for Paradox, and it's not just the passage of time that has increasingly made the point compelling. As the title suggests, Idaho politics, which once wandered across the political spectrum, driven by an electorate often willing to take a flyer on something different and didn't trust anyone too damn much, has changed, locked in place, adjusting if at all only to whatever seems to be the hardest right alternative at hand.

How it got there, and especially after how it changed so drastically right after the best Idaho Democratic election year in a generation (1990), is much of the subject of The Stuck Pendulum. But there are overviews of more, of the Larry Craig incident, the fierce battles in the first congressional district and the recent splinters in the Republican Party.

For the moment, it's priced for free, so get your copy if this sounds like your area of interest. We'll attach a price (not a hefty one, though) a little later.

Them people

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While I was reviewing old columns for inclusion in a book collection a few of them from years ago jumped out at me as especially relevant right now, and worth pondering even more now than then. This one (edited a little for length from a longer web-only original) dates from almost exactly nine years ago (about a year before the headlines that eventually ended Larry Craig’s Senate career), but it has resonance considering the issues in front of the presidential campaign now underway . . .

Senator Larry Craig and his staff – and they wouldn’t be alone – must still be wondering about just what the hell happened at their town hall meeting Tuesday night in Coeur d’Alene. They’d have good reason to, because a significant issue rides on it: To what extent did it reflect a substantial strain, or just fluke fissure, in the community?

Craig has taken heat for a few years now from parts of the conservative community – which for most of his years in Congress has given him unqualified support – for his stand on immigration and illegal aliens, a stance bearing some resemblance to that of President George W. Bush. Yes, there are a lot of people in this country who aren’t supposed to be here, and that fact – and border security – needs to be dealt with more effectively, Craig has suggested. But he also suggests that there’s no reason for a panic reaction, either.

As he was quoted by the Coeur d’Alene Press: “You can’t go door to door and force between 8 million and 10 million people to leave at gunpoint. For 20 years, immigration laws have failed. We know there’s a problem and we’re working on it. The first step is securing the border and we’re doing that.”

That seems hard to argue, reflecting a general reality we’ve managed to live with for a long time, and yet the reaction has suggested it’s an edgy statement. The reaction at – and yes, this is where it was – the Human Rights Education Institute at Coeur d’Alene, was something else again.

The Press said that “of nearly 60 people in attendance, many wanted action, including immediate deportation. They said it was a crisis that was going to bankrupt the country and cited numerous examples of problems in Southern California, including drugs, rape, and gangs. Some went so far as to say he wasn’t doing his job to uphold and protect the Constitution and has failed the citizens of Idaho.” Robert Vasquez, a Canyon County commissioner and recent congressional candidate, has for some years been saying the same thing; this year his message has expanded across more territory.

The spearhead of the protest or at least the loudest protester apparently was Stan Hess, a candidate for office, opposing Denny Hague for a seat on the North Idaho College Board of Trustees. The Press said he “erupted with anger over the immigration issue. He screamed at Craig and the citizens, who tried to boo him down. Then Hess confronted a woman and yelled at her only a few inches away from her face. Several people stood up to diffuse the confrontation. Craig’s handlers said they were moments away from calling the police. Hess, who also blasted NIC professor and longtime Human Rights advocate Tony Stewart, stormed out of the meeting.”

It may be, as Spokesman Review writer David Oliveria suggests, that Hess’ performance at the Craig town hall provided ample information about who not to vote for in the NIC trustee election. Additionally, though, it – and the not-so-divergent views of others in the audience – shows that razing an Aryan Nations encampment has not yet erased some ugly strains in northern Idaho.

First take

City office candidate filing closed yesterday in Idaho, and a quick look at the shape of ballots to come doesn't suggest a lot of excitement. There is a race for mayor of Boise, which in some past years has had some excitement, but probably not this time. Incumbent David Bieter is running for what would be an unprecedented fourth term (if elected he would be the longest-serving mayor in the city's history), and he has two opponents. But one is a 25-year-old college student, and the other an 84-year-old former sheriff who's been out of public visibility longer than most Boiseans have been alive. Unless there's a huge anti-Bieter wave out there, which doesn't seem evident at this point, he's probably headed for an easy re-elect. And I'm not seeing a lot of excitement in many other places either, not even in Coeur d'Alene, which is usually usually good for a hot scrap or two. Although, CdA could yet surprise. - rs (photo/Daniel X. O-Neil)

Obama in Alaska

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President Barack Obama’s visit to Alaska was inspiring. I eagerly watched everything I could see online: The official restoration of the name Denali, his powerful words on the climate, his visits to Resurrection Bay, and his interaction with Alaska’s Native communities. I especially loved the Yup’ik dancing (and the president showing his moves).

But there is one story that’s missing from the national accounts of the president’s visit: the role of tribes in determining Alaska’s future. The president himself referred to this debate in several ways. The first mention was in his statement to tribal leaders when he said: “My administration also is taking new action to make sure that Alaska Natives have direct input into the management of Chinook salmon stocks, something that has been of great concern here.” Then a few sentences later he promised to follow up on “everything from voting rights to land trusts.”

Those last two words are the story that needs to be told. The president’s language was a bit off. It’s not land trusts, but land into trust. This issue goes far beyond the status of land; it’s about the nature of sovereignty in Alaska. It’s complicated but basically there are two competing narratives that need to be resolved into a single story.

One version says that tribes ceased to exist when the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (or ANCSA) became law in 1971. This story says that Alaska is the primary vehicle for all government in Alaska. The state sets the rules for education, law enforcement, land use, etc., etc.

But there is another reading of this history. This narrative says ANCSA was primarily a land settlement act. It did create a different structure, such as establishing Native corporations, but it did not end the right of Native people to determine their own future.

This second story arc began shortly after ANCSA. As a Native American Rights Fund attorney Robert Anderson said in 1973: “….our work in Alaska is really on the cutting edge of Indian Law. We are establishing for essentially two hundred tribes, that they are recognized on the same level as those in the lower forty-eight (states) and that they have all the powers and authority.”

That story has multiple chapters that include the recognition of those tribes by the federal government, the push for Native hunting and fishing rights as well as the management of fish and game, law enforcement, and the most recent episode, a debate about land into trust. It’s this last issue that’s hot right now and worth a state and national conversation.

A few days before the president’s visit, Alaska’s new governor pursued an appeal that would prevent the Interior Department from taking land into trust, thus creating “Indian Country.”

The case involves Native villages Akiachak, Chalkyitsik, Chilkoot Indian Association, the tribe in Haines, and Tuluksak. These tribes seek to govern on issues ranging from law enforcement to zoning. The same powers held by other tribes. Indeed, the recognition (and expansion) of tribal authority was one of the main recommendations by the federal Indian Law and Order Commission, a bipartisan presidential and congressional task force.

But that’s unacceptable to Alaska. Simply put: The State wants to block tribal sovereignty.

As the state itself said:

“When the federal government takes land into trust, it holds it for the benefit of an individual Alaska Native or a Tribe. It is the federal government’s position that this land becomes Indian country—a legal status that can be likened to an Indian reservation. Currently, Alaska has only one reservation—the Metlakatla Indian Community’s reservation on the Annette Islands Reserve. Indian reservations are generally exempt from state jurisdiction, including taxation, except when Congress specifically authorizes such jurisdiction.

“If lands are put into trust in Alaska, the exact scope of federal, state, and tribal powers on trust lands would be played out as specific factual scenarios develop. Alaska would retain some civil and criminal powers over trust lands because Alaska is a P.L. 280 state. But generally, the federal government has the power to manage tribal and individual land that it holds in trust. The federal government will potentially have powers to approve and cancel leases of tribal trust land; as well as to govern the leasing of mineral resources (including oil and gas), regulate certain fishing activities, manage timber resources, issue grazing permits, and deal with certain water rights and irrigation matters on trust land. And Tribes have jurisdiction over civil and regulatory matters occurring on trust land. Gaming can occur on certain trust land in accordance with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.”

This is twisted. The state fears tribal authority. Then, this is not a new position. The one constant theme from the past four decades is that Alaska favors litigation over negotiation. And, when Alaska Natives win, the state appeals until every avenue is exhausted. This is a tired approach.

Indeed, since the Interior Department announced rules in December 2014 the state hasn’t had a formal consultation process about lands into trust, held public hearings or even set up informal town halls. This was the ideal time for a conversation about the future. (The state says it’s still talking. That’s rich. While we’re suing you, let’s negotiate, ok?)

What’s particularly disappointing about this chapter is that the new governor, Bill Walker, promised a different ending. I had a conversation with him during a public forum at the University of Alaska Anchorage last August where he said tribal-state relations would improve. And that’s been mostly true. The governor has been fantastic on many issues,especially the expansion of Medicaid. But on this big one, the future of tribes in Alaska, well, it’s back to court.

This is the story that the rest of the country needs to hear.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. 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.

First take

Parts of the Northwest finally have been getting some rain; in our neighborhood, some amounts - no more than moderate, but we'll take what we can get - have fallen. But not everywhere has been so blessed, and a good deal of the region has remained bone dry. So when the Washington Department of Ecology send out a warning-styled note about the possibility of dist storms, it merited some attention. The image here comes from just two year ago, in eastern Washington. Here's some of what Ecology said: "In 2013, three exceptional storms in Kennewick created high winds and excessive amounts of blowing dust. During these storms, Kennewick’s air pollution levels exceeded the national air quality standard. The Washington Department of Ecology has developed a report showing the dust storms were uncontrollable events. Ecology will submit the report to the Environmental Protection Agency and ask to exclude the high-pollution levels from calculations used to determine if the area exceeded standards." - rs

First take

Our writer Barrett Rainey sent this in this morning - the updated world population clock from the Bureau of the Census, which has all sorts of interesting data. You can get a sense of it with the graphic here; the actual thing is at the Census site. Scanning through, plenty of points of interest, including how close India is getting to overtaking China as the most populous country. And the reminder that Canada is the top recipient of our exports. - rs

When friends compete

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There’s an old political saying that when asked to choose between two good friends running for the same office, the answer is, “I’m with my friend.” That means you’re not about to choose, nor are you going to say who you might opt for in the privacy of the balloting booth.

One might even contribute the same amount of money to each campaign. Such a stance risks the loss of both because they’d rather that you choose, but the smart and prudent person stays neutral.

If Bruce Reed is anything, he is smart and prudent. The Coeur d’Alene native and 1978 Coeur d’Alene High graduate went onto Princeton, graduating with honors in 1982, thence onto Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, and obtained an MA in English Literature. Despite being a rather quiet and unassuming person his classmates could tell he was destined for good things.

A family friend, Tony Stewart, a professor at North Idaho College for many years, and a co-founder along with Bruce’s parents, attorney Scott Reed and State Senator Mary Lou Reed, of north Idaho’s Human Rights Foundation, would play tennis with the younger Reed. If Stewart was the least bit late he would find Reed patiently waiting but also always reading a book.

Early in his public career Reed encountered presidential politics as his services were sought by two young and intelligent senators, Tennessee’s Al Gore and Delaware’s Joe Biden. Reed had gone to work for Gore as a speechwriter in 1985.

As the 1988 election drew closer Biden asked Reed to work for his 1988 presidential bid. Reed was astute enough to ask Gore whether he planned to run. When told by Gore that he was going to run Reed politely declined Biden’s offer without burning any bridges and did work on Gore’s 1988 campaign.

In an amicable parting he left Gore in 1989 to work for the Democratic Leadership Group in 1990, where his talents and ability soon caught the eye of young Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. He joined Clinton’s successful campaign for the presidency in 1992 and when Clinton won Reed went to work first as a deputy domestic policy advisor, and two years later as the chief domestic policy advisor.

His relationship with both Clinton and Gore remained strong and in 2000 he left the White House for two months to help Gore with his debate preparation. Despite being close to the seat of power one seldom saw Reed quoted. He preferred to remain in the background and did not play the game of being a “high placed source” for the media.

When 2008 rolled around Reed’s loyalty to the Clintons’ trumped all others and he supported Hillary’s bid for the presidency. Once elected president, Illinois Senator Barack Obama let bygones be bygones and named Reed to be the executive director of the Simpson/Bowles Commission, a group of distinguished elected officials as well as private sector folks charged with restoring fiscal sanity to a budget process gone awry and with curbing excessive federal spending.

Reed, by all accounts, did a masterful job of helping hammer out a decent, doable set of compromises that could, if adopted by Congress, have met the challenge the commission was given. Following this Reed accepted an invitation from old friend Joe Biden, now Obama’s vice president, to become Biden’s chief of staff, which he did for two years.

Reed has many talents, one of which is to look down the road and over the horizon. It is fair to speculate that unlike many in the political game Reed saw the real possibility of being caught in the middle between friends with Mrs. Clinton again making a bid and his friend and current employer, the vice president, also deciding to run.

Reed’s answer, like the old political saying, is not to choose between friends. On November 13th, 2013, he announced he and his equally talented wife, Bonnie (Also a Coeur d’Alene High graduate), were leaving the nation’s capitol for Santa Monica where he would be the president of the Ely and Edythe Broad Foundation whose primary purpose is to facilitate meaningful reform in public education.

It was a wise move by a loyal soldier. My personal preference would have been for him to leave his job with Biden to run for the Democratic presidential nomination himself. At 55 years of age he’s at the right age to take on the rigors of the office. It’s time for the baby boomer generation to step aside and pass the torch to the next generation. Mrs. Clinton, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden - all will be in their 70’s should they take the oath in Janaury of 2017. Candidly, that’s just too damn old.

First take

If I took a job at a burger joint, and then discovered I was allergic to grease, the next moral and ethical step would be clear. It wouldn't have to do with the employer: Grease is part and parcel of that kind of business, there's really no getting around it. No, the rational next step would be for me to quit. If I can't do the job, then I owe it to the employer - and, hell, even to myself - to acknowledge as much and resign. Same applies to Kim Davis. She is the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk whose office dispenses marriage licenses but who has refused to provide such licenses to same-sex couples, the United State Supreme Court notwithstanding. She says that she cannot, that it is "a Heaven or Hell decision." And added, "I never sought to be in this position, and I would much rather not have been placed in this position.” The first is her opinion, no doubt deeply held to the point that she feels she cannot violate it. Fair enough. The second contention is not true, however: She sought to become county clerk; she was not forced into it. The job of the county clerk (and county clerk jobs coast to coast are very tightly circumscribed by law and rule) specifically includes provision of marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This is not an insoluable equation: If she feels she cannot do the job, then she ought to quit the job. Right away. - rs (photo by Tom Ventura)