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Posts published in April 2017

She represents

trahant

Former Montana State Sen. Carol Juneau once said that she considered state office because that’s where she could make a difference. (She is a member of the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Tribe but was living in the Blackfeet Nation). The year was 1998.

She was first appointed to the legislature to replace a man who left office to take up a seat on the Blackfeet Tribal Council and then she became one of two Native American members of the Montana House of Representatives. In February of 1999 she made the case to the House Democratic Caucus that Montana’s American Indians ought to have better representation, because tribal people “are citizens of the state of Montana, the same as any other citizens. I’d like to see that Indian people and Indian tribes in Montana aren’t left outside of everything.”

Today Native Montanans are not left out.

The state has the most Native Americans elected as legislators in the country, three members of the Senate and six members of the House. More than that: Montana has elected more women than any other state: Four of the nine legislators.

And though she is not currently in office, Denise Juneau (Carol’s daughter) was the only Native American woman to ever win a state constitutional office, she served two terms as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, as well as a congressional candidate.

The Montana story has a national application, too. A higher percentage of Native American women serve in state legislatures than do women nationally.

Women make up about 25 percent of state legislatures. But a little more than 40 percent of all American Indian and Alaska Native legislators are female. The numbers break down this way: There are at least 67 Native American legislators out of 7,383 seats in 50 states or nearly one percent. (If you think that’s bad: Congress only has Native representation pegged at one-third of one percent.) Of those 67 seats, at least 25 of them are held by Native American women. So another way to look at the data: There are 1,800 legislative seats held by women; that works out to a Native representation of 1.4 percent.

There is still a long way to go to reach parity with the population, but it’s much better than just about any other category in the body politic. For example: A recent report by the Bureau of Indian Affairs shows more than 570 elected tribal leaders and, in that group, just under 25 percent are women.

The Native delegation in Minnesota is eighty percent female; its own caucus. (You could even argue that women are 100 percent of the delegation because the other tribal member in the legislature, Republican Rep. Steve Green, is White Earth Ojibwe, but he rarely champions or mentions tribal issues.)

A recent article in the Minnesota Post was headlined, “Something new for the Minnesota Legislature: A caucus of first Minnesotans.” Rep. Susan Allen, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, was first elected in a special election. “Before Allen was elected in 2012, only nine legislators in state history who self-identified as American Indian served in the Legislature — all men — and most of them were elected back when Minnesota was still considered a territory,” the Post said.

Allen told the Post: “You can be a part of an institution that is predominantly white and not have to lose your identity. I can be here without having to lose my identity to do it, and previous generations, I don’t think they had that.”

The Post explained several reasons why it’s so important for a legislature to hear from Native American legislators and for those elected representatives to keep an eye out for bills that impact the Native community.

One anecdote in particular was powerful. The Post said Rep. Mary Kunesh-Poden, a Standing Rock descendent, was giving American Indian students a tour of the Capitol. She could see they were overwhelmed. “I said, come back again and again and bring other Natives to the Capitol so that you’re not nervous, so that you’re not intimidated, so that some day you’ll be sitting in this office doing the work that we’re doing,” she said in the Post. “You could almost see the light bulb go off in their head: I could do this?”

Arizona is another state where most of the Native delegation — three out of four — are women. This fits Arizona. Its legislature is third in the nation for the highest percentage of women at nearly 40 percent.

New Mexico is the only state where the male-female balance is 50/50. And five states, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming, have only a woman representing Native Americans in the legislature. Conversely, Colorado, North Carolina, and North Dakota have only one Native American man serving in the legislature. Alaska (88 percent) and Oklahoma (86 percent) are primarily represented by men. South Dakota has three American Indian men in the legislature and no women.

Idaho’s Rep. Paulette Jordan, Couer d’Alene, is not only the only Native American in the legislature, she’s the only Democrat elected north of Boise. She told the Spokane Spokesman Review: “How can we continue to fight for balance in the state, with the overwhelming odds?That’s part of the beauty of our connection to our ancestors. We know that they’re always walking with us, guiding us and helping us in this lifetime … the fact that we’re still here – we still have the beauty, the inner identity, our connection to everything, to the land, to the earth itself, to our relatives both tribal and non-tribal alike.”

Nearly all of the Native American women who serve in state legislatures are Democrats. 21 out of 25. But it's also worth mentioning that two of those Republican women are in leadership in Alaska and Hawaii. (Previously: Native Republicans open up a channel for discourse about Indian Country's issues.)

I don’t have the total numbers for Native Americans elected at the city and county level. Yet. (Early drafts of spreadsheets are here and here. Please do let me know who should be on these lists.)

But this much is clear: Debora Juarez, Blackfeet, currently represents more citizens than any Native woman in America (more than 90,000 people live in her North Seattle district). She was elected to Seattle’s City Council in November of 2015. In an interview with the Tacoma Art Museum she talked about her idea about the role of women: “While men were in charge of external power, women had interior, spiritual, and domestic power. They were the centers of the community.” That’s exactly how she’s approached her job on the council. She’s argued for community services from sidewalks to child car. On Juarez’ blog she reports: “In this budget I advocated for and secured $4.4 million in targeted investments in our community including improvements in human services, construction of sidewalks, and neighborhood planning initiatives. Ultimately, I achieved a 94% success rate for my specific District 5 budget priorities.”

Denise Juneau, of course, is the only Native American woman to hold statewide office (twice). She actually earned thousands of more votes from Montanans than did Barack Obama in 2012. (Previously: Denise Juneau’s eight years of promise.) She had a remarkable run even though last year fell short of being the first Native woman to ever win a seat in Congress.
In addition to Juneau, at least seven Native American women have run for Congress starting in 1988. Jeanne Givens, a Couer d’Alene tribal member in Idaho was the first. Then Ada Deer, Menominee, in Wisconsin, Kalyn Free, Choctaw, in Oklahoma, and Diane Benson, Tlingit, in Alaska, Three Native women have run in Arizona: Mary Kim Titla, White Mountain Apache, Arizona Rep. Wenona Benally, Navajo, and Victoria Steele, Seneca.

It’s so long past the time to erase that phrase, “ever” or for that matter, “the first.”

I suspect the 2018 elections will be a remarkable opportunity. It will be a referendum on President Donald J. Trump and his policies.

It’s also worth noting that Native American women have run for the vice presidency three times.

LaDonna Harris, Comanche, was on the ticket with Barry Commoner for the Citizen Party in 1980 (the year of Ronald Reagan’s landslide). This was Bernie Sanders before Bernie Sanders. The party highlighted the structural limits of the Democratic Party and blamed corporate America for the excess. The antidote was people power.

What’s interesting about the campaign now is that Commoner and Harris focused on environmental issues (long before the words global warming or climate change were in public discourse). Get this: The Citizens Party platform cited the role of science in managing complex environmental challenges.

“As a Comanche woman fighter, I’m proud to be a part of this party,” Harris said. “The traditions of my people have always held to the unity of the oppressed. That is why I want to show that we care about the problems of Chicanos, the Blacks, women, the elderly and the poor.”

Winona LaDuke, White Earth Ojibwe, joined Ralph Nader on the Green Party Ticket in 2000 and again in 2004. When LaDuke announced her candidacy she was asked whether a Native woman from rural Minnesota should even be considered? "I would argue yes," she said. "In fact, I would question the inverse. Can men of privilege ... who do not feel the impact of policies on forests, children or their ability to breast-feed children ... actually have the compassion to make policy that is reflective of the interests of others? At this point, I think not.”

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. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Two decisions

carlson

Two decisions were made this past week that will have reverberations across Idaho. One was made in Pocatello. The other in Washington, D.C. Neither is easy to understand and a case can be made that the decisions were not necessary, that that they fall under the rubric “hope is not a strategy.”

The decision in Pocatello was made by Jeff Tingey, the athletic director at Idaho State, to force football coach Mike Kramer to announce his “retirement.” If he did not, Tingey would announce Kramer’s firing.

The forced retirement, at the start of spring football, fooled no one. To this observer it was a classless way to treat a coach who has brought respectability back to the ISU football program. And he did it while upping the student athletes grade point averages and class attendance.

Yes, he made the “mistake” of producing a winning team in four years, one year ahead of the five years he said it would take. In 2014, when ISU almost beat the league’s best, Eastern Washington’s Eagles, in their first league game, it was clear Kramer had achieved the unachievable.

That team went 8 and 4 and almost made the play-offs. Kramer was the toast of the town and the Big Sky coach of the year. The former high school coach at Colton, a bump on the road between Pullman and Lewiston, has turned three Big Sky programs around, starting with EWU in the mid-90s, then Montana State in the early 2000s, and then Idaho State.

As the 2015 season arrived, expectations on the campus, around town and among Bengal alumni soared exponentially.

Anyone who has watched a Kramer coached team knows the key to his offense is a smart quarterback with a quick read ability, a quick arm and an accurate throw whether short, mid-field or long. Unfortunately, Kramer had not been able to recruit his kind of quarterback for the following season.
To his credit, he did not blame his quarterback. Instead he deflected to himself the criticism. Tingey even rewarded Kramer for the break-out season with a contract extension. Kramer still had more to offer. He should have been given a vote of confidence for the coming season. He should have been allowed to retire gracefully at the end of next season assuming it was not consistent with his standard of success.

Bottom line is ISU will never have a better football coach than Mike Kramer.

Former ISU president Bud Davis once said the two most important decisions a university president makes are to hire or fire football and basketball coaches. He believed it was smart to hire a former head coach with a proven record rather than some hot shot phenom assistant. Jeff Tingey is going to find out just how much he should have stuck with a coach with a winning record.

The other “game changing” decision last week was made in Washington, D.C. One of the outfalls from the Freedom Caucus’ decision to vote nay on “TrumpCare” was a calling out by name the members of the Freedom Caucus, including Idaho’s First District congressman, Raul Labrador, who voted no and would not support the president.

Any hope Labrador might have landed a major position dealing with immigration reform in a Trump Administration flew out the window. Likewise, any chance he might land a lucrative job with a conservative foundation or association also flew out the window as it is unlikely they would pick someone who makes Trump see red.

Labrador could easily stay in Congress another three terms (he supports term limits of 12 years for Congress) but he is devoted to his wife and children, flies home every weekend, and reportedly is tiring of the grind and living out of his Congressional office.

Sources in D.C. and in Boise, have started to let people know he is seeking the govenorship, relying heavily on a six month old poll that gave him almost half the Republican primary vote with no other candidate busting out of the single digits.

The poll was taken though before developer Dr. Tommy Ahlquist declared his intentions and pledged to spend from his fortune one dollar more than it takes to win.

Labrador’s entry may inspire former State Senator Russ Fulcher, a friend of Labrador’s, to withdraw and turn to the Lt. Governor’s race. One thing for sure is Labrador has no intention of giving up his congressional seat while running for governor. Thus, there will be no special election.

Two questions remain: where’s he going to find the money to run and why does he even want to be governor?

Once more

mckee

What a mess. Escalation in the Middle East should have our hair on fire. Instead, our attention is focused on the fascinating machinations of the Old Fool and his minions trying to stay out of their own way, as the connections between his cohorts and Putin’s Russia continue to unravel.

The situation could be safely under the watchful eye of Secretary Tillerson, but with his undermanned and poorly resourced State Department, he is already fully occupied with a disturbing situation evolving in North Korea and a major state visit from the Chinese leader Xi Jinping due within a week. The reticent Secretary has released no details of these events or his intentions – but they both have world shaking possibilities embedded within. They have captured what is left of the imagination of the commentariat, when it is not focused on the Russian conspiracies, real or fictitious. There does not appear to be any time in the Secretary’s schedule for matters pertaining to the military situation in the Middle East.

As to the media, with these new events coming on stage soaking up all the spotlights, the U.S. involvement in the Middle East has apparently become passé, a matter of ho-hum, to be relegated to the end roundup on the nightly news and the back pages of the daily tabloids. Nobody seems interested, and nobody wants to be bothered. Nothing could be worse.

Consider: Contrary to Obama’s promises and the campaign promises of everybody, American forces are now fighting on the ground at the front lines in the Syrian siege at Raqqa, with close to 500 troops on the ground and more expected. We have become central to the Iraqi siege of Mosul, in both ground and air operations there, with over 5,000 troops in country and more expected. We have expanded our involvement in Yemen considerably beyond that of last year; drone attacks last month, for example, exceeded the strikes of last year. Increased support is expected to continue. Military operations in Afghanistan continue without let-up, which has slowed if not stopped the once-planned reduction in forces there.

All of this is being accomplished without fanfare and without any uptick in political or diplomatic planning, without any redefinition of the military mission or any end strategy in any of these areas, and without Congressional authorization. Information flow from Defense has been curtailed considerably, and from State is non-existent.

With the burgeoning influence of ISIS and Al Qaeda, Obama was being drawn into evolving events in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but was attempting to limit the actual engagement of American forces in any fighting on the ground, trying to emphasize that diplomatic solutions and political planning were the key to any significant progress in these regions. Major command decisions on all military operations, down to specific air strikes and drone attacks, were kept in the Whitehouse, in an endeavor to maintain tight control over any escalation of military operations, and to reduce civilian casualties.

Since the administration change in January, responsibility over Middle East affairs appears to have been transferred to or assumed by the Department of Defense under Secretary Mattis. The reports are that General Mattis is coordinating everything with the National Security Advisor McMaster and Secretary of State Tillerson, but since the involvement is primarily military, General McMaster and Secretary Tillerson consider General Mattis, at Defense, to be primary.

The White House has no expertise in the area of military management of operations. The Old Fool has demonstrated that he is not capable of assimilating complex details of anything beyond bumper-sticker simplicity, and he has no one on his personal staff that is any better qualified. Bannon has some military experience, but nothing in the area of foreign policy or Middle Eastern affairs. No one else comes close. Most of the Whitehouse staff positions that existed under Obama remain unfilled – and deliberately so.

The State Department under Secretary Tillerson has been severely hampered in carrying out its responsibilities by the lack of resources. The entire top-tier level of the department was either fired or resigned when Trump took office, and none of the major positions have been filled. Tillerson’s attempt to secure an experienced deputy of his choosing was derailed by Whitehouse infighting or intervention. The department’s critical positions of both deputy secretaries, all six undersecretaries, and most of the assistant secretaries remain empty. Tillerson is apparently operating the entire Department with little more than his personal staff.

This means that the U.S. involvement in the Middle East is now essentially under military control of the Pentagon and without civilian oversight. Under General Mattis’s direction, operational control of military operations below policy level has been moved forward to Central Command, and from there to subordinate units as required. The immediate result has been easier and faster airstrike and ground response. However, while there has been no change in the rules of engagement or in the requirement for consideration of civilian casualties in operational planning, there has also been a dramatic increase in the number of civilian casualties being suffered in the areas of U.S. involvement. While under the existing military conditions, the military defeat of ISIS seems inevitable, ISIS keeps evolving and the tactical considerations keep changing. The military, political and diplomatic complexities boggle.

Does history repeat itself? Reliance upon the generals was what got us up to our collective necks in Viet Nam. Secretary of Defense McNamara and President Johnson both admitted long ago that they abdicated their responsibility of civilian oversight and allowed the generals to hold sway over both military and policy decisions in Viet Nam, and that this was a huge mistake.

I do not question the capabilities or motivations of General Mattis and the military command out of the Pentagon. I have no doubt that Mattis firmly believes he has the best interests of the nation at heart. But there is truth to the adage, “Where the only tool is a hammer, all the problems become nails.”

History teaches that it is essential that there be broad policy oversight from the civilian perspective to counterbalance the military point of view. It is essential that all the tools available be out of the box and included in the planning and implementation of policy. As it stands, this important civilian counterbalance appears to be missing in the oversight structure in place over operations in the Middle East at this time. The Whitehouse does not have the capacity or capability and the Department of State does not have the resources to monitor the developing situation effectively.

The numbers are relatively small today – just as they were in Viet Nam in the middle 1960’s. But surely we recall how quickly those numbers accelerated.

What could possibly go wrong?

Eclipse clipping

rainey

For better or worse, we live on the central Oregon coast. There’s nothing really special about it - except the Pacific Ocean keeps us from driving West.

We seldom make the news. Unless people are talking about the Cascadia plate or a “killer tsunami.” Then we’re usually referred to as the “doomed” or “dearly departed.”

But, come August 21st, we’re gonna have something special here. Seems we’ll be smack in the middle of a track for a very rare, major solar eclipse. The path will make a large curve heading Southeast as it moves over us. Idaho will see some of it as will a piece of Utah. But in our neighborhood, we’ll be blacked out for a couple of minutes - about 10:17am we’re told. And that’s making for a lot of excitement. And price gouging.

Costs for motels and dining around here are usually divided into two categories - Memorial Day to Labor Day (higher) and Labor Day to Memorial Day (high, but not so high). The only exception is Spring Break which lasts two weeks because Oregon, Idaho and Washington operate on different attendance schedules.

But the eclipse. Ah, the blessed eclipse. As a headline in our local weekly put it the other day, “Eclipse promises to be a money-maker.” Well, that depends.

Let’s take lodging. In the off-season, a standard motel room (two queen beds, bath and microwave) usually run $150 to $275 a night. Pretty standard. But, at least one local non-oceanfront outfit is up to $1,000 for a room for eclipse night that normally goes for $170 that time of year. $1,000! And they’re getting it.

Another is charging just $320. BUT - you’re charged for a five night minimum. Which makes the tab $1,600! Then, all of these places tack on a local transient room tax of 11% a night.

One other eclipse screwing that locks my jaw. Some of the lodging outfits are cancelling reservations made many months ago for that time - a lot of ‘em by people who come back year after year. Not only cancelling, but then having the guts to offer to re-register at the higher rate! I know what I’d tell ‘em. And it ain’t polite!

Not all local outfits are jumping on the price gouging wagon. My favorite place, for example, (with by far the best food and ocean views) is increasing the overnight by just $36.

But this whole business doesn’t end there. City officials are talking 50,000 tourists over at least a 48 hour period. Try to rent a porta-potty within 150 miles anytime during eclipse week. Can’t be done. All law enforcement agencies are calling in volunteers and the reserves and cancelling all time off for that period. Garbage service will be working overtime. Fire departments and ambulance services will be fully staffed.

And who’ll pay all the extra costs for all those service an emergency providers? Who? We do. The taxpayers who live here. We get the tab for all the extra overtime.

And who’ll struggle with the highway gridlock up and down U.S. 101 for several days? WHO? WE DO. Those of us who live here and who didn’t ask for this damned eclipse to come anywhere near.

I’d just as soon this eclipse thing was up or down the coast by 200 miles or so. Leave us the hell alone! We don’t want it.

But - if you’re determined to make the trip to our edge-of-the-Pacific-neighborhood, you can rent our house for the day. $2,000. Up front. We’ll be in Salem. Oh, and feed the dog.

Idaho Briefing – April 3

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for March 20. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The Idaho Legislature adjourned for the year on March 29. It wound up proceedings with action on transportation and tax legislation.

Mayor David Bieter on March 31 declared a state of local emergency in the City of Boise due to nearly unprecedented flows on the Boise River and the unpredictable impacts those flood waters could have on the city over an extended period of time.

Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador have introduced legislation to address the routing of the Gateway West Transmission Line, through the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

The Treasure Valley saw more than 80 new jobs in the state’s growing solar industry last year, according to a report released today by The Solar Foundation. The Boise’s metropolitan area is now home to 289 solar jobs, an increase of 43% from 2015 figures.

Idaho Fish and Game on March 30 transported about 4,000 adult sockeye salmon from its Eagle Fish Hatchery to its sockeye hatchery at Springfield to ensure the fish remain protected if there’s flooding at the Eagle hatchery.

Boise State University now offers a fully online bachelor of business administration degree in management. The new management degree, offered through Boise State’s College of Business and Economics, gives working adults an affordable, flexible way to finish their bachelor’s degree and advance their careers.

PHOTO Wind blown precipitation fall streaks at sunset over Pocatello. (photo/Jeff Hedges, National Weather Service, Pocatello)

Water Digest – April 3

Water rights weekly report for March 20. For much more news, links and detail, see the National Water Rights Digest.

A coalition of water-protection, public-health and animal-welfare organizations on March 30 filed a legal challenge over the water rights for a proposed 30,000-head mega-dairy near the Columbia River. The facility would be one of the nation’s largest dairy confined animal-feeding operations and poses a major threat to ground and surface water, air quality and public health in the region. Last month the Oregon Water Resources Department proposed approving key water rights required for Lost Valley Farm, a business venture of California dairyman Gregory te Velde.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Congressman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, have introduced legislation to create a negotiated settlement between the state of Utah and the Utah Navajo Nation (the Nation) over water rights claims on the Colorado River.

The publicly elected Board of Directors of Coachella Valley Water District and Desert Water Agency have decided to ask the Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling that gives unprecedented groundwater rights to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. The formal request for review will likely be submitted early this summer with the U.S. Supreme Court likely to accept or deny review of the case this fall.

The national government of Nigeria said it will begin regulating and licensing water drilling and use, through an agency called the Nigeria Integrated Water Resources Management Commission.

From Stanford: "A new report from Stanford’s Water in the West program assesses progress among states in the Colorado River Basin with respect to environmental water rights transfers, a legal tool that enables water rights holders to voluntarily transfer their water to rivers, streams and wetlands to benefit the environment and potentially generate revenue."

Foster changes

jones

The Idaho Legislature’s efforts to improve our foster care system may be a bright spot of the 2017 legislative session. I say “may be” because a great deal of effective follow-up by the Legislature and Department of Health and Welfare will be necessary to get the job done right.

For years the foster care system has suffered from underfunding, understaffing, too much bureaucracy, not enough coordination with stakeholders, and too little attention to how the system is working and what can be done to improve outcomes for foster children.

One judge told me that there are dedicated workers on the front lines, but they are often prevented from trying new approaches by bureaucratic red tape from above - the old refrain that we have always done it this way, so let’s keep doing it this way - even if there is no evidence to show that the old way is the best way.

Following the 2016 legislative session, the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations began a comprehensive review of the foster care system to determine problems and possible remedies. Its report issued this February disclosed, among other things, a worsening shortage of foster parents, insufficient support and services being provided to foster parents, insufficient staff to perform the needed services, strained relationships with stakeholders, and no system-level accountability for child welfare outcomes.

The Office made a number of recommendations to address these deficiencies. It was essential to better compensate foster parents and to give them more say in order to be able to provide the best outcome for their foster kids. More staff was needed to support and serve foster parents and children.

The Legislature provided a substantial boost in funding this session for the foster care program--funding for eight additional staff and a twenty percent increase in compensation for foster parents. Senator Abby Lee of Fruitland played a significant part in getting this funding increase through a committee vote.

In addition, the Legislature approved House Concurrent Resolution 19, which authorizes an interim legislative committee “to undertake and complete a study of the foster care system in Idaho.” The committee will be co-chaired by Senator Lee and Representative Chrisy Perry of Nampa. Both have worked hard on the foster care issue.

While increased funding will certainly help, the findings and recommendations of the interim committee will be critical in determining the future effectiveness of Idaho’s foster care system.

It must be outcome oriented so that foster children are able to thrive. Foster parents must be listened to and properly supported. Social workers and other staff must have manageable workloads and given some flexibility in carrying out their work. More attention needs to be given as to what can be done for older children who have been in and out of the system numerous times, rather than simply warehousing them. The hard work is just beginning and it is incumbent on anyone interested in a better foster care system to keep informed on the interim committee’s work and to provide their input to the committee. This is Idaho’s chance to get it right.