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Posts published in August 2018

Impacting the tribes


Idaho Commerce Director Bobbi-Jo Meuleman (pictured) cited the significant impact the state's five indigenous tribes have on the Gem State's economy when she addressed about 150 tribal and western planners gathered at the elegant $49 million Shoshone-Bannock Hotel & Event Center in Fort Hall on Monday, Aug. 6.

The 2018 Tribal Planning & Western Planner Conference was the first time the major conference has been hosted by a Native American tribe, underscoring its theme of “Building Partnerships through Understanding, Cooperation and Consultation.” It was convened in Spearfish, S.D., last year and is scheduled for Santa Fe, N.M., next year.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Chairman Nathan Small welcomed delegates from as far as Alaska, Canada and North Carolina by stressing even though it has been 150 years since the Fort Bridger Treaty established the Fort Hall Reservation in July 1868, Shoshone-Bannocks still adhere to their language and traditions.

In office since January, Meuleman noted Idaho's five tribal reservations – Shoshone-Bannock, Coeur d'Alene, Nez Perce, Kootenai and Shoshone-Paiute – have a $570 million annual impact on the state's economy, their exports average about $1.5 billion each year and they employ some 7,570 people. Collectively, they are among the top 10 employers in Idaho.

A 2013/14 University of Idaho report about the economic impacts of those five sovereign nations showed they added 13,840 jobs to the state's economy and their total annual sales transactions exceeded $1.1 billion, including multiplier effects. Their value-added gross state product (GSP) amounted to $653 million or 1 percent of the state's GSP in 2013. More than 500,000 people, including 60 percent from out of state, visit Idaho tribal casinos each year.

In total, the five tribes of Idaho own more than 963,325 acres and have 9,555 members living in Idaho. If compared with Idaho’s total 44 counties, the five tribes would be ranked 20th in terms of land area. They have more than 150,000 acres under cultivation in Idaho, producing direct revenues/expenditures of $100 million annually.

Meuleman noted that Idaho has been gleaning positive national attention lately because it boasts the nation's top performing state economy, highest job growth, fastest expanding population, surging earnings and top travel destinations. She credited Idaho's success to existing businesses creating new jobs and making investments that have grown the economy.

Solid community infrastructures, expeditious permit applications, easy access to top government leaders, available land and resources, plus cheap energy, also have enhanced Idaho's reputation as a business-friendly state, she said, noting traditional industries are using more advanced technology, providing employment opportunities for young people and adding value to domestic products.

“We're looking to proactively attract business. Idaho is in a really great position,” Meuleman said.

Traditional industry sectors pay well and are projected to grow, she added. Their average annual wages and 10 year growth projections are as follows: Food manufacturing, $57,000, 20 percent; agriculture support, $36,000, 16 percent; computer/electronics product manufacturing, $128,000; 13 percent; wood product manufacturing, $52,000, 12 percent, and mining, $85,000, 4 percent.

Meuleman also showed a slide about how emerging industries compare: electrical equipment, appliance, component manufacturing, $73,000, 66 percent; information services, $75,000, 52 percent; beverage manufacturing, $44,000, 49 percent; data processing, hosting, $86,000, 29 percent, and advanced manufacturing, $58,000, 28 percent.

“The last thing we want to hear is that a company is leaving,” Meuleman said.

The Idaho Department of Commerce employs 43 people. Its Business Retention & Expansion division made more than 500 company visits in Fiscal 2017 and coordinated with 19 rural economic development officials.

Its International Export Assistance division has trade offices in Taiwan, China and Mexico.

The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) provides funding support for public/private commercialization projects between the state's research universities.

Meuleman praised the success of Idaho's innovative tax reimbursement incentive that has benefited the operation of companies like Amy's Kitchen, SkyWest, Albertsons, McCain Foods, Glanbia, Paylocity, Jayco and more than 30 other businesses in the state. It has been used to create 1,680 jobs for 28 rural projects and 19 urban projects. It has been used by 24 existing and 23 new Idaho companies.

About $9.2 million has been awarded in federal Community Development Block Grants for improvements in water systems, wastewater treatment, senior and community centers, wells and downtown revitalization projects. Another $500,000 has been awarded in state Rural Community Development Block Grants.

Tourism is the state's third largest economic sector, positively impacting smaller communities. It is expected to continue growing the next three years with 26 percent of survey respondents indicating they enjoy cultural experiences and visiting historic landmarks, Meuleman said, noting urban areas in Idaho are growing, but rural areas are getting left behind.

She said Idaho's three most formidable challenges are its work force, broadband service and affordable housing needs. In response to a question, she said the commerce department has had no bad experiences dealing with Idaho's five tribes, but she conceded communication always can be improved.

In crisis, cause for press hope


These can look like dark days for news reporting, and for our ability to keep track of and hold accountable those in power, who we most need to keep on a leash.

There are serious economic pressures, a dynamic underway for a generation now; business crunches that have wiped out massive segments of local and regional news reporting. Journalism in New York (mostly) and Washington, and other top centers, goes on. Beyond those places, far less of it is happening today than did a few decades ago.

There are newer political pressures, some of them coming from endless attempts from the White House to call out “fake news” that isn’t fake at all, in the perverse declaration of the press -- the best protector most of us have from the powers that be -- as the “enemy of the people.”

But under that, almost in the shadows, there are signs of hope. One is the nationwide uprising of newspaper editorials this last week, reflected in Idaho among other places, explaining just why an independent and free press really is important.

This message happened to be magnified for me, on a Northwest level, this week.

About five years ago a former colleague, Steve Bagwell (now a newspaper editor at McMinnville, Oregon), and I co-wrote a book, titled New Editions, about the Northwest’s newspapers, their history, present, and future. This week we were asked to revisit that in an interview for an article on a regional press, to bring up to date some of what we found in our research back then. It brought us to consider a more recent summing up.

We found, five years ago, that while the newspaper scene tended to be reduced to a stereotype of “bleak,” the actual picture is more complex. We found that the reality of newspapers and journalism, their condition and vitality, actually varies a lot between regions, types of communities, types of newspapers. That much seems to be just as true today. Not many definitive lines of description apply to all newspaper journalism.

Overall through the ‘00’s, many newspapers seemed to be crashing, to the point that trend lines (and many prognosticators) suggested most might not be around for long, that the print newspaper was close to extinction. But trend lines are often disrupted; the future isn’t so easily predictable. In the years since 2012, the newspaper industry, while still enduring hard time, has to a great degree stabilized at a smaller level. Layoffs have continued and news coverage is down. But those newspapers that were supposed to disappear en masse? Most are still there.

There are also counter-indicators.

One (the subject of a recent column) in Idaho is the growth of the Nampa Idaho Press newspaper organization, the expansion of coverage, hiring of new staff - what looks like an explosion of confidence in the future of newspapering.

A few miles across the Oregon line at the small town of Vale, look at the case of the Malheur Enterprise, a small, struggling weekly newspaper. Well, it used to be struggling. Now, under new owner Les Zaitz, a former Portland Oregonian investigative reporter, it not only is breaking important stories week after week, gaining not just local but even national attention, but it also is growing rapidly in circulation, adding staff and apparently prospering. Zaitz is now in the process of starting a new hard-news digital publication covering the state, based at Salem.

I should mention my own digital publication, the Idaho Weekly Briefing, which has been expanding and is working on its own new business model (involving online crowdfunding).

The times are difficult for journalism, and for people who want to follow serious news reporting. But hard times can make for some of the most creative solutions.

Time to flip the 5th


While the national media has been obsessing over the “too close to call” photo-finish in the special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, I’ve been studying the primary election outcome in a district closer to home – the 5th Congressional District in Washington State.

Washington’s 5th includes many communities that are a stone’s throw from Idaho, including Spokane, Pullman, Clarkston, and Asotin. Since 2005, it has been represented by Cathy McMorris Rodgers, now a member of House GOP leadership.

An obedient lieutenant in Paul Ryan’s hyper-partisan caucus, McMorris Rodgers is part of the right-wing cabal propping up Mr. Trump. She recently held a fat cat fundraiser featuring Devin Nunes, the disreputable chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Memorably, Nunes did his utmost to bury the truth about Russia’s attack on our 2016 election. The committee hearings he chaired were a joke.

Recently, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow played an audio tape made by a person who paid to attend this fundraiser. On the tape, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers could be heard stealthily scheming to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein once they had retained their majority. Their intent, clearly, is to protect the president by shutting down the Special Counsel’s investigation. Indeed, Nunes and McMorris Rodgers have done little more than carry water for a manifestly corrupt administration, becoming complicit in the increasingly evident cover-up.

The GOP has shown itself manifestly incapable of putting country above party. They will not hold this president to account. That is why those of us who believe Mr. Trump is a threat to our republic must do everything we can to ensure that Republicans lose their majority. We can take an important step in that direction by defeating McMorris Rodgers.

For the last quarter of a century, Washington’s 5th district has been regarded as a lock for Republicans. But after the primary vote, McMorris Rodgers looks vulnerable; it is not unreasonable to think the district will flip. The state of Washington has a top-two primary in which the two candidates receiving the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, go head to head in the general election. This year, McMorris Rodgers received less than 50 percent of the vote, and – of perhaps greater significance – Democratic challenger Lisa Brown was nipping at her heals, coming within just 1 percent of the incumbent.

Lisa Brown is an exceptionally strong, superbly qualified candidate. She has had proven success at the ballot box, in the Washington state legislature, as an economics professor and, most recently, as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane. First elected to the Washington state House of Representatives in 1992, Brown went on to serve with distinction in the Washington state senate. In 2005, she became the first Democratic woman in the state to hold the position of Senate Majority Leader.

Lisa Brown’s record in the state legislature is one of real accomplishment. She led the creation of the state's Mental Health Parity Act of 2005, which improved the insurance coverage of mental health services for Washington residents. And she worked to successfully expand children's health care and create the nonprofit Prescription Drug Assistance Foundation. She fought to ensure the state properly invested in public schools and infrastructure, worked to strengthen and diversify the regional economy, and helped pass landmark legislation including the simple majority for schools constitutional amendment and marriage equality.

Idaho Democrats and other Idaho progressives would do well to support Lisa Brown’s candidacy. Democrats need to flip 24 Republican-held House seats this year to take control of the 435-seat chamber. Most of us have limited resources and want to support candidates who have a realistic shot at winning. The fact that Lisa Brown came within a hair’s breadth of besting McMorris Rodgers in the Washington primary permits the inference that she is such a candidate. Her stellar record of public service tells us she would be an outstanding member of Congress.

It’s time to flip the Fifth.

Review: Vanishing Neighbor


When we dig down into the substrata underlying our civic problems - our deep divisions, unwillingness to compromise, the too-deep untrustfulness and cynicism - we can see a range of prospective "root causes". For those of us around for enough years to recall a different kind of American society, one of the biggest of these is the loss of social ties and connections.

In a rough sense, that's the subject of The Vanishing Neighbor by Marc Dunkelman, a book that relies more on anecdote than statistics and wanders well afield in places. It does usefully highlight the need for careful parsing in this area, though, and teases out what we have and haven't lost.

Over the period since World War II, which roughly is the time frame Dunkelman scans, some types of contact and community have been lost, and others have not. Dunkelman sketches out three concentric circles of contact between people, and describes how each have changed. And each have, but in different ways, and one of them more dramatically than the others.

The inside, tightest, ring, of family members and closest friends, has changed but not drastically. Families are much more varied now than they once were, and divorce is certainly much more common now than in the immediate post-war period. That said, most of still are close to family and our closest associates. The arrival of digital communications has in some ways even enhanced some of that (parents tracking children via smartphone, for example).

The outer ring too has changed but in fewer sweeping ways than many people may think. Back then, most of us had networks and contacts, and we still do. More of those connections now may be of the digital variety, through social media and other connections, but the relatively far-flung links of yesteryear weren't necessarily a lot more solid. The ranging of networks may even be expanding.

It's the ring in the middle that's been changing a lot. These are the people who aren't in the category of our closest contacts, but they are personal - these are people we know face to face, come into regular contact with, influence and are influenced by. They might be the casual friends met for an after-work drink, or someone in the union hall (when there were such things), or someone in a local pickup sports activity. The book Bowling Alone focused on these kind of connections: People who are just far enough from us, in economic status or occupational interest or religious or political background, that we aren't tight with them; but just close enough that we learn how to socialize and connect with them, with - in other words - people who are a little different from us.

That puts a finer point on the increasing solidity of the bubbles so many of us now live within, the echo chambers so many experience when the only voices heard are of those who think like us.

The step between the formation of those bubbles and the walls between, for example, the reds and the blues, is short and obvious. The inner circle a group of people we do not choose lightly (or in the case of family may not have chosen at all) tends not to piece the bubble much, except in the case of things like family argument blowups at Thanksgiving. The outer circle, our network of loose connections, is too easily replaceable, with names dropping and out, or too focused on a narrow area of interest or commonality, to force us to communicate much with people who are not exactly like us.

We're missing that middle range, that middle circle, that helps us more than the inner or outer layers, to navigate a society where we're not all the same.

It's a useful point, and The Vanishing Neighbor makes it usefully.

Don’t reduce auto efficiency


The Trump administration wants to substantially reduce the fuel economy standard for new cars. Six years ago, the government and auto makers agreed that cars made in the 2025 model year should get an average of 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg). The President plans to reduce the mileage standard to 37 miles per gallon. Lowering the mpg target would hit drivers hard in the pocketbook and cause serious harm to the environment.

The President claims the 54.5 mpg standard is dangerous because the higher standard will make it cheaper for people to drive. So, they will drive more and have more accidents. The President wants to require people to fill up more often, costing them more to drive every mile. So, they won’t drive as much and will have fewer accidents. In essence, we will be safer because it will cost lots more to go anywhere.

First, I think most people are like me - I want to get the best mileage possible and pay as little for gas as possible. As Idaho Attorney General in the 1980s, I worked to keep gas prices down and found that Idahoans strongly supported getting the most mileage for their gasoline dollar.

Second, I don’t need a nanny-state government telling me how I will spend the money I save by getting 17.5 more miles out of each gallon of gas I buy. It might just be that we are smart enough to use the money we save from the higher mpg standard to pay for food, rent, and other necessities, instead of driving more and having more accidents.

If we are going to have all that extra cash in our pockets from the higher mpg standard, maybe the Congress could get up some guts and increase the gas tax. Some of that extra money could then be used to fix our dangerous roads and bridges and save a bunch of lives.

It is also claimed that higher efficiency cars will be lighter and less safe. That is baloney. High strength aluminum has been shown to absorb impact better than heavier and less pliable steel. Lighter cars will be safer. And, think about the Ford F-150, which is still the most popular vehicle around, even after it switched to an aluminum body.

Sticking with the higher standard will substantially reduce greenhouse gas and pollution emissions and save lives. Air pollution kills an estimated 80,000 Americans every year and causes respiratory illnesses in the hundreds of thousands. Auto emissions are a significant cause. More fuel-efficient cars will reduce the pollution spewing into our air and perhaps reduce the wintertime inversions in Idaho.

As the increasingly hot and turbulent global weather demonstrates, we face a bleak future unless we start taking dramatic steps to combat climate change. The earth is like one of those sealed globes that you shake to watch it snow. We are cramming our closed atmosphere full of heat-trapping gases, which will continue to warm our planet to the point that we will not be able to grow enough crops to feed the world population. The Pentagon sees this as an existential threat to our country.

Besides switching to clean energy sources like wind and solar, we should be doing everything possible to reduce emissions of heat-holding gases. A higher fuel efficiency standard for automobiles will result in less greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere. That can play a part in keeping the Earth from becoming a barely inhabitable hot house.

More to come


Last week’s “SECOND THOUGHTS” about Trump’s all-out effort to “kill the messenger,” contained these words. “If he (Trump) continues to deliberately make our national press out to be “the enemy of the people,” some sociopath will reach for a weapon.”

The day that column appeared, so did stories of a masked gunman going into a radio station in Wisconsin, firing five shots at three employees, wounding one. He got away.

It wasn’t that I was so prescient. It was just plain damned predictable. The national atmosphere has been full of “kill the messenger” and hate for the media for months. That someone would actually reach for a gun and act out the rhetoric of hatred has left some of us to wonder what took so long. Related to Trump’s dangerous words?

As I said last week, reporters and others in the media have received threats for many years. Large markets or small, if you’ve been a reporter - especially in broadcasting - you’ve probably got your own stories to tell.

But, never has the President of the United States been the constant cheer leader for taking out HIS anger on the media. It was only a matter of time before some twisted bastard took his “call to arms’ seriously. Just a few months ago, one of ‘em killed five employees of a Maryland newspaper. And, it’s an undeniable fact, threats against reporters have increased dramatically in recent weeks. Some media have even broadcast recordings of a few.

No one with any “smarts” at all can deny Trump has fostered the atmosphere where such tragedies can occur. He’s used his celebrity - if not the actual power of his office - to plant what some demented minds could construe as “orders” to defend him from purveyors of “fake news.” To undertake a “righteous mission” to prove they’re “real Americans” acting to protect their “pres-i-dent.”

Some folk have wondered why reporters cover his unending campaign rallies where such hatred is espoused. The plain fact is he’s the President of the United States. Where he goes, what he does and what he says are the public’s business and are deemed necessary to cover. For historic purposes, if nothing else. The media can’t ignore his words and actions any more than they could when Barack Obama or George Bush or other Presidents were traveling and speaking.

There are also the broadcast ratings. When reports of Trump’s outrageous behavior and words hit a new low, ratings generally go up. Which pleases advertisers, which makes money to pay for the coverage. Broadcast bosses, especially, are not going to walk away from that. Works with newspapers as well.

But, there may be a middle ground. Cover his blasphemous circuses the way you do repeated campaign appearances. A small broadcast crew could be assigned in case some honest news comes out of the event. If not, no coverage, except maybe to report the rally happened. Period. If news occurs, the networks are “covered.” We don’t have to be inundated with repeated broadcasts of the same crap, over and over.

We know what Trump is and we know how he acts and speaks. He’s dangerous. He’s reckless. He’s a chronic liar. His speech and his constant lies are reprehensible to many.

But, they also have an appeal to others - many of whom have their own “problems.” They’re more worrisome than Trump. They’re the ones liable to act on what he says and how he says it. The Wisconsin shooting could be just such an act.

Trump is trying to silence honest journalism. Truth is an anathema to him. Like an animal in a trap, he’s slowly being “brought to ground.” He knows it. Leaks from the White House staff tell of his rages. A narcissist and a compulsive liar under such pressures is a very dangerous person.

But, more dangerous still are those who follow and, in some cases, literally worship him. In the crowd hysteria - and for some long time after - Trump’s words can plant seeds and cause tragic actions.

The shooting is not over. Stay tuned.

Idaho Weekly Briefing – August 13

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for August 13. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Some notable education studies emerged this last week, one on the number of female versus male students going on from high school to college, and another showing flat development on reading around the state. Both could become a factor in an increasingly heated superintendent of public instruction contest.

Several Republican members of the Idaho Legislature on August 8 endorsed the ballot measure to expand Medicaid and provide healthcare for the 62,000 Idahoans who fall into the state’s healthcare coverage gap. The endorsement follows the release of the Milliman Inc. report, commissioned by the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare, which found a significant cost-savings potential for taxpayers through Medicaid expansion.

The Bureau of Land Management Idaho Falls District and the U.S. Forest Service Salmon-Challis National Forest signed the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness Plan and associated environmental assessment documents, marking the completion of a three-year planning effort.

Albertsons Companies, Inc. on August 8 said that it has mutually agreed with Rite Aid Corporation to terminate their previously announced merger agreement. Several prominent Rite Aid stockholders were reported to have opposed the idea and led to cancellation of a planned August 9 meeting.

Representatives from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and Idaho Power have concluded that the cause of a recent fish kill in the Snake River immediately below American Falls Dam was a lack of sufficient oxygen in the water.

Following Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, applauded the bill for providing a significant boost to small businesses across America.

The JR Simplot Company Food Group is voluntarily recalling approximately 379 cases of its Simplot Good Grains™ Exotic Grains and Fire-Roasted Vegetable Blend due to the potential for wheat allergen which is not declared on the packaging.

The Boise City Council on August 7 approved an emergency ordinance prohibiting demolition, alteration or moving of any structures in an area of eastern downtown Boise because of an imminent threat to a historic 1897-vintage home. During a special meeting, council members also approved the pursuit of a local historic district that would encompass the threatened home and ten other historic structures in the immediate area.

Results from the spring Idaho Reading Indicator – the last time that early reading test will ever be given – are out, and they reinforce why educators are happy a new, online test will be rolled out statewide this fall, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said Friday.

IMAGE Energetic efforts are underway to renew Pocatello’s Old Town – or downtown – area, including the area around this old hotel near the city’s railroad station. (photo/Randy Stapilus)

Pocatello council pulls the plug


I was saddened, but not entirely surprised to learn that the Pocatello City Council indeed has decided to completely cut funding for the city's public access cable television programming, effectively pulling the plug on it and blacking it out after the pioneering channel has been on the air for many decades. For years, it was known as Pocatello Vision 12.

If it is not the longest continuously running cable access station in the nation, it definitely is one of the oldest. In fact, Hank Gonzalez' bilingual “La Voz Latina” holds the distinction as the longest airing cable access television program in the United States!

It obviously was a foregone conclusion or fait accompli for some council members to terminate the channel, but go through the motions to make it appear they were still open to resuscitating it.

The prospect that an entire city department could be arbitrarily eliminated in one fell swoop despite its historic reputation was not well-publicized. Some council members apparently hoped they could obliterate the cable access channel with minimal flak or adverse public reaction by conducting their fatal strike under the radar like stealth bombers.

Pocatello private citizens of all backgrounds have been allowed for more than 40 years to produce and host their own television programs, giving them a voice and allowing them to exercise their freedom of speech unlike most anywhere else in the country. “Transparency” was a refreshing byword exercised in the Gate City for many years.

While some council members have decided to ax community access programming by Sept. 28 or the end of the fiscal year, they have opted to continue government access programming that features meetings prominently attended by elected officials and politicians. Hmmmm … Could priorities be askew? If expenses were an issue, why not cut it, too?

Vision 12 has touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people in Bannock County over the years, binding the community together. It's too bad such a priceless treasure can be flippantly tossed onto the ash heap with little regard to its legacy.

I've had the privilege and pleasure of producing and hosting a program called “Business Dynamics” since December 2000, interviewing top government, business, agriculture and education leaders, covering economic development, energy, transportation, manufacturing and a host of other issues pertaining to business.

When I ran into Rick Eike at Fred Meyer some 18 years ago, he broached the idea that I do my own cable access program like he did. At first, I dismissed his suggestion, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In-depth local news coverage of economic issues of interest to me and no doubt others was sorely lacking, and this could fill a void.

I would like to thank the scores of guests who gave of their time to appear on “Business Dynamics” and share their expertise, observations and opinions. I learned a great deal from each of them and hope viewers also found their appearances enlightening and informative.

I also would be remiss to not thank Kathy Oborn, Ken Wilson, John Hahn and other studio employees for their professionalism and assistance over the years. Their hard work behind the scenes ensured that Pocatello's cable access station ranked at the very top of its class and gave outsiders a positive view of the community's many amenities – a window into the Gate City from a distinct vantage point.

It's been a great run, a great ride, a great experience for me to be part of such a truly unique operation like Pocatello's cable access television service. Unlike Tom Bodett of Motel 6, some Pocatello City Council members have decided to not leave the light on for us. Signing off …

(Photo: Former U.S. Interior Secretary and Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne appears a few years ago on 'Business Dynamic,' a longtime Pocatello cable access television program in Pocatello. Host Mark Mendiola is on the left.)

Changing Bovill, among others


Bovill is a lot like many small towns in Idaho, and far beyond.

It was named for two of the earliest settlers, a couple who at the dawn of the twentieth century bought an earlier lightly-used homestead, and started ranching. Before long, timber production became dominant in the area, the couple evolved their activities into other local service businesses, and Bovill became a timber town. In the last generation, as timber has faded as an economic mainstay, Bovill has struggled.

It’s a story similar in outline to that of many rural towns.

Not many years ago, a couple named Jeremy and Heidi Ritter and set up - in this case relocated from Moscow - a different kind of business in the central business area. It is the Camas Prairie Winery (a field covered with camas plants actually is located near town), and it produces wines and has a tasting room.

Not everyone is happy.

As the Lewiston Tribune reported, “Everything was apparently going along fine until earlier this year, when Camas Prairie Winery received a retail liquor license after another Main Street business, Bailey’s Bar, lost its license. Shortly thereafter, the winery (which previously had a wholesale license) was told it needed to make several changes to comply with the town’s building code.”

From there tensions and battles escalated into heated arguments about doorways and public records, well beyond what a simple adjustment to the building site would have suggested.

More is going on here than a simple building code issue. So what’s happening?

I cannot read the minds of the people in Bovill, but the overall dynamics sound familiar. I live in a small town, somewhat larger than Bovill but with a history quite similar. Mine is an agricultural community, situated amidst farm fields not far from foothills forests, founded a little more than a century ago, which later became a timber mill town (my house was once company housing built for mill workers), after which that faded (the mill closed) and the community started looking for other options.

Eventually it found them, in the form of wine. My community seized on wine production and sales, which were growing rapidly in the area, and embraced it. Now Main Street is packed with wine businesses, and visitors from afar stop into the tasting rooms and other spinoff businesses. The place has been growing, to the point that there’s concern about the growth that has materialized.

Not everyone is happy about it. Long-timers in town remember the way the community used to be, and the phrase “It’s a timber town, dammit!” is not unknown in city limits. The question of just how wine-friendly city officials should be is a permanent undercurrent in local politics.

This isn’t really a debate over growth, or exactly a debate over wine. It’s a debate over culture: A timber-based community, or any other based on more traditional resource industries, is going to feel and look different from one where the economic base is something like wine. You can tell the difference driving through, and it feels different living there, too.

It’s not just wine. Any kind of dominant industry in a community will leave its own cultural, political and economic stamp. If a high-tech business became the linchpin of a small farm town, that would change its character just as certainly.

Most likely, some of this is what some people in Bovill are reacting to. Change of one kind or another is coming.

But there’s a catch. Many small towns will have to change, in one direction or another, if they’re going to survive. Some will embrace change and prosper. Others . . . will not.