transition

This is an excerpt from the Ridenbaugh Press book Transition, by W. Scott Jorgensen. More will be appearing over the weeks to come. The book is available now from Ridenbaugh Press.

The parking lot was full when I pulled up to Elmer’s Restaurant, the usual meeting place for the Josephine County Republican Women. The November 2010 midterm election was days away, and many of the cars at Elmer’s had bumper stickers endorsing various candidates.

I was there to speak, and it would be my farewell to Grants Pass. I had just quit my job at the local weekly newspaper and my last radio program had just aired. All of my worldly possessions were already packed.

I had several things to say. But first, I had two good friends to talk with, and about.

Josephine County Deputy District Attorney Wally Hicks was the first of the two to show up. He had been a friend for a few years, and had run unopposed for a seat in the state House of Representatives in the May primary election.

Wally’s resume was so impressive that nobody wanted to run against him for the Republican nomination. The Democrats couldn’t field a candidate, and his only opponent in the general election was from the Constitution Party.

I rose to shake his hand, at which point Wally took the seat immediately to my left. Typically in politics, you don’t have friends, only allies. But Wally was a remarkable exception to this rule, and I was actually quite fond of him.

Wally’s mother had been a reporter for several years while he was growing up, so he attended various political events at a very young age. This undoubtedly left a big impression on my good friend.

We had met a few years back at the Dorchester Conference, a statewide gathering of Republicans held each year in Seaside. That town is located on the Northern Oregon coast, a couple of hours west of Portland. Back then, Wally was attending law school at the University of Oregon. He came to Dorchester with a friend who had interned with a Congressional campaign that I worked on in 2004.

I was immediately impressed. Within a few hours of meeting Wally, I and many of my Dorchester friends were clamoring for him to run for office.

For a moment, it seemed that we had convinced him to take on the longtime incumbent Congressman that we had failed to unseat. But in the morning, Wally did not share our recollection of his commitment to the race.
Wally joined the U.S. Marine Corps straight out of high school. He even celebrated his 18th birthday at boot camp.

In 2004, Wally served in the Iraq War. He returned to the states and worked as a volunteer law clerk at the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation before going to law school.

Once he graduated from law school and arrived in Grants Pass, Wally immediately began prosecuting high-profile cases involving child arsonists and juveniles who had broken into the local animal shelter and killed some puppies. He had impressed enough of the right people to garner tremendous support after announcing his candidacy for state representative.

My father had been a Marine, like Wally, and I was a reporter just like his mother. I think this is part of why we connected so easily and seemed to understand each other so well.

A few minutes after Wally arrived at Elmer’s, we were joined by Simon Hare.

Simon grew up in Cave Junction, a small town located about half an hour west of Grants Pass, and left after graduating from Illinois Valley High School. He went to Washington D.C., where he interned at the office of U.S. Senator Gordon Smith and spent several years working as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association.

After moving back to Josephine County, Simon wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but at the time, an incumbent county commissioner was up for re-election. The local Republican Party was eager to replace him, but didn’t have any particular candidates in mind.

I remember receiving the call at my newspaper office that they had found their guy, at which point Simon and I were put in touch with each other. We met at a restaurant in Cave Junction, along with his father Denny, to discuss his candidacy, and became fast friends.

Both Simon and Wally launched their campaigns shortly after we all met for dinner at my house one night. On his way out to my place, Wally had received a call from the outgoing state representative for Grants Pass, and was informed that he had the man’s blessing to pursue the position.

Shortly after we met to discuss both races, Wally and Simon filed their paperwork and began their races in earnest, and I dutifully reported on it all.

It was nice for both of my friends to show up at my farewell address, and it meant a lot to me. They were, after all, the primary subjects of my speech, which was entitled “A New Generation of Leadership.”

We talked among ourselves and mingled with the other attendees for a while. Then it was time for me to say a few words.

Share on Facebook

books

intermediary

The Intermediary, the fascinating and remarkably detailed story by Orofino historian Lin Tull Cannell of William Craig and his unique role in the development of the early Northwest, came out a couple of years ago when it was published by Ridenbaugh Press. Now we’re pleased to offer a couple of additions.

Lin has developed two more pieces available for free download. You can get them on the Intermediary web page or right here.

One is an index to the book, which Lin had contemplated earlier and now is available. (Note: the Index is based on books with print date 20 August 2012. The pagination is different in the earlier versions.)

The other is an errata sheet.

Share on Facebook

books

The last half-decade has been an economically rough time for a lot of people, and some of them are precisely the people who under usual circumstances would be moving into key positions in our society. The catch is, in a time of high joblessness and diminished mobility, that has proven harder than usual for many of them to do.

Although, some of them do it anyway.

That subject generally is what our latest book, Transition by Scott Jorgensen, is about. (Its book page is here.) In it, Jorgensen talks about his own experience, one not wildly unusual in recent years.

Graduated from college about a decade ago, he continued (as he had since high school days) through a sequence of jobs, some in journalism and others in politics. (He has been involved in a number of Republican campaigns.) Then, after departing one in Josephine County about four years ago, the well seemed to dry – abruptly. He spent month after month, after month, looking for new work. It was not easy to find, and the difficulty took its toll.

The story has a happy ending, in that he did eventually find work, and now works for the Oregon House Republican Caucus. But his story is broader than simply one person’s scramble to find a place; many people are or have been in similar, or tougher, spots.

There’s some good food for thought here in what Jorgensen writes. It’s commended to your attention.

Share on Facebook

books

Diamondfield

These days most written works of history – those atleast going back more than just a few decades – mostly are reliant on the written record. Writers go back over what’s been written about the subject before, consult material from the times, original documents and first-person accounts where they’re available. But mostly, writing history that runs back beyond living memory involves going through the paperwork and, if the writer is very lucky, finding some new paperwork no one has seen before, or maybe finding a new interpretation of it.

In writing the new book Diamondfield about the life and tribulations of Jack Davis, Max Black has gone through the written record, and found both new interpretations and masses of new records that no one – neither of the two previous authors who wrote at book length about Davis’ murder trial and legal case – has examined before, not since the 19th century at least. That along is reason enough for a re-examination of the case.

But Black also did something more remarkable. He tracked down the location – information never positively determined for more than a century, and thought to be lost – where the murders in question took place. He found in the ground there one of the bullets involved in that shooting, a bullet that an expert concluded had been there for more than a century. And he found a gun that was involved. And quite a bit more long thought to be lost and irretrievable.

This is a remarkable piece of detective work, more than reason enough why I’m pleased to be publishing this book.

The Diamondfield Jack case may be unfamiliar to you if you’re not an afficianado of the Old West, but anyone interested in the time and place will pick it up immediately. The context was the great cattle and sheep conflict (between opposing ranchers, not the animals) around the 1880s in south-central Idaho. (There were other similar conflicts, range wars really, in Wyoming and elsewhere.) The shootings of two sheep herders was the trigger for the case; Jack Davis was a gunman employed by the cattle interests, and accused of the killings. The two men were in fact killed by cattle workers, but not by Davis, and the Davis murder case dragged on for years, even years after two other men had themselves confessed to the killing. Davis came within minutes of being hanged, before eventually receiving a pardon. He left Idaho, and went on to a remarkable life in Nevada and elsewhere around the west.

The story long has been poorly understood, and the reasons for it tell a lot about early Idaho and how it developed as it did. Black, after putting together more of the pieces than anyone had before, lays it all out in clear fashion.

Max Black doesn’t come to this by professional circuits. A long-time Boisean, he served in the Idaho Legislature for a couple of decades, and in his private life worked in insurance. But he brought to his search for the facts an unusual determination, and that was enough to unearth what no one had before.

What he’s come up with here is a book worth reading for what it says about Idaho, for what it says about the old west, for what it says about one of the country’s most notorious murder cases, and what it says about what determination in search of the facts and the truth really can do.

Share on Facebook

books

The Andrus Center, named for the former Governor Cecil Andrus and aimed at providing educational events on public affairs, has opened an intriguing new location – across the street from Boise’s Grove Hotel, on the southern side of downtown, and across another street from a large new supermarket. Its location on Capitol Boulevard will be high-visibility.

Around-Idaho travelers Chris Carlson and I, running around the state on our book tour (Chris’ book are Medimont Reflections and Andrus, mine with Marty Peterson the Idaho 100), had a chance to check out the new digs, just being transferred from a location on the Boise State University campus. There’s a real chance this could become a major venue for some high-profile events in months to come, and conversation seemed to be leaning in that direction.

We were there at a book signing and talking event, introduced by the center’s director, David Adler, and Andrus himself. As elsewhere, we attracted not mobs of people but a substantial number, enough to make for another nice event.

Next stop on the road, tonight, will be at Ketchum, at an event hosted by former state Representative Wendy Jaquet.

Share on Facebook

books Idaho

After a fine stop at Lewiston, Chris Carlson and I continued on Sunday headed south to Boise.

Sunday afternoon we had a fine flash-neighborhood gathering at White Bird, where Chris had some friends. At a house overlooking the Salmon River (and depending on the flow, sometimes right on top of it), people gathered and talked and … bought books.

Today we’re in Boise; our main book event today will be at the Andrus Center at 301 S Capitol. Tomorrow, on to Ketchum and beyond.

Share on Facebook

books Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

An edited excerpt from Chris Carlson’s new book, Medimont Reflections, about the idea of breaching Snake River dams – and the effect on Lewiston.

Ed Chaney has been correct all along. So has my Columbia classmate, Pat Ford. From their first appearances before the Northwest Power Planning Council in 1981, through all the intervening years in interviews, articles, lawsuits, and speeches, each has consistently said that the best science says and will always say that the only real solution to restoring native salmon and steelhead runs to their former state, as required by the Northwest Power Planning Act, is to breach the four lower Snake River dams.

Supporters of the status quo and of leaving the dams in place like to point out that in terms of sheer numbers of the various runs of returning salmon and steelhead, the count is up and still rising. This is of course due to the large amount of supplementing the runs with hatchery-raised fingerlings and smolts.

Chaney points out that one should only examine the numbers of wild fish, which continue to steadily decline.

Chaney and Ford believe the law as reflected by and through the Northwest Power Planning Act and the Endangered Species law requires the restoration of the wild runs of salmon and steelhead. They insist these runs represent a distinct and separate gene pool that is declining.

On the face of it, their contention the dams continue to damage and facilitate decline appears incontestable. Courts appear also to agree with them as they have successfully petitioned to have most of the so-called “Bi-ops” developed by the Corps, the Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA and Bonneville Power Administration invalidated.

Breaching the dams is therefore the only measure not tried yet to restore and enhance the runs. What seals the deal, however, are the economic arguments for breaching the dams.

There are 31 federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers which produce 60 percent of the region’s hydroelectricity. The power produced by the four lower Snake dams is about 1 percent of the overall production. BPA of course sells and distributes this power.

Due to the several laws guiding BPA’s management of this “federal base system,” the agency also funds and manages a fishery enhancement program whose goal is, as the law requires, protecting, mitigating and enhancing the runs.

In March, I asked the agency’s public communications office to provide me with an estimate of how much money they have expended to meet the law’s requirement for the 11-year period of 2002 through 2012.

The total number is a staggering $7.35 billion, or an average of $677 million a year, with little, if any, progress being made in enhancing and protecting the wild runs.

Subtract the breaching costs from that figure and cease funding all of the fruitless efforts underway and the region’s ratepayers would be billions ahead shortly.

The next unsound economical entity is the Port of Lewiston itself. Sold by its boosters that it was going to be the catalyst of an economic rebirth for Lewiston, it has been nothing of the sort. Boosters of the port sold Nez Perce County voters a bill of goods, saying that a local option sales tax would be short-lived and retired.

Fifty years later the tax is still on the books. Face it — the Port of Lewiston is a heavily subsidized operation that will never pay for itself. The citizens of Lewiston and Nez Perce County would be far better off shutting it down and supporting dam breaching as their preferred path back to real prosperity.

Another reason that should galvanize support for dam breaching is the likelihood of a 10-year flood event inundating Lewiston’s downtown core. In large part due to the rapid buildup of silt in and around the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, water is already well above the street level in the downtown.

The levees constructed by the Army Corps were designed (there’s that engineering word again) to have a 7- to 8-foot margin above the anticipated highest level of the water. Today it is much closer to a 2- to 3-foot margin.

Meteorologists and other government agency forecasters, when pressed, will admit that a 10-year flood event, such as heavy snow in the mountains followed by a surge in temperature with a commensurate heavy rain that could bring most of the mountain moisture cascading down the Clearwater could easily inundate the city.

Lewiston City officials will also concede their ability to remove that amount of water is virtually nonexistent. For all practical purposes, the water would be trapped on the inside and it might take weeks to remove it by various siphoning methods. The damages would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and insurance would not begin to cover the rebuilding cost.

This is not a case of if; it is rather a matter of when.

The Corps response is to propose a massive dredging program for the next 50 years. By law the Corps is required to maintain a channel behind Lower Granite dam, just downstream from the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, that is 14 feet deep and 250 feet wide to facilitate barge access to the Port of Lewiston.

It’s not happening, folks.

Needless to say, the rapid accumulation of river-borne sediment will significantly add to the cost and the subsidies necessary to keep the port open and to operate the dams.

Kooskia resident and environmental activist Linwood Laughy estimates the 10-year cost of the taxpayer subsidy necessary to keep the port of Lewiston open would be $39 million — and the sedimentation accumulation would still continue.

He believes each fully loaded barge leaving the infrequently used Port of Lewiston leaves with a taxpayer subsidy of $19,000 reflecting the dredging and sediment management activities.

Virtually the only option left to comply with the Northwest Power Planning Act and the Endangered Species Act appears to be breaching and it is just a matter of time — unless of course those who want to save the dams can muster the political support to amend the Power Act and the ESA law. Such a prospect is highly unlikely.

So as a region let’s face up to the inevitable and get on with breaching the four dams.

A pure guess is that the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams would be somewhere between $500 million and $1.5 billion. This is a huge chunk of change, but still represents less than 20 percent of the costs incurred by BPA over the first decade of this century trying to enhance the native salmon and steelhead runs.

In this period of diminishing federal resources as the nation tries to get a handle on its deficit spending challenge, however, the cost benefits derived from adopting the last, best chance for real fishery enhancement are overwhelmingly compelling.

Add to that the cost avoidance of the flooding out of Lewiston and the elimination of shipping subsidies and breaching is a no-brainer.

Share on Facebook

books Carlson

medimont


Medimont Reflections with shipping




Ridenbaugh Press has a number of books scheduled for release in the next few months, and today we’re pleased to lead off with a book of reflection and analysis by one of our regular columnists, Chris Carlson.

Chris’ Medimont Reflections, available now from this site (and soon locally around the Northwest), is a followup on his last book, a biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson’s take on Idaho politics over the years, the Northwest energy planning council, top environmental issues and much more.

The first review, from Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman, is out today. Popkey called it “a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho…. Carlson, who lives in the Kootenai County hamlet of Medimont, writes a newspaper column and has larded his 13 chapters with opinions. He says the council should be abolished because of its failure to revive salmon and steelhead; advocates breaching four dams on the lower Snake River; and offers his ideas on nuclear waste, the LDS influence on Idaho politics, gun control, abortion and end-of-life ethics. His behind-the-scenes accounts of the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area include lovely details.”

Carlson and Ridenbaugh Press’ Randy Stapilus will take a circumnavigation tour through all the regions and most of the larger cities of Idaho starting a week from now. More information about that (inclulding what is meant by a “circumnavigation tour”) will be available here soon.

Carlson was the first member of the Northwest Power Planning Council (since renamed, but very much active), and in the book he calls for elimination of the council – though he suggests that a different structure be followed up afterward to replace what he considers to have been a toothless tiger.

Share on Facebook

books Carlson

Idaho 100

Idaho 100: The people who most influenced the Gem State, published in print last fall, is now available in the Kindle e-book format (via Amazon.com).

The 100 entries (and the other parts of the book) are a particularly good match for an electronic reader, read in pieces at a time. Even if you already have a print copy, you’ll want the e-book too for more mobile reading options.

Keep watch for some more Idaho 100 news in the coming weeks.

Share on Facebook

books

Each Monday, we publish the Idaho Weekly Briefing, sent via email to subscribers. toward the end of last year, we decided to try something new: Summarizing the key elements of the Briefings from throughout the year in one book. The Idaho Briefing Yearbook 2012 is now available, covering all of the last year.

Ordering information is in the box above. It is available now.

Unlike the regular Briefings, the book is available only (for now) in print version.

It takes in a wide range of territory, the same as the weekly Briefings (which also, separately, cover Oregon and Washington). We have reports on politics, federal, state and local government, legal and law enforcement action, business and the economy, the environment, health and education, transportation, communication and culture in the state. There are also calendars and reports on milestones of people – arrival and departures, including deaths, during the year.

If you want to know what happened (that’s of importance) in Idaho last year, the Yearbook is probably the best place to start. Let us know what you think.

Share on Facebook

books review

The new Idaho 100 book by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson (see the box and link above) is out and available, as of today.

As is the first review, which dominated Page 1 of the Idaho Statesman today. Here’s what columnist Dan Popkey had to say about it.

From it: ““Idaho 100” is intentionally provocative, meant to spur debate, while reminding us from whence we’ve come as we approach next year’s territorial sesquicentennial. … Peterson told me that he aimed to give “an overview of why Idaho is what Idaho is.” Stapilus said the “real value is in opening up often obscure but important parts of Idaho history.” They’ve succeeded. The rankings are less important than the acts that earned a spot.”

Be sure and read the comments after the piece, too.

Share on Facebook

books Idaho

Dennis Mansfield, best known around Idaho for his conservative politics, has been powerfully affected over the last dozen years or so by a specific person in his life – his son, Nate. That personal story briefly emerged in 2000 when Mansfield was running for Congress and Nate faced criminal charges over drug use. About three years ago, Nate died of a drug overdonse, and Mansfield was – well, it affected him as any parent would be.

He has written a book on the subject, Beautiful Nate: A Memoir of a Family’s Love, a Life Lost, and Eternal Promises, published by Simon and Schuster.

The Amazon description says, “Though Dennis and Susan turned their attention to helping drug addicts and their families, they were powerless to stop the death of their own son in 2009 at the age of twenty-seven. Beautiful Nate lucidly recounts these difficult years while painting a picture of what did and did not work in raising a child within the evangelical framework. Rather than lose faith in the God he trusted, Dennis eventually found new joy and purpose—with a much more compassionate and realistic view of the role parents play and the guidelines they follow.”

Haven’t read it yet. It promises to be a compelling read.

CORRECTED to reflect the cause of Nate’s death.

Share on Facebook

books