Writings and observations

isu mammoth

 
A team of Idaho State University students carefully brush and clean a mammoth skull discovered near American Falls Reservoir in mid-October. The specimen was excavated and transferred from the site to the Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello on October 18. (photo/Dave Walsh, for Bureau of Reclamation)

 

Only one more week of campaigning remains, and then the numbers come in. Because of the large number of people voting early, you might expect campaigning to scale down just a bit in the week ahead.

Meanwhile, the big Northwest story of the week was the school shooting at Marysville, Washington, which left two dead and others seriously injured.

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news

Cylvia Hayes may be becoming the most controversial – or at least one of the two or three most – first ladies in American gubernatorial history, and that’s putting aside the unusual circumstance of her not being (yet at least) married to the governor. There’s now two separate hot news stories about her background (the green-card marriage and her involvement in a Washington property which may have been used in an illegal pot grow), plus questions about the relationship between her consulting business and role in the governor’s office, and now Governor John Kitzhaber’s call for a state ethics review of that latter situation. Up to this point her background has seemed unlikely to have any real effect on the governor’s race; could that be reaching a tipping point?

Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Legal clear for same-sex marriage in Idaho (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune, TF Times News, Pocatello Journal)
Smith Group Auto mvoes location (IF Post Register)
Governor’s race ads in sharp conflict (IF Post Register)
New Horizons school bus transport in dispute (Nampa Press Tribune)
ID Democrats lead in funds in several races (Nampa Press Tribune)
Voting begins in Idaho begins today (TF Times News)

Cylvia Hayes and the pot grow site (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette)
New Eugene apartments not aimed at students (Eugene Register Guard)
Springfield, Cottage Grover on pot tax (Eugene Register Guard)
New director sought for Klamath airport (KF Herald & News)
Merrill former recorder imprisoned (KF Herald & News)
Jackson Co library hours enhanced (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing Medford Ward 2 council race (Medford Tribune)
Hermiston plans withdraw from service district (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Kitzhaber seeks review of Hayes’ ethics (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Still no changes in state abaonded car efforts (Portland Oregonian)
State employment department records hacked (Salem Statesman Journal)
West Salem traffic awaiting end to upgrades (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviewing the open Kitsap auditor race (Bremerton Sun)
Hospice operation at East Bremerton closes (Bremerton Sun)
Still difficult partking at local college (Longview News)
Guns on ballot: background check measure winning (Vancouver Columbian, Olympian)
UW dinner meetings in open-meeting gray area (Seattle Times)
Reviewing 5th district US House race (Spokane Spokesman)
Growing deer nuisance in Spokane area (Spokane Spokesman)
Vancouver school board blasted on meetings (Vancouver Columbian)
Washington seeing record apple crop (Yakima Herald Republic)
Reviewing 14th district House race (Yakima Herald Republic)

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Fire department bond considered (Boise Statesman)
Reviewing Winmill ruling on sage grouse (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Restoring the Silverthorne Theatre at LCSC (Lewiston Tribune)
Moscow activists work against fracking (Moscow News)
Crowd opposes state taking federal lands (TF Times News)

Harrisburg plane part supplier may expand (Eugene Register Guard)
Medford may lift alcohol ban at some events (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing District 3 tight Senate race (Medford Tribune)
Oregon looks at ERA, ACLU says it’s not needed (Medford Tribune)
Looking at jail intake system in Oregon (Portland Oregonian)
Limited access for Oregon death w/dignity (Salem Statesman Journal)

Reviewing Kitsap coroner race (Bremerton Sun)
Suquamish seafood business poised to grow (Bremerton Sun)
Olympia police back in schools (Olympian)
Washington state employee labor agreements cost $583m (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
Voters will consider Tacoma mayor term limit (Tacoma News Tribune)
Spokane treasurer race focuses on experience (Spokane Spokesman)
Washougal reviews arguments against oil terminal (Vancouver Columbian)
What’s proper size for a school class? (Vancouver Columbian)
Candidates competing for auditor job (Yakima Herald Republic)

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merkley biden

 
Senator Jeff Merkley was campaigning on his home turf in east Portland when he and Vice President Joe Biden stopped in for ice cream at Salt & Straw Ice Cream on Alberta Street. (photo/Merkley campaign)

 
This was a week with a couple of actual financial scandals – or at least issues that might develop that way – on the part of Oregon political figures, but they went barely remarked. That was because something even more grabby emerged: The state’s first lady, Cylvia Hayes, acknowledged that she had, in the mid-90s, married an immigrant for he could get his green card, for a $5,000 payment. The story dominated news play around the state, while another story – about the relationship between the governor’s office and Hayes’ consulting firm – got scant attention. (The other hot story that didn’t fully surface was about state Senate candidate Kim Thatcher and allegations of contracting fraud with the state.)

The string of debates between Idaho statewide candidates in Idaho last week – a number of them highly watchable and most available through online streaming – are noted in this week’s Politics section.

In Washington, the merger of marine cargo operations at the Seattle and Tacoma ports seemed the clear top story of the week in Washington state, even as campaign season reaches a peak. That may be a commentary on the relatively quiet nature of this year’s campaign season.

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pontoons

 Another six pontoons for the new State Route 520 floating bridge are floating out of their Aberdeen casting basin September 26, marking completion of the fifth of six cycles of pontoons being built in Grays Harbor County. With this float-out, 66 of the new bridge’s 77 pontoons have been constructed, and 57 are on Lake Washington. The three remaining Aberdeen pontoons are scheduled for completion next spring. Forty-four of the bridge’s supplemental pontoons are being built in Tacoma, where work is underway on the final construction cycle there. Meanwhile, crews continue aligning, anchoring and bolting together pontoons on Lake Washington. The new, six-lane floating bridge – the longest in the world – is scheduled to open to traffic in spring 2016. (photo/Department of Transportation)

 
Few developments this week in Washington politics – at least among the candidates for office. The battle over initiatives (especially the two gun initiatives) seems to be generating more heat than the people are.

Federal lands issues were big last week. In Oregon, fires roared back, and Bureau of Land Management Sally Jewell visited small and remote Lakeview (whose BLM office oversees a vast area) on the subject of sage grouse habitat. The biggest topic of discussion, however, probably was the newly-publicized Forest Service rule on photography in wilderness areas.

Debates have been getting underway this last week, and more are coming in the next few weeks. Most are available on the web through stream. One notably worth watching: The Twin Falls debate between Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra; the link is on the web site of the Twin Falls Times News, whose managing editor moderated.

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biggs bridge

 
The US 97 Biggs Rapids-Sam Hill Bridge, though only 51 years old, is starting to show its age in the form of peeling paint and rust. Starting in summer 2014, we’ll clean and paint the structure to preserve it for the years ahead. (photo/Department of Transportation)

 

You would think this will be a big issue in the legislative races, which really are where the action is in Washington politics this year: The Washington Supreme Court holding the legislature in contempt on education spending. Democrats and Republicans hold distinctly different responses to this, and it ought to be a useful subject for voters to consider. Maybe for that reason, much of the response on the legislative side so far has been, well, a little muted.

Wildfires are not yet done; Oregon was the only Northwest state still listed by the National Interagency Fire Center as having large wildfires unresolved as of the end of last week. More will be coming next week.

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Ice Harbor Dam
 

Ice Harbor Dam, on the lower Snake River near Pasco, has been a fruitful site for technical innovations that are helping increase the survival of endangered and threatened fish passing federal dams. (Photo/ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, by David G. Rigg)

 

A week of fall kicking in: Football at Seattle and the opening of schools around the state. Otherwise, a relatively quiet news week. But with campaigns about to kick in, that won’t last long.

Check the massive proposal project coming to the Port of Portland (see the economics section in the Oregon issue). This is a potentially major project, with all kinds of implications, which so far has gotten very little reaction or reportage in regional news media.

In Idaho: The decision was only preliminary – not deciding the case but only choosing to keep it alive – but the decision by Federal Judge Lynn Winmill on the state’s “ag-gag” law will be closely parsed in coming weeks. A close reading finds some suggestion that Winmill sees significant argument for tossing the law. What kind of negotiations may be quietly underway in this area over the next few weeks?

If you’re not subscribing to the Weekly Briefings, you’re missing out on what’s happening in your state and the Northwest. Send me a note for a sample copy.

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trail

 
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources opened a new trail for mountain bikes August 30, in Tiger Mountain State Forest in eastern King County. The addition of the 2.5-mile-long Off-the-Grid Trail increases the forest’s mountain bike trail system to approximately 15 miles. (photo/Washington Department of Natural Resources)

 

In this coming week, Monday is Labor Day, and after that – the general election campaign season gets underway in earnest. Some political ads have been airing up to this point, but the number will increase greatly in the next few weeks. Only about six weeks remain, after all, until ballots begin to hit the mail.

In Idaho, the Snake River Basin Adjudication has been one of the most significant legal-economic-environmental developments in Idaho over the last quarter-century, though it has proceeded quietly, mostly, over the last decade or so. Last week, a milestone: The signing of the final, or unified, decree. Look for coverage in the View and Legal sections.

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grandcouleeG24-Runner-removal

 The Bureau of Reclamation prepared for turbine removal and disassembly by mapping the inside of the Third Power Plant at the Grand Coulee Dam to ensure laydown space and safe working conditions for 12 to 15 years of complex mechanical overhaul activities. (photo/Bonneville Power Administration)

 

Yet another week of heavy duty wildfires in Washington, in what’s beginning to look like an ongoing cycle that may last another month and more.

As stories emerged nationally about the arming of local police – with military surplus equipment, sometimes stronger than that used by soldiers in actual war zones – Oregon emerged as, in relative terms, one of the less heavily armed states. More on this in View in this issue.

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Snag Canyon
 
The Snag Canyon fire started on the afternoon of Saturday, August 2. The fire was ignited by lightning. It is currently estimated at 8,842 acres and is 25% contained. Despite Red Flag Warnings for high winds, crews were able to hold the fire and make good progress on containment lines.. (photo/Inciweb)

 

Washington’s primary election (see the results spread over several pages in this issue) yielded little by way of shockers, but plenty of general interest. Such as a first, in pitting two Republicans against each other in a congressional district (the 4th). And a series of prospectively hotly contested state Senate races.

Politics in Oregon seem fairly static – at least, that’s what you draw from the SurveyUSA report appearing in the politics section. It seems to suggest that what you think will happen (based on past experience), probably will be happening, this year, again.

Water would seem to be just the solution for a state wracked by wildfires. And so it was last week, to a point. But recent flash flooding now has deluged – in sudden surprises – Pocatello and Twin Falls, and wiped out stretches of some key backcountry roads. Looking ahead for the next week: More hot and dry (and fire conditions?).

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