Writings and observations

carlson

There is an opportunity for any one of the three Republican candidates for Idaho’s governor – Lt. Gov. Brad Little, First District congressman Raul Labrador, or medical doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist – to show some gutsy leadership skill as well as an understanding that a governor’s role is to solve challenges.

For that matter, the same opportunity exists for either of the possible Democrat gubernatorial nominees, A.J. Balukoff or former State Senator Dan Schmidt.

The issue is that of holding the Department of Energy’s feet to the fire regarding their continuing to adhere to the agreement worked out with former Governor Phil Batt to have removed from Idaho all the various nuclear wastes stored in some form at the Idaho National Laboratory site west of Idaho Fall by 2035.

The Energy Department accepted this part of the Batt agreement because at that time they allegedly believed America would have its National Nuclear Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, up and operating. They badly underestimated the power and skill exercised by the former Senate Majority Leader, Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid.

Reid was able to cut off the funding and stop the project dead in its tracks.

The Batt agreement also forbid the importation of additional spent fuel rods recognizing it made little sense to add to a supply of nuclear waste you were supposedly committed to removing down the road.

The implication for many was Idaho would become the de facto repository, keeping all high level wastes on-site while accepting additional spent fuel rods for “research.” Support for this passive acceptence of the status quo quickly became a political litmus test for candidates for statewide office if they wanted support in eastern Idaho.

The reasoning was that keeping waste material on site (other than low-level transuranic wastes which are shipped by rail to salt caverns in New Mexico) would assure continued funding for the site and thus remain an integral ingredient in eastern Idaho’s economy.

Folks in the Idaho Falls Chamber are more than willing to accept the risks of possible contamination of the Snake River Aquifer which could devastate the economy down river in the Twin Falls area.

There is a real possible solution, however, that requires an ability to look over the horizon and recognize what is best for Idaho is removal of all the waste material despite the short-sighted bias of the IF Chamber.

The operating asssumption for several years has been there is no alternative repository with the demise of Yucca Mountain.

Wrong. There will be a fully certified operating nuclear waste repository capable of accepting nuclear waste as early as 2024 known as Onkalo on an island off the coast of western Finland. It has under construction for years, but is nearing completion and is being built by a Finnish company called Posiva.

Presumably Finland would negotiate agreements with the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries which have nuclear energy facilities but are storing spent fuel rods on site. To prod the process along a governor and a state attorney general could conceivably open its own negotiations.

The point is there is a viable solution. Any or all of the major candidates can and should get on a plane and go see for themselves what the Finns have accomplished that no one else has been able to do.

They’ll see an entrance bored into near seamless bedrock, called gneiss, that is geologically stable and water resistant.

It drops 1500 feet down and then has a series of tunnels that run for miles with storage chambers where spent fuel rods are encased in cast-iron canisters further encased in two inch thick copper which is extremely resistant to corrosion. The chambers and access tunnels will then be backfilld with bentonite clay, which also absorbs moisture.

Here’s hoping all the candidates for governor visit Finland and see for themselves the potential viable solution to an issue that has vexed Idaho for years, but now just may be on the threshold of a real solution for which future Idahoans will be most grateful.

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Carlson

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Without Carol Andrus there never would have been a Cecil Andrus.

Amidst all the well deserved accolades for the good, great former four-term governor her role in his success understandably gets overlooked, but it shouldn’t. The Latin phrase “sine qua non” is appropriate. It means “without which there is nothing” and without Carol it is doubtful he would have achieved as much as he did.

Few outside of the immediate family realized how much Cece respected her political instincts, used her as a sounding board, and often listened as she had the last word. She too had multiple roles to handle from the formal duties of being the First Spouse to being a mother to their children, protecting their zone of privacy and fighting for family time.

At times being a political spouse must have been draining to say the least, especially when one values their privacy yet knows that an adoring public expects to know everything and anything about a governor.

I started off on the wrong foot with Carol and ran smack dab into the “Mama Bear” role. It was the winter of 1969 and I was the rookie political reporter at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. I’d begun writing a weekly political column and the key question then was would State Senator Cecil Andrus try again to make a run for governor. If so he would have to win a contested primary.

Without thinking one day I threw into one of those “bits and pieces” columns an item that State Senator Andrus might have a special in with students at Idaho State because Andrus’ oldest daughter, Tana,was dating the ISU student body president. My bad and big mistake.

The next thing I knew I was on the phone with an angry Carol Andrus who explained in no uncertain terms that unless a family member was actually out campaigning for the candidate they were off limits and their right to privacy was to be respected. She was correct and I was wrong and I had the good sense to apologize.

Fast forward to December of 1972 with Cece now being governor. He comes to the breakfast table one morning where Carol is reading the Idaho Statesman. She looks at him with those penetrating eyes and coldly states “I see where I have to read in the paper that you’ve hired Chris Carlson as your press secretary.” Cece acknowledged the obvious and wisely let the subject drop.

It took a couple of years and a long car drive from north Idaho back to Boise during the 1974 campaign in which just the two of us were in the car and we discussed many subjects. I gained an invaluable insight into the multiple roles demanded of Carol and had a new respect for how well she handled all of them.

Another key role for political spouses is to keep the politician’s ego in check. Carol was a master of the well-timed put down. The classic example came early in Cece’s first term as governor. He and Carol were fishing for steelhead on the Clearwater. Cece gave her a few pointers and fairly quickly Carol pulled in a couple of nice fish. Cece still had not landed anything so in a bit of role reversal Carol suggested a couple of pointers.

Naturally, Cece didn’t like the role reversal and the teacher didn’t like the student offering suggestions, so he got a little huffy. Carol looked at him and then struck right to the heart, saying, “well why don’t you just throw a few of your business cards overboard and let the fish know who is up here!” Ouch.

Carol was particularly good at protecting family time and keeping matters private that she felt should be private while still accommodating public interest. The most recent example was the decision by the family for a private funeral church service and a private internment balanced off with a public memorial service at Boise State and the lying in state ceremony at the State Capitol.

Cece had some exceptionally competent administrative assistants over the years – Zuriel Brown, Billie Jeppsen, Clareene Wharry. The common denominator was all three knew the importance of consulting with Carol on the governor’s schedule. Furthermore, they knew they were to assist in preserving Cece’s family time, especially time at their get away cabin on Cascade Reservoir.

I couldn’t help admiring how well Carol composed herself and carried with her usual grace and aplomb the last public role Carol was called to fulfill in late August. Obviously tired she nonetheless displayed steadfast stoicism while comforting grief-stricken daughters and the extended family.

Cece and Carol were married for 68 years. Their devotion to each other and her willingness to share him with the demands of politics was clearly a key to his success.

I invite all those who admired and respected Cecil Andrus to join me in a heartfelt thanks to Carol Andrus for sharing, nurturing, protecting, humbling Cece when needed, and throughout their 68 years loving him as only a spouse can.

Without Carol Andrus there never would have been a Cecil Andrus.

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Carlson

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President Donald Trump continues to play a form of Russian Roulette virtually unseen since the nation’s founding. In the corridors of power in Washington, D.C., he continues to reinvent the rules seemingly with little forethought and leaves confusion, anger and anguish in his path.

Each day the 24 hour news cycle is all about Trump all the time and his latest tweets, which jump all over the map, portray a man who can flip flop in a nano-second and thinks nothing of lying. His ego seems to need insatiable feeding all day every day.

His strategy appears to be always playing to his hard core base in the belief that other Republicans will jump into the primaries for the 2020 presidential race and again will be unable to coalesce under one challenger. Thus, with a mere plurality, he will win again the Republican nomination.

That assumes he will not have been impeached and removed for his erratic and dangerous game of providing constant entertainment to the media and his base. Unfortunately, his fumblings and bumbles in foreign affairs could have real catastrophic consequences that lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Some speculate the House has not approved impeachment charges and then asked the Senate to conduct the trial because there is little stomach for tearing the nation apart. Additionally, insiders have a great deal of confidence in the three US Marine Corps generals who surround POTUS: General James Mattis, the Secretary of Defense; General John Kelly, the chief of staff and General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

This triumvirate of generals, along with the vice president, and a majority of the cabinet can in fact under the 25th amendment remove a president if he becomes deranged. The Congress does not have to concur.

The voters can of course send their own message in November of 2018 by voting for the Democratic or the Independent candidate running for Congress against a Republican incumbent.. In modern times the mid-term elections usually see the party of the president lose about 11 seats.

There have been, however, some tidal wave elections in which the electorate cleans out and cleans up a mess. Good examples are the New Deal in 1934, the post WW II 1946 election, the lanslide election of LBJ in 1964, and, the Gingrich Revolution of 1994.

Members of Congress go to great lengths to keep their seats and further rig the system through shrewd gerrymndering of district boundaries. Are you surprised that after each election nine times out of ten the incumbent wins?

The key to the casting of an informed ballot is most often one taking the time to read about the issues and knowing where one’s member stands. Too often one has to cut though a great deal of baloney before they can start to ascertain the congressman’s real views.

For the system to work best though it is incumbent upon the minority party to put up viable candidates for office and to provide decent party support to the viable candidate. One need look no further than the congressional district immediately to the west of north Idaho, the 5th District in the state of Washington, currently represented by Cathy Mc-Morris­-Rodgers.

Two weeks ago former State Senator and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, announced her candidacy to replace McMorris-Rodgers. A former professor of economics at Eastern Waashington University and the former head of the WSU-Spokane campus, Brown is a shrewd, canny political veteran and should give the incumbemt a competitive challenge.

If there is an anti-Trump tide Spokane Democrats have come up with a more than qualified challenger, a political veteran who can do a decent job of representing their interests.

Look now by contrast at Idaho’s First Congressional District, an open seat now that Rep. Raul Labrador has decided to run for governor. So far three have announced their candidacy – all Republicans. They are former attorney general and lieutenant governor David Leroy, the presumed front-runner, former State Senator Russ Fulcher from Canyon County, and State Rep. Luke Malek, from Kootenai County.

On Labor Day at the annual North Idaho Labor Rally and Picnic in Post Falls I asked one of the region’s top labor leaders, Brad Cedarbloom, if he was aware of any potential Democratic candidate for the seat. He said he was not aware of anyone.

There is an old politicl saying that applies: “You have to have somebody to beat somebody.”

Voters even in Idaho may want to send a message of dismay to D.C. in November of 2018, but won’t have the opportunity. Voters in the state of Washington’s 5th district, by contrast will be able to send a message.

Will they?

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Carlson

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When Cecil Andrus first ran for governor in 1966, his campaign manager was Leo Krulitz, a brilliant young attorney from Mullan, a graduate of Stanford and Harvard Law. He came up with what he thought would be the winning slogan: Cecil Andrus for Governor—“My kind of man.”

In today’s politically correct world Krulitz would probably come up with something else. The slogan did not resonate with the electorate even back then. Andrus lost the 1966 election not once, but twice.

In saying so long to the longest-serving, most successful, progressive governor in Idaho history it is important to understand the man behind the public figure.

Andrus was an extraordinary person who filled the multiple roles required with grace, character, elan and panache.

He genuinely liked people, and had a photographic memory for people’s names. If he met a person once then did not see them for years he would still instantly recall their name.

Despite his phenomenal political success he was at heart a humble man. “I put my pants on one leg at a time just like every other man,” he would state. He always drove his own car, and eschewed security details. He never was one to brag, either. He let success speak for itself.

He had a great sense of humor and took pleasure in telling self-deprecating stories. While speaking he once was rubbing his hand across his balding head saying that “grass doesn’t grow on a busy street,” A voice from the rear of the audience loudly piped up saying “neither does it grow on a rock.”

He was a natural teacher who always took time to explain the teaching moment whether it involved kneeling down to look a youngster seeking an autograph in the eye or underscoring a life-lesson in a matter troubling an aide. He cared about the person regardless of who or their station in life.

He was a religious man, but didn’t wear it on his sleeve. He let his actions, his compassion, his caring speak for his adherence to the Gospel values. He participated in a monthly Bible group for years that few knew about.

Largely self-educated few knew he was a prodigious reader.

He was a devoted father who loved his daughters and knew the best thing a man could do for his children was to love and respect their mother. Like most dads he was a soft touch for his girls but he always had time for them to offer advice and counsel when asked.

He loved to hunt and fly fish in Idaho’s great out-of-doors. A hold-over from his own hard-scrabble youth was a sense of the need to fill the freezer each fall with the deer and elk he shot, the ducks, geese and pheasants he brought home. He ate what he killed and was a genuine conservationist.

Because he loved hunting he kept and trained a hunting dog which always became a devoted companion that he and Carol would walk in the Boise foothills. His current bird dog, Maisy, was next to him when he died.

He wasn’t afraid to show emotion and shed tears in front of others. Once, while visiting him at his home I walked into the living room quietly only to see him sitting in his recliner with big tears rolling down his cheeks as he was watching the tv. A Fish and Game ad he’d done several years earlier was running and the video was of him and the hunting dog he had then and deeply missed.

He understood the importance of one taking responsibility for his actions, of not being afraid to admit a rare mistake now and then. He never pretended to be perfect. Like the “gyppo logger” and saw mill operator he was before being elected to the Idaho Senate and entering the industrial insurance business, he could get angry. Those who lied to him never had a second chance, and the only times I ever saw his eyes flash and thought he was about to punch someone was when his integrity was questioned.

In this monochromatic world where society seems to be striving to homogenize everyone and minimize gender differences, he stood out as an authentic man—a real man’s man. He stood on life’s stage as a giant, often surrounded by pygmies. It is doubtful Idaho will ever see the likes of him again.

Krulitz had it correct, after all. Cecil Andrus is and was my kind of man, your kind of man and Idaho’s man for all seasons and all reasons. His trail ride is over but it was one heck’uv a ride. I will always believe he could have been president if he had wanted to be. He loved his family and Idaho too much to put them through the rigors of that pursuit. He will long live on in our hearts and in the many legacies he left us.

As he rides off into history you can almost hear him saying “I’ve been rode hard and put up wet a few too many times” but it was my honor to serve the people of Idaho.

Rest in peace, Cece.

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Carlson

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His name was Eddie Gaedel. He is the answer to one of baseball’s great trvia questions: Who is the only major league baseball player to retire with a 1.000 on-base percentage? The answer is Eddie Gaedel.

An even tougher trivia question is who then replaced Eddie as a pinch runner following the walk Eddie drew? The answer is Jim Delsing.

This past August 19 was the 66th anniversary of the most famous walk in all of baseball history. Yet it reinforces one of the great features that seperates baseball from other professsional sports such as football and hockey – one doesn’t have to be a big man to play the game.

One of baseball’s creative owners, a salesman and marketeer named Bill Veeck, owned the St. Louis Browns who in the summer of 1951 were mired in last place in the American League. It was also the 50th birthday of the American League’s founding. The challenge for Veeck was to draw a crowd for his last place team was also last in attendence.

Veeck did the usual, offering free beer for the adults and free ice cream and hot dogs for the kids. However, he also had a surprise for the fans – during the break between the first and second games of this Sunday doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers he had a seven foot high birthday cake carried onto the field.

Some fans undoubtedly expected to see a scantily clad and sexy looking female pop out but instead out popped Eddie Gaedel, all 3’7” of him. He was wearing a Brown’s uniform, but the Detroit team thought little about it until the Brown’s manager brought his line-up card to home plate to present to the umpires with Gaedel pencilled in as a pinch-hitter for the lead-off hitter.

The manager also had a valid major league contract properly prepared and signed, so the umpires decided the game had to go on with the first “little person” (some reporters and writers use the politically incorrect term of dwarf or midget) to appear coming to the plate.

Veeck instructed Gaedel not to swing at anything, but instead to hunch over creating a strike zone of about 1 and ½ inches. Detroit pitcher Bob Cain started laughing so hard there was no way he could throw a strike.

Four straight high and outside pitches and Eddie Gaedel walked to first and into baseball history. The ensuing uproar only served to cement his immortality and the reputation of Veech. Two days later the American League president, Will Harridge, voided Gaedel’s contract which called for him to be paid $15,400. In 1951 that was a decent salary for a major leaguer.

Three years later Veeck sold the Browns who promptly relocated to Baltimore to become the Orioles.

Gaedel was no fool and in years to come capitalized on his notoriety through appearances wth the Barnum & Bailey Circus as well as playing the role of Buster Brown in their shoe ads.

In later life he faced challenges due to his notoriety, developed a chip on his shoulder and became combative and aggressive especially when he drank. Despite his dimnutive size he’d take on average sized adults.

On June 18th, 1961 his life came to an end the result of a beating he received outside a Chicago bar. Having been born in Chicago of Lithuanian heritage on June 8th, 1925 he was only 36 years old. He is interred in the St. Mary Cemetery and Mausoleum in Cook County, Illinois.

The only person from baseball who attended his funeral was the pitcher who had walked him that famous day in baseball history, Bob Cain.

Gaedel’s memory lives on in part because of the ingenius marketing and p.r. skills of a retired Kamiah attorney, Tom Keefe. The son of a Seattle judge, the former administrative assistant to the legendary Washington Senator Warren Magnuson , a former deputy mayor of Seattle, Keefe is married to Joann Kaufman, a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, and the owner of a phenomenally successful Native American Health Care consulting business.

Keefe is the founder of Club #1 of the Eddie Gaedel Society. For seven years now he hosts a celebration at O’Doherty’s Irish Pub in downtown Spokane around the famous date.

The club is growing exponentially because everyone loves stories of underdogs and the exploits of the “little people” around us. Keefe can be reached at the offices of Kaufman & Associates in Spokane. Call him and join the society.

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Carlson

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On occasion there are quirks of history one should pay attention to because they are accurate predictors of the future even in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, virtually every political pundit in Idaho takes it as a given that whoever wins the Republican gubernatorial primary next May is a lock to become Idaho’s governor in January 2019.

Probably so, but maybe not. There is an historical factoid that says otherwise. In modern times the Idaho governorship has changed party hands every 24 years twice in a row. In 1946, C.A. “Doc” Robins, a state senator from Benewah County and a medical doctor, defeated incumbent Democrat governor Arnold Williams. This began a string of Republican governors in Idaho for 24 years.

The string ended in 1970 when the Democrat state senator from Nez Perce County, Cecil Andrus, defeated incumbent Don Samuelson. This began another string of 24 years in which Andrus and his successor, John Evans, a former state senator from Oneida County, held the governorship.

In 1994, with the victory of Republican Phil Batt, a former state senator from Canyon County, the governor’s chair again changed hands after 24 years. If history is an accurate guide this should tell the pundits two things: Idaho’s next governor will be a Democrat and a former state senator.

There’s the rub one might say. There is no such politician on the horizon. Au contraire. There is a former Democrat state senator from Latah County, Dan Schmidt, who also is a medical doctor, and is reportedly seriously considering entering the gubernatorial race.

On the basis of history alone Democrats should encourage him to run. Set aside the fact that he is extremely competent and established a reputation for doing his homework and was especially knowledgable on health care issues during his six years in the Legislature. He knows the issues and he knows the state.

He also reportedly believes a contested race for governor among Democrats will keep Democrats home and minimize the tendency of some to register as Republicans for the primary because of the mistaken belief that is where the action will be and will determine who the next governor is.

Reliable sources report Schmidt has already talked to A. J. Balukoff, the Boise businessman and the Democrat’s gubernatorial nominee in 2014 who spent $3.5 million of his own money in a losing race to incumbent Governor C.L.”Butch” Otter. Balukoff is set to announce he is again seeking the office in early October. Schmidt may surprise and announce his candidacy in September.

Of all the candidates running for governor Schmidt willl have the least resources. He is not personally wealthy like Balukoff or Republicans Tommy Ahlquist or Lt. Gov.Brad Little. Nor does he have a government job like Rep. Raul Labrador that pays him while he is seeking another office.

None of them will outwork him and he believes the fact that he is not trying to start at the top and buy the office will work to his advantage. He also believes Republicans will nominate First District Congressman Labrador as their nominee. He sees Labrador as far and away the most conservative of the Republicans, but thinks many in the GOP are tired of Tea Party conservatives and some of the extreme views they hold.

He reportedly believes he can capture these disenfranchised Republicans and that he will also be more attractive to independents than will Balukoff. Furthermore, Schmidt reportedly says one should not underestimate the ability of Labrador to show his lack ocompassion for the needy, the homeless and those he would kick off medicaid.

In other words Schmidt thinks the Democratic nomination for governor is well worth purusing because Labrador is quite capable of losing the race. Is history on Dan Schmidt’s side? Time will tell but it just might be.

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Carlson

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It was a small news item and it escaped public notice which is a shame because it speaks volumns about the fundamental basic intelligence of America’s body politic.

The item was a report on Maine Senator Susan Collins’ return home for the August recess following her vote against repeal of the “ObamaCare” health plan without anything to replace it. As she deplaned the commercial airliner she had flown into Bangor, Maine, there was a good sized crowd stacked up waiting to board the plane.

Almost instantly, Collins was recognized and as she walked into the terminal and down a causeway spontaneously every one stood and applauded the Senator as an expression of appreciation for her courage. For any political officeholder it doesn’t get better than that.

Senator Collins along with Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, who also cast a courageous no vote, are just two of the women reshaping the Senate and their respective political parties. On both sides of the aisle women are showing men what leadership is about.

Most people are familiar with old cliches like “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Such condescending statements reflect shallow thinking about a woman’s influence being exercised behind the scenes. It may have had some validity 70 years ago but it sure as heck isn’t true today.

It is safe to say that the future of the Democratic party, as well as the Republican, rests in the hands of the increasingly talented pool of women governors, congressional representatives and senators. In the not too distant future one may see a woman as the presidential candidate of each party.

Idaho holds a unique place in American political history as the first state in the nation where each party’s standard bearer in a race for a congressional seat was a female. The year was 1956. The incumbent in the First Congressional District was Gracie Pfost, a Democrat and a former Canyon County official. The challenger was Louise Shadduck, a former journalist, the state’s first female chief of staff for a governor, and the first head of a cabinet agency, the Department of Commerce and Economic Development.

Despite Dwight D. Eisenhower winning a second term easily, he proved not to have any coattails in Idaho. Shadduck lost, but many pegged her to become Idaho’s first female governor or U.S. senator. However, while remaining politically active she never sought office again. The glass ceiling for those two offices remains unbroken.

It is almost too obvious to say that the future of both political parties is tied to which one does the best job of addressing issues the woman voter determines to be most important. Their agenda is more practical and less ideological.

According to many national polls, women voters care most about economic issues and health care matters. Regardless of party, women voters strongly support “equal pay for equal work.” Access to affordable health care is another critical issue which more and more is seen as a fundamental right, not a function of privilege and income, and access to higher education without incurring crippling debt brought on by too easily obtained stuent loans.

Women are more attuned than men to the homeless issue, the opiod crisis, and the lack of enforcement of laws against spousal abuse and child abuse.

Each party caucus in the Senate has some outstanding veteran female legislators as well as some rising stars who bear watching. On the Democratic side Caucus chair Patty Murray from the state of Washington is a classic “work horse” who gets things done. Noted for her common sense, excellent staff, and an ability to work across the aisle, she could emerge as a future majority leader.

Many thought with the retirement of Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Murray might challenge New York Senator Charles Schumer for the minority leader post. Murray, however, recognized that minority leader was a thankless job with little upside and wisely took a minor position while biding her time. She enjoys broad support among all the female senators and counts Senator Murkowski as a real friend.

Murray incidentally has constantly ben underestimated over the years. She holds the Sente record for having defeated the most members of the House in her re-elections—having defeated five.

Looking down the road it is easy to see that the rising stars in both parties, and the key to whether they can expand their base by attracting more of their gender, rests in the hands of new, young and energetic senators like California’s Kamela Harris on the Democratic side and Joni Ernst on the Republican side. Keep your eye on them.

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Carlson

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Two long-time political players in their respective states this past week gracefully steppped off of and away from the political stage upon which they had acted with class, courage and intelligence for fifty years.

The first, Tom Stroschein, was a two term Latah County Commissioner who chose not to run again in 2014. He epitomizes what everyone likes to see in a local elected official: country smart, a great story teller, a sense of humor, hard working with a ton of common sense, an ingrained sense of integrity and one who believes deeply in the importance of holding the public trust. Tom saw public service as a calling.

On July 29th over 300 people gathered at the Elk Creek campground shelter in Elk River to wish Tom a happy 80th birthday. Organized by his multi-talented spouse, Ruby, it was a fine tribute to a fine man who not only is glad to see 80, but also as he finally steps off the stage and fades into the sunset wanted to thank the many family members and friends who have stood by him over the years.

He and Ruby called it a “Sheepeater’s Shindig,” in part because Tom was a woolgrower for many years, running the family sheep ranch outside of Aberdeen. They served the most tender roasted lamb one could ever taste.

His father, Roy, served one term in the Legislature, from 1965 to 1967, representing Power county. The 1965 Legislature though has gone down in Idaho history as probably the most productive ever especially because it enacted the sales tax to pay for education. Though he spent just a short time there he did strike a chord with a young state senator by the name of Cecil Andrus.

A few years later when Andrus was governor he named Roy to the three member Idaho Transportation board. Andrus also appointed Tom to the now abolished Woolgrower’s board.

Though long a loyal supporter of Andrus’, and a long-time Democrat, Tom has decided to register as a Republican for the May primary in order to vote for a family friend and fellow woolgrower, Lt. Governor Brad Little.

He’s the kind of public servant we need more of – a man who puts friendship ahead of partisanship, the national interest ahead of self-interest. Though now having put himself on the political sidelines, his many friends, family members and fans hope he stays involved.

The second class act last week was that performed by Arizona Senator John McCain, who once again demonstrated the uncommon courage he is noted for by voting against the seven-year long Republican led effort to repeal ObamaCare with no replacement coverage established.

McCain knew millions would lose coverage, that the well-off would receive an undeserved tax break bonanza, and Medicaid would be gutted. McCain acted out of principle though he must have enjoyed a bit the ability to stick it to the Trump Administration which he views as incompetently run.

McCain, along with fellow Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska deserve their own chapter in any new issue of “Profiles in Courage.”

Stroschein, McCain, Collins and Murkowski are the kind of thoughtful public servants we need more of because they reject overt patisanship and work for solutions through compromise. Idaho’s current two senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, could learn much about courage and standing up for equal justice from any of these four.

All are class acts and the first two truly distinguished themselvesthis past week. Tom of course is retired and Senator McCain may have a form of aggressive terminal cancer that will end his career prematurely.

There was one totally classless act last week that in the view of many disqualifies the person from even considering seeking a public office. Her name is Janice McGeachin, a former one-term state representative from Idaho Falls, who is aspiring to be Idaho’s next Lt. Governor.

In the minds of many she disqualified herself when upon learning about John McCain’s vote sent out a Facebook message calling McCain a traitor. Given several opportunities to retract this outrageous statement, she did nothing.

Several writers pointed out the implied penalty when the term is used, that is execution, she still refused to amend or change her statement. This type of insane fanaticism has no place in our nation’s debates over policy and politics. It was a classless statement which anyone with an ounce of brains would have retracted and apologized. Here is hoping she withdraws or, if she stays in, receives the public condemnation and rejection she warrants.

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Carlson

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Last week Avista Utility, headquarted in Spokane, surprised many observers by announcing they were being acquired by a Canadian utility, Hydro One of Toronto, for $5.3 billion dollars. After operating independently for 128 years, they were giving up that independence.

There are two questions that immediately cry out for answers. Why now? Secondly, what’s in it for Idaho and the current customer base of 129,000 northern Idaho customers supplied with juice from Avista? The sale has to be reviewed and approved by the public utility commissions of several states and federal entities, but both parties hope the deal closes by next fall.

Here are ten key questions one hopes will be asked and explored by regulators:

1) $5.3 billion in U.S. dollars presumably?

Answer: At closing Hydro One will pay $3.4 billion in US dollars and will assume Avista debt of $1.9 billion. Currency fluctuation risk is taken by Hydro One but it is thought they are trying to fix the rate of .53 cents Canadian to every $1 US. Currently the Canadian dollar is .64 cents to the U.S.dollar.

2) What is the debt to equity ratio for financing the purchase and has Hyrdo One undertaken a subscription sale and if so did it fill rapidly or is it still being offered?

Answer: The ratio is going to be 83% debt and 17% equity. Yes, there was a subscription offering and it filled in one hour. Avista’s stock rose 24 % once the market learned of the intended purchase and is now trading at $53 a share.

3) Are there any tax advantages or write-offs for either company from the purchase or the sale?

Answer: It does not appear so, but that question may require additioanl research.
4) Does Avista chairman and ceo Scott Morris receive any additional compensation or bonus for engineering this sale?

Answer: Yes. A required filing showed that he would receive three times his average compensation in previous years which translates to approximately a $15 million dollar bonus. An additional $15 million is being set aside as a pool of money to keep key employees.

5) Avista claims communities will benefit from Avista’s commitment to philanthropy and economic development, but it offers no specifics on just what economic development it would support and as to philanthropy it claims Hydro One will double the current Avista commitment of $1 million annually to $2 million. Records indicate though that last year Avista donated $600,000. Other acquisitions of northwest utilities recently have seen philanthropy zeroed out.

Answer: The $600,000 is what the Foundation donated. Corporate giving was approximately $2 million and Hydro One has pledged to double that. In addition, Hydro One is making a one-time donation of $7 million to the Avista Foundation and has pledged to donate annually another $2 million to the Foundation.

6) Hydro One is heavily unionized. Surely both entities recognize historic differences towards unions. Is there a strategy to address this?

Answer: Both are aware and it is a work in progress.

7) Hydro One buys some electricity from government owned and operated nuclear plants. Do they have any exposure regarding disposal of wastes and storage of spent fuel rods? Do they carry any special liability coverage if something goes wrong with a nuke plant even though they are just a customer?

Answer: That is a question best directed at Hydro One. Suffice it to say Avista fully anticipates that as part of any mandated settlement a PUC will require “ring fencing” to prevent such transfers of risk or cost.

8) Hydro One will have to enter negotiations with Washington and Idaho’s public utility commissions. Given universal concern regarding global warming being exacerbated by coal burning power plants is Hydro One prepared to negotiate a phase out of the 10% of Avista’s load that comes from Colstrp? Two of the four units at Colstrip were just modernized at a cost of hundred’s of millions.

Answer: The question is not unexpected and the answer is to be determined by the negotiations. We don’t engage in speculation.

9) Does Hydro One/Avista really believe the Idaho PUC will consider its latest request for a 7.2% rate increase separate and apart from its review of this sale? Wouldn’t it be smarter to acknowledge the obvious and withdraw the request? Isn’t it a bit disingenuous in your ads to claim there will be no rate increases “as a result of this transaction?”

Answer: We believe they are totally separate items but recognize that the Idaho PUC could combine the dockets if it want to do so.

10) Does Avista still participate in the exchange of power with BPA allowed by the Northwest Power Planning Act? And will this sale have any impact on the current renegotiations with Canada on the Columbia River Coordination agreement?

Answer: Yes, and as long as the exchange is available Avista will participate.and no.

In all candor there is little specificity that answers convincingly the why now question. However, ¸there has been much activity in the market regarding utilities.The bottom line is probably a simple one in which Scott Morris and the board decided it was better to pick a partner rather than be picked off.. It is easy to predict rough sailing and tough selling ahead.but I wouldn’t bet against Scott Morris.

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Carlson

carlson

Every state has a handful of elected officials who are the glue that hold the government together. They are the folks who see public servce as a noble calling to serve others. They labor often in anonymity. They do not seek the limelight. They treat all voters, regardless of party with respect.

They do not subject themselves to the slings and arrows of outraged constituents who all too often do not have their facts straight for the pay which is often laughably parsimonious, nor any alleged glory. They patiently listen because that is part of the job, and then they respectfully correct and educate.

They understand that politics involves compromise, that the voters expect they will be part of the solution to challenges not part of the problem. They seldom raise their voice, but when they do speak others listen. They command respect because they do their homework and speak knowledgeably.

Sometimes they are in leadership, sometimes they are not. Lobbyists and media who cover government know who these “go to” folks are.

For the past 20 years Idaho’s State Senate has been blessed with two of these indispensable individuals, Senator and Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, and Senator and Joint Finance co-chair Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint. This past week brought the news that both will be leaving the Legislature, Davis to become U.S. attorney for Idaho, and Keough to return to private life to resume full-time her position as executive director of the Idaho Logging Contractor’s Association.

Of the two Keough is the least known which suits her just fine. She quietly labored in obscurity on the Joint Finance and Appropriations committee, the Legislature’s most powerful committee (it sets the budget) for a number of years, finally ascending to the Senate co-chair post in her tenth term.

She has navigated the shoals and reefs on a number of issues, not the least of which has been consistently strong support for fully funding k-12 education that often found her out of step with a governor and colleagues who in past years seriously underfunded public education.

Her moderation coupled with compassionate constitutional conservatism nonetheless made her a target for the Tea Party faction of the GOP, the hard right wing nuts who demand ideological purity and adherence to downright absurd views such as abolishing the 17th amendment that provides for direct election of U.S.senators.

Her decency and competency as well as solid constituent service along with a steely discipline inside her velvet gloves enabled her to beat back viciously personal primary challenges orchestrated primarily by State Rep. Heather Scott and her surrogates.

Despite personal threats she fearlessly showed up at most campaign forums during her last three elections and, despite the vitriol, her “here are the facts style” often quieted the zealots.

Over the years she has personified the best a citizen legislator can be. She and her husband, Mike, successfully raised two children, one a Vandal, the other a Bronco, and walked the talk of family values that so few political figures actually practice.

Though petite and soft spoken she could play hardball when she had to do so. When Avista’s lobbyist, Neil Colwell, took part in an ill-conceived move by Keough’s Republican Senate colleague from Coeur d’Alene, State Senator Bob Nonini, and sponsored four Republican primary challengers to incumbent Republican state senators, she banned Colwell from her office.

Recognizing the stupid error, Avista chair Scott Morris drove to Sandpoint to apologize in person for the almost incomprehensible move. For his part Senator Nonini later apologized personally and made amends. Demonstrating a graciousness hard to fathom, Keough reportedly forgave Nonini’s egregious breach of protocal.

For someone born in New Jersey and raised in Ohio, Keough, who migrated to Idaho when she was 19, has become a true Idahoan – intelligent, independent, compassionate, conservative, a person of her word, the personification of honor, decency and competency. Idaho’s citizens are all better off because people like Bart Davis and Shawn Keough chose to answer the call of public service. They will be truly missed. When you next see either be sure and thank them for that service.

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Carlson