Archive for the 'Carlson' Category

Feb 19 2014

The importance of predictability

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

If you have ever wondered why so many business leaders say they cannot trust units of government, whether local, state or federal, to keep their word and deliver the sine qua non of heavy investment – a safe, secure, predictable business environment, look no further than Bonner County in north Idaho.

The County is currently in court with a high-end developer of upscale hangar-homes, which contain living quarters and private planes or helicopters, on property adjacent to the Sandpoint Airport. Called SilverWing at Sandpoint, the project developers have a legitimate beef with the county that falls under the umbrella of government providing a predictable business development environment.

While SilverWing is a client of my daughter Serena’s strategic communications business, as one who started and built a small business of my own, and as a taxpayer, this being jerked around by a governmental entity is the kind of inconsistent behavior that also truly angers me.

Like any prudent developer, SilverWing did their due diligence and acquired all the required permits from both the city of Sandpoint and Bonner County before building a model home, laying out the streets and putting in the required infrastructure for water, electricity and sewage.

Altogether the owners spent over $5 million developing the site, which may very well be the last of its kind in the United States because the Federal Aviation Administration has decided to adopt a policy recommending against such developments at public airports. The FAA however, well aware of SilverWing, in effect grandfathered it in prior to the adoption of this policy.

So what’s the problem? For reasons hard to fathom, the Bonner County Commission reversed field and has effectively placed a cloud over further sales of these ever-increasingly valuable hangar home-sites by publicly speculating that they might not grant homeowners access to the main runway from the development.

Of course, if the County persists in this stance, it would also be blocking missionary and backcountry high-performance plane builder Quest its access to the main runway because Quest uses SilverWing’s taxi­way and runway access.

Thus far, Bonner County has spent in excess of $1 million taxpayer dollars trying to defend this indefensible mid-stream shift. SilverWing understandably is trying to protect their investment but has made it clear that they would welcome a negotiated settlement that allows them to remove the cloud the county has placed over their project and to proceed. Thus far, Bonner County, through its high priced California law firm, has rebuffed any overtures, despite having so far lost every motion they’ve made for summary judgment or any other legal maneuvering.

SilverWing, for its part, is utilizing the legal services of Boise-based Givens Pursley. When depositions are held, SilverWing sends one attorney, but Bonner County’s team can and often does consist of five or more attorneys and county employees. I’m sure the California attorneys are enjoying cutting the fat hog they think they see in their government contract with Bonner County.

Here’s a prediction though from a non-lawyer, though: The county is holding a losing hand and, when it comes time to pay the piper, the cash-strapped county may be facing bankruptcy if it has no insurance that will cover it in case it loses.

Someone, somewhere in that Bonner County courthouse better start reining in the county’s spendy ways and better start thinking through some “what-if” scenarios.

A little common sense should lead all parties to the conference table and a negotiated settlement fair to all. In the meantime, the next time you hear some businessman say one can’t trust any level of government to keep its word, recount to them this classic example being perpetrated in Bonner County.

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Feb 18 2014

Reflecting on headlines

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Every so often there are a series of news items and headlines that inevitably bring forth from the memory bank an appropriate “Andrusism” – an expression of Cece’s that encapsulated and often simplified while educating one about the particular situation.

Example #1: Cece would often say “when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging.” University of Idaho vice president for government affairs and communications, Chris Murray, should reacquaint himself with this one. First, one suspects he inadvisably counseled the University’s next president, Dr. Chuck Staben, to grant his first introduction to a broader Idaho audience through a lengthy telephone interview with the Boise-based Idaho Statesman.

One would think he would have granted that honor to a newspaper in the University’s back yard, like the Moscow-Pullman Daily News or the Lewiston Tribune, but no, it’s the Statesman. If one read the transcript of the ensuing interview, the error was further compounded by not adequately preparing Dr. Staben to provide a more nuanced answer to the obvious question that would be coming on Idaho’s use of the expression “Idaho’s flagship university.”

It would have been easy to duck the entire interview by simply saying “Idaho currently is represented by President Don Burnett. I don’t take over until March 1st.”

The University, not having learned its lesson, then announces it is kicking off its year-long 125th in Boise. The Tribune again twits the University for this blindness to taking care of one’s home base first which elicits a long, loud largely irrelevant and personal vent by Mr. Murray against the Tribune.

Andrus has another expression Murray should heed: “Don’t get in a p________ contest with folks that buy ink by the barrel.”

Until then, “Mr. Burnett speaks for the university.”

Example #2. Andrus called it his “no surprises” rule. If you worked for him and there was bad news coming you’d better let him know before he read it in the newspaper. Theresa Luna, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s sister, recently testified before the Legislature’s JFAC and in the course of her testimony revealed that the State might have to come up with another $14.5 million to pay some educational vendors because reimbursement from the Feds was not forthcoming.

Why do I think this came as a surprise to Governor Butch Otter? And why hasn’t Butch fired her? And could this issue waiting to explode have had anything to do with the SPI’s sudden decision not to run for re-election? Continue Reading »

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Feb 14 2014

Two Walshes

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Newly appointed Montana Senator John Walsh ought to build his campaign to be elected to finish the term of new U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus around the issues a famous namesake (Though not related), Montana Senator Thomas J. Walsh championed for the 20 years he held the seat (1913-1933).

John Walsh, a former Adjutant General of the Montana National Guard, is a true political novice. His prior political experience is slightly more than a year of service as Montana’s Lieutenant Governor. He ran and won in 2012 as the ticket mate for then Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock’s successful bid for the governorship.

Walsh worked well with Governor Bullock, and when the long-serving and never defeated Senator Max Baucus announced he was retiring, Walsh, with Bullock’s blessing, began campaigning for the Democratic nomination. Even if the popular and charismatic former Governor, Brian Schweitzer, had re-entered the Senate race he dropped out of before Baucus had announced his plans, Walsh indicated he was staying in the race.

Once another popular former Montana governor, Marc Racicot, made it clear he would not be a candidate for the Republican nomination, most pundits conceded the Senate seat to Schweitzer until the Billings Gazette ran a major feature article highlighting some questionable dealings by Schweitzer.

With Racicot and Schweitzer both taking a pass, Republicans, both in Montana and nationally, saw their hopes start to rise as they contemplated freshman Republican Congressman Steve Daines’ elevation to the Senate. With more name recognition and strong support from the Republican Senatorial Campaign committee who see this as a key “turn over” state in their desire to seize control of the Senate, Daines is favored.

Governor Bullock, though, by naming Walsh to the seat gives the Democrat a bit of an extra edge by making him the incumbent, and Walsh’s prospects should not be dismissed. For one, he not only has Bullock solidly behind him, he also has the likeable former teacher/farmer Senator Jon Tester working hard for his election.

Senator Walsh could do a lot worse than model his campaign around the issues that his famous namesake, Senator Thomas J. Walsh, so skillfully utilized to stay in office for 20 years.

The first Montana Senator Walsh was an Irish-Catholic native of Wisconsin who started out as a teacher but soon switched to law and graduated from the University of Wisconsin’s Law School. He migrated to Helena in 1890 where he set up a practice specializing in copper litigation and accidental injuries.

Politics drew him into a congressional race in 1906 which he lost but then was named a U.S. Senator by the Montana Legislature in 1913. With a sharp legal mind he quickly made a name for himself on the Senate Judiciary committee. He became a stalwart supporter of President Woodrow Wilson and was the Western Field Campaign manager for Wilson’s Re-Election campaign in 1916, which Wilson narrowly won over Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Continue Reading »

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Feb 12 2014

The Seahawk and the media

Published by under Carlson

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Football fans across the Pacific Northwest and western Canada are familiar with the on the field talents of Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch. His hard work and exceptional skills are incontestably one of several reasons the Seahawks today are the best team in professional football and deserving winners of the Lombardi Trophy.

Some fans may have picked up on a little item briefly referenced on the “media day” that is part and parcel of all the hype and build up to the Super Bowl. Lynch apparently has this arcane notion that one’s right to free speech includes one’s right to remain silent and he seldom speaks to the media. He is one of those rare players who let what he does on the field speak for itself.

One can guess that he quickly grows tired of the many banal and downright ignorant questions he hears, especially those that go along the line of “what were you thinking when. . . .” Gifted athletes perform in large part on instinct and muscle memory. What they do in a game speaks for itself.

Likewise, some actually have a zone of privacy that they like to maintain, especially about family and other personal matters. They rightly feel it’s nobody’s business but theirs if the kids attend a private school. Nor do they think their views on some political issue or cultural icon is relevant to their day job.

Team owners, though, know that the media writing about a team and building hype for a big game is an essential element in generating interest – especially the Super Bowl. Thus it was surprising to many fans to learn that if Marshawn did not appear at media day and subject himself to media queries he would be fined, and it would be substantial. The league has a clause in the player’s contract that mandates the players take media questions and respond.

So, Marshawn appeared for all of about six minutes, enough to meet the spirit of the rule, but also a clear indication to others that this was under duress and just a new form of indentured servitude.

When the subject is litigation, “contract” law carries great weight, but the constitutional guarantees carry even greater weight. Ironically, the media is quick to cite its free speech rights and tolerates no infringements on that right. Continue Reading »

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Feb 07 2014

The future majority leader?

Published by under Carlson,Washington

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Pardon the crystal ball gazing, but by next January Washington state’s senior U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, will become the next majority leader of the Senate, succeeding the acerbic Nevada Senator Harry Reid.

Most pundits will say this is two years premature, that Reid intends to be Majority (or Minority) Leader through 2016. That may well be in fact what happens. The dynamics of the 2014 mid-term elections, however, will change that and history will tap Senator Murray.

She will be the first female to hold that position, but then she has constantly surprised friends and befuddled critics since the Mom in Tennis Shoes first jumped from the Washington State Senate to the United States Senate.

First, full disclosure – I go back with the Senator to the very beginning when she declared against the ethically challenged incumbent Senator Brock Adams in the 1992 Democratic primary.

The Seattle P-I assigned a reporter to do a profile before the primary and thus it was I took a call and was asked why I was supporting her. Because of my long association with Cecil Andrus, and my subsequent work with Kaiser Aluminum as the v p for government affairs some in the media at least thought my support was noteworthy.

My response became the lead: “Patty Murray is the right person, in the right place at the right time with the right message and she’s going to win.” Over a dozen lobbyists and government affairs types called to ask me if I’d lost my marbles.

Besides being smart, and having the courage of her convictions, Senator Murray is a tenacious campaigner, and one who opponents and critics constantly underestimate. Their bodies are strewn across the political landscape.

Consider: she is one of only two members of the Senate ever to defeat four sitting members of Congress – in her 1992 primary she defeated Congressmen Don Bonker; in the general she defeated Congressman Rod Chandler . In 1998, she defeated Congresswoman Linda Smith, and in 2004 Congressman George Nethercutt.

One could make that five if you counted former congressman and senator, Brock Adams.

Senator Murray has many assets but one not often cited is the obvious capacity to grow into the various roles she has had to play, from chair of the Veterans Committee to twice running the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Today, with the seniority she has accumulated she is chair of the Budget committee and sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee as well as retaining her seat on Veterans Affairs. Continue Reading »

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Feb 05 2014

Justice delayed, justice denied

Published by under Carlson

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

In 40 years of public service, one of the more egregious examples of government misconduct I witnessed was endured by Wallace McGregor, a Spokane businessman, geologist and entrepreneur. Now in his 80’s, he is decency, honesty and tenacity personified.

His fortitude is inspiring; and, the callous disregard displayed by the National Park Service for he and his partners’ valid property rights is deplorable. They have been victimized by an uncompensated taking, pure and simple.

It is a cautionary tale inasmuch as it could all too easily happen to any citizen who inadvertently gets in the way of an agency of the federal government that chooses to operate as a rogue elephant and a law unto itself.

Wally’s case is a classic example of “no good deed goes unpunished.” The origin of this unbelievable account was their recognition that a valid, proven up patented mining claim containing literally billions of dollars worth of copper, silver and gold was better off not being developed. Their 360 plus acres ended up within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park created by the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980. They accepted the higher and better use Congress opted for by placing their Orange Hill claim and surrounding area into a National Park.

They expected the Park Service would commence negotiations that would result in a reasonable buy out of their in holding, one that would reflect their investment and some modest return on that investment. By no means were they asking for an exorbitant amount, but rather a reasonable return on a modest investment and recognition of their valid property right. If they made a “mistake,” it was not filing a Mine operating plan.

They reasoned why engage in a charade when they acknowledged the higher and better national interest determined by Congress. They never dreamed 30 years later they would still be subjected to what can only be described as unconscionable shuck and jiving, obfuscation, outright lies and legal wrangling all designed to outwait Wally and his partners.

Governor Andrus calls it “hornswoggling.” He even wrote a letter to the then Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suggesting that the secretary could resolve this conflict by ordering the Park Service to engage in an “Alternative Dispute Resolution” (ADR) process. Salazar refused to do so.

The NPS may have succeeded in ignoring one man’s property right, but in a larger sense it is coming at a cost – loss of public faith and confidence in the agency – that is the sine qua non of any government agency. Continue Reading »

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Jan 28 2014

Risch’s vulnerabilities

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Because Idaho is considered the most Republican state in the nation few political prognosticators, whether in Idaho or the nation’s capital, believe Boise attorney Nels Mitchell has a snowball’s chance of defeating the long-serving Republican officeholder.

There’s one big caveat, though, and that comes down to a question of money as in can Mitchell raise enough to pound away on three vulnerabilities for which Senator Jim Risch has no adequate response. If Mitchell can get the funding to saturate the major television markets with good ads exposing these “wounds,” at a minimum he can make what many expect to be a run away Risch victory into a much narrower race.

Here are three concepts for 60-second ads the Mitchell people ought to fine tune and run:

Ad #1: You pay more taxes, Risch pays less.

Recall folks 2006 when then Governor Jim Risch sold the legislature a bill of goods about switching the one quarter of public school funding that comes from property taxes to an increase in the sales tax.

He claimed public education would lose nothing. He was wrong—they lost $50 million and the evisceration of public school funding in Idaho accelerated significantly. Idaho now is 50th out of 51 states and the Federal District, behind even Mississippi in state per pupil support.

Risch claimed no personal benefit from the switch. In a one-day special legislative session in August, while most Idahoans were enjoying vacations, he rammed through the Legislature a bill he knew would lower his Idaho property taxes by at least $4,000. He remained silent about his break while the vast majority got the shaft.

He said if it could be proven he benefitted personally he would drop out of the race. The proof was submitted but he’s still sitting in the Senate.

You can’t afford Jim Risch and Idahoans can’t trust Jim Risch. I’m Nels Mitchell and I authorized this message.

Ad #2 Arrogance

There is only one word that describes it: arrogance. In a December 2012 interview with the Idaho Statesman, Senator Jim Risch said there was no sense working hard in Washington, D.C., because everything is so partisan only grid-lock thrives. Continue Reading »

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Jan 22 2014

Stuck in Lodi, again

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Somewhere I lost connections/
Ran out of songs to play. . . .
Oh, Lord, stuck in Lodi again.

–Creedence Clearwater

Despite many folks citing principles, values and service to their community as reasons for participating in politics, one of the more direct reasons is related to pure self-interest: a job derived from political connections.

It’s called political “patronage.” It is not nearly as pervasive as in the days that Boss Tweed dominated New York City or the Daley machine ruled Chicago, but it is still a major element in our system’s form of government.

Lawyers get involved in politics not always for altruistic reasons, but rather because governors and senators either outright make or exert influence on the selection of judges, for example. Or a governor and an attorney general will get together to decide who might represent the state in workman’s comp cases.

When presidential Administrations change, there’s always a bevy of lawyers who see the next U.S. Attorney when they look in the mirror in the morning. Or a county sheriff sees the next U.S. Marshall. Or a farmer sees the next state director for the Farm Services Administration.

One of the most powerful and influential but little known “patronage” positions in the pacific northwest is the Administrator of the Bonneville Power Administration, the entity that manages and markets the enormous amounts of electricity generated by some 30 federally built and operated dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

The Administrator oversees the agency’s 3200 employees, and has a $3 billion annual budget paid from the revenues it receives for the power it markets, with a significant component of that budget being an annual payment to the Treasury to pay down the debt incurred in the building of the hydro system, the lines for transmission, and a mandated commitment to enhance the region’s threatened salmon and steel head runs.

Historically, there has been an unofficial practice regarding this post. The senior senator from the northwest’s senatorial delegation of the party in the White House “selects” the administration’s nominee who does have to go before the full Committee on Interior and Insular affairs for confirmation by the full Senate.

When an Administration changes, the administrator resigns. If the administrator leaves mid-term, then the lead rotates to that party’s next in seniority senator. This “patronage,” like all, has produced some fine executives as well as some turkeys. Continue Reading »

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Jan 15 2014

A sense of fair play

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Students at Bellevue’s Eastside Catholic High School are in the process of learning the old lesson about how unfair authority can appear. In the process, though, they may turn the tables and provide Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain their own “teaching moment.”

As most parents know, each generation has an evolving sense of “fair play.” Youth is quick to spot hypocrisy and utter the phrase all parents hear too soon: “that’s not fair!”

All authority figures, whether parents, politicians, priests or the police, end up replying with some version of “life’s not fair, kid,” or “that’s tough, that’s the way life is.” And the young respond with “That doesn’t make it right,” or “That’s not the way it should be.”

Part of the problem is each generation believes it has a superior sense of justice as well as an expectation that justice is truly blind to the inequities created by money and power. Infusing this expectation is a concurrent sense that most issues are black or white with consistency prevailing, not gray and inconsistent.

The issue at hand is the forced resignation by the Archdiocese just before the Christmas break of Mark Zmuda, a beloved teacher, administrator and coach for the past 13 years. By all accounts he is a competent, professional person performing well.

His “mistake” (and sin in the eyes of the Church) was that of availing himself of his right under Washington law to marry his same-sex partner last summer. Some one complained to the Archdiocese that this was a violation of his contract which requires conformance with Catholic teachings.

Before this matter has run its course the Eastside Catholic students may indeed extract the proverbial pound of flesh by creating continuing publicity which at a minimum will embarrass an Archbishop they believe should have known better than to step into this particular cow pie. Continue Reading »

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Jan 07 2014

Three strikes and -

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

No holder of high public office in Idaho could have been happier to see 2013 end than U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, the senior member of the state’s four-member, all Republican delegation.

Counting Christmas of 2012, in slightly more than 365 days the normally quiet workhorse (as opposed to a show horse) made the headlines on three occasions that can only be described as embarrassing and mortifying to a senator long known for his probity and sense of propriety.

First there was his arrest for driving while impaired in northern Virginia just before Christmas of 2012. Few reporters bought his story about deciding to go for a late night drive. The rumor mill churned into over-drive but the senator is justifiably held in such high regard that no one in the media chose to pursue speculation regarding where he may have been headed or where he was coming from.

His years of good conduct and solid, stolid work got him a “move along” card. Strike one, however.

A few months later another story hit the headlines regarding the mishandling of $250,000 in campaign money that appeared to have been loaned to one of the Senator’s campaign staffers. This brought a rebuke from the Federal Election Commission. Strike two.

And just a few weeks ago the Senator appeared on the Senate floor with what looked to most observers like a “shiner” below his right eye more commonly associated with a left hook. Why he chose to display the black eye, allegedly the result of a fall while moving furniture, instead of stopping by the Senate’s television studio to have a little make-up applied to cover up the shiner, is a complete mystery.

The shiner led to the kind of jokes and one liners that no politician likes to be the butt of and no Idaho politician had been the recipient of since former Senator Larry Craig’s toe-tapping incident in one of the restrooms in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. Strike three, Senator Crapo.

In baseball, three strikes and you’re out of the game. The same should also prevail in the political arena. Unfortunately, that is not the case and when one comes to the Senate from the most Republican state in the nation, Senators Crapo and Risch can pretty much count on staying in the Senate as long as they wish including right up to their dying day.

There is just one answer left to the Idaho voters: pass an initiative limiting service in all the statewide offices and the federal offices to a maximum of 12 years. Thus, a U.S. Senator could only serve two 6-year terms, a member of the House could only serve six 2-year terms, and a governor could only serve three 4-year terms.

Something seems to happen to even the best of office-holders after 12 years. For lack of a better phrase it can be called the “been there, done that” syndrome. Yes, it is a form of arrogance but the person starts thinking he or she has seen it all, know it all and they stop listening. Continue Reading »

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Dec 31 2013

Idaho’s finest

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

“We’ve done so much, with so little, for so long, that now we can do almost anything with next to nothing.” – ISP Colonel Rich Humpherys

If ever a saying captured the essence of an organization the above expression is it. The quote is taken from Kelly Kast’s recently published history of the first 75 years of the Idaho State Police entitled Without Compromise. It is a fascinating read well worth the time and price.

Anyone who travels much along Idaho’s highways and byways sooner or later has a close encounter of a personal kind with an ISP trooper. Idaho is geographically large with vast distances between its cities and towns. When driving on a long journey most have a lead foot which leads to getting personally acquainted with law enforcement.

These encounters can be if not pleasant at least proper, professional and respectful. Some are not (truck haulers in particular complain), but in almost all those cases the erring motorist cops an attitude with the officer and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Over the 14 years Cecil Andrus was governor he developed a unique bond with the ISP. The reasons were many. For example, Andrus has always possessed an uncanny memory, and thus easily mastered the plate numbers of the various troopers.

As we traveled the state we often had the police radio on scan mode. The governor might hear a report from a trooper with plate number 411 reporting in on something. The governor would jump on saying “411 this is Car 1. What the heck are you doing, Jerry, chasing down some poor elderly driver?”

Little things like that make a difference just as the governor ordering future auto purchases include air conditioning in the “black and whites.”

A previous administration, in an absurd penny-pinching mode, had ordered auto purchases exclude air conditioning.

Andrus put it this way: “It is wrong for some bureaucrat sitting in an air conditioned office in Boise to decide a trooper doesn’t need a car with air conditioning. The car is that trooper’s office on wheels and he more than deserves the same comfort the bureaucrat sitting in Boise does.”

Both times Andrus became governor he abolished the personal security detail, saying that the state’s highways needed more troopers chasing tail lights and those on the detail should be reassigned to traffic enforcement.

Over his terms he always took a strong personal interest in selecting the director of law enforcement and in the selection of the Superintendent of the State Police. He knew many of the troopers by name as well as the command structure. Andrus’ support for more troopers, more funding and better training was always applauded. Continue Reading »

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Dec 28 2013

Machiavelli’s Disciples

Published by under Carlson

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

There are two prominent governors who are potential standard bearers of their party’s nomination for President in 2016 and are modern reincarnations of the 15th century Italian Renaissance writer’s model “Prince.”

Both are of Italian descent, coincidentally, and both are savvy enough not to claim Machiavelli’s rather brief primer on how to govern and the attributes a prince should have as their bedside reading. Their actions, however, speak loudly that Machiavelli is a mentor.

The Republican is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. After a landslide re-election in November, he is already thought to be seeking the Republican nomination.

He bears an uncanny resemblance to the late James Gandolfino, the lead actor who played the head of a Mafia family in HBO’s smashingly successful television series, The Sopranos.

If for some reason former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decides not to seek the Presidency in 2016, some observers expect the Democrats will entice New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to pursue the nomination rather than risk losing with Vice President Joe Biden.

Christie vs. Cuomo would be a donny-brook for many reasons, but consider the similarities through the lens of Machiavelli’s political primer.

Both understand that a leader is to be feared more than loved. Both have tempers and can cut loose in the face of bureaucratic ineptitude or political incompetence. Both no doubt subscribe to the “no surprises” rule. A department head or a staff member best deliver bad news quickly before the governor sees it in a newspaper or is surprised by a media “ambush” question.

Both know the importance of an imperial appearance. When they enter a room one knows it because they sweep in with a phalanx of staff and surrounding security ready to respond to their every whim. Governor Christie recently appeared at a fund-raiser in Coeur d’Alene for Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter.

People in the resort lobby easily contrasted the entrances of each. Christie burst through the entrance surrounded by a dozen aides and security all reflecting the subliminal message that they were part of the big man’s entourage. Folks better take notice and get out of the way.

Five minutes later Governor Otter strolled in with First Lady Lori, both waving at the many folks they recognized, shaking a hand here and there as they proceeded through. Campaign manager Jayson Ronk was walking ten feet behind and the governor’s one-man security detail was another ten feet back. Continue Reading »

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Dec 23 2013

The third senator

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Her pet name for the longest serving Democratic U.S. Senator from Idaho was “Frosty.” They almost always traveled together during their frequent trips to Idaho, both during campaign season and the few non-election years when they could pare back a bit.

The daughter of one Idaho governor, and the niece of another Idaho governor as well as a U.S. Senator, Bethine Church, who passed away on December 21st at the age of 90, was a skilled politician in her own right. Along with Frank Church’s long-time administrative assistant, Verda Barnes, she was the Senator’s top advisor on most matters, especially those that pertained to the politics of the home state.

Most folks in Idaho, and within the D.C. Beltway, recognized her as the third Senator from Idaho. She possessed and exercised with humility real influence not only behind the scenes with the Senator, but also in the more public roles she played inside the Beltway. She was a force to be dealt with, and other senators as well as staff and the folks “downtown” (the bureaucrats and cabinet members) accorded her the same respect they accorded her spouse.

During appearances at receptions and fund-raisers, especially if they were in Idaho or had mostly Idahoans present, Bethine would be the first in the room with Frosty following. She had the phenomenal memory for names (only Cecil Andrus was better in my experience), and would smoothly say “Frank, you remember Floyd Jensen, our good friend from Preston.” Senator Church would say, “Well of course I do, Floyd, how you doing?”

More often than not the Senator did need the reminder. They thus worked as a team, and they were probably the best true teammates the Senate has ever seen, whether campaigning or going over legislation together or reviewing the Senator’s carefully crafted speeches.

A favorite picture taken by the Lewiston Tribune’s Barry Kough is that of the Senator speaking during a re-election campaign at a typical small-town north Idaho café in a place like Troy or Kendrick or Potlatch. If one carefully looks in the background they’ll see Bethine sitting in a booth carefully listening to the Senator answer a question.

She is clearly critiquing the answer the Senator is giving and one senses that if there was a part of it she thought not well-stated or just plain wrong the Senator would hear about shortly after they jumped in the car and headed for the next stop. Continue Reading »

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Dec 21 2013

Pope Francis and ‘family’

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carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Many Catholics, both Mass-going and lapsed, were pleased to see Time Magazine accord the new Pope, Francis I, its “Person of the Year” award.

He not only has been one of the top news-generators this past year, what he is saying, and how he is walking the talk, has spoken volumes to people hungry for some moral leadership in this world dominated by situational ethics.

No one would characterize me as a “pray, pay and obey” Catholic. Indeed, conservative Catholics would probably tag me with the pejorative “cafeteria Catholic,” meaning one who picks and chooses which Church dictums to follow.

The counter to this myopic view is to point out that above all else the Roman Catholic Church affirms the right of an individual to exercise his or her own conscience after prayerful consideration of church teachings.

Much of Catholic doctrine has evolved over the two thousand years the Vatican bureaucracy has functioned; and many senseless rules have been promulgated by fallible men in that span.

Pope Francis understands this which is why he is calling on Catholics to refocus on the basic injunctions in the New Testament that ask people to care for the poor, help their fellow men and women in distress, and put into practice one of the few commandments stated by the Lord: to love one another. Another commandment from the Lord was to “judge not lest you be judged.”

Again, Francis says only God can judge for only God knows the heart. He adroitly side-steps the issue of gays and lesbians in the Church by stating all should be made to feel welcomed regardless of sex, creed, color or orientation.

The Pope has now embarked on a remarkable exercise made possible by modern technology. He has sent every diocese a questionnaire built around the notion of the family as the domestic model of the Church in the basic unit of society.

Many parishes are already holding meetings to develop their response which is especially appropriate as Christians everywhere focus on the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus. The responses are then forwarded to the Bishop or Archbishop of the diocese; a summary and consensus document is crafted and sent to Rome. It all leads to a Bishop’s Synod in 2014 and a General Assembly in 2015.

I participated recently in a session at my parish. Of the 30 people there, 20 were women and ten were men. Most of the women were divorced and single parents. Most of the men there were in stable long-time marriages, but only two were under 40.

The purpose of the questionnaire appeared to be to garner whether the church is providing sufficient support to the laity (Not even close was the answer) in dealing with the challenges presented to church-goers trying to raise children in a culture that glorifies hedonism, sexual promiscuity, easy divorce and a changing definition of whether marriage can only be between a man and a woman as well as condoning cohabitation before marriage regardless of the genders. Continue Reading »

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Dec 19 2013

Baloo, the friendly bear

Published by under Carlson

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Most baby boomers can recall the Walt Disney adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. It was a delightful, full length animated movie with the usual contest between the good characters and the bad characters (remember the giant cobra?). Of course good always triumphs over evil.

Idaho Democrats at last have a candidate for governor – Boise businessman and long-time school district board member, A. J. Balukoff. Yes, the easiest way to pronounce his name is to remember Baloo, the friendly bear.

Democrats are hoping Idahoans will be drawn to one of the first of the baby boomer generation much as people were drawn to the Disney character.

This column six months ago put in print that “Baloo” would be the Democratic nominee.

He could ignore my column, but a month later when the alpha-wolf of Idaho political journalists, the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey, bannered his probable candidacy on the front page, he had to acknowledge he was taking a serious look at entering the race.

Several questions immediately come to mind: what took him so long to get around to announcing? Given his acknowledged expertise on education matters, why governor instead of State Superintendent of Public Instruction?

With no political experience other than 16 years on the Boise school board, why does he think he can start at the top of the Idaho political food chain?

Most importantly, though, will he open his own checkbook (He clearly is a very successful businessman) and will his wife (She is reportedly the sole heir to the Skaggs Drugstore chain) open hers in order to buy the kind of statewide name recognition he needs to be a serious challenger to Republican gubernatorial hegemony.

One can safely presume he starts with the narrow hard-core Democratic base in Idaho of 30% of the vote. His challenge is to make himself known well enough to be viewed by many of the hard core 40% Republican base and the 30% that are true independents as a credible alternative to a charming but do-nothing governor who literally brags about taking a billion dollars out of state spending and ignores how badly educational support has been eviscerated on his watch.

To make up for lost time and for not being a household name, “Baloo” is going to have to buy name identification quickly. To do that he needs to spend their money first and hope he generates enough buzz to jump-start fund-raising that will eventually enable him to repay the loan to his campaign. Continue Reading »

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The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
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by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
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Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
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Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

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