Daily Kos is reporting on polling numbers (from Public Policy Polling) on the 2016 Washington governor and Senate races, and showing both incumbents with clear leads over a string of Republicans. The best showing among Republicans was from Rob KcKenna, who held incumbent Democrat Jay Inslee to a close win in 2012. Inslee’s approval rating isn’t high and is actually underwater by a hair (41-42) but such ratings seem standard these days even for politicians who go on to win. And the poll showing him best McKenna by five points, and three others by double digits. Results are similar for Democratic Senator Patty Murray. If there’s excitement in Washington politics next year, you’d expect it to center on the governor’s race, but Inslee seems to be settling in.

The Idaho Department of Administration isn’t or shouldn’t be an especially exciting agency; the name more or less reflects what it does, which is to handle paperwork, contracts and bureaucracy. Usually it’s a quiet place; it was during the many years Pam Ahrens was director there, and that’s because she ran it at least reasonably well. But it has had one high-profile director after another in the Butch Otter years, and that high-profile description is a result of trouble. Mike Gwartney, Teresa Luna – the department was repeatedly in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Will the new director, Bob Geddes, put an end to this? Maybe. The Geddes I knew when he was president pro tem of the state Senate was an unassuming guy who managed the chamber with surprising smoothness; that would indicate a fair possibility of success now. He then quit to join the Tax Commission during a period of trouble and instability there; things quieted down during his tenure there, a good sign, but he left after a short time. And he hasn’t been at his current work with the Fsrm Bureau for very long. There are question marks here, but possibly also the opportunity for getting the house in order.

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Those were some startling pictures, of Idaho Governor Butch Otter happily sharing the podium with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell – announcing a partnership on improving sagebrush landscapes for reasons including protecting the sage grouse. Jewell remared that “We now have a fully integrated Strategy among federal, state, tribal and community partners that provides a set of actions to take now and in the future to fight rangeland fires across the West,” and Otter’s assent put a significant exclamation point to that. Otter ordinarily is happiest when fed-bashing, but he seems to be fully on board this one. Could this lead to more cooperation? Better not press the point too far.

Varied results in the local levy and school elections around the Northwest yesterday. Maybe the most significant was one not school-related: Measure 8-81 in Curry County, where voters rejected (57.2% no) a law enforcement bond issue, aimed essentially at retoring the almost wholly eviscerated law enforcement operations in that eviscerated county. Sheriff John Ward was quoted as saying, “It would be an understatement to say we’re disappointed with the results.” So too must be the other residents of the county contemplating the drain this sad county is circling.

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Idaho’s governor and legislative leadership got the job done on Monday, managing to work an extensive open-public committee hearing into the proceedings about the child support agreement bill. That the session took 11 hours (without a break) rather than three or four reflects not on them but on the relative handful of holdouts and activists still somehow convinced the bill is unconstitutional (some thought it improperly has the state sign a treaty with foreign nations, which it doesn’t) or that it brings foreign control over Idahoans. All of this should have been thoroughly debunked by now, and has been for most people. But what source of information about this bill is so much more compelling for these people than the state’s attorney general, officials who actually deal with support issues, and so many others? Also: Which of the many inter-state agreements to which Idaho is signatory are likely to come under attack at the next session?

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The Mad Men conclusion did the job, which wasn’t especially easy. It had to put some manner of conclusion on a story line that sprawled widely over a number of characters and ideas, there being no tight story spine here (in the manner of Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy). It also had to make some kind of commentary on a whole decade, the sixties; Mad Men began just before it and ended just after, and a statement of some sort seemed needed. (photo: “Mad Men season 5 cast photo” by Source (WP:NFCC#4).) The Sunday finale did both, giving us a clear sense of where the major characters were headed, with hints back to their trajectory over the course of the hottest an most day-glo decade we’ve ever had. Many of the things people do, their opportunities and senses of possibility, changes, the show seemed to say, but the cores of people did not. Much of the attention will go to the changing role of women (the Peggy and Joan threads), and reasonably. But don’t lose track of the final scene with Don Draper, at an oceanside meditation group, searching for answers, which had great resonance in two directions. One was the first scene in the series, when Don tried to understand the perspective of a black man working in a bar, and his motivation for smoking his brand of cigarettes; that was a mental journey too, of a sort. And the other point of resonance, the final scene: A clip from the old Coca Cola commercial “I’d like to teach the world to sing.” Was Don – who appeared to have been assigned the Coke account at the ad firm he’d abandoned – going to be implicitly using his new meditative approach for the new ad? Or is the ad a counterpoint to where Don is going? Mad Men was always a bit open-ended and, while offering a satifying finish, it stayed so to the end.

It’s been 35 years since the Mount St. Helens eruption, and news reports are looking back and, to a degree, taking stock. Apart from a change in the mountain, and a new visitor center nearby, it’s hard to point to massive changes in the area resulting from it. Most of the debris was brushed away long ago. (I still remember though walking outside my newspaper office in Pocatello, hundreds of miles east the mount, that day, and finding a clear coating of volcano dust on my car.) But the Seattle Times does have an interesting piece on its front page about how the volcano changed – in some ways for the better, economically – the small city of Castle Rock, which received a mass of sediment from the volcano, and has been making use of it since.

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If all goes according to plan, the Idaho Legislature should be done with its special session tomorrow within a few hours – out by mid-afternoon or so, in time for nearly all of them to get home by car the same day.

Here’s what to watch for. Shortly after the chambers convene, either the House or Senate will get the bill that brings them there, the measure aimed at linking the state together with national and international efforts on collecting child support payments. Last time (in the regular session) the Senate started it and passed it, before it died in the House Judiciary Committee. The way to push this thing right through would be to send it to the committee where it died last time – House Judiciary – and get that vote out of the way quickly, thereby putting some high octane behind it and demonstrating that the measure will pass.

That is . . . if the votes are definitely there this time to pass it through House Judiciary. Last time it failed by just a single vote, so a couple of earnest promises to change this time might be enough to send it there. But if that cannot be had watch the bill take a different path . . . Because they’re not going to take a second chance on bill failure this time.

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This may be the way to roll out technology that may make some people uneasy: Gradually, with relatively open status reports along the way. That’s the approach Google has been using with its small fleet of self-driving cars, now driving under only limited conditions (small range, low speeds and so on). Many people may have doubts about the machines, but I think they’ll be out there and no longer rarities in the next five to 10 years (car companies are looking at a longer time line, but if Google continues making the progress they have so far, the projects won’t be left on the table for long). And by then, people may have gotten used to the idea that . . . well, computer-driven cars are likely to be a lot safer.

Drought declaration status: Statewide in Washington, and getting closer to that in Oregon, where practically all of the counties east and south of the Willamette have either a formal declaration or a request pending. Wildfire risks are a major consideration in the declarations.

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The mess in Idaho’s Jefferson County may be coming unsprung, with the departure – required after his conviction on three felony counts of misusing public money – of veteran Sheriff Blair Olsen. The courthouse has had a turmoil elements to it for some years, and the head of a local groups called the Restoring Integrity Project remarked in a letter to the Idaho Falls Post Register that “if elected officials, both past and present, had been doing their jobs, Jefferson County would not be the laughing stock of Idaho.” However well known outside of eastern Idaho Jefferson’s problems may have been (probably not very), it ought to make a point for Idahoans. Many people in Idaho revere local government, have some unease with the state and dispise the feds. Evidence from Jefferson County: There’s no more perfection to found locally than there is Boise or D.C. It’s all just people, wherever you go.

Washington state has set the salary schedule for the next couple of years. Governor goes up to $173,617. The proof of pricing an office by the responsibilities of the job rather than by the current occupant is the pay for state auditor – up to $121,663. That will apply, evidently, whether the state has one or not.

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An Oregonian letter to the editor notes that the recent resignation of John Kitzhaber as governor, and replacement by Secretary of State Kate Brown, leaves the state with its two top offices held by people who weren’t elected to them. That in turn prompts the question, why is Oregon one of just five states without a lieutenant governor? In answer to the first, the same is true – two top offices with people not elected to them – in states with a lieutenant governor, the same thing happens (the governor’s office is filled by a former LG, and a new LG has to be appointed). In regard to the second question . . . the question often arises: What do we need a lieutenant governor for? In fact, quite a few LGs have themselves asked that question, and some have even campaigned for abolishing the office. Short answer: Oregon’s system seems to work.

Jeb Bush was always going to have trouble with Iraq (as long as he’s running for president, which he’s still doing only unofficially). He can’t walk away from his brother, or father for that matter; and he’s remarked too many times that his brother is his top source of foreign policy advice. Problem is, of course, that George W.’s central foreign policy initiative – the war in Iraq – has long since been regarded broadly as a disastrous mistake. So, was his brother’s main foreign initiative a good idea (or, alternatively, would you do it knowing what we all know now)? Jeb Bush hasn’t been easily able to deal with that. And now his prospective Republican opposition is weighing in; Chris Christie of New York suggests, “I think if you’re considering running for president you need to answer the question.” It won’t go away.

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A military honor guard from Joint-Base Lewis McChord loads the casket containing the remains of Cpl. Ben Lee Brown, at the Portland International Airport in Portland, Oregon, May 12. Brown, who grew up in the small Oregon town of Fourmile just south of Bandon, was killed in 1951 during the Korea War. He was returned to Oregon via an Alaska Airlines commercial flight from Honolulu. Brown will be buried Friday, May 15, in Roseburg National Cemetery in Southern Oregon. The Portland USO, Port of Portland Fire and Police, and Oregon National Guard also participated in the welcome home. (Photo/Nick Choy, Oregon Military Department Public Affairs)


Seattle, which famously and for more than a century has been the staging and departure point for all things Alaska, is about to perform that function for the above-water oil rigs Shell Oil is planning to send to the Chukchi Sea is Alaska, after getting tentative Obama Administration approval. On Tuesday the Port of Seattle asked Shell to hold off on sending the rigs there. That’s not a shock, since public attitudes in Seattle toward the drilling must be running hotly negative. Shell says they’re coming anyway, and an Alaska port official offers this riposte: Washingtonians concerned about the environment could “just shut down your Boeing plant and solve global warming with that.” Things are about to get hotter on Elliott Bay.

In Boise, where police for some years have been moving gradually toward a community policing model, the new Chief Bill Bones is planning to extend the principle, moving toward cops actually walking beats, a downtown “micro-district,” and other developments. Not so long ago (and right now in many other cities) this might have sounded relatively radical. But those who lived in Boise back in the mid- and late 90s remember a time of a walled-in blue force repeatedly hitting the headlines with one police shooting after another. The change from that force, at the time becoming increasingly militarized, to one far more integrated into the community and far less likely to engage in firefights, was not immediate but has been clear. And so have the causes and effects, which are likely to yield Bones’ initiatives some positive results.

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Years ago came the word that by the time problem kids got to high school, turning them around into more productive ways had already become difficult – in many cases, too difficult: You have to get to them at a younger age. And how young that should be has moved steadily downward, to the point that first-graders at age six could be missing beneficial opportunities because of what they’ve experienced, or not, in the years leading up to that. Which makes the Idaho Ed News report just out, reviewing Idaho’s place in the national picture on preschool (from the National Institute for Early Education Research), of interest. Idaho’s enrollment numbers are among the lowest in the country, and the state lags in other ways as well. The IdahoEdNews report also noted, “And Idaho could remain mired at or near the bottom of the national rankings, at least for the foreseeable future. While pre-K pilot bills have failed to get out of Idaho’s House Education Committee the past two sessions, other states have launched or expanded pre-K programs. This leaves Idaho one of only six states without a pre-K program.”

The approval from the Obama Administration – conditional approval – released yesterday for Shell Oil to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea in Alaska has enough question marks and conditions attached to it that absolute judgements about it seem a little premature. The decision is solid enough that Shell is moving people and equipment toward the Arctic, where it maintains vast oil reserves are available. Shell tried drilling there before, in 2012, but stopped after environmental issues were found. Might the same happen this time? Might the project be halted, or limited, as a result of the conditions still in place? Or might the effort be improved enough that the concerns about drilling wind up not creating a problem? All of this will merit watching as the project moves ahead. – rs

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Great lead on a Seattle Times front-pager today: “What problem has Republican lawmakers proposing a big spike in the state property tax, Democrats balking at a proposal to make school levies more equitable, and initiative slinger Tim Eyman begging Gov. Jay Inslee to ave taxpayers from the GOP?” The issue, of course, is school funding. Republicans in Washington are trying to avoid the accusation that they’re seriously underfunding the schools, while also avoiding raising taxes, and the conflict between the two is what, as much as anything else, caused the special session and renders difficult closure on the budget-tax mix. As long as taxes are considered so anathema, the problem will persist.

In some ways, the story we’ve heard from the Obama Administration about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden carried with a series of oddities and questions (not least, his location in a plain-sight compound only a few miles from one of Pakistan’s main military training centers). But so too does some of what Seymour Hersh has to say – that Pakistan collaborated with the United States on the killing – seem problematic. (Among other things, it would be asking a lot a lot of Pakistan officials to conceal their own role, making them look weak instead of strong.) You get the feeling we’ve not yet gotten the whole story yet, and may not for a while.

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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)

Boulder-White Cloud hearing set for Senate (Idaho Statesman)
Will INL cleanup ever end? (Idaho Statesman)
Mary Dye of Pomeroy picked as state representative (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Judge halts recall try against WA state auditor (Lewiston Tribune)
WSU regents set budget, bump president pay (Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Debate continues over reouting Highway 95 near Moscow (Moscow News)
CWI appraises land for possible purchase (Nampa Press Tribune)
Otter heads to Latin America on trade mission (Pocatello Journal)
Southern Idaho groundwater users give up 13% of water (TF Times News)
Educators looking for public pre-schools (TF Times News)

UO propopsing new sexual conduct rules (Eugene Register Guard)
Lawmakers still work on medical pot rules (Eugene Register Guard)
Lane County may seek a drought declaration (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath not finding serious groundwater drawdowns (KF Herald & News)
Klamath voters turnout marked at 16 percent (KF Herald & News)
Medford still has enough water (Medford Tribune)
Obama touts Trans-Pacific deal at Portland (Portland Oregonian, Medford Tribune)
Medford schools hiring for many executive jobs (Medford Tribune)

Snohomish cities set rules on panhandling (Everett Herald)
Kelley recall try rejected by judge (Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian)
State blamed for Bertha’s damage of pipe (Seattle Times)
Obama touts Trans-Pacific pact at Portland (Spokane Spokesman, Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic, Olympian)

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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)

Climate change underway at Yellowstone Park (IF Post Register)
Funds arrive for new Terry Reilly Caldwell clinic (Nampa Press Tribune)
Cassia draws discrimination complaint from ACLU (TF Times News)

Some rural drivers may self-pump their gas (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard, Pendleton E Oregonian)
Eugene electric sues over flaws at dam (Eugene Register Guard)
Obama arrives in Portland, draws comments (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, KF Herald & News)
Judge closes Jackson Co pot dispensary (Medford Tribune)
Crater Lake may develop sister-park with China (Medford Tribune)
UO employees investigated over medical records (Portland Oregonian)

E Coli outbreak results in CDC call (Seattle Times)
Murray says more money needed from arena backers (Seattle Times)
Seattle, Tacoma ports take details of deal public (Tacoma News Tribune)
Obama arrives at Portland (Vancouver Columbian)

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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)

New partnerships in Boise River cleanup (Boise Statesman)
Ag-gag lawsuit ruling just ahead (IF Post Register)
Labrador criticizes Republian budget plan (Lewiston Tribune)
Scramble to avoid massive wster shutdowns (TF Times News)
Cassia commission admits meeting law violation (TF Times News)

LCC course eliminations prove controversial (Eugene Register Guard)
Theatre security frisking patrons as they enter (Eugene Register Guard)
Klamath commissioners want wolf delisting (KF Herald & News)
Solar farm planned for site near Bly (KF Herald & News)
Medford proposes improvements to its water plant (Medford Tribune)
Mt. Bachelor closing site unusually early (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton city goes after local panhandlers (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Closing in on a new president for EOU (Pendleton E Oregonian)
About Obama’s visit to Portland today (Portland Oregonian)
Damascus residents ask what their taxes went for (Portland Oregonian)
Many rape kits in Portland weren’t tested formerly (Portland Oregonian)

Snohomish limiting new pot business locations (Everett Herald)
Medical exminaner stays at Snohomish, for now (Everett Herald)
Seattle debates over whether mitigation means trees (Seattle Times)
Winthrop Hotel in Tacoma sold (Tacoma News Tribune)
Federal trial over water pollution dropped (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)

Boise showing good crime rate (Boise Statesman)
CWI may reconsider doing property appraisals (Boise Statesman)
New report blasts need for Dubois sheep station (IF Post Register)
Caldwell rejects ethanol plant permit (Nampa Press Tribune)
Moyle says land buy appraisals should be required (Nampa Press Tribune)

Anderson moves from Oregonian to Register Guard (Eugene Register Guard)
New apartent complex planned for north Eugene (Eugene Register Guard)
Irrigators will cut water runs (KF Herald & News)
Second Klamath pot dispensary may open (KF Herald & News)
Local residents deeply involve in pot rules (Medford Tribune)
Checking local impacts of PERS decision (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton council sets pot rules (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Cop camera measure passes state House (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Upcoming Obama visit parly about trade (Portland Oregonian)
Hales wants to spend surplus on street repair (Portland Oregonian)
Debate on school vaccination disclosure bill (Salem Statesman Journal)

Index area timber harvest okayed (Everett Herald)
Housing prices rising to near 2007 levels (Seattle Times)
Comcast will open Spokane-area call center (Spokane Spokesman)
Mentally ill subject of hot legislative debate (Vancouver Columbian)
Water district ends water for two weeks (Yakima Herald Republic)

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