Archive for the 'Washington column' Category

Mar 23 2015

The $900 million ask

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

Some people will probably be calling it the billion-dollar tax proposal – a proposal that taxpayers will be asked to impose on themselves – which may be a small exaggeration but will certainly highlight why the correct number is $900 million.

“Oh, it’s not a billion? Excuse me – you’re right, it’s a mere $900 million . . .”

The ask is for the city of Seattle, whose leading officials including the mayor are the people doing the asking, and which is large and wealthy enough to make it not beyond the pale. And it’s not that transportation needs in the city aren’t great: They surely are.

It’s just that the number is so large it may cause a lot of taxpayers to blanch and decide against it before they’ve even had a chance to look at the large number of things it would do.

Which raises another problem. The list is extensive all right (see the local section in this edition), but so much so that your eyes tend to glaze over.

Then there’s the matter of what it doesn’t include, but will be an overarching consideration during the campaign ahead: Bertha. The mega-machine, that is, still sort of stuck in the ground and falling ever further behind in its effort to create a revised Alaskan Way viaduct.

Anyone seeking to blow the new tax plan out of the water will have only to recite that one name – “Bertha” – to punch the air out of any grand new transportation plans.
Optimism in that whole arena of Seattle transportation is in short supply this year, as it was last. The timing for this thing may be less than ideal, even if the need is demonstrably, yes, quite real.

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Mar 08 2015

A socialist’s odds after the fact

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

Here are two ways that the 2013 election of socialist Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council might have played out.

1 – She might have become a shrill complainer about most of what the council did, and the rest of the council would have put in (metaphorical) earplugs and just gone about its business, ignoring her.

2 – She might have made an occasional stand for a different perspective but largely gone along with the council majority so as not to be marginalized.

What actually happened seems to have fallen somewhere in between: Challenging the other council members and sticking up for alternative positions on a regular basis, but without being ignored. She has torn into them on occasion, but apparently has enough political skill to turn at least some of that into practical action.

As the Seattle Times noted in a front page story last week: “She accused them of taking their marching orders from corporate executives. But the next month, the council adopted a new budget peppered with Sawant-sponsored amendments — including an immediate wage hike for city employees, money to support tent encampments and a commitment to study a possible excise tax on millionaires — and the opposite seemed just as accurate: Sawant’s colleagues were taking marching orders from her.”

Not everywhere, or on all things, certainly. None of the council members are all that dominant, but Sawant’s influence appears to be real. Veteran Council member Nick Licata described the council now as “More progressive. More sensitive to social and economic justice. The other members are inclined to go there, but Kshama is pushing them. Kshama has made things happen that never would have happened before.”

That amounts to some real change in the city of Seattle.
Sawant is being challenged this year by a couple of opponents, at least one of whom has substantial establishment back. But she’s running in the best district in Seattle for her politics. We’ll see if her approach continues to push the city in different directions for another few years.

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Mar 01 2015

Actual effects

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The argument against major raises to the minimum wage, notably in Washington – where the minimum is the highest in the country – sometimes runs to the ideological (government shouldn’t so regulate business) but focuses more on the practical.

That is: Higher minimum wages would have negative economic effects, especially in the area of the number of jobs out there. Raise the wage, the argument goes, and the business-wage monetary pie will be sliced fewer ways, cutting out some of the jobs.

The argument sounds sensible from a numerical standpoint, but it runs aground in several other places. One is that the amount of money dedicated to paychecks is not static: It varies as the need for workers goes up or down. A hamburger joint that needs to hire (let’s say) a dozen workers to meet the demand and keep the business operating properly isn’t going to suddenly drop to nine employees because wages went up. More likely, as is the case for any business when some part of the operation becomes more costly, the price of a burger and fries will edge up. Most of the time, customers little notice – less than they would if they weren’t getting their orders filled.

This comes back to mind with a piece in the Horse’s Ass blog, recalling the warnings of Andrew Friedman, a Seattle bar owner (it’s called Liberty, of course) warned that a $15 minimum wage meant “Local independent businesses WILL closed, many of your neighbors WILL be out of work.”

About nine months ago, the minimum wage was approved. A few days ago, some months after its effects had some time to settle in, Friedman had some business news. No, not the closure of Liberty, but rather the opening of second bar (the Good Citizen).

Sounds like more jobs have been created.

Albeit, for customers, probably a higher tab on the well drinks.

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Feb 08 2015

One big port hit

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The biggest story of the week in the Northwest, and one not getting especially strong news coverage, is the now-arrived massive Pacific Coast port shutdowns, extending across a vast distance north to Alaska and south through California.

And not just a regional story, but national. The members of Congress beginning to scurry about calling for help – from the White House among other places – are not misplacing their concerns.

Here’s one comment, one of many like it around the net as last week ended, from the Retail Industry Leaders Association: “A breakdown in contract negotiations between labor and management at America’s west coast ports is threatening to turn a slowdown into a full-scale strike, and an economic headache into a full-blown crisis that impacts the entire American economy.”

Ports on the west coast carry an estimated 43.5% of all container cargo in the United States – something like a trillion dollars in trade. You have to assume that in the Pacific Northwest, the percentage is much higher. Businesses will not be able to get supplies or get to market; consumers will not get goods. The economy could screech to a halt.

The battle between the Pacific Maritime Association (which represents the 29 big pacific ports, including Seattle, Portland and Tacoma) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Workers has turned poisonous. Each essentially is accusing the other of bad faith, and making essentially personal shots at the other. And each seems to have grievances with the other that seem to reach beyond the merely emotional.

Getting past this won’t be easy.

Time has come for the national government to weigh in. All these cheerful economic numbers – like the excellent employment news released last week – could come to an end if this loggerheads on the Pacific Coast doesn’t.

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Jan 26 2015

Age of judgment

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

In some ways, the long-standing age at which people could smoke – 18 – has seemed an anomaly. Or the drinking age is; but setting one three years after the other seems a remarkable piece of inconsistency.
One which Washington state might address this year.
Or it might not since the address at hand is that of the state legislature, where the outcome of previously untried ideas is never certain.

The bill comes from Attorney General Bob Ferguson, whose statement points out, “The harmful consequences of tobacco are clear. Smoking kills 8,300 Washingtonians every year, and $2.8 billion in health care costs are directly attributed to tobacco use in the state. Washington state taxpayers pay nearly $400 million in taxes to cover state government expenditures caused by smoking. According to a recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General, over 100,000 of today’s Washington youth are projected to die prematurely due to the effects of smoking.”

The Senate and House bills have in-chamber (and majority party bipartisan) backing from Senator Mark Miloscia (R-Federal Way) and Representative Tina Orwall (D-Des Moines).

The states split up the elements of adulthood, declaring that people are old enough to do A but not B. People can vote, enter into contracts, join the military and marry at 18, but they cannot drink until they are 21. Why? A case might be made that the potential damage arising from bad choices in those other activities reflect mainly on the individual person, or (as in voting) is spread out widely, whereas a DUI case can put other lived at imminent risk.

Where does smoking fall along that theoretical continuum? It may be a gray area. As Ferguson’s statement notes, the major harm is medical. But we also know that bad medical decisions raises the cost and availability of medical care for us all. (We also know that more people become addicted to nicotine before 21 than after it; lifetime smoking habits usually begin by around age 18.)

At least, that’s one theory. Watch for the flashpoint to open into flame this session.

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Jan 12 2015

First of two, or three?

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STAPILUS
 
Washington

Rob McKenna, the former attorney general who narrowly lost his bid for governor in 2012 to now-incumbent Jay Inslee, has been sending out periodic missives on the foibles of Olympia, taking aim most generally (as you’d expect) at the Democrats, including his former opponent.

His email from last week was something of a cautionary note applicable to both parties, since the parties now split control of the Washington legislature. The key section goes like this:

Insiders in Olympia are already taking bets on how much extra time the Legislature will need to complete its work and pass a budget this year. With a fight over spending and new taxes looming, it’s no surprise that people are bracing for a special session, or two.
But there’s also no reason legislators can’t get the job done on time. Responding to another legislator’s joke about having bought a six-month gym membership in Olympia in expectation of special sessions, Sen. Andy Hill said this week, “If you’re saying today, ‘It’s going to take us two or three special sessions,’ I would argue you’re not negotiating in good faith, because we know what the problem is.”
He’s right. They know the problems they face and they have enough info today to start hammering out a budget compromise. We don’t need any games to see who will blink first. As citizens, we need to make it clear to our legislators that we expect them to get the public’s business done on time.

The view here long has been, and still is, that a few more days of legislative time is small price to pay if the result is better legislation and better budgeting.

If the delay is simply a factor of partisan intransigence, that’s another matter. Both parties might do well to pay attention to McKenna’s note on the subject.

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Dec 21 2014

Ambition in 2015

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

In 2016, Governor Jay Inslee will be up for a re-election that, presumably, he will be pursuing.
In 2015, he will be presenting (well, sort of already last week presented) a budget and legislative package that would have to rank as one of the most ambitious of recent years.

The headlines on four of his press releases from last week all by themselves give some of the flavor: “Inslee proposes sustainable, responsible, fair budget to ‘reinvest in Washington’;” “Inslee announces slate of proposals to curb pollution, transition Washington to cleaner sources of energy”; “Gov. Inslee calls for comprehensive statewide transportation program,” “Inslee proposes boldest new efforts in improving full continuum of education in 2 decades.”

He does this at a time when Republicans have come back into outright control of the state Senate, and Democrats maintain only the thinnest control of the state House. The Republican response to Inslee’s push is about what you might expect: Good luck with that.”

At this point, the probable outcome is that Inslee does push through a small number of relatively uncontroversial measures, but that most of them go no further.

Facing with this kind of situation, most governors (of whichever party) faced with a similar situation might tack toward the cautious and basic. Why simply offer a batch of proposals likely to get shot down, unceremoniously, in the legislature? (And yes, that
mostly does seem to be the likely result.)

The best answer that comes immediately to mind is that Inslee is planning to campaign for re-election in 2016on a package that looks a lot like this year’s budget proposal.

While the proposal package may have trouble at the statehouse, it might not make a bad basis for a campaign message and rationale, as well as forming a platform to running against the legislature as well as whatever Republican opponent solidifies. It may sink rather quickly in the next few months, but there seems to be a good chance it will re-emerge in 2016.

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Dec 14 2014

Health on the civic agenda

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STAPILUS
 
Washington

This is from a December 12 report on the University of Washington Health Sciences NewsBeat, drawing some interesting connections in health policy. It was written by Jeff Hodson.

Reducing obesity among children. Investing in early childhood programs. Devising strategies to reduce gun violence.

These three efforts illustrate how public health has risen to the top of the civic agenda in the Pacific Northwest. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray have all announced initiatives “putting public health at the center of their priorities,” said Howard Frumkin, dean of the University of Washington School of Public Health.

“This couldn’t be a better place as well as a better time to be thinking about public health,” Frumkin said in his October State-of-the-School address. “That creates for our School enormous opportunities to be of service and, in the process, to educate our students while advancing public health locally and across the state.”

Frumkin serves on Inslee’s Council for the Healthiest Next Generation, a public-private coalition that kicked off in September. It aims to identify successful efforts already underway in communities and find ways to expand them statewide. One example is the YMCA’s work to install water-bottle filling stations at schools, a move to reduce the amount of sugary drinks children consume.

Other goals include increasing the number of children who breastfeed for at least six months and reducing the amount of time children spend in front of TV or computer screens. “Gold standard research shows we can bend the curve of childhood obesity if we act early in the course of children’s lives and by making health a focus in the places where children spend the most time,” Inslee said.

At the county level, Constantine is planning to ask taxpayers to fund a new levy in 2015 focused on pregnancy and early childhood, school-aged kids, and their communities. He announced the “Best Starts for Kids” levy during his annual budget address in late September. “What happens in early childhood and adolescence shapes health and well-being throughout one’s life,” he wrote to King County Council Chair Larry Phillips.

Details are yet to be announced, but School of Public Health faculty and students in the new domestic Strategic Analysis and Research Training (START) program are working on the county’s levy efforts. Constantine says early childhood programs show returns ranging from $3 to $17 for every dollar invested. That could reduce later costs for diabetes and other chronic diseases, mental illness, child abuse and neglect, and violence and injuries. Continue Reading »

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Nov 23 2014

A need for a new job metric

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Washington

The unemployment stats in Washington and Oregon are a study in popular confidence as measured against the realistic basis for that confidence.

In Washington, for example, the state unemployment rate rose (in the stats released this week) to 6.0%, even though about 5,600 jobs were added to the job market – and filled.

No one was in error here; you just have to know what the unemployment stats reflect. As an article in this issue notes, Washington “State labor economist Paul Turek said the increase in the unemployment rate is not necessarily bad news because it is directly related to an increase in the state’s labor force, which rose by 12,200 in October.

And he said: “These numbers demonstrate increased confidence by job seekers entering or re-entering the marketplace. Job growth continues to gain momentum—with the state adding roughly 7,000 jobs a month—but for this month, the increase in the number of new job seekers entering into the labor market’s civilian workforce was greater than the number of new jobs added. That explains the increase in the unemployment rate.”

That was even more dramatically true in Oregon, which added even more jobs – 9,900 – than twice-as-big Washington state. Oregon’s was in fact the largest one-month addition of jobs in 20 years. But its unemployment rate stubbornly stayed put at 7.0%, which sounds worse than it is. It did that because workers have been pouring back into the work force (and, probably, a number of workers have been arriving from out of state as well).

For decades, we’ve focused hard on the unemployment rates (and note them here regularly). But have we reached a point where the more logical measure is of the balance between jobs opening up and those closing? Maybe something measuring, over the haul, the growth/retraction in jobs compared with the overall working-age population?

Certainly, we need some better metrics. The old ones just aren’t as useful as they once were.

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Nov 09 2014

Candidates and ballot measure

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STAPILUS
 
Washington

Across the nation, election night 2014 was hailed (or decried, depending on perspective) as a Republican romp, and a few watchers called it a conservative triumph.

The first part was unquestionably true: With few exceptions (such as to Washington’s south in Oregon and California) Republicans did extremely well nationwide, and while their gains in Washington were not enormous in size, they were significant.

Translating that to gains for conservatism is a more problematic matter. Most of the winning Republicans, in Washington and in many other places, did not campaign on down-the-line conservatism. Perhaps clearer however was the matter of the ballot issues.

A string of minimum-wage issues passed, severa in red states, around the country. Oregon and Alaska (and Washington, D.C.) passed legal pot measures mirroring Washington and Colorado from two years ago.

And in Washington . . . Voters turned their backs on the Measure 591, which would “prohibit government agencies from confiscating guns or other firearms from citizens without due process, or from requiring background checks on firearm recipients unless a uniform national standard is required.” It lost decisively.

Instead, the same cadre of voters which boosted Republican totals backed a measure specifically calling for more extensive background checks for gun sales.

The voters also narrowly – and apparently, since a recount may happen – passed a measure restricting school classroom sizes, a measure with little financial backup, so little that even Democratic Governor Jay Inslee said he voted against it.

So on two distinct issues the voters – the same voters helping out Republicans – went to the left of where most Democratic elected officials were willing to go.
Ponder that for a bit as you plot out the opening moves of election cycle 2016.

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Oct 26 2014

They’re not all alike

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STAPILUS
 
Washington

The tragedy of this latest school shooting, Friday morning at the Marysville-Pilchuk school, is as they all have been, a sad and appalling loss of human lives, and especially of human lives with so much potential ahead.

And yet one different kind of lesson seems to come out of this new shooting, and it is this: Don’t lump them all together and imagine that all, together, stand explained.

We’ve had enough school shootings that a standard profile has developed. An outsider kid, a trenchcoat-wrapped loner with few friends at school and a fascination with guns and other weaponry, coupled with a super-heroic (or anti-heroic) complex, roars into the school like a would-be Terminator and opens fire with his automatic (or semi-automatic) weapon on whoever happens to be around, killing and wounding as many as possible. The mass murder is the point; the identity of the victims doesn’t matter.

Little of that explains this case. The student here, according to numerous reports (including those from families of the victims), was Jaylen Fryberg, a freshman football player, voted class “prince,” sometimes a class comic, and popular with both other students and adults. He was pegged by adults as a prospective community leader.

His weapon was not an automatic or even a rifle, but apparently a small handgun. He did not fire randomly, and he did not fire at anyone in authority. Walking into the school cafeteria, he took aim at specific people, people he knew – the two boys he shot were cousins of his – ad his motive may have been very specifically personal – one of the girls shot had apparently angered him for declining to go on a date.
None of this lessens the tragedy or the loss, or the shock in the community.

But there is this: It seems a little closer than some of the other shootings to being at least somehow explicable, a little less random.

And maybe too there’s this: Let’s not assume that all these shootings are all the same. They are all distinctive and consequently none have been entiurely predictable.
Maybe that’s just a little more true in this case.

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Oct 05 2014

Detente

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STAPILUS
 
Washington

Would be interesting to know who was the cool head who came up with the idea of ending the impending war between the University of Washington and Washington State University over medical education, and developing a powerful alliance of the two instead.

Whoever it was, it was a smart move.

UW has a highly-regarded and large-scale medical school operation, featuring both doctor training and medical research, to protect: A unique position in the region they would not want to lose. But there’s also a doctor shortage in the region, and a growing Washington State University (and its board leadership) was seeing no good reason not to step into the gap. The opportunities for conflict between the two institutions were obvious.

But that was a loser’s game; both sides were better positioned to block the other than to advance its own agenda. Just that was most likely going to happen in 2015.

Now, with an agreement signed by the presidents of the two institutions, they can and will go to the legislature with a comprehensive plan to increase medical education in the state, with WSU providing a major component of that. The two institutions will parcel out the pieces of the program, as (for example) UW increases its presence in Spokane with help from WSU. Their efforts may even be less costly this way.
The lobbying clout of the two together may be enough to push their plans through the legislature.

The need is clear. The nation is facing a doctor shortage, and it may be especially serious in areas away from major metros, like eastern Washington and Idaho state (which has no medical school and relies on its agreements with Washington to supply a number of its new physicians).

This agreement may be the first step in the Northwest’s role in meeting that need.

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Sep 29 2014

Rules gone wild

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STAPILUS
 
Oregon

Federal agencies heavily involved in regulation and rule making aggravate enough people in the normal and proper course of their work that the last thing they need is to go out of their way, in an incompetent fashion at that, to aggravate even more.

Meet the U.S. Forest Service, and its rules on photography in wilderness areas.

The Forest Services regulates wilderness areas around the country – many of them in the Northwest – and are supposed to do that with the purpose of wilderness in mind: Preservation of lands in a natural state, where people can visit but not stay and not leave behind traces of their visits. That means no human goods left behind, and no damage done to the areas.

The USFS has managed this job in many ways, some sound and some questionable. But restricting photography – the taking of still or video pictures with the use of hand-held camera equipment – in those areas wouldn’t realistically occur to most people as damaging to the wild character of wilderness.

Last week reports – based mainly in the Northwest but spread rapidly around the country – noted that an obscure forest rule required permits for photography in wilderness areas. Well, some photography. Under some conditions. The gray area here is vast. The weirdly vague rule is up for possible permanent adoption later this year.

An initial Forest Service email described it this way: “All organizations … including private citizens planning to use produced material to raise funds, sell a product, or otherwise realize compensation in any form (including salary during the production) are subject to review.”

Including vacationers, and news reporters, apparently.
After the media explosion, Service Chief Tom Tidwell replied, “To be clear, provisions in the draft directive do not apply to news gathering or activities. . . . Generally, professional and amateur photographers will not need a permit unless they use models, actors or props.”

Except that, in Idaho and Oregon at least, it turns out that news organizations (notably public television stations) have been either stopped from filming in wilderness areas or threatened with penalties if they did.

Salem Statesman Journal reporter Zach Urness, writing this weekend, noted that interpretations of the rule seemed to vary widely among Forest Service officials at various local and national levels. It does seem to open photography in the case of “breaking news,” though the definition attached to that term is also vaporous and open to abuse. Continue Reading »

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Sep 21 2014

East and west

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STAPILUS
 
Washington

The top Washington news story in the early part of last week was the growing (emerging) battle between the University of Washington and Washington State University over WSU’s proposal to establish its own medical school. And it did seem to be settling into a battle.

The idea has an extravagant ring to it but the bigger-picture justification could be there.
UW’s well-regarded school is hemmed in for growth, limited in its expansion options at a time when projections suggest a need for greater numbers of physicians around the Northwest. The niche would be a med school aimed more strictly at training physicians, leaving most of the advanced research (for which UW is well known) at Seattle. The training element need is becoming clearer with time.

Idaho State University leaders have discussed the idea of a med school there, and although that project may be a heavy lift for the smaller institution and state, it reflects real needs and pressures.

The WSU project may have enough force to carry it at least to early stages of development.

Maybe in part because WSU has developed some broad statewide reach – much broader than UW. In addition to its very substantial mother ship campus at Pullman, it has a large operation at the Tri-Cities, and more operations at Spokane, Vancouver and Everett – really, just about all of the corners of the state except for west off the Puget Sound.

The University of Washington, by contrast, has – despite its overall larger size and very large central campus at Seattle – major outposts only at Tacoma and Bothell, just a few miles away. Its reach is more within a metro area, than it is statewide.

That may not seem to have much to do with whether WSU gets a med school, but it could in terms of generating statewide support for the proposition.

Then, link it – coordinate it – closely with the major UW school (which of course no one would want to see diminished), and the whole could become larger than the pieces.

This doesn’t have to be a battle. Shouldn’t be.

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Aug 22 2014

First, there is no ‘death tax’

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Washington

One place to start in the discussion of a Seattle Times editorial about a particular tax is to point out that it doesn’t exist.

That is to say, the “death tax” – of which there isn’t one, at any event. What the paper was referring to, in an August 14 editorial, was the estate tax (which it correctly referred to in other locations). The trigger for the editorial was a story, run a few days earlier, about the last family farm located in Issaquah, and how it is being liquidated for sale to become (apparently) a subdivision.

“Twelve acres of open space farmed by a single family since 1883 will soon become a subdivision,” the paper said. “The McBride case ought to show us conventional thinking is wrong — the death tax really isn’t a whack on the wealthy.”

A pile of comments on the editorial argued that it was at best misleading. The comprehensive came comes from the blogger David Goldstein, who ran off a string of facts that effectively wiped out the editorial’s reasoning.

He pointed out that “Working family farms are entirely exempt from the Washington’s estate tax, while 99.4% of family farms pay no federal estate tax at all; the number of family farms liquidated to pay the federal estate tax is estimated near zero.” The estate at Issaquah is too small to qualify for estate taxation (the federal estate tax kicks in at $5.25 million, and the property was sold for $4.5 million), and its owner hasn’t even died yet. And, noted, Washington state’s estate tax law, which the paper described as “especially punitive,” actually “exempts the value of working farms entirely. All of it.”

The McBride family did, however, say taxes were an important reason they sold. But according to the Issaquah Press, the taxes that were becoming hard to bear were not estate but rather property taxes.
Goldstein: “So lacking an actual example of a family farm or small business being liquidated to pay off the estate tax, the Seattle Times had to cook one up.”

There hasn’t been a substantive response yet from the Times. Or even a bit of embarrassment over using the misleading “death tax” terminology. If we see one, we’ll include it in this space.

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Aug 17 2014

Armoring up the Northwest

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Washington

The national news stories about Ferguson, Missouri, the heavy-duty local arms brought to bear by local law enforcement and the general militarization of law enforcement raised the question: Here in the Northwest, too?

You bet.

In our small home town of 2,000 people, this isn’t much an issue: The mode here is community policing, and it’s worked just fine over the years; our town isn’t much militarized. Our county (Yamhill, in Oregon) is among the small minority which hasn’t received military surplus gear, which is where a great deal of the arms come from.

The New York Times has mapped, by county, the recipients of such surplus gear from coast to coast, since 2006. Bearing in mind the eight-year time frame, the number do tend to look a little more modest then they first seem, so that should be borne in mind.) The overwhelming majority of counties have participated. In Washington state, all but three of the 39 counties have participated; in Oregon, all but 10 of the 36 counties do; and in Idaho, all but nine of the 44 do.

(The counties not opting in are – Washington: Ferry, Columbia and Garfield; Oregon: Yamhill, Benton, Linn, Curry, Jacons, Lake, Harney, Crook, Jefferson, Wasco; Idaho: Adams, Payette, Elmore, Boise, Camas, Cassia, Custer, Butte, Teton).

What do they get? Assault rifles – defined here as including 5.56-mm and 7.62-mm rifles, were sent to nearly all Northwest counties that received any surplus goods at all.

You might expect the most expansive armory would be the region’ by-far largest county, King, and it is: 201 night-vision pieces, 120 assault rifles, 105 body armor pieces – plus two helicopters and one mine-resistent vehicle. (One other Northwest county, Snohomish, also snagged a helicopter.)

Do they really have many road mines to worry about in King County? You might ask small, rural Lincoln County, Washington, the same thing: It also has such a vehicle. So do a number of other counties, including Snohomish, Pierce, Whatco, Yakima, Lewis, and Chelan in Washington, Clackamas, Polk and Baker in Oregon, and Canyon, Kootenai and Franklin in Idaho.

Multnomah County, home of make-love-not-war Portland, picked up 88 assault rifles (though nothing else). Lane County (Eugene) grabbed 490 night vision pieces (what’s going on there at night?), plus 76 assault rifles, 36 body armor pieces and two armored vehicles.

Even many of the smallest, most lightly populated counties, with only a few law enforcement personnel, picked up some good. Little Clark County, Idaho, with fewer than 1,000 people and light law enforcement (not a lot usually is needed there), got three assault rifles. Up on the Canadian border, Boundary County got not only five assault rifles and one body armor piece but – and you really have to wonder about this – 203 night-vision pieces.

You also have to wonder about the counties that picked up on military grenade launchers. In Oregon, Deschutes and Klamath obtained them, and so did Bannock and Blaine in Idaho.

Several questions emerge from all of this. One is, what is the cost of maintaining and securing all this? Another is, how much of it is really needed? Another: What’s the temptation to use all this fancy (and in some cases deadly) equipment that’s just, you know, lying around?

And: Is the Northwest really dangerous enough that most of it could be described as a militarized zone?

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Aug 06 2014

The general difference, maybe

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Washington

The primary – which it still sort of is, despite its top-two functionality – in Washington often is regarded as a massive straw poll, a clear indicator of where things are headed in the November general election.

Often it provides good markers, especially when the results are strongly decisive. The incumbent members of Congress, for example, all came away with big leads in the primary. (That includes Suzan DelBene in the 1st, who many observers insisted was facing a close general election. If she is, it would mark a huge reversal from the primary.)

Closer primary results are another matter. Two of them jump out for interest come November.

One is in the 4th congressional district, where veteran incumbent Republican Doc Hastings is retiring. The issue isn’t which party will control the seat; in the strongly Republican 4th, that seems a given. But a large number of Republicans were competing for the seat, and the outcome was unclear.

This week, the field was led by Clint Didier, a former pro football player now aligned with Tea Party and NRA interests, who has run for office twice before unsuccessfully, and Dan Newhouse, a former state legislator from the area who could be considered a more centrist conservative, who led the state’s Department of Agriculture in former Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire’s administration.

The contrast between the two is almost as clear as if their party labels were different. Didier will draw from the Tea Party and cultural right (his loud support for keeping the Redskins football team name helped ensure that), and Newhouse will draw from the left, probably including most Democratic voters. Didier led in the crowded field, but Newhouse seems to have most of the early money for the general, because he has the opportunity to grab backing from more blocks of voters.

It will be a clear-cut contest. Much more clear cut than the primary was.

So, likely, will be the contest in legislative district 35, where long-time Senator Tim Sheldon appears to have come in second place.

Sheldon is in a key spot in the Washington Senate. Nominally a Democrat, he often has sided with Senate Republicans and at the beginning of this current term joined with fellow nominal Democrat Rodney Tom, and the chamber’s Republicans, to form a majority coalition dominated by Republicans, which among other things blocked large parts of new Governor Jay Inslee’s agenda (and the Democratic House’s). The contest for who will control the Senate in the next term remains closely fought. Continue Reading »

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WASHINGTON-OREGON-IDAHO Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.

 

 
RIDENBAUGH BOOKS
 


 
This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
 
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
Idaho
 
 
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.

 

Hardy

 
"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
 
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.

 

Drafted
 
Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.
See the THROUGH THE WATERS page.


 
Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.
The CONVERSATIONS WITH ATIYEH page.

Atiyeh
 
"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.


 
Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

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.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

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.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

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.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
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.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.