Archive for the 'Weatherby' Category

Sep 14 2013

‘This Town’, for a laugh and cry

Published by under Weatherby

weatherby JAMES
WEATHERBY
 

“This Town,” is both a funny and sad portrayal of Washington, DC’s elite. Author Mark Leibovich is the New York Times Magazine chief national correspondent. In his view, our nation’s capital is a town with a lot of back stabbers and self-serving parasites who are doing extremely well financially and not at all disturbed that the rest of the country is not.

“This Town,” hilarious reading at times, is combined with a searing critique. Snarky remarks are sprinkled throughout, made at the expense of well-placed DC celebrities.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is described as having “all the magnetism of a dried snail.” When interviewing Reid, the author imagined that Reid had “a little self-editing gerbil inside his skull hurling itself in the unimpeded pathway that typically connects his brain directly to his mouth.” But, believe it or not, the Reid profile is relatively positive; he’s weird but efficient, more authentic than most.

We, from far outside the beltway, regard DC as a highly polarized city, divided into fiercely warring partisan camps. But Leibovich writes of a much different version – one of bipartisanship and teamwork – but that’s not a good thing. The goal of these political elites is primarily to make money, lots of it. These powerful insiders are politicians, lobbyists, consultants, Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals.

Leibovich concludes that “far from being hopelessly divided, in fact they are hopelessly interconnected.”

The explosion of money over the last twenty years or so in and around the federal government has sparked a virtual gold rush: increased spending in governing, campaigning, and lobbying. The capitalists among us would say that’s okay; nothing wrong with making money, unless we consider that much of the money in their pockets are our federal tax dollars. No wonder that Washington DC is America’s wealthiest town.

There’s plenty of fodder in this book for those who reflexively hate and distrust DC.

Solving our nation’s problems is becoming less and less a priority. According to Leibovich, “the business of Washington relies on things not getting done” – so much for all of the optimistic talk about both immigration reform and tax reform. Why leave millions of dollars on the table by solving problems today that could fester for many more years of debate and conflict producing even bigger lobbying and consulting payouts. And, when problems are eventually “solved,” the solution often comes in the form of huge, complex legislation loaded up with all kinds of loopholes quietly inserted by lobbyists, the kind of legislation elected officials probably don’t even read. These supposedly minor tweaks to the legislation mean hundreds of millions to the interests who pay the lobbyists and “rent” the elected officials. Continue Reading »

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Aug 05 2013

Really strange bedfellows

Published by under Weatherby

weatherby JAMES
WEATHERBY
 

Pity the state’s poor majority party fighting to keep its nominating process free from intruders: independents and unfriendly partisans. Never mind that this highly successful party has dominated state politics for decades and that its opposition struggles to field credible candidates willing to run. Despite their seemingly powerful positions, party leaders often have limited say over who will be their general election candidates, that’s left to the primary election voters who may or may not be well intentioned.

In an open primary system, voters choose a party ballot without having to register a party affiliation. There is much speculation concerning the motivations of crossover primary voters (independents and members of another party). Some seek to nominate the weakest candidate, easy prey for their preferred general election candidate. Others vote for a candidate who is more compatible with their more centrist views. Either choice cancels out the vote of many of the hard-line party faithful.

Though it took a lawsuit in federal court against the state’s chief election official to overrule legislation passed by a Republican legislature, GOP party activists won the day and successfully closed the Republican primary reversing the open system in place since the 1970s. Forcing Republican stalwarts to affiliate with primary voters who refuse to affiliate with them is a violation of the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of association or, more relevantly, freedom of non-association according to U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s 2011 ruling. So why rehash the battle already won by Rod Beck and other Idaho GOP activists? Well, I’m not only writing about Beck and his allies but also about his like-minded strange bedfellows: liberal Hawaii Democrats.

Just as the GOP activists in Idaho want bad intentioned Democrats and freethinking independents out of “their” nominating process, so do Democratic Party leaders in Hawaii, complaining about the rascal Republicans and fickle independents. Mirroring Idaho Republicans, Hawaii Democrats recently filed suit in US District Court to keep the crossover undesirables from voting in their primary. And again as in Idaho, many elected officials, Democrats in this case, opposed the lawsuit. According to Governor Neil Abercrombie (D), “the Democrats have been inclusive, drawing strength from bringing together a diversity of people and perspectives.” But those in support of the lawsuit thought a closed primary would “ensure Democrats are elected at the primary stage by their fellow Democrats” and that the potential for crossover voting in the open primary weakened the party and made it more difficult for its views to be seriously considered. Sound familiar? Different set of actors, same dialogue, and same play!

In Idaho there’s fear that the radical right, empowered by a closed primary, will overreach and in Hawaii there are similar fears of the excesses of the radical left.

Closed primaries in states with a one-party system typically produce more extreme candidates – and it appears that’s the goal of hard core activists in both Idaho and Hawaii. Continue Reading »

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May 20 2013

A sales tax update

Published by under Weatherby

weatherby JAMES
WEATHERBY
 

Idaho is one of only two states that taxes Girl Scout cookies. How could a heartless legislature turn its back on a tax relief request from this very worthy organization? And how could they deny a tax exemption on goods purchased by homeless shelters?

In 1988, the Governor’s Tax Study Committee expressed its concern about the growth of exemptions whether they were serving a public interest or just providing “favors to various special interest groups”. In 2003, that “concern” was again addressed by a legislative task force that scrutinized exemptions. Despite the optimism expressed in several editorials around the state, substantive action did not follow. Though there seemed to be significant support for reform, there was little appetite for taking on entrenched interests who benefited from the tax breaks.

Fast forward to 2013. Both sales tax exemption bills were strongly endorsed in the House committee and easily passed on the House floor. Even with opposition from some members of Senate leadership, it was widely believed that at least the Girl Scout cookies bill would pass on the floor of the Senate and become law. But both bills died without even a Senate hearing.

In a few months we’ll have another legislative session and no doubt the Girl Scouts will be back. Will the cookie crumble in the Senate – in an election year? Maybe. But how long can some Senate leaders assert their opposition to what seems to be reasonable bills? Virtually every legislative session in modern memory has considered one or more bills granting sales tax exemptions, so how can lawmakers deny exemptions to the Girl Scouts and to homeless shelters when the law is riddled with tax breaks to possibly less worthy organizations but ones who have far more political muscle? They may be coming late to the party, but the senators position is that until the sales tax is reformed or a well developed criteria for exemptions is established, more exemptions should not be granted.

Enacted in the 1960s, the sales tax is outdated. It was designed for a manufacturing based economy, not the service based economy we have today. Extending the sales tax to services has been a much debated policy option for about 30 years, but to enact an extension to services would involve a tax increase for many current tax-break beneficiaries. Tax reform bills are often supported in concept but shredded beyond recognition in the messy process of lawmaking. Continue Reading »

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Apr 01 2013

The new bloc

Published by under Weatherby

weatherby JAMES
WEATHERBY
 

Introducing here James Weatherby, whose column will begin appearing here periodically. Weatherby is a political analyst, emeritus professor and former lobbyist who lives in Boise. He is a former professor at Boise State University and a former executive director of the Association of Idaho Cities.

Going into this year’s Idaho legislative session there was a lot of talk about the first-year class and speculation about its potential impact. The biggest bloc of newcomers are Republican House members who represent over 40% of the GOP House caucus.

This huge class is largely due to redistricting, retirements, and the migration to the Senate of several of last year’s House members.

Speaker Scott Bedke has had many kind words to say about these new House members – understandable to some degree because they no doubt helped provide the margin of victory for his historic election as Speaker. But he should be impressed, regardless. They have interesting, diverse backgrounds and many have local government leadership experience. Eventually dubbed by the media as the “gang of 16,” this group is from across the state. Every region is represented: 3 (northern), 4 (southwestern), 3 (southcentral), and 6 (southeastern).

Their coming together was one of the more interesting stories in recent Idaho legislative politics. As a group force, unlike some of their earlier predecessors, these rookies have not been bashful. Their most notable action was their support of a “trailer bill” to strengthen legislative oversight of a proposed state health insurance exchange. If the oversight language were added, these freshmen would support the exchange. From all appearances their 16 (later only 14) votes turned out to be crucial to the final passage of the exchange legislation. Fourteen votes represented a big share of the 36 votes needed to pass this highly controversial House bill.

The defection of the two original “gang” members who ultimately voted no denied Speaker Scott Bedke a majority of his own caucus in support of the biggest bill of this legislative session. The GOP House caucus split 28-29 on the measure. Democratic votes were necessary to pass the bill – a rather rare occurrence.

The close vote illustrates a significantly divided caucus which comes as no real surprise. The 2 final defections also are indicative of the intense pressure applied to all members and maybe more specifically to the freshmen who were barely settled into their new positions before they were required to vote on what may be the defining vote of their legislative careers.

The emergence of this coalition is a reminder of the rather large freshman and sophomore classes in the 1980s primarily created by a major change in legislative redistricting. Fourteen House seats were added by a judicially imposed redistricting plan which enlarged the House from 70 members to 84.

Freshmen Representatives Jerry Deckard (R-Eagle) and Dean Haagenson (R-Coeur d’Alene) were the leaders of what became known as the “Steelhead Caucus” named for fish who swim upstream. These moderates were in very conservative waters in their own caucus.

During the 1980s and 1990s the “Steelheads” had several major policy victories (increased funding for education, for example) as well as helping to elect a centrist (or less conservative) Speaker: Tom Boyd sharply differed in leadership style and, to a degree, ideological orientation from the former Speaker Tom Stivers. One cannot understand the legislative politics of that era without taking into account the significant contributions of this informal caucus. Continue Reading »

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Two bulls fire near Bend, and defensible space.

 

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.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here