rainey

Though our lives are different in many ways, we all share experiences of growing up with – and becoming reliant upon – certain communal foundations. Call them institutions. Always there – always relied upon – constants as we aged.

My institutional list includes family, schools, media, government, religion, the bank downtown – things denoting permanence used as points of reference as I grew up. Constant and familiar. We relied on those constants and familiarities as our worlds expanded. They just – were. Maybe, for you, those characteristics of permanence continue. They don’t for me.

Take schools. Education. Teachers taught. Proof of learning was required before moving up a grade. Without it, you went nowhere. For kids, fear of failure was often a real motivating pressure to keep up with everyone else.

Is that true today? Do teachers “teach” or do many “teach” to the next test? Are they free to teach or hamstrung by “educational standards” laid on by mandates from outside? Are kids moving through public schools by merit or just being shuttled up a year – deserved or not? Is education – the process and assurance of children gaining knowledge and new skills – the constant you remember?

Banking. Most banks were local. They did business with a personal relationship between lender and borrower. A call or a handshake usually got the deal done. Banks were stable. Employees were part of the community. Trust, service and solvency were inseparable. And taken for granted.

Are those institutional memories accurate today in your relationship with banks and other financial institutions? Solvency? Stability? Security? Service? Trust? With few exceptions, banks and other financial companies have become remote, lacking in personal service, fee-burdened to meet expectations of boards of directors and shareholders. Some seem to operate with impunity from laws and regulations. We’ve attached the false label “too big to fail” and, while allowing outright criminal activities to go unpunished, have granted them status – above the law – that was never intended. Firm foundations? Trust?

Media – the most important parts of it – was local. Print media and, eventually, broadcast started where they lived, conveyed a permanence to readers or listeners – a usually reliable source for what was going on – which continued for a long, long time. Until deregulation. Until, dominated by huge amounts of money, newspapers and broadcast operations were relegated to a status of just so many pieces on a national chess board. Often sensationalized. Too often unreliable.

Much of today’s media output is suspect for truth and accuracy. Some sources have become tools of ideologues. Monopolies have been created to deliver profits rather than to publish or broadcast reliable and comprehensive information. News has become “what sells” rather than “what is.” More people are suspicious of media bias or deliberate disinformation than ever before. Sensationalism – formerly found in grocery store magazine racks – now blares at us from oversized TV screens – being passed off as “news.” Is it the community “foundation of trusted information” you remember? Or has it failed, too?

Government. Ah, yes, government. We’re a nation built on unchanging documents guaranteeing permanence and sound institutions – a stable base upon which to grow and prosper. For all of us. Not just the few. We learned the Bill of Rights and Constitution were the bedrock of our Republic. Today, we still hold the authors of those documents to some sort of higher – often mythical – standards than those we choose to live our own lives by. Good fiction.

But is government still the foundation? Is it still responsive to the governed? Does it protect the weak – defend the defenseless – assure all are treated equally? Is it representative of who we are as a nation? Is it still reliable? Is it fair? Is it trusted? Does it “provide for the common good” as designed?

The reason for posing this – for asking questions – is a current feeling abroad in this country of helplessness when, as individuals, we interact with our institutions. Rather than being served, we often feel we’ve been tolerated at best – ignored at worst. It’s been years – many congresses and many presidents ago – since I felt “served” by a bank – had trust in media. Decades have passed since feeling my kids and grandkids were “well-served” by our educational system – that our civic and structural needs were being met by government.

We live in a world with the best communications tools in history. But we’re more poorly informed, more removed from national relationships, more cutoff as individuals, less valued as customers/clients of businesses we rely on which – during the same period – have grown large, impersonal and distant.

Civic, fraternal and even some religious communities have disappeared to be replaced by impersonal and often changing electronic “communities.” Those that are left seem to be diminished in both membership and relevance.

Political, civic and economic foundations are not as close to us nor as responsive to our needs as they once were. Basic national infrastructure of roads, bridges, transportation, water and electrical systems is in rotten shape – being ignored by a government whose prime responsibility it is to maintain and improve all of them.

We have a national malaise. Distrust, anger and violence are directed at authority. Usually governmental authority. Our basic institutions have been under sustained attack for so long a new generation is growing up with those traits ingrained in their lives as natural emotions.

We’re a wandering nation starting – and losing – wars for no purpose. We’re ignoring basic human needs and problems important to our sense of national purpose. Our national political system has become an employment source for too often unqualified participants. Our leadership in world affairs has been undermined by poor decision-making and failure to focus – and fund – those things that have made us great.

It just doesn’t feel like home anymore.

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Rainey

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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First Take

jorgensen

From a May 16 delivered to a youth group at Eugene.

Conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience. That was certainly the case when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s.

However, I’m no longer convinced that this is true.

My particular perspective was shaped by the many years I spent as a small-town newspaper reporter in places like Rogue River, Cave Junction and Estacada. In that role, I covered a half-dozen different city councils. The vast majority of the city councilors I encountered were dedicated, sincere, and served because they loved their communities.

It wasn’t always that way, though. And by the time I reached my 30s, I could say that I had spent a great portion of my adult life watching people twice my age behave like people half my age.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience, and those guys certainly fit that description.

Well, a couple of my friends decided to challenge that conventional wisdom back in 2010.

We knew that our state representative was planning to run for a statewide office, leaving his seat open. There was also an incumbent county commissioner who was up for re-election and vulnerable because he was out of step with his constituency.

We all got together one night at my place for dinner and made a plan. Shortly thereafter, one filed for state representative and the other filed for county commissioner.
My friend who filed for state representative drew no Republican opposition for the primary election, and no Democrat filed, either.

My other friend had a race on his hands, as the incumbent wouldn’t go down without a fight. The results were the same on election night, with both of them being swept into office by a constituency that was twice their age.

A peaceful transition of power had taken place. Members of the older generation passed the torch of leadership down to them, as both of my friends had the support of some of their predecessors and other pillars of the community.
Once they got into office, the real work began.

The rural communities that they represent have been unnecessarily impoverished by federal mismanagement of lands and other resources, along with decades of no-growth policies at the state level. Theirs are among the local governments throughout the state that are struggling to fund basic services like law enforcement.

My friend has served with no fewer than six other commissioners in the four years he’s been in office. One got recalled. Another resigned mid-term. Others were voted out.

He’s also had to oversee the replacement of many department heads during that time.

Six months after he took office, I asked him if the experience was any different than he thought it would be. He told me that the county was in much worse shape than most people realized.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience.

A lot of what I’ve seen over the years confirms what I’ve suspected for most of my life.

Believe it or not, I was kind of a wiseass as a kid. It sometimes seemed to me that the grown-ups didn’t always know what they were doing and were maybe even making things up as they went along.

As soon as I started paying attention to the news, I remember seeing religious figures embroiled in scandals for the very behaviors they so often condemned.

The baseball heroes that kids my age looked up to back then were guys like Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire, the famed Bash Brothers who took the Oakland A’s to the World Series.
It turned out that these guys weren’t heroes at all. In fact, they were cheaters who used steroids.

Throughout my childhood, into my teenage years and throughout my twenties and half of my thirties now, I’ve also seen my fair share of political scandals. I got a really good up-close look the historic final days of John Kitzhaber’s administration, and it was every bit the train wreck you think it was.

Then there was the complete collapse of our entire economy back in 2008. I think it became clear to a lot of younger people, right there and then, that the grown-ups had made a real mess and someone had to clean it up.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience.

That conventional wisdom only made sense if you knew time was on your side, if you had decades to wait for someone else to step in and solve these problems.

But you don’t, and I think you know this.

Our nation is now $18 trillion in debt. The people who are responsible for that debt have already retired or are hoping to do so soon. Who gets to pay the bill for that? I’ll give you a hint—it isn’t them!

I don’t have to tell you that your future has been mortgaged, but I’m going to anyway, because I think it’s important for you to remember.

Because, after all, conventional wisdom has always been that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience.

Right?

Nonsense!

I’ve learned over the years that leadership does not exist in a vacuum. If there is no leadership, then someone, somewhere, has to step up to the plate.

Ours cannot be a generation without heroes. And if there are no heroes, then maybe it’s time for YOU to be the hero.
The theme of this event is “Passing the Torch.” You’ve spent all day in classes learning how to become effectively involved in the political process.

So here’s my challenge to you: I want you to take everything you’ve learned at this conference and take it back to your communities. If you aren’t ready to run yet, maybe you will be in two years. Maybe it will be four. But in the meantime, maybe there’s someone who is ready who could use your help. You should go help them.

Whenever possible, it’s probably preferable to have the torch passed down. But if the people who hold the torch are doing a bad job, and you think you can do it better, and they won’t give it up, then you need to take the torch! The future quite literally depends on it.

That is my challenge to you. Because the conventional wisdom that you shouldn’t run for office until you’re older, wiser, and have more life experience hasn’t served us well, and probably never will. It’s time to get out there and become involved, because time is not on your side if you’re going to wait for someone else to be the hero and save the day.

But if you’re willing to be the hero, then we might just stand a chance after all.

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Jorgensen

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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First Take

stapiluslogo1

Now that the presidential contest has begun to fill out, some of the probabilities for Idaho’s role are filling in, though one big element remains a vast mystery.

Least mysterious is the end result next year: No matter who the Republican or Democratic party nominate for president, Idaho’s four electoral votes are a near slam dunk to go to the Republican. That much is about as certain as anything can be in Idaho politics.

The next highest probability is that Idaho’s Democrats will wind up supporting Hillary Clinton for their party’s nomination. That shouldn’t necessarily seem like a given if you recall what happened in 2008: A weak Clinton organization in Idaho was swamped by a thoroughly-organized Barack Obama crew which drew huge numbers to party caucuses and around 14,000 people to hear their candidate campaign at Boise.

One of Clinton’s big mistakes in 2008 was bypassing the smaller, and mostly Republican, states along the way to the nomination. These states contribute delegates too, and states like Idaho allowed Obama to rack up delegate totals ahead of Clinton’s, allowing him to win the nomination nationally not by knockout but by steady accretion. Several news reports indicate the Clinton campaign has learned from that experience and will not be ignoring the Idahos around the country. Clinton forces already are on the ground, and you can expect her to have most of the Idaho organization – all she needs to secure Idaho’s delegates, at least – locked down and in place by Labor Day. By the time any other contenders (Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley, for example) arrive, they may find not many resources left for them.

So much for the readily foreseeable. Now the harder question: Who will Idaho Republicans like for president?

In most past years, the answer was easy. Idaho Republicans absolutely loved Ronald Reagan, and in the last two contests their clear preference was for Mitt Romney. A laundry list of reasons for those preferences was obvious then and now. While the Republican nominee, whoever it is, will almost certainly get the state’s support in November, it’s less clear who they will prefer within this large and still-growing Republican field.

Last week, the Idaho Politics Weekly poll asked this question (it was unclear whether Republicans only were polled), and no one topped 13%. That percentage was held by the two prospects with family ties to previous Republican presidential candidates who did well in Idaho: Jeb Bush, brother of George W. and son of George H.W., and Rand Paul, son of Ron, who picked up a lot of northern Idaho support in 2012 and 2008. Scott Walker, nationally the hot Republican flavor this month, was third with eight percent, and others including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Cristie and Ben Carson were well below that. Note too that the Bush and Paul early advantage doubtless comes in part because of the historical connections; they have yet to solidify such limited Idaho backing as they have on their own.

Where will Idaho’s preferences go? My guess at the moment would center on Rand Paul, partly because of the affection in many quarters for his father, and partly because there’s a certain type of rebellious streak in him that evokes the sense of an anti-establishment candidate like those who often appeal to Idaho Republican voters. But that sort of aura is fragile, and it could fade in the months to come. A second possibility, if he catches on enough nationally, might be Mike Huckabee. Marco Rubio will get to make a pitch when he speaks to a state Republican event this summer.

But really, Idaho’s Republican voters may be very much up for grabs.

Republican candidates did not ignore Idaho voters, in the fight for the nomination, in 2012; most of the major contenders campaigned in the Gem State. Don’t be surprised if that happens again.

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Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

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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First Take

A statement from Chuck Sheketoff, executive director of the Oregon Center for Public Policy.

Corporations have gamed our tax system and it is costing the rest of us billions.

The Center’s analysis of today’s state revenue forecast shows that if the legislature stopped the corporate gaming of our tax system and made corporations pay the same share of income taxes that they paid in the 1970s, we would have about $2.5 billion in additional revenue in the upcoming budget period to help the poor and middle class get ahead.

There would be enough money to pay for the costly mistakes by the 2013 “grand bargain” special session — the illegal PERS changes and the special tax treatment for wealthy business owners.

There would also be enough money to cover the loss of revenue due to the spendthrift kicker, a $473 million tax cut that primarily benefits the rich.

Today’s revenue forecast underscores the need to end corporate tax gaming that’s projected to about $2.5 billion in the next budget period.

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Reading

legislation-icon

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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First Take

harrislogo

In modern architecture its said the shape of a building should be based on its purpose. If a core purpose or function of Democracy is to allow all voters meaningful participation in elections, then the current form doesn’t follow function very well.

While the top two primary (Measure 90) failed in November by a wide margin, even many of its opponents said that there was some merit in trying to increase voter participation in primary elections. They also conceded there was some unfairness in taxpayers picking up the tab for the private party nominations for only the Democrats and Republicans. And let’s keep in mind there is nothing in the US or Oregon constitution that mandates our current political party paradigm. Nothing about political parties, or a two party system, or primary elections. It’s all a result of political decisions that can be altered given new facts and realities.

In an October 2014 City Club of Eugene Measure 90 debate Democratic Rep. Phil Barnhart claimed that “Rep. Val Hoyle has a bill on her desk right now that she’s working on to open up the primary process” That bill was apparently HB 3500 which was referred to in Salem as “Rep. Hoyle’s open primary bill”.

The bill was filed March 19th, 2015, and never gained traction. That’s largely because HB 3500 was anything but an “open primary” or any version of election reform. HB 3500 actually would have closed the Oregon primary even more.

As we go forward the question will be:

How committed are the Democrats to election reform?

If you look at recent history, the answer is: Not very. HB 3500 had a hearing but got little support. Largely we hope because it was exposed here on Oregon Outpost as not any type of open primary, but simply a same day registration bill for mail in ballots and a way to get NAV leaners to register as Democrats or Republicans. So when the bill lost support it was decided to set up a study group to consider election reform laws for the next session. A study group generally means, we don’t want reforms. But a study group it is.

The elephant in the room for Democrats is this. Democrats are very proud of their positions on democracy reform. Nationally, they oppose voter ID laws and celebrated the passage of Motor Voter and the expansion of voter rolls. All pro democracy – pro reform ideologically. But, like the Republican Party, are also protective of their prerogatives as a major party. Taxpayer funded nominations. First past the post voting to assure two party control. Closed primaries so their base determines their nominees. Add to that the Democratic and Republican Parties are shedding members like an Akita during a Florida summer, so making it even easier to participate in our Demoracy as a non D or R isn’t really in their best interest. Forcing voters to choose between being a Democrat or Republican is.

Add to that mix two other factors. Gerrymandering and Motor Voter and it becomes even more difficult for Democrats to reconcile their open democracy and full participation philosophy with their desire to maintain political power and control.

What The Democratic (and Republicans) have constructed in legal form through election laws is this. 85% safe Districts. Fewer D and R voters both in real numbers and as a percentage of total voters. A Huge number of new voters because of Motor Voter (Going from about 2.1 million to 2.9 million voters) most of whom will likely be Non affiliated voters, since they won’t be opting for party affiliation at DMV by filling out a registration card as is now required.

Look at where this leads.

The current voter registration is approximately:

Democratic 38%
Republican 30%
Non Affiliated 24.5%
IPO 5%
Other 2.5%

So today the D’s and R’s can at least say that currently almost 70% of all Oregon voters can participate in our primary elections.

But what happens with Motor Voter? Even now half of all new registered voters opt to be non affiliated. For those new passively registered Motor Voters who are initially registered NAV I think it’s fairly safe to say that 80% won’t opt to join any party. And, since the Democratic and Republican Parties are already seeing their market shares decrease (See analysis for who is leaving the D’s and R’s) those two parties will realize significant drops in market shares in total voters even without Motor Voter.

Generously assuming that 20% of the Motor Voters join a party, and they join in the current pro rata shares that exist now, in two years, you can expect the market shares to be something like this:

Democratic 31.5%%
Republican 24.5%
IPO 4%
NAV 38.5%

That would mean that absent election reforms, almost half of Oregon Voters won’t be able to participate in the primary election unless changes are made.

So here’s the political and philosophical dilemma for Democrats – who have the power to write and rewrite the election rules – face.

Do they keep the election rules as they are – which will further empower their party voters but assures that there will be even fewer contested elections and fewer Oregonians eligible to participate in our elections? Or do they follow their political philosophy of empowering voters and expanding our Democracy by reforming our election process. Even if doing so diminishes the power of their political base a sliver?

We’ll soon see. Because the makeup of the study group will tell us all we need to know. And recent history is not on the side of true reform. Word from a reliable source is that when HB 3500 was being drafted and shared with stakeholders, Democratic Leadership’s staff let it be known that the core purpose of HB 3500 was to figure a way to get NAV leaners and new Motor Voters to register as Democrats. Not to empower NAV’s. So just watch the membership of the Study committee. Will it be the most partisan Democrats and Republicans? Or will it include at least one member of Oregon’s third major Party, and a minor party representative, perhaps a well known academic, and maybe even some NAV voters?

We should hope for the best. There are plenty of smart, fair and honest people of all political affiliations who could be appointed to this study committee and who would propose options that widen participation, protect the prerogatives of the parties and further our mutual desire for better more cooperative and more consensus governance.

Or, It could be that depending on who is appointed, the best we can hope is that they don’t come up with yet another proposal that appears to be reform, but just more firmly empowers the Democratic and Republican parties at the expense of all Oregon voters.

If form really does follow function, then the results from the study committee will inform us as to what the Democrats truly believe the function of elections is. To elect Democrats? Or to assure a well functioning Democracy.

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Harris

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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First Take

carlson

The end game on the future of the Boulder-White Clouds and additional wilderness protection is starting. Cross your fingers that the right changes can occur, and though he owes Idaho absolutely nothing, President Barack Obama will declare as a new national monument an area almost double the size of the carefully negotiated bill engineered over ten years by Rep. Mike Simpson.

It will serve right folks like ATV’er lobbyist Sandra Mitchell and the double-crossing Senator Jim Risch to have all their shenanigans, delays and obstructionism result in something from their view point twice as bad as before.

Governor Andrus has an old saying: “Pigs get fat but hogs get slaughtered:.” That fits Mitchell, Risch and the narrow interests they represent to a tee Not satisified with all the concessions Congressman Simpson and the Idaho Conservation League were willing to give to get a carefully negotiated bill, a couple years back, they blew it up and walked away.

Now they are supposedly back at the table with a bill supposedly written by Senator Risch’s staff (Would you like to wager whether a working draft as a “courtesy” was provided by Ms. Mitchell?) and Senator Risch will hold a hearing on May 21st. The House will follow with a hearing in June. Reportedly, Rep. Simpson received a six month commitment from the White House not to invoke the Antiquities Act and see if he can get a revised form of his old bill (With less acreage protected) through the House.

Some would like to believe this is Idaho’s last best chance to get Congress to act responsibly. Others are hoping for the National Monument designation, believing, as it did in Alaska, it will result in the delegation making reasonable compromises to undo the more restrictive monument designation. Still a third group would be perfectly satisfied with just leaving the Monument designation in place.

I suspect this is the issue that Senator Risch will drill down on when ICL Executive Director Rick Johnson appears before Risch’s committee on the 21st. All things being equal, would Johnson and the ICL prefer the Monument designation be imposed on their fellow Idahoans or would they take less for a more democratic bill? Rest assured Risch will try to put Johnson on the spot, for truth be told this is just a “show” hearing. I doubt very much that Risch wants any bill that would add one more acre to Idaho’s wilderness.

For Risch its just a game of “gotcha.” He firmly believes a majority of Idahoans feel there already is enough wilderness in the state and like things just as they are. He also knows that by holding his hearing in D.C. only the well-to-do will be able to pay for the travel and take the time to come testify. He’s not about to hold a hearing in the home state areas near the Boulder-White Clouds because he is well aware that former Interior Secretary Andrus promised current Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that if she wanted him to turn out a crowd at an in-state hearing he’d have 500 people there if she gave him a week’s notice.

Both ICL’s Johnson and Andrus appear to have concluded that despite the incredible effort put in by Simpson and staff, and they do genuinely admire their effort, there will never be an acceptable bill that comes out of the Senate or out of a joint conference committee.

So 50 Andrus cohorts, as well as a slew of the late Senator Frank Church’s cohorts have written the President asking him to invoke his powers under the Antiquities Act. In a perfect political world one would not write such letters unless there was some reasonable assurance of a positive response. This is not the case, though. The White House has not given either Johnson or Andrus any assurances to the best of anyone’s knowledge.

That is unsettling to say the least but should not surprise. Why should the President do anything for Idaho?

Consider also the lack of any state-wide public clamor. Neither letter or press release on the former Andrus and Church staffers writing the president was deemed news worthy enough to be put on the Associated Press’ wire.

I can guarantee you one thing, if the public is not demanding action we’ll be living with the status quo for many more years.

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Carlson

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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First Take

From the just-released (May 12) report by the Pew Research Center on religion and American life.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

The United States remains home to more Christians than any other country, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans finds that the percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those groups has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

These are among the key findings of the Pew Research Center’s second U.S. Religious Landscape Study, a follow-up to its first comprehensive study of religion in America, conducted in 2007.

Because the U.S. census does not ask Americans about their religion, there are no official government statistics on the religious composition of the U.S. public. Some Christian denominations and other religious bodies keep their own rolls, but they use widely differing criteria for membership, and sometimes do not remove members who have fallen away. Surveys of the general public frequently include a few questions about religious affiliation, but they typically do not interview enough people, or ask sufficiently detailed questions, to be able to describe the country’s full religious landscape. The Religious Landscape Studies were designed to fill the gap.

Among other findings in the new study:

Christians probably have lost ground not only in their relative share of the U.S. population but also in absolute numbers. In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million. But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.

American Christians – like the U.S. population as a whole – are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. Non-Hispanic whites now account for smaller shares of evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics than they did seven years earlier, while Hispanics have grown as a share of all three religious groups. Racial and ethnic minorities now make up 41% of Catholics (up from 35% in 2007), 24% of evangelical Protestants (up from 19%) and 14% of mainline Protestants (up from 9%).

Religious intermarriage appears to be on the rise. Among Americans who have gotten married since 2010, nearly four-in-ten (39%) report that they are in religiously mixed marriages, compared with 19% among those who got married before 1960.

While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time. As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46. By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier).

Switching religion is a common occurrence in the United States. If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. This is up six points since 2007, when 28% of adults identified with a religion different from their childhood faith. If switching among the three Protestant traditions (e.g., from mainline Protestantism to evangelicalism, or from evangelicalism to a historically black Protestant denomination) is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.

Christianity – and especially Catholicism – has been losing more adherents through religious switching than it has been gaining. More than 85% of American adults were raised Christian, but nearly a quarter of those who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity. Former Christians represent 19.2% of U.S. adults overall. Both the mainline and historically black Protestant traditions have lost more members than they have gained through religious switching, but within Christianity the greatest net losses, by far, have been experienced by Catholics. Nearly one-third of American adults (31.7%) say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, fully 41% no longer identify with Catholicism. This means that 12.9% of American adults are former Catholics, while just 2% of U.S. adults have converted to Catholicism from another religious tradition. No other religious group in the survey has such a lopsided ratio of losses to gains.

The evangelical Protestant tradition is the only major Christian group in the survey that has gained more members than it has lost through religious switching. Roughly 10% of U.S. adults now identify with evangelical Protestantism after having been raised in another tradition, which more than offsets the roughly 8% of adults who were raised as evangelicals but left for another religious tradition or who no longer identify with any organized faith.

The Christian share of the population is declining and the religiously unaffiliated share is growing in all four major geographic regions of the country. Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.

Whites continue to be more likely than both blacks and Hispanics to identify as religiously unaffiliated. Among whites, 24% say they have no religion, compared with 20% of Hispanics and 18% of blacks. But the religiously unaffiliated have grown (and Christians have declined) as a share of the population within all three of these racial and ethnic groups.

This is the first report on findings from the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, the centerpiece of which is a nationally representative telephone survey of 35,071 adults interviewed on both cellphones and landlines from June 4-Sept. 30, 2014. Findings based on the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 0.6 percentage points.

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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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First Take

From a statement by the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District – a complaint about how water is being distributed by the Idaho Department of Water Resources.

Changes proposed by the state in the way water rights are managed in the Treasure Valley would significantly and adversely affect individual and organizational rights to water from the Boise River System. In addition, the more senior the water right, the more devastating the proposal will be because it could lead to reduced water availability and impacts on property values, according to officials with the area’s largest irrigation district.

The potential impact of the change is so serious that Nampa & Meridian Irrigation leaders say the District will go to court if necessary to stop what they call a patently misguided process that is both unfair and contrary to a century of established Idaho water accounting practices.

“We and other districts in the Treasure Valley have exhausted nearly every effort to find a political solution or a negotiated solution to this issue with the Idaho Department of Water Resources so that serious injury to our water right holders will not occur. But we have been stopped cold at every attempt,” advised Daren Coon, NMID Secretary Treasurer.

“The more senior the water right, the more devastating the proposal will be to irrigation district water users. But this is more than just a Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District problem; all water right holders on the Boise River system will eventually be seriously injured if IDWR’s scheme is allowed to take effect,” Coon added.

The controversial Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) plan centers on how to account for “flood control” water released from the three Boise River reservoirs to make space for water running off as the snowpack melts. Under a protocol developed 30 years ago, controlled releases prevent reservoirs from becoming so full of water that huge amounts of water must be suddenly released to avoid overflowing the reservoir resulting in downstream flooding. When the flood period is past, melting snowpack water can then be stored in reservoirs to prepare for the irrigation season.

IDWR and the Idaho Attorney General’s office want to reduce the amount of water allocated to all water right holders, including tens of thousands of urban users, by charging water released for flood control against the senior right holders even though the water is flushed downstream and is never used for irrigation.

“Simply put, IDWR wants to institute a plan where water right holders would be charged for using irrigation water they had zero opportunity to actually use,” Coon explained.

That unused water charged against the user’s yearly allocation could reduce how much water was left for irrigation. In a high flood release year followed by a period of drought that could mean not enough water would be left in the user’s allocation to meet irrigation needs. That would be disastrous for crops such as corn, potatoes and sugar beets all of which require water later into the summer. It would also result in severe damage to urban lawns and gardens.

Boise River water rights are two types of rights: natural flow and storage water. Natural flow is the water in the river that cannot be stored and must be passed through the reservoirs. Storage rights entitle the right owner to have water stored in the reservoirs where it can be used to supplement the right holder’s water supply when the natural flow right is exhausted.

A third element of the right is the priority date. That is the date in which the water right was filed with the state. It dictates exactly what priority the right has relative to all other rights, a concept often called “first in time is first in right.” It literally means the oldest water right gets its water first, the next oldest second and so on until the available water is exhausted.

It is that combination of priority date, natural flow and storage water that permits the irrigation season in the valley to typically last through the first part of October. Without the ability to store water to supplement river flows in the hot summer, the irrigation season would normally end in late June or early July after the snowpack has melted.

This process of natural flow and supplemental storage water has provided a balanced approach since the first reservoir, Arrowrock, was completed in 1915. But now it is threatened by an inexplicable change of direction by State government.

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