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Posts published in March 2014

“Make my day”

carlson CHRIS


Anyone who has watched a Clint Eastwood western is familiar with the line he utters to a bad guy who is thinking of drawing his gun. Steel blue eyes, taut jaw, usually a toothpick in the corner of his mouth, a look of undeterred force and with a growly voice he dares his opponent to be dumb enough to try.

That response should be the model for President Barack Obama’s response to the many Republicans who think they can make a politically-winning issue out of the President using his authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to declare the Boulder/White Clouds a National Monument.

Recently, the Republican-led House passed by a narrow margin (222 to 201) a bill designed to prevent the President from issuing such a declaration without first conducting a complete Endangered Species Act review of the action as well as holding hearings in the local area and conferring with a state’s governor and its congressional delegation before he could utilize the Antiquities Act’s power to withdraw lands from the federal domain. They conveniently ignore the fact that after a presidential declaration the law itself requires public hearings to establish the rules and regulations which will govern the set-aside.

Republicans are making two bad assumptions. First, they assume that requiring a strong showing of local support will set the bar too high for any President to even think of using the redefined Act. Second, they assume that local sentiment will always oppose turning an area into another land-restricting Federal entity.

Ever since the law was passed, most places where a President has used this authority have opposed the initial designation. In fact, local sentiment against protecting a national treasure in the national interest almost always comes about in spite of public sentiment, not because of local, public support.

According to the Idaho Statesman writer Rocky Barker, Interior Secretary Sally Jewel has made the mistake of assuming that a public meeting in Stanley will result in hundreds turning out to talk against the Monument designation. She sees such a hearing, controversial as it may be, giving Interior a better chance at selling a change in status. (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Idaho gets $1.40 for $1 in federal payments (Boise Statesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide aftermath (Lewiston Tribune)
Redistricting gives 2nd district more Democrats (Boise Statesman, Moscow News)
National origins of Idaho bills (TF Times News)
Idaho trade affected by Russian/Ukaine tension (TF Times News)
Tuition at ID colleges on rise again (TF Times News)

No landslide reporting system (Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette Times)
Ashland review pot moratorium (Ashland Tidings)
restoration of Lake of the Woods location (Medford Tribune)
Oregon nears pre-recession job levels (Portland Oregonian)
Conference of pot business owners (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish aftermath (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Everett Herald, Longview News, Port Angeles News)
New WSU apple coming to area (Kennewick Herald)
Judge rules fish run procedures must change (Port Angeles News)
Obamacare deadline hits (Seattle Times)
Houses threatened in Tacoma-area landslide (Tacoma News Tribune)
Debate over Tesoro, local oil terminal (Vancouver Columbian)

Lessons from Oso



The tiny community of Oso, which was until a week ago a collection of houses on State Route 530 between Arlington and Darrington in Snohomish County, is a place of tragedy today.

It is not a place, as some people have pointed out, over which fingers should be pointed and accusations launched. The March 22 mudslide was not someone's fault: It was a natural phenomenon of the kind that from time to time kills and wounds.

Any attempts to bury people in legal, economic or political battles in the weeks and months ahead probably would prove fruitless.

However, tragedies sometimes do carry lessons for the future, and the Oso mudslide did that.
Known in some quarters as the Hazel landslide, the mountain-face collapse was not altogether unheralded. Rumblings and ground movement there go back at least to 1937, and geologists over the years warned that the area was unstable. Very recently, too, there was some specific cause for worry, since the area had seen consistent heavy rain over the last seven weeks, just the type of drenching needed to loosen the soil and rock. On top of that, a small earthquake was registered about two weeks before the mudslide occurred.

This is not by way of blaming anyone for not taking action. If you've lived in a place for decades, as many of the Oso people had, you had reason to think that thoughts of a wall of mud crashing through your house was just paranoiac. Should officials, after, say, the earthquake, have tried to move people out of the area? It would not have been a very easy argument to make, and it might have been resisted staunchly.

Here we get to the value of lessons, because we now see what the actual results are, and compare that to what might have been done earlier. The lesson isn't, of course, worth the cost of life or property. But it did encourage reports around the region about places prone to slides (across both Oregon and Washington) and it might result in some people taking earlier action.

If the Oso mudslide was not necessarily worth this particular candle, maybe at least some good, somewhere else, might come of it.

Brakes on the train obession

frazier DAVID


It used to be amusing to poke fun at Team Dave’s latest gimmick for a train, trolley, street car, etc. Now its time to derail this fantasy once and for all.

The current topic is yet another round of consulting, planning, etc. for what amounts to a “cargo transit center.” The idea is to create business for a Boise train hub linked to trucks. At every step of the way, thinking people — including officials and former executives of the Union Pacific — have concluded it is not cost effective to build a truck/train transfer station in or near Boise. The legacy media needs to talk to the big road train people in Omaha to get a handle on why Boise is nothing more than a siding which provides a needed access to Motive Power’s manufacturing facility off Federal Way.

The Boise City Council needs to pull the emergency STOP! These fantasy dreams have gone on far too long and too much taxpayer money has been spent for ideas which have simply outlived their day and are not logically conceived. We have documents from as far back as 2007 showing the city had funded studies promising hundreds of thousands in railroad revenue–these claims were never realized and in our opinion the city is merely “shopping” for a consultant to give them what they want to hear.

In the current shot at garnering some public support, Team Dave has turned to Sven Berg at the DAILY PAPER to tout the latest incarnation of “Dave’s Magic Train.”

The GUARDIAN has been on this for nearly a decade now. Six years ago we learned Boise City officials obtained a license to operate a city-owned railroad, following a PRESENTATION to the city council– and anyone else who would watch it. The Boise City Railroad never turned a wheel.

Nampa is the place for such a facility, on the mainline of the railroad. Boise simply doesn’t generate enough big bulk cargo like grain, lumber, coal, etc. Boise is a nice place, we are good people, we spend lots of money for products, but we simply don’t do it in carload or trainload amounts.
Message to the council: Politely tell Mayor Dave Bieter you won’t allow him anymore of OUR cash for something which would be built by the private sector if it was viable and needed.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

White Cloud monument would build on recreation (Boise Statesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide missing count drops (Lewiston Tribune)
Canyon waits on plan for use of Lake Lowell (Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing the Ed Task Force proposals (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello events center closer to bidding (Pocatello Journal)
Might Eastern Idaho see floods? (Pocatello Journal)
Can Coeur d'Alene Casino offer poker? (Sandpoint Bee)
Filer city may see recall election (TF Times News)

Stillaguamish mudslide missing numbers drop (Portland Oregonian, Eugene Register Guard)
Background on Cascade Sierra Solutions biz collapse (Eugene Register Guard)
Low birth weight in Klamath, Lake counties (KF Herald & News)
New KF branch library opening (KF Herald & News)
Possible retrofits for oil carrier cars (Portland Oregonian)
Salem Courthouse Square reopens (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish mudslide missing numbers drop (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic,Kennewick Herald, Longview News)
Animal detection on US 95 may spare accidents (Spokane Spokesman Review)
Analysis of local cable TV costs (Tacoma News Tribune)
South Fork Ahtanum Road closes over illegal activity (Yakima Herald Republic)

No simple moves

idaho RANDY

The Obama Administration's budget proposal will not be adopted as is by Congress; that much you can take to the bank. Many of the bits and pieces may survive though, and other parts may be adopted in some future year if not right away.

Given that, Idahoans have some reason to think about the possibility of moving its Air National Guard (ANG) from Boise to Mountain Home.

That's separate from the proposal to eliminate A-10 warthog planes – the kind flown by the Idaho guard, a basic unit in the military's air operations, but now the Department of Defense says should be superseded by more up to date models. (There's a heated debate over this.) Apart from that, DOD suggests the Idaho air operations could be more usefully meshed with the substantial Air Force base at Mountain Home.

Long-time Guard spokesman Colonel Tim Marsano was quoted as saying, “We're looking at the possibility of things happening where we would actually take some of our folks and move to Mountain Home and learn how to operate and maintain the F-15E Strike Eagle. And we know we would be welcomed there with open arms, should that happen.”

The idea may survive because there's a logic to it. It also will not happen easily, because there are reasons for pushback.

Mountain Home, far from other communities in a large flat high Idaho desert, is a good spot for running military aircraft, one reason the base has survived since World War II. And there have been periodic complaints in Boise about military aircraft there, which are based on the south fringes of town near the municipal airport, and the noise they produce. A merging of aircraft training and other operations in one large site might have some efficiencies and lead to technical advances.

A lot of jobs – maybe 1,000 – could be involved in the transfer. But the Mountain Home AFB is only about 45 minutes in a straight shot on Interstate 84 from Boise, so commuting certainly is possible. (Many Mountain Home residents commute now.). And while the Boise economy might feel a ding, which in broad terms could amount to $100 million, Mountain Home's might be greatly advantaged. (more…)

The governor and gaming

carlson CHRIS


Governor C. L. “Butch” Otter may have to decide down the road one of these days whether to go with his libertarian free market instincts or pay the piper that has orchestrated so much gaming money for his re-election effort. Stick with his principles or go with the dough? Which will it be? A safe bet is he opts to dance to the tune played by the money interests.

The issue is Internet gaming, which is currently the subject of a raging, bitter debate within gaming circles. On the one side is billionaire Sheldon Adelson who chairs Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and the Palazzo on the Vegas strip. He believes allowing Internet gaming will doom the entire industry.

In particular he sees major Internet interests like Google and Facebook expanding into Internet gaming because of their huge customer bases. He believes such a move would doom current gambling set-ups and there are many who agree with him.

Others of course just see more players, a bigger market and more money to be made. Plus, they believe present law allows individuals states to decide the matter. Adelson and his allies are pushing federal legislation that would ban Internet gaming by closing a three-year-old loophole in the law.

Adelson is reportedly worth $38 billion and during the last election cycle without batting an eye poured $100 million into various Republican campaigns. He is fully prepared to battle the issue out state-by-state, but closing the loophole in Federal law is the easier path to pursue and Adelson has recruited not only top talent like former New York Governor George Pataki, he also has canny South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham on his side.

Adelson also successfully neutralized the industry’s powerful trade group, the American Gaming Association, by threatening to withdraw and bank-roll a rival organization if the group weighed in for Internet gaming as it appeared inclined to do.

Opposing casinos and online poker companies have formed their own lobbying group, which calls itself the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection. Two of their chief lobbyists are former Republican members of Congress Michael Oxley of Ohio, and Mary Bono of California. The group also has reportedly retained Boise-raised, Capital High graduate and Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, as well as former Mississippi Governor and uber-Republican lobbyist Haley Barbour. Politics does make for strange bedfellows at times. (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Transload industrial park maybe near I-84/Boise (Boise Statesman)
BSU aggressively defends blue turf trademark (Boise Statesman)
Stillaguamish mudslide community impacts (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Wheat prices increasing (Lewiston Tribune)
Obamacare enrollment climbing (Moscow News)
Idaho's rural-urban shift (Nampa Press Tribune)
Pocatello Skyfest celebration returns (Pocatello Journal)
Bannock population fell in 2013 (Pocatello Journal)
Debate over mental health rules on gun buys (Pocatello Journal)
ID may allow megaload in Bonner County (Sandpoint Bee)
CdA casino might add poker games (Sandpoint Bee)
Delta/Skywest changing Twin Falls flights (TF Times News)
Simpson campaign Blaine chair resigns (TF Times News)
Health insurance enrollment deadline (TF Times News)

Corvallis pot dispensary approved (Corvallis Gazette Times)
Return of Lake of the Woods retreat (Ashland Tidings)
Cops relying on public for dui reports (Medford Tribune, Ashland Tidings)
Pendleton hunger group Helping Hand seeks prize (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Diversion dam on Umatilla may go (Pendleton East Oregonian)
Stillaguamish aftermath begins (Portland Oregonian)
Jason Conger searches for traction (Portland Oregonian)
Cover Oregon looking for options (Portland Oregonian)
Salem bus ads going away (Salem Statesman Journal)

Stillaguamish searching continues (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman, Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, Yakima Herald Republic)
Bankruptcy rejected for Green Power (Kennewick Herald)
Army Corps bird kill for salmon (Kennewick Herald)
Deadline ahead for health plan (Kennewick Herald)
Seattle Zoo growing its elephant efforts (Seattle Times)
Violence-prone gun limits signed into law (Spokane Spokesman)
Tacoma city wades into battle on hotel project (Tacoma News Tribune)
State reviews school senior project requirement (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima area campaign against graffiti (Yakima Herald Republic)

Nuts and nullification

rainey BARRETT


A professional friend of long-standing over in Idaho got himself in an embarrassing position the other day. The guy spent more than 40 years covering state politics for an international news service and, thus, could be expected to know more about that state’s irrational political activities and how they operate than the average citizen. He does. But he still got tripped up publically and, in so doing, presented a text book example why Idaho - and so many other states - have fallen victim to the right-wing crazies.

A moderate Republican friend of his - an oxymoron in Idaho - was facing a real nutcase in his primary. So, our mutual retired media friend filed for the primary race, too. His idea? He’d go right up to just before the election - then pull out - attempting to split the nutcase vote, thus assuring his moderate friend a victory. He’d be a “Trojan horse” - tilting the voting percentages. Except he got found out and had to withdraw.

You couldn’t find a more textbook example of how the foil hats have taken over so many political offices nationally. Divide and conquer. Statistically across the country, the nuts are a statistical minority. But they hold a disproportionate number of legislative and congressional seats because they learned long ago to “divide and conquer.”

The about-to-be-gone Michelle Bachman is a good example. Did you know her maiden name was Amble? Kinda fits, doesn’t it? Well, she’s never faced a primary election with a single opponent so she’s never had to get at least half the vote. The Minnesota GOP always made sure she had a weak second or third party in the race. Divide and conquer. All she needed was 25-30-percent or so. A minority win. My friend was trying to do the same for his friend. But - despite long experience - he screwed up.

Our political system is filled with this crap. My friend knew he wasn’t a real candidate. But voters didn’t. Idahoans honestly drawn to him and his faux campaign were being hustled. He was perverting our system though he probably felt justified. But innocent voters were being screwed.

Idaho’s legislature, for example, has a lot of these minority “winners” in the ranks. Most with a far right tilt. Like the current bunch who overwhelmingly passed a bill this year - now a law - to “void” any new federal gun laws. Further, they believe they can now cancel all previous federal gun laws in upcoming sessions. Same for some federal lands issues and federal health care laws, too. They can’t do any of that. So Idahoans will keep paying millions of tax dollars in what is now a long line of more utterly useless and lost court cases.

Fact is, Idaho put a new law on the books this year that’s so far out in right field the legislature decided to appropriate an extra $1-million up front just for the court battle legislators were sure would come. Prescient? No. Learned from history? Maybe. Just deciding to pay up front this time rather than paying later as has so often been the case.

North Carolina, Louisiana, Kansas, Utah, Arkansas and Florida are among some other locales going the same phony “nullification” route. “We don’t like your damned federal laws and we ain’t gonna follow ‘em.” Some of the local ignorance deals with obviously illegal new voter limitations, efforts to avoid requirements of the Affordable Care Act, resistance to gun laws that haven’t even been written and other nonsense. (more…)