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Posts published in September 2014

An origin story for Judge Lodge

carlson CHRIS


One might call it the equivalent of the quarterback sneak play, only in this case the quarterback, Ed Lodge, an All American at the position for Boise Junior College, and then a “Little” All American at the College of Idaho, knew nothing about the play.

Edward J. Lodge, who announced this past week he is moving to “senior status” on the 9th Federal District Bench as Idaho’s chief federal judge, is basking in an outporing of well deserved praise. He has presided over virtually every major, complicated Federal case in Idaho over the past 25 years: Two examples are the Ruby Ridge trial in which a jury, expertly guided by the fair and impartial Lodge, acquitted Randy Weaver; and, the murder trial of Claude Dallas, the self-styled survivalist and trapper who coldly killed two Idaho Fish and Game agents, Bill Pogue and Conley Elms, in the Owyhee Desert southwest of Boise.

Non-murder cases that Lodge has presided over include the EPA managed Superfund settlement in Idaho’s Silver Valley and his over sight of the Nuclear Waste disposal agreement between the state and the U.S. Department of Energy.

President George H.W. Bush, sent Lodge’s name to the Senate Judiciary committee in 1989 at the behest of senior Republican Senator James A. McClure and a virtuallly united Idaho Congressional delegation that included Senator Steve Symms, Congressman Larry Craig from the First District, and the delegation’s lone Democrat, Second District Congressman Richard Stallings.

Even more remarkable for a nomination to the life-time position of a state’s federal district judge, Senator McClure carried in his pocket and read into the record a letter of unqualified endorsement by Idaho’s Democratic governor, Cecil D. Andrus. This bi-partisan support for a Federal judgship is almost unheard of in today’s bitterly partisan environment. Lodge received unanimous confirmation.

Ed Lodge, however, warranted this support. He already had established in Idaho a reputation for probity, common sense, intelligence and an excellent grasp of the law and how it relates to justice. (more…)

On the front pages


Once again, it'll be pointed out that Boeing remains a massive business and employer around the Puget Sound. And it is. But it gets less and less so, and this latest run of 2,000 job cuts in the area (evidently, the jobs will be moved elsewhere) suggest the day may be coming when Boeing is no longer an especially outsized employer or economic force in the area. There are, after all, other large employers in the area which have been expanding, not contracting. The mix is changing.

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)

Garden City farmers market sees modest traffic (Boise Statesman)
Nez Perce sales tax will expire (Lewiston Tribune)
Few specifics in Idaho governor ads (Moscow News)
Legislative candidate Jordan blasts school funding (Moscow News)
I-84 expansion would cost $120m (Nampa Press Tribune)
Subdivision land bought to farm usage (Nampa Press Tribune)
Another tort filed in juvenile corrections (Nampa Press Tribune)
Paul iPad project folding without state help (TF Times News)
Otter gets pro-life group support (TF Times News)

New OSU building opens for work (Corvallis Gazette)
Eugene may impose its own pot tax (Eugene Register Guard)
Gateway Mall may be remodeled, timing unclear (Eugene Register Guard)
Sheep killed by Umatilla wolf pack (KF Herald & News)
School year starts at Klamath college (KF Herald & News)
Salmon helped with more water releases (KF Herald & News)
Odor from pot gardens create issue (Medford Tribune)
Board to govern SOU named (Medford Tribune)
Treatment plant may be source of Rogue algae (Medford Tribune)
Wyde delivers talkk at Pendleton (Pendleton E Oregonian)
County building project done at Heppner (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Drone test flight launches at Pendleton (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Cop-beaten man wins $400k against Portland (Portland Oregonian)
Groups work on fixing overabundant cats (Salem Statesman Journal)
Congressional panel opposes wilderness rule (Salem Statesman Journal)

Doctors Clinic quits Bremerton (Bremerton Sun)
Hansville creosote project moves ahead (Bremerton Sun)
Two days before jail escape noticed (Everett Herald)
Local agencies on record disclosure pressures (Everett Herald)
Approval in holding off emptying leaking tank (Kennewick Herald)
Two more charter schools possible (Kennewick Herald)
Wrongful rape conviction payout, $500k (Longview News)
Boeing will cut 2,000 Puget jobs (Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, Olympian, Longview News)
Law said to allow smoking pot in car (Port Angeles News)
King Council blocks further transit cuts (Seattle Times)
What tax funds will pay for parks? (Vancouver Columbian, Yakima Herald Republic)
Benton will tour Cambodia (Vancouver Columbian)

Rules gone wild

idaho RANDY

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. (more…)

In the Briefings


 Another six pontoons for the new State Route 520 floating bridge are floating out of their Aberdeen casting basin September 26, marking completion of the fifth of six cycles of pontoons being built in Grays Harbor County. With this float-out, 66 of the new bridge’s 77 pontoons have been constructed, and 57 are on Lake Washington. The three remaining Aberdeen pontoons are scheduled for completion next spring. Forty-four of the bridge’s supplemental pontoons are being built in Tacoma, where work is underway on the final construction cycle there. Meanwhile, crews continue aligning, anchoring and bolting together pontoons on Lake Washington. The new, six-lane floating bridge – the longest in the world – is scheduled to open to traffic in spring 2016. (photo/Department of Transportation)

Few developments this week in Washington politics – at least among the candidates for office. The battle over initiatives (especially the two gun initiatives) seems to be generating more heat than the people are.

Federal lands issues were big last week. In Oregon, fires roared back, and Bureau of Land Management Sally Jewell visited small and remote Lakeview (whose BLM office oversees a vast area) on the subject of sage grouse habitat. The biggest topic of discussion, however, probably was the newly-publicized Forest Service rule on photography in wilderness areas.

Debates have been getting underway this last week, and more are coming in the next few weeks. Most are available on the web through stream. One notably worth watching: The Twin Falls debate between Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Jana Jones and Sherri Ybarra; the link is on the web site of the Twin Falls Times News, whose managing editor moderated.

On the front pages


The Oregon battle over GMO labeling is definitely on the tube, and news reports around the state took notice of that today. The ads are capably produced on both sides, and the results could be pretty close.

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

Boise considers downtown traffic patterns (Boise Statesman)
Idaho closes out moderate fire season (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing Idaho potato market (TF Times News)

GMO initiative battle goes on air (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune, Corvallis Gazette)
New water lines developed in Butte Falls (Medford Tribune)
New hires at UO education school (Eugene Register Guard)
On the new University of Portland president (Portland Oregonian)
Report finds no abuse at state hospital (Salem Statesman Journal)

Inslee panel would revive water, excise taxes (Everett Herald)
Stanfield looks at city hall update (Everett Herald)
Gorge plans and area residents conflict (Yakima Herald Republic, Kennewick Herald)
Gun ballot issue battle over 'transfer' (Olympian)
Issue: Constitutionality of new school taxes (Olympian)
Sequim may see new water rates (Port Angeles News)
Rare bumblebees expand in Olympic park (Port Angeles News)
Judge candidates battle on pay-or-appear (Port Angeles News)
Demand increases for Washington's hops (Seattle Times)
Spokane sheriff positioned for re-election (Spokane Spokesman)
GOP relectant on new school taxes (Tacoma News Tribune)
Bull trout at Yakima deemed endangered (Yakima Herald Republic)

Voter assisted suicide

rainey BARRETT


When someone commits suicide, two things happen. Someone dies. Those left behind feel shock and grief. Would those same attributes apply if an entire county died by its own hand? We’re about to find out.

Voters in Oregon’s Curry County seem determined to end life on this planet and set sail for an unknown destination in the afterlife. Try as they might, political, civic and moral leaders in-residence seem powerless to stop the self-induced destruction.

Already faced with the most serious local governmental fiscal hole in the state - following defeat of half a dozen bond issues for this and that - voters have said a loud “NO” to the latest measure - a small tax increase dedicated only to keeping doors open at the county jail. Just for keeping the bad guys locked up.

Bad enough. But it gets worse. Curry has been privileged to have the services of Sheriff John Bishop for many years. As good a professional cop as you’ll find. He’s tried and tried to make his case with voters that his lockup is out of compliance with nearly all legal - if not humane - requirements for keeping prisoners. He’s stacked up enough reasons for a better jail so effectively even voters in neighboring counties have been swayed.

He’s pleaded. He’s begged. He nearly single-handedly forced the latest bond issue before voters. All his labors have ended up in the trash. The latest - a rejection of something so basic to public safety it should be automatic. But it wasn’t even close.

Now, he’s leaving the job. The sheriff’s doctors have told him he’s got to get out from under the load of stress he’s carried for so long or he’ll die years before his time. He’s taken a new job in Salem. But that’s not all. His wife - who’s in charge of county corrections - is leaving, too. They’re both worn out. He and his corrections director wife will be gone before the end of the year.

The newly appointed sheriff - a younger veteran of the department - says the latest voter “shot-to-the-head” leaves him with one choice. He can lock up only the “really, really bad guys” and keep jail doors open ‘til January. Or he can keep taking those arrested and those sentenced by the courts and run out of money in a few weeks. Your call.

Curry County has been on this self-destructive path for several years. All the usual government services - including those required by law - have been cut, cut and cut again. Good people - people you’d want running things anywhere - have bailed out. Staffing in all departments - ALL - is less than minimal. Even 9-1-1 calls are screened for seriousness before anyone responds. And sometimes - they don’t. Bad guys - sometimes really bad guys - have been cycled from arrest to jail to court and back to the street for months.

Oregon has a new law allowing a county to declare bankruptcy and turn to the state for a bailout. A lot of voters in Curry seem to be counting on that. Counting, too, on getting out from under the current - and very deep - debt. They’re about to get a very large surprise.

While the state will be forced to step in, that new law also allows those who take over to make some major decisions. What services will be provided. What won’t. What those services will cost. And who’ll pay the bill. In fact, the state can lay on new “taxes” for certain things. Costs likely to be significantly higher than that old jail bond issue that was junked. The new, temporary help from the State of Oregon will come with a price tag. And with the authority to force payment.

Curry has only five “cities” with some 25,000 souls. More than three-quarters of ‘em live in Brookings, Harbor and Gold Beach - a stretch of Highway 101 of about 24 miles. A small county, yes. But it has a large land area and requires all the services of any other county. Given a long Pacific coastline and weather that wreaks havoc on roads and other public facilities, it also has some serious operating costs. Some of the required maintenance hasn’t been done in a long, long time because of the continued bond issue and county budget rejections. There’s a lot of deferred problems that need prompt attention before the entire infrastructure falls apart. (more…)

On the front pages


The most striking story of the day (in the Medford Mail Tribune - it had run a little earlier in Portland) may have been about law enforcement in Josephine County, where volunteers (with some training by the county) are being sent out to evaluate crime scenes. The somewhat snarky headline referred to "CSI: Josephine County," but it was deserved: Amateurs will be gathering fingerprints and fibers, and law enforcement will be praying it holds up in court. Good luck with that. This isn't law enforcement's preference, to be clear about it. This is a result of voters repeatedly turning down law enforcement levies needed to fund Josephine County enforcement at a level somewhat comparable to other counties. You can expect to see more explosive headlines coming from those quarters sooner or later.

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)

More Idaho students defaulting on loans (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune)
Yellowstone may want more bucks from visitors (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register)
Profiling race for secretary of state (Boise Statesman)
Offenses behind Canyon Co jail inmates (Nampa Press Tribune)
Idaho Center grapples with finances (Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing marketing of Idaho potatoes (Lewiston Tribune)
Meals on Wheels money stalls (TF Times News)

Eugene cops using more body cameras (Eugene Register Guard)
Looking at sage grouse options (KF Herald & News)
Students struggle with loan repayment (Portland Oregonian)
New homeless program seeks student homelss (Medford Tribune)
Josephine Co sends volunteers to crime scenes (Medford Tribune)
Minor party gov candidates join in debates (Salem Statesman Journal)
Reviewing forest service photo policy (Salem Statesman Journal)

Measuring the amount of stream flow (Bremerton Sun)
Hospitals pull funds from Medicaid expansion (Vancouver Columbian, Bremerton Sun)
Woman's death in jail raising questions (Everett Herald)
New Lower Columbia College building get praise (Longview News)
Kaiser medical clinic opens to non-members (Longview News)
Dealing with Olympia's downtown homeless (Olympian)
Olympic narc unit hit with $20m lawsuit (Port Angeles News)
Concerns about Navy electromagnetic project (Port Angeles News)
Rents skyrocketing Seattle (Seattle Times)
Spokane overview - parks issue (Spokane Spokesman)
Latinos see political issue in names (Spokane Spokesman)
Developing Tacoma's Amtrak station (Tacoma News Tribune)
Initiative on guns, and the word 'transfer' (Tacoma News Tribune)
Police increasingly wearing cameras (Tacoma News Tribune)
Yakima works on wastewater flow (Yakima Herald Republic)

Judge in the middle

idaho RANDY

In the mid-70s my reporting included the courts at Canyon County, overseen at the time by three district judges. Everyone I knew who was familiar with the court system – lawyers, clerks, journalists, parties to cases and others – shorthanded the three judges in the same way.

All were professional, capable judges. But: One was the judge you wanted if you were the defendant. Another was the one you wanted if you were a victim or a prosecutor; in relative terms, he was the hangin' judge. And then there was the one in the middle, the one the consensus figured most likely to meet most people's idea of fairness most often. That was District Judge Edward Lodge.

Judges matter. Last week Lodge, now a federal district judge, said that next summer he plans to take senior status – a sort of semi-retirement – and time seems right for some reflection on that.

By the time I started watching him on the bench, Lodge was a veteran already, appointed in 1965 at the age of 31; he is said to still hold the record for youngest district judge in Idaho. He has had his share of high-profile cases (the Claude Dallas murder case, for one), but in his nearly half-century on the bench, he never has become especially controversial and often has drawn praise. He has been a federal district judge since 1989 – about a quarter-century.

The work of judges isn't as easily summarized as that of, say, legislators or members of congress, and most people not associated with the courts may have little way to figure which are better and which are less so. But it is crucial work. The decisions of federal judges like Lodge, and Idaho's current senior federal judge, Lynn Winmill, from time to time have as much impact as legislation, and can change the direction of legislation. Federal judges like Lodge, after all, have been the people making decisions on such hot buttons as Obamacare and same-sex marriage.

Lodge's move to senior status is something a number of people in the Idaho legal system have wanted for some years, not as a criticism of Lodge but because it would open a slot for a new federal judge. The need has been great for some time; this column addressed the subject late last year. Idaho has fewer federal judges per capita than a number of other states (Wyoming, for one example, is flush with federal judges by comparison). The docket is almost overwhelming 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)

Kathryn Yost, legislative staffer, dies (Idaho Statesman)
IF okays Hitt Road plan; Ammon next (IF Post Register)
Caldwell firefighters see pay raise (Nampa Press Tribune)
Vigils for Idaho pastor held in Iran (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Reviewing Mitchell Senate campaign (TF Times News)

Fires not quite gone from Oregon (Corvallis Gazette)
More mandatory drug tests for athletes (Eugene Register Guard)
Lane County may try new vehicle fees (Eugene Register Guard)
First televised governor's debate at Sunriver (Eugene Register Guard, KF Herald & News)
KF police chief plans retirement (KF Herald & News)
State Senate 4 race turns negative (Medford Tribune)
Britt Classical Festival draws strong numbers (Medford Tribune)
Reviewing CCO in Umatilla Co (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Walden forests bill passes House again (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Plan for new Irrigon library stalled (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Reviewing race in 5th CD (Portland Oregonian)
Oregon fishermen pulling in PCBs (Portland Oregonian)
PERS costs for schools will drop (Salem Statesman Journal)
ODOT placing median barriers (Salem Statesman Journal)

Concern about mudslide in East Bremerton (Bremerton Sun)
Snohomish medical examiner quits (Everett Herald)
Major power line vandalized (Everett Herald)
Many south sound school enrollments increase (Olympian)
Tacoma schools concerned about new charters (Tacoma News Tribune)
Oil transporters opposing further regs (Vancouver Columbian)