• 100 Influential Idahoans 2015
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One of the hazards of punditry is a tendency to wrap things up in a neat package – a nice simple conclusion and overview of what usually was a messier reality.

Last week I pointed out a trend line in the recent Idaho primary election, in which relatively “establishment conservative” candidates, some challengers and others incumbents, tended to do better in seriously contested races than the more ideological insurgents. As a broad-picture view, I still think that was a reasonable take.

But a series of communications from the field over the last week reminded me that elections are a more complex thing than one simple trend line will allow. Why did someone win or lose? The reasons may be many, and the big picture might be only a piece of the story. And maybe not so big a piece.

One of the key primary contests was in District 15, in western Boise, where incumbent Patrick McDonald was challenged by Rod Beck, a veteran of legislative campaigns. Beck has been allied with the more insurgent side of the party, and McDonald with the more establishment conservatives (he got primary backing from Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, Senator Jim Risch and others). The race fit within the overall trend.

But there was more to it than that. One caller pointed out that McDonald and other Republicans in the district organized hard and pursued door-knocking intensively, even trying to visit every registered Republican in the district several times. That as much as other considerations probably paid off on election day.

In District 23, centered around Elmore County, Republican voters tossed out both incumbent House members – Pete Nielsen, given to viral quotes and sort of a member of the insurgent side, but also the much less controversial Rich Wills, backed by more establishment conservatives like Otter. Nielsen’s loss fit within the framework, but people who have watched the race develop note that personal and campaigning factors played a role there. Why did Wills lose? I suspect one factor is that he was pulled in by the undertow; when Nielsen got only 22.1% of the vote, and Wills lost with 44.9%, it’s easy to suspect a spillover effect was involved. But so too may have been a strong campaign from Wills’ opponent, Christy Zito.

Then there’s the case of Ron Nate of Rexburg, who narrowly survived a challenge from Doug Ricks. Ricks was a newly-minted candidate, but he was well positioned. Like Nate he worked at Brigham Young University-Idaho, and his father is the veteran former state senator and Lieutenant Governor Mark Ricks, a significant figure among establishment Republicans; Otter endorsed the younger Ricks in the primary. Nate was top-ranked in the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s “Freedom Index,” which loosely helps measure where you’re at on the insugent-establishment scale. A high rank like Nate’s marks you as an insurgent, and Ricks’ campaign zeroed in on Nate’s opposition to school spending bills and other insurgent causes.

The result was close; Nate won with 51.6%, a thin lead for an incumbent. But he didn’t come across like many of the insurgents from, say, northern Idaho. His language and tone seemed lower-key (befitting the Rexburg ethos).

And the insurgent side did score a few wins, even taking out a couple of legislators (Merrill Beyeler from Leadore and Paul Romrell from St. Anthony).

Overall, I think the initial impression of what happened stands. But there’s also a lot more to see in the details.

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New BookWorks post on the many mergers, acquisitions, agreements and more reshaping the environnment self-publishers work within.

It begins,

“On May 10, the R.R. Bowker Company, the main source in the United States for ISBN numbers and other services, said it plans to ally with two other publishing-related companies, FastPencil and Infinity Publishing, to offer a suite of services to help authors “write, edit, collaborate, format & publish your book.” It also indicated “distribution partners” would include Barnes & Noble, Amazon and others. Bowker said “this solution makes it easier to go from concept to manuscript to market.”

It’s the most recent example of many agreements, mergers, acquisitions and other connections in the book publishing environment. Headlines in the last few decades have pointed out the swallowing of one major national book publisher by another, but those are only the most visible instances. Indie publishers would be well served by maintaining awareness of other connections between companies with which they work. Sometimes these can help their interests—and sometimes not so much.

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Just got the box of Camping Idaho (2nd edition) author-copy books from Rowman Littlefield, via UPS. Always a nice feeling when the books show up.

The first edition came out about a dozen years ago. I did most of the work on this new edition last year. Good to have it updated.

This is one of four titles I’ve done for Rowman Littlefield (aka Globe Pequot). All but the most recent (the Idaho jerks book) have now gone to second edition.

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Whatever will Idaho do for viral quotes next legislative session? The most reliable providers won’t be back, and neither will a number of their allies. Or newcomers to the task.

The Republican primary election on Tuesday yielded a persistent theme in its results among challenged races. The more extreme insurgent candidates, whether incumbent or challenger, tended to lose to the more establishment conservative alternative.

You can find no better case study than in Coeur d’Alene’s District 4, where the House seats were held by one from the insurgent group – Kathleen Sims – and one from the establishment conservative group, Luke Malek. (The Senate seat, held by Mary Souza, was unchallenged.) Malek, challenged by an insurgent, won his primary with 58.4%. Sims, challenge by an establishment conservative, lost hers at 48.4%

There’s Sheryl Nuxoll, the three-term senator from Cottonwood whose statements have gone as viral as anyone’s. Remember the Holocaust/health insurance exchange comparison, the “false faith with false gods” of Hinduism, and so many other greatest hits? This time she lost (48.8%), a result probably not widely expected. Likewise the bigger loss in the same district by Shannon McMillan (38.7%), known for her frequent votes against spending on education without explaining why.

The theme was repeated up and down the state, not in every instance but in enough to make the trend line clear.

Up along the Canadian border the new co-chair of the legislature’s budget committee, Shawn Keough, has faced insurgent challenges for several cycles, and the margins have been getting closer. Still, in possibly the highest-profile legislative primary this year, she again survived (with 55.7%) another determined effort this year.

Runner up among top primaries may have been in west Boise’s district 15, where relatively new establishment conservative Representative Patrick McDonald was challenged by Rod Beck, who has been active in Republican politics for a long time (more than a quarter-century ago, he was state Senate majority leader) but is allied with the insurgents on the right. McDonald won, decisively (57.9%).

Other serious insurgent challenges fell short too, to Representatives Kelley Packer in Bannock County (she had blasted the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s legislative index), to Maxine Bell (Keough’s House budget chair counterpart) and Stephen Hartgen of Twin Falls.

Here’s another useful measure. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, more or less Idaho’s lead “establishment conservative” (with his own primary challenge two years ago to show for it), recently took the unusual step of endorsing a dozen Republican legislative candidates contested in the primary, some incumbents and some challengers, but all (obviously) on his side of the fence.

Of that dozen, which included three challengers and nine seriously challenged incumbents, eight won, and one of the others lost only by a hair. Election night wasn’t bad for Otter on the legislative front.

If the 2014 primary election was something close to an overall holding action in the internal battle among Idaho Republicans, this year’s election marked some definite ground gained by the establishment.

Does that make Idaho an outlier in the national Republican picture? More thoughts on this to come.

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The state of Washington has a agency called the Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials, whose job is what its name implies. It has a catchy slogan: “We evaluate the position – Voters evaluate the performance.”

Might be interesting to establish a statewide commission for Idaho to compare and evaluate state pay more broadly. In the Gem State, pay for state elected officials is set by the legislature, and pay for many other types of employees are set in all kinds of ways.

The lack of a single set of standards across the board becomes evident when you scroll down the list of the highest state employees’ salaries in Idaho, provided on May 11 by the state controller’s office (at transparent.idaho.gov). The simplest of several lists here to read covers state employees who are paid more than the state’s chief executive officer, the governor, whose pay is set at $122,597.

In truth, that gubernatorial pay seems low in today’s marketplace for the top leader of a large, complex organization. But according to the report, 332 state employees are paid more; probably a greater number than ever has been the case (and certainly more such employees than any time in the last decade). And that’s factoring in a pay raise for the governor this year.

Who gets paid the most? Of the top 10 highest-salaried employees, seven work for Boise State University. One of those is the president, Robert Kustra (ranks at number three); his counterparts at the University of Idaho and Idaho State University, who are close behind, account for two of the others in the top ten. All but one of those 10 are university employees.

So what are the other high-level BSU spots that lead the state employee list? You probably don’t need me to tell you: They’re in the athletics wing of the institution. The only state employee paid a salary of more than a million dollars is football coach Bryan Harsin. BSU athletics employees are well represented among the top 100 or so state employees. Top pay at the athletics jobs at the other universities generally is considerably less.

Colleges and universities absolutely dominate the ranks of the highest-paid. Of the 100 highest paid employees in Idaho state government, I count all but about a tenth as located in higher education. The chief investment officer for the state retirement fund ranks high (not unexpected given the nature of the job and private sector counterparts).

Several physicians in the Department of Health and Welfare rank within the 100 too, and a few others are scattered there, including top executives at the State Insurance Fund. In line with pay outside of government, top medical officials often are among the better-paid state employees. Still, they account for only a few toward the top of Idaho’s list.

Attorneys with substantial responsibility and experience often are paid well on the private side, but attorney positions generally pay less well in state government. The top attorneys in the Attorney General’s office overall rank well below the top 100, not a lot more than the governor is paid.

None of this is meant as an argument that any of these jobs, taken alone, are over- or under-paid. (On the list overall, I’m more inclined to place more jobs in the second category than in the first.)

But a scan down the list, and some reflection on the responsibilities of the jobs – an evaluation of the position, not the performance – may lead you to wonder about some of the priorities, and numbers.

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The major organized programs for helping authors give away copies of their books – as a way to promote them – until now have limited their options to print books. Giveaways in the well-established Goodreads and Amazon programs have not allowed eBook giveaways, frustrating authors who write only in that format.

This is changing. As of this month, Goodreads is expanding their giveaway program to include eBook as well as print books.

Author Anna DeStefano has become one of the first to explore the new eBook giveaway option – and report success with it.

As author of a score of romance and supernatural novels, she has participated in several past print book giveaway programs, especially those run by the readers’ and writers’ site Goodreads. Like others, she has found the programs a useful way to gain more attention for her books, to gain more readers quickly and to drive sales.

But DeStefano told BookWorks, “My impression is that over the last few years print giveaways have had less and less overall effect, unless you advertise them heavily. So many authors are doing them now, it’s easy to get lost in the glut of content.”

In that context, the addition of eBooks to the giveaway programs may bring some fresh attention and interest to this piece of marketing.

Why or Why Not to Give Your Books Away

The whole approach may seem odd if you’re a writer who after all is trying to sell books, not simply disperse them.

Still, as a May 5 article in Publishers Weekly said, “Speaking to the power of giveaway programs, in a Goodreads case study, Kate Stark, marketing v-p at Riverhead Books, said that the Goodreads site as well as its giveaways promotions, “played a major role” in the success of bestselling novel Girl on the Train. (The house used multiple giveaways for Girl on the Train).”

Goodreads itself has noted “The primary benefit of running a giveaway on Goodreads is generating excitement for your book. Many giveaway winners review the books they win, meaning that you can build word-of-mouth buzz early in your book’s life. The ability to offer up to 100 copies of a book will greatly increase your chances of receiving a good number of reviews.”

The Old Rules for Giveaways

Since July 2015 Amazon.com has operated a print book giveaway promotion, in which authors pay for printing and shipping – tasks undertaken by Amazon – copies of their print books to randomly-chosen winners of a giveaway contest. That followed a longer-standing book giveaway program at Goodreads, which Amazon owns. The Goodreads contests are similar to Amazon’s but less costly to the author per book, because the author personally is directly responsible for supplying and shipping the books, and usually can keep those costs down.

Goodreads has not allowed giveaway of eBooks, however, until this spring, when it launched a “beta” – experimental – program allowing for digital giveaways. Initially it is limited to Amazon’s own new publishing imprints, but is expected to be opened more broadly soon. (Goodreads hasn’t disclosed exactly when.) The links to both Kindle and to Amazon’s own publishing operations provide ongoing evidence of a tightening relationship between Amazon and Goodreads, which was bought by Amazon in 2013.

The Goodreads Digital System

Under the new Goodreads system, authors can give away as many as 100 digital copies of their book, for a flat $119 fee. It is available for now only in the United States. Goodreads manages the listing and the delivery to the winners. “Prerelease books are listed for giveaway by publishers and authors, and members can enter to win. Winners are picked randomly at the end of the giveaway,” Goodreads says on its giveaway page.

Explaining the $119 fee, Goodreads said, “With a Kindle ebook giveaway, we give you the opportunity to offer a large number of free books, reaching even more readers. We also save you on both costs and hassle. No more printing books, hauling them down to the post office, filling out address labels, and paying to ship them off to winners (which can cost hundreds of dollars for a 100-copy giveaway). No more delays in getting your books in winners’ hands. The readers who win your Kindle ebook giveaway will get their Kindle ebook instantly and will be able to start reading right away, which means you can get readers talking about your title faster than ever.”

In other words, it’s a convenience fee.

The eight books in the current eBook giveaway roster all are fiction, though that may change as the roster expands.

The Results

As a new program, the digital giveaways may provide a new jolt to book promotion. After DeStefano tried it for her new novel, His Darling Bride (published on Amazon’s Montlake Romance imprint), she said “the early response for His Darling Bride’s digital giveaway has been very positive. Much more effective already (this contest was put up on May 5) than the entire print giveaway my publisher sponsored (for 20 books) which ran for a month.”

She was less certain why the response was strong, but speculated that since “there are fewer titles/releases available in the digital giveaway program at this time, GoodReads is promoting it as a new opportunity, and a smaller pool of contests are running for readers to participate in. “

So far the giveaways have generated significant activity. Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero, for example, will be giving away 50 copies (after May 26, when the giveaway ends), and 3,773 people as of May 9 had sent in requests. All of the other beta books for May also generated at least 1,000 requests.

Keep in mind that while the Goodreads and Amazon giveways are the big options, there are others, and some of these are lower in cost. Authors can run giveaways on their own web sites, possibly with the help of a technical provider like Rafflecopter. Twitter has the hashtag #bookgiveaway, where loads of giveaways directly from authors are listed.

Either way, the world of book giveaways and the world of digitals is coming together, and at least some writers are starting to take advantage of it.

BookWorks columns

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Because the land sales happened over a long stretch of time, and there were so many of them, and so many involved tracts of land moderate in size, they tended not to attract a lot of attention, and their accumulated amount largely escaped notice.

That end result should and may, though, stick in the memory of more than a few Idahoans, because it’s reducible to one startling number: 41%.

That’s the portion of the 4.2 million acres of land the state of Idaho had at statehood, granted from the federal government, which has been sold off since – 1.8 million acres.

That number was the result of research and mathematics undertaken by The Wilderness Society, a conservation group which researched land sales through the state’s history.

The research was prompted by efforts in recent years to press for transfer to state control (read “ownership”), of the lands managed by federal agencies. (The nation has seen more of that discussion prompted by this year’s debate and standoff around Burns, Oregon.) The feds’ control of lands that amount to most of the land area of Idaho can seem, and sometimes be, remote and bureaucratic. Their policy decisions are always subject for debate, especially among ranchers, timber and mining concerns, and anyone involved in outdoor recreation.

Occasionally small pieces of federal lands are traded out or sold, and in the homesteading era significant portions were. But the federal lands dispensed with over more recent years have been small, and the holdings stable. Federal land ownership in Idaho in 1990, which amounted to 32.6 million acres, actually grew very slightly, by two-tenths of one percent, as of 2013 (the most recent report I could find). The wisdom of that can be debated too.

But the Wilderness Society’s report offers some serious cautions about the consequences of state takeover.

The argument for state control is that more local people could manage the lands with greater awareness of local conditions, and with more flexibility. But the awareness involved sometimes reaches mostly to the people and interests most politically connected, and the flexibility can have negative consequences as well as positive.

The Society’s report said that Idaho state government has sold on average 13,500 acres annually, and “often put state lands in the hands of an elite few and Idaho’s biggest industries: the Simplot Corp., Potlatch, Boise-Cascade, cattle companies and law firms. Under these private ownerships, the new owners can lock out the public altogether or charge a trespass fee.”

It called out several specific cases:

“Bunker Hill Mining, the mining company with a long history and lead pollution legacy in the Silver Valley, purchased 715 acres of state land. The Bunker Hill mine area has been a Superfund cleanup site since 1983, when toxic levels of lead were discovered, including on school playgrounds. . . .

“The Flat Rock Club, a private fly fishing club that sits on 150 acres of beautiful forested land in Macks, Idaho, along the banks of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, purchased 41 acres of state land, denying public access to fishermen. . . .

“Potlatch Corp., purchased 17, 889 acres of state land between 1986 and 1997. To use this land now, recreationists must pay an annual fee, and access can be shut-off at any time by Potlatch Corp.”

41% sold so far. How much more, and for what purposes? And if federal lands are eventually moved over to state management, will their ownership follow similar patterns?

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So is that really it? Is Donald Trump now the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party?

Seems so – and yet, don’t oversell it. His train could slip the rails yet.

With the Tuesday Indiana vote in place, Trump seems to have collected 1,047 delegate votes. That puts him just 190 short of the 1,237 needed to win on the first ballot on the floor of the Republican convention.

With the departure of Texas Senator Ted Cruz from the race, Trump is well positioned to take to take nearly all of the 445 delegates still up for grabs in the nine states remaining. Even with Cruz still in the race, Trump was likely to win the bulk of the delegates to come (West Virginia, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey and California all were likely to go his way). Now, with only the barely-financed and slightly-organized John Kasich campaign standing in his way, he will probably emerge with all but a few dozen of those delegates. Maybe more than that.

And that would seem to be that, and it could be. If Republican organization honchos decide, as they may, that they’d be better off just letting the Trump train run through the rest of the nomination process and then hope for the best, he might in fact get the nomination without too much squabble.

But the recognition of the possible damage Trump could do to the Republican Party as its presidential nominee is not lost on the party leadership, or on the rank and file. And there remain tools available to send this whole thing off in a different direction.

The big one is credentials rules. It’s been a few years since either of the parties had a good credentials fight, but it’s happened before with far less provocation. The convention, through its rules, has the right to determine who can be seated there as an official delegate, and who can cast a vote. Looked at generally, there’s nothing unusual or out of line about the way Trump collected his delegates, but if you want to scratch around for details suggestive of irregularities, you can come up with raw material here and there. (The most mentioned such case may be Trump’s big cache of votes from South Carolina.) Knock out just enough delegates – and this would be done at the beginning of the convention, before the vote for president occurs – and you could knock out Trump.

Various other rules could be enforced rigidly, or new rules concocted. As you read this, Republican activists all over the country – probably including strategists on Trump’s behalf, in defense – are considering all the many possibilities.

For now, it seems reasonably to say that Trump is the default nominee, the guy who will get the job unless something comes along to change that. And it will probably happen.

But nothing is 100% certain until after it happens. He’s not the nominee until the convention votes have have been cast and counted. Until then, watch carefully.

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Ever upward, we tend to think: Bigger is better, more is merrier.

But not always, and credit the University of Idaho for figuring that out.

When it has come to Idaho football, the example of Boise State University has loomed over all. BSU has moved to big time, though now in the Mountain West Conference after a 2011 flirtation with the Big East Conference.

The UI Vandal program has never quite reached those heights, even early on. Back in the mid-70s, looking for a college to attend and uninterested in one that would be football-obsessed, I found the UI amenable. From the end of World War II to the early 80s, the Vandals posted winning seasons in just three years, 1963, 1971 and 1976.

Still, a correspondent of mine (and a highly loyal Vandal) has suggested that “If an institution is going to have intercollegiate football, it should at least be competitive and enjoyable (preferably by winning), produce good memories for the associated social events, and be a common topic of interest for alumni: ‘How ’bout them Vandals?’”

From that perspective, UI did well for a stretch with the first year (1982) of Dennis Erickson as coach, through to 1995. The school may not have have become the national team BSU did, but it scored winning seasons consistently through that period. Athletics-based enthusiasm at the institution may have been higher then too.

Various factors no doubt contributed, a series of strong coaches among them. But the UI’s participation then in the Big Sky Conference, whose members overall were competitive with the UI, no doubt helped. The institution had long been a Big Sky member (and was a charter member in 1963) through its losing years too, but when other factors came together the more local conference may have helped. And local Idaho boosters could fairly easily make their way even to away games in places like Washington, Montana and Pocatello (Idaho State University).

As the Wikipedia account notes, “Idaho experienced its best years in football from 1985 to 1995, when it made the I-AA national playoffs in ten of eleven seasons with four different head coaches, reaching the semifinals twice. After 18 years in Division I-AA, Idaho returned to Division I-A competition (now called the FBS) in 1996 in the Big West.”

The collapse followed. In this new century, the Vandals have bounced around other affiliations including independent, and maybe not coincidentally saw its winning seasons turn to losers. This year, the Sun Belt Conference said that UI (and New Mexico State University) would be dropped from their group after 2017.

So on Thursday there may have been some air of resignation to word that UI was returning to Big Sky. President Chuck Staben said that “I understand the magnitude of this decision and the strong opinions that surround it, both for and against, but joining the Big Sky Conference is the best possible course for our athletics program and for our university. We have carefully weighed our options and concluded that competing as an independent with an extremely uncertain future conference affiliation would be irresponsible when we have the alternative of joining one of the most stable FCS conferences.”

Not exactly the words of hyperconfidence (and just as well), but as he suggests, this likely was the best move. It suggests retrenchment; it suggests a backing away from the big time. But that’s far better than more of the kind of seasons UI has been experiencing recent years.

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