Archive for December, 2005

Dec 31 2005

Blogging back

Published by under Washington

One trend of 2005 that stand to go away is the drumbeat on the part of newspaper journalists against bloggers – notably, political bloggers. As a long-time former newspaper reporter and editor, I find it unbecoming. And uninsightful – increasing amonts of genuine journalism are getting committed on the blogosphere.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer weighed in the last day of this year in its lists of five people and things it would like to remember and like to forget about 2005. Among the latter: “Stefan Sharkansky and David Goldstein. The right-wing Shark and left-wing Goldy have dominated the local political blogosphere, which during the governor’s race controversy sounded like a schoolyard shouting match.”

Let Goldy have the last word [12/31]: “I’m guessing that if the JOA goes the way we all expect it to go, it will be Stefan and I who will be forgetting the P-I in a couple of years.”

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Dec 31 2005

A closing blast

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

And so 2005 comes to a close … with a lot of rain.

rain on an Oregon highwayMetaphors aside, that’s a good thing, however tired some of us may be getting at the steady rainfall and periodic light flooding. The flooding, we can at least console ourselves, hasn’t done much damage or overflowed many critical waterways. And as for the rainfall … well, we just need to take care as we go out to celebrate tonight.

And there is something in this to celebrate.

According to the national snowpack recordkeepers, the region is more or less on track for a good, solid snowpack this year, something we haven’t been able to say for quite a few seasons. Continue Reading »

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Dec 30 2005

Now it can be said

Published by under Oregon

Okay, so it’s not as though no one else has ever said this.

But Associated Press reporters watch the state legislators at least as closely as anyone, and they are ordinarily sworn to high journalistic rectitude: Keep your opinions, in public, generally to yourself.

Charles Beggs has retired from the AP after covering the Oregon Legislature for longer than he probably would like to think about. And so, here’s what he told the Willamette Week about what really pissed him off in 2006:

“The Legislature. It was very aggravating to see them taking seven months to do four months of work—and even then, they didn’t accomplish much. There’s an intransigence on both sides that’s fueled by the desire to stake out positions that will satisfy interests that will give them money to get re-elected.”

And who can argue?

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Dec 29 2005

Willamina’s cat flap

Published by under Oregon

The old Tammany politico George Washington Plunkitt, one of the great cynics of public affairs, liked to say that “reformers are only mornin’ glories” – they never last. Plunkitt wasn’t all right – some reformers have gone on to do good for an extended stretch. But he wasn’t all wrong either: It’s a tough job to keep that reforming ethic intact; so many things, sometimes little things, whittle away at it.

Agie the cat Consider the cat – an easy-going, eight-year-old calico named Agie, as of now the most famous cat in Oregon – that has the city of Willamina in the biggest uproar of its recent history.

Agie was a stray kitten when she fell into the hands of Melissa Hansen, the librarian at the Oregon timber town; she named the feline for Agatha Christie. Feeling that cats and things literary go together (cat blogging, anyone?), she moved the cat into the library, with official city permission. It has been there since, developing fans around town and especially among the children at the library. The chldren also have become enamored of two other library residents, hamsters named Hamlet and Othello.

The cat (as we observed this evening) is friendly but not overbearing, and clearly in good health. She has been declawed, and has no history of biting or other violence. The hamsters were asleep, but they were shielded consistently from children and others by placement of their terrarium inside a book case – visible but not touchable.

That was the situation the Willamina City Council voted, at its meeting of December 8, to upend by banning animals from city buildings. Continue Reading »

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Dec 29 2005

Rererereapportionment

Published by under Idaho

Some people are never satisfied. That’s actually one of the realities of legislative reapportionment: No matter how you reshape and rearrange, you can’t please everyone. That doesn’t give the displeased grounds for a lawsuit.

Idaho legislative districtsOur view on the current districting map for Idaho has been that it’s not ideal but not bad either – allowing for some problematic areas. One of those is a district connecting a small group of people near Idaho Falls with a population base located around 80 miles away near the Utah border, with no useful direct road contact between (unless you want to rev up your four wheel drive, you have to veer outside the state or district to get from one to the other). It’s an unfortunate district, no doubt. There’s another running from Homedale to Twin Falls almost as bad. Such things happen to someone in every reapportionment.

But a number of eastern Idahoans, some of them legislators or former legislators, are aggrieved, and they have taken the reapportionment back to the Idaho Supreme Court. It has been there before, during the original reapportionment process in 2002. Further challenges led to more intense inquiry but, in the Idaho Supreme Court decision released Wednesday, the result was much the same. Continue Reading »

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Dec 29 2005

Acquisition

Published by under Idaho,Oregon

The formal description reads: “F&M Holding Company, the parent company of Farmers & Merchants State Bank, is the largest independent bank holding company headquartered in Boise, Idaho. Farmers and Merchants State Bank, is a community banking organization established in 1967. FMSB’s business mix is both retail and commercial, with a strategic focus on business banking. Farmers & Merchants State Bank also offers trust, investments and private banking services. The Company, with $582 million in assets, has 11 full-service branches located throughout the Boise and Treasure valley area.”

Make that, “was the largest independent bank holding company headquartered in Boise, Idaho.”

Cascade Bancorp, which is based in Bend an runs the rapidly-growing Bank of the Cascades, just bought it – greatly extending its reach to the east, and making it a much larger regional player in banking. To date, Cascade has 21 branches, all in Oregon, most in central Oregon.

It now seems positioned for a larger regional growth. Speculation: Watch for entry into Washington state before long.

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Dec 29 2005

Hot reading

Published by under Washington

Time has come for all the year-end lists (we here too are making some lists, checking them twice), but some are more striking than others.

Consider for example the Seattle Times list of 20 stories on its web site which were most-read (or at least most-viewed) during 2005.

Number 1 on the list: “Enumclaw-area animal-sex case investigated.” Number 3: “Trespassing charged in horse-sex case.” Number 6: “Videotapes show bestiality, Enumclaw police say.” Number 14: “Details we can’t quite comprehend” (a Nicole Brodeur column about the Enumclaw case). Number 19: “Charge filed in connection with man who died having horse sex.”

That’s five out of 20: Far outweighing any other topic.

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Dec 27 2005

Home for the homeless?

Published by under Oregon

The Dignity Village encampment in Northeast Portland has long been an unusual development, and it may become even more unusual – one of the most provocative places associated with the homeless anywhere in the country.

Dignity Village, photo by portland ground

Five years and 11 days ago a group of homeless people set up camp at the location, called Camp Dignity at first, later Dignity Village. (The photos here are from the portland ground website.)

The group’s website (!) leads with a credo: “We came out of the doorways of Portland’s streets, out from under the bridges, from under the bushes of public parks, we came openly with nothing and no longer a need to hide as Portland’s inhumane and Draconian camping ban had just been overturned on two constitutional grounds. We came armed with a vision of a better future for ourselves and for all of Portland, a vision of a green, sustainable urban village where we can live in peace and improve not only the condition of our own lives but the quality of life in Portland in general. We came in from the cold of a December day and we refuse to go back to the way things were.”

To be homeless may often be equated with being helpless. But not in this case. Continue Reading »

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Dec 24 2005

Suburban centers

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Call it a demographic trend, this one led, slightly, by Idaho.

For a long time Idaho, Washington and Oregon have had some population characteristics in common: a large central city (Boise, Seattle, Portland) with the pair of next largest cities spread out a little bit (Pocatello and Idaho Falls; Tacoma and Spokane; Eugene and Salem) and closely matched in population and sometimes exchanging ranking, well below the level of the lead city. These patterns have held for decades.

We’re now seeing some adjustment – new trends. Continue Reading »

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Dec 23 2005

… for now

Published by under Idaho

The Idaho headline today – that Albertsons will not sell itself off and will remain a company, headquartered in Boise – will no doubt be cheered widely. And for good reason, considering the alternative: Albertsons staying in Boise is undoubtedly a good thing for Idaho.

Still, Boiseans would be wise not to invest too much emotion in the pronouncement from CEO Larry Johnston. They should remember that the corporation came to the brink of selling itself, pulling back only at the last moments. Whatever pressures led the firm’s leaders to consider the selloff over a period of months have not gone away; in fact, Albertsons stock dropped hard after word that the sell deal had failed.

Johnston’s comment was that “It is business as usual.” Okay. And good.

For now.

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Dec 21 2005

Back to school

Published by under Idaho

Back in 2001 one of the most striking legal decisions of the year came from 4th District Judge Deborah Bail when she bluntly – even fiercly – blasted the Idaho Legislature for what she said was its failure to properly fund the state’s public schools.

schoolThe case was old even then, rolling back and forth through the court system for more than a decade already; and more than four more years has passed since then, before a state supreme court ruling. The question of whether the state has properly funded public schools has been the state’s high court five times now – a stunning unwillingness, up to now, to make a clear decision.

Today, though, it made that decision, and it was the same one Bail made years ago. (She was explicitly upheld.) It was a clear decision: Four of the five voting members were in full agreement, and the one partial dissenter – Justice Jim Jones – disagreed with only a few parts of the majority finding.

That decision will set the Idaho Legislature, arriving for the 2006 session in less than three weeks, on its ear – and likely evolving into a corps of angry wasps.

The decision was awfully long in coming, but it is abundantly clear now. Continue Reading »

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Dec 21 2005

A careful contestant

Published by under Oregon

Oregon Senator Gordon Smith has an easy, relaxed manner, but if you watch his actions and especially his voting record, you get the sense of a careful careful man who picks his battles with pinpoint precision.

Gordon SmithHe has a difficult path to walk. At home, he has to remain acceptable to his Oregon audience, which in recent years has elected only him among Republican candidates to a statewide position. That is in large part because he presents the image of a moderate guy, definitely not a Democrat but – apparently at least – to the left of most of the Republican majority in the Senate. (Obviously his close ties to Democrat Ron Wyden, whose role is less complex, helps.) In Washington, there is that conservative majority to deal with: He could could lose all clout in the Senate if he veers too far from it. It’s a complex task, and Smith appears to have honed his calculus well.

So sometimes he splits the difference, but not randomly.

He disappointed a number of environmentalist Oregonians, for example, when he finally announced this week he would vote for a defense appropriation bill that included a provision allowing oil drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, after years of opposing the oil drilling. When the vote came, however, the oil drilling proposal failed in the Senate by four votes. Did Smith wait to announce his position until after he knew how the vote would come out, knowing his own would not be needed – and then be counted as standing with his caucus leaders?

He might deny it. But it wouldn’t be surprising. The man knows how to pick his battles.

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Dec 20 2005

You guv wishes you a

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Just how phony and how minor is this invented controversy over the lack of recoginition of Christmas (as opposed to “Season’s Greetings”, “Happy Holidays” or “Xmas”?)

This phony: The top elected officials of our states, the governors, aren’t playing into it. Given an an easy, no-lose opportunity to play into the popular side of a controversy (if there really were one), they have punted in the easiest place possible: Their official Christmas cards.

We know this because the news organization stateline.org collected all 50 of the messages on those cards, minus the few guvs who don’t do cards. Only a few even used to C-word; none reallyplayed it up. From the Northwest:

Idaho: Governor Dirk Kempthorne: “May the spirit of this holiday season fill your heart with love, peace and serenity. Wishing you many blessings for the New Year.”

Oregon: Governor Ted Kulongoski: “PEACE – Paz, Paix, Pace, Frieden, Mir, Shalom, Heiwa, Salam, Heping”

Washington: Governor Christine Gregoire: “Happy Holidays from the Gregoires – Mike, Chris, Courtney and Michelle”

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Dec 19 2005

Almost there, and gone

Published by under Idaho

I was discussing earlier today with a Boise journalist the nature of the upcoming Idaho legislative session. Along the topics hashed was that the idea that, in some contrast to last session, this session might be a little less business-oriented – business dominated.

AlbertsonsThe prompt for that thought was the pressure for change in the property tax, a push coming mainly from residential property owners who have argued (accurately) that they have been paying an ever-larger chunk of the property tax bill – an ever-larger chunk of the tax bill, period. (Last week, this subject came up over coffee with a business advocate, who said he hoped this wouldn’t lead to a shift of property taxes on to businesses. To my inquiry about the steady shift, over the last generation, of property taxes away from business and on to residential taxpayers, and whether that might be redressed or corrected, he had no answer.)

Another piece of news, however, might underscore some of this session too: The impending news of the sale of Albertsons. Continue Reading »

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Dec 18 2005

Its a gas, gas, gas

Published by under Idaho

What would you think of building a couple of big new gas-fired power plants on the east side of your town?

Hold that thought. The Idaho Statesman‘s online poll asks tht question of Boiseans. The results, as of our check this morning: By a 60%-40% margin, nearly 500 self-selected Boiseans favor the plants …

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Oregon State Highway film from 1966. A few changes since then.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
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JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

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WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
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Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
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