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Posts published in March 2006

McClatchy rising (into what?)

A friend of ours used to work for one of the newspapers in the McClatchy chain, knew a number of the executives, and about them he had a remarkable thing to report:

They weren't obsessed with the profit margin. They wanted profits, sure, but they were just about as concerned with putting out quality newspapers.

Shocking as this may be, this intelligence matches with the actual newspapers Sacramento-based McClatchy produces. The Tacoma News Tribune, its largest in the Northwest, is a quality paper, and the Tri-City Herald at Kennewick has shot up in quality since its takeover in 1979 from local owners as well. There's no lack of quality in its other properties, either: Those include the Sacramento Bee, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Anchorage Daily News. (It owns 11 papers in all.) In journalist circles, McClathy long has had the reputation of being a class act.

Will that reputation survive what is happening now - the most ambitious move in its history?

What is happening is its proposed takeover - evidently agreed to by both companies -of another newspaper company, Knight-Ridder. This is of particular note regionally because Knight Ridder owns outright three important regional newspapers: The Boise Idaho Statesman, the Bellingham, Washington, Herald and the Olympian in Washington's capital city, which it only recently purchased from a third company, Gannett. K-R also owns slightly less than half-interest in the Seattle Times. (more…)

Teamwork

In eastern Idaho, the main headlines generated by the longshot Democratic candidates for the U.S. House came when they said they'd campaign together.

Craig Cooper of Pocatello and Jim Hansen of Boise are competing for the Democratic nomination for the 2nd district (one of them eventually to face incumbent Republican Mike Simpson). But it doesn't look like a typical competition: They seem to be working together more than anything else. One joint press release explained, "For several months, Cooper and Hansen have been making joint appearances around Idaho. Although they are facing each other in the primary election, the candidates sometimes even car-pool to the events together, discussing the issues along the way."

Well, if you want to demonstrate a new approach to politics, you can do worse than live it.

In Oregon, where voters are accustomed to the spectacle of thei split-party Senate delegation, Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Gordon Smith, touring the state together, such an approach might have special appeal.

The four Democrats in the Oregon 2nd District - now held, apparently securely, by Republican Greg Walden - have agreed to do something similar. They said they will travel together and work cooperatively even as they c ompete for the nomination, and said they will visit all of the counties in the district (20 counties in the district with the largest land mass of any in the Northwest).

Beating a presumably popular Republican in this territory is exceedingly tough. But they're off to an intriguing campaign approach that should draw some attention - some of it, presumably, favorable in-district.

Good drug, bad drug

The revise code of Washington (RCW) lists a number of qualifications for becoming a pharmacist in the state. Among those requirements you'll find this:

"Has satisfied the board [of Pharmacy] that he or she is of good moral and professional character, that he or she will carry out the duties and responsibilities required of a pharmacist ..."

Note that will carry out the duties and responsibilities. And what exactly are those?

That's the crux of a big debate Friday in Kent, Washington, which as the Seattle Times noted, "was supposed to be a simple informational meeting about whether to allow pharmacists to deny medication based on their moral or religious convictions. But more than 100 people showed up at a state Pharmacy Board meeting in Kent on Friday to speak emotionally about highly charged social issues — from abortion to gender discrimination and even assisted suicide." (more…)

OR 3rd: an open slot

A post-deadline development: Oregon 3rd District Representative Earl Blumenauer has no Republican opponent. That seat is now the only congressional seat in Oregon left open on the ballot by either party.

Bruce BroussardThe reason was the over-enthusiasm of Republican Bruce Broussard. He had, it turns out, filed some months back for a Portland City Council seat, and in Oregon, if you file for two offices at once, you're bounced from the ballot for both. (He might have known, since he falls into the category of "frequent candidate." He also ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, but failed to snag the Republican nomination.)

The 3rd - which consists mostly of Portland, is overwhelmingly Democratic, and is defended by Democrat Blumenauer - is about as tough for a Republican as the 2nd (eastern Oregon) is for a Democrat. But a range of messages should get out, and doubtless will: A write-in on somebody's behalf at the May primary election seems a probability.

Kempthorne-go-round

There being another resource-related vacancy in the Bush Administration - with the resignation today of Interior Secretary Gale Norton - it's time once again for another round of that favorite Idaho game, "Will Dirk get the appointment?"

Or the trailer appointment at EPA, if Mike Leavitt of the Environmental Protection Agency is moved to take the Interior spot.

Once again, folks: Serious speculation is pointless.

Those who argue in favor note that Kempthorne had a bunch of presumably pleasant face time with the president a few months ago at Tamarack, and he must rank as among the increasingly unpopular president's most unquestionably loyal supporters anywhere outside his administration. (In the review of a whole wide range of controversial/troubling policies, the only break coming to mind is Kempthorne's joining with 49 other governors in a protest of a prospective cutback in National Guard forces.) Hard-core loyalty is there, and that's important to Bush.

Of course, none of that has changed since the several other openings for which Kempthorne was reportedly considered, and passed over. One would think that if they wanted him on board, they would have brought him by now.

If it does happen, the impact now would be far less than it would have been last year, when Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch could have used the step upward to run a strong campaign for governor; now, with campaign filing deadline only a week away, that option is essentially foreclosed.

Coming next, on Rev and Tax

You can bet the lobbyists worked out the little calculus that follow about three seconds after Representative Dolores Crow said today she will end her 22 years in the Idaho House, and not seek re-election this year.

Dolores CrowCrow has been the controversial chair of House Revenue and Taxation for some years - the one-person roadblock to a large pile of tax legislation, and a bulwark of her version of conservative tax policy. As such, she's been a major player in Idaho government for most of a decade now. So: Who will replace her?

There's no definitive answer, but some facts are relevant. One is that there will be a new speaker, and no one now knows who that will will be. But as the cheif voice in assigning chairs, that will be an important factor.

The vice-chair on Rev-Tax is Dennis Lake, R-Blackfoot, an agribusiness guy who has impressed many in the House (and beyond) with his fluency with numbers and finance policy, notably in arcane areas that tend to boggle other minds. He has been a leader on the property tax interim committee. Very conservative, but grounded in a professional world view; one imagines him not as as a pushover but possibly as a listener and a compromiser (in the good sense).

He is one possibility for chair, but not the only one, because after this session he will not be the senior member on Rev-Tax. That will be Lenore Hardy Barrett, R-Challis, one of the most edgy and fierce conservatives in the House, who might make Wood look like an indecisive waffler. Her appointment would mean a tax committee in the House somewhat like the last few years, only more so.

The stakes rise.

No one home

One early and fair measure of political effectiveness, at the opening stages of campaign season, is this: How well do the parties fare in filling all the ballot spots in their state?

In Oregon, with candidate filing now closed, we now can evaluate the ballot spot vacancies for the parties. Overall report card: Both parties did well, installing candidates for most substantial state positions.

There is, certainly, no lack of candidates for governor: three Democrats and no fewer than eight Republicans (though just three of those can realistically be considered serious contenders). Both parties have candidates for all five U.S. House seats (though, at the moment, none of the races shows signs of being very close).

Of the 15 Senate and 60 House legislative seats up for election - 75 in all, or 150 ballot positions - the parties filled all but 13 slots - leaving fewer than 10% uncontested. (Some of those could be filled through election of write-ins at the primary election in May.)

Should be noted that those open spots are not evenly devided. Democrats account for four open spots, all House races, while Republicans account for nine (one in the Senate, the rest for the House). In the tight race for control this year, that gives Democrats a slight but instant edge.

Results, ahead of schedule

Stopping by the Washington statehouse today, neither the House nor the Senate seemed in particularly rushed, tense, and agitated sine die mode (this being the norm on the edge of adjourning).

Washington statehouseTrue, their leaders had been making noises about adjourning Wednesday, but leadership always says things like that - gotta get the troops in the adjournin' frame of mind, you know. When we departed the statehouse, inthe midst of a particularly fierce rain, it was in the conviction that final adjounrment today was highly unlikely. After all, the state constitution still gave them another day for the abbreviated session - legislators always use all the time available.

So what do you know? Six hours later, they up and adjourned.

Shouldn't have been such a shock: That early wrapup was of a piece with what had gone before. On the day this term of the Washington Legislature began, a year ago January, it was the most bitterly, angrily divided in decades, maybe ever, with the arrival as well of a new governor whose very legitimacy was ferociously disputed by half the state and just under half the legislature. Mandate? Political chits? You gotta be kidding. Few legislative sessions in any state, ever, may have started less auspiciously.

From that point on, up through its final actions on Wednesday, this term of the Washington Legislature has exceeded expectations and pushed through one important piece of legislation after another - on roads, on medicine, on water rights, on a batch of other matters (even sexual predators, a subject which needed little revision in state law but this year did get a few useful additions). Seldom have Washington's legislators been so able to return home to constituents and point to such an impressive record.

These guys - and this level of productivity involved plenty of members of both parties, even if just one (the Democrats) was in charge - could give lessons.

Disconnect

Don't see how you can possibly call it "Connecting Idaho" any more. Based on the plans developed by legislators, what was a massive, generational effort to link parts of Idaho with what would amount to a new road system, has been reduced to a handful of maintenance jobs.

That is the direction being taken by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. According to the Idaho Statesman report on its proceedings: "The committee voted to divide most of the money among three projects: $70 million to I-84 between Caldwell and Meridian, $65.6 million to U.S. 30 between McCammon and Soda Springs and $45.6 million to U.S. 95 between Worley and Setters. Of the remaining money, $15 million is divided between three additional projects and $3.8 million is left over, presumably to pay project managers Washington Group International and Denver's CH2M Hill."

(Of those three main projects, our opinion is that the first and third are most worthy, and we'd have a couple of other recommendations for the other spot ... but we digress.)

Some of what JFAC is doing here is simply the result of revised cost and revenue estimates. But there is more as well, and that is where the serious bumping of heads is likely to occur with Governor Dirk Kempthorne.

Are we ready for the Gov/Xgr Mega-Facroff III?