Archive for May, 2006

May 31 2006

Outreach

Published by under Oregon

You’ve seen the headlines about the Republican Party, nationally and on many state levels, coordinating with a number of religious leaders to generate votes through the congregation.

The Democrats have certainly taken note. Check out this notice, posted on the web in advance of the Oregon Democratic Party’s convention at Eugene this weekend:

The Republicans have spent decades cultivating relationships with religious leaders and communities and Democratic candidates and our state’s party must do the same. To help accomplish this, the Democratic Party of Oregon is offering a workshop on religious outreach from 3:00 to 6:00 PM, June 2, at the state convention in Eugene.

The workshop’s instructors, Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp, have pioneered successful religious outreach strategies across the country. Mara served as national director of religious outreach in the Kerry-Edwards campaign. Eric is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA), handled faith and politics issues for Rep. David Price (NC), and helped staff the House Democratic Faith Working Group.

Participants in June 2’s event will receive basic facts about major religious groups within Oregon, practical tips about connecting with communities of faith, and suggestions about how to reach out to religious voters in general. There will also be a review of how different faith traditions view key issues, advice about religious polling, canvassing and organizing, and significant time for questions and answers.

What kind of response might they get?

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May 30 2006

Efficient and pointed

Published by under Idaho

Jim Risch has been one of the distinctive personalities in Idaho politics for a generation now, and his first substantive press conference as governor today demonstrates several of the key facets of that personality, both as reflected in years past and what’s likely ahead in his next gubernatorial months. Even a read of some of the reports filed from it are enough to note the indicators.

Jim RischThere was efficiency. On the first regular working day of his governership, Risch had his staff in place: Chief of Staff John Sandy, and four deputies, in a thoroughly reorganized office. No sluggishness there; he was set to roll.

There will be no policy advisors in his office, he said – that position would be ended. Instead, the key staffers would be structured as constituent workers: A brilliantly sharp redefinition that reflects both on his predecessor and on the way he wants to define himself and his office.

Kempthorne was big on ceremony, was much noted for it. Risch gave off indications that ceremony is a lesser deal for him, and that should come as a relief. Holding an inaugural ball as a relatively private, campaign finance event seems entirely right under the circumstances, as does (for a variety of reasons) the decision not to try to move into the J.R. Simplot house donated to the state as a governor’s mansion. (They will use it for an inaugural party on Friday.) There’s an aspect of human scale and – can it be said of Risch? – even humility in those calls that many Idahoans likely will find appealing. Continue Reading »

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May 29 2006

Cantwell: A portrait from the inside

Published by under Washington

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell has put some emphasis on her time as an upper-level type at RealNetworks, and there could be something relevatory in that. We have no particular insight into the management at Real, but many leading high-tech companies are led by people who are, to put it simply, difficult to work for or with. A description by a former staffer running in this week’s Seattle Weekly suggests Cantwell picked up the industry’s executive ethos in spades.

The piece was written by a former press staffer, Mike Seely (who has also been a staffer for the Weekly). Its basic point was that critics from the left who have blasted Cantwell for being insufficiently anti-war should bear in mind that the alternative in this year’s election, Republican Mike McGavick, would likely be a loyal vote for Republican President Bush.

By way of establishing bona fides for his position, he makes clear that the reasons for his support for Cantwell – he calls her “a brilliant, driven public servant who rarely lets political expediency enter her sphere of consideration” – didn’t result from personal charm.

“The seven months I spent in her charge felt like seven years,” he wrote. “The campaign, larded with her RealNetworks stock windfall, spent more money on Red Vines than most candidates spend on direct mail. And conspicuous consumption during happy hour became all but a necessity, as it was invariably better to be half in the bag when Cantwell, a paranoid hellcat of a boss who rolls through staff like toilet paper, would make her daily sweep through the office, berating everyone in sight. On the trail, Cantwell often handled small groups of constituents in closed settings well. But she was not what you would call warm—a trait that should be preternatural for politicians of her stature. Her stump speeches were uninspiring and her grace with would-be donors flaccid at best. Most of the people who helped guide her to victory were motivated almost exclusively by their disdain for her opponent . . . Essentially, we worked for Maria in spite of Maria. Yet if you were to ask Cantwell, the only person responsible for her victory over [Slade] Gorton was the person who stared back at her in the bathroom mirror each morning. Her lack of gratitude and common human decency were simply repulsive.”

This election, Cantwell still seems to be massively out-fundraising and spending McGavick and has loads of advantages in what looks like a solidly Democratic year, and yet has maintained only modest leads in the polls that have surfaced. Might Seely’s portrait be touching on some reasons why?

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May 29 2006

Another check at Brightwater?

Published by under Washington

Building projects that have to go through an environmental impact statement process, and more besides, presumably have a solid track record for safety in place before construction. That still doesn’t mean something ugly can’t slip through.

Put another way, if Washington state Representative Toby Nixon’s concerns about the underway Brightwater sewage treatment plant are even close to on target, some important officials in King and Snohomish counties might one day wish they weren’t in such a hurry to build.

Brightwater schematic

Brightwater is a planned sewage plant planned for the Woodinville area, near the King-Snohomish county line – north of the line, in Snohomish – on the east side. This is fast-growing country, and you can get the concern about planning ahead for it. The plant is basically King’s project, though a few weeks ago the Snohomish County governing board, after some controversy, agreed to a bilateral deal that eases the red tape in pressing forward. Ground was broken in April.

Getting to this point hasn’t been an overnight thing. King county people started work on planning in 2000, and its proposal for siting happened in December 2003. Then there was the EIS and related research work, which as anyone familiar with the process knows is extensive. (The project people even have posted a library on line – that’s their term, and when you see the roster of documents you’ll think the description reasonable.) And there are, by the way, seismic and geologic studies in the pack.

That said, you can always still miss something. Continue Reading »

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May 28 2006

Just go away: Immigration, the issue

Published by under Washington

You can never tell conclusively what has legs and what doesn’t, but you get the growing impression that for major candidates and political leaders, immigration is increasingly looking like the obnoxious party guest you’d really rather went away.

For the moment at least, it remains a hot button. It was enough, in Idaho, to vault Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez (it was his only substantial issue) into second place in a field of six; but it wasn’t enough for a win. It was enough to interest the candidates for governor of Oregon a couple of months earlier, but the candidate who initially seemed to make the big splash with it – Republican Ron Saxton – used it but little toward the end, and it felt more like an unwanted appendix on the scene as election day drew near.

There’s a constituency there, a group for whom illegal visitors to this country is topic A. But it is a piece of the electorate only, and too direct an appeal to that group – put another way, too blatant an assault against those here illegally – can put off and turn off larger groups of people. It’s a delicate line. Saxton in Oregon and congressional primary winner Bill Sali in Idaho managed it, each probably picking up some support from that interested crowd without seeming cruel or bigoted.

Will Washington manage the challenge?

The delicate line was something party leadership clearly had in mind as it met for its convention and platform decisions, both this weekend. The issue is toughest for Republicans, because Republican President George W. Bush has proposed a relatively open program which could lead to citizenship, while a significant piece of that party is appalled by the idea. If Washington Republican Chair Diane Tebelius could dictate, she probalby would seek a party plank that smoothed over the differences, or tried to.

No go. The Washington Republicans passed a proposal calling for no citizenship for babies of illegal immigrants born within the United States (which, as state Attorney General Ron McKenna pointed out, runs counter to the federal constitutions). More significant than that was some of the debate, which got ugly in places. Consider this items from David Postman’s blog:

When another delegate said it would be impractical to deport all those workers, the sponsor of the amendment said, “We let them take themselves back. They brought themselves in. If they want to be legal we let them do it the right way.”

On babies, a Spokane delegate told the convention that in Southern California hospitals are “flooded with illegal aliens trying to have babies.” She said the problem is spreading to Washington. “They are called anchor babies and once they are born they can get welfare and all sorts of stuff.” She later said that people who are white are being denied benefits given “to people who are brown.”

Some at the convention suggested none of this would hurt the party with key Hispanic voters. The guess here is that some of this, some of the quotes especially, may not go over very well.

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May 28 2006

Why the dog didn’t bark

Published by under Oregon

On Oregon’s primary election night there was a mysterious dog that failed to bark in the night-time. Some explanation comes in an Oregonian story today, outlining a strategy and mindset – equal parts both – that could serve as a useful model for a number of growing jurisdictions.

The organizational dog was Metro, the planning and regional management organization for the three main metro counties of the Portland area (Multnomah, Wahsington and Clackamas). It’s human representative is David Bragdon, its elected president (its first, in fact, elected in 2002). Metro runs the region’s public transprotation (such as Tri-Met buses and MAX trains), some parks and other public facilities, and is in charge of region-wide planning: How and where and when, precisely, growth occurs and things are built, or not. Working in a visible position for Metro, in other words, is not a place to be if you’re easily upset by having people get mad at you: It seems unavoidable.

David BragdonAnd Metro is not exactly universally popular, but its work in the last few years has been vastly more widely accepted and approved that you might think. The hard evidence of that came in the primary election, when President Bragdon was not only re-elected, he was unopposed for re-election. And the two other commissioners on the ballot, who were opposed, won re-election overwhelmingly.

The tradition in matters of planning is work silently and present the opposition with a conclusion – an all but accomplished result. That tends to be true whether the clout resides more with development or conservation interests. In the case of Metro, the clout is pretty well divided. There’s a substantial development community with considerable force, but also a strong voter populace with (especially in Portland but some other places too) a strong environmental ethic.

Bragdon won election originally as the environmental candidate running against development interests. But he evidently concluded that trench warfare would lead to no progress for anyone. The Oregonian‘s sum-up of his approach at present: “Using incentives, Metro councilors intend to stay true to a vision of a vibrant, green metropolis without aggravating cranky voters. They hope it will break stalemates over land use and environmental protections that have stalled the Legislature and divided Oregonians. If successful, their methods could be copied elsewhere. The movement has gained a little traction. Metro recently persuaded builders to support a construction tax that jump-starts planning in new suburbs. New transportation money has been tied to economic development. And instead of banning construction on sensitive land, Metro officials are staging an eco-friendly design competition and doling out cleanup grants.”

More challenges are around the bend, including a large bond issue for land purchases. But the fact that Metro isn’t a whole lot more controversial than it is a remarkable feat by itself.

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May 26 2006

Secretary Kempthorne, Governor Risch

Published by under Idaho

Transition day is here. For a second time, Idaho has sent to Washington a new Interior secretary, and at the same time got a new governor.

Kempthorne confirmed, with Crapo, wife Patricia, Craig, Frist

(photo from office of Senator Larry Craig; Senator Mike Crapo, Kempthorne, wife Patricia, Craig, Senator Bill Frist)

Figure on much celebration in the two spheres, of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and new Governor Jim Risch. But expect action to be deliberate for the time being.

And don’t figure on a special legislative session on property tax law revision right away, if at all. The terms for one set down so far by Risch (sound terms, similar to those which ruled the recent successful six-hour special session in Oregon) are not easy to meet, oculd take a while to reach, and might not be met at all.

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May 25 2006

Banned in . . .

Published by under Idaho

Northwest blogging has arrived: A blog has been formally banned, albeit only in a courthouse. That appears to be the case, at least, in the case of the Spokesman Review’s Huckleberries Online, run by Dave Oliveria, which evidently has incurred enough wrath from the Kootenai County Commission, or at least a commissioner, to be cut off from the courthouse’s Internet roster.

This sort of thing never ends well. For the banner, that is.

Prediction here is that this is the Huckleberries’ page views from Coeur d’Alene shoots through the roof in the next few days.

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May 25 2006

Sali and the Democrats

Published by under Idaho

The Democrats were overjoyed. One campaign aide was almost literally dancing down a Boise street, so happy was he about the choice the Republicans had made of who would represent them in the general election for the 1st congressional district seat. Worst candidate of the bunch, he said; others would have been tougher, but this one was so bad that the election would be a slam dunk. Big sigh of relief.

That’s right: I’m talking about May 1994, when Helen Chenoweth was nominated by the Republicans for a seat in Congress. She went on, as we know now, to serve three terms before leaving of her own volition (in honor of a campaign pledge). She turned out not be an easy mark at all: She defeated incumbent Democrat Larry La Rocco.

This is worth bearing in mind as we hear, today, the terrific opportunity being placed before Idaho Democrats with the nomination of Bill Sali to that same seat, and of a highly presentable Democrat, Larry Grant, to oppose him.

And that word is being spread far and wide. You see is in emails and blogs. And you see it implied in quotes like this one from Idaho Democratic Chair Richard Stallings: “The Republicans have made a lot of mistakes in recent years, but nominating their 1st Congressional District candidate last night was a serious misstep. They have chosen a nominee who is despised within their own party – and with good reason. Bill Sali is one of the most divisive personalities in Idaho politics.”

A Daily Kos web site diary post about the race (which otherwise includes quite a few useful bits and pieces) actually includes the line, “The only problem for Grant currently is money.”

Well, no. It isn’t his only problem. This could be the most competitive race in the 1st since at least 1998 and maybe earlier, which means a Grant win is viable – could happen. But the odds still run the other way, and Democrats would not be well-served to ignore the obstacles before them. Continue Reading »

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May 25 2006

In the middle

Published by under Washington

We don’t get enough explanations of the way things really work in the world, including the government world, and so we often get an understanding of things no more sophisticated than you can put on a bumper sticker.

Hanging around politics and you’ll often hear the call to save our tax dollars by cutting back on the number of bureaucrats in government. Okay – that sounds appealing. What happens if we try to translate that into reality?

In Washington state government, there’s a logical place to look for them. Tht state has something called the Washington Management Service, into which management-level people are grouped; the idea was to train a large group of state workers in management skills. The WMS has about 5,400 people in it. So when Governor Chris Gregoire called for cutting back 1,000 “middle managers” – her version of cutting back on the bureaucrats – the WMS is where she headed.

In an excellent column today, Peter Callaghan points out that this seems simpler than it is. The MWS has come to include a lot more people than just middle managers; many are people doing important work whom the state would like to keep, but expects to lose owing to low salaries; many of these people are bumped into the WMS, not to become middle managers but to increase their pay. And so we have – and this was a focus for Callaghan – “all eight of the senior [prison] chaplains have been told their jobs will be eliminated to help the department meet its quota for mid-management reductions. That leaves just one chaplain for every 1,000 inmates. ”

That’s how to cut bloated bureaucracy? Well, no . . . and this should constitute a lesson for any political figure who thinks the job of cutting – which certainly often has merit – is either simple or easy.

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May 24 2006

Stickin’ or splittin’

Published by under Idaho

For quite a few Republicans, the situation has turned agonizing. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the situation will turn them.

The locus of agony is Bill Sali, who with 25.8% of the vote yesterday won the Republican nomination for the Idaho 1st district U.S. House seat. (Incumbent C.L. “Butch” Otter is running instead for governor, or so the paperwork says; Otter himself was on the far side of the country on election day and unavailable for conversation with Idahoans.)

Sali is typically described as a very conservative Republican, but that has nothing to do with the concern afoot. Nor does it have to do with his stands on issues or with his voting record, neither of which is very different from scores of other very conservative Republicans who have served with him in the Idaho House over the last 16 years.

It has more to do with something apparent to people who have worked around the Statehouse, apparent to Republicans and Democrats and liberal and conservatives alike. We have no interest in piling on or slinging mud, but there’s a broadly-held reality here that experienced Idaho political people know and that most Idahoans do not, and now it has become of importance. (We should add here: We have no personal animus against Sali; our dealings with him, mainly from some years back, have been cordial enough.) There is no gentle way to put this: Continue Reading »

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May 24 2006

Investigation as opposed to fishing

Published by under Oregon

The distinction between two types of information gathering has to be made up at the top, because a failure to understand it will result in a failure to grasp the import of the incident.

Investigation is specific, and it what we want and sometimes don’t get enough of. A law has been broken, and an officer has to probe the circumstances; or maybe information has been received that a law may be broken, and officers are trying to head off an event violent or dangerous. The point here is specificity: The officers are working on a specific incident by a specific person or group of people.

The alternative is fishing: Throwing the nets out there to see what might be pulled in. As anyone who fishes knows, this may be an interesting line of endeavor but it is hardly efficient. In a law enforcement context, it means trolling for masses of information. Since few of us manage to go for long in our modern, law-strewn, society, without breaking one, the ultimate idea is to have something on everyone, so those in charge can pick and choose who to harass or put away, and the concept of a “law abiding citizen” who has nothing to fear from the government becomes a thing of the past. Or at least, that’s the logical end conclusion when law enforcement goes fishing instead of investigating.

With that in mind, consider this from a letter posted on the city of Portland web site, by Mayor Tom Potter.

On Thursday, May 11, 2006, a Special Agent of the Portland Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation stopped a City employee and showed her a badge and ID. He asked if she knew any City Council members. He asked if she would be willing to pass information to him relating to people who work for the City of Portland . He said that while he had duties in other areas, the agency was always interested in information relating to white collar crime and other things.

One important and legitimate role of the FBI is to investigate public corruption within government entities. For example, recently the FBI arrested a member of Congress for public corruption. But federal officials have told me they know of no public corruption in our city. Federal officials say they are conducting no investigation of the City of Portland.

The only conclusion I can draw is that the agent in question was trying to place an informant inside the offices of Portland ’s elected officials and employees, in order to inform on City Council and others.

The actions of the FBI – even if they are the actions of one agent acting on his own – come at an uneasy time for many Americans. In the past few weeks, we have learned that our phone records are not private, and conversations are monitored without warrants. Journalists exposing these actions have been threatened with prosecution.

Even if this incident is nothing more than the work of one overzealous agent, it represents an unacceptable mindset within the agency. When there is no information to indicate ANY public corruption on the part of City Council members or employees, the FBI has no legitimate role in surreptitiously monitoring elected officials and city employees. As a city, we will continue to cooperate with the FBI on investigating criminal activities and terrorism, to ensure our community is as safe as possible.

But in the absence of any reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, I believe the FBI’s recent actions smack of “Big Brother.” Spying on local government without justification or cause is not acceptable to me. I hope it is not acceptable to you, either.

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May 23 2006

Republicans, mostly to the right

Published by under Idaho

Soon enough we’ll get to the general election implications of Bill Sali’s win of the Republican primary for the 1st U.S. House district. Those, and what it says about the first district itself.

For the moment, though, let’s reflect on the primary results as such, and for both Republicans and Democrats some prevailing trends suggest themselves.

Bill SaliGenerally speaking, this primary was good for hard-line social conservatives. Sali was Exhibit A: He posited the race explicitly as himself – defined as a sort of purist conservative – against Sheila Sorensen, loosely defined as a moderate or liberal or something equally unsavory. His final appeal is that the winner will be him or her, and true conservatives would know what to do. The religious conservative front certainly did, from the appeals on the anti-abortion front to the Alan Keys event in Kootenai County last weekend. Sali’s win was part of an organized effort, and it should be no surprise that the effort bore fruit elsewhere too. Our suspicion (voiced in this space) was that just such support would allow Sali to outrun the indicators of polls.

There were other exhibits of this too, on Tuesday night. Phil Hart, hardcorne on the tax and social front in the Panhandle was challenged by the veteran legislator, Wayne Meyer, he beat two years ago; the win then seemed almost a fluke, attendant in part to Meyer’s not paying enough attention. Hart’s smackdown of Meyer this time shows that nothing fluky was involved. In Gem County, Kathy Skippen’s loss to Steven Thayne was another takedown of a relative centrist in the House Republican caucus by a candidate far to the right. Continue Reading »

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May 23 2006

Has Sali got it?

Published by under Idaho

At the Huckleberries blog out of the Spokesman Review, Dave Oliveria has written – twice – that if state Representative Bill Sali hits the north with something close to a majority, he will probably win, because the population base in that area will head his direction.

He’s likely right, and now just that appears to be happening. With just over half of the 1st congressional district precincts counted, Sali is ahead at 26.7% of the vote (by seven percentage points and about a 2,500 raw vote lead) over Sheila Sorensen, who is barely ahead of third-place Keith Johnson.

The problem Sorensen and Johnson both have right now is: What should be their best pools of votes are largely tapped. Where do they go from here to catch up? If Sali hasn’t got it wrapped up yet, he’s very close.

Stay tuned.

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May 23 2006

An iteration, not yet definition

Published by under Idaho

The Associated Press vote tallies as run through the Idaho Statesman web site are coming in much faster than the numbers from the Secretary of State’s office; unfortunate, since the SoS numbers have more county detail. Still, there’s some grist here, finally.

Among the 1st District Republicans, state Representative Bill Sali has maintained a steady lead all evening – not a big lead, but to this point a definitive one. Former Senator Sheila Sorensen and Controller Keith Johnson have been swapping second place, about five points back. The other three are trailing – the race pretty clearly now seems to be between those three. (Your scribe was quoted accurarely earlier today in the Congressional Quarterly web site as saying, “All I can point out are winners that would surprise me more versus winners who would surprise me less. … Sali and Sorenson would be the least surprising, with maybe Johnson as a dark horse.” Well, here we are . . . so far . . .

Highly interesting in the so-far returns: The very close Republican superintendent of public instruction contest between state Representative Steve Smylie and former nominee Tom Luna; the weight of opinion (including ours) had been that Luna would be a clear winner. It’s not so clear at the moment.

Back shortly.

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