Writings and observations

The Independent caucus in the Oregon Senate has just doubled in size. And maintained the partisan balance in the process. But all that may be the least of it.

Last winter, Senator Ben Westlund, a Republican from the Bend area, said he switched his party registration to independent. He’s now running for governor under that label.

Senator Avel GordlyFriday, another senator joined his bolt from the parties: Senator Avel Gordly, a Portland Democrat.

In some ways her departure is even more striking than Westlund’s. If in a number of respects Westlund seems to have been diverging from the Republican Party in recent years, it’s a lot less surface-obvious in Gordly’s case. Her background could hardly fit a Portland Democratic legislator more tightly: Coordinator of Albina Head Start, member of the Albina Community Bancorp Board, director of the American Friends Service Committee, Youth Director for Urban League of Portland (although she also was a parole and probation officer). Her key areas of interest include social services and education, and she has gotten a 100% rating from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. Her northeast Portland district (23) is solidly Democratic. She’s now in her third Senate term.

There’s no overt evidence of a philosophical break with her party, with which she’s served in the Legislature for 16 years. So why the change?

A short report on the Oregonian‘s political blog said that “Gordly has made no secret that she believes extreme partisanship gets in the way of doing what’s best for the people of Oregon. She’s talked for months about switching from Democrat to independent. She stopped going to her party caucus meetings months ago, when Democrats voted to close them to the press.”

In other words, the reason seems to have less to do with differences with her own party (apart, maybe, from the closed caucuses) than it does with the whole idea of partisanship. That may make her a more powerful advocate for the idea even than Westlund.

Might she be the precursor, then, to yet another breaker of the ranks?

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Pretty much all daily newspapers across the United States, and some sub-dailies – some twice- or thrice-weekly or larger weekly papers – along with most news-providing broadcasters are members of the Associated Press, which supplies all those stories with the (AP) tag 0n them. The AP has has its own large newsgathering staff, but most of those stories come from the member newspapers. That creates an enormous reservoir of potential news items, but there’s still a large gap: What about all those stories in weekly or other newspapers, stories coming from the smaller communities which aren’t picked up?

Small Town Papers News Service, founded (ironically?) in Seattle, aims to remediate that, spreading news from smaller communities.

It’s a national service, but Washington seems to be one of its strong points. Its list of participating titles there includes the Edmonds Beacon, the Mattawa Area News, the Mukilteo Beacon, the Bonney Lake & Lake Tapps Courier-Herald at Enumclaw, the Boomerang at Palouse, the Enumclaw Courier Herald and the South County Sun at Royal City.

Oregon papers are the McKenzie River Reflections at McKenzie Bridge, the Clatskanie Chief and the Elgin Times. In Idaho there’s the Latah Eagle at Moscow, the Aberdeen Times and the Power County Press at American Falls.

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