"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

Mostly when new state parks arrive, they arrive as a fait accompli – such as when a donor offers lands and, after some quiet negotiations, the state agrees to take it over and turn it into a park.

Something a little different will be happening when the East Idaho State Park Site Selection Committee convenes on July 18 – it will actually consider original suggestions from Idahoans about what they would like to see in a new park, to be considered further by the Department of Parks & Recreation. the department notes that “Traditionally, the parks we have developed fall into four categories” – recreation, natural, heritage and recreation trailway – which leads us to wonder: Can someone come up with a useful idea that busts the boundaries?

David Frazier’s Boise Guardian web site has been collection and passing on the ideas. none so far look like boundary-busters, but a number seem like nifty ideas. (Frazier’s favorite is “A living history park where agricultural and pioneer skills from an earlier time could be demonstrated.”) He’s posted quite a few so far, and they’re worth a look.

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What might happen, one wonders, if the Oregonian were to run a story about how Portland’s conservative talk icon, Lars Larson, had been muzzled by management at his station – on request on the ad sales department?

Would it be that “should listeners get a whiff of censorship, you’ll have an outcry of epic proportions”? Maybe. And just such a report might be not far off.

That quote just above came from Brian Maloney of Inside Radio, who reported that at a recent industry seminar, “KXL Program Director James Derby stunned many in the audience by admitting outright that Lars Larson was prohibited from further criticism of a local hospital’s practices, after it complained to the station. … Making matters far, far worse, Derby admitted that it was pressure from the sales department that led to Larson’s muzzling. According to him, the hospital in question had finally signed an advertising contract after a long period of lobbying by the station. As a result, account executives weren’t happy to hear it criticized on the air.” (A hat tip to Oregon Media Insiders for the link.)

There was no immediate response from Larson, and no, there appears to be no reference to it on his web site.

Maybe, back in Portland, everyone still is trying to figure out their next move. But you can bet that someone will make one before long, and it could result in an entertaining counterpart to the Independence Day fireworks.

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Our first thought about this year’s fire season was that it should be a little lighter than most of those in recent years. After all, there’s more water up in the hills, more water moving around, even a little flooding in spots. And so far it hasn’t been an especially hot or dry summer.

But all that water is generating a lot more plants. (Our garden is doing much better this year than last, thanks.) And those plants seem to be generating a lot more fires.

Here’s the national fire picture, from the National Interagency Fire Center at Boise, year to date, comparing the last few years.

2006 (1/1/06 – 6/22/06) Fires: 53,563 Acres: 3,187,940
2005 (1/1/05 – 6/22/05) Fires: 27,906 Acres: 745,959
2004 (1/1/04 – 6/22/04) Fires: 35,889 Acres: 790,941
2003 (1/1/03 – 6/22/03) Fires: 25,338 Acres: 520,384
2002 (1/1/02 – 6/22/02) Fires: 42,846 Acres: 2,283,493
2001 (1/1/01 – 6/22/01) Fires: 38,742 Acres: 861,714

The average through that period is 38,914 to this point in the year; you’ll notice we’re considerably exceeding it this year. In fact, on the averages so far, this is shaping up as possibly the worst fire year for a long time.

What’s helped – and the main reason you’ve not been hearing about it much yet – is that most of these fires so far in 2006 have been small and unspectacular, and some have been controlled burns. At the moment no fires are reported in Washington or Oregon, and just one (near Wendell, but good sized at 8,700 acres) in Idaho. But the way the year is progressing, things may not stay that way. Keep a watch.

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When Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski hired consultant Jim Ross to run his re-election campaign on Wednesday, he apparently gave little indication why Ross, whose campaigns have centered in the San Francisco area where he lives, was his choice. (His previous manager resigned after the primary election.)

We can only guess what Kulongoski’s reasons were. But after checking into Ross, his background, his campaigns and his views on the subject, we can suggest at least one very good one: He may have concluded that turnout will be the key to winning the November election, and he wants on board one of his party’s top experts in making it happen – and Ross is, and has.

His signature race also has some hallmarks similar to this one. In 2003 Willie Brown was retiring as mayor of San Francisco, and a range of people filed for the job. The general election resulted in a mid-sized win for Gavin Newsom, a businessman who had won elective office in San Francisco a few times. But there would be a runoff, and polling quickly showed a very close race with second-place Matt Gonzalez; both were Board of Supervisors members, but Gonzalez seemed to have energized more of the liberal activist core – a key to winning in The City. (Does the dynamic – a close race as the two-way runoff begins – sound a bit familiar?)

Enter Ross. In a short but influential (certainly much linked-to) article on line, Ross described what happened that gave Newsom a strong runoff win.

In December of 2003 while managing Gavin Newsom’s mayoral race we identified the need to effect turn-out in his favor in order to win the election. San Francisco’s mayoral elections are traditionally close and very hard fought campaigns that attract national attention. They have also been a testing ground for voter turnout techniques and voter identification.

During the course of the campaign we learned several things:
• You can start voter identification early and those voters that endorse early, if you communicate with them, will stick with you.
• Reach out to areas or communities that may not universally support you, a campaign can find pockets of support in even the most hostile areas.
• If possible use vote by mail or absentee voting and early voting to extend your GOTV efforts.
• Use volunteers to reach the voters you can’t reach through other means.

There’s nothing unique about most of these ideas, but by various accounts Ross worked through ways to carry most of them out; the article lines out a number of the tactics. Results: “On Election Day Gavin Newsom lost. He won Election Night because he received 20,000 more absentee votes than Matt Gonzalez.”

If the name Newsom vaguely rings a bell, it may be because he was the mayor who tried to “legalize” gay marriage in San Francisco. Some Oregon Republicans may jump on the ross selection on that account. But consider this desciption in Salon of the political fallout for Newsom locally: “His staff has spun the rancor of national Democrats into political gold for the new mayor, who was widely viewed as the conservative candidate in last year’s election and is now beloved by local progressives.”

There’s also another related echo. Remember how the primary election this year drew below-average turnout? Here was the take at the Newsom campaign on runoff election day, 2003: “Gavin Newsom’s campaign manager Jim Ross said it was harder to motivate people for this election than it had been in either of the campaigns that he ran for former San Francisco mayor Frank Jordan. ‘It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen,’ he said. ‘There’s usually a lot more heat by now.’ By 4:00 a.m, lights were on at Newsom headquarters on Van Ness. Soon, fueled by coffee and more than 40 dozen doughnuts, 100 volunteers were walking six-block precincts.”

Whatever else Kulongoski has or lacks at this point, he may have found a strategic direction.

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Aquick bit of amusement: Dave Oliveria asks his northern Idaho/eastern Washington readers which towns in either state they would not want to live in. Of course, “Besides Athol?”

The pile of responses are sometimes funny and sometimes surprisingly enlightening.

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Who’s the most popular senator in the Northwest (and elsewhere)? SurveyUSA has the answers.

The polling company, which polls state by state in coordination with local organizations (TV stations, in the Northwest), has been doing regular popularity numbers on top elected officials. As of June, here are the numbers for the region’s Senate delegation:

Senator State Favorable % Unfavorable % Margin
Mike Crapo/R Idaho 59% 31% 28%
Ron Wyden/D Oregon 56% 33% 23%
Larry Craig/R Idaho 58% 35% 23%
Patty Murray/D Washington 51% 40% 11%
Gordon Smith/R Oregon 47% 41% 6%
Maria Cantwell/D Washington 48% 43% 5%

None of them were super-high; Crapo, who ranked highest, was 27th among the 100 senators. Cantwell ranked at 80; poor luck for her that the lowest-ranking of the senators is also the only one in the region up for election this year.

In 2008, however, Idaho’s Craig and Oregon’s Smith return to the ballot (assuming they’re running again – neither has announced). Neither have overwhelming numbers, according to SUSA, and Smith’s in particular seem a little weak. If Democrats fare well in November in Oregon, the partisan knives will be out for Smith before long. An approval rating at 47% isn’t where you want it to be if you’re heading up to an election.

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One of the flaws with a lot of “property rights” arguments is that only one type of property interests – one type of rights – tends to be addressed, and complexities of real-world real estate get missed. Consider the case of the owner of a manufactured home park at Wilsomville.

Wilsonville is on the southern edge of the Portland metro area – about as far away from downtown as commuters en masse will live – and it is surrounded by some of the area’s classiest and highest-priced property (million-dollar horse estates and the like). For some years Roger Ash has owned a manufactured housing park called the Thunderbird Mobile Club, which has provided spaces for about 270 of what used to be called “mobile homes.” How, because the property could be much more valuable used for high-end housing or other purposes, he wants to sell.

Call it a rare case of a newer euphemism turning out to be more accurate than the old description. These manufactured homes may technically be moveable, but not much more easily than a stick-built. And if you try to move them, you’ll discover the limitations on where, since many jurisdictions no longer allow them to be moved into the city or county. If you own a manufactured home which is situated at a park, the only practical way you may be able to leave it is to sell it to its next owner, at the same place. Most states (including those in the northwest) have laws coveirng “mobile home parks,” but most of those laws are sorely in need of revision.

Ash’s desire to sell is understandable, and you can get his frustration when he bumped into a new Wilsonville ordinance. It says that owners of parks like Ash’s have to obtain a city permit before closing, and are responsible for finding a similar kind of place for their residents to move. If they can’t, the owners have to buy out the owners of the homes. There is a trap door of sorts, allowing the owner to appeal the terms to the city.

Ash has challenged the ordinance in court, on grounds it is impinging on his property rights – he’s being barred from selling his property.

And so he is. But the alternative seems to involve property rights of the 270 residents, who would be put to great expense and difficulty, and loss of their property, so that Ash can exercise his property rights. The question may come up: What makes his property rights superior to theirs?

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It flies in the face of conventional Washington politics, of campaign finance numbers, of the political atmospherics and more. but the polling numbers look consistent: The Washington Senate race keeps getting tighter and tigher.

Maria CantwellThe latest Rasmussen Reports Poll on the race shows a lead by Democratic incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell over her Republican challenger, insurance company executive Mike McGavick, of 44%-40% – just about at the margin of error.

Maria CantwellApart from the closeness, two aspects here ought to give the Cantwell people big worries. One is that her lead has been diminishing, steadily, since January, from 15% then, to 13% in March, to 8% in April and 5% in May. About the only consolation is that the race may not be tightening quite as fast as it was.

The other, maybe bigger, issue is that since March or so she has fallen below the 50% mark, and an incumbent held to below 50% is an incumbent in high risk. Again, a minor consolation: McGavick’s numbers are up only 3% since the polling started last fall, so he hasn’t been gaining a lot, either. (The counter to that would be that McGavick is still introducing himself to voters, while Cantwell already is well known.)

These results aren’t unqie; they fit generally with other recent polling results as well. Consider this from Survey USA, which polled only favorable/unfavorable about incumbent senators: Cantwell polled 48% favorable and 43% unfavorable – again, not good for an incumbent.

One thing this suggests is that Washington residents, so far, arent’ falling in love with either one of them.

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As in, the need for: You really need to check out the information around a factoid before deciding what weight or interpretation to give it.

Googling around this evening, we came across this item from the D.C. newspaper The Hill in a Google list: “… Butch Otter (R-Idaho) faces a tough race and is therefore putting his job on the line.”

Stuffed with righteous indignation about how full of it The Hill was, we turned to the story (about how this election cycle marks the first time in three decades that more U.S. representatives are running for governor of their state than for the Senate), and saw the full quote:

“Every congressional gubernatorial candidate except Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho) faces a tough race and is therefore putting his job on the line. One of them — Rep. Tom Osborne (R-Neb.) — already lost in a primary.”

Oh. Never mind.

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The next newspaper up for sale in the Seattle area is – no, not the Post Intelligencer, but rather the suburban daily to the east across the water, the King County Journal.

King County JournalIt never seems to have had an easy history. It started with great, bright promise: two small east King newspapers, the Eastside Journal and the Bellevue American, were sold to a new publishing group which turned them into the daily Bellevue Journal-American. We remember visiting their offices in the late 70s (in a beautiful woodsy setting); the place was full of ambition and seemed ready to vault ahead. And the timing would seem to have been perfect, since the Eastside then was just on the edge of the fierce growth that continues today. We would have guessed then, if we’d known how Bellevue, Renton, and the other communities in the area were about to grow, that the J-A would become an extremely successful paper, its circulation well over 100,000.

The King County Journal, which is its renamed successor today (and consisting as well of merged local papers), is well short of that. Not a bad newspaper for its area, and something like the 7th-largest daily in the state, it does seem to have a limited ambition, operating in the shadows of the behemoths across the water. Its owner, in recent years Horvitz Newspapers (led by Peter Horvitz), has put money into it – a big $20 million plant project just a few years ago – and tried various combination and approaches, but the papers never quite seem to have found their niche.

Usually newspaper companies describe the reasons for putting papers on the block in terms of corporate strategic planning – “this paper didn’t mesh with our long-term corporate plan.” Horvitz, who in the past has been quoted as saying the papers never have been as profitable as he would like, was more blunt in his announcement.

The paper said “Horvitz said he and his board of directors decided to sell because the company doesn’t have the resources to achieve the paper’s potential.” That’s a remarkable statement. And more: He was quoted directly as saying, “We’re proud of the significant progress these newspapers have made over many years, especially in a very difficult economic and competitive environment, and we believe that much progress can be made in future years if King County Journal Newspapers is owned by a company that can continue to make the necessary investments in the newspapers.”

In other words: Don’t buy these papers with the idea you can make any quick bucks, and expect to pour money in before you get much out. If that’s not the most conventional commentary an owner might offer before sale, Horvitz’ statement does have an uncommon ring of painful and precise truth.

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Astate like Idaho which has no formal party registration gets its members informally, very informally, through self-definition. If you think of yourself as a Republican, or as a Democrat, then you are. And in Idaho, to judge at least from voting results, a good many more people self-define as Rs than as Ds.

That’s why you want to be very careful when you say publicly the kind of thing U.S. Representative Mike Simpson said at last weekend’s state GOP convention.

He was talking about the candidacy of Bill Sali for the other U.S. House seat; he opposed Sali in the primary but now supports him as the Republican nominee, against Democrat Larry Grant. So much was a normal pitch for party unity. Then, according to several reports, he added: “I’ve heard some talk about Republicans for Grant. There is no such thing as a Republican for Grant. They are Democrats.”

We’ve written in the last few days about a subtext of “purification” in the current Idaho Republican Party, and this may be the clearest instance of it: You have to vote not just for nearly all Republicans, but every single one, or you’re no Republican at all. Cross the line once and you’re outta here.

Is that reaction over-sensitive, the misreading of an independent viewpoint? Well, consider the testimony of Bubblehead, a blogger, a retired submarine officer and a self-described lifel0ng Republican who has voted mostly Republican and never Democratic for president. [The point came via Red State Rebels.] After meeting and talking with both Sali and Grant, he decided to support Grant.

After hearing about Simpson’s line, Bubblehead responded: “I’ll be honest – this upsets me quite a bit. I feel I’ve done enough for my country to be accepted as a member of either one of the two main political parties, no matter who I happen to vote for in one election. And anyway — who is Mike Simpson to throw me out of my own party?” After which he goes on to rant about Simpson and the party. The seeds of a larger-purpose walkout may have been planted.

No one knows yet, or will for a while, what sort of crossover vote Grant may attract. But if it is substantial, Simpson – and some other Republican leaders – may wish the congressman could take his words back.

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File this one under “money ain’t everything,” a substantial little subcategory of this site’s political analysis section.

To be clear: Money can be important in political campaigns, and it’s surely helpful not to be seriously outspent. But money buys elections only in the odd or unuusal case. Usually, money follows credibility – the person considered the likely winner anyway – or other strengths. The big money people usually want a reason to believe the person can win before they’ll invest; so, ordinarily, do small contributors. When such consideratons are thrown to the wind and a candidate gets big bucks anyway, more often than not they do little good.

Case in point is this morning’s Oregonian piece on a city council race in Beaverton, the Portland suburb which has been in legal conflict for a few years now with a near neighbor, the shoe-making Nike Corporation, and its honcho, Phil Knight. The issues have had to do with such matters as annexation and an ugly legal battle since over origins of the annexation attempt. But for Knight it seems to have gotten personal, with the elected city officials.

In this year’s Beaverton city elections, Knight decided to stake an opponent, named Bob Burke, to one of the council members seeking re-election, Betty Bode, who was first elected in 2002. Burke consequently was able to spend $64,905, of which more than $60,000 (some of it in-kind) came from Knight or other Nike sources. That swamped Bode’s campaign, which spent $15,825.

The catch was, the voters didn’t feel like ousting Bode. So they didn’t, re-electing her with 59.1% of the vote – a strong win even against a relatively minor opponent. The Oregonian calculated that Burke spent more than $13 per vote, to Bode’s $2.21 per vote.

The paper quoted Nike officials as saying the campaign shows to Beaverton that Nike is willing to spend its money on local political races. The numbers suggest the larger lesson, though, is that Knight and the corporation will be wasting their money, however much they spend, unless their preferred candidates already have a strong rationale within the community for winning.

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