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Posts published in July 2006

Picking up pace

Some weeks ago we dinged on the independent Ben Westlund campaign for its case of the slows in doing the single most essential thing it must do right now: Gather enough valid petition signatures to win a spot on the November general election ballot.

It wasn't doing that, at least not nearly enough, for quite a while. Now, apparently, it is.

Back on June 12 we posted this:

On one (key) level, it’s a matter of math. The ballot status requirement is 18,364 valid (”perfected”) petition signatures delivered by August 29 to the secretary of state’s office. 119 days have passed since Westlund’s announcement, and the campaign’s Stacey Dycus wrote us today that 4,585 signatures have been collected. 78 days are left to collect the remaining 13,779 valid signatures - assuming every signature collected to date is valid (never, of course, a safe assumption).

Put it this way: The Westlund campaign has collected about 39 signatures a day since its launch announcement; it will have to increase that to 177 a day, every day, from here to the end of August - again, assuming every signature is valid - to make the ballot. It will have to more than quadruple its pace, as we head into the summer doldrums and interest in politics tends to slip.

That constituted a problem as we and the folks over at Loaded Orygun were noticing. Now, the campaign in fact seems to be picking up pace. (more…)

To the streets

Tacoma streetcarTacoma has become one of the most interesting cities in the Northwest for urban redevelopment and creative initiatives. It's not that all of them work, and it's not that the results so far are necessarily impeccable. (Touring around central Tacoma is an exercise in mixed realities, jowl by cheek.) But the efforts the city is making are noteworthy all over the place.

Like the streetcar effort.

Other cities have streetcars - Portland, for one, with a small network operational and possibly headed for expansion. Seattle, Yakima and even Astoria have systems of generally small size - they're interesting and maybe fun for visitors, but not major cogs in the system.

Tacoma seems to be looking toward something a bit grander. Like some of the other systems, it would be intended to link up with existing mass transit. Unlike them, it would apparently become an extensive and intensive network of routes, one that would serve the city in ways other than as a transportation curio or a museum piece.

One public meeting, billed as a grassroots effort (not explicitly linked to a city initiative), was hels early in June at the city library. More may be coming. (more…)

Senate race in rebalance

The contest for the Senate in Washington has gone through three distinct phases so far. The key question political Washingtonians must now ask themselves is this: Will there be a fourth?

Maria CantwellMaria Cantwell, the Democratic incumbent, has to hope so. And there are some indications it could be happening. But the jury's out, and at the moment the Evergreen State's junior Senate seat hangs gently in the balance.

Mike McGavickA year ago, pre-McGavick, there was some sense that things might not go smoothly for Cantwell. While it was true that her Democratic colleague Patty Murray had just decisively beat back a strong Republican challenger, Cantwell's polling numbers had consistently trailed Murray's. While she was able in 2000 to self-fund her campaign, she'd have to raise her own money this time after the dot-com bubble burst carried away much of her stash. A lot of Washingtonians had at that point sympathy for Republicans who had so closely lost the race for governor. And so on.

But - and here the second phase set in - conditions turned. After early prospects bailed, Republicans actually collected a candidate in McGavick, but McGavick seemed unable to pick up significant personal traction, and his fundraising was weak, a big surprise given his background as a corporate CEO. At the same time, Cantwell turned into a fundraising machine, drastically outraising him (and the most current reports still say she has outraised McGavick by a factor of three to four). President George W. Bush and the Republican-led Congress tanked in the polls nationally and even worse in Washington. Cantwell made headlines with a string of wins popular back home, on subjects including Enron corruption and oil tanker protection. She was on a roll.

Then - phase three - the roll seemed to slow, and stop. (more…)

Lobbying realities

Greater transparency wasn't something Jim Risch was often known for as a leader in the Idaho Senate - caucuses among the senators were rightfully closed, he would note, since what was discussed in them was our business. Others would take issue with just whose business it was.

Jim RischBut this post is by way of praise: In one of his early acts as governor, he has taken an action which serves to expand openness in his own office, and in such a way that it highlights as well the way influencers ply their trade.

The people whose job it is to work with government on behalf of organizations - associations, businesses, labor, other governments, whoever - sometimes find it necessary to deal directly with elected officials. It often happens that way in the case, say, of the Idaho Legislature, where lawmakers ordinarily have no staff people and have to handle all their own business themselves. More often, though, in the bigger picture, those government relations pros are dealing with staff. In Congress, most lobbyists only seldom talk to The Senator; most of their work is done with The Senator's staff. Even in state agencies that's often true, and often as well in states (such as Washington and Oregon) where legislators do have staff. And so with governors as well; most of the time, most people who have business with the governor do most of that business with the people who work for the governor. (more…)

The LG succession curse

Acurious little factoid crops up in a chart on Wikipedia concerning Idaho lieutenant governors appointed to follow in the stead of those who move up to governor, resign or die in office:

They don't seem to be able to win election on their own.

It began with Idaho's second lieutenant govenror, John Gray, appointed in December 1890 to succeed N.B. Willey, who moved on up to governor when George Shoup quit to become a U.S. senator. Gray had so little support, though, he wasn't even on the general election ballot in 1892. (Terms were two years long then.)

The last two appointed LGs in recent times, Democrat Bill Murphy in 1977 and Jack Riggs in 2001, ran for election to the office, but neither one: Murphy lost in the 1978 general election, Riggs in the 2002 primary.

The newly-appointed Idaho LG, Mark Ricks, doesn't have so much to worry about, since he's not running for the job this year anyway - the man who appointed him, new Governor Jim Risch, is seeking re-election to it. Given the history, maybe just as well.

Places of celebration

fireworksWe checked out the July 3 fireworks last night at the Oregon Garden at Silverton, and a fine experience it was.

(And we'll brook no snipes about the event's holiday-eve date. If we'd paid more attention to history, the big celebration would be happening on July 2 rather than July 4 anyway.)

The future of the Oregon Garden, a spectacular and beautiful collection of plant life from the state and around the world - probably without equal in the Northwest - has been in doubt. Intended as a major tourist draw, it has drawn fewer people than hoped for. It has needed financial bailouts, and has gotten them, so far. It has gotten solid community support too. But it can use all it can get.

So what they did, last night, was throw a fireworks - a fine show, with musical entertainment and catering from the fine Salem-based (and Silverton-founded) Roth's groceries.

The scale is not enormous. Silverton is a place of about 8,000 people, nearby coomunities are smaller, and though the event draws from the Salem area, Salem had its own events too. But a great big crowd poured into the garden, enough to create big traffic issues. All around, the event seemed a big success.

So: The curiousity of Boise, which will be fireworks-less again this year. From today's Idaho Statesman editorial: "This is sad and embarrassing. A vibrant city of 200,000 — with a proven record of throwing community and corporate support behind big events — ought to do a whole lot better. So let's resolve to do it. Come July 4, 2007, let's have a fireworks display to bring back memories of the Boise River Festival."

Memories of the Boise River Festival? You mean the cookie-cutter production (try Googling "river festival") that emphasized out of region vendors and productions and increasingly had less and less to do with Boise specifically until, finally, it financially crashed and burned? That one?

A suggestion: Find something uniquely Boiesan, something that could use some additional attention, and build a community fireworks around that.

Such a fireworks could become a double celebration, as it was last evening at the Oregon Gardens.

Gray power

The Oregonian story about low voting turnout among people in their 20s and 30s didn't really hit - "young people don't vote, dog bites man, yada, yada" - until we got to this graph well down in the story:

"Oregonians in their 20s and 30s outnumber Oregonians in their 70s almost four to one. But people in their 70s, with a turnout rate of 69 percent, cast more votes in May's primary election than all 575,000 registered voters ages 20 to 39 could muster."

That's dramatic.

Oregon impact

In Idaho we've from time to time run surveys and posted lists of the most influential Idahoans of the year just past and months just ahead, lists usually topped by the likes of governors and senators.

Were you to do a similar exercise in Washington state, only extend it out to the last 10 to 20 years, here's the top name you'd almost certainly come up with: Tim Eyman, the initiative king, who has had his share of losses as well as wins but probably has driven more politics in the state than anyone else.

And Oregon? A little less obvious, but it seems to adhere to the Washington track, at least to judge from one opinion-trawling effort.

Les AuCoin, the former congressman, has posted on his blog the query, "Who had the most impact on Oregon in the last 10 years?"

Of the responses received so far, the dominant names are three associated with initiative actions: Don McIntyre, who pushed through the tax-cutting Measure 5 in 1992, and Bill Moshofsky and David Hunnicutt of Oregonians In Action, who pushed through the land use Measure 37 in 2004.

Is the mere fact that such people - not elected officials, but gadfly-activists - are the main pushers of policies in these states? What would be the reasons underlying that? Comments welcome.

The practicality of idealism

Two ways of looking at politics. The first is the norm: Call it "give the people what they want," or at least what you think they want.

Intuitively, that sounds about right. But it doesn't square with much of recent reality. Ronald Reagan was a very popular president and won his re-election in 1984 overwhelmingly, but his policy positions - point by point - weren't especially popular. The key policy stands of George W. Bush 20 years later, on almost every subject save terrorism and maybe Iraq, had very weak support among the American public; if the voters were votingpolicy positions, he'd have crashed and burned decisively. The fact that these presidents pushed unpopular ideas may even have added to their support on a personal level.

This comes up because of an exchange between two Idaho political figures. Bill Cope is a former Democratic legislative candidate who for some years has been writing a column in the alternative Boise Weekly. The man who hired him as a columnist, Andy Hedden-Nicely (who has long since departed the Weekly), has run for office as a Democrat in the past, but this year has bolted the party to run under the banner of the United Party. Both parties disgust him. (more…)

What we want

As much as bloggers like to rant, and as much as many partisan bloggers like to go ballistic, there's still plenty of room for the positive - saying what we like and approve of and hope for, as well as the opposite.

Campaign season is good for coming up with the bill of goods of critcism, but why not explication of what we want and need from our candidates - from the people who will hold office next term.

With that in mind, take Tom Simpson's 10 Things I Want From My Next Governor essay on the Republican Oregon Catalyst site as a useful template. Simpson here writes about a string of substantial, serious matters facing Oregon and suggestions for how the next governor ought to handle them.

It's not exactly the same as our list (though there's a good deal of overlap). Or, probably, yours. But that's partly the point: Draft your own, and measure it against the candidates. Or, even better, tell the candidates that these are your expectations . . .