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Posts published in “Day: September 11, 2006”

DUI, a real impact

As discussion of a 13-year-old DUI slowly abates in the Washington Senate race, consider a case from the other end of the Megler Bridge.

Willis Van Dusen has been mayor of Astoria for almost 16 years - elected four times - and has been highly popular. The city has seen a great resurgence in this decade, and clearly Van Dusen, known locally as a great cheerleader for his city, can take some credit for that. He is on the ballot again in November, and when he filed most Astorians probably figured he'd cruise to a fifth term, rolling over his two challengers.

Instead, there was the matter of a pickup that Van Dusen, riding his motorcycle, collided with on September 4. Police found the pickup driver was not entirely blameless, but the attention focused on Van Dusen, who - police said - seemed thoroughly intoxicated and refused to allow a blood alcohol test. He was charged with driving under the influence.

That isn't all. As the Daily Astorian has noted, Van Dusen has two earlier DUIs on his record, in 1989 in Umatilla County and in Astoria 12 years ago.

You just see a tragedy for Astoria here. The city has apparently had a good mayor, a major contributor to the city's new growth and prosperity ... but how can he stay on after this? (He apparently has not withdrawn his re-election bid.)

Today, he released an open letter acknowledging, "I need help," and saying he was enrolling in a treatment facility for alcohol abuse, and didn't know how long he would stay there. Meantime, the council president will act as mayor.

Astoria is not a large city; its 10,000 or so people are perched near the ocean some distance from metro areas. The question has to arise: Given Van Dusen's history, did no one see this coming? Could nothing have been done? (Or did someone try, and the offer refused?) Why did the problem have to go so far?

There will be no evading another question, though: What does Astoria do now?

Idaho heads to mail voting

Not a lot of note of this yet in the mass media, but steps already underway make it likely that at least parts of Idaho will move to voting by mail in another couple of years, and most or all of the state a few elections after that.

votingThere's nothing official, yet. At present, voting by mail is allowed only in specific cases, as in absentee or overseas voting. But developments this summer make it look like Idaho will be joining Oregon - which went statewide with mail 14 years ago - and Washington - where the bulk of the state's voters will be casting ballots that way this year.

In Washington, such criticism as there is of mail voting is coming from Republican activists concerned about the potential for fraud. But support for voting by mail is bipartisan in Oregon, and so it is in Idaho.

The bill proposal making the rounds, and likely to be introduced next legislative session, is local option, allowing counties to switch to mail voting. It is being promoted by county clerks, whose state organization this year unanimously passed a resolution in favor. A web site in support of the idea has been set up. (more…)