Just a few months ago the chief of police of Portland, Derrick Foxworth, was demoted (and is now at legal war with the city) and generated a local firestorm over a sexual relationship with a female member of the force. Actually, to put it more finely, the firestorm erupted from a batch of emails between them, mainly his to her, which became the subject of withering public discussion for weeks.

Bill Douglas
Bill Douglas

One obvious lesson in this: if you’re working in a public agency, watch those emails, especially any centering around personal relationships and most especially any with sexual component – those last are PR lighter fluid.

Just that has embroiled another public official, Kootenai County (Idaho) Prosecutor Bill Douglas, who neither sent nor received the mails but presides over the office where it happened.

The key emailer was Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rick Baughman, who has been accused of sexual harassment and who, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, sent a number of sexually explicit emails (reported at about 50) to them, some with graphic attachments. Evidently at least one of the women reciprocated.

There is, of course, much more. Most of today’s SR blog Huckleberries Online, the Dave Oliveria blog, is given over to it. Text of some of the offending emails may appear online soon, courtesy of the Spokesman. Baughman has been interviewed, to not much useful effect; most of his rebuttal was along the lines of (and this is a quote), “At some point you have to draw the line. How many times do my kids have to undergo the torments of their friends just so you can sell a newspaper.” (Leaving aside, of course, any comment about his own actions, only commenting on his distress on having been found out.)

That will probably plug the dike about as long as his boss’ comment that the whole story is simply “a distraction.” That distraction is already prompting people like Oliveria to pull up the numbers of signatures needed to force a recall, and to speculate about resignation.

Likely, this will play out ugly. We’ve been there before. So has the Spokesman (you do remember Jim West, the recalled mayor?). And so has Derrick Foxworth.

And eventually, we’ll get used to the reality, for good or ill, that emails cannot be relied upon to remain as private communications.

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After reading twice the Monday Gregoire/Bergeson press release on the math portion of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning – WASL – and considering its history, the chain of realistic conclusions seems clear.

The WASL was intended as a measure of how well students in the upper grades of Washington public schools are learning certain core subjects. So what do you do if the WASL doesn’t indicate what you want it to? Try teaching to the WASL – take time away from general learning so that students can do better on the test. (There’s been no lack of reportage about that tendency around the state, and even of students driven to WASL-induced stress illness over their test-taking.) And if that still doesn’t work? Change the standards, which is what the Gregoire/Bergeson “temporary alternative” to WASL math standards, to be proposed to the legislature next session, is essentially about.

State education agencies have reported “progress” on reading and writing test scores, but ongoing “diffuculty” in the math sections. That has led to protests, and elected officials – notably, officials who will be on the ballot in less than two years – have responded. Specifically: “Governor Gregoire and Superintendent Bergeson are proposing that students who have not passed the high school WASL continue to take rigorous math classes until they graduate or pass the test. Taking the test or an approved alternative would be required annually. The option of allowing students to graduate without passing the math WASL would remain in place for three years – for the graduating classes of 2008, 2009 and 2010.”

As to where that’s leading, consider the logic in this quote from Governor Chris Gregoire: “I want to let students and parents know that we are listening to their concerns and we believe this plan promotes math skills without penalizing responsible, hard-working students and teachers.” But – that formulation logically suggests – letting slide the irresponsible, indolent students and teachers.

There is in all this a clue for the legislature, which is that it might profitably begin peering outside the WASL box in consideration of a superior mousetrap.

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One of the unwritten rules of D.C.’s Capitol Hill is that the members of Congress are to be seen and heard (as often as possible), but not the staff: Their names are supposed never to show up, for example, in news stories. For the greatworld outside the beltway, these people, who make a whole lot happen and shape congressional directions and careers more than many elected officials will ever acknowledge, remain a shadowy presence.

Reason enough to appreciate LegiStorm, a web site and service now just a couple of months old. (Hat tip to the Oregonian blog for noting it.) Formed as an outgrowth of a watcher of Pentagon activities, LegiStorm apparently will expand but has started as a tracker of salaries of congressional staffers – those working for a member of Congress. (Committees, offices, leadership positions and other nooks have staffers too but aren’t covered.)

So how does the Northwest delegation pay? A surface scan suggests: About normal for the nationwide marketplace. Which is what it is, since many of the key staffers for members of Congress float around among the congressional offices.

Pulling together material posted on LegiStorm (but not exactly in their format), here’s a statistical piece of the picture: The chiefs of staff for the members of the regional Senate delegation. (Are you a political junkie? You are if you know the names of these chiefs of staff, though many of them ought to be well known . . . so consider this an excuse to meet some of the people behind the curtain . . .)

This covers the year ending last March 31. Note that in all cases, the numbers may include or exclude some payments (bonuses and so forth) so the comparisons may not be strictly apples to apples.

State Member Chief of Staff Annual Pay
ID Larry Craig/R Michael O. Ware $158,250
ID Mike Crapo/R John Hoehne $158,204
OR Ron Wyden/D Joshua Kardon $156,585
OR Gordon Smith/R John Easton $156,257
WA Patty Murray/D Richard Desimone $141,287
WA Maria Cantwell/D Kurt Beckett* $96,230

.
*Held the position only part of the year.

House information is available here.

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Wennerberg Park
Outside our front window, at low elevation

Yeah, there are some icy roads. But it’s pretty out there.

The whole Northwest – almost – has been drenched with snow, even places that seldom see it at all in the winter. The Willamette Valley in Oregon has a snow floor; the mountains to east and west may typically turn white, but the valley floor only uncommonly does.

A north-central Idaho friend informs us of 17 inches on the ground there. Seattle has been coping with the unexpected white stuff (though less ice, seemingly, than usual.) A string of ski areas will open for business in the next few days; the Spokesman-review’s Betsy Russell reports that Bogus Basin at Boise has gotten 14 inches of snow since late Sunday.

And more on the way. We seem well on the way to a solid snowpack for the season; might we get a white Christmas as well?

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The next time you see an institution talking about conducting a year-long, nation-wide, expensive search to fill a high-paying executive post, remember Baker.

The Baker City Herald reports today on the city’s efforts to fill its city manager position, which came open when Jerry Gillham resigned on September 1. After a busy period shortly before the deadline for applications hit on November 15, the city totaled them up and found the position had . . . 91 applicants.

One of the reviewers remarked, “I think there’s a pretty solid group of 20 at the top.”

Probably is.

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The quite serious subject of where the Washington Republican Party goes from here is given a thoughtful treatment in “Make or Break Time for the Washington GOP,” a Matt Rosenberg post on Sound Politics. It isn’t the final word on the subject, but it constitutes the best opening shot we’ve seen yet.

The situation is serious indeed, and he stakes are high. One of the comments to Rosenberg’s post notes acidly, “WA is now a one party state. There are many such states in the US, and the one thing they have in common is that the out-party (the GOP in WA) can sometimes win the executive’s office, but the statehouse is lost basically for a generation or more.”

That’s often true. Washington Republicans should look east to the plight of the Idaho Democrats for a vision of their future if they fail to reverse what has now become a decade-long slide. There, Democrats have been out of control of either chamber of the legislature for 46 years.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Washington and Oregon have each provided more rapid shifts in recent decades. The current Washington issue is that the switch looks structural. It was shown up starkly in a Seattle Times article and, especially, a map published today. The map shows the east King County legislative districts, seven or eight of them (depending on how you count) which only a decade ago were nearly all a lock for Republicans, and now are – with the partial split exception of District 41 – solidly Democratic. Much of that happened on November 7, but the trend has been building, accelerating, throughout this decade. It’s not a momentary lapse; this has been in the works.

If that means the suburbs as well as the central city of Seattle have gotten off the fence and landed on the Democratic side, then you can just about say: game over. Between those places and the other Democratic bases in the state – most of the rest of the Puget Sound area and most of the Olympic peninsula, plus part of Vancouver and central Spokane – there isn’t enough votes everywhere else to counterbalance. The Seattle suburbs were the key.

Rosenberg:

So perhaps it’s comforting for some Rs to continue assuming that the key Central Puget Sound suburban electorate is a fickle, impatient beast, and Ds could be on the outs soon if they don’t deliver. That’s not a smart approach. State Republicans likely now stand at a precipice.

If they are unable to inspire suburbanites who are far, far closer to the political center than most Sound Politics readers – the party will fall into the hands of blindered zealots fixed on banning abortion, insisting on deportation of 12 million illegal U.S. immigrants, and reviewing school fiction picks for suitability.

Lacking a fresh, responsive and inspiring agenda significantly decoupled from the political hackery and boilerplate of the official party “platform” process, the state GOP will fare quite poorly; and their expected ’08 gubernatorial challenger Dino Rossi will fall far short compared to his highly-contested loss in ’04.

Actually, of course, it is possible for the Democrats to blow it – it would take only the wrong dollop of overconfidence breeding arrogance; such is an old story. But, as Rosenberg wisely notes, you’re never well advised to base your strategy on your opponent making a mistake. (That is simply hope which, as we all know now, is no strategy.)

What does he suggest?

A series of policy initiatives, basically, on transportation, crime and other subjects such as “a tenable, sincere, yet authentically GOP environmental agenda which is about much more than land-use and business regulation gripes.”

If the details are different, you get an overall feel that sounds a bit like national Democrats were suggesting a couple of years back. (Not that we agree with some quick Republican critics that Rosenberg’s idea is just Democrat-lite.)

He goes on from there to add other ideas, and the rest of the post – and no less, the responding comments – are worth a read.

This will be an ongoing conversation. We’ll be watching to see where it goes.

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The gubernatorial campaign of Mary Starrett, running under the banner of the Constitution Party of Oregon, generated a good deal of attention – not least for the candidate’s solid campaigning skills – but it failed to hit what would have been key benchmarks.

It failed to reach even into the upper single digits (the percentage was 3.6% of the vote). And it failed to generate enough votes that it could even qualify as a “spoiler,” prospectively making the difference in the outcome between the two major party candidates. Democrat Ted Kulongoski won by 8%, considerably more than Starrett’s vote.

(We do take note that Starrett’s highest county percentage, 8.1%, was in Democratic Columbia County, which overall went for Kulongoski; that county was loaded with Starrett yard signs during the campaign. What’s happening there is worth another check.)

All this is prompted by email today from the Constitution Party of Oregon, which notes a new state party chair, Jack Alan Brown, Jr., and some political analysis from its perspective.

We intend to greatly increase our party’s visibility, building on the momentum created by Mary Starrett’s campaign for governor. One way we will be doing that is by fielding a few exciting ballot initiatives that directly relate to some of our platform planks. The first will undoubtedly relate to one or more of the following issues — abortion, English as our official language, and illegal immigration. We have other plans as well that we will unveil later.

Our presence in the governor race proved what I have said all along: Neither conservative nor moderate Democrats will ever vote for a moderate Republican, as they have nothing to gain. However, conservative Democrats might vote for a Republican perceived as a conservative, if their own party’s nominee is perceived as an ultra liberal, as the Nixon and Reagan presidencies demonstrated. If the Republicans can’t learn this, they might as well pack up and go home. The Constitution Party of Oregon, with its principles-over-politics approach, is here to stay!

Adding to Republican headaches in review of this Rubik’s cube of an election.

CORRECTION: The name of the new party chair was corrected.

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Acouple of quick notes on latter-day newspapering, indicators of how the industry has changed.

1. The King County Journal, which has been up for sale for several months (we posted on that in June) has been sold – to a Canadian company. (Check out that earlier post for background on the Journal.)

King County JournalThe buyer is Black Press Ltd., which owns a string of Canadian properties and one of the two dailies in Honolulu. (We’ve followed, over the years, the adventures of that Hawaiian newspaper, the Star-Bulletin, in Ian Lind’s fine Online Daily from Hawaii – one of the first and still one of the most readable blogs; Lind, a former Star-Bulletin staffer, started it as an outlet to describe with brutal honesty what was happening as the paper went through major changes over the years. Journal employees might be well served to check it out.) Based on past history, our sense: The Journal will remain a daily newspaper, but will see more budget cuts.

2. Over at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Huckleberries proprietor Dave Oliveria continues his look back at the Coeur d’Alene Press, notably the rapid turnover there.

We were struck by this bit in a comment and response: In the last 22 years, these people have been the managing editors of the Press: Bill Cooper, Jim Hail, Clyde Bentley, Gretchen Berning, Barry Casebolt, Mike Feiler, Mark Allison and Mike Patrick, who is there now. Count ’em: eight MEs in that time, about two years and a few months apiece.

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Acouple of quick notes on latter-day newspapering, indicators of how the industry has changed.

1. The King County Journal, which has been up for sale for several months (we posted on that in June) has been sold – to a Canadian company. (Check out that earlier post for background on the Journal.)

King County JournalThe buyer is Black Press Ltd., which owns a string of Canadian properties and one of the two dailies in Honolulu. (We’ve followed, over the years, the adventures of that Hawaiian newspaper, the Star-Bulletin, in Ian Lind’s fine Online Daily from Hawaii – one of the first and still one of the most readable blogs; Lind, a former Star-Bulletin staffer, started it as an outlet to describe with brutal honesty what was happening as the paper went through major changes over the years. Journal employees might be well served to check it out.) Based on past history, our sense: The Journal will remain a daily newspaper, but will see more budget cuts.

2. Over at the Spokane Spokesman-Review, Huckleberries proprietor Dave Oliveria continues his look back at the Coeur d’Alene Press, notably the rapid turnover there.

We were struck by this bit in a comment and response: In the last 22 years, these people have been the managing editors of the Press: Bill Cooper, Jim Hail, Clyde Bentley, Gretchen Berning, Barry Casebolt, Mike Feiler, Mark Allison and Mike Patrick, who is there now. Count ’em: eight MEs in that time, about two years and a few months apiece.

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The canvassed Idaho vote is now available, and for offices for legislative and up, and statewide ballot issues, county and precinct level vote information is now available at the secretary of state’s web site in downloadable Excel spreadsheets. (As per usual, they’ve done a fine job getting that information out there, well ahead of many of their counterparts.)

Lots of fun things are possible with this data, of course. We got right work on one: Charting the outlines of the culture wars in Idaho.

The simplest way to do that this election is with House Joint Resolution 2, the constitutional amendment banning formal domestic relationships other than man-woman marriage. This surely drew the culture war line in Idaho as clearly as anything this election, and it may be one of the components in the Republicans’ sweep of the Gem State in the teeth of a Democratic wave. Statewide, the measure passed with 63.3% – a landslide.

But it did not pass equally everywhere.

votes on marriage amendment
Vote on HJR2: counties voting 80% or more in blue; less than 60% in green

Most simply, the overwhelming vote in favor came in eastern Idaho, in the counties with the highest percentage of Mormon votes: in order, Madison (89.1%), then Franklin (85.2%), Bear Lake (84%), Oneida, Jefferson, Cassia, Fremont, Bingham. Only when we get to Owyhee (73.7%) do we see another dynamic entering in.

The lowest favorable vote – in fact, the only county where it lost – was (that’s right, you can guess it) Blaine County, home of Sun Valley and Ketchum and Hailey. Second-place Latah, come of the University of Idaho, would also be no surprise (though it passed in the county overall). Next lowest, though, was Ada, which certainly has its conservative precincts, and then two rural counties, Valley and Teton. Every other county passed HJR2 by 60% or more.

The precinct breakdown gives us a more precise look. (We’ve posted a precinct breakdown.)

Of the 100 precincts least supportive of HJR2, all but a dozen are in either Ada, Blaine or Latah counties. The most critical of all were in Boise’s North End, closely followed by central Ketchum and central Moscow.

But note also a few other bits and pieces. The precinct least supportive of the amendment outside those three counties was in – surprise! – Custer County. Historically, the remote town of Stanley has been fairly conservative in its voting patterns, but possibly because of growth and changes in population, and maybe also influence from the Sun Valley area, that is clearly changing: only 30.5% of Stanley voters favored the amendment. Along similar lines, note the central Sandpoint precinct at 36.9% and, maybe most telling, McCall at 41.6%.

As the population, economy and social structure of some of even outlying areas of Idaho change, so too the voting patterns.

But you need the precincts to nail this. Consider this: Four precincts voted 100% in favor of the amendment. One of them was in Blaine County 9the farthest, as you might imagine, from Sun Valley-Ketchum).

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By way of the Republican RINO Watch, a new website dedicated to blasting Oregon Senator Gordon Smith’s stand on immigration:

Deport Gordon Smith.

Considering the recent history of the Ron Saxton’s campaign on illegal aliens, one has to wonder where Oregon Republicans – those, that is, pushing this latest effort – think this initiative is going to get them.

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Dave Oliveria of the Spokesman Review blog Huckleberries reports receiving an email from Robert James, the newly former editor of the Bonners Ferry Herald, which is owned by Hagadone Newspapers. In it he wrote, “Last Friday, Hagadone corp. fired me, the managing editor of the Bonners Ferry Herald, apparently for endorsing democrat Jerry Brady in a personal opinion column.”

Remarked Oliveria, “And you guys wonder why I don’t cut HagaWorld much slack.” Oliveria does due disclosure in noting that he too once worked for and was fired from that organization. In further disclosure, your scribe also briefly reported for (though not long enough to be dismissed from) that same company.

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