The difficulties faced these days by Republicans in Washington and Oregon, and Democrats in Idaho, are underscored by a study released today by the Gallup Poll.

The study as a whole concerned how people identify themselves in terms of political party – Democratic or Republican, leaning to one or the other, or independent. It has been conducting the polls for some years. Nationally, it found that 34% called themselves Democrats or leaned that way, 30% Republicans or leaned that way, and 34% independents.

How do the numbers stack in the Northwest?

In Washington, which the poll again suggests is the most Democratic of the three, the Democrats accounted for 54%, Republican 36% and independents 10%. If that’s an accurate measure, Republicans in Washington have some serious work cut out, with an 18% gap to make up.

In Oregon, things are closer but not really close: Democrats 49%, Republicans 41%, independents 12%. (Oregon has one of the higher independent percentages in the country.)

In Idaho, as you might expect, things are reversed – very much so. Washington is the 12th most Democratic state (in this survey) among the 50, and Oregon ranks 24th – smack in the middle. But Idaho is the second most Republican state in the union, behind only Utah. In the Gem State, 54% call themselves Republicans, 35% Democrats and 11% independent – an almost perfect mirror image of Washington.

If Washington is becoming a mirror image of Idaho . . . well, we’ll go there another time. But if true, then the current Democratic domination of the legislature, for one thing, may not be a short-term phenomenon.

(See also the analysis of the polling on the MyDD site.)

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Reflect for a moment on what you know about the patterns of growth in Oregon, and then consider these numbers, included in the annual report on school enrollment issued by the superintendent of public instruction. The numbers reflect 2006-07 enrollment figures for the 10 biggest school districts in Oregon, and how they changed from 2005-06.

1. Portland 46,348 (-1.4%)
2. Salem-Keizer 39,585 (+1.7%)
3. Beaverton 37,719 (+2.9%)
4. Hillsboro 20,077 (+1.8%)
5. Eugene 18,312 (-0.7%)
6. Bend-LaPine 17,436 (+2.6%)
7. North Clackamas 16,987 (+2.7%)
8. Tigard-Tualatin 12,544 (+1.6%)
9. Medford 12,465 (-0.6%)
10. Gresham-Barlow 12,053 (+0.2%)

In the main, not far off from what you might expect. We know (have known for some time; it’s been the topic of headlines) that Portland’s under-18 population is diminishing, at least as a percentage of the total. The parallels in Eugene and Medford are intriguing, though.

It’s the Bend number that really catches our attention. By all accounts Deschutes County is the wild-growth part of the state. Portland’s suburbs may be adding people, and maybe more people in raw numbers, but Bend’s overall percentage growth has been much higher.

Not among kids. Note that Beaverton and North Clackamas both register higher increases in student population. Children are coming to Bend, of course; but is this an indicator of Bend more generally as an adult – maybe senior – hangout?

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One more reminder about something new here: Chats, tentatively dubbed “Wednesday Wanderings,” with your scribe and a co-host, Idaho pollster Greg Smith. All are welcome to join in. The time is 6 p.m. Pacific, 7 p.m. Mountain time. Topics Northwestern will be fair game.

To send, come to this page and then look down the right-hand column to a box asking you to fill in a nickname. You can use your real name (preferred) or something else (allowed). Click on “enter chat,” and you’re on. Type your comments in the box at the bottom of the page.

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An Idaho burn
Smoke plume near Worley/photo Jessica Caplan/SAFE

In its decision effectively tossing out the state of Idaho’s ability to allow grass field burning in Northern Idaho, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals remarks, “The current treatment of field burning in the Idaho SIP [state implementation plan, a revised version of which allows the burns] came about as the result of a thirty-five-year regulatory evolution.” An evolution from one set of intents (and one kind of politics) to another it certainly was; but it was the fact of the evolution, as much as anything else, that led the court to its conclusion.

Field burning has been used for many years as part of grass seed production, not just in Idaho (it is used in parts of the souther Willamette Valley as well), and is thought to improve the quality of the crop. There are arguments that it has beneficial environmental effects. There’s no question, though, that it also produces air pollution – very visibly, and easily smelled. It is obvious enough that one of the farmers’ biggest adversaries long has been Duane Hagadone and his news organizations; Hagadone well understands what tourists think of smoked-up lakefronts, such as where his resort and gold course are located. But the most powerful arguments come from people with respiratory impairments; some of them are literally put at risk of their lives from the smoke. There is a care active organization battling the burns, called Safe Air For Everyone, which has picked up a number of larger allies.

When the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 and Idaho, like other states, submitted an implementation plan – which, once adopted and approved by the EPA, has the effect of federal law – it mentioned the burns. The burns were allowed, with limitations, such as that “When such burning creates air pollution or a public nuisance, additional restrictions may be imposed to minimize the effect upon the environment.” In 1993, Idaho proposed and the EPA accepted a revision of the implementation rules that deleted field burns from the list of acceptable burns in the state. There were more minor, technical, changes in 2003.

In 2005, the state of Idaho Idaho made another revision, to add this: ““The open burning of crop residue on fields where the crops were grown is an allowable form of open burning if conducted in accordance with the Smoke Management and Crop Residue Disposal Act and the rules promulgated pursuant thereto.” There were protests to the EPA, but the agency approved the change.

Not good enough, the court said, in part because changes in state SIPs can’t have the effect of weakening the provisions of the Clean Air Act. And, it said, in contrast to the EPA’s take on the Idaho changes, this change clearly did.

In commenting to EPA about Idaho’s proposed amendment to the SIP, SAFE maintained that its approval would weaken the prior SIP and thereby violate sections 110(l) and 193 of the CAA. Section 110(l) provides that EPA “shall not approve a revision of a [SIP] if the revision would interfere with any applicable requirement concerning attainment and reasonable further progress . . . or any other applicable requirement of this chapter.” 42 U.S.C. § 7410(l). Section 193 provides that “[n]o control requirement in effect, or required to be adopted by an order, settlement agreement, or plan in effect before November 15, 1990, in any area which is a nonattainment area for any air pollutant may be modified after November 15,
1990, in any manner unless the modification insures equivalent or greater emission reductions of such air pollutant.” Id. § 7515. In its 2005 approval of the amendment, EPA denied the amendment contravened either of these statutes. Final SIP,
70 Fed. Reg. at 39,659-60. SAFE now challenges those determinations. We do not reach those broad statutory challenges, except to hold that EPA’s reasoning in rejecting them cannot be squared with our interpretation of Idaho’s pre-2005 SIPs.

As we have explained, EPA’s decision to approve the 2005 amendment to Idaho’s SIP rested on the fundamental premise that “EPA does not believe that Idaho’s existing SIP when viewed in its entirety prohibits the burning of crop residue.”

. . . We have held EPA’s conclusion that the preexisting SIP did not ban field burning legally erroneous. Because that flawed premise is fundamental to EPA’s determination that it did not contravene sections 110(l) or 193 of the CAA by approving the 2005 SIP, EPA’s outcome on those statutory interpretation questions is “arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise not in accordance with law” for the purposes of our review. Hall, 273 F.3d at 1155. We therefore grant SAFE’s petition and remand to EPA for its consideration of Idaho’s proposed amendment as a change in the preexisting SIP, rather than as simply a “clarification” of it. Final SIP, 70 Fed. Reg. at
39,660. Accordingly, we have no reason to interpret the meaning of either CAA provision relied upon by SAFE but will instead allow EPA the first opportunity to apply those provisions, this time in accord with the understanding that the
preexisting SIP bans field burning while the proposed amendment clearly allows, and regulates, the practice.

This may be appealed. But for now, Idaho field burning may be out for the year, if not longer.

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running waterAfter the ferocious storms of November and December – especially on the western side of the Northwest but to some extent through much of the east as well – you’re probably thinking that the Northwest’s water picture for the year is secure, if not cause for concern about flooding.

Not so fast. January has been dry, almost region-wide. It turns out that the accumulated precipitation percentage – basically, the amount of water buildup in places like the snowpack that would be normal for this time of year – has fallen substantially from a month ago. That doesn’t mean drought is imminent, but it does mean the Northwest actually could see shortages in some places.

In Washington state, where the accumulation percentages all are still well over norma, there were drops from late December. The Chelan-Entiat-Wentchee system fell from 146% to 126%; Lewis-Cowlitz from 139% to 120%; the Columbia River above Methow from 126% to 114%.

In Oregon the declines were a shade more modest, but they were universal. On the Coast Range, for example, the drop was 126% to 107%; in the Willamette 123% to 112%; in the Lake County area 91% to 75%; in the Malheir River basin 102% to 87%.

In Idaho, where the snowpack was running almost exactly at normal in December, the numbers have fallen a little below: form 126% to 114% in the Clearwater basin (the second-best, after the Pndhandle basins at 117%); 102% to 86% in the Weiser; 112% to 94% in the Payette; 109% to 89% in the Boise River basin; 99% to 82% in the Big Lost; 100% to 86% in the Willow-Blackfoot; 100% to 83% in the Owyhee.

No time to panic, but it is time to keep a little closer watch on the water.

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Starting Wednesday, we’re starting something new here: Chats, with a co-host, Idaho pollster Greg Smith. All are welcome to join in. The time is 6 p.m. Pacific, 7 p.m. Mountain time. We’re dubbing it “Wednesday Wanderings” . . . for now, at least.

Our planned topic of the week will be legislative, but it’s not limited to that – anything related to the Northwest will be fair game.

To send, come to this page and then look down the right-hand column to a box asking you to fill in a nickname. You can use your real name (preferred) or something else (allowed). Click on “enter chat,” and you’re on. Type your comments in the box at the bottom of the page.

We plan to make this a weekly event – same time, same url – and look for ways to improve on it as we go. Suggestions are welcome.

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Luke Esser
Luke Esser

After the vote which removed Diane Tebelius as chair of the Washington state Republicans and replaced her with former state Senator Luke Esser, the new chair issued a statement in which he remarked, “The first step towards recovering from our defeat in 2006 is recognizing that we have a problem, and today we did that.”

There are layers of meeting involved in that simple statement. The collected Republicans may indeed have recognized that they have a problem; but did they understand what it was? If they think the problem was Tebelius, then they have some more thinking to do.

That’s neither particular endorsement of Tebelius nor criticism of Esser, just recognition that party chairs – while a visible person on whom to take out frustrations – has only a limited amount to do with a political party’s larger fortunes. Several of the key arguments against Tebelius (the suggestion that she withheld state party money from candidates) seem to fall apart on examination. The party organization doesn’t seem mismanaged, which would be the logical argument against her if it were the case.

The Seattle Times‘ David Postman quotes Esser after the meeting saying that 2006 “It was a terrible year and people are looking for a way to make sure that never happens again.” What way would that be? One significant reason for the Democratic push was the national scene, not in control of the state party. Another was a continuation of the trend of Seattle suburbs edging Democratic; that had been a development underway for a decade. The Republican candidates were, in many cases, just the sort of strong candidates the party wanted to run; recruitment was not a big problem. (It could be tougher in some places in 2008.) Nor was 2006 fundraising all that bad, under the circumstances.

We’re not suggesting Esser doesn’t recognize all this; he well may. As one of the Republican state legislators who lost his seat to a Democrat last fall, Esser’s understanding of the party’s problems may be both painful and personal and well as detailed. Esser likely will be an aggressive chair, maybe more so than Tebelius was, so he may be the right choice for the time. But the problems facing the organization run a good deal deeper than simply whoever is running it.

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roadcam on I5Toll roads generally are not a good idea; roadways are community assets that should be available to us all, and we should all pay. However did we manage to build the interstate road system without (for the most part, and exclusively in the West) tolls? We did it the old-fashioned way: We raised the money and paid for it. Granting that some of the new road projects being contemplated in the Northwest are likely to be highly expensive, that generally remains the best approach. The best cases we can see for tolls would be bridges – discrete projects – provided that the tolls come off when the project is paid for.

One of the glories of our country has been the easy transportation around it; we have a wonderful ability to come and go as we please, subject only to how much gas we can put in the tank. (That being, we suppose, a related but separate issue.)

Much worse that government toll roads, though, are private ones – which simply should be prohibited in this country. We had private toll rolls in many parts of this country early in our history (many early roads were hacked out that way). But we got rid of them when we could, and we mostly did. No private entity, non-accountable to us, should have power over our ability to get from Point A to Point B, which the private manager of a toll road would.

In Oregon, the big private player in the toll road arena has been an Australian firm, Macquarie Infrastructure – and it is perhaps the largest player in that arena nationally and internationally. With the recent boom in interest in tolling roads (Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has expressed interest in a couple of such projects) its services have been in demand. From Wikipedia: “MIG has a 100% stake in the M6 Toll road in the UK, which was constructed to relieve congestion on the M6 motorway—one of the UK’s busiest motorways. Additionally, as part of a consortium MIG has taken over operations of the Indiana East-West Toll Road and the Chicago Skyway, both part of Interstate 90 in the United States; and by itself has a 100% interest in the Dulles Greenway and the greenfield South Bay Expressway, scheduled to open in mid-2007, also in the United States.” Among others.

Lately, it has developed studies on the feasibility of tolling a road out to a fast-growing part of Clackamas County, and two roads (including Highway 99) in Yamhill County. It has recommended against proceeding with the first, and its stance on the second seems a little ambiguous in that what it has recommended probably is not politically feasible. That feasibility may be blocked for good if two Oregon legislators pass their legislation seeking to block a Highway 99 toll.

Oregon may consider it a bullet dodged. It is a basic tenet of this site that concentrated power should be viewed with suspicion; and in this case, maybe more than that.

In Texas, Macquarie is pursuing several toll projects which have aroused local controversy (some Texans seem to have a problem about foreign companies controlling the roads they drive on). A number of local newspapers have led the battle against it (see the Trans-Texas Corridor news archives). Macquarie’s response has been noteworthy.

Macquarie Infrastructure is part of a larger conglomerate which includes Macquarie Banking (a massive financial organization) and, lately, Macquarie Media, bankrolled by Macquarie Banking. On Wednesday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “Macquarie Media Group Ltd has swallowed American Consolidated Media for $102 million and says it has an appetite for more US community newspaper businesses. The Macquarie Bank-backed fund, which already has broadcast assets, is “in a number of discussions” with other US newspaper businesses, including some exclusive negotiations, but declined to offer more details.”

An Austin blogger connects the dots:

The purchase allows one of the largest toll road operators in the world to control some of it’s industries most outspoken critics in Texas, dozens of rural independent Texas newspapers.

The deal could help to clear a political path for potential Texas contracts worth Billions.

The purchase comes after the ACM’s rural independent newspapers have clearly been the most vocal opposition to the Trans Texas Corridor (TTC).

Countless articles over the past months and years peg the TTC as an eminent domain land grab. ACM’s publications had placed serious political pressure on the TTC, therefore future TTC contracts worth an estimated $185 Billion dollars.

Editorial independence is being bought out.

The newspapers are the main communication tool for many of the rural Texan communities, with many citizens at risk of loosing their homes and farms through eminent domain. Future TTC contracts are estimated to effect about one-half million acres of land, and 4,000 miles of Texas toll roads.

Founded in 1998, American Consolidated Media is a privately owned media holding company. Based in Dallas, Texas, the company owns and operates about 40 newspapers, primarily in the small-to-medium markets of Texas.

There’s also this from Land Line, a magazine for independent truckers:

Critics worry that a control of media by companies that own toll roads may lead to a spin of information. Many of the small papers included in the purchase have been critical of the privatization of U.S. highways, according to the Bonham Journal, an affected newspaper that has been particularly critical of the Trans-Texas Corridor.

“The toll roads will be under control of foreign investors, which more than frustrates Texans,” the newspaper reported in November 2006.

Truckers know the Macquarie company name from the toll-road subsidiary called Macquarie Infrastructure Group – which is part of an expanding web of investment groups spun by the parent company, Macquarie Bank.

Also last week, Land Line also reported another bit of news, indicating who’s really calling the shots these days on our transportation future: “President Bush has announced that he intends to appoint an official with toll-road investor Macquarie to be the general counsel of the U.S. Department of Transportation. David James Gribbin, IV, of Virginia is currently the division director for Macquarie Holdings, a Washington, DC, company under the umbrella of the toll-road investor Macquarie Infrastructure Group of Australia. Before that private sector job, Gribbin was chief counsel of the Federal Highway Administration.”

Those who consider societal power an exclusive domain of the government should get a load of this. They might also get hold of the Robert Caro biography (The Power Broker) of Robert Moses, the New Yorker who for decades was the most powerful person in his state though he held no elective office and had no substantial personal wealth. What he did control were toll bridges and roads and other important pieces of the New York infrastructure, and that was enough to make him impervious to assaults by governors and even presidents.

In comparison to what Macquarie, and some others, are trying to do, Moses was a piker.

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televisionAs indicated earlier, we’re taking a look at the content of two news reports, following up on the description on Blue Oregon of a KOIN broadcast. We’re running through the stories as they appeared up to the first weather or sports segment. So here we go . . .

KPTV Fox 12, at 10. This is Portland’s second-ranking station, and this is an hour-long program, which would afford plenty of time for news of substance amid, ah, the rest. With two minor exceptions, it didn’t happen. The graphics, sound design, pacing, promotion of exclusivity and teasers for upcoming material closely resembled the tabloid shows (“Hard Copy” etc); the station has been said to be crime-heavy, and this evening’s broadcast certainly did nothing to counter that. Consider the long string of crime stories in this list of all the stories they ran, in order.

bullet First up, “a gruesome discovery at a place you may have watched” – human remains found at a rest stop at a rest stop near Wilsonville. Lots of fast-moving cameras; this is a large package story.

bullet Fox 12’s “Most Wanted” (this is a recurring feature) piece is a story about a “shooter wanted.” There was a short item about incident involved.

bullet Another “Most Wanted” piece about a child rapist, they report.

bullet A voice-over with grpahics warned us to watch out for a woman “reckless on the road”, a 28-year old woman.

bullet Another warning: “Violence and drug dealing is on the rise, but not where you think” – moving from Multnomah County to smaller communities. Lots of police lights flashing in the background behind talk about gang members.

bullet Benton High School “is in the middle of a lockdown” after a student was found with a gun.

bullet “Only on 12,” we are informed: A Vancouver car owner “watching the web” to try to recover his belongings from car theif, after his car was found by police. Another package story.

bullet An animal hoarding case in Clark County. This was followed by a commercial break. Eight crime/violence related stories in a row at the top of the broadcast. Then . . .

bullet Video of a boat accident near Garibaldi, and file footage; the story was one of the longest and emphasized deaths and accidents. Waves rolled a boat; the Coast Guard rescued four fishermen. (It’s a dangerous ocean out there, too.)

bullet A fire at a nursing home.

bullet Investigators are looking into a three-alarm firm in Oregon City.

bullet A water main break that has closed some roads.

bullet Police are looking for a road rage shooter: “Everyone is okay, but that shooter is still on the loose.”

bullet A Seattle robber is caught on tape.

bullet In Idaho, two dogs save a woman from her burning home. The family cat did not survive, we are informed. (The dog was not fingered.)

bullet A story that appeared in the Friday Oregonian (but reporting here was original): Portland’s Freightliner will hand out pink slips to workers in Oregon and more elsewhere.

bullet In High School Spotlight, a feature about student role-playing a historical figures.

bullet Promo: “Just living near a high traffic area can put your child at risk;” and an albino tiger cub in Asia. Then another commercial break.

bullet The story on how living near a busy road will put your child’s health at risk.

bullet A local business will become the first to manufacture streetcars for use around the country. Then another commercial break.

bullet A review of burger places in the region, mostly south of Portland, noting inspection report numbers. They offered numbers for about a half-dozen places.

That was it before the weather report. Later reports include a helicopter crash in California, an apartment fire in Chicago, a building collapse in Nashville, a damaged cargo ship near Hawaii, a very large traffic accident in Pennsylvania, bitter cold in Massachusetts, the Duke LaCrosse team returns to practice after the sexual harassment complaint of last year, a day care in Florida has put a child in a cold shower as punishment, a break in at a hair salon in California, a piece about a dummy in the front seat of a squad car as a decoy for slow drivers, a story about duckling sent through the mail.

Then around the world: A big marijuana burn in Mexico, Fidel Castro’s health (nothing new to report), a truck driver in Germany who wins a prize, a dog nurses tiger cubs in Brazil. Summing up, apparently, is what was most important around the world today.

Next, the nightly “meth watch” (yes, they do it every night, we gather) about an incident in Tigard, and “meth coffee.”

Most of the remainder was given over to celebrity news.

It was a nearly consistent run of fear, fear, and more fear – the world is awfully dangerous. (Is it any wonder so many people are willing to trade liberty for the illusion of protection?) Leavened only by animals, provided they’re babies and they’re cute. Of this whole long list of pieces, we’d count two as news that a viewer interested in being informed about their community – the Freightliner piece and the streetcar piece – and the rest . . . if you missed it, how would you be the poorer? More: You’d be better off for not being infused with an unnecessary agitation about the dangerous world around you.

KGW NBC 8, at 11. Portland’s top rated station, with a half-hour news program.

bullet First up, briefly, a “two alarm blaze” in northeast Salem, caused by fireworks. A couple of quick promos of upcoming stories (one about Freightliner), then . . .

bullet Then, cyclists are being attacked – Portland is now a place where cyclists are fearing for their safety.” It cites two women “attacked by a group of teenaged girls.” Reporter: “Shocking? Maybe not.” It’s dangerous for bicyclists, and cyclists are organizing.

bullet The Benson school lockdown after a student is found with a gun.

bullet A man hired a hit man to kill his wife; there’s an update on the case.

bullet A child rape arrest in Troutdale.

bullet Non-crime, non-violence appears for the first time: The Freightliner story, about layoffs in Portland and elsewhere. It’s a more substantial story than 12’s, getting into some of the background, why the layoffs are happening.

bullet Back to crime with a suspicious death at the Wilsonville rest stop.

bullet The coast fishing boat video appears here too, with a longer local report.

bullet Story about a former Trail Blazer in a custody battle over his son and possible child neglect. (That story, the program noted, will be in the Oregonian on Saturday.)

bullet Oregon Ironwork will be making streetcars.

bullet A phone bank about Outside Inn aims to raise money for medical services. Then string of promos, and a commercial break.

bullet National “news beyond the Northwest” – pieces about Iraq, the president and the Congress; a prison escape near Nashville.

bullet Another national piece, a few seconds with video on how demand for tuna and some other fish will drive up prices.

And then the weather segment.

Totaling up KGW, we had 12 pieces (not counting the promos and national wrap), about three-fourths about crime, violence and criminal-related risk. The Freightliner, streetcar and Outside Inn pieces were the exceptions.

The tone was less edgy than Fox 12’s, but the proportions were only a little less weighted to crime, accidents and related matters.

So . . . just how different from KOIN was the story selection on Portland’s two top stations? Comments welcome.

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televisionYou can understandably argue, as some did in response to Kari Chisholm’s Blue Oregon post on local TV news today, that focusing for criticism on Portland’s KOIN (Channel 6) is, as one put it, “shooting fish in a barrel.” The newsroom has been heavily destaffed and defunded since new ownership took over last year on what the local industry now knows as “Black Friday.”

The problem is, the list of stories he cites for a recent KOIN newscast – an endless litany of crime, reported crime, maybe there might’ve been a crime, someone thought there might be a crime, there wasn’t a crime here but here’s video of one 2,000 miles away – seemed out of the norm only for the surprising absence of auto accidents and house fires (again, if not local, then somewhere else). The problem he cites is real enough on local television news almost everywhere in this country and certainly across the Northwest: There’s very little news worth watching on local TV news. (The Chisholm post above and all the many comment attached are well worth the read.)

A sample comment (with which we have some sympathy): “How is it possible to have a well informed debate among the electorate when a huge percentage of eligible voters are being dumbed down by endless mindless drivel on local and national television? Granted it is everyone’s constitutional right to watch as many hours of Dukes of Hazard reruns as they choose (God Bless Daisy Duke!), but how can I be expected to sleep at night knowing that the future of my children and grandchildren will be determined by the same people that made ‘Dancing With the Stars 2’ the most watched ABC non-sports show in 5 years?”

We’d like to continue this discussion. Here’s what we’ll do: We’ll watch two other better-funded stations, second-place KPTV Fox 12, which airs local news at 10 p.m., and market leader KGW NBC 8, which airs at 11. (The earlier evening news is not scheduled to air on KGW owing to a Trail Blazers basketball game.) We’ll see what stories each covers before their main weather or sports break, whichever comes first. And compare those stories to the local lead stories in today’s and tomorrow’s Oregonian.

Back after this . . .

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There’s something likable in this as a matter of procedure, stance and politics, whether or not as policy: Announcement of a compromise over $43 million (to date) of Statehouse construction, in the dispute between Governor Butch Otter and leaders of the legislature.

The legislature was firmly committed to construction of two new floors of office and meeting space underneath the current basement floor. Otter, as he had said bluntly in his campaign last fall, was opposed.

Apparently, the deal struck involves one floor instead of two, and there may be other elements as well.

However that eventually looks, there is this: A governor and legislature in Idaho that had a disagreement and then – instead of getting huffy about it, as so typically has happened – they compromise.

What a concept. Here’s an idea that, whether either side realizes it at the moment, can make them both look good.

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Next week will be the peak of ballyhoo for the new Windows Vista operating system from Microsoft, as founder Bill Gates does time on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and a wave of commercials hit the air, and stores open early on Tuesday to accommodate the crush of buyers of the new OS.

Windows Vista logoWell, maybe. Or maybe the days of big excitement over new big OS developments is over; the air doesn’t feel like it did when Windows 95 (which was a good deal more revolutionary for the Windows users of its time than Vista is now) made its deservedly big splash.

Here’s a contrary point of view from Jeremy Allison, an open source advocate, at ZDNet:

There’s simply no excitement about it. Most quotes from businesses are about how much of a chore it will be to upgrade, with warnings about how much old software will be incompatible and how people will have to buy new machines just to run it. No one actually wants this new system, except Microsoft and some of the hardware vendors who are desperately hoping Vista will revitalize moribund computer sales.

I think the day of the big-bang operating system release will die with Vista. This kind of upgrade has become obsolete. It might have made sense in the age of disconnected computers, where an upgrade involved a PC technician going to each desktop with a CD-ROM, but with the advent of Internet-connected PCs it’s crazy. People want to simply keep patching their existing systems remotely and securely until eventually all of the original code has been replaced and you’re running a new operating system.

He sees Vista, in other words, as overreach, as a kind of tipping point (he uses the phrase) where the Microsoft business model of the 90s – new operating system, all new applications, loads of money on the table – no longer works so well, and progressively less well, partly because there’s too little practical benefit in exchange for too much money spent.

We’ll see. The next year or so should mark interesting times at Redmond.

DISCLOSURE Ridenbaugh Press uses Windows, Apple and Linux OS computers. We started moving harder into the Apple and Linux worlds last year in part to avoid being caught up in the eventual Vista-related expenses. A year ago, the bulk of our work was done on Windows machines; now, a majority is on Macs, with more transition toward Linux in the works.

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