Writings and observations

NW population changes
Top NW counties for gaining population (green) and losing population (tan)

Census estimate releases are always good cause for some spreadsheet runs, and since the mid-2006 census estimates by county came out today, we decided to take a regional overview. (Stories about the state views are in most newspapers; if you know of anyone else doing a northwest-wide view, let us know.)

The region’s 119 counties are a varied lot, from King’s estimated 1,826,732 people (still many more than live in all of Idaho, and nearly half of Oregon’s total population) down to Idaho’s Clark (not to be confused with Washington’s Clark) with 920 people, now the only county in the region under 1,000 people.

All of the most populous counties in the region have been growing. In percentage since 2000, the fastest growing has been Washington’s Clark, at 18.8% since 2000 (adding 53,694 people since then, more than any regional county but King, which added 71,401).

Idaho’s Ada County, now at 359,035 people, grew fastest among big counties in the last year, but since 2000 ranks sixth for total population added (46,127), behind five counties all larger in population regionally (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Clark in Washington, and Washington County in Oregon).

To find mass runaway growth among Northwest counties, skip a little further down the list. Canyon County (Nampa-Caldwell), Idaho, the 17th most populous, grew by about 30.2% the first six years of this decade, and Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond), Oregon, ranking 19th, by about 27.9%.

In fact, of the top 19 counties for raw number addition, all have estimated populations of 130,000 or more, except one surprise: Franklin County, Washington (its county seat is Pasco), which added 15,707 of its estimated current 66,570 people in the last six years. The Tri-Cities should be getting a lot more attention as a growth spot; its larger neighbor Benton County (now at 159,463; the biggest city is Kennewick) added 15,707 people during the period too.

But the fastest percentage growth county in the region over the last year is not one of the largest, and one few outside southwest Idaho might have guessed: Valley County, the McCall-Donnelly-Cascade area, adding about a 1,000 people its small cohort, driven largely by the growth around the Tamarack ski area. (It was followed by Franklin County, Washington, and then Deschutes.)

This isn’t a rural vs. urban thing – or even broadly geographical. On the map, see how the big population gainers and losers often jostle next door to each other.

There is, of course, the aspect of population losses, overshadowed as they may be by growth.

The county with the biggest reported loss since 2000 may be a little misleading. Elmore County, Idaho, is home to – is anchored by – the Mountain Home Air Force Base, and base-related population shifts likely account for the bulk of the county’s population drop of 985. Less simply explained is the 527 from smaller Harney County (think Burns), Oregon, or the 517 from third-place Minidoka County, Idaho (think Rupert).

What do the population losers have in common? They’re all rural, but then so are some of the big population gainers. The difference seems to be that the decliners aren’t places where people are moving to for lifestyle purposes, or (generally) buying second homes. Or where, if those things are happening, they’re swamped by declines in older industries (such as in Idaho’s Shoshone and Custer counties).

Our spreadsheets are posted on this site.

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Oregon Blue Book coverThe covers of the Oregon Blue Books have for many years featured breathtaking photography often originating from some of the unlikeliest places. There are maybe few more striking cases than in the picture gracing the Blue Book released today, from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

We’ve been to Terrebonne, which is located in the high desert near Bend, and we’ve never considered it one of the great beauty spots of Oregon. Goes to show that you can find beauty in all sorts of places if you look for it – or maybe have some inside knowledge. Jim Gardner, who won this year’s contest among photographers for the cover photo, shot “Cattails at Sunset Over Teal Lake” at Ranch at the Canyons, a preserve he operates near Terrebonne. He knew what to look for.

(Re the other states: Idaho’s blue book features a blue cover with the state seal design but no photo or other image. There is, alas, no Washington blue book.)

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No particular comment on this, yet at least, but we do think it should be noted that Idaho turns out to be a leader in animal cloning not only at the University of Idaho (where one of its leading researchers recently left) but also at the Boise-based J.R. Simplot Company.

cowA recent Business Week article focusing on Scott Simplot, now the chair of the company, points out how he is promoting cloning as a core part of the Simplot cattle-related business. The business already has at its operations the offspring of cloned cattle.

From the article: “This is the beginning of a grand experiment at the Boise-based J.R. Simplot Co., a producer of food, fertilizer, and livestock that was founded by Scott’s father in 1923 and has become one of the largest privately owned companies in the U.S. Simplot is one of the first large beef-producing companies anywhere to clone cattle and then breed them on a commercial scale. Neither clones nor their offspring are in the food distribution system now. But if the Food & Drug Administration gives its approval as expected, Simplot plans to bring beef from the offspring of clones to market by next year. No other company has been nearly as aggressive in the controversial effort to clone animals for supermarket shelves.”

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Tonight once again, our regular Wednesday chat is on for 6 pm Pacific, 7 pm Mountain, accessible off this page. (Scroll down to the right to the “nickname” box, enter your name, click the button, and you’re in.) It lasts about an hour; feel free to jump in or out any time.

So far we’ve had enjoyable discussions with an eclectic group of people. Greg Smith, a co-founder, should be back on board this evening. Along with, well, who knows who.

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John Edwards
John Edwards

Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney were the first major presidential candidates to pick up top-line state support in the Northwest; now former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is becoming the first to do it among Democrats.

Edwards’ regional beachhead is in Oregon, and his collection of backers in-state is impressive – more impressive than a short thumbnail sketch may suggest. There are, after all, no statewide elected officials or members of Congress among them. But then, most of those titled people tend to hang back, not to commit until they see the lay of the land beyond the horizon, which hasn’t been periscoped well as yet.

(Our presidential support page listings are updated to reflect the Oregon changes.)

The people Edwards has brought in have some sweeping implications, and no few numbers of Oregon Democrats will recognize that. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will have a hard time matching this crew, at least until or if one or both puts Edwards away.

For example, the selection of Portland Democratic Senator Margaret Carter as co-chair was a coup. Not just because she’s a leading state senator (Senate president pro tem); not just because she plugs so fully into the Portland Democratic establishment; not just because of her credibility in the minority communities. No, also and maybe most because she was, in 1992 and 1996, a chair for the Bill Clinton campaign in Oregon. She’s someone Hillary Clinton probably would have loved to get.

The other co-chair, attorney Robert Stoll, was chair for Kerry-Edwards in 2004, and for the last two successful campaigns for Governor Ted Kulongoski, among others in a long string of Democratic campaigns in the state.

If Kulongoski personal is absent from the list, many Oregon Democrats will read linkages to him notonly in Stoll but also in Peter Bragdon, the governor’s former chief of staff.

Two of the others on the list jump out as likely to pull in younger activists. Jesse Cornett, just elected vice chair of the Oregon Democrats, is one of the best-regarded younger activists in the state, as well as a link into the state party organization. And Kari Chisholm, who among other things runs the blog Blue Oregon – which functionally is to Oregon as the Daily Kos is nationally – brings in a wide network of online and other activists.

Will be hard, as noted, for other Democratic contenders to catch up in Oregon, organizationally at least.

Still waiting for substantial word from any of the three for Washington and Oregon.

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We’ve long thought that much of what makes legislatures potentially powerfully useful – we’re talking potential here, not always reality – is the number of varied viewpoints that can be brought to bear in the process of legislating. Not simply the fact that we have a hundred or so people rather than two or three: If that crowd thinks alike, then they may as well be two or three, or one.

(We explored that a bit recently on a personal level. Your scribe was asked to join the board of a local arts organization, and agreed, partly on grounds that his background would be distinctive from most other members, and therefore possibly useful in bringing fresh perspective to the table. One hopes.)

That point cuts a variety of ways, but today’s post has to do with age: Of these hundred or so people in a state legislature (10 less in Oregon, five more in Idaho, 47 more in Washington), how varied is the experience these people bring to the game? Thanks to an analysis by the Scripps Howard newspapers, we have statistics to examine. (The take of that effort focused on the arrival of the baby-boomers; our look here is more cross-generational.) Based on those numbers, here’s a chart of the birth-years of the legislators in several states, with percentages of membership noted.

State 1906-24 1925-45 1946-64 1965-83
Idaho 5 55 39 2
Oregon 0 30 62 9
Washington 1 38 52 10
Montana 1 32 57 10
Utah 3 27 63 7
California 3 33 58 6
Nevada 3 27 58 12
Texas 1 28 60 11
Florida 0 24 59 17
New York 3 30 60 7
Ohio 1 19 62 18

The first thing we should note is that, when all ages are factored in, Idaho’s legislature is on average the oldest in the country, while Oregon’s and Washington’s are relatively unremarkable middlings.

But there’s more to say than that. Idaho does not have the largest percentage among the oldest cohort; there, New Hampshire leads with 9%, and Delaware with 8%. And Idaho is only the second-smallest in representation from the post-boomer crowd (North Dakota has only 1% from that group). But taken as a whole, the age difference between Idaho and most other states is striking. And it ought to be some cause for concern.

To be clear, our point isn’t that substantial experience is valueless; certainly not. The Idaho State Journal, writing about the Scripps study, noted that Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, whose background in the statehouse runs 33 years, has noted the value of having some “gray hairs” in the process, and he’s right. The depth of experience, and often maturity, that someone like Risch (or, say, Oregon’s Senate President Peter Courtney) brings to the table is a highly useful asset. (It’s a key reason we’ve never much liked term limits.)

It’s not the only useful asset. When Idaho Representative Ken Andrus, R-Lava Hot Springs, who is 69, remarked that “there’s a lot of merit coming in to make laws if you have personal experience,” he may not have reflected that experience comes in many kinds of packages, and isn’t always best measured in numbers of years. A 40-year-old who has lived in a variety of places, traveled widely, tried several professions (and so on) may have accumulated more useful life experience than a 70-year-old who stayed in one place, ended his personal education upon receiving a diploma, and worked at one thing most of his life. (Not to belittle anyone: A sprinkling of both perspectives can be useful in legislating.)

There’s also such a thing as formative experience: We tend to shape our views of the world from the time we grow up and become adults. The viewpoint of a 25-year-old may be simply alien to a 65-year-old today, even if they live in the same community share many things. Their minds work differently. (If you doubt that, watch the reactions when you ask a 10-year-old and then a 60-year-old about programming a cell phone.) And legislating is enhanced by bringing in more, not fewer, ways of thinking.

The point of concern about the Idaho Legislature isn’t the number of older members as much as the near-absence of younger ones. Legislatures aren’t ordinarily places young adults hang a lot, but nationally 12% of state legislators are about 40 or under, and about 10% in Washington and Oregon – to Idaho’s 2%. (The legislatures at Ohio and Michigan, where the younger numbers are nearly double that, must be fascinating.) They add not only an energy but also a different kind of world view. And it is, after all, their age group that has more at stake – they’re working on creating a world in which they will be living for a longer time. (You could see some of that in the press conference held Monday by the five under-35ers in the Oregon House.)

A point to consider as the parties begin recruiting for the next rounds of legislative candidates next time around.

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When you get a few moments free and feel like reading something really weird, try this post from this Seattle Stranger‘s Slog.

It has to do with Ken Hutcherson, pastor at the Antioch Bible Church and active in the culture wars on the anti-gay side. He says that he holds the White House-provided title of Special Envoy for Adoptions, Family Values, Religious Freedom, and Medical Relief, and that he recently visited the nation of Latvia, where he bestowed his views on proper family values. The White House says it has given him no title and hasn’t coordinated or talked with him about Latvia.

And then it gets a lot more complex.

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This latest outrage should be, and may well be, struck down by a court. For now, it stands as the latest example of how far trademark and copyright issues are being pushed, and the risk to all our freedom that they entail.

Moonray logoMoonstruck logoConsider the two logos you see here – one for the Moonray Espresso shop in the small, and somewhat remote, town of Duvall, Washington; the other for Moonstruck Chocolates, a chocolate company based in Portland which has developed “chocolate cafes” there and in California and Illinois, none yet in Washington state. Its shops sell coffee, too, as a sideline.

That geographic distance and industry distinction hasn’t stopped Moonstruck from taking legal action against Moonray, the allegation being an infringement on its trademark. Moonstruck is much the larger business, and Moonray’s owners express concern they could be driven out of business by legal costs. It’s not an idle concern.

The Seattle Times reports that “residents are circulating petitions, gathering donations and spreading the word through blogs. Bellevue alternative band AltSpeak performed at Moonray on Friday and will donate proceeds to the legal expenses. Guitarist and singer Iggy Faus said the band did it ‘as a matter of principle’ to support a small-business owner.”

It’s a matter of principle, all right. The small, remote coffee shop, which uses a name and logo only distantly remnant of the much bigger chocolate shop’s, poses no realistic threat to the Portland business. The Duvall community, on the other hand, may soon see one of its key meeting places crushed out, likely because an attorney somewhere in a Portland high-rise thought a client needed to aggressively “protect its interests.” It seems, from here, to be an over-aggressive protection.

Not many people think, yet, about trademark law reform. But as these cases proliferate, and they have, they should start thinking about it, else our ability to use half the words in the English language and half of our visual symbology is lost to legal clients who have the financial clout to seize the right to use it exclusively, and forever.

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The high cost of growth isn’t always local and immediate. Sometimes it gets shifted over to the neighbor.

Take the case of three new resort developments – called Remington Ranch, Brasada Ranch and Hidden Canyon – planned for central Oregon’s Crook County. (Two are on the drawing boards, while construction is underway on the third.) Between them, they’d account for 4,550 houses and upwards of 1,000 “over-night units,” all in relatively remote desert high country.

This raises a number of issues, one of which is addressed in today’s Bend Bulletin, which looks at transportation concerns – not in Crook County, but in Deschutes County (Bend and Redmond), to the west:

“With all of those people potentially flying in and out of Redmond Airport and coming to Redmond for some of their shopping, city officials are worried that their roads won’t be able to handle the traffic and that they’ll have no way to pay for improvements.”

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War protesters in downtown Portland
War protesters in downtown Portland

The Sunday war protest march in downtown Portland, one of many around the country, was energetic – it took its time getting started, but once it did the marchers moved briskly – though, seemingly, not especially massive.

Willamette Week reported a few days back that organizers “expect a turnout of up to 30,000 people at a downtown march planned for this Sunday, March 18, compared to an estimated 10,000 people who turned out for last year’s third-anniversary rally.” Seemed less than that, in our observation, though because of its location, stretched to odd shapes in the downtown blocks, we may not have seen them all, either. (Later estimates put the number at 10,000, which seemed closer.)

The organization was solid enough, though, and the highly visible police presence seemed to help keep things in order. They had some prominent speakers, including U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer. And the attitude, as you might expect, was all there.

Reports from Seattle, Tacoma (about 400 marchers there) and elsewhere suggest this type of scene was not unusual. The emotion may still be there, but the war has gone on long enough that the protests of it seem to be becoming institutionalized.

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