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Posts published in April 2007

One down, Sonics next

The proposal by the new owner of the Seattle Sonics for a half-billion dollar new arena at Renton sounds increasingly like a put-up: An obligatory proposal, performed as per the terms of the team purchase, but not necessarily the desired outcome. The desired outcome, probably, is the Oklahoma City Sonics.

The proposal as crafted likely has slim chance of passing the legislature and less of passing the voters. (The level of public-backed financing involved is they key point.) Taken together, these points make a little odd today's Seattle Times editorial urging another go-round in the arena construction effort. "The SuperSonics deserve a chance to work something out with King County. There might not be any more options for the SuperSonics if Olympia swats this proposal or strands it on the bench," it concludes.

This is notable as an expression of a still-vital viewpoint in Seattle. A detailed and useful deconstruction is available at Horse's Ass.

Feeling a draft

We have said before and say again, that it'll likely take a powerfully persuasive argument - especially on the matter of money - to get Representative Peter DeFazio into the race for Senate.

But you can't say the effort isn't being made.

You can check out the state of it at Draft DeFazio For Senator from Oregon!, a just-founded blog founded by the Loaded Orygun bloggers. It sums up much of the rationale for a DeFazio run against incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith. (Among other things, it's a reflection on how the net can directly influence political action, and political decisions.)

On a semi-related note, we were wandering around downtown Eugene today and saw a metal announcement plate, outside the Lane County courthouse, marking ideal spot for a campaign announcement for a Senate run, should DeFazio make one.

Morse Terrace at the Lane Courthouse
Morse Terrace at the Lane Courthouse

You'll notice that the chief official signing off the naming of the "free speech terrace", after the recently-departed U.S. senator (who lived near Eugene and was a law professor at the University of Oregon there), was then-county commission Chair Peter DeFazio (whose Oregon residence, now as then, is in Lane County's Springfield).

Smith bucks

Never hurts to be able to wave a pile of money in the face of people who are considering opposing you in a political campaign. And Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, by announcing that in the first three months of this year he has added $700,000 to his $2 million campaign fund - and doing it days before he had to, thereby guaranteeing media coverage - is doing just that.

It could even be aimed directly at Democratic Representative Peter DeFazio, who this week seems to have turned into a possible contender for the Senate seat (after earlier declaring his non-interest), but whose reluctance to enter the race has a lot to do with the daunting rounds of fundraising required. DeFazio could raise the money to be competitive with Smith. The catch is that he'd have to put in a lot of time and effort, away from his newly beloved committee chairmanship, to do it.

Which may give emphasis to what we suspect DeFazio is privately telling those Democrats who want him to run: "Before we can even get serious: Show me the money, and prove to me that raising it isn't going to be preoccupying for the next year and a half." Sounds now as if whether he runs may hinge in large part on whether they can.

Chat on

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.

LaRocco’s apparently in

Larry LaRocco
Larry LaRocco

Democrat Larry LaRocco's statement (not yet formal announcement) from various places (apparently originating from an interview with The Hill yesterday) that he plans to announce for the U.S. Senate next week has been prepared for; LaRocco has mentioned the possibility more than once, and even during his race last year for lieutenant governor. Assuming that materializes as expected, the former U.S. representative instantly will be the presumed Democratic nominee, likely drawing little or no serious challenge in-party.

What he faces on the Republican side, of course, is another matter.

Though there's ample question about who that will be. Our presumption for the moment is that incumbent Republican Senator Larry Craig will be back for another run; we hear from people who've known him well that Congress is too much his life to simply step away from it. Until a stronger argument comes up, we'll go with that.

But it's not a done deal.


Remap, around the bend

Idaho and Washington both took the wise step, in time for the last go-round, of turning over the job of reapportioning state legislative and congressional districts to an independent commission, in time for the 2000 census remap. And while some glitches may have arisen in those processes - okay, some agony as well - the end result worked. And there is this: It worked out better than if legislators had done it.

In Oregon, the last reapportionment was such a fiasco that the legislature failed completely to reapportion itself, and the job went to one man, the secretary of state, who - inevitably - holds office as a partisan official and consequently has some responsibility to his party. (Republicans have been unhappy about the results of that ever since.) But an Associated Press piece today outlines the options Oregon legislators have for doing it differently next time.

Scott Bruun
Scott Bruun

The central proposal, House Joint Resolution 33, comes from state Representative Scott Bruun, R-West Linn, who has backing from 28 colleagues, and which works so hard to be fair to both parties that even the convolutions of forming its commission can be a little hard to follow. (The AP piece covers the details; we won't try to retrace them all here.) Still, it does seem even-handed, fair and holds the promise of an improve way of performing an inherently messy task; several Democrats as well as Republicans are among its sponsors. (There are alternative proposals, too, including one, House Joint Resolution 41, sponsored by the Senate and House Republican leaders.)

This will constitute a test, though, for the people who now run the legislature. In 2001, Republicans had the legislative majorities when time came for reapportionment, but the battles over the lines were so rough that the legislature wasn't able to get a remap enacted, and (by statute) the job went to the secretary of state. (Not for the first time, either.) Now, Democrats run the legislature, and have the governorship as well, and the secretary of state's office (and recent history suggests they will retain it after the next election). From their perspective: Why turn over the mapmaking to someone else when they can draw their own lines instead?

And there will be consequences to those lines. Oregon is closely enough slip between the parties that control of, say, the House could ride on those numbers. Too, Oregon may pick up a U.S. House seat after 2010, and which party wins it could be determined by where, exactly, it is located.

It's never easy to cede even a bit of power.

Crosscut launches

The new news site called Crosscut, planning news coverage around the Northwest, launched on Sunday, and it will be worth a watch.

The overall approach bears some resemblance to the New West organization based out of Montana but extending into (among other places) Idaho and Oregon. Crosscut shows some indications, though, of being relatively Washington- and Seattle-centric. But that may change as posts continue and the site develops.

Joel Connelly at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives it a sendoff and describes its background.


The plan to build a NASCAR track near Bremerton was never a starter idea; the only question ever was at what point it would crash. It was placed in a spot where transportation is strained already, and it was reliant on a huge amount of public-backed funding. It never was going to fly. That's been clear for half a year or more.

So when the pullout by International Speedway Corporation was announced this afternoon, the basic response might be: It could have gone on longer and been uglier.

ISC can now take a third crack at it (remember the first proposal in Snohomish County), and maybe this time make two alterations that might reasonably result in a NASCAR operation in the Northwest: Put it in a geographically logical place, of which Washington (and Oregon too) have a number; and don't expect a massive public underwriting of ISC's private entertainment business.

An ISC spokesman had this to say: "We still think the Northwest and Washington is a great opportunity. It is a huge economic benefit generator for the state, which has a significant fan base. In the interim, our focus will be to regroup internally and decide what the best course of action is."

That could still include the Northwest.

ID Session grade

The Idaho Statesman's web site poll today asks the question: What grade do you give the just-concluded state legislative session?

With 514 votes in (at this writing), the self-selected poll says: A 1%, B 6%, C 24%, D 29%, F 32%.

Chopp shop

Frank Chopp
Frank Chopp

Frank Chopp, the speaker of the Washington House, has been an important figure in Washington politics for some years - most of a decade anyway - but he's not been particularly a household name, unless your house is in Olympia or maybe Chopp's 43rd district in Seattle. But now it seems to be getting that way, which is something he may relish or would rather go away.

His importance, as builder, solidifier and governor of the Democratic majority in the House, has been accepted in political spheres for some time. (So has his larger than life personality, and patterns of communication some writers have started to call Choppisms.) But few legislators emerge into the larger public consciousness even so.

This year, Puget Sound people have begun seeing headlines about Chopp's role on the Alaskan Way dispute - if Chopp doesn't want it, it's dead. The sense you got was of not only outsized personality, but of outsized power.

What the Slog and the Olympian are now reporting about Chopp and his dealings with two other legislators could take that image a step further.