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Posts published in May 2007

Increasingly, on Sunday

liquorIs the purchase of liquor something that can't be planned for? We long have scoffed at the laws that ban some liquor sales on election day - would people really be unable to buy their stock prior to, and get sloshed on election day regardless? Well, maybe.

Just as Idaho's largest county (Ada) is preparing to join about half of the state's other counties in allowing liquor store sales on Sundays, the other two Northwest states are reviewing their own experience, and finding an apparently enlarged marketplace. You might suspect that allowing Sunday sales would do little to sell more liquor - knowing the stores are closed on Sundays, wouldn't you just buy ahead on Saturday? But evidently not everything is thinking ahead to do that.

The Seattle Times is reporting today on the Washington experience since, two years ago, the state opened liquor sales on Sundays. The business has, it turns out, grown tremendously. When the change occurred, state officials were figuring sales might increase by close to $10 million a year as a result; our thought at the time was that they were being a little optimistic. Turns out not: According to the Times, "Instead, Sunday sales have exceeded projections by nearly 60 percent and now the State Liquor Control Board expects $15.1 million will be collected on Sundays during the current biennium, which ends June 30."

That's no aberration. Oregon allowed some Sunday sales about three years ago, and sales overall have risen variously between 9.2% and 19.6%. Pennsylvania, which took similar action about the same time, reported a similar experience.

Maybe, some things you just can't plan for.

A choice of a do-over

There is on Blue Oregon a developing and lively counterpoint argument about House Bill 3540, which sends to the voters a proposed revision of the Measure 37 initiative passed in 2004. 3540 was passed in the Oregon House on Friday on a party-line 31-24 vote; it is next expected to easily passed in the Senate.

We weighed on this a few days ago ("An absolute decision"), arguing that there's no violation of voter will in this approach: If the voters like what they did in 2004 and don't want to change it, they can reject the new proposal. The new measure is different from Measure 37, substantially so, which led one pro-37 commenter to argue: "As long as we get it straight that 100% of Democrats are against the 61% of Oregon voters who passed it. I wonder if our newspapers will be making this clear during the campaign process? Or ever?"

That would have been a reasonable argument if the Oregon Legislature had directly passed a law (as they could have done) simply overturning Measure 37 and imposing a new regime instead. But that's not what they did. The majority, argument (with some reason) that many voters would like to change what they did, will give them the chance. The voters can make their own decision - again.

That all the negative votes came from the Republican caucus (and five Republican House members chose not to vote on the bill at all) may be the most interesting part of Friday's action.

Really broad support

Horse's Ass blogger David Goldstein is ordinarily definitive about his side and the other side (ordinarily, Democrats and Republicans, respectively). But every so often a case comes up that makes any good blogger say: Well, what are you gonna do?

Such is the case of the candidacy of Maureen Judge for city council in Mercer Island city. She has bipartisan support (endorsements from legislators both Democratic and Republican). And the blogger himself, who adds, "Okay… I happen to know Maureen pretty damn well. Um… she’s my baby’s momma."

They're divorced now, but Goldstein hasn't let that interfere with his endorsement: "And while I suppose this sort of disclosure might raise red flags amongst Mercer Island Republicans, they should at least take comfort in the fact that Maureen had the apparent commonsense to divorce me. Can’t get much more bipartisan than that. . . . and damn, she’s a helluva lot more likeable than I am. Go ahead, try to beat her at something she really cares about. Hell, I never did."

Smith: The conservative case against

We've said before we expect, with the new Club for Growth activism in Oregon leading the way, that there will be a from-the-right challenge next year to Oregon Senator Gordon Smith.

We didn't say it would necessarily be successful.

The outlines of such a challenge - a case against Smith - were cleanly laid out in the Northwest Republican blog, in the form of a letter from Bill Sizemore, he of numerous (largely anti-tax and conservative-based) initiative campaigns. (Blogger Ted Piccolo posted the letter, but without comment.) Sizemore has been mentioned as a prospect to oppose Smith in the Republican primary. That may or may not happen, but his argument against Smith could easily constitute the core of the primary insurgency.

"Can a greater case be made against Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon? Hate crimes legislation; boondoggle mass transit funding; voting against drilling in ANWR; voting for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and calling our troops’ presence in Iraq “criminal”. That ought to be enough of an indictment. But there’s more." The more is Smith's support of a cigarette tax increase, opposition to some anti-immigrant efforts, and so on.

Read and check it out. It could be picked up by whoever runs against Smith (who we suspect won't be Sizemore.) But don't assume it will necessarily be enough to work.

A partial slump in boomtown

In Hailey

Streetside in Hailey

Lunching in bustling Hailey, after struggling with the heavy midday - not even rush hour - traffic on Main Street, we were startling to read this in the Idaho Mountain Express:

"Business for Ketchum retailers during the past winter was not nearly as bad as rumor would have it, a non-scientific survey by the Mountain Express indicates."

Business down? Well, you certainly wouldn't say so comprehensively. But so far this decade Ketchum has been losing retailers, at least, a net of 13 from 2001 to 2006.

Apparently last winter was reputed to be poor for business; and also apparently, that depends on which retailer you are. Nothing especially notable in that. But the story went on to describe many of the structural economic changes in the Ketchum area, including a decline in motel and overnight traffic and a great increase in condominiums, which seems to have diminished trade for many retailers. And retailers are concluding some new things. A Hailey bookseller who shuttered that business recently concluded that, after the opening and then closing of five sucessive booksellers in Hailey over the last quarter-century, maybe Hailey just won't support a book store. Why is less immediately clear, but offers some interesting grounds for speculation.

A tucked-away, seemingly routine story, but well-worth examination.

The wages of

2007 Progress ReportAttention should be paid to the new report by the Progress Board about Oregon's economy. An editorial in the Oregonian today loads well at the lead: "Of all the questions raised by the Progress Board's report on the Oregon economy, here's the most important: Do you want fries with that?"

The editorial seized on what may be the most significant finding of the report, which is developed by a state agency (the Oregon Progress Board) and covers a lot of ground, much of which reflects positively or at least decently on where the state is going. Its overall description seems bland enough: "Oregon is holding its own with a growing economy, public safety and livable communities, but other areas give reason for concern, according to an analysis of 91 "Oregon Benchmarks," which measure the state's well-being. However, the report says some aspects of education, civic engagement, social support and the environment still need improvement in order to meet state goals."

It is, overall, well worth a look. (There's useful and especially interesting set of county benchmark maps available at the Progress Board site.) But the most useful, we suspect (as evidently the Oregonian has) have to do with the impact of the economy on individuals. Oregon progresses in a number of ways, but in many regard this isn't one of them.

And if Washington or Idaho had a progress board, those doubtless would find the same thing.

Signed, sealed

Not sure why it needs to take so long - the deal was cut in 2003, the provisions met for a while now - but the Nez Perce Snake River deal has now been signed.

It's a major agreement, and one of the more significant developments in Idaho so far in this decade. It is, as much as anything else, a shift away from what might have been: A big, bitter lawsuit that could have seriously upended much of the state of Idaho, and/or the Nez Perce tribe. Today, both can call that a bullet averted.