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Posts published in June 2007

The second Justice Jones

We don't know a lot about Warren Jones, the appointee - as of today - to replace Gerald Schroeder on the Idaho Supreme Court. He is apt to bring some difference in viewpoint to the group of five: On swearing-in, he will be the only one of the five who had never served as a judge (three of the others previously had) or in other elective office (Jim Jones, the other Jones on the court, a two-term attorney general).

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter remarked on the selection, “His colleagues in the Idaho Bar agree that he is balanced, fair and impartial, and that his temperament will fit well in a collegial setting with the other justices.” Certainly he isn't a bounce-around kind of guy: He's been with one Boise law firm, the old and cohesive firm Eberle Berlin, Kading, Turnbow, McKlveen and Jones since 1970 - for 37 years. You don't see that kind of one-shop career run very often any more.

He has not been an especially publicly visible attorney (not the same thing, of course, as in-profession visibility), so we have a limited amount of background to go on. The Idaho Statesman has noted a couple of cases from his background: "He was counsel to a couple accused of slander in the 2004 state Supreme Court case that found charter schools cannot sue for slander. Jones also represented Quickburger Ltd. of England in a 1993 lawsuit against J.R. Simplot Co. about eight months after Otter resigned from his post there. Simplot was ordered to pay Quickburger $1 million for breaking a license agreement and misappropriating trade secrets." You get the sense from that, maybe, of a successful attorney and also one not necessarily wedded to the most popular and powerful local interests; not a bad thing, if such conclusions could be drawn.

But, as all governors learn, we'll all find out from scratch what we have after Warren Jones puts on the robes. Most justices turn out to be at least a bit of a surprise.

Air rules

Interesting ruling published in the Federal Register today on air quality in Washington and Idaho, essentially giving a checkoff from the Environmental Protection Agency on some new Northwest air rules.

The state agencies involved are the Department of Ecology in Washington and Department of Environmental Quality in Idaho. Here's the summary:

These provisions require each state to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) revision that prohibits emissions that adversely affect another state's air
quality through interstate transport. EPA is proposing to approve IDEQ's and Ecology's SIP revisions because they adequately address the four distinct elements related to the impact of interstate transport of air pollutants for their states. These include prohibiting emissions that contribute significantly to nonattainment of the NAAQS in another state, interfere with maintenance of the NAAQS by another state, interfere with plans in another state to prevent significant deterioration of air quality, or interfere with efforts of another state to protect visibility.

Bent, crunched

To all things, there are limits, even in go-go places like the metros of the Oregon high desert. From the Bend Bulletin today:

Another Bend manufacturing company is leaving the city to expand elsewhere, saying Bend's limited industrial land supply and the high prices that the land commands have priced it out of the market. . . . Light industrial space in Bend is nearly gone, economic developers say, as the city's growth has quickly absorbed available land. While space dwindled, costs shot up, says Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, or EDCO.

To be sure, we're not talking about moving out of region: the story is about Ameritech Machine Manufacturing Inc., a six-year Bend firm which is planning to move to Redmond, about 20 miles away. But it is an indicator: How high can prices go before they turn around and bite?

Mapping support

Washington presidential contributions

Washington presidential contributions

We're not many days away from the next round of releases of campaign contributions numbers for the presidential candidates. Before wading into and being swamped by that, we decided to take advantage of a new tool by the Federal Elections Commission and take a look at the contributions reported by the candidates from around the Northwest.

We weren't surprised to find the three states have highly distinctive patterns, but maybe a little to find that the state most different from the other two was Washington.

It was the one state of the three in which Democratic presidential candidates out-raised Republicans ($655,370 to $401,715). (A note: The Fred Thompson activity is too recent to show up in these numbers.)

Like the other two, the biggest single recipient here is Republican Mitt Romney, who who raised 68% of all Republican presidential money. (That percentage is bigger in the other two states.) Strikingly, his treasure chest wasn't King County or even the Puget Sound area overall (where most people in the state live) – or even east of the Cascades. His big source was Clark County, Vancouver and Battle Ground, which accounted for $139,525, about half of his total.

By contrast, all of King County (with about five times Clark's population) accounted for just about $100,000. Overall, King County yielded about $178,000 for Republicans, while Clark donated $142,715; practically all of Clark’s Republican money went to Romney. In contrast, second-place Republican raiser John McCain pulled about two-thirds of his money from King.

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Next up for Kate Brown?

Kate Brown

Kate Brown

Here's a guessing game: What's the reason Oregon Senator Kate Brown said, as she did this evening, that she will step down as Senate majority leader (and apprently from the Senate)? She said today that she's doing it, but not why.

Let's see. Such moves sometimes happen on occasion of scandal, except that there's been none (that we know of) in this case. Or on occasion of some awful political reversal (as last session's House Speaker Karen Minnis left leadership when her party lost the chamber), but that's not the case here either. Or there could be personal reasons, though nothing there has yet come to light. Another prospect is an impending run for higher office, an idea which is bound to raise some interest. Does she have interest in the U.S. Senate next year, or something else?

Not many answers yet.

UPDATE The first reports on this suggested a resignation from the leadership but not necessarily from the Senate. The Oregonian reports today that later Sunday she confirmed she's planning to leave the Senate as well; this post has been updated to reflect that.

Closing that primary

Increasingly looks as if Idahoans are going to have to choose their parties if they're going to vote in primaries - the closed primary system.

We don't think a majority of Idahoans would like the concept - to the contrary. But we take this quote, from the Coeur d'Alene Press by former state Senator Rod Beck, very seriously: "We now have a party rule that is in conflict with state statute. The only way to resolve that conflict is to have a court declare that statute unconstitutional."

We noted in a past post that the Idaho Legislature is unlikely to do that, but Beck's implication here is on target: A court probably would. Courts in a string of other states, including Washington, already have. Confirmation comes from Secretary of State Ben Ysursa - Idaho's long-time elections guru - who said that a lawsuit was "inevitable" and that the current relatively open primary voting system will be hard to defend in court.

We half suspect the papers are being drawn as you read this . . .

Spokane heat

Dennis Hession

Dennis Hession

Al French

Al French

Mary Verner

Mary Verner

The last time Spokane voters re-elected a mayor was 34 years ago - 1973. (Compare that to the re-election-as-norm in Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Vancouver or Boise.) The incumbent mayor who is running this year, Dennis Hession, was appointed to the job in the middle of the current term, not elected, meaning both that he wouldn't necessarily have to beat history to win, and also that he's untested in a run for the top job.

Which may sound like an either-or, but we have some ease in suggesting the odds favor him.

One reason is the math of conventional political calculation. When an incumbent is on the ballot, the race almost always centers first around that incumbent - whether that person should stay or go. Hession, who is a former city council member (its president at the time he was chosen mayor, by a vote of the council), is opposed by two current council members, Al French and Mary Verner. Incumbents are ordinarily best-served by a divided opposition, and there's a good chance that will play out in this case.

There are other considerations, a few of them countervailing.

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The image of the virgin at Twin Falls

We should not leave unnoted - how could we? - the reports this week of the Virgin Mary siting at Twin Falls.

From the Times-News: "Late Monday night, a man left a message at the Times-News saying he'd seen an image of the Virgin Mary on a rock at Shoshone Falls. He did not return calls made on Tuesday to the number he'd left. However, along the winding road leading to the falls, a handmade cross rests against the base of a massive basalt slab - on which appears a human-like figure. It's under the only tree along the road."

The paper posted a picture of the rock in question (it appears at the link above); to our eyes, it simply looks like a colorful stain.

But perhaps it depends (as the Roman Catholic clergyman at Immaculate Conception Church at Buhl suggested) at least in part on what you're looking for.

On the front page of the Times News site is a list of the most recent reader comments, which suggests area topics of concern: "On this parade controversy [concerning a gay orgainzation's float]: Can we stop the hatred?; Accepting discrimination like this is outrageous; Religious miracle or natural phenomenon?; Push for homosexuality support worth fighting; Becoming 'pobody'; Being homosexual is not a choice; DOE's rich tapestry of broken promises; People at heart of parade angst are your neighbors . . ."

On to step two

Friday may have been a landmark day in Oregon public policy, not to mention the health of Oregonians, with passage of Senate Bill 329 - the comprehensive health bill. When Governor Ted Kulongoski signs it, as he has said he will, prospects for a whole different health system in the state will start to take form.

Only by steps, and not immediately. First will come appointment of an executive director to oversee the effort, and then a board. In 2009 will come the toughest step - money, to be raised by the Oregon Legislature. All of these steps have the potential to become more contentious than SB 329 was this - and that was, in truth, not nearly as contentious as it might have been.

Still, partly because the first step is so often the most difficult of all, it's entirely possible that Oregonians will look back on June 22, 2007, as an important day.

ADDITIONAL NOTE All that said, by all means check out these comments at Blue Oregon on the evidently impending loss of Senate Bill 27, which apparently will be left hanging at session's end. Just how key is it to the success of 329? Our sense is, considerable but less than some of the commenters indicate. But by all means read for yourself - there's a passionate debate here.