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Posts published in July 2007

Live from Ashland: It’s – The Editorial Page!

Ashland editorial

The Editorial Page at Ashland/RVTV

Here is something very neat that we've not seen before, in quite this fashion: A sort of editorial page discussion program with room for reader comment. On community access TV, backed up with YouTube online access.

The Editorial Page is a weekly cable access program featuring three editors of the Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper. Each Wednesday, the three editors go on camera and - they've gotten refreshingly loose and informal - talk about three editorial subjects of local import. These may be the merits of the recent 4th of July parade, or city government, environmental issues, or something else. They spend about seven minutes on each topic, and then invite viewer (/reader) response.

They're now in season 2. (That's right, we just happened on to it.) Archived video is available from as far back as last October, when the three talked about their city council endorsements.

This is not a bad idea. And easily hijackable elsewhere.

The Vance analysis II

Part II of the Chris Vance analysis on Crosscut of why things went so wrong for Washington Republicans, and what they should do about it now, is up. And like part I worth the read, though the argument has . . . issues . . . scattered throughout.

There are, however, useful points of interest throughout. (And as noted in our last post on Vance's part I, other minority organizations - Idaho Democrats, say - might pay attention.)

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Seattle > Pocatello > Las Vegas

The title of the blog caught our attention some months ago: A Seattleite in Idaho. That figured to be interesting, and a number of the posts since then have been. Culture shock is usually readable.

The blogger, Jessica, has moved on. She moved from Seattle to Pocatello to attention Idaho State University, and has graduated. Now she's in Las Vegas, and writing about the political atmosphere there. As another observer of interstate comparison, we'd suggest a look at what she's found, and in some cases leaving behind.

Is Merkley in?

Jeff Merkley

Jeff Merkley

We hadn't especially pegged Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley - fresh from his first session in that role - as a big dice roller. There again, if you have ambitions, you move when the time is right, and you can't always pick your time.

Both the Associated Press (according to "two sources close to the campaign") and Willamette Week ("Three highly-placed Democratic sources") today are reporting that Merkley will file paperwork early in August to run for the U.S. Senate, for the seat now held by Republican Gordon Smith. Merkley has made no formal acknowledgment, saying only that a final decision still is forthcoming.

The one substantial Democrat so far in that race is Steve Novick, a consultant who has deep background in Oregon politics but who has not run before. Odds in the primary seem to go to Merkley, who has national encouragement and an instant large fundraising network. (Although, if Novick were to beat him, he would emerge in the general to face Smith as a proven giant-killer.)

Offers one comment writer on WW: "Dave Hunt will make an excellent Oregon House Speaker, and either Diane Rosenbaum or Arnie Roblan will make a very good House Majority Leader."

Fire politics

The recent spate of heavy fire seasons has begun to result in a fire politics too, in rural areas. Some of this played out today in a piece in the Twin Falls Times News.

South-central Idaho is a logical place for it, since this is on the southern end of the hottest fire territory in the country. Three adjacent counties stretching across much of southern Idaho - Owyhee, Twin Falls and Cassia - have been declared fire disaster areas by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter.

Last night, about 120 ranchers and others from these rural areas gathered in the small city of Castleton and fired questions at Tom Dyer, director of the Bureau of Land Management in Idaho. Many of them had to do with the Murphy Complex fire, which reportedly ran to nearly 900 square miles. They asked if the agency could have kept it from becoming so massive if they'd hit harder, earlier? (Current reports are that it is now smaller in size but still only 20% contained.)

Some of them argued that grazing regulations left too much vegetation in place, serving as fuel when the fires took off.

Could go in a variety of directions, but fire looks like a front-burner (sorry - would you rather we called it incendiary?) issue for a while, especially if the fires continue getting worse.

Vance’s analysis

Here's a sequel we'll be itching to read - the followup to today's piece in Crosscut by Chris Vance, the former Washington state Republican chair and now a political consultant.

His first piece, dated today, is a compelling and useful rundown of the road from the days (pre-Depression) when Washington was a Republican-dominated state, to today, when the party is just short of marginalized. He writes: "I'm not working on a campaign, but I still seem to spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about Washington state politics, and one reality constantly looms: the Republican collapse of 2006. What happened? What does it mean? Can Republicans recover, and if so, how long will it take? This is obviously a subject of some personal interest to me but should also concern anyone who values a competitive two-party system."

Causes cited in article 1 include Washington's relative secularism (though he points out that major Republican campaigns in recent years have not been based around social conservatism), Democratic financing and superior Democratic candidate recruitment. We agree with parts of his analysis so far, quibble with others, and think he omits some crucial factors, but overall it is worth a careful read.

We're eager to see his promised prescription.

(Note to Idaho Democrats: You guys might want to read this two-parter too.)

Where the fires are

Current major fires

Showing location of all the current "large incident" fires in the United States/NIFC

Driving around the Northwest week before last, we were struck by the amount of smoke in the air. And got to see one substantial-size burn, south of I-84 in the Irrigon-Hermiston area. A hot summer, and dry around the region until the last few days, the fires have had little to tamp them down.

The latest run of showers around the western part of the Northwest seems to have helped. But not everywhere. The National Interagency Fire Center says fires now have become concentrated heavily around Idaho - this map certainly confirms as much. As does the Idaho governor's office, which has declared fire emergencies in five counties. Such emergency declarations aren't commonplace in Idaho.

As does the Spokesman-Review's Betsy Russell, on Boise's air quality at the moment.

The dynamics of what might work

The Joel Connelly column today on the political significance of advisors - name-checking the Bush Administration, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire and her prospective challenger Dino Rossi - prompts a somewhat related train of thought.

The column focused on advisors to Gregoire and Rossi as they move toward open combat, and mentioned Lisa Grove, a pollster at Portland working for Gregoire, and who worked for Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski in his race last year.

The thought was that the recent Oregon experience of gubernatorial races might be instructive for Washingtonians.

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Lane’s future

Lane County population
Five times between here and mid-September, the Lane County Commission will hold meetings around the county to discuss what should become of Lane County government.

It's a more practical question than you might think. With funding (especially federal) diminished, the county is in a budget squeeze, and the commissioners are divided over how to deal with it - even over such basic matters as whether employment or compensation should be trimmed first. So each commissioner will be hosting, starting on Wednesday and evening September 12, a public meeting on what priorities ought to be. All of that will precede the commission's first round of talks (earlier than usual, in October) on next year's budget.

Voters here have recently, and a couple of times, rejected income tax increases - so that option appears to be out. But what's in?

The Eugene Register-Guard has a useful overview out today on the commission's split viewpoints (though two commissioners weren't talking) and the options before it. It's a good look at the kind of discussions many of the federally-reliant counties will be having in the months ahead.

The soul of Federal Way

99 and Federal Way Somewhere there exists - we've seen it but can't find the name - a book on the part of Highway 99 that runs through the Northwest. You can find on Amazon.com two books covering the road's mileage in California; writing on the northern stretch remains elusive. More is merited: There's a lot of history here, and a lot of connection with the present.

Wikipedia says the road was built roughly out of the ages-old Siskiyou Trail, connecting Native Americans from the Puget Sound south into central and southern California. Settlers from the east dug the path more thoroughly, and in the car age it became the Pacific Highway, linking the borders at Mexico and Canada with everything between. It expanded, grew, was designated U.S. 99, and eventually in the mid-60s was superseded by Interstate 5. U.S. 99 was turned into state highways, California 99 and Oregon 99 and Washington 99 (and a bunch of county and city roads, in many places), and split in some areas (most of the route in Oregon's Willamette Valley is divided between 99W and 99E).

When practical (often when time is not tight), we prefer taking 99 over the freeway alternative. You can see a lot more of what's really there from 99. In many places, the beauty of the Northwest is much more evidence from 99 than from the interstate. (Some of the controversy too: Alaskan Way in Seattle is on 99.) The highway runs smack through the center of many communities, not skirting them. 99 is educational.

And more, as writer John Moe explains today in the Seattle Times.

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