Archive for July, 2007

Jul 24 2007

Vance’s analysis

Published by under Washington

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.)

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Jul 23 2007

Where the fires are

Published by under Idaho

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.

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Jul 23 2007

The dynamics of what might work

Published by under Oregon,Washington

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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Jul 22 2007

Lane’s future

Published by under Oregon

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.

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Jul 22 2007

The soul of Federal Way

Published by under Washington

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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Jul 21 2007

WA: House Rs slipping on funds

Published by under Washington

The Seattle Weekly has totaled the numbers on legislative campaign finance so far, and come up with this:

“. . . the House Democratic Campaign Committee (formerly the House Democratic Caucus Campaign Committee) already has more than $450,000 in the bank— 10 times more than the Republicans have saved up. The House Republican Organizing Committee reports just $40,621 for the period ending June 30, according to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.”

Slipping into extreme minority position makes the work a lot harder – a sequence of negative expectations starts to kick in. As hole get deeper, they get ever-harder to climb out of.

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Jul 20 2007

The Spokane torture connection

Published by under Washington

Part-way into this fine Vanity Fair piece on the development of torture as a foreign policy tool (you’ll find the start of it on the second page), you’ll run into something startling – the strong Spokane connection to the torture research & development industry.

Two of the main figures involved, “James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen played a key role in developing the Air Force’s sere program, which was administered in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Bryce Lefever, command psychologist on the U.S.S. Enterprise and a former sere trainer who worked with Mitchell and Jessen at the Fairchild Air Base, says he was waterboarded during his own training.” (Much of the article’s focus, by the way, is on how invalid most torture-obtained information is.)

Hat tip to Jack Bog’s Blog, which has been following this.

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Jul 20 2007

Ever-helpful friends

Published by under Oregon

Steve Novick

Steve Novick

From an e-mail Democratic Senate candidate Steve Novick shot around Oregon today, making the point that one’s friends can be as much a hazard as the other guys.

(You get some sense of Novick’s personality in the process . . .)

So today “Just Out,” the Portland newsweekly of the gay community, puts me on the cover, which is nice, but then quotes me as saying that we need to “ask people in this country to pay higher taxes” and that “our opponents will convince the public that we’re doing things that are way too dangerous.” Of course, what I actually said was that we need to ask SOME people (e.g., people who make all their money from capital gains) to pay higher taxes, and that if we try to really deal with the problems of the country – health care, global warming, the Federal fiscal mess — our opponents will TRY TO convince the public that we’re doing things that are way too dangerous. (If I were convinced our opponents would always win, I wouldn’t run!) I’m
sending you this note as a pre-response to the Smith ad next year highlighting the tax misquote … Still, it’s nice to be on the cover holding my copy of the Schlesinger book on Bobby Kennedy …

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Jul 20 2007

Cone of silence

Published by under Idaho

City clubs with their luncheon speakers like to say, through their slogans, that nothing happens until people start talking. There’s truth in that. But also in this: When people abruptly quit talking, something almost certainly already is happening.

Eyes once again, then, to Micron Technology at Boise.

The Boise Idaho Statesman this morning ran a richly provocative interview by columnist Dan Popkey with Gordon Smith, a board director at Micron, and formerly an executive at the J.R. Simplot Company. A view into the company via the Statesman at all is rare these days, since it hasn’t been officially talking to the paper or most anyone in the Boise media except for KTVB-TV (Channel 7). But Smith, speaking for himself, did speak up, and he had some fascinating things to say. (The paper ran a story on the Smith interview, but the transcript is the thing to read.)

In a sense, there are no surprises here; but hearing it from the inside – of the board – did give confirmation to the already widely suspected.

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Jul 19 2007

Craig, Iraq and oil

Published by under Idaho

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

Senator Larry Craig‘s Senate floor statement on the consequences of destabilizing Iraq – throwing the supply of oil into that mix – is less sweeping or conclusive than some sites are suggesting. The indication is that Craig was saying we’re in Iraq because of oil; a reading of his floor statement shows that he didn’t say that. (His floor statement in full appears after the jump.)

Some of what he did say was striking enough, though.

Craig is a capable, even gifted, floor speaker, and some of his comments – especially in the earlier sections – wandered and recycled quite a bit. He was quick to say the late-night Senate Iraq debate was political, which of course it was at least in part. He also entered a shot that the Senate was trying to get into battlefield decisions (which it wasn’t; it was debating the policy matter of whether the country should be in the battlefield at all). And there was some discussion about veterans legislation, which didn’t seem on point to the issues at hand. He reiterated some “cutting and running” rhetoric.

After all that, he found some focus on a serious and difficult question: What happens after departing Iraq? “What happens if we don’t find a strategic way out?” he asked. “It is important that we put ourselves in perspective of the world that involves Iraq and its surrounding neighbors. You have heard a lot of rhetoric about the instability, about the role of Iran and certainly what’s going on in the north here with the Kurdish population and what Turkey is doing, amassing troops along this border. You’ve heard about what’s going on in Lebanon and certainly the traumatic reality that is happening there. Premature withdrawal from Iraq would risk, I believe, plunging this–that Nation into chaos which could spill over its borders into the gulf region that you see here.”

Serious points. From there he moved to this:

Tehran would extend its destabilizing activities to another very important part of the region – Kuwait – and the oil-rich regions of eastern Saudi Arabia along this border here, one of the larger producing oilfields in the region and the kingdom could well fall. And those are the realities we face at this moment that I think few want to talk about. Let’s talk about another consequence.

I will put the balance of my statement in the record. But the other
consequence, Mr. President, that we’ve not talked about is what happens when 54 percent of the world’s oil supply goes to risk with a collapse of the region. And this is a reality check that we only talk about in hushed terms, because we don’t like to talk
about our dependency on a part of the world that is so unstable.

Not the same thing as saying, “this is why we’re there.” But it does translate to saying one of the key reasons we’re still there is, “because of oil.”

And that does provide his Democratic challenger, Larry LaRocco, with the grounds for responding (as he did to New West) with this: “Craig’s silence all along on the Iraq war and his failure to challenge the Bush administration’s failed policies – even after the casualties mounted – led me to suspect there is something else beyond terrorism in his silence. And now we know.”

Craig’s floor statement:

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Jul 19 2007

Slam dunk

Published by under Idaho

The Boise mayoral debate between incumbent Dave Bieter and challenger (and council member) Jim Tibbs emerged about as lopsided as we suspected it might, and for the same reasons: Tibbs has utterly failed to develop a rationale for his candidacy. A (well-regarded) career in the Boise police force, and a long stretch as a respected community figure, isn’t it, and he’s giving no evidence he knows that.

The 55-minute debate, sponsored by IQ Idaho (a business magazine), is posted on the KBOI radio site; watch for yourself. What we see boils down cleanly.

There are more eloquent speakers than Beiter, but he concise and clear, and displayed a sweeping grasp of the city’s situation and its options. He cited specifics (more park space, Community House resolution, expanded library services among them) in making a fair-sounding case for a successful first term and a rationale for a second.

Tibbs was maddeningly vague. He spoke of how better relations with extra-city officials (other local agencies, legislators and others) would be good; to accomplish what exactly, he doesn’t really say. And how he’s been disappointed that the city hasn’t done better in recent years. Thought it’s done good. Though relations between the mayor and the council (on which he sits) are okay. He guesses. Boise can do better, he said; but how? He never said. What would make it better? Didn’t say. Boise is special, he said; but you’d have to scrape through the debate to get any sense of what he think specifically makes it so. Specifics were so lacking through so much of his talk that in many places you had to remind yourself that this really was a guy with deep roots in Boise – the bulk of what he said sounded so generic it could have been ghost written by someone who’d never visited Boise.

Bieter comparatively was far more specific, clear on foothills developmnt (he’s generally against it), while Tibbs wove between concern for the foothills and private property rights – where he would wind up was anyone’s guess. A Boise mayor probably should be more specific than Bieter is on Boise’s long-range growth, but he has at least a general vision for how it ought to grow, and what specific considerations should be borne in mind. Good luck trying to summarize Tibbs’ view on any of this.

None of these takes are especially unique to this site. New West has said some of the same. And the Idaho Statesman‘s editorial today led with this: “There’s a long way to go until the Nov. 6 Boise mayor’s election.That’s a good thing for City Councilman Jim Tibbs, because he has a long way to go to make a case to replace incumbent Dave Bieter.”

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Jul 18 2007

To run, or not . . .

Published by under Oregon

Portland Mayor Tom Potter‘s immediate political future – that is, whether he runs for re-election next year – remains unclear; the man himself isn’t sayin’. But with announcement time presumably getting somewhere near (not long after Labor Day, supposedly), interest is growing.

If he doesn’t run, Council member Sam Adams is considered likely to run. Others are out there as prospects, too, including businessman Roy Jay, an interesting personality and prospect.

But will Potter run? The Portland Tribune is indicating not. A reader poll on Jack Bog’s Blog is thinking he won’t run (readers voting that way 89-29).

Increasingly, we’re inclined to agree.

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Jul 18 2007

Shetterly out

Published by under Oregon

Lane Shetterly

Lane Shetterly

That Lane Shetterly isn’t an Oregon household name is a little amazing, and suggests the difficulty – his resignation now announced – Governor Ted Kulongoski may have in replacing him.

Chosen in 2004 to head the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, he settled into office just as Measure 37, which upended key parts of the agency’s mission, was being passed, and becoming the highest-profile issue in the state. That alone would have been enough trouble for many people to handle. Atop that, Shetterly had another prospective problem spot. He was a Republican, a Republican legislator (one of the declining numbers of moderates) appointed to the directorate by a Democratic governor. Had he slipped seriously, on his trek through the hurricane, maybe Kulongoski would have felt some loyalty and tried to help, but neither political party would have had a great interest in going out of their way on his behalf.

He never really did seem to slip up, though. He seemed to manage the department with caution and care – two excellent attributes under the circumstances – and when he spoke in public, he projected openness and also measured his words. He entered into no big public squabbles. We recall an instance interviewing him during one of the Measure 37 transition points; his responses were clear and comprehensible and met the questions, open without being so casual as to trip any land mines.

If the new Measure 49, revising 37, passes this year, Shetterly’s management at LCD may be one of the reasons.

Formerly a state House member from Dallas, he is returning to his family’s law practice (Shetterly Irick & Ozias: his father was a firm founder, and he worked there too for many years) in that city. Kulongoski’s task now is no less clear but may be more difficult: Finding someone who can maintain so sure a track in the months ahead.

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Jul 17 2007

Bellevue megahouse limits

Published by under Washington

The city of Bellevue appears to be moving ahead on something Seattle has been struggling with: Controlling the explosion in supersized megahouses.

No formal regulations yet; options are still under review. But restrictions do appear to be on the way.

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Jul 17 2007

WA: Launching the lands race

Published by under Washington

Peter Goldmark

Peter Goldmark

Doug Sutherland

Doug Sutherland

The last outcome, last year, wasn’t all that promising: After a strong push and widespread word that the race would be close, Democrat Peter Goldmark didn’t wind up especially close to taking out Republican Representative Cathy McMorris. Of course, he was then running in one of the most Republican parts of Washington, and this time he’ll be running in Washington overall, which could change the picture.

So, Goldmark’s announcement Monday that he’s running for state lands commissioner, the job now held by Republican Doug Sutherland. It could be doable.

On one hand, Sutherland hasn’t been an especially controversial office holder, seems to have generally good relations around Olympia. And he has background in the key swing area of Tacoma and Pierce County, where he was twice elected mayor and twice county executive, respectively. He’s been elected commissioner twice statewide.

But those wins weren’t spectacular. In 2000, he won by a close 49.5%-45.1%, although that involved beating a former (and controversial) governor, Mike Lowry. In 2004, when he might have been expected to do much better, his margin diminished: 50%-46.7% over Democrat Mike Cooper, who never caught fire but did fire shots at Sutherland that have echoes in Goldmark’s now.

Goldmark’s rationale is simply put: “From the perspective of rural communities, school districts, users and neighbors of our state lands, we see a Commissioner that is too tied to corporate interests, too focused on short term profits at the expense of long term planning, and frankly not listening to the people impacted by his decisions in Olympia. I’ll bring a unique perspective to the office-a voice for rural Washington, for long term conservation goals, and sustainable resources and revenues for our communities and educational institutions.”

His early start will help. And hailing as he does from Okanogan County, he may be able to dig a little (not to overstate the matter) into the normal Republican numbers east of the Cascades. And, of course, Washington has been trending Democratic in the last few elections, and Sutherland has scant margin to lose.

Sutherland may need to jump in soon himself, if he wants a third term.

ALSO As David Postman writes, and the Post-Intelligencer has reported, state Senator Erik Poulsen, D-West Seattle, and King County Councilman Dow Constantine have been noted as expressing interest. Will Goldmark’s nearly official entry dampen theirs?

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