Writings and observations

cell Some years back, when Idaho started getting into the business of outsourcing prisoner control to private contractors, we predicted that investigative scandal stories would be on their way, the only question being how long that would take.

Took a little longer than we thought, owing mainly to a decline in investigative reporting. But, coming some days after a report on how Idaho has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, here we are.

From a report by John Miller (at Boise) of the Associated Press: “Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector. More than 140,000 U.S. prison beds are in private hands, and inmates’ rights groups allege many such penitentiaries tolerate deplorable conditions and skimp on services to increase profits.”

The story focused on an Idaho prisoner being held by a private contractor in Texas, until he escaped by slashing his throat with a razor blade.

This AP report is today’s must-read.

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Idaho

Oregon State Representative Donna Nelson, a McMinnville Republican, has variously been on or off sundry lists of House Republicans who might not or will not run again in 2008. Our speculation has been that she won’t; the ruling today from the state Elections Division may tip the balance that way.

Reports surfaced last year that Nelson had some issues with her campaign finance reporting, which may have had to do with haste: For much of the year she apparently figured she was being lightly challenged and raised little money, and discovered her Democratic challenger (Sal Peralta) was on the verge of beating her.

The Division cited 13 violations of campaign reporting law, none criminal.

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Oregon

Larry Lyon

Larry Lyon

Does this mean Larry Lyon is not running for re-election this year? After only one term?

Well, you wouldn’t put this on your campaign brochure. From a news alert by the Idaho Falls Post Register:

“Idaho Falls City Councilman Larry Lyon has filed a tort claim against the city of Idaho Falls for emotional distress. He alleges that in January a city police officer threatened and intimidated him while trying to cite him for having a dog at large. Lyon is asking for $500,000.”

Might’ve had a hard time anyway, to judge from some of the chatter at IdahoFalls.com. Lyon’s own blog (with an interesting contribution from his wife) is also available.

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Idaho

The just-announced candidate for Idaho’s 1st congressional district is Republican this time. (This district has abruptly become the busiest House district, by far, in the Northwest – now in both parties.) So what are we to make of the newcomer, Matt Salisbury?

We know only but so much. We do know he has a compelling personal story: A Nampa businessman serving in the Idaho National Guard, he was deployed to Iraq, spending considerable time in the Middle East. (A decade ago he was an Army airborne ranger.) He was there to see, among other things, elections in Iraq; he doubtless has some interesting stories to tell. His background will generate some immediate respect.

The reasons behind a challenger’s entry into a congressional race – especially for a primary challenger, since Salisbury presumably would be trying to take out Republican Representative Bill Sali – are crucial in evaluating his candidacy. And those seem a little unclear as yet.

On the biggest issue of the day, and the one his background would suggest – Iraq – he’s reported as saying simply that the United States ought to stick by its allies as they try to rebuild their country. Nothing inflammatory there, and nothing Sali likely would take much issue with.

The Nampa Press-Tribune quotes him this way: “The greatest issue driving my campaign is the belief that Idaho’s 1st Congressional District deserves a candidate whose singular drive is to independently serve the public trust in such a way that the people know they have a leader in Washington committed to serving his constituents rather than a political career.”

He may mean exactly that; the catch being, it’s something every other candidate in the race (Sali, a first-term representative, included) could also say. So what’s the specific rationale for the race – a reason for his entry so compelling that it calls on voters to fire the incumbent and install him instead?

That could yet be coming. If it does, we may get a better feel for this candidacy, and how it fits into the mix next year.

ALSO A correspondent adds this, from an Associated Press story: “Matt Salisbury, 34, of Nampa, described himself as a ‘Lincoln Republican’ who believes politicians should stay ‘out of your bedroom and out of your social mores.’ ‘Idahoans deserve a candidate who doesn’t represent social engineering, who doesn’t represent anything other than carrying out the public trust,’ Salisbury told The Associated Press on Thursday.” From that, you’d conclude: Not a social conservative. We’ll await more information.

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The Oregonian and Willamette Week, so often pacesetters in their arenas (we consider them generally the Northwest’s best daily and alternative weekly newspapers), seem to have gotten themselves into a truly odd blind spot with their coverage of the business and related dealings of Senator Betsy Johnson.

The why of this gets harder to understand with time. Error in initial efforts is one thing, maybe excusable; ongoing errors, after attention repeatedly has been called to them, is something else.

The Loaded Orygun blog, which has done more error-calling on this – work that no mass medium has seen fit to do – than anyone else, on Tuesday posted another large corrective piece. It’s recommended reading, and after reading it, you may be wondering just what it takes to get some of these vaunted organizations to admit to a mistake.

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There’s nothing in the essential point of the Steve Kelley column in the Seattle Times today that a lot of people haven’t been saying locally for months. Or sometimes in other media. But the Times has tended to be more diplomatic – coming off, maybe, as trusting.

Today, though: Kelley writes about the choice of a new head coach for the Seattle Sonics, and doesn’t like it. In addition to other considerations, the selected coach has no real ties to Seattle, while the chief alternative had abundant local ties. Ordinarily not a big deal, this becomes a big consideration when the team’s future – either in the Seattle area on one hand or in, say, Oklahoma City or Las Vegas on the other – is (to be generous) on the fence.

Kelley’s lead paragraph: “We’ve been duped.”

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Washington

The latest run of interim census estimates by city – releases in Washington and Idaho have generated news stories in recent days – look for the most part normal. But what happens if you turn the lists upside down?

In Washington, for example, here are the 10 communities with the largest raw-number population drop so far this decade.

city 2007 decline re annex
Bremerton 35,810 -1,449 66
Burien 31,410 -471 0
Hoquiam 8,845 -252 0
Des Moines 29,090 -177 401
Shoreline 53,190 -106 0
Lake Forest Park 12,770 -101 0
Clyde Hill 2,810 -80 0
Medina 2,950 -61 0
Ione 420 -59 0
Clarkston 7,280 -57 2

.
The final column refers to population changes attributable to changes in city boundaries, generally annexation. (The numbers were developed through the Washington Office of Financial Management.)

Some of these population changes are about as you’d expect. Many of the state’s resource communities were hit: Hoquiam, Clarkston and Ione, for example, on this list. (Aberdeen was estimated to lose 11 people.) Not really a shock.

A little more curious was the case of the south Seattle suburbs, Burien and Des Moines, though they’re so tightly linked to nearby cities that the numbers may simply be a fluctuating fluke.

But did the mention of Medina jump out at you? You know, Medina, as in that little jurisdiction east of Seattle that serves as home town to Bill Gates, the richest (oops – second richest) man in the world? Medina is not going through any kind of depressed economy; not close. Nor, for that matter, are Shoreline or Lake Forest Park or Clyde Hill – all solidly “upscale” places, right there among the state’s population losers . . .

Does the explosion of mega-houses in some of the places explain much of this? Are being being priced out? Or is something else going on?

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Okay, so our projection about the frontrunner for the Idaho Supreme Court seat filled last month – we pegged Idaho Falls Republican Senator Bart Davis as the guy to beat – didn’t pan out so well. (He didn’t make the final cut of four by the Idaho Judicial Council.) But are we going to let that stop us on round II?

Of course not.

The Council this morning released the list of a dozen applicants for the high court spot to be vacated by Linda Copple Trout, who is resigning. (The last seat filled, by attorney Warren Jones, had been held by Gerald Schroeder.) There’s less overlap than you might think between the old list of 19 applicants and this list of 12. Only one of the Council’s final cut from last time, 4th District Judge Joel Horton, is back. The other two, both key figures in the state attorney general’s staff, didn’t try again.

(Least likely of the 12 ultimately to be selected by Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter: Bill Mauk, a highly-regarded Boise attorney who also happens to be a former chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.)

In looking at the new list, it’s worth bearing in mind that Trout is the only woman on the court, which gives some immediate interest to the four women on the list: one private practive attorney, Debora Kristensen, and three district judges, Kathryn Sticklen, Darla Williamson and Juneal Kerrick.

Our attention, however, went immediately to another name: Sergio Gutierrez, a judge on the court of appeals and previously a district judge. Well-regarded professionally, he also would be the first justice of Hispanic background on the high court (as he is the first on the Court of Appeals). It would be a solid choice both substantively and symbolically, something Otter probably will consider as he replaces the only woman on the court.

Of course, we’ve been wrong before . . .

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Idaho

Everyone else seems to be checking out, or posting, the blog ratings generated by Mingle2, which generates movie-style ratings for blog sites, based on the language found in them. So here’s how we rate as of this morning:

Free Online Dating

Mingle2Free Online Dating

Same as some newspaper blogs, though we’d imagine quite a few of the more intense Northwest political blogs would rate an R. (Has the Stranger’s Slog tried this yet? Might blow the Mingle2 circuits.)

We should note that a few days ago when we first tried out the rating system, we emerged with a PG.

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Larry Grant

Larry Grant

The 2006 Democratic nominee for Idaho’s 1st House district, Larry Grant, is formally back in. Grant for Congress has shot an e-mail this morning saying he has filed formal paperwork to that effect with the Federal Election Commission. (No link for the release, unfortunately.)

In normal cycles, we’d all be wondering at the early entry – nearly a year and a half till the 2008 general election. Not in this cycle, with primary opposition either in the field (Rand Lewis) or in development (Walt Minnick). And not with his counterparts in other districts, such as Democrat Darcy Burner in the Washington 8th, doing the same thing – on maybe an even more accelerated schedule.

What will all these campaigns look like when we get to October 2008?

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Idaho