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Posts published in August 2007

Persistence

Check out by all means the fine appreciation piece Joel Connelly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs today on Karen Marchioro, a former state Democratic chair and probably as active in party politics recently as then (in the 80s).

When Washington Democrats were wounded and bleeding after the 1980 election, Marchioro led the party through a decade-long recovery, into strong majority status again by the time she retired as chair in 1992. Then came the 1994 crash and Republican triumph. Signal for Marchioro (and her husband, Jeff Smith) to get to work again. And after another decade, Democrats are back.

Connelly: "The lady is tenacious, but lately has slowly given ground to the most relentless of adversaries: She has cancer. It's time for an appreciation - of Marchioro, to be sure, but, by implication, of those across the spectrum who keep a democracy renewing itself and never crawl into a corner after losing."

An Alternate Energy view

Don Gillispie

Don Gillispie

We've made, on occasion or two, skeptical comments about the proposal to build a private nuclear power plant at Bruneau. Leaving aside the wisdom of the idea (which we haven't much gotten into), we've simply been doubtful that it's an idea likely to see fruition, possibly ever and almost certainly not in the next decade.

And Alternate Energy Holdings, which is aiming toward such a project, says it intends to build a good deal sooner than that. (Our take is that any private nuclear project that can get federal approvals is less than a decade from inception will have worked a miracle in modern times.)

That said, we found interesting this commentary, enclosed in an email (through a public relations firm) from Don Gillispie, the CEO of Alternate Energy. Consider it an alternative view for your Sunday reading.

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Same as, maybe less so

About time some journalist documented this: Whether immigrants here illegally are, as alleged, filling up the nation's jails. What they are actually doing is about what you'd expect: Keeping pace, in terms of jail space and type of offenses, with our native population.

Today's Oregonian story on the subject focuses, naturally, on Oregon and secondarily Washington, but the results implicitly ought to apply similarly elsewhere. From the story: "In Oregon state prisons and Portland metro-area jails, presumed illegal immigrants make up a small percentage of those behind bars, and their crime rates are on par with the general population, statistics show. The types of crimes that send them to prison also compares with the general inmate population, according to a review of state records."

It's about what you might expect from a population that, on one hand, wants to keep its collective head low and avoid encounters with the authorities, but that also has little money, sometimes desperate living conditions and may have limited understanding of the place they've reached.

Which is not to say there isn't a problem here. But it does give some useful parameters within which to rationally, rather than emotionally, come to grips with it. A highly recommended read.

Golden won’t run

We suggested some weeks ago, when House Speaker Jeff Merkley entered the race the the U.S. Senate next year, that over time, odds were that he and earlier entrant Steve Novick likely would have the Democratic field mostly to themselves.

And since then, other prospects indeed have been dropping off, including state Senator Alan Bates of Ashland and now Jeff Golden, who had gone so far as to leave a job behind to consider the run.

Golden was a host on Jefferson Public Radio at Medford, and quit that job to consider the race. He may go back to it (it's not yet been filled) in coming weeks.

Could be that someone else in additional to Merkley and Novick wind up on the Democratic primary ballot. But theirs are likely to be the only candidacies of substance.

Middle ground

We haven't much gotten into the Gordon Smith/Dick Cheney/Klamath fish killoff story since it first broke, in part because the details have been covered thoroughly elsewhere. But a story this morning in the Bend Bulletin does suggest a thought about the way Oregon Senator Smith is handling the matter, a pattern to look for in the year-plus to come.

To oversimplify, the issue concerns the low water flows in the Klamath River in southwestern Oregon and northern California, not enough water for both the farmers in the area and the fish in the river. Federal action - directed, we now know, by Vice President Cheney, partly on behalf of Smith (and with his approval) while Smith was up for re-election in 2002 - led to water delivery to the farmers. Some months later, an estimated 77,000 salmon in the Klamath died - the largest single die-off of fish ever recorded in the western United States. Cheney's role in this has become the subject of a U.S. House committee inquiry.

Smith has defended the federal action, which was generally popular around the Klamath area but less so in urban areas - many found the fish die-off troubling at least. The Eugene Register Guard reported that "Smith, who pushed the Bush administration to help get water for farmers' potato crops and alfalfa fields, said he recalled that the salmon 'died of some gill disease, which is not uncommon and happens periodically.'" That (and his statement that the fish died a year and a half after the water shutdown, as opposed to the correct six months) has led to at least a limited firestorm. Blogs on the left have taken after Smith on these points, but so did the Register Guard, which editorialized: "The problem with Sen. Gordon Smith's defense of the Bush administration's 2002 decision to divert Klamath Lake water for irrigation isn't that the Oregon Republican is wobbly on the facts. It's that he's willing to bend and selectively omit the facts to justify ideologically driven political positions."

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Money, public or private

dark cell On matters financial, basics are basics, and we get into trouble - as in our current housing market - when we talk ourselves into the idea that fiscal wizardry can solve our problems. Consider this a cautionary note as state leaders in Idaho, one of the nation's top lock-em-up prison states, confronts the question of cost.

Prison costs are rising in Idaho (as they are most everywhere, to some extent) and the fiscal conservatives in Idaho government aren't pleased at the idea of spending the money. A Spokane Spokesman-Review article on the subject, noting that hundreds of Idaho prisoners already are locked up out of state and possibly 5,500 more beds will be needed in the next decade, outlines the strategy being developed by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter: Outsource it. It quotes Corrections Director Bent Reinke as saying, "There’s a desire by both the board of correction and the governor’s office to have Idaho’s next prison be privatized.” (The idea would be that, as in Texas, it would hold out of state as well as in-state prisoners.)

Otter: “It’s really a question of capital . . . We just simply, without absolutely busting the budget, we can’t make that kind of capital available as we need it.” Private enterprise, he said, “can go out in the marketplace and kind of work their magic.”

The red flag should be the phrase "work their magic," because in the end there's no magic to be worked.

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“Hillary Would Lose Oregon”

The matter of electibility - as a key qualifier in choosing a party's presidential nominee - took a beating nationally in 2004, when Democrats nominated the man they were less excited about but who they thought stood the best chance of winning. Didn't work out so well.

That doesn't mean the question is pointless, and in fact the choice of nominee does often affect election day arithmetic. But opinions will differ, and they certainly do in response to the provocative Daily Kos post out today (from the anonymous pdxattorney) called "Hillary would lose Oregon."

He quotes Rasmussen research as saying: "If New York Senator Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in Election 2008, it may take some work to keep Oregon in the Democratic column--51% of the state’s voters currently have an unfavorable opinion of the Democratic frontrunner. In general election Match-ups with top Republican candidates, the Oregon landscape looks very competitive. Clinton currently trails Arizona Senator John McCain by three percentage points. The former First Lady holds a statistically insignificant single point edge over both Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thomson while leading Mitt Romney by five."

(We should note this too: Whoever is pdxattorney, he or she has a track record of Hillary Clinton criticism. Of the eight previous diaries listed on Kos, four are Clinton-critical: "Hillary Proudly Emulates GWB," "They'll Get Hillary thru Bill," "Hillary is the 'Reformer with Results'," and "The Problem is Hillary's People.")

Oregon has voted for the Democrat for president in every election 1988 to present, an indicator of what it may do next year. On the other hand, some of those Democratic wins were close. And in a general election, Clinton has a problem: She isn't beloved by the base - she'd have some difficulty getting it properly roused up - but she is an object of horror and fury on the other side, guaranteeing a powerfully revved opposition.

You can find a full range of viewpoints on this, including some interesting poll numbers and some sharp analysis (along with the other kind), in a couple of places, one at the Kos post noted above, the other at a post on Blue Oregon. Most immediately striking in both partisan Democratic locations is the meager amount of support and sympathy the generally described frontrunner for the Democratic nomination gets from fellow Democrats. (Our take is that this is an indicator of potential rough times ahead for the Clinton candidacy, but that's another matter.)

Part of the system, or part of the society

We'll here latch on to some commentary concerning journalistic coverage of Boise State University sports for our for-instance, but the points involved are a lot broader - into politics, government and elsewhere. The subject matter has to do with the institutionalized role that mass media - newspapers, radio, television, wire services - have, as opposed to, say, web sites, blogs and reader boards.

And why a BSU decision to shut reporters out of some practice sessions may be a good thing.

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To make them do it

There's not a lot you can do to compel a legislative body to do something, a problem education advocates have wrestled with in Idaho and that advocates of expanding the judiciary at Spokane are encountering now.

In 2002, the Washington Legislature passed a bill that included a provision for increasing the number of Spokane County district judges from nine to 10; local legislators and a number of local government officials had asked for the increase. Formal establishment of the position, and the formal action to pay for it, rests with the Spokane County Commission, which (following an advisory committee decision) declined to approve language doing either. A local attorney challenged that decision: The legislature had, after all, approved the position.

In Delaney v. Board of Spokane County Commissioners, out today, the Washington Supreme Court said the commissioners couldn't be forced to create or pay for the new position, and that they had authority not to.

Testing Luna

Tom Luna

Tom Luna

Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna, seemed to run for the office last year as a "shake-'em-up" advocate of a hard-core No Child Left Behind testing regime - he was, after all, a public face of the Bush Administration's NCLB effort. Implicit was the idea that he would be a big-time budget-slasher.

None of which seems to have materialized. Educators around the state liked more than they disliked about Luna's first budget proposals this year. He seems to have been traveling the state and making more friends than critics.

And then we see this, yesterday, in the Twin Falls Times News editorial:

Mr. No Child Left Behind saying that Idaho's schools might be giving too many tests? That's news.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, whose previous job was working on the federal No Child Left Behind Act at the U.S. Department of Education, made that observation to the Times-News editorial board last week when talking about the future of Idaho's classrooms.

The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which was designed to make schools more accountable, has transformed public education in America. Schools now pay much more attention to preparing students to pass standardized tests, such as the Idaho Standards Achievement Test.

Critics argue that "teaching to the test" is no way to educate kids. NCLB forces teachers to focus on a limited subset of skills to boost test performance rather than concentrating on deeper understanding of the material, they say.

It's a fair argument, and although Luna is still a supporter of NCLB, it's significant that he's willing to at least consider tweaking the system to make it more responsive.

We've been a consistent critic of overtesting and teaching to the test - just the sort of criticisms noted here. That Luna seems to be coming around on the idea is, as suggested, news.

Page fronts, from all over

Thought we'd mention a website recently added to our regular stops - Northwest Front Pages, a collection of (at present) 18 newspaper from pages from around the Northwest. It makes for a highly useful quick comparison between them - who's covering (and emphasizing) what.

It's not a perfect fit with our coverage area, which ordinarily doesn't take in developments in Alaska or British Columbia (though we do consider the idea), and this roster includes the dailies from Anchorage and Vancouver, B.C. But a quick scan of the collection is a great way to start an overview of the daily regional report . . .

Inside, outside

Derrick Kitts

Derrick Kitts

Intriguing political gossip from Northwest Republican, from whence word of a possible Republican primary for a state House eat being vacated next year by a Republican.

The district is 26, which runs the south/southwest of Portland strip from Wilsonville to Sherwood to Bull Mountain - mostly fast-growing and mostly, though not overwhelmingly, Republican. The departing legislator is Jerry Krummel of Wilsonville, a five-termer whose recent re-elect numbers (in the high 50s, mostly) are enough to suggest that he personally would have been fairly secure, though the district is less than a partisan lock.

Days after Krummel's announcement, activist (and writer for the Cascadia Policy Institute, among others) Matt Wingard said he would run for the seat. The Oregonian blog post noting his announcement wondered, "Could it be a raucous Republican primary?"

Could. This has to do with Derrick Kitts, the former House member from Washington County who in 2006 gave up that seat to run for the U.S. House. (He was mowed under by Democratic Representative David Wu.) Now, Kitts apparently wants back into the Statehouse, but also has observed how most of Washington County has gone Democratic. That includes his old House seat, taken over last year by Democrat David Edwards.

From Northwest Republican today: "I had heard from virtually everyone I talked to that Kitts was bound and determined to move into a safe district in order to resurrect his political career. . . . The best move for Kitts would have been to stay in his old district and run against David Edwards. The guy who replace Kitts after Kitts tried to run for Congress. However it sounds like he was not interested in heading such advice and is bound and determined to carpet bag into another House district that has a Republican lock. That is a bad move and I for one hope he reconsiders."

The blog had earlier written favorably about Wingard, and that probably factored into the equation. The political analysis is sound, though: Kitts might have a better shot trying to rebuild his old campaign efforts than starting from scratch in a new district, against a first-termer who's still less than secure; and Republicans might have a better shot holding Krummel's seat with a clear shot nominee or maybe two newcomers. And no doubt there are Washington County Republicans, looking at how best to play their limited assets, who would rather seem them organized differently than this.

Watch for more on this.