Archive for September, 2007

Sep 30 2007

Snohomish free for all

Published by under Washington

Political activity and convolutions in Snohomish County run about as complex as they do anywhere in the Northwest – not a new thing. The players are many, the competition between and within parties is serious, and there’s an unusual amount of back-and-forth in movement between state and county posts, certainly more than in most counties. (The county’s executive since 2004, Aaron Reardon, was a state senator and representative previously.)

For the latest mindbender, chec out “Dems may play musical chairs” in the Everett Herald today. You can get a hint of where this is going from the outline of Democratic strategic thinking; the paper reports that “what they don’t want is for the current Snohomish County Council to make the appointments for fear those selections wouldn’t be the top choice of Democrats. It happened in 2004. When an opening emerged in the 38th District, Democrat precinct leaders sent three names to the Republican-controlled County Council. While Mike Sells garnered the most support from activists, the council appointed David Simpson. Sells unseated Simpson in the following election.”

Now, there’s concern something similar might happen if state Representatives Brian Sullivan and John Lovick move over to the county side later this year, opening their House seats. Summary beyond that would be problematic; if interested, the whole thing is recommended.

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Sep 30 2007

A preservation society

Published by under Idaho

Preserve Eagle

Michael Huffaker, Saundra McDavid, Al Shoushtarian

Candidate slates are an underused political tactic in places, such as cities in the Northwest, where candidates officially run as nonpartisan. Many voters have trouble keeping straight which candidates stand where. Slates can help do that, if the issue the slate is presenting is clear enough. (It was, for example, in 1983 and 1985 Boise city elections, when a group advocating a specific planning and growth change and endorsing a slate of candidates took over every elective office at City Hall.)

In the ballooning city of Eagle (around 21,000 population now, ten times what it was only a generation ago), growth is the obvious issue on the table. City leaders in recent years have struggled with it, but in the end seem generally to have accommodated to the desires of developers, leading to some jaw-dropping results. If you’re in the area, travel sometime north of town on Highway 55 to the under-construction Avimore development, miles north of Eagle separated by mountains and open desert, but which Eagle is seeking to annex.

Not everyone in Eagle is in agreement. Three candidates – attorney Saundra McDavid running for mayor, and attorney Michael Huffaker and investor Al Shoushtarian running for the council – are campaigning under the banner of “Preserve Eagle.” We’ll be watching to see how well they do.

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Sep 30 2007

With the passing of R-Day . . .

Published by under Idaho

This was the day by which Idaho Senator Larry Craig said he intended to resign. There’s been, of course, no such yet. As of midnight tonight, we’re officially off into uncharted territory. Will Craig stay another day or into early 2009? No one knows, maybe not even Craig himself.

The Washington Post is reporting today that Craig’s fellow Republican caucus members, having failed to ease him out by suasion, are plotting tougher measures:

“Worried that the disgraced lawmaker intends to remain in the Senate indefinitely, they are threatening to notch up the public humiliation by seeking an open ethics hearing on the restroom scandal that enveloped Craig last month. The Senate hearing would examine the original charges in Craig’s case, including the allegation of ‘interference with privacy,’ for peeping into the bathroom stall occupied by an undercover police officer. One senior Republican aide imagined ‘witnesses, documents, all in front of the klieg lights.’ The committee also could look for ‘a pattern of conduct’ – which means combing court records in other locales to discover whether Craig had prior arrests that haven’t come to light.”

Maybe they will. Or this could be more bark than bite, because the klieg lights might shine uncomfortably. The national political effect of the Craig story has hurt Republicans; now that the intensity of the story is easing back, would they really be wise to stoke it up again? The facts of the Craig story are already pretty much out there, and would only be reiterated. (Unless there are more legal cases buried elsewhere around the country; though we tend to doubt that, since odds are they would have surfaced in the last month-plus of intense scrutiny.)

The other possibility, if they landed really hard pressure on Craig, might be an explosion from the Idaho senator. Craig has, after all, 17 years in the heart of the Senate, and there’s probably not a lot about the dark underside of the membership he doesn’t know. The caucus might be wise to re-think the rough stuff; they may not know exactly what kind of explosive they’re dealing with.

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Sep 29 2007

Nightmares of the Giant Worm

Published by under Washington

the giant worm

the giant worm

The chatter by stevenl on Olyblog about designating the mountain beaver as Washington’s state rodent – and please don’t tell anyone in Oregon that the beaver is a rodent – is one thing.

But we can tell you right now why this second idea is a political non-starter: What politician would want to give his constituency nightmares?

That may be why newspapers seem to have been a little wary in their coverage of newly-found cases (first in a couple of decades) of the giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus). This charming creature is reported to grow as long as three feet (though usually half or less of that), and “is albino in appearance, and when handled it gives off a scent similar to that of the lily flower. It is reported to be able to spit in self-defense.” (The worm is listed as somewhat threatened, officially “vulnerable.” Some people may feel better knowing that.)

stevenl offers, “The beauty of making both of these uniquely Pacific Northwest animals official state symbols is that they will represent both sides of the state, mountain beavers on the wet side, giant Palouse earthworms on the high and dry side.”

Hmm. Wonder what the people in Colfax and Pomeroy would say about that. One of Olyblog’s commenters wrote, “That’s one frightening worm. I’m going to have nightmares tonight.” (Ever seen the movie Tremors?)

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Sep 29 2007

Down in Jackson

Published by under Oregon

Oregon politics watchers need to read a Thursday piece in the Ashland Daily Tidings, taking a look at the shifting politics in Jackson County (the Medford/Ashland area).

And they do seem to be changing, matching with our vote tracking. The Tidings piece doesn’t overstate – Medford, and Jackson County as a whole, still has a Republican registration advantage and elects overall more Republicans than Democrats. But the percentages have been changing, and Medford has been gradually moving increasingly in the direction that other Northwest urban centers have, to the point that Democrats have become competitive in the county.

Consider this from the story: “Brian Platt of Medford, chairman of the Jackson County Republican Party, agrees that the local GOP has seen a deflection locally, but argues that just because some voters might have left the Republican Party officially does not mean that they are now voting Democratic.”

But if they’ve gone to the trouble of formally cutting off from the Republican Party, that certainly can’t be taken as much of a sign that they’re planning to continue voting for Republicans as they traditionally have. (Hat tip to Blue Oregon.)

REGISTRATION STATS Statewide and in most counties, the number of registered voters in Oregon declined from January to July (the most recent numbers available) – mainly, presumably, as voters were cleared off the rolls because of moves, deaths and so on. Maybe notable, though, is that while Democratic statewide registration fell by 10,021 to 756,108, Republican registration fell 11,676 to 691,450. The Democratic registration advantage seems to be gently expanding.

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Sep 28 2007

Postman, then Mapes

Published by under Oregon

We’ve been enjoying among regional political blogs those by Statehouse reporters; so far, the largest paper represented in the group has been the Seattle Times, where Dave Postman has been blogging steadily for months. Now the Oregonian is joining in.

We just noticed the new Jeff Mapes political blog on the Oregonian site, and looking forward to see where he takes it. (Before long, we can get into some fun comparisons . . . ) He starts early on with a little self-description, alongside an already-significant batch of substance. Guess we’ll have to add this to our regular stops . . .

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Sep 28 2007

Frohnmayer’s contribution

Published by under Oregon

John Frohnmayer

John Frohnmayer at the Statehouse

There are ways of looking at John Frohnmayer‘s Oregon Senate candidacy – any candidacy, for that matter – other than in the political calculus of polls and vote probabilities. One of the those is in the calculus of structuring the debate.

He is running as a candidate of the Independent Party of Oregon (not yet, presumably, though likely as its eventual nominee), and we’ve suggested before that his odds of pulling in more votes than the Republican or Democratic nominee is not good. Putting that aside, he may have other kinds of effect.

Formerly both a Republican and a Democrat, Frohnmayer has a statesmanslike sense to him, particularly Oregonian in style, affable but serious. (Counterparts in Washington would be more aggressive, and in Idaho a little earthier.) Unlike independent efforts of the past, this one is starting early, already has covered large swaths the state and, Forhnmayer says, will hit all 36 counties before very long.

It’s enough to get a message out and affect the discussion, especially if the tools of the digital age are put to work. And they have been. He’s already been visible on YouTube, and his staff (which he already has) also is busy finding ways to gain visibility, sometimes in unlikely places. This morning we watched as he did that in the press conference room at the Salem Statehouse, drawing only a small local media contingent – but that didn’t matter. His remarks, captured on video, were headed for YouTube, where he’s already been drawing a substantial audience. (His clip on impeachment has drawn about 3,000 views so far.)

All this could turn into enough to work its way into the Smith-Merkley-Novick discussions. And the substance could be strong enough to affect its structure and tenor.

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Sep 27 2007

The Mayfield decision

Published by under Oregon

The decision in the Brandon Mayfield case by Federal District Judge Ann Aiken at Portland seems not to have been widely linked directly; but it has strong merit and should be read, if only as a set of reminders in basic civics.

The decision aims to strike down parts of the Patriot Act having to do with search and seizure – basically, the sections that ignore constitutional restrictions on search and seizure. A sample passage:

Finally and perhaps most significantly, In re Sealed Case ignores congressional concern with the appropriate balance between intelligence gathering and criminal law enforcement. It is notable that our Founding Fathers anticipated this very conflict as evidenced by the discussion in the Federalist Papers.

Their concern regarding unrestrained government resulted in the separation of powers, checks and balances, and ultimately, the Bill of Rights. Where these important objectives merge, it is critical that we, as a democratic Nation, pay close attention to traditional Fourth Amendment principles. The Fourth Amendment has served this Nation well for 220 years, through many other perils. Title III, like the Supreme Court’s pronouncements in Katz and Berger, recognizes that wiretaps are searches requiring fidelity to the Fourth Amendment.

Moreover, the constitutionally required interplay between Executive action, Judicial decision, and Congressional enactment, has been eliminated by the FISA amendments. Prior to the amendments, the three branches of government operated with thoughtful and deliberate checks and balances – a principle upon
which our Nation was founded. These constitutional checks and balances effectively curtail overzealous executive, legislative, or judicial activity regardless of the catalyst for overzealousness. The Constitution contains bedrock principles that the framers believed essential. Those principles should not be easily altered by the expediencies of the moment.

Despite this, the FISCR holds that the Constitution need not control the conduct of criminal surveillance in the United States. In place of the Fourth Amendment, the people are expected to defer to the Executive Branch and its representation that it will authorize such surveillance only when appropriate. The defendant here is asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so.

We’ll see whether common sense continues to prevail on appeal.

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Sep 26 2007

Separate, unequal, coy, but -

Published by under Washington

This candidate-in-action but not in announcement thing has worn pretty thin. Republicans no less than Democrats seemed irritated by it in the case of now-presidential candidate Fred Thompson. In the case of the Washington governorship, it seems no less peculiar.

Dave Postman of the Seattle Times took that on in a post (“My skepticism on the slippery slope to cynicism” – wow, a new verbal word game?) taking on the two prospective candidates for governor next year, Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire and Republican challenger (?) Dino Rossi:

“Incumbent Gov. Christine Gregoire has nearly $3 million in her re-election account but says she’s not a candidate. She won’t announce, she says, because that would politicize her work with the 2008 Legislature. . . . Meanwhile, Republican Dino Rossi has resigned as president of his non-profit but is taking a lump sum payment as severance that will give him what he would earn through the end of October. That’s just about the time he says he’ll decide whether or not to run.”

Both of them say they’re not announced candidates. Yet, at least.

They aren’t entirely equivalent cases (we’ll make that point, even if Postman left it hanging). Gregoire’s stated intent to run (and it’s obviously more than a Larry Craig “intent”) is evident; she draws the line at a “formal” announcement of candidacy. Rossi’s line is further back. For public consumption, at least, he says he honestly hasn’t decided whether he will run, though for weeks and months Republicans around Washington high and low have maintained there’s no doubt that he will, and the state party would be shocked into cycle-long coma if he didn’t.

It’s silliness, yes. So we’ll cut the knot.

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Sep 26 2007

“I will continue . . .”

Published by under Idaho

This is a story that just refuses to tamp down. That September 30 deadline by which time Idaho Senator Larry Craig said he “intended” to resign seems – seems – to have been blown away, with no new deadline in sight.

He may be there a while.

Craig’s effort to overturn his plea and conviction in his Minneapolis disorderly conduct case went before a Minnesota judge today; the judge heard arguments and said he would take several days to consider them before ruling.

Craig’s response: “Today was a major step in the legal effort to clear my name. The court has not issued a ruling on my motion to withdraw my guilty plea. For now, I will continue my work in the United States Senate for Idaho.”

For now and for how long? A thought: Every additional day Craig stays in office, and continues voting and otherwise working, is a slight improvement on the odds that Craig decides he won’t resign after all.

A maybe significant response, from Representative Mike Simpson: “I believe he can still be an effective lawmaker for Idaho should he decide to continue serving in the U.S. Senate.”

Craig just might be sticking.

ALSO And some similar comment from Senator Mike Crapo, though a little less explicit.

AND Bear in mind Craig’s reported comments to CNN, that he’s staying put until “legal determinations” are concluded. Any decision next week (if it appears then) by the Minnesota judge could result in an appeal, either by Craig or by Minnesota prosecutors. Adjudication of that appeal could take months, even many months . . .

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Sep 25 2007

Craig in review: Next up

Published by under Idaho

On Wednesday, Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s disorderly conduct case returns to a Minnesota courtroom; there, he is attempting to withdraw his plea of guilty, and service of his sentence, on the charge. Within a few days, the Northwest’s senior senator (and its second most senior member of Congress) may – or may not – resign from the Senate. This the last of four essays considering the case, its causes and its effects.

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

Senator Larry Craig has said he probably will resign after a court hearing on September 26, Wednesday, but by September 30, which is next Sunday; if he does what he and his spokesmen have said is probable, then you could imagine a formal announcement coming on Thursday or Friday, with resignation to take effect two days later. Shortly thereafter, within two or three days we imagine, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter would appoint a replacement. (On Friday, maybe, if Craig announced on Thursday; but probably on a weekday, and we’d guess not on the same day.)

There’s been no end of talk in Boise about who Otter might appoint, and a very long list of possibles – somewhere around 30 names, the last time we counted – has been released. The focus has been on Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, who is broadly considered the single most likely prospect. When conversation moves (as it often does) to, “Well, what if it’s not Risch?”, then the name of Attorney General Lawrence Wasden tends to arise. And then, after that, a broader list.

We’ll get to some of that in this post. Before we do, we thought we’d discuss for a bit a question hardly posed at all in any public venue: What qualities or qualifications should the next senator from Idaho have?

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Sep 25 2007

Never forever

Published by under Washington

Points of transition are often opportunities for wider-angle perspective, and the Associated Press’ David Ammons, based at Olympia for many years, takes advantage of it in his current column. His column, he says, will move from a regular weekend fixture (a number of Washington papers, such as the Kitsap Sun, have run it as standard practice then) to occasional appearance. The column has been a regular feature since 1991.

Reflecting on 16 years of Washington politics, the rapid-fire changes are what stand out. Understandably so: “In those earliest columns of 1991, you could see hints of the 1992 Democratic juggernaut shaping up. It turned out to be the “Year of the Woman” when Patty Murray and Chris Gregoire were first elected to high office and Democrats took back the White House and all but one congressional seat here. . . . After all that we-love-Democrats what happened? In the very next election? The Republican Revolution, of course.”

And so on. Politics is change, a point to bear in mind in other states too.

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Sep 24 2007

Craig in review 3: The nature of the offense

Published by under Idaho

On Wednesday, Idaho Senator Larry Craig’s disorderly conduct case will return to a Minnesota courtroom; there, he is attempting to withdraw his plea of guilty, and service of his sentence, on the charge. Within a few days after that, the Northwest’s senior senator (and its second most senior member of Congress) may – or may not – resign from the Senate. This the third of four essays considering the case, its causes and its effects.

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

You’ll see the question posted quite a bit, sometimes in the most unexpected place: What, exactly, was the offense here? What was it that Larry Craig did that was so horrifically wrong as to generate the kind of ferocious reaction, the nearly instant calls for resignation, that it has? And are they justified? What kind of response from Craig is warranted?

Don’t jump to a conclusion. This is more complicated than it seems, and not only because so many people – when you pin them down – give so many different answers. It’s because some of the answers may lie in the recesses of our souls, back in places few of us like to visit or even contemplate.

And some of the reasons have a good deal of validity, too.

One that makes no sense:

bullet Being convicted of a misdemeanor. There’s a reason you got your felonies and you got your misdemeanors: One is considerably more serious than the other, and one is taken as an indicator of a person really not to be trusted, while the other is simply a significant mistake. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell used Craig’s misdemeanor conviction in Minnesota as rationale for why he should resign from the Senate. This is a complete crock: By that standard, the nation’s president and vice president should be gone too. (Which many people might say should happen anyway, but not for that reason.) Get convicted of a felony, and you’re out of the Senate, all right, but lesser offenses aren’t, in and of themselves, quite so weighty.

bullet But he pleaded guilty to a crime. Under the law, pleading guilty to a crime and then being convicted is really no different than pleading not guilty and being convicted anyway: Either way, you are formally determined by the law of the land to be guilty. There seems to be considerable difference between the two in the minds of some people, though why exactly is less clear. Is it that the guilty plea more or less removes all doubt that he actually did it? Except, of course, that he now is denying it anyway.

There’s also a real question about the seriousness, though, of exactly what Craig did. If you point a gun at someone and demand their money, there’s no question what were the specific things you did that violated the law. But tapping a foot on the floor – what’s that? Is that a crime? Should it, could it be? What sort of innocent behavior might be snared into something like this? Who knows what’s criminal?

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Sep 24 2007

A Clark compromise?

Published by under Washington

Clark plan

Clark plan

Traveling around Clark County weekend before last we were struck again by the wild growth in unincorporated suburbia – subdivisions all the way from the old riverfront of Vancouver to the outskirts of Battle Ground and La Center. It’s visual confirmation of the census and other numbers: Clark County has been growing fast. And the governmental and political backdrop for all this has been the war over planning between the city of Vancouver (which wants massive annexation) and the county government (which would rather not).

Some of this will probably inevitably fall into place over time. For now, there seems to be the root of a compromise between the two governments. Maybe. Tomorrow morning, Clark County will consider adopting a revised land management plan, developed in part with city officials – there are elements of compromise. But city officials are not necessarily convinced; there is some talk of suing to overturn.

We may be coming toward a turning point – things are pressing into collision, or cooperation.

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Sep 24 2007

Anti-libertarian?

Published by under Idaho

There’s been some perplexed talk among Idaho Republicans about a string of decisions and initiatives on the part of Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter , a man long known as a lower-case libertarian – a person strongly disinclined to have government to anything that a private person or entity prospectively could do. And to oppose, as a general principle, anything like an expansion of government.

So what to make of many of Otter’s recent decisions? There’s the support for a new Ada-Canyon community college. Support for pursuing some kind of medical school for the state, prospectively a big investment. Support for public transportation initiatives. And some of these things quietly done.

Now comes the report that Otter is setting up a state Office of Energy Resources. Which may only add to libertarian wonderment . . .

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Oregon State Highway film from 1966. A few changes since then.

 

JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

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FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
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THE IDAHO POLITICAL
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by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
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Diamondfield
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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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