Writings and observations

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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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.

Here’s some of what they had to say to the Ada County Association of Realtors:

1. Why are you a candidate for this office?
We are seeking these positions in order to preserve Eagle. This is the Eagle of a few years ago, where home values were increasing, our schools were not over capacity, our traffic was not congested, there was plenty of water for everyone and we were assured of open space and a healthy community. We are not against growth in the Eagle area. We do believe that growth should be managed in a way that will preserve the quality of life in Eagle. All of us have been approached by members of the Eagle community and asked to run for these offices, as our vision is shared by a great many people.

2. In your opinion, what are the three most critical issues facing the City at the present time? Which is most important to you?
The three most critical issues facing Eagle are
– Infrastructure: whether our streets, schools, fire and police protection, libraries, water supply, sewage facility, etc. are sufficient to accommodate exponential growth;
– Budget: whether our finances are sufficient to accommodate a growing city, and
– Comprehensive Plan: We need consistent, reliable and predictable comprehensive planning. . . .

4. What do you think causes growth? How should growth be planned and paid for? Market conditions play a role in our growth. We experienced a surge of opportunistic development during the last two years and now are experiencing a market correction with an oversupply of homes on the market. Eagle’s comprehensive plan for the large tracts of undeveloped land to our west and north should be reviewed, and an emphasis put on quality, not quantity. We need to set our focus back on the Eagle heritage of open spaces and preserve the water, air and natural places that enhance our quality of life.

Growth can be planned by creating a well conceived, forward looking comprehensive plan and following it in our development decisions.

There’s a real question of whether you can preserve what’s already left the train station. But these three do seem to have a clear lode star. A fair amount of politics in the area (not to mention the area itself) could center on whether they’re in the majority or minority.

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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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