Archive for October, 2007

Oct 31 2007

Bombastic, in a good way

Published by under Idaho

Chick Bilyeu

Chick Bilyeu/Idaho State University

Some descriptive words go negative over time. “Bombastic” – you typically associate that, especially when linked to someone involved in politics, with self-importance, arrogance, self-righteousness, humorlessness . . .

But that’s where you have to be careful, because you could fairly, sort of, describe as “bombastic” the style employed by Charles E. “Chick” Bilyeu, and yet none of those associated descriptors came close to fitting him. His oratory in the state Senate or on the stump often went beyond “hearty,” sometimes approaching full roar. But it wasn’t expression of ego, or affectation, either; it was a carefully crafted device, a tool he used for bringing the particular kind of attention he wanted to the points he was trying to make.

Bilyeu, who turned 90 not long ago, died Tuesday, was one of the beloved figures of Pocatello-area politics, and had been for half a century. A Democrat, he came up in the era when politicians knew which side they were on, and knew who the opposition was, but also knew enough not to turn either into saints or demons. Bilyeu was a politician partly because of interest in public affairs but also because he simply liked people.

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Oct 31 2007

Curtis and the 18th

Published by under Washington

UPDATE We presumed in the post below, from this morning, that Curtis would resign “before long.” He certainly did: Has already, as of this afternoon.

We’ve seen more than enough of the lurid – almost unbelievably lurid – story of Washington Representative Richard Curtis, R-La Center, which (as one blog commenter wrote) has become strange enough to redefine downward that of Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

There is another matter to consider here, though, and that is the nature of the legislative district Curtis represents, and its political future – because an earthquake like this is going to have repercussions. Curtis personally is not among the most prominent of Washington legislators, and he hasn’t been there especially long – he’s in his second term. Before that, he served on the La Center city council, but that’s the extent of his political record. We’d guess that, unlike Craig, who had invested his whole adult life in politics before scandal hit, Curtis will depart public office before long.

If he does, that would trigger an appointment of a new Republican legislator for the seat. And there’s a line of thought that might end the story. But maybe not.

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Oct 30 2007

EZ on

Published by under Idaho

We’ve suggested before that the threshold for many of the direct democracy activities – initiative, referendum, recall and so on – is much too low. Not that these things shouldn’t be available, but that they shouldn’t be easy. We’ll revisit this again soon.

If you’re inclined to think otherwise, consider this from the Spokesman-Review blog by Betsy Russell:

In today’s Twin Falls Times-News, reporter Jared Hopkins reveals why it’s the Wood River Valley city of Hailey that’s voting next week on four pro-marijuana initiatives. The measures’ sponsor, Garden City resident and activist Ryan Davidson – who fought all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court to win the right to put the measures before voters, regardless of the legal complications if they were to pass – told Hopkins that he lived in Hailey for a few months in 2004, and picked it for the initiatives because it was one of the “easiest places” to get on the ballot.

The reason? Getting a measure on the ballot takes petition signatures from voters equal to 20 percent of the turnout in the last election. In Hailey’s last city election in 2005, only unopposed candidates were on the ballot – so the ho-hum balloting drew a total turnout of just 85 people. That meant Davidson needed just 17 signatures to qualify his measures for the ballot.

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Oct 30 2007

The Curtis situation

Published by under Washington

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

The Richard Curtis story, of which only scattered bits of data were available yesterday, is rapidly filling in. Alongside that is evaporation of doubt that this is becoming a Big Story.

The basic Spokane police report on the incident, now in reporters’ hands, outlines a clear narrative. It says that state Representative Richard Curtis, R-La Center, was in Spokane to attend a meeting of Republican legislators, staying separate from most of the group at different lodging, the Davenport Tower Hotel. He visited a local porn shop and there met a “young white male,” later identified as Cody Castagna. The two of them left together, along with a couple of rented gay videos, for Curtis’ room. The police report said that a sexual encounter, and Curtis’ willing donation of $100 to Castanga, followed. Later, Castagna left, along with Curtis’ wallet, and negotiations for its return led (apparently) to Curtis’ call to police with allegation that Castanga was blackmailing him for $1,000.

Curtis so far has denied that a sexual encounter occurred, and said the $100 was for “gas money.” ($100 for gas money?) Most of the details appear to be nailed down by police, since they have talked with people who saw Curtis and Castagna together, heard what apparently was a Curtis/Castagna phone conversation, and have gone after security camera video. (Doubtless coming soon to Action News.)

The story has gone national (at Wonkette at least), and Castagna has started talking too.

When Curtis says, as he has, that he’s committed no crime, he may be right – there seems to be no charge of any sort in the works. But there will be political fallout. You have to wonder: What will Northwest Republicans, recently brutalized over the Larry Craig implosion (and if there was a crime in that case, it was a minor one) make of this – and how will they react?

UPDATE The Columbian adds still considerably more detail to the story this evening. The additional details will not help Curtis.

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Oct 30 2007

Polling the issues (WA)

Published by under Washington

Aweek before election deadline, while the ballots are in the midst of mail-in, polling is out on how the Washington state ballot issues are doing.

Mostly passing, it appears.

Two constitutional amendments (simple majority on school levies, rainy day fund ) look like slam dunks. Referendum 67, the treble-damages for insurance bad faith, looks like a probable but not certain pass.

And, get those votes in: The two biggest issues, the legislative supermajority for tax/fee increases (Tim Eyman’s 960) and the Puget Sound transportation finance issue (Proposition 1) both appear to be within the margin of error.

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Oct 29 2007

A Curtis watch?

Published by under Washington

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

There’s too little information yet to know what to make of this, and whether it will turn into a big deal or nothing much at all. But you might do well to keep a watch on the name of Washington state Representative Richard Curtis, R-La Center, over the next few days.

That’s because of an odd-sounding legal situation, of some sort, emanating from the other end of the state, at Spokane. Curtis is the lawmaker referred to in this lead from a Spokane Spokesman-Review story this morning: “An alleged extortion attempt involving a state lawmaker and a reputed male prostitute is under investigation by Spokane police.” Curtis’ local paper, the Columbian, is also on the case, though not much new has developed yet.

As indicated, not much by way of detail yet; it may turn out to be nothing much. Meantime, best to keep watch.

UPDATING Spokane KREM-TV is reporting, “Detectives tell KREM 2 News at some point Thursday Curtis had a sexual encounter with a man, who police have not identified. A Spokane Police Dept. spokesperson says Curtis and the man were spotted at several locations across the city that evening. The next day, someone filed a police report alleging that Curtis was being extorted.”

Late this afternoon, Curtis talked with Columbian editor Lou Brancaccio, saying, “I am not gay . . . I have not had sex with a guy.” He said that extortion was involved in the case, however.

This will not end quickly. There will be much more about this, soon.

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Oct 29 2007

WA Gov: Connelly’s overview

Published by under Washington

Not that it matches entirely with our take on the race, but Joel Connelly’s overview today of the Washington governor’s race (it’s in the P-I) is a should-read stand-back picture of where things stand as the race gets (semi-)officially underway.

Among his thoughts: “Gov. Chris Gregoire is projecting nervousness about her political prospects. The governor has been holding fundraising events at a non-stop pace, appearing at carefully choreographed town meetings, and staging an autumn version of a spring cleaning of top staff.” (Of course, the failure to campaign strongly enough was thought to be a key reason she didn’t do better in 2004; we’d be more inclined to see it, strategically, as simply not making the same mistake twice.)

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Oct 28 2007

Reaching out in NW churches

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

About halfway through a fascinating New York Times Magazine piece today called (a little in contrast to its thematic points) “The Evangelical Crackup,” comes a reference we decided to follow up. You might, too.

The article’s point was not that the evangelical community is diminishing or disintegrating, but that its once near-monolithic support for President George W Bush and Republican candidates is fracturing. Reporter David Kirkpatrick cited quite a few instances, most from the south (such as Texas) and plains (notably Kansas). One of the most interesting is Bill Hybels.

Hybels, founder of the Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, is very possibly the single-most-influential pastor in America; in the last 15 years, his Willow Creek Association has grown to include more than 12,000 churches. Many invite their staff members and lay leaders to participate by telecast in Willow Creek’s annual leadership conferences, creating a virtual gathering of tens of thousands. Dozens of churches in Wichita, including Central Christian and other past bastions of conservative activism, are part of the association.

As his stature has grown, Hybels has seemed more willing to irk Christian conservative political leaders — and even some in his own congregation. He set off a furor a few years ago when he invited former President Bill Clinton to speak at one of his conferences. And the Iraq war has brought into sharp relief Hybels’s differences with conservatives like [Focus on the Family's James] Dobson.

We decided to check and see whether the Willow Creek Association has much link with churches in the Northwest. Indeed it does: According to its list, it has 192 member churches in Washington, 83 in Oregon and 19 in Idaho. Substantial in all three, though to different degrees.

The larger proportions in Oregon and Washington are of interest; could it reflect a variably changing evangelical response in the states to changing conditions?

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Oct 28 2007

Issues more than candidates

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Not, on the whole, a massively significant election night coming up a week from Tuesday, but it will have its moments. Recapping briefly, here, what we’re paying attention to in the Northwest numbers.

Most significantly, ballot issues – there are no candidate races to match the significance of the major ballot issues.

Oregon has two of importance (and many voters, your scribe among them, will makes choices on nothing but these). Both can be seen from a big-picture view as intermediate steps, because neither Measure 49 on land use nor Measure 50 on cigarette taxes/child health are likely to be for-all-time end-alls on their respective issues.

But each could mark an important turning point, especially over the next three or four years. If Measure 49 passes (we suspect it will) then the center of gravity on land use in the state goes back to somewhere between where it has been under Measure 37 (under which a mass of development has been applied) and where it was before that (much more restrictive); it could evoke a period of negotiation and compromise. Measure 50, together with the upcoming restrictions on smoking places, would change the state’s cigarette culture significantly (making it much less friendly to smoking), and could send substantial money to child health care, at least for some years. If the measure fails (and we’re unclear about its prospects, uneasily leaning toward passage) a brake would be slammed on both developments.

The most sweeping measure in Washington probably is Initiative 960, a Tim Eyman special, which generally would require two-thirds approval in the legislature for increases in taxes or fees (even minor administrative or licensing fees) or, in many cases, a vote on a statewide ballot issue on each one. It sounds from here like a recipe for chaos, but it would surely be impactful. The campaign on 960 has been lower-key than you might expect given the stakes, and with a relatively low voter turnout, there’s a good chance it will pass.

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Oct 27 2007

Marquis of the county

Published by under Oregon

Josh Marquis

Josh Marquis

Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis periodically has come to political notice recent years whenever a substantial major-office set comes open, or Democrats are hunting for a challenger (as, earlier this year, for the U.S. Senate): His name winds up, a little mysteriously, on the list of possibilities. Which tends to generate questions, such as, who is this small-county prosecutor who keeps getting these mentions?

Turns out that this election is giving us some unexpected answers to that question.

Marquis has been DA since 1994, when he was appointed; in the way of many smaller-county DAs who’ve wanted to keep the post, he’s been routinely re-elected (four times) since. He has some knack for visibility, making a name as a death-penalty advocate (and quoted on the subject by the U.S. Supreme Court).

There’s also, however, some contention surrounding him at home in Astoria. Base pay for prosecutors is paid by the state government in Oregon, but counties have the option to add to that base, and many of them do. When they don’t, the main reason is severe financial hardship (as in Coos County, where the DS has taken a pay cut). In Clatsop County, the commissioners this year have withheld the local add-on, mainly at the doing of Commission Chair Richard Lee. Lee and Marquis have a hard-core battle going on.

The underlying reasons may have to do with decisions about which and how many cases Marquis files, or to do with Marquis’ wife’s 2006 campaign against Lee (which almost unseated the commissioner), or a dog-licensure case Marquis filed against Lee, or maybe something else. Its latest manifestation is a local ballot issue (Measure 4-123) whose sole purpose, if it passes, would be restoring the county bonus to Marquis’ pay. (It has a heck of campaign, and a heck of a multi-media web site too.)

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Oct 26 2007

The previous Sam Adams

Published by under Oregon

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

The very ugly community of trademark barracudas strike again, and maybe in a really bad place this time: They’re trying to tell a candidate for office he can’t use his own name in the process of campaigning!

Maybe this will be one of the cases that helps break the back of a really foul trend in our legal system.

What happened in this case is that Portland City Council member Sam Adams has said he plans to run for mayor. His advocates include KEX radio hosts Mark and Dave, who obtained two web domain names for the candidate, samadamsformayor.com, for use in the campaign, and mayorsamadams.com if/after he’s elected.

If you click on those links you’ll see a notice that “Due to pending legal action these pages are now unavailable.” The reason for that is a cease-and-desist letter from Helen Bornemann, intellectual property manager for the Boston Beer Company. “We believe that the sale of any services or products under this name will cause confusion as to the source, sponsorship or affiliation of such services or products and/or dilute the distinctiveness of our famous trademarks and trade name.”

It is true that Adams himself didn’t file for the domains. But this action is aimed at barring him from using them anyway, and beyond that, if those two domains were a problem, presumably any domain in which Adams uses his own name would be a problem. And, as one commenter at Willamette Week asks, “Will historians have to use the little TM symbol every time they mention the real [historical] Samuel Adams now?”

The Portland Adams, no slouch at a retort: “They say they’ve been using this trademark since 1984. I’ve been using it since 1963.” Ah, but he didn’t get a lawyer to file a trademark action at the time, did he? Maybe the lesson is that we all need to, if we want to be able to use our own names without having lawyers sicced on us.

Boston Beer may wise up and withdraw; we sort of suspect they will. But we sort of hope they don’t. May the intellectual property crowd break their picks on this one.

LATER They may be backing down, in part. At a Wall Street Journal legal affairs blog: “A spokeswoman for Boston Beer called the Law Blog and said they never had an issue with the mayoral candidate using his name but they do have an issue with the radio station using Sam Adams for its own business purposes.” That’s an allegation of something that wasn’t happening to begin with.

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Oct 26 2007

Smith in the mix

Published by under Oregon

How does Oregon Senator Gordon Smith’s race for re-election next year fit into the national picture of Senate races? Clearly, this is not a seat as at-risk for the Republicans as those up next year in Virginia or Colorado (or probably for the Democrats in Louisiana), but it’s definitely on the watch list.

Chris Cillizza, of the Washington Post‘s Fix report, took on just that question (if not exactly the one he was asked) in a Q&A released today. Here’s that part of it:

Arlington, Va: Collins, Smith, and Coleman: Tough incumbents. Collins is in the more liberal state facing a pretty tough opponent, but is the most liked among the three. Smith is still somewhat popular, but facing only a second-tier opponent. Coleman isn’t well-liked, but likely is facing a polarizing opponent with high negatives. If you had to guess, how many of these seats do Democrats pick up? You don’t even have to guess which ones!

Chris Cillizza: Great question.
I would throw New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu (R) into that mix as well. All four GOP incumbents sit in states carried by the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 which makes them ripe targets.
Sununu is clearly the most vulnerable of the group as he faces former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.
Judging from the body language of national Democratic strategists I would probably out Smith as the next most vulnerable; polling shows voters don’t have a firm view on the incumbent and are more than willing to consider and laternative [sic].
Collins and Coleman are tougher nuts to crack. Both are quite savvy politicians who understand the challenge before them. But, if 2006 tauight me anything, it’s that a national environment that strongly favors one party can overrwhlem even the most capable of incumbent campaigners.

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Oct 25 2007

Uproar in the NIA

Published by under Idaho

This is hindsight now – we didn’t see it coming either, so none of this is we-told-you-so – but, in hindsight, you can understand why there’s such uproar and outrage about the North Idaho Adjudication, to the point that bagging it is a consideration on the table.

Our view has been and is that the NIA would be a real asset to the Panhandle, as over time the Snake River Basin Adjudication will be for most of the rest of the state. The Panhandle legislators who got the NIA pushed through – partly in return for their regional support for late-running issues in SRBA – understood that. Now the whole effort could come undone, but if it does, it will be a loss for the area and a distinct failure for the Panhandle’s local political leaders.

But you can see why it’s happened. On this issue of water, the North simply isn’t as sophisticated as the South.

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Oct 25 2007

Revolutionizing Boardman

Published by under Oregon

the raceway at Boardman

Raceway at Boardman/Pacific NW Motorsports Park

We motor through Boardman (Oregon, that is, in case you’re unfamiliar) periodically, and ordinarily it has not been among the high points of those trips. Nothing against the city or the people there, it’s just that . . . there’s a lot of flat, scenically empty miles on any side of Boardman, and we’ve found the area most notable for the dust storms which, to the area’s credit, are duly warned about in area traffic signs.

People do live and work there, mainly in crop process and port activities, but for most of us the Boardman area isn’t a destination. Or hasn’t been. But that may change, because of something that happened at 2 p.m. today.

Boardman now seems poised for a long-awaited development as a racetrack destination point. From the management of the Pacific Northwest Motorsports Park: “Boardman’s motorsports speedway development will officially make the leap from dream to reality on Thursday, October 25th at 2:00 PM, when state, regional and local officials join the developers of Oregon International Speedway to break ground for Pacific Northwest Motorsports Park at the Tower Road site just off I-84, exit 158. The first motorsports country club in the Pacific Northwest is expected to open to members and enthusiasts in the fall 2008.”

They’re talking about a massive development, including hotel space, other entertainment options, condos, golf and more.

Very ambitious. You have to keep your fingers crossed on this one, because what’s needed is a large response – a substantial customer base – which would have to come from a considerable distance away. Boardman is quite a distance from a large population center – close to halfway between Portland and Boise, which in total is a full day’s drive.

But it’s worth crossing fingers. If it works as a business proposition, it could establish a real gem in a part of the Northwest that could use it. And in this kind of area, this kind of development really doesn’t have any obvious downside.

It also could give the region’s racing community something to cheer for, after their double rejections in the last few years around the Puget Sound. NASCAR may not have gotten very interested yet, but if the early economic signs look good, that could change.

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Oct 25 2007

and Rossi’s in

Published by under Washington

Dino Rossi family

Dino Rossi family

In today’s long-awaited announcement that he will run again against Democrat Christine Gregoire for governor, Republican Dino Rossi met the first two bars any challenger of an incumbent – for that is their respective roles now – has to do. But look through what he has to say, and you’re left with the simultaneous impressions of, “is that all there is?” and, “we’re drowning in data, what’s your point?”

What we’re left looking for for is this: The one or two really compelling arguments for why you gotta fire the incumbent and hire this guy. Rossi’s statement was loaded with critiques of the Gregoire Administration, and included a list of his own proposals. But will voters find any of them strong enough to reverse the direction they’ve taken the last four years?

We’re not easily finding the political version of the “killer app,” instead reading through a list of arguments that can too easily bog down in details – stuff that doesn’t seem very likely to grab voters by the throat, rivet them enough to get their attention.

Here are is the Rossi brief against Gregoire, from his descriptive press release on te announcement:

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

 

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