Writings and observations

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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Idaho

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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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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Washington