At the New West Boise blog, Jill Kuraitis has a nice first-person piece up about what happened after she heard a report suggesting that her in-uniform son might have been hurt, or worse, and how she got help and information (and, finally, word that her son was okay) from the office of Idaho Senator Mike Crapo.

She concludes, “In an election year, it’s often overlooked that winning political campaigns turn into government offices which serve the people. A lot of what a senators field staff does resembles my story, although most are not so easy. They may try to help a farmer whose crop has failed, or track down a scholarship for a deserving kid, or help a widow collect her social security or pension. All Congressbeings have staff who do nothing but constituent service, and they don’t ask if you voted for their boss.”

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Idaho

Tomorrow Dino Rossi, the Republican once and presumably about-to-be (we try never to say that something will happen – you never can tell for sure) candidate for governor of Washington, is scheduled to make his big announcement, once in east King County and then in Spokane. (All right, the dual announcement is itself indicative of entry into the race.) At that point, with a formally announced candidate running, the games begin.

So what is Rossi’s strategy? The Seattle Times‘ David Postman has been mulling just that, and poses the question for readers: “What would you tell Rossi to say Thursday when he announces his second campaign for governor? For example, I’ve been wondering how much time he’ll spend in his announcement talking about 2004 and his drawn out battle against Gov. Christine Gregoire. Does it help to make this about a rematch and Rossi’s attempt to claim — or reclaim as he’d say — what Republicans think is rightfully his?”

There’d be temptation for Rossi to do that, coming so achingly close only to see his opponent do a whole bunch of stuff, acting very ambitiously, as though she had a landslide mandate (somewhat like a president of our acquaintance). Our thought is that, aside from maybe a quick reference or two, a wink/nod to the faithful who remain convinced he was robbed, he’d be much wiser to move quickly past it. Focus on his loss in 2004 would cast him as a sour-grapes loser, locked in with the might’ve-beens, stuck in the past, someone out for revenge – not the image of someone you’d want as governor. Besides, those who thought he was robbed already are in his camp; he won’t add to their numbers by emphasizing that bit of history.

How would Rossi be better advised to handle his rematch? By recognizing the political changes the state has been through (such as the overwhelming Democratic control of the legislature), and using them. He could say: “Look at what this all-Democratic state government has been doing – but most important, look at the trend line. I have plenty of concerns with the emphasis on tax increases over the last four years. But that’s not why I’m running again; that’s history. This election is about who will be governor for the next four years. My concern is: Where will four more years of unchecked Democratic control leave us? Do you really want four more years of government so completely in the control of one party, with no one to cry foul or be able to check the bad ideas that come up? Do you want only one set of ideas on the table – or would we be better off having a broader set of ideas in play? Like these that I want to put on the table . . .”

A cautionary note, but without hard-core attack; a call (implicitly, not so explicitly as to put off his partisans) for big-picture moderation; an indication of dealing with a range of ideas, rather than hard-core ideology; a look ahead rather than to the past; a call again (but with a fresh angle) for a partisan break in the governor’s office. (Note to Postman: Here’s your answer from this corner.)

As to what Rossi actually says, we’ll all find out tomorrow.

FLIP SIDE For a sense of the message problems Rossi does face, though, check out the crafty Democratic video about “Rossi’s rationale.”

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Washington

An estimated 40 jobs will be going away, 30 of them through layoffs, at the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Tough times which had been earlier foreshadowed.

Publisher Stacey Cowles said the paper is going through a transition, but “we’re unsure where it is to.”

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Washington

Our general election ballots showed up last weekend, and we’re back from a walk to deposit them in the local ballot box. Filling them out didn’t take long since on our ballots there were only two questions to decide: Measure 49, and Measure 50.

The campaigns around both are ferocious, and as light as many Oregonians’ ballots are this season, most people in the state nonetheless probably know well that an election is on. There are too many road signs to miss.

Our votes went in favor of both measures, not because either is necessarily perfect, but because they represent an improvement on what currently is. And that’s enough. If they turn out to have problems, which could happen, there’s a legislative session nearly next year and another election a year from now, for dealing with that. The endless commercials blasting both seem overblown at best, or maybe deeply dishonest, when you bear in mind the changeability of legislation.

Measure 49, after all, is aimed at exactly that: Amending an earlier ballot issue, Measure 37 from 2004, which dramatically changed Oregon land use law.

The text of Measure 49 is on the long side, as the Salem Statesman-Journal said in its editorial in opposition: “We dare you to read Measure 49 before voting on it. All 13,414 words. And then make sense of the measure. Therein lies its fatal flaw. By toying with the state’s land-use system instead of reforming it, the measure would accomplish the opposite of what its backers seek.”

We took the dare and did read it – all 13,414 words – and didn’t have great difficulty making sense of it. The Statesman-Journal‘s objection on this ground is simply odd, for a capital city newspaper. (If length is a legitimate objection, then a lot of bills passed each year in Oregon and elsewhere, and objected to by no one, should be tossed out.) Legislation is often written like this, for good reason, and the short-cut, over-simplified approach in Measure 37 is a significant part of what was wrong with it. Lots of sheer information – from issues like transferability to basic matters of process, to what about the property and other rights of neighbors and others affected by developments – was simply left out, ignored, left for (someone? anyone? the courts?) to make up as we all rolled along. Part of what Measure 49 does is put this basic legal process, definition and descriptive information into the law, which the writers of Measure 37 didn’t do and would eventually have to be done anyway.

A lot of the length of Measure 49 comes from repetition, because the process and conditions it sets apply differently according to what type of property is involved (urban or rural, high-value farm or not, etc.) or when the claim is filed. Only a portion of Measure 49 actually applies to any specific piece of property. Measure 49 at least is properly drafted legislation. (It may generate legal arguments and challenges, but likely not more than Measure 37 – and probably fewer, because it is written in detailed enough fashion to properly cover its bases.) And long though it may be, its pieces are plainly enough written and not especially hard to understand.

It does not “take your property away” (as we’ve heard it very dishonestly put – we saw no such provision when we read the measure). As a whole, it seems to put Oregon’s land use system somewhere in between where it was before Measure 37, and where it is today. Taken as a whole, it looks like an improvement over either approach.

Is it perfect? Certainly not by our standards, and likely not by many others. But then, land use ought to be an ongoing review. Measure 37’s virtue was in demonstrating that land use in Oregon need not be soldered into one place forever. Measure 49 may be the necessary next step in a series of long-term improvements.

The two key objections to Measure 50, which increases the state cigarette tax by 84.5 cents, the money to be largely given over to covering children’s health care, also relate to this matter of permanence.

The critics of 50 haven’t focused much on the core issue – raising cigarette taxes to underwrite health care for children – presumably because that concept sounds like a clear electoral winner. They’ve focused instead on two related issues, both somewhat relevant, but neither of which has business being decisive.

One is the softness of the cigarette tax. The number of cigarette smokers, and cigarette buyers (mainly from Washington, where the tax is higher), seems likely to diminish over time, and the more quickly if the new increase is passed: A weak basis for covering children’s health care, right? And it would be, if you assume that the financing or the structuring of children’s health care will never change. But between the new Oregon state health insurance plan, also passed this session, federal efforts gathering steam, and other developments, chances are good that six or seven years from now there’ll be less need for cigarette tax revenue on that front. So why pass this thing? Because of the tens of thousands of children out there right now who have no meaningful access to health care. Is the cigarette tax increase a solid “forever” fix? Likely not. But it could do an immense amount of good in the short term, while the larger structures are being put in place. The aim is correction of a scandal of massive proportions; the cause is substantial and worthy.

The other argument does bother us (though we’re puzzled at the idea that so many Oregonians will be as upset by it): The inclusion of the tax increase, and its use, in the state constitution – a new thing. Our view long has been that state constitutions generally ought to be a lot leaner than they are, in general documents of structure and basic principle, not setters of policy. Is this a fatal flaw? It might be if the Oregon constitution were such a pristine document to start with, but, as the Oregonian has pointed out in a fine historical review, the constitution has been cluttered up with all manner of pieces of legislation, more than 200 of them, in the last century. As a larger-scale matter, we’d be in favor of cleaning out the document and moving the policy stuff into the state code, and while we’re at it setting a higher bar for amending the document at all. But, since amendment is so easy, there’s no reason the material in Measure 50 couldn’t simply be added to the code in the next session or two, and amended out of the constitution after.

If either of these measures pass (or for that matter if they don’t), the story will not be over on land use or on children’s health. Both subjects will continue to demand attention, and will get it. The immediate issue is, will Oregon’s people be better off, for now, if they pass?

We marked our ballots after concluding they would.

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Oregon

Charlie Clark

Charlie Clark

Back in 2001, we had this to say in describing Union Pacific lobbyist Charlie Clark (as one of the 100 most influential people in Idaho):

Once an inherently powerful lobby in Idaho, Union Pacific (with its diminishing rail mileage) is less so now, though it still has a substantial employment base in the state, and quite a few farmers and businesses still rely on it for transport service. Clark’s experience and background, however, give UP a strong voice. He’s been at the Legislature since the early 70s (when, still a college student, he served as House Sergeant at Arms), and his close ties with a wide range of legislators and others, and sense of the ebb and flow of legislation, matter. UP took a loss in 1998, with passage of a truck weight bill; but Clark remains a major lobbying presence. He received votes for influence in the transportation field and in eastern Idaho, as well as statewide.

Those are some of the public facts, valid enough as far as they go. There are also the private, or at least less public facts, and Clark was one of those people who understood how they are as important.

Charlie Clark, whose formal title was special representative of the president (of Union Pacific Railroad), and whose government relations territory this year (it had been shifting) covered Idaho, Montana and Utah, died on Sunday. It came as a shock, completely unexpected: He had been walking his beloved dog Rags (who traveled with him almost everywhere), returned home, sat down, and passed away.

He was a good friend of many years duration, from the mid-70s when he was a new (and the youngest to date) sergeant at arms at the Idaho House, and I was starting to cover the Idaho Legislature. Just over a month ago, September 19 by the calendar, we lunched at Old Chicago in downtown Boise, hashing over as usual Idaho and its politics – Charlie was one of its best and closest observers, and professionally a fine participant too.

Charlie Clark was a corporate lobbyist, and here’s the thing: What sticks in memory most about him was the depth of humanity he brought to politics and to his trade. One mutual friend today described him as a “gentleman,” somewhat of the old school, and he was, though lacking entirely any stuffiness or pretense. But that doesn’t quite cover it, any more than saying he was a solid professional, which he also was. I’d call him “Idaho old school.”

Charley knew the substance of his work, and he was a solid train loyalist, ever ready to do battle with the “Department of Trucks”. He was a loyal Republican. None of his allegiances, though, ever seemed to much distort his take on how the real world operates, in the most practical of ways. And that was largely because he got to know people, to understand people, very well. As a lobbyist, that meant he would spent much of the year visiting people – some of them legislators or other political people, and some not – all over the state, meeting them on their turf, getting to understand how they saw the world, see it all through their eyes. As he’d relate some of his findings, I’d find my take on people and situations shifting a bit, often in the direction of gaining new appreciation, certainly gaining depth.

For some years, we’d take occasional daytrips out to the Idaho hinterlands, “political science studies” as Charlie described them, to explore new parts of the state and meet some of the people who lived in them, and find out how they think. He absorbed it all, into a mind able and willing to contain opinions in addition to his own, an ever-diminishing ability in today’s politics.

To say he’ll be missed – as will be said, here too – again doesn’t cover it. Idaho has lost a good person and its political world a disproportionate part of its humanity.

Best wishes and sympathies to Kathy Clark, and to Rags.

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Idaho

Series television, ripped from the Northwest’s headlines (courtesy Spoilerfix) . . . Up next on the Tuesday ABC show (and one of our favorites) Boston Legal (and no, we didn’t make this up) . . .

“Oral Contracts” [Airing November 13]: Alan defends Denny when he is accused of soliciting gay sex in a bathroom by two undercover cops.

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Idaho

The Seattle Times has a great graphic out today on Proposition 1, the mega-transport funding proposal, showing in clear visuals where money would be given from taxpayers and car licensers, and where it would go toward road and Sound Transit projects. Highly recommended as a clarifier of a much bashed-around topic.

Consensus seems to be that the sides are closely enough split on the measure that its outcome is too close to call.

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Washington

Awhile back we drew some scoffs with the suggestion that the issue of “net neutrality” could become a political hot spot. It didn’t (in a major way at least) in 2006, and hasn’t this year (owing in part to some backing off from some of the big telecoms). But it’s coming. The only question is when – and how it will be shaped.

We draw attention to this Associated Press piece on Comcast Corporation partly because Comcast is a big Internet as well as cable provider in the Northwest, and also because so many people in the region are affected by shifts or alterations in Internet traffic structures. The AP ran a sophisticated series of nationwide tests and found at Comcast “the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.”

There may be some customer-service rationale to what Comcast is doing. Essentially, it seems to be redirecting and second-tiering traffic in file sharing – transmission of often large data files – in the interest of keeping other traffic (emails, web access and so on) flowing more smoothly. File-sharing sometimes takes a hit because some of it is illegal (such as sharing of copyrighted music or videos). But a whole lot of it is legitimate; the whole field of open-source software, for one example, is absolutely reliant on it. (The Northwest’s large Linux community, for one, has been snapping to attention on this yesterday and today.) This kind of activity could seriously disrupt key file-sharing outfits like BitTorrent.

The AP describes: “Comcast’s technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user. Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: ‘Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye.'”

One Portland area Linux user with some knowledge of how the cable net systems work sees it as a little more benign, involving trying to move large transfers toward more local networks, in an effort to conserve bandwidth. And apparently plenty of other cable companies are moving into similar technology.

Regardless, this whole territory, even if specifically justifiable, ought to make net users generally uncomfortable. At the least.

This territory is going to turn political, in significant ways. Give it time. The seeds have been planted.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

We had forgotten about this, and thanks to the brief cite at Red State Rebels that served as a reminder. To wit:

Turns out that Jim Risch, the probable Republican nominee for the Senate, delivered answers in full to the Gem State Voter Guide when he ran last year for lieutenant governor. (His opponent then and probably next year as well, Democrat Larry LaRocco, didn’t respond to the survey.) Risch’s answers are still posted on line.

The voter guide was developed by the Idaho Values Alliance, whose main spokesman is Bryan Fischer.

A sampling of the responses: “Embryonic stem cell research in Idaho” oppose; “Require state testing of home-schooled students” oppose; “Remove jurisdiction from the U.S. Supreme Court over religious liberty issues” support; “Pledge not to raise taxes, fees or rates” support; “Allow teaching in public schools that man is a created being, not an evolved being” support; “Allow teaching in public schools that the proper role of government is to protect rights given to man by God” support . . .

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Idaho

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski screwed up earlier this week when he stalked out of a press conference rather than answer a TV reporter’s question about what he knew, and when he knew it, about Neil Goldschmidt‘s sexual involvement with his 14-year-old babysitter. (Oregon saw his walk-off – it was caught, on tape.) He seems to have recognized that, offering a little more response yesterday – essentially to say that arguments that he knew about the case but wrongly did nothing, were meritless. He says he didn’t know.

That is of course not ending the situation, notably since Portland talk show host Lars Larson has filed a formal complaint with the Oregon State Bar. Larson said Kulongoski had learned about it around 1991, by say of former Goldschmidt speechwriter Fred Leonhardt, who had been told by Bernie Giusto, once a driver for Goldschmidt and currently sheriff of Multnomah County. Giusto is under inquiry himself, in part for the same cause: withholding the knowledge.

The core point is put finely at Northwest Republican: “Why would you believe Fred Leonhardt over Kulongoski? Well a couple of reasons. First see the video from KGW. Second Leanhardt has taken and passed a polygraph backing up his story. And finally Kulongoski is a politician and closely tied with the child molester Goldschmidt. Remember folks, this is not just about Kulongoski hearing some rumor of a former governer. No he had heard about it and still… still decided he would appoint a child molester to the state board of education.”

And the Oregonian‘s Steve Duin blasted, “It is Ted Kulongoski’s good fortune, apparently, that ‘moral fitness’ and ‘honesty’ are standards for police officers, not governors.”

All of this certainly has a sleazy ring to it. But, leaving aside the issues of who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, it looks a little different when you untangle the pieces and put them in perspective. And it raises the question of what were Kulongoski’s – and our – obligations.

Goldschmidt was mayor of Portland in the mid-70s when he and his 14-year-old babysitter had a series of sexual encounters over about three years. (He might have been charged then for statutory rape, but the period allowable for charging has long expired.)

For 29 years this remained concealed from the public; only a few people knew. Willamette Week, which won a Pulitzer for its investigation of the case, wrote that “although many friends of the victim knew about the crime, few of Goldschmidt’s aides, as mayor or as governor, did.” One such, the article said, was a private investigator named Robert K. Burtchaell, who became involved and learned about the situation when Goldschmidt asked him to “handle” the young woman’s complaints, evidently at some point in the early 80s. (Goldschmidt’s involvement with Burtchaell was a whole other matter.)

Willamette’s story didn’t mention either Giusto or Leonhardt, but the Oregonian picked up the thread with its report. It reported that Giusto, who as an Oregon State Police officer served for a time as Goldschmidt’s driver (this would have been in the 1988-90 period), “was aware of a potential legal settlement between Goldschmidt and his victim around 1994 and that he may have talked with Leonhardt about it.” Earlier (the paper reported), as early as 1989, he said he “may have discussed vague rumors” with Leonhardt.

Considering that neither Goldschmidt nor others directly involved would seem to have much reason to confide the mass of gory details to a driver, who also happened to be a cop, you get the sense here that Giusto may have been putting together bits and scraps. He did (according to Leonhardt) tell Leonhardt some details, but Leonhardt “didn’t ask how Giusto learned about this” – so never got a sense of whether the information was solid or gaseous. At the time, it was unsubstantiated; Leonhardt acknowledged that he was then highly skeptical of any of it. Giusto said “he did not remember the breakfast but acknowledged it was possible that the two drove together to Salem and discussed rumors about Goldschmidt and extramarital relationships.” (Note again the use of the word “rumors.”) Leonhardt said he talked about it with other staffers in the governor’s office, and “Finally, we convinced ourselves that it wasn’t true.” The Oregonian said it had substantiation that Leonhardt was talking with other people about this subject toward the end of Goldschmidt’s term, which ended at the beginning of 1991.

The case took a turn in 1989 and early 1990, when for a time a seal court record in Washington state that described the 1970’s child abuse threatened to become unsealed; Goldschmidt, evidently in response (and also following up on a divorce), announced he would not run for a second term as governor.

Remember that by this point, more than a dozen years had passed since the abuse. Rumors were floating, but no evidence. The woman had made no public allegations, and neither were there any confessions, publicly or privately.

Blogger Kari Chisholm recalls the scene from 1990, when Goldschmidt delivered his stunning won’t-run announcement: “There were LOTS of rumors going around. I was a high school senior – interested in politics, doing a little volunteering here and there – and even I heard lots of rumors. Crazy, ridiculous rumors. There was the one about how Neil had a gay lover. There was the one about how Neil had an illegitimate African-American child. There was the one about a hooker in Canada. And there were a dozen variations on the plain ol’ he-had-an-affair rumor. There were so many damn rumors that it was just plain absurd. It seemed, at the time, like everyone had an explanation why the good-looking governor got divorced and gave up his political career. After all, it seemed pretty obvious that it had something to do with infidelity.”

Indeed: A powerhouse governor’s rapid-fire divorce, no second term and dropping out of visible public life, all at once – it meant something, all right, but no satisfying explanations were available. What did it mean? Everyone had a theory; few had facts. Much of what people thought they knew, conflicted.

There was a lot of talk, and the pieces of information Leonhardt had developed probably circled around in upper levels of Democratic politics. Is it credible that some of it made its way to Kulongoski around 1991 (which would be after Goldschmidt had left office and moved to private life)? Credible, yes. Leonhardt says it did – though he described the whole thing at the time as “rumor” not as “fact” (and we should bear in mind that Leonhardt has some personal animus against Kulongoski). The governor says no, it didn’t, at all.

One obvious question is, how can the truth of that matter ever be conclusively established now? Realistically, unless someone produces a tape recording, it probably can’t.

But the other question is, if we assume for the moment that Kulongoski did hear what Leonhardt says he had to say, what exactly was he supposed to do?

According to Willamette Week and Oregonian research, presumably somewhere around two dozen or more people had heard the abuse stories by the time Kulongoski is supposed to have; why did none of them move on it? Some had self-interest at stake, but for others, the simple absence of hard evidence was likely a problem (and as an attorney, Kulongoski would have well understood that). Where was the hard evidence of these events that by then were more than a dozen years old? Moreover – though not exculpatory of what happened in the 70s – there seemed to be no current risk to anyone, no rumor or any other indication that Goldschmidt’s babysitter proclivities had survived disco. Against all that weigh the problem of making a false accusation, in this case one of the most awful accusations a person can make. If you know it’s true, it should be made; but if you’ve got no evidence, nothing more than third-hand rumor, and the (now adult) victim involved isn’t stepping forward or apparently willing to say word one about it . . .

Then what exactly should be the responsibility, the obligation, of a person who, circa 1991, hears unsubstantiated rumors about a sex abuse case more than a decade old?

What standard do you think you should be held to?

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We haven’t gotten particularly interested in the new revisions of public statements on just how much money the ’08 campaign of Representative Dave Reichert has. His spokesman’s explanation that it was an honest error – albeit one that mistakenly resulted in his campaign seeming to out-raise Democratic challenger Darcy Burner – may hold up.

But Daniel Kirkdorffer, a blogger who has been tracking 8th district campaign funding in some detail, has a larger picture that suggests some change in the contours of the congressional race:

We have a year to go, but unlike in 2005, when Reichert held a 10 to 1 money advantage at this point, this time both candidates are heading into the next 12 months essentially neck and neck in the fundraising race, with an edge to Burner due to her having more cash on hand, far less disbursements by not having any left over debt from the last election cycle to retire, and a greater upside in small donors that can be tapped further over the coming months. Reichert has 25% less cash on hand as he did at this point in 2005 despite Bush’s help, while Darcy Burner has 842% more than she did at the same point in the last race.

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Washington

Evidently – according to a post in the Slog, admitted anecdotal but still interesting – Portland is becoming the talk of the Big Apple. But what reason exactly, doesn’t seem clear. But nonetheless.

Conclusion: “It felt like when I first went to New York, in the late 1990s, when talking about the Northwest inevitably meant talking about a certain hip new city. Back then it was my city, Seattle. Now it seems to be our southern neighbor.”

But see also the comments.

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Oregon

Why do incumbents, especially those in higher offices, start with such advantages? One reason is that many of them have staff who, if they’re good, look out carefully for their bosses, and seek out opportunities. Like this, from the Silverton Appeal:

Josh Thomas, a Silverton 12-year-old, had won a writing contest held by Inc. magazine, the Best Lemonade Stand in America Contest; Thomas wrote in about his own lemonade stand (Josh’s Old Fashioned Lemonade Stand, which seems to have grown into a small cottage industry). The award landed him on a Portland radio talk show. Then:

“While he answered questions and shared laughs with the radio hosts, he got a second surprise as Senator Gordon Smith, R-Ore., came on the line and offered his own congratulations and offered Josh the best of luck with his future business ventures.”

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Oregon

There are some – a growing number – of candidates for office who turn to blogging as part of their campaigns (or, at least, hire it done). But so far there haven’t been a lot of consistent bloggers who have taken the plunge and filed the papers to run for office.

Jim McCabe at Richland, of the often interesting McCranium blog, has done just that – filed (as a write-in) for city council. “Butterflies in my stomach and all. Needless to say I didn’t sleep well last night,” he writes. It was prompted, apparently, by the surprise resignation of Richland Mayor Rob Welch; Welch will go to work for an organization working on combating child sexual abuse.

A campaign evidently is going to ensue, and here’s hoping McCabe records his experiences at McCranium. We’ll read with interest.

POSTSCRIPT Yeah, that’s right – your scribe did “run,” last year, for the Carlton (Oregon) Fire District board of directors, wherein he proceeded to get stomped. That filing occurred, however, only because there appeared to be dramatically more openings for the new board than there were candidates, a situation that changed just before filing deadline; and it did not involve campaigning of any sort. McCabe’s situation promises to be more lively.

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Ahighly recommended read and a treat: A thoughtful wrestling with Oregon’s Measure 50, up for election in the next few weeks, which would raise tobacco taxes to pay (mostly) for health care insurance for children.

Blogger Patrick Emerson at the Oregon Economics Blog arrives at the issue conflicted. He eventually concludes he will vote for Measure 50, but not very happily.

Much of the post consists of an economist’s take on the measure. He estimates that the measure will, as a matter of dollars and cents, mostly do what its proponents suggest it will. Toward the end, through, he wraps with this:

Finally, the last issue is a population without adequate health insurance. This is not really related to smoking and is probably the reason I have so much trouble with this bill. Perhaps I am hopelessly naïve, but this bill is pure populism: let’s tax smokers (boo) and give kids health insurance (yeay). If smoking and its affects are the point of concern than create policy that deals with this. Use tax revenues to support health care for uninsured sufferers of emphysema and lung cancer. If uninsured children are a concern than create a new plan that is funded from general revenues. This creating and ear marking of specific taxes is troubling to me. I don’t like the ends-justify-the-means arguments and I don’t like it in policy either. ‘Sin’ taxes are a political expedient, but are not necessarily good policy (see the beer tax debate from the last legislative session).

But in the end I’ll probably vote for it. What the hell? I don’t smoke!

Next up: A look at Measure 49.

(Hat tip to Blue Oregon for the find.)

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Oregon