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Posts published in October 2007

Craig: I’m Staying Put

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

We suspected this as an end result, and we weren't alone; Bryan Fischer of the Idaho Values Alliance delivered a sound analysis suggesting the same thing. We were wrong to a point, which is that we didn't think Idaho Senator Larry Craig would say conclusively that he will stay in the Senate until his term ends in January 2009. But now, today, that's what he's done.

The prompt for the statement was the decision out of Minnesota on his attempt to withdraw his guilty plea; Hennepin County District Judge Charles Porter said Craig's original plea was made "accurately, voluntarily and intelligently." In a release from his office, Craig said he was disappointed, did not indicate whether he would appeal (we're guessing now that he won't) but added this:

"I will continue to serve Idaho in the United States Senate, and there are several reasons for that. As I continued to work for Idaho over the past three weeks here in the Senate, I have seen that it is possible for me to work here effectively.

"Over the course of my three terms in the Senate and five terms in the House, I have accumulated seniority and important committee assignments that are valuable to Idaho, not the least of which are my seats on the Appropriations Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Veterans' Affairs Committee. A replacement would be highly unlikely to obtain these posts.

"In addition, I will continue my effort to clear my name in the Senate Ethics Committee - something that is not possible if I am not serving in the Senate.

"When my term has expired, I will retire and not seek reelection. I hope this provides the certainty Idaho needs and deserves."

Of course, the Senate Republican caucus could always try to take away the committee assignments too. But there's a real chance (especially since that hasn't happened yet) they won't, if only because that would give Democrats some significant leverage against them.


Once, they’d have burned it

And we keep wondering how many affronts to our dignity as citizens we'll continue to put up with in the interest of fake "security" . . . against, for example, the bra-the-could-be-a-weapon.

The Spokane Spokesman Review is reporting on an incident at the Coeur d'Alene federal courthouse, when a wire in a woman's bra set off a metal detector at the front door. The Bonners Ferry resident said, "When I walked through, the gentleman said, "'Do you have an underwire bra on?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You have to remove it.' "

So she did, then and there, "while her husband tried to shield her from view of others in the crowded lobby by holding up his coat."

And we can all feel so much safer now.

Measure 37’s reach

Measure 37 Yamhill

Measure 37 claims in Yamhill County

We'll be getting more into Measure 37/Measure 49 before long, but for the moment thought we'd point out a series of maps on the pro-49 group's website, part of one of which you can see above. (Oregon's Measure 37, speaking roughly, allows land owners to develop their property under the state of land use law and rules in effect when they or their family bought it.)

There's a collection of these maps on the Yes on 49 site, showing where and how large (in terms of land size) the claims are. They should come with an asterisk, in that what the land might prospectively be used for could vary a lot, and many claims would never, even if fully exercised, not reshape the landscape in a big way.

Still, the number of claims and their effect - however you look at it - is substantial.

Westlund’s entry

Ben Westlund at the treasurer announcement

Ben Westlund at the treasurer announcement

Overdue, in a way, since candidates for the other partisan Oregon statewides of '08 - secretary of state and attorney general - already are in the field. Maybe it's an argument that Ben Westlund's decision to run for state treasurer (expected for a while, announced this afternoon), leaving behind the legislature where he's been for a decade, really wasn't automatic.

Treasurer, most of the time in most places, is a relatively ministerial job. Most times, most places, if you don't hear about what your state treasurer is up to, that's good news; if you do hear, the news is apt to be bad. For some political people of a technical bent, that's good enough. It would seem not for Westlund, who has been among the most productive legislators (not only in Oregon, but in the Northwest) in recent years, on subjects as disparate as health care, environmental protection, support for the arts and renewable energy. His energies, skills and dispositions would seem to fit more nearly something like governor or member of Congress - not so much because they're "bigger" offices but because their scope is larger and more varied, and they're more involved with creative policymaking.

But sometimes, the scope is what you make it.


Impeachment fever

What with so many people in the Northwest calling for impeachment of President Bush - albeit that most of them are on the west side of the Cascades - there shouldn't be a surprise at the new web site calling for impeachment of Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

What they want - not that they're going to get this either - is expulsion. Impeachment, though rarely undertaken at all, generally applies to officers of the executive and judicial branches. No member of Congress ever has been kicked out via impeachment.

Wikipedia does have some useful history on the subject, though, pointing out that there's some constitutional question of whether members of Congress are impeachable at all. In the nation's history one senator, William Blount of Tennessee, has been impeached by the U.S. House. But it was a very long time ago, the circumstances were peculiar, and seem to have set a precedent against impeachment of members of Congress. Here's the background:

In 1797 his land speculations in western lands led him into serious financial difficulties. That same year, he also apparently concocted a plan to incite the Creek and Cherokee Indians to aid the British in conquering the Spanish territory of West Florida. A letter he wrote alluding to the plan fell into the hands of President John Adams, who turned it over to the Senate on July 3, 1797. Five days later, that body voted 25 to 1 to expel Blount. The United States House of Representatives impeached him, but the Senate dropped the charges in 1799 on the grounds that no further action could be taken beyond his dismissal, which set an important precedent for the future with regard to the limitations on actions which could be taken by Congress against its members and former members.

So, these guys can call for expulsion, if they want. But don't hold your breath on that happening either.

The primary rules: Watch this decision

Proceed at risk any time you presume to extrapolate a final ruling from an oral argument and discussion at the U.S. Supreme Court. But today's oral argument on Washington's "top two" primary election law, already posted, is well worth the read - particularly if you're interested in primary election law either in Washington or in Idaho.

One point that jumped out: The justices remain highly concerned about anything that may force people in a political party to associate themselves with someone they'd rather not. (We'd be very interested to learn if there's actually any practical way to do this.)

Consider this comment from justice Antonin Scalia: "We don't know the exact phrasing on the ballot, but we do know that a candidate is allowed to associate himself with a party, but a party is not allowed to disociate itself from the candidate. I am less concerned about the fact that the candidate can't say I'm the -- I'm the no-taxes candidate, than I am about the fact that he can associate himself with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party on the ballot and that party has no opportunity on the ballot to say, we have nothing to do with this person. That it seems to me is a great disadvantage to the parties. . . . And what this system creates is a ballot in which an individual can associate himself with the Republican Party, but on the ballot the Republican Party is unable to dissociate itself from that candidate."

The parties are showing some signs here of trumping the voters.

A quick side note: Judging from the transcript, Attorney General Rob McKenna appeared to show a great deal of grace under pressure. And there was a good deal of pressure.

A dollar too many

We're surely not alone in being a bit thrown by the sheer size of Proposition 1, headed for voter decision next month. It's enormous, but not only that: It's so enormous, and covers so massive a scope of space and time, that estimates are almost useless.

Most often you see $47 billion - that is, yes, billion with a "b" - but depending on how you count, it could amount to as little as $18 billion (that trifling amount) to $160 billion. The proposition's backers estimate $17.8 billion (or $28.5 billion if you factor inflation). Some perspective from a Seattle transit blog: "I know I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here, but we don't know inflation with an accuracy over 50 year periods! The number makes no sense because three years of no inflation could shrink the end number by 20%, and three years of massive inflation could raise it by 50%. We don't know inflation."

And last week, King County Executive Ron Sims - one of the most active public transit backers in the region - threw a bomb into the discussion with his critical guest opinion in the Seattle Times:

If approved, we will see the largest tax increase in state history. Starting in January, car-tab taxes will triple, and the sales tax will be 9.5 percent (10 percent in King County restaurants).

I look at this package with the knowledge that in 50 years, my oldest son will be 80 when it's paid off. My granddaughter will be 55. Their ability to make public investments relevant to their lives and times will be severely limited by this package. Should I be so lucky, I will use my pension until I am 110 years old to pay my share!

The benefits of this package are far from immediate. Even if on schedule, 60 percent of new light rail won't open until 2027. Light rail across Lake Washington is at least 14 years away. The Northgate extension is 11 years away.