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Posts published in “Day: November 5, 2007”

Kennemer for Scott?

Bill Kennemer

Bill Kennemer

The upcoming retirement of Representative Wayne Scott, R-Canby - till recently leader of the Oregon House Republicans - left an opening both parties should be jumping to fill. If word over at NW Republican pans out, the Republicans may be jumping first, with a choice that could give them an edge.

That would be Bill Kennemer, who for the last decade has been a Clackamas County commissioner - a good jumping point for other elective office, as U.S. Representative Darlene Hooley can attest - and before that elected four times (starting in 1986) to the Oregon Senate. Kennemer won his commission seat with 55% in 2004 and 57.4% in 2000; not powerhouse numbers, but his record of wins in this area is very long, reaching more than two decades.

NW Republican's take is that "He has run and won there several times and if the next cycle brings any nervousness in the voters then they will almost certainly vote for the name that is tried and true. However the downside is that in being safe he will bring no real passion to the party or the caucus." We wouldn't argue that, and certainly he would enter as a known quantity, which is a strong advantage. But his entry might generate stronger interest than just this suggests.

The Clackamas commission overall has gotten some bun headlines from time to time, and in 2006 and early this year the partisan shifts on the panel, and an '06 battle over the chairmanship (which Kennemer won, for a time) has resulted in some exposed nerves, on both sides. (One of those elbowed was Democratic Commissioner Martha Schrader, ousted last year as chair in favor of Kennemer, but returned this year as chair when a Democrat won the third commission seat. Oh, and her husband is prominent state Senator Kurt Schrader. The Schraders are not obscure folk at Salem.)

A Kennemer candidacy could bring immediate natural advantages, but also Democratic talking points and some emotional incentive to go after him in a serious way. In all, it could launch a hot contest that could be a whole lot of fun to watch.

Recalling recall

We got our ballots in the mail today, again, and voted, again. No, this wasn't "vote early and often" - these new ballots arriving in our mailbox were not the better known statewide ballots (which we submitted some days ago) but instead had one local city issue on them: The recall of our mayor, in the city of Carlton, Oregon.

We'll not spend much space in this post about the specifics of the recall (the "grounds" make little sense) or whether the mayor should be retained (we strongly think she should). But it does seem like fair occasion, at this mid-point between two even-year elections, to revisit the whole subject of recall elections.

The primary point is that there are altogether too many of them, and they are the bane of many communities, especially small communities.

Recall was one of the direct democracy reforms Oregon helped pioneer a century ago, and we do not suggest getting rid of it: It has a useful purpose. On occasion a public office holder becomes destructive, seriously damaging the community, to the point that the community would face important loss if that person continues in place; or else, the office holder becomes corrupt, or criminal, and can't be allowed to stay on the job. Such cases exist, but they are rare. In the last 25 or 30 years of recall cases in Northwest communities, we can think of just one where these standards generally were met, in the larger city of Spokane, where Mayor Jim West was recalled in December 2005. And even that had some gray area to it.

Small cities almost never have the kind of crisis situations that require a recall, yet that is where almost all recall elections are held, maybe in part because the threshold for forcing an election is so low. In Oregon, Ashland, Oakland, Willamina, Aurora, Sheridan, Newport, Turner, Lafayette (notoriously), Florence - and those are all recent, in the last year or two - have been torn up by recall elections. A number of Idaho communities (over the years, Homedale, Wendell, St. Anthony, Spirit Lake) are notorious for them as well. (Not so much in Washington, as we'll explain.)

For a couple of decades, the city of Garden City, adjacent to the northwest side of Boise, was wracked by endless recall elections featuring the same revolving cast of unappealing characters. During that whole time the city stagnated, depressed and shabby-looking, while its better-run neighbor Boise advanced smartly. Then a new regime came in, led by a well-regarded local banker, and the recalls stopped. The city took off, and - clean and sober now for almost two decades - Garden City has prospered.

Too many recall cities take many years to break out of that cycle, with the result that city governments never become stable enough to do the jobs they're supposed to do - police and fire and sewer and water and streets and so on - with the result that the city fails to grow, discourages new businesses, misses opportunities, and heads into tailspin. Garden City, Idaho, was like that for many years while a few dozen people squabbled in their endless feuds; Lafayette, Oregon, fast-growing and terribly unprepared for it, is a lot like that now.



New newspaper circulation figures are out, and they aren't painting a cheerful face. Could be that some bloggers smirk at the news; we're not mong them. Newspapers still are the bet single source of information about what's going on in the world, and we should all be chilled by the idea that declines in newspaper circulation too often means increasing numbers of people are learning about the world around them (and casting votes based on that knowledge) from television. Which, speaking in general, is appalling.

Closest thing to good news here: The rates of decline seem a little smaller than in the last couple of years.

The Sunday Oregonian now has a circulation of 371,386, down 1.2% from a year ago. Weekday circulation is at 309,467, which is .4% down.

The Sunday Seattle Times/Post-Intelligencer combo sits at 420,587, or down .6% from a year ago.

At the Spokane Spokesman-Review, the paper's blog reports that "daily circulation dropped about 2% and Sunday circulation dropped about 3%."

ADDITIONALLY Just saw this line, from a Dave Oliveria post at the Spokesman-Review's Huckleberries blog: "With our decision to cut staff in the North Idaho news operation, the [Coeur d'Alene] Press becomes the dominant print media in the region. How does that make you feel?"

The concession from the Spokesman side is stunning. And comments from Oliveria's readers weren't happy. It's all worth a read.