There’s nothing especially startling in the Seattle Times piece today on fundraising in the governor’s race. Snark at Sound Politics on this is duly noted on “the stunning story that persons and organizations with issues before state government are donating to an incumbent Governor after spreading their money around when the seat was open four years ago. Campaign hands across the state are floored.”

From one Sound Politics comment: “That just goes to show how business-owners look out for their bottom line. Business is not like a labor union that will blindly go with the Democrat…Businesses support those who support them.”

The point is still well worth noting, though, as a piece of the mosaic that goes into how relatively competitive the campaigns are. In 2004, running for an open seat, both campaigns spent in the neighborhood of $6.3 million. This time, as of the most recent reports, incumbent Democrat Chris Gregoire has raised nearly $3.6 million and Rossi somewhat under a half million; and the article notes that about $160,000 of the governor’s money has come from people who donated to Rossi last time.

This picture will adjust, of course. Rossi has not been formally in the race, and has not been fundraising, for very long, and his totals should rise quickly over the next few months. Both candidates likely will shoot well past their 2004 totals; this race is not likely to be decided on the basis of money. (The last one wasn’t.)

But it is a concrete indicator that the dynamic changes when you go from an open seat to an incumbent-challenger contest.

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Count on Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney for some pungent commentary, as in his look ahead to a session of the Senate in which a whole lot of the members are or are considering running for another office. One-sixth of the chamber is formally so planning now, but it’s likely to go much higher – maybe to about a third of the 30 total – over the next year.

Courtney: “I’m going to file the state Senate for any and all state offices, just to get this taken care of.”

As with many Courtney comments (we spotted this one on the Eugene Register-Guard‘s political blog), he was only half jesting.

Let’s see. There’s one running for state treasurer, Democrat Ben Westlund. There are four senators running for secretary of state (Kate Brown, Vicki Walker, and recently Rick Metsger and Brad Avakian), all Democrats; Republican Bruce Starr is said to be likely to join them before long. Then there are the potential governors in the group, including Republican Jason Atkinson (who has all but announced for the 2010 election) and (we’re told not to be surprised if we see it) Democrat Kurt Schrader. Remember too, that Alan Bates (D-Ashland) gave serious thought to a U.S. Senate run this year, and new Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood) also gets mentions as a higher office prospect.

Which in all may create some tensions come the February session. But they might bear in mind too that all will look better if they play nice.

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As of a year ago – and the number would be higher now – an estimated 2,245,189 people were held in state and federal prisons in the United States. A few of them will stay there until they die, but most (the estimate is 95%) will be released back into society. And because over the last couple of decades sentences generally have been getting longer, those numbers are going to run higher than they have been until now, and those in “re-entry” to society are going to be people who have spent more years in prison than the released used to. And – the point here – we’ve been doing not a lot about dealing with this.

recidivism chartThere is some thought on the subject, however, starting with research. The Council of State Governments has a Reentry Policy Council, which looks at just this issue, and a number of states have followed up with councils of their own. One of the first was in Oregon, established last May, and this fall starting to generate some news and reports.

A press release on early stages of the group’s work had some useful background: “Oregon prisons currently house nearly 13,500 inmates, a record number due to tougher sentencing laws and the state’s growing population. Each year about 4,000 offenders are released back into the community at the end of their sentences, becoming part of the 34,000 offenders under supervision across Oregon at any given time. Yet over the past decade, Oregon’s recidivism rate has remained relatively stable. One out of every three people released from prison is convicted of a new felony crime within three years of release. Policymakers, practitioners and researchers are increasingly identifying coordination of re-entry efforts as critical to successful outcomes and rehabilitation.”

This stuff is a great deal more complex than you might at first think – the implications of bringing these people into a productive place in society, rather than simply marking time till the re-arrest, bring into play a lot of causes and effects. Here’s one we just ran across, in a Re-Entry Policy Council brochure:

• People who do not find stable housing in the community are more likely to recidivate than those who do: the Georgia Department of Corrections determined that, with each move after release from prison, a person’s likelihood of re-arrest increased by 25 percent.
• Re-arrest and re-incarceration disrupts income and the ability of both the person arrested and his or her family to comply with a lease agreement.

The thought about “lease agreements” seems almost minor until you begin to spin out all the effects – personal, financial, social – broken deals can have all over the place.

Might be time for Idaho and Washington, which we gather do not have equivalent councils or similar activity, to take a look at this too.

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Scenes from around the Northwest on the day after our giving of thanks, demonstrating why the day has gotten the nickname of Black Friday (and not just for the inkstains of retailer bookkeepers).

North of Seattle:

Alderwood Mall’s first crack at midnight madness on Black Friday became just down right maddening for some shoppers. The Lynnwood mall, following a national trend to open when the clock strikes 12 to lure early holiday shoppers, had an unexpected rush of consumers in the morning’s wee hours. Some screeching shoppers bolted through the doors right after midnight. . . . “I think this is the dumbest idea they have ever had,” said a frustrated Matt Carter of Snohomish. “This is not an environment for young kids. All it takes is for one person to fall down and you would get trampled.” . . . For Katy Brock and Samantha Brotherton of Shoreline, who arrived at Alderwood Mall at 9:30 p.m., it was the first stop before hitting the Seattle Premium Outlets in Tulalip. “Then it’s bed,” said the 18-year-old Brock. “There will be no shopping tomorrow morning when the crazy soccer moms are out.”

Along I-5:

Washington State troopers made 178 traffic stops over two days on Interstate-5 near Federal Way as shoppers headed to find bargains at local shopping malls. In one hour this morning along a section of I-5 in Snohomish County, which is being patrolled by aircraft, troopers pulled over 20 vehicles for speeding. “There’s still a lot of activity trying to get to and from the big sales,” said State Patrol spokesman Jeff Merrill. “We want to remind people to slow down a bit.” He said in four hours Thursday morning, troopers made 118 stops with one car going over 110 miles an hour.

In Boise, at Boise Towne Square:

So many people surged forward when the mall opened that one of the glass doors was knocked completely off its frame, according to Darcy Shippey, marketing manager at the mall. At least one woman fell and was helped up by people nearby. A pregnant women was overcome and an ambulance was called. No details on her condition have been released.

In the Inland Empire:

“I dreamt that I didn’t get up until 7:15 and missed all the sales,” said Leslie Naccarato. That would have been a nightmare, according to the St. Maries woman, who clutched a handful of ads as she stood in line for Wal-Mart’s 5 a.m. opening in Post Falls. On her shopping list: three portable DVDs and a laptop. “I’m saving $350,” she said.

Season’s greetings.

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George Fearing

George Fearing

Before long we’ll launch our revisable list of candidates for major office in the Northwest, so we’ve been watching to see who we might have missed. And ran across one this morning.

George Fearing, an attorney from Richland, is running for the Democratic nomination to take on Republican Representative Doc Hastings, who has consistently won with strong margins since his first election in 1994.

The major piece on Fearing’s efforts so far has shown up on Evergreen Politics, which has posted a sizable interview with him. It makes for an interesting profile of a conventional Tri-Cities attorney at a mostly Republican law firm (whose clients, he says, include Hastings), who also sees fit to visit the Yearly Kos event and mingle with Seattle bloggers, while getting his campaign launched (much earlier than most other challengers). Worth a read.

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Melaleuca

Melaleuca

Readers in Idaho even more than those in the Puget Sound may find of interest (hat tip here to one of our Idaho readers) a piece in the Seattle Weekly about the Idaho Falls company Melaleuca, and its top executive, Frank VanderSloot.

It’s a good backgrounder on a company and a man playing a large and growing role in Idaho politics. The article points out some of VanderSloot’s political involvement and his long-time support for Senator Larry Craig. It did leave out, though, the most recent bit of news, that Republican Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, who is running to succeed Craig in the Senate, leased a Melaleuca aircraft in his state-hop for campaign announcement. The close involvement continues.

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Richard Sanders

Richard Sanders

Thejust-released decision in Washington State Farm Bureau Federation v. Gregoire by the Washington Supreme Court could almost be a straddler in its majority opinion, perhaps reflecting the variety of views that resulted in no fewer than five documents (including concurrances and dissent) in the decision folder today.

Much the most striking was the dissent offered by Justice Richard Sanders, which ended with an unexpected bit of wit: “Aside from that, I concur in the remainder of the majority’s opinion.” Witty, of course, because he had ripped into practically every underlying premise the majority had; unexpected, because his own views are so . . . well, read them for yourself below.

The case was a response to Initiative 601, passed as the Taxpayer Protection Act by Washington’s voters in 1993, aimed at limiting the ability of the legislature to raise taxes. When in 2005 the legislature raised tobacco and alcohol taxes, a coalition (including the Farm Bureau) sued, saying it had violated the terms of the initiative.

The main decision skirted the key issues here, holding (though some of the reasoning here seems obscure) that the legislature’s action didn’t formally violate the initiative’s terms. But much of the argument centered on a point the majority seemed not to want to formally nail down: The relationship between initiatives and the legislature. The majority opinion suggested but stopped barely short of saying explicitly that Initiative 601 ran afoul of the constitution, because it tried to bind the legislature in a way that only the constitution itself could.

The basic rule, commonly understood around the country in states that allow initiatives, is that legislation passed by initiative has the same standing as laws passed by the legislature. Just as any session of a legislature can revise laws passed by earlier sessions, and as initiatives can amend laws passed by legislatures, so legislatures can – possibly at their political peril – revise or even toss out measures passed by initiative. All these variations have happened in many states, Oregon and Idaho included, and all of this is commonly accepted as understood process. The Washington Supreme Court majority apparently does too: “A law passed by initiative is no less a law than one enacted by the legislature. Nor is it more. A previously passed initiative can no more bind a current legislature than a previously enacted statute.”

Besides the main majority opinion, the case generated four other concurrences or dissent. There’s a broader and recommended overview of court reactions to the case on the David Postman blog. Here, we’ll focus more specifically on Sanders.

Here’s the abridged Sanders dissent (edited mainly of quotes and cites):

I understand that the majority’s view to be the state legislature is virtually unrestrained except insofar as the legislative action countervenes some express prohibition in the state constitution. Although this claim has been repeated by rote in several of our decisions, I am unable to find a single one which explains its rationale, much less critically examines its premise. I challenge the majority to either do so here or dispense with this careless rhetoric.

The assertion seems to be based on an erroneous presumption that state governments have inherent powers – a presumption that contradicts the basic
premise of all American governance that all power resides in the people except
insofar as it has been delegated to the government. As such, the claim flies in the face of article I, section 1 of the state constitution, which plainly and expressly provides: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.” This section hardly evidences our state government has the inherent power to do anything. Rather, it stands for precisely the opposite.

Our majority also appears to be oblivious to the basic tenet of the American Revolution, which forcefully rejected the European model of unlimited
government. . . .

Therefore I think it is fair to say not only is the majority’s claim inconsistent with the text of our state constitution but profoundly un-American in theory as well. . . . The majority’s unexamined claim in reality invites a totalitarian regime and is inconsistent with the founders’ understanding of the social compact. . . But the majority’s claim on its face purports that the legislature may do virtually anything except where restrained by a Declaration of Rights. This has never been our system, as we have often observed even the constitutionally undefined police power is not itself without limits. . .

I also note with alarm the seditious doctrine sometimes embraced by our
majority that even our Declaration of Rights is itself trumped by exercise of the
state’s police power, a power which a majority of my colleagues seems to believe
with their new-found wisdom has no limits whatsoever. For example article I,
section 24 of our constitution, protecting the right to bear arms, was an early
casualty of this view as many cases purport to hold that the right to bear arms,
although constitutionally guaranteed, is subject to reasonable regulation under the
police power. Additionally our constitutional guaranties of religious liberty, also secured in very absolute terms by article I, section 11 of our constitution, are similarly subordinated to the police power. . .

The view that the federal Bill of Rights or state Declaration of Rights is subject to the otherwise legitimate government action is plainly inconsistent with the fundamental theory of American governance. Federalist No. 84, authored by Alexander Hamilton, defended the proposed Constitution of 1787 against the principal attack that it failed to contain a Bill of Rights. Hamilton countered that a Bill of Rights was “not only unnecessary in the proposed constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers which are not granted; and on this very account, would afford a colourable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do?. . .” So, to put it another way, the Bill of Rights, or Declaration of Rights, properly understood, is an enumeration of exceptions to what the government may otherwise legitimately do. Yet our majority rejects this view to virtually nullify the only purpose of a Declaration of Rights by claiming it is subordinate to an otherwise almost unlimited exercise of the police power, which removes any restraint at all to the claimed “inherent” and infinite “plenary power” of the legislature.

Fundamentally, when a majority of our court claims that our state legislature has “plenary power to enact laws, except as limited by our state and federal constitutions,” it departs from the founding principle that governments may legitimately perform only those activities which are delegated by the sovereign people. Moreover, the majority seems most willing to even subordinate express constitutional exceptions enumerated in the Declaration of Rights and elsewhere to the omnipotent power of the “plenary” state.

I fear for our Republic each step the majority takes toward achieving its counterrevolutionary premise. One cries outrage when the majority purports to recognize “a fundamental principal of our system of government,” which is in reality absolutely antithetical to those true principles of our Republic, which are indeed fundamental.

Put aside the red meat of “counterrevolutionary” and “totalitarian” or his concerns about an “infinite plenary” legislative power (which sounds like an awesome thing, except for this little thing called the constitution which actually does a decent job of restricting it). Sanders’ reading of republican – which is in considerable part legislative – government is, to say the least, quite a bit different than most people hold. His reading of the intent of the national founders is unique, too; many of them had great fear of what “the mob” (the mass of citizens) would do if they actually got the power to vote for their representatives, something relatively few Americans actually could do until well into the 19th century. And the idea of a series of checks and balances, not least holding in line the “passions” of the “mob,” was central to their design of the federal system.

But the larger question Sanders might try answering is this: How exactly would he define what a legislature should do? Every session legislatures of all sorts around the country grapple with a vast, almost astonishing, array of issues, as they have for a long time – since colonial days. What sort of an allowable defined power would Sanders prescribe for them? Or should we get rid of legislatures entirely, and legislate by poll?

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Portland has a reputation of being a city where a variety of people can co-exist peaceably, without major uproar. But maybe we need to readjust that view: The heels seem to be digging in, and if the furies are getting this intense over the naming of a street, you have to wonder what will happen when decisions have to be made about something, you know, important.

We’re referring, of course, to the city civic issue in town for the last couple of months (maybe the city should be delighted that nothing more important has had to seize its attention), the proposed renaming of Interstate Avenue in Northeast Portland to Cesar Chavez Boulevard. Several Hispanic groups had sought the name change (noting that major throughways had been renamed for Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks), and Mayor Tom Potter jumped in with them.

But the proposal drew big resistance and angry meetings at the neighborhood, where Interstate Avenue had just in recent years become (owing to a MAX train line and revived commerce) something of a local brand name. The rest of the city council has been trying to deal with the situation for months now.

We thought they might have found an elegant solution in the proposed (four council members loosely expressing support for) A Chavez renaming of Southwest 4th Street, the street on which sits City Hall. How could the Hispanic activists, or even the mayor, dis that idea? Turned out, they did. And so did another ethnic group, the business and other people of the city’s Chinatown, through which 4th runs (for a short distance). (Potter, who declared himself “irrelevant” at one council session on the topic and consistently has rejected any but the Interstate option, seems to be ever more determined to lock in his own description as accurate.)

So now the report is that the city council is bagging the whole Chavez rename idea. Maybe just as well, at least until the concept of compromise returns to the discussion.

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Following up on a post from few days back about local government recalls, we noted that a recall election had been set for November 20 in our home base community of Carlton, Oregon. The target was the veteran mayor, Kathy Oriet.

Results (most, with a few additional ballots likely to be added0 just in: The recall failed, 191-243.

AURORA UPDATE But – looks as if the mayor in Aurora will be ousted. The ballot count as of midday Wednesday showed the mayor losing by five votes (181-176). We haven’t heard yet what was the crisis so overwhelming in the town of fewer than 1,000 people so serious that the voters couldn’t just wait until the next election.

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Steven Thayne

Steven Thayne

We were not among those who jumped on Senator Larry Craig’s case on grounds of pushing for one policy while (apparently) doing just the opposite in his personal life: Craig’s leadership issues have had to do with natural resources, balanced budgets and the like, more than with social issues.

But Idaho state Representative Steven Thayne, R-Sweet, has made himself the point man for the state’s setters of policy – the Idaho Legislature – both by his positions and comments and formally as chair of the interim Family Task Force, set up “To study the magnitude of the decline of the family since 1950; the effects the decline has had on state social policies; the reasons for the decline, and ways to strengthen the family.”

Moscow Republican Senator Gary Schroeder remarked of the group, “Basically, they are people who think women ought to stay home and take care of the kids.” And the Idaho Statesman added, “Thayn does not shy from this view, calling pre-kindergarten education a ‘free babysitting service’ and suggesting that early childhood education, day-care and Head Start may hurt families by keeping mothers away from home.”

Thayne’s own approach to family values, noted distinctly in his campaigns, has cropped up occasionally. Back in February we quoted from an email by Thayne concerning the Idaho Summit on Hunger: ‘Hunger is not always a negative as the report indicates. Without hunger or the threat of hunger probably half of humanity would not get up in the morning and go to work. Hunger is one of the great motivators of humanity. It is one of the tools that I used as a parent to encourage my children to do their choirs [sic] as young children. When used properly, hunger can motivate people so they can experience the joy of work and accomplishment.’” Hunger, in other words, can be a family value.

And apparently the picture fills in further with a post on Mountain Goat Report, about the April 4 arrest of Thayne’s son on charges of domestic battery against his newlywed wife. (That post has a thorough rundown of the situation.)

So the policy question logically presents itself: If, as Thayne suggests, it is the breakdown of the traditional family structure that causes such problems as domestic violence, what was the cause in the case of his own family? Might not his proposed view of women have something to do with it? And should not the Task Force address that?

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Irresistable news story lead of the day, from a report ut of Central Point by the Medford Mail-Tribune:

“Attempting to remedy what city officials say has been an ongoing code violation, former Mayor Rusty McGrath was cited for accumulation of junk on his Freeman Road property last week.”

Write your own commentary on that one . . .

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We’ll cop to having long ago had a bellyful of presidential come-to-town events: They are neither informative nor fun. Increasingly as campaigns have gone on, they have become wrapped in security and conditions and determination from candidates and campaigns to say absolutely nothing that might be in any way be damaging, which usually means saying nothing of any interest.

With that attitude firmly in hand, a piece in the Slog today came as refreshing. Posted by Ryan Jackson, it describes a Seattle Stranger reporter’s first exposure to the presidential candidate come-to-town scene. Conclusion: “It was a weird kind of fun.”

Okay. It seems that way. For a while.

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