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Posts published in “Day: December 8, 2007”

At an undisclosed Spokane location

Mary Verner

Mary Verner

File this under "bonehead maneuvers," of the particularly blatant kind: Incoming Spokane Mayor Mary Verner's refusal (lately somewhat amended) to disclose who's on her transition team.

Put this on the list of things you don't do when you're moving into a new office. In fact, most transition advisory groups, at the federal, state and local levels, are happily spotlighted by the new officeholder - they are indicators of support and suggest that a bunch of good heads are working on keeping things running smoothly. They can be good confidence builders.

Except that in Verner's case, the Spokesman-Review reported on Wednesday, "Mayor Mary Verner, who campaigned on a theme of openness and transparency in government, is keeping the names of her transition team a secret. Verner met last week in a private home with two groups of about 15 people, who she's asked to provide advice and suggestions for her administration. She plans to do the same on Saturday. 'Some may want their names in the press, and some may not . . . I would like to respect their privacy.'"

Her last couple of predecessors (at least, and probably more) told the world about their transition helpers. So have mayors at Seattle, Portland and Boise when they came into office. So have the governors of the states, as a matter of practice.

No doubt, over the next four years, any number of people interacting with the city of Spokane would like to have privacy extended to them, too. (Not to mention the question of, just who are these people she's having these key conversations with, and what might they want from the city?)

This is not, to be sure, official city of Spokane business; no city funds are being used, or city powers employed. Still, in throwing this cloak over her transition, Verner sets a pattern (one she still could break), and blown good will and credibility. She's already drawn ample criticism for it from far and wide; she would do well to pay attention.

TODAY She released the names of most of the transition group members. But not five of them. That failure will be an itchy question for her that will persist until, one way or another, they do emerge into light.

The political Debra Stephens

Debra Stephens

Debra Stephens

Choices of Supreme Court justices are a significant issue in presidential campaigns (reasonably so), less often in gubernatorial. But they could be. While it is true that unlike their national counterparts the state high justices stand for election, they're nonetheless usually a near-lock to retain the seat for an extended period.

And their decisions matter a lot. Preparing this week to name a new justice, Washington Governor Chris Gregoire had particular reason to reflect on that: She'd just called a special session of the state legislature specifically to reverse the effect of a November Supreme Court decision. That also gave particular reason political people around the state might be watching this appointment with particular care.

Her pick, new (only a few months in office) Court of Appeals Judge Debra Stephens of Spokane, follows a pattern some presidents have followed: If not exactly a blank slate, she's not got a really rich record of decisions for people to dig into.

From David Ammons' AP analysis today: "In most quarters, Gov. Chris Gregoire's pick for state Supreme Court drew a "Debra Who?" shrug, and that reaction to her below-the-radar choice should fit the governor's political goals just fine. Some court critics said the new justice, Appeals Court Judge Debra Stephens, is too mobbed up [what a descriptor!] with the trial lawyers to be objective. But Dino Rossi, the governor's 2008 challenger, the state GOP and the fiercely competitive homebuilders all were strangely silent. . . . And on the plus side, Gregoire surely pleased women voters, Democrats, Eastern Washington voters and the politically potent trial lawyers, said political strategist Cathy Allen."

Stephens is not inexperienced; as an attorney she has been in front of appellate courts many times, and has been a law professor as well. She has gotten plaudits from a number of legal colleagues. But there's not a lot of material for opposition; you need fuel for a fire.

One conservative group has found some.


Garden City’s evolution

Garden City

Garden City logo

Acouple of weeks or so ago in a post about recall elections, we coted Garden City, Idaho as an example of a city once wracked (and wrecked) by them for many years but, when the cycle of recalls ended, was able to take off and prosper.

There's a comprehensive and useful update today in the Idaho Statesman, rounding up where the city is and where it may be headed. The main question emerging from it (touched on lightly in the article) we see: In a place once known for its cheap-and-below housing, where will the non-affluent people live as these changes continue?