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Posts published in December 2007

Eagle: Conventional win

Phil Bandy

Phil Bandy

The final vote in Eagle Tuesday was a vote for a general continuation of city policy, and a vote for a conventional choice. What's noteworthy is how close the unruly opposition got - shy just 153 votes of 4,557 cast (which is why even commenting on this Tuesday night was too problematic).

Phil Bandy, who won the mayoralty in the runoff, is the conventional choice, and he was endorsed by a string of business organizations and also by a number of independents, such as the Idaho Statesman. He has city council experience and has been a planning and zoning commissioner, and serves on the Ada County Air Quality Board, among other things; he was even president of his homeowners association. He has worked for quite a few years as a mid-level manager in several Idaho state departments. He is said to have a fairly smooth and cooperative working style and approach, a large part of what the Statesman, for one, found appealing.

His opponent, Saundra McDavid, has been in Eagle fewer years, has never been elected to office or served on the kind of boards and commissions he has. An attorney, she and her husband have run a newish business near downtown called the Rib Shack (we've lunched there, and had pretty good BBQ eats) which itself has been occasionally controversial in town. McDavid led a slate of candidates - the two council members were elected last month - but otherwise is apparently new to politics and struck some observers as having rough edges. In a guest op in the Statesman, she noted that "Some have criticized me for my passion on this issue, calling me stubborn and uncompromising" - and yes, "some" have.

Eagle is a suburban city, politically and culturally conservative (relatively, a closer match overall to Bandy than to McDavid) and with loads of new residents, not especially easy for an outsider to ride into. And yet McDavid came within 153 votes of becoming mayor. How did that happen?

There's no mystery in town; everyone there knows: "Growth."


An OR transport package

Pay attention, we're shifting states on this one: Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is proposing - or did in a speech at the Oregon Leadership Summit - a big transportation funding package, and said he would be willing to spend plenty of his "political capital" on it.

Over here, the red lights started blinking. Politicians who talk about spending political capital on something (remember President Bush and Social Security?) often wind up with sticker shock. More than that, we're reminded of the mixed experience Kulongoski's Washington counterparts have had on the subject: Pluses and glory in 2005, but their heads handed to them this year. A Kulongoski-Gregoire meetup on the funding of transportation with political capital might be used.

None of which is to deny the need, which is real in Oregon almost as much as it is in Washington. But caution signs would be advisable on approach.

Idaho nuke 2: Weightier

We have tended to be dismissive, for now at least, of the reported plans for for nuclear power generation from a to-be-built plant near Bruneau. The whole thing simply has looked unrealistic: A coalition of backers that easily could fall apart over time; unrealistic expectations about how quickly the work could be approved and completed; and so on.

Word today about a proposed nuclear plant in northern Payette County, on the other hand, looks a good deal more solid.

The big reason is the financing. Nuclear plants ain't cheap, and a super-solid financial base has to be a prerequisite for one. In this case, it would be there: The builder would be MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Co., which is new but which is owned by MidAmerican Energy Holdings, controlled by Berkshire Hathaway - which is to say, Warren Buffett, who is on the very short list of the richest Americans. MidAmerican Energy, which is based in Iowa, has assets of almost $35 billion. So we're talking about realistic financial capacity.

Their language is a good deal more modest, too, than what we heard about of Bruneau. A quote in the Idaho Statesman was that "We're in a very preliminary due diligence process to look at a potential energy project in Payette County" - which seems a fair take. It is undertaking some tests, but hasn't bought land and won't decide whether to proceed until some time next year. (So it may or may not be pursued at all.)

It sounds deliberate, the way a nuclear plant builder might be expected to sound.

Heck yes it’s a storm

flood in the park

The area visible beyond the branches usually is dry; today, a lake/Stapilus

Our headquarters on the east side of the Coast Range has been fortunate enough to evade damage and even any power outages (though the broadband has been off for some hours, sending us to area wifi outlets). But we've been lucky.

Word is that the whole of Clatsop County - the greater Astoria area - is without power, and the damage on the Oregon and Washington coasts from tremendous winds is large and ongoing.

We're bunkered down.

Into the immigration minefield

Bill Sali

Bill Sali

There must be a temptation for Republican politicians to want to keep their heads down and go small and quiet when it comes to immigration. The Republican base is so thoroughly split that even the party's presidential candidates have been tearing each other, and themselves, into pieces on the subject.

Maybe such a situation is a call for nuance, which might in turn explain Idaho Representative Bill Sali's entry into the arena. He said at a business meeting last week that he plans to introduce a bill. Which is of only so much interest, since there are a lot of bills. What's interesting is that there doesn't seem to be any bomb-throwing in it. A description from the Idaho Business Review:

The bill would combine border security, increased immigration law enforcement and a temporary worker program with controls to prevent foreign workers from flooding the market and displacing American workers.
The key to immigration reform is to combine groups that want to see the borders protected and groups that are concerned with the effects on the economy – particularly the agriculture, construction and hospitality industries – that a loss of immigrant workers would create, he said.
Sali said he tends to fall into the first camp, but he sees the effects of a lack of immigrant workers on agriculture.

Nuance. From Bill Sali. Will be interesting to see how he explains this to the bumper-sticker crowd.

Still more Craig?

Larry Craig

Larry Craig

The Idaho Statesman has a batch of additional items about Larry Craig and his once-private life, filling out the subject perhaps but to an unclear point.

There are five of them (and do not include the much-detailed sting encounter in the Minneapolis restroom). Two, one said to have occurred in Washington, D.C., the other in Denver, are detailed descriptions of actual sexual encounters; both of these stories appeared around the web a couple of months ago. The other three are descriptions of what the men interviewed said seemed to be propositions by Craig. Reporter Dan Popkey said that checks of such external information as was available (such as, was Craig in town at the time?) did not rule out any of the stories. But neither was there any corroboration that was conclusive.

That backchecking of details of the stories already published on the web could have some value. But the outlines of the story are pretty well set at this point: A minority will go along with Craig's famous assertion that "I'm not gay," and (so far as we can see) a large majority will continue to conclude that he's been covering up a hidden life. Those outlines haven't changed since late August, or maybe early September.

In a statement on why the Statesman continued pursuing the details, Executive Editor Vicki Gowler indicated that it was because his credibility was in doubt. Problem is, that ship sailed months ago, while the credibility of any number of other political figures in and around Idaho has gone relatively unchecked.

Determining why

The Washington Supreme Court notwithstanding, it's always hard to know voter intent - to know, that is, why voters tossed to one side of the fence as opposed to the other.

Why for example did the Puget Sound area voters so decisively reject the transportation-funding Proposition 1? Everyone has their pet explanation; which one you choose probably has a lot to do with your political outlook.

Fortunately, we do now at least have a poll that clarifies some of this. Conducted by EMC Research and Moore Information for Sound Transit, it tracked the main reasons people gave for rejecting the proposition. (This graph from the report came from Horse's Ass.)

opposition reasons

Sound Transit's take: "In general, the survey showed that “No” voters rejected the package because they saw it as too big and too costly. However, the survey also showed that traffic and transportation issues continue to be the top concern of voters in the Puget Sound region. Other survey findings conclude that a strong majority of voters continue to support light rail. Survey respondents said that in moving forward, transportation measures should take a more incremental approach and contain strong, clear accountability measures."

David Goldstein's: "The short term reality is that while light rail expansion remains popular in theory, its cost and available funding mechanisms do not, and it appears to be far from the region’s number one transportation priority, with 91% of respondents emphasizing the need to fix unsafe roads and bridges, compared to only 55% prioritizing building light rail east to Bellevue and Redmond. (Though ironically, only 57% of respondents prioritize replacing the 520 bridge. Go figure.)"

Well, even surveys are subject of mixed opinions . . .