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Posts published in “Year: 2008”

Names for lieutenant

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's office has released a large batch of names under consideration for appointment to lieutenant governor, the office Jim Risch will be leaving soon to join the U.S. Senate. Which prompts a thought or two.

There's nothing especially wrong with the names under consideration. An appointee to a major office like lieutenant governor (yeah it's statewide, so it's major enough) is getting the office by a single unilateral decision, that of the governor, so it makes sense that this be someone who has also gotten backing from voters in other capacities, as well as demonstrating some substantial public service. (Hello, New York Governor Patterson.) And most of those on the Otter list and apparently interested in the job meet that standard. Representative Scott Bedke, R-Oakley; Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert; Senate President Pro-Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs; Department of Administration Director Mike Gwartney; former state Representative Dean Haagenson, R-Coeur d’Alene; Senator Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake; Senator Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint; Senator Brad Little, R-Emmett; Senator Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston; Senator John McGee, R-Caldwell; Representative Mike Moyle, R-Star; and former state Senator Sheila Sorensen, R-Boise, all hit the minimum threshold for credibility at least, and many do more than that.

The question here is a different one (than, say, apparently, in New York or, God save us, Illinois). Otter has deep experience in Idaho politics, has been in and around it for what's approaching four decades; he's a gregarious person, knows all the players; and he surely knows quite well all his options. The questions before him are more a matter of policy than personnel: Does he want a placeholder, or someone who will run for re-election in 2010? Or - should he decide not to run for governor again - who might follow him? Or to groom for another office (like Idaho's 1st U.S. House district)? Might he want someone to undertake some particular task? But then, none of these questions really require any fresh research, either.

Otter is said to be prepared to make the appointment by next Tuesday or so. What's unclear is why - especially since we've all known about the opening since November 4 - it needs to take that long.

Washington Person of 2008: Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi

In 2008, Dino Rossi was not so much "the man who" as "the man without who(m)" . . .

He was the measuring point, and may continue to be for a while.

Dial it back a year ago, and imagine Rossi, the photo-finisher for governor in 2004 who didn't become governor, decided that, nah, a second run wasn't in the cards. That little counterfactual leads to a surprisingly long list of events and trends that probably would have played out differently in Washington over the last year. Not so much in terms of overall final political results: Washington wound up with a Democratic-dominated general election as it was. But the changes would have been quite real anyway.

Start with this: When it came to the governor's race, the one big contest on the dock this year in Washington, Republicans were up against the wall. They had scant bench: If their nominee would not be Rossi, the descent to the next most serious contender would have been precipitous. Democrat Chris Gregoire was well positioned for re-election, and against almost any Republican in the state other than Rossi, the race would have been seen as a runaway re-elect from the outset. It would have gotten modest attention, and the psychology would have developed that Washington was set up to be a Democratic sweep state this year. That swiftly would have turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In turn, that might have made some difference in a number of spots. It could have depressed Republican activity overall and especially around Rossi's home turf in eastern King County; the 8th District U.S. House race was close enough that it could have switched. So might several state legislative races, which might have dug the Republican hole deeper still.

Put it this way. Republicans in Washington are in a deep minority, but this year may have marked the end of the fall; taken as a whole, Republicans in the Everegreen did not lose substantial ground again, as they had in very election for a decade. Apart from the loss of a statewide office (lands commissioner), they were able at least to hold their own, which gives them the opportunity to start working their way back. They would have been in worst shape than that, but for Rossi; and that's not a small thing. (more…)

’08, concise

Among the many reviews of the year nearly past, we'll recommend one out today - Washington-focused, with national components too - from the entertaining Tacoma News Tribune columnist Peter Callaghan.

In, as he says, 607 words. Sample, from around springtime: "State bans cell phones when driving, sort of. Democrats use 'Sopranos' music in video critical of Rossi; Italian Americans protest. Pollster says 25 percent of state voters don’t know that GOP means Republican. Sonics allowed to move to Oklahoma City where fans rejoice, until they see them play."

Oregon Person of 2008: Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

Ted Kulongoski

In many places around the country, and west of the Cascades more than most, "green" is all the rage. It's not just the interest groups or the media, but businesses and governments - green is hot. But how much is this green heat generating real change in the way our communities function? And to what extent might it be just fad?

In 2008 Governor Ted Kulongoski set up a framework that could make green uncommonly central in Oregon, from the big picture down to the exercise of daily lives. While there's a rap on him that he's not one of the most charismatic of leaders, and while any number of critics expressed disappointment with him in his first term on environmental matters, what he seems to be setting into place could mark a genuinely big change in Oregon in the next few years.

This is, to be sure, speculative. But in 2008 Kulongoski merged with the trend and tides in greening the state's economy, and was given the political advantages he would logically need to press forward. And almost many kinds of initiatives might be curtailed by weak tax revenues and a tough economy, this won't necessarily fall to that: He has estimated state spending for his proposals at only about $10 million, a figure low enough to slip through. Atop that, he now has a strongly Democratic legislature - the house was only barely just last cycle - and a strongly cooperative congressional delegation for the federal level.

And, crucially, he has a cearl set of proposals that plug neatly into the economic moment.

An Oregonian story put it this way: "If the Legislature approves the plan, Oregon would become a national leader in renewable energy production, electric car use and 'green' building construction, he said. 'How we live, how we move, how we work is going to change.'" (more…)

Two of them spitting mad

Bonner County

Bonner County

One of the macro issues in our system of justice has to do with what we do with all those criminal convicts: Are we really making the smartest, most effective or even the safest choices in locking up so many people at tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer fund each? Sure, some have to be segregated from the rest of us, but is that the only real option available to us?

Question comes to mind in the case of Idaho 1st District Magistrate Justin Julian and convicted stop-sign runner Daniel J. Malone.

Last September, a law officer charged Malone with failing to stop at a stop sign at Larch Street and Ella Avenue in Sandpoint. Malone contested the ticket, saying he wasn't guilty, and on Christmas Even the case went to trial at the Bonner County Courthouse, Julian presiding. Julian found him guilty and imposed a $75 fine.

Malone responded, "bah, humbug," in reference to the season. Then his case over, he left the courtroom, but not by much. He apparently stood outside the courtroom and kept looking at Julian, in "a menacing fashion," Julian said. Exactly what make his stare menacing wasn't completely clear.

Malone's attitude was made clear enough, though by what Julian said happened next: "Once I made direct eye contact with the Defendant, he demonstrated his contempt for the Court by willfully and maliciously expelling a large amount of saliva in the direction of the Court, and onto the carpet of the Courthouse hallway." After which, he left the building and went to his car in the parking lot.

Then the chief bailiff, Mark Johnson, stopped him from leaving and took him back to the courtroom. There, Julian confronted him and (a news report says) told him, "There is no excuse for your disruptive and disgusting behavior. I'm holding you in contempt. You're serving the next two days in jail."

Which he did. Malone was released on Friday, having spent Christmas in jail. (more…)

Idaho Person of 2008: Steve Appleton

Steve Appleton

Steve Appleton

On November 24, an article in the Idaho Statesman raised a question, an unthinkable question: Might Micron Technology move, in whole or in large part, from its home town of Boise?

The article offered concrete evidence for thinking it might: "Days after Micron announced that it would shut its flash-memory production line in Boise and end 1,500 more Treasure Valley jobs, Micron bought a stake in a Taiwanese manufacturer of dynamic random-access memory, or DRAM, Micron's principal product. That move was praised by industry analysts, but it led some to conclude that Micron is moving production out of Idaho - and that a long-hoped-for, state-of-the-art fabrication plant might never be built in Boise."

With thousands of employees at stake - still about 7,500 in the Boise area - the future of Micron is a very big deal to Idaho. But there's more to it than just the payroll, significant as it is. It's also the many spinoff businesses that rely on a partnership with Micron, and the people they employ. And more than the tax money and big community participation; Micron is the last of the really large publicly-held corporate giants (Idaho Power's Idacorp may be next largest - and it is at eventual buyout risk), and a major moveout would have a whole string of effects. And all that would be big enough in normal times: In an economic down period like this . . . well, you can hardly blame a lot of people for not wanting to think about it.

Look around at the rest of the high-tech manufacturing world, though, and the question becomes apparent: Why is Micron still here? Already, much of its operations have shifted to lower-cost areas, but for how long?

We're guessing many of the answers have to do with Steve Appleton. (more…)

The power picture

Recommended reading for today: The Oregonian's perspective piece on the Boardman coal-fired power plant, the major coal plant in the Northwest. The article points out, though, that the plant is only one of quite a few (there are more in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada) that the region relies on for power.

And there was this useful stat worth bearing in mind as the green discussion continues apace next year: While the Northwest's much-touted cheap and clean hydropower produces 40% of the area's juice, coal-fired, pollution issues and all, account for another 40%. The volume is so large that components like wind power, significant as they are, are small in comparison.

Real power restructuring, which probably is going to have to happen eventually, is going to take some hard thinking.

Northwesterners of the year

In the next three days, we'll run posts on our picks for the person of the year in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. A quick word on these first.

They will be along the line of the influential persons lists we did for some years in Idaho, at least in matters of criteria - and but for the fact that we'll be naming just one person.

The idea is not honorary, not necessarily an indication of goodness or of excellent achievement. The idea is to name someone who somehow or another threw a curve into the very recent history of their state, affecting it on a substantial level for good or ill. And someone whose actions were specific to them, not necessarily undertaken by whoever might have been standing in their shoes - someone without whom their state would have been different than it actually is right now. The thing is more an invitation to consider not necessarily what made the big headlines but what mattered in the Northwest over the last year.

Let it be not a conversation ender, but conversation starter.

Deep freeze

While the west of the Cascades sloshes through the meltdown, inland places are still facing snow and more snow.

In Coeur d'Alene, January 1969 set an all-time record for the most snow falling in a single month - 82.4 inches. That record is actually at risk now, what with 66 having fallen so far and a half-foot or more added to that by sometime tomorrow.

Decline at KVI

Jeff Kropf

KVI in Seattle

There's a good argument that for an extended stretch in the 90s and maybe into this decade, the single most influential radio station in the Northwest was KVI-AM, a place that not only had some of Washington's best-known talkers (along with nationals like Rush, of course) but also turned into an activist organization, backing such things as a string of conservative ballot issues. It had political impact.

That seems less so now, and there's an insightful post on why at the Seattle blog BlatherWatch.

Talker Kirby Wilbur is about the last local voice left, and BW suggests that may be over when Wilbur's contract is up next year. Toss all this in the mix when you evaluation the political dynamic in Puget Sound.