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Posts published in January 2008

The use of a metaphor

We weren't among the leading fans of Oregon Senate candidate Steve Novick's first video spot; it drew attention to his physical differences from other candidates without suggesting why that could amount to a compelling argument for him.

The Portland Democrat's second, web-only, ad is a little different, and we'll give it a thumbs up (as it were). Subtle it may not be, but it slips up on you quietly and neatly, with humor and without beating you over the head. And yes, Novick actually is agreeable dining company even if you don't need a bottle opened.

Endorsement time?

Doesn't feel like endorsement season, but if you're going to have your say about presidential candidates, this would be the time. And the Seattle Times did, in part, today:

"The Seattle Times endorses Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination for president. He has the grasp, temperament and skills to right our standing in the world. He has broad insight and specific ideas to assuage our own hardworking citizens' fears of an economy turning sour."

The Republican endorsement is next Sunday. These have to do with the caucuses on February 9 and primary on February 19. (Yeah, yeah, we'll discuss later.)

Meantime: Will there be a counterpart editorial in the Idaho Statesman, since Idaho Democrats caucus on February 5?

Shutdown on Washington 14

bingen in snow

Bingen, Washington, in snow

This morning, back at home and blogging by the fireplace, thoughts return to that scene from last night, out of Dante - not the Inferno but the Icebox - and whatever may have happened to all those people . . .

What follows isn't political, as such. It certainly is a matter of public affairs, and a reflect on how often people in positions of responsibility lose sight of the point of their work.

Friday was not a good day for travel across the width of the state of Oregon. Saturday looked better, and it wasn't awful in its easternmost reaches, at least in early to midday; snow fell but the roads remained easily passable. On our journey, accompanied by a rescue dog headed from Nampa to Portland, trouble began with the ice rain, which started clunking down just past Arlington and was becoming inescapable by gasup at The Dalles.

Ahead, it apparently was much worse, at least account to Shell station gossip (which is usually pretty sound on such matters). US 84 had been shut down through much of the Gorge, from Cascade Locks to Troutdale on the east edge of Portland, because ice rain had led to a series of wrecks there. An alternative was to cross the Columbia and head west on Washington Highway 14; in fact, traffic between the Cascade Locks and Portland areas was being formally diverted there.

Sounded reasonable.


The shoeshine crisis

As long as they keep acting this way, we'll keep posting about it. Today's latest case of inanity, courtesy the Boise airport (this account of it, though, courtesy of the Idaho Statesman):

About 400 passengers at the Boise Airport about noon Friday had to go through screening a second time after a California man seeking a shoe shine entered the secure area through the exit corridor, Transportation Safety Administration officials said.
TSA officials said the man, since identified as 38-year-old Jesse Flores, of Victorville, Calif., could not immediately be located in the terminal after he bypassed security. The breech caused the Boise Airport to be closed for about one hour and 20 minutes as Boise Police and the TSA investigated.

Obama taking Idaho

Obama headquarters

Obama headquarters at Boise

The Barack Obama headquarters in Idaho are tucked away in the central Boise bench, but the fact of its existence is a little remarkable: This is the first real, long-run, fully-staffed presidential headquarters in Idaho, at least in a long time and maybe ever. No one else in either party comes close.

Their offices, which we toured this afternoon, have ongoing staff and plenty of volunteers running in and out. It's pretty much what you'd want to see in a campaign headquarters, and it's been ongoing since well into last fall. In addition to heavy phone calling, door knocking and the like, there's what sounds like solid caucus training, which is useful stuff for the maze-like process. Combine that with the long roster of Idaho Democrats who have endorsed him (including most Democratic state legislators) and you get a picture of a probable lopsided Obama caucus win on February 5. That's not evidence of whatever may happen in other states, but Obama does seem to have Idaho largely wrapped.

The Hillary Clinton forces do exist, but they're much lower key. The discussion this week has to do with the personal calls to some key Idaho Democrats (who either hadn't endorsed yet, or who were thought not to have) from no less than Bill Clinton. One on one, that could have some effect.

But in the one Northwest participant (Democratic side only) on Super Tuesday, much of the battle seems over. Unless that turns into yet another in the long series of political shocks this season.

Depressed no more?

Oakridge long has been one of those remote, rural communities commonly described as stagnant at best, or maybe depressed and headed down. But not so fast. A lead from the Eugene Register Guard: "Hundreds of new jobs at the city’s industrial park? An outlet mall along Highway 58 in the middle of town?"

Oakridge, something like an hour southeast of Eugene and genuinely remote from population centers, would seem an unlikely candidate. But maybe it has some lessons to teach.


Washington courts The key line in today's Twin Bridge Marine Park v. Department of Ecology Washington Supreme Court seems so self-evident that you almost wonder how a serious court case could develop around it: "When disagreements over property development arise between these two entities that exercise regulatory powers under the SMA [the Shoreline Management Act], private citizens must not be forced to choose between conflicting edicts." Even if the law in question is something other than the SMA.

This one has to do with a turf battle between Skagit County and the Department of Ecology; a marina developer has been caught in the middle. The Supreme Court noted that "Twin Bridge is a dry-storage marina that has been properly permitted by local, state, and federal agencies after years of litigation. At argument, Ecology conceded there were no continuing environmental concerns." But the battle has gone on, at some length.

This might be reasonable grounds for a task force: To find areas of overlap or conflict in the laws, so that citizens aren't caught between. Or, of course, we could all just litigate.

Limited, in space and size

Geddes and Denney

Leaders face the press: Robert Geddes (left), Lawerence Denney

They probably intended to convey a workaday Idaho legislative session, nothing especially exciting here, and if that was the idea, then Idaho Senate President pro tem Robert Geddes and House Speaker Lawerence Denney succeeded.

They were at an Idaho Press Club lunch today, fielding questions on a fairly broad range of subjects, from property taxes to teacher pay to the corrections explosion. But the overarching metaphor for everything seemed to be the legislature's cramped circumstances.

The Idaho Statehouse is shut down for renovation, for this session and next moving legislators next door to the old Ada County courthouse (now referred to as the "statehouse annex"), much smaller and less comfortable quarters than before. People are stepping over each other (especially in the House), or jamming into small corners. Denney asked reporters trying to interview House members to do it off the House floor, rather than at their seats as they historically had; the closeness of the quarters means legislators might have trouble working with visitors climbing over them.The limits on freedom of movement probably have a psychological effect, too; lack of physical ambition can lead to the mental version as well. (Something like this probably affected the Washington Legislature this decadetoo, in the sessions when it also was bounced from an under-renovation statehouse; those were not especially productive sessions.)

The exploding population in jails, prisons and parole "is a problem we need to address this session," Geddes said, and probably some movement will be made, whether or not toward the private prison ideas Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has proposed. Geddes described the problem in some detail, and he seemed quite conversant with the implications of several of the options. But as to what path any of those options might take remained unclear.


Liveblogging: Senate Pendleton debate

Pendleton debate

Pendleton debate: Candy Neville, Steve Novick, Jeff Merkley, David Loera

Snow is on the ground at Pendleton, and scatterings of ice on the roads in town. The debate for the Democratic candidates competing to oppose Republican Senator Gordon Smith was set up fr a small room in the Pendleton Convention Center, with seating for 30 people or so. By starting time, they had to break away a wall and almost triple the seating space. The debate among these Democrats seemed to draw some interest in Smith's Republican home town.

The approach was standard press conference (the qiestoners were from the East Oregonian daily paper, which sponsored the event); the candidates had no real opportunity to question each other. But they did cover many of the major topics, from Iraq to health care, immigration, housing finance, No Child Left Behind and Columbia River water withdrawal (a heavy topic east of the Cascades). All four candidates - David Loera of Salem, House Speaker Jeff Merkley, Portland activist Steve Novick and Eugene realtor Candy Neville - and all from the west end of the state, were there.

There weren't, in sum, a lot of policy differences here; nor breakthroughs, or any particular crash or burn. Nor were there any fireworks; the candidates all focused their fire on Smith and President George W. Bush. (They did say they approved of one part of Smith's record, that dealing with the Indian tribes, which have endorsed the Republican.) The only real inter-candidate shot, briefly and not clearly explained, came from Loera of Salem, against Merkley (having something to do with a meeting at the legislature). Merkley's and Novick's supporters have been blasting each other of late, but the candidates themselves did not at Pendleton, even going out of their way to agree on various specifics.

We'd not seen Neville in action before, and considering her newness to the field came off quite well - passionate, energetic, generally knowledgeable and good at making connections. (She came up with some nice homely metaphors, at one point drawing a neat connection between a poorly-grounded electric stove and the No Child Left Behind program.) Her keynote issue seems to be Iraq, but she had a good deal to say on other topics. Against candidates much more experienced at this sort of thing, she held her own. If Neville doesn't clear this primary (and the odds are against), you can imagine Eugene Democrats seizing on her for another race down the road.

Loera was a less clear presence. He seemed mostly in agreement with the others (though his stance on illegal immigration seemed to be a "throw the doors open" approach not mirrored by the others).

Merkley and Novick mostly stuck to their usual limes, but each got off some good lines. Merkley nicely framed a lot of the economic-related discussion by suggesting, "The Bush economy isn't working for any of us." Portlander Novick did the fun line of the evening, saying the question from Umatilla County had to be: "How can a kid from a small city like Cottage Grove represent a big city like Pendleton? I'll give it my best shot." It got a laugh.