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Posts published in March 2008

Another indicator

At the Idaho Legislature, there've long been a bunch of informal indicators that, yes, the session is indeed fast approaching conclusion. The blooming of the crocuses was long a popular tell. Our favorite was the appearance of packing boxes around the hallways; you knew they were getting ready to split town when those were made available.

Maybe now a new one.

Betsy Russell at the Spokesman-Review blogs that "Something was missing from the Capitol Annex grounds today – the festive white tent in the back parking lot, with its scalloped-edge trim, that housed the deluxe flushing Port-a-Potties brought in for the legislative session."

Time to go.

Tipping point for revolt

With all the many problems at the Port of Seattle, you wonder what bit of information it might be that would prove the tipping point for revolt - the point at which voters tell the elected board, "Off with all your heads."

Maybe the reports that the private attorneys hired by the Port (which is to say, the people of the district) to defend it against criminal investigators at the U.S. Department of Justice, have so far been paid more than a quarter million dollars. Something about that factoid just seems as though it might do the trick.

Clinton (Bill) at Salem

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton at the Salem rope line/Stapilus

When the Clinton presidential campaign said it planned to campaign in Oregon, evidently it was serious: Five stops in the state by former President Bill Clinton in a 48-hour stretch still ongoing, and now the announcement Hillary Clinton will in state toward the end of the week.

If the Democratic frontrunner, Illinois Senator Barack Obama, wanted with his recent visit to the Northwest to draw the Clintons out of Pennsylvania for a while, it worked. In any event, Oregonians probably will be seeing a lot more of both campaigns before long, since even initial mail voting on the state's primary still is more than a month off.

A few observations from Bill Clinton's stop at Salem this afternoon:

Bill Clinton loves to campaign: You could see it. When he left Building 50 at the Chemeketa Community College after his speech, he walked out to say hello to the two or three hundred people outside, who didn't get in. (The building held only about a thousand people.) He took his time with the overflow crowd, stopping and chatting, autographing books, holding a baby for maybe five minutes while people took pictures. For some politicians campaigning is a necessary chore en route to the goal; Bill Clinton clearly is one of those politicians who loves the campaigning. Watching him in action and the delight he takes in it, you couldn't be surprised to see him run for county commissioner, just to do it all over again.

His speech was devoted, nearly entirely, to promoting his wife's candidacy; references to his own presidency were tangential. His speech consisted mostly of a long series of bullet points covering the range of policy matters from health care and energy to Iraq. His speaking skills are honed to a fine enough level that it all flowed, and he was folksy at times. But the focus-grouped bullet-point construction of the stump speech was clear; it was thorough, but it didn't inspire the way Clinton was sometimes able to do in the last decade. He got cheers periodically, but maybe less often than you might expect.

A question: Who and what were the people there to see? Plenty were there to support Hillary Clinton, of course, but a significant number were there mostly to watch Bill - to see the former president in action. More than a few people in the crowd, before the speech, were overheard remarking they weren't especially planning to support her, and some didn't know who they were going to vote for. But a former president was speaking in town, so they took the chance to hear him.

The odd circumstance of hecklers at Bill Clinton speeches this year continued at Salem. Though the heckler couldn't be widely heard, Clinton engaged him: "You want to give this speech?" he responded at one point. "You've been trying to interrupt me ever since I started."

Still, he made for quite a softening-up before the candidate's appearance a few days hence.

ONE FURTHER THOUGHT Why the heavy two-step Clinton appearance in Oregon now, so far ahead of the election? Could it be part of an effort to send a message that, yes, they will still be around for the Oregon primary, on the back end of May?

Even in the minority

If you have the misfortune to be a legislator who is a member of the minority party, does that mean you're just SOL and don't really even need to show up for work? Is your whole cause lost before you start?

Doesn't always have to be. Case in point is this story from the Spokesman-Review on the legislators of eastern Washington's district 4 - a senator (Bob McCaslin) and two representatives (Lynn Schindler and Larry Crouse) all Republicans. The story outlines some of what they did and the impact they did have. Less, doubtless, than if they were in the majority, but significant nonetheless.

An early got-out editorial?

Could be our memory didn't pick up something, but the first Northwest newspaper editorial this year we can recall seeing specifically calling for New York Senator Hillary Clinton to drop out of the presidential race, came out last week.

It was in the McMinnville (OR) News-Register, which often endorses Republicans (including George Bush in 2004). It's rationale? Bipartisan, and a little different than what you may have heard elsewhere:

"We don't urge Clinton's withdrawal to help salvage Obama's chances against McCain in November. Rather, it's so Americans can get on with the real debate on issues for the historic November election. We would like to start that debate by taking a look at positions that Obama and McCain hold on some of those important issues."

Equipoint $61,626?

Fine fiscal catch by the Idaho Press-Tribune at Nampa, which asked and then made formal requests to learn how much money Canyon County spent on its abortive effort to crack down on businesses employing people who are in the country illegally.

That effort was launched, you might recall, by former Commissioner Robert Vasquez, who in 2006 ran for the U.S. House (coming in second in the Republican primary behind current Representative Bill Sali). The county filed lawsuits against four local companies (Swift Beef, Syngenta Seeds, Sorrento Lactalis, Harris Moran Seed), alleging they had hired illegal aliens and that this had cost the county money for various social and other services. It was the first time a local government had used the federal Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act against its own local businesses for this purpose.

Did that cost to the county amount to as much as $61,626? We may never know (and surely the commissioners didn't), but that's how much the county paid the Chicago law firm Johnson & Bell to pursue the case. Which the county eventually lost at both the federal district court and court of appeals levels.

A new city, 20,000 or so

The Lake Roesiger store, and the water body for which it is named, are located maybe 10 to 12 miles east of Everett, about due east of where Highway 2 leaves the city and heads for the mountains, but several miles north of the twisting highway itself. This is a mountain area, woodsy, with scattered rural cabins and the like for weekenders and some who want to spend more time there. Quiet and, considering the distance from the Seattle-Everett area, a little remote; the roads there are not major roads.

So the area is in for a shock, if developer plans carry through: Plans call for building 6,000 homes there - what could develop into an incorporated city of maybe 20,000 people.

The controversy is just beginning . . .

Clinton – Bill – to Oregon

The Hillary Clinton campaign isn't waiting all that long before competing with the recent Barack Obama events that drew such strong local coverage. They're hitting first not with the candidate, but with the former president.

Bill Clinton visits Medford on Sunday afternoon, at Hedrick Middle School, and on Monday at Salem (location uncertain) and then at Bend, at Bend Senior High School. That information come via emails from the Clinton campaign.

Whither unaffiliated

Those watching party registration figures in Oregon this year know that Republican registration has dropped, but Democratic registration hasn't shown a comparable uptick. Instead, the increase has come in the ranks of the unaffiliated.

The Register Guard has a useful, thoughtful piece on this, with comments from a number of registrants.