Archive for March, 2008

Mar 31 2008

Another indicator

Published by under Idaho

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.

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Mar 31 2008

Tipping point for revolt

Published by under Washington

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.

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Mar 31 2008

Clinton (Bill) at Salem

Published by under Oregon

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?

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Mar 30 2008

Even in the minority

Published by under Washington

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.

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Mar 30 2008

An early got-out editorial?

Published by under Oregon

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.”

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Mar 29 2008

Equipoint $61,626?

Published by under Idaho

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.

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Mar 29 2008

A new city, 20,000 or so

Published by under Washington

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 . . .

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Mar 28 2008

Clinton – Bill – to Oregon

Published by under 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.

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Mar 28 2008

Whither unaffiliated

Published by under Oregon

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.

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Mar 28 2008

Extended

Published by under Idaho

Most recent legislative sessions in the Northwest have done something a little surprising – winding up either before or when they were expected to.

Why the current Idaho legislative session, originally expected to shut down well before the end of march and now expected to run well into next week, is taking longer than expected isn’t completely clear. But it does seem to have slowed down its process to give more detailed considerations to a string of real issues, so that may not be such a bad thing.

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Mar 27 2008

Where the growth is

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Th new census stats seem to emphasize some of the fastest growth around the country in mid-sized or smaller metro areas; in the year from the summer of 2006 to mid-2007, the fastest percentage growth in the Northwest among metros was in the Boise area (and it was by that measure the 13th fastest-growing nationally).

Here’s how the numbers stack up, drawn from the Census Bureau’s list of the 100 largest-growing (by raw numbers) metro areas around the country. Number 1 overall was Dallas-Fort Worth.

rank metro 07 pop % incr frm 06 added pop
13 Seattle 3,262,445 1.4 46,902
15 Portland 2,175,113 1.9 41,338
32 Boise 587,689 3.5 19,948
68 Spokane 456,175 2.0 8,783
83 Salem 386,714 1.8 6,852
99 Olympia 238,555 2.3 5,388
100 Tri-Cities 228,992 2.4 5,305

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By percentage growth in the Northwest, the top growers were Boise (number 13), Idaho Falls (15), Bend (17), Coeur d’Alene (29), the Tri-Cities (41), Olympia (43) and Bellingham (52), Spokane (73), Portland (76), Salem (83), Wenatchee (85) and Longview (96). A small slice of Idaho around Preston is included in the Logan, Utah, metro, which ranks at 51.

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Mar 26 2008

Unaccounted for

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

According to a list compiled at the Democratic Convention Watch, these are the Northwest superdelegates who have not yet announced a preference in the Obama-Clinton contest. There are also some unfilled spots which in some cases could go to a northwesterner. Upshot: Oregon could become a hotspot in the super stakes.

bullet Idaho (1). State Chair Keith Roark.

bullet Oregon (9). Senator Ron Wyden; Representatives David Wu and Peter DeFazio; Secretary of State Bill Bradbury; State Chair Meredith Wood-Smith and party officials Frank Dixon, Jenny Greenleaf and Wayne Kinney; member at large Gail Rasmussen.

bullet Washington (7). Representatives Rick Larsen and Jim McDermott; State Chair Dwight Pelz, Vice Chair Eileen Macoll and party officials Ed Cote, Sharon Mast and David McDonald.

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Mar 26 2008

Wavering

Published by under Washington

Don’t know why it is that Washingtonians in particular seem to be sending this signal. But the signal seems, basically, clear enough; and it comes from two Democratic superdelegates, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell and King County Executive Ron Sims, who have announced support for Senator Hillary Clinton.

On Monday, Cantwell told the Vancouver Columbian‘s editorial board that

“If we have a candidate who has the most delegates and the most states,” the Democratic party should come together around that candidate, Cantwell said. The pledged delegate count will be the most important factor, she said, because that is the basis of the nominating process.

That essentially is an argument for Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who has an apparently insurmountable lead in both categories.

Today, Sims was a guest on the KUOW Weekday program (a limited transcript is up at the Slog), and spent a chunk of time talking about the presidential – but not by way of advocating for Clinton. He remarked, for example, that “I’ve watched this campaign. I’ve seen two people who I really like. And it just seems, if you look at the polls now, [they] are inflicting great damage on each other and that’s really gotta stop. To have people who support Senator Obama say, ‘I’m not going to support Senator Clinton,’ and to have people who support Senator Clinton say, ‘I’m not going to support Senator Obama’—my issue is, that should not be the national debate. I think we have an opportunity to head in a different direction, and we need to do that, but obviously this campaign is not doing that. And I think more of the superdelegates are beginning to say, ‘Stop it.’ And that’s being heard by the campaigns and the candidates, because they’ve got to stop this madness.”

When the host suggested “that you are wavering and considering that your candidate maybe should withdraw in the interest of unity in the party,” Sims responded, “Oh, I didn’t say that.” Which doesn’t sound like much of a flat rebuttal – that he wouldn’t, period. Second later, he retierated that, “Yeah, I’m not changing it yet.” Yet.

The Slog’s conclusion: “He’s wavering.” That’s two.

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Mar 25 2008

Developing DECD

Published by under Oregon

There are candidates around Oregon this year, maybe most notably but not exclusively state Senator Vicki Walker of Eugene, who have showed some interest in doing a significant renovation of the state Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is oddly shaped, including both such things as tourism and boosterism and also management of infrastructure grants for local governments, such as water and sewer money. The combination, goes the argument, has led to problems.

Had sounded as if action on that might get underway next year. But apparently, things are moving more quickly. An Associated Press piece today says that efforts to break up the agency are rolling, and a review of its operations may be going ahead too. Nancy Hamilton, a staffer in the governor’s office, was quoted, “These have been two cultures that should not live under one roof, a Legislature that tries to see them as one piece, and everything goes downhill from there.” So it would seem.

So the legislature and officials in place in 2009 could be presented with a fait accompli, rather than a task to undertake.

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Mar 25 2008

The vote not to vote on it

Published by under Idaho

If state Senator Kate Kelly is reporting accurately, she has been receiving a number of inquiries from Idahoans about Senate Bill 1302, inquiring, “Why isn’t it being voted on this year?”

The answers solicited from the people who control the flow of legislation in the Idaho Senate – Republican leadership and committee chairs – give the sense that, well, it was just caught up in procedure. State Affairs Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, for one example, said on the Senate floor that “The bill has been called for on the 79th day. I don’t think it is appropriate to pull a bill out from committee at this late date. … We have a committee process. … The committee process is important to getting our business done.” Senator Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, “We simply do not have enough time to hear every bill and to vote on every single bill.”

No, but there’s not the level of interest and timely pertinence attached to every bill that there is in this case. SB 1302 is the “revolving door” bill, the one “to prohibit lobbying and
registration as lobbyists by former executive officials or legislators for a period of one year from termination of office.” A concept in force (in similar fashion at least) in many other states. And a revolving door Idahoans have been seeing swing a lot faster in recent years.

There’s nothing especially unusual procedurally about what has happened to it. Introduced on January 18 in the Senate State Affairs Committee, it never was scheduled by the chair (McKenzie) for hearing or an up or down vote. Senators from the floor have the option to “call” the bill from the committee, and a majority vote of the Senate can do that. Senate Democrats’ attempt to do that, unsurprisingly, failed.

A number of the senators who voted in opposition argued for the sanctity of the committee system. But that’s really not good enough. What the vote really was, was a vote on whether the Senate should go on record formally supporting or opposing the bill; and a majority of the Senate decided not to go on record. In effect, the vote was an up or down on the substance of the bill.

The vote may have been procedural, but the effect was just that substantive. As a practical matter, the majority of the Senate doesn’t want legislation to stop or slow the revolving door; they know took many people who have taken that trip, or may before long. There’s no surprise in any of this, but what’s being described as just part of the process is certainly more than that, and ought to be treated as such.

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