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Posts published in March 2008

Getting testy

Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter last year made some odd miscalculations when it came to working with the Idaho Legislature. This year mostly seemed offto a better start, but his new transportation letter may cause some issues.

Faced with the need for massive upgrades (and there isn't much debate that the need here is large-scale) in Idaho's road system, and recognizing that most tax increase proposals (something Otter is loathe to embrace anyway) are DOA, the govenror tried something else: A massive increase in the state auto registration fee, to $150. You know: Just the sort of thing that led to the huge Tim Eyman tax revolt-by-initiative in Washington some years ago. Legislators have rebelled, loudly. And now Otter has pulled back his bills.

That isn't the relationship glitch part. This is: The Idaho Statesman is reporting that Otter has sent a letter back to legislators, an angry letter. It indicates that the legislators are simply rejecting his leadership, although what's going on here is a difference over policy - though if he wants a rejection, he could get one. Especially by adding this: “The response of some in the Legislature left the impression that they instead desire political cover behind which they can continue avoiding a difficult but necessary responsibility of government.”

Can this marriage be saved? Time could be running out.

Noting the hired help

Steve Marks

Steve Marks

The second Democrat into the 5th District House race, Steve Marks, has a plenty interesting background, but what jumped out at us was a name from his list of advisors.

Marks, best known around Oregon as a chief of staff for former Governor John Kitzhaber, goes up against state Senator Kurt Schrader, who jumped in last week. (And one of them presumably will be up against either Mike Erickson or Kevin Mannix, who each seem to be after the Republican nomination; at present, they look to be the two most likely major contenders.) Schrader has a strong reputation as a legislator, and he's a proven candidate, winning strongly in what had been considered Republican turf.

Marks may be able to pull in some of that Kitzhaber magic. But we also took note of this paragraph in his announcement statement: "Overseeing the Marks' campaign is Joe Trippi who is heralded as the man who 'reinvented campaigning' by The New Republic. Most recently, Trippi worked with the John Edwards campaign. He earned a national reputation for his work on Howard Dean's presidential campaign for his internet campaign inventions. Trippi knows the 5th Congressional District well, Marks noted, from Trippi's previous work on behalf of Congresswoman Darlene Hooley."

High-powered help with relevant Oregon background. We'll be watching.

Westlund and the Republicans

Ben Westlund

Ben Westlund

When Oregon state Senator Ben Westlund completed his journey from Republican (which he was when last elected to the legislature, in 2004) to Independent and then to Democrat, Senate Republican leader Ted Ferrioli had a witty riposte: "I can only wish him all the best success and hope that he is able to do for the Democrats what he has done for Republicans."

Wrapped inside that was the recognition that Westlund had turned on his own, and the followup implication that this would not go without response, of the serious campaign kind. Of all the Democrats running for major office in Oregon this year, Westlund should logically be the target of the fiercest Republican opposition.

Yet Westlund, who formally filed for state treasurer last November 9, and publicly announced his candidacy more than a month before that, still hasn't drawn a filed Republican opponent. He still may, of course, and probably will, since the candidate filing deadline is yet a week off. But the absence of Republican response so far is striking.

And so was this: A substantial batch of Republicans who have endorsed him.

When you see a "Republicans for" or a "Democrats for" list of cross-party endorsees, they're usually lower-level and no longer active, and often philosophically close to the other party anyway. This list is a little different. It actually includes incumbent Republican office holders: Senator Gary George (Newberg) and Representatives Patti Smith (Corbett), Bill Garrard (Klamath) and Bob Jenson (Pendleton). (George is especially striking; by about any measure he's among the most conservative of senators.) And there are recent former former Representatives Alan Brown (Newport), Rob Patridge (Medford) and Lane Shetterly (Dallas) and former Senator Len Hannon (Ashland). Three other figures move a little further into the past, but are major names: former Secretary of State Norma Paulus and two former House Speakers, Lynn Lundquist and Mark Simmons.

So far, the Democrats don't have a lot of cause for dissatisfaction.

OPPOSITION? At his blog, the Oregonian's Jeff Mapes is reporting that Allen Alley, a Republican who has been deputy chief of staff to Governor Ted Kulongoski (who has endorsed Westlund), may enter the race for treasurer. No final word on that yet, though.

Alley would have substantial self-funds from his business (he was a founder of Pixelworks) but he has never run for office.

Education out of towners

Correspondent Laurie Boeckel, who intensively follows Idaho education matters, had a suggestion following up our recent post about out of state organizations which have a lobbying presence in Boise: How about those from out of state that have an interest in Idaho education?

There are several, and worth noting. Here's some of what she pointed to, and some of our notes:

bullet Data Recognition Corporation (Maple Grove, Minnesota). It remarks, "We customize state testing programs to meet your requirements and exceed your expectations. DRC currently partners with state departments of education across the country to develop and administer full-service large-scale student educational assessment programs." This is the firm that underlay some of the big headlines connected with state Board of Education budgeting problems and overspending; it had a $22 million contract with the board for managing the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. In January the board voted 5-2 to amend the contract, canceling testing in the second and ninth grades. Talking with legislative budgeters about the testing situation, Board President said that "Somewhere within the (contract) response, those things were overlooked." Lobbyists: Lyn Darrington, McKinsey Miller.

bullet K 12 Corporation (Herndon, Virginia). You hear a good deal in the headlines about the Idaho Virtual Academy, an on-line school which has considerable support among top Idaho elected officials. The company that provides the curriculum, that is essentially the key plyer at the IDVA, is K 12. Lobbyist: Suzanne Budge.

bullet Connections Academy, LLC (Baltimore, Maryland). Another cyber-school, with programs in Idaho. Lobbyist: Jeremy Pisca.

bullet University of Phoenix (Phoenix, Arizona). A note here: The University of Phoenix home base is listed in lobbyist reports as Meridian, Idaho, where it does have operations, but the organization is based in Arizona. (Idaho is one of 39 states with UP locations.) It is owned by the Apollo Group, which has its own fascinating history. Lobbyist: Jeremy Pisca.

A gas high

You may notice the high price for gas today in the Northwest is in Washington state, at $3.84 a gallon. Follow the link, and you learn a little more.

Follow the link, and you'll learn it was reported Sunday at the Shell Station at Friday Harbor - one of the few fuel outlets well out into the San Juan Islands. So that higher price in such a location seems reasonable enough. And from there the high drops to $3.64, at three outlets at Leavenworth, which isn't exactly in the heart of heavy traffic.

But we also find fairly high prices, in the upper $3.50s, at Bellingham, which ought to be on a main line. And some of the lowest prices statewide, at $3.19, are in Bremerton and Aberdeen, which on the basis of their location would seem to have some cause for being a little higher than average.

Day care, another day

Afew lines on today's rejection, in the Idaho Senate Health & Welfare Committee, of additional day care regulation.

From the Spokane Spokesman-Review: "Legislation to impose at least minimal regulations on all Idaho day cares, including those caring for four or more unrelated children, died in committee today for the fourth straight year. . . . Chairwoman Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, raised concerns about some provisions of the bill. Lodge said the measure didn’t adequately account for the cost of inspecting smaller Idaho day cares, which now go unregulated if they have fewer than seven unrelated children. . . . Last year, the House Health and Welfare Committee rejected the bill after members said mothers should stay home with their children."

Ungenerously, but maybe not unreasonably, in our e-mail, this: "I suppose if this bill was for out of State for-profit education companies, additional liquor licenses for Tamarack, bill helping wineries ..... it would have been supported .... safety protecting young children ... ah, maybe next time . . ."

Emerald City, high and low

Seattle is skewing up and down - high income, low income - and rapidly losing its middle, according to an editorial in the Seattle Times today.

It doesn't sound like an overblown assessment. Worth reading.

Lobbying from all over

What follows will be no news to those who follow the lobbyist reporting records - nothing especially new or unusual. But those who don't follow such matters may not realize to extent to which state legislatures - the Idaho edition, in this case - get lobbied by interests from out of state.

Most organizations that send lobbyists are, of course, in-state; many of them are in-state associations and the like. But the roster from out of state is striking, even in states like Idaho where you might not expect a major presence. Almost two-thirds of the other states (33 of them) are listed as being the base for organizations hiring Idaho lobbyists. An abbreviated rundown follows:

bullet Arkansas. Wal-Mart, of course.

bullet Arizona. Four organizations (Development Planning & Financing Group, Johnson & Johnson, M3 Eagle and Rocky Mountain Propane Association) bring on lobbyists in Boise (mainly hiring local talent).

bullet California. 15 organizations reporting a California base show up here, mostly hiring Idaho contract lobbyists. These range from some firms with obvious Idaho connections, like Hewlett-Packard, to (UPS, Merck, State Farm, Phillip Morris) with more national interests. (more…)

Correx

The just-delivered print issue of the New Yorker has a newspaper "correction of the week" from one of our own - the Eugene Register Guard. Text:

"An item about a Thursday event at Diablo's featuring four women DJs on Page 8 of Friday's edition incorrectly identified DJ KaatScratch as transgendered. She describes herself musically as 'transgenred.'"

The meaning of foreign

tanker

Boeing tanker/Boeing

The stunning announcement of the mega-award - a mere $35 billion for now, but maybe $100 billion or more eventually - not going to Boeing has left a lot of people in the Puget Sound wondering what's next. That could be slow growth in the airline industry in the region, or less than that.

The decision may or may not stand, of course. Congress is likely to get involved in this one (and, really, shouldn't it be when we're talking about such huge sums of money?). But one of the issues raised in all this, which seems such an initially simple talking point, winds up pretty complex.

Assembly of the big planes, by the winning Northrup Grummon-Airbus team, would be done mostly in Alabama (which isn't at present ready to handle the work load). But construction would be done mostly in Europe - another major manufacturing job, this one important to national defense, shipped overseas. Which understandably has by itself caused a row.

If that sounds black and white, consider this from the Big blog in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Globalized trade has long been part of the American economic landscape. Many media outlets already are pointing out that China is Boeing's largest foreign parts supplier. And while the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the parent of Airbus, is based in France, it's been supplying NATO - our allies - for years. The other half of that team, Northrup Grumman Corp., is based in Los Angeles. As for where the Northrop-EADS tanker will be assembled, it'll be on this side of the pond, in Mobile, Ala. The terms "foreign" and "domestic" couldn't be more blurred. So the question is this: Is it helpful or productive in such a border-less world to view trade contracts through such a stark dichotomy?"