Archive for August, 2008

Aug 21 2008

From AP to . . . something else?

Published by under Idaho,Washington

This may be one of the biggest news stories of the month in the Northwest that you never see or hear of through the mass media – because it concerns the key news pipeline of the mass media, the Associated Press.

Editor and Publisher (the newspaper industry’s trade publication) reports that the Idaho Falls Post-Register has given notice to the AP that it will drop the service in two years, in August 2010. Anyone familiar with how the mews media actually work will know this to be a shocker, and maybe an indicator of one of the places where newspapers are going in years to come. The Post-Register is independently and locally owned, which on one hand mean its financial pressures (still quite real) probably are less than at many chain newspapers. But it also means the paper is more flexible, and may be looking at options still burbling through some chain bureaucracies.

Most of what you see in most daily newspapers comes by way of the AP, a news cooperative; the newspapers share content between themselves (are contractually obligated to) and also get material generated by AP writers and editors, which work at offices in all larger cities and cover statewide and regional matters as well. The AP has offices in such places as Seattle, Olympia, Spokane, Portland and Boise. Years ago, it had serious competition from another wire service, United Press International, but UPI’s local and regional coverage essentially has disappeared. The AP has become, for American newspapers, an obligatory monopoly.

Or is it obligatory? Post-Register Publisher Roger Plothow seemed to indicate in his letter that a different rate plan, that more closely reflects the specific services his paper uses from AP, might persuade him to stay. (The dropout letter comes on the heels of a new rate plan that would cost the paper $114,000 next year.) But if he carries through on his stated intent to drop AP service, he will be exploring new territory in terms of coverage – even reinventing what a local newspaper does, and how.

From his letter to AP President Tom Curley: “I’ll put my cards on the table – I’m not sure how we’re going to pull this off. While the AP’s value to us has been severely diminished over the years, it still does provide a handful of services that we haven’t been able to find elsewhere – yet. I’m betting, however, that it’s only a matter of time. More likely, we’ll use that time to become essentially 100 percent local, which is probably where we’re headed eventually anyway. . . . Of course, my greatest fear is that 24 months from now I’ll have found no antidote to the AP and come crawling back to you, and you’ll either send me away or offer me an even worse deal. On the other hand, this might be just the motivation we need to really come up with a workable alternative.”

Up close and personal with the newspaper industry, as it’s going through its time or troubles, and re-evaluation.

FOUR MORE Three more papers in the Northwest (and a California paper at Bakersfield) also say they will drop out: The Spokane Spokesman-Review, the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Wenatchee World. Spokesman editor Steve Smith is indicating that his attorneys think that paper may not have to wait two years to drop service.

This is an enormously big deal – the transformation of newspapers and news as we have known them. What that will mean, we all have yet to find out.

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Aug 20 2008

WA: Top 2 changes, pt 2

Published by under Washington

The Washington state top two primary seems not to have made massive changes, so far as early returns indicate, in the kind of results you might have expected from more conventional primary approaches. In case after case, where it could happen, voters wound up picking conventional Democratic-Republican matchups for November.

In U.S. House District 7, there’s been the talk about maybe Democratic Representative Jim McDermott facing off with a Democrat in November. Maybe another time, but not this year: He pulled 73.1% of the vote and put Republican Steve Beren (at 15.1%) in second place. The two other Democrats on the ballot were far behind.

Similarly, 3rd District Democrat Brian Baird (51.7%) will face Republican Michael Delavar (19%) instead of anti-war Democrat Cheryl Crist (13.3%).

The old-style wide-open Washington primaries used to be taken as rough mass polls – if the primary field wasn’t too drastically different from that of the general, you could often get a sense of the voting patterns from the primary, when voters were about to choose evenly among all the candidates. Will that work out this time?

We’ll get a chance to see.

In the 8th House District, one of the hottest congressional races in the region, incumbent Republican Dave Reichert (47.8%) can maybe take a little heart from finishing at least ahead of Democratic challenger Darcy Burner (44.5%). But not ahead by much, and short of 50%; and about 5% of the vote unaccounted for between the two of them went to two minor Democratic candidates. So Burner has some legitimate talking points here too. The takeaway is that, yes, the 8th looks as hot as everything has thought it was – based on the primary numbers.

Our long-running sense that Democratic Governor Chris Gregoire is ahead, though not massively, of Republican challenger Dino Rossi, also gets some support. She pulled 49.2% to Rossi’s 45% – enough that she can claim an advantage, but well short of a lead that would put Rossi away. He appears to be behind but in striking distance, were silver bullet found. (He appears not to have found it yet.)

Similarly in the attorney general’s race, incumbent Rob McKenna took 55.7% to Democrat John Ladenburg‘s 44.3% – not enough to put Ladenburg away, but enough to show a definite lead (and some challenge for Ladenburg by way of catching up in time).

Elsewhere among the statewides, the most interesting number may be in the lands commissioner race. Incumbent Republican Doug Sutherland pulled 50.3% to Democrat Peter Goldmark‘s 49.7% – which suggests one heck of a race for November.

Not a game-changer of a primary, as it turns out, but replete with pointers for November.

BTW A caveat here: Voter turnout, at 24.4%, was low – lower than expected, and of course much lower than the general will be. So some of these results could shift significantly as large numbers of people vote in the fall.

THE TIE A tied vote on Tuesday between the two top finishers doesn’t really matter, since both advance to November anyway. Still. Veteran incumbent Republican state Senator Mike Carrell of Lakewood tied (at late Tuesday night’s count) with Democratic challenger Debi Srail. Quoth the Tacoma News Tribune: “Incumbent Sen. Mike Carell, R-Lakewood, might be feeling a little tight around the collar about now.”

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Aug 19 2008

Erickson, deeper in deeper

Published by under Uncategorized

What was that old line or political counsel (applicable elsewhere too), that when you’re in a hole, stop digging?

A rather deep hole is what Oregon 5th District Republican candidate Mike Erickson was in even before this weekend’s Oregonian account of his travels to Cuba. (Description from Jeff Mapes’ blog: “The problem for Erickson is that the trip’s itinerary was heavy on cigar dinners and other pleasure activities (cock fighting was even offered as an option) and silent on anything of a humanitarian nature.”) He’d have done about as well as he could it he’d delivered a quick dismissive line and let it go.

But no. Check out this for viewing a political mistake in motion.

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Aug 19 2008

WA: Primary review tomorrow

Published by under Washington

Rather than tonight, since we’re on the road. But with luck, we’ll get some of the reviews and stats up early. And the races ought to be pretty much settled by late tonight.

Although, of course, that’s what people expected going into general election night 2004 . . .

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Aug 19 2008

Rail out west

Published by under Oregon

Abit parochial, maybe, but it’d be a heck of a deal of those few of us in the country west or south of Hillsboro, Oregon – a commuter rail that could run between Forest Grove and Cornelius and (this is the key part) could link p with the MAX line at Hillsboro. That would effectively extend MAX’s reach a dozen or so key miles out of town, to Pacific University and to the wine country.

The talks for so doing are evidently underway, and that could be a highly useful development for the country west of Portland, and might even given the Tri-Met system a useful shot. Although considering the increase in ridership owing to high gas prices, that may be only partly needed . . .

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Aug 18 2008

Severance issues

Published by under Idaho

There might be a good deal more of this sort of thing, not just in Boise but nationally, though Boise’s recent raft of corporate departures my make it a good study . . .

The story is that Larry L. Myers, formerly a vice president at Washington Group International, is suing URS Corporation – which bought WGI – for $2 million. The reason: Myers, who put in 31 years with the company, says his work agreement provided for substantial compensation if the company changed hands and he thereafter lost status or pay in the organization. And when the URS buy went through, he says, he did encounter some loss, but not the compensation part of the deal.

We may not have heard the last of this.

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Aug 18 2008

Havana moon

Published by under Oregon

The initial easy reaction to the Oregonian Sunday story about Mike Erickson‘s Cuba travel may be either that it’ just a piling on, or too peripheral at this point to matter.

But it may matter, some.

The story in Sunday’s Oregonian is about trip that Erickson – now the Republican nominee in Oregon’s 5th U.S. House district – made for six days in 2004. He has describe it as a “humanitarian trip,” and there’s apparently no dispute that he provided a substantial donation (the precise amount is in some dispute) for Cubans, and traveled there in the process of delivery.

What’s new, in the Oregonian‘s report, is a description of the trip that puts it in a very different frame: A pro forma (albeit real) donation delivered just sufficiently and directly enough to give the donors, who included Erickson, legal clearance from the United States to travel to Cuba; after which, most of the time and energy went into Havana night clubs and other tourist spots. Nothing illegal or unethical here, other than that this description of the trip clashes sharply with Erickson’s. (And still does.)

This might not have much to do with the 5th district race (in which Democrat Kurt Schrader now is favored) except that it reinforces a growing string of disputed and controversial statements Erickson has made about himself and his background: It deepens and enhances the narrative.

And since that narrative is the biggest reason he’s now likely to lose a race he once might credibly have won, that does matter.

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Aug 17 2008

Came tumbling down

Published by under Oregon

Most news reports on the housing bubble burst focus on stats with the occasional real-person anecdote thrown in. Recommended Sunday reading: A piece in the Eugene Register-Guard that takes a more extensive look at one big local collapse, and what it has meant.

Such as: “At Lenore Estates in Santa Clara, a roofing business that the company stopped paying quit work and left a dozen pallets of shingles in pieces on the ground. The bare, oriented-strand-board shells of the houses were pelted by the winter and spring rains. Summer grasses grew tall and dry around the project; neighbors worried about a fire hazard until city crews took matters in their own hands and cleared away the grass. The man behind the project, meanwhile, is facing two civil lawsuits from 50 Oregon investors who say they’re out $6 million. Oregon builders have filed 31 construction liens against the Santa Clara project and another in Florence, seeking payment for work they did a half-year ago.”

Ever-expanding ripples, clearly documented.

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Aug 17 2008

Blogs in review

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

Alitte belated, but if you’re looking for a good general introduction to Northwest political blogging – and why not? – there’s a good three-part series at the Crosscut site you’ll want to check out.

Running through both many of the mass media sites (mainly at newspapers) as well as online-only players, it offers an overview of that growing part of the political world. (This site isn’t specifically reviewed, but is included among the also-recommends in part 3.)

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Aug 16 2008

The Novick brand

Published by under Oregon

Steve Novick

Steve Novick

What happens after a savvy political operative launches himself into a major campaign, loses, and then thinks back on it? Here’s a good answer, courtesy of former Senate candidate Steve Novick. (And the hat tip to Loaded Orygun.)

Novick’s own analysis of his race, based around the development of his “brand” as a candidate, is well worth the read. He points out that “we lost, so apparently branding isn’t everything. But I think it’s fair to say that we did better than expected. As a first-time candidate running against the speaker of the State House, I was outspent by roughly 2-to-1, and lost 45 percent to 42 percent. Compared to other recent “progressive underdog vs. moneyed establishment candidate” Northwest races, that’s not bad. In 2000, Maria Cantwell outspent progressive underdog Deborah Senn in Washington’s Senate primary by about 2-to-1—and won the race by an even larger margin.”

Money matters, he says – but points out too that it’s not all that matters. Novick’s campaign came a lot closer to a win than many people had expected when House Speaker Jeff Merkley (who did win) first entered – a good many had thought it a slam dunk. It wasn’t, and the reasons why are a useful read.

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Aug 16 2008

WA: What changes top 2 have wrought, pt 1

Published by under Washington

Next week’s Washington state primary election has, in truth, drawn only limited interest for its politics – much more for its new procedure, which effectively puts party lines to the back of the bus and lets voters send their two favorite candidates, of whatever persuasion, on to November.

The wide-open feel to the thing, though, is expected to draw a solid electorate – Secretary of State Sam Reed has estimated as high as 46%. And if the primary-level contests are not, for the most part, cliffhangers, a number of them will be of interest.

The statewide executive offices probably will not be among them, at least all that much. Probably a lot will be made out of the percentages in the governor’s race – the vote received by Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire against Republican challenger Dino Rossi. But there’s no meaningful doubt those two will advance to November. Most of the other state executive races also should resolve into conventional Republican/Democratic contests for November.

Some races are more interesting, though, and could evolve in directions different than would have been possible, or at least likely, under a system other than top two. Here are some of them. Continue Reading »

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Aug 15 2008

Press relations

Published by under Idaho

The latest shot in the press wars involving Representative Bill Sali – or should that be spokesman Wayne Hoffman? His current guest-op to the Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune (largely in response to this, which was in response to earlier writings), a paper for which he once worked and which over the years has backed numerous conservative causes and candidates, closes with this:

“. . . the Press-Tribune has, regrettably, joined the chorus of shrill news lemmings all marching willingly to a sea of liberalism, filth and innuendo.”

Talk about a quote ready to go viral. The IPT’s new editors blog is getting off to a highly readable start . . .

OTHER REACTION The Spokesman-Review‘s Dave Oliveria gets into the point referenced by our post’s title: “I’m beginning to wonder if aide Wayne Hoffman is becoming a bigger liability than asset to Congressman Sali. I’ve been at the receiving end of one of these diatribes, when Hoffman felt I was incorrect in my criticism of Sali’s vote against Craig-Wyden bill reauthorization. He also lectured me via e-mail re: how newspapermen collected facts in his day. Which was sometime way after I began my career. He’s also sent at least one blistering e-mail to Jill Kuraitis/New West Boise. So my question is: How effective are you if you have thin skin as a communications director and burn the ones you’re supposed to be communicating with?” Worth noting that Oliveria long has been self-described (and by others) as a conservative; his is not a “liberal response”.

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Aug 14 2008

Recall sufficiency

Published by under Washington

Pat Davis

Pat Davis

Politics watchers will want to keep a lookout for the just-out Washington Supreme Court case in re Recall of Davis, in which the court does a careful parsing of the standard of “sufficiency” for recalling Seattle Port Commissioner Pat Davis.

Washington’s approach to recall strikes us as far superior to most states, and to those in Oregon and Idaho. Beyond the usual petition gathering, Washington law requires specific charges be brought and that a court review them for sufficiency; as the Supreme Court said, “The recall process is governed by statute, RCW 29A.56.110, which provides the charges must: (1) set forth the name of the officer subject to recall and the title of his or her office; (2) recite that the officer subject to recall has committed an act or acts of malfeasance while in office or that such person has violated on oath of office; (3) state the act or acts complained of in concise language; and (4) give a detailed description of each act. Recall petitions must be both legally and factually sufficient, and courts must ensure that persons submitting the charges “have some knowledge of the facts underlying the charges.” Some serious legal offense needs to have occurred, and the bringer of the charges actually has to know what they’re talking about – two conditions that alone would wipe out most recall elections in Oregon and Idaho.

The Davis case grew (most directly) out of a memo: “On October 10, 2006, Comm. Davis signed a memorandum discussing the ‘transition away from the organization’ of M.R. Dinsmore, Chief Executive Officer of the Port of Seattle. The memorandum appears to assure Dinsmore up to a full year’s pay upon his resignation from the Port. No dispute exists as to the existence of this memorandum and that Comm. Davis signed it.” From there, it’s a matter of interpretation. According to the petition: Continue Reading »

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Aug 13 2008

Inspiration

Published by under Idaho

The Seattle-based blog Horse’s Ass has an unusual biographical distinction: It was prompted by a specific person. The blog’s founder, David Goldstein, had pursued a satirical effort to declare, via ballot issue, that initiative developer Tim Eyman was a horse’s ass. After that effort failed, he founded the blog, and named it, in effect, for Eyman. So far as we know, this has been the only political blog in the Northwest so inspired.

Until now. The editors at the Nampa Idaho Press Tribune have launched an editors’ blog – nothing unusual in these days of widespread newspaper blogging – with an unusual distinction:

Wayne Hoffman, the man behind today’s launch . . . If you haven’t read the Idaho Press-Tribune‘s editorial in Sunday’s paper, read it now. In short, it took Rep. Bill Sali‘s office and his spokesman Wayne Hoffman to task on several issues. It’s created a bit of a firestorm. Bloggers seem surprised that this ‘rightwing’ newspaper would speak up on this. . . .”

Hoffman is the press spokesman for Representative Sali, and he was quoted in part as responding, “They took the entire matter out of context in my mind, and I worked for the Press-Tribune for four years. It borders on libel.”

Response to that = new blog. Evidently, the editors at Nampa will have more to say on the subject of Sali and Hoffman. (Then too, Goldstein still gets in his digs at Eyman now and then . . .)

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Aug 13 2008

Multiple parties

Published by under Oregon

1946 ballot

1946 ballot

You could look at this way: What’s more important, the candidate or the party under whose banner they run? If like us you’re of some independent streak, that would lead to the conclusion that a ballot should foremost list the candidates, and then any political party backing them. If parties are more significant, then you give each party a ballot line (wherever they have a candidate) and then just fill in the name in the slot.

The latter approach is what you’ve most commonly seen in recent years in the Northwest. But some states, such as New York, allow candidates to run under the banner of two or even more parties. Could they legally do that in Oregon?

Maybe.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office says no. But the Independent Party of Oregon, which has endorsed candidates running mainly under Republican and Democratic banners, points out that multiple-party candidates have appeared on Oregon ballots in the past (see above) and argues they could again, and now has filed a suit.

Most directly, this affects three candidates – Senate candidate Jeff Merkley (a Democrat), treasurer candidate Ben Westlund (also a Democrat) and U.S. House candidate Joel Haugen (a Republican). Westlund, for one, said that “The statute seems to indicate that both nominations should be printed in this case.”

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Aug 12 2008

Going dark, then viral

Published by under Washington

Having the legal right to do something isn’t the same as displaying sense in doing it. Washington Democrats may have found a soft spot in the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, and we’d be surprised if they just let it go now.

A political campaign holding an event on private property has the legal ability to include or exclude whoever it wishes. Want to include just supporters? You can. Just supporters plus certain media representatives? You can. And, at an endorsement event last week by the Seattle Police Officers Guild, the Rossi campaign elected to do just that. When a video recorder named Kelly Akers showed up and started recording, he was asked, and then made, to leave the premises, by three off-duty police officers.

The Seattle Times noted that Akers has been asked to leave other Rossi events, and that the Rossi campaign specifically discourages video tracking. And this Rashomon-type recounting of the situation:

Sgt. Ty Elster, vice president of the guild, said three members “escorted” Akers out the door. Elster was not at the event but spoke to staff members who were there. He said he didn’t know the names of the off-duty officers involved.

“I’ve heard various sources describe it as being manhandled,” he said. “Our folks tell me it wasn’t anything of the sort. They merely placed a hand on his arm and escorted him out the door. There was no force involved. There was no struggle.”

A Democratic spokesman says that’s not true. Kelly Steele, Akers’ supervisor, accused the guild members of “violence” and said Akers was “drug outside from behind.”

As Akers was evicted from the office, his camera recorded him saying, in an increasingly loud and alarmed voice, “Sir, could you please take your hands off me? Sir, could you please take your hands off of me?”

A guild member told him, “You were advised not to come into the building. This is private property. If you come back in the building you will be arrested for trespassing. Do you understand that? Do you understand?”

Sooner or later, someone on the Democratic side will probably spin out the video of Akers being thrown out of Rossi events – the “could you please take your hands off me” piece will no doubt be prominent – and when it does, it probably will go viral, and talk about it will swamp any minor glitch Akers’ camera might otherwise have recorded at the events.

Point here is that Rossi’s response to the video collection is distinctive from many other political figures. In 2006, Republican Senate candidate Mike McGavick watched himself being taped by the opposition at stop after stop, and joked about it. (He got some praise, from this quarter among others, for his handling of the situation.) Rossi’s opponent this year (as in 2004), Democrat Chris Gregoire, doesn’t try to stop the video collection. Increasingly, it’s simply becoming part of the landscape for anyone running for high office.

Rossi’s campaign is trying to push back the tide on this one. That’s not likely to go too well.

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Aug 12 2008

Plastic or paper in Pullman?

Published by under Washington

We’ve remarked before that proposals to put fees on grocery bags (variable, paper or plastic or both) is likely to be something of a definer – How do you really feel about recycling and related matters? It hits pretty close to everyday activities.

It’s of interest in the big cities which have moved in that direction (Seattle, Portland). But maybe more so in the smaller ones.

The blog Palousitics has been tracking (from its from-the-right standpoint) the development of the issue in Pullman, Washington. In June, about 80 residents asked the city council to place a tax on plastic bags, and the council is expected to act on the idea on August 27 (or 26 according to one report). An opposition group, Pullman Consumers for Choice, has been formed to oppose the tax. The Moscow-Pullman Daily News has weighed in on the opposition side.

The lines forming and the weight of opinion will be worth watching.

ALSO Catch this Peter Callaghan column out of Tacoma.

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    Upstream

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    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here