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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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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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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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.

One race for the U.S. House definitely will be different this time. In District 2 (northwest), incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen is up against two other Democrats on the ballot. So he will be opposing one of those two in November (presuming, as is overwhelmingly likely, he is the top primary finisher).

Two other House races are worth watching at primary level, for longer shot possibilities. In District 3 (southwest), Democratic incumbent Brian Baird faces anti-war Democrat Cheryl Crist and two Republicans. Might the Republican vote be split enough to allow a Baird-Crist contest in November? We’d guess not, but it’s worth a look. And in District 7 (central Seattle), long-time Democratic incumbent Jim McDermott will get the most votes, but second place could go several ways. It may go to the one Republican on the ballot (Steve Berean). But so Democratic is this district that one of the other three Democrats on the ballot might slip through to second place.

Most seats in the legislature probably will resolve simply to either D-R contests or a single candidate will be unopposed (a significant number are).

But three Republican departures have created some interesting contests. In the House District 4 position 2, where Lynn Schindler is opting out, you have a long-time Republican district (basically north of Spokane, with suburbs) with a currently all-Republican delegation. But just how Republican is this district? The filers include five candidates – three Republicans (Matt Shea, Ray Deonier and Diana Wilhite) and two Democrats (Tim Hattenburg and Anthony Honorof). What are the odds one or even two Democrats could slip through given the candidate number disparity? This could be a useful case study.

In District 7, also very Republican, a different situation occasioned by Bob Sump‘s departure. There’s no partisan issue here: Only five Republicans filed, no Democrats or anyone elsse. So two Republicans will face each other in November.

In nearby District 8, Shirley Hankin‘s retirement also led to entry by five candidates, but one of those is a Democrat. So that one probably will get to the November ballot, while the Republican vote splits four ways. On the other hand, the November winner almost certainly will be the Republican.

In District 11 (the Renton-Tukwila area), Democratic Senator Margarita Prentice faces two fellow Democrats, Juan Martinez and Scott McKay – no Republicans or other.

District 17 House seat 1 probably turns into an R-D contest, in this politically marginal district (the senator is a Republican, the other House member a Democrat); but it bears watching, since the present three-way is less than predictable. The Republican incumbent is Jim Dunn, who has has had awful headlines and handslaps from his own caucus leadership. He is being strongly challenged by fellow Republican Joseph James, who might or might not surpass him in votes. And there’s the Democrat, Tim Probst, who has been running hard too. The numbers will bear parsing here next week.

In District 40 (the great expanse running through the San Juans over to Anacortes, Mount Vernon and north to Bellingham), Democratic Senator Harriet Spanel has opted out, creating a fun situation, not much of a true party contest. There are four Democratic candidates, plus one that prefers the “True Democratic Party”. And one from the Salmon Yoga Party. And, oh, yes, a Republican. Probably this turns into an R-D battle, but you look at the rundowns and the voting patterns, and it’s hard to be sure . . .

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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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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:

1)Comm. Davis committed an act of malfeasance by signing an agreement to
provide a “gift” of public money to an individual outside the employee contract
approved by the Port of Seattle Commission.
2) Comm. Davis committed an act of malfeasance by obligating the Port of Seattle
to pay monies not voted on or approved by the Port of Seattle Commissioners at a
regularly scheduled public hearing.
3) Comm. Davis committed an act of misfeasance and malfeasance by using her
position as Port Commissioner to provide a “gift” of public money to her personal
friend and political ally Mic Dinsmore.
4) Comm. Davis committed an act of malfeasance by voting on an issue in an executive session on or about January 10, 2006, in violation of the Washington
State Open Meetings Act.
5) Comm. Davis committed an act of malfeasance by voting on an issue in an
executive session on or about June 8, 2006, in violation of the Washington State
Open Meetings Act.
6) Comm. Davis committed an act of malfeasance by knowingly violating the
limited context of the executive session exclusions of the Open Meetings Act to
improperly negotiate and vote on a “gift” of public money.

Not all of those allegations survived trial court, and the Supreme Court rejected others. (The whole analysis is worth reading.) Crucially, though, the Court upheld one of them: “We find, when read as a whole, the petition is legally sufficient in charging Comm. Davis with an act of malfeasance by signing an October 10, 2006, memorandum addressed to then chief executive officer of the Port of Seattle, Dinsmore, which had the potential effect of obligating the Port of Seattle to pay Dinsmore, an outgoing Port of Seattle employee, at least $239,000 outside of his employment contract. Additionally, we find these additional moneys were not voted on or approved by the Port of Seattle commissioners at a regularly scheduled public hearing and conclude charge one of the ballot synopsis is legally sufficient.”

The lines set by the Supreme Court in this case should clarify for the next round of recallers what is enough and what isn’t, even if that’s a little hard to quantify.

Davis has been on the commission since she was first elected to it in 1985, but the Port has become unpopular in recent years. Davis, last elected in 2005, is in mid-term. This could be a hot recall election.

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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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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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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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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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The Oregon Senate race is showing some signs of real interest: Thi could be highly unpredictable a long way down the road.

Following the May primary up until the last month or so, polling showed Republican Senator Gordon Smith leading Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley. Then, two polls showed Merkley ahead, one barely, the other substantially.

Now, two polls show Smith retaking the lead. Today’s from Rasmussen Reports shows Smith ahead 4% to 39% for Merkley. Is it the large ad campaign Smith has unleashed (despite a raft of criticism of several of those ads)?

Or are these shifts really significant shifts at all? Our sense is that the safest conclusion to draw from any of them, and from other evidence, is simply that the race is fairly close and nowhere near resolved yet. This could turn into an October nailbiter.

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We know of diploma mills, those places that churn out piece of paper that look a lot like academic degrees but, like counterfeit money, are useful only if you don’t get caught while using them. As the price of higher education roars higher, the demand for lower-cost higher ed increases, and so have the number of “colleges” that aren’t accredited, whose credits won’t transfer and whose degrees aren’t generally considered academically valid.

The Idaho Statesman today has a piece focusing on one such, the Canyon College based in Carmichael, California, but offering online courses to places including Idaho. After describing the case of a woman who spent four years and $5,500 obtaining what she thought was a master’s degree in nursing, only to find out no one else seemed to accept it that way, the story hits the core point: “How can something like this happen? The Idaho State Board of Education, which oversees for-profit colleges like Canyon, hasn’t had the staff to enforce state rules that require schools like Canyon to be registered with the state before handing out diplomas.”

Washington and Oregon are relatively strict on this. But the story quotes Alan Contreras, who runs the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, as citing Idaho as being one of “Seven Sorry Sisters, the states with the worst regulation of private colleges” – alongside Hawaii, California, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Colorado.

Idaho does have some classy local private colleges (the College of Idaho and Brigham Young University-Idaho come to mind among others), and long has had. But the marketplace is bringing in some more questionable players too. Maybe the story today will generate some renewed review. And that $5,500 won’t have been spent entirely in vain.

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