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Posts published in November 2008

NW: Bailout shifts and flooding

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FRONTED The federal economic bailout shift is a dominant national story (Oregonian, Spokane Spokesman-Review, Eugene Register-Guard, Idaho Statesman, others). . . . Boise fronts the impending bankruptcy of the owner of the city's largest shopping mall, but the story generally gets modest media attention (though many regional malls are owned by the company in question) . . .

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1One of the biggest pieces of concrete environmental news in the Northwest this year: An agreement, apparently on the verge of final signoffs, for tearing out four substantial dams on the Klamath River. But, be it noted, it would not happen for several years, and several steps beyond the major signoffs are needed.

2A new historical exhibit on the Ku Klux Klan in Washington state (in the 1920s) is being released. Check out the pictures the Seattle Times has posted. Oregon's unfortunate history with the Klan is better known; this exhibit fills in some gaps.

3Libraries probably are going to have to find some new approach for offering rental DVDs, especially popular movies. The Tri-City Herald writes about what amounts to much more than just a rash of thefts: "Library records show that so far in 2008, Pasco's library has had 437 DVDs 'assumed stolen,' Cox said. The Kennewick branch has had 89 thefts and Keewaydin Park has lost about 20, he said."

4They're having civic fun aplenty in St. Anthony, Idaho. The mayor there has quit, after (according to some people present) saying some of his city's residents are "stupid" and all of them can "go to hell." There's also a recall effort on, which may be a related factor. (Story is behind a pay wall, but part of it is available on newseum.)

5Wednesday's flooding in western Washington gets a useful review in the Everett Herald, worth the read because recent history suggests that the Northwest hasn't seen in this season the last of this kind of weather behavior. See also the Seattle Times on this.

And where did they get it from?

Madison County in Idaho is one of the three or four most Republican counties in Idaho, making it one of the most Republican counties in the nation. In the presidential election, it voted 87.5% for John McCain.

This small university community - Rexburg is the dominant city - usually has an almost preternatural calm. But out of somewhere somewhere, a bunch of grade schoolers riding home on a school bus at the Madison School District picked up a new chant this week: "Assassinate Obama." The kids, evidently, weren't clear, as they were chanting, what "assassinate" means.

But someone did. Those kids learned it from someone.

A parent who heard about it called the school district, which seems to have responded reasonably in talking to the students about it. The story made local television news across southern Idaho.

But the issue here may be someone other than the students.

AND ALSO At the far end of the state, in Bonner County, there's a man who proposes - and has posted a sign indicating - the "free public hanging" of Obama and other top Democratic figures. Ken Germana, who posted it: "That's a political statement. They can call it whatever they want, a threat or whatever."

NW: The econ crash continues

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FRONTED Lots of veterans day aftermath, around the region (the Lewiston Tribune stands out). The economy and portgage foreclosures (Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman Review, Oregonian, Idaho Statesman), decline in gas prices (Seattle Times, Salem Statesman-Journal, Nampa Idaho Press Tribune . . . . State budget cuts planned in Idaho (Idaho Falls Post Register, Nampa Idaho Press Tribune)

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1Good news for Washington Republicans? To an extent, anyway: This year's election at least seems to indicate a bottoming out, an end to the free fall, that has been consistent through the last decade's worth of elections. Republicans defeated a well-established Democratic state senator on the west side (Marilyn Rasmussen) and seem likely (the final votes aren't yet in) to pick up a seat or two in the state House. No massive gains, and only minor dents to the mass Democratic majorities, but an end to the slippage. A good overview of current status in the Tacoma News Tribune/Olympian.

2Sounds as if the owner of a whole bunch of Northwest shopping malls is headed for bankruptcy. General Growth Properties Inc. was the buyer of the already-massive Rouse company in 2004, and now its debts will balloon to billions next year. Policy suggestion: In the future, companies have to be split up before they become too big to fail - or so big their failure drags millions of other people down with them . . .

The malls (in the Northwest only, and according to General's web site)? In Washingto: Alderwood at Lynnwood; Spokane Valley Mall at Spokane; Bellis Fair at Bellingham; Three Rivers Mall at Kelso; NorthTown Mall at Spokane; Westlake Center at Seattle; SouthShore Mall at Aberdeen. In Oregon: Clackamas Town Center at Happy Valley; Rogue Valley Mall at Medford; Gateway Mall at Springfield; Salem Center at Salem; Pioneer Place at Portland. In Idaho: Boise Towne Square at Boise; Pine Ridge Mall at Pocatello; Grand Teton Mall at Idaho Falls; Silver Lake Mall at Coeur d’ Alene. Betcha didn't realize they were all owned by the same megacorp, did you?

3A thoughtfully-written piece on the effect of wind-power on the lives and economy of windswept Sherman County, in the Oregonian.

4At Wapato, a detailed story of the founding of a homeless shelter, in an are where, come darkfall, the homeless have been head heading out to sleep in weed patches.

5A quick post, but worth a review, on internet lobbying, at Horse's Ass. This is probably an unproductive area generally for the disclosure commission, and Goldy's point here is one of many likely to get made . . .

WA: City and country

John Ahern

John Ahern

John Driscoll

John Driscoll

Along with the Senate races in Alaska and Minnesota, there are a few as-yet unresolved contests in the Northwest. Maybe the premier of them is in Spokane, in legislative district 6, and it seems emblematic of a political tipping point in the Northwest.

District 6, roughly, is suburban Spokane, a U-shaped area running fro north of the city along Highways 2 and 395, west through the Riverside State Park area, the Spokane airport southwest of town, and the suburban area south of city center. It is not centrally urban, which helps a Republican, but increasingly it is densely populated and linked to the city (and a piece of it is within city limits), which would tend to help a Democrat.

In 2002, which first formed as it is now, it elected three Republicans, the best known being state Senator James West (later a mayor of Spokane), and a lawmaker still serving, John Ahern (55.8%). It again elected two Republicans to the House seat in 2004 (Ahern pulled 60.6%). But in 2006 one of those seats went to Democrat Don Barlow (who had lost in 2004), and the Senate seat went to a Democrat (Chris Marr) as well. Abruptly, Ahern was the lone Republican in this marginal district. (more…)

NW: Veterans and a presidential visit

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FRONTED The Obama/Bush visit was major everywhere, along with demand for Obama inauguration tickets . . . Veterans Day (Oregonian, Seattle Times, Spokane Spokesman Review, Tacoma News Tribune, Idaho Statesman, Eugene Register Guard, Kitsap Sun, Klamath Falls Herald and News, Moscow Daily News, and others . . . In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski's transportation proposal was top regional news.

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1We have suggested for years that private prisons are trouble waiting to happen. Or maybe not waiting - catch this from the Associated Press in Boise: "Documents from the Idaho Department of Correction obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request show that from September 2007 to September 2008, there were 123 offender-on-offender assaults at the prison, which is operated by Correction Corp. of America near Boise. That compares with 42 assaults during the same period at the Idaho State Correctional Institute and 31 assaults at the Idaho Maximum Security Institute. Half all inmate assaults at prisons statewide last year occurred at ICC . . ."

2Brookings, on the far southwest coast of Oregon just north of California, turns out to be a major destination of retired veterans. A useful sociological take in the Oregonian; losses at Starbucks dominate the Seattle papers; elsewhere around Washington, a Gregoire stimulus proposal (mirroring Kulongoski's) gets attention.

3Rural economic development proposals centered around the idea of high tech as a location-severed device have sometimes seemed a little wishful. But not always. Check out this large and high-end development - a massive Amazon.com operation - way out in the small desert/farm community of Boardman.

4Not the headlines a church wants, about the kicking-out of homeless people from church property. But what was their option? Quote from the Corvallis News Gazette: “The thing I feel bad about (is) there’s just no place to send them. There’s no place where they’re really welcome to be.”

5We interviewed new Idaho Representative Walt Minnick yesterday; that was one of a number of interviews by him during the day. Here's a report on another, in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, covering some similar and some different ground.

NW: Changing admins and meds, and more

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FRONTED Economic slump highlighted in shopping patterns and services for children in the Idaho Statesman, in automaker strategic decisions in the Idaho Falls Post Register, ... The Obama transition 9especially his prospective quick regulatory changes) makes an appearance on most front pages regonally; and the medical announcement of statins to advance-treat heart disease and stroke comes in for some front attention too (see Seattle Times, Spokane, Bend, Olympia, Yankima and Everett) . . .

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1The myth of high school athletics is that talent and determination are the key ingredients for wins; the current Oregonian series on recent track records of winning v. losing teams, roughly matching rich v. poor districts or localities, puts an effective closure to that. The series (started Sunday, continuing today) brings the theory of school funding to a concrete level.

2A bit out of region, but if presidential politics is of interest you'll want to check out the first major interview by the Anchorage Daily News with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, since her VP run . . .

3The search of a community slogan seldom fails to provide merriment. Such as that of Port Orchard, where the Kitsap Sun's print edition (though not online) has the headline: "Gateway to Gorst? Nah." (Of course, you have to have been to Gorst to fully appreciate the point . . .)

4On the Dennis Mansfield blog, a conversation between Mansfield and his daughter about politics, his activism past and present, and more of note. A significant read for anyone interested in Idaho.

5A Democratic legislator elected from Bend? In truth, it came close to happening in 2006, but this year it actually did, as attorney Judy Stiegler defeated incumbent Republican Chuck Burley. A profile worth reading in the Bend Bulletin.

Interview: Minnick looking ahead

Walt Minnick

Walt Minnick

There is no lack of Idaho voters who would enthusiastically agree with the quote attributed to Washington conservative Grover Norquist, that he wanted to shrink government "to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." That's just the kind of approach - you can check it in the rhetoric - that so many Idaho Republicans have been running with, to great electoral success, for so many years.

The measure of Walt Minnick's success - as the first Idaho Democrat to win congressional seat in 16 years - may be the degree to which he blunts the force of that attitude. Not so much by rhetoric, as by virtue of example.

"In terms of constituent service and instilling an ability to represent people in the district that are dealing with our government, I'm going to do everything I can to be the best there is," he said in an interview this morning. Which may sound like a normal statement of good intentions from a newly-elected, except that in this case there may be more to it.

To put a point on it . . . All members of Congress do constituent service and run field offices and staffs; the Republican incumbent Minnick defeated, Bill Sali, did. And, "I certainly share the philosophy that a smaller government, a less intrusive government, is in everyone's best interest," he said. However - and this is where Idaho Republicans less often go: "You deal with the government as you find it. I don't think describing it in pejorative terms is likely to induce cooperation. We will work the system we find as effectively as possible." And, "I've always [found] in my experience, if you treat people well," those people will tend to be more helpful. "If people want to help you in the dept of transportation or the Social Security Administration, they will work late they will go talk to their bosses, they'll try to find interpretation of rules that allow them to tell you yes. It's no different from a corporate or other organization, or local government organization."

Minnick gives you the sense that this is how he'll approach a lot of the job: Cooperation whenever possible, use of relationships (he knows personally people on the Obama transition crew, for example) and much less often any sharp edges. (You can imagine without much stretch that he and Representative Mike Simpson, who has devoted a lot of effort to building relationships all over the House, may find expansive grounds for cooperation.) Given the opportunity to take a shot at Sali or other Republicans, he declined (somewhat like Barack Obama since election day). In terms of personality and approach, Minnick probably will be hard for the opposition to demonize. (more…)

NW: Post-election, and the economy

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Note: Today we're launching what we expect to be regular - as regular as we can make it - feature here, outlining what the region's newspapers see as the top news, then running through some of the best read we encountered during the day, from news organizations and wherever else. Let us know what you think.

FRONTED Moving beyond the election, while looking ahead to Obama Administration decisions and options (see the Spokesman Review front page), many of the papers reflect on whither Republicans now (the Oregonian, the Seattle Times in Washington) . . . The Idaho Statesman previews Veterans Day . . . a string of bankruptcy and diminished economy stories . . . overall, more light and feature oriented (Olympian, Kitsap) than just before the election ...

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1Sharp reflections on how the very close and very high-profile (regionally) election for mayor of Eugene says a lot about a city more closely divided than many - those who mistakenly buy the granola stereotypes - typically realize. In the Register-Guard.

2A birds-eye view of the bankruptcy picture in the region (especially but not limited to the Inland Empire) at the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

3Reactions on Washington's new death with dignity law, with some insight into how the skeptics in the medical community plan to deal with it (there are opt-out provisions) in the Tacoma News Tribune.

4At the Lewiston Tribune, an apparently technical piece (see via newseum) by Kathy Hedberg on no- or low-tillage farming, but with broader implications for the farm and rural economy.

5David Reinhard's going-away column at the Oregonian, in the middle of which he tells a good story on himself.

An evangelical map

You can slice the vote from Tuesday in all sorts of ways. One is the way Bryan Fischer, the evangelical activist in Idaho, does: In the presidential contest, 75% of evangelicals nationally (according, we'd guess, to exit polls) voted for Republican John McCain and 25% for Democrat Barack Obama. An interesting stat. (Fischer's takeaway is that those 25% of evangelicals need to get with the program; that and, we need more evangelicals. Fischer: "Bottom line: if we want to salvage the future of this country, all we need are more evangelicals.")

Elsewhere, the magazine Christianity Today has mapped the evangelical vote around the country by state, and come up with some results to chew on.

The estimate is that in Washington state, 24% of the vote was evangelical, and it split 64% for McCain and 32% for Obama.

In Oregon, the slice was 27%, and McCain got 66% of it, to Obama's 31%. Very similar to Washington's.

Idaho was a little different: 33% evangelical, with 80% going to McCain and 18% for Obama. More striking, in other words, than the larger number of evangelicals voting, was the overwhelming degree - compared to Washington and Oregon - they voted for McCain.

By way of orientation: In Alabama, the 46% evangelical vote went 88% for McCain; in Oklahoma, the 52% of the vote that was evangelical went 77% for McCain.

Washington and Oregon evangelicals, overall, were less overwhelmingly Republican than in many other states.

Shades of purple

purple presidential

Purple presidential vote/UMich

The world is suddenly full of political maps, some of them cleverly done, showing the results of the presidential race in reds and blues. Not many of them take into account the purples.

After all, as some cartographers at the University of Michigan point out in showing off their purple maps, there are no purely red or blue counties in the United States - someone in all (or nearly all) of them is still voting for the minority party. And in quite a few cases, the margins are pretty thin.

So this map, cropped (to reflect only Washington, Oregon and Idaho) from one developed at the University of Michigan, may be a little more enlightening than most. it was drawn from results in the presidential contest only, so that's the sole comparison, but it still seems useful. The brightest reds (as in Madison and Franklin counties in Idaho) are the most Republican, and the brightest blues (like King County in Washington and Multnomah in Oregon) are the most Democratic.

(Hat tip to the reader who pointed out the UMich map section.)

ID: Change in CD1?

There'll be a big change in the representative Idaho's 1st House district gets the next couple of years - a soft-spoken pragmatist. Democrat Walt Minnick, replacing an ideologue prone to controversy and conflict, Republican Bill Sali. In personality, Minnick is a lot closer in style to the new senior senator, Mike Crapo, than Sali is. In policy, Minnick is doubtless well aware that he can go only but so far, and may well take advice from Crapo (and probably from some Democrats too) that he join the Blue Dogs.

Minnick will of course be immediately targeted by any number of Idaho Republicans, and the 2010 Republican primary for the 1st might even be as crowded as the jam-packed '06. Point A here might be that, we all saw what emerged from that one, so caution in making predictions is warranted. Point B would be that - the closeness of Tuesday's result and the difficulty Republicans have had in winning this seat (just four years in the previous 40) notwithstanding - any anticipation Minnick will be a pushover would be misplaced. When Democrat Richard Stallings defeated Republican incumbent George Hansen in 1984 (just after Hansen's felony convictions), a long line of Idaho Republicans figured he'd be easy pickings in 1986. Stallings went on to win that year decisively, and twice more after that in landslides. Could as easily be that Minnick is in this seat for a spell.

All sorts of analysis suggests itself coming out of this win - which we had considered possible but somewhat short of likely - but the most immediate seems to be this: What in the 1st district changed, just enough, to allow Minnick a win?

map of 1st district

Start with the fact that this was a close win, 50.6% in a two-man race. When Minnick writes in his post-election email about going to a fitful sleep on election night, not whether he'd win or lose, that makes sense. There could have been no certain way of knowing until the mid-morning hours arrived. A few things had changed, just enough, to allow for it. (more…)

OR: Back of the envelope

Votes are counted till they're counted, which is making frustrating the slow count at Multnomah County. In the balance: A close U.S. Senate race, in which Republican incumbent Gordon Smith at present holds a narrow lead over Democrat Jeff Merkley.

If we're reading the count of vote not-yet-counted correctly, however, not all but the bulk of the remaining ballots still out are from Multnomah, where Merkley has been winning at a clip of 66.5%. If our back-of-envelope math is somewhere around right, that would suggest a Merkley win of somewhere are 20-30,000, and maybe a little higher.

There's a reason no one has conceded or claimed victory in this one yet (time at this writing: 12:07 p.m. Wednesday). But we may know soon.