Writings and observations

Harold Bohm was born 88 years ago in Iowa. He worked in law enforcement for many years, and in driver training. he has lived in the same house at Klamath Falls for 30 years.

When he walked up to the local Division of Motor Vehicles office to renew his drivers license, he brought with him his existing license, which he had held for many years, his a much-worn copy of his birth certificate, and a current passport.

Not good enough.

More documents please.

Some reasonable objective evidence that applicants for a drivers license (or renewal) are who they say they are, seems sensible enough. But bureaucracy so easily tips over into unreason, and that can top over into revolt. When seems to be where this 88-year old, retired law officer and long-time resident, seems headed.

Theory and practice are colliding here, and the Oregon Legislature next session may be well advised to give some weight to practice.

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Oregon

Maybe the tightest major race this year in Washington was for state lands commissioner, pitting Republican incumbent Doug Sutherland against Democrat Peter Goldmark, who ran for the U.S. House two years ago.

The win, for Goldmark, was 50.3%-49.7%; any closer and you’re into governor ’04 territory. A question: how many counties did it take for Goldmark to (just barely) win?

Six, it turns out.

Goldmark map

Goldmark yellow, Sutherland green

King? Jefferson? San Juan? Check – they’re the solid reliables. Snohomish and Whatcom? Nothing unusual. But Okanogan . . . therein lies the value of being a native son, that being the only way Goldmark could have one that one . . . although, in truth, he could have won without it . . .

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1SALMON/ENVIRONMENT Perspective on the salmon debate from Rocky Barker/Idaho Statesman noting that the impending change in the Northwest’s congressional delegation, combined with the change of presidential administrations, may mean an entirely new approach for salmon. Even before January: He points to this week’s dam removal agreement on the Klamath River as “a major shift in the government’s position on dams in the West.”

Let’s unpack that just a bit, expanding the view. The Washington congressional delegation hasn’t changed, but there are critical changes in the other two. In Oregon, Republican Senator Gordon Smith is being replaced by Democrat Jeff Merkley, who is considerably greener; in the House 5th district, where one Democrat replaces another, newcomer Kurt Schrader is likely to be a bit more green-oriented than Darlene Hooley. In Idaho’s Senate delegation, Republican Jim Risch replaces Republican Larry Craig, but the change could be significant; Craig presented himself as almost always flatly opposed to environmental proposals, while Risch turned out to be as green as most Democrats on the environment during his months as governor. (That probably will give Senator Mike Crapo and Representative Mike Simpson a big assist in developing their environmental efforts in the Owyhee Canyonlands and White Clouds area, respectively.) And, there’s the change from the 1st House district from Republican Bill Sali to Democrat Walt Minnick, who has been active in environmental groups.

Put it together, and what was a fairly close balance on environmental issues now tilts decisively green in the Northwest delegation. And that’s before you get to the impact of the Obama Administration.

2VOTE COUNTS And still they’re counting votes in Washington. And especially in Pierce County, where they’ve been trying out both traditional and ranked-choice ballots. Earlier deadlines for ballot delivery could help.

3POWELLS REMAKE Book people will have opinions, without a doubt, about the new exterior at Powell’s City of Books – the flagship – in downtown Portland.

4COLLEGE ENROLLMENT For the first time in more than a decade, Oregon threw some serious money at its higher education institutions. And now (in the Oregonian, but reflected in other papers around the state as well): “. . . the state’s universities hired faculty, increased pay, improved student services, stepped up recruitment and built and renovated classrooms and labs. In addition, Oregon more than doubled the money for college grants this year and launched a statewide campaign to tell students and their parents about it. The message worked: More than 15,430 students in Oregon public universities received $33.8 million in state grants this fall, more than twice last year’s numbers. The economy also is a factor, because more students seek higher education when jobs are harder to find.”

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Northwest

There are 80 precincts in the portion of Ada County lying in the 1st congressional district. Very roughly speaking, most of the city of Boise, and the areas to the east of it in the county, are in the 2nd district; again roughly, Cole Road, which runs north-sound through the center-west of Boise, is the dividing line between the districts.

That area in the 1st district is the part of Ada County generally voting Republican, in most places heavily so. It voted, for example, for John McCain over Barack Obama – decisively so. But it voted in the 1st District House race for Democrat Walt Minnick over incumbent Republican Bill Sali in numbers much higher – 31.7% higher, enough to give him a win of almost 5,000 votes in that part of Ada County; enough, in turn, to provide his winning margin. Even in the precincts Minnick lost decisively, he heavily outran Obama and other Democrats (generally 25-50% higher). These were people who did not vote for other Democrats, just this one.

Is there anything to be learned from these 80 precincts?

Maybe a little, and we’ll start here. First point is that Minnick’s win was spread around a bunch of the precincts, not concentrated in a few; he won 51 of the 80 precincts. So the simpler approach is to look at the precincts Sali won. Do those have points of commonality that make them stand out from the others?

Generally speaking, yes: Most of them are rural, among them the most rural and relately remote areas in Idaho’s population-heaviest county. The precincts in the far north edge of the county, in the foothills north of Eagle and northwest of Boise (1, 2, 4) were substantial Sali wins. The precincts in the far southern reaches of the county (123, 125 for example) were substantial Sali win areas. The interstices between the cities – some of the areas between Eagle and Meridian, between Meridian and Nampa and between Meridian and Kuna – gave Sali good numbers. The rural area around Star did well for him. And, generally, his old state legislative district and home turf around Kuna stuck with him, delivering solid margins.

Minnick’s margins? He won some rural precincts, but mainly he racked up numbers inside the larger growing cities: primarily Meridian, Eagle and western Boise. These have not been friendly areas for Democrats up to now, but they made a highly unusual exception this time.

The nature of that, in those specific precincts, ought to be research project #1 for Idaho Democrats over the next couple of years. Some of it may have to do with the specific dynamics of this race; maybe Sali, specifically, turned some of those people off. It could be that Minnick personally made a sale here; or it could be a combination of the two. It might be that this unusual voting pattern won’t be replicated in 2010; or it could be a harbinger, a signal of opportunity to come for other Democrats. Whatever’s the case, there’s an important development here, maybe the most important single twist in the elections of 2008 in Idaho. That much we can say with some confidence, even without yet being sure exactly what it means.

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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.

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Northwest

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.”

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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 . . .

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Northwest

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.

District 6

District 6

Setting us up for this year’s contest, which demonstrates why trend lines shouldn’t be followed out to infinity. You would have expected, for example, Barlow to build on his lead from 2006; instead, he lost this year, 47.1% to 52.9%, to Republican Kevin Parker. They had a hard-fought, closely-contested, battle, revolving to some extent around taxes but also (at least in a Spokesman-Review editorial backing Parker) questions about how effective Barlow was.

And Ahern, opposed this year by Democrat John Driscoll? That one has been hairline-close, and there’s been some mapping analysis of it at the Spokesman blog Spin Control. Briefly, it shows Ahern winning the outlying areas of the district, mainly to the north and south and to a lesser extent out west, and losing the precincts closest to (or inside of) Spokane. Driscoll was leading on election night, Ahern moved ahead in the next few days, and most recently – as this is written – Driscoll is crawling ahead again. More counts are expected Wednesday; there’s no telling who will win this.

Call districts like the 6th places no one can take for granted.

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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.

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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.

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Northwest