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Posts published in “Day: January 19, 2009”

Sam Adams and the unfiltered impulse

Sam Adams

Sam Adams

Some months back a first-time candidate (not in Oregon) asked the question: Why do so many politicians keep getting caught in scandalous or near-scandalous sexual situations? (Worried, maybe, he might be missing a crucial strand of political DNA?) It was a good question. The snap answer might be that politicians tend to be gregarious people and prone to lots of human interaction generally; they draw energy from being around other people. Or something like that.

But there ought also to be a strand of political DNA that sends up a red flag in the face of a bad idea, and that's a strand that seems to be missing from a lot of political people these days. At the moment, you wonder: What was Sam Adams, long considered one of the brightest guys in Portland politics, thinking when he struck up that close friendship in 2005 with a 17-year-old named (however improbable it may sound) Beau Breedlove, a friendship that eventually and briefly went further than that. And then, for an extended period, lied about it.

Now on Adams' website (responding to a story just broken by Willamette Week): "In the past, I have characterized my relationship with Beau Breedlove as purely non-sexual. That is not true. Beau Breedlove and I had a sexual relationship for a few months in the summer of 2005 after he turned 18 years of age. I should have been honest at the time about the true nature of my relationship with Beau Breedlove when questions about my relationship with him first surfaced publicly in October 2007. In fact, Beau encouraged me to be honest about the facts of our relationship. I am deeply sorry that I asked him to lie for me."

The immediate comparison in the Northwest would logically be to the case of former Spokane Mayor James West, who was recalled from office in December 2005, after exposure of his trolling on gay sex web sites and relationships with much younger male partners. That was an explosive story that totally riveted, dominated, public life in Spokane for nearly a year.

How does the Adams story compare? What effect might this revelation have? (more…)

Wacked-out according to whom?

Ken Jacobsen

Ken Jacobsen

There's an air around some of the legislation proposed by Senator Ken Jacobsen, D-Seattle - maybe in part because of the sheer volume of it, 46 bills so far this session - that some of it is maybe half-baked, or just a little quirky. Maybe. But that doesn't mean the underlying ideas aren't worthy of some consideration.

Like the current hot topic at the Washington statehouse, Senate Bill 5063, which would allow for joint burial of people with the pets (dogs and cats only). Which on first glance sounds a little like, well, yeah, maybe one of those weird ideas from Seattle. Think on it a little further, and ask . . . well, why shouldn't be be allowed to if they want to? The bill could use some tinkering (it would require cemeteries to allow the practice; a wise colleague suggested it merely allow cemeteries the choice). But for many people, pets are family. The guess here is that this will actually be a coming thing.

Sometimes ideas take time to mature and develop strength, and maybe fine-tine along the way, and it could be that Jacobsen is one of those people who pick up on the earlier waves. He recalled (in a Spokane Spokesman-Review article) how when he proposed state labeling of organic foods, “I was treated like I was talking about kinky sex.” Pretty widespread these days. (Organic labeling, that is.)

So what else is Jacobsen about this year? From the Spokesman: "Barely a week into this year’s legislative session, Jacobsen has proposed an airline passenger’s bill of rights, allowing pet dogs in bars, designating a state oak tree, and giving tax breaks to taverns that install on-site breathalyzers." The first and last of those anyway are highly useful ideas we've long thought to be wise policy. They could be coming things. And herewith, an indication of that.

Avimor’s timeline

We've been wondering about how the string of mega-developments around Boise, all launched a year or two to mere months before the real estate/finance crash last year, are getting along. The key case would be Avimor.

Avimor is a big development, located in the Boise foothills partway between Eagle and Horseshoe Bend off Highway 55. The developers' web site offers a by-the-numbers rundown: "684: The number of housing units. The majority would be single-family homes, with about 60 multifamily units such as lofts. 75,000: Square footage of commercial and community space. 1,952: Projected population of Avimor. 830: Total acres in Avimor. 498: Acres of open space and parks in Avimor. 9.5: Miles of public trails in Avimor. 5: Years to build Avimor."

Note that last: Five years to build, according to the web statement in February 2006. We're now nearly three years into that.

Their odds of hitting target don't look great. From a post a few days ago in the Boise Guardian:

We got the following from an obvious insider and frankly what they apparently see as a positive sign is pretty weak.

“Avimor has had residents since October. There are three homes closed, two with families living therein. One home is under construction for a family. Another pre-sold home is about to start for yet another family.

“All four families are from the valley and have lived in Idaho for several years. The MLS only has a few spec homes listed which none have sold. Two spec homes have contracts pending, contingent on financing which is almost impossible to get.”

Even if we give them the benefit of SIX homes sold in the past year, it will take 500 years for them to sell 3,000 homes.

D.C. stimulus? Don’t count on it

Thompson

Dock Thompson at EDTI Committee/TVW

There's an undercurrent of discussion in the Northwest statehouses, hard-pressed financially all three of them, about the possibility of at least partial salvation coming from Washington, D.C. There is, in that Washington, a major stimulus package under development. What will it mean for the states in the Northwest? No one knows.

But the legislatures would like to know what they can. In Washington, Governor Chris Gregoire at one point said she was hoping for a billion dollars or so in stimulus money.

Best not count on it. This afternoon, the Washington Senate Economic Development, Trade & Innovation Committee heard from Dick Thompson, special assistant to the governor (and previously holding a wide range of positions in state government), who has been tasked with finding out what to expect.

"For year, my advice to people who were going to testigy was never guess," he said. But: "Guesses and rumors is about all I can give you today. . . . I will tell you everything we think we know. But there is not a lot we know in real fact."

Much of the package, he said, seems to be in the form of tax relief rather than direct spending, so that portion doesn't do much for state budgets. "We have gone from thinking we have large discretion to thinking we have very, very little." (A big difference from the bank bailout last year.) Highways and bridges have been thought to be a key component of this, he said, but it still amounts to just about $30 billion nationally - and maybe a little over $500 million might make its way to Washington. Not nearly as much as once hoped for.

Looks like a window of three to four months to let bids, which means project would have to be close to ready to go. And money apparently would go directly to local or state agencies, not to the state for general distribution.

There's little clarity though, he said, of whether this formula is an Obama-backed proposal or just something wandering through the U.S. House. And everyone waits . . .