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Posts published in April 2009

Medical Marijuana Awareness Week

Kitty Piercy

Kitty Piercy

There will be a Global Marijuana March in downtown Eugene on Saturday. Nothing man-bites-dog in that; Eugene's that kind of town. What's a little more interesting is that Eugene's mayor, Kitty Piercy, is expected to be among the marchers.

Nor is that all: She is declaring upcoming week as “Medical Marijuana Awareness Week.” (She said that she isn't intending to get into the debate on legalizing marijuana generally, only to support allowance of its medica use.)

Now, granted, this is Eugene. But there does seem to be something in the wind.

A few key facts

Any number of people will be left sputtering in the wake of this Gary Crooks piece in the Spokesman Review, but it surely deserves wider play. Hence the mention here.

This, for instance: "The best way to measure a state’s tax burden is to total up personal income and divide it by how much money the state collects. The Washington State Budget and Policy Center has done that and found that the percentage (about 6 percent) was fairly level from the 1995-’97 biennium to the 2005-’07 biennium. Since then, it has plunged to 5.5 percent in 2007-’09 and will drop even further for 2009-2011. The only significant increase in revenue came in 2005-’07, but that haul was courtesy of the housing bubble mirage."

Tethered

In trying to evaluate the evolving end game of the Idaho Legislature, threatening to become the longest-ever next week, you're finding more immovable objects than irresistible forces.

The Idaho House has adjourned sine die - for the year - or so its majority hopes. That hope will die after three days, since the Idaho Senate is not adjourning, yet, and seems likely not to right away. And since in Idaho neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the approval of the other, the Idaho House will be back for more business. Probably on Monday.

(And yes, we've seen this happen before. The most memorable occasion we recall, from back in the 80s, it was the Senate that tried to adjourn, and was dragged back by the House.)

For all that, we're leaning toward the idea that the Idaho House's take on the sticking point issue - transportation funding - is the side more likely to prevail.

Evidence for this comes from Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's Capitol for a Day visit to the small farm town of Midvale, the kind of conservative and traditional and Republican kind of place that ordinarily should be Otter's kind of place. Yesterday, however, in the Idaho Statesman's report, "Gov. Butch Otter spent six hours Tuesday fending off accusations he's abandoned rural Idaho and surrendered state sovereignty to the U.S. government."

And that he wants to raise taxes all over the place.

The mood was angry, we'd guess Otter was stunned by the reaction. This really was, literally, exactly Otter's kind of place, what should be about as friendly a piece of real estate as you'd find in Idaho for this kind of governor.

Otter is now offering compromises, one of which was rejected by the House before its attempt at adjournment. We'd guess there will be more attempts at compromise as soon as they return. And this will go on until the House majority gets something it finds acceptable.

The House is tethered into the driver's seat.

Wyden, Specter and health

Some of the news reports out yesterday about the switch of Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter from the Republican to the Democratic caucus mentioned his quick hallway meetup, apparently immediately before the formal announcement, with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who greeted him with a big smile and words of welcome.

That came to mind when, today, this passage from a Heritage Foundation (the conservative group) blog post came across:

This is important on policy grounds for a few reasons. One issue that will be dramatically affected is Health Care. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon told CQ: “I think his decision is transformative. . . . This makes a very significant difference in the health care reform discussion.”

Wyden is correct. It will change the debate dramatically, because Senator Specter was one of the chief opponents of so called Hillary-Care during the Clinton Administration and now will be on the other side of the aisle for the debate on comprehensive health care reform. Democrats will have a 60 vote majority and will not have to negotiate with the minority party when crafting a package of health care reforms.

Coffee wars

coffee

8th Street: Dawson & Taylor is at the green awning on the left/Randy Stapilus

This sounds minor and it is minor, probably, but there seems a need to weigh in on the Otter coffee battle. (As though Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter doesn't have enough battles to deal with at the moment.)

The story, which won't be recounted in full here (you can get a good rundown from Kevin Richert at the Idaho Statesman) essentially is that. Otter's current office, during Statehouse remodeling, is located in an old post office building at the corner of 8th and Bannock streets in downtown Boise. Periodically he slips out for a cup of coffee. Mostly, that has been at Dawson & Taylor, a Boise-owned coffee shop roughly catty-corner from his office. more recently, though, he has been frequenting its' across-the-street competitor, Thomas Hammer, which is based in Spokane. One day recently, Otter was accosted by Dawson's proprietor, who chewed him out, using some non-broadcastable language in the process, for not contributing to local business. (The proprietor later apologized.)

Putting aside the Miss Manners elements of this, there's something interesting about the two coffee shops. As it happens, I know them both fairly well, as a customer, and like them both. Both are friendly places that serve good coffee, and both have good free wi-fi (two key considerations). But as shops they're quite different.

Dawson's - which I've described as my Boise regional office when in town - is funky, informal, artsy, often noisy and seems to draw shifting groups of regulars. Hammer is quieter, simpler, more chrome-and-glass, more uptown, and draws a different clientele - though defining the difference is a subtle matter. There's some temptation to call Dawson's the Democratic coffee place and Hammer the Republican - especially after the Otter incident - but too many people I've seen in both break the types. I've had coffee with plenty of both kinds of party people (as well as non-party people) in both places, up to and including the last visit. But . . . there's a difference, somewhere, between Dawson's people and Hammer people. My guess is that people who have frequented both places can discern a difference, and there's a socio-political analysis here.

Maybe Otter can help. Maybe I need another couple cups of coffee.

ALSO There's this from the Boise Picayune, which extends the story a little further.

A non-comdemnatory entity

court

A notable opinion out today from the Division III Washington Court of Appeals, on the subject of public and semi-public power over private property. Anyone concerned about the extent of government powers of eminent domain might look at it with some relief.

We've long looked askance at the proliferation of quasi-governmental entities; our general view has been that a bright line is better, that something should either be governmental or should not. Maybe this decision will offer a little encouragement along those lines.

Spokane Airports, et al v. RMA, Inc. d/b/a Spokane Airways, et al concerns an airport-related condemnation. The background is a little bureaucratic, but hang in for the conclusion. (more…)

When and what, but not if

They've adjourned in Olympia, right on the razor edge of completing business. Had seemed highly questionable whether they'd be able to push through a budget in time for Sunday adjournment, but they did. The speed and determination near the end was a little impressive.

Does the legislature need to return in a special session? Evidently the views on that are mixed, among legislators notably. But the governor's quote was that she plans to meet with leaders “to determine when the Legislature will reconvene.”

When, not if.

Sounds of silence

This isn't a suggestion you'll often see in this space, but nevertheless: The executive and legislative branches in Idaho, if they want to adjourn the legislative session any time remotely soon, need to go behind closed doors and say and do practically nothing publicly.

The problem all sides now have is that they violated the first rule of negotiation: They have have given themselves no room for maneuver or compromise. The one advantage all sides - Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, the Idaho Senate and the Idaho House - have had, is that they are governed by natural political allies. They have no particular need or desire to damage the other side. The disadvantage is that their respective bottom lines have become so clear that there's no longer any way (so far as we can see) that anyone can win, without someone taking a big fall. The positions have become so hardened that circumstances have become erratic - "bizarre," Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, said, and he's right.

Meetings of legislators among themselves and with the governor may be the best hope for finding some way for the loser in this conflict to save as much face as possible. Imagine the governor and his sharpest critics in the legislature locked in a room for eight hours; you'd have to guess they'd come up with something.

But every public statement, every public vote or veto, draws the canyon all the deeper. This session of the Legislature, which has completed nearly all its business, is on track to become the longest ever, as of next week.

Water woes

Two regional newspapers have published extensive takeouts on the water supply situation - increasingly tenuous - in their respective states.

The Portland Oregonian points out how water demand, and groundwater extraction, has increased dramatically in the last half-century, and how it is expected to continue that way in the next few decades.

The supply difficulties are not limited to the relatively dry portion of the state east of the Cascades, much of which is desert or highly arid country. on the westside, demand has increased heavily, most notably in Washington County (rapidly-growing, and the state's second largest, located just west of Portland) and Clackmas County (just south of Portland).

Said the article: "In a state that boasts about webbed feet, access to water is increasingly contested. The state estimates that in the coming years, demand will grow by 1.2 million acre-feet; we use about 9 million acre-feet now. Whoever controls the limited supply will control new housing and industry and how farming expands."

Also today, the Denver Post reports that a mass of Front Range water projects, with a combined estimated price tag of upwards of $3 billion, are putting a squeeze on water supplies there.

Among the concerns: So-far limited cooperation among the various water developers, which include Aurora Water, cities including Denver, Greeley and Fort Collins, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and Northern Colorado Water. And despite all the development, some estimates suggest that water still will be in shortfall a few decades out.