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Posts published in “Day: April 22, 2009”

After-effects and Otter

When a few years back then-Governor Dirk Kempthorne battled with the Idaho Legislature and dragged it out to a record length, he seemed to emerge strengthened, and the legislature almost a bit chastened. That could still happen in this new squabble over transportation funding, which presently looks to extend the already second-longest-ever session out into May.

The prevailing view in Boise, though, seems to be that Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter isn't likely to get the best of it. That was view voiced across the spectrum and by a number of people who personally and/or philosophically like Otter. Mash their views, and you get a sense that he's picked the wrong battle at the wrong time, and that his legendary personal charm is failing him now.

The Idaho Statesman's Kevin Richert (in a post headlines "Why Butch Otter is losing the battle") offered this: "Otter is contriving a crisis. He has no other option. And he risks political backlash. He risks being seen as the guy who insists on raising taxes during a recession — and who insists on holding the Legislature captive, at a taxpayer cost of $30,000 a day."

Is there political subtext? Of course there is.

From Dennis Mansfield (who, it should be noted, years ago ran in a Republican primary against Otter): "I'm thinking that Governor Otter hoped for a whole heck of a better 'gig' than the one he got in 2006. It's like watching a photocopy of a photocopy of former Gov. Kempthorne's last couple of years in office...only earlier, isn't it? Ahh, the anguish.... Let it be known that I'm startin' to think that Butch positioned his old friend Brad Little as Lt. Gov, with a keen eye on a possible self-exit strategy for 2010...and the waters around him are being 'chummed'."

The question of whether Otter will seek a second term next year remains out. (An opt-out does feel a bit more likely now than, say, six months ago.)

Still. We asked one veteran Republican observer (who counts himself a long-time fan of Otter): Short of dropping out, is there political meaning if Otter loses this battle? He's highly unlikely to lose to a Democrat, right? The Republican agreed with that.

But what about a primary challenge? Suppose Otter got a challenge from a well-established, strong contender who could prospectively run a serious campaign - such as, to pull a name out of the air, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle. Could Otter be vulnerable? The Republican's take: Otter would probably win, but not definitely, and it could well be close.

In Idaho in recent years, few legislative battles have had much political impact in the elections that followed. This one just possibly might.

Levels of protest


Larry Galizio

There's a normal practice among lobbyists and interest groups when time comes to decide who gets campaign contributions from them: You give to your friends, with maybe some occasional stretching of definition to ensure that, as much as practical, you're also giving to winners. (Giving to losers will do you little practical good.) The norm is that, occasional Blagojevich situations notwithstanding, you don't try to buy votes with contributions, rather you support those who already are your friends. A look at campaign contribution reports usually shows more closely who your friends are than any attempt to buy influence as such.

This is worth bearing in mind when you consider a few new quotes in a furious little squabble having to do with Oregon House Bill 3100.

Back story in thumbnail: The Metolius River Basin is in the eastern Cascades roughly northwest of Band and southwest of Madras, a key section at issue lying in Jefferson County. It is uncommonly undespoiled, notably the river's water quality and resulting habitat, and there's great concern about anything that would diminish it. Proposals have arisen for building resorts in the area, and these have been controversial, locally and beyond. Jefferson County (its elected officials, that is) has been generally amenable to the development. But the state Land Conservation and Development Commission has recommended designating some of the region as a critical environmental area, which could block the development, or at least severely restrict it. HB 3100 is the bill that would, among other things, ban the resort development by supporting the LCSC. Presently, it is in the House Land Use Committee, and has 15 sponsors. The bill is, obviously, strongly opposed by supporters of the resort proposals.

The blowup evolved from a news report in the April 19 Bend Bulletin: "The [pro-resort] group’s lobbyist, Hasina Squires, said the contributions were given to lawmakers who were receptive but have 'not necessarily' said they would support the Metolian [resort] project. Top recipients on the Democratic side include Rep. Larry Galizio of Tigard ($3,000), House Speaker Dave Hunt of Gladstone ($2,500), Rep. Tobias Read of Beaverton ($1,250) and several with $1,000, including [Arnie] Roblan. Top recipients on the Republican side were Rep. Gene Whisnant of Sunriver ($2,500), and several with $1,000, including Sen. Chris Telfer of Bend and Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles."

We'd guess Squires would dearly love to be able to take her quote back. (We've seen no dispute on the accuracy of the quote.) She could have meant that the contributions went to candidates who were friends of the resort effort plus others who might be on the bubble on the issue. If so, they guessed wrong about at least one, Tobias Read, who's a co-sponsor of HB 3100, and maybe others.

But her words might also be taken to mean that the money went to candidates who might look more kindly on the effort as a result of the donations. (A more extensive quote in the original Bulletin story would have been helpful here, one way or the other.)

The Bulletin story is behind a pay wall but blew up through a post on BlueOregon by Carla Axtman, who wrote of Squires' comment: "Translation: We gave piles of scratch to those we thought we could shoehorn into doing what we want. Looks like we'll be finding out pretty soon who that works with."

That drew this angry response from Representative Larry Galizio, D-Tigard: "Apparently disagreeing with Ms. Axtman is a necessary and sufficient condition for being on the take. The concluding remarks in Axtman's post represent the height of arrogance. I've received more than 20 times the amount of money identified in this cynical rant from public education interest groups.....following Axtman's logic that is why I support public education. It has nothing to do with the fact that I've been in public education for over 15 years and was chair of the ways & means education subcommittee in the 2007 session that made the greatest investment in education at all levels of public education in Oregon's history. FYI Ms. Axtman - running in a swing district....$3,000 is a pittance. Moreover, Ms. Squires represents special districts and other clients with whom I've met on several occasions. This obviously illustrates my evil intent."

In a followup comment, he said that he will vote against the bill. It will, he said, impose a state policy on what ordinarily might be a local planning and zoning process, thereby giving useful talking points to land use planning critics.

The counter to that is the string of peculiarities in Jefferson County's handling of the Metolius situation. (more…)

Tow it away

By the time you get down to stories about people having their cars towed away from their own driveways - and yes, this has happened, and people have gone public about it, as you'll read - you've got to figure that putting some fencing around patrol towing would be a political no-brainer.

Took a while, but today that point seems to have arrived at the Oregon Legislature, as House Bill 2578 is moving from committee toward House floor. This will be an ongoing fight; a substantial business group is seeing something of significance here, and they will fight.

What it does, most basically:

Requires owner of parking facility to affix notice on vehicle
prior to contacting tower to remove vehicle.
Requires tower to contact owner of parking facility before
towing motor vehicle from facility.
Requires tower to release motor vehicle free of charge if owner
or operator of vehicle is present at time of tow.
Provides sanctions for applicant for or holder of towing
business certificate who has accepted or provided compensation
based on number of vehicles towed.

Sean Cruz, a former state Senate staffer who has been working on this for years, and helped push through some preliminary regulation. Indications have been that those efforts only dented predatory towing, hence the new. In February he posted his testimony on the new measure (he supports it) and makes some points not often heard. Consider this one:

"Unlike any other commercial activity in Oregon, patrol towing creates a direct burden on local police resources, paid for entirely by the taxpaying general population. This burden begins when the tow driver calls the police to report that he is towing a certain vehicle. Then there is the second call to the police, coming either when the vehicle owner finds her vehicle gone and is reporting it stolen, or when the vehicle owner returns to her vehicle and finds some surly stranger with a tow truck hooking it up. This driver is fully aware that either money changes hands at this moment, or he is wasting his time, about to drive off with an empty wallet. The third burden on police resources comes when at least one officer is called to the scene, and then anything can happen or might have already happened."

And the horror stories continue: (more…)