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Posts published in May 2009

One gay rights status report

As legalized same-sex marriage advices in a few more jurisdictions, there's a read from Washington state well worth the review, coming from the opposition side. (Hat tip on this to the Seattle Times' Danny Westneat.)

It comes from the conservative pastor Joe Fuiten, of Cedar Park Church at Bothell, long active on social issues and strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. That hasn't changed. But his take, and that of others of like mind, on how to react to the social changes underway around the country certainly seem to have changed.

The immediate trigger is the newly-passed state legislation providing redefinitions for domestic partnerships, making them closely (not exactly ) equal to marriage. Fuiten is among those who disagree with it, and considering campaigning for a referendum in which voters would, prospectively, overturn it. Fuiten emailed a number of his counterparts around the state asking, is this is a battle we want to, or should, get into? The replies make for fascinating reading.

There were 34 responses, which Fuiten summarized: "Out of that group, six people have said, yes, we should definitely run a Referendum, three people offered conditional support, and over 25 people said, 'DO NOT RUN a REFERENDUM'."

Westneat called Fuiten and asked, after seeing and considering the responses, that question. The response: "It's dumb to try to repeal it. We'd lose. We'd set our whole cause back."

Once again, changing wind.

Leiken into the 4th?


Sid Leiken

You have to suspect that the entry in the Oregon 4th of Springfield Mayor Sid Leiken is premised on (a) an open seat or (b) building for the future.

By all accounts - and this is a guy Oregon Republicans have wanted for years to run for higher office - Leiken will be a serious candidate and a real part of a generally limited Republican bench in Oregon. As Roll Call, which broke the announcement (hat tip though to Jeff Mapes at the Oregonian) suggested, "a run against DeFazio may seem like a fool’s errand."

That would be Peter DeFazio, the Democrat who has held the 4th district seat since 1986, and won in landslides every election in the last 22 years. And that district, which has been described as lean-Republican in the past, now leans Democratic. On rare occasion, a long-time member of Congress will be defeated, but that usually happens upon becoming neglectful of the home district, something DeFazio doesn't do.

So how would this make sense? We'd suggest, two ways it could.

First is if DeFazio decides to run for governor, opening the seat. He has not ruled out a gubernatorial run and has expressed some interest. If the seat opens, an early-early start by a decent candidate like Leiken could situate him well.

Second consideration is that, after such a long run, DeFazio won't be there forever, and sometimes an initial run for an office can help pave the way for another one later - or for another major office.

Leiken's race will, in any event, be worth some attention, more than most Republican candidacies in the 4th have been for some time.

A divided camp

Tea Party II at the interim statehouse in Boise was, by several accounts, lightly attended, but it was a marker of one side of an opposing group: the Idaho House Republicans, who are representative in Idaho conservative circles of more than just themselves. On the other side is Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter and another substantial cadre. We'll not get into civil war comparisons here, but there are two distinct sides here, and the sense that there's more to it than just as a disagreement over a few pennies of gas tax.

Now, let's switch to another arena, the presidential.

When the 2008 presidential campaign started to crank up, a large portion - maybe an outright majority, but certainly the largest segment - of Idaho Republicans happily jumped in with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. The upper levels of the state Republican structure was solidly represented in Romney's campaign, until he withdrew. After that, and after John McCain's nomination, the new vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin of Alaska, became highly popular among Idaho Republicans. Maybe Romney's Mormon faith and Palin's Idaho background contributed, but those weren't the only factors behind the support. But they also are highly distinctive personalities, suggesting the question: How could someone be an enthusiastic supporter of both? And what would happen if time came to choose?

Re the latter, here we are. From Politico: "In the latest instance of a high-profile GOP member taking a passing swipe at the party's 2008 vice presidential candidate, former Massachusetts governor and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney jokingly dismissed Sarah Palin’s inclusion on Time’s list of influential people in an interview broadcast Sunday. He asked, was 'the issue on the most beautiful people or the most influential people?'”

And some blowback from the Palin camp.

So, how do Idaho Republicans choose? Or split? And if they split, would the split bear any resemblance to the Otter-House breakdown?

Digital Journalism Camp

This sounds like a highly useful idea:

A single-day conference, to held in Portland sometime in August, on the subject of how journalism can best be done in the coming digital age.

I want us to shut up about about the death of newspapers and start talking about how we, as journalists, are innovating right now — what’s working, what’s not, and how we can get better at what we do.

Here’s where you come in. What do you think the topics should be? What do you want to learn about? Who are innovators you want to learn from? What expertise can you share with others?

Here are some initial topics I’ve come up with:

Five things traditional journalists and bloggers can teach each other
Quick tips for producing audio and video for the web
Out of the newsroom: Success stories from non-traditional journalists
Turning data into graphics and maps
Hyper-local news: What works and what doesn’t
Learn how to share, a.k.a WTF is Creative Commons?
SEO for digital journalists

Can be followed on Twitter or via the link at the top of this post.

The Great Nonini

We've heard a lot these last number of days about who's gotten crosswise with the Idaho House. It cuts both ways, of course, and you can see some reasons in this in an incident that turned up in Betsy Russell's/Spokesman-Review's blog this morning.

The chair of the House Education Committee, Representative Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, had proposed House Bill 373, changing several provisions in the law concerning teacher and school official pay (to generalize, reductions). The measure passed the House, 49-17, and went to the Senate. There, it died.

One reason is that when it came up for considering today at the Senate Education Committee hearing on his bill, Nonini wasn't there to discuss it. From Russell's blog:

“The chairman knew last Wednesday night I wasn’t coming,” Nonini told Eye on Boise. “The issues have all been discussed. … There was no reason for me to be there.” When told that committee members had questions for him, Nonini said, “Just to be critical and be smart-alecks - I’m not going to go over there and put up with that. I’m not going to put up with that crap.”

So much for collegiality.

Another week

Tomorrow morning I'll be (presumably) back on KLIX-AM at Twin Falls to talk about this week's Idaho legislative session. (See the little block in the column to the right.) The one that now looks likely to bust the all-time record for longevity in Idaho.

It's long all right. The legislature in Washington has adjourned and gone home; it will be back for a special session, but that likely won't run more than a day or two. The Oregon Legislature, running essentially biennially, is only somewhat more than halfway done, but June or July adjournments are the norm there. The norm for Idaho adjournments once was late March, but that may be going by the boards.

How much longer till Idaho's gives it up? Until you get either a compromise out of the governor and the House (the governor has offered such in recent days), or a cave from one of them.

Will I be back on the radio a week from now? Don't bet good money against it.

One city from tri?

The Tri-Cities have been the Tri-Cities - separate entities, with a fast-growing quad (West Richland) hanging around on the edge - for so long, you'd just think there'd be no chance of merger between them. (After all, just look at the civil war when little Ketchum and Sun Valley talked up the idea, before its backers were blown out of the water.)

But now, some indicators that the Tri could become One. From Chris Sivula's editorial blog at the Tri-City Herald (would it have to change its name?) on occasion of a coffee-spiked newspaper-invited community open house:

There was more talk about consolidation than any other topic — pro and con — although proponents of merging the Tri-Cities appeared to have majority.

They think it’s time to start pushing the agenda harder. The thought is that the remaining divided in four small towns — including West Richland — prevents the Tri-Cities from developing an identity that resonates beyond our state borders.

The question raised: “How can Walla Walla, with its size, be on all of the national Atlas maps and most world globes while we are not?” Proponents worry that without a recognized name and identity, our ability to market ourselves and be heard and found in a global economy will suffer.

Were you to merge the four cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, West Richland) you'd get a city with more than 165,000 people. That would put it in a close race with Vancouver for fourth largest in the state.

Would they forgive?

The normal rule is supposed to be that if voters approve (or disapprove) a ballot issue, that legislators take that message to heart or run a big political risk. Who wants to act against the voters?

Well, the guess here is that the Oregon Legislature may do just that when it comes to last year's Measure 57.

Measure 57 "increased term of imprisonment for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances. The measure enacted law which prohibits courts from imposing less than a presumptive sentence for persons convicted of specified drug and property crimes under certain circumstances, and requires the Department of Corrections to provide treatment to certain offenders and to administer grant program to provide supplemental funding to local governments for certain purposes." It passed with 61.45 of the vote last year.

An it is expensive, in a corrections system where cost has been explosive already for years.

A lot of budget items are likely to be hit, hard, when the numbers are pencilled in starting later this month. A lot of people are pleading for many of those cuts - in education, social services, safety - not to be cut too deeply. But in reading the reports of the legislature's Ways & Means committee road show last month, there seems to be little constituency out there calling hard for fulfilling the terms of 57. Priorities may have changed.

And priorities may be a key issue here. 57 got on the ballot as an alternative to another ballot issue, 61, which would have focused less on inmate treatment and - because of its handling of sentencing and other matters - would have been far more expensive for the state. A lot of people doubtless would as soon have seen neither pass, but blacked in the line on 57 as the better alternative of the two.

How many felt that way? That's a question legislators doubtless will be gauging in the next few weeks.