Archive for June, 2009

Jun 23 2009

Those U.S. products

Published by under Idaho

In Coeur d’Alene, there’s a company called U.S. Products, which manufactures commercial carpet cleaning equipment, portable heated carpet extractors, and related equipment. It declares itself “Quality made in the U.S.A.,” and “Keeping America clean for over 30 years.” Its web page also notes that “Since our products are manufactured in our Coeur d’Alene, Idaho factory we are able to keep tight control over product quality throughout the manufacturing process.”

All of which sounds good. Until you get to the business section of the Coeur d’Alene Press, which reports that the company which owns U.S. Products, Nilfisk-Advance, has decided that within a few months it will move U.S. Products’ manufacturing operations to Queretaro, Mexico. (Some administrative staff will remain in Coeur d’Alene, which you might think will hamper the logic expressed on the business’ home page.)

A question: Will they still call them U.S. Products? And if so, will they try to do it with a straight face?

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Jun 22 2009

Never say die

Published by under Oregon

There’s a tendency among people watching – or even involved in – political activities to throw efforts and initiatives into the “win” or “loss” column too quickly: A natural tendency to analyze and work out who the winners and losers are. The problem is that politics isn’t a one-shot over and out; it is ongoing, an evolution. Wins are hardly final, because so often they can be reversed later. Same for losses.

Today’s case in point is Oregon House Bill 2398, the bill classifying the Metolius Basin near Bend as an Area of Critical State Concern, drastically limited development there. It has been one of the hardest-fought bills of this year’s legislative session, and closely-fought. Environmentalists have supported it, but the Democratic caucus has been split, partly out of concern that the bill would undermine local planning and zoning efforts. (House Speaker Dave Hunt was among the nays. Republicans have been solidly opposed.)

Last week, the bill – which has cleared the Senate – narrowly failed in the House, and the storyline was that Democrats were sacrificing environmental issues this year to make up for their string of tax increases. And that seemed that.

Today, the bill was brought back up on reconsideration, and Representative Larry Galizio, D-Tigard, switched his vote from last week – enough, just enough, to pass it.

A veteran and highly successful lobbyist in another state often counseled: Never give up till the session ends; and even then. Good advice all over the place.

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Jun 21 2009

CEO pay dropping

Published by under Northwest

Maybe call it a lagging indicator – we’re approaching a year when pay indicators for many classes of employees started to skid – but come now a report that pay for CEOs, in the Northwest at least, is dropping.

A Seattle Times study out today said that “Median pay for the chief executives of publicly traded companies in the Washington, Oregon and Idaho region dropped 6 percent to $1.18 million, reversing several straight years of steep increases.”

Top pay for any CEO in the region in 2007 was $38 million (which by itself might have skewed things a bit that year), but this year peaked at $13 million.

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Jun 20 2009

Numbers in decline

Published by under Washington

Washington’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council said on Thursday that revenues for the next two years have been recalculated and adjusted downward, by more than $500 million.

An indicator for around the region? Possibly. Consider that the Oregon Legislature is still around, and still working on budget bills, and still debating over those numbers.

A good rundown of reaction to the Washington revisions shows up on the TVW Capitol Report blog. The main official reaction from Governor Chris Gregoire involves a 2% budget cut from previous levels.

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Jun 19 2009

The budget conflict

Published by under Oregon

Up to this (late) point in the Oregon legislative session, the legislature’s majority and Governor Ted Kulongoski seem to have been on the same page on almost everything. But now that the last of the budget decisions are coming in, that’s changing.

The school budget will either larger – because a rainy-day fund was heavily raided – or smaller – because it was only lightly raided – at the end of this. Right now, indications are that Oregon’s legislators are in favor of a heavy raid, while Kulongoski is flatly opposed, to the point of veto. The full scale of the conflict is likely to showdown next week.

Who prevails? No certainty, but legislators are likely, for now, to reflect the difficulty of making the more conceptual case for a low raid. It’s a good case. But harder to get through to people on a gut level, at a tough time, just after a string of tax increases already have been approved . . .

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Jun 18 2009

From the wreckage of the New Carissa

Published by under Oregon

New Carissa

New Carissa/Wikipedia

Some before too long, someone will write a history of the Pacific Coast – not the land side, but the water. Many things have been happening there in the last few decades. Populations of marine life have risen and fallen. We’ve seen dead zones, and unusual swirls of high-motion water. There’s a whole natural story out there awaiting the telling.

Soon, we’ll have many more of the pieces of that story. Oregon House Bill 3013A, which just cleared the Oregon Senate (of 90 legislators, just three voted in opposition) and likely will soon be signed into law by Governor Ted Kulongoski, sets up two “historic reserves” in areas off the coast, and a process for evaluating four more for inclusion. Each reserve would be thoroughly studied. Much of the money for that (you were wondering, weren’t you?) will come from funds paid in after the grounding of the cargo ship called the New Carissa, just over a decade ago near Coos Bay, spilling fuel and causing other damage.

Senator Joanne Verger, who is from Coos Bay, remarked that “Our community endured a lot when the New Carissa ran aground in Coos Bay. It started out as this huge hassle, eventually it became a great tourist attraction, and then it was taken away over our objections. I am glad this Legislature has recognized the nexus between the damage that was caused and the need to use the money for the betterment of our coastal resources.”

A description from the group Our Ocean:

HB-3013A describes the plan for establishing marine reserves at Otter Rock near Depoe Bay and Redfish Rocks near Port Orford. It also lays the groundwork for a set of community groups to evaluate marine reserves proposed for Cape Falcon, Cascade Head, Cape Perpetua and Cape Arago.
This effort could not be more timely: the ocean faces growing pressure from climate change, pollution and a variety of other human impacts. In May, delegates from more than 70 nations at the World Ocean Conference urged concerted action to address threats to ocean health, and 400 scientists signed a consensus statement describing marine protected areas as part of the solution.
With the approval of HB-3013-A, Oregon is poised to join California and Washington in science-based ocean protection using marine reserves. In total, 22 U.S. states and 29 countries around the world use these proven tools to safeguard the long-term health and productivity of the ocean.

Plenty of eyes will be on the process, and whatever it comes up with.

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Jun 17 2009

From the Northwest forests

Published by under Idaho,Washington

Tidwell

Tom Tidwell

The Northwest pulled in another upper-rank person in the Obama Administration with announcement today of Tom Tidwell as chief of the U.S. Forest Service – a very big-deal agency in the Northwest.

Tidwell has been a career Forest Service employee, and described now as a “Montana forester.” But areas to the west of there have a fair claim on him too. From the USDA press release:

Tidwell has spent 32 years with the Forest Service in a variety of positions. He began his Forest Service career on the Boise National Forest, and has since worked in eight different national forests, across three regions. He has worked at all levels of the agency in a variety of positions, including District Ranger, Forest Supervisor, and Legislative Affairs Specialist in the Washington Office.

Tidwell’s field experience includes working from the rural areas of Nevada and Idaho all the way to the urban forests in California and the Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah, where he served as Forest Supervisor during the 2002 Winter Olympics.

He seems to have navigated the rugged resource waters with some efficiency; offhand, no major squabbles from his years around the Northwest come to mind.

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Jun 16 2009

A nativist backwash

Published by under Washington

The strands of neo-Nazi activity running around in the Northwest have become well-known, famous even, mainly because of parades and a long shut-down Aryan Nations compound in the Idaho Panhandle. Probably less well known are the many linkage and contacts, formal and informal, they had around the region and around the country.

These days, the anti-immigrant nativist extremes may be the best place to look for a counterpart. It is less visible in the Northwest than the white supremacists once were, but it’s there.

The Orcinus blog (writer, Dave Neiwert) at Seattle today provides a fascinating runthrough of how some of this works, detailing many of the ties and links between anti-immigrant activity in the Northwest and some chilling crimes further south.

From the post: “the recent arrest of Minuteman offshoot leader Shawna Forde for the murder of an Arizona man and his 9-year-old daughter — part of a broader plan to rob drug dealers and use the money to finance their Minuteman operations – has ripped the veneer off the fake walls these nativists use to pretend that they have nothing to do with the racists who seem to swell their ranks as though they belonged there naturally.” The Northwest connections include a Yakima meeting (caught on video) featuring Forde. There are even links running back to the Aryan Nations.

Useful reading.

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Jun 16 2009

Meaning . . . kicked out of the party?

Published by under Washington

Walsh

Maureen Walsh

It’s been around a while, but we just ran across the paperwork – formal verbiage – and it seemed worth reprinting here. Not for the basic point being made, which isn’t that unusual in Republican circles, but for its down-on-paper explicitness.

The trigger was a vote by Representative Maureen Walsh, R-College Place (near Walla Walla), this year’s session in favor of the bill expanding the reach of domestic partnership law, the almost-marriage bill. As you might expect, that didn’t go over entirely well with all the Republicans back home, but many weren’t especally upset.

Some were. The blog McCranium (hat tip here) reports that a “source tells me it was more like mob rule than a meeting when a group consisting largely of evangelicals led by Nicole Prasch and Brenda High (complete with a area representative from Focus on the Family) pressured for a censure vote.”

What they passed was reflected in this press release, posted on the Franklin County Republicans blog:

On April 21, 2009, at the Franklin County Republican Central Committee meeting, the Committee overwhelmingly voted to censure 16th District Legislator, Maureen Walsh, for her sponsorship of the recently passed HB 1727.

HB 1727 inserts the following language in nearly 200 different places within its text:

“The terms spouse, marriage, marital, husband, wife, widow, widower, next of kin, and family shall be interpreted as applying equally to state registered domestic partnerships or individuals in state registered domestic partnerships as well as to marital relationships and married persons …Gender- specific terms such as husband and wife used in any statute, rule, or other law shall be construed to be gender neutral, and applicable to individuals in state registered domestic partnerships.”

Despite all her rhetoric otherwise, it has become indisputable to the Franklin County Republican Central Committee that Rep. Walsh is actively working to incrementally legalize gay marriages. As early as the 2006 legislative session, Rep. Walsh was working to expand the jurisdiction of the Human Rights Commission to include cases of discrimination because of a person’s sexual orientation with her co-sponsorship or HB 2661. Continue Reading »

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Jun 16 2009

Idaho Fry no, Boise Fry yes

Published by under Idaho

No doubt to the relief of the Idaho Fry Company’s people, and to their customers (they produce some good eats), that firm has reached a settlement with the Idaho Potato Commission over the disputed use of the business’ name. It will henceforth be the Boise Fry Company; the IPC evidently will underwrite the name change. (For more, see our post on June 6.) Presumably, the growers and processors of the Gem State’s tubers are now safe.

Considering the hailstorm that descended on the commission after word about its challenge to the small restaurant’s name got out, the commission is probably just as relieved. Doubtless its people never intended to be, or saw themselves as, legal bullies. They have the (legitimate) job of protecting Idaho potato growers’ investment in their good name, and that’s what they thought they were doing.

But then, what we see as the key point here really isn’t about the potato commission: It is about a series of interpretations of trademark and related law, from coast to coast, that amounts to a real threat to several types of liberty in this country, and that’s a point we’ve come back to in a variety of past posts and doubtless will again. When that last post made the point that, under the commission’s logic, the Idaho Statesman newspaper might run afoul of it (and maybe have to remove the Idaho from its name) if potato chips are sold in its vending machines, the point wasn’t simple sarcasm: It had to do with a reach of the law run completely amok.

Settlements or not in this case, that serious point remains, with a reach well beyond the Idaho Potato Commission.

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Jun 15 2009

Watch not the vote, but the reaction

Published by under Idaho,Oregon

robinson

Melissa Sue Robinson

Provocation – getting right in your face – seems to be the point of one particular municipal candidacy in Idaho this year. Not so much city policies, the qualities of an incumbent, or anything so mundane. From the announcement of a just-declared Nampa mayoral candidate:

My name is Melissa Sue Robinson and I am a Male to Female post-op transgendered person who is hereby announcing my intentions to run for Mayor of Nampa, in the November general election. I am running because I am progressive and I feel that Nampa is a City that needs progressive people in City government. I am the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Transgendered Persons (NAATP), a transgendered civil rights organization which was founded in Lansing, MI. in 2000. The organization was put on hold due to Michigan’s poor economic climate, my change of careers, and my relocation to Seattle in Jan. 07. I have not only restarted the NAATP, but have also founded a new organization (Equality Idaho), which will also focus on LGBT rights. If elected Nampa Mayor or not I intend to push for a LGBT rights ordinance in both Nampa and Boise in the near future. I am a 58 years old telecommunications worker, and a former owner of Design Masters Construction Co, Inc. (a 25 employee small business) in which I was President for 10 years.

Provocation rather than substantial candidacy, because only one sentence out of seven had anything to do with a rationale for leading the city of Nampa.

She’s not been active in civic life in Nampa, hasn’t been in the city long enough to get to know it, evidently lacks relevant experience at Nampa city hall . . . there aren’t any real qualifications for the job here, and Nampa is a substantial city of more than 80,000 people which needs a leader with some measurable experience. (Incumbent Tom Dale, who was a city council member before his election in 2001, has gotten generally positive remarks for his two terms on the job.) She isn’t a viable serious contender.

But watch the reaction of people in town – and this is what Robinson’s candidacy seems aimed toward. How will they react? What response will there be?

A side note. Consider Stu Rasmussen, the newly-elected (as of last November) mayor of Silverton, Oregon, a rural city of about 8,500 a city much smaller than Nampa. He is transgender – wears women’s clothes and on the same path as Robinson – and was elected with 52% in a field of three candidates, and was open about his personal transition. But there is also this: He has a long history in town, has run a local business for many years, was on the city council when he was elected last year, and in the 90s served two terms as mayor. Not everyone in town is happy with him, but the place overall doesn’t seem especially shaken up.

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Jun 14 2009

A chicken capital?

Published by under Idaho

Burley, which has seen some hard times in its ag-processing operations over the last few years, might get a break with word that a joint operation called Magic Valley Poultry International is interested in building a mass chicken farm there – about 1,000 jobs (12,000 beaks?), maybe more. It would begin operations by sometime in the summer or fall of 2010.

As the Idaho Statesman‘s Rocky Barker points out, there will be an ongoing challenge in waste disposal. Probably a good deal less, though, than from the area’s mega-dairy operations. [Updated to reflect proper numbers.]

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Jun 13 2009

ID 1: Clearing the field, or not

Published by under Idaho

Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts

Vaughn Ward

Vaughn Ward

In announcing as he did today in Canyon County that he will run for the U.S. House, state Representative Ken Roberts has to be hoping he’ll be the next Ron Crane.

Crane, the state treasurer, was an earlier Republican prospect for the first district congressional seat now improbably held by Democrat Walt Minnick. But he was also more than that; he was the Republican strategic approach to a difficult problem.

The problem is that, to consider the district’s core leanings, it should be about as close as any in the country to a Republican slam dunk, except that it isn’t. Depending on how you count, Democrats hold around four to seven of the 50 or so state legislative seats here – a useful indicator; the courthouses reflect margins not far from that. It was a very strong McCain district last year. It was lost to Republicans last time in large part because of the weak candidacy of incumbent Bill Sali.

And yet, the Idaho Republicans we’ve talked with aren’t exactly overwhelmed with confidence about winning it back: Possible, they argue, but not easy. Credit that in largest part to Minnick, who’s made no self-destructive moves (and quite a few that work neatly strategically) while in office, routinely is described as conservative even by Republicans (!) and has managed to develop a strong and highly visible cooperative relationship with the three Republicans in the delegation. Those three Republicans will ultimately line up behind the Republican nominee, of course, but they may be restrained in how hard they go after the guy who has been working with them so closely.

On the Republican side, there’s also this: For all the many Republicans in the first district, nailing down the logical candidate to run against Minnick isn’t easy: There’s no self-evidently obvious heir. That in itself creates a problem, which you might call the 2006 Problem: A potential primary with a bunch of candidates, each getting a sliver of the vote, with the possibility one of the weaker contenders winning.

Crane was supposed to be the solution to all that. A statewide elected official, well-liked in Republican circles, source of hardly any negative headlines over his years (at least, his years as treasurer) and linked to all of the key constituencies without coming across as as an extreme member of any of them – Crane seemed to hit the sweet spot.

And he seemed interested, and apparently had the whole upper-end Republican hierarchy ready to sign on for him the way they did last round for Jim Risch for the U.S Senate. Until Crane pulled the plug – he seems to like being treasurer, and the office is up for election next year and he’d have to give it up – and the establishment plan went to pieces. And hasn’t been replaced by anything else since.

One candidate is already in the field: Vaughn Ward, a Marine and former staffer for Senator Dirk Kempthorne, who (because of being little-known) seemed at first a splinter candidate, but has begun to pick up support around the Republican organization, and a decent treasury as well. He’s not exactly the establishment’s great hope, though. Ward has never run for office before, and taking out Minnick will be a tough task even for an experienced hand. And the experienced hands haven’t been clamoring for the opportunity. Two such – Sali and 2006 House candidate Robert Vasquez – might still enter, but they would hardly be establishment picks, either.

Roberts, the state House majority caucus chair, is the closest to such an experienced hand to emerge so far. Only but so close, though, which will lead the state Republican establishment to consider with some care: Is this the guy who can clear the rest of the Republican field and take out Minnick? Continue Reading »

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Jun 12 2009

A Seattle blogstorm

Published by under Washington

The Democrats who run the Washington Legislature gave Republican exceedingly little to work with in the next campaign: No tax increases, very little that could even be campaigned against as “anti-business.” (The Oregon legislative Democrats, on the other hand, are providing some material.) That, anyway, is one way of looking at it.

David Goldstein of Horse’s Ass, a left-of-center blog, is taking another approach: Going after the legislative leadership for being Republican-lite. As in his most recent post, “Who wants a primary challenge?

The irony is, we all know there’s a fair share of deadwood in the Seattle delegation, along with a handful legislators who simply aren’t as progressive as their constituents on a number of important issues, such as pay day lending, the homebuyers bill of rights, tax restructuring, and more. Indeed, start this conversation at nearly any political gathering, and the same names keep popping up again and again, the usual suspects of Democratic incumbents who deserve a serious, well-financed primary challenge, and who just might not survive should they face one.

So why don’t I name names, as some in the comment threads have challenged me to do? Oh God, I’m tempted, but coming from a lowly blogger like me it would only come off as a personal hit list, and do little more than earn me animosity from those legislators on it, some of whom I personally like, even if I think it past time for them to move on and give somebody else a chance at getting stuff done before Republican Rob McKenna seizes the line-item veto pen.

There will be more of this.

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Jun 12 2009

In the Klamath, a baby step

Published by under Oregon

klamath

A dam on the Klamath River

When the sponsor of Senate Bill 76 stood up in the Oregon House today, an obvious question arose immediately. The sponsor was Representative Ben Cannon, a Portland Democrat. The bill has to do with removal of four dams on the Klamath River, about 300 miles south from Portland. So why Cannon and not someone more local?

After all, the bill was described as (this is from the official House Democratic description) “the product of a negotiated agreement between Oregon, Washington, California, the federal government and PacifiCorp. It is supported by over two dozen groups including agriculture interests, conservation groups, utility companies, Native American tribes and other affected participants who developed the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement.”

Sounds pretty sweeping. And Cannon was a capable floor sponsor. But the rest of the story emerged right after, as the representative from the Klamath Falls area (his district covers the river basin area in question) stood to speak against the bill. That was Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, who offered an impassioned argument against the bill.

There’s a long history here, as anyone who’s followed the Klamath debate knows, ranging from water shutoffs to full flows, variously helping and hurting fish, farmers and other interests. There have been high-profile protests and much more.

The recent settlement, from last year, appeared to bring an end of much of this – at least put an end in sight, with proposed demolition (years from now, probably after 2020) of four dams and a string of concessions to various parties. On the surface, it looked like a deal (somewhat resembling in construct the Nez Perce/Snake River deal in Idaho a few years back). However. Continue Reading »

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Oregon State Highway film from 1966. A few changes since then.

 

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
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