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Posts published in June 2009

The cartoonist population

Hadn't fully appreciated this aspect on the newspaper troubles. From the Editor & Publisher web site:

David Horsey, who won Pulitzers for cartooning in 1999 and again in 2003, lost his job when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased print publication. Though he stayed on as the newspaper went online-only, he now draws for all Hearst papers, but not as a local cartoonist. Following the layoff of Eric Devericks at The Seattle Times last December, there is no major-metro local editorial cartoonist in Seattle.

There is still Jack Ohman at the Oregonian.

Restarting the music

Hass

Mark Hass

On Wednesday, Oregon Senator Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, ground the budget/tax express to a screech halt with his vote aligning with Senate Republicans on the first of two major tax bills - a vote just enough to defeat the House-passed first bill (and by implication, the second) on the Senate floor.

This morning, reversal. "I believe it's okay to say, 'stop the music,'" he said of his Wednesday vote - but today he opted to restart it, rejoining the other Senate Democrats on two key bills (3405 and 2649) which fill in the last of the budget pieces. Things had changed, he said, including some legislation proceeding in the House, including some changes in the rainy day fund and elsewhere. He made allusion, though, to intensive discussions with other legislators "over the last 12 hours," and no doubt they were intensive. Would've been a great fly-on-the-wall situation.

The Republicans knew it was coming: Wednesday, there was little Republican debate on the bills, but today, there was plenty - most of the Senate Republicans (all in opposition to the bills) had their say on the floor. There were some unusually passionate debates, on both sides (Larry George and Brian Boquist standing out among the Republicans, and Vicki Walker among the Democrats). Hass spoke but relatively briefly.

The upshot this morning is that the Senate did pass both both bills, with just the 18 votes needed.

Just before the debate began, Majority Leader Richard Devlin made a passing reference to the speedy approach of sine die adjournment. After this morning's action, it surely got a little closer than it seemed yesterday afternoon.

Would a temp tax work?

Well, so much for the remarkably smooth Oregon session of '09. Owing to a single flipped vote - that of Beaverton Democratic Senator Mark Hass - the Senate declined to pass a business tax package approved the day before by the Oregon House. Because of that, a second tax bill was table (alongside that first one). And because of that, the whole question of how to balance the state budget has been thrown wide open.

This wasn't entirely a surprise (one reason, presumably, the vote was held until late afternoon). The debate wasn't long (there was some but not a lot of Republican argument against), and during it, Senator Alan Bates, D-Ashland, warned that people were "teetering" and "I implore you, to vote for this bill tofay and the one following it. The state will go into chaos without these bills."

Now, presumably, we start to find out what that entails.

It could mean, as senators got some indication, that the budgets are reopened and mass cuts ensure. Or maybe not. On Blue Oregon, a commenter remarked, "Hass just said he wants to send the corporate minimum back to senate revenue for a fix- they MAY not have the votes on the floor and might have to come back another day."

Overall, the legislature may be here a few days longer than they had thought. But what direction this goes next looks up for grabs.

First big glitch in what had been a remarkably smooth-running machine.

WA: 867,000, no insurance for you

Kreidler

Mike Kreidler

Only a number, maybe, but what ought to be a big number: 876,000, the number of people in the state of Washington who by year's end are expected to have no health insurance.

Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler talked (timely, given the health talk going on in the other Washington) about how his office came up with the estimate. After that, there was a piece of sort-of good news from the state Health Care Authority, that earlier reports about tens of thousands of residents being dropped from the state basic health plan will not materialize. None of that affects the 876,000 estimate, though.

uninsured

Kreidler chart

What this will establish immediately beyond more hand-wringing isn't clear. But maybe it provides a little more impetus to the state's congressional delegation as it considers where to land in the emerging health care policy battle. The commissioner himself seemed to acknowledge as much in his statement - some reliance on solutions coming from a couple time zones away.

From Kriedler's release: (more…)

A right to not be indoctrinated

A good many of the arguments against Oregon's Senate Bill 519, which has passed the Senate (and now goes to the House) and has turned into a real business-labor flashpoint, seem to revolve around something the bill doesn't do.

One news report, for example, noted that "Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said unions were trying to curtail the ability of employers to sit down with their employees to talk over issues that might affect the company. Ferrioli and others said the bill could be a particular hardship for companies that offer such secular services as house painting but make religious faith a central part of their mission."

In considering that, take a look at what the bill does. Here's the most central section:

An employer or the employer's agent, representative or designee may not discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or threaten to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or take any adverse employment action against an employee:
(a) Who declines to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting or communication with the employer or the agent, representative or designee of the employer if the primary purpose of the meeting or communication is to communicate the opinion of the employer about religious or political matters;
(b) As a means of requiring an employee to attend a meeting or participate in communications described in paragraph (a) of this subsection . . .

The bill's effect, in other words, isn't to stop an employer from talking about whatever he chooses, or to block any kind of meetings or other one-on-one communications. What the bill does say is that if an employer-backed meeting is about politics or religion, the employee has the option of not attending, without risk of job loss or other disciplinary action. If it's a one-on-one communication, an employee could walk away from it. Or not, at the employee's option; employees can choose to attend (as many probably will continue to).

There is more to the bill, of course, mainly fleshing out that core point. But the essence is that people who rely on a paycheck shouldn't have that dependence used as a force for religious or political indoctrination. Which, if considered in that light - as it only intermittently has till now - might throw a little different spin on a debate in the House.

Marriage age as a political indicator

Amid a National Public Radio feature story this morning about "hooking up", a point was made about the rising average age of marriage. A sub-point also emerged: Idaho was listed as having, on average, the youngest married couples in the country.

When we pulled the census stats on this and averaged marriage age for men and women, Idaho appeared to rank second (behind Utah) rather than first. (The average age at marriage in Idaho was 24.6 years for men and 22.8 for women, compared with the national average of 26.7 and 25.1.)

The rundown of states by marriage age, though, does match up remarkably well against red-blue measures. After Utah and Idaho, two of the reddest states, is Oklahoma, also among the most crimson. The red of the low-age top 10: Arkansas, Kentucky, Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Alabama and Tennessee. All were McCain states in 2008.

At the other end of the list, oldest at marriage: the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Maryland, all blue states and (except Pennsylvania and maybe New Jersey) among the bluest. All went for Obama in 2008.

Oregon and Washington are close to the national average on marriage age.

OMI to OMF

More sad media news, meta division this time: Lynn Siprelle's excellent Oregon Media Insiders site, which we've referenced here periodically, is gone. A fine spot for keeping up to date with changes in Oregon news media, it will be missed.

There is, however, a new Oregon Media Forum, self-described as "an OMI expat community." Set up in forum fashion, it seems equipped to pick up, in part at least, where OMI has left off.

Filings are in

Off-year candidate filing is done in Washington, with basically no last-minute surprises. The primary election in August will skim off the top-twos in the competitive races.

For Seattle mayor, that presumably means incumbent Greg Nickels and Council member Jan Drago, though Drago's path to an ultimate win (her complaint with Nickels has to do not with substance but with process, almost always a snoozer for voters) remains obstacle-ridden.

The King County executive race remains a lot more interesting, with the five expected candidates - two county council members, two legislators and a former TV news anchor - piled in. Polling seems to indicate that, on the basis of name ID, the former anchor, Susan Hutchison, might pull a first-place plurality win in August, but we'd guess she'll have a harder time in the one-on-one to follow. Of course, there's no clarity yet as to who that one will be.

And the engines rev . . .

Fried

Idaho Fry

Idaho Fry Co. in Boise

Over a good many years, several key Idaho people and organizations did something unusual and remarkable and that wouldn't have happened by itself: They developed a specific commercial identity for Idaho potatoes, as products of particular quality and therefore worthy of higher price. There's some real value in that, and some commercial need to protect it.

What might threaten it? If the quality of the state's potatoes were to be diminished, that might hurt. So might false claims from someone else, a producer in some other state who labeled products from there as Idaho potatoes - that would inflate the size of the crop sold under the label, and might damage the quality levels. The Idaho Potato Commission has each of these possibilities seriously over the years in the defense of Idaho potato growers and protection of their long-term investment in brand building: If you're going to sell something as an "Idaho potato," you have to meet certain standards and follow certain rules, and there are legal avenues for enforcement.

There appears to be, generally, some clarity about that. On its website, the Potato Commission specifies "Who Should License With Us," and lists three criteria:

Any company or individual packing fresh Idaho® potatoes. This is required by Idaho statute.
Any company, organization, or individual intending to use trademarks or certification marks owned or administered by the Idaho Potato Commission. This is required by Idaho statutes and Federal trademark law.
Any container manufacturer or company who reproduces IPC's trademarks or certification marks.

Which seems reasonable enough. How the Idaho Fry Co. fits any of that can be explained only by a wild imagination or by a very creative trademark lawyer.

This business is a small restaurant (allowing takeout) located not far from downtown in Boise (even closer to the Potato Commission's offices). Its focus is on potatoes, to be sure - French fries specifically, which are sold in a variety of formats (thick, stringy, curly, fixed with various oils, and so on), and loving attention seems to be paid to them. The burgers, and other foods, really are "on the side."

Although they're potatoes, there's no statement anywhere we could see, outside the store, inside, on menus, on line, that any of these are Idaho potatoes. In fact, considering the variety of potatoes used, a number of them probably couldn't be Idaho in origin. The "Idaho" in "Idaho Fry" clearly refers to the geographic location of the store. It does not pack potatoes and it does not use any Idaho potato trademarks (see the criteria above).

All of that notwithstanding, the IPC has loosed the legal dogs against the Fry Company: "a business card was slipped beneath our door with this cryptic message scribbled on the back: 'Blake – This name is a problem. Idaho™ is our trade name.'” (more…)

Strange storm

Thursday night's was a really peculiar regional storm. Driving around Boise, I saw lightning and heard thunder rapid fire of a sort I'd not seen here for along time.

Turns out the same sort of thing was happening back in Oregon, on the far side of the Cascades. Salem, evidently, was particularly hard hit.

A meteorological oddity. not necessarily over yet, to judge from the weather reports.