Archive for August, 2009

Aug 31 2009

A quiet Oregon next year?

Published by under Oregon

Pieces have yet to fall into place, in some ways, but as we sit here, at the calmish end of August and ponder what next year this time might look like – politically – the odds somewhat seem to favor . . . a really dull political season in Oregon. At least for the spectators.

Oregon has had a sting of lively election years. A hot Senate contest last year, a hot governor’s race two years before that. And much more.

Next year will see both the governor and a U.S. Senate position atop the ballot, as was lat the same in 2002, another hot election year. But what we think we’re hearing suggests next year may be less so.

First, Democrat Ron Wyden, who is commonly expected to run again in 2010, is unlikely to be seriously challenged, as was the case last time in 2004. Is there the possibility for something weightier? Sure, but it doesn’t seem likely. Wyden could still tick off fellow Democrats on health care, but in the end we’d guess that won’t happen, that he’ll support the consensus Democratic package, and that’s his only vulnerability on the left. And on the right? Nothing really new. There’s no indication Oregon has abruptly been moving to the right, and it would have to move a long way to impede someone with Wyden’s broad and consistent track record (63% in 2004, 61% in 1998).

Second, what we’re hearing is that former Governor John Kitzhaber probably will run for governor, and there’s talk that announcement will be coming within days. We’ll need to attach some caveats and trapdoors to that, since anyone conclusively predicting what Kitzhaber will do is walking a minefield, and since he has considered but rejected so many other candidacies in the past. And an old ally of his, Brian Clem (two-term Democratic state representative from Salem) has been pounding the state, hard – on a schedule more like a month from election day, rather than many months. And Clem evidently would not oppose Kitzhaber if he runs. What we’ve heard – put it this way – is that the odds now seem to lean toward a Kitzhaber run. If that happens, it’s virtually game over: He clears the Democratic field of serious contenders, and Republicans are unlikely to throw a serious effort at him – he’d be too difficult. If Kitzhaber doesn’t run, don’t dismiss Clem’s potential. His recent tours around the state, with the rest of a heavy schedule and intensive organization, are laying some impressive groundwork, and Clem has some fine campaign skills of his own. And who’s the Republican to take him on, in a serious way, in the Portland metro area, where elections are won?

In the legislature, there looks to be minimal action on the House side. On the Senate side, the Democrats have a lot of seats up about two-thirds of those on the ballot next year), but only a few look substantially vulnerable.

The big action next year could come down to county-level Republican organizing, with the tax ballot issues as a lever for that effort.

Anyway. So it seems from here, from now. 2010 look almost like a blank slate just begging to written upon . . .

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Aug 23 2009

Hardcore tea-bagging

Published by under Idaho

We’ve seen the mixed audiences – and they have been mixed – at congressional town halls in the western part of the Northwest. But what was it like in Boise on Saturday night, at a meeting set up by the tea-bagging crowd?

Not violent or riotous, by all accounts. But some of the points made are worth some revisiting here, for a look at current Idaho conservatism and the situation Democratic Representative Walt Minnick is working within.

Blogger Joel Kennedy (a retired submarine officer (and “moderate realist. In Idaho, that makes me a Democrat”) wrote that “one [participant] suggested that the whole concept of insurance was the cause of all the country’s ills, and that if there was no insurance people would be a lot more personally responsible. There was lots of cheering for the concept of putting people in jail who tried to use the emergency room and not pay, but they also complained about the high cost of incarcerating people and wanted frequent use of the death penalty. Combining the two, it seemed the only logical solution to their conundrum was to execute poor people who couldn’t afford to pay their hospital bills.”

Welcome to Idaho. Assuming your pockets are stuffed sufficiently full of cash.

There were other concerns raised. A blog on the right, Free in Idaho, reported that “there are legitimate differences in opinion about the constitutionality of many of the things the government has done lately. Mr. Minnick seemed content that most are legitimate actions of government, but if not, the Supreme Court will eventually sort it out and make it all right. This stance brought boos every time he went there.”

More specifically on health care, Jill Kuraitis at New West wrote about the concerns of veteran Bill Ripple, Boise, about “all this euthanasia of the greatest generation that ever lived.” Minnick responded (later in the meeting) “that nine years ago he had been in a serious car crash, and spent 24 hours on a respirator, fully conscious. ‘And let me tell you the quality of life was not that great. I’d like to be able to provide some directions to my caregivers about my wishes.’ A murmur of doubt and some suspicious words said that the audience was wary of the statement.”

In favor of personal choice and responsibility, then, except when they weren’t.

More generally, how did Minnick (the one member of Congress there in person) make out?

Kuraitis: “He paid too much homage to his Republican colleagues to please some Democrats, but not enough to please the crowd. Liberals won’t like it that he thought it was a ‘useful suggestion’ when someone shouted ‘close the borders!’ Republicans who crossed the party line to vote for him hated hearing of his support for President Obama.”

For some reason, a closing line from an old Bob Dylan song plants itself, and refuses to go away: “He said his name was Columbus, and I just said, good luck.”

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Aug 22 2009

Spreading stories

Published by under Oregon

Interesting post at Blue Oregon about the direction and nature of how a number of news stories with ties to the Metolius Basin have been disseminated and sourced.

It is somewhat speculative. But there looks to be some solid grounding for the speculation.

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Aug 21 2009

Mallahan v. McGinn

Published by under Washington

Joe Mallahan

Joe Mallahan

Mike McGinn

Mike McGinn

Too many M’s – Mike McGinn, and Joe Mallahan . . .

But one of them, one of two guys hardly known by the community only a couple of months ago, will be Seattle’s next mayor. Incumbent Greg Nickels, who was widely expected at least to survive this week’s primary election, conceded today. His timing was just about right: His votes have been close enough to the other two that he realistically might have edged into second place, until last evening’s results which made that more problematic. And today’s have erased most doubt.

One of the basics from politics 101: If an incumbent is on the ballot, the election is almost always more about the incumbent than about the challenger(s). And the results in this one could hardly have been any more definitive, with about three-fourths of Seattle voters deciding to throw Nickels out. Even had he slid through this week, he almost surely would have lost in November. For him, the effect is to cut short the pain. (And his timely concession cut it a little further.)

The two who continue on, though, will present some fine fuel for analysis. Since neither is an incumbent, and since they have won nearly identical numbers of votes – and neither can be considered a clear front-runner – the shape and substance of the general election is up for grabs in many ways.

It does have some context. Some suggestions for how to start to look at it . . . Continue Reading »

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Aug 21 2009

Guns, guns, guns

Published by under Idaho

McAfee

Challis McAfee/Ada Co

A man in western Ada County was in his house late afternoon on Tuesday when he noticed a man outside taking pictures of his place. When he stepped outside to inquire why, they argued briefly -the man said he was on foreclosure business for a bank – and then the photographer reached into his vehicle and pulled a .357 magnum on him.

The man, Challis McAfee, is a local Republican official (precinct chair) and member of the state Republican central committee, and active in Boise-area Tea Party activities. He was taking pictures, he said, as part of a foreclosure investigation; a contractor hired through Wells Fargo confirmed that.

Meridian police arrested McAfee and charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

You could say all sorts of things about this incident. Here, we’ll just note how perfectly it seems to encapsulate so much of the moment . . .

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Aug 20 2009

SRBA judge number five

Published by under Idaho

The press announcement from Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter about his new appointment to the state Court of Appeals somehow managed to leave out the most significant aspect of it: The new appointee, 5th District Judge John Melanson, is also presiding judge of the Snake River Basin Adjudication.

That’s not a disqualifier, of course; and on the merits, Melanson is a solid choice. His work on the adjudication has been even-handed and steady.

Which leads to, more or less, the matter of: The next judge will be the fifth to preside over the SRBA. So far, Idaho has experienced something of a miracle that the adjudication has progressed as smoothly and as (yes) quickly as it has. Will this continue until judge number five?

That person, presumably, will be chosen by the Idaho Supreme Court. Thus far, all presiding judges have come from the ranks of 5th district judges. In this case, one of them (Barry Wood), who happens to have been a former SRBA judge, is effectively disqualified for the same reason he was removed from the case: His brother in law, Daniel Eismann, is on the Supreme Court.

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Aug 19 2009

New tool

Published by under Idaho

Believe it was from Idaho . . . activist? not sure what label to put on him these days . . . . Dennis Mansfield, some years ago, we first heard about YouTube, when he suggested that this new thing might have some real impact in politics. That was a couple of years before, well, it did. Obviously in recent years, it has.

Today he (with his son Colin) are up (on Mansfield’s site) with a new tool called Screenr.

It uses Twitter to very quickly and easily post videos.

Not sure we’ve absorbed yet what it’s capable of. But it sure looks like something to keep a watch on. And the political possibilities seem very real.

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Aug 19 2009

Another personal story

Published by under Idaho

kustra

Robert Kustra

Considering the nature of the political heat at the moment, and the political environment he works in, Boise State University President Robert Kustra‘s statement on health care ought generate some shocks.

A while back, Kustra’s son Steve, who was insured, developed cancer. He was treated, and it went into remission. Afterward, his health care rates grew to the point that he dropped insurance. When cancer returned, he was uninsured and had trouble finding a physician to treat him.

In his state of the university talk today, the elder Kustra reflected on this:

“Over the course of the last 15 months, that we fought this battle, we saw close up what’s at stake in the current health care reform debate. We are living proof of how for-profit insurance companies and HMOs target people who are sick and who are ill and raise their premiums and raise their premiums until they can effectively kick them off of the rolls. . . . When we hear the ‘public option,’ and we hear the president thinking about dropping it from the plan, it worries me greatly that we would leave health care to the profit motive in America.”

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Aug 19 2009

The high cost of stayin’ alive

Published by under website

Couldn’t resist a link to this post from an old colleague, Mark Shenefelt, with whom I covered news in Boise years ago. Shenefelt now is an editor at the Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner, and he writes here about the cost of health care, some of his experiences, and some of its implications.

Posted here not solely because of his kind words toward the end . . .

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Aug 18 2009

It’ll be awhile

Published by under Washington

The 10 o’clock (uh, 9:52) King primary vote update didn’t add a tremendous number of votes to the picture, so not much changes from the picture reported earlier.

This will stretch out for a number of days.

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Aug 18 2009

Primary, first run

Published by under Washington

Nickels

Greg Nickels

The first-run King County results are up (released at 8:15; the next round is supposed to come at 10) and they follow a certain pattern: Most races are unsurprising, but there’s usually a joker somewhere. About 16.6% of the ballots are counted, but some points can be clearly made.

The Seattle bag tax was expected to fail, and the early results look definitive enough to say: It will. Other west-coast entities considering similar measures (as quite a few have), take note.

The King County executive race is so far running about the way it was widely expected to, with former TV news anchor Susan Hutchison running decisively in the lead with 37.4%, and County Council member Dow Constantine in a clear far ahead of the six other contenders with 22.4%. (Third place is legislator Fred Jarrett at 12%.) Barring some strange trend in the ballots remaining, the fall contest looks like Hutchison-Constantine.

Initial take is that, for the general, Constantine starts with the edge. Among the major candidates, Hutchison was considered the more conservative Republican in the race – the only one – while Constantine was running as one of four moderate/liberal Democrats (all veteran local elected officials) who split up that portion of the vote. If a revote were held instantly, Hutchison might add somewhat to her 37.4%, but Constantine logically should pull most of the support from voters for Jarrett, Ross Hunter (10.9%) and Larry Phillips (11.7%) – a total of 57%. Hutchison needed a vote much closer to the 50% mark to put her in a front-runner position.

That’s a starting-gate estimate, of course; the campaign has yet to be run, and much can change. And we have get to see how the percentages shift as more ballots come in.

Most interest – and this is the surprise in the group – is Seattle mayor, in which incumbent Greg Nickels, who because of his incumbency logically should be running a clear first in this primary just because the opposition is split among seven others including a veteran council member . . . well, isn’t running first, or second either. At the moment three candidates are all running very close for first place: Nickels (25.1%), Mike McGinn (26.6%) and Joe Mallahan (25.8%). In present counting, fewer than a thousand votes separate third-place Nickels from first-place McGinn, so this contest is way too close to call, and probably will be for several days out.

But there is a takeaway, and it is this: Even if Nickels survives the primary, his chances in the general are, as the lawyers would say, de minimis. An incumbent in a primary like this should get, or at least approach, half of the total vote if his position is decently strong at all. An incumbent getting a quarter of the vote in a field of modest candidates (no insult intended, but the group isn’t a collection of established local political superstars) is extraordinarily weak. In the primary, the anti-incumbent vote was splintered among a bunch of candidates; the mayor won’t have that luxury next time. Nickels will need either an amazing campaign or astounding luck to survive the next contest in November. If he gets there.

Update after 10 . . .

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Aug 18 2009

An Idaho spending database

Published by under Idaho

Just a quick recommend and thumbs up for a new site, OurIdaho.com, which compiles information about government spending (including salaries), and makes that available through a searchable database. Its face is Wayne Hoffman, founder of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Haven’t yet had a lot of time to play around with it. How complete it is isn’t obvious through a quick examination. But we’ll be coming back to it.

This could be highly useful – and this sort of transparency is never a bad thing. Check it out.

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Aug 18 2009

Election Day: Setting the predictions

Published by under Washington

Primary election day in Washington, and tonight everyone will have the attitude that of course it was all going to turn out that way.

So this morning, hours ahead of any numbers release, let’s take a look at a set of predictions.

The Seattle Times has a poll up asking readers who they think will win (not necessarily their preferences) in three contests, for Seattle mayor, King County executive, and the 20-cent bag tax.

Results have not been massive (only 41 to 45 votes), but –

For executive, 50% figure Susan Hutchinson will clear the runoff, and 19% figure Council member Dow Constantine will be the other finalist. The rest of the votes were deeply split.

For mayor, another clear consensus about who makes the runoff: incumbent Greg Nickels and businessman Joe Mallahan, each with 39%. No one else breaks 12%.

And 71% figure the bag tax will fail.

These all seem like reasonable consensus assessments, the results that would have to be marked down as “unsurprising.” It’s easy to say after the fact that a result was expected; here we have a benchmark.

See you tonight.

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Aug 17 2009

R-71 clears the bar

Published by under Washington

The advocates for Washington’s Referendum 71 didn’t do a spectacular job of getting petition signatures. They got enough to teeter, for day after day, on the thin edge between winning and losing ballot status in November.

The final decision on that isn’t in yet. But Darryl at the Horse’ Ass site, which has done some fine statistical work on political matters in recent years, has been closely following the review of petition signatures. In all petition events, some signatures are ruled invalid for various reasons and thrown out. If all of the R-71 signatures were valid, the proposal would get to the ballot; but if too many were tossed, it would fail. The question has ridden on the failure rate.

Figuring it has been dodgy, but today Darryl was able to put together statistical analyses that seem to nail the results: “The V2 estimator projects the number of valid signatures to be 121,648 giving an excess of 1,071 signatures over the 120,577 needed for the referendum to qualify for the ballot. The projected (duplicate-corrected) rejection rate is 11.65%.”

In other words, the referendum is highly likely to just barely make the ballot.

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Aug 17 2009

The vanishing Elk, and Lions, and . . .

Published by under Oregon

Barrett Rainey, whose posts appear in another section of this site, has up a nice reflective piece on a disappearing part of the community landscape: The civic club hall. And all that goes with it.

From his post:

In Bend, my parents were lifelong members of Elks, Masons, Eastern Star and Amaranth. In high school, I was a DeMolay. No choice. That’s how you were brought up. That was expected. I went. I resisted. I was wrong!
Traditionally, when you walked into a lodge hall or a club room, you immediately, and without introduction, were in “community.” Whether you personally knew anyone else there was not important. Whoever was there would likely share many of your values, have about the same level of volunteer and civic participation as you and would know others of similar interests locally and in surrounding towns.
You probably knew their kids, saw these folks in church, helped build the new bleachers at the high school together, gave blood, pulled the float in the homecoming parade, shared vegetable garden excess, cut and stacked wood for someone who needed help, went fishing or hunting together, chopped and dug out stumps to clear land for the new church wing.

Part of what we’re losing in our increasingly hostile politics is that sense of community.

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