Archive for September, 2009

Sep 30 2009

Was there ever much doubt?

Published by under Oregon

Around here, we never had much doubt that Senator Ron Wyden was a yes vote for the public option on health insurance (for which he voted favorably twice in the Senate Finance Committee). In many places, his advocacy for his own bill (the Wyden-Bennett) seemed to be read as opposition to public option. But they were never in conflict and, as Wyden points out, actually mesh well.

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A strong video on the subject, with Wyden doing some battle on this (something some Oregonians may find interesting, given the senator’s generally affable nature). Hat tip to Blue Oregon, which also highlighted this quote from Arianna Huffington: “So, I’m very grateful to Senator Wyden for taking the leadership on this, because otherwise there’s no point having so-called “reform” that will actually reform nothing. And, in fact, then Republicans will say, ‘You see, another government reform effort that didn’t work.'”

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Sep 29 2009

NW . . .

Published by under Northwest

The politically marginal east Clackmas/Multnomah Senate district held for years by Democrat Rick Metsger will be sought by Brent Barton, new House member from the area; he’s helped with a $50,000 infusion from his attorney father . . . Proposed in King County: budget cuts killing 367 jobs and support for 39 pages, and other things . . . King County executive Seattle Times interviews to be live-streamed at 2 p.m. . . . Neighboring Oregon City and West Linn will be cut off for two years with the Arch bridge closure (for repairs) . . . Hopes of re-opening Tamarack this winter . . . First swine flue – ah, H1N1, death in Idaho . . .

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Sep 28 2009

The Nampa mayoral

Published by under Idaho

robinson

Melissa Sue Robinson

Not that the end result necessarily will be much different, but one of Idaho’s most unusual candidates this year – Melissa Sue Robinson, running for mayor of Nampa against incumbent Tom Dale – is creating a larger stir than you might have expected.

What there was at first was just some interest by way of curiosity. Melissa Sue used to be Charles, and that change of genders at first seemed to be central to her candidacy, an emphasis on issues related to sexual identity. (Consider her campaign website’s domain, equalityidaho.org.) Or that at least was our first reaction, and considering that the electoral jurisdiction we’re talking about is conservative Nampa, there seemed not much more to say.

Since then, a few months back, matters have developed. The transgender part of the campaign hasn’t gone away – how could it? – but it has become a news peg for a variety of news organizations to take a look at the race. (See this Indonesian web site.) It has even resulted in some odd attacks in cyberspace. Robinson probably is quite well known now in Nampa, abruptly one of the better-known people there.

Put that together with a change in emphasis. Robinson, who has run for office before (though not in Idaho), has begun taking on a variety of topics, all relevant to the way Nampa is run. She has talked about the structure and makeup of the city council and argued that city council meetings should be television on community cable, saying the citizens ought to be more engaged and brought more fully into the system, along with such traditional subjects as economic development. There’s some visibility and energy here and, in the last month or two, some breadth of discussion.

Now maybe the biggest bit of controversy of all – “they have me pegged as a Democrat.” (In years past, she has run both as a Republican and a Democrat.) But does this suggest maybe a bit of concern creeping into the proceedings?

Dale has been a fairly popular mayor of Nampa, has gotten mostly good reviews, and Robinson’s critique hasn’t been devastating, nothing to suggest a serious firing offense. Simply on that basis, there’s not much more reason to think now than there was several months ago that he won’t be easily re-elected. But the contest has at least gotten more interesting.

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Sep 27 2009

Chunnel

Published by under Washington

From early on, the Alaskan Way viaduct – or rather, whatever will replace it – has seemed to be at the core of the Seattle mayoral race. Now there doesn’t seem much doubt.

Headlines last week seemed to raise the image of incumbent and outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels poised to push the tunnel project – backed by one mayoral runoff candidate, Joe Mallahan, and opposed by the other, Mike McGinn – as far as he could, maybe to a point of no return, before he leaves office. Nickels has held off on some other things in favor of his successor, but this . . . this would be a big one.

And McGinn is pouncing. He points out that the city’s share of the tunnel cost is $930 million, and he’s very pointedly asking Mallahan where the money will come from.

In this, there’s some positioning. Both McGinn and Mallahan are Democrats with ties to various parts of the city’s Democratic infrastructure. So check out McGinn’s current front page on his web site: The lead item is about the “Battle for Seattle,” a fundraiser, and goes on: “The Battle for Seattle (and King County). A joint benefit for Mike McGinn, Dow Constantine, and Pete Holmes. With music from The Presidents of the United States of America featuring Krist Novoselic.” Constantine, recall, is running for (the nonpartisan office of) King County executive; he is a Democrat, and his opponent is widely perceived (or often described at any rate) as a relatively conservative Republican.

Getting the picture of how the framework is intended to be set up?

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Sep 26 2009

A more strategic fit?

Published by under Oregon

No one in Eugene (well, at least, hardly anyone) wanted the Hynix computer semiconductor plant in that city to shut down – as it did last year – and thereby wipe out about 1,300 jobs. There’s not any way to spin that as good news for the city.

But . . . the news this week that Uni-Chem of South Korea and Spire Corporation of Massachusetts (in a joint deal) might buy the plant to build solar cells and modules, and thereby restore about 1,000 jobs, might be something a little more than just a recovery story.

Welcome enough on that basis, of course. But the semiconductor business (while certainly valuable on its own merits) had relatively little synergy, brought not a tremendous number of spinoffs to Eugene. The combination of other and related solar and electric vehicle developments in Oregon are a different matter. If this new plant develops the way it sounds it might, this could be a critical link in making the Willamette Valley a keystone in that new and rapidly developing industry. We may wind some some time off looking back on this as a development larger even than the (again, important on its merits) restoration of 1,000 or so jobs.

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Sep 25 2009

NW . . .

Published by under Northwest

It’s a ballot issue – two of them – in Oregon, for early next year. Signatures submitted for 301, personal tax increase (129,500 unverified signatures submitted, 55,179 required), and 302, corporate tax increase (126,183 submitted, same number needed), almost certainly enough for ballot status. . . . Clackamas County Commissioner Lynn Peterson says (a recent Facebook page to the contrary) she won’t run for governor . . . Owing to budget cuts, former state Senator Vicki Walker won’t take the job as chair of parole board, instead an administrative job at lower salary, at least temporarily . . . Seattle Times endorsement schedule announced . . . Spokane report on a parking lot scam . . . Mount Vernon struggles to deal with Glenn Beck Day (which is Saturday) chatter; media access (expected to be limited) has become a hot topic.

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Sep 25 2009

The holdback

Published by under Idaho

Officials in Oregon or Washington might actually breathe east at the amount, but the $150 million revenue shortfall – a result of the latest revenue estimates coming in lower than they were earlier in the year – is a tough nut for Idaho.

Today Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter did what he had to do in ordering cutbacks; he’s required to keep the budget balanced. It was a measured response, though, varying cutbacks by agency, and finding rainy day and other funds to cushion blows where he could. This wasn’t a meat ax, across-the-board deal. the cuts averaged 4% but varied considerably.

Overall reaction initially seems positive, or as positive as you can feel under the circumstances.

The video, by the way, comes via Idaho Public Television, which captured the packed press conference.

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Sep 24 2009

A disproportionate sentence

Published by under Oregon

supreme court

Oregon Supreme Court

This is what they’re talking about when they talk about a court throwing out a policy explicitly backed by the voters, and imposing its own. At least, it probably will be presented that way. Or maybe what the people had in mind to do violates the state constitution, and the Supreme Court had to be the (lone) adult in the room who said, “no.”

Odds are the merged cases of Oregon v. Veronica Rodriguez and Oregon v. Darryl Anthony Buck will be hotly debated, and that would be understandable. They may also stand as an unusual profile in courage. The justices here have to know that this one could come back to haunt them, if enough people pay attention to political slogans as opposed to the details of the case. (What are the odds?)

Here’s the core of the case:

These two criminal cases, which we consolidated for argument and disposition, require us to interpret and apply the requirement in Article I, section 16, of the Oregon Constitution that “all penalties shall be proportioned to the offense.”

Veronica Rodriguez touched a 13-year-old boy when, standing behind him in a room with 30 to 50 other people, she brought the back of his head into contact with her clothed breasts for about one minute. Darryl Buck touched a 13-year-old girl when the girl, who was sitting next to him while she was fishing, leaned back to cast her fishing line, bringing her clothed buttocks into contact with the back of his hand and Buck failed to move his hand; that happened one or two more times. When they stood up, Buck brushed dirt off the back of the girl’s shorts with two swipes of his hand. Each of those touchings was unlawful because a jury in Rodriguez’s case and a judge in Buck’s case found that they had been for a sexual purpose – a fact that brought the physical contact within the definition of first-degree sexual abuse. Rodriguez and Buck were both convicted of that crime.

First-degree sexual abuse carries a mandatory sentence of six years and three months (75 months) in prison, under Ballot Measure 11 (1994). In each of these cases, however, the trial judge determined that the mandatory sentence was not “proportioned to the offense” committed by the defendant and therefore was unconstitutional under Article I, section 16. The trial courts imposed shorter sentences – 16 months in the case of Rodriguez and 17 months in the case of Buck. The state appealed the trial courts’ sentencing rulings, and Rodriguez and Buck cross-appealed their convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, but agreed with the state that the trial courts should have imposed mandatory 75-month sentences.

The slippery terrain the Supreme Court had to walk: What, exactly was a proportional sentence? The justices could have taken a walk on answering the question. Instead, they chose to grapple with it.

The reasoning is a little complex, which may mean it will be attacked simplistically since it could prove hard to defend. But the most compelling slice of the argument may lie in this paragraph:

“An as-applied proportionality analysis that considers the facts of an individual defendant’s specific criminal conduct is particularly significant when the criminal statute at issue covers a broad range of activity, criminalizing a variety of forms and intensity of conduct. In such a case, a harsh penalty might not, on its face, be disproportionate, because of the fact that the statute dealt, inter alia, with some extreme form of that conduct. However, when a defendant is convicted for engaging in only more minor conduct encompassed within the statute, the defendant may plausibly argue that the mandatory sentence, as applied to the particular facts of his or her case, is unconstitutionally disproportionate. To refuse even to consider defendants’ as-applied challenge would not only be inconsistent with Huddleston, but would undermine the basic proportionality concept that more serious crimes should receive more severe sentences than less serious crimes and vice versa.”

In other words, blindly sentencing according to Measure 11 undermines the whole idea that more serious crimes ought to be punished more severely than less-serious crimes – something most voters very likely would agree with. It may be a stronger argument than one cited in the conclusion that “this court’s cases establish that a criminal penalty is unconstitutionally disproportionate to the offense, in violation of Article I, section 16, when imposition of the penalty would “shock the moral sense” of reasonable people.”

If you view this decision as seriously undermining Measure 11, you’re probably right. This is a shot at its heart.

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Sep 24 2009

NW . . .

Published by under Northwest

Boeing continues to scramble for that air tanker business, but the Pentagon says it is opening up another round . . . A fine first-person blog post from Chuck Sheketoff, getting very specific on how people are being misled about the actual impact of this year’s pair of Oregon tax increases . . . Oregon Representative Chip Shields named senator in a Democratic Portland district . . . Democratic Senator Rick Metsger won’t run again, in what has been a close-margin district, which will lead to GOP targeting in that area . . . King County animal control going away, transitioning, or something . . . A Chicago Tribune editorial touts Boise State President Bob Kustra as a prospect for University of Illinois presidency . . . Twin Falls Times-News opines, “The governor needs $159 million to make the budgetary pot right. He’d already have most of it except for all those tax incentives the state gave away recently, to the likes of Micron Technology and Albertsons. How’d that work out for Idaho, anyway?” . . . Boise continues battle over air traffic control, may lose some of those functions to Salt Lake . . .

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Sep 24 2009

On end of life

Published by under Oregon

Check out the fine New York Times blog post by writer Timothy Egan, telling the story of Annabel and Albert Kitzhaber – parents of former and possibly future governor John – and how they chose to die: Peacefully at home, with family, rather than “the tubes and the needles, the meds and smells and the squawk of television” at a hospital.

Egan pauses in wonderment at how, “for reasons both cynical and clinical, the American political debate on health care treats end-of-life care like a contagion — an unspeakable one at that.”

The article is a thoughtful read, but check out too the comments below (and a lot of them have accumulated). The very first tells a story somewhat like the Kitzhabers. The third suggests, “This is a touching story, but I fear that Kitzhaber’s battle is an uphill one. For some reason, we Americans seem utterly incapable of conducting rational, mature, and nuanced discussions about issues such as the right to die. The adults always seem to get crowded out by the red-faced moral absolutists and the carnival crowd.”

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Sep 23 2009

NW . . .

Published by under Northwest

Traffic fatalities in Washington lowest (in raw numbers) since 1955 . . . A driver-texting ban may happen in Idaho. From Kevin Richert’s blog: “Boise Democratic state Sen. Les Bock is taking another run at the texting ban; a similar bill stalled earlier this year. He has some key allies: Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John McGee, R-Caldwell; and House Transportation Chairwoman JoAn Wood, R-Rigby. Wood’s support, touted by Idaho Democrats last week, isn’t just laudable. It’s shocking. Her history on safe-driving legislation, frankly, has been awful.” . . . From a Mount Vernon (WA) Herald newspaper editorial: Mayor Bud Norris, re his key to the city to be offered to cable talker Glenn Beck, “recently mused that it would bring some attention to Mount Vernon if he could bring the city’s famous (some say “infamous”) son here. Well, unfortunately, mission accomplished.” . . . New Oregon legislator: “Oregon House Democrats welcome Val Hoyle to the House of Representatives after she was unanimously chosen by Lane County Commissioners to succeed former Rep. Chris Edwards in Lane County’s District 14 representing West Eugene, Santa Clara and Junction City. Edwards is now a State Senator who was recently chosen to replace former Senator Vicki Walker.” (from emailed press release) . . . And another newbie: “Margaret Doherty as Oregon’s newest State Representative. Doherty was unanimously chosen by county commissioners in both Washington and Multnomah counties on Monday to replace Larry Galizio in Oregon’s House District 35.” . . .

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Sep 22 2009

Replacing commercials

Published by under Washington

The tools for bypassing political TV commercials – the price hogs of campaigns – are in place on the web: Web video is inexpensive and easily goes viral. But wait, there’s more: Now there are web videos that provide excellent rundowns for voters trying to decide what to do about candidates and ballot issues.

We’re taken with a new project the Washington Secretary of State and TVW (Washington’s C-SPAN) has started, with the useful example of an I-1033 point-counterpoint.

This one, running about 10 minutes, pits initiative backer Tim Eyman against Washington state AARP Director Doug Shadel; after a brief description of the measure – which seeks to cap government spending in the state – each has about four minutes to pitch the case for or against. Both of them get down to the heart of the matter, and you can imagine either of them delivering a somewhat similar argument if you bumped into them on the street.

But this is better: Both Eyman and Shadel know that their opposition will be seen right there, right next to them, so that anything they say that can be challenged, will be challenged. They have enough time to get into the details, to make a comprehensive argument rather than reel off a few soundbites – in fact, because of the time allowed, they effectively have to make comprehensive arguments. Both do a professional job. (As a matter of review, Eyman may come across better to a larger audience; he has a real everyman appeal on video.)

These kind of videos, which could be attached to state campaign guides like those Washington and Oregon issue, could be excellent helps for voters. They’re all a candidate or an issue advocate need to make a personal appeal. And they may begin to make clear the limitations and flaws inherent in all those 30-second commercials we’re accustomed to seeing.

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Sep 20 2009

The DUI ban

Published by under Washington

Great article in the Seattle Times about the combination of (a) Canada’s strict (stricter than in the United States) enforcement of DUI laws, coupled with the use of shared US-Canada criminal databases at border crossings. You get this at the end of a ferry ride from Washington state to Vancouver Island:

“During the May-to-September peak tourist season, four to five passengers a week are turned back by Canadian border agents at the Victoria dock. . . . ‘We have witnessed firsthand people who haven’t told their partner that at some point in their life they had a DUI. The first the wife learned about it was when the husband was denied entry.'”

So you can only imagine what will happen when high season at the upcoming Vancouver Olympics arrives.

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Sep 19 2009

The word from Packwood

Published by under Oregon

Every so often, someone wonders what Robert Packwood – the former Oregon senator who resigned in 1995 ahead of possible expulsion over sex harassment charges – is up to, and what he might think of politics today.

The question is worth asking, because among the other things he was, Packwood was a brilliant political strategist and (like the more often-noted Mark Hatfield) overall a centrist Republican in a day when the party would nominate them.

Willamette Week caught up with Packwood, who spends part of his time in a suburb south of Portland, and has up an interview with him. Recommended reading.

One quote. Asked about the condition now of the Oregon Republican Party, which hasn’t won a statewide race since 2002: “The nice thing about political parties is that eventually they like to win. So, sooner or later, either the party changes so that it can win, or it disappears.”

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Sep 18 2009

Nope, Smith’s not running for governor

Published by under Oregon

There’s been some chatter that Gordon Smith, who was the Republican senator from Oregon until he was defeated last year for re-election, might try a comeback in a run for governor.

Not gonna happen: He has just been named president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters.

You can figure, for one thing, that naming a former senator (who doesn’t have any specific professional background in broadcasting) to that job has a lot to do with congressional action.

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A truly down-home ad for Oregon Senator Merkley.

 

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.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.
See the FIGHTING THE ODDS page.


 
JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

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THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
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by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

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    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

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    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

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