Writings and observations

Most of us don’t begrudge banks making a profit – they’re in business, that’s what you do. But on day, if practices like this continue, there will be infuriated revolt against them:

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions issued an emergency rule yesterday, providing stronger protection for consumers taking small loans. The rule went into effect immediately upon filing, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009.

“This rule is a result of our learning a consumer had been charged a $1,950 participation fee for a $600 loan,” DFI Director of Consumer Services Deb Bortner explained. “That’s the equivalent of more than 4,000 percent interest – it’s simply unconscionable to charge such outrageous fees.”

This emergency rule was made effective immediately in an effort to protect consumers and prevent lenders from circumventing the will of the legislature. DFI does, however, intend to begin a notice and negotiated rulemaking within 120 days from the filing of this emergency rulemaking. DFI may also seek a statutory remedy to this situation.

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When employers fill job positions, they ordinarily look for people who already have some relevant experience and education – who have in some respect qualifications for the job. That became a big subject of discussion in the race for president last year. It may become a big subject of discussion in the contests for governor in the two Northwest states where that office is up for election next year, since in both major party nominees may appear without the usual kind of resume items.

What are the normal credentials for a major candidate for governor? Often, service in a statewide office or in Congress. (That fits both incumbents, Idaho’s C.L. “Butch” Otter, who had been in Congress and had been lieutenant governor, and Oregon’s Ted Kulongoski, who had been attorney general and a Supreme Court justice.) Or a mayor of one of the largest cities in the state. Or, maybe, a prominent state legislator. Most major candidates – and most major party nominees – for governor have at least served in some elective office before, and that has a point: There are skills and dynamics unique to that kind of work that are central to the tougher work that a governor does. In California, Arnold Schwarzenegger came into the job with massive celebrity and popularity but was nearly swept out before he frantically shifted course dramatically.

In Idaho, the Democratic nominee appears (as matters now sit) to be avowed independent and first-time candidate Keith Allred.

For a first-time candidate, he has more advantages than most. Early reports on his announcement speeches suggest he has some genuine campaign skills. He appears to be well informed at least within certain areas (his advocacy non-profit, the Common Interest, has been able to choose its subject areas), but he seems to have the capacity to learn quickly and absorb conflicting arguments effectively, which would be a strong plus. He also has demonstrated, for half a decade and more, real interest and concern about Idaho public affairs, spending a good deal of time and energy and probably some money developing alternative approaches to issues. You’d have to be greatly surprised if it turned out (and some reporter ought to check it out) he had missed many votes in elections since his return to Idaho in 2003. (The point will doubtless be made that Allred lived the first 20 years of his adult life, after his graduation from Twin Falls High School in 1983, far from Idaho, mostly in Ivy League colleges and universities. How Idahoans will assess that may be up for grabs.)

He does, though, have a long-running interest in mediation and resolution of policy issues – that was the mainline of his academic-related work.

His semi-counterpart in Oregon, former NBA (Trail Blazers) basketball player Chris Dudley, a Republican who has already picked up support from a number of Republican elected officials, has a maybe a tougher case to make.

The prompt for this is a Jeff Mapes story in the Oregonian today noting that “Elections officials in Clackamas County, where he is registered to vote, said that Dudley has missed seven of the last 13 elections. County Clerk Sherry Hall said she did not have on hand complete records before 2004. But the 44-year-old Dudley admitted that he had a “terrible” record of voting during his 16-year career as a player in the National Basketball Association. He could not say whether he had ever voted during his playing years from 1987 until 2003.”

Sound like someone with a long, deep commitment to public affairs?

There is more in Willamette Week, saying that while in the NBA he lived (in contrast to most Blazers) as a “tax refugee” north of the Columbia in Washington state (which has no income tax), but moved south when he built a $2.9 million home at Lake Oswego, and only registered to vote in 2004. His work experience, up to the last three years, has been almost exclusively in the sphere of basketball playing. And the diabetes foundation he is known for helping found (and which is widely praised for doing good work for kids with the disease) has had some tax reporting issues too.

On the liberal Blue Oregon blog, Kari Chisholm asks, “Having displayed very little interest in politics and public service, what makes Chris Dudley suddenly think he should be Governor? And what evidence is there that Oregonians can trust him to think deeply about the serious public policy questions that face our state?” That question can be expected to recur.

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