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Posts published in December 2009

Nose to nose

court

Washington state law (RCW 46.63.030) allowed police to issue a ticket for a traffic infraction that they don't actually see, but have good reason to think occurred. There's some gray area here, and a Washington Supreme Court decision out today in Washington v. Andrew Magee shows how it can play out.

The time was April 2005 and the place State Route 512, a four-lane divided highway between Lakewood and Puyallup. State police fielded calls that someone was driving the wrong way on the highway. The court decision describes what happened then:

When the trooper arrived, she found Magee parked facing the wrong direction on the shoulder of the SR 512 on-ramp, nose to nose with another vehicle. Magee explained that he had been called by a friend whose car had broken down and that he was there to help jump-start the car. In order to more easily facilitate the jump-start, Magee told the trooper that he had turned his car around and pulled in front of his friend's car on the shoulder. There is some dispute, and the record is unclear, as to exactly how Magee maneuvered his car and whether he backed it down the on-ramp or turned it around on the shoulder. But
Magee contends he never traveled the wrong direction on the traveled portion of the road. Although the trooper never actually saw Magee driving, she concluded that Magee must have driven against traffic in order to reach his position and issued him a notice of infraction for negligent driving in the second degree.

Lower courts said that the trooper's issuing the citation was correct, or at least within the law. The Supreme Court threw it out: "the State argues that the trooper actually witnessed the citable offense because the negligent behavior was 'ongoing.' But negligent driving in the second degree is a moving violation. For the infraction to be valid, the movement must have been made in the officer's presence. Magee's driving occurred before the trooper arrived, the trooper never saw Magee operating his vehicle negligently, and none of the other circumstances outlined in RCW 46.63.030 were present. The trooper did not have authority to issue the notice of infraction."

Starrett’s return

One of the more naturally skillful minor party candidates the Northwest has seen in the last few cycles is Mary Starrett, who ran for governor in 2006 as nominee of the Constitution Party, which takes a conservative view. She was crisp, articulate and highly mediagenic - fitting, since she had years of professional work in Portland broadcasting.

She hasn't been especially visible politically since (she does have a Facebook page), but now she's announcing a run for the Yamhill County Commission. The commission is officially non-partisan, but as in so many places the sides are aligned. Two of the commissioners are Republicans (one is a former Republican legislator, and the other the mother of a Republican state senator). The third, Mary Stern, is considered the commission's Democrat, and she will be Starrett's target. Stern is broadly thought to be highly popular, and not at all an easy target. At the same time, Starrett may be helped by having to deal with no partisan labels. (Of course, Stern may as well.)

On the county level true, with mostly parochial issues under discussion. But this could be a hot race.

ADDITION Inadvertently not linked to in the original text here, but absolutely should have been - the story on Starrett's expected entrance showed up first in the McMinnville News-Register.

Shades of Seattle

mayor map

from Publicola's map

There are no absolute political monoliths; all places have their shades of support. Not even, for Republicans, places like Meridian, Idaho. Nor even, for Democrats, Seattle. Solidly lined-up as those places may be, overall.

Publicola has out a map showing the vote split in the close Seattle mayoral race between Mike McGinn, who won, and Joe Mallahan. Pulling implications here is a little dicey, since both are Democrats and not wildly different in their stands. But there is this: In very rough terms, McGinn was the candidate of the Democratic activists and outsiders, especially those most interested in environmental and labor issues, and Mallahan was the business candidate, backed by many of the downtown and moneyed interests and the political establishment.

With that in mind, consider the map, wherein McGinn's highest numbers are marked by reds and oranges and Mallahan's by blues and greens. McGinn territory seems marked by the downtown area, parts of southern Seattle (especially Columbia City) and some of the neighborhoods (looks like Ballard may be one) in the northwest, as well as the university district. A map to conjure with for a while.

The unreal

The manila envelope arrived with a Salem, Oregon, return address, but no personal or organizational name. Look up the address (3421 Del Webb Ave. NE, Salem) and turns up as a BedMart Mattress Superstore. The simple, one-page letter inside has the letterhead of "Leuthold Dairy Farm." So we have a little dissonance before we even get to the letter.

And a little more when you look up the BedMart corporate site and find out there's no current BedMart at that location. It turns out to be an empty building, being used by . . . a political campaign.

Which one is indicated by what the letter says at the bottom: "I worked with Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes to share my thoughts with you in this letter." Ah! So this isn't really a letter from a dairy farmer who's so up against the wall that a small percentage increase in state taxes would threaten to put he out of business (which is what the tenor of the letter suggests, but which it never comes out to say). It comes from a PAC. Which doesn't really want to advertise its presence.

The letter (ours arrived today) is one of the shots being fired in the battle over Oregon Measures 66 and 67, which concern increases in personal (at higher levels) and corporate (depending on legal structure) income taxes.

The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes has out two pieces about the letter, one about its intentionally nondescript appearance (nothing fancy, and no logos anywhere) and very soft-pedaled approach to acknowledged what's going on here.

Advertising gurus have for some time called this the "age of skepticism," that people need stronger convincers and fewer discordant notes if they're to be persuaded. The letter contains a number of economically questionable (at best) assertions (the main subject of Mapes' other piece out today). Letters like this one go back a long way; but you'd think people would start questioning some of this before they even get that far.