Writings and observations

There’s a significant issues buried inside a smaller one in the case the Eugene Water & Electric Board has filed, and the city of Eugene entered, in the circuit court in Lane County. The immediate issue up for consideration – whether the board or the city of Eugene, which actually owns the water rights at stake in the lawsuit – has the right to make a water sales decision. Or ultimate decision, as the case may be.

But inside that is another question: Should one city (Eugene) be able, through its decision on water sales, to effectively control the development of another city – Veneta.

Veneta is a small bedroom community of about 5,000 several miles west of Eugene, out in the woods at the foot of the Coast Range. It has limited local sources of water – that is, water to which the rights haven’t already been grabbed by Eugene. It expects to grow significantly over the next 20 years, doubling its population or so. And it will need water, as a legal (under state law) as well as a practical matter.

Eugene has water, enough that it needs to take care that it uses enough to avoid losing water rights under risk of abandonment. It could meet the need. But does it want to?

Put another way, does Eugene want to contribute to sprawl and commuter traffic, which periodically chokes the city as it is?

Eugene Water, the utility (customer-owned, not a city department), hasn’t made that an issue, approving a water sales contract some months back. But this week, the city of Eugene has filed its own paperwork in the case, saying that because the city owns the water rights, that it has authority to decide whether the contract should be approved. And opinions at the city level appear to be mixed.

The Register-Guard, for example, noted “Councilor Alan Zelenka said councilors must keep in mind the city’s growth management policies that encourage compact growth and efficient use of public infrastructure in evaluating Veneta’s request.”

This could become a legislative matter before long.

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Oregon

The Eugene Register-Guard‘s editorial today had a great line about Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and the state’s financial planning for the next few years:

“The state leader who shows the strongest evidence of a willingness to face hard choices about Oregon’s future turns out to be the one who is best positioned to avoid those choices.”

Because, as the editorial pointed out, Kulongoski won’t be in office much longer, and he has the option simply to punt. Instead, he seems to be devoting his last year in office to prepping the state, as much as he can, for the dark economic realities hitting the state now and continuing on.

He’s been clearer on the subject, overall, than either of the two major contenders to replace him in January. (Of course, that could change, but the wise wouldn’t count on it.)

That probably should be borne in mind when, late this year, people start considering Kulongoski’s governorship.

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Oregon

More than the usual amount of post-convention commentary after the somewhat odd selections of policy choices Idaho Republicans came up with at Idaho Falls – odd to the point that a number of quite conservative state legislators were opposing, and losing votes on, a number of them.

The platform and resolutions have been posted on Talking Points Memo – a liberal-oriented blogsite, which may give you an indication.

An example of the reaction: One resolution said, “Let free Idahoans pay taxes, and other fees due to the State, County and City in silver and or gold in any form. Payments to City, County, or State employees requested to be paid in silver and or gold, Will be complied with.”

Talking Points: “We asked the state GOP for comment on this one: How would such a system work? How would the state evaluate the proper values of gold and silver in collecting payments? And since governments collect taxes and fees in order to spend those revenues on needed goods and services, how would the state find people who accept gold and silver, instead of the universally accepted U.S. dollar? Would the state simply sell the excess gold and silver, in order to pay for services with dollars? They have not responded to our request for comment.”

Check out the roster of resolutions, not all (though most were) approved by the full convention, but all with support from at least a committee or county organization. Here are the resolutions, or nearly all of them:

Unilaterally reduce state payments to the federal government based on what someone in Idaho deems to be an “unconstitutional” federal spending; jury nullification; put the FBI and other state and federal law enforcement under control of county sheriffs; rejecting any federal food-health activities; repeal contractor registration with the state; an absolute constitution ceiling on taxes, fees and spending; backing the Arizona immigration law; wipe out teacher unions; end the state corporate income tax; bar the de-certification of charter schools; “Idaho legislature and executive should assert ownership of federally-held Idaho lands and resources”; the state should unilaterally defy any federal law or rule it disapproves of (number 21); state prisons should be made self-supporting (22); eliminate concealed weapon registration – not concealed weapons, just the registration; set up a second Idaho state militia; legislation to specifically encourage use of the Bible as a text in public schools; a constitutional declaration that a fetus, of any level of development, is a “person”.

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Idaho