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Posts published in June 2010

Idaho, Republicans and the trend

There was a temptation to say something a little snarky about the proposal, which was narrowly defeated in committee, about the state militia. The scene is the Idaho Republican Party convention at Idaho Falls, at the committee level, where ideas get thrashed around, some of them a little more solid than others. The ideas aren't yet, to be clear, at the full-convention level; quite a few original concepts don't quite make it through there.

But at the committee level, there was a proposal to establish a state militia. This sounds at first like, well, what you might expect. Except that the rationale of the proposer was a little more thoughtful than that: Yes, Idaho has a militia now, the National Guard. The problem is that it ultimately is subject to federal control and being whisked off to Iraq or Afghanistan, and part of the reason we need a militia is to help with natural disasters and the like here at home. There are some problems with the idea (it probably would never pass legal muster - two state militias? and how exactly would the feds not be able to mobilize the second one?), but the concern and thought process certainly weren't off the rails. It passed the committee.

Harder, much harder, to explain this: A committee voted in favor of repeal of the 17th amendment, which would mean that state legislatures, rather than individual voters, would choose United States senators. This is an idea that has been unearthed and gotten a pretty good national thrashing in the last few weeks. These people must have known what it was.

They were warned. State Senator Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, and as solidly conservative as they come, told the committee, "You're giving up your right to vote for people who are representing you in Washington, D.C."

Wonder what else will emerge at the Idaho Republican convention before it ends.

UPDATE (a few minutes later) Well, that didn't take long. Another committee, uncertain that the state's extremely clear restriction of marriage to man + woman isn't enough, agreed to a plank barring transgender people from marriage as well.

A wine blogger conclave

You live in a small town that's about as wine-centric, per-capita, as any in the country, and you'd expect to hear about nearly all the heavy-duty wine activities.

Somehow missed this one: The 2010 Wine Blogger Conference will be held in Walla Walla, for the first time outside California.

It will be, they say, "the premier conference for new media and the wine industry."

Noted here in part as one more small indicator of how the Washington/Oregon wine industry is coming along. Plus the curiosity factor . . .

SCOTUS: Petition names releasable


The U.S. Supreme Court, in what amounts to an 8-1 decision, made what would seem to be the obvious call in the Washington case of Doe et al v. Reed: When you sign your name on a referendum petition (and presumably as well, initiative or other formal petitions), your name is public. Although it's actually a little less broad than that.

The issue arose after the Washington passage of the everything-but-marriage domestic partners law last year, which was challenged by the group Protect Marriage Washington. It launched a referendum (ultimately defeated) to try to overturn the law, and to do that it needed petition signatures, a lot of them. It submitted about 137,000. When that happened another counter group asked Secretary of State Sam Reed for access to the names, which it planned to place on a web site. Protect Marriage Washington then filed the lawsuit, saying the names of signers should be kept secret because they might be subject to harassment.

This was a fairly new proposition, and a little strange. Other groups further out of the mainstream, who seemingly might have a lot more to lose through association with a particular cause, never asked for the cloak of privacy on this very public action. But the case went to the Supreme Court, and now the decision (written by the chief, John Roberts) is out:

"The issue at this stage of the case is not whether disclosure of this particular petition would violate the First Amendment, but whether disclosure of referendum petitions in general would do so. We conclude that such disclosure does not as a general matter violate the First Amendment, and we therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals. We leave it to the lower courts to consider in the first instance the signers’ more focused claim concerning disclosure of the information on this particular petition, which is pending before the District Court."

The court left open a door, though, and maybe one any number of groups will try to use: The argument that their backers will be harassed if exposed. They should have closed that door entirely. Laws against harassment already are on the books and can and have been used. Beyond that: How cowardly to you get to be when you want affirmatively change things in our society? How many cloacks of darkness do you need? Casting a private vote, on an issue submitted to the public, is one thing; acting to place that matter on the ballot is quite different.

The line from the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, "Disclosure requirements may burden the ability to
speak, but they . . . do not prevent anyone from speaking," is exactly on point. The court's decision would have been stronger had they stuck closer to it.

Meshing the polls

A useful read on the recent run of three polls in Oregon on the governor and Senate races in Blue Oregon, speculating on an interesting distinction in the polling for those two offices.

The post notes that polling for the governor's race has been fairly consistent - the three polls (by SurveyUSA, Rasmussen and Davis Hibbitts & Midgehall) all show a close race between the two contenders, Democrat John Kitzhaber and Republican Chris Dudley.

In the Senate race, though, the pollsters diverged more widely. All gave leads to incumbent Senator Ron Wyden over Republican Jim Huffman, but the leads amounted to 10%, 13% and 30% - a big gap.

In the post, Jeff Alworth suggests: "Polls are useful only to the extent that they can predict who will turn out for an election. What I see here is the result of weighting for anti-incumbent votes. . . . But apparently, pollsters are giving a lot of credence to the anti-incumbent theory. You don't see the same effect in the Dudley-Kitzhaber race because neither is an incumbent."

Once, the idea in polling was that you randomly contact people and then report what they say. Over time, in recent years, that has changed: Now results are weighted and adjusted, depending on what factors the pollster thinks happen to be relevant. (Weighting in national polls for party identification has become SOP.)

Hmm. Along with the changes in technology (the old call-em on land lines approach just ain't cutting it the way it used to), you have to wonder just how valid any of these polls are.

It’s called compromise

The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement was one of those political creatures entirely beloved by hardly anyone - a little ungainly, something that gave a little here to get a little there. It's what's known among pragmatic people as a compromise.

The question came up this week, in effect, at the Klamath Falls City Council: Do we endorse a compromise or insist on our way/highway? The upshot of the latter, of course, would be more fighting of the sort that's kept the area in uproar over water issues for a decade and more.

It was a seriously considered question, though. The council was working on the city budget, and the proposed budget had in it $22,100 which would go to three economic development groups. Those groups had been in support of the agreement.

News reports noted that "Council member Bill Adams voted against the budget, saying if he is going to support somebody, he wants them to have the same views he has."

He was outvoted. But therein lies a glimpse of why the Klamath has been in such a mess for so long.

Read more:

NW city numbers

The census city estimates for 2009 for cities nationwide were released today; they're always worth a good ponder. A note: These are not the official decade census numbers - only the annual estimates.)

Nationally, the city of Seattle now ranks at 23, Portland at 30, Boise at 100, Spokane at 104, Tacoma at 108, Vancouver at 143, Salem at 150, Eugene at 155.

Of the 19,510 places on the census list, the smallest in the Northwest (ranking 19,480 nationally) is Warm River, Idaho, with 10 people. (Yes, it is an incorporated city.) Next smallest is Hamer, Idaho, with 12.

Most of the key rankings of cities within states aren't much disturbed. In Washington, it remains Seattle-Spokane-Tacoma (though the latter two remain close, and the estimate said that Tacoma was growing about twice as fast as Spokane). In Oregon, it's Portland-Salem-Eugene (with Salem gently expanding that thin lead over Eugene). In Idaho, it remains Boise-Nampa-Meridian, with Meridian becoming much the fastest-growing city in raw numbers in the state, adding people much faster than Boise. Also in Idaho, the number 4 or 5 spots switch, with Idaho Falls regaining its occasional lead over Pocatello.

Those spots are of some interest in Oregon, too. Gresham remained fourth and Hillsboro fifth, but Hillsboro is growing a lot faster. In the 2000 census, Gresham had about 20,000 more people; now that lead has been cut by about three-fourths.

There are, of course, population losers as well as outright gainers. The largest city in the Northwest reported to lose population over the year was Bremerton (35,191), down 95 people over the year and still below the 2000 census numbers. Next largest was Grants Pass (32,829), off by 14 in the year but still considerably above the 2000 numbers. The next two largest were also in Oregon - Roseburg and Klamath Falls. (Southwest Oregon has taken a hit.) The largest in Idaho was Mountain Home (12,266) though that may have to do more with the shifts of military activities at its base. Next largest in Idaho was the (now) Boise bedroom community of Emmett, off by 27; maybe the recession had some impact here.

The outsourced speech

Plagiarism is easier to detect these days than it once was, what with search engines and even web sites designed to match texts. KTVB-TV in Boise did a fine job of using that technology to take one more look at the controversial case of the congressional announcement speech by Vaughn Ward, who lost the Republican primary last month in Idaho's 1st district.

The original controversy centered on the similarity of a relatively few lines in the speech to one several years ago by Barack Obama. But much more of it, apparently, comes wholesale from a speech by a Republican Pennsylvania congressional candidate. Asked about the speech, Ward's former campaign manager said the speech was "outsourced."

Like a college kid buying a term paper? So it would seem. Maybe there's something to this call for "authenticity" in politics.

This week in the Digests

weekly Digest

Business and economic news dominated our Washington, Idaho and Oregon Public Affairs Digests this week, as unemployment statistics and employee pay numbers stabilizing or jogged upward. Another significant piece of news for Northwest transportation and economic development: Major changes in air routes for Horizon Airlines, with significant cuts in a number of the smaller Northwest markets they serve.

There were significant legal decisions, including one in Oregon relating to medical marijuana users who seek concealed weapons permits; in Idaho, a legislator is considering introducing a medical marijuana bill in the 2011 session. Idaho also reports meth use down.

As a reminder: We're now publishing weekly editions of the Public Affairs Digests - for Idaho, Washington and Oregon - moving from a monthly to a weekly rundown of what's happening. And we're taking it all-electronic: The print edition will be moving to e-mail.

That means we can include more information, and get it out a lot faster: The weekly Digests will be in your in-box first thing Monday morning. If you subscribe, of course: That's $59 a year, for 50 issues and the yearbook. Yes, including the yearbook. The Idaho Yearbook, which we published for years up to 2002, will return early in 2011 - in printed book form - and Digest subscribers get it for free with their subscription. And the Oregon and Washington yearbooks will be coming out at the same time.

If you'd like to take a look at one of the new weekly Digests, here's a link to the Idaho edition, to the Oregon edition and to the Washington edition. If you'd like to subscribe, here are the links (through to PayPal) for Idaho, for Oregon and for Washington.

A place for Cashmere

Cashmere World site

File this in the efforts-at-new-news-media directory . . .

Around the Northwest, there are several web sites aimed at becoming news web sites for local communities that once but no longer have print newspapers. Orting, Washington and Shoshone, Idaho are two that come to mind.

These have been sprouted by local people, sometimes those displaced by the closing of the local paper. But now comes one backed and sponsored by a daily newspaper, aimed at one of its readership-area, nearby communities.

The paper is the Wenatchee World, and the site is the Cashmere World; the town of Cashmere is about eight miles northwest of Wenatchee. It's not a blog; it's more like a newspaper web site. There are news stories, conventional stories, mainly on business and sports.

The paper describes it roughly: "This pilot project is Cashmere’s new community website, with the aim of helping Cashmere residents develop their own news and features about their town, their schools, their individuals and businesses. We have been discussing this with community members for some time, and held a training session for the writing of news. This program is not intended for bloggers’ comments."

Will it work out and provide a model for other papers?