The public face of Initiative 1053, the latest measure aimed at requiring two-thirds votes in the legislature for any tax increase, is its tireless chief organizer, Tim Eyman of Mukilteo.

But he is not alone. There are others, too, less interested in generating headlines. In the Seattle Post-Intelligencer today, Joel Connelly has a rundown of some of the other key backers: big oil companies: “BP put up $65,000 to put I-1053 on the ballot. Tesoro, ConocoPhillips and Equilon each forked up $50,000 to pay signature mercenaries whose efforts are essential to make the ballot.”

That may be a response to a proposed Hazardous Substances Tax which the state legislature came close to passing this year, and which the companies fought hard. You have to wonder: What might have happened had the legislators known then, as they do now, about the Gulf spill?

Little wonder they’re so eager for two-thirds.

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Washington

greyhound

Greyhound at Ontario, Oregon/Randy Stapilus

There’s this, to begin with: The Greyhound bus run scheduled to depart Portland at 11:50 p.m. left at 11:50. That is exactly what the big clock on Union Station north of downtown, and next door to the Greyhound station in PDX, said as the bus cleared the building.

The bus was scheduled to arrived at the bus station just west of downtown Boise, more than 400 miles away and after eight intermediate stops, at 10:05 the next morning. It pulled it at 10:04, and I stepped off the bus at 10:05. The precision was impressive.

I hadn’t been at all sure what to expect. But what emerged over the course of the ride is an argument that “riding the bus” ought not to be considered a second-class (or worse) option.

I’ve not taken a long-distance commercial bus ride for a long time, 25 years at least, maybe more. For a long time, I suspected I never would again: The trend lines seem to be running against commercial bus lines. When you see a business, even one as big as Greyhound, scaling back on lines (the closest GH stop to our residence, a long-time stop at McMinnville, Oregon, was dropped a few years ago), expectations aren’t necessarily of the highest. And there’s something about the bus in the culture, as something people wouldn’t take if driving or flying were available options. A mode of last resort. With, maybe, a clientele reflecting that.

The reality turned out to be a little different, and even intriguing.

The bus was neat, clean and comfortable – the seats more comfortable than most airline seats (not to damn with faint praise). Air circulated well through the coach. The driving was smooth and not especially noticeable (which is a compliment). Some Greyhound buses on the east coast have wifi and other services installed, which would be a nice feature. They’re not on the Pacific-side buses yet, but the people at the Portland station seemed to think that may be coming in the near term; more enhanced buses apparently are rolling off the lines this summer.

How much traffic do these graveyard, long-run routes get? Enough apparently. A bus departing Portland station for points south (to California) at 11:25 was sold out at least a half-hour before boarding. A crowd assembled quickly into line for it at gate 8, and everyone there seemed to get a seat.

My bus was about half-full initially, but at a midway stop at a Pilot truck stop at Stanfield about 3:30 picked up a dozen or so more people, apparently on a run originating from the Seattle area but headed southeast. At peak, it was nearly full. I got the impression that’s more or less average.

Who were all these people traveling hundreds of miles in the middle of the night?

That would be worth knowing, because there’s a whole culture here. The people who boarded in Portland with me seemed to know the drill; they were not bus newbies like me. I had arranged my ticketing online, printing the ticket at home and simply presenting it at the station. That seems to be Greyhound’s preferred way of dealing with ticketing, probably simpler for them and customers both. But so far as I could tell, none or almost none of my fellow boarders ticketed that way: Rider after rider turned in the hand-written flimsies that must have been cut at a bus station.

They were mostly male – maybe a half-dozen of the 60 or so passengers were women. There were no children. (Which makes sense on an overnight run, but on plane flights I’ve seen plenty of children on night flights.) They were mostly younger men, in their 20s or 30s, few much younger or older than that. There seemed to be either no or almost no couples or other groups traveling together; these were solo riders, though a number of them were sociable enough.

They were also courteous and disciplined. When the bus rolled out of Portland, the reading lights went out, all but one or two (I and one other rider periodically read a book). Everyone slept. Everyone was quite. There was either little or no sound from electronic gadgetry; those who had them used ear buds. All you heard was the sound of the bus. Talking resumed somewhat after sunrise, but even after that many of the passengers slept.

Why were they traveling? There were occasion references to heading to a job – this was a decidedly blue-collar, not white-collar, group. Some were visiting friends or relatives. Some were heading out for truly long distances. The bus stopped in Boise for a cleaning and refurbish, but was scheduled to continue on to Salt Lake City and Denver. A few of the Portland boarders said they were headed all the way there.

Not a run I’d want to do every week, or month. But it worked neatly and as advertised. You get the sense that more people would try it . . . if they tried it . . .

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Idaho Oregon

leavitt
Timothy Leavitt

Timothy Leavitt would call it an adaptation to reality. Many of his former supporters would call it breaking his word. Wonder what the voters will think when he’s up for re-election, in 2013, as mayor of Vancouver?

The change, however you define it, is dramatic. Last year Leavitt based his seemingly longshot campaign against veteran Mayor Royce Pollard on opposition to imposition of tolls on any rebuilt Interstate 5 bridge across the Columbia River. A lot of Vancouverites commute south (a disclaimer here: The writer’s sister periodically is one of them), more than the number of Portlanders who commute north. Leavitt’s outspoken irritation at the idea of tolling hit home and swept him in.

Tolling has a lot of support, though, among government officials and others who think hard about how to pay the billion-dollar costs of reconstruction.

Confronted with that, Leavitt last Friday unveiled his own approach, involving a complex system of tolling that could take in people who ride the Interstate anywhere near the bridge, even if they exit before crossing it. Reaction on that generally has yet to coalesce.

The immediate reaction in Vancouver to Leavitt’s 180 is a lot clearer.

Check out the comments at the Vancouver Columbian‘s web site after a story on Leavitt and his critics:

“Interesting that he was a single-issue candidate in most of his campaign materials, including his signs. Now he renegs on that.” “A man’s word is his bond. It appears to be one of many broken promises by “His Honor”. Some folks can’t be trusted and they only make promises to get elected and then work on the agenda given to them by their major contributors.” “Lets all remember this when he decides some day to run for another office, we can truthfully call him out as a LIAR.” “It’s not that we believed that Leavitt could stop tolls by himself, but we did believe that he would be a strong voice in opposition to tolls.” “Recall Leavitt the Liar.”

And so on.

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Washington

kempthorne
Dirk Kempthorne

Tomorrow former Interior Secretary (and former Idaho Governor) Dirk Kempthorne is scheduled to appear before the U.S. House Subcommittees on Oversight and Investigations and Energy and Environment, as one of several witnesses about the subject, “The Role of the Interior Department in the Deepwater Horizon Disaster.”

Since Kempthorne left the Interior Department a year and a half ago, and well more than a year before the BP gulf disaster, you might wonder what he’d have to offer. But bear in mind that decisions, policies and personnel in government agencies can continue generating ripple effects for years after the top dudes depart. And bear in mind what was said and reported about Kempthorne’s tenure at Interior.

This isn’t the first time a spotlight has been shone on the department in those years. Of the results of one 2008 inquiry, Representative Nick Rahall summarized: “The results of this investigation paint a picture of something akin to a secret society residing within the Interior Department that was colluding to undermine the protection of endangered wildlife and covering for one another’s misdeeds.”

But the issues aren’t just generic at Interior; they are also specific at the Minerals Management Service, the division of Interior responsible for overseeing drilling operations like BP’s in the Gulf, and which has come under a great of criticism in the last couple of months.

During Kempthorne’s tenure, which ran for two and a half years up until January 2009, the agency had a string of problems. The New York Times reported this in September 2008 (after he’d been in charge more than two years): “As Congress prepares to debate expansion of drilling in taxpayer-owned coastal waters, the Interior Department agency that collects oil and gas royalties has been caught up in a wide-ranging ethics scandal — including allegations of financial self-dealing, accepting gifts from energy companies, cocaine use and sexual misconduct. . . . The reports portray a dysfunctional organization that has been riddled with conflicts of interest, unprofessional behavior and a free-for-all atmosphere for much of the Bush administration’s watch.”

The hearing cranks up at 8 a.m. MTN/7 a.m. PAC, tomorrow morning. Might be entertaining.

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Idaho

digest
weekly Digest

Congressional campaign finance reports fell hard and heavy toward the end of last week, and they suggest the outlines of the campaign season about to unfold. That may be especially true in Washington, where the primary election is only a few weeks away.

State budgeting (and revenues) remained a big concern during the month, while unemployment remains high everywhere (diminishing a bit in Washington, holding in Oregon).

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.

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Digests

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Chris Dudley

The problem is somewhat bigger than it first seemed, and it started as a problem. It has sort of unwrapped, getting more pungent.

If you’re Chris Dudley, the Republican nominee for governor of Oregon, your biggest problem is this: You’re untested in public – governmental and elective – life, and questions both about how well informed you are and about how you react to various pressure stimuli are real questions voters and the people who advise them on voting will be considering. Dealing with that concern will be a main thread of the upcoming gubernatorial contest with Democrat John Kitzhaber, whose issues are in other areas: He has broad mastery of the subject matter, and his reactions to various challenges have been documented for a long time.

One way Dudley could spike the problem is by going right at it: Putting himself out there, answering questions, providing detail, exposing himself to the pressures so people can watch him in action. If, that is, he would leave a good impression afterward. There’s the risk of falling on his face, and avoiding the risk is a way of conceding that those problems people wonder about really are, you know, problems.

So far, Dudley has been practicing avoidance. He has been arguing for fewer (and Kitzhaber more) debates. The traditional first one is the summer newspaper publisher’s confab, where since 1986 the party nominees faced off in front of the state’s newspaper reporters. Dudley begged off, saying he had a family vacation to tend to instead.

That sounded pretty weak. And the vacation wasn’t even in Oregon, also not wonderful.

Then it turned out that while in Colorado, Dudley was not just relaxing with the family. Instead of speaking to newspaper publishers in Oregon, he was at Aspen at a Republican governors’ meeting, speaking to the lobbyists and campaign finance people who were there.

As Jeff Mapes of the Oregonian wrote, “When the Dudley campaign declined an offer to debate Kitzhaber before the annual meeting of the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association – which has a more than two-decade-old tradition of holding the first gubernatorial debate of the general election campaign – no mention was made that Dudley would be at another political event.”

That’s not likely to be forgotten. And it raises another dimension to the problem he has to deal with headed into the last three months of the campaign. Kari Chisholm at Blue Oregon outlined it:

“Dudley’s now in a position where every time he tells folks that he has a seemingly-legit schedule conflict, they’re going to wonder: What’s really going on? What’s he really doing? This is no longer just an issue about whether Dudley is willing to answer tough questions from the press and for Oregon voters – though it is still that – it’s now also a more fundamental issue about his credibility and trustworthiness.”

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Oregon

trahant

Two subjects here. One is the long-time Washington Senator Henry Jackson, one of the most impactful the region has ever had, and his work with one of his staffers, Forrest Gerard – and we should note here that a lot of the work credited to members of Congress actually gets done by staffers, so that’s a worthy story on its own merits.

The other is the issue at hand: “Termination,” as applied to Indian reservations. As the glossary puts it, termination in the context of Indian reservations means “an end to the special relationship between tribes and the federal government. The idea was to settle claims with tribal governments and then terminate the federal government’s role on reservations. American Indians would then become subject to state laws.”

For someone who likes clear and clean lines of government, the federally-recognized tribes and their reservations are an inconvenience. They fit nowhere in the nation’s federal system, but they’re not – terms of language notwithstanding – realistically independent nations either. (Independent nations controlled by a bureau of the federal government?) A wide range of people have bought into the idea of termination over the years. Of course, if that approach had become law, Indian country would look a lot different now, and surely a lot less prosperous.

Once, Jackson was one of them. He changed his mind, and his work with Gerrard was one of the key levers in that change.

So the new book Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars, written by former Seattle Post-Intelligencer Editorial Page Editor Mark Trahant (and, much further back, former Sho-Ban News editor), tells a story about how a policy – against termination – came to be put in place after an unsteady run through the years, and a story about how Washington works. It’s a solid slice of political storytelling.

It isn’t an entirely dispassionate look at the subject; Trahant is clearly anti-termination. His argument, and compelling, is that ending the federal relationship with the tribes would effectively end their governing structure, and over time – maybe not long time – that would effectively destroy the tribes and native culture. Now, he writes that tribal self-government “is no longer in question. Every tribe, state and federal leader now accepts that framework as a given.”

Wasn’t always that way. Trahant recounts how Congress formally adopted a termination resolution in 1958.

Jackson is one of the main personal reasons for that transition, along with Gerard. For those of us who don’t track Indian issues in Congress closely, it’s an obscure story. This book shows why it should not be.

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review

The latest congressional campaign reports turned up late last week, and they suggest some contours for the races. Not as absolutes; contrary to widely-held belief, money isn’t all in political campaigns. Less-funded candidates win regularly, and we’ve seen significant cases of that happening in this Northwest this year.

But candidates tend to get funded in relation to their overall support system and in relation to what the money people think is their probability of winning. They’re not perfect predictors, but they’re well worth a look. (And one good place to look is at OpenSecrets.org, where we watch for this data most regularly.) These numbers are as of June 30 reports.

One of the most startling and unexpected disparities in the Northwest is in Idaho’s 1st congressional district, where incumbent Democrat Walt Minnick has raised $1.8 million and has $1.1 million still in the bank. Compare that to his Republican opponent Raul Labrador, who has raised $215,671 but (because of a hot primary in which he was major financial underdog) still has (as of June 30) just $68,788. That kind of disparity with Minnick is an enormous problem for Labrador. Why Republican interests would be leaving him so underfunded at this point is unclear (unless they’re still just mad he won the primary instead of the establishment-preferred candidate). In any case, he could wind up at a fatal disadvantage against Minnick if he doesn’t get a major cash dump quickly.

The numbers in the other two hottest House races in the Northwest are a lot less overwhelming, but they are worth reviewing.

In Oregon 5, incumbent Democrat Kurt Schrader has taken his fundraising seriously, and has $915,356 still on hand. His Republican opponent Scott Bruun – probably the best Republican candidate for any major office this year – is way behind on money, with just $178,356 on hand. This should be Oregon’s most competitive congressional race, but these numbers don’t look great for Bruun.

(The closest Oregon congressional race in financing is the 1st, but even there incumbent Democrat David Wu has more than twice as much on hand as Republican Robert Cornilles.)

Washington’s hottest race is in the southwestern 3rd, the open seat now held by Democrat Brian Baird but in a highly competitive district. There, Democrat Denny Heck (the only major Democrat now in the race) has on hand $801,607; the leading Republican (and his probable November opponent) Jaime Herrera has $201,019. She’s a strong candidate and certainly competitive with Heck overall, but she may be weighed down by a fundraising deficit. (She also has to deal with another strong Republican contender, while Heck’s last fellow Democrat dropped out a while back.)

The big-money race in the Northwest, once again, looks to be the Washington 8th. Incumbent Repubican Dave Reichert has raised $1.7 million, and Democrat Suzan DelBene $1.6 million. Lots of political ads in the offing on the King and Pierce eastside this fall.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

Among the stories not happening in the Northwest . . . wildfires.

There was a substantial fire this week, more than 100 acres and since put out, in the flat desert lands of the Idaho National Laboratory, west of Idaho Falls. But early indications are that it wasn’t natural, that it resulted from some human action, or inaction. And that’s about it.

The National Interagency Fire Center at Boise reports that so far this year, Idaho has had 122 wildland fires, Oregon 36 and Washington 165. Acres burned amounted to about 1,000 in Washington and Oregon together, and about 31,000 in Idaho. Those sound like large numbers but they’re actually relatively small, smaller than most of the time by now.

Fingers crossed.

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Idaho Northwest

The Ron Wyden Oregon Senate campaign in 2004 didn’t talk a lot about the opposition (which was slight), but it’s talking a little more this time. And it’s even made an accusation of the opposition, which on its face looks pretty sound.

Jim Huffman is a stronger candidate, but yes, he seems – certainly at this point – nowhere close to Wyden in numbers, either money or polling percentages. The Wyden line: “Huffman and Moore are releasing laughable poll numbers to distract reporters from their as-yet unreleased fundraising numbers due out today.”

Moore being pollster Bob Moore, who released numbers showing Huffman ahead. Which might not be a cred-blaster except for the strong of other polls giving Wyden a big lead, and an apparent dispute about whether Moore is polling for Huffman. (The Wyden people supply some evidence that he is.)

The whole statement is worth reading.

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Oregon

The do-away with plastic bags bandwagon is abruptly rolling at full speed. What lies behind the sudden impetus is unclear, but in Portland at leas the push is on.

Although, Jack Bogdanski makes a useful point: “At our place, every plastic grocery bag gets reused, usually for household garbage. If the stores stop handing them out, we’ll just buy a box of them every now and then. It’s not clear how this will help the planet.”

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Oregon

seattle nightlife

Almost sounds like a joke: How do you solve the problem of drunken behavoir at closing time? Maybe eliminating closing time will help.

Actually, it might. Has it ever made sense that cities dump their heaviest drinkers out on the street at the same hour? (Recognizing, of course, that plenty of bars simply choose to close earlier for their own business reasons.) Maybe allowing them to stay open until things wind down, which may be later than 1 or 2 a.m., would make more sense.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn seems to be up for exploring the idea. He launched it today, not as a hard proposal but as the opening of a discussion.

It’s just one piece of what his group at city hall is calling the Seattle Nightlife Initiative. Altogether: “1. Code compliance enforcement. 2. Flexible liquor service hours. 3. Noise ordinance enforcement. 4. Security training requirements. 5. Precinct community outreach. 6. Professional development. 7. Late-night transportation alternatives. 8. Targeting public nuisances.”

Which taken together has a sensible ring to it, at least as a core set of efforts.

A report on the “flexible hours” (nice euphemism) idea offers some specific support through extended studies of places where the idea has been tried.

For example:

Vingilis et. al. (2008) argue that in two Canadian cities, Ontario-London and Windsor, there was a significant overall reduction in impaired driving and no change in the rate of assault charges during the 11pm-4am window before and after the extended drinking hours.
Hough and Hunter (2008) find that in England and Wales the shift in policy had little effect on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problem behaviors. They claim that the new law did not increase crime and note that these findings are different than in research findings in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and Iceland. They note that it is difficult to compare previous research findings due to the variability in evaluation methods. …
Plant and Plant (2005) argue that the Licensing Act of 2003 in the United Kingdom was not motivated by proof that extended hours would mitigate the harmful behaviors of over intoxication, but rather it was supported by the assumption that harmful drinking behaviors are primarily motivated by “drinking against the clock,” that is, drinking to excess shortly before closing time (363). The study authors argue that increased availability of alcohol through extended hours can lead to increased consumption. They cite previous research in Australia, Canada, West Australia, and Ireland that asserts extending hours leads to an increase in casualty traffic accidents and binge drinking; however, the study authors point out that in the cases of Canada, where only a modest increase in closing hours was implemented, the extension had no significant impact on blood-alcohol-positive road fatalities. The authors point out that each country has a particular drinking culture. …
Bouffard et. al. (2007) found that Minnesota’s extension of the closing time for eating and social establishments that serve alcohol did lead to an increase in police stops for DUIs; however, they suggest that the increase is caused by the increased police response concurrent with the study and not increased consumption.

The conclusion: “Seattle is a model city to pilot a flexible hour system. Unlike many of the cities referenced in the research review, the introduction of extended hours for alcoholic beverage service in Seattle is part of a comprehensive, citywide nightlife management initiative that
addresses many of the concerns and potential impacts from the change.”

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Washington