Writings and observations

Consider the numbers. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Senate re-elect campaign for Democrat Patty Murray raised $17.1 million, and the campaign for her Republican challenger Dino Rossi $9.6 million. Ad that doesn’t count the piles of third-party money poured into the contest.

By money measures at least, the Murray-Rossi contest, widely considered at least close for several months of its run, was the largest-scale political contest so far in Northwest history. In our view, Murray probably – realistically – held a consistent if modest lead. But it was hitly contested, and Rossi demonstrated that his support around the state remained large and real, even after two losses in gubernatorial races.

It may have put an end, for a while anyway, to Rossi’s run of runs. And it raised the question of what, exactly, Washington Republicans would have to do to win a statewide race – even on an election day when the party made some major gains in the legislature and picked up a U.S. House seat.

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Northwest Washington

For the last couple of cycles, the Oregon Legislature tried doing something not contemplated in the Constitution (and criticized by some legislators on that basis): Holding even-year sessions. The state traditionally, unlike Washington and Idaho, has held regular (half-year) sessions only in odd-numbered years. Only emergencies are supposed to be a basis to call them back in the even years.

But financial and other concerns have been overtaking that theory in recent decades, and legislators – many of both parties – in recent years decided to experiment with the idea of a limited general-purpose session in the even years, something like Washington does. It seemed to work, and in 2010 voters passed the legislature-proposed Measure 71, which set up regular annual sessions.

It may change the way the Oregon assembly works, and thinks.

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Oregon

A very nice Christmas gift for historians of Idaho and the Inland Northwest: A treasure trove of material from within the Potlatch lumber operations, over a period of decades, donated to the University of Idaho. Significant parts of the region’s history may be rewritten as researchers dive into it.

UI said in a release:

The University of Idaho has received a gift of 521-cubic-feet of historical archives to the Library’s special collections from the Potlatch Corporation, acknowledging the university’s long-standing relationship with the company.

The documents include many from Potlatch Forests Inc. and Potlatch Lumber Company, and personal manuscripts from the George Jewett family from 1986-95. The records document not only the business history, but the environmental history dating back to the late 19th century of the American forestry and paper industry.

Environmental history is a real strength of the collection, with records of the earliest days of forest surveys. The collection details not only what the very early forest look like, but also the change over time for particular locations. Photographs of the forests, including aerial surveys, showed these changes. Other documents also showed the development of forest harvesting work as muscle power and steam engines were replaced with gas and diesel powered vehicles and machinery, as well as the introduction of electricity into forest work camps and mills.

The Potlatch Corporation Archives are considered to be a foundation collection for the university’s Special Collections and Archives, and are dedicated to the cultural and environmental history of Idaho, the northern Rockies and Columbia Plateau region.

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Idaho

The Idaho Correctional Center, Idaho’s (and the Northwest’s) first privately-run prison – operated by the Corrections Corporation of America – opened near Kuna in 2000, with a “safe operating capacity” of 1,514 – a big prison. This site predicted then that dark investigative news reports would be coming, eventually. And eventually, they did.

In 2010 came reports through the Associated Press about strong violence at the facility, which got the nickname “gladiator school.” The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation. The AP released a stunning video showing one inmate beating another senseless, while corrections officers stood by, watched, and did not act until the attacker had walked away of his own volition. CCA complained strongly – most loudly about the AP release of the video, which went viral.

The whole private prison idea in the region took on a new coloration in 2010.

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Idaho Northwest