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Posts published in February 2011

Snark from Blumenauer

Representative Earl Blumenauer is opinionated enough, but not ordinarily especially snarky. But this . . . is styrofoam.

From a Blumenauer tweet this morning:

repblumenauer Earl Blumenauer
New majority has brought Styrofoam back to House cafeteria. I can hardly wait for the lead paint. Maybe we can ask China for other ideas.

h/t the Portland Mercury's Blogtown, which added, "Egads! It's true. One of the first actual boots-on-the-ground things the new GOP majority has done is roll back the environmental measures introduced to the House cafeteria since 2007. So goodbye compostable utensils and trays, which some complained were leaky and flimsy, hello styrofoam!"

Another advance look on redistricting

A little more Washington reapportionment background this weekend via a new piece in the Tacoma News Tribune.

It noted that Pierce County will be naming its own reapportionment panel in another two or three months, though that will affect only local offices, not state or federal.

A fun quote (with denials readied, no doubt, from the participants) by retired University of Washington demographer Richard Morrill: “It’s a fun game. The goal of the commission is to protect incumbents. That isn’t written into the law, but that’s what they will do.”

This week in the Digests

Boeing tankers
Boeing gets the tanker contracts. (image/Boeing)

The legislative sessions continue to heat up, especially in Idaho but in Washington as well, in this week's Public Affairs Digests for Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Also a lot else, including reports on the Air Fo0rce tanker contract for Boeing.

Some of the larger stories in the Washington edition:

bullet Census: Minority population grows fast
bullet Recovery project completed at Hanford
bullet Record DNA hits in state labs
bullet The Nisqually quake, 10 years after

In the Oregon edition:

bullet Census: Minority population grows
bullet Kitzhaber sets up review of the unneeded
bullet Wyden urges Patriot Act review
bullet Crime is down, but …
bullet Automatic admissions policy set
bullet Similarities to New Zealand quake
bullet Re-looking at Columbia River treaty

In the Idaho edition:

bullet Parts of Luna proposal clear Senate
bullet AG: Mortgage tops consumer complaints
bullet Archeological closures near Cottonwood
bullet Brownlee water levels drop

James McClure

James McClure

In 1978 the Idaho State Journal newspaper was running profiles of candidates for office, and to illustrate them, in addition to pictures, we had caricatures of the candidates drawn by the staff cartoonist (which the paper actually had back then). How to caricature the Republican Senate incumbent, James McClure, then seeking his second term in the Senate? He didn't lend to easy caricature; what we came up with, which still seems about right, was an image of a small-town lawyer.

McClure, who died in Boise Saturday, seemed to fit that. He was not hard to picture on the streets of Payette, where he was raised and practiced law for some years; there was a low-key manner about him that fit the smaller picture more than the larger. Serious, but not over-intense; he could talk and work cordially, it seemed, with almost anyone (a bigger compliment in these days than it would have been thought back then). Not exactly a wonk, though he was plenty well-informed, but concerned with details - you could equally see him parsing a contract or a piece of legislation. A conservative whose standing as such was never questioned, but most especially grounded - more and more, it seemed, as the years went by - in the practical effects of what he was doing. One flexible enough to develop a wilderness proposal for Idaho with Democratic Governor Cecil Andrus. A small-town lawyer as naturally-skilled legislator.

It was one of the differences in politics in those days that a person of such calm demeanor, not flamboyant and not a bomb thrower of any kind, could do so well in politics. He was as successful in Idaho politics as anyone, ever - never lost an election from campaigns for county prosecutor in the 50s through his last Senate run in 1984, and served 24 years in Congress - and for quite while was a major figure in the Senate as well. He was a pivotal figure in Idaho, as well, uniting various conservative strands that had been in conflict with each other, and starting the move in Northern Idaho from its historic Democratic base toward Republican allegiance.

In 2007 an authorized biography, McClure of Idaho, came out and outlines the details of what McClure did. When reviewed here, one passage about McClure the person stood out:

“You need to know that Jim McClure fancies himself as the consummate do-it-yourselfer. He did all the wiring and plumbing and heating installations in his Payette house during the years when it was undergoing remodeling, and he did the same thing in his cabin on Payette Lake outside of McCall. There isn’t anything around a house that he thinks he can’t install or repair.”

A lot of today's legislators could do worse than to be so described.

A locus of cowardice, and courage

The Associated Press reports that after the Senate State Affairs Committee voted down the nullification (which is what it was) bill on Friday, pro-nullification activist Lori Shewmaker, of the group Idahoans for Liberty, took verbal shots at the senators on their way out. One by one, she called out to them, "Coward."

Which was ironic in the deepest sense: It was a demonstration of what some of those senators' votes were much closer to true profiles in courage.

The point here isn't so much about the virtues in the measure, which are altogether lacking - even if you want to see the 2010 federal health care law overturned (as we, here, do not), the effective way to attack it, as Idaho already is, is through the courts. The Supreme Court will have its say on that eventually. The idea that states can independently decide which federal laws they will obey and which not is so old and so regularly discredited over so many years that, like clothes fashions, it's new again. At least in Idaho. But put aside whether the bill was a good one.

The most active core of the right in Idaho is plenty enthusiastic about it. Idahoans for Liberty, which began as a Ron Paul support group, slogans "U.S. Constitution (every issue, every time)" - except, apparently, when it comes to providing health care. On their 2010 endorsement page, atop the list of endorsed candidates, you'll find this note: "I personally agree with the idea that some of the candidates running under the Independent or Constitution parties would, in some cases, be better choices, but they have little chance of winning. That, in turn, would take votes away from the Republican candidates. The better option is to change the Republican party from within."

Brought around to 2012, that will mean running candidates against any Republicans who go crosswise with them, and based on the 2010 Tea Party track record, there seems little doubt such primaries will be ferociously prosecuted.

So while the State Affairs Democrats' (Edgar Malepeai, Michelle Stennett) no votes on the bill made sense, they were not career-threateners - no one would have expected the Democrats to vote otherwise. The vote by the Republicans - Brent Hill, Bart Davis, Curt McKenzie, John McGee and Patti Anne Lodge (who was surrounded by the outraged as the meeting adjourned), was another matter. (Two others, Russ Fulcher, a bill sponsor, and Chuck Winder, voted for the bill.) They looked directly into the fury- not too strong a word, the audience overall was very much angrily in favor of the bill - and voted to its contrary. And even though probably none were in favor of the health care bill.

One man told Hill, just before angrily walking off, “You know we're left with no alternative but to defend ourselves.” Now that has an ominous sound to it.

Which may be just politically ominous, and certainly does suggest the shape of Republican primaries in Idaho this next cycle. So: Which Republicans on State Affairs showed some guts, those who ran with the angry crowd or those who stood up to it?

Elements of an interstate agenda

What's under discussion here, just to get it out of the way, isn't a conspiracy. Activity that's coordinated or in alignment isn't necessarily conspiratorial. Coordination and alignment, though, do seem to be in play.

The thought coalesced around a blog post by Mike Konczal, a fellow with the Roosevelt Institute, about what he saw as "a Three-Part Roadmap for Conservative State Governance." The main pieces are "Cutting Government Services," "Defund and Delegitimize Public Workers" (mainly through cutbacks on collective bargaining and benefits) and "Privatizing [State Government] Assets" (including much more contracting-out). Konxzal suggests, "Notice that each of these objectives overlap with each other. Privatizing services cuts public workers out while crony deals, skimming and poor services creates distrust in the government, leading to a negative feedback loop."

Some of these moves inevitably would be on the table in a tight budget season (some service cutbacks are on the table in Democratic-dominated Washington and Oregon), but to what extent have they been front and center in states where Republicans have gained political control in last year's elections?

It closely describes Wisconsin, certainly. It describes initial moves by the new Republican leaders in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Florida and some other states. Last week's prank phone call to the unwary Governor Walker clearly established both that national corporate funding was heavily involved in the policy-making, and that a string of other states were also involved (Walker mentioned conversations on the policy attack with a number of other Republican governors, including some who have backed off, a bit).

The prank call was set up as a call from one of the billionaire Koch brothers, a key funder of Walker and quite a few other conservatives - and a call which, even in sensitive moments, Walker apparently was quick to take.

Has this some relevance to the Northwest? One Republican Facebook friend ironically commented, "Oh for goodness sake ... don't give away our grand conspiracy, we've just begun!"

But you don't have to get into tin foil hat territory to find some connections.

Check back on those three core actions tenets, and consider what's been front and center at the Idaho Legislature this year. Not just the service and pay cuts, which to some extent at least are understandable as responsive to revenue shortfalls; but also actions such as slicing away at the main remaining union in the state, the Idaho Education Association, in an education overhaul proposal.

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter (one of the forces behind the education program) has posted a full-throated defense of Walker on a national Republican governors website: "For too long, elected leaders like Governor Walker, who are responsible and accountable to our citizens, have been virtually held hostage by the outdated and costly demands of public employees’ unions. We live in a republic, and there is room for all voices to be heard — within the context of an open public process, not in the context of entitlement-driven protests, work stoppages and disruption of the people’s business.” (h/t here to Kevin Richert.) Idaho certainly seems of a piece with Wisconsin.

Concerning Washington, on the Slog, David Goldstein notes:

As was reported last fall on HA (and very little anywhere else), the Koch brothers, through their Tea Party associated front group, Americans for Prosperity, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars helping Republican Jaime Herrera win election in Washington's 3rd Congressional District this past November... even after shutting down a mill and outsourcing over 300 jobs in her home town of Camas!

And my friend Kirby Wilbur—the newly elected chair of the Washington State Republican Party—he ran the Washington chapter of Americans for Prosperity this past election year, overseeing questionable (and quite possibly illegal) campaign finance and reporting activities on behalf of the Kochs.

So if you think what's going on in Wisconsin under Koch-toady Gov. Scott Walker, couldn't happen here under say, Governor Rob McKenna... well... you might want to look for my feature in next week's edition of The Stranger.

Less in Oregon, where the Wisconsin agenda hasn't really surfaced in any major way (as it hasn't, in major or practical ways, in Washington).

However. Last week at a political blogger gathering in Portland the question arose: Suppose Republican Chris Dudley had narrowly won instead of lost the governor's race, and Republicans had won the three more legislative seats needed to win both Senate and House. (Not very many votes would have been needed for such a shifts.) Supposing that: Would the Wisconsin agenda be on the table in Oregon? The prevailing view seemed to be that it probably would be; and the same emerged when we posted the question on Facebook.

It's not Wisconsin by itself. This is a national thing.

More disconnects

Just reflect for a moment on the disconnect here, and why it occurs, and what it may mean in areas aside from law and order.

From a report on a new Portland State University study:

The rate of crime in Oregon is the lowest it's been since the 1960s. Yet more than half the Oregonians surveyed in a recent Portland State University (PSU) research project believe that crime in the state has actually gone up.

The findings were compiled by PSU's Criminal Justice Policy Research Institute. They're based on a survey conducted last summer of 1,569 Oregonians over the age of 18.

The survey results showed that 52 percent believed crime in the state increased over the last year, and only 10 percent thought it went down.

Those who thought crime rates were higher tended to be more conservative, had a dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system, had family incomes less than $50,000 a year, had less education than a Bachelors degree, and tended to rank "punishment or enforcement" as top crime control strategies.

The study was not able to pinpoint the exact reasons for the disconnect between perception and reality, but the report's author, Brian Renauer, a PSU associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, said one possible explanation may be that the media - everything from the nightly news to crime dramas - feed the perception of high crime rates.

The report concludes that misperceptions impact trust in public officials, compliance with legal authority, and support for criminal justice legislation.

Snow at last

snow park
Carlton park this morning/Linda Watkins

We've gotten no snow to speak of all winter - no more than one very light dusting in December. Now, a white morning (and one when we were planning to hit the road for Salem, too; so much for that).

Snow all over the region, car slideoffs, and so on. And probably more snow for our friends to the east.

And in Oregon

Population increase in counties/U.S. Census

The Oregon numbers are also out today, and as in Washington there are no huge shocks.

Data for Oregon show that the five most populous incorporated places and their 2010 Census counts are Portland, 583,776; Eugene, 156,185; Salem, 154,637; Gresham, 105,594; and Hillsboro, 91,611. Portland grew by 10.3 percent since the 2000 Census. Eugene grew by 13.3 percent, Salem grew by 12.9 percent, Gresham grew by 17.1 percent, and Hillsboro grew by 30.5 percent.

The largest county is Multnomah, with a population of 735,334. Its population grew by 11.3 percent since 2000. The other counties in the top five include Washington, with a population of 529,710 (increase of 18.9 percent); Clackamas, 375,992 (increase of 11.1 percent); Lane, 351,715 (increase of 8.9 percent); and Marion, 315,335 (increase of 10.7 percent).

Biggest percentage county increase, as you can see, has been in Deschutes, though it's less than it would have been if the trajectory of the first two-thirds of the last decade had continued. And it remains the seventh most populous county now, same as it was a decade ago.

And in the ongoing contest for second place, Eugene edges out Salem, this time. And barely. Hillsboro continues to be on a strong trajectory for fourth place before long. And while the strong growth in Washington County was surely expected, we'd have thought a higher growth in Clackamas would have been registered. But apparently not.

Oregon was reported a decade ago as 86.6% "white," but 83.6% now. Hispanic portion was 8% then, and 11.7% now.

A side note. Oregon's total population was reported as 3,831,074; divide that by five congressional districts, and you get 684,280 each. Washington County's population is 529,710 is enough to make up most of a whole congressional district. Or this way: If you add the populations of Multnomah and Washington counties and divide the total by two, you get 766,215 - most of what you need for two districts.

NOTE Corrected for final district figures (h/t to a sharp-eyed correspondent).