Archive for June, 2011

Jun 30 2011

And congressional too

Published by under Oregon

From here, the biggest surprise of the session: The parties overcame their immovable object on congressional redistricting, and approved a redistricting map.

That they did it as swiftly as they did on the legislative side was surprise enough, but there the parties didn’t have a single hard-core difference. On the congressional side, there was, and it was simple enough for everyone to understand: The Republicans wanted all of Multnomah County in one congressional district, and the Democrats wanted it split up.

A good Moonshadow map is up.

Seems here that, since the final plan does include substantial splits of Multnomah County, the Republicans gave a little more than the Democrats. But not by a lot; there was compromise here. Only a much smaller piece of Multnomah remains in the close-split 5th district (which is mostly based around Salem and Clackamas County), easing the biggest piece of Republican heartburn. And less of Portland will remain in the 1st district, which may it a tad more Republican (though unlikely enough to make much real difference). And, while the 5th district gets a little more Republican, the 4th gets a little more Democratic, with more of Corvallis included there. (Not important, probably, as long as Democrat Peter DeFazio runs there, but possibly significant after he no longer does.)

Assuming the plan is signed, you can probably figure – all things considered – congressional politics in Oregon won’t change much.

Check out the discussion as well on Blue Oregon. A key bit of analysis on the Clackamas shifts from Kari Chisholm:

The key part of the compromise appears to be this final element. After initially proposing moving Milwaukie and the area around Reed College into Schrader’s district, the Democrats backed off and just proposed moving Milwaukie. The Republicans didn’t have Milwaukie moving, but did have Sunnyside and Happy Valley moving (along with Damascus, Boring, Sandy and the rest of rural Clackamas County.) The compromise map puts those elements together – and moves Milwaukie, Sunnyside, Mt. Scott and part of Happy Valley from Blumenauer to Schrader.

Of course, it’s those parts of Clackamas County that are growing the fastest. The Rs are clearly betting that as those places grow, they’ll retain their conservative character. The Ds are clearly betting that as those places grow, they’ll do what Washington County did – and move to the middle.

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Jun 29 2011

Leonard to Novick?

Published by under Oregon

Steve Novick
Steve Novick

For the second time in, well, hours, a major Northwest political figure opts out of running next year and almost immediately a prospective successor appears. Today’s may be even more interesting than yesterday’s.

The opt-out is Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, for more than eight years a high-profile and strong-personality part of the city’s five-member leadership group. (You don’t have to stretch to see him as the former Portland firefighters union president he once was.) He has been a highly active commissioner, taking on subjects ranging from business regulation to taping reserved spots for viewers at parades.

Activist (for lack of a term more precise) Steve Novick, whose announcement this morning came smack on heels of the formal pullback from Leonard, probably would take that up to a new level.

Novick, first of all, has an excellent shot. As a first-time candidate, he came close in 2008 to upsetting state House Speaker Jeff Merkley in the Democratic run for U.S. Senate. He’d be a clear fit for Portland, being in general terms liberal working generally the same side of the street as people like Leonard, Merkley and most of the current Portland leadership.

The difference comes in his communications skills, which are extraordinary, and his wonkishness (not a common combination). For a sense of that, here’s a piece of his e-mail sent out this morning about his candidacy:

I’m running because I want to try a new strategy on jobs and economic development: including making Portland the #1 city in America at controlling health care costs. If it works (and I think it will) it will give Portland a competitive edge that smart companies won’t be able to ignore. See details on one way to do it.

I’m running because I think the City of Portland can and should make some targeted investments in Portland’s schools, which have been battered by budget cuts for 20 years. In particular, I think the City can invest in giving teachers and principals opportunities to improve their skills – for instance, by providing scholarships to go through the National Board Certification process. (Again, you can see details on my web site.)

And I’m running because I think we can build a better public safety system, with more emphasis on prevention and less emphasis on reaction and incarceration. Right now, City police are often acting as first responders to what are really mental health crises – because the County doesn’t have enough resources for mental health treatment – which is partly because the State has cut funding to the counties – which is partly because the State is overburdened with rising prison costs.

Portland City Council, which is actually a mix of policy-making and management (for council members as well as the mayor), could be a uniquely neat fit.

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Jun 29 2011

Carlson: Indian wars today

Published by under Carlson

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Those who think the days of Native American tribes fighting other Native American tribes are long gone, best think again. The advent of and phenomenal growth in Indian gaming has created a division of haves – the tribes with revenue producing and political powerful casinos – and the have nots.

Gaming tribes in Idaho, the Coeur d’Alenes, the Nez Perce, and the Shoshone/Bannock, appear to have natural markets where there is no real competition. They appear at peace with neighboring tribes.

You see the Coeur d’Alenes unveiling a new $100 million dollar upgrade in their hotel and casino in May, the Nez Perce moving into a lovely new wooden structure instead of operating out of the huge circus tent that was the prior base, and the ShoBans unveiling their new facility.

Where the warfare begins is when two tribes relatively near to each other decide to co-locate casinos. It becomes especially vicious if one tribe perceives the other as encroaching and there is a belief that the market cannot sustain two enterprises.

The best example of this is the not so subtle contest between the Kalispells and the Spokanes in eastern Washington. The Kalispells built and operate the fabulously successful Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, just outside of Spokane. A small tribe with a land base of just a few square miles, the Kalispells petitioned the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the Washington governor’s office for permission in the 1990’s to buy some off-reservation land and to have it declared Indian trust territory and part of their reservation.

Once that was completed, they found investors, struck up an arrangement with a Las Vegas gaming management outfit and built their casino which is now in the midst of a several hundred million dollar expansion.

From their much larger reservation, the Spokanes looked on with envy. They had earlier constructed a smaller casino at Two Rivers (where the Spokane flows into the Columbia at the reservoir behind the Grand Coulee Dam). Two Rivers was reportedly successful, but once Northern Quest was up and going, revenue rapidly diminished and eventually the casino operated on a reduced schedule.

Using the old principle of what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, the Spokanes decided to travel the same path as the Kalispells. The Spokanes, of course, were hoping the Kalispells would see competition as healthy and beneficial for both.

Wishful thinking. Continue Reading »

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Jun 28 2011

Bachmann ahead in Oregon?

Published by under Oregon

Who can say who will be the Republican presidential nominee next year? The only reliable prediction along that front is that there will be one.

For a couple of months, though – to venture a bit beyond the Northwest – we’ve seen a clearer path to the nomination for Michele Bachmann than for most of the other Republican prospects. In Oregon, at least, there’s some basis for arguing for a Bachmann surge. Chrck out this question and response from a survey of Oregon Republicans June 19-21 by Public Policy Polling:

If Sarah Palin didn’t run, and the choices were just Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney, who would you most like to see as the nominee?
Michele Bachmann 29%
Herman Cain 7%
Newt Gingrich 9%
Jon Huntsman 2%
Ron Paul 10%
Tim Pawlenty 6%
Mitt Romney 28%
Someone else/Not sure 8%

The first action voting is yet months away, and any candidate can blow up him- or herself by then, but the early results are worth watching – and maybe reflective of where the Oregon Republican Party is now.

Here’s some more from the PPP’s analysis:

After a well received debate performance, Michele Bachmann has surged forward. Before the debate, Bachmann garnered 8% nationally; but she has more than doubled this level of support in the three states PPP has polled the primary since the debate. However, if Sarah Palin runs, this isn’t enough to claim the lead in Oregon. Mitt Romney takes the lead with 28%, followed by Bachmann with 18%, Palin with 16%, Ron Paul with 9%, Herman Cain with 8%, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty with 6%, and Jon Huntsman with 0% support.

If Palin does not run, Bachmann is the clear choice of Palin’s supporters while Romney picks up an insignificant share. Bachmann leads with 29% to Romney’s 28%, Paul’s 10%, Gingrich’s 9%, Cain’s 7%, Pawlenty’s 6%, and Huntsman’s 2%. Bachmann’s strength lies in her appeal to very conservative voters who make up 44% of GOP voters in Oregon. If Palin runs, Bachmann wins very conservatives with 24% to Romney’s 22%. This margin is expanded to a 37-26 lead without Palin.

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Jun 28 2011

Reed departs, beyond whom

Published by under Washington

Sam Reed
Sam Reed

An observation: For decades, the Northwest has been fortunate in its secretaries of state, the people who oversee their states’ elections. It’s a job you can take for granted as long as it’s done well – the big headlines usually emerge when someone has screwed up. And the Northwest secstates have largely managed to avoid those kinds of headlines for a long time.

The odd exception – making headlines in the process of doing things right – is something Washington’s secretary of state, Sam Reed, actually has done on occasion. The big case was Reed’s management and stance in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial contest, an iron challenge for any elections official; Reed emerged having irritated hardcore party loyalists but impressing about everyone else for his ethics and professionalism. In more low-key ways, those qualities were there as well for Washington’s transition to mail voting.

Those thoughts come to mind with Reed’s announcement today that he will not run for a fourth term; he was first elected, after work as the Thurston County auditor, in 2000. (He surely would have had little trouble winning a fourth term if he’d sought it.) He’s set a high bar for whoever his successor may be.

On the political side, there’s a fair guess his successor will be different in at least some ways. Reed has been a centrist Republican, often called a moderate, and threading that ideological needle (centrist + Republican) was tough in 2000 and may be much tougher for a newcomer in 2012.

Take an indicator if you will from the first candidate to announce a run for the job. That would be state Senator Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, who was in (with website and campaign materials prepared) almost immediately after Reed’s announcement. Here is the lead of his announcement statement:

State Senator Jim Kastama (D-Puyallup) thanked Secretary of State Sam Reed for his years of dedicated public service. “Secretary Reed has been a tremendous steward of the State Seal and advocate for the rights of voters in Washington. I deeply respect Sam’s integrity and his commitment to fairness. I wish him and Margie the best.””

We’ll keep a look out for the first Republican candidate(s) and what they say.

UPDATE At least one Republican is now (as of late June 29) in as well: the current Thurston County Auditor Kim Wyman. Recall that this is the job Reed held before his statewide election.

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Jun 27 2011

No recall/total recall

Published by under Idaho

The forces trying to call Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and two legislators fell short, substantially short, in their petition drive today. They ran out of time with not enough signatures.

No surprise; that outcome was pretty widely predicted. Recalling public officials beyond the level of a small city is very difficult in Idaho, and rarely happens (as, in our view, ought to be the case). No statewide official has ever been recalled in Idaho.

The recent referendum effort, which was prompted by the same issue as the recall – Luna’s public school overhaul proposals passed by the Legislature this year – are a different matter. Those are headed for the ballot, are very much alive and their future may be in the hands of the campaign ahead.

Which is where the larger-scale recall effort could come back into play. An enormous number of names were needed to force a recall, more than for the referendum. Now those names are available. The basis for a large and highly active and maybe successful organization could well have been put together in this unsuccessful effort.

It may not turn out that way. But the potential is there.

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Jun 27 2011

Inslee jumps in

Published by under Washington

Inslee
Jay Inslee announces/from announcement video

And the 2010 Washington governor’s race is joined. There may be more candidates joining in, but probably no more major contenders. The next governor is likely to be either Republican Rob McKenna, who announced earlier this month, or Democrat Jay Inslee, who announced this morning.

Inslee’s announcement was overlong and a little bumpier than you might expect from so experienced a candidate (Inslee has been running for major office, mostly successfully, for 20 years); he got better as it went along. It was heavily oriented, as you might expect, around jobs and business.

A speech like this is where you set the themes, but the themes were a little mixed. Inslee is known as one of the less compromising liberals in Congress, and periodically he noted here, “its never the wrong time to do the right thing.” The state, he said, should not lower its sights because of the economic slump. But he also spoke of an Olympia in need of fresh blood (“we do not need a status quo governor” – a tightrope to walk there, with a fellow Democrat now in office) and a state government that needs to do more with less.

The more effective part of it was his runthrough of experience in and around the state, in a surprising number of parts of it. He was able to talk about piece of background in not only his congressional district around Seattle and Kitsap County, but in places like Republic and Yakima. (McKenna’s speech seemed more King County oriented than Inslee’s did.)

The passion he brings, which shows up on the campaign trail, wasn’t at a peak here; he’s been stronger. But it’s early in the cycle. Both Inslee and McKenna should be at a high pitch by the time this campaign gets many more months along.

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Jun 25 2011

Those in need of help

Published by under Idaho

No desire here to return regularly to the unfortunate story of Idaho state Senator John McGee, R-Caldwell, charged a week ago with driving under the influence and grand theft of a vehicle. But this reference from the blog of Dennis Mansfield, who among other things has in recent years worked in the area of helping substance addicts.

I wanted desperately to place up to 30 staffed, safe and sober homes in Canyon County. We only succeeded in putting one in – as leaders of the GOP Legislature and the city of Nampa forged an unbreakable band of iron that kept “undesireable” houses/clients out of their neighborhoods. Eventually that lone house was closed down – so that the politicians, including Senator McGee, could “help” the community. John was outspoken in his opposition to houses in neighborhoods that had substance abuse people in them – “they should be placed somewhere, just not in nice communities” seemed to be the political line of reasoning. John echoed that perspective.

So, hearing about John’s DUI and his medical problems and his arrest saddened me even deeper than you would imagine. I took no delight in this ironic twist of fate.

It just simply saddened me.

The people who need help aren’t just the stereotypical “them.” A lot of “repectable” people need it too.

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Jun 25 2011

Job losses

Published by under Washington

Hadn’t seen the exact number up to this point, but the Olympian politics blog appears to have it: 1,316.

That’s the decrease in the number of jobs paid by state government from the current budget year to the next one, which starts next week.

The percentage decrease isn’t really enormous; the post says that the full-time equivalent jobs in the state currently number 107,807.

But: you have to go back to 2005, six years, to get to the point when the job number was the same size as it will be starting July 1.

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Jun 24 2011

Umatilla: Shut ‘er down

Published by under Oregon

umatilla
Grazing at the Umatilla depot/U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency

How often do you hear this: A call from a local congressional delegation to shut down a local military installation? usually, the money and jobs outweigh such an idea.

In this case, that of the Umatilla Chemical Depot near Hermiston, the shutdown idea has enough local and regional push that both U.S. senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and the area’s House member, Greg Walden, are behind it. An unusual case.

Here’s the press release explaining further: Continue Reading »

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Jun 23 2011

Doing away with an elective job

Published by under Oregon

There’s long been the view in the northwest that you get rid of elective jobs – and make them appointment instead, or end them altogether – at your political peril. After all, the reasoning goes, voters like to make their own choices.

So not many electoral jobs have been done away with in the Northwest for a long time, including a bunch of local ones for which that would seem to make great sense.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of uproar, though, about the current doing-away in Oregon with the elective job of superintendent of public instruction. Senate Bill 552, which does that, has cleared both chambers and is sure to be signed by Governor John Kitzhaber.

One interesting thing about it: The job – which technically is nonpartisan – is held by a Democrat, Susan Castillo.

Another: Both parties were split in their votes on the bill. In the Senate, where 23 members voted in favor and seven against, the parties split: Democrats 13 yes, 3 no; Republicans 10 yes, 4 no. In the House: Democrats 20 yes, 10 no; Republicans 18 yes, 12 no. This was not a partisan split.

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Jun 22 2011

Farm to school

Published by under Oregon

Oregon House
Oregon House on Wednesday/Stapilus

Oregon has a pretty strong culture of buying locally, especially food. But not, apparently, when it comes to schools. Schools are limited in their choices, have to work through a complex and often costly state bureaucracy, and in many cases actually haven’t been allowed to buy locally.

That may be more than a little astonishing to most people who have lived in the state a while.

It may also be changing. The Oregon House Wednesday unanimously passed House Bill 2800, who provides directions and money – funds set aside – for the state Department of Education to help local districts buy locally.

The bill, sponsored by Representatives Brian Clem, D-Salem, and Tina Kotek, D-Portland, had no opposition.

What’s happening there suggests there are a bunch of ways state and local governments can be gotten to operate more effectively linking to the local economy and services. All that’s really needed is a different mindset.

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Jun 22 2011

Labrador and immigration

Published by under Idaho

Labrador

Raul Labrador

We’ve remarked before that a subject that caused new Representative Raul Labrador some heartburn during his campaign for the job – that of illegal immigration – could be a subject on which he could make a major mark in Congress. Now the site Politico is asking, “Is Raul Labrador GOP immigration key?

Whether he turns out to be probably depends mostly on how other Republicans respond to him – and whether they’re willing to take what amounts to a centrist approach. The possibility is there. Politico reports that Labrador is “meeting with Republicans and conservative opinion-makers to try to build a “conservative consensus” to the seemingly intractable problem that defied a national reform effort nearly four years ago and still roils the political landscape on a state level.”

Labrador, who was born in Puerto Rico, is an attorney who for years practiced immigration law; he addresses the subject knowledgeably. And his basic approach is similar to that proposed by both a lot of Democrats and a lot of Republicans: strengthen the borders, go after employers who hire illegally but also develop a guest worker program, and generally deal realistically rather than in fantasy with the reality of the situation (i.e., the idea of magically deporting millions of people).

He seems to be engaged in a long-term search for an approach that could gain support across much of the Republican Party, still a formidable challenge. But he may be one of the few people in Congress with the potential of actually pulling it off.

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Jun 22 2011

Carlson: It’s the water, stupid

Published by under Carlson

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

With apologies to political consultant James Carville, who famously coined the expression “it’s all about the economy, stupid,” the future in the west is all about water, its allocation, cost and rapid depletion.

Scientists, naturalists, writers, farmers, ranchers, and politicians are all too aware of its scarcity beyond the 100th Meridian, as duly noted and popularized in the late 19th century by John Wesley Powell, famed explorer of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River and first head of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Lay on the issue of global warming and many scientists believe the arid west will become hotter and drier, accelerating the desertification process. Cities that had neither right nor common sense in their expansion, such as Phoenix and Las Vegas, are requiring ever increasing amounts of water. They willingly pay farmers and ranchers princely sums to surrender their water rights to pipelines hundreds of miles in length to slake their thirst.

This growing need for potable water has fueled the drive for more impoundments to store winter run-off and rain. The coming conflict between agricultural use versus culinary and human use is clear. Determining highest and best use will be the marketplace, not board rooms of large corporations nor the committee meeting rooms of state legislatures.

Nor does it take rocket science to predict two major aspects regarding water and the future:

1) Those that have an abundance of water, ground water or a sizable underground aquifer, are going to prosper and those that don’t are going to flounder. Thus, 100 years from now Spokane, with the vast and so far unmapped and unplumbed Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, will be a thriving city with manufacturing transplanted from California. And Las Vegas may be a mere shadow of its glory days.

2) Congress will repeal the so-called Winters Doctrine of 1908. Why? Because Congress will conclude the Supreme Court vested too much power in indigenous Native American tribes by placing their water rights “first in time” and therefore “first in right.” Continue Reading »

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Jun 21 2011

Taking out the stovepipes

Published by under Oregon

This Oregon legislative session, conducted amid tightly-split chambers, may go down as one of the more productive of the last decade, partly on the basis of maybe a half-dozen pieces of legislation that change significantly how a number of things operate. The health insurance exchange legislation, passed and signed earlier, is one example; Senate Bill 242 is another.

If it passes. At least check, though it passed the Senate 28-2 (last week), it has yet to hit the House floor for a vote. So we’ll see.

In some ways, there’s no bill philosophical issue with this one: It deals with restructuring as much as anything else. (It doesn’t add funds, much as those are needed.) But the restructuring is important. In Oregon, the universities operate in a world separate from, say, the community colleges, and well away from public schools. The various pieces of education have little to do with each other, except for this: Many of them (not the public schools) are considered to be so integral within the state government system that getting things done, or even operating efficiently, has become very difficult. Simply removing some of the entanglements could help a system that has been badly underfunded, and in other ways legislatively undernourished, in recent years.

(Washington’s system is stovepiped comparably to Oregon’s; Idaho’s is somewhat more unified, though efforts persist to split some of it apart.)

A closing debate last week by Senator Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, describes clearly the usefulness and point of the bill – and some of the problems it is intended to help solve.

With the legislature coming close to adjournment, possibly (so it’s said) this week, House passage of this bill may be one of the determinants of just how productive this session ultimately is taken to be.

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JOURNEY WEST

by Stephen Hartgen
The personal story of the well-known editor, publisher and state legislator's travel west from Maine to Idaho. A well-written account for anyone interested in Idaho, journalism or politics.
JOURNEY WEST: A memoir of journalism and politics, by Stephen Hartgen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, here or at Amazon.com (softcover)

 

 

NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
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