Archive for August, 2011

Aug 31 2011

Carlson: The Committee of Nine

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

On occasion, my counsel has been sought by prospective candidates for statewide offices. (By way of credentials, I have been involved in three successful campaigns.)

I ask them the usual questions:

Why do you want the office?

What is your initial base of support?

Is your spouse supportive?

Do you have a budget and a plan for raising the required money?

What is your strategy for winning?

Who are your key helpers and supporters?

Do you understand the commitment it takes?

Will you accept media training, conduct polls, etc.?

Invariably, though, I ask the one question nine out of 10 “wannabes” flunk: Have you met with any member of the “Committee of Nine” and, if not, how do they plan to introduce themselves to the “Committee of Nine”?

The blank stare this question engenders tells me the person isn’t close to being ready to run.

Most readers will ask the same question. You can bet, however, that every successful major Idaho political figure in the last 50 years knows this group and how influential it is behind the scenes. The “Committee of Nine” is the nine water masters of the major Snake River Federal Irrigation Projects in southern Idaho. The members can make or break most major statewide candidates.

Former Idaho Governor and U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan once described the Snake River as a “working river, the lifeblood of Idaho.” Any candidate for major office who does not understand how that river works, the important role the water masters play, especially in times of shortages, and the primacy of upstream water rights is, pardon the expression, “dead in the water.” Continue Reading »

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Aug 29 2011

Building an island

Published by under Oregon

Malheur Lake
At Malheur Lake/U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The west has a long history with building reservoirs and cutting channels. Less so with building islands. Particularly when the building of said islands also has to do with salmon recovery.

That’s what the Army Corps of Engineers (working with other agencies) is planning to do, though, at Malheur Lake in southeast Oregon. The lake is the site of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, dating to 1908, which has been a refuge for regional birds. Now the idea is to draw some new birds to the area: Caspian terns, which eat juvenile salmon in the Pacific Ocean. The idea is to draw terns inland and encourage them to change their diet. The hope is that the island, though small (only about a acre in size) would be enough. It would be flat and oval-shaped.

The environmental assessment of island building is out and comment will be accepted through September 21.

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Aug 25 2011

Paying and spending, more or less

Published by under Oregon

There’s a great map toward the end of a Portland Tribune post up today dividing Portland by regions according to how much money each contributes (per person) and how much is spent.

The upshot is, you pay more on the west side, and a little less is spent on you there, while the reverse is the case toward the east of town.

You can get why. Property values, and the taxes from them, are much higher west of the Willamette River than over on the east, toward Gresham. And there’s often somewhat more need for police and fire services over in the north and east ends. Just the way things work.

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Aug 25 2011

Crump doesn’t say

Published by under Idaho

When I took my first job reporting on state politics, at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, I spent a good deal of time rummaging through old clips of political stories, especially from the last four or five years – getting up to speed with the characters in the play.

One of the frequent reporter and columnist bylines I bumped into was Steve Crump, who covered politics for the paper when the key political figures were people like Frank Church, Jim McClure, Cecil Andrus and George Hansen. It was a very lively period in Idaho politics with some colorful people; Crump had a lot of good material to work with.

But then, maybe he’s been able to find the color in even less likely environs. He’s retiring at month’s end from the Twin Falls Times News, where he’s been since 1983, first as sports editor and more recently as editorial page editor. He’s also been writing columns about Idaho, its history and colorful people (he recently did a great top 10 – Idaho’s most interesting people).

Hardly anyone still in Idaho journalism goes back so far.

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Aug 25 2011

Carlson: Trust, Verify

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Former Coeur d’Alene Tribal Chairman and Casino Executive (1994-2006) David Matheson, is back in a seat of prominence, his old job as Casino executive, after five years of acrimonious litigation full of charges and counter-charges the press shouldn’t repeat because there were no verdicts and no real conclusions.

Any observer of Native Americans, or anyone who has business or political dealings with tribes as an entity quickly learns the internal politics of any tribe are as Byzantine and as complex as any politics anywhere. If one has not been raised in that culture one cannot begin to understand the machinations.

Even if one could understand the complexities of the various family and clan relationships, one would need a scorecard to comprehend the inner workings, which family is up and which is down, why some view an education in the college’s of the white conquerors as a negative not a positive, why children can be raised by an entire village successfully, why the native religion can absorb the teachings of the Jesuit missionaries.

Suffice it to say to outward appearances the Matheson family is back in the saddle of real power. Whether that is at the expense of some other powerful family, which is now out, who outside can say? Those that do know won’t say, one can bet on that.

One can also say most Native Americans are acutely aware of public perceptions; more so than other minorities because in many cases they have been victimized by the hokey Indian stereotypes that exist in our culture.

David Matheson has over the years proven to be a savvy operator. He obviously is a survivor and one can wager though outward appearances may be he cares little about public perceptions in fact he is acutely aware of how important they can be. Continue Reading »

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Aug 23 2011

Tim and the red lights

Published by under Washington

Washington’s Tim Eyman is well known as the state’s initiative king, notably on subjects like taxes, fees and budgets. But he’s developed other interests too. One of them shows some indicators of approaching a tipping point.

Here’s a longish quote from an email Eyman just sent out on the subject – of red-light and speeding cameras, and citizen initiatives aimed at blocking or eliminating them in various localities.

Last year in my hometown of Mukilteo (just named the 9th best place to live in the U.S.), the city tried to bring red-light cameras and speed cameras to our community. We were knee-deep in collecting signatures for tougher-to-raise-taxes I-1053 (2/3 for tax increases, legislative approval for fee increases), but I made time to team up with a bunch of great people to sponsor the initiative. Long story short, we got the initiative on last November’s ballot and voters here rejected the cameras with 71% of the vote. Wowza.

I was subsequently contacted by activists in other cities in Washington wanting to get public votes on ticketing cameras in their communities too. So last year, there was one initiative in Mukilteo — this year there are five — Bellingham, Longview, Monroe, Redmond, and Wenatchee. Every single one of them have been enormously fun, interesting, and important. Each one has its own soap opera associated with it. I could write a novel about each one, including glowing accounts of the local citizens who have done all the hard work to make them a success.

These campaigns haven’t distracted me/us from our statewide initiatives. Last year’s I-1053 and this year’s “Son of 1053″ I-1125 remain our primary focus.

Nonetheless, it’s been an incredibly gratifying experience working on these local city initiatives with these local citizens. It turns out local initiatives are not utilized very often — it was only the second initiative in Mukilteo city history to get enough signatures and the first to make it through the gauntlet for a public vote. It is Wenatchee Initiative #1, Redmond Initiative #1, and Longview Initiative #1 — it is the second initiative in Monroe city history and the first initiative in 6 years in Bellingham.

To be clear, these initiatives don’t prohibit automatic ticketing cameras, they simply let the voters decide. But after the 71% vote against the cameras in my hometown of Mukilteo, the efforts by cities and the red-light camera companies have been focused on blocking the people from voting. Their adage is “since we won’t win the vote, prevent the vote.” It’s really an obscene abuse of power. Fortunately, we’re having great success bulldozing through their anti-vote obstruction. Last week, a Bellingham judge not only dismissed the red-light camera company’s motion to block the vote on the initiative, but the judge slapped the company with a huge a $10,000 fine for even bringing the lawsuit and forced them to pay the attorneys fees for the initiative campaign.

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Aug 21 2011

Lynnwood loves its traffic cams

Published by under Washington

The city of Lynnwood loves its traffic cams. That does not seem up for debate, though the reason for all that love may be.

Its officials say the red-light and school-zone cameras (which at least seem more defensible than the speed cams) are all about public safety. Or, they did. The Everett Herald made a public records request for e-mails relating to the cams, and the story now seems to be changing.

From a news article on this: “In Lynnwood, a deputy chief earlier this year asked ATS about job prospects, even as she opened negotiations with the company about renewing Lynnwood’s multimillion-dollar camera contract, which expires in November. Separately, the sergeant who leads Lynnwood’s traffic division offered the Scottsdale, Ariz., company help with marketing cameras to other cities and with lobbying against legislation that would have reduced revenue from camera tickets in Washington.”

From one of the e-mails, from a city police sergeant: “the City of Lynnwood itself and the Lynnwood Police Department must also do everything we can to ensure this program continues unhindered. Any negative change to the program means more layoffs and program cuts.” In other words, we’re depending on these cams to save our jobs.

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Aug 20 2011

Voting for the non-voter

Published by under Oregon

One of the top Oregon political stories last week concerned 1st District Republican candidate Rob Cornilles and his voting record, or lack of. The Oregonian reported that Cornilles “has missed voting in nine of the 27 elections held since 1998, according to the Washington County elections office.”

Meanwhile, the three main Democratic candidates, Brad Avakian, Suzanne Bonamici and Brad Witt, have not missed voting at all during that time.

That lack of desire to vote really ought to be a significant issue. (Cornilles’ arguments that he was out of town on business on a number of occasions rings phony in Oregon, home of the three-week window for voting by mail, where ballots can be cast from overseas.) If you don’t care enough, consistently, to vote in elections when the spotlight’s not on you, how seriously are the rest of us supposed to think you take the public’s business?

Not all voters see it that way, though. Some comments about this being a serious blow to Cornilles’ campaign notwithstanding, the reality is that such checks have periodically turned up spotty voting records, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of correlation to end results.

Case in point. In December 2009, the Oregonian ran a counterpart story on Republican gubernatorial contender Chris Dudley, noting that he “has missed voting in seven of the last 13 elections since 2004, a record that Dudley acknowledged was embarrassing and a mistake.” Dudley, you’ll recall, came very close to being elected governor last year.

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Aug 18 2011

600

Published by under Oregon

Having attended a few of these … you gotta say, it’s an impressive feat, 600 county town halls over the last 15 years or so.

It sounded at first like another campaign pledge to be sloughed off later. But Senator Ron Wyden has kept at it, after starting in Fossil, and he’s become masterful at managing them.

He put out the video (elsewhere on the page) on occasion of town hall 600 – not near an upcoming campaign, which is years off – and remarked, “Thank you for helping make me a better senator and a better person.” Probably they have.

They’ve probably also made him a better politician. The usual line about members of Congress, that they’ve become too remote and far away from the non-metro center, falls flat when the member of Congress religiously visits every year.

So, a thought expressed before, reiterated here: Every member of Congress ought to do this. Oregon’s junior senator, Jeff Merkley, has, and probably will reap the benefits too. So could any of the 100 senators, or (on a smaller scale) the representatives.

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Aug 17 2011

Carlson: The real heir apparent?

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Look out, Lt. Governor Brad Little (Or substitute Schools Superintendent Tom Luna, or Rep. Raul Labrador—whoever your favorite is). You may think you’re the “crown prince” and next in line to be the Republican dynasty’s governor of Idaho, but the best politician in the state may be maneuvering to snatch that crown from your grasp and place it squarely on his head of distinguished white hair.

He has never held a political office in Idaho, but all the state’s major players know him. He is unquestionably the state’s best fund-raiser. He holds degrees in political science and demonstrates daily that he understands politics, especially the “rule” that perception is reality.

He reads books and can really talk about them. For nine years he has demonstrated mastery of one of the most politicized jobs in any state.

He is of course Bob Kustra, president of Idaho’s largest university, Boise State. He demonstrated again this month that even at age 68 he is on top of his game.

The evidence clearly shows he is a master practitioner of politics which leads one to wonder if his ambition has truly been satisfied? A yearning for high public office may still linger in his breast. It also goes far toward unraveling the mystery of why now he sacked loyal and long-time Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier.

It was as astute a pro-active, pre-emptive political move as any have seen in awhile. Odds are better than even that Kustra already knows or strongly suspects severe sanctions may be coming down for violations of various NCAA rules by not just Boise State’s nationally ranked football team, but in other sports also. Continue Reading »

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Aug 15 2011

Twittering to Congress?

Published by under Washington

For all the snark about Twitter as a communications tool (Sarah Palin famously using it, but many others too – Portland Mayor Sam Adams has burn up the Twitter lines in the last few years) there’s nothing wrong with it when used in the right way. It can be used well, or abused.

Consider the post from Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt: “Leavitt for Congress?”

Before that, he hadn’t been widely considered a prospect. So why the tweet? “It was a simple question and Twitter is a simple media. Frankly, all I wanted to do was put a question out there to garner some response.”

It has worked, and then some. It’s generated a lot of response and commentary, and no small amount of news media coverage. The decision of whether to enter a race for the U.S. House – against freshman Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler – may have a lot of components, but in the end it’s binary: Go or not. Twitter could help with that.

Probably has.

One other cautionary note about the prospect, however, should be raised: No one knows what the Vancouver-area district may look like on the other end of reapportionment, a process which is far from over. But Leavitt will certainly be in one district or another.

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Aug 14 2011

Murray on stage

Published by under Washington

Murray
Patty Murray

There was some implication – maybe more than that – in the last Senate contest in Washington, that the state’s senior senator, Patty Murray, was something of a lightweight. You could make a clear argument to the contrary (she was, after all, a member of majority leadership), but there was also some resonance to it. How exactly is she really a national figure? What major initiatives would you attach to her?

That characterization, at least, is now done, with Murray’s appointment as co-leader of the congressional “super committee” on the federal deficit. For the next few months a hard spotlight will shine on it, and Murray will be one of its most visible figures.

There’s some real challenge here – the difficulty of actually getting an acceptable fiscal product. And maybe the bigotry of low expectations too; how many people really expect a meaningful result? On the other hand: If she and the others on the panel actually do succeed, they will have blown past expectations and struck a blow for the idea that maybe, possibly, Congress can function.

In one respect, that would have unusual resonance for Murray, since she also is head of the Democratic Senate campaign committee – in charge of holding and adding Democrats in the Senate, technically making her the chief Democratic partisan in the Senate. In that role, she has blasted Republicans; on this committee, her job would be to try to find common cause with them. (Not easy this year under the best of circumstances.)

There was this in the New York Times:

“Her selection to lead the new panel raised eyebrows among some Republicans because she is also chairwoman of the Senate Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In that role, Mrs. Murray recently assailed Republican candidates, saying they wanted to “end Medicare as we know it’’ and “turn it into a voucher program run by for-profit insurance companies in order to pay for more giveaways to oil companies and the very rich.’’”

No holding of breath here waiting for the middle-ground compromise. But stranger things do happen …

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Aug 11 2011

Immigration hard line

Published by under Washington

Maybe the Tri-Cities is where you’d expect to see this kind of thing first. After all, Pasco is the Northwest’s first fairly large majority-minority city, the Hispanic population in the Tri-Cities generally is growing fast, and there’s even a large (more than 50 members) Tri-Cities Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

So maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at what’s emerging in the city council race at Kennewick, where one of the challenger candidates is Loren Nichols.

In October 2009, Nichols went to a city council meeting asking that the city establish policies to ban illegal immigrants and actively work to expel them. After city officials responded that was a federal and state, not local, job, Nichols departed, unsatisfied, and has launched a campaign for the council.

With that platform, he’s expanding a bit on his ideas. Not only should the city go after any illegal immigrants, but it should make Kennewick an “English-only” city – not that English is the official language, but that it’s the only one that can be used in any public signs or communications. And not only that. Illegal immigrants, he said, ought to be “shot at the border.” If he became mayor, he would seek to order all illegal immigrants out within 30 days, and “If they value their lives, they would leave.”

And further, to the Yakima Herald-Republic: “I know that is a very drastic stand, but let me put it this way: I expect illegal invasion of our country by foreign entities to be met with deadly force. That’s how I expect to see my country protected, and I feel the same way about our city.”

How many votes do you think he gets?

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Aug 10 2011

Carlson: Robins in context

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

So why do students of Idaho political history, and the 30 men who have been its governor, rank the former town-doctor of St. Maries, C.A. Robins, so highly?

To put the answer in medical terms, he wrote needed prescriptions that are still bearing results 60 years after his single four-year term (1946-1950) that governors were then allowed. Many of the advances and reforms he pushed came out of his first legislative session as governor in 1947, a session that long-time Idaho political player and observer Perry Swisher ranks along with the 1965 session as the most accomplished in Idaho’s history.

For openers, take his solid support for public education where he achieved comprehensive reforms, unlike several of his Republican successors, including current Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter. Governor Robins found Idaho bursting with 1,118 school districts in 1946. With the help of the Legislature, hundreds of small school districts were consolidated into less than 200, saving property taxpayers money in unnecessary overhead costs.

In 1947 he also obtained a significant increase in pay for teachers, appalled that Idaho’s teachers were then the poorest paid in the nation. (Some things, though, don’t change, with Idaho teachers again being ranked near the nation’s bottom in base pay.)

He was a major driving force for the transformation of the University of Idaho-Southern Branch into a stand alone Idaho State College independent of the University of Idaho. That set the precedent for the emergence of Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston and the stage for the transformation of Boise Junior College in the early 60’s into Boise State College.

One could argue that with 20/20 hindsight Idaho would have been better off to have stayed with a one university system structure, but that opportunity is long gone.

The politically savvy governor obviously had a great bedside manner. Having been the Senate president during his third legislative term from Benewah County, he knew how to work constructively with lawmakers to achieve passage of needed legislation. He was elected to a fourth term and surely would have been returned to the Senate presidency but resigned before the session commenced rather than leave St. Maries without any doctor. The other doctor in town had left during the time between his election to a fourth term and the beginning of the session in January of 1945.

As Idaho’s governor, he was the force behind the creation of the Department of Labor, the State Tax Commission, the first State Building program, and reformed and modernized the worker’s compensation system. He also abolished the Board of Pardons and replaced it with the three-member Board of Corrections with the purpose of providing more professional management of corrections. Continue Reading »

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Aug 10 2011

The Otter model

Published by under Idaho

In some states governors and legislators have been distressed over their recent budget cuts, which in various ways and to various degrees have hit nationwide. Not so in Idaho, where Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter maintains that’s the right way to go.

Idaho, he said, was a “model for what the nation ought to do … “There wasn’t anybody thrown out in the streets. People became more responsible for their own needs.”

As to how the rhetoric translates into specifics, the Spokesman Review‘s Betsy Russell, in noting the interview, also took the trouble to spell out some what Otter was talking about:

“Idaho cut $34 million from its Medicaid program this year, including new co-payment requirements, big new assessments on hospitals and other care providers, and trims in provider reimbursements. There were also cuts to services: More than 42,000 poor or disabled Idahoans lost their non-emergency dental coverage on July 1; dozens of patients are being discharged from nursing homes to home-based care; treatments like chiropractic care, podiatry, vision coverage and hearing aids were cut; and the state is revising programs to move to more of a managed-care approach. A federal lawsuit has halted one move, to a single residential habilitation agency for developmentally disabled patients in certified family homes, that would have driven dozens of existing agencies out of business and drastically reduced oversight of the treatment of those patients.”

The Idaho model in practice.

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