Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in August 2011

Carlson: The Committee of Nine

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.” (more…)

Building an island

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.

Paying and spending, more or less

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.

Crump doesn’t say

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.

Carlson: Trust, Verify

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. (more…)

Tim and the red lights

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.

Lynnwood loves its traffic cams

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.

Voting for the non-voter

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.

600

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.

Carlson: The real heir apparent?

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. (more…)