Archive for October, 2011

Oct 31 2011

Open doors

Published by under Idaho

No surprise at all, the decision over the weekend by the Idaho Democratic Party to allow anyone to vote in that party’s primary. The vote, spokesmen reported, was 70-0.

It allowed for statements like these, from the press release:

House Minority Leader John Rusche said, “Our Democratic Legislators represent everyone in their districts, not just the Democrats but Republicans and Independents as well, so our election process should reflect that.” Susan Eastlake, Idaho Democratic Party Treasurer, went on to add, “We have always been the party of inclusivity and openness and I don’t want to see that change now just because the Republicans have closed their doors to the majority of Idahoan voters. We welcome with open arms anyone that wants to join our decision making process.”

Never hurts to get people accustomed to voting for your guys, on whatever occasion presents itself. And being reminded why they can’t vote for the opposition.

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Oct 30 2011

Equalizing the pain

Published by under Washington

In times good, not everyone benefits equally, and in times bad, not everyone suffers the same – sometimes, not at all. Not everyone has been faring badly these last few years, just a lot of people.

In the Tacoma News Tribune today, columnist Peter Callaghan writes about Governor Chris Gregoire, who has proposed a mass of big spending cuts in state government, and is angry about it. Angry among others, it turns out, at local government.

Many local governments, she indicated, have been doing much better than state government, and have even been raiding state government for key employees.

Callaghan: “I asked staffers for some examples. A chief information officer for a state agency was hired by King County for a $115,000 pay raise. That person’s assistant went, too, for a 50 percent hike. Pierce County hired a chief financial officer from the state for a $20,000 raise. Tacoma hired a chief financial officer away for a 20 percent raise and more vacation. Seattle hired three state tax auditors for raises between 20 percent and 25 percent. A senior information technology worker left the state for a 15 percent raise with the Port of Tacoma. Gregoire is beyond seeking sympathy. She surely realizes that many residents of the state continue to view the bureaucracy as a part of the problem. But she doesn’t think residents realize that state workers have suffered more than other governments’ employees.”

Why would this be happening? Maybe in part because Washington state government relies heavily on sales and business & occupation taxes that have been sliced by the bad economy, while local governments have been supported more by property taxes, which haven’t taken nearly so large a hit.

Point being this: The state legislature, which will arriving in a month, will have authority to make some adjustments. Will Gregoire ask for them? And have the local governments enough clout to fend them off if she does?

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Oct 29 2011

Occupy … Bend?

Published by under Oregon

This is one of the more remarkable of Occupy events in the Northwest: “On Saturday, the streets of downtown Bend transformed into a sea of signs. Nearly 400 people gathered on the corner of Wall Street and Greenwood AVenue, then marched with their handmade signs, speakers and of course a message.”

Occupy Bend’s Facebook page has, at this writing, 1,005 likes.

Bend is not a small town, but neither is it a big center. It is not a governmental hub or a large-college town, and not a major population center. Its county, Deschutes, is Republican in partisan balance. This is a substantial event.

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Oct 29 2011

A tax issue?

Published by under Washington

Governor Chris Gregoire‘s proposal for the legislative special session next month includes loads more cuts and no revenue increases – tax or other increases. She’s not going there, on her own at least.

But she also included language in her statement that if the Legislature wanted to include revenue increases, she wouldn’t necessarily stand in the way.

There’s what looks like a complex set of dance steps on the Washington revenue front. Depending on how it plays out, Republicans might wind up with some bitter medicine which they mixed all by themselves.

Although Democrats control both House and Senate, they lack the two-thirds vote that a Tim Eyman initiative requires for a tax increase – and the Republicans definitely ain’t going there. But there is another option: Run a ballot issue asking the voters to increase taxes.

This seems problematic at first. But voters approved a challenged gas tax not many years ago. The point could be made that the state has in fact cut billions from spending, and the further point of what consequences would be if another $2 billion in cuts (Gregoire’s initial proposal) are made. Let them make the policy choice … and it wouldn’t be a surprise, really, if they went for taxes under the circumstances.

That’s not a foregone conclusion, of course. But considering Washington’s overall temperament, and the recent change in discussions (assuming it didn’t shift again) toward social needs, an approval would not be a great shock.

And it may happen. There’s this quote out today, for example, from Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle: “We have to write a budget that actually balances, with draconian cuts in it. My hope is to ask the voters to get some of those cuts back.”

If voters did approve such a tax, that would severely blunt the Republican message during a key election cycle. As a political dynamic, it’s not hard to imagine Democrats glomming on to it.

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Oct 27 2011

And then what happens?

Published by under Washington

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire‘s office described the list of nearly $2 billion in state budget cuts – a response to revenue shortfalls – as “a starting point to the conversation,” ahead of the special legislative session starting a month from now (November 28). It could be highly useful, as a starting point – and if blanks are filled in.

The proposals, dozens of slices ranging in size from six figures to nine, carry all sorts of possible implications. One of those is simply the expenditures averted, and those are listed carefully, item by item. The implications and future costs of those cuts, though, seem to be skimmed over. And therein lies the usefulness of some real discussion. Some cuts could probably be made without much blowback, and a few are accounting shifts (noting for example that putting out wildfires cost less this year than expected). But others – most – are likely to result in real damage to the state and people in it, and there ought to be some accounting of that, and what it means for the future.

Gregoire remarked, “I expect additional feedback from communities and various stakeholder groups that I will certainly consider before I present a more complete budget next month. This list will likely change before then. But not much – our options are limited. We’ve already cut $10 billion from state government over the last three years, which leaves very few options moving forward. I said the work of slashing our budget by another $2 billion would be dreadful, and that’s what it is. Washingtonians are going to get a lot less of what they need.”

The implications of getting “what they need” are a lot different from getting “what they want.” Let’s take a few examples from the scores of cuts.

▪ “Eliminate state funds for domestic violence programs – $9.4 million. Terminates state funds for domestic violence shelters that serve about 16,700 individuals annually. Retains funding for non-shelter services.” You can pay now or pay later on combatting domestic violence – there’s no other option. And when you pay later, it’ll be a lot more. Not to mention the human suffering between here and there.

▪ “Reduce chemical dependency services – $14.5 million. Reduces out-patient and detoxification chemical dependency services for 11,000 low-income clients.” Same comment, maybe more emphatically: Higher costs, more crime, more complex and difficult solutions for problems as they fester and worsen.

▪ “Change eligibility for Children’s Health Insurance Program $145.0 million. Terminates funding for 134,000 categorically needy children, as defined by the Medicaid program, above 150 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $33,525 for a family of four. Families will have the option to purchase full health care coverage at 100 percent of the premium.” More people getting sicker … is additional comment really needed? This is one of the places where still-higher health care costs come from.

▪ “Eliminate Disability Lifeline medical program – $110.0 million. Ends medical services to 21,000 clients enrolled in the Disability Lifeline and ADATSA (Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Treatment Support Act) programs.” And what happens to the alcohol and drug abusers then? Not hard to imagine.

▪ “Reduce shellfish harvest and management – $536,000. Reduces clam and oyster seed planting on public beaches by 30 percent, resulting in a 20 percent reduction in recreational harvest within two to three years. Eliminates two Puget Sound crab and shrimp managers, which will delay openings for winter crab fisheries and lowered catch limits.” An example of how state expenditure cuts stand to directly affect private businesses – although in fact, a great many of these cuts would have business-problematic effects.

There have been some counter views. One from Remy Trupin of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center: “We cannot create jobs and get our economy back on track through deep cuts to education, health care, and social services. This one-sided, lopsided approach will do significant damage to the very things that make our state a good place to live, work, and do business.”

As noted, Gregoire made mention of no revenue options, as a way of stanching some of these cuts. It’s unclear whether more than a handful of legislators will.

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Oct 27 2011

House speaker to freshman senator?

Published by under Oregon

Arnie Roblan

That the 2011 Oregon legislative session may go down as legendarily good – you don’t see that kind of description a lot in terms of legislative sessions – owes a lot to Representatives Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, and Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay. Together, they managed to lead an evenly-split Oregon House, which might have been the scene of ugliness and disaster, through a smooth and productive session.

We’ll see that team in place again, for a short time, in the abbreviated 2012 session. But not after that. Roblan said this morning he’s running next year for the Senate seat opened by the upcoming retirement of Senator Joanne Verger, D-Coos Bay.

Two notes are worth making here.

One is that Roblan could be giving up a future speakership or co-speakership (if the flipped coins lands on its side again, and the House splits evenly a second time). In a conference call with reporters this morning, acknowledged that, and considered it. But he’d been interested in the Senate seat for a while and, as he noted, those don’t come open often. But the possibility of a House speakership is quite real, since the last Democratic House speaker, Dave Hunt, is headed out of the Legislature in a run for Clackamas County office. Expect a good deal of speculation about who may be the next House speaker, then, if Democrats regain control. (If Republicans do, the answer almost certainly would be Hanna.)

The other point is the coastal open-seat situation, given how close the chambers are split: The House tied, and the Democratic majority in the Senate hanging by but one seat. And the fact that all three central coastal seats (the Senate district Roblan will run in, and the two House districts) will be open in 2012 has some significance. All have been held by Democrats, but this is not overwhelmingly Democratic area; the southern area, notably, is competitive.

Roblan, who has been representing that more competitive area up to now, probably is a strong bet to win the Senate seat, since the northern part of the district should be easier for him. There was an implication, though not explicit, that Roblan has been active in finding a Democratic replacement for his current House seat. But open seats are less predictable than the occupied, and a lot can depend on the political environment at the moment.

The central coast could be one of the more interesting places to watch next year as Oregon works out what sort of party control the 2013 legislature will have.

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Oct 26 2011

Banning new big boxes

Published by under Washington

Hot times in Tacoma over big boxes: The city council is considering a moratorium on approving construction of new stores over 65,000 square feet in size. Continuing a moratorium, that is – the original six-month ban started on August 30, when the city council declared an emergency.

The council held a hearing on the moratorium on Tuesday night, and the circumstances were such (especially in this environment of encouraging any and all new businesses) that anti-moratorium arguments should have been at a peak. If they were, the big boxers should be concerned: Testimony was overwhelmingly in favor of continuing the ban, and quite a few speakers wanted to make it permanent.

(A quote from one resident: “If we are to build a resilient community that will not just survive but thrive … we need to think outside the big box and think inside the circle of community.”)

A Walmart application was the specific trigger for the action, but it would apply to any retailer seeking to build upwards of 65,000 square feet.

One of the opponents of the moratorium, as you might expect, is the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce, which bases its position in part “on there being an emergency because our regulations fail to address some issue. I’ve yet to hear any specific issue raised that is not addressable through existing regulations. Traffic, public services, parking – all there. Now, just because a tool is there does not mean it’s going to be used. But failing to use it does not mean it is not there.”

That sounds true enough, but it’s a bit of a legalistic approach: Evidently quite a few people seemed to think there was, as a practical matter, an emergency. Or at least the need for a slowdown, and consideration of whether new big boxes really add to the economy, or just move money around, and into ever-fewer hands.

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Oct 26 2011

Carlson: Walking the plank

Published by under Carlson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Mike McGavick may be remembered by some as a charming, successful business executive who became the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2006 in the state of Washington but nonetheless lost to the dour and oft-times petulant incumbent, Maria Cantwell. Others may recall his leadership in turning around Safeco Insurance which was headed for the rocks until he came aboard.

My perspective is different than most. When I listen and look at Mike, I see a conscientious and conscience driven businessman, husband, father and friend who is a deep adherent to his Catholic faith. He practices what he preaches though he lets his actions speak: he attends daily Mass, prays, pays and where doctrine does not conflict with his conscience, obeys.

One knows instantly, he thinks deeply, cares passionately and works diligently at unraveling mysteries and history. Hands down he is one of the best speakers one can ever hear.

Now the chairman of XLGroup, one of the world’s large reinsurance firms, he gave a compelling speech this past summer at the Bishop’s Annual Luncheon in Bermuda on the challenges facing today’s Catholic Church. It was a speech that was sorely underreported.

Near the end he talked about some factors in common to achieving a successful turn around, one of which has resonated with many – the need for accountability for the Bishops who looked the other way, often deliberately, as abuse of children went on right under their nose.

As Mike put it, someone has to walk the plank not only to demonstrate that the Bishops fully intend to hold all accountable, but for the sake of their own creditability to hold themselves accountable. He wryly noted that to the date of his remarks no Bishop had yet to take that short walk.

Sooner or later some Bishop, though, would be too blatant in his defiance to be ignored or too egregious in his conduct and someone somewhere would pounce. On October 14th, it finally happened. Continue Reading »

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Oct 25 2011

No regular session?

Published by under Washington

Some talk about Washington Republicans that there’s no need for a 2012 legislative session. And you can almost imagine some Democrats pausing a moment and thinking, hmm …

From an email release out Monday:

Washington State House Republicans are urging lawmakers to come prepared to go to work quickly when they convene for a special session on November 28. Rep. Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis, today said the only two pressing issues the Legislature needs to address this year is adopting a sustainable supplemental budget and reforms that will get Washington working again. And while these are big challenges, DeBolt said if the Legislature can tackle those two objectives during the 30-day special session, it could adjourn for the year and forego the 2012 60-day regular session. He noted the Legislature would save taxpayers more than $2 million by skipping the regular session.
“The last thing Washington citizens need is for 98 lawmakers to come back to Olympia in January for a 60-day regular session and consider bills that end up costing taxpayers money we simply don’t have,” said DeBolt. “If we come to town and get our work done in December, there is no compelling reason to come back a few weeks later.”
The Legislature is scheduled to convene on Nov. 28 to correct a nearly $2 billion state budget shortfall and when it does House Republicans will be advocating for a package of bills aimed at getting Washingtonians working again.

There may be some temptation along these lines for Governor Chris Gregoire. You can imagine her thinking: Wouldn’t it be such a nice several months if they weren’t here …

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Oct 23 2011

An alternative thought on the OR 1st

Published by under Oregon

Judging from news reports, blogs, comments and various sources, a prevailing view of how the Oregon 1st congressional district primaries will go – in about three weeks, ballots having just hit mailboxes.

On the Democratic side, state Senator Suzanne Bonamici is thought likely to win. She has and has spent more than her opponent, is in a one woman-two man contest – the men are state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian and state Representative Brad Witt – in which the core of the men’s support is assumed to be labor, which they may split. The polling out so far also gives her a lead. On the Republican side, businessman Rob Cornilles is presumed to have a powerful lead and likely to win overwhelmingly. He has a campaign warchest comparable to Bonamici’s and far beyond any of the other Republicans, has a strong campaign organization in place with a skillfully-run campaign ready to re-up from just last year, and (owing to his 2010 contest) is clearly better known than the others.

And it may go exactly that way; the logic is reasonable. We’d not bet any money against it.

And yet … most election days have their surprises. There’s at least one alternative scenario out there too. If one or both parts of it does happen, remember: It wasn’t entirely unforeseeable.

Remember that we’re talking here, on the primary level, about a special election: For most voters, this one race will be all that’s on the ballot. (There are a few exceptions.) This primary contest hasn’t, for the most part, broken through to really widespread attention. You see not a large number of yard signs and such (more for Cornilles at this stage than anyone else), and talk of the race doesn’t seem to be in everyday chatter. Local political junkies follow the race, but most people in the 1st … probably not so much. All this taken together suggests low turnout, a turnout in which activists will probably have disproportionate influence.

Republican activists, in the last cycle or two, have been in large part Tea Party-type activists, or at least people for whom ideology is pre-eminent. Last year Cornilles ran as a John Boehner-type Republican, not part of the Tea Party group but close enough to it to make its members comfortable. In this year, though, he sounds a good deal different, taking a more moderate tack. In debate a week ago in Forest Grove, he was sharply criticized by two other Republicans for having abandoned the party’s ideas and – horrors! – sounding more like the Democrats at the debate than like his fellow Republicans. And at times, he did.

One of those Republicans, Jim Greenfield, does seem to have emerged as the flagship candidate for what we might call the Ideology Republicans – his take was a lot like what you’d hear from Tea Party Caucus Republicans in the U.S. House. He sounds harsh and limited if you’re not aligned with him, but he delivers tasty catnip if you are. He evidently has little money or organization. But this is a group with a strong, if informal, communications network. If it spreads in a serious way the word that Greenfield is the real deal and Cornilles is the Mitt Romney of the race – an analogy not hard to see, and which has already spread to a degree – there’s room here for an upset.

The situation is a more subtle on the Democratic side, where Bonamici is not so far ahead of Avakian in money. Excluding candidate loans to the campaign, the two have raised comparable money. The money is most key in buying TV spots, but in races like this, where there’s no significant attacking going on (and there isn’t), the ads have limited impact beyond introducing the candidates to the voters – and remember, a disproportionate number of special election voters already probably know them (and Avakian’s political record goes back more years than Bonamici’s, and has extended statewide, as hers has not). By several accounts, Avakian has a substantially larger and more active ground and volunteer effort.

One other factor could play in: Avakian has gone farther in using activist language and approaches, and in identifying himself with activists like the Occupy Portland group. That’s a judgement call, to be sure; both Bonamici and Witt also have been present at Occupy events and have been supportive. It’s a matter of tone as much as anything else. (His first TV ad was called, “Ticked off.”) But it seems clear, and it’s easy to imagine Avakian picking up a disproportionate part of the activist vote.

To reiterate, none of this is an argument that Bonamici and Cornilles won’t win. Just that, even though ballots are out, the race is hardly over yet.

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Oct 20 2011

The quarterlies

Published by under Idaho,Oregon,Washington

A few thoughts on review of the quarterly federal congressional campaign reports – the receipts and spending by candidates up to September 30.

• In Washington’s 1st district, an open seat with the gubernatorial run of Democratic Representative Jay Inslee, there are a wealth of reports from Democrats – five of them – and just one from a Republican. Laura Ruderman, the former state representative and secretary of state candidate, has raised the most money ($182,675), followed fairly closely by current state Representative Roger Goodman ($162,127). There are three other candidates, two also legislators, but the early numbers suggest Ruderman and Goodman are the two to watch most closely. For now anyway. And: Not much financial action yet for Republican James Watkins, who also ran last cycle.

• Oregon’s 1st district features a special election, with the primary election period starting this weekend – the crisis period has hit. Top money raiser so far is Democratic state Representative Suzanne Bonamici at $600,404, though a third of that is a loan from the candidate. Second (among the Democrats) is state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, at $378,678 – not far behind Bonamici in terms of ternal money raised. Also of interest is the very serious money coming to Republican Rob Cornilles (the 2010 nominee) – $505,556. Cornilles raised upwards of $1 million for his unsuccessful run last year; he seems on track to raise as much or more this time. High competition is being signaled here, just around the bend.

• Oddly, no new report yet from Washington Senator Maria Cantwell – and none from any prospective challenger. It’s getting awfully late to raise serious money for a U.S. Senate race.

• Along that line, a bunch of representatives have no report-filing opposition yet. In Washington: Jaime Herrera Beutler (3rd), Doc Hastings (4th), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (5th), Jim McDermott (7th), Dave Reichert (8th). Oregon: Greg Walden (2nd), Earl Blumenauer (3rd), Kurt Schrader (5th). Idaho: Mike Simpson (2nd). And, 1st District Representative Raul Labrador has a filed opponent, Jimmy Farris, but Farris reported no contributions by the cutoff date.

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Oct 20 2011

Review: Andrus, by Chris Carlson

Published by under books,Carlson

Andrus book

The title, Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor, would give you to think that this is a biography, albeit a hagiographic one. It is better taken as the writer, Chris Carlson (whose columns show up here about weekly), indicated in his substitle, as a reminiscence – a work of memory, through his eyes, in considerable part unchecked in any rigorous way. And, within that frame, it might be taken as this: The story of the mentor relationship between Carlson and Cecil Andrus. That’s the thread that runs through the book.

The first part of the book, about Andrus’ early life and early political years, is relatively biographical, and those interested in Andrus’ background will find plenty of new material here. Carlson has a number of stories to tell from his years working for Andrus, mainly in a press and public relations capacity. He also tells some of his own story, his short time on the Northwest Power Planning Council (as it was called then), the founding of the Gallatin Group, and more. There’s a long chapter as well concerning concerning the campaign surrounding the Washington death with dignity/assisted suicide ballot issue (Initiative 1000, which passed in 2008); Carlson was one of the leading organizers against it. Andrus did not take a role in that campaign (so far as Carlson relates), but the lessons he imparted over the years were taken into that campaign.

That suggests some of the results of the mentoring relationship that is Carlson’s main subject here. Andrus, elected governor four times and Interior secretary for a full presidential term (the only one to last all of Jimmy Carter’s administration), is one of the strongest personalities Idaho has had in the last half-century. If he enters the room, you know it – and you enjoy it (ordinarily). He’s among the rare people seemingly at home anywhere, with just about anyone. And he learned, along the way, a lot about how the world works – another major theme of Carlson’s.

On one occasion, some years back, I had occasion to ask Andrus for advice on a matter relating to a political campaign. The exact bedeviling problem at hand is now forgotten (by me anyway), but Andrus’ advice was not, and especially the effect it had: It lasted no more than two or three sentences, and he hadn’t finished speaking before I knew he was exactly correct. And he was. It was the gift of cutting through clutter.

Carlson also subtitles his book, “Idaho’s Greatest Governor,” and the back cover text says he “inarguably, has had the greatest impact on Idaho in modern times.” That raises a subject we’ll be addressing here a few months from now in another book, looking at the influential people in Idaho history. However exactly you rank him, Andrus has been powerfully impactful on the state. And, as this book maintains, on a lot of individual people as well.

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Oct 19 2011

A race in the 1st (Idaho’s)

Published by under Idaho

Jimmy Farris

Idaho’s 1st congressional district has a 2012 race: There’s now a Democratic candidates to go alongside the Republican incumbent, Raul Labrador, who presumably will seek re-election.

Jimmy Farris, 33, now living in Meridian and a former NFL wide receiver (for a bunch of teams including the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins) said in a conference call with reporters that he’s in, definitely – “We’re filed, I’m in.” He said his next steps will include fundraising and becoming known around the district, which seems reasonable enough. He said he has a current staff of five (geogrpahically scattered at present), and there’s a website.

“This about convincing people that I’m the best person to represent people in this district in Congress. And that’s a 50-50 proposition, they either vote for me or against me,” he said.

Well … as any number of Idaho Democrats would attest, it’s a little tougher than that. Well, a lot tougher.

He comes across as a nice guy, more easygoing and pleasant than you might expect from a stereotypical NFL player, and those things – with some celebrity – would be assets. He is an Idaho native. And he sounds plainspoken and transparent; you don’t get the sense of someone making excessive claims (as has happened in this district before).

On the other hand. He may be an Idaho native, but he hasn’t lived in the state between leaving for college more in Montana more than a decade ago, and this summer, when he moved to Meridian. His interest in politics, he said, is quite recent, to the point that he only election he’s voted in (in his recollection) was in the 2008 general election; he did not vote last year.

“What I really want to do is make a difference,” he said. He expressed concern for the economic state of the country, but beyond saying very generally that he would support a jobs bill, had little specific by way of prescription. He acknowledged he has a good deal to learn yet about a wide range of issues.

Why is he Democrat? “I want to make things easier for other people,” he said. “I’m a Democrat because im interested in the lives of everyoday people.” If that sounds a little vague, it’s not clarified by his view of his opponent, of whom he offered little direct criticism: “It’s not about challenging Congressman Labrador.” (Actually, it is: By running, he’s asking voters to fire him.)

Getting to the NFL has to be a very hard proposition. This may be harder.

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Oct 19 2011

Carlson: Passing the test

Published by under Carlson

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The “chattering” class of political pundits and prognosticators is in full lather these days offering uninformed assessments regarding former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s prospects for winning the presidency given that so much of the GOP base today is comprised of self-described Christian evangelicals.

For these folks, most of who are in the south, Mormonism is a cult, not a religion. Some experts think over half the delegates to the National Republican Convention in 2012 will be self-professing evangelicals. Polls show only about 20 percent of this core base of the GOP could vote for a Mormon to be president.

Much is being written since a prominent Southern Baptist pastor with ties to Texas Governor Rick Perry charged that Mormonism is a cult, not a Christian faith. While the self-anointed political experts commenting on this may know something about analyzing polls, most are uninformed when it comes to actual knowledge about Mormonism.

Permit this pundit a few observations.

First, Governor Romney can win the 2012 presidential election for the simple reason that a desire to retire President Obama will trump all concerns regarding his religion. Regardless of one’s political bias, most objective perspectives would concede that so far Romney’s campaign strategy has been smart, well-implemented and soundly executed. Continue Reading »

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Oct 18 2011

Allegations of cultishness

Published by under Washington

Most of what we’ve heard about this has come from southern religious conservatives. But Seattle’s Mark Driscoll appears to be weighing in as well, with implications in this part of the world too.

The subject is the Mormon church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – and its role in the presidential campaign, and in Christianity. Our view here is that in the former it shouldn’t be a consideration (we in this country have no religious test for public office, and for good reason), and in the latter is a subject for consideration by individuals. (A column by Chris Carlson on the subject generally will be up here shortly.)

The presidential candidacies of two Mormons, Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, has made the subject irresistable to any number of conservative Christians, however, and a number have weighed in to argue that the LDS Church isn’t really Christian, and may even be a cult. Most of these speakers have come from the southern Bible Belt.

Enter Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hills Church (which has been expanding south to Portland) on the subject:

The danger facing the Christian church is always to capitulate to culture. As Mormonism becomes more culturally acceptable, the temptation will be to make Mormonism more acceptable to Christians as well. This can’t happen if the Church is to preserve it’s witness in the world to the true triune God of the Bible as worshipped by Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians alike.

Many mormons are good neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. But, we cannot go so far as to call them brothers and sisters in a common faith. To do so is to not only confuse real Christians, but to also diminish the importance of lovingly speaking with Mormons about the errors of their belief in hopes of seeing them come to know the real God of the Bible and avoiding eternal damnation for worshipping a false god.

Driscoll is certainly free to expound on religion as he will. But there are some serious political and social implications to the description of another religious organization – a large one, with deep roots in the region – as a “cult.” Those could turn serious indeed as people start casting votes in the months ahead.

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Oct 17 2011

Order: Release those names

Published by under Washington

As per normal, this decision presumably will be appealed. But it has a ring of eventual finality – given the U.S. Supreme Court’s generally open-records recent history.

Released today, the ruling from U.S. District Judge Benjamin Settle of Tacoma in Doe v. Sam Reed said that Protect Marriage Washington doesn’t have the right to keep secret the names of people who signed a petition to put a referendum on the ballot. The referendum, R-71, was proposed by a group of opponents to gay marriage on the broad extension of the state’s domestic partnership rules.

The argument was over whether the names on the petitions ought to be considered private, the way ordinary votes are (votes, say, on the referendum after it was on the ballot). But before it could get to the ballot came a policy choice about putting it there – the sort of policy choice that usually has operated in more sunlight.

PMW argued that people might be subject to harassment if their names were released.

But as in some other cases, evidence of harassment was thin.

“Similarly here [as in other cases], PMW was able to secure 137,000 signers for R-71 and obtained nearly half the vote with 838,842 votes. And Doe has not supplied competent evidence or adequate authority to support its claim that R-71 signers constitute a fringe organization with unpopular or unorthodox beliefs or one that is seeking to further ideas that have been ‘historically and pervasively rejected and vilified by both this country’s government and its citizens.’ “Pretty much the opposite, one would think, and the court found similarities between this case and others were more open rules applied.

Testimony was brought from a number of initiative supporters saying they had been – in their terms anyway – harassed. But as the judge noted, these were all public figures, all well known for their stands on gay-related issues for some time, and little evidence was brought that their involvement in R-71 specifically subjected them to harassment. Besides that, the judge noted that more than 800 contributors had (as per the state’s campaign finance law) been publicly listed as backers of the R-71 effort, with little evidence of any blowback.

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Oct 17 2011


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And the Idaho redistricting commission’s work seems to be done, with a congressional plan that looks a whole lot like the one Idahoans have had for decades, save only some shifting of precincts in central-west Ada County.

That was almost certainly what was inevitably going to happen, eventually, though this one could have headed toward deadlock. The Republicans on the commission were determined that a split-Ada approach would happen, and the Democrats wanted a plan that united Canyon County with the rest of southern and eastern Idaho. The odds of that major shift occurring were … never high.

So Democrat Ron Beitelspacher switched sides and voted with the Republicans for split-Ada.

Does it make any real partisan difference? Evidently some Democrats seem to think so, but it’s hard to see how: Both districts, either way, remain overwhelmingly Republican. Changes on a scale much larger than redistricting can afford would be needed to turn either district genuinely competitive.

Now the question: Will someone sue, and if so over what?

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WASHINGTON-OREGON-IDAHO Our acclaimed weekly e-pubs: 35-45 pages Monday mornings getting you on top of your state. Samples available. Contact us by email or by phone at (208)484-0460.



This will be one of the most talked-about Idaho books in Idaho this season: 14 years after its last edition, Ridenbaugh Press has released a list of 100 influential Idahoans. Randy Stapilus, the editor and publisher of the Idaho Weekly Briefing and author of four earlier similar lists, has based this one on levels of overall influence in the state – and freedom of action and ability to influence development of the state – as of the start of 2015.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015. By Randy Stapilus; published by Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 202 pages. Softcover. List price $16.95.
100 Influential Idahoans 2015 page.

100 Influential Idahoans 2015
"Essentially, I write in the margins of motherhood—and everything else—then I work these notes into a monthly column about what it’s like raising my two young boys. Are my columns funny? Are they serious? They don’t fit into any one box neatly. ... I’ve won awards for “best humorous column” though I actually write about subjects as light as bulimia, bullying, birthing plans and breastfeeding. But also bon-bons. And barf, and birthdays." Raising the Hardy Boys: They Said There Would Be Bon-Bons. by Nathalie Hardy; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 238 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
Raising the Hardy Boys page.



"Not a day passes that I don’t think about Vietnam. Sometimes its an aroma or just hearing the Vietnamese accent of a store clerk that triggers a memory. Unlike all too many soldiers, I never had to fire a weapon in anger. Return to civilian life was easy, but even after all these years away from the Army and Vietnam I find the experience – and knowledge – continue to shape my life daily."
Drafted! Vietnam in War and in Peace. by David R. Frazier; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton OR. 188 pgs. Softcover. $15.95.
The DRAFTED! page.


Many critics said it could not be done - and it often almost came undone. Now the Snake River Basin Adjudication is done, and that improbable story is told here by three dozen of the people most centrally involved with it - judges, attorneys, legislators, engineers, water managers, water users and others in the room when the decisions were made.
Through the Waters: An Oral History of the Snake River Basin Adjudication. edited by the Idaho State Bar Water Law Section and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 300 pages. Softcover. $16.95.

Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh died on July 20, 2014; he was widely praised for steady leadership in difficult years. Writer Scott Jorgensen talks with Atiyeh and traces his background, and what others said about him.
Conversations with Atiyeh. by W. Scott Jorgensen; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 140 pages. Softcover. $14.95.

"Salvation through public service and the purging of awful sights seen during 1500 Vietnam War helicopter rescue missions before an untimely death, as told by a devoted brother, leaves a reader pondering life's unfairness. A haunting read." Chris Carlson, Medimont Reflections. ". . . a vivid picture of his brother Jerry’s time as a Medivac pilot in Vietnam and contrasts it with the reality of the political system . . . through the lens of a blue-collar, working man made good." Mike Kennedy.
One Flaming Hour: A memoir of Jerry Blackbird. by Mike Blackbird; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 220 pages. Softcover. $15.95.
See the ONE FLAMING HOUR page.

Back in Print! Frank Church was one of the leading figures in Idaho history, and one of the most important U.S. senators of the last century. From wilderness to Vietnam to investigating the CIA, Church led on a host of difficult issues. This, the one serious biography of Church originally published in 1994, is back in print by Ridenbaugh Press.
Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church. LeRoy Ashby and Rod Gramer; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 800 pages. Softcover. $24.95.


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 (softcover)



NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

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The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through (softcover)


by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through (softcover)

without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.


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The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.