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Posts published in October 2011

Rosellini, with a rose

Rosellini
Albert Rosellini

Albert Rosellini's father was a saloon keeper whose business was shut down by the coming of prohibition. He grew up in the Ranier Valley area of south Seattle when it was known as Garlic Gulch because of all the immigrant Italian families there.

Rosellini, who would become governor of Washington for two terms (elected 1956 and 1960, defeated in bids for third terms in 1964 and 1972), lived through some astounding changes before his death Monday at the age of 101. As a political record-setter, there was this: He was the first Catholic elected governor from a state west of the Mississippi.

He was known for a good many things, including his improbable tangential connection to "strippergate" not so many years ago, but probably most significantly to infrastructure (well, that and the Seattle World's Fair, which he promoted heavily). One of the Puget Sound area's landmark construction projects, the floating bridge on Lake Washington that links Seattle and Medina via SR 520.

All these years it has been a free-passage bridge. But that would be the same SR 520 on which that is about to change, as the Washington Department of Transportation notes: "Electronic tolling starts in December on the SR 520 bridge to help pay for the construction of a new faster, safer bridge."

Haven't seen any commentary from Rosellini on the new tolls. But he undoubtedly had some opinions about a bridge construction that could be done without them a half-century ago ... but, apparently, no longer.

A press release, dissected

We here make a fair amount of use of press releases; we grab a good deal of material from them for our weekly Digests and other things. Much maligned, they can be highly useful. They tend to be pretty accurate, at least as far as they go, and if you have enough background to know when you're being spun, to know what's inflated, and to know what's being left out, you can gather a lot of useful information through them.

Some of these matters show up in an excellent piece today in the Twin Falls Times News, which dissects a press release from Senator Mike Crapo. Of this one in particular, the paper concluded, "As with most press releases we receive, Crapo’s release is completely factual. But the data is also spun harder than it should be." Fairly normal for press releases from most political sources.

The article itself is a nice piece of background, well worth reading whether you are or aren't on many news release mailing lists.

Two more items from debate in the 1st

ONE. The 1st district debate, involving three Democrats and three Republicans, saw relatively few direct shots between candidates, and most of those were between two Republicans, Rob Cornilles and Jim Greenfield. (Greenfield considered Cornilles as insufficiently faithful to Republican principles.)

The main shot from a Democrat to a Republican, and it may have been the only one in the 90-minute debate, came from Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian to Greenfield. The subject was corporate profits and benefits and labor outsourcing; Greenfield argued that businesses including corporations need as favorable a tax and regulatory environment in the United States as they could get, to keep them here. Avakian said that (his words were fairly close to this) that the difference between Greenfield and himself is that Greenfield wanted the mass of corporate profits - and profits among major corporations are trending high, and the Fortune 500 is sitting on a mass of unspent money - and overall income, to go into the pockets of Americans, while Greenfield wants them to go into the pockets of multi-national corporations. (Greenfield did not seem to want to reply.)

It was a very well taken turn of phrase. Many Republicans have for years spoken of taxes as money taken "out of the pockets of Americans" and given over to the government. Avakian's construction shows that the imagery can be put to effective use to make other points as well.

TWO. Cornilles told a story with a moral that seemed to come out of nowhere, and it merits a note here.

During the debate, he held up a business card from a cafe in Forest Grove. He said that afternoon he'd been walking downtown (presumably campaigning) and stopped in. On a Sunday afternoon, the place was empty - no customers. The owner rushed forward from the back of the cafe, expressing delight that a customer had shown up.

Cornilles didn't report whether he became a customer, but did say the talk turned to politics, and he asked the owner what his biggest business problem was. "Taxes," the owner replied.

The Republican candidate was making the point, of course, that taxes impinge on the ability of people to run their businesses. But after hearing his description of the cafe, we expected the owner to say that his biggest problem was a lack of customers. For any business, that would ordinarily be first and foremost. Taxes may be an irritant, but no customers, no business.

1st District debate: Setting markers

Debate at Forest Grove
Debate in Forest Grove: from left, Lisa Michaels, Jim Greenfield (behind Michaels), Rob Cornilles, Brad Avakian, Suzanne Bonamici and Brad Witt (photo/Randy Stapilus)

If you're a candidate, and in a crowd, you want to stand out. Preferably in a good way. The five candidates in the special election for Oregon's 1st district U.S. House seat at Sunday's debate in Forest Grove all stood out, in their various ways.

The debate at Pacific University was not the first of the campaign, but it was one of the first (maybe the first) to feature candidates from both major parties - three each, Democrats (Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Senator Suzanne Bonamici and state Representative Brad Witt) and Republicans (businessman and 2010 nominee Rob Cornilles, Jim Greenfield and Lisa Michaels). The crowd numbered about 60, was well split between partisan supporters, and had lots of patience: The 90-minute forum for public questions followed a nearly 90-minute endorsement interview session for the Forest Grove paper (a Pamplin newspaper; that chain is substantial in Washington County).

In style, Cornilles and Avakian seemed most polished, organized and confident.

The three Democrats differed by degrees on several issues, but not dramatically. Witt was a little stiff and programmatic at first, but settled into a solid comfort level as the debate went on. Bonamici wasn't far off the mark but by comparison seemed to have a soft night in several places. Top issue for all three was employment and the economy, and all favored federal infrastructure spending as a key in the solution. (Bonamici ran through a string of ideas, but didn't put the pieces together.) The Democrats got into no scrapes.

The three Republicans were another story. (more…)

Seattle v Portland occupiers …

Is it difference in the cities? Almost feels as if it is.

From Portland, here's the safety and crime situation as regards Occupy Portland from the point of view of the Police Bureau:

On October 7, 2011, representatives from Occupy Portland, the Portland Marathon, the Mayor's office, and the City of Portland met to discuss plans for Chapman Park and Lownsdale Square.

After the conclusion of yesterday's successful march, numerous people asked for permission to camp in the parks overnight. Those camping were told that the Portland Marathon has had a long-standing permit that began on October 7 at 9 a.m., to allow for preparations before Sunday's Portland Marathon. This morning, Occupy Portland's General Assembly held a press conference and stated that they were in support of the Portland Marathon and wanted to work collaboratively on an agreement that would suit the needs of both organizations.

The communication between all the parties has been marked by a desire to be collaborative. At this time, discussions are productive, but have not reached a final conclusion. We will release further updates as discussions progress.

The mood in the parks is relaxed, and people who are camping are otherwise following park rules. The Police Bureau will continuously monitor the camping situation, but are not expecting any large-scale issues.

Sounds about as positive as any side could hope for, and a lot better than many had expected. There had been some openly-expressed worries about violence and arrests, but none of that seemed to happen.

In Seattle, there were arrests, and there were problems. This from a post by a Seattle detective:

On October 5th Seattle Police encouraged demonstrators to remove tents from city property (Westlake Park). After numerous refusals to comply, officers arrested 25 demonstrators.

Of the 25 arrests, there were 21 adult males, two adult females, and two juvenile females.

Sixteen demonstrators were interviewed and released from the West Precinct. Those 16 cases will be forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office with a request for charges of Obstructing a Public Officer.

Nine demonstrators were booked into the King County Jail for Obstructing a Public Officer.

Officers from various Seattle Police units were utilized for this event: uniformed patrol, mounted patrol, foot beat, bicycle and traffic officers.

Why the difference? The Portland event, by the way, seemed to be the larger of the two.

Protest

Watch live streaming video from oppdx at livestream.com

The Livestream of the Occupy Portland march and - gathering? - is hypnotizing, and the chat considerably more than the video.

The crowd does look, from what you can tell, like a more varied group than many of the commenters - a lot of whom have seized on "hippies" as the main perjorative - will willing to accept. There are quite a few people in any event; KGW-TV indicates an estimate of 4,000, and Portland police indicated perhaps 5,000. An Oregonian report said of the waterfront crowd (that being where the group gathered), it might amount to 10,000. Not a small group for mid-weekday.

The number of Livestream viewers, this afternoon, typically ranged around 1,600 to 1,800. (Irony: To watch the stream, you have to play an ad first, paid for by one of several large national corporations.) Most consistent chant: "We ... are ... the 99 percent."

Two political figures spotted so far: Portland Mayor Sam Adams (who was there in connection with police management), and congressional candidate Brad Avakian, who was marching. Are there others?

1st poll in the 1st, but …

The first polling - the first to go public at least - in the Oregon 1st district Democratic contest, is out. It indicates a massive lead for state Senator Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton. (It apparently was not done specifically for a candidate but for Emily's List, which is backing Bonamici.) From the National Journal today:

The first poll in the race, obtained from a Democratic source, shows Bonamici with a 24-point lead over her two closest opponents. Bonamici takes 34 percent of the vote, while state Rep. Brad Witt registers at 10 percent. Oregon state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian is in single digits with 8 percent.

When the candidates' biographies are listed, Bonamici's lead widens to 29 points, and she has the highest favorability of all the candidates. Bonamici, a former consumer protection attorney for the Federal Trade Commission, is the only candidate currently on TV. ... The poll was conducted by Grove Insight for EMILY's List from September 26-28, and surveyed 400 likely Democratic primary voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.9 percent.

If the poll is an accurate reflection of the electorate, then the primary is as good as done. But is it?

Bonamici is a strong candidate. If she wins the primary, that would be no great shock. Her two opponents are more in the line of dividing a common base of core support (labor and related interests), and she's one woman running against two men - not a bad structural advantage. And her campaign looks plenty strong. A poll showing her in the lead would not be surprising.

These poll numbers, though, suggest not just a lead but a massive blowout. Avakian has held statewide office and been on the ballot statewide. He was in the race two months longer than Bonamici - about twice as long - and his political history in Washington County goes back further than hers. He has been, on balance, no more controversial than Bonamici. (Supporters of each would argue about the merits of the issues bedeviling each, but as negatives they come close to a wash.) As to matters of issue and ideology, they have some distinctions but are not terribly far apart; both has been mainstream Democratic caucus members in Salem. Bonamici has been on the air with one commercial, a good one but not a rock-your-world kind of message, not enough to massive shake up the district.

So a poll showing her not just in the lead but with 34% and him with 8% (and the third candidate, state Representative Brad Witt, at 10%) has some 'splainin' to do.

Carlson: Best advice I ever got

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

All of us are familiar with various “parlor games” people pursue, usually at a family holiday gathering; or, there is a relative who loves to ask leading questions and insist that everyone in the room respond. Often it is a very personal question. In our case, the bedeviling family member is my 12-years-younger sister, Linnea.

We call them “Linny Questions.” And often they are not necessarily easy ones to answer. I surprised her though when she asked the classic: “what was the best advice I was ever given or wished had been given to me?”

She probably thought her aging, pretentious brother would cite something from his favorite author, Joseph Conrad, or something from poet Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” but I didn’t.

The best advice I was ever given and glad I took was: “When you think you want to get married, be sure and take a good look at your prospective mother-in-law because more than likely that’s your wife in 20 years. If you like what you see, you’ll know you will still like your wife in 20 years and you’re making a good choice. If you don’t like what you see, run like hell the other way!”

Unfortunately, I cannot recall who gave me such wise counsel, but what’s important is I followed it. Forty-one years later I still like what I see. I couldn’t have found a better mother-in-law, and indeed my wife has become more like her which leaves me doubly blessed. (more…)

Redrawing Lane

For all that Eugene, and Lane County, is often thought of simply as a Democratic stronghold, the reality is more complicated. It is true that in major races, the weight of the county's vote ordinarily goes Democratic, often by a large percentage. But more locally, contests are often more competitive, especially when party labels are not visible (as for nonpartisan local government offices).

So the effort to redraw the Lane County Commission districts, five of them, becomes a complex undertaking. Based on party registration and typical voting patterns, you might expect three Democratic-leaning districts, and two Republican-leaning. But that conclusion isn't foregone, since a large part of the Democratic vote is concentrated in the University of Oregon district and in south Eugene, and near the downtown area. Much of the rest of Eugene, and most of Springfield, ranges from gently Democratic to simply competitive, to increasingly Republican in the landscape becomes more rural.

With all that in mind, take a look at the commission redistricting maps the Eugene Register-Guard has posted. Note that some plans (like scenario 2) have three compact districts, and a couple of large rural ones. And that others, like scenario 6, have more puffed-out center districts that reach more into the rural area. Which do you think might be endorsed by each party?

The R-G story notes that "Board members have said there’s no place for politics in the process." Good luck with that.

McGee’s tipping point?

Idaho state Senator John McGee, R-Caldwell, has generated quite a string of negative headlines this year. Now one more apparently is on its way.

This one comes via Dennis Mansfield, the conservative Republican (former congressional and legislative candidate) who goes his own way on any number of matters. To this point, Mansfield raised the question of whether McGee, convicted some months back of DUI, should quit. With the latest, he specifically calls for resignation:

Because along with ALL those other things, I was told today by two very reputable sources that John McGee as a part of GOP Senate Leadership last year agreed to fire a key administrative secretary in the Idaho State Senate because she had been arrested on a DUI. (I am keeping her name anonymous for her sake and for her reputation.) BTW, she did not contact me, nor did anyone connected to her.

Senator McGee joined with GOP Leadership when they apparently announced to the Senate and others that this young secretary's firing had been brought about because of "behavior unbecoming the Idaho State Senate"

That point alone tips the scales for me.

We'll keep watch to see what response develops.

UPDATE There's more, in the form of some comments from Senate President pro tem Brent Hill and Senator Chuck Winder. Hill says the secretary had a second DUI atop the first, and that those might not have been the only factors involved in her case; and that she was not fired - though there was an implication that she was strongly encouraged to leave. Which makes her case harder externally to judge (given the limited number of facts available), but still suggests that there should have been some more sensitivity in the case of a legislator, who should be held to a higher standard.

Dodging the fires

For a second year, the Northwest seems to have mostly avoided the large wildfires that were such a plague only a few years ago.

The weather has to have a lot to do with it: The heavy rains earlier this year, substantial snowpacks and the summer that didn't really get underway until around Independence Day. Washington has been unusually lucky, with only a few substantial fires, mainly in the northeast. Oregon and Idaho have done nearly as well, though the fires circling Bend early last month were fierce enough to send their smoke across the Cascades. And Idaho has had some significant blazes, though of moderate size and generally well off from human habitation (many in remote areas in the region near Salmon).

Current federal wildfire mapping indicates four fires in Idaho, two in Oregon, none in Washington.

Some of this was luck, though. An Oregonian article out today notes that a massive area of the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southwest Oregon (around the Klamath Falls area) has been hit by pine beetles which have damaged immense stands of trees across 300,000 acres. "Foresters and firefighters held their breath when lightning storms swept through in August, sparking numerous fires but sparing the Fremont-Winema," the paper said.