"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson (appears in the Jefferson Memorial)

One other development in last week’s elections in the Northwest got little attention and should get more.

It arrived by way of initiative advocate Tim Eyman. From an email he sent out today:

As you can imagine, I-1125 rightly got the biggest spotlight, but it wasn’t the only issue we had on the ballot. We had public votes on automatic ticketing cameras in 3 cities and voters overwhelmingly rejected cameras in all three. 68% against cameras in Bellingham, 68% against cameras in Monroe, and 59% against cameras in Longview. Those overwhelming votes follow last year’s 71% anti-camera vote in my hometown of Mukilteo.

So we’re now in our 2nd year of battling against sleazy red-light camera companies. What makes them especially sleazy is that they use high-priced lawyers and liberal judges to do everything possible to block the people from voting. For them, democracy is bad for business.

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A few words for the organizers of Occupy in Portland, and other locations where people are trying to take over spaces without end in sight … from someone sympathetic with the core messages they’re trying to convey:

Adopt as action the name of another organization of similar mind. Move On.

Occupy started out well, and powerfully, and it has already succeeded in what at least should have been its initial goals. The object was to change the conversation about what the nation’s core problems are, to a discussion about the power of great wealth, inequality and the resulting threat to democracy. After weeks of deliberate avoidance by national news media and others, attention was finally gotten. And the scope of action made clear that this was not just about a street crowd in downtown New York. When crowds in places from major metro centers to places like Mosier, Oregon – and there are only a small and scattered number of houses in Mosier – began joining in, a corner of some sort has been turned.

It started as a march, then an occupation, and a few other events have occurred. What needs to happen next for Occupy is to, well, move on.

It needs not to go away, but to evolve.

For a matter of days, maybe as long as two or three weeks, the presence of the protesters in Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks in downtown Portland added to the message, gave it a center, made it more powerful. Over the last week, maybe two, though, the encampment has distracted from it – inevitably. Occupy Portland became about a group of people camping in downtown Portland. The story became its governance, its gradually growing clashes with police (after a highly cooperative beginning) – up to more than 50 arrests today. And the arrival of people whose interest had little to do with promoting the message the original protesters were so passionate about.

The message has gotten left behind. Not totally obscured – a lot of the national conversation really has changed – but the Occupy Encampments are no longer adding to the message, or spreading it. As any organization, however intentionally unorganized, will do, its top priority eventually becomes itself.

That suggests a solution to the problem: Do other things.

Find other ways to get attention. Stage other events (peaceably and legally – there’s plenty of room for action within the law). Do more marches. Keep the focus, above all, on the message.

The primary Occupy organizers seem to want that, at least as demonstrated by their determination to avoid a leadership hierarchy and a series of spokesmen.

If they’re really serious about it, their next move is clear: Break up the encampment, and schedule another activity in, say, a couple of weeks.

Otherwise, their message is almost sure to be trampled underfoot.

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Nike, based at Beaverton, has long had a close tie to Pennsylvania State University, and especially close with Joe Paterno, the renowned football coach there. Which makes its situation a little touchy now, after reports about child sexual abuse at the Penn State program, which Paterno – from various reports – did too little to stop it after learning it was happening. Paterno, not far ahead of his planned retirement, has been dismissed.

Which is mostly a Pennsylvania story, except for this: The child day care center at Nike’s headquarters campus is called the Joe Paterno Child Development Center.

The Oregonian reports that Nike officials say they do not plan to change the name of the facility.

Care to bet that they will?

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Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

The refusal of Idaho’s gaming tribes to abide by the 2002 initiative to distribute 5 percent of each year’s annual gross revenues to school districts surrounding the reservation, and to disclose how much each district receives, could lead to a lawsuit. That it could foster more animosity among Idaho’s largely white population is a foregone conclusion.

The essence of the debate is encapsulated by two phrases: a) The public has an absolute “right to know,” especially where its tax dollars are involved; and, 2) “trust, but verify!” In addition it reconfirms the old saying about true tragedy being the conflict between equally valid rights, not the conflict between right and wrong.

The immediate issue regards questions that have been raised about the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s original pledge of support for the 5 percent commitment until recent years when some surrounding districts privately acknowledged not having received any more donations. The pledge, contained in the initiative voters ratified in 2002, was viewed as the key part of the quid pro quo that permitted the gaming tribes to utilize more slot-like machines in their casinos.

Idaho’s executive director of the State Lottery is supposed to monitor and enforce tribal compliance with this feature of the initiative but in reality the oversight is non-existent. There are two obvious flaws in this scheme.

First, without an annual outside audit by an independent and reputable auditing firm how does one know with any confidence what gross receipts really are from which the 5% is calculated against? Second, Tribes have taken the position that they do not have to disclose who the recipients of this tribal education largess are and how much they may have been granted. Ipso facto, how is the public to know that the original deal is truly being honored?

Some tribes (the Coeur d’Alenes and the Nez Perce) say “trust us” and the Lottery’s executive director says he does. To many that is a dereliction of duty and the state is stinting on its responsibility to monitor and enforce compliance. Other tribes, notably the Shoshone/Bannocks, say their compact with the state and its governor trumps the initiative. Since it does not reference the 5%, they do not have to contribute nor are they.

One historic role of newspapers is protecting the public interest by asking tough questions and demanding transparency by any governmental entity whether federal, state, local or tribal. Without access to the vital facts, the temptation to forget public responsibility and enhance private pockets can be overwhelming.

Additionally, tribal funds directed to school districts get co-mingled with the property taxes, bond proceeds and declining state funding that underwrite public education today. Hence it follows that no entity should be claiming a special privilege to withhold information from the public. Newspapers as a group believe, correctly, that the public’s right to know and have information verified trumps any special privilege.

It is this penchant for tribal governments to claim exemptions from state and federal laws that the rest of us must follow that is the source of much angst between otherwise peaceful “neighbors” hoping to co-exist harmoniously.

It is said we are a nation of laws and no one, not even a President, is above the law. Idaho’s failure to enforce its monitoring and verifying function only serves to further undercut that key principle to a successful and orderly democracy.

Likewise, when a U.S. attorney, like Wendy Olson, tosses up her hands and does not uphold the primacy of one’s property right, an essential underpinning of American jurisprudence, she is sending an unfortunate signal that a treaty signed in the 1860’s may take precedence over a bedrock right.

The issue in that instance is a tribe’s claim to an unfettered right to access “usual and accustomed” hunting and fishing sites wherever they exist whether on lands within reservation boundaries or “ceded lands” referenced by a treaty even if it means crossing another’s private property without having to ask the property owner’s permission. This is a recipe for conflict if there ever was one.

Compounding this escalating set of confrontational and conflicting circumstances is the continuing abdication by the state to ensure the primacy of state and federal laws. Indeed, if anything Idaho is acquiescing to a delegation of enforcement of some laws and regulations to tribal governments. Tribal water standards are sometimes more strict than those of state or federal agencies and fears are they may be applied not just on reservations but on adjacent lands.

This pattern of having their cake and eating it too could result in the unintended consequence of renewed calls for Congress to extinguish all treaties, eliminate dual citizenships and coerce assimilation into the American melting pot. Or it could lead to the extension of the Alaska model wherein tribes are enrolled in regional Native corporations governed by American business law.

The bottom line is this: Idaho’s tribes, both gaming and non-gaming, ought to recognize it is in their collective long-term interests not to claim exemptions from laws made for all, and focus on that which unites neighbors, not divide.

A native of Kellogg, a former teacher at Kootenai, and a former journalist, Chris Carlson served as press secretary to former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus for ten years. He is the founding partner of the Gallatin Group, is now retired and he and his wife, Marcia, reside at Medimont.

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Two Idaho mayoral races were well worth keeping an eye on for their partisan and ideological implications – both in conservative Republican cities in west Ada County.

Both featured established mayors, conservative and with Republican support, being challenged by contenders with more-conservative and more-Republican identification. In Meridian, that was two-term mayor Tammy de Weerd challenged by four candidates but mainly former state Senator Gerry Sweet, long a close ally of former U.S. Representative Bill Sali. In Eagle, that was incumbent Jim Reynolds challenged by Norm Semanko, a council member who (among other things) has been chairing the state Republican Party. Both challenges were serious and organized, and opinions about who would win varied.

In the end the mayors won, and it wasn’t close. Reynolds was running (with results not yet complete) at around 75%. De Weerd was running well over 50%, which means that she would have been re-elected without difficulty even had Sweet (who got about half as many votes as she did) not had to contend with all those other fellow challengers.

Boise Mayor David Bieter, by the way, was running at about 75% against a minor challenger.

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The campaign to move sales and distribution of liquor from state agency management to private business was the big campaign issue of the cycle in Washington state, and very nearly in Oregon too. The word spreading around Oregon was that if the Washington proposal to privatize passed, and especially if it passed by a large margin, a similar attempt likely would be made in Oregon in the next year or two.

Well, it got the green light: As per polling (which called regional races with considerable accuracy this season), Washington voters gave thumping approval to moving liquor sales to private stores. The percentage, over the last hour, has been hovering around 60%, which is surely more than enough to convince Oregonians advocates that a similar idea might sell south of the Columbia.

It was also widespread approval. Of Washington’s 39 counties, all but five voted in favor. (And those five were an odd collection, generally small and rural – Cowlitz and Wahkiakum in the southwest, and Adams, Garfield and Asotin in the southeast). Counties red and blue, urban and rural, all signed on to the change.

More on this later. Definitely.

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It came in a normally Democratic district, so the win today of Democratic incumbent (newly appointed) Representative Sharon Wylie over Republican Craig Riley (a Republican legislative nominee in this district last year) isn’t a shock – it’s more or less what you would expect. That would be fair to say, too, about the 56.56% of the vote (at last count) Wylie has collected. (Riley has come closer to election than that a times in the past, however.)

Maybe what you could fairly say about that, is that the political norms in Clark are holding – no massive shift at the moment. Maybe a little less reflective, though, of 2010 than of some of the elections that preceded it.

This was, by the way, the only legislative race in the Northwest today featuring candidates of opposing parties.

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A few days ago, we wrote about the Senate 4 race in the Spokane area, which featured two Republicans facing off: “This race has some interest, since it features a new incumbent (Jeff Baxter) against a veteran legislator and judge active in office starting in 1981 (Mike Padden). Long-time experience or the new incumbent (“Jeff is not another career politician satisfied with the status quo”)?”

Who won? Padden did, with about 55.58% (at last count) of the vote. He was an experienced office holder, a legislator in the 80s and a judge for some years after that. Baxter was a relative newcome, albeit the incumbent.

An indicator maybe for next year’s legislative elections, so often interesting around Spokane? And how to balance against Spokane voters’ narrow ouster of their mayor?

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The guess here is that three months ago, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner would have won a second term – but then, campaigns are often won an lost in the final few weeks. And that, as we suggested a few days ago might happen here, did happen. Verner did not become suddenly unpopular, but the campaign around her opponent, David Condon, really seemed to coalesce.

Condon won the backing of the local Republican organization (though this is a non-partisan seat – but in so many cases around the Northwest, in all sorts of cities, who are we kidding?) and the Spokesman-Review, and pulled in big contributions toward the end. There were allegations of what sound like push polling. In the last week, maybe two, this outcome – a close one, with Condon pulling ahead at the end – isn’t a surprise.

How much it may indicate beyond city hall, say in next year’s legislative races, is less clear. But then, we might draw better clues from the District 4 Senate election (which see).

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A while back, around the start of voting in Oregon 1, we threw out a kind of alternative scenario – what seemed like a plausible option to the general view that the major party nominations would go to Democrat Suzanne Bonamici and Republican Rob Cornilles. We thought the alt view was less than likely, but – hey, you never know. Upsets happen.

But it was no great surprise in the Oregon 1st, as it turns out – not a surprise at all. The polling, which we did think seemed a little off-kilter, wound up correct in projecting a big win for state Senator Bonamici. (There was less public polling on the Republican side, but a Cornilles win was widely expected.) Despite low voter turnout, the races on both sides wound up not dominated by party activists.

With about two-thirds of the vote in, Bonamici was taking about two-thirds of the vote; her closest competitor, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, was at about 20%. It was a widespread win. But for the favorite-son vote in Columbia County for contender Brad Witt, she would have pulled upward of 60% in every county in the district. Cornilles’ win was similarly uniform.

The primary was not super-heated or especially high profile. As the contest moves into the general stage, with election in a little under three months, that looks likely to change.

ADDED NOTE The number of votes in the Democratic contest was 56,580. The Republican candidates combined got 40,933. That means the Democrats took 58.02% of the votes cast in the two primaries. This is not a predictor or a super-clear indicator – the contest on the Democratic side was more visible and organized than on the Republican. But it’s still worthy of note as an indicator of what sort of terrain the 1st is.

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Contests to watch on Tuesday night (and in Washington’s case, maybe a bit beyond). This isn’t one of the hottest off-year generals around (and for the most part quiet in Idaho, with fewer heated city elections than usual). But here’s some of what you should keep your eyes on Tuesday night. (We will.)

1 – WA: Initiative 1183, on privatizing liquor sales. By a long shot the hot contest in Washington this season – it has even grabbed the attention of a lot of people in Oregon (which may take up a similar contest soon if this one passes). Polling has indicated it’s ahead – meaning that liquor sales in certain private stores may be in the cards. But the issue is so heated little is certain.

2 – OR: U.S. House 1 primary. The Republican side appears all but foregone – Rob Cornilles, a skilled candidate, has run another solid race in the primary. But will the Tea Party roar up against him at the last? You can’t entirely rule it out; if they do, they have a contender in Jim Greenfield. On the Democratic side, polling has given a large lead to state Senator Suzanne Bonamici. But keep a watch: state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian may be closer to the activist crowd who will be sure to vote in an otherwise low-turnout election. And watch too the percentage of the other major Democratic candidate, state Representative Brad Witt. Cornilles will be a strong Republican candidate; it matters who the Democrats nominate (and what sort of campaign that nominee runs).

3 – WA: Spokane mayoral. First-term Mayor Mary Verner, who had a complicated path to the job four years ago, seemed for most of this year to be a clear prospect for re-election. That’s now in question: Challenger David Condon has the backing of the local Republican organization (this is a non-partisan seat, but still) and the Spokesman-Review, and is running on a small-government, cut-city-pay platform. Allegations of what sound like push polling are in the mix, and there’s a poll result (of some kind) indicating fast closure. This has turned into a heated and complex race, and it has become hard to call.

4 – Initiative 1125, on transportation tolling and light rail. It’s been surprisingly low-key for a Tim Eyman special, but this one is pretty impactful. Ballotpedia describes it this way: “The initiative would prohibit gas tax and toll revenues to be diverted to non-transportation purposes. It would also require that lawmakers approve toll rates. According to reports, the proposed initiative would require that tolls end on a road or bridge once the project’s construction is paid off. Variable tolls rates that depend on the time of day truckers and drivers use the road or bridge would also be outlawed.” It has also been described as a subtle but effective attack on light rail and mass transit generally. There are so many details packed into this one; how many voters will grasp them all? And what will they think if they do?

5 – ID: Meridian mayoral. Even just a few weeks ago, this looked like a slam dunk for incumbent Mayor Tammy De Weerd, a two-term incumbent who has seemed relatively uncontroversial even as her city has grown explosively to become Idaho’s third-largest. (There are no indicators that Boise’s mayoral race, where David Bieter also is running for a third term, will be anything other than an easy incumbent win.) She’s had fairly broad community support, and the advantage of not one, not two, not three but four challengers to split the opposition vote. One of those, however, clearly is the major alternative candidate: former state Senator Gerry Sweet, who also worked briefly for one-term U.S. Representative Bill Sali. He has become the candidate of the hard right Tea Party people, who make up a large portion of the active Meridian electorate. (This is a very, very conservative city.) Normal political dynamics would argue against a Sweet win in such a fractured field. But there’s some serious activism and organization behind him, and he’s not looking like the longshot he seemed to be a month ago. If he does win here, there will be shock waves, certainly across southern Idaho.

6 – WA: House District 49. There are two legislative elections in Washington this year, owing to resignations and appointments. In District 49, new Democratic Representative Sharon Wylie is running as “an independent voice” (always a good idea in Clark County) is facing Republican Craig Riley, who lost a race for the other House seat here last year (and lost a 1990 run as well; both races were fairly close). (Wylie actually is also a former Oregon legislator.) The Columbian has backed Wylie, but this looks like a tight, tough race. It’s a Democratic district, so a Riley win would send some shock waves.

7 – ID: Eagle mayoral. So you say city elections in the Northwest are non-partisan? Hmpf. Here we have state Republican Party Chair (also a private practice attorney, head of the state water users association – when does he sleep?) Norm Semanko (who’s also – almost forgot – on the Eagle City Council) running for mayor. Against the incumbent, James Reynolds, who’s lower key, and retired. The Idaho Statesman, endorsing Reynolds, argues: “After years of drama and turnover, City Hall needs more stability and less political theater.” Issues? Well, there’s the Greenbelt, city spending, municipal relations – but you’ve got the picture.

8 – WA: Senate District 4. In the Spokane area, two Republicans face off; this race has some interest, since it features a new incumbent (Jeff Baxter) against a veteran legislator and judge active in office starting in 1981 (Mike Padden). Long-time experience or the new incumbent (“Jeff is not another career politician satisfied with the status quo”)?

NOTE: The last of these, in Washington District 4, is a race for the Washington Senate, not House, as was originally noted. The reference was corrected.

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Idaho Oregon Washington

Oregon City
Oregon City (when Blue Heron was still active)/Randy Stapilus

Over the long run, Clackamas County, the southern of the three Portland-area metro counties, has been a competitive place.

For several decades until 1994 Democrats held a small edge in party registration; the 1994 sweep broad in a Republican lead in party registration, when Democrats took higher numbers again. Its voting record is more varied, though. On the presidential level, it supported Democrats only when they won nationally (since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, only Bill Clinton twice, and Barack Obama in 2008). It voted in governor’s races Republican in 2010, Democratic in 2006, Republican in 2002, Democratic from 1990 to 1998 but nearly always Republican before that.

Sop you could say that shifts in Clackamas do happen: Its voters, as a whole, are not a lock.

An Oregonian article today makes the case that Clackamas is seeing a conservative surge (“Frustrated conservatives in Clackamas County gain momentum“), and on the evidence there’s something to it, but only to a point, and with a lot of asterisks.

“For some, the resurgence is simply part of the natural political rebalancing. But regardless of the cause, many county political leaders agree that the current resurgence – at times combative and uncivil – has real teeth,” the article notes. And there’s some reason for thinking so. Republicans did well in Clackamas in 2010 – its legislative elections were central to the Republican gains that year – and there’s an anti-Portland edge alive and well that isn’t really replicated in Washington County, its suburban counterpart to the northwest. In Clackmas, streetcar and rail developments from Portland south are controversial – not so much in Washington – and what might have been a modest and quiet $5 fee to repair a key bridge many county residents use (the Sellwood) was defeated at the polls. Conservatives and Republicans are highly active in Clackamas.

Economic concerns may be a little sharper in Clackamas than in the other two counties, and may be pointed up more visibly with the recent closure of the iconic Blue Heron paper mill at Oregon City. And a number of local governments (non-partisan) have seen seats shift from moderate or liberal incumbents to more-conservative challengers.

A few more points ought to be made, however, about all this.

Democrats remain a substantial party registration lead, by about 8,000 voters. The gap between the two parties is about two-thirds of what it was at its peak in 2008, but it has held steady for a couple of years – there’s been no recent change.

After 2008, Democrats held most of the offices, a large majority of them, in this competitive county; some correction probably was likely in any event. In 2012, Democrats will have some targets of their own, as well as some well-established candidates who aren’t running as incumbent (former House Speaker Dave Hunt, running now for commission chair, comes to mind) and the activism is more likely to cut both ways.

All of which suggests that Clackamas in 2012 is likely to give people in both parties some sleepless nights.

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