Writings and observations

Never met the man, so such personal qualities as Steve Appleton had could only be extrapolated, from this vantage, from what public actions he made. Without getting into the kind of hagiography normal for the recently deceased, especially for the successful recently deceased, there are a few things that might be said, even from a distance.

Appleton was CEO of Micron Technology at Boise from 1994 until he died earlier today piloting an experimental aircraft. The first notable point is simply that time line: 17 years leading a large corporation in a highly challenging and fast-changing field. That’s remarkable by itself. So is the stick-to-it nature. He evidently dug in and devoted himself, to considerable part, to making this one corporation work.

It did that, and without the kind of ceaseless grabbing so many large CEOs seem to embrace. There was no ripping and running here, no obsession with financial twists. Micron started and spun off a few subsidiaries, but it stuck to knitting. It made something (well, several related things), something useful, and still does.

Micron shipped a lot of jobs overseas in recent years, but much of its core remains where it began, in Boise. You have to think that Appleton, who was not simply a title holder but – in the latter years at least – the dominant figure, was responsible for that. At least in considerable part.

Our assessment of these matters may come into clearer focus as his successor sets a direction. For now, Boise can only watch, and see. And offer condolences.

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Idaho

This sounds like an idea that must not be new but sure doesn’t seem familiar: Instead of each state redistricting their congressional districts, that work would be done by a national National Commission for Independent Redistricting. Starting, if the legislation were passed, in 2020.

The proposal, by Oregon Representative Earl Blumenauer, will be immediately set upon by the states-rights crowd, but it merits some attention.

Nationally, when it comes to redistricting – for congressional and state legislative lines – there are two kinds of states: commission states and legislature states. Legislature states have the work done by legislatures. (Oregon still does it this way.) Commission states do it by using a special commission; Washington and Idaho do it that way. Generally – Oregon’s smooth experience this cycle notwithstanding – the commission approach seems to yield better results.

So why not a commission on a large scale?? Carefully balanced, it would have the potential to drew lines that weigh less with local political interests, and more with balancing voter rights.

Blumenauer on the measure: “In hallways and back rooms in state capitols across America, politicians are hard at work helping members of Congress pick their voters, so that for the next ten years, it will be harder for voters to pick their politicians. This system divides local communities of interest, resulting in districts that look like a raw egg has been splattered against a wall. It turns districts bright red and bright blue, making it harder to elect representatives with nuanced policies, rewards extremism, and makes it nearly impossible for the members of Congress they elect to reach bipartisan agreement to address our nation’s most urgent needs. This legislation will ensure that Congressional elections are more competitive and fair, and that voters get to choose their representatives. Now is the time to reform the redistricting process and act in a way that reflects broad public interests, rather than narrow and immediate partisanship.”

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Oregon

Striking headline in a Tacoma News-Tribune editorial: “It took Richard Nixon to go to China, Bill Clinton to reform welfare and state Rep. Jeannie Darneille to push House Bill 2588.”

It’s apt, and it could mark a breakthrough. DNA evidence is something relatively new on the civil rights screen, and complex to deal with. DNA can tell a lot about you; it is also a great identifier. It can help convict people of crimes – or clear them. It’s done both. It’s prospectively easy to collect; wherever you go, you may have left some behind.

Clarity at least is needed in this area, and House Bill 2588 by Darneille and others (both parties contributed sponsors) may help. Its digest says it “Addresses the collection of biological samples for DNA identification analysis from adults lawfully arrested for the commission of any criminal offense constituting a ranked felony or gross misdemeanor violation of certain orders.” But it also says the DNA evidence can only go into state and federal databases after review by a judge.

That’s pretty specific, and also seems to indicate when the evidence can’t be collected (short, presumably, of a judicial order).

That the line is drawn by Darneille, D-Tacoma, may give some comfort to people concerned about police overreach. As the TNT notes, she’s a card-carrying ACLU member, “has long been a champion of the underdog. She worked for years to make it easier for ex-cons to get back their voting rights, and she’s quick to challenge any proposed legislation that she thinks might have racist undertones or raise privacy concerns.”

It cleared the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness on January 31, and looks to have a good shot at passage.

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Washington