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Posts published in November 2012

WA Senate: Who’s in charge?

When the Oregon House went 30-30 in the last election cycle - it reverts back to Democratic control after this year's election - there was concern about just how that would be made to work, with the two parties equally in charge, in a time of hyperpartisanship. The answer turned out to be: Not bad at all. Productive, even.

But one of the elements of that was clarity. Aside from brief mutterings about someone maybe flipping parties (which didn't happen), everyone knew the score.

That's the problem right now in the Washington Senate - no one conclusively knows the score, and various people are playing various games. In theory, there's a Democratic majority. But one Senate seat in Clark County is at the moment totally up for grabs and evidently headed toward a recount. And two other Democratic senators are talking about power-sharing.

From Crosscut: "Sens. Tim Sheldon of Potlatch and Rodney Tom of Bellevue are demanding that committee chairmanships not be decided by the majority party and that the leader of the Senate could be from the minority. (Tom is so conflicted/confused that he formerly served as a Republican representative. Despite his antics, there's no sign of a reconversion so far. Or a name change to run next time as Tom Rodney/Prefers Various Parties)."

The Crosscut piece is a good, quick overview of an evolving slice of uncertainty. - Randy Stapilus

Lonely in a crowd

If you added up the population of the six most populous counties in Idaho, you have just over a million people - about two-thirds of all the people in Idaho. Those people cast just about 250,000 votes for Republican Mitt Romney for president.

The single largest county in Washington, King (anchored by Seattle), cast more votes for Romney than those six counties in Idaho did: 252,090 votes, by today's count. And the people who cast them are in a far more concentrated geographical location than those Idahoans.

But how different the psychology. Those Idaho Republican voters certainly don't (generally at least) feel isolated; they know they're in a large community of like-minded people.

So, this, in the Seattle Times today: "Oh, the loneliness of being a Seattle Tea Party Patriot, especially after this last election. All around you: Liberals. Democrats. Obama supporters. People who think Dan Savage is really cool. 'It's getting harder and harder for me. I was at Trader Joe's, and I was glaring at everyone around me,' says Keli Carender, 33, co-organizer of the local group. Carender's glaring took place at the Trader Joe's in the University District, a neighborhood that, for sure, is a bastion of libs."

In society, a lot of things are relative. - Randy Stapilus

Non-traditional Oregon education

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

While living in Oregon offers us many blessings, two really standout for me.

One was coming up with a Pacific Ocean as a border, then putting it on our western edge. I like that. Thanks to former Gov. Tom McCall, we are one of only three ocean-side states that allow full, unfettered public access to every foot of it. We get to enjoy it a lot. And one side benefit is we deprived Idaho of oceanfront property. At least for now.

The second blessing we Oregonians share is a growing, multi-faceted and extremely valuable community college system. They’re all over the place. And communities adjacent to each of them are better for their presence.

Here – near our little burg-in-the-woods – we have one of those. It’s got a really nifty, compact campus, offers some first-rate classes in relevant subjects, is staffed by what appears to be a well-qualified and diverse cadre of instructors and seems to always be looking for more ways to improve its value to the community.

Part of this last quality is the arrival of a new president who has some real-world experience in his background – in addition to the required educational stuff, of course. But, even before his tenure, our little community educational gem launched a new, two-year degree program backed with considerable financial input from our regional grape growers and wine producers. The first year, students learn the basics of how to grow and care for grapes. The second, they learn the basics of how to make the wine.

Two factors make this a valuable addition to our neighborhood. First, students become skilled workers feeding into the more than 80 vineyards hereabouts – so skilled they can be hired at more than minimum wage and employers don’t have to do lengthy, one-on-one training with each hire. Same for the more than 40 or so wineries.

The other major benefit is, if students complete the course wanting to learn more, our little program is designed to lead into two universities less than 100 miles away that offer even graduate programs in the grape-growing, wine-making subjects. What a deal!
As one who hates the hide-bound resistance to change so present in our higher educational systems, I like the smaller, quicker response these community-based schools can provide. And we may be about to see an excellent example of that. Right here! (more…)

A disconnect

idahocolumnn

Idaho's 44 counties voted 132 times in all on the three ballot propositions on last week's Idaho ballots, concerning the school-related “Luna laws.” In those 132 contests, counties voted to sustain them 11 times and reject them 121 times. In the case of Prop 3, all 44 counties voted to reject the laws strongly promoted by Idaho's governor, superintendent of public instruction and passed by both houses of the Idaho Legislature.

(Those contrary counties, by the way: Fremont, Jefferson and Owyhee backing Props 1 and 2, and Adams, Boise, Cassia, Lemhi and Madison just on Prop 1.)

That was a stunning result, much the biggest news from this year's Idaho general election, and not even so much the grand total as it was how widespread it was. The big Republican wins on the presidential and congressional side were of course expected, and the Idaho Legislature's remaining exactly as Republican (extremely) was no shock either – at most it might realistically have shifted by a couple of seats or so. Nearly without exception, Idaho elections 2012 played exactly to the norm we've seen for two decades running.

The education issues were no given, however. Surveys and anecdotal evidence a year ago and into this spring seemed to suggest the efforts by the Idaho Education Association and others to repeal the laws passed in 2011 would fail. Idaho voters have no strong history of overturning at the polls what their legislators have enacted. And in this case, the enacting was done by the people elected overwhelmingly by Idaho voters.

Someone asked if there are voters who thought these laws originated from Democrats. That's hard to answer conclusively, but the association between the laws and Idaho's overwhelming governing party could not be clearer. Nor is there much dispute that the laws are an extension of recent Idaho state policy on education, teachers, accountability, outsourcing and more. They tie together coherently.

So this question: Is there a disconnect between voters attitudes on candidates (and their parties) on one hand, and public policies on the other? Or, more bluntly: Are there a lot of Idaho voters who really like electing Republicans, but without closely linking that to whatever those Republicans do once in office? I'm not claiming an answer here, but I think the question is fair. (more…)

A growing credit union

pocatello
ICCU President and CEO Kent Oram and tellers Rebekah Cote, center, and Dani Neumann inside ICCU’s new Chubbuck branch, the latest of the company’s 19 Idaho branches. (photo/Mark Mendiola)

 

mendiola
Mark Mendiola
Eastern Idaho

Idaho Central Credit Union’s November 5 opening of its $2 million Chubbuck branch marks another milestone for the state’s largest credit union as it continues to grow at a robust double-digit pace against strong head winds in the nation’s financial markets.

ICCU’s statewide monthly payroll ranges between $1.5 million or $1.7 million – or more than $20 million annually, says Kent Oram, ICCU president and chief executive officer. Of the nation’s 7,000 credit unions, Idaho Central ranked 164th in assets at the end of September.

Its growth rate stands at about 20 percent annually. By comparison, the national growth rate for credit unions amounts to about 4 percent.

Idaho Central – a state chartered and federally insured financial institution – boasts 40,000 mobile banking users. Between 900 and 1,000 ICCU customers have signed up for “very well-received” mobile deposits that were started a month ago and allow photo copies of checks.

ICCU’s annual loan growth rate has averaged 26 percent as opposed to the national average of 1 percent. Idaho as a whole is doing better than other states in the nation, Oram says adding there are about 60 credit unions operating in the state, down from about 110 to 120 when he started. There were about 12,000 credit unions nationally three decades ago.

The Chubbuck branch on Yellowstone Avenue is not far from ICCU’S five-story, 700,000-square-foot headquarters building near the Interstate 86 interchange, where the company has been based the past five years. That highly visible structure is at 80 percent capacity with 175 employees, Oram says.

Planning for the HQ building started about 10 years ago and construction commenced seven years ago. Some of its electrical, heating and air conditioning systems are solar-enabled.

“People thought it was a hotel for a while. Now, it’s our home,” says Oram, a Blackfoot native who earned a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University in information systems management. (more…)

What kind of intrusion

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Whether we have too much government or not enough, do you know how many of such entities we really do have in this country? I didn’t until going through the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report this week. Right now – today – the count is 89,004 local governing bodies! 89,004!

But take heart, my government-loathing friends. That is DOWN from 89,476 in 2007 – the last year the census folks counted. We’re goin’ the right way!

It breaks out like this: 3031 counties – 19,522 municipalities – 16,363 townships – 37,203 special taxing districts and 12,884 independent school districts. Every five years, the feds count ‘em all and it’s the only uniform source of statistics for all the country. Knowing these numbers, the experts can do in-depth studies of trends and provide a universally accepted base for a complete, comprehensive and authoritative benchmark.

So how many of us work for all these “governments?” That would be about 16 million – also down about 1.4 percent since 2010. To relieve your angst about the “size of government,” included in that total are 8.9 million education professionals, about 950,000 in hospitals, 923,000 in law enforcement and 717,000 in corrections. Rest are your old garden variety bureaucrats, I guess. But of course we know, “government doesn’t create jobs.” Yeah.

Now, next time someone accosts you with some “government is too big and intrusive – get rid of a lot of it – damned bureaucrats – etc.” – you can counter with just how many there really are and who they are. Because that angry person likely won’t know.

A respected correspondent accosted me the other day with a claim that government – Democrats in particular as is his wont -was being intrusive in San Francisco by banning large soft drinks. Intruding in our lives as it were. Not sure I’d blame just Democrats, though. The former-Republican-now-Independent Party Mayor of New York City did the same thing with a politically-divided city council. Other communities – Democrat, Republican and some with no party affiliation at all – have, too.

No, the issue is not one political party or another when it comes to government’s reach into our lives. After all, each of those 89,004 governments was elected. So, in a “majority rules” society, most of the people governed – we/us – should be held responsible when something is decided politically. Whether we like the decision – whatever it is – or we don’t. The real issue is that, sometimes, the majority just does things that run contrary to our minority views. It goes both ways. (more…)

Moving into a new era

stapilus
Randy Stapilus
View from Here

Every presidential election year, seemingly, is the most important election of our lifetimes. So we often heard this time. And this time, it wasn't true.

This was a confirmation election. The nation is gradually setting off on a course originally charted in 2008.

Some of my view on this grew out of reading Kevin Phillips, who became well known among politics watchers more than 40 years ago for his book prescient The Emerging Republican Majority. In it, he argued that as the 1932 election marked a political and philosophical turnaround in American politics, bringing in not just overall Democratic dominance but an ascendant New Deal and liberal tilt to politics generally, so was 1968, albeit in more subtle ways, a pivotal year. With hindsight, you can that Phillips was clearly correct. A new Republican coalition, with social (sometimes religious), economic and other components, enough to win national elections, was forming. By the mid-60s the forms of liberalism started in the 30s were reaching political exhaustion - going as far, at least, as most people in the country would want them to go - and a reaction to that, an alternative view of politics, policy and government, set in. The most immediately visible and obvious result of that was the flip of the South from Democratic to Republican, a move starting in 1968 and confirmed in the 1972 Nixon landslide. The old South has been mostly Republican since.

And politics for many years after had a Republican tilt, extending and growing over time. It was not a totally smooth or uninterrupted extension. Watergate led to Democratic wins in Congress in 1974 and the presidency in 1976, and the Clinton presidency came during that period too. But even Clinton famously declared that the era of big government was over. The idea of small government and balancing the budget (even during periods which neither happened, even during times of unified Republican control) took off as a major philosophical point. The weight of political discourse had changed.

Over time, the Republican and "conservative" (it should be referred to in quotes) dominance began to grow, change and extend. To be a conservative Republican in Congress, one of the dominant members in the Republican-led House, for example, is a very different thing than it was in the 80s or even the 90s. It has become a lot different, traveled a long way from conservative Republicanism as it was in 1968 or 1972. It has drifted to where its policy points, one by one, are broadly unpopular. And it has allowed Democrats and President Obama to run as simply supporting the idea of community, something considered broadly mainstream not long ago.

In 2008, a new coalition capable of winning national elections was emerging out of this. That coalition, which includes many of the fastest-growing parts of American society (most famously in recent months the Latino vote, but other components as well), is now a functional basis for a long-running coalition that can take Democrats and liberals to wins for quite a few election cycles to run, as long as the Republican coalition remains in the pattern started in 1968. Younger voters are more Democratic and more conventionally liberal. The existing Republican coalition is in numerical decline. It will continue to decline over the next decade.

The 2008 election demonstrated this and marked a break. 2010 was a reaction to that - no major change in American history has ever come without a significant reaction in opposition. But 2012 reinforced the larger trend line.

What does this translate to? It doesn't necessarily mean, and probably doesn't, the reinstallation of the New Deal approach to the world. Times change and new approaches are needed. The new Democratic or liberal world view hasn't fully cohered yet (though it seems to be on its way), and we don't yet know where it may lead over the next decade or two. Nor does this suggest that Republicans ought to give up their core principles - they won't succeed by becoming faux Democrats (as Democrats have never had lasting or broad success by becoming faux Republicans). But some major rethinking (not simply "rebranding" or less incendiary rhetoric) will be needed before serious rebuilding can begin.

In any event, the news out of this election is that we've entered a new era. The conversations are going to be different. Ways of looking at our society are going to change. And the last two presidential election years have pointed the course.

Idaho and ISU football

carlson
Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Allow me some comments on the future of football at Idaho and Idaho State.

#1: Both Athletic Directors, Idaho’s Rob Spear and ISU’s Jeff Tingey, need to take media training refresher courses. When confronted by a crisis the first rule is to gather the facts quickly, then go public with the bad news because that allows you to frame the matter.

So, Jeff sits on the Coach Kramer shoving incident for a good two weeks, creating the impression he was hoping it would go away and the university could deal with it as a private personnel matter. When taxpayer dollars are involved there is no such thing.

But at least Jeff was finally forthcoming about what he knew win and how he checked it out. The subsequent suspension of the player involved should not surprise anyone.

Rob Spear, his hands tied by President Duane Nellis and advisers, all of whom defer too often to the lawyers, has been bobbing and weaving not being allowed to tell the full story yet about why Coach Robb Akey was let go in the middle of the football season. Its become apparent that when Rob got the news Idaho’s talented quarterback had failed a drug test for the third time this season (according to the Spokesman-Review) he had to deliver on a probable ultimatum he’d made earlier to Coach Akey.

An educated guess is the qb flunked his first drug test for which he was punished by being held out of Idaho’s first game against Big Sky power Eastern Washington. Presumably there was a second test he failed and at that point Spear must have said something like "one more time Akey and you’re both gone!" Then one more time happened.

Rob should have and could have addressed all of this at the time he announced Coach Akey’s firing. My educated guess is he was not permitted to lay it all out by the coterie of sycophants that surround the President. The result is of course his credibility is badly compromised with the media, not Nellis’, nor executive vice president Chris Murray’s.

This is unfortunate because Spear is a good man doing as well as anyone could under next to impossible circumstances. He deserves better.
#2: Tingey and ISU President Arthur Vailis ought to stick with Coach Kramer. Anyone who looks at the YouTube footage is amazed the wide receiver so easily fell backwards. One wag said after watching it, "no wonder ISU is losing games so badly. They all must be easy push-over pussy cats!"

Give Kramer the five years a salvage operation like ISU’s program is and that it will take to turn it around. (more…)

What we got for a $4 billion election

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Here, midst the coast-to-coast litter left by our most recent political campaign, we need to look around and consider what $4 billion spent on presidential and congressional battles-for-ballots bought us. And that dollar figure – compiled by the Associated Press – is only good through last week.

If you look just at the presidency and the breakdown of which party won/lost what in the congress, it appears the answer to the money question is “not much.” For me, other factors – truths – make the outcome far different.

Nationally, the Republican Party took a shellacking. Period. Not so much in who won or lost but by how they won or lost. NBC’s Chuck Todd called it “a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and finally blew up in Republican faces.” Nobody has said it better.

Consider this one set of statistics. The white portion of the electorate dropped to 72% and Pres. Obama got only 39% of that. But – he got 93% of black voters (13% of the electorate), 71% of Latinos (10% of the electorate) and 73% of Asians (another 3%). Young voters were 19% of the electorate, up from 18% in 2008. Obama got 60%.

Romney lost because the Republican Party lost on demographics. More than any other factor, his defeat came because the relevance of his own political party base is diminishing. And will continue to do so as long as those in party control remain the same ideologues. The electorate is becoming less white, younger and more racially and ethnically diverse. That’s pure fact and it’s never going to be what it was just a year or two ago.

And there as this. The suicidal Tea Party affect. The GOP has been changed at its base by a minority of voices more intent on some sort of political “purity” than promoting candidates with broad voter appeal. They run things. One of those suicidal cases happened on my own ballot.
Our county in Southwest Oregon is one of 18 offered a federal “tit” years ago. The feds created a temporary program of paying millions of dollars annually to those counties because federal ownership of forests in the area meant less trees available for private harvesting. There are other definitions but that’s about it. Rather than remember the word “temporary,” most counties added the fed dollars to budgets and kept spending ‘em. Ours was one of the few that banked some as a future hedge. When the feds ended the program a couple of years back, the results were devastating. (more…)

Ada results, mapped

If you have any interest in Idaho results, by all means go to the excellent Ada County clerk's mapped results page.

It has a very easy tool for checking the results precinct by precinct. It says a lot very efficiently.

In Idaho, Tuesday was generally a good day for incumbency - which with rare exceptions meant good news for Republicans.

Best news for Democrats: Roaring back in the southeast Boise District 18, resuming control of all three seats there, which they had before two were unseated in 2010. (Both of those winning Republicans in 2010 were ousted.)

Worst news for Democrats: Two strong efforts in the west Boise District 15, for the Senate and one of the House seats (and the other House race wasn't bad, either), fell short.

West Cascades, a fine Democratic election

Scanning across Washington and Oregon, there's really not much for Democrats not to like about tonight's returns.

Democrats won just about everything in sight that was realistically up for grabs.

The big one, of course, was the Washington gubernatorial. Democrat Jay Inslee sits at 51.7% over Republican Rob McKenna, in a race a lot of people saw as a jump ball - and more than a few thought would edge to McKenna. The counting isn't over, of course, but what's left - a large chunk in Democratic King County - is more likely to pad Inslee's margin than to subtract from it.

That one could have gone either way. So could Washington's 1st district, a territory closely split between the parties with - it seemed to us - maybe a slight Republican lean. The Republican nominee, John Koster, was experienced and well-known, and has won elections in the past. But it appears to have gone, and not by a slight margin, to Democrat Suzan DelBene. (Turns out that de facto Democratic nomination really was worth fighting over.) Two other open seats, in the 6th (Derek Kilmer) and the (new) 10th (Denny Heck), went easily and as predicted to the Democrats.

The major really close race seems to be secretary of state, long in Republican hands, and at the moment there's a very slight Democratic lead.

Less was on the table in Oregon, but Democrats seeking to hold secretary of state (where a really serious race developed, with the Republican getting newspaper endorsements almost uniformily around the state), treasurer and attorney general all were ahead convincingly. So was Brad Avakian, re-elected in a non-partisan race - theoretically - in which he was the understood Democrat and his opponent Bruce Starr the understood Republican. (Both have been elected as legislators under those parties' banners.)

The major question remaining in Washington and Oregon has to do with the legislative makeup - Oregon's in particular is on the edge. More on that later. But the toplines look very favorable for Democrats - close to a mirror of 2008 and a reversal from 2010.

The Northwest’s polls are closed

As of 8 pst.

Some thoughts on this - coming at just about the time President Obama seems to be nailing down 270+ to win a second term - as the numbers come in int he next little bit.

Update 8:17 p.m. Okay, I'll go ahead and say it: With Colorado and Iowa called by major media, if the west coast (including Idaho) goes as expected, Obama has been re-elected. Whatever Ohio, Virginia and Florida do.

BTW, on the Huffington Post electoral map, that site just declared Obama as the winner with 275 (so far) electoral votes - kicked over the line by the addition of Oregon's seven electoral votes, just added to the blue column.