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Posts published in “Day: December 4, 2012”

Public-private partnerships

The new arrival/Oregon Zoo


The concept of public-private partnerships sounds sensible and even high-minded, a resident in the world of win-win. Sometimes it is. But other times, it seems more questionable the closer you look.

Consider the story - one that surely will become so large as to be unavoidable before long, and interestingly broken by the daily in Seattle and not Portland - that the new baby elephant at the Portland Zoo belongs not to the zoo but to a private company.

From the Seattle Times: "A baby elephant born at Portland's zoo last week may be fated to a life with a controversial traveling elephant show that rents out pachyderms to the entertainment industry, stages circuslike events and offers elephant rides at $500 an hour, The Seattle Times has found. ... Oregon Zoo officials quietly cut a deal to give up the second, fourth and sixth offspring between Rose-Tu, owned by the zoo, and Tusko, a prolific male owned by Have Trunk Will Travel. Last week's birth was the second offspring between the pair."

That sort of agreement is said - now - to be fairly common among zoos. But how many people know that? (Many more will soon.) And what will they think about it as they learn the details?

The story hasn't hit bottom. The Oregon Zoo has issued a FAQ which runs like this, answering some questions but sounding a little vague still in places:

Will Rose-Tu's baby be sent away?
No, Rose-Tu's calf will stay at the Oregon Zoo where she will live with her family in the newly expanded Elephant Lands habitat. She isn't going anywhere.

Will the company Have Trunks Will Travel try to claim Rose-Tu's baby?
Have Trunks Will Travel stated that they have no intention and have never had any intention of taking Rose-Tu's calf. Read their statement here.

Does the zoo have a contract with the company Have Trunks Will Travel?
Yes, the zoo and Have Trunks Will Travel have an agreement outlining the breeding loan of Tusko and the resulting offspring. This agreement has always been a fact we've been willing to talk about. It has been reported in Portland's local media.

Did you deny knowledge of this contract to the Seattle Times?
We've always been open about this information. When the Seattle Times reporter called, we denied that the calf would leave. We did not deny the existence of the contract.

Does the Oregon Zoo own Rose-Tu's baby?
Have Trunks will Travel is the formal "owner" of the baby, although that ownership is in name only. We may eventually take formal ownership of Rose-Tu's baby, but regardless, she will always live with her Oregon Zoo herd. The Oregon Zoo has been home to other residents who were not initially owned by the zoo, most notably Packy.

Why did the Oregon Zoo enter a contract with Have Trunks will Travel?
Simply put, the Oregon Zoo contract with Have Trunks will Travel is all about Tusko. The Oregon Zoo is an AZA accredited zoo and therefore participates in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for elephants. The Taxon Advisory Group recommended breeding Tusko with Rose-Tu to increase genetic diversity in our herd.

- Randy Stapilus

32 years north, 28 south


Washington has been getting national notice for its long-running stretch of Democratic governorships, with 32 years now passing since the last time a Republican (John Spellman, a King County executive, in 1980) - the longest unbroken run by Democrats for that office in the country. (That's eight elections; by comparison, the GOP in much more Republican Idaho stand at five.)

But what does that really indicate about Washington - or Oregon, which is close behind at seven consecutive Democratic gubernatorial wins?

Both a little less and a little than meets the eye. Republican John Carlson, who himself was one of those losing Republican nominees for the office (in 2000), has out on Crosscut an excellent recap of those races from 1984 to present, running through explanations of why those races turned out as they did. It's a highly recommended read as a fine recent overview of Washington politics.

Allowing for some quibbles and a small slice of partisan view, Carlson's take here seems fair and reasonable. He writes, "Washington is more liberal today than it was during the Reagan era, but of those eight races, one was essentially a tie, one was squandered, one was blown in the primary, two were lost at the national level, and two others were unwinnable."

The two unwinnables (quibble: no race is totally unwinnable, but these were surely extremely difficult for a challenger) were the re-election campaigns for Democrats Booth Gardner and Gary Locke. "Essentially a tie" was the Chris Gregoire win in 2004 (a fair description) - the Republican there (Dino Rossi) was a coin flip from winning. And the others? They were a combination of poor Republican choices, either of nominee or of specific campaign tactics, and of the national political environment, especially presidential races. Washington's gubernatorial elections run in the same cycles with presidentials, so the national picture is apt to have some significant impact. In 1980 and 1984, when Ronald Reagan won Washington, that may have helped Republican candidates a bit (though 1984 was when the Democratic streak began, owing partly to a bum economy at the time). But since then, the state has voted Democratic for president, more and more strongly, and that must have been one of the factors boosting Democrat Jay Inslee this year.

Also worth noting: Many of these races have been close. This year's was roughly a 52-48 race; so (roughly) was 2008; 2004 was a near-tie; and 1992 was another 52-48. That level - fairly close, albeit with a Democratic edge - seems to have emerged as a norm, barring a governor who is personally either very popular or unpopular.

So what of Oregon, where the governors are elected on the off years? Is there a shorthand for those races?

The last Republican to win in Oregon (twice) was Vic Atiyah, in 1978 and 1982. From 1986 to present, it's been all Democrats. What lessons can be drawn from those elections? (more…)