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Posts published in August 2013

Oregonian: Change your mind

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

Elected officials don't often give public advice to private businesses on how they should do business. Portland City Council member Steve Novick however, did just that in a recent blog post.

On August 7, the Oregonian had a very nice editorial commending me for changing my mind about something I was planning to do. It occurred to me that the Oregonian itself, and its parent company, Advance Publications, could gain a lot of good will if they changed their minds about some things they are planning to do. So I figured I might as well give them my two cents:

Don’t eliminate seven-day delivery.

Eliminating a seven-day-a-week paper is bad for democracy; as Mayor Hales said, online we look only for the things we know we're interested in, but when we see a front page, we can wind up reading about something we should care about but never thought about before. Advance (owned by the Newhouse family) is the only national chain that is doing this; are they really sure they’re smarter than everyone else? And the Oregonian is, according to the publisher, making money; they don’t have to do this to survive.

Don’t fire Scott Learn.

Scott covers environmental issues, and does it very well. He tells complicated stories in an accessible way. And he hasn't always only done environmental stories; I remember a fine piece he did on the inequities in our screwed-up property tax system in, I think, 2005. He's one of the best reporters the Oregonian has ever had. And a really nice guy, too.

Don’t fire Ryan White.

Ryan is now the music critic, but he's mostly just a fantastic all-around writer. He created one of the funniest things I've ever seen, back in 2008, when he had a sports blog - the Best Thing in the World Competition, an NCAA-tournament style competition to determine, simply, the Best Thing In the World, through fan voting. The competition featured terrific, gripping matchups like Mike Ditka vs. Fire, Keith Jackson vs. The Wheel, and, if I recall correctly. Las Vegas vs. Sliced Bread. How could the guy who came up with that idea be out of a job?
But he’s also a very good music critic. A couple weeks back, I attended a Randy Newman concert, and Newman thanked “Mr. White from the paper” for his article previewing the concert. I’ve never, ever heard an artist do that before. Randy Newman is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don’t think the Oregonian is likely to find another music critic who gets shout-outs from Hall of Famers.

Don’t fire David Sarasohn.

Just as a business decision I think it's insane; I am quite confident that thousands of Oregonians mostly get the paper to read David Sarasohn. David is a fine, gentle, funny writer. He has (among other things) waged a fierce single-handed battle against childhood hunger in Oregon. And here are just a couple personal memories: He had a piece on Lewis and Clark some years ago, in which he noted how many things in Oregon are named after Lewis and Clark, and said that if weren't for them we'd have lots of Oregon places and institutions with names like "Fred." I emailed him and said I thought "Fred" would be a fine place name, and suggested (I hope this doesn't offend anyone in Gresham) that I don't see why people in Gresham would object to living in Fred instead. David immediately fired back with a soliloquy on the historical importance of Postmaster General Walter Gresham. Another time, the O had a headline on Amtrak cuts titled "Blood on the Tracks," So I emailed David saying I'd always hoped the O would have more headlines based on Bob Dylan album titles, and was glad they were finally coming around. He immediately responded, "Don't you remember our headline on the Barbara Roberts - Norma Paulus budget battle, "Blonde on Blonde”?” I doubt any paper in America has an editorial writer with a more refined sense of culture, history and wit than that.

The Oregonian wrote, “Switching course … can take even more courage than sticking to a controversial position.” So show your courage, Oregonian! Switch your course. A lot of people would be very proud of you.

Missing the melting pot

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A long, long time ago … when I was just a pup … kids were told this country was a “melting pot;” that all sorts of people from all sorts of places had come here seeking a new and better life.

We were told that was “good.” It meant different religions, different skills, different beliefs and – most distinct of all – possibly different skin colors. We were assured America was supposed to be that way; that was what made us strong. Many contributing, unique histories, skills and talents while creating a “racial tapestry.”

I wish it were still true. If it ever was. But it isn’t. Now we bunch up and keep our distances. Race and religion can often determine what part of the city we live in. And next to whom. Even small Northwest communities have Black, Asian, Hispanic or other racial neighborhoods. Assimilation used to mean coming together to share talents, treasure and even our differences for the advancement of all. It didn’t mean losing your heritage or racial identity by becoming someone else. Somewhere along the way, we lost that ability to be similar but not identical.

I come at this issue like a mongrel dog. My genealogical background is Heinz 57; a mixture of half a dozen European countries. That’s OK. But I truly envy those who have a clear racial or ethnic identity. They have language, music, culture and history to celebrate. They have a straight line to their roots. But when they close ranks, separate and apart from the rest of a community, we are the poorer for not being able to share all that.

There is a culture in the West that does not divide itself from others: the Basques of Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. Whatever community they’re in, they are fully integrated into its life. And most do so while preserving the Basque language and heritage of who they are and where they came from.

As a non-Basque, I find the language impossible and haven’t figured out the often repetitive music. But both are fascinating when they have festivals and other celebrations and the rest of us can get involved. They love to share Basque foods, games, dance and stories of how ancestors came to America, most often to herd sheep. (more…)

Hagadone’s legacy

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

UPDATE NOTE: Corrections to this column: Col. Warner Gardner was killed when the Eagle Electric crashed 100 yards from the finish line and victory in the Diamond Cup: It was NOT Dallas Sartz. Also, legendary driver Bill Muncey never drove the Thriftway Too, just the Miss Thriftway.

Most north Idahoans have strong opinions about multi-millionaire resort developer and newspaper mogul Duane Hagadone’s commitment to the well-being of Coeur d’Alene and north Idaho - indeed all of Idaho. Some see him as a generous philanthropist who gives both anonymously and publicly to many worthy causes.

Others see him as one who gives only when it serves pure self-interest.

To his partisan supporters, Hagadone is a gutsy hero who, at considerable risk, invested in the Coeur d’Alene Resort and its fine golf course, gambling that “build it” and they will come. There were no guarantees, but he built it and they did come.

Regardless of one’s views, of particular interest to many was the recent business decision to contribute $100,000 to the committee running the upcoming Coeur d’Alene Diamond Cup Unlimited Hydroplane races over Labor Day.

For unlimited hydro fans, there is nothing in all of sports quite like the sound of five or six unlimited hydros, engines at full throttle, roaring down the straight stretch for the running start of a heat.The sport has always had drama because of competition between teams like Bernie Little’s Miss Budweiser and Olie Bardahl’s Miss Bardahl; and, because of colorful drivers like the Maverick’s Mira Slovak, an airline pilot from the Czech Republic who flew his plane to freedom during the Iron Curtain days. Or a driver like Billy Schumacher, who won the last Diamond cup in 1968 driving the Bardahl. Then there was the legendary Bill Muncey, who won over 50 of the races, usually driving Miss Thriftway and Thriftway Too. And there were the community owned boats, the Miss Spokane, the Miss Burien, and the longest lasting one, the Miss Madison.

That the sport was dangerous can be testified to the number of fine drivers, like Dallas Sartz, who died in the crash of Spokane’s Eagle Electric, Rex Manchester who once had piloted the Miss Spokane, and Muncey himself died in an accident in Mexico.

Now, unlimited hydro fans in the inland northwest, who usually have to travel to the Tri-Cities for the Atomic Cup or to Seattle for the Seafair race to get their annual fix, can stay close to home. Hagadone is betting that the youth riots which turned the community against the races some 40 years ago will not reoccur. Instead, it will be a fun-filled and enjoyable experience for all.

Before one heaps new huzzah’s on this complex yet extraordinarily successful businessman, one should best remember that like many of the super-rich, Hagdone’s actions reflect his apparent belief there are two sets of laws: one for him and one the rest of us. (more…)

Murray-McGinn

oregon
RANDY STAPILUS / Washington

Yeah, there were plenty of people saying incumbent Seattle Mike McGinn might not even make the runoff in today's primary election. You can understand why, given the history: Four years ago, incumbent Mayor Greg Nickels, who was a much more experienced and seemingly stronger candidate, ran in third place behind McGinn (who came in a narrow first) and Joe Mallahan (second).

McGinn just hasn't seemed like a strong, dominant leader. the narrative since before he took office was that this guy was running the city. When Governor Chris Gregoire had to meet with a Seattle leader on transportation issues, she met with people from the Council. Nickels, at least, had been a forceful presence.

But maybe that matter of personality shouldn't be read, as a matter of popularity with the voters, quite so simplistically. McGinn has been underestimated over and over.

Okay. Some context, then.

Political calculus is that an incumbent forced into a runoff - in other words, an incumbent (whether that's Mayor of Seattle or a council member at Baker City) who fails to get 50% of the vote in the primary, is in trouble for the general election. Incumbents usually pull their full weight first time around; they don't usually pick up many votes from voters who already have opted to change the occupant of the office. That's true even if you come in first, but under 50%, in the primary. And McGinn came in second, with only 27% of the vote, to Ed Murray's 30%.

The odds have to favor Murray for the November faceoff.

But don't be too quick to write this off. A great deal will depend on what kind of face Murray presents to the Seattle electorate. As he puts that effort together, he may want to reflect on the particular personal qualities that voters have found appealing so far in McGinn. There are reasons, after all, why he's the mayor and, say, Greg Nickels is not. Even under these conditions, he should be underestimated at risk.

Problem? What problem?

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

In every recovery program, the first step is always to admit you have a problem, then proceed. Without that admission, any improvement will be temporary. No use continuing. First recognition. Then work can begin.

While both national political parties can fairly shoulder blame for the mess in Congress, Republicans have far longer to go to “recovery.” Neither party is willing to admit blame, but GOP minions keep adding to the stalemate with constant attacks. The political chattering class has repeatedly used the word “gridlock” to describe the stalemate. I beg to differ. It’s not gridlock.

Rather than seeking to tie things up – gridlock as it were – about 60 cretins in the two houses are waging direct assaults on government, trying to seriously cripple it – gut it – to tear down every thing they find onerous. To some of them, that means almost everything governmental. A friend noted recently that, if this were wartime, what some of these people are doing would be considered treasonous. And Limbaugh, Beck and cohorts would be nothing more than Tokyo Roses with male plumbing. Propagandists.

Recent polling repeatedly shows most Americans – way most – are looking at 2014 elections to change things. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll even shows six in ten want to replace every member of Congress. But that – despite media claims of “proof of voter anger” – is very, very misleading.

Further down in the numbers, you’ll find 44% of Democrats want their party running Congress – 44% of Republicans want their party in charge. In Democrat districts, 56% approve what the President is doing – 58% of Republicans disapprove. Throw in successful 2011 GOP gerrymandering in many large states to protect incumbents and you have a recipe for what? No change. Now, THAT’S gridlock.

I call it the “good guy – bad guy” syndrome. “My guy in Congress is the good guy,” sez I. “Your guy’s the bad guy.” While I’d like to erase the entire Texas delegation, near total domination in their home state obviously means they’re thought of as “good guys” down there. I’d throw out John Boehner and Harry Reid. But Boehner’s been in the House for 22 years: Reid in House and Senate since 1987. So a voting majority back home(s) considers both guys “good guys.”

Americans are mad at Congress. Damned mad! That NBC/WSJ poll found 83% – 83% – disapprove of what’s going on there. But, while those same respondents hold the absolute power to change things at the ballot box, change they won’t. Not as long as those other numbers show each side sees the blame for our political mess as the fault of the other side. No admission like “I’ve got a problem.” So no “recovery.” (more…)

Really strange bedfellows

weatherby JAMES
WEATHERBY
 

Pity the state’s poor majority party fighting to keep its nominating process free from intruders: independents and unfriendly partisans. Never mind that this highly successful party has dominated state politics for decades and that its opposition struggles to field credible candidates willing to run. Despite their seemingly powerful positions, party leaders often have limited say over who will be their general election candidates, that’s left to the primary election voters who may or may not be well intentioned.

In an open primary system, voters choose a party ballot without having to register a party affiliation. There is much speculation concerning the motivations of crossover primary voters (independents and members of another party). Some seek to nominate the weakest candidate, easy prey for their preferred general election candidate. Others vote for a candidate who is more compatible with their more centrist views. Either choice cancels out the vote of many of the hard-line party faithful.

Though it took a lawsuit in federal court against the state’s chief election official to overrule legislation passed by a Republican legislature, GOP party activists won the day and successfully closed the Republican primary reversing the open system in place since the 1970s. Forcing Republican stalwarts to affiliate with primary voters who refuse to affiliate with them is a violation of the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment right of association or, more relevantly, freedom of non-association according to U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s 2011 ruling. So why rehash the battle already won by Rod Beck and other Idaho GOP activists? Well, I’m not only writing about Beck and his allies but also about his like-minded strange bedfellows: liberal Hawaii Democrats.

Just as the GOP activists in Idaho want bad intentioned Democrats and freethinking independents out of “their” nominating process, so do Democratic Party leaders in Hawaii, complaining about the rascal Republicans and fickle independents. Mirroring Idaho Republicans, Hawaii Democrats recently filed suit in US District Court to keep the crossover undesirables from voting in their primary. And again as in Idaho, many elected officials, Democrats in this case, opposed the lawsuit. According to Governor Neil Abercrombie (D), “the Democrats have been inclusive, drawing strength from bringing together a diversity of people and perspectives.” But those in support of the lawsuit thought a closed primary would “ensure Democrats are elected at the primary stage by their fellow Democrats” and that the potential for crossover voting in the open primary weakened the party and made it more difficult for its views to be seriously considered. Sound familiar? Different set of actors, same dialogue, and same play!

In Idaho there’s fear that the radical right, empowered by a closed primary, will overreach and in Hawaii there are similar fears of the excesses of the radical left.

Closed primaries in states with a one-party system typically produce more extreme candidates – and it appears that’s the goal of hard core activists in both Idaho and Hawaii. (more…)

A splintering off?

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Idaho and Montana, said Chuck Baldwin, co-author of the book "To Keep or Not to Keep: Why Christians Should not Give up their guns", are “the tip of the spear of the freedom fight” because that is where you find lots of “liberty loving, constitutionally oriented people."

Quite a few self-described conservatives would be nodding their heads to that. Where, in Baldwin's half-hour discussion following that statement, they might stop nodding and start shaking their heads, is a matter for serious consideration and could be a story of things to come in Idaho.

Baldwin is a Montana minister, chaplain of the group called Oathkeepers, and he was a main speaker at last week's “Self Reliance” rally sponsored by that organization, held at Farragut State Park in northern Idaho. The event reasonably could be called a survivalist gathering, and it attracted a significant number of people, hundreds at least or possibly several thousand, depending on whose numbers you accept. They are more than a tiny fringe, though, as measured by the elected officials present, including Idaho state Representative Vito Barbieri (one of the speakers).

Much of the weekend was basic survivalist fare, talk of stocking up food and ammunition for the coming apocalypse, self-defense, and such favorite topics as the long-discredited Agenda 21 conspiracy. And there were the usual frequent references to “patriots” and "supporters of the constitution," both of which were meant to include, of course, only people who agree with the speakers' interpretations. (They didn't quite go so far as to call everyone else “traitors”, but the implication seemed in the air.)

Baldwin's speech, available on YouTube, exemplified some of this, but it also featured a challenge aimed more at other stripes of conservative than at liberals.

"It'll come as a shock to many of you," he said, that “government is not God.” Lots and lots of people maintain that it is, he said. (Specifics, naturally, were lacking.) That point in place, he then took aim at fellow pastors, a whole lot of whom, he argued, may be well-meaning but tell their congregations that government should be strictly obeyed “no matter what.” (Again, no names were specified.) He told the audience they need to “find a patriot pastor who will tell you the truth.” He helpfully pointed to an online list. (more…)

Centers of hippy-dom

Where are the best places in the United States to go if you're a hippy? Or want to live like one?

The Estately blog has the answer, and some of it is Northwest-centric.

Oregon made the list twice, with Eugene ranking at number 1 and Portland at number 5 - a pretty strong showing. (I'd have been inclined to reverse those numbers, though.)

And in Washington, Olympia - a good call - made number 2.

No place in Idaho was noted, but nearby northern California contributed four entries of the 17 - Arcata (though Mendocino might have been a better choice), San Francisco, Oakland and Berkley.

Religion and politics? Hell yes!

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

A man-of-the-cloth friend asked my advice the other day. “Wait a minute,” thought I. “We supplicants are supposed to be the ones asking his advice when we have issues.” And I wasn’t prepared for his question.

“What do you think about a church study class dealing with politics and religion,” was his query? “I know both are touchy issues.”

“Touchy?” No more than cooking steak for a Hindu picnic. But what surprised me more than his question was the quickness and firmness of my response.

“Not only do I think you should,” I said, “I think it should be part of the faith programs of all churches that feel a responsibility to work in the worldly community of their parishioners. Not so those same parishioners are taught some obligation to vote or think a certain way, but so they can resolve issues of religion and politics that most of us have but are unsure how to reconcile.”

Then, in days following our discussion, I ran across an article by Rachel Held Evans who writes professionally about issues of faith and politics from an evangelical perspective.

Armed with a bundle of recent religious surveys, Ms. Evans concluded many young adults are turning their backs – especially on evangelical churches – because “they perceive evangelical churches to be too political, too exclusive, too old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

She wrote, “I point to research showing young evangelicals often feel they must choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness. The evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a set of rules when these same millennials long for faith communities in which they’re safe asking tough questions and wrestling with doubt.”

Ministers wearing jeans, a fancy coffee shop in fellowship hall, larger worship bands and other current “style changes” are not what she means. She points out millennials were raised on advertising and rock bands and have a “sensitive B.S. meter.” It may be those “style changes” are some of the very things causing an exodus among the young.

Evans says many of her peers are being drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem unpretentious, unconcerned with ‘being cool’ and are refreshingly authentic.

“We want a truce between science and faith,” she wrote. “We want to be known for what we stand for – not what we re against. We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the Kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single (political) party or a single nation.”

One more thing from Ms. Evans: “Whenever I write about this topic, I hear from 40-somethings and grandmothers – Generation Xers and retirees. Their messages are clear: ‘Me, too!’”

Just after reading her latest work, the collective worlds of modern Christianity and politics collided full-on for me as Pope Francis stunned many Catholics and much of the rest of the world. When asked about gay men in the priesthood, he responded “Who am I to judge them?” There must be some new cracks in the old Vatican walls. (more…)

Water, farmers and the state

From an August 1 newsletter by state Representative Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls.

It has become increasingly evident, over the past several years, that the Oregon Water Resources Department is no longer a friend of agriculture.

Perhaps their position was best demonstrated by the lack of support for the Department’s budget. On the day their budget was to be voted on the Senate floor, the only letter of support was from the Oregon Conservation Network. There was no letter of support from any farm, ranch, nursery, groundwater or industrial water users..... NONE!

A companion Department fee bill, HB 2259, was returned to the Senate Rules Committee from the Senate floor because there were not enough votes to pass the bill. The Committee significantly reduced the requested fee increases. Our bipartisan coalition forced that nearly unprecedented action, because we believed the fee increases were absurdly excessive and the purpose of many of the fee increases were counterproductive to Oregon’s economy.

The Oregon Conservation Network is a coalition of more than 40 mostly extreme environmentalist organizations. Some of the Networks stated priorities for the recently concluded legislative session included:

 To promote a tax on each water right in order to support more stringent water regulation.
 To manage Oregon waters to encourage more transfers from agricultural use to in stream flows for the benefit of fish.
 To create a ban on suction dredge gold mining in Oregon.
 And, to expand Oregon Scenic Rivers to include not only rivers but creeks and small tributaries.

Most of the Network’s legislative agenda was either introduced or supported by the Oregon Water Resources Department. The Department actively promoted a mosaic of legislation that, in its entirety, would have significantly changed existing Oregon water law.

Virtually all proposed bills would have either further regulated out of stream water use or enhanced the Department’s ability to authorize transfers of existing irrigation water rights to in stream flows. Several attempts were introduced to provide the Department authority to buy and sell water rights through contracts with little regard for priority dates or potential injury to other water right holders.

The Department’s efforts to increase their revenue included new and increased fees for services, a substantial new fee to change the name on a water right certificate or permit, and a new annual $100 tax on all water rights. They explained that they needed the extra money to help implement their proposed changes.

It appears that the Conservation Network’s primary purpose for supporting the expansion of scenic rivers is to restrict the use of private land and water resources.

Current law provides that all uses of private land within a quarter of a mile of a scenic river are strictly regulated. No new surface water diversions are allowed from any Oregon Scenic River. No new wells for irrigation are allowed, without bucket for bucket mitigation in the event that the groundwater aquifer is considered to be connected to the scenic waterway.

In fact, any existing well may be ruled-off if the well is constructed within a mile of the scenic river or a tributary of the scenic river. The Department has the legal authority to shut down any such well, regardless of the priority date of the well.

With the current drought conditions in Southern Oregon, and the Klamath River adjudication being implemented, you may not have noticed that the Oregon Water Resources Department is already doing these things in the Klamath River Basin. The Department has refused to permit or delayed the permitting of a number of new wells that were constructed in the upper basin during the past four years.
At the same time, the Department was working on a modeled analysis of the regional aquifer in the upper basin. That four year modeling study has recently been completed. To no ones’ great surprise, the Department has concluded, from the model, the aquifer is connected with the scenic Klamath River. (more…)