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Posts published in September 2014

Is Starr race a dead heat?

harris ROBERT


Last week Chuck Riley was busy working the phones telling voters and supporters that his campaign’s internal polling showed a dead heat between he and Sen. Bruce Starr for SD-15 in Washington County.

Riley lost to Starr in 2010 in SD-15 by 4.5% – or 1,849 votes. The 2014 match up features the same candidates while the Democratic voter edge in SD-15 has actually decreased. So how can the Riley camp be optimistic? Because Senate District 15 will feature Libertarian candidate, Caitlin Mitchell-Markley.

Ms. Mitchell-Markley is an attorney and a member of the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors. A not insignificant position. She is also married to Kyle Markley, Libertarian candidate in House District 30. Kyle Markley also ran for HD-30 in 2012 and was blamed by some Republicans for the defeat of HD-30 Republican incumbent Shawn Lindsay. Mr. Markley received 1,441 votes in 2012 and Lindsay ended up losing to Joe Gallegos by less than 1,200 votes.

However, there are some big difference between the HD-30 2012 race and this years SD-15 race.

In 2012 Kyle Markley ran a vigorous race. This election Caitlin Mitchell-Markley didn’t put a statement in the voters pamphlet and has raised less than $1,000 dollars. And, while Shawn Lindsay was a first term Representative Bruce Starr has been a high profile State Senator and Representative for over a decade. He has much better name familiarity, and deeper roots in the community, than Shawn Lindsay.

Dead heat? Yes, I can see a poll result with Starr holding a 3%- 4% margin advantage being within the margin of error and therefore a “dead heat”. Riley and Starr ran against each other last time and it was close. But While Ms. Mitchell-Markley’s name on the ballot will make some difference, with her less active campaign she won’t get the number of votes Kyle Markley was able to attract in 2010. And combined with the fact that the Democratic voter edge has compressed since 2010, and the familiarity of these two candidates, it means we’re likely to see a repeat of the 2010 election.

Unless that is . . . some dark money independent expenditure group decides to help out Ms. Mitchell-Markley with her campaign.

And a point on Measure 90 may be in order here. If 90 were in effect for 2014, the November race would feature Starr and Riley, with Mitchell-Markley knocked out in May. Instead we’ve got a general election with a Libertarian who has no chance of winning on the November ballot who could effectively “spoil” the election for the preferred candidate. The point being there is a cost to always allowing non viable minor party candidates on the general election ballot rather than requiring them to compete in a preliminary election.

At the energy summit

mendiola MARK


U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and other high-powered industry and government speakers generated a buzz of voltage at the recent Intermountain Energy Summit in Idaho Falls attended by some 300 participants from 19 states and two Canadian provinces.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper warned those in attendance midway through the summit that the Shilo Inn where they were meeting might be blacked out after a truck slammed into a power pole in the city. As it turned out, the lights stayed on, but many of those at the energy conference could not help but be bemused by the incident and see the irony.

Casper and Post Register Publisher Roger Plothow were driving forces behind the successful summit, which took 10 months to organize and drew Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Rep. Mike Simpson, Gov. Butch Otter, Idaho National Engineering Director John Grossenbacher, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Kristine Svinicki and other notables.

Featured speaker Robert Bryce, an energy issues author and journalist, pointed out that while the United States leads the world in reducing carbon dioxide emissions, even if it could cut those greenhouse gases to zero, global CO2 emissions would increase by 7 percent as Third World countries burn more coal to ramp up their economies.

Bryce noted that coal consumption in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia -- with populations totaling 400 million -- has increased from 2,500 percent to 5,900 percent since 1985.

“They are building their economies on the back of hydrocarbons,” following the examples of the United States, Canada and Europe, Bryce said, adding that China and India also are burning large volumes of fossil fuels to stoke their economic growth.

Calling himself a “resolute agnostic” in regards to the climate change debate, Bryce said he is adamantly in favor of nuclear energy and natural gas, adding “you can’t just wish coal away.” (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Boise police evaluate homeless policy (Boise Statesman)
'Part time Indian' book returns to West Ada (Boise Statesman, Nampa Press Tribune)
Will WA property managers ban pot? (Moscow News)
Vallivue changes its tax levies (Nanpa Press Tribune)
Caldwell chamber seeks signature event (Nampa Press Tribune)
Canyon jumpers still planning event (TF Times News)

Variable school scores (Portland Oregonian, Corvallis Gazette, KF Herald & News)
Cameras watching for forest fires (Eugene Register Guard)
New ownership for Running Y ranch (KF Herald & News)
Charter cable may be bought by Comcast (Medford Tribune)
The path to eliminating Cover Oregon (Salem Statesman Journal, Pendleton E Oregonian)

Bitter debate over state House seat (Bremerton Sun)
Enchanted Valley Chalet moved (Bremerton Sun, Port Angeles News)
Clatskanie city attorney quits (Longview News)
Clallam officials pay may be cut (Port Angeles News)
Bellevue activists push for $15 minimum wage (Seattle Times)
WA court: Cell phone used for public use, public (Tacoma News Tribune)
C-TRAN okays labor contract (Vancouver Columbian)
Yakima tries again on billboard rules (Yakima Herald Republic)

“All the way with Vernon K”

malloy CHUCK

In Idaho

That was a campaign slogan for Democrat Vernon K. Smith in the 1962 governor’s race and the rallying cry that I heard a few times that year in my hometown of Osburn. My dad, especially, thought Gov. Robert Smylie had been in office long enough and it was time for a change. Smith’s pro-gambling platform was an attraction to the Silver Valley, where backroom betting was a way of life in the mining community.

Things were a little gloomy in our house when we found out that Smylie had won election to a third term. My dad explained that politics is controlled by those in the southern part of the state and it didn’t matter what people in Shoshone County wanted.
During my professional career, I lived in Idaho Falls for six years and I have been living in Boise for the past 15 – long enough to know that Idahoans in the south are good people who do not carry pitchforks and have horns growing out of their heads. But in politics, they generally get what they want. And at the moment, there seems to be a conspiracy to prevent Silver Valley people from getting the kind of legislators they want in the Statehouse.

In recent years, the Silver Valley has been represented by Democrats with a conservative bent, such as Marti Calabretta, Larry Watson and Mary Lou Shepherd. Today, the Silver Valley delegation consists of two conservative lawmakers from far away – Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood and Rep. Paul Shepherd of Riggins. The third legislator, Rep. Shannon McMillan, lives in Silverton, but wins by big margins without carrying Shoshone County. Her close ties with Nuxoll and Shepherd give her a lot of votes in the south, making it nearly impossible to beat her in District 7.

A longtime friend of mine who helped draw up the legislative district map understands why people in Shoshone County don’t like the geographic makeup of District 7, but says there was no other way for the independent commission to come up with a plan that meets judicial approval. To people in Shoshone County, District 7 looks, feels and smells like gerrymandering to help the most conservative members of the GOP caucus.

“It’s next to impossible for a Democrat to win,” said Casey Drews, who is opposing Nuxoll but has been more focused on preparing for her bar exam. “They have created the largest district in the state, which already has the largest county in the state – Idaho County, which covers 9,000 square miles. That’s bigger than multiple states in the nation. It’s impossible to campaign there effectively.”

Shepherd and Nuxoll are fine with the arrangement, because they live there. For McMillan, there’s hardly a need to go there. (more…)

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Revolution concert house sued as nuisance (Boise Statesman)
Idaho gay marriage case hits 9th circuit (Boise Statesman, IF Post Register, TF Times News, Lewiston Tribune)
Former first lady Jacque Batt dies (Boise Statesman, TF Times News)
Clarkston looks again at zoning for pot (Lewiston Tribune)
Houses threatened by grass fire (Moscow News)
Syringa Mobile Home park case continues (Moscow News)
Evaluating changed Nampa downtown traffic (Nampa Press Tribune)
TF preparing for another canyon rocket ride (TF Times News)

Corvallis yield large crowd on pot debate (Corvallis Gazette)
Warning signs posted at Hagg drawning site (Corvallis Gazette)
Ownership change at Euphoria Chocolate Co (Eugene Register Guard)
Debate rages on old city hall building (Eugene Register Guard)
Cover Oregon works on correcting tax error (KF Herald & News)
Medford Rogues calls halt to cage fights (Medford Tribune)
Deer herds near Roseburg hit by disease (Medford Tribune)
Pendleton missed ballot deadline for bond (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Ambre energy appeals state terminal rejection (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Pendleton will keep crime lab (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Legislators too propose ending Cover Oregon (Portland Oregonian, Salem Statesman Journal)
What's the future for Treasurer Wheeler? (Salem Statesman Journal)

Senior projects end in WA schools (Bremerton Sun)
Tri-City schools see higher enrollment (Kennewick Herald)
Hop farmers grow big 29,000 acres of hops (Kennewick Herald)
Workers say prison violence data skewed (Kennewick Herald)
Wyoming joins suit on OR coal terminal block (Longview News)
Values of property still upward in Cowlitz (Longview News)
I-5 Olympia work will mean traffic jams (Olympian)
Seattle will turn vacant lots into mini-parks (Seattle Times)
Idaho gay marriage ban hits 9th circuit (Spokane Spokesman)
Mars Hill cut back at Tacoma (Tacoma News Tribune)
Longshoremen back 'superior' grain deal (Vancouver Columbian)
Spas at Yakima examined for sex trafficking (Yakima Herald Republic)
Yakima sheriff candidates do battle (Yakima Herald Republic)

End of the food chain

rainey BARRETT


Collectively, Barb and I’ve lived in many different environments across our very large country. New York City (9 million folks) to Middleton, Idaho, when it was about 1,200. Always new experiences. But we’ve never lived in a more remote, end-of-the-food-chain location than the Oregon coast.

Lots of people want to live by the sea. Even many who’ve never seen more water in one place than a swimming pool. The idea’s been so romanticized - and commercialized - that many folks spend lots of time poring over computer-enhanced pictures of coastlines, ships, lighthouses and empty oceanscapes. Being an old Oregonian, I’ve fantasized about it for years. So, when the wife decided that’s where we ought to be, I was O.K. with it.

And here we are.

To make my point of being unaware of life’s little things we take for granted, here’s something you might not know. Every President of the United States during my lifetime has made the same personal admission after being in that office a few months. Different words, maybe, but same thought. Long-term politician or newbies in national politics, all of them - all - have admitted they never really knew the full scope of the job. Even Bush-the-elder - with decades of elective and appointive experience - said the day-to-day experience of being President was something he was not totally prepared for.

Well, my friends, so is the awakening to the realities of living on the Oregon coast. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fine. Most of the time. We like it. We’re adjusting. But, like Bush-the-first, the realities are not something we were entirely prepared for.

In the month of May, I wanted a new long-sleeved shirt for some reason. There was one “department” store in our area - the only one within 50 miles. I looked and looked but could find only short-sleeved. When I asked the clerk where the long-sleeved ones were, she said “We only stock them September through April.” I made do. We’ve learned to “make do” a lot.

There’s one store in our town that sells TVs. Just one. I was in the other day and counted six. Not six of one size. Six in ALL sizes.

There are three new car dealers 30 miles from where we live. All in the same town. I recently had the need for someone to apply some striping and decals to our new RV. At all three dealers I was told, “Well, there’s this one guy we use. But he’s going through a messy divorce right now and doesn’t want to be bothered.” The decals are still in the shipping box. And will likely stay there until that one guy gets his life reorganized. (more…)

In the Briefings

Ice Harbor Dam

Ice Harbor Dam, on the lower Snake River near Pasco, has been a fruitful site for technical innovations that are helping increase the survival of endangered and threatened fish passing federal dams. (Photo/ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, by David G. Rigg)


A week of fall kicking in: Football at Seattle and the opening of schools around the state. Otherwise, a relatively quiet news week. But with campaigns about to kick in, that won't last long.

Check the massive proposal project coming to the Port of Portland (see the economics section in the Oregon issue). This is a potentially major project, with all kinds of implications, which so far has gotten very little reaction or reportage in regional news media.

In Idaho: The decision was only preliminary – not deciding the case but only choosing to keep it alive – but the decision by Federal Judge Lynn Winmill on the state's “ag-gag” law will be closely parsed in coming weeks. A close reading finds some suggestion that Winmill sees significant argument for tossing the law. What kind of negotiations may be quietly underway in this area over the next few weeks?

If you're not subscribing to the Weekly Briefings, you're missing out on what's happening in your state and the Northwest. Send me a note for a sample copy.

On the front pages


Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Gay marriage cases go to appeals court (Boise Statesman, Lewiston Tribune, Moscow News)
Ombudsman considers records law changes (Lewiston Tribune, TF Times News)
Public reviews Nampa charter school plan (Nampa Press Tribune)
Growing the Caldwell greenbelt (Nampa Press Tribune)
Luna awards $271 in staff bonuses (TF Times News)

Timberhill fire called human-caused (Corvallis Gazette)
UO program focuses on childhood obesity (Eugene Register Guard)
Western gay marriage cases in court (Eugene Register Guard)
Smoke from fire may go away today (Eugene Register Guard, Medford Tribune)
State helps Phoenix employment hub (Medford Tribune)
Cogen becomes charter school group leader (Portland Oregonian)
Riverfront Park sees pipeline costs (Salem Statesman Journal)

New hardware tore in Bremerton (Bremerton Sun)
Possible new forest rules on logging safety (Everett Herald)
Jail considers ICE deportation procedures (Everett Herald)
Reviewing 4th district House race (Kennewick Herald)
Damage from abandoned crab pots (Olympian)
Lewis-McChord soldiers sent to Asia (Olympian)
Sequim considers city hall building options (Port Angeles News)
Mars Hill church cutting back, laying off (Seattle Times)
The battles over wind power (Seattle Times)
Massage parlor licenses yanked at Yakima (Yakima Herald Republic)
Look ahead to hospital consolidation (Yakima Herald Republic)

A gradual slowing down?

idaho RANDY

This is the point at which general election campaigns start to ramp up, kick into gear, run their ads and hit their top pace. Especially in places like Oregon and Washington, where the effective campaign season only runs until the ballots hit the mail in mid-to-late October.

A campaign that seems to be moving in the other direction: The Senate campaign of Monica Wehby.
The main point here is the cancellation by Freedom Partners – which is to say the Koch Brothers – of more than a million dollars of television advertising in the Oregon Senate race, on Republican Wehby's behalf.

The most likely reason is analysis showing that in a year packed with close U.S. Senate races, Oregon's increasingly isn't looking likely to be one of them. Last week also saw release of a Rasmussen poll showing Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley with a solid and persistent lead over Wehby.

There could be another factor, too. Ads taking after an incumbent senator necessarily have to go negative, but push the harshness too far and it can backfire, notably in Oregon, which generally likes its politics civil. Freedom Partners ads are not noted for their gentle touch, and someone may have started to figure out that their approach wasn't getting the job done.

They also provided a fine target for Merkley, who described the “Koch/Wehby agenda” as “reward[ing] corporations that ship jobs overseas” and “gutting the clean air act.” Wehby's campaign took issue with some of the specifics, but the link to the Kochs ensured the damage was done.

The early Wehby campaign TV spots didn't notably exhibit that problem; they focused on introducing the Portland physician in a positive way, and settling for a slogan, “Keep your doctor, change your senator.”

Going that far did no harm to Wehby's campaign, but it wasn't pushing it forward either. In an age when TV ads are becoming less effective generally, a video has to make a major splash to have a real effect. Her most recent recent ads, which have avoided directly mentioning Merkley, have not been a major departure, but neither are they likely to get people talking. With the end of native Koch ads, she may have to change tack. The problem is that the larger the splash, the more uncertain the potential fallout.

It all has the feel of a gradual slowdown.