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Posts published by “Ridenbaugh Press”

Tonight’s chat

Our weekly reminder, that our regular Wednesday chat is on for tonight at 6 pm Pacific, 7 pm Mountain, accessible off this page. (Scroll down to the right to the “nickname” box, enter your name, click the button, and you’re in.) It lasts about an hour; feel free to jump in or out any time.

So far we’ve had enjoyable discussions with an eclectic group of people. Greg Smith, a co-founder, should be back on board this evening. Along with, well, who knows who.

Double-no

Alaskan Way at SeattleNot a great surprise, after the tenor of things in the last couple of weeks especially: In the vote released this evening, Seattle voters decisively rejected both ballot options for fixing the Alaskan Way viaduct, the reconstructed elevated highway (no: about 55.5% in the first round of vote releases) and tunnel (no: 69.9%).

So there.

What this should, logically, suggest is a revisitation of the ground-level highway option, a proposal dismissed out of hand by almost everyone much involved (and not given a lot of credence here either, we might add). Yet it looks better the more you think about it; and we keep thinking about the recent Danny Westneat column pointing out that the downtown area underneath the viaduct is little more than wasted space at present. And how either of the two main proposals, shot down now by the voters, would remove the viaduct from use by the public for possibly a decade - that being how long the construction project might last.

The vote was a take-down of both tunnel advocates (main in city hall, including Mayor Greg Nickels) and reconstruction acolytes (including Governor Chris Gregoire and House Speaker Frank Chopp). As a comment on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's site suggests, "Gregoire would have to be crazy to try and stuff the viaduct/eyesore onto the city now. It would be political suicide." Same, for that matter, for the other office holders.

The situation is unsettled. One commenter suggests, "So the real vote is 30% tunnel, 45% viaduct, 25% surface street. I wonder which option should win?"

Still, in our view: Look for street-level to gain some traction.

FOLLOWUP One of the rebuild-the-elevated advocates, Seattle City Council President Nick Licata, this evening told the Seattle Times that the losing 45% vote was “a pretty solid base for elevated. . . . It will definitely keep it alive."

Never say die, apparently. But we suspect state Senator Ed Murray, D-Seattle, was closer to the mark when he told the Stranger's Slog: “A loss is a loss. Legislators who lose 55 to 45 don’t get to be legislators.”

Private mail

old Seattle post officeAnother spooky note (via Blue Oregon), about the Post Office beginning to contract out mail delivery, to relatively low-paid workers. It comes in a piece in the Beaverton Valley Times written by Peter Shapiro, a Hillsboro mail carrier who edits B-Mike, the monthly publication of National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82.

Yes, there's a union issue here, but also an issue for anyone who depends on reliable and safe delivery of the mail. He writes, "Across the U.S., the Postal Service is experimenting with hiring cut-rate private contractors to deliver your mail. Local postmasters who once had the authority to approve new addresses for delivery service must now get approval from higher-ups. Here in Washington County, mail service for 374 new addresses in the Arbor Park development near Bethany are slated to be contracted out. Additional addresses are being contracted out near Orenco Station."

Where's this going? "There’s always the temptation to farm out the work to private entrepreneurs who claim they can do it on the cheap," he writes, and the point is compelling: You often do get what you pay for. But will your important mail (such as money mail, and mail with sensitive personal information enclosed) arrive as it should?

Shapiro said that an informational picket line at the Beaverton post office will be held starting at 4:30 p.m. on March 15.

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Biological time bomb?

It did generate a headline in the Twin Falls Times News, but maybe the comments by V.C. (Lud) Prudek merit some wider attention.

The scene was the Jerome County commission, which is considering planting a moratorium on new dairies in the dairy-stuffed county. Speakers ranged pro and con, but none generated the stunned reaction Prudek did.

He is quoted as saying, "You perhaps don't realize what a hot issue you're sitting on. It isn't just dairy - it's field crops, too. We've made some huge mistakes, and we're headed for a wreck." Serious viruses could break out, he warned, some possibly as severe as ebola - simply because of the intense concentration of cattle and crops in the county. He added, "The greater the concentration, the greater the potential for a serious outbreak. You're sitting on a bomb right now."

The rebuttal was that Prudek offered no conclusive evidence for substantial risk. Still, he has credentials. Now living at Buhl, he was better known in Canada and for decades was a leader in Alberta agriculture (he joined the province's hall of fame in 2002). And he has background in agricultural research; one publication described him as "a specialty crop farmer for 50 years, was instrumental in the development of the dry bean industry in Alberta in the 1950s. Further work led to his development of gated pipe irrigation, as well as salinity and seepage control through the transportation of water in pipelines."

Consider it a moment of warning.

Name change

King County logo
King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng speaks on the logo

They're not changing the name of the county; just the logo. But the new one does seem to fit the changing mood and tenor of the place, which may be reflected in the fact that the county council vote in favor was unanimous.

The image of Martin Luther King, to go wherever the official documentation of the county henceforth does, seems a reasonable enough choice. It seems the more reasonable when the alternatives are borne in mind.

One alternative is the old symbol: The crown, which seems an unfortunate choice. We are talking, after all, about the symbol of the largest local government entity in Washington (and the Northwest), a democratically-governed entity. We're also talking about an entity regarded with fear and suspicion (and envy? we won't go there) by people everywhere else around the state. The crown symbolism just seems to rub it in.

Then there's the actual namesake of King County to contend with.

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The Lane tax

The Lane County income tax drama, though at uncertain status at the moment, is worth watching as an indicator of what people are thinking about taxes these days . With big state budget increases likely on the way in Oregon and Washington, it may suggest the public mood to come.

Lane CountyThat proposal from Eugene isn't the result of a budget increase, but rather of a funding cutback, the loss of about $20 million in federal funds the county ordinarily could expect from federal timber lands payments. (Some other counties in southwestern Oregon are even worse hit.) That would mean the loss of about 300 county jobs and a lot of public service activity. Oregon's members of Congress have been at work on a restoration, but its future is shaky.

The Lane County Commission's response to the shortfall, on February 21, was to approve a county-level income tax of 1.1%, the first such ever in Oregon. The commission was closely split, 3-2; the minority, including 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Sorenson, wanted the measure placed on the ballot rather than imposed by the commission. Part of the reason is that area voters last fall rejected another income tax proposal.

It may be going to the ballot anyway. On Saturday, tax critics circulated petitions proposing the tax plan be placed on a May ballot, and those petitions picked up 6,539 signatures in their first day. Since 5,577 valid signatures are needed, the odds it will reach the ballot are good. (If the issue lasts that long; commissioners said they are sufficiently encouraged with congressional action that they may pull the plan.)

The tax proposal has outraged at least a part of the Eugene community. From Sunday's Register-Guard:

"Upset over the controversial income tax enacted by county commissioners, thousands of Lane County residents voiced just one question on Saturday: 'When's the recall?' Signatures in all shades of ballpoint pen accumulated quickly during a one-day signature gathering drive by the 'We Said No' committee, which spearheaded petitioning efforts to bring the tax to voters. But many county denizens - both Republican and Democrat, rural and urban - who kept eight petition sites bustling from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. wanted more than a chance to vote the tax down. 'Everybody has wanted to sign a recall,' said Mary Pooler, wife of chief petitioner Ben Pooler, as she helped run a petition site underneath tents outside Graffiti Alley on River Road. 'I've had people from all parties talk to me ... the public is more upset than even I realized.'"

Worth keeping an eye on.

A Republican bank boycott?

On some blog recently - can't remember offhand which - came a reference to "the conservative position on immigration." That quickly drew the obvious reply: What exactly is the conservative position on immigration, legal or otherwise - and what, for that matter, would be the liberal view?

Self-described adherents to both political perspectives are well divided. On the Republican-conservative side, for example, you've got no lack of shut-the-borders/deport-the-illegals advocates. But then there's also President George Bush, who proposes something quite different, and many other Republicans - including such members of Congress as Oregon Senator Gordon Smith and Idaho Senator Larry Craig - who hold roughly similar views. Democrats and liberals, for somewhat different reasons, are also torn.

Which is leading to some interesting political activity, such as the Republican protest against (most of) the leading banks.

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Open possibilities

This may fall into the category of the premature, but the politically wise oftimes are those who look a few steps ahead to the possible, not only the certain. Thus, Mike Adams' commentary today on prospective candidates for the Idaho U.S. House seat (2nd district) held by Republican Mike Simpson.

2nd district

The immediate objection is that Simpson isn't going anywhere; and the probability is that he isn't, at least not soon. But Adams, a long-time eastern Idaho Republican worker, conservative commentator and sometime candidate, points out that no one yet knows either, for sure, whether Idaho Senator Larry Craig will run next year for a fourth term. We figure the likelihood is that he will (and as Adams notes, "If Craig chooses to stay, things are not apt to change"). But as there's been no announcement yet, counter-speculation isn't out of line. And Adam's thinking, reasonably, is that if Craig opts out, there's a good chance Simpson will file to replace him. Both current Idaho Senators, as it happens, are former members of the U.S. House - there's some tradition involved. And Simpson would seem likely to win a Senate race without strain.

That much is ordinary discussion among Idaho political types. Adams' speculation today in the Idaho Falls Post-Register (online, but behind a pay wall) goes to the next move: Who are the prospects for Simpson's seat should he vacate it next year?

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A home place, by reputation

Years ago, in the woods and hills north of Coeur d'Alene, the white supremacist group Aryan Nations had a substantial compound which served as its base of operations. They became well known in the area and nationally.

The compound was razed in the aftermath of an adverse legal case, and the group's leader died not long after. Those developments were cheered on by the overwhelming majority of people in the area who were sickened by the reputation their place had gotten. Now, they hoped, it could be wiped clean.

May not be that easy. The mid-Panhandle area seems now to have some meaning for some of these people, and a group of them - less visible than before, but present nonetheless - seems determined to hang in.

Last Thursday, according to an Associated Press story, "four men in their 20s started shouting Aryan Nations slogans during Tony Stewart's speech at the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d'Alene. His speech was about the Nazi movement in northern Idaho and how it was defeated."

Defeated, but not wiped out, apparently. Don Robinson, an FBI agent at Coeur d'Alene, was quoted as saying, "We're very concerned about the presence of these groups in the area and it's a priority. These remaining factions are trying to establish relevance."

That sounds right. But it raises the uneasy question of what they may try to do next to "establish relevance."