Are you one of the people who like the idea of electing someone from “outside” – a president who hasn’t been tainted by all that politics, who can just “tell it like it is”? Sound good? It’s a crock. Check out this piece by John Harwood pointing out some of the many problems with the idea, principally that most “outsiders” aren’t really outsiders, that most who are, don’t win, and the few who do tend to have weak records in office. “Some outsiders who managed to win statewide office found governance to be frustrating. Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler, chose not to seek re-election as governor of Minnesota, while voters rejected a bid by the former Goldman Sachs chairman Jon Corzine for a second term as governor of New Jersey. The Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger limped out of the California governorship with a 22 percent approval rating,” Harwood writes. A better approach? Voters should hire their office holders based on experience, appropriate skill sets and their good judgment across a range of areas. That’s how you build a good organization. – rs (photo/”Hubert H. Humphrey 1968 presidential campaign.” by Kheel CenterFlickr)

Share on Facebook

First Take

This could have been a very funny short story, or even short novel, but it’s real. From today’s Daily Kos politics report, based on a report in the Columbia Tribune . . .

Self-interested business owners successfully petitioned the Columbia, Missouri, city council to create a local Community Improvement District, which would have the authority to impose a half-cent sales tax increase with voter approval. However, the district lines were drawn in a manner that attempted to avoid containing any eligible voters, meaning that property-owners themselves would get to decide on the sales tax increase as a way to avoid further property taxes to pay for improvements.

Unfortunately for them, things didn’t exactly go according to plan. It soon became known that a single voter, University of Missouri student Jen Henderson, was registered to vote in the new CID. That means that she alone will get to decide whether or not to approve the sales tax increase. The CID has already gone into debt to finance planned improvements and was counting on the increased revenue from the sales tax increase.

Predictably, Henderson is not pleased with how manipulative this process has been. She was even asked to de-register so that the vote would revert to property owners. While Henderson hasn’t publicly stated which way she plans to vote, she sounded skeptical of the proposed sales tax increase and rightfully pointed out how it is regressive in nature while the benefits accrue mainly to incumbent businesses.

In a delicious twist of irony, if Henderson votes against the sales tax increase or the vote is called off entirely, the only way for the CID to pay off its debts will be to levy further taxes on property, which is exactly what these businesses were trying to avoid. Most of the time gerrymandering is successful and unfair, but instances like this show it can sometimes backfire spectacularly.

Share on Facebook

First Take

When I left Idaho in 2004 there were – so far as I can recall – no traffic roundabouts anywhere in the state. Washington had a lot of them, especially in suburban areas off I-5 (Olympia long had had one at a lake crossing), and Oregon had some scattered around (there’s been one on the west side of Astoria for many years). The picture here shows one at Hillsboro, Oregon, that’s been around a while. But in the years since, Idaho has been building a number of them, and the Idaho Statesman even highlighted that on the front page today, noting the first one in Nampa in 2006 and another this summer at Boise, in the ParkCenter area. My sense of them is that they’re a little confusing at first but, once you get the hang of them, slow traffic a little, force cooperation and probably are safer than most other intersections. Like the song said, “Call it morning driving thru the sound and in and out the valley …” – rs

Share on Facebook

First Take

The idea of Joe Biden entering the presidential contest hasn’t seemed especially plausible for some months now, if just because so much oxygen seems to have been consumed already in the Democratic side – so much of the establishment side by Hillary Clinton, so much of the insurgent side by Bernie Sanders. What’s the very large niche Biden would fill if he entered? If Clinton recovers from her current email malaise – which would seem to be a recoverable situation, though she’s been doing a poor job of it lately – that would be a limiter. And if Sanders, who has never sought a Democratic nomination until this year, turns out not to have a low ceiling and actually is able to match or exceed Clinton in partywide support – that would be a limiter too. But if Clinton’s campaign really is faltering, at this early stage, and if there turns out to be a low ceiling on Sander’s enthusiastic support, that could be different. Biden could bridge the sides. He has long-running establishment and party cred, but he also could have cred on the activist side; his meeting a few days ago with Elizabeth Warren seemed to be a hint in that direction. This could be a challenge to Clinton and Sanders: Can you two overcome your challenges? If not . . . – rs (photo/Daniel Schwen)

Share on Facebook

First Take