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Posts published in “Oregon”

The tougher budgets

The old adage has it that the toughest budgets - in public organizations, if not private - are those where expected revenues exceed expected expenses. That extra money is just so tempting.

The northwest states are facing some of this. Oregon has no legislative session next year, so the pressure is less immediate in the Beaver State. But already the talk has arisen about eliminating the corporate kicker. What's notable about this talk, as showed up in the Oregonian today, is that even the corporate lobby isn't trying to defend it. The fact that two-thirds of the rebate would head directly out of state provides a real shift to the argument.

Washington appears headed, this next session, for a $1.4 billion surplus, which takes any discussion of tax increases off the table. Democrats in the legislature (or some of them) will see this as an invitation to spend a little extra, and Republicans (some of them) will similarly agitate for a tax cut.

Governor Christine Gregoire shows indications of trumping both views by emphasizing the temporary nature of the surplus. Talking with a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, she said that by the time the 2007 budget cycle rolls around, there will be no surplus - in fact, she said, "There's no scenario after we fund the mandates that doesn't result in us having a deficit going into the next [2007] biennial budget." Sounds like a line in the sand for a rainy-day fund, which could be the logical centrist approach. Her challenge will be holding the center together.

Idaho is looking at a similarly substantial surplus, and its Republican legislators will be tempted to go the same route they did when a big surplus appeared in 2001, and they sliced state income tax rates. That earlier cut came back to bite them, hard, in 2003 when the state's economy took a dip, and a - horrors - tax increase was required (by Governor Dirk Kempthorne) in response. Will that lesson have been learned? There will be pressure too for doing something about increasing property taxes. Will the state surplus provide a handy, albeit tricky, solution for some of them?

Sam ain’t Star

She really ought to appeal. It's expensive, yes, and it would mean she's carrying the load for the benefit of a lot of other people more than for herself.

Still.

The case concerns a coffee shop owned and operated in Astoria by Samantha Buck, specifically what she chose to call it. One of the matters of business regulation in this country is that you can't call your business absolutely anything you want; if it is highly misleading, or if it confuses customers and others with another business, then some limitations do come into play. Most of us find these generally reasonable.

Sambucks CoffeeOne of the usual principles of long standing at play, though, is that - as long as you make reasonable effort to avoid impinging on someone else - you can use your own name in the business. Hence, in this case, a coffee shop called "Sambuck's." Ooperated, on site, by one Sam Buck.

You see where this is headed: Starbuck's, notwithstanding that it has no coffee shop of its own in Astoria, took umbrage and went to court. Sam Buck's use of her own name was dilution of the corporate image-building, it contended. (They obviously couldn't have used the confusion argument: Look at the logo.) Whether it prevailed in federal court because it had the larger share of the law or the larger portion of paid legal counsel on its side, the result was as you might expect: By court order, Sam Buck can no longer use her own name for her business.

She should start a legal defense fund, with controbutions sought from all the other small business owners who may well one day run similarly afoul of a behemoth.

From the other side of the world

Not too often does the Arabic news agency al-Jazeerah take note of Northwest figures. It did in this passage from an opinion piece posted today:

The strategy to militarize the country is moving forward as planned despite apparent setbacks in Iraq. As the Washington Post reported on Nov. 27 the Dept of Defense is expanding its domestic surveillance activity to allow Pentagon spies to track down and “investigate crimes within the United States”.

An alarmed Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) said, “We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America. This is a huge leap without a congressional hearing”.

Is this the first time that the naïve Wyden realized that the war on terror is actually directed at the American people?

Courier

On the senator's part, he's just doing what senators usually do by way of passing along information. The question is, why is Senator Larry Craig - and no doubt he isn't the only 0ne in this position - being used by federal agencies as bearers of bad tidings?

Larry Scott of VA Watchdog, who lives in Washington and is heard on Portland radio, has a peculiar story to tell. Here's an excerpt from his post on Op-Ed News.com: (more…)

Who cares about campaign money

The traditional take on the p0litics of campaign finances is that most people don't care where the money for their candidates is coming from, and that it will not likely affect their vote.

If that is beginning to change - this being a debatable proposition - blogs could be one of the key reasons why.

Jim FeldkampBroadcast news media seldom mention campaign finances at all, as a matter of specifics about specific candidates. Newspapers sometimes note the totals, and occasionally list a major donor or two, but that's generally as far as it goes.

Some of the political blogs, however, have been digging deeper. Now, today, we're seeing specific impact affecting a substantial candidacy.

The candidacy is that of Republican Jim Feldkamp, who is rerunning his 2004 matchup against long-time Democratic incumbent Peter DeFazio. Feldkamp is an underdog, but he has started early and apparently has been working hard. And fundraising hard; and maybe a bit incautiously. (more…)

Wash

In partisan terms, you can call the latest Oregon legislative announcements as more or less a wash.

The least surprising was Senator Rick Metsger's statement that he won't run for governor, but would seek to stay in the Senate. Metsger would have been a long-shot, especially with his late announcement of interest and the pleentitude of other possible Democratic contenders. Democratic strategists concerned about maintaining control of the Senate probably felt a bit better, since Metsger would be in good shape for re-election. He won last time with 54% in a rural district consisting mostly of Clackamas, but also Democratic-trending Hood River County.

Mark HassOn the other hand, what may be protended if Willamette Week is correct and Representative Mark Hass opts out?

Hass, considered a Democratic moderate, represents a small slice of Multnomah County but mainly Washington County, near Beaverton - an area of considerable civic turnoil right now. The area has been trending Democratic, even strongly Democratic (Hass landslid in 2004 with about 65% and was unopposed for re-election in 2002).

But it is in turnoil, and transition in the legislative ranks - and an open seat in the middle of it all - logically would suggest opportunity to Republicans. And remember: Washington County is, right now, the pivot of Oregon politics.

In for gov

And they seem surprised. And they shouldn't be. Governor Ted Kulongoski has been sending clear signals about seeking re-election for months. Now that he has filed, the race - which does have quite a few unknown elements - should start to settle down.

(His web site isn't really established yet, but it does have a homey touch.)

Among the other major (prospective) candidates, by the way, only Kevin Mannix has actually filed. The other two who have filed are Republicans, David Breen and William Spidal.

Expect the first fallout from this filing to be a thinning of the Democratic field.

Oregon House, round 1

Beaver State politics over the next year just might revolve around the governor's race. (Willamette Week has a highly-recommended and fun read on its current formal and possible players.) But it could also fizzle. The battle of significance we know will be fought out is the contest for the Oregon House.

The last few elections in Oregon have been gnetly trending the way of Democrats, and as 2005 nears its end, the next cycle looks to head that way as well.

The Oregon Senate, now in 18-12 control of Democrats, has little low-hanging fruit for either party in 2006, and Republicans seeking to take back the chamber - as they must - will find the battle uphill.

The Oregon House is a different matter, what with all 60 seats up for grabs. The 2004 election left it with 33 Republicans and 27 Democrats; six seats would have to change hands for Democrats to take over in 2007. (Two changed in the Democrats' favor last time.) On its face, that seems unlikely; we're taking about a large turnover. And yet if the year trends Democratic, it could happen, especially if Democrats run a larger effort aimed at House Republican leadership, as they have started to do. The odds seem at the moment to favor ongoing Republican control. But a shift of just four seats would be involved; the odds are slim.

We'll take several bites of the Oregon House apple. Below the fold, we'll start with a look at the 10 closests Oregon House general election results of 2004, and what they suggest for targeting in 2006. (more…)

Relicensing speedup?

Effective today, a new procedure in federal dam relicensing. From the Federal Register:

As required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct), the
Departments of Agriculture, the Interior, and Commerce are jointly
establishing procedures for a new category of expedited trial-type
hearings. The hearings will resolve disputed issues of material fact
with respect to conditions or prescriptions that one or more of the
Departments develop for inclusion in a hydropower license issued by the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power
Act. The three Departments are also establishing procedures for the
consideration of alternative conditions and prescriptions submitted by
any party to a license proceeding, as provided in EPAct.

A little faster, to keep people on their toes.

Jobs up

The official stats out today show a positive picture for jobs - on the official unemployment front - regionwide.

Still, the improvement was spotty, and it still doesn't seem to do much for wage rates, which are at least as critical a factor. (more…)

U.S. House vulnerabilities?

The opening piece of analysis from this site about the 2004 U.S. House races in the Northwest is a default to status quo. Even the one House seat we know will be open (the Idaho 1st) probably will stay with its current party. For every other House seat in the Northwest, barring unexpected retirements or something else out of the blue, the larger probability is that the incumbent will be returned in 2006 for another term.

Probable but not a lock, of couse - these things never are a lock until election day, and sometimes even then. Still, you have to look hard for many chinks in the armor. Probably only two members of the House delegation are representing districts whose partisan leanings are just a bit at odds with the incumbent's situation. And neither of those - Republican Dave Reichert in the Washington 8th, and Peter DeFazio in Oregon's 4th - look weak. Both won decisively in 2004.

Analysts over at the Democratic Daily Kos site, however, do list a few Northwest seats - three altogether, those two and one more - on their roster to watch, of potentially vulnerable Republican and Democratic seats. (more…)