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Picky, picky

If insurance companies may be generating less and less trust these days - this concerning companies whose business it is to provide and whose advertising promotes a sense of security and peace of mind - there may be some good reasons for that.

Look at the Washington Supreme Court case out today in Laura Holden v. Farmers Insurance Company of Washington. Here's the Washington Supreme Court's summary:

Laura Holden purchased a renter's insurance policy from Farmers Insurance Company of Washington. In the event of property loss due to fire, the policy provides coverage for the "actual cash value" of the damaged property. ACV is defined as "fair market value" at the time of loss. FMV is not defined. After a fire at her rented home damaged some of her personal property, Holden sought coverage under the ACV provision, which states that payments will not exceed the lesser of either policy limits or "the amount necessary to repair or replace the damaged property." Farmers refused to account for Washington State sales tax when calculating the value of the damaged property. We are asked to decide whether, under the terms of this policy, the ACV provision unambiguously supports Farmers' interpretation, or if instead it is subject to a reasonable interpretation that accounts for sales tax in calculating the FMV of damaged property. Because the ACV provision is ambiguous and accordingly must be construed in favor of the policyholder, we reverse the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court's order granting Holden's motion for summary judgment.

There wasn't any question that the policy was in force, and that it covered the burned items. But the company was determined to contest any payout it could - up to and including the relatively minor sales tax component. Our personal experience with insurers in years past hasn't been so negative. But it seems to be getting that way, more and more. Just read the appellate court decisions that keep coming down on topics like this.

Count your fingers when you sign their contracts.

OR gov: An opening round


At the debate: John Kitzhaber (left), Bill Bradbury/Stapilus

The two main Demcratic candidates for Oregon governor, former Governor John Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, have debated before and fairly recently. But this evening at the Multnomah County Courthouse was the first since filing for the office closed - since, you might say, the campaign period more or less formally begins.

Both, at a crowd somewhere upward of 100 people, were readty to roll this evening.

Both put some emphasis, opening their discussion, on Democratc bona fides. Kitzhaber painted himself, for one thing, as the bulwark against the Republican tide of the mid-90s, saying of his many vetoes, for example, that "without those vetoes Oregon wold be a far different state today". (Although he would speak later, passionately, about working with Republicans.) Bradbury spoke about a range of fronts, from his Bank of Oregon proposal to his call for much higher education funding levels. Both made a point of addressing the state's economic problems.

Bradbury was quick to be up front about his muscular schelosis, point out his entry into the room on his segway. But he said the disease was diagnosed back in 1980 and didn't stop him from serving as Senate president or secretary of state.

The most striking single policy idea (not new to this debate, but highlighted at it) was Bradbury's for a Bank of Oregon, as a means of keeping Oregon money in state to a greater degree. Kitzhaber said he thought it was an idea worth investigating further, among others, but noted that North Dakota (the only state now with a state bank) and Oregon may have a number of structural differences.

Broadly, they agreed on quite a bit - both, in loose terms, are liberal Democrats. (Their disagreements had mainly to do with means, not ends - Kitzhber sometimes questioning the practicality of some of Bradbury's ideas.) But Bradbury's framing sounded more like traditional Democratic talk (he, more than the crisply wonkish former governor, had that earnest-Democrat sound), while Kitzhaber's approach and conceptual framework was a lot different on a range of issues. One brainy Idahoan was asked, years ago, whether in the area of utility regulation he considered himself a consumer advocate; he said not really, because he wasn't a fan of consumption - his way of looking at issues was simply different. Analogous with Kitzhaber, who seemed to scale down the current talk on health insurance (considering it one one slice of the issue), for example, in favor of a large-concept look at health in terms of promoting better health as the essential solution to the problem.

Kitzhaber was asked about the choice between bipartisanship and sticking with principles; he described it as a false choice, that "we have to recreate some kind of a political center."

Bradbury's supporters seemed more in evidence than Kitzhaber's. They were sign-waving outside, and they were more evident in the commission meeting room too (they live streamed the debate). But the crowd seemed laid back; it was a group of Democrats, do supportive of both candidates, but didn't seem strongly weighted toward either.

Registration update

At just over a year to the next general election - close to the midway point - seemed a useful point to review the party voter registrations in Oregon.

A note: Ind refers to the Independent Party; non-af is nonaffiliated. None that the drops in the interim (which are across the board) are generally explained because of standard records purging.

Month Dem Rep Ind non-af
Aug 909,414 679,934 47,563 423,711
May 907,700 679,624 44,752 419,486
Feb 930,649 692,610 45,358 429,858
Nov 08 931,318 694,589 43,030 429,758


Very stable.

Idahoans, D.C. and the Kempthorne bathroom

No, this is a different bathroom story. But is there something about Idahoans who go to Washington and, well . . .

There was some rumble a few days ago about this, and we held off comment until the Washington Post, which first wrote about it, got together a more complete account. Today they have, in "Flushing Out Interior's Bathroom Spending," about the price tag for construction of a new bathroom in the office of the secretary of the Interior. Who has been, for the last two and a half years, former Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne.

What got everyone's attention was, in contrast to another famous occurrance, not what happened in it, but rather the price tag for the remodel: $236,000. The article points out that as of late last year, the median price for a house in Boise was $187,000.

An inspector general is looking into it.

Probably not the last - as a Bush Administration official - big headline Kempthorne might have wished for.

ALSO The Idaho Falls Post Register brings up a point that should have come immediately to mind. When Kempthorne was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992, his key campaign television ad - the one most often mentioned and thought to have given him much the biggest boost - showed ordinary Idahoan touring D.C., angered and seemingly surprised to find paid elevator operators and a Capitol Hill subway system: "Well, it sure looks like a lot of spending around here to me."

Broder on Minnick

Washington Post columnist David Broder's latest column is on new Idaho Representative Walt Minnick, who (he points out) has a back story more unusual than that of most incoming members of Congress.

Nothing especially new of note, but it does put Minnick into some perspective. And Minnick says he will be back in his district weekly - and why.

More cuts to the bone

How much longer can this go on before local newspapers have to simply say they're no longer providing anything resembling meaningful news coverage? They're not there yet, and hats off to those in the newsrooms struggling to do the job. But be clear: The job cutbacks are cuts to the core; whatever fat there was, was dispensed with long ago.

Today's news is impending job cuts at three McClatchy newspapers in Washington, the Tacoma News Tribune, the Olympian and the Tri-City Herald. At all three, most newsroom employees are being offered buyout options. That doesn't mean most will be leaving, but word is that if enough don't, substantial layoffs will be next. The size of the newsrooms cuts expected isn't made clear - an ominous thought all by itself.

At Olympia, Publisher John Winn Miller was reported as saying "he thinks The Olympian, which has 180 full- and part-time workers, will survive as an independent news voice in the state capital."

Note the language: He thinks it will survive.

Erickson, deeper in deeper

What was that old line or political counsel (applicable elsewhere too), that when you're in a hole, stop digging?

A rather deep hole is what Oregon 5th District Republican candidate Mike Erickson was in even before this weekend's Oregonian account of his travels to Cuba. (Description from Jeff Mapes' blog: "The problem for Erickson is that the trip's itinerary was heavy on cigar dinners and other pleasure activities (cock fighting was even offered as an option) and silent on anything of a humanitarian nature.") He'd have done about as well as he could it he'd delivered a quick dismissive line and let it go.

But no. Check out this for viewing a political mistake in motion.

Why We’ve Been Away

Since last Sunday, RP has been getting an up-close and personal experience with health care delivery in Oregon. Our conclusion: From the 911 call, to the EMTs, the ambulance service, emergency room staff, and the ICU personnel, we've experienced efficiency, courtesy, professionalism, and knowledge that goes way beyond just competence.

We've also learned a lot about the inner workings of our lungs as the doctors searched for the blood clots that caused a pulmonary embolism. So until the clots are dissolved and we're back home -- which we anticipate will be in a few days -- they don't have online connections in the hospital for patients (maybe not such a bad thing...) and posting will be a little bit slow.

Best wishes to all of our readers; we look forward to returning shortly.



Afine catch by the excellent Idaho Radio News blog, on what executives of two major Northwest daily newpapers had to say after news last week that the corporation which owns them both, the McClatchy Company, had marked its papers for major cutbacks.

Tri-City Herald editor Rufus M. Friday: “We have more readers today than ever before — for our newspaper, our website and our specialty products. That’s our most important measure of success for the future.”

Boise Idaho Statesman editor Mi-Ai Parrish: “We have more readers today than ever before - for our newspaper, our Web site and our niche products. That’s our most important measure of success for the future.”

As a commenter noted dryly, "Complete coincidence."

WA Gov: Price tags

Is the Washington governor's race a big deal? Of course. Is it competitive? The polling generally indicates as much, and - this is a reasonable indicator - both Democratic incumbent Chris Gregoire and Republican Dino Rossi are raising piles of money, what could amount to somewhere around $20 million between them by the time it's over.

But we've not felt for a long time that this is an evenly-balanced playing field. Some comments from Goldy at Horse's Ass outline some (and there are others too) of the pertinent reasons why.

The big difference, in my opinion, will be the lessons learned from 2004, a race in which an overconfident Gregoire allowed Rossi to get away with running as an amiable tabla rasa, on to which voters could project a fanciful image of the Rossi they’d like him to be.

First rule of political campaigning: . . . define your opponent. And you can be damn sure that a substantial chunk of Gregoire’s (and her surrogates’) war chest will be spent doing exactly that. Rossi is simply too conservative for WA state, on both social and economic issues, and this time around he’s not going to get away with refusing to talk about issues that don’t poll well for his campaign. There are also character issues regarding Rossi — his dubious business ethics and his documented reputation as a downright mean spirited campaigner — and in 2008, voters are going to be informed of that too.

Since Rossi’s near miss in 2004, David Irons, George Nethercutt and Mike!™ McGavick have all tried to duplicate the Rossi model — a low-key, likable, issue-less run toward the middle — and all with disastrous results. That strategy simply won’t play here anymore… at least not if your Democratic opponent is awake.

Without here passing judgement on the validity of each of the arguments against Rossi, we don't have a lot of doubt that they'll be made. And the point about Irons, Nethercutt and McGavick ought to be food for mulling.