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A cautionary growth note

McCall

McCall waterfront

Growth equals more money equals improved prosperity, right? Such would be the intuitive thought, but reality is that more growth and even more money can be trouble. There's a long line of businesses that have collapsed over the years because they didn't carefully enough navigate the narrows of managing that change. And cities, too, as McCall is finding out.

Drive around McCall, Idaho, and it's the last place you'd figure for money trouble. Lots of new houses, lots of new businesses - its official population of around 3,500 has been a joke of long standing, since the part-timers and those located just beyond city limits would easily push the numbers to three times that. Situated in one of Idaho's most scenic areas (much more scenic than Sun Valley), it's the very picture of prosperity.

And the city of McCall is on the edge of bankruptcy, which it may declare next week.

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Candidate funding on gay rights

Public radio reporter Austin Jenkins at Olympia has pulled together a report that was bound to happen - it was on our radar too, but we hadn't gotten to it yet - since an insightful story appeared in the March Atlantic Monthly magazine ("They won't know what hit them," by Joshua Green), about a network of wealthy gay businessmen, led by Quark founder Tim Gill of Denver, who have been carefully coordinating political contributions.

Gill is described as having "decided to eschew national races in favor of state and local ones, which could be influenced in large batches and for much less money. Most antigay measures, they discovered, originate in state legislatures. Operating at that level gave them a chance to “punish the wicked,” as Gill puts it—to snuff out rising politicians who were building their careers on antigay policies, before they could achieve national influence." So he and others have been contributing to non-"glamour" campaigns, not just at the U.S. House but at the statehouse, and state legislative, levels.

Jenkins has pulled together some of that information, through campaign records reports, about the Northwest: "I headed to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission Web site and found that Gill and six other out-of-state donors contributed more than $25,000 to six, swing-district Democrats running for the Legislature. A similar picture emerges in Oregon." Those targeted in the region last year, he says, was then-state Senator Luke Esser, who was defeated for re-election last year and now chairs the Washington Republican Party.

Plain clarity

John McKay

John McKay

When word came out late last year about the resignations of John McKay and seven other U.S. attorneys, we suspected - there was some reason, albeit circumstantial - that they were fired as part of an initiative from the White House. But we didn't know for sure, and weeks passed before McKay and the others fully acknowledged that they were asked to leave.

We mention this by way of noting how far the U.S attorneys scandal (which is what it properly is) has come in the last half-year. Yesterday, McKay told the Seattle Times in an interview that White House political strategist Karl Rove set up the firings. And: "I think there will be a criminal case that will come out of this. . . . This is going to get worse, not better."

McKay was a loyal guy, a man willing to fall on his sword rather than even hint at embarrassment for higher-ups at the Department of Justice and the White House. That he's willing to say these things now says a lot about today's White House.

A community college test

Last legislative session, backers of a new Idaho community college to serve the Ada-Canyon areas pushed hard for a change in law that would allow for creation and funding of a new community college district with 60% of the vote, rather than the current two-thirds. They lost: A majority of House tax committee members, all of them Republicans and including members from the Canyon/west Ada area, voted against.

There was a reason for that legislative push: The college's backers thought the odds would be stacked fearfully high in asking for a two-thirds vote from a constituency so conservative and often so anti-tax. Now they're trying regardless, looking toward election May 22. The results will be a noteworthy test, worthy of close examination afterward, since the pro-college effort has quite a few assets stacked on its side.

The college's backers, to start with, are well organized and funded. There are actually two organizations, Community College Yes and Community College Now (the latter a project of the Albertson Foundation), and they have been busy. (More on that in a moment.) No organized opposition group has, at least, surfaced, with less than two weeks to go till election day. (There are rumblings that one may yet emerge.)

This effort has, of course, backing from Democrats (now probably a thin majority in Boise, though not beyond city limits); they also supported it in the legislature. But it also has considerable Republican support. Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, whose credentials as a tax critic are certainly in order, has signed on to a statement on the organization's web site. A bunch of other Republicans have signed on as well.

The Boise corporate community has largely signed on as well. The top staffer of Community College Yes is Mike Reynoldson, recently of Micron Technology and before that a long-time Qwest staffer (who before that was executive director of the Idaho Republican Party). Micron Technology has apparently thrown considerable resources toward the effort, and it is not alone.

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Saxton moves on

Ron Saxton

Ron Saxton

The Medford Mail Tribune seems to be breaking this: Ron Saxton, last year's Republican nominee for governor of Oregon, is leaving (mostly) his job as a key partner in the Portland law firm Ater Wynne, to become an executive at the Klamath Falls manufacturing firm Jeld-Wen.

Jeld-Wen is a door and window manufacturer; it has more than 20,000 employees. And, the Mail-Tribune notes, "Rod Wendt, the chief executive officer of Jeld-Wen, was one of the top donors in Saxton’s failed challenge to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Blog intensity

The blog tracker Technorati has a new tool we may find useful in the months ahead, charts showing the number of references in blog posts to a specific name or word.

Here, for example, is the measure of mentions of "Bill Sali" - the Idaho representative - in blogs over the last six months.

Posts that contain Bill Sali per day for the last 180 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

You might have thought that as election season moved on and the summer doldrums approached, that references to Sali (and other politicians) would have diminished. Not so; in fact, they seem to be rising.

What about other Northwesterners? What's the pattern for, say, Oregon Senator Gordon Smith?

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Goin’ Hollywood

Or, you might call it the grass-is-greener reaction, the boom among Republicans for the candidates they don't (yet, at least) have.

Stefan Sharkansky at Sound Politics is reporting on the straw vote at the Washington Republicans' statewide auction and dinner. He didn't say how many votes were cast, but of them, former Tennessee Senator (now Law & Order actor) Fred Thompson got exactly half. The distant runners-up were Mitt Romney (16%), Rudy Giuliani (15%), Duncan Hunter (10%), John McCain (5%), Tom Tancredo (1%), Tommy Thompson (1%), Mike Huckabee (1%) and another non-candidate, Newt Gingrich, less than 1%.

Commenter Jeff B. reflects some of our thinking on this: "Fred represents the idealized candidate. And possibly one that is not attainable. Conservatives see things in all of the other candidates that they don't like, and the project their dream for the perfect candidate onto Fred. I happen to like Fred as well, but the reality is that translating the charisma and hope into a well oiled candidacy and money machine is an important part of every presidential race. And that has yet to be demonstrated."

Questions and worldview

We've suggested in the past that candidates who receive questionnaires from ideological groups probably are not well served in answering the questions on them: The questions are usually designed to frame ideas and issues according to the thought processes of the group, while the candidates may think of those issues differently. An answer, yes or no, from a candidate can amount to putting words in the candidate's mouth.

So, a candidate who does answer can be assumed to look at these questions much as the organization does.

So we'll be interested to know who winds up responding to the new Idaho Values Alliance questionnaire for applicants for the Idaho Supreme Court.

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Cyber-threats

Much of what we routinely see as the downside of the wired world - spam and the like - is nuisance but manageable. Not all on line threats are so easy to deal with.

That's the point made by Aaron Turner, a cybersecurity strategist for the Idaho National Laboratories, which has plenty to keep secure. Writing in CSO Magazine (a trade publication for security people), he says about his local experience:

"The Departments of Energy and Homeland Security have funded 12 separate control system security reviews, during which Idaho National Labs (INL) experts have found that all of the evaluated systems suffer from high-impact security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a low-skill-level attacker, using techniques that do not require physical access to systems. In reviewing the design and implementation of these control systems, the INL team discovered that in currently deployed systems, enhanced security controls cannot easily be implemented while still assuring basic system functionality."

And: "With computer attackers constantly looking for new targets, they will follow the path of least resistance, which could lead them to the control systems that underlie our infrastructure."