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An indicator of the times, via the Spokesman-Review's Huckleberries blog: "Coeur d'Alene faced another loss this month. Its only full-service gas station closed. Many people with a wide assortment of impairments cannot perform those seemingly simple duties offered by a full-service gas station attendant. Each withdrawal of such a service takes a new toll on people who are already challenged by daily living."

It's a useful point. (Dave Oliveria adds, "It would be nice if a gas station offered curb service at certain times of the week. And mebbe profitable.")

And maybe useful too as a comeback from Oregonians who put up with snickering from their neighbors about the illegality of self-serve gas: At least service, oftimes mechanical as well as for fuel, is still available.

Do-nothing no longer

Oregon statehouse

Oregon statehouse

What you think of the actions of the soon-to-be history 2007 Oregon Legislature will vary according to perspective. What's becoming clearer, almost indisputable, is that it was highly productive - the most productive session in Oregon in many years, somewhere in the ballpark of the unusually strong 2005 Washington session.

In both cases that was allowed for by the arrival of unified (one-party) government, both chambers and the governor's office. Unified control doesn't always equate to productivity, but it did in both of these cases. And in Oregon's case, this really ought to be noted, since the top criticism of legislators in Oregon for this decade and more has been that they're the gang that could get nothing done. (Probably an over-stated complaint, but one with some validity.)

The Oregonian has up, online, a summary of the session's doings. Among the items noted there: A rainy day fund, massive increases in public school funding, major increases for higher education and a string of new capital (building) expenses, an increase (by 100) in the number of state troopers on the roads, a batch of consumer bills, a slash at junk food in schools, major cutbacks on indoor smoking, domestic partnerships for gays and seniors and a cigarette tax/child health ballot issue. They didn't even get to the item we think could be the most significant of all, a first step toward universal health coverage, or to the batch of environmental legislation passed (the failure of the Metolius River bill notwithstanding). And you could easily add more items of significance to the list.

You can take some of this in various ways. Critics (not all of them Republicans) took due note of the high level of spending in this session; warnings, for example, that ongoing state spending will almost inevitably crash into the next economic downturn are well founded. (The rainy day fund was a sound move but unlikely to fully plug the dike.) Depending on your perspective, you may see the actions as good or bad.

What you can't, any longer, is diss the Oregon Legislature as inconsequential.

No peace for the AG

Greeting Gonzales in Boise

Greeting Gonzales in Boise/Idaho Democratic Party

The thinking must have been something like this: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, embattled on all quarters, needs a respite. Fine. Have him talk about something popular, like local anti-gang efforts. In some place deep red, like, say, Idaho. Safe.

The prep overlooked that Boise isn't quite as red, anymore, as much of the rest of the state. As Gonzales headed to a news conference at the Boise Community Center, protesters - blasting him on his torture advocacy and related matters - made themselves plenty visible. What had been planned as an outdoor press conference, in sight of the general public, was moved indoors, out of general sight. And the press conference reportedly lasted maybe five minutes.

No place to hide.

The second Justice Jones

We don't know a lot about Warren Jones, the appointee - as of today - to replace Gerald Schroeder on the Idaho Supreme Court. He is apt to bring some difference in viewpoint to the group of five: On swearing-in, he will be the only one of the five who had never served as a judge (three of the others previously had) or in other elective office (Jim Jones, the other Jones on the court, a two-term attorney general).

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter remarked on the selection, “His colleagues in the Idaho Bar agree that he is balanced, fair and impartial, and that his temperament will fit well in a collegial setting with the other justices.” Certainly he isn't a bounce-around kind of guy: He's been with one Boise law firm, the old and cohesive firm Eberle Berlin, Kading, Turnbow, McKlveen and Jones since 1970 - for 37 years. You don't see that kind of one-shop career run very often any more.

He has not been an especially publicly visible attorney (not the same thing, of course, as in-profession visibility), so we have a limited amount of background to go on. The Idaho Statesman has noted a couple of cases from his background: "He was counsel to a couple accused of slander in the 2004 state Supreme Court case that found charter schools cannot sue for slander. Jones also represented Quickburger Ltd. of England in a 1993 lawsuit against J.R. Simplot Co. about eight months after Otter resigned from his post there. Simplot was ordered to pay Quickburger $1 million for breaking a license agreement and misappropriating trade secrets." You get the sense from that, maybe, of a successful attorney and also one not necessarily wedded to the most popular and powerful local interests; not a bad thing, if such conclusions could be drawn.

But, as all governors learn, we'll all find out from scratch what we have after Warren Jones puts on the robes. Most justices turn out to be at least a bit of a surprise.

Air rules

Interesting ruling published in the Federal Register today on air quality in Washington and Idaho, essentially giving a checkoff from the Environmental Protection Agency on some new Northwest air rules.

The state agencies involved are the Department of Ecology in Washington and Department of Environmental Quality in Idaho. Here's the summary:

These provisions require each state to submit a State Implementation Plan (SIP) revision that prohibits emissions that adversely affect another state's air
quality through interstate transport. EPA is proposing to approve IDEQ's and Ecology's SIP revisions because they adequately address the four distinct elements related to the impact of interstate transport of air pollutants for their states. These include prohibiting emissions that contribute significantly to nonattainment of the NAAQS in another state, interfere with maintenance of the NAAQS by another state, interfere with plans in another state to prevent significant deterioration of air quality, or interfere with efforts of another state to protect visibility.

Bent, crunched

To all things, there are limits, even in go-go places like the metros of the Oregon high desert. From the Bend Bulletin today:

Another Bend manufacturing company is leaving the city to expand elsewhere, saying Bend's limited industrial land supply and the high prices that the land commands have priced it out of the market. . . . Light industrial space in Bend is nearly gone, economic developers say, as the city's growth has quickly absorbed available land. While space dwindled, costs shot up, says Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, or EDCO.

To be sure, we're not talking about moving out of region: the story is about Ameritech Machine Manufacturing Inc., a six-year Bend firm which is planning to move to Redmond, about 20 miles away. But it is an indicator: How high can prices go before they turn around and bite?

Mapping support

Washington presidential contributions

Washington presidential contributions

We're not many days away from the next round of releases of campaign contributions numbers for the presidential candidates. Before wading into and being swamped by that, we decided to take advantage of a new tool by the Federal Elections Commission and take a look at the contributions reported by the candidates from around the Northwest.

We weren't surprised to find the three states have highly distinctive patterns, but maybe a little to find that the state most different from the other two was Washington.

It was the one state of the three in which Democratic presidential candidates out-raised Republicans ($655,370 to $401,715). (A note: The Fred Thompson activity is too recent to show up in these numbers.)

Like the other two, the biggest single recipient here is Republican Mitt Romney, who who raised 68% of all Republican presidential money. (That percentage is bigger in the other two states.) Strikingly, his treasure chest wasn't King County or even the Puget Sound area overall (where most people in the state live) – or even east of the Cascades. His big source was Clark County, Vancouver and Battle Ground, which accounted for $139,525, about half of his total.

By contrast, all of King County (with about five times Clark's population) accounted for just about $100,000. Overall, King County yielded about $178,000 for Republicans, while Clark donated $142,715; practically all of Clark’s Republican money went to Romney. In contrast, second-place Republican raiser John McCain pulled about two-thirds of his money from King.


Next up for Kate Brown?

Kate Brown

Kate Brown

Here's a guessing game: What's the reason Oregon Senator Kate Brown said, as she did this evening, that she will step down as Senate majority leader (and apprently from the Senate)? She said today that she's doing it, but not why.

Let's see. Such moves sometimes happen on occasion of scandal, except that there's been none (that we know of) in this case. Or on occasion of some awful political reversal (as last session's House Speaker Karen Minnis left leadership when her party lost the chamber), but that's not the case here either. Or there could be personal reasons, though nothing there has yet come to light. Another prospect is an impending run for higher office, an idea which is bound to raise some interest. Does she have interest in the U.S. Senate next year, or something else?

Not many answers yet.

UPDATE The first reports on this suggested a resignation from the leadership but not necessarily from the Senate. The Oregonian reports today that later Sunday she confirmed she's planning to leave the Senate as well; this post has been updated to reflect that.

Closing that primary

Increasingly looks as if Idahoans are going to have to choose their parties if they're going to vote in primaries - the closed primary system.

We don't think a majority of Idahoans would like the concept - to the contrary. But we take this quote, from the Coeur d'Alene Press by former state Senator Rod Beck, very seriously: "We now have a party rule that is in conflict with state statute. The only way to resolve that conflict is to have a court declare that statute unconstitutional."

We noted in a past post that the Idaho Legislature is unlikely to do that, but Beck's implication here is on target: A court probably would. Courts in a string of other states, including Washington, already have. Confirmation comes from Secretary of State Ben Ysursa - Idaho's long-time elections guru - who said that a lawsuit was "inevitable" and that the current relatively open primary voting system will be hard to defend in court.

We half suspect the papers are being drawn as you read this . . .