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It’s a race in Oregon’s 1st

Had wondered whether the talk about Hillsboro Republican Representative Derrick Kitts running for Congress against Democratic incumbent David Wu, was so much smoke.

It's more than that: Kitts is in the race. He faces an uphill run.

Speeding ahead

You can understand the pressure. University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer, who is no one's idea of an off-the-deep-end kind of guy, says that action is needed, and needed soon:

The UO is growing substantially, and is going to need more space soon. It has limited options: It is surrounded, pretty much, by developed Eugene; it is a big institution with few available growth options. A few are available, notably a state office property and a former car sales lot. Of them, he says, "This is property that only comes on the market once in a generation, maybe once in a century. If it's gone, it's really gone."

How to raise the money to buy it? Well, there's a 400-unit student apartment building on campus which could be sold off.

The catch, of course: What about the residents, hundreds of students, who probably would have a hall of a time finding affordable housing somewhere else near campus?

Students and the university Senate are opposed to the selloff, at least until that question is resolved. That's the question too that have Eugene's legislators lining up against Frohnmayer, and asking: Do you really have to move so fast? And especially: Before you've figured out what to do with all those people whose housing has been taken away?

Frohnmayer's stance on this looks - looks - irreversible; he has indicated there is no choice but to go forward. But he's on a collision course, and this could rapidly be turning into the biggest trouble he's faced in his dozen or so years at the university.

In November 2004, Frohnmayer delivered an address in Portland on situational ethics. Toward the end of it, he had this to say:

A major component of ethical judgment is to recognize the flashing yellow lights that say “don’t enter the valley of the shadow.” The admonition to avoid the “occasions of sin” may be more important that we have realized. We can easily go too far – authority is seductive; we can reach a personal tipping point after which our hands are inescapably dirty. Some environments blind us to the human consequences of our actions– so we MUST be attuned to the consequences of our behavior and our own weaknesses, our own sins - whatever they may be. This ethical life is hard work – “knowing right from wrong” requires diligence, self-scrutiny and looking into a very well-lit and refractive mirror.

Wise words.

Goodbye to all (or some of) that

An so Albertson's is about to be no more, so we may conclude.

Albertsons has been sold (pending some final but expected approvals) to a group of business interests, and the second-largest grocery store chain in the country, one of the largest enterprises ever created in Idaho (and one of that state's bragging points), likely will be no more, and most of its currently large Boise presence, and the associated business activities, likely will move elsewhere.

Is that too firm a conclusion? Possibly; there's nothing in the massive buyout that explicitly keeps the Albertsons stores and operations from going on and doing business exactly as they have been doing. But if that's all that lies ahead, why go through the whole business of a sellout and buyout? Something different is in the wings.

There's no positive conclusion what that will be. But some careful thinking was underway in downtown Boise on Monday, and underlying it is the point that Albertsons is going not to a single operator, but to a consortium with different interests. Some are in retail. But others are in real estate, and still others have other interests.

Credible current speculation runs along these lines:

Supervalu, which apparently gets the Idaho and Northwest Albertsons stores among many other properties, would replace Albertsons as the second-largest grocery company nationally. But there are quirks: Will all those stores retain the Albertson's name? (Don't count on it.) How does that part of the deal mesh with the part relating to Cerebrus investments, which seems to be approached more from a real estate and property management perspective?

As for Boise headquarters, the immediate word was: no change. But then, that was the word out of Albertsons leadership three weeks ago. Current expectations: Most corporate and administrative offices will be stripped out of Boise, though probably one or two divisions will be left in place. (That appears to be a standard procedure with some of the purchasing companies.) Not everything will be moved out. Most of it will be.

The grocery world, and Boise's business world, has been upended.

The 12th man explodes

New argot for the Puget: The criticality of"the 12th man" in the game, as the Seattle Seahawks prepare for today's championship game.

It's been a local concept for a while, but the push on it lately has been remarkable. The Seawhawks' web site even notes, "The Seattle Seahawks 12th Man Flag, a fixture at Qwest Field's south endzone, will be raised atop Seattle’s Space Needle to salute Seahawks fans and the team during the NFL playoffs. The flag will be raised Tuesday, January 10 at noon and will be displayed throughout the Seahawks postseason."

The Tacoma News Tribune enthuses, "We’re a closer community right now. And it’s great to be a part of that."

But attention should be paid to another commentary in the TNT, that being today's Peter Callaghan column about the "13th man" - the taxpayers who made possible the stadium in which the Seahawks play.

Reason check

That gangrene on our society called talk radio - it needn't and shouldn't be gangrenous, but too typically is - runs to its worst when the effort is to draw lines between the perfectly reasonable "us" and the out of line, irrational, zany "them." It's worst when it's subtle - alert listeners won't get what's being done surruptitiously.

Here's the background story (and the facts happen not to be disputed, because the incident was captured on Tri-Met cameras).

A Portland resident named Randy Albright was pedaling his bicycle (he happens to be an activist on bicycling issues) around Hawthorne Bridge, one of the bridges crossing the Willamette River in Portland. He was not riding in the bicycle lane (most Portland bicyclists are scrupulous about sticking to these) since it had extra garvel that day, but in the main lane.. A Tri-Met bus rolled up and passed him, narrowly, there being little space available. He shook his fist at the bus; he may have swung at it with his fist as well. Then he followed the bus and, when it arrived at its next stop, he tried to get the attention of the bus driver. He apparently either did not, or the driver ignored him. Albright then walked his bicycle in front of the bus and planted himself and it there.

Almost immediately, a man exited the bus, swung at Albright and pushed him back onto the sidewalk. (Albright has said he was battered.) The man then re-entered the bus, which promptly drove off. Albright has filed a complaint against the driver; the activist passenger evidently has not been identified.

Talk jock Lars Larson, whose home station is Portland's KXL, asks the following on his web site: "Bicyclist suing Tri Met for his own road rage. Was rider [presumably, the bus passenger] unreasonable?" (more…)

Cross-border

Those porous borders around the Northwest are super-sensitive to legislation, maybe more so than anywhere else in the states. Subtle distinctions can have a big effect on interstate traffic.

As a student at the University of Idaho at Moscow, I would watch from my form window toward the west, to the point where Idaho became Washington, and where cars slipped between the two on Highway 8. Early in the evening, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, I would watch the steady stream of white lights from Pullman - heavy traffic to Moscow. After midright, the lights would turn red, traffic headed back to Pullman, home of Washington State University. The reason? Idaho's drinking age then was 19, to Washington's 21.

Change now drinking to smoking, as reports now point to smokers flocking across the border from Washington - where almost all public places, including bars, are required to be smoke-free - to Idaho, where the rules aren't quite so strict. That's ironic, since Idaho did toughen its statewide smoking rules considerably just a couple of years back.

So expect to see some altered traffic flows on the Lewiston-Clarkston, Pullman-Moscow and Spokane-Coeur d'Alene lines. The legal marketplace at work.

Placing Saxton on the spectrum

Ron Saxton, Republican candidate for governor, is a man pulled in a couple of dstinct directions. His main appeal is as the guy who's centrist enough to win over voters in the general election. But to get to the general election, he has to win a primary election where most of the voters are conservative.

Ron SaxtonThat makes for a question ticklish in the extreme: How "moderate" - or "conservative" - is Ron Saxton?

All this should be prefaced with our usual disclaimer: Such labels as "conservative," "moderate" and "liberal" have long since passed any point of real meaning, especially when the most "conservative" politicians in our nation's capital qualify as the most radical major politicians of the last couple of generations. The terms have more to do with branding and with group self-identification, and there they have real political impact and significance.

In running against two candidates commonly defined as "more conservative" - Kevin Mannix and Jason Atkinson - Saxton has been shorthanded as the moderate in the race. He hasn't really seemed to push against that definition, maybe because of the general election advantages it could confer.

But he has gotten support from a number of Oregonians who define themselves as very conservative indeed, and that may - with less than four months remaining till primary election deadline - start to send some ripples, and shivers, around the state. (more…)

After the storm

Spokane's new mayor, Dennis Hession, must know a bit about how Gerald Ford felt in the late summer of 1974 - a low-key, cool personality taking over in the wake of a mighty storm of chaos.

Dennis Hession delivers state of the cityIt may be just the right way. Introducing himself (till recently, he's not been a household word in town), and talking a bit about his upbringing (as a Catholic in Salt Lake City), a family man and a professional with a load of civic involvements, he struck a modest chord as he launched into his first state of the city speech:

"I believe strongly in open, accessible government. With that in mind, I thought it was important to disclose some information about myself. I’ll understand if by the end you are wishing for less transparency, but here goes."

Odds are Spokane wasn't looking for less transparency at all: The surprise opaque nature of Hession's predecessor, Jim West, underday the eight months of chaos the city endured before West's recall on December 6. By starting as he did, Hession gave a nod to the point that civic transparency is good politics as well as good government. (How many in Spokane heard Hession's opening lines and - just for amoment - cringed and thought: No shockers, please!) (more…)

Simplicity

Oregon went for simplicity in its preferred design for a state quarter, opting for a basic view of Crater Lake over more complex sets of images. In looking at designs for something as small as a quarter, that makes sense: Less can be more.

Will Washington go the same way?

Quarter design 1Quarter design 2Quarter design 3

When Governor Christine Gregoire gets to make the choice for her state, she'll have a similar option: Clearly, one of the designs - the salmon and mountain look to the left - says the state more swiftly and cleanly than the others. The middle design, of a tribal rendering of a fish, is simpler graphically, but also subtler - it would probably leave a bunch of people scratching their heads.

What's the popular choice? The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has put the designs on its web page and asked readers to vote. Of the more than 3,100 votes so far, more than half (51.8%) went forthe design at the left, just 19.9% for the design in the middle, and 28.3% for the more complicated design to the right.

Job gaps

Before any Northwest politician makes pronouncements in this campaign year - and most of them, of both parties, will - about how wonderful their state's economy is, they had better first read and take into account the new report Searching for Work that Pays: 2005 Job Gap Study.

Job Gap studyIf they have any real interest in how real people in their states really live - not just an unfortunate sliver of people either, but most of them - this study by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations should have a strong sobering effect.

Consider this key finding and then ask how much our "booming economy" is doing for actual Northwesterners: "Of all Northwest job openings, 34% pay less than a living wage for a single adult and 79% pay less than a living wage for a single adult with two children, as shown in the chart below. It is important to note the distinction between jobs and job openings. Not all jobs come open during the course of a year, but some jobs may open repeatedly during a year due to turnover or seasonality of the work. Job openings are of particular interest because they provide employment opportunities for people looking for work."

The days of all boats experiencing a lift clearly are over. And yet the problem, and solutions, have to do with more than job pay in itself. (more…)