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On the edge

Here are the points against which to measure tonight's community college vote in Ada and Canyon counties:

The need for the college is fairly clear. No money was being asked for (in this vote - that would come later); this vote concerned only creation of a two-county community college district. It had strong bipartisan support from a lengthy string of leaders, including most of the mayors in the counties and Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter. It had strong corporate support. Substantial money was raised for its passage, and substantial organizations were put together for its passage. By all accounts and evidence we've seen, the campaigns were intelligently and energetically run, in part using some sophisticated mail ballot approaches. (The mail ballots appear to have done their job very well, drawing in somewhere around 90% favorable votes.) No organized opposition appeared to exist; only a few people spoke out publicly against the proposal.

With all those advantages, the college (the College of Western Idaho) looks as if it just - just - cleared the bar, the two-thirds vote needed to create it. The district fell short in Canyon County (62.2%) but did better in Ada County (70.5%). (Returns from Ada were very slow coming in.) It appears to have gotten about 68% or maybe a hair less overall, just enough to pass.

Next challenge comes when the new board has to ask for money.

Romney’s sweep (of Idaho)

If any doubt remained that Mitt Romney is sweeping the Idaho Republican Party, be it noted that to the previous list including Senator Larry Craig and Representative Mike Simpson add (among others):

Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, state Controller Donna Jones, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Senate President pro tem Robert Geddes, House Speaker Lawerence Denney, Senate majority leader Bart Davis, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, and a long string of other state legislators as well. (They're noted on our presidential support page.)

The only major gets remaining are Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter (governors usually stay out until nominations have been decided), Senator Mike Crapo, Representative Bill Sali and three other statewide public officials. Romney's roster of endorsements in Idaho would be dominant even if everyone else went for another candidate.

If we did do this, theoretically

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi

Dino Rossi sure sounds like a man who wants to run for governor again next year. His quote to moderate Republicans at Wenatchee was, “I tell you what, if we did do this again, theoretically, we’re going to need you and everyone you know. You and everyone that you know.”

A piece about his near-campaign in the Tacoma News Tribune also says he plans to announce his plans by year's end. He may need to quit hedging before that. This cycle is speeded up, weirdly so, to the point that in many major races, candidates are being pressed hard to fish/cut by Independence day at the latest. That would be absurdly early in most cycles. In this one, with so many candidates entering so early, a lot of money and support is likely to be tied up long before year's end. Under those circumstances, Rossi would be hobbling his campaign by waiting so long, if he does ultimately run. And because other Republicans are awaiting his answer before making any moves of their own, he'd be hobbling campaign campaigns if he opts out.

That he wants to do it seems clear enough, but he also seems held back. And that may be because the race would be tough - not impossible, but tough. In 2004 he benefited from a number of factors unlikely to repeat next year: A Democratic Gregoire campaign that fired on only half its cylinders, that didn't spend time or money especially well and took too much for granted, that could dovetail with an absolutely top-line Republican organization (not likely, on the evidence of 2006, to be fully matched in 2008), and his own almost mistake-free campaign that took Attorney General Christine Gregoire by surprise. There'll be no surprising her this time, or any underestimation, considering Gregoire has raised a large pile of money already. Opposing an incumbent governor is never easy. And Rossi, a fresh face in 2004, would be a rerun candidate next year. And 2008 still looks to be a strong Democratic year, more like 2006 than 2004. And the state's political environment has changed: The King County eastside, still mostly Republican in 2004, now - considering the last round of elections - is mostly Democratic.

None of this necessarily is fatal to a Rossi candidacy, or to say that he won't run. But we suspect these are some of the considerations that may be giving him pause at least.

The gangs of Rupert

Aquarter-century or so ago in another life, your scribe was writing editorials for the Pocatello Idaho State Journal, and on one occasion blasted - sarcastically - at the then-sheriff of Bingham County, who was trying to persuade county officials of his need for a collection of Uzis. For security. Doubtless needed, we suggested, to battle back against all those counter-insurgent forces at Firth.

Still, small and rural community law enforcement isn't always a simple matter, and it can become as violent as the urban variety, as the shooting spree at Moscow last weekend demonstrated.

And certainly we were struck by the report delivered last week by Rupert police officer Sam Kuoha to his city council, of gang activity around Burley and Rupert. From the South Idaho Press: "Though he said he was not at liberty to name specific gangs, Kuoha said those in area gangs fall into five basic categories: southern California, northern California and Chicago Hispanic gangs; motorcycle gangs; and miscellaneous groups that have not been designated as gangs but are cause for concern, such as white supremacist and eco-terrorist groups. Kuoha said activities commonly associated with each group vary somewhat. For example, he said, Hispanic gangs are known for vandalism and burglary while motorcycle gangs take part in prostitution and murder for hire."

Five categories . . .

Swan Falls, explosion 2

Swan Falls Dam

Swan Falls Dam/BLM

The last time Idaho Power Company butted heads with the state of Idaho over water rights at the Swan Falls Dam - this was in the first half of the 80s - the results rocked the state. Many of the results have worked out reasonably well; the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which was a direct result of that last conflict, probably will be a long-term benefit for southern Idaho.

The new lawsuit filed by Idaho Power Company, filed now as then in protection of 1905-dated water rights at the Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River roughly south of Boise, has a more dangerous edge. Back then, Idaho Power, in protection of its water rights (which it uses to generate cheap electric juice), did serve notice to thousands of southern Idaho water users that their water might be cut off. But at the same time, the utility was negotiating, trying to find a way to protect its rights while avoiding damaging and alienating its customer base. And, more or less, they and state and federal officials made it work. They guaranteed a minimum water flow for Idaho Power in return for state control and distribution of water flowing through the Snake above that minimum.

But water has been getting tighter in recent years, and now Idaho Power maintains there isn't any more beyond their guaranteed minimum and that, to meet its rights, many water users (mainly of ground water) will have to be shut off. In contrast to the 80s, the room or inclination to negotiate seems considerably less.

The room has to do with the physical realities of the situation, which could upend large parts of southern Idaho agriculture.

The inclination could come from somewhere else. Our suspicion for some years has been that once work on relicensing the three Hells Canyon dams to Idaho Power was complete, that corporate vultures would swiftly circle and dive-bomb at Idaho Power, which so far has been Idaho-based - but might not be for a lot longer. The new Swan Falls lawsuit feeds into that scenario.

Here's how, deep inside an Idaho Statesman analysis by Rocky Barker of the legal action: "Idaho Power provides irrigation customers lower, subsidized power rates to run their pumps. Putting those customers out of business would give Idaho Power more low-cost power to sell to customers who pay higher rates. Critics say this is Idaho Power's real intention and would make the company a more attractive buyout target."

A buyout was a lesser consideration a quarter-century ago. Today, it seems more a matter of time, and an Idaho Power based not in Boise but across the country might be a very different animal. Southern Idaho irrigators might be wise to give that careful consideration as they plot their next moves.

Potter: Odds out

Tom Potter

Tom Potter

Portland Mayor Tom Potter doubtless could have another term for the asking. His popularity is all any politician could hope for; he likely would not draw serious opposition in a run for a second term. Whether he wants to run is another matter.

After reading today's Oregonian update ("For Potter, success is doing by not doing") on the Potter mayoralty, we'd weight the odds against a run next year for a second term.

And we'd take him at his word if he suggests, as he likely would, that this month' defeat of the strong-mayor city charter change would have nothing to do with it. Some of the reasons are relatively concrete: He will be 68 next fall, would be 73 winding up another four-year term; he has a history of moving on from key jobs (like police chief) after relatively short stretches.

And such ambitions as he has expressed have largely been fulfilled. The Oregonian put the matter this way: "After 12 years under Vera Katz, a sharp-tongued whirlwind whose to-do list was taller than she was, Potter offered himself as a straight-talking stoic more interested in building relationships than esplanades." And he has been building relationships and opening the city government more than it was before - the things he talked about in his campaign. If he left after a term, he could say he'd done what he set out to do. Our guess now is that is what he will do.

NEXT So who would run? Council member Sam Adams is presumed in the race almost automatically if Potter isn't. But don't assume even a well-organized council member would have it in the bag; former Council member Jim Francesconi presumed so too, until Potter walloped him three years ago. More names are bound to surface, like the proposal a week ago by blogger Ted Piccolo of businessman Roy Jay.

First in and self-propelled

Sue Madsen

Sue Lani Madsen

Via the Olympia dispatch by the Tri-City Herald's Chris Mulick, word about a prospective 2008 legislator who enters the field with three assets.

The entry is occasioned by the pending retirement of Representative Bob Sump, R-Republic, a nearly unbeatable (61.2% last year, 64.1% before that, in a solidly Republican district) six-termer who has said he will opt out next year.

Sue Lani Madsen ran for the other House seat in District 7 in 2004, finishing last in a three-way primary (the winner being Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda). She pulled 25.8% of the vote, and won just one of the district's six counties (Lincoln).

On the other hand. Sump's will be an open seat (Kretz was an incumbent). Madsen is getting in very early - hardly anyone has announced regionally for a legislative seat this early, more than a year before the region's first primary election anywhere. She now has some name ID and some campaign experience.

Her entry becomes an irresistible mention here, though, for what ought to be her campaign slogan. Madsen is an architect by profession but also has ownership in an Edwall company that controls weeds and other unwanted plants using goats and sheep. The web site for Healing Hooves LCC calls its service "Self-propelled weed control with an attitude."

If we've heard a better slogan for a legislative candidate in a district like this, we can't recall it.

Annexation and the alternative

You find some thought-provoking stuff in the comment sections. In this case, Sound Politics blogger Jim Miller gives a shout-out to a just-discovered local newspaper, the Eastside Sun, which appears to focus on the Kirkland area.

That drew an appreciative comment from John Gilday, the editor, who added: "We believe Kirkland is a GREAT little community that should seek to stay both, great and little. There's no reason we need to annex everything around us and become the 7th largest city in the state. There's no reason the Kirkland City planners should operate with no oversight and total impunity, stealing in the form of 'fines' and have neither checks nor balances. There's no reason Kirkland Police should break laws to help their friends."

Hmm. He picked up some support from near-Kirkland resident Piper Scott St. Clair, who added a further list of horribles about the city and its management: Fearing annexation, "So far, I fear for my life, liberty, and property!"

However, form Deb Eddy, there was also this: "Oh, dear. I haven't read the Eastside Sun, and I will. But Gilday's post, alleging that there's "no reason we need to annex everything around us" can't stand unchallenged. King County presently assesses taxes, county-wide, which end up not in regional services that benefit us all (courts, public health, etc.), but end up providing local services to unincorporated areas like those needing annexed to cities like Kirkland. Please read the Growth Management Act and the King County County-wide Planning Policies, plus various reports on the Urban Subsidy (there are real dollars involved here) before weighing in on annexation issues. No, it isn't easy to understand, but if you want government to be efficient and to spend dollars effectively, you have to do some real economic study."

Taxes rebutted

Before we leave the week, we should note results from the string of elections in southwest Oregon on Tuesday, concerning proposed taxes aimed mainly at replacing the big chunk of federal funds cut last year. (We wrote about one of them, the Jackson County library proposal, on Tuesday.) These proposals had to do with paying for basic services, in most cases including large portions of local law enforcement activities.

Oregon Catalyst has a concise summation:

Lane County Income Tax defeated by 71%
Jackson County defeated a property tax levy by 59%
Josephine County public safety measure failed
Coos County defeated a property tax by 68%
Curry County rejected a property tax by 67%

A Central Oregon 911 tax and a West Linn Public safety levy failed to get decent voter turn-out and was rejected. Both gained more yes votes but failed to convince voters that the election was important enough to participate in.

Worth bearing in mind.