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Land sale

This seems not to have gotten a whole lot of attention, but southwest Idahoans might want to take note of a large land sale being proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.

A posting in today's Federal Register spells out the proposal, which concerns "approximately 2,056 acres of public land north of Star in Ada
County, around Pickles Butte and north of Lake Lowell in Canyon County,
east of Payette in Payette County, and within the city limits of
Cascade in Valley County. The purpose of a portion of the sales in
Canyon and Payette Counties is to provide land for purchase by the
respective counties for important public objectives including expansion
of the landfill at Pickles Butte, further development at Clay Peak
Motorcycle Park, and various other recreation and public use
opportunities. The other lands will be evaluated for sale as the tracts
are difficult and uneconomic to manage as part of the public lands,
some of which will serve to expand communities or provide economic
development opportunities."

There's not necessarily anything wrong with this. BLM lands are, historically, lands which were intended for dispersement to private parties, and which no one ever wanted. Does sound, though, as if the number and variety of uses these lands would get could change significant parts of rural southwest Idaho. The agency is open to comments.

Politics of dereg

Just a quick heads-up on a fine summary of the development of Montana politics in the last few years - through the lens of electric power deregulation, which that state, about a decade ago, embraced.

The results have been calamitous, but are still defended in some quarters. Mike Dennison's column for the Billings Gazette spells it out.

Practical economy

As the governors talk about the wonderful economies in their states - and in their state of the state speeches, both the governors of Washington and Idaho talked about them - the relevant numbers were those of business and job creation.

Those are reasonable numbers, but they tell only a part of the story, and not the part of the story that most people in those states directly experience. For most people, a more relevant measure would be the growth, or not, of personal income, and how that compares to the national picture. And here, the tales of the states diverge. (more…)


They're still coming. The map from United Van Lines' study this year of states where people are mostly inbound or outbound shows Washington as neutral, but the text of the study says Washington is still basically inbound, and that the rate picked up more than 2% in 2005 over 2004.

United migration study

Oregon and Idaho, on the other hand, are more definitively inbound states - they're still a-coming.

Washington SoS: savings time

The logical answer to a state budget surplus has not, historically, been to spend it all, even on one-time projects: It creates an unsustainable level. (A little one-time stuff may work.) Nor have the tax cut proposals worked out well: Cuts in taxes one year tend to lead to ugliness, and often tax increases, later on.

Christine GregoireRainy-day funds, at least up to a point, seldom go too far wrong. If stability in government finance is a good thing, then such funds are easy to defend. And usually not wildly hard to sell - if you practice the right kind of diplomacy.

That's the challenge ahead for Washington Governor Christine Gregoire as she proposed putting the largest chunk of the state's anticipated revenue surplus into a rainy-day account. Her proposal of it - a massive $900 million - is not a hard sell in the context of a state of the state speech, and the virtue of it is easy to intellectualize. But when it comes down to passing out the dollars, hands will be out. And the issue isn't entirely clear-cut, because Gregoire has weighted her budget plans with a handful of spending proposals of her own. (more…)

Clackamas’ choice

The pivot county in Oregon p0litics, the place with the most true swing votes up for grabs - the kingmaker county of Oregon - is Washington County. But if there is a secondary key Oregon county, that would be Clackamas - and it may face a major local test of its loyalties soon.

Clackamas County lies southeast of Washington, and south of Multnomah (Portland); the three together are the core Portland metro area. But of the three, Clackamas (the smallest, but still the third most populous county in Oregon) probably still has the most rural feel, even if the bulk of its people now live in suburban subdivisions. There are plenty of still-rural communities here, like Canby and Mollala, in the gradual process of absorption into the metro.

Its development seems more truly suburban than high-tech driven, as it is in Washington County. But there are some other similarities. (more…)

Two out

A stunner to match that of the announced resignation of Washington Democratic leader Paul Berendt:

Chris VanceNow Chris Vance, leader of Washington's Republicans since 2001, says he will resign as of next month. He said he will move into a private-sector job.

Some provocative comments - on the minutiae and structure of party politics - were strewn in his resignation letter to the party:

I am most proud of two things we have achieved. The first is our renewed focus on grassroots politics. Through the use of cutting edge technology, and old fashioned hard work, we are giving our candidates the vital help they need in terms of voter identification and turnout. We are now matching and surpassing what our opponents are doing “on the ground.” In the last five days before the 2004 election we made over 500,000 volunteer voter contacts. We are already preparing the same type of effort for this year’s election.

The second is the progress we have made in the suburbs. The results of statewide elections in 2000 clearly showed that we were losing ground in the vital “suburban crescent.” We responded with the groundbreaking Crescent Conference through which we sharpened and refined our message among suburban voters. While we continued to experience some disappointing setbacks in suburban legislative races, our efforts have paid off. We comfortably elected Dave Reichert to Jennifer Dunn’s open suburban seat despite the Democrats’ spending well over $1 million. In addition, Sam Reed, Doug Sutherland, Rob McKenna and Dino Rossi all won pluralities in every single suburban Puget Sound legislative district. The suburbs are America’s political battleground and we have shown that we know how to compete and win.

Both parties, now, will be under the pressure of adapting to new leadership just as a relatively hot campaign season gets underway.

Idaho SoS: small

Alongside an often ambitious and even impressive program in Dirk Kempthorne's Monday State of the State speech, sits an odd and puny abdication, of what probably is the hottest subject in Idaho politics at the moment.

That is property taxes, which for many homeowners have been rising fast. The reasons don't have to do with any sudden leaps in spending by local governments (which in Idaho are almost exclusively the recipient of property taxes); the aggregate amount of property taxes paid has been rising but not superfast. The increase in residential payment has more to do with the way the property taxes are - under state law, and the counties have scarcely any room for discretion - supposed to be assessed, and the way exemptions are doled out. Those have had the effect, in steadily increasing fashion over the last generation, of diminishing the share paid by business and other organizations, and increasing the share paid by the residential sector.

Kempthorne's central comment on this: "If citizens believe they are paying too much in property taxes, that debate belongs in the county courthouses and the city halls."

Not, in other words, with the legislators who write the property tax law. Consider not (then) how the tax is assessed, or whether various taxpayers are paying their fair share, only whether another meatax can be swung at it.

That was not all he had to say about it; for the aged and disabled he offered another government assistance program. And he didn't warn of a veto if lawmakers choose to revise the law.

But his message evidently was: If you're taking on the property tax, you're going to do it on your own.

Idaho SoS: large

There is a certain temptation to read a long-range mindset into this evening's Idaho State of the State, Governor Dirk Kempthorne's last. It starts with one fairly well established bit of information, that Kempthorne wanted to be governor of Idaho a long time before he reached that office. And it goes on like this.

Dirk KempthorneThat Kempthorne wanted the job not just for the title and ceremony of it but because he had ambitions, big ambitions, ways he'd like to see the state progress, and ways, he doubtless thought, a governor could push through. He had the idea of becoming one of those governors who were much more than mere caretakers or tinkerers. He wanted to make a difference.

All of that is speculative, may or may not be true. But it would make sense of the arc of the Kempthorne governorship, which would lend some poignant drama to the three months that lie ahead. (more…)