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Posts published in February 2006

More on the ports

Won't be piling on, but this comment on the Dubai ports issue is particularly striking coming as it does from the member of Congress recently rated as the most conservative Republican in the Northwest.

Cathy McMorrisThat would be freshman Representative Cathy McMorris, who generally has been a Bush Administration supporter. But not on its ports proposal. Her statement:

“One of my top priorities is to ensure our national security and I am greatly concerned with the President and the Administration’s decision to move ahead with this deal that impacts several of our biggest and busiest ports in the U.S.,” said McMorris. “Ever since September 11th, our country has had a heightened awareness in national security issues. Our ports play a large role in our nation’s economy and we must ensure they remain protected.”

“I remain disappointed with the President’s firm stance on this issue and believe we must take a hard look at it before moving forward. It is appropriate for Congress to ask questions, further examine any potential security risks, and gain a firm understanding of any consequences associated with this deal.”

Ports in a storm

How is the national controversy over port security playing in places like Idaho? We may get a clue in the latest from 1st District House candidate Norm Semanko, who may have been the first put out this statement (but likely not the last to say something similar):

Semanko said “these ports are a direct link to the rest of the nation and we need to make sure security is handled correctly”. Semanko also stated “that in the post 911 world we have to do whatever is needed to make sure we are secure and we don’t need to apologize to anyone for that”.

Logo-ing King

The decision to adopt a new logo isn't usually a major decision for organizations, county governments included. But maybe there's a little more going on in the case of King County.

King County logos since the 1950sProbably not one person in ten thousand in King County could tell you who it was originally named for: William Rufus DeVance King, a politician of the mid-1800s whose primary distinction is that he is the only person ever elected vice president of the United States who never actually took office, on account of his death before he was able to get to Washington to be sworn in. He is an obscure and not altogether wonderful character, a peculiar namesake for one of the nation's large counties. (You can read more in the book Washington State Place Names by James W. Phillips, University of Washington Press.)

King County's leaders may have recognized that a while back, since for half a century the county's logo has been some variation on a crown design. That makes design sense, but does it in any other way? Why should an American government, even at the county level, celebrate monarachy? And, in these days when other people across Washington worry about King County and Seattle taking over everything, why should the name and symbol of the county rub it in their faces?

King County Council Member Larry Gossett has been on this case for some years, with a proposal that the county's formal namesake designation be changed to Martin Luther King, and its logo reflect him. And on Monday the council agreed to do just that. The logo itself has yet to be designed.

Gossett's comment: "King County is the first government in the nation to adopt the image of our foremost civil rights leader as its official logo. This is truly a day to celebrate. This change gives respect and visibility to the fact that our county is named in honor of Dr. King. The image of Dr. King will be a powerful and influential symbol for the many thousands of visitors to our region now and in the future. They will immediately see that our logo reflects a government committed to diversity, peaceful resolutions to differences, racial and religious tolerance, and social and economic justice for all of its residents.”

Probably not everyone agreess, but an improvement, surely, over the honorific to the veep who never was and the symbol of a monarchy.

Opening advantages

There is some talk that one shouldn't put too much weight on the just-released Rasmussen Poll on the Oregon governor's race. But while there's something to that, the poll does suggests some points worth bearing in mind.

First, the poll results, then qualifiers and thoughts.

The poll - apparently the first of one-a-month measures expected from here to November - does not measure the primary contests, only how two of the Democrats and three of the Republicans would match up against each other in a hypothetical general election.

Overall, incumbent Democrat Ted Kulongoski comes off pretty well. He defeats all three Republicans by clear margins: Kevin Mannix by 51%-36% (15-point lead), Ron Saxton by 47%-33% (13-point lead) and Jason Atkinson by 48%-36% (a 12-point lead).

Former Treasurer Jim Hill, challenging Kulongoski in the Democratic primary, does more or less as well: He beats Mannix 47%-35% (12 points), Saxton 44%-31% (13 points) and Atkinson 42%-36% (six points).

What can we reasonably draw from this? (more…)

NRA state, er, plate

Hadn't seen note of this Idaho state legislation anywhere else, so be it noted here that House Bill 608 would establish a National Rifle Association motor vehicle license plate. (The bill describes the plates as national rifle association plates - lower case - apparently suggesting that the association is of such sweeping magnitude that the specific designation suggested by caps is unnecessary.)

Trucks over 26,000 pounds could not use them, but other vehicle licensees could. The bill doesn't specifically give a rationale for the plates. The money raised would cover administrative costs and be deposited into the state highway fund.

The sponsor is state Senator Skip Brandt, R-Kooskia, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, through which the bill has already passed to the Senate floor. (A floor vote probably will happen Monday or Tuesday.)

So far, the National Rifle Association apparently hasn't endorsed in the 1st District congressional race.

And, FYI, Brandt's two large organizational contributions thus far have come from Qwest Communications ($1,000) and Union Pacific Railroad ($3,000), which periodically appears before the transportation committee.

There's no specific available indication of whetber the NRA is in favor of HB 608. It is, however, on record as in support of Senate Bill 1402, which would, in its most significant provision, allow people in the state to carry guns concealed from view in more places, such as in their cars. The key exemption provision it seeks to add to law is "on property in which the person has any ownership or leasehold interest, or while the person is in any motor vehicle." (It does add a requirement that if you're carrying a concealed weapon for which you don't have a concealed weapons permit, you have to - upon being approached by a law officer - say that you're carrying. On the other hand: "provided however, the provisions of this section shall not apply to an ordinary pocket knife nor any lawfully possessed shotgun or rifle" (emphasis added).

Law enforcement, as one might expect, is opposed to the measure; Nick Albers, a former sheriff now speaking for the Idaho Sheriff's Association, was quoted as saying "There's nothing in there that says if you have a criminal record you can't be carrying it concealed."

That measure currently is in the Senate Judiciary Committee; given its makeup, we'll speculate it stays there. But SB 1402 does have this distinction: Among its four sponsors, two senators and two representatives, is Representative Bill Sali, R-Kuna - like Brandt, a candidate for the U.S. House.

Taking offense

At the opening of its sound decision Friday in Edward Gathright v City of Portland, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals got it wrong.

Its opening line defined the issue at stake this way: "This case concerns the intersection of two First Amendment rights: on the one hand, the classic right of an individual to speak in the town square; on the other hand, the interest organizations have in not being compelled to communicate messages not of their choosing." The first is correct, the second is not, and - even if ironically - that is why the decision, sustaining free speech, was spot on.

Gathright is a well-known Portland character often seen preacing his version of the Word of God in downtown area locations, including two spots usually considered public squares, places where people periodically do stand and speak: Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on the Willamette River, and Pioneer Square, in the middle of downtown. Both also are often used for arts and other events. (more…)

Kulongoski’s state

Astate of the state speech delivered to something other than a legislature may be useful (whether or not required), but it functions quite differently than a normal statehouse annual speech. Inevitably, it is delivered in a governance vacuum, and - in its most pertinent sense - to a political audience.

Ted Kulongoski preparing his addressFriday, instead of reaction from legislators on the prospects for passage of a governor's program, Oregonians heard reviews from the men who would like to replace Ted Kulongoski as governor.

Everything enunciated Friday was predictable. The governor said the state of the state was good, better than it was four years ago: Even in the overtly governance parts of the speech, it evidently was delivered with a direct view to the campaign ahead. As at the beginning: "And together, we have done things, things that have improved the lives of thousands of Oregon families. So today I say to you: The heartbeat of our state is stronger – and hope burns brighter. Oregon is back!"

There was, scattered through the speech, some acknowledgement of problems (notably a weak job market - though not framed that way; he spoke instead of individuals job seekers or holders who need help). But the overall tenor was of solutions in the works.

Is Kulongoski basing his campaign on the proposition that people are upbeat about the state? Sounds that way; and if so, it could be an iffy strategy.

So too, however, could be gloomy opposition campaigns. As the other candidates for governor were canvassed in news reports, you heard a lot of "too little, too late," "why didn't he act earlier on?" and similar. Problem is that those points have no emotional resonance for most voters, who tend to respond better to upbeat optmists.

That seems to be where Kulongoski is positioning himself. His gamble is that enough Oregonians are happy enough to buy in. It seems likely to work to this extent: His opponents will have to be careful how they frame their ongoing response to it.

The spectrum

Before we get back into that nonsensical mess of figuring out who's more "liberal" or "conservative" than who, among the candidates for office, let's pause and reflect on how little those standards mean.

Today's lesson comes from the National Journal, one of the best political publications in the country, rigorously nonpartisan and usually about as fair as any you'll find. Annually, it publishes a set of rankings of members of Congress, from one end of the spectrum to the other, and the new one is just out. (It does two lists, actually, one noting most and least liberal, the other most and least conservative. In the interest of efficiency, we'll just use the "most liberal" one here - the measures are easy enough to follow from either end).

You could argue forever what criteria should determine "conservative" and "liberal" rankings, but the Journal's are considered roughly mainstream. So: Here are how the six senators from the northwest rank among the 100, in terms of liberal standing: (more…)

Strong benchmark

Starting point in figuring the chances for an independent candidate for major office is, well, behind the major-party candidates, if only because that's what history tells us. If Oregon has previously elected an independent to governor, as it has, then it is also true it has not in 76 years. It never has to the U.S. Senate. (Wayne Morse doesn't count; his switch from R to I came after one election, and he switched again to D before the next one.)

But such considerations are starting points only, and newly-minted Independent Ben Westlund of Tumalo is sprinting in his new governor's race.

A news release from his campaign touts that he "attracted significant support in his first week as financial pledges and contributions passed the $100,000 mark Wednesday afternoon. Over 100 volunteers have also registered online to help gather over 18,000 valid signatures he needs by August 2006 to qualify for the ballot. The financial support came from over seventy contributors including $4,000 raised through Westlund’s website ( The petition sheets to place him on the November ballot are available on his website."

That's not a bad start; a couple of strong fundraising months at somewhere near that level could put him in a competitive position financially. And the 100 volunteers are not a bad beginning either.

Could there be more than first met the eye? Let's see what sort of consistency the Westlund campaign develops this spring.