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Posts published in March 2011

Revenge on who?

What conclusion should people draw from this?

From the Associated Press: "Idaho Republicans took revenge on Democrats for their stall tactics, killing a bill to help disabled children whose sponsor was a Democrat."

The optics, as they say, look pretty bad - for the Republicans, of course: Taking revenge on other legislators by spiking help for disabled children. By killing a bill to help disabled children.

Can someone fill in what the spin on this might be?

UPDATE Betsy Russell's blog quotes Republican Senator Tim Corder, who sponsored the measure on the childhood coordinating council in the other chamber, as saying the low-budget entity may survive even without the bill, but “It bothers me that occurred. It bothers me that we do things like that in the first place, that government can't simply function the way it's supposed to.”

The fence isn’t that high

As Idaho legislators push through (it's already cleared one committee) legislation to deal with the new closed-primary regime after the Republican court case, they deal necessarily with some airy concepts. Some of them need grounding.

Part of the idea behind the lawsuit, initiated by state Republican Party leaders (not elected officials, many of whom were opposed to it), was that by allowing only registered Republicans to vote in that party's primary, the legal change would result in an election reflecting the views of loyal Republicans only.

Senator Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, was quoted this way in committee discussion on a section of the bill requiring that people declare a party preference well before the primary: “If you are previously affiliated with a party, hopefully by mid-March you know whether you want to continue to be affiliated with that party. … By doing it this way, you keep individuals who are known political operatives from participating in the primary of another party if that party chooses to exclude them."

Well, no: You don't necessarily keep them out at all.

Under the terms of the legislature's bill - in fact, under party registration rules in any state that has registration (Oregon, for one) - anyone can register as a Republican. How about Larry Grant, the new chair of the Idaho Democratic Party? Would anything in the bill stop him from registering to vote as a Republican? Or Democratic former Governor Cecil Andrus, or current House Democratic leader John Rusche? Not a thing, so far as we can tell: The bill says that voters must either choose an affiliation or be described (by default) as non-affiliated, but it says nothing about qualifications, about who is allowed to register as a Republican (or a Democrat). Nor does it say that you can't switch your registration back and forth, up to the cutoff date.

In fact, this sort of thing occasionally happens in Oregon, people who switch their party registration just before a primary, then switch it back again. It's legal, as it would be in Idaho. Happens most often, so far as we can tell, among some of the people who are the most politically active - the "known political operatives" Davis was talking about.

The only way you could stop it would be to ... well, are we really going down the road of legally binding political party/ideology oaths? Challenges of the right to vote from ... whoever? Someone in particular? These would be about the only thing that would really stop the kind of crossover Davis is talking about.

Spreading Eymanism?

Danny Westneat has a provocative column out today, declaring that Seattle's mayor, Mike McGinn, is the Tim Eyman of the left.

Put aside the matter of political philosophy; the two obviously have little in common there. Eyman has made a second career of promoting (mostly) conservative ballot issues, mainly of the anti-tax and cut-budget kind, but isn't a candidate or elected official. McGinn is mayor of Seattle, liberal and environmentalist in orientation, though even in Seattle he's been pushed to the outside, to the point that many state and other officials make a point of dealing more directly with the city council than with him.

Westneat's point: "I think the two do share a sense that our current system of representative democracy has failed, though. That politicians are too chummy with special interests. That populist ideas — be it no-new-freeways in McGinn's world view or no-new-taxes in Eyman's — are smothered by the power structure. So modern leadership means, by definition, going around the broken system. Straight to the people. I'm not sure how that works when [as in McGinn's case] you're also the one in charge of the system."

Carlson: The third piece of a strategy

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

There is a path out of the wilderness of despair surrounding the deplorable state of Idaho’s public school education and higher education. The pieces are falling into place; the ingredients are at hand.

The recipe includes the state’s teachers, many of whom have been passive observers as Republican governors and legislators have gutted public education during the last couple of sessions; the parents, finally being stirred from their lethargy as they realize Idaho’s support per pupil is the lowest in the nation; and test scores showing our children falling further behind.

Additionally, businesses are stumbling to the realization that the educated workforce required to be competitive in a world-wide market place is not coming from our woefully underfunded system.

Top that off with an ineffective state Board of Education that hasn’t a clue about how to provide leadership.

The path forward has been laid out in part by two fine writers and public affairs analysts: the editorial page editor of the Lewiston Morning Tribune, Marty Trillhaase, and Marc Johnson, the Boise office managing partner for Gallatin Public Affairs for which I used to work.

Trilhaase recently pointed out we should not waste their time trying to recall State Superintendent of Public “Destruction” Tom Luna. The threshold for necessary signatures is impossibly high and the timeframe too short. Assuming a group organized and galvanized sufficient backing for a ballot recall, to win one would require 275,000 votes, or one more than the number he received in his last election.

In an off year election that is unrealistic.

Instead, Trillhaase counseled those justifiably upset with the Luna agenda need to get only 47,000 signatures in 90 days after the Legislature adjourns to place the package on the ballot for an up or down vote. There is precedence for this course.

This path was utilized in 1966 when the Legislature passed the state’s fist sales tax with the proceeds ironically designated primarily for education. The measure was on the November ballot. In that instance, the sales tax was upheld.

Marc Johnson’s blog of March 9 provided a strategy developed from a self-examination and an admittance that the Idaho Education Association had brought its waning influence upon itself for its failure to engage in meaningful dialogue with administrators, parents, local school boards and legislative representatives on the changing face of education.

Johnson also faulted the IEA for its failure to build a base of support through the development of local candidates for local legislative offices. Instead, the IEA brass focused on big-ticket races. Johnson’s message to teachers and their leadership was they had forgotten the first rule of politics---organize, organize, organize and then organize some more.

The chance to demonstrate new organization and revitalize itself is presented by the Trilhaase proposal to go the referendum route.

What is missing is someone to lead this effort. There’s an old newspaper saying that people would much rather read about other people than about ideas, lofty thoughts or brilliant strategies. The message is find someone who is interesting, who can articulate the message and put a human face on that message.

The waning days of this Legislative session has produced the obvious leader: Boise State Representative Brian Cronin. Read his comments on the House floor during the debate on the Luna package. They were articulate, to the point, incisive and respectful of those with whom he disagreed. His ability to disagree without being disagreeable is remarkable.

Trilhaase has identified the vehicle, Johnson has laid out some critical elements to a successful repositioning strategy, and I am left to nominate the leader.

Once you have led the repeal of the so-called Luna Reform package, keep that organization together. Launch a broad-based run for governor, Brian, with a specific targeting of the state’s 10 largest counties where education remains the top priority. Make education renewal your campaign theme.

Run, Brian, run!

Reslicing the pie


Shift the focus just a little bit, and the picture can look a good deal different.

This yellow-green map is from the Washington Secretary of State's office showing the results in last year's contest over Initiative 1100, which was aimed at privatizing more of the liquor sales in the state, which is now run through a state store system. It shows four counties out of 39 favoring the measure (passing in the green, failing in the yellow), which statewide failed 46.57% to 53.43%.

Now look at this one, recently posted on the Sound Politics blog (source prior to that unknown).


Here, the I-1100 vote is shown by legislative district (passing green, failing red, higher positives or negatives noted by darker colors). The same general geographic picture turns up, to a point - the passes are located mostly near the Puget Sound - but both the broader picture and the subtleties emerge more clearly. The east-of-Cascades vote in this one looks powerfully negative, while the Puget area vote looks more split. The vote was fairly close in King County (where it narrowly lost), but here the urbanites tended to side with the eastern rurals, while many of the more suburban and exurban areas went for privatization.

Thereby blasting a lot of stereotypes. These are maps to ponder.

UPDATE Stefan Sharkansky, the blogger who developed and posted the maps at Sound Politics, wrote us to describe how he arrived at them:

"To answer your implied question about the source -- I explained in a comment to my post that I created the maps myself by combining state data and loading it into Google Earth, specifically: I took the district-level election returns from the Secretary of State ( District maps in KML from the Legislature's GIS server ( I wrote a script to create the final KML from the source based on voting results and loaded it into Google Earth."

Good work.

Why the Alaskan Way is such a tough nut

Even as most - not all - of the political leaders in Seattle and Olympia seem to have settled on a tunnel as a replacement for the elevated Alaskan Way viaduct, the people of Seattle are nowhere near as uniform in their view.

The Elway Poll asked them what they think, and here is what - in a Seattle Times story - it found:

• 38% - new/repaired elevated viaduct.

• 35% - tunnel.

• 21% - surface street option.

• 6% - no opinion.

State your party

In Oregon, as in most party-registration states, when you register to vote you also - at the same time - select which party you declare to be a member of, or say you're a member of none. Under the introduced-today Idaho Senate Bill 1198, a response to the closed-primary lawsuit by the Idaho Republican Party, the same idea would apply in Idaho.

Parties would then have the choice of allowing only declared party members, everyone, into their primaries.

The Ballot Access News site has a little more on what's likely ahead: "Voters who choose a Republican ballot in the May 2012 primary would be automatically listed as Republicans, and the same is true for the Democratic, Constitution, and Libertarian Parties. The bill does not provide for a blank line on the voter registration form for anyone to write-in the name of an unqualified party. That aspect of the bill may be unconstitutional; courts in five states have said that voters must be allowed to register into active unqualified parties. Also, the failure of the bill to provide for a blank line for a voter to write-in the name of a newly-qualifying party would mean that if a new party qualifies in Idaho, all the voter registration forms would need to be immediately reprinted."

Something like this is one of the few remaining non-budget, non-fiscal measures awaiting resolution before the Idaho legislature adjourns, which may be in another couple of weeks or so. One way or another, they really do need to respond to the ramifications of the lawsuit.

There is a slim chance otherwise; some reports have surfaced that associated parties in the case (not the Republican Party, which was the successful plaintiff, and not the state, which was the defendant) evidently are seeking an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

WA: Majority-minority; a Seattle split?

The city of Portland is split between two congressional districts, and so is the city of Boise. (The small town of Willamina, Oregon, population about 2,000, is too.) The idea of splitting the city of Seattle between congressional districts, an idea being batted around in the Washington redistricting process, seems not far-fetched (though incumbent Democratic Representative Jim McDermott , who now represents the city as a whole, isn't much pleased by it). The rationale, though, is one Northwesterners may find ... questionable.

The thought behind this idea is to create a "majority-minority" district - one where racial or ethnic minorities would make up more than half of the population. There are a number of these in the southern states, districts where black voters are numerous enough to give a black candidate odds on winning. (The idea comes from the liberal Win-Win Network.) The idea also, in the South, concentrates the Democratic vote, often making nearby districts more Republican.

Unlike those districts, this one would be an amalgam: A collection of minorities (Hispanic, Asian, black, others) instead of a single group. And the minorities all collected come to just barely over the 50% mark.

A thoughtful, struggling-with-it post on Lawyers Guns & Money is skeptical of the usefulness of this kind of a district here. It's notable, though, as one of the early shots in a Washington reapportionment process still in its early stages.

Bookpeople of Moscow


When I came to the University of Idaho at Moscow in the fall of 1974, one of my first walks to downtown was in search of a good bookstore. Right on Main Street, then a year or so old, was a very good one, one I visited regularly while a student and more often than not whenever I've visited town.

That is Bookpeople, in recent years on the other side of Main Street (it moved in the interest of expanded space), still in operation today. For decades now it has been one of the best independent book stores in the Northwest, owing in large part to the dedication of its veteran owner, Bob Greene.

How much longer it stays with us is in some doubt. The Lewiston Tribune reports that Greene is planning to retire, sell the store, and move to Oregon.

Times are rough for book stores these days. Best wishes for the store and the book clientele of the area, and hopes that the store will find a new owner who'll keep a fine business going.