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Devil Dog Art


Northwest elections preview 2006
Our look at key races begins

The real numbers

We'll not take particular exception to the promotional efforts of lottery officials who have been pumping up this week's $340 million Powerball win by someone - tuns out to be a man in Medford - in hopes of expanding interest in the games.

PowerballThe news media have no excuse, however - with the award for worst unpaid lottery ad of the week going to the Tuesday morning Idaho Statesman, which devoted half its page one newshole to hyping the game. 

The dishonest part of this, from the perspective of news organizations at least, is that the winner will not get $340 million - not even close. At least the Oregonian, in today's edition, made note of that. In a page one chart, it pointed out that the real winnings (after taxes) amount to $110.1 million, the amount the recipient either would get in lump sum or would be invested and doled out over 30 years. 

That's still not dog food, of course. But let's have some honesty around here

One more thing: This winner has decided to remain secluded instead of basking in the media spotlight. Good for him10/22/05 13:23 [comment / reprint]

Family and beyond

The political story of this cycle in Washington was written this week not in any newspaper but in a blog, in Horse's Ass, about King County executive contender David Irons, a Republican seeking to unseat Democrat Ron Sims. It is a story that grows out of the candidate's personal life - almost though not quite as person as the reportage of the Spokane Spokesman-Review on Mayor James West. West is now saying he plans to sue the Spokesman for invasion of privacy.

David IronsThere's been some talk about legal liability in the comments section at Horse's Ass too, but the Irons story is rather different: Provided in whole by members of the candidate's family, including his mother and father, who say they will vote against him next month. 

That much had gone public already in a column by Joni Balter of the Seattle Times, but none of the details - what underlay the family rift - did. That's what David Goldstein, proprietor of Horse's Ass, addressed in his long, and remarkable, October 20 post.

The story it tells is ome of an ugly little family quarrel with roots in the  relationships between the members. It became bitter enough that, according to Irons' mother's account, the future executive candidate  hit  her and knocked to her to the floor, then ripped a phone from the wall when she said she would call 9-1-1 (which, apparently, she never did). Irons has denied the incident, and one of his siblings backs him. 

Goldstein acknowledges the he said-she said element to the story. But wherever the fire may be burning, there's smoke aplenty. That has created an uneasy situation for some King Republicans who spent years during the Clinton 90s talking about the importance of character, and how private behavoir can say much about public actions. This family story, which on Friday went onto substantial radio broadcast (including conservative programs) and into the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is throwing a new twist into the Sims-Irons race. 10/22/05 13:07 [comment / reprint]

Some comparisons

Headline in the Idaho Statesman that the state tourism office is unlikely to pick up:

"Mongolia and Idaho: Worlds apart, but similarities abound." 10/22/05 11:17 [comment / reprint]


Hardly ever hurts a politician to run against the local newspaper, especially when it comes to self-promotion. Tim Eyman learned that ages ago in Washington, and – we’d be surprised if it weren’t true - alongside some pleasure in broad-based media support of his new government audits initiative (and we here like it too) seems to be some low-level unease about having been accepted (temporarily) into the club that always rejected him.

Brandi SwindellA different variation of the theme comes in Boise, where the improbable city council candidacy of Brandi Swindell, against council incumbent Maryanne Jordan, has picked up some new juice in the wake of criticism from Idaho Statesman columnist Dan Popkey. She, or whoever is advising her, has taken neat advantage of a column which nailed some substantial criticisms and pointed in the general direction of several others. The most significant: Unprecedented specific alliance between the Idaho Republican Party and several very conservative religious groups.

Campaign season mostly has been quiet in Boise, with just six candidates for three council seats, one of the lightest rosters recently. On the surface, campaign activity seems light as well; on a run around the city scouting for yard signs, we found exactly one, for council challenger Jim Tibbs. (We’re told there are more, mainly for Tibbs, elsewhere too, but the number clearly is smaller than normal.) And yet there are subtle signs of considerable organizational activity out there, some for Tibbs but apparently even more for Swindell. Mostly it’s been a quiet campaign, usually a political contradiction.

Unless it’s a stealth campaign, which would make sense. The strategy apparent behind the Swindell candidacy seems to be a difficult and subtle one, to get her known and make her a viable community figure while pointing energetically away from relevant information about who and what this prospective leader is, and who her constituency is.

The earliest public mention of Swindell’s candidacy – though not yet by name – we can find came on September 26 in this statement: “A conservative candidate, who supports the values of the Keep the Commandments Coalition, will file on Thursday to challenge Maryanne Jordan for her seat on the Boise City Council. We'll release the candidate's name in an email update to you on Thursday afternoon.” That candidate was Swindell, co-director of the Coalition with the man who posted the announcement, the Reverend Bryan Fischer. This organization, and maybe allied groups, is the specific source of the candidacy.

That would hardly make it unusual among interest groups, and its action in putting forth a candidacy of its own is not wrong or unethical. But its lack of success in ousting Mayor David Bieter last year suggests it is not a political winner in Boise. Swindell, in other words, needed to be promoted as something other than the only thing she ever had been publicly in Boise: An advocate for locating a Ten Commandments monument in a park.

Getting away from that while still running a winning campaign, however, is an iffy proposition. After her announcement, Fischer wrote, “Brandi's position, of course, on defending the Judeo-Christian tradition and its role in public life is clear. The one thing you will be able to count on with Brandi is that her positions will be clear, be values- and principles- based, and that she will stand unapologetically for what she believes is best and right for the city of Boise.”

The issues page on her web site covers seven separate subjects, from the city library ballot issue to police patrols, but the only issue statement of the bunch that doesn’t sound generic, and the only one that takes any issue with incumbent Jordan, has to do with the Ten Commandments. And none of the other issues on the page have much of anything to do specifically with the “Judeo-Christian tradition”, nor is that phrase or anything like it present – and even the Commandments issue is presented as concern over council attitude toward the public rather than as a cultural or religious issue. To read her web site, you’d never guess than her entre and sole involvement in public matters had to do with a very conservative religious drive and organization.

You’d never guess much else about her, either.

She mentions her enjoyment of outdoor recreation and her membership in Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and her – considerable – number of appearance on national television. But it says nothing about whatever education she has had; high school and college if any went unremarked. It says nothing about any sortof civic involvement outside the religious sphere, even a neighborhood volunteer effort. If she has a clearly-defined profession or occupation, she doesn’t mention it either - with one possibly peripheral exception. She refers to what sounds like, and may be, a job position as “national director” with a group called Generation Life. It seems an odd connection. Generation Life describes itself as “a youth movement of students, activists, teachers, professionals, and artists committed to ending the horror of abortion, proclaiming the message of sexual purity to their peers, and ushering in Biblical revolution to the next generation. Its source, fuel and fire is the same as that of all creation - the one and only Triune God … God is calling Generation Life to confront pop culture, the media, public institutions, elected officials, and the entire ‘culture of death’ with the pro-life and chastity message.” That matches with the Ten Commandments all right, but where are the Brandi candidate messages on these topics?  One other problem: The group’s web site lists four staff people in its Philadelphia staff, but no Brandi, and none in Idaho.

She is quoted in a number of the group’s news released expressing various opinions, however. There was this, for example, after the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist: “As a member of the post Roe generation, I know what it is like to be open prey in my mother's womb.” That presumably suggests her memory at least must be extraordinary. And a short biography at a site for the book “Don’t Miss Your Boat” says this: “Brandi Swindell is considered one the foremost leaders in the pro-life movement today as the co-founder and National Director of Generation Life. An active twenty-seven-year-old, she leads and organizes many pro-life projects across the nation, including successful demonstrations at the Salt Lake Olympics and the White House.” And this: “Brandi’s goal is to represent the ‘new face’ of pro-life America.” Not much about land use and police patrols or Idaho there, much to the surprise of people who wander on to her campaign web site.

The Popkey column was mainly not about any of this. Its central focus was another peculiarity, that of the state Republican Party breaking with long-standing practice and giving active, physical support to a candidate for a non-partisan position. Of course, Republicans and Democrats both have long been involved individually in races for offices for cities and courts, but the party structures themselves have stayed apart, a cry far from the state office help being provided by state Republican Chair Kirk Sullivan. It might make more sense if Swindell had a deep record of involvement and activism as a Republican, but she’s never been a candidate for office before, and never been a player in Idaho Republican politics (though presumably that’s changing now). Popkey’s comment: “I'm baffled Sullivan picked Swindell for this leap into non-partisan elections. Jim Tibbs might make sense, but not an extremist who opposes condom use and has zero experience with the collaborative skills it takes to make a city work.”

Popkey went on: “Image is everything. Good looks got her TV time on O'Reilly; she made headlines protesting condom handouts at the Salt Lake Olympics; her rap sheet includes protests over abortion, the Ten Commandments and stem-cell research.” He also made some comments about the glamour-style photos on her web site (and yes, that is an accurate description of the style, as you can tell if you follow the link).  Those lines triggered the criticism, as delighted conservatives piled on about Popkey’s sexism. That, of a sudden, has become the campaign issue in the Boise campaign: Vote for Brandi so you can sock it to the Statesman. It was terrific political jujitsu.

Doesn’t invalidate Popkey’s point, though. Image does go a long way in our modern culture, and that is why increasingly pretty faces are front news programs and public-visibility campaigns. If deep experience and involvement in these kind of social issues (in Boise at least) were the criteria for television interviews, Fischer would have been giving them.

But that would have given the game away. Can’t have that, at least not until Swindell is safely ensconced on the council – and the Idaho Republican Party is tightly tagged with whatever she says and does. And who will be the long-term gainers out of that?   10/20/05 21:23 [comment / reprint]

Public expenditures

The value push for thorough performance audits in Washington state could easily gain additional steam, and spread elsewhere, if specifically coupled to questionable spending by governments. It is on this side of the equation, rather than on the tax side alone, that anti-tax activists should be pushing. Most everyone would agree that governments should spend no more money than is needed to do a job that deemed necessary; apply proper scrutiny to one, and the other takes care of itself.

With that in mind, your tax dollars at work:

The Seattle Weekly reported in last week's (October 12-18) edition about Seattle's enforcement of its new strip club ordinance. The ordinance is intended to restrict activities in the clubs by, for example, reqauiring brighter lighting and a four-foot distance between dancers and customers, which means a ban on lap lancing.

The Weekly got hold of some of the law enforcement memos on investigation and enforcement procedures. One comments, "I would usually have two dances to see the subject was willing to do illegal acts for money." Another long-time detective noted, "I have participated in covert inspections for approximately five years and have bought over 300 dances." The Weekly estimated that works out to about $12,000.

Your taxpayer dollars at work. 10/17/05 10:11 [comment / reprint]

Perspective, finally

Of course it’s going back to court, to the Oregon Supreme Court, and the sooner they get to the work of doing their own evaluation of Measure 37, the better. Oregon should not be left hanging for long; there is no reason to hang this at the Court of Appeals. And it will exercise its own opinion; Oregon’s justices are not shy about reversing judges down below.

All the same, after Marion County Judge Mary James’ bombshell in Hector MacPherson v. Department of Administrative Services – the Measure 37 constitutionality case – hit, the initial reaction seemed to be one of going back to the drawing board. Comment quotes in the Oregonian’s Saturday editions, and elsewhere, seemed to reflect a sense by Measure 37’s advocates that the measure most likely is doomed, and they will have to go back to work. In recap: Measure 37 allows property owners who contend the value of their property has been limited by land use rules imposed since its acquisition to require local governments either to waive the rules for their property, or to pay them for the loss in value.  Hundreds of Measure 37 cases have gone forward in Oregon since the measure’s passage, by a big majority, last year.

Our take is that probably Measure 37 is doomed, that the Supreme Court likely will uphold. That is because James’s ruling was both broad, rejecting the measure’s advocates arguments on a range of important points, and central – suggesting that the Oregon (and even federal, in one case) constitution simply doesn’t allow for this sort of law. If she is right, the 2006 version of Measure 37 (which seems likely to materialize) will have to come at the subject from a whole different angle.

The whole decision (a copy is available here) is worth reading and absorbing. In places, it makes points that should have been highlighted in last year’s campaign, and maybe will get more attention now. Here are two of the most significant:

 Impact on neighbors. In opposing the constitutional challenge, the defenders of the measure said the plaintiffs had no standing for a challenge, because they could show no direct effect of the measure on them. This is critical: In the political battle over the measure, almost all the individual attention has gone to those who feel Measure 37 would help them realize the full value of their property.

But James said the plaintiffs do have standing and that they not only would be but are affected. One example (among many) she cited:

David T. Adams, an individual plaintiff, owns property near property owned by a Measure 37 claimant, Charles Hoff. Hoff has received relief in the form of the non-application of Statewide Planning Goal 3 to his property and thus, permission to subdivide his property. Hoff has taken steps to subdivide his land, by clear-cutting and bulldozing the land, which sits at the top of the Wilson Creek Watershed in Clackamas County. The activity destroyed a wildlife corridor and adversely affects the watershed. Adams’ property will also be affected by a second claim, filed by an owner within one-half mile of Adams’ property. Both of these properties are outside of the Urban Growth Boundary. The amount and quality of water available to Adams will decrease with the addition of wells and septic systems on the Hoff property and, if permitted, on the other claimant’s property, since the City of West Linn will not provide services to any new subdivisions outside the Urban Growth Boundary and the water table is already overtaxed. Adams purchased his property in reliance on the fact that, because of zoning restrictions, no additional wells would be drilled. The roads, which are at over- overcapacity, will see increased traffic, causing disruption and delays, as well as increased noise, capacity, pollution, risk of accidents, and the potential that emergency services will be delayed. The educational system will be further strained, which will result in the shifting of tax monies from other programs to schools, or to increased taxes. If the second Measure 37 claimant receives compensation instead of non-application of the land use regulations, that money will be drawn from tax revenues paid by Adams that would otherwise be used to provide services that would benefit him (Adams March 7, 2005 Aff, and Depo, pp 19-21, 35-41).”

James piles on instance after instance like this, and at the end any argument that these people are not affected fails the ridiculous test.  It also suggests, logically, that more people are likely to be negatively than positively affected in many important Measure 37 cases.

 No leasing of power. One of the problems most central to Measure 37 is the idea that public policy can be carried out only if people who are impinged by it are paid off – or, alternative, that people who don’t like a law can simply insist it doesn’t apply to them unless they’re paid off. That sounds like an ugly construction, but it is exactly what Measure 37 contemplates – for some people, that is, though not for others (that being another important issue).

James notes that the power of government to legislate in the public “welfare, health and safety” is undisputed. She notes: “The question raised by Measure 37 is whether the legislature (or here, the people acting through the initiative process) may impose limits on the legislative body’s ability to use this power to regulate. There is no provision in the Oregon Constitution that would permit such a  limitation, and the Supreme Court has noted that a legislative body may not limit or contract away its authority to exercise this power.” Then she puts a perfectly fine point on it:

“Measure 37 does not purport to restrict the power of government to enforce current land use regulations or the power of legislative bodies to enact new ones. There is no question that the land use regulations themselves are valid, and no claim that the regulations rise to the level of a taking, which would require compensation. Instead, Measure 37 requires the government to pay if it wants to enforce valid, previously enacted, land use regulations, i.e., it must pay to govern. This the legislative body cannot do, and the possibility that a later legislature could decide to repeal that condition on enforcement does not make it permissible. Such a limit on the power to regulate is a limit on the plenary power. If such a law were permissible, any party affected, in any way, by a regulation could seek to enact a law similar to Measure 37 that would require the entity that attempts to enforce the regulation to either pay the costs of complying with the regulation, or not to enforce the regulation. For example, by future regulation, public entities could be forced to choose between enforcing Department of Environmental Quality regulations or paying citizens whose cars do not meet emissions requirements for the cost to repair their cars, between enforcing school attendance policies and paying parents for the costs of clothing, food, and other privately borne costs associated with sending their children to school. These potential outcomes make clear that a government cannot be forced to choose between exercising its plenary power to regulate for public welfare, heath or safety, or paying private parties to comply with the law.”

This kind of perspective would have been of enormous value had it appeared a year ago – before the vote. 10/15/05 17:06 [comment / reprint]

Assessing Brame

The next job in the Dave Brame investigation and reconciliation is in the area of writing about it, comprehensively. Not so much for the lurid details – those are present, of course, and will make for one spectacular true crime book – but for the analysis, a really serious look at how this awful thing happened.

The awfulness of it, of course, extended beyond the two people, the perpetrator and victim – former police Chief David Brame, who shot to death first his wife in a shopping center parking lot, and then himself – and their families, through the whole larger community of Tacoma. In the months that followed the whole city was rattled, its leading mover and shaker (City Manager Ray Corpuz) resigned under a cloud, much of the ambitious progress of the last few years seeming to grind to a halt.

How, why, did all of it happen? Excepting David Brame, we’re not talking about really bad cases, but about failings in the system. That at least seems to be the core conclusion from Friday’s massive information dump, 20,000 pages worth, that according to the Tacoma News Tribune “outline scores of allegations against employees and include reams of legal analysis, much of it hinging on the subtlest nuances of city personnel policies.” The paper deserves kudos for pushing for public access to the records, which taken together appear to paid a richly detailed picture of a city and social setting for tragedy.

It is in thinking carefully about those details that solutions and better approaches may arise.   10/15/05 14:03 [comment / reprint]

Offensive, already

Good Lord. If this is the inoffensive stuff, then James West’s chances of avoiding recall are far beyond the pale if the rest of his laptop computer records go public. 

He and his lawyers probably didn’t realize exactly what he was giving up when he agreed, under press from the Spokesman-Review newspaper, to the release of one CD’s worth of material form his city-owned computer. The laptop computer was supposed to be used in the main for city business, but West has acknowledged a great amount of personal stuff – some of it related to his personal life, looking for gay sex partners - is on it. His lawyers have even acknowledged some of that material is “highly offensive”; that is their main argument against its release. Anyone interested in Spokane’s city government could more easily conclude that this is why it should be released. And most likely, a court soon will order that it will be.

But what’s already out there, released by West, is bad enough: Subtle and nearly hidden java files containing records of sexual trolling on travels around the country, and much more. Even this limited release pumped new energy into the roar for West’s recall. The election has been set for December 6.

Quite a few Spokanites may sympathize with the statement by City Councilwoman Cherie Rodgers, a frequent critic of West who has called for his resignation:

"Anyone in most jobs who used their business computer for such conduct would be fired immediately ... I've had people from Chevron, Hollister-Stier and other places tell me they would have been fired in a heartbeat if they did this on their computers at work. No exceptions, no excuses, period." 

West on Friday issued his statement on why he should not be recalled, ending with: “True, I have made errors in my private life, I apologized for those errors, and I've asked forgiveness.”

As matters sit, the more likely response from Spokane voters will be, no exceptions, no excuses, period. 10/15/05 09:43 [comment / reprint]

 Other costs

Paying at the gas pump is just one of the  ways we pay for high gas prices. At La Grande, 70 workers - ao this point - are paying with their their jobs.

These are at a Boise Cascade sawmill powered by gas; the price of natural gas, the company said, has risen so high that production is going to have to be impacted.

That makes sense. It should be a chilling note, however, for all those people who are going to rely on natural gas to heat their homes this winter.  10/13/05 08:31 [comment / reprint]

No test  

It was an interesting idea, but doomed not to turn real.

The proposal by Southwest Airlines, joined later by Alaska Airlines, to shift Seattle operations from SeaTac to Boeing Field did its job, though, making the point that SeaTac is over-expensive and badly in need of management review. If you can pencil a rational case for building your own new airport as preferable to buying a slot in an existing one in the same area,  then something is wrong at that airport. And from Southwest’s point of view, the case could be reasonably made.

That it won’t happen lies in the difficulty in making the case on the public level – the cost of roads, dealing with noise and traffic control and much more. That is where King County Executive Ron Sims, who entertained the idea for some weeks, wound up rejecting it as too costly for taxpayers. (Nice timing in the campaign season for such a determination, don’t you think? Sims is no fool.)

But Southwest and Alaska probably knew all that from the beginning, and their easygoing response to Sims’ thumbs-down suggests they were expecting it. But they got what they wanted: Headlines spotlighting the situation at SeaTac. 10/12/05 14:56 [comment / reprint]


The year’s big statewide effort by Idaho Property Tax Reform Inc. is, if nothing else, of a piece with the prevailing trend of so much of Idaho politics: Its proposal has to do almost entirely with yelling and flailing, and hardly a thing to do with problem solving. 

And that is why it probably will generate enough petition signatures to win ballot status, and once there probably will pass, thereby creating a legislative junkyard ready for cleanup by the 2007 Idaho Legislature. Shrug. We’ve been there before.

This approach is so distinctly of modern Idaho politics not, however, because of its subject matter – property taxes – but because of its approach. The cause for action is entirely understandable. Property taxes have been rising, in part because of property values, in part because of exemptions and other considerations which have diminished business contributions to the property tax base, partly because of increasing local government budgets, notably in the school districts but also elsewhere. These conditions, and smaller factors (the cost of heavy growth in some areas, for example) all can be addressed by practical legislation, and probably should be.  Yes, some people are being priced out of their homes; yes, something should be done about it.

And solutions could be had, even if not easily, though much in Idaho politics militates against. The recent history of the legislature’s interim committee on property taxes shows as much; while some lawmakers on it tried to find answers and meet constituent concerns, they have run into brick walls, and the few proposals they have agreed on would bring only limited relief.

But why get into the intricacies of problem-solving – and it is intricate and unglamorous work – if roiling a storm of emotion is the extent of your real interest? Thus the IPTR initiative, headed for petition sheets near you within days, and seeks in essence (the measure runs scores of pages) to cap property taxes around one percent – an idea tried and failed in years past. History says that even if passed it won’t work, but history is not alone. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden also maintains it is unconstitutional on a variety of grounds, and his case is solid. The signing of all of those petition sheets will not lower anyone’s property taxes, though it will probably make some of the signers feel good for having taken a swing of the sledgehammer.

Idahoans have been told for years, by almost everyone they elect, that government is the problem, not the solution – and implicitly, that anything governmental is inherently problematic and without solution. A working majority of Idahoans have internalized that proposition, likely enough to make the IPTR’s latest a political winner. 10/12/05 14:03 [comment / reprint]


BoiseThe Boise city council contest seems low key and it may stay so, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opposing forces, or active agendas. Some of them may be less than obvious – even unclear to the interested parties themselves.

Consider this  September 20 online message from the Reverend Bryan Fischer to members and allies of the conservative/religious Keep the Commandments Coalition: “As I mentioned last week, the KCC intends to produce voter information literature that will give Boise citizens the information they need to make an informed choice on November 8. We hope to distribute this literature door to door in key areas of Boise, and to mail the literature to everyone who signed our Ten Commandments petition … Together, I believe we have the capacity to see that councilmen who represent our views are placed in office.” And you thought the point of the petition was the long-shot effort to recall Mayor David Bieter?

Then this: “We are confident that we will soon be able to inform you of a candidate who will provide a clear alternative to Ms. [Maryanne] Jordan.” Jordan was one of the incumbents in the middle of the Ten Commandments battle. A few days later, a candidate did step forward: Brandi Swindell, another co-director along with Fischer of the Keep the Commandments Coalition. Her newly-filed campaign finance report fits the emerging pattern. All of her $851 of itemized contributions are from one person, Glen Liberty, who is also her campaign treasurer; Fischer describes him to fellow religious activists as “Our resident mapmeister.” 

Fischer also writes approvingly of another council challenger, Jim Tibbs, a retired police officer challenging Council incumbent Jerome Mapp: He “has made his position clear.” Tibbs, however, appears to have a broad based campaign; he’s been in the race longer than Swindell but his $17,859 raised so far still looks impressive. More significant, he has collected contributions from all over the political spectrum, even from former Democratic and Republican legislators. So where exactly will he come down on some of the more controversial issues? For the moment, for many, he seems a blank slate.  Mark Seeley, who’s opposing Council member Vern Bisterfeldt, seems even more so.

The contest is open for definition. 10/11/05 11:52 [comment / reprint]

 Up and down at the same time

One of the best step-back-and-consider-the-strangeness regional pieces of recent months is the overview of the Portland economy in the current Willamette Week, which considers the prevailing oddities and resolves some of them.

Portland’s unemployment is up; but so are jobs. A wide range of businesses talk about downturns and outsourcing, but real estate has been roaring and storefronts certainly aren’t emptying. It’s a city with many signs of prosperity alongside many signs of serious trouble.

Not all of this is settled in the article. A focus in the middle on workers who commute to places like San Jose while living in Portland in off-hours can’t possibly account for more than a sliver of what’s going on (interesting development though it is).

One piece of political fallout from all of this, though, suggests why the piece is worth a close read:

“All over America, people are sorting themselves into ever more ideologically and socially homogeneous communities. ‘It's getting easier and easier to closet yourself with people who are more like you than ever before,’ says [Portland State University urban studies researcher Ethan] Seltzer. ‘And that's kind of spooky.’

“The process is at work here. The only meaningful divides inside city limits are between moderate Democrats, liberal Democrats and people who think Democrats are fascists. It's getting harder for people without college degrees-and the higher incomes they typically bring-to afford living here. The number of kids in public schools is plummeting. Will we become a childless adult Disneyland of left-wing pod-people? The many Oregonians, inside the city and out, who already consider Portland a people's republic would not be surprised.”

Another piece of the puzzle.10/10/05 10:43 [comment / reprint]

Reshuffling the six-pack

The race for Idaho's 1st congressional district continues to roil, and its newest shape is doubtless not its last. Still, the new update on the race is now up.

Bill SaliThe stunner is up front: We're persuaded, for the moment, that the candidacy with the best positioning is that of state Representative Bill Sali.

Blasts of this assessment will be cheerfully accepted here

The objections will come in hard and fast from anyone who has worked around Sali, regarded by many as one of the weakest Idaho state legislators of the last couple of decades. The stories reflecting poorly on Sali are of near-legendary quality, from his removal as a committee chair (something that almost never happens) to his stunning answers in a civil lawsuit, declaring that critical thinking skills were relatively unimportant for such as legislating. 

As a matter of political analysis, shelve all of it - even assuming that much of Sali's long record in the House gets into the conversation. Most voters in the Idaho 1st don't know Sali, and a recitation of his bad press will sound like common electioneering and, in a field of six, is apt to bounce off. Not that it matters anyway: Sali has won eight terms from his southwest Ada district - a district that, in social and political outlook, is looking ever more like the Idaho 1st - and won overwhelmingly every time, sometimes against genuinely energetic opposition. His electoral record to date is solid.

And while the conventional view on Sali in downtown Boise (among many Rs as well as others) is not complimentary, he does have backers - emphatic ones. He has been Mr. Anti-abortion in the Legislature, more than anyone else, for a decade and more. He stands to become the candidate the social conservatives will enthusiastically support. And this is likely to become important to them by next spring, especially after the Supreme Court nominees put forward in 2005 by President Bush. Sali is unquestionably, irrevocably, out there with the most absolute of them. The media and the moderates will diss him without surcease, and they will love him all the more for it. You want a flat-earther (to use the critical terminology)? Got your flat-earther right here. And he knows how to smile and campaign, too: Honed that over most of the last two decades. 

All this assessment comes with an asterisk. The national social conservative network will likely get on board with one candidate soon, and if Sali doesn't pick up substantial DC money and support, and networked support in the district - by very early in 2006, probably not later than the end of January - this ranking will be pulled, and he falls much further down the list. But for the moment, there is this: The largest single bloc in the Republican primary is apt to be very socially conservative; it is likely (in the post-Roberts/Miers era) they will be insistent on purity and certainty; and Sali is the one candidate in the group they will embrace without reservation. 10/08/05 18:02 [comment / reprint]

 Target: Minnis

Forget the notion that the new Oregon Democratic focus on House Speaker Karen Minnis - as Target 1 for Election 2006 - is personal. That doesn't seem very likely, partly because Minnis is not a dislikable person and partly because the targeting makes excellent strategic sense.

Karen MinnisFor those reasons, don't expect the focus to be dropped for the rest of this cycle.

Democrats in Oregon have, in the first place, few other logical targets. The only major-office Republican in the state, U.S. Representative Greg Walden, is entrenched in his eastern Oregon district. On the state level, Democrats control all the partisan elements except the House, where Republicans lead with 35 seats to 25. All of those 60 House seats will be up for election in 2006; if Democrats are able to net gain six of them, they take the House.

House practical this is overall is a point we'll address later. But the top Republican, Minnis, certainly makes for an appealing target as one of those six. 

She is part of a disappearing breed, a Republican from Multnomah County, albeit the far northeast corner, one of the most politically competitive places (one of the few), north of Gresham, around Fairview and Troutdale. From this area, her husband John Minnis was easily elected for years to the state Senate. He resigned from the Senate last year to take an administrative job in state government, and his seat went to relatively liberal Democrat Laurie Monnes-Anderson. 

In that same election, running in a House district which is half of that Senate district, this well-established and personally liked House Speaker racked up just 53.4% of the vote, in a low-key campaign where Democratic forces were not heavily arrayed against her. That was down from 60.8% in 2002, but in 2000 she pulled 56.3%. The pattern suggests she may have been helped when her husband also was on the ballot, which he won't be in 2006.

Leaving aside any other considerations, all of this makes Minnis an attractive target for Democrats searching for six maybe-vulnerable Republicans. But there is more, of course. If she and the rest of leadership are focused on her race, she (and they) will be less able to provide aid and support to other Republicans.  Moreover, for Democrats looking for a way to personalize and shorthand their case for taking over the House, Minnick is convenient, just Newt Gingrich was a convenient personalization for Democrats running for election in 1996. (No, she isn't Gingrich in any sense, but the dynamic would be similar.)

If Democrats succeed in defeating Minnick for re-election, you'd have to consider their odds of a House takeover no worse than 50/50. Reason enough to take this politically, not personally. 10/08/05 18:02 [comment / reprint]

Ticking down

James WestA while back we predicted - something not commonplace on this site - that if the backers of recall of Spokane Mayor James West got permission from the state Supreme Court to proceed, that (a) they would get enough valid petition signatures to force the election, (b) the election would be held and (c) West would be recalled - allowing for the trap door of West short-circuiting the process by resigning first.

We're on track with this so far. The signatures have been gathered, more than enough have been found valid, and the election is being scheduled, likely for December 6. West, for his part, shows no sign so far of resigning.

Instead, he seems to want to fight it out on the overall merits of his retaining the job. That impulse is absolutely understandable. But our prediction stands: If West doesn't resign first, he will be recalled.

If West genuinely sees this as injustice, his view can be understood at least. In many ways he has been a good mayor, in many ways the best Spokane has had in decades at least (a point not intended as condemnation by faint praise). In the year-plus before scandal hit, West was a strong leader, working effectively with city leaders and employees (how many mayors can honestly say they are liked by the troops in city hall? West could.), solving problems from rampant potholes to a parking garage financing fiasco that had bedeviled the city eluded solution for years. Absent the gay trolling scandal, West would have had a powerfully impressive record for re-election, for which he might not even have been opposed.

So if West sees as unfair the undoing of all that, and more, by what he perceived as his private life, you can understand a desire to fight back.

It won't work, for reasons fair and unfair. Unfairly, people often choose their leaders based on who they think those leaders are. Too much now has emerged about West to again make him an acceptable leader for most voters in Spokane (or most other places). Would the voters have elected West as mayor in 2003 they had known then what they know now? 

That is being added to even as this is written, since the battle over the contents of West's city hall computer - the city computer paid for by taxpayers which also apparently contains extensive records of his sexual trolling - is likely to release under a Spokesman-Review open records request; and it won't be pretty. West, acknowledging that much, has been fight the release, but the guess here is that he'll lose. If he wins, the situation may be even worse - the city will be left to wonder what's so awful on that computer, and imagination may outstrip the reality.

Spokane's public life has centered around this case since May, and it will continue to as long as West is mayor. People are, and will be, eager to get it off the table. (The same was true in Tacoma in the Brame case.) A house cleaning will be insisted upon. And West will go. 10/07/05 19:12 [comment / reprint]


Social conservatives in Oregon may be able to say with accuracy, after a pair of rulings today  from the state's Supreme Court, that Oregon has the loosest rules of any state in the union limiting adult - sexually-oriented - businesses.

This is bound to generate no lack of political discussion and fallout in the days ahead. The upcoming action on the challenge to last year's Measure 36 (a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage) may still overshadow it, but don't underestimate the impact of the rulings in Oregon v. Charles Robert Ciancenelli or Nyssa v. Sally Dufloth/Duane Smith.

For one thing, the 5-1 decisions in each are notable; the logic employed here will not be quickly changed.

Nyssa, the less striking of the two decisions (though like the other a reversal of the Court of Appeals), in essence bans most attempts by local or state government to dictate limiting rules on a strip club's entertainment. The test case in Nyssa, where Miss Sally's Gentlemen's Club has been the subject of fierce local controversy and street protests, concerned an ordinance which certainly did not fail for lack of specificity; it said that in an adult business, "No entertainer is permitted to be unclothed or in less than opaque and complete attire, costume or clothing, so as to expose to view any portion of the pubic region, buttocks, genitals, vulva, or anus, except removed at least four feet (4') from the nearest patron."  The city obtained convictions based on distancing of less than a foot (1'). The facts are not in dispute, but the the defendants said the ordinance's constitutionality should be.

The other case developed in Roseburg (is it notable that these two cases came from two of the more culturally conservative places in the state?). There, at the business called Angels, sex shows were on offer, and after undercover police visited a two-woman show, arrests followed on an array of charges. Angels' owner, Ciancanelli, was convicted of a variety of offenses (including staging a show in which a performer was under 18). The key law here, though, is Oregon statute 167.062,  that "It is unlawful for any person to knowingly direct, manage, finance, or present a live public show in which the participants engage in sadomasochistic abuse or sexual conduct". Ciancanelli argued this too was unconstitutional; the state argued it was not, for much the same reason as other laws governing sexual activity - notably banning prostitution - have been upheld,  

Both cases were decided by the same reasoning, which was suggested by attorneys for the state: They suggested that the Supreme Court throw out of most its earlier precedential framework (which had sharply limited restrictions on expression) by freshly re-examining the provision of the state constitution at stake, Article I Section 8, that "No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever."

It's an object lesson in "be careful what you ask for." The court did as the prosecutors asked; they re-examined the constitution; and what they concluded after doing so much have stunned the officials in Nyssa and Roseburg.

The decision is longish, but this paragraph (which has to do with an analysis of freedom of speech at the time of the American Revolution) seems especially notable:

"To the more libertarian adherents of the natural rights philosophy, freedom of speech was an "inalienable" natural right -- that is, it was not part of the package of natural rights that individuals ceded to the community in order to obtain the protections and benefits of civil society. Rather, it was a right that the individual always retained, as he or she would in a state of nature. Even for natural rights adherents, however, the right was not absolute. According to the natural rights theory, inalienable rights, such as freedom of conscience and speech, were bounded, as they were in the state of nature, by the equally fundamental rights of other individuals. If the state had any authority at all to act in these protected areas, it was to enforce the fundamental rights of other individuals, not to protect society as a whole from undesirable "tendencies" or to promote the majority's idea of the greater good. That is decidedly different from the Blackstonian notion of "abuse",  which extended to everything that Parliament had identified as contrary to the public good (a notion that included purely social values like order, morality, and religion)."

So, the court is saying: Show that an expression is picking someone's pocket, or breaking his leg, before saying that that the state has sufficient  interest to be able to ban it.

In turning to the sex show statute, the court is similarly precise: " It may or may not be true that the sexual acts that defendant directed were conduct in the most basic sense and, as such, could be punished under some other statute. But the fact remains that the statute at issue here -- ORS 167.062 -- prohibits and criminalizes those acts only when they occur in an expressive context, i.e., in a "live public show." Under those circumstances, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the statute is directed primarily, if not solely, toward the expressive aspect of the conduct that it describes. That is, the statute is one restraining free expression."

All this isn't absolute. The court upheld a conviction on a charge of prostitution, on the simple grounds that law did not govern "expression" but rather, simply, conduct. And there is some suggestion that a new state law, crafted from a different angle, might withstand constitutional challenge.

So will Oregon see yet another attempt at regulating sex by initiative (an approach voters have three times rejected)? Or will this provide more fuel to next year's legislative and gubernatorial races?

To the races for the Supreme Court, surely. 09/29/05 18:42 [comment / reprint]

Interest in the 8th

On even the shortest of lists developed by Democrats of Republican  U.S. House seats that ought to be targeted (they need 15 of them to retake the House), you will find - sometimes ranked nationally as high as 4th or 5th - the Washington 8th, now held by Republican Dave Reichert.

8th district

Earlier today, one of the Democrats seeking to take that seat posted on the national Daily Kos site a diary outlining the case for Democrats to take the seat. And it was a pretty good case.

ReichertIn evaluating it, some perspective is first called for.

The 8th, and its near predecessors, never have elected a Democrat to Congress. Before Reichert's election last year, the seat was held by Republican Jennifer Dunn since her first election to it in 1992; her predecessor, who had held it since its creation in 1982, was Republican Rod Chandler. Neither Dunn nor Chandler had great trouble holding it. The 8th, which basically runs from east of Seattle to the Cascade, has long has a moderate Republican suburban feel to it, with a high-tech edge (the Microsoft campus is here too; Bill Gates is a constituent). 

Second, the benefits of incumbency usually help, and in many respects  Reichert has been getting the kind of press and support he would want coming up for his first re-election. There's no obvious killer - a scandal, a serious affront to the district - of the sort that traditionally turns incumbency into an albatross. These two facts alone are enough, at this point, to suggest - as we do - that the odds favor Reichert's re-election.

The story doesn't stop there, however, and there are ample reasons for  keeping a watch on this district - and leaving open the possibility of changing that evaluation.

First, even if the odds now favor the incumbent, that is less true here than for any other Republican incumbent anywhere in the northwest. The odds of Idaho's two Republican House seats going Democratic in 2006 are miniscule short of a national tidal wave (and in the case of the 2nd, even then). Oregon's one congressional Republican, Greg Walden, is as safe as could be, and Washington's two other House Republicans, Doc Hastings and Cathy McMorris, look nearly as solid. (With an asterisk by Hastings' name, in the event of an Ethics Committee blowup.) That means a lot of Democratic attention will be focused on Reichert.

Second, Reichert's win last time was close - 51% to 47% for Democrat Dave Ross, a radio talk show host. Some Democrats are eager now to downplay Ross' candidacy (you might call it the Gore/Kerry Syndrome), to suggest that Reichert won against weak opposition. That's not really fair, and during the primary especially Reichert had some PR problems of his own. It might be said, though, that Reichert - who looked like a congressman and had a long history as King county sheriff - had some advantage over a talker who had no personal experience of public office or government work. A Democrat meeting him on closer termsi, and from the perspective of a new partisanship, might have a different response.

Third, there is that partisanship. Reichert has been elected as sheriff to a nonpartisan office, so he could ride above partisanship - it gave him the aura, then, of a "statesman" as opposed to just another partisan. Now, he's a loyal Republican House member, and how he may be seen in the dsitrict - a district closely matched these days between the parties - may be a little different.

The Kos post by Democratic candidate Darcy Burner, which is worth a read as a piece of political analysis, noted that while sending Republicans to the U.S. House, the 8th also voted for Democratic presidential candidates Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, and for Democratic Senator Patty Murray in 2004. Traditionally, the eastside's state legislative delegation has weighted strongly Republican, but that has changed, notably in the 2004 election, and now is about evenly split.

This does not seem an area much enamored of the Bush Administration, which gives some credence to what Burner said her polling had found: 67% disapproval of Congress, and only 34% willing to re-elect Reichert. 

BurnerAnd Burner seems an attractive enough candidate, as a former high-tech executive, which the area usually likes. Her self-description: "My blue collar, military family background, my history of pulling myself up by my bootstraps, my success in working my way through college (working full-time while at Harvard, in addition to maxing out my student loans, in order to have the opportunity to attend) and being a successful executive (at Microsoft, among other tech companies), and my commitment to ensuring that people and families who work hard and play by the rules get a fair chance - those things resonate across the whole district, including the parts that Dave Ross badly lost. I trigger a politician frame the people of the 8th are already familiar with and overwhelmingly love: the successful mom-in-tennis-shoes, a role created here by Patty Murray."

There are other factors in the mix, including the prospect of a two- or three-way (or more?) Democratic primary, and the very late Washington primary election date.But if Democrats are a long way from easily picking up this seat, it no longer looks like an impossibility either. 09/27/05 16:21 [comment / reprint]

Repealing the 11th

In most states Republicans have borne in mind the "11th Commandment" - possibly launched by Ronald Reagan, though there's some doubt about that - and adhere to it with various degrees of seriousness. In Washington state, they've made it into a formal party rule.

The 11th enjoins Republicans not to speak ill of each other, at least not ill of candidates who will be facing Democrats in a general election. In Oregon and Idaho, the rule gets followed at times and tossed overboard on other occasions. But in Washington state, a candidate who blasts away at a fellow Republican in a primay can face a demand by party leaders to pony up a $5,000 penalty, and expect no support from the party structure afterward.

Washington certainly has had issues with Republicans tearing each other apart. And no one can seem to remember a case in which anyone actually has paid the $5,000. But the rule's existence has struck some people as a stifling of debate and an invitation to favoritism. Those were exactly the charges made last year when former King County Republican chair Reed Davis ran for Senate, after party leaders (including state Chair Chris Vance) had openly courted Representative George Nethercutt to run, and made clear he was their pick for nominee. Nethercutt easily won the nomination (and was quashed in the general), but some in the part were irritiated by the muzzle put on Davis when he was, in one notable instance, barred from the state Republican convention if he planned to offer any kind of criticism of Nethercutt.

The decision of party leadersin Yakima this weekend to eliminate the rule should eliminate some of those stresses, and maybe improve party PR in the process. There is the risk, as some noted, that more in-party sniping will occur. But that seems overbalanced by the reduction in the low-grade internal fever which can, over time, be more debilitating09/25/05 09:34 [comment / reprint]

- Randy Stapilus

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