Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Do-It-Yourself Redirect Page

The Capitol Currents blog is wrapping up its three-year run in its current form. I'll still be writing some "not for broadcast" material, but those stories will be posted alongside my on-air reporting at the new website for the Northwest News Network. So, to find Capitol Currents and other statehouse coverage from Salem, please click here:

The new home of Capitol Currents

You can also follow me on Twitter, where my handle remains @CapitolCurrents

Thanks for reading! All of the material on this blog will remain active for now, so please feel free to browse around the archives.

Capitol Currents: Looking Back

As this blog undergoes a time of transition, I thought it would be fun to take a quick look back at a few of the highlights of the past three years of Capitol Currents.

The post with the most views:  Ironically, considering the subject of last week's Special Session, my blog post with the highest number of views was about Oregon sportswear giant Nike. The Oregon Ethics Commission had made a ruling that permitted Oregon public officials to shop at a "friends and family" store located on the campus of Nike world headquarters in Beaverton. It seems the phrase "Nike Employee Store" is the subject of a considerable number of Google searches.

The post(s) with the fewest views:  Two posts from November 2009 tied for the least number of views. One was about then-State Senator Frank Morse deciding not to run for governor, and the other was about a list of hypothetical cuts released by the legislature in the weeks leading up to the Measures 66 and 67 election.

Here are some of my personal favorites:
For a broadcast journalist like myself, the great thing about a blog is the chance to write about things that wouldn't merit an on-air story. Such as:

A long-shot candidate for governor writes an entertaining account of an obscure candidates' forum on the Oregon coast.

For the first time in my career, my voice was used in a political campaign ad.

I had a rare chance to wander around a recently-closed prison, resulting in this irreverent photo essay.

Just one out of 60 state representatives in the 2011 regular session was not "in charge" of anything.

Senate President Peter Courtney throws a "minor temper tantrum."  It was not a partisan blow-up; he was "mad at the whole House."

It's always dangerous to poke fun at other people's typos, because I'm certainly capable of unleashing some of my own, but I thought this one was especially amusing.

And pair of posts from this September easily resulted in the most feedback I've ever received: A post about a giant cheeseburger for sale by the state of Oregon, and a follow-up that revealed the jaw-dropping origin of that burger.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


UPDATE:  That didn't take long. Buehler's Twitter page has been cleaned up, but you can enjoy a screen-shot of the original spam-filled feed below.

ORIGINAL POST: According to his Twitter page, former Republican Secretary of State candidate Knute Buehler has earned $1,388.10 by filling out online surveys since losing his race to Democrat Kate Brown last month. It's an accomplishment he apparently considers to be "Aweesomeee!"

Friday, November 30, 2012

Grab The Popcorn, It's An #Orleg Documentary!

House Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna clearly enjoyed his opportunity to speak at last evening's capitol tree lighting ceremony. But the event was one of the last times Hanna will get to publicly play the role of Co-Speaker. His caucus lost four seats in the November election, breaking the tie between the Democrats and Republicans in the Oregon House. Hanna stepped away from his role as GOP leader of the House Republicans, but it wouldn't have been the same anyhow without that gavel. Still, Hanna (and fellow Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, who is moving over to the Oregon Senate in January) will be immortalized in a new documentary under production by filmmaker Neil Simon. (No, not that Neil Simon.)

Here's a preview:

Simon is still trying to raise money to complete the production. In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of many people around the capitol who was interviewed for the video, though I don't know if I'll show up in the finished project.

Gov Says What?

The following is an unedited piece of tape from near the conclusion of a 30-minute press conference this morning during which Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber unveiled his proposed two-year spending plan:

That's good to know, Governor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trees, Choirs And Politicians: Holidays At The Oregon Capitol

Imagine, for a moment, that you're a stately Noble fir, ensconced among your peers amidst a lovely forest on the Oregon coast. Summers are mild, winters are rainy; pretty much everything you could ever want as a tree. You start to think that this might be a nice place to retire.

Then, one day, a lumberjack comes along and slices you off at the knees. You're loaded onto the back of a truck and driven nearly 100 miles into a city, where you're shoved through a pair of double doors and set up in a cold, hard echo chamber. Then, just as you're settling into your new surroundings, some prison inmates come along and pull you to the floor. To add insult to injury (or perhaps injury to insult?), another fellow whips out a saw and cuts off a slice of your torso. Back up you go, and you're left thinking: "Could this possibly get any worse?"

It does, because a few evenings later...let's say Thursday evening at 5:30...a small band of politicians slip into your new living quarters and begin to give speeches. They drone on about what a wonderful state we all live in, then someone flicks a switch, and you're blinded by a dazzling and decidedly un-forestlike display of lights. Everyone else gets cookies and punch but you're stuck drinking water out of a bucket.

Take heart, our Noble friend. For it won't be long until your days are spent being serenaded by some of the most beautiful choirs around.  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Patrick Sheehan's Farewell Address

NOTE:  An earlier version of this story overstated the margin by which Patrick Sheehan lost to Shemia Fagan in this year's election. Please see updated version below.  [Updated 11/19/12 at 11:45 a.m.]

Patrick Sheehan is one of four incumbent Oregon House Republicans to be unseated as a result of this month's election. In a lengthy farewell address to his constituents, Sheehan--who leaves after one term in the Legislature--blames his loss partly on redistricting, which shifted more of HD-51 into the Democratic stronghold of Multnomah County. Indeed, Sheehan won the Clackamas County portion of his district, but that lead was easily washed away by the Multnomah County section.

Sheehan is right that redistricting hurt his chances. In 2010, Democrats held a relatively modest edge over Republicans of about 940 registered voters and Sheehan easily overcame that electoral disadvantage. In 2012, the margin of registered Democrats over registered Republicans jumped to nearly 2,300. Based on the current unofficial totals, Sheehan lost his seat by roughly 1,300 votes to Shemia Fagan. While it's hard to pinpoint a loss solely on redistricting, the changed boundaries certainly didn't help Sheehan's chances. Ironically, the House Republican responsible for helping to draw up that redistricting plan, Shawn Lindsay, also lost his seat this month.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How To Pass A Ballot Measure

The folks over at CFM Strategic Communications, a prominent Oregon lobbying/public relations firm, have written up an interesting post-election analysis of the campaign to pass Ballot Measure 79. That measure, as you may recall, puts a ban on any new real estate transfer fees or taxes into the Oregon Constitution. Opponents ridiculed the measure as pointless, since such a ban already exists in state law. Supporters said putting it in the Constitution would protect homeowners from possible future efforts by state lawmakers to repeal the ban.

A last-minute release of internal polling numbers by opposition group Defend Oregon seemed to point to a resounding defeat of the measure. But in the end, the measure easily passed with nearly 59% of the vote. CFM chalks up the victory to a "direct, simple and personalized" advertising campaign. Of course, the $5 million that real estate groups spent getting that message out certainly didn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Line-Up, Oregon-Style

Amid reports of people waiting three hours or more to cast a ballot in some east coast states, it's worth noting that here in Oregon, Election Day voting is so easy that voters at some ballot drop-off locations need to be warned to "slow down" in order to cast their ballot. Tossing your ballot out the window as you breeze past an elections worker at 40 mph is just not safe. I snapped this photo earlier this afternoon in front of the Marion County Courthouse in downtown Salem, where motorists were dutifully slowing down to at least 10 mph to cast a ballot. To find a ballot drop-off spot near you, click here.  The deadline to vote is 8 p.m. tonight.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Students Weigh In On Eve Of Election

There are some in the world of journalism who don't see much value in the "Man on the Street" interview. So we decided to try the "College Student in the Coffee Shop" approach. I sent Salem bureau intern Virginia Alvino across the street to the campus of Willamette University to talk to students there about what it's like to cast their first ever vote in a presidential election. (In the interest of full disclosure, Virginia is a Willamette student herself, currently on track to graduate with an MBA in the spring.) Here's a sampling of what the students she spoke with had to say: YoungVoters by Chris Lehman