Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Plan-B Tree Arrives

Here's a story with a happy ending. As part of a tree-thinning project on the grounds of the state capitol, officials had selected a 70-foot tall grand fir to use as this year's "holiday tree." The tree was scheduled to come down anyway, and it seemed like a natural fit to serve out the rest of its days in the adjacent rotunda. Unfortunately, after the tree was cut, it didn't...well...make the cut.

Once it was clear that a different tree was needed, the Oregon Department of Forestry knew exactly where to turn: The South Fork Forest Camp, a minimum-security prison camp in the Oregon Coast Range. Apparently, there's a few emergency back-up Christmas trees there, and by this morning a 23-year-old specimen was installed in the rotunda.

UPDATE:  I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for next Wednesday, December 1st at 5:30 p.m. By then, the tree will be festooned with baubles and trinkets which--my sources tell me--are strictly ornamental. For more information on ""Holidays at the Capitol," click here. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If The Coin Looks Wrong, It's Wheeler's Fault

One of the most frequently asked questions during the recent race for Oregon Treasurer was:  "So, what does the Oregon Treasurer do, anyway?" The official answer is that the Treasurer's office has "a wide range of financial responsibilities, including managing the investment of state funds, issuing all state bonds, serving as the central bank for state agencies, and administering the Oregon 529 College Savings Network."

Image courtesy US Mint
But as of today, you can add one more thing to that list:  Coin Checker. Take a look at this image of the new Mount Hood quarter, which went into circulation today.  According to this press release from Treasurer Ted Wheeler, the State Treasury "helped check the accuracy of the image" on the 25-cent coin. From my perspective, it looks as though Wheeler's folks nailed this one.

UPDATE:  Treasury spokesman James Sinks provides a few more details on the coin-vetting process. He tells me the Mint offered up several views of Mount Hood, including one with the Portland skyline in the foreground. Sinks says that one was rejected in part because several downtown landmarks were missing, as was a "major ridgeline" on the mountain. And Sinks also pointed me in the direction of a pretty hilarious example of a coin-checker not doing a good job. The head of the mint in Chile lost his post earlier this year when his agency issued a coin with the name of the country spelled wrong. It was, as the BBC so aptly put it, a "coin spelling howler."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And Now, For Something Completely Different

Once in a while I produce a story that has nothing to do with state politics. A recent example is my story on "The Boys From Little Mexico," a book by Portland author Steve Wilson, who spent a season chronicling the ups and downs of the Woodburn High School boys soccer team. As it happens, Wilson and several of the players featured in the book will be speaking at Woodburn High School this Thursday from 3:45 p.m. until 5 p.m. The event is open to the public.

UPDATE:  Last night the Woodburn boys soccer team won its Class 5A state semifinal game. That means the Bulldogs will play in the championship game this Saturday. It will be their first appearance in the state championship game since 1998, and their fourth overall. This is the 25th consecutive year that the Bulldogs have made the playoffs, but they've never won it all.  You have to think that Thursday's assembly with author Steve Wilson (see above) will double as a pep rally. Woodburn plays defending Class 5A champion Corvallis on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium.

UPDATE #2:  After 25 years of making the playoffs, the Woodburn Bulldogs finally won the state championship with a 2-1 victory over Corvallis.

Several Salem Updates

UPDATE #1:  In case you lost track, the Associated Press has declared incumbent Democratic State Senator Alan Bates the winner of the SD-3 race in southern Oregon. Bates, as you may recall, was all but pronounced dead after initial results showed him trailing Republican Dave Dotterrer on Election Night. But subsequent ballot counting propelled Bates into the lead--a lead that now appears to be enough to solidify his victory. Bates isn't 100 percent sure he's won, telling the AP "I suppose there's always a chance something could be found unexpected" and thus cause him to lose after all. But the uncertainty didn't stop the Senate Democrats from appointing the veteran lawmaker to the role of Deputy Senate Majority Leader last week, even as votes were still being tallied in Jackson County.

UPDATE #2: Power-sharing talks between House Democrats and House Republicans are set to begin tomorrow in Eugene. The Democrats have a four-member team led by current Speaker Dave Hunt. The Republicans are countering with a six-member team led by current Minority Leader Bruce Hanna. I'm told there are two days of talks planned this week, and the general idea is to meet twice a week until an agreement is reached on how to share power in an evenly divided chamber. I'm told that as of now, no outside mediators will be involved.

UPDATE #3:  When Senate Majority Leader Richard Devlin announced last week that he wouldn't seek another term as head of the Senate Democratic caucus, he asked to be appointed to the powerful Ways & Means Committee. He didn't specify a specific role on that committee, but you didn't have to read too far between the lines to figure that Devlin wanted the job of Co-Chair -- that is, the top Senator on the Committee. That spot is currently held by Senate President Peter Courtney, who took on the job during the interim when former Co-Chair, Senator Margaret Carter, resigned her Senate seat for a job in the Department of Human Services. It's no surprise that Courtney wasn't planning to hold the Co-Chair job for an entire regular session. And neither was it a surprise today when Courtney announced that he had appointed Devlin to the role. Devlin has served previously on Ways & Means but never as Co-Chair. Of course, it's far from clear at this point who will be the House's Ways & Means Co-Chair. That must surely be a major point of discussion among the people mentioned in Update #2 above.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wanted: Someone Who Can See Forest, Trees

After state forester Marvin Brown was unceremoniously shown the exit last month, the Oregon Department of Forestry set out to find a replacement. And now, it wants your help in determining just what makes a good state forester. If you're like me, you haven't really thought about it much. But thanks to this survey, you can weigh in nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Kitzhaber's Job Plan: Send Me Your Resume

John Kitzhaber, the presumed-although-results-technically-haven't-been-certified governor-elect, held a press conference in Portland today to outline his initial transition plans. While Kitzhaber has created several subcommittees to work on certain aspects of his economic development agenda, the former governor says he'll be in charge of running the show, with a little help from Tom Imeson, who ran Kitzhaber's transition when he was first elected as governor in 1994. While Kitzhaber's transition team thinks up ways to jumpstart the economy, there does seem to be one sure source of new jobs:  the Kitzhaber administration.

You can listen to today's press conference by clicking the audio link below.  Email subscribers and users of some RSS readers will have to go to the blog directly in order to listen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Devlin Resigns From Leadership Post

Oregon Senate Majority leader Richard Devlin said today that he won't seek another term as Senate Majority leader. The Democrat held the post since mid-2007, when he replaced then-Senator Kate Brown who stepped down to focus on her campaign for Secretary of State. Devlin won re-election last week to another four-year term as state Senator after a bruising and expensive campaign, but his caucus lost at least two seats in the process. Devlin is a veteran lawmaker who served three terms in the Oregon House before being elected to the Senate in 2002. Senate Democrats will meet this week to choose a new leader. You can read Devlin's statement by clicking here.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Time To Take Them Down

Rules about how soon you have to take down a political sign following an election vary across municipalities in Oregon. At least one county wants you to recycle them. And at least one candidate is urging his supporters to keep those signs for the next go-round in 2012. Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley hasn't said yet what his future political plans are, but one thing's for sure:  He won't be re-using this sign, spotted today along Interstate 5 near Wilsonville.  The only question here is which dorm room is now adorned with the letters "DUD"?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Kulongoski Not Done With Overseas Travel

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, who just arrived home yesterday morning from a week-and-a-half trip to the Middle East, won't have much time to rest up before his next trip abroad. The Governor is leaving this Sunday on a whirlwind trip to Bangladesh with the Oregon National Guard. He'll travel with Oregon Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Raymond F. Rees. The delegation will meet with civilian and military leaders a part of the National Guard's "State Partnership Program." Under that program, Oregon is paired with Bangladesh. Earlier this year, Bangladeshi officials visited Oregon. Kulongoski, who leaves office on January 10, will be in Asia at the same time as President Obama, though Obama's itinerary does not include a stop in Bangladesh. According to Kulongoski's office, the governor's trip is being paid for with federal funds through the aforementioned State Partnership Program. And just like the President's trip to Asia, it's not expected to cost $200 million per day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dudley Concedes

Chris Dudley has conceded the race for Oregon governor. The Republican called a press conference with about 30 minutes advance notice this evening to break the news. He told reporters outside a Mexican restaurant in Lake Oswego that ... well, I don't actually know what he told them since I didn't find out about it in time to get there. But here's a statement he emailed to supporters this evening:

Dear Friends,
As you may know, the election has been called for John Kitzhaber.  This evening, I called to congratulate him on his victory.  With the election behind us, he has my best wishes.

I have been on the winning team and the losing team many times in my life, and I know that one is much better than the other.  Yet, despite the fact that we had hoped for a different result, I stand before you today with a heart full of gratitude.

Gratitude for all that life has blessed me with: my family, my wife Chris and our kids Charles, Emma and Sam.  And gratitude for all those who supported me with your contributions, your prayers and your votes.  Every day I drew strength from your grit and determination to win this race.

This was a very close election.  The message from voters is that they want those in elected office - Republican and Democrat - to work together to move our state forward; Oregon must finally get its fiscal house in order.  Oregon must improve the climate for business and job creation.  And Oregon must not tolerate our schools continuing to fall behind.

As for my future plans, I plan to get back to the things that matter most to me in life: my family, my kids, my friends, my work and my foundation.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me, who donated to our campaign and who worked so hard to come so close.  I will never forget and will never be able to repay the honor you've given me the past year.  Thank you and God bless.

Chris Dudley

Governor's Race Tightens, Kitzhaber Plans Press Conference

The Oregon governor's race is tightening up, and all of the updates posted today have gone in John Kitzhaber's favor. As of now, the margin between Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley is about 5400 votes in Dudley's favor. But consider that Dudley started the day about 15,000 votes ahead. And consider too that most of the uncounted votes are in Dem-heavy Multnomah County. John Kitzhaber has scheduled a press conference for 10 o'clock tomorrow morning in Portland. Several news organizations, including Oregon Public Broadcasting, have called the race in favor of Kitzhaber.

A Night For Incumbents, Sort Of

Consider this: In Oregon, all six members of Congress on the ballot won re-election. So did the state treasurer. In the Oregon House, only 3 of the 54 incumbents lost. That's the same number of incumbents who lost in the 2008 election in the Oregon House. The difference, of course, is the number of vacant seats that went to Republicans, which is why the Oregon House will be an even 30-30 split next year. Things are still up in the air in the Oregon Senate, where so far just one out of the 14 incumbents on the ballot has lost--Democrat Alan Bates. (UPDATE:  Reports of Alan Bates' demise may have been premature. The race has swung back in the incumbent's favor.) However, the race is still too close to call for another incumbent--Democrat Martha Schrader. She's currently trailing her opponent, Republican Alan Olsen, by about 300 votes. If that result holds, the Oregon Senate would also be an even split, 15-15. Senate Democrats lost one of the two seats being vacated by members of their party, which is what could end up being the difference.

You have to wonder what John Kitzhaber thinks about this. The former governor famously called the state "ungovernable" near the end of his second term in office. If the Democrat ends up winning the governor's race--a distinct possibility at this point--he could be dealing with a legislature that's evenly divided in both chambers.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Attack Ad Worth Watching

As the campaigns wind down to their final moments today, I've just been made aware of a new attack ad. There are too many claims in this to do a thorough fact-check, so I'm just going to suggest you watch it and come to your own conclusion.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kulongoski Visits Baghad

Don't look for Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski at any election night parties tomorrow. The term-limited Democrat, who's largely stayed out of the spotlight during this political season, is apparently having such a good time in the Middle East that he's extending his visit there by two days. Kulongoski departed Oregon a week ago on what was touted as a trade mission to Israel.

Now, Kulongoski is extending his trip by two days in order to swing by Iraq and Kuwait. The governor has made three trips to war-torn Iraq before, most recently in November of last year. While those trips were primarily to visit Oregon troops, this one will have a different focus. According to Kulongoski's press office, the governor will sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Iraqi Minister of Higher Education "that will support the development of sustainable engineering curricula, expansion of research lab capacity, promotion of international student and faculty exchanges, and other sustainability efforts at Iraq’s public colleges of engineering." The agreement will also be signed by representatives from Oregon State University and the Michael Scott Mater Foundation.  Kulongoski's office says it's the first such agreement between the Iraqi government and a U-S state since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Need A Dose Of Reassurance?

I got a message on my home answering machine yesterday from a political action committee urging me to turn in my ballot, because doing so would stop "annoying phone calls like this one." Nice touch, except I dropped my ballot off nearly a week ago. In fact, one reason I voted so early was to, well, stop annoying phone calls like that one.

Concerned that my ballot had somehow slipped through a literal crack somewhere, I surfed over to the Secretary of State's website to verify whether my ballot had actually been received. Sure enough--it had. So if you're wondering the same thing about your ballot, head over to this website and input your info.