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Eye On Olympia

Archive for August 2007

CNN airs audio recording of the police officer’s interview with Sen. Larry Craig…

On the tape, you can hear Craig and the officer arguing about what occurred.

The officer repeatedly says that Craig isn’t telling the truth, and says he’s “disappointed” with Craig.

Craig, sounding nervous and flustered, says he’s not gay and that he felt the officer was trying to entrap him.

“You’re going to get out of here, you’re going to have to pay a fine and that will be it,” the officer tells Craig at one point, adding that he had no plans to “call the media” about what had happened.

Excerpts from what Craig said:

“I don’t do those things…Absolutely not. I don’t seek activity in bathrooms…I’m a respectable person and I don’t do these kind of…”

UPDATE

The two end up clashing over whether Craig slid his wedding-band-ringed hand under the stall, with the officer doing most of the questioning, police Sgt. Dave Karsnia, seemingly becoming exasperated as Craig denies doing so.

“I just, I just, I guess, I guess I’m gonna say I’m just disappointed in you sir. I’m just really am. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood. I mean, people vote for you.”

“Yes they do,” Craig responds.

“Unbelievable. Unbelievable,” Karsnia responds.

Moments later, the officer again states that Craig’s left hand swept under the stall.

“I saw it with my own eyes,” he says.

“All right, you saw something that didn’t happen,” Craig responds.

“Embarrassing, embarrassing,” Karsnia says, seemingly dumbfounded by Craig’s denial. “No wonder why we’re going down the tubes.”

Moments later, the interview ended.


ABC News has posted a transcript of the recording here.

And here’s the audio itself from MSNBC.

Former state Democratic Party chairwoman dies…

Karen Marchioro, a King County political activist who for a dozen years chaired the state Democratic Party, has died.

“Her wisdom, cool demeanor and loyalty have been integral parts to both our state party as well as our lives,” current party chairman Dwight Pelz said in a statement sent out this morning. “Karen was a dear friend and she will be greatly missed.”

Marchioro was state party chairwoman from 1981 to 1993, coming to the job after serving as chairwoman of the King County Democrats. Although battling cancer, Marchioro was still serving as a member of the Democratic National Committee.

SurveyUSA poll of ID registered voters: 55 percent say go, 34 percent say stay…

A SurveyUSA poll of 475 Idaho registered voters familiar with the recent news about Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest turned up these results on Tuesday:

-55 percent said Craig should resign,
-34 percent said he should remain in office,
-11 percent said they weren’t sure.

When asked if they approve of the job Craig’s doing, the numbers were similar, although disapproval edged up to 58 percent.

The poll also looked at Idahoans’ perceptions of former congressman Larry Larocco, with results suggesting that voters are largely neutral on him: 22 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable and a whopping 57 percent either neutral or having no opinion.

Craig video on Romney seems to be back…

Someone has re-posted on YouTube what they say is — and what sounds like — the video of Craig praising Mitt Romney that was quickly yanked from the video site after Craig’s guilty plea was made public.

Primary voter turnout lower than expected, varied dramatically from one county to the next…

Although Secretary of State Sam Reed predicted 34 percent voter turnout in Washington’s new August primary, it now looks like the actual number was about 28 percent. (Some counties still have a small number of ballots left to count.)

In a press release summarizing the numbers, state Elections Director Nick Handy called it “a very typical odd-year primary where turnout is driven by the races on the ballot.”

Hot mayoral races in Odessa and Elmira, for example, drove Lincoln County turnout to a statewide high of 70 percent this election.

Franklin County’s sparse ballot, on the other hand, led to an unusually low 22 percent turnout there.

In Chelan County, with a high-profile school levy, turnout’s projected to be 50 percent. In neighboring Douglas County, turnout was half that.

Locally, here’s the projected turnout:
-Spokane County: 33 percent
-Pend Oreille County: 39 percent
-Stevens County: 31 percent
-Whitman County: 43 percent
-Adams County: 41 percent
(Ferry County was one of five counties that didn’t hold a primary election.)

Also, the numbers suggest that people are far more likely to vote by mail than go to the polls: Average turnout by polling-place voters in King and Pierce County will probably end up at 8 percent, which 33 percent of mail voters in those same two counties cast a ballot.

Craig arrest report is online…

CNN has obtained a copy of the Minnesota arrest report for U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and posted it online as a pdf file.

Click here to read the report.

No, wait, strike that…

Thanks to the search-engine prowess of a California graduate student, it’s easy to see whose computers are being used to make changes to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Locally, here are a few of the more interesting ones:

State Sen. Chris Marr’s biography:-Someone on the state’s Legislative Services Center network has been making — or trying to make — extensive edits to the entry about state Sen. Chris Marr. Deleted is the description of Marr as “wealthy,” for example. Similarly, the heading “an expensive campaign” was changed to “campaign costs.” (It’s been changed back.)
-Also gone — if only briefly — was a section detailing a worker’s claim that Marr and other auto dealership managers had ignored a worker’s complaints about sexual harassment by her coworkers. In its place: paragraphs detailing Marr’s business and educational credentials.

City of Spokane: Among the edits from Spokane’s computer network:
-Making mostly-grammatical changes last fall to the article about late Spokane Mayor Jim West.
-Changing the description of Colfax from “city” to “town.” (Relax, Colfaxers: someone changed it back.)
-Describing in great detail the episode plots of the 2005 season of the TV show “Lost.”
-Tweaking a section on human sacrifice, noting that writer Alice Walker spend a year in Uganda as an exchange student, and noting that a 1936 novel by George Orwell was “darkly comic.”

Washington State University: The faculty, students and staffers of WSU are apparently working overtime as editors, weighing in on topics as diverse as Mount St. Helens, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and paprika.
Some of the thousands of WSU edits are classic academia: a correction to a formula regarding the acidity of carbonic acid, a grammatical correction to the entry about the Indonesian city of Bukittinggi. Also: lots of tweaking of the “notable faculty” section of WSU’s listing.

A few other WSU Wikipedia edits:
-“WSU has always been better than UW,” someone added to the University of Washington article last fall. It was yanked off the site within minutes.
-Someone from WSU in 2004 detailed the correct steps of the dance to the pop-song “Macarena” to the encyclopedia.
-Someone else with a WSU computer link and too much time on their hands tried to change the plot description of the movie Waterworld from “the polar ice caps have melted” to “the equatorial ice caps have transmogrified.” (Rejected.)

Hat tip to The Olympian’s state-government reporter Adam Wilson., who is not this guy.

Stapilus’ crystal ball suggests Verner has the edge for November…

Ridenbaugh Press’ Randy Stapilus, on the Spokane mayoral election:

Re: Incumbent Mayor Dennis Hession:

Not Mr. Excitement, but steady and solid. And - significantly - one of the downtown professional/business crowd, an attorney comfortable with the community’s power structure. All of that would seem to be plenty to win election.

That said, we’d right now give odds that in November Spokane’s voters will replace him with Council member Mary Verner, who fits none of the traditional criteria but maybe satisfies where a lot of Spokane is headed.

He cites two factors: Verner and fellow candidate Al French totaled 19,492 votes to Hession’s 10,666 so far, and the fact that Spokane seems to be turning bluer. Hession, Stapilus writes,

“may be able to pick up some of the Al French vote, but the primary numbers indicate Spokane voters are in a kick-em-out mood. He may have a much tougher time than will Verner in getting to 50%.

The other indicator is partisan. Spokane’s city races, like most in most places, are non-partisan, but the partisan colors and hues here are unmistakable: For quite a few voters, Hession likely will be the surrogate Republican, and Verner the surrogate Democrat. (There’s a similar dynamic in Boise and some other places.) That means the mayoral race has partisan implications for a traditionally Republican city which has been (notably in the last couple of elections) trending Democratic.

Registered counselors again under the microscope…

Four months after state lawmakers balked at a proposal to do away with the professional term “registered counselor,” a new state audit is again urging that the credential – held by roughly 18,000 people in Washington — be eliminated.

Proponents of the change say that the credentialing requirements are so feeble that they’re virtually meaningless. All it takes to become a registered counselor in Washington state is a background check, a fee, and a half-day HIV-safety class. No education, specialized training, exam nor supervised experience is needed.

“The way it’s written up, anybody can be a registered counselor,” said state Rep. Don Barlow, D-Spokane. “You don’t even need a high-school diploma. You just pay the $40, take that class, and you’re in.”

The recommendation, contained in a broader performance audit of health credentialing released Tuesday by State Auditor Brian Sonntag, echoes calls from Barlow, many licensed mental health professionals, and state health officials for more stringent requirements. (Barlow, who has a master’s degree, is a licensed mental-health counselor.)

“The public assumes that there’s certainly more oversight than this,” said Sonntag. “They’re putting their trust, faith and health in the hands of these folks.”

Since January, the Washington Professional Counselors’ Association has been fighting to preserve the credential. There are a vast range of counseling needs out there, group secretary Kate Abbott said Tuesday, and many registered counselors have years of experience and advanced degrees.

The group supports higher credentialing standards, she said, but not doing away entirely with the category of registered counselor.
“There could be as many as a quarter million clients that could be left high and dry,” said Abbott, a registered counselor in Seattle.

Lawmakers and state officials are particularly concerned about the high rate of client complaints about registered counselors compared to other health professions. A state task force convened by Gov. Chris Gregoire last year found that while the number of registered counselors barely increased from 1999 to 2005, complaints about them rose 143 percent. And a recent Seattle Times investigative series found that registered counselors are responsible for a disproportionately high rate of sexual misconduct allegations.

“My whole drive on this is about patient safety,” said state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “In order to protect patients, we have to beef up or tighten the credentialing process.”

Olympia lobbyist in part of 7-country CNN documentary on religious fundamentalism…

Starting Thursday night, CNN will begin broadcasting a three-part, six-hour documentary — “God’s Warriors” — on religious fundamentalism worldwide.

As part of that effort, Positive Christian Agenda’s lobbyst Danille Turissini was followed for four days by a CNN video crew in Olympia this spring, as well as being interviewed by Christiane Amanpour.

CNN’s synopsis of the program:

Protestors who kill for their religious beliefs. “Patriot Pastors” who seek to change American culture through the ballot box. Zealots who target prime ministers and presidents with assassination for “subverting God’s will.” Parents who reject science education in conflict with their religious principles. Suicide martyrs who are revered as iconic heroes. These are “God’s Warriors” of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. They see contemporary society as corrupt and
view themselves as the front line of defense in a battle for cultural supremacy and political power. They are changing the world…CNN will reveal how “God’s Warriors” want to bring religion back from the periphery to the center of public life – and how far they are willing to go to transform modern society.

Among those interviewed: President Jimmy Carter, Israeli President Shomon Peres, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency Carmi Gillan and Iranian Vice President Massoumeh Ebtekar (famous also as the spokeswoman for the Iranian students who stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979).

Positive Christian Agenda’s Joe Fuiten had this to say in an e-mail to supporters Monday:

“We do not know the angle CNN will use, but this is something which will be broadcast all over the world…No doubt, it will also have an impact worldwide in setting the tone for many people’s response to our efforts. Good or bad, it will be worth noting what they do.”

NOTE: This post originally stated an incorrect starting date (Tuesday) for the showings.

Spokane: Cheapest gas in WA? Really?

Take heart, Spokane and Eastern Washington. When it comes to cheap-gas bragging rights in Washington, you’re losing some battles but winning the war.

After months of number-crunching, the findings of a new state gas-price study released by Attorney General Rob McKenna Thursday include this startling sentence:

Among Washington’s 39 counties this year, “Spokane County has the lowest average retail prices, more than 14 cents per gallon below the state average.”

In fact, the 10 counties with the lowest average retail gas prices in 2007 are all in Eastern Washington.

“Of these, the lowest prices were found in the counties bordering Idaho – Asotin, Whitman, Spokane and Pend Oreille,” says the study, compiled by state officials and University of Washington economist Keith Leffler.

The highest average prices in the state? In Western Washington, particularly in Bellevue, Bellingham and island-heavy San Juan County.

The last time the state did a study like this – a 1991 report by the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development – it found that gas prices tended to be lower in Seattle than in Eastern Washington. (WARNING: Click on that link only if you’re really interested — and then go get a cup of coffee while it loads. It’s a 65-meg pdf download.)

“That is no longer the case,” the new report says.

What? How can that be, when AAA’s daily price survey on Thursday indicated that Spokanites were forking over an average of $2.93 a gallon for regular, while westsiders were topping off their tanks at $2.80? And what about last summer, when the disparity grew so bad in Spokane that Sen. Maria Cantwell called for – and got – a federal investigation?

Temporary market anomalies, the new state report suggests. For years now, Spokane gas prices have been averaging 5 cents to 10 cents below Seattle’s. And while last summer’s Spokane prices peaked at more than 18 cents a gallon above Seattle’s, the report notes that “By January 2007, the Spokane prices were nearly 30 cents below those in Seattle.”

Even a month ago, gas in Spokane remained a relative bargain, 4 cents cheaper than Seattle, 8 cents cheaper than Yakima and nearly 12 cents cheaper than Bellingham. (Coeur d’Alene’s cheaper yet: an average of 11 cents cheaper than Spokane on Thursday.)

Click here to read the full report.

Remember Step No. 5…

“Hang the fan 8 to 9 feet above the floor so no one is decapitated.”

-from a short article in the Olympian about how to install a ceiling fan.

UPDATE: Alert reader (and blogger) Kris Tefft was reminded of a Mythbusters episode that tested this very threat. Conclusion: “Unsurprisingly (if you’ve ever put your hand up into a ceiling fan), the household fan did nothing to the dummy head.”
But, of course, your mileage may vary.

Another nail-biter for county election officials…

There’s an interesting wrinkle in the timing of the court challenge to I-960: the possibility that the court could toss the measure out but that voters would still vote on it anyway.

It all depends on how quickly the court rules.

Stay with me on this:

-The hearing’s set for Sept. 6,

-The final possible day for the state to certify the candidates and ballot measure for November is Sept. 12,

-But “the practical reality,” according to Katie Blinn, with the Secretary of State’s office, “is that county auditors will be formatting their general election ballots even before” Sept. 5. They want to get the ballots printed as early as possible to get them to military and overseas voters.

In similar situations in the past, the court has issued a quick, abbreviated ruling — no opinions, just a yes/no decision, usually issued by the chief justice — with the usual opinion, concurrences and dissents following weeks later.

Dolan and Davenport’s Kowalkowski on panel to recommend school finance plan…

There are a couple of local names on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s newly named school finance task force.

One is Laurie Dolan, a Spokane Public Schools veteran who now works as Gregoire’s policy director.

The other is jim Kowalkowski, superintendent of the Davenport School District and executive director of Washington State University’s Rural Education Center.

The two are part of a 14-member task force — five appointed by Gregoire — that will “look at ways to implement a new, comprehensive financing formula for kindergarten through 12th grade education that supports proven education practices and connects money to accountability and results.” Deadline: December 2008, a month after the next gubernatorial election.

Ninth Circuit: “…vote-swapping is a constitutionally protected activity”

Seven years after one of the closest presidential elections in American history, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that it was OK for swing-state voters who wanted to vote for Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan to agree to “swap” their protest votes with voters in lopsided states (this means you, Idaho) where the outcome was virtually certain.

That way, organizers argued, Nader would have a better shot at getting the 5 percent needed for federal funding in future elections while Al Gore’s odds of winning improved in critical battleground states, including Washington.

To facilitate these voter-to-voter pacts, organizers created www.voteswap2000.com and www.voteexchange2000.com. (The former has been lost to godaddy oblivion, but voteexchange2000, incredibly, remains online, if dormant. Note the “Curious about what we have planned for 2004?” request for your email address.)

Shortly before Election Day, however, California’s then-Secretary of State Bill Jones threatened prosecution of www.voteswap2000.com, alleging that the site broke California election laws. The website operator, William J. Cody, immediately disabled the vote-swapping feature on the site, which matched swing-state voters with “blowout state” voters. The other website, as a precaution, did the same thing. (Cody also alleges that he developed back problems as a result of the stress, causing him to need the services of a chiropractor.)

A district court judge refused to issue a restraining order that would allow the sites to keep operating through the election. A seven-year court fight ensued.

Today, the court found that Jones violated the vote-swap organizers’ First Amendment rights, with Judge Raymond C. Fisher writing:

“Whether or not one agrees with these voters’ tactics, such efforts, when conducted honestly and without money changing hands, are at the heart of the liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”

Interestingly, state election officials were split on whether vote-swapping was illegal. Those in Oregon and Minnesota sided with Jones. But the secretaries of state in Maine, Michigan and Nebraska concluded that the swaps were, in fact, legal.

Things would be different, the court said, if someone set up a website offering people cash to vote for a particularly candidate. Vote swapping is a “meeting of the minds,” the court said, with no private benefit beyond a very slight chance of tilting an election toward one’s favored candidate.

“…Such agreements plainly differ from conventional (and illegal) vote buying, which conveys no message other than the parties’ willingness to exchange votes for money (or some other form of private profit),”

the court wrote Monday.

Stay tuned for 2008. And as of this writing, www.voteswap2008.com is still available for registration.

(Thanks to Josh at The Slog.)

GOP: No plan B if Rossi doesn’t run…

Three months ago at a moderate Republicans conference in Wenatchee, congressman Doc Hastings seemed to sum up the mood of the crowd for the ‘08 gubernatorial race: “I sure hope you run, Dino.”

Hope is what the GOP is relying on, according to this story from The Olympian’s Brad Shannon. GOP chairman Luke Esser told Shannon that there’s no Dave Reichert plan B if Rossi decides he won’t run again:

“…Rossi is the one horse in the barn…There is no doubt it would be a scramble, which kind of motivates me and everyone at the state party to do everything we can to get the party in shape and get Dino to say yes,” Esser said Friday.

“We cross our fingers a lot and knock on wood all the time. We’ve gotten pretty superstitious.”

As the story notes, the Democrats believe that Rossi’s already campaigning, using his Forward Washington foundation and town-hall-style meetings as a sort of stealth campaign under the radar of state public disclosure laws.

If Rossi doesn’t run, Democratic spokesman Kelly Steele told the Olympian, the GOP’s situation is bleak indeed. Or, as Steele put it:

“Screwed.”

More hats in the local ring…

In what’s shaping up to be a replay of the 2004 race for Spokane County Commissioner, Democrats Bill Burke and Brian Sayrs have filed campaign paperwork to run for the seat now held by Republican Mark Richard, who confirms that he’s running for re-election.

More on each of them: click here.

Ousted medical officer runs for board chairman’s seat…

Nine months after a long-running public clash ended Dr. Kim Thorburn’s tenure as Spokane regional health officer, she’s about to run for office against the chairman of the board that terminated her contract.

Thorburn has filed candidacy paperwork with the state Public Disclosure Commission, declaring that she’s running for Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke’s seat in 2008. As a county commissioner, she would automatically have a seat on the Spokane Regional Health Board.

“I’m going to be really curious to see where she’s coming from on this,” said Mielke, who said he’ll be running for re-election.

Mielke chaired the health board last fall when it voted to end Thorburn’s nine-year contract, a move reflecting what board members described as unspecified administrative problems and a communication breakdown. The decision capped a yearlong evaluation process during which board members complained about perceived arrogance by Thorburn and criticized her attire.

“It just wasn’t a good fit,” Mielke said Wednesday.

The Nov. 15 vote stunned Thorburn and dozens of her supporters, some of whom shouted “Shame on you!” as the decision was announced by board member Mary Verner, now running for Spokane mayor. At that meeting, some in the crowd vowed to oust Mielke at the next election.

Read the full print story here.

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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