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Spin Control Files: Reagan’s big visit to Spokane

Over the weekend, we ran the second installment of a new feature called "Spin Control Files," which is an occasional look at some of the people and events that shaped Washington politics over the years.

The editors thought it would be nice to add another feature that highlights local history for our readers, and they asked me to do it because I've been around long enough to remember some of the people and events. (It was a nice way to ask me without suggesting I'm old.). 

We call it occasional because we don't have a regular schedule, but they'll probably appear about once a month. The first one explained who the Sam Guess Memorial Bridge is named for. (Hint: His initials were S.G.) The second, about the 1986 visit Ronald Reagan made to Spokane, can be found inside the blog.

No hidden agenda to either story. Someone asked me about the bridge a little while ago, and I recently ran into another reporter who covered the visit.

Redistricting Commish: Not quite at impasse

OLYMPIA — The panel trying to redraw boundaries for the state's congressional and legislative boundaries made some progress over the last week — they've gone from "impasse" to "bottle necks."

But members couldn't promise when they'd  have a final plan, and acknowledge they are running short on time.

Impasse was the word used last week to describe efforts to draw legislative boundaries from Pierce County north around the Puget Sound. This week, Commissioner Tim Ceis said he and Commissioner Slade Gorton had narrowed their differences "to just a couple of issues."

The other two commissioners are working on legislative boundaries to the south, and have made "nominal gains and some tentatitive agreements," Commissioner Tom Huff said.

"We're trying as best as we can," Commissioner Dean Foster said. "Sometimes we run into bottle necks."

When Chairwoman Lura Powell asked if they would have maps to show the public at the commission's Dec. 13 meeting, Foster replied: "I'm not making any promises."

The panel's four voting members have split into subcommittees in an effort to work out significant differences between a Democratic plan and a Republican plan to redraw the state's 49 legislative boundaries. They must redraw the legislative districts, and come up with a congressional map that adds the state's new congressional district, by Dec. 31. If they don't come up with plans that at least three of the four can agree to, the task goes to the state Supreme Court.

David Anderson, an Olympia resident who has been following the redistricting process all year, suggested the committee was hung up because members are meeting in secret while trying to protect incumbents and create politically safe districts for one party or the other.

"We have no idea what's causing these bottlenecks," said Anderson, the only person to testify at Tuesday's hearing. "It's the people's business. When you isolate yourselves from the rest of the public and public input, it creates a lot of cynicism."

Redistricting panel reworking legislative lines

OLYMPIA—In an effort to resolve conflicts over the redrawing Washington's political boundaries, the State Redistricting Commission is scheduling weekly meetings and splitting up into "bipartisan" subcommittees.

At their monthly meeting Tuesday, commissioners acknowledged they are far apart on plans for legislative and congressional boundaries. Legislative maps proposed last month by the commission's two Republican members have major differences from the maps proposed by the two Democratic members.

And they're running out of time. State law requires at least three members of the commission agree to plans to be submitted to the Legislature by January.

All four agreed to a plan by Commissioner Tom Huff to split into bipartisan  teams of one Republican and one Democratic appointee and try to come up with acceptable legislative boundaries for different regions of the state. Slade Gorton, the Senate Republicans' appointee, will work with Tim Ceis, the Senate Democrats' pick; Huff, the House Republicans' appointee will work with Dean Foster, the House Democrats' pick.

They'll start with the West Side, one group starting from the north and the other from the southwest and try rework boundaries for those legislative districts. Then they'll move on to other regions in Central and Eastern Washington. The legislative maps proposed last month have significant differences for Spokane and some southeast counties. (Click here to read a previous post on how the different plans affect Spokane and surrounding areas.)

"I don't think I'd liked to be here at Christmas time," Huff said.

But that will likely require meetings at least once a week, and more often if they reach some decisions on different regions. Under state law, the commission can meet with as little as 24 hours notice.

By meeting into December, however, the commission could run into logistical problems. On Nov. 28, the Legislature is scheduled to begin a special session to discuss budget problems. There may be competition for the hearing room the commission uses in the Senate office building that allows its meetings to be broadcast on TVW.

Foster said he wasn't too worried about scheduling problems: "The Legislature may be pretty accommodating to us."

Redistricting: A numbers game?

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton had a logical, sensible suggestion last week when releasing his proposal for Washington’s new congressional districts.
So logical and sensible, in fact, that it has almost no chance of happening….

To read the rest of this item, go inside the blog.

Redistricting: Spokane districts could change a little or a lot

Slade Gorton and Commission Chairwoman Lura Powell review a redistricting map.

OLYMPIA — The state Redistricting Commissioner released its first round of maps for congressional and legislative districts, as described in the story here.

Maps are online at the commission's website .

While most of the public testimony revolved around creating a congressional district in which racial and ethnic minorities are more than 50 percent of the population, among the more interesting things is the way the four commissioners treat the legislative districts in and around Spokane County. The Democrats on the commission seem intent on doing away with the current 9th District, forcing all of those GOP legislators into another district where they'd be running against  other Republicans.

Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, the appointee of Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, makes the most changes to boundaries inside Spokane County, esentially moving the 3rd District, a Democratic stronghold in central Spokane, to west Spokane and the West Plains.

Gorton denied this was an attempt to create GOP districts throughout the county. Instead, he insisted it was a way to make all the Spokane districts "competitive."

The congressional district lines are all over the map, so to speak, with some very interesting and innovative approaches to adding the new 10th District….

Gorton named to redistricting panel

Slade Gorton and Tom Huff in front of maps of the current congressional and legislative districts.

OLYMPIA — Former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton was named today to the panel that will redraw congressional and legislative boundaries because of the state's population growth.

Gorton, a three-term Republican senator and former state attorney general, was selected by Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt for a seat on the Redistricting Commission. Former state Rep. Tom Huff, R-Gig Harbor, was named to the panel by House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt.

They join Democratic appointees Dean Foster, former clerk of the House and a member of the 2001 redistrcting commission, and Tim Cies, former deputy mayor of Seattle. The four appointed members select a fifth commissioner to serve as the non-voting chairman.

As a legislator in the 1960s, Gorton was in the middle of a highly partisan fight over redistricting that tied up the Legislature for more than a month. Out of that fight came a state constitutional amendment that established the commission with appointees from each of the four legislative leaders and a non-voting chair. " don not believer there is any state…that does its redistricting in a better fashion," he said.

Washington will gain a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, and all nine of its current districts have too many people. It's too soon to tell where the 10th seat will go, but Eastern Washington will gain in the redrawing, Gorton said. Right now, two of the nine districts are located east of the Cascades. Because of population growth, one more district will either have to take in voters on both sides of the Cascades or extend up the Columbia River into Eastern Washington, he said.