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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control: 2012 campaigns threaten to overrun ‘11 elections

Turning on the television Monday evening created a sudden moment of panic. Had I slept, Rip Van Winkle-like, for months and awoke in January 2012? Seven Republican presidential candidates were on a stage in New Hampshire, taking questions from news media types and citizens, with panels of pundits dissecting their every utterance. Surely, the presidential election wasn’t some 17 months away.

So you’re running for office: Tips for politicians (yes, you)

Last week marked the official start of campaign season. Swarms of candidates filed for various offices and plunked down the necessary fees that go with some spots. Kudos for your public spiritedness and participation in the democratic process. But as my father always said, you pays your money and you takes your chances. Some candidates have been around the block once or twice already and know the basics. A few have been around the block so many times they’re starting to wear their own paths on the sidewalk.

Spin Control: Ladies, gentlemen, start your campaign engines

OK, candidates, listen up. Filing week starts Monday. Those of you who like the personal touch of filling out your forms and paying your fees in person can head down to your county elections office anytime through Friday afternoon. Turn in your form, pay the fee – 1 percent of the annual salary for the position you desire – and qualify for a spot on the August primary ballot. Remember, there may be some special requirements for a particular position, such as length of residence inside the borders of the particular city or district you wish to represent. Being eligible to vote is a pretty common one. Having a pulse is understood, even if it isn’t stated anywhere in the statutes, ordinances or bylaws.

Spin Control: List of Legislature non-stories plentiful

If there were a 12-step program for reporters to curb our addiction for stories we know aren’t going anywhere, I’d sign up in a heartbeat after the late, not-so-great legislative session. “Hi, my name is Jim, and I’m addicted to stupid ideas that I can’t help writing about.”

Workers’ comp becoming a yellow brick road-block

OLYMPIA – May might be the cruelest month in the state capital. The rain gives way only sporadically to sun breaks, momentarily lifting the gray gloom that shrouds the dome most days and giving everyone a glimpse of the snow-covered Olympics jutting up beyond a sparkling Budd Inlet. And then it’s gone, with most capital denizens the crankier for being reminded about what they are missing.

Spin Control: Tax amnesty a windfall, but where’s the outrage?

OLYMPIA – Business organizations regularly bemoan how little recognition, respect and support they get from the state. But evidence to the contrary was clear last week, when the state announced a “windfall” of some $321 million from a tax amnesty program. It seems that when there’s something fishy about what they’ve been doing, businesses get the benefit of the doubt that poor people don’t.

Spin Control: Birther fantasies are gift that keeps on giving

OLYMPIA – It was with deep sadness that I watched Wednesday as President Barack Obama released his birth certificate. For nearly two years, nothing has generated comments on the Internet version of this column like a reference to whether Obama was actually born in Hawaii, or in some other country, continent … or planet. A full-blown birther story could boost my “hits” significantly, and the posting of an audio clip in March 2009 featuring Orly Taitz questioning Chief Justice John Roberts at the University of Idaho on the issue once generated 3,000 hits in one day.

Spin Control: Lawmakers’ wisdom passeth all understanding

Legislators talk a lot. Sometimes, they come up with things that make one wonder if there should be a new television reality series, “$#@! Our Lawmakers Say.” They make interesting analogies, like Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, did last week while waxing effusive over the Senate’s version of the 2011-’13 general operating budget. It was so bipartisan as to be historic, he proclaimed.

Spin Control: Outlaw bikers may meet their match in Olympia

My image of the outlaw biker, that iconic bad boy of the latter half of the last century, lost a bit of its tarnish last week in an unusual setting: the governor’s office. Some folks who at least harbor desires to be thought of as outlaw bikers joined other motorcyclists and state legislators as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill forbidding cops from “profiling” them when they get their motors running and head out on the highway. Under the law, being on a motorcycle is not a reason for being pulled over … not that police would ever do that, mind you.

Spin Control: Let’s kick the canned phrase, lose the chant

Ping-ponging between the sobering budget hearings and the raucous budget protests of the past week has left me with a desire to get the legislators and demonstrators to the negotiating table to broker a deal. Not on the budget. I’m not smart enough to do that, and the session has yet to prove that anyone is. No, I’d like to broker a deal that each side would give up a phrase that got particularly tiresome as the week went on.

Spin Control: It’s time to serve up that great idea of yours

OLYMPIA – Two questions for the big thinkers out there: Do you have an idea how to improve Washington state in the future? Do you think it would stack up so well to other folks’ ideas that it could make the top 100? If so, a group calling itself 100 Ideas for Washington’s Future has a deal for you.

Spin Control: McCaslin was a man of character – and what a character he was

Many years ago, when I’d written something he enjoyed about low voter turnout, Bob McCaslin sent me an oversized reproduction of an editorial cartoon that summed up his feelings on the topic. A disheveled, cigar-smoking man slouches in an easy chair, beer can on belly, watching TV. His better-groomed wife is behind him in a coat, apparently just returned from the polls and talking on the phone. “No,” she says, “Mr. ‘Perfection’ didn’t vote because neither of the candidates met his high standards.”

Spin Control: State’s petition process remains unchanged

Left in the legislative ash heap last week was a bill to revise rules for initiative campaigns by charging as much as $500 to file a ballot measure and putting stricter rules on people paid to gather signatures. Like previous attempts to change ballot measure rules, SB 5297 brought out Tim Eyman and other initiative entrepreneurs who understandably don’t want the Legislature messing with a system they’ve figured out.

Spin Control: Corks pop at Boeing, but keep appeal history in mind

Despite the celebrating that has taken place since Boeing was declared the winner in the Air Force’s New Tanker Sweepstakes, it may be wise not to start adding all those jobs and money into the state’s moribund economy just yet. After all, the new tanker project has the qualities of a reverse vampire – very hard to bring to life, and easy to kill. Before the Pentagon’s announcement Thursday, the smart money, if there is such a thing in this long-running saga to replace the venerable KC-135, was actually on European Aerospace Defence and Space Inc.

Spin Control: Initiative filing fee a turn-of-the-century deal

OLYMPIA – As they do most years, legislators are considering possible changes to the state’s initiative system. That generates the usual shouts of alarm from populists who believe the process is a great bulwark of the citizenry, against either the Legislature’s inaction or its tyranny. Rules that would require more registration and better identification of people paid to stand outside Home Depot and cajole you into signing are debatable. But one change being proposed is pretty hard to argue.

Spin Control: Gregoire, Dorn vie for education responsibility

Whom do you hold responsible for the problems Washington schools have graduating kids who can read, write, calculate and be intellectually flexible enough to have a dozen careers before they retire? Put another way, whom do you blame for the fact that nearly 1 kid in 3 doesn’t graduate from high school, and among those who do, some go to college thinking a hypotenuse is one of those animals in tutus in “Fantasia” or that a dependent clause is a dead-beat relative?

Spin Control: Election watchdogs scramble to keep up

OLYMPIA – Talk of election shenanigans in 2010 was second last week to talk of budget disasters for 2011, with legislators considering tweaking state campaign disclosure laws that allow average folks to know the source of money being spent to persuade them to vote for Candidate Schmoe or against Candidate Schmuck. The state erects rules for people who give or take piles of campaign cash, much the way scientists erect walls in a maze to see if rats can find the way to the cheese. Research shows the rats quickly learn the fastest way through the maze, and if left alone for any length of time, chew through the walls to bypass the maze entirely.

Spin Control: How about trimming bloated rhetoric budget?

OLYMPIA – When the Legislature starts Monday, it would be nice if the first bill they passed would outlaw certain stock phrases that are already worn out. The much-needed Bill to Ban Overused Rhetoric might contain the following: