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Day: January 16, 2015

Agenda for Keizer City Council meeting

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

CITY OF KEIZER MISSION STATEMENT

KEEP CITY GOVERNMENT COSTS AND SERVICES TO A MINIMUM BY PROVIDING CITY SERVICES TO THE COMMUNITY IN A COORDINATED, EFFICIENT, AND LEAST COST FASHION

AGENDA

KEIZER CITY COUNCIL

REGULAR SESSION

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

7:00 p.m.

Robert L. Simon Council Chambers

Keizer, Oregon

1. CALL TO ORDER

2. ROLL CALL

3. FLAG SALUTE

4. SPECIAL ORDERS OF BUSINESS

5. COMMITTEE REPORTS

a. RESOLUTION – Amending the Keizer Rapids park Community Build Project Task Force – Amending R2013-2342; Repealing R2013-2408

RESOLUTION – Amending the Community Build Task Force (KRP3) Fundraising Committee; Amending R2013-2409

RESOLUTION – Amending the Community Build Task Force (KRP3) Public Relations Committee; Amending R2013-2410

RESOLUTION – Amending the Community Build Task Force (KRP3) Design and Special Features Committee; Amending R2013-2412

RESOLUTION – Amending the Community Build Task Force (KRP3) Children’s Committee; Amending R2013-2411; Repealing R2014-2418

6. PUBLIC TESTIMONY

This time is provided for citizens to address the Council on any matters other than those on the agenda scheduled for public hearing.

7. PUBLIC HEARINGS

a. Keizer Station Area C Master Plan Amendments

b. RESOLUTION – Forming Willow Lake View Street Lighting Local Improvement District

ORDINANCE – Spreading Assessments to Willow Lake View Street Lighting Local Improvement District

c. RESOLUTION – Exemption of the Brand Name Specification Purchase of Goods from Competitive Bidding and Purchasing Brand Name Specifications Materials From Leathers and Associates for Big Toy Play Structure at Keizer Rapids Park

8. ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION

9. CONSENT CALENDAR

a. RESOLUTION – Authorizing City Manager to Sign the Production Studio Administration Agreement

b. RESOLUTION – Authorizing Chief of Police to Enter Into Police Firearms Range Use Agreement with City of Dallas

c. RESOLUTION – Authorizing City Manager to Execute Agreement for Public Exhibition of Art with Jim Johnson

d. RESOLUTION – Authorizing City Manager to Execute Agreement for Public Exhibition of Art with Joseph Mross

e. RESOLUTION – Authorizing City Manager to Execute Agreements for Public Exhibition of Art with Jim Dementro

f. RESOLUTION – Restating the City of Keizer Cafeteria Plan Under Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code

g. RESOLUTION – Authorizing the Mayor and City Manager to Enter Into Amendment Number 01 to Intergovernmental Agreement for Right of Way Services (Verda Lane at Chemawa Road)

h. RESOLUTION – Authorizing City Manager to Award and Enter Into an Agreement with C&M Excavation and Utilities LLC for Water Main Replacement Project

i. Approval of December 1, 2014 Regular Session Minutes

j. Approval of December 8, 2014 Work Session Minutes

k. Approval of December 15, 2014 Regular Session Minutes

10. COUNCIL LIAISON REPORTS

11. OTHER BUSINESS

This time is provided to allow the Mayor, City Council members, or staff an opportunity to bring new or old matters before the Council that are not on tonight’s agenda.

12. WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS

To inform the Council of significant written communications.

13. AGENDA INPUT

January 26, 2015

5:30 p.m. – City Council Work Session

Council Teambuilding/Communications

February 2 2015

7:00 p.m. – City Council Regular Session

14. ADJOURNMENT

Upon request, auxiliary aids and/or special services will be provided. To request services, please contact us at (503)390-3700 or through Oregon Relay at 1-800-735-2900 at least two working days (48 hours) in advance.

Boys, girls dole out losses to McKay in pool

Ellie Miller swims the butterfly leg of the 200 medley relay. Miller’s team won their race in the McKay meet Thursday, Jan. 8. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Ellie Miller swims the butterfly leg of the 200 medley relay. Miller’s team won their race in the McKay meet Thursday, Jan. 8. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Celtic girls and boys swimming teams picked up their second wins of the week over the McKay Royal Scots Thursday, Jan. 8.

“We’re finally getting back in shape. Because of the early start with the three new teams, we’re just starting to get the hang of things,” said Marcos Goodman.

The boys won their side of the meet 115-43, the girls won 131-27.

Goodman won the 100 backstroke with a time of 1:12.77 in the McKay meet. He was also part of the winning (1:47.49) 200 free relay team.

Goodman is hoping to drop his time in the backstroke to around 1:02 by the time the district meet rolls around, but already shaved off six seconds since the season began.

He said the team is seeing the dividends of becoming more of a family in and out of the pool.

“I want the seniors to inspire the freshmen this year because our freshmen are fantastic. I’m really proud of where we’re going with the season. Our distance swimmers are amazing this year,” Goodman said.

Other winners for the boys were: Tanner Hughes in the 200 individual medley in 2:29.69; Dean Parker in the 50 free in 26.71 and the 100 breast in 1:15.74; Isaiah Holt in the 100 butterfly in 1:11.15; Evan Alger in the 100 free in 1:00.37 and the 500 free in 6:20.50; and Hughes, Parker, Holt and Alger in the 400 freestyle relay in 4:04.44.

Head Coach Casey Lewin singled out Hughes for his improvement in the IM.

“He’s been putting in a lot of work on his breaststroke and he’s starting to see his times drop in that race,” Lewin said.

In girls races, senior Josie Ellis said the team’s relay performances keep getting better.

“All the swimmers in those races times have dropped tremendously and they’re putting out 100 percent effort in the pool,” Ellis said.

Ellis won the 50 free in 28.49 at the McKay meet, but said the she’s still not where she wants to be.

“My goal is under 25 seconds. I also want to get under a minute in the 100 free. I’m at 1:02, but I’m still trying to make those last couple of seconds go away,” she said.

Ellis was part of a winning 200 free relay team that included Sara Eckert, Samantha Williams and Marissa Kuch with a combined time of 1:52.73. She was also lead-off in the winning (4:08.50) 400 free relay team with Eckert, Anjelica Glassey and Kuch.

Other winners for McNary included: Glassey, Bailey White, Ellie Miller and Williams in the 200 medley relay; Glassey in the 200 free in 2:31.37 and 100 backstroke in 1:14.38; Kuch in the 200 IM in 2:18.47 and 100 free in 55.21; Abby McCoy in the 100 butterfly in 1:22.63; and Kiana Briones in the 100 brest in 1:20.64.

Despite a spate of illness that, Lewin said, seems to have attacked most everyone on the team, he’s pleased that a number of swimmers are either putting up personal best times or are right on pace with where they were before winter break.

“We’ve had several freshmen who have been hanging out in the junior varsity time slots that are starting to put pressure on some of our varsity kids. That’s good motivation for our varsity swimmers,” Lewin said.

(Editor’s note: The headline of the swimming story in the Jan. 9 edition of the Keizertimes mistakenly identified McKay as the team McNary faced Tuesday, Jan. 6. The story said it was North Salem. The headline was incorrect.)

Hearing for Area C next Tuesday

A sign gives notice of next week's hearing at city hall about proposed development for Keizer Station Area C, seen here in the background. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
A sign gives notice of next week’s hearing at city hall about proposed development for Keizer Station Area C, seen here in the background. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Keizer Station Area C is the subject of a public hearing again next week.

A revised proposal for apartments and a retirement community facility will be discussed during the Jan. 20 Keizer City Council meeting. The meeting is a day later than usual due to Monday being Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The 7 p.m. meeting takes place in council chambers at Keizer Civic Center, 930 Chemawa Road NE.

The area in question drew plenty of attention a few years back, when plans called for a large retail outlet – believed at the time to be Walmart – to build a 116,000 square foot store.

A size limit of 80,000 square feet for retail space was subsequently put into place. Mountain West Investments and Bonaventure Senior Housing LLC have submitted the revised application for land owned by Oregon Territory Development and Jerold and Kathleen Egner. The portion impacted would be about 17 acres, or half of Area C.

The proposal was originally planned to be brought to council last month, before veteran councilors Jim Taylor, Joe Egli and longtime mayor Lore Christopher left their seats. However, some updates were needed and thus the issue is coming up next week.

Even with the delay, the staff report wasn’t finished until late Tuesday afternoon. The overall package sent to councilors is 567 pages, including a 70-page staff report. The Keizertimes received a copy of the package Tuesday evening.

Sam Litke, the senior planner for Keizer, said the new applicants were able to use the previously approved Area C master plan as a starting point. That plan, amended several times and the subject of a Land Use Board of Approvals (LUBA) hearing, was approved in April 2013.

Litke said changes since the proposal was submitted last fall include new traffic impact analysis and storm drainage analysis, both done last month.

“They had to redo the traffic impact analysis (TIA),” Litke said. “They did it in December. The project went from large format retail to multi-family use. The previous (TIA) was the previous one from the 2010 proposal.”

Infrastructure and other improvements would be the financial responsibility of the applicants.

“The TIA has identified improvements to the transportation system to mitigate the impacts created by the proposed development,” the staff report reads in part.

What happens next with the new proposal should be a bit clearer come next week.

“This could be done on Tuesday or there could be more public hearings,” Litke said. “It’s up to council. They can make a decision on Tuesday.”

While a majority of the already approved master plan would remain unchanged, key alterations in the new proposal include a 53,000 square foot medical facility being replaced with a 150-unit senior living retirement facility. In addition, the number of buildings, design and specific location have been modified. Plans submitted last fall call for Mountain West to put in 180 apartments on both sides of an expanded McLeod Lane, with some apartments adjacent to a 154-unit Bonaventure senior retirement community facility.

The staff report lists 80 conditions of approval. Though the proposal focuses on the retirement community and apartments, previously approved portions are still valid.

“The mix of uses proposed, with the exception of the senior living facility, is similar to what was approved in the 2011 and 2013 approvals,” the staff report reads in part. “This includes office, restaurant(s), retail uses and multi-family development throughout the site. The mix of uses complies with the code’s requirements for balancing retail and non-retail/multi-family development and can be adequately served with infrastructure. The findings in the 2011 and 2013 master plan approvals determining that the mix of uses was appropriate, relied upon Area C’s zoning, the (Keizer Station Plan’s) allocation of 135,000 square feet of retail to Area C, the intent of Area C to be an economic engine and the variety of uses in Area C. None of these elements of appropriateness have been modified by the proposed master plan, so the findings remain valid and are consistent with this provision as well as with the purpose of the mixed use zone that encourages a variety of uses.”

During an October meeting with neighbors, representatives from both Bonaventure and Mountain West made it clear their respective companies have no interest in developing the commercial portion of Area C.

“We’re thrilled to be here,” Ben Settecase with Bonaventure said at the time. “We’re excited about the possibility of amending the Area C master plan. It would be a first for us (in Keizer). We have our roots in the greater Salem area. We’re heavily invested in (our facilities) and the communities they’re located in.”

Brian Moore from Mountain West expressed similar thoughts at the meeting.

“The most important thing to understand is we’re only developing a portion (of Area C),” Moore said. “We only control some of the property. We don’t control much of it. The area that is commercial we don’t control and we don’t plan to develop.”

Moore said plans call for three-story buildings with amenities such as a fitness center, pool, outdoor recreational area, a sports court, playground areas and carports.

“This will not be low-income housing,” he said. “We are seeking to achieve the highest rents available in the market.”

Settecase noted the senior living proposal calls for a footprint of 55,000 square feet, with 160,000 total square feet of space since the facility will be one level in places and up to four levels in other places.

Moore estimated it would take 12 to 14 months from the time of approval until the first units would be done.

What’cha got cooking, Cafe 159?

Olivia Berger rolls out pizza dough in preparation for a meal at McNary's Cafe 159. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Olivia Berger rolls out pizza dough in preparation for a meal at McNary’s Cafe 159. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The margherita pizza is divine, extra cheesy and with a crust that is hearty, but not overfilling. The Thai chicken slice is a tad overdone, but more flavorful for it. The main course was preceded by a salad of leafy greens, cranberries, almonds and feta cheese,  topped with just the right amount of vinagerette that brought out the best of the other ingredients. Fresh-made mint chocolate and strawberry ice cream that arrived for dessert at the perfect time, and with a smile. Both flavors are sumptuous, a delightful combination of cool and refreshing.

If McNary High School’s young chefs prove consistent, Cafe 159 might very well become the hottest lunch ticket in Keizer.

“It’s like getting spoiled in the middle of the day,” said teacher Marrla Wilkinson as she sat down in  the bistro section of Room 159 at McNary. Thursday, Jan. 8, was only the second sit-down service for the seven Lady Celts who run Cafe 159, but Wilkinson was one of the lucky ones making her second visit.

“The first time was in November and it was a Thanksgiving meal with turkey, gravy and some sides,” said senior Makenzie Young-Jackson, one of the chefs and servers.

Not so long ago, such service was something of a pipe dream. The McNary culinary offerings were much more minimal due to a lack of proper facilities – think electric stove tops and ovens found in residential kitchens.

“We were making mac and cheese out of a box,” said Young-Jackson, who has been enrolling in culinary classes since her freshman year. “Now, we’re making homemade ice cream and pizza dough from scratch.”

“It’s more like a restaurant, and all of our techniques have taken that big step forward,” said Regan Comstock, a junior who will graduate in June.

The kitchen facilities were renovated as part of a Career and Technical Education Revitalization grant through the Oregon Department of Education.

“The new kitchen has given the students exposure to equipment they will see in the industry: convection ovens, flat top grills and warming/proofing ovens. We have also configured the room so that we have the centers that are represented in industry: bake station, hot line, cold line, dining room,” said Sheri Bond, McNary’s culinary arts teacher.

McNary senior Cheyenne Shepherd said the remodel has changed the way the team behind Cafe 159 thinks about cooking.

“When we were cooking for ourselves, we didn’t think much about how the food looked, but the feedback we’ve gotten has been how much people like how the whole meal feels like what they would find at a sit-down restaurant. That means it has to look good,” Shepherd said.

From planning to prep to plating and service, the culinary team, which includes Olivia Berger, Jolie Larimer, Valeria Sanchez and Sami Trowbridge, has a hand in all of it. On the days when bistro service is offered, they give up their own lunches to prepare for customers.

They are assisted by Chef Russ Langstadt, who mentors the girls and tries to create an atmosphere similar to what they would encounter in real-world settings.

“I want to give a life skill to those who don’t want to cook professionally, and I want to take the ones who do want to cook professionally and help them get there,” Langstadt said.

That means paying special attention to knife skill and basic cooking methods, but exposing the students to the wide range of foods available is of utmost importance.

“Like with the margherita pizza, today,” Langstadt said. “Many of the girls had never even heard of it before. I also want them to understand what it means to cook from scratch.”

Bond said the team is hoping to offer sit-down service twice a month for faculty members in the short term, but there’s a bigger vision in the offing.

“We are very much looking forward to opening to the community. We will need to figure out exactly which days we will operate, and then the best way to let the community know. But, we do need to work from reservations as our budget doesn’t really allow for us to cook large amounts of food in hope that someone comes,” she said.

While the young women behind Cafe 159 are picking up hands-on skills that might help in a variety of professions, there’s also more to it than what happens behind the kitchen doors.

“It’s the one class I enjoy going to. If it wasn’t for this class, I wouldn’t really know what I would want to do,” Comstock said.

William Ray Hanson

Hanson
Hanson

William Ray Hanson (Bill), 93, beloved husband, father and grandfather, passed away peacefully January 11, 2015 with his family by his side. He was born in Great Falls, Mont. to Ada and Emil Hanson on March 15, 1921.

Bill met his high school sweetheart, Lois Carlson, in 1939 and they married in 1943. Bill and Lois felt the luckiest of all people to have had 71 happy years together. Their daughter, Kathryn, was born in 1948 and son Kenneth in 1951.

Following graduation from the University of Montana with a degree in Industrial Engineering, Bill spent two years in the service in World War II and was awarded the Purple Heart. In 1946 Lois and Bill moved to Seattle, where he began a career that always involved “numbers” in many applications, such as financial reports, budgets and the stock market.

After some time at Boeing, Bill moved to Virginia Mason Hospital in a business services capacity. This led to a year in Berkeley, Calif. to earn a Master’s degree in Public Health, with a major in Hospital Administration. The move back to Seattle involved a three-month internship in Salem.

Those three months became a lifetime. Bill began at the State Hospital as Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, then Salem General Hospital Administrator, leading to a position as a legislative fiscal analyst for the state of Oregon.

Bill belonged to several organizations, including Salem Convention and Visitors Association, Oregon Employees Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, Salem General Hospital Board of Directors, Fraternal Orders of Elks and Eagles, Disabled American Veterans and the American Heart Association Board of Directors. He was elected to membership in the American College of Hospital Administrators.

A private family remembrance service will be held at Mt. Crest Abbey Mausoleum. The family sends a special thank you to Gentiva Hospice for their care and caring. Assisting the family was Virgil T. Golden Funeral Service.

Don’t say Islam is violent

By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS

Here’s what I love about the French: They’ve long understood the dangers presented by radical Islam. French President Francois Hollande swiftly called the deadly shooting at Paris’ Charlie Hebdo magazine “an act of exceptional barbarity,” without doubt a terrorist attack. There was no hedging. The Socialist leader didn’t engage in the sort of blather White House spokesman Josh Earnest offered on MSNBC shortly after the shootings. Earnest called the attack a “terrible act of violence,” but not necessarily terrorism.

He repeated the mantra that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Given that the shooters proclaimed “Allahu akbar” (God is great) and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad,” Earnest came across like an addict in denial.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations knew better than to throw out the “religion of peace” line. In its statement, CAIR condemned the shootings as an assault on free speech. CAIR supports free speech, “even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures.”

Back to Hollande, who understood how to react to the carnage. No hand-wringing about welcoming people of all faiths. No need to state the obvious —that most Muslims don’t go around killing cartoonists. No hesitation to call this rampage what it was.

The shootings of journalists in their office were meant to make critics hesitate before stating what they think and believe. When these masked murderers shot cartoonists and police officers, they were warning the world that you cannot criticize radical Islam without risking your very skin.

You could call one work of former Jyllands-Posten culture editor Flemming Rose’s Denmark’s version of Charlie Hebdo. In 2005, Rose ran 12 largely unflattering cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad.

A year later, after two imams circulated the cartoons — along with others not published in the Danish paper — violence erupted in the Middle East. In 2008, Danish police arrested three men for plotting to behead a cartoonist who depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban. To show their support for free speech, 17 Danish newspapers reprinted the 2005 cartoons.

For his trouble, Rose won a reputation for being an unreasonable man of questionable judgment. As he told me in 2008, some Europeans believe “you shouldn’t offend Muslims because they are so weak, they are so immature (and) they are such a different kind of minority that if you treat them like everybody else, they will go wild.” Rose was astonished that Islamists had no problem with the message, “If you say we are violent, we are going to kill you.”

Whatever you do, do not say that Islam is not a religion of peace.

In solidarity, media across the globe should be reproducing the work of slain cartoonists Stephane Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac and Jean Cabut. Rose wrote in Politico on Wednesday, “In the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdokillings, news publications in the United States and around the world were publishing blurred images of the Muhammad cartoons so as not to offend.” Now you know why these terrorists shot French journalists and their police protection.

(Creators Syndicate)

Climate change hurts the valley

By CAMILA THORNDIKE
and 
DAN GOLDEN

The region’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, viticulture and forestry—all of which are climate-sensitive.  Summers are hotter and dryer with rains occurring as storms, rather than replenishing drizzles. Snowpack is decreasing.  Less water for irrigation, increasing incidence of pests and disease, and growing competition from weeds threaten local agriculture. It is becoming less attractive to grow some of the region’s most popular wine varietals.  In the forest, the range and growth rates of trees such as Douglas fir are increasingly restricted, diminishing the profitability of forestry.  Hot summers and more particulate matter from forest fires severely impact the health of the elderly and those with respiratory problems.

But these hardships are tiny compared to the challenges our children and grandchildren face if we fail to act on climate change. Every reputable authority—from the Pentagon to the United Nations—warns that our current trajectory will lead to unprecedented social, economic and military crises. If we cannot secure a transition from fossil fuels before the end of the decade, it will not be possible for future generations to adapt.

Fortunately, the solution is in sight. Oregon has the rare opportunity to lead our country and the world with the policy economists and climatologists say we need. We can hold out-of-state polluters accountable for climate change with a price on carbon, either by charging them a fee or by requiring them to buy permits before they burn fossil fuels.

On Dec. 8, the Northwest Economic Research Center at Portland State University presented to the legislature their long-awaited study on the impacts of a state carbon pollution fee in Oregon.  It showed a significant reduction in carbon pollution and a negligible effect on our economy.  Another study, conducted by Regional Economic Models Inc., predicts that a national carbon tax would create 450,000 new jobs in our region by 2025–—if all the revenue were returned to citizens as a dividend.

Buckminster Fuller once said that a problem adequately stated is very nearly a problem solved.  Our problem is not a shortage of solar panels or ethanol or hybrid cars, nor is it an abundance of gas and oil pipelines. Our problem is underpriced fossil fuels. We do not pay their hidden costs when we fill our tanks—that comes later, in the form of emergency drought relief, hurricane cleanup and forest fires. If polluters were accountable for these costs, a price signal would reverberate throughout our economy. It would reward smart decisions and punish wasteful ones. Both proven and novel energy alternatives would attract new capital. Nothing but a price on carbon can spark the systemic transformation we need, and that’s because it targets the problem at its source.

The 2015 Oregon Legislature should hold the polluters accountable for the damage they do to the Willamette Valley economy by making them pay to pollute.  And 100 percent of the revenue should be distributed evenly among all Oregonians, because the natural beneficiaries are the victims of climate change—all of us.

(Camila Thorndike is executive director of Oregon Climate. Dan Golden is policy director of Oregon Climate.)

Washington’s psychological polarization

By MICHAEL GERSON

As the 114th Congress begins in earnest, there are a number of things —such as tax and immigration reform and trade agreements—that political adults would like to get done for the good of the country. A commitment to incrementalism and compromise can be found, with sufficient diligence, among individual lawmakers in both parties.

But these scattered good intentions are as unlikely to cohere as dry sand.  This is not just a function of policy disagreement. President Obama and congressional Republicans hold fundamentally different views of recent political history, particularly the outcome of the November midterm election.

The GOP is feeling the momentum of its best congressional performance since the New Deal, and Senate Republicans are enjoying the pleasing weight of committee gavels in their hands. Elected Republicans generally believe that Obama was humbled by voters and should act like it—that he should make concessions commensurate to his losses, as President Clinton did following his 1994 midterm defeat.

Obama, in contrast, seems to view the November outcome as his final liberation from a dirty political game characterized by complete Republican bad faith. He finds no repudiation in the verdict of an unrepresentative, midterm electorate. And he is no longer required to pretend that he cares about the political fate of the 4th District of Podunk. His reaction to the election has been to seek new avenues of executive action as an alternative to congressional dysfunction. So far, he has been politically rewarded.

This type of polarization seems more psychological than ideological. Obama and congressional Republicans are inhabiting alternative political realities, with no overlap in which compromise might take root. The two sides are not simply disagreeing about the proper path up the mountain; they see a different mountain in a different place.

According to Frances Lee, an insightful political scientist at the University of Maryland, diverging interpretations of an election are not unusual. “The meaning of elections,” she told me, “is almost always contested.” One much-studied example is the 1984 presidential election, in which Ronald Reagan had a number of structural advantages, including an easy path to renomination and a strong economy. Over time, however, interpretations of the election outcome “were winnowed down to a focus on (Walter) Mondale’s mistake in saying he would raise taxes and his closeness to special interests,” according to Lee. The narrative of Mondale squandering the election won out.

Political scientists call this a “constructed explanation.” Election outcomes are not self-interpreting. “In reality,” said Sir Henry Sumner Maine, “the devotee of Democracy is much in the same position as the Greeks with their oracles. All agreed that the voice of an oracle was the voice of a god; but everybody allowed that when he spoke he was not as intelligible as might be desired.”

 As to the 2014 election: “It may well be,” Lee told me, “that no single conventional wisdom will ever emerge. … Faced with ambiguity, people tend to believe what they want to believe. When people are surrounded by social networks that also want to believe the same thing, their views will harden further.”

Lee locates this disagreement within a broader electoral trend—a three-decade period of very close two-party competition. “I’d say that 2014 has done nothing to shake the two parties’ confidence that they can win control of U.S. national institutions. No party sees itself as a permanent minority. No party seems to believe it needs to fundamentally reform itself in order to compete. Post-2014, Republicans believe they have been given a vote of confidence from the voters and that Obama has been repudiated. Democrats are demoralized, but they don’t see themselves as having ‘lost’ the American people. Certainly, Democrats have no less confidence than before that they can win the 2016 presidential election.”

This is an underestimated source of dysfunction in American politics: The parties do not view themselves as losers, even when they lose. The 2012 election should have demonstrated to Republicans (among other lessons) that they need a seriously revised outreach to minorities, women and working-class voters. The 2014 election should have demonstrated to Democrats (among other lessons) that a reputation for unreconstructed liberalism seriously limits their geographic appeal.

Both parties could gain electoral advantages by realistically addressing their weaknesses, which would also open up the possibility of legislative progress. But everyone, unfortunately, seems to like what they see in the mirror.

(Washington Post Writers Group)

Putin’s follies have harsh consequences

The Financial Times of London reported the other day that Russia’s former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has said of Russia: “There will be a fall in living standards. It will be painful. Protest activity will increase.” What prompted Kudrin to make such a statement?

Not having heard a lot of talk about Russia of late, what’s going on now?  The Western sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s banks, combined with the drastic drop in oil prices and the flight of capital, also caused by the sanctions, means that Russia is realizing a rather dramatic difference between money flowing into the nation’s economy and what it must have in its reserves to pay debts and finance its imports.

Putin can do little if anything about his country’s plight as long as the Western sanctions are in place, while ending them would require him to pull out of Crimea and leave the independent Ukraine alone.  But, Putin would have to admit that his adventure into Ukraine was wrong and that means the long knives in the Kremlin, reputed to be sharp as razors for centuries, and never hesitated for use when “needed,” could be used to cut him from office.

So, while at present he’s been immensely popular, and has pulled many a shenanigan to keep the “wolves” from his door, if Putin does not back down, Russia will continue to pay a steep price.  It’s well known that a lot of Russians have become world travelers, can now afford to own a car, like to purchase Western goods and prefer the status of living like Americans (if there’s not a whole lot of pretend and exaggeration in that claim).

In the meantime, to keep his head-of-government-position, Putin has undertaken some reckless adventures, including the takeover of Crimea and the invasion of Ukraine.Recently, too, he’s been sending ships and planes into foreign waters and air space and being cheered at home by the Russian hawks that are always looking for the chance to reclaim U.S.S.R. power and glory now found only in the history books.

Yet, even though Putin appears to be in that proverbial position between a rock and a hard place, he has another Russian bear up his sleeve. More important to the average Russian than travel overseas and Western goods is…vodka!  The price of vodka has increasingly gone up and up of late and Putin has ordered his government to rein in its rising cost.  He knows that its cost now exceeds the ability of the average Russian to buy it and this condition could seriously threaten his popularity.

Russia’s economy is expected to slide deeper into recession this year.  It’s predicted that in 2015 inflation will reach at least 10 percent and probably higher given the present standoff over Putin’s incursions and the sanctions that have followed.

So, what’s a guy with Putin’s ambitions to do? Perhaps, all things considered, and factoring into decision-making over the evermore aggressive and threatening Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other less well-known jihadists, the smartest action Putin could take under present circumstances is to move to ally Russia more closely with the West.

The  West, meaning Western Europe, Canada and the U.S., should be viewed more seriously by Russia as its friends as Russia’s greatest threat presents itself not from the West but from Russia’s southern borders.  His first step to improved relations, although a tightrope act for him at home now, is to get out of Crimea and Ukraine to reassure the West that he is a responsible player on the world stage and deserves saving from the terrorists who see each Russian through the same jaundiced eyes every other infidel is seen by them.

(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)