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Only 1 block - and 3 decades - to the Oregon Supreme Court

Only 1 block - and 3 decades - to the Oregon Supreme Court

From her window in the Oregon Supreme Court Building, the state’s newest Supreme Court justice can look across State Street in Salem to the Willamette University campus where her higher-education journey began 31 years ago.

Meagan Flynn, already Judge Flynn as an Oregon appellate court judge since October of 2014, was sworn in last week by Chief Justice Thomas Balmer after being named by Gov. Kate Brown to the state’s highest court. She’ll have a new office but the surroundings will be familiar since both the supreme and appellate courts share the same courtroom.

The governor said in a statement that “Flynn has earned a reputation as a smart and thoughtful judge while serving on the Oregon Court of Appeals and is regarded as fair-minded and compassionate.”

Indeed those who know her would echo that, particularly her parents who left her standing on the sidewalk in front of Willamette waving goodbye 31 years ago. And as Betsy and I drove away then and headed back to Seattle, past the Supreme Court building, Oregon’s oldest government building, we had no way of imagining it would be where she would eventually office.judgemeaganflynn

As readers of The Harp have guessed by now, this is a personal column, a reflection on our daughter, mother of two of our grandchildren, who wears the judge’s robe.

Meagan had a goal of being an attorney from early on because her role model was her cousin, Sheila McKinnon, who was then a successful Seattle attorney.

Some of the following is reflections about Meagan from an earlier column I did when she was appointed to the Court of Appeals judgeship.

I recalled that as she prepared to graduate from Holy Names Academy in Seattle, where she was salutatorian of her class, I urged her to apply to Stanford because her friend, who was valedictorian, was applying there.  

"It would be cool if you could say you were accepted to Stanford," I told her, even though I knew she had already decided she wanted to attend Willamette.

To my surprise, though likely not hers, she was accepted to Stanford and I feared she would decide she wanted to go there since it would have been a financial challenge for us at that time.

But the ducks on the stream at Willamette, which were the initial attraction the day she first visited the school (although its academic reputation and its law school had roles in the final decision), had already drawn her interest to Willamette.

Good thing, since that's where she met her husband to be, Dan Keppler, who was also intent on become an attorney, though eventually Gonzaga law school won out for both of them and after graduating they built partner-role practices at separate small firms in Portland. Along the way also came two daughters.

Meagan always had a competitive bent, which she usually did a good job of hiding, except as a seventh grader in Piedmont, CA, when she found that a male student was challenging her for top student. Her jaw always locked a bit when the male student’s name came up in conversations. The two of them ran for 8th grade class president (except the title was commissioner general) in a hotly contested race that she won, expressing smug pleasure at coming out on top.

The call from Governor Brown was the second from an Oregon governor for Meagan since then-Gov. John Kitzhauber was on the line one evening when she answered the phone. The story comes from her husband, Dan, since Meagan is not one to talk much about herself.

As Dan related of the telephone conversation: “’Hi, Meagan, this is John Kitzhauber.’ ‘Hi, Governor.’ ‘So do you want to be on the appellate court?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Congratulations, Judge.’”

Of course, due diligence had preceded the call, as it did with the appointment to the highest court late last month.

When she was sworn in to her Court of Appeals post in 2014, the judge administering the oath was the same judge whom she had gone to work for as a clerk 20 years earlier, soon after he had taken his oath as a then-new appeals court judge himself. He brought to her swearing-in session a picture of that first clerk-judge meeting in 1994.

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Meagan is taking her place on the state’s highest court as its youngest, as well as newest, member.

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Oregonians find little they'd like to emulate in Washington's liquor-privatization initiative

There won't be a liquor-privatization initiative on the ballot in Oregon this fall and there seems to be a growing sense that Oregonians have decided Washington voters signed off on a bad deal when they passed Initiative 1183 in the fall of 2011, taking their state out of the liquor business.

Officially, the Oregon-ballot effort died last week because major grocery chains that wanted the opportunity to sell liquor said they were giving up on any hope of collecting the necessary signatures to out the initiative before voters this fall. Those proponents of the Oregon initiative said they will continue seeking privatization of liquor sales through the Legislature or by putting a measure on the 2016 ballot.

But as Oregonians look north across the Columbia River, they apparently perceive that what Washington voters bought themselves was dramatically higher liquor taxes, a dramatic rise in alcohol-related emergency-room visits and small businesses being squeezed out of business.

When Washington voters approved the privatization of liquor sales, they did so with the promise of lower prices. Instead, they got sticker shock at the checkout counter while the state got a $200 million windfall.

Meanwhile, many of Washington's independent spirits retailers and craft distilleries, viewed as important economic engines in many local communities, were being squeezed out of the market.

And perhaps significantly, Costco, which put enough money behind the effort to pass the Washington initiative that some media stories referred to the ballot measure as "the Costco initiative," decided not to participate in the funding for an Oregon initiative campaign.

One aspect of the fallout in Oregon from passage of the Washington initiative has apparently been some change in the approach of the Oregon liquor control agency, which some have described as "loosening a bit" in its relations with private liquor sellers. Some of those retailers contacted in one survey said the agency was "doing a good job."

Plus, the agency has made friends, in part, by leaving the distinct impression that it views part of its mission as an economic development role with small businesses involved in producing or selling liquor, in marked contrast to the fact the new world liquor order in Washington has made clear that basically there are two distributors that control the flow of liquor nationally.

That prompted one Oregon observer to remark "who is likely to do a better job for consumers, the state or two big national companies?"

Meanwhile, a recent study noted just what Washington residents bought themselves by passing the initiative.

The most striking part of the study focused on the increase in alcohol-related emergency room visits in King County, which was chosen because it had the most available data. In the 16 months following liquor privatization, more than 5,500 alcohol-related visits were made to emergency rooms, 50 percent more than they expected, and an increase most significant among teens and young adults.

Plus there are now four times as many liquor outlets in Washington state as there were before the initiative's passage.

I am not really an objective observer in this discussion since I voted against the initiative, solely because I vote "no" on any complex initiative, as this one was. I have voted for only one initiative, a measure years ago that rolled back a sales-tax increase that the legislature had approved. It was a simple question: should the sales tax be rolled back.

My argument about initiatives has always been: measures that become law should emerge from the give and take of the legislative process, whereas most initiatives are basically written at a kitchen table by a half dozen people who have a cause, and a contrary voice is never permitted at the table. So a ballot measure emerges that represents only one side of an issue, And frequently hidden within its provisions is the excess that comes from single-sided discussion.

Welcome to a review of what happened with Initiative 1183.

And with respect to the view of Oregonians about what they see happening north of the Columbia River, there seems to be a growing sense that Washington residents screwed up in passing the initiative. And with that comes a satisfied sense that those Washington voters have no one to blame but themselves.

As I've noted in previous columns, the idea of writing the power of citizens to initiate legislation was considered for possible inclusions in the U.S. Constitution.

But Thomas Jefferson turned back the effort with the simple admonition that if the people had the power to legislate, governmental chaos would result.

Those who provided for the initiative process, primarily western states, weren't listening.

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State wine industry's signal charitable event reaches 25 with memorable gathering slated

Bob Betz, who as one of the state's most respected winemakers is co-chairing the 25th Auction of Washington Wines, recalls with a smile the first auction. "I bought two bottles for $60, and it was the live auction. And they were bottles of Oregon wine."

 

Much has transpired for both Betz, then already an established executive with Chateau Ste. Michelle winery, and the industry itself since that launch event. What was initially, and for the first 10 years, called the Auction of Northwest Wines because it was held in partnership with the equally young Oregon wine industry, now sees live-auction items bring in an average of $10,000.

 

Betz' co-chair for the 2012 event is Stein Kruse, president and CEO of Holland America Line, whose cruise ships take Washington wines to ports of call around the world. So as Betz has perhaps the longest-term perspective on the industry he became a part of in 1976 when he joined Chateau Ste. Michelle as director of marketing, it might well be said of Kruse that his company gives Washington wines their most far-flung exposure.

 
 

Sherri Swingle, Auction of Washington Wines' executive director, says that first auction   raised $20,000 and had 47 wineries participating. By last year, the auction raised $1.55 million, swelling the total the event has raised over the years to $26 million, with uncompensated care at Seattle Children's Hospital being the key beneficiary.

 

The auction organization came into existence in 1987, the same year as the Washington Wine Commission, the state agency created by the legislature to provide a voice for both wineries and grape growers in the state. The first wine auction was held the following year.

 

In a sense, the accomplishments of both the industry organization and the auction will be highlighted and honored at the August celebration when the three days of what is billed as the state's most prestigious charity wine event, for which Swingle is now finalizing details, unfold.

 

Swingle says more than 1,700 attendees are expected to be on hand for the auction gala on August 18 with about 500 at 10 winemaker dinners around the region the previous evening and about 1,000 at the picnic and barrel auction of limited-release wines on August 15.

 

But the role and contributions of what is now Chateau Ste. Michelle Wine Estates will be especially highlighted at what has traditionally been an annual award to a vintner and a grower each year. This year the awards are being combined, at the insistence of CEO Ted Baseler, who originally had been intended for an individual honor.

 

Baseler made it clear that the honor could not single him out, but needed to honor the Chateau Ste. Michelle team, both past and present.

 

Nevertheless, Baseler's role in not just the success of Chateau Ste. Michelle, but also the industry that he has made equal in importance to the success of his own company, are bound to be noted as the company he has presided over since 2001 is honored.

 

Baseler's involvement with the industry stretches back almost as far as Betz'. He joined Chateau Ste. Michelle in 1982 but had already spent several years as an account executive for the advertising agency that handled the winery's account.

 

Today the business, acclaimed twice in the past year as "Winery of the Year," has international relationships and is among the largest and fastest-growing wine companies in the country.

 

Betz spent 28 years with Chateau Ste. Michelle in a variety of positions in communications, sales and operations, eventually as vice president for winemaking research, remaining as Baseler's right-hand man until 2003, even though he and his wife, Cathy, had opened their own winery in 1997.

 

Betz, his wife and daughters had built the Betz Family Winery over 15 years, until its sale last year, into one of the state's most successful and respected wineries. He prefers to call it a partnership with the new owners, rather than a sale, since he remains as winemaker and he and his wife will remain as part of the management team while finally having "the one thing that has eluded us - time."

 

Event co-chair Kruse says he has "a small wine collection" but added "we buy wine in large quantities for our ships around the world and feature Washington wines in the Pinnacle Grill on 15 of our ships."

 

"The growth of the industry in this state, both in the quality and value of the wines, has been amazing to watch," he said.

 

That growth Kruse refers to was pointed up in the results of an economic impact study from the Washington Wine Commission this spring, which was described as "the most comprehensive such report ever produced," that showed dramatic growth in the value of the industry since 2007 despite the woes of the economy.

 

The report indicated the value of the industry to the state has leaped from $3 billion five years ago to $8.6 billion now and that the value nationally has gone from $4.7 billion to $14.9 billion.

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A look back over presidential primaries suggests some benefits in long campaigns

Concern among Republicans that the prolonged battle for their party's presidential nomination could have a lasting negative impact on the eventual nominee is intriguing given how struggles for the nominations of both parties used to unfold.

 

There is some understandable hand-wringing among GOP leaders who would like to see a wrap on the nomination battle so a presumptive nominee can begin to focus on campaigning against the president. But a look back would suggest it's the nature rather than the length of nomination battles in either party that wears on the voters.

 

And a student of history might reflect that something has been missing in recent presidential-election years. The process of presidential-preference primaries, born in Oregon in 1910 and originally viewed as empowering the people to choose their parties' candidates, has become a boring march to the inevitable for the past generation.

 

But 2012 may provide a revisiting of those campaigns in which the trail to the nomination led through Oregon in late May and on to the primaries' climax in California in early June.

 

It's the first time in 20 years that a June date in California and the quest for its huge pot of delegate gold has been possible. In 1996 California decided that its primary had become anti-climactic and moved it ahead to March so it could catch the heat of action.

 

Last summer, pronouncing that the experiment for California to compete for election dollars, high profile candidate appearances and perhaps also an increase in political clout had failed, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to restore the state's primary to June.

 

So ironically, the decision may have put California and its 172 delegates back in the eye of the campaign hurricane, a week after Texas bestows its 155 delegates, and the two, plus Oregon and a handful of other states in late May, could explain why all of the four candidates insist they are staying in the race.

 

An ironic reflection on past presidential-nomination contests is provided by the one in which Mitt Romney's father was a vital early figure. I haven't seen as much recollection as I thought there might be on the fact that Gov. George Romney wasn't only a hopeful for the 1968 GOP nomination, but had been viewed as almost the pre-emptive favorite heading into that year.

 

And had he not made the disastrous slip of explaining his change of heart to become an opponent of the Vietnam War as having been "brainwashed on Vietnam," Mitt Romney might now be running as part of a family political dynasty, ala the names Kennedy or Bush. And it might have been a campaign in which the issue of a Mormon in the White House had long ago been resolved.

 

The '68 campaign was also one in which, as I reflected several years ago, prominent figures from Washington state played key roles, a campaign that, as a young political writer, I had the opportunity to cover.

 

There were still three nomination hopefuls in the Democratic-nomination race by the time of that '68 Oregon Primary. And there would still have been three by the disastrous Democratic convention in Chicago had Robert Kennedy not been assassinated a week after Oregon, moments after acknowledging victory in the California primary.

 

Everest-conqueror Jim Whittaker of Seattle was an ever-present figure by Kennedy's side until the fateful moment in a hallway of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles when Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy.

 

Washington's former governor and U.S. Senator Dan Evans still well remembers the GOP convention in Miami and his role as the keynote speaker whose support was sought by both eventual nominee Richard Nixon and New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, who still had a chance at convention time. Nixon even suggested the vice presidency might accompany an endorsement from Evans, who chose instead to endorse Rockefeller.

 

The Republican primary effort that year, despite enduring up to the convention, as did the Democrats', was a much more gentlemanly affair than the bitterly divisive, Vietnam-fueled Democratic struggle. And most students of history would suggest that campaign  bitterness had an influence on the fact Richard Nixon won in November.

 

Four years later, the decision about the Democratic nominee also stretched to the Oregon and California primaries. Eventual Democratic nominee Sen. George McGovern beat former Vice President Hubert Humphrey by 44 percent to 39 percent in California to assure himself the nomination.

 

Washington Sen. Henry M. Jackson was a distant third in '72 but didn't drop out until early May. And he was a more serious challenger in'76 in what was still a four-man race for the Democratic nomination when he dropped out May 1 after losing the Pennsylvania primary to eventual nominee, then president, Jimmy Carter.

 

As those and other campaigns make clear, there's nothing inherently undesirable about a prolonged primary campaign that exposes the candidates to an electorate that deserves the opportunity to get to know as much as possible about the person who could wind up as their president.

 

If the candidates' comments and pronouncements make their shortcomings as presidential timber obvious, that's beneficial to the voters, if not necessarily to their party. It's only when the unending barrage of negativity from opponents paints a picture of shortcomings that may not even exist that a prolonged campaign does damage to the political process.

 

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