Writings and observations

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Idaho picked up a large-scale wheat deal with China this week, as good economic news generally continued to roll. Atop that, fall appeared to arrive in force (with concerns about coming snow), diminishing wildfires for the season.

Candidates have finished filing for office in Idaho municipal elections, which will be held in November.

The Idaho Water Resource Board provided an update during its meeting in Mountain Home last week on ensuring that Mountain Home Air Force Base has a long-term, sustainable water supply.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould met with representatives of the Taiwan Flour Mills Association and Idaho wheat industry officials today to sign an agreement supporting U.S. wheat exports over the next two years – a deal worth $576 million.

In the wake of historic wildfires in Oregon, Idaho, California, Washington and across the West, Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mike Crapo, Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Jim Risch, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced an updated version of their bipartisan wildfire funding solution that would protect desperately needed funding for fire prevention and treat wildfires as the natural disasters they are.

The Idaho Transportation Board approved a resolution and directed staff to investigate property options for relocating the Idaho Transportation Department District 4 administrative office in the vicinity of the Interstate 84/U.S. 93 junction located in Jerome County.

Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo congratulated Ryan Nelson of Idaho after his nomination to become Department of Interior Solicitor passed unanimously out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today. His nomination has been sent to the full Senate for consideration.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said on September 22 that Idaho has agreed to join the federal government and other states in settling allegations against Mylan Inc. and its subsidiary, Mylan Specialty L.P.

In a challenging year for salmon and steelhead returns, Idaho’s most endangered salmon fared a little better than expected with 157 of them trapped in the Sawtooth Basin this summer.

PHOTO Two Idaho State University geosciences students, master’s student Graham Meese and undergraduate Jeffery Carpenter, are working with geosciences Associate Professor Ben Crosby on a long-term study of Marsh Creek, a major tributary to the Portneuf River. Their research focuses on measuring how restoration in Marsh Creek has impacted the water quality, which in turn affects the water quality of the Portneuf River. To help answer this question, their study uses two historic sources of information, aerial imagery and water quality data. Aerial imagery is used to compare 70 years of change by mapping where the channel used to be and where it is now. The researchers are looking at how the creek behaves naturally as well as how it has been changed by human modification. (Idaho State University)

Share on Facebook

Briefings

stapiluslogo1

In this time of hyper-hot politics, are the lower-rung non-partisan levels of the Idaho ballot in the upcoming Idaho city elections much exception?

Not to press points too far, there are a few indicators of reflections from the national roar. Even if you wouldn’t want to make the case too hard.

For example. Coeur d’Alene has a long tradition, going back generations, of heated city elections. Only recently that tradition ascended new peaks, as a ferociously-contested set of recall elections, sandwiched in between hot regular elections, racked the city.

But not this year. For the first time in many, many elections (decades back at least), every post on the ballot in Coeur d’Alene, including that of the mayor (Steve Widmyer, who’s seeking a second term), is unopposed, with only the incumbents running for each. (There is still the possibility of a write-in or two surfacing.)

That’s a striking turnaround from recent elections, with activist conservatives pushing hard in election after election. The lack of filings this time may have to do with the more moderate candidates winning consistently in the last few city elections, a contrast to elections taking in other boundary lines in the Panhandle. Or it could be campaign fatigue. But it could be a soft echo of national politics. One suggestive point is that Coeur d’Alene is not alone in lacking city election contests. Most other cities in Kootenai County reported the same, and fewer than usual candidates turned up in many other cities around the region.

In southern Idaho candidate filings, a different dynamic emerged.

In Boise (where the mayor is in mid-term and not on the ballot this year), the three council contests drew at least four candidates each. From that list jumped out three prominent Democrats: one council incumbent, TJ Thomson, and for the other seats Frank Walker, a former Ada County commissioner, and Holli Woodings, a former legislator and candidate for secretary of state. Those three may be the most locally prominent of the 13 council candidates, and well-positioned for their races. Together with Mayor David Bieter, who occupies a non-partisan office but personally is a Democrat, the city may become a Democratic redoubt in the next election.

By contrast, Meridian drew seven candidates for its three council seats, Nampa nine for its three, and Caldwell 10 for the four council seats up there. All three of those cities have mayors up for election, which often results in a larger collection of candidates to the field.

Not everywhere are we seeing these kinds of effects.

In many cities, the candidate filing patterns are running true to form. Idaho Falls and Pocatello, where mayors are up, have normal rosters of candidates, and all three council seats in Twin Falls have races pitting incumbents against challengers. Both Pocatello and Idaho Falls mayoral races may be competitive – legislator Jeff Thompson is seeking the job in Idaho Falls – so they may say something about those cities’ directions.

City elections do help set directions for a city, sometimes taking it where it might not otherwise go. Sometimes you can hear the distant rumblings of larger-picture politics in that. Sometimes, it generates a change or a confirmation of its course internally, on its own.

In another six weeks or so, Idaho cities’ voters will get to weigh in on all that.

Share on Facebook

Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

bond

On this day, September 13 in 1939, in Flint, Michigan, was born a person who changed my life and those of countless others – all for the better.

His name was Robert Dwayne Hopper. Bob Hopper was the most brilliant person ever to haunt the Silver Valley. He was a fighter and a philosopher, and a writer, and always a student. His curiosity about things universal and local was insatiable, as was his appetite for literature new and old. His mind was a sponge.

Not often do you meet a mine-owner who can discuss the delicate differences between Plato and Socrates, wax rhapsodic about “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and “I Heard the Owl Call my Name,” then turn to the flaws in Nietzche’s outlook, all the while diagnosing a stubborn Diesel engine. He lent me a few of his books. Each page of every one was annotated by him in tiny print, underscored, and usually ending in a question mark which would send him off to another book or research.

Did I tell you Bob Hopper was a mine-owner? More like a mine-rescuer. He was living in Seattle, having traveled most of the West and Alaska as a prospector, trucker, and scrap-dealer. He received a flyer one day advertising an auction of some of bankrupt Bunker Hill’s assets: Bobcats, iron, timber and such. They were scrapping the place. He dashed to Kellogg as fast as he could, then asked himself, “What happens to the mine? The Bunker Hill Mine was to me, even as a kid in Flint, Michigan, the shining city on the hill.”

The EPA was in the process of demolishing the Bunker Hill smelters, but the mine was in limbo. EPA took it for granted that it was theirs, but neglected to bid on it. Hopper, being a lot smarter than any bureaucrat, submitted a bid for $10 and COVC and acquired title. In the ensuing decades, the EPA tried to wrest it from him, at one point even drafting a seizure plan, and fined him for every step he took. His opposition was local, too. His first welcome was from a water district employee, now mayor of Kellogg, who cut off his water supply – not just by closing a valve, but by ripping out pipe.

Ironically, it was Bob Hopper who scrambled around to pay all the un-paid bills, ranging from the pension fund to the bar-tabs in uptown Kellogg, left deadbeat by the mine’s former owners.

It seemed Hopper had no local friends, but in fact he did. Lovon Fausett and Bill Calhoun, two of the mining district’s very brightest bulbs, were his close friends. I was invited into their inner circle and every Thursday we had lunch at the Broken Wheel in Kellogg. One day the trio ordered Spam for lunch. “I’ll have the Spam,” Lovon said. “I’ll have the Spam,” said Calhoun. Hopper concurred, but he wanted his fried.

Bob Hopper was lied to and shat upon by the EPA on a daily basis. They used every ruse in the book to deprive him of his private property rights and his mine. But he fought back. One determined man against 15,376 federal employees, each of whom make more money in a month than Bob took from the mine in a year. They even stole some of his private land from him.

I don’t wish to portray Robert Hopper as a victim, although it could be played that way. The Spokane-based Spokesman-Review newspaper berated him on a regular basis for not rolling over and playing dead, fed by “leaks” from EPA Region X, who at one point tried to tie him to the Mafia. His probate disproved that, but what a cruel thing for those bastards to do.

I’d rather remember him as a guy way ahead of the curve. He was not some Silicon Valley asshole who thought he had all the answers. He was living in excruicating physical pain, which he never talked about even to his closest friends, trying to save a mine and fight off the federal criminals. When the EPA started to really beat on him, they went to federal court, and pro se, Robert won.

So, my dear departed friend Robert Hopper, I give thanks for your friendship and for saving the Bunker Hill. I’ve still got your number on speed-dial. Can’t believe it’s been six years since you left us. Yet I still feel you’re here.

Share on Facebook

Bond

Levi B Cavener is a special education teacher living in Caldwell, Idaho. He blogs at IdahosPromise.Org.

Idaho’s State Board of Education finally released their recommendations for determining Jedi quality master teachers last week. The report concludes that only 374 teachers in Idaho will qualify for the Master Educator distinction out of an eligible pool of 18,710 educators in Idaho.

This outcome seems to be an outright contradiction to the original intention of establishing a master teacher program which was designed to push many veteran educators closer to the original top salary level proposed during the tiered licensure debate. In fact, the requirements to receive the Jedi distinction from padawan colleagues is so onerous that the truly excellent teachers will likely spend their already strapped time on their classroom instead of completing yet another pile of paperwork mandated by the state.

The report issued by the State Board of Ed requires that educators seeking their black-belt to develop a comprehensive portfolio which includes artifacts, a narrative explaining each artifact, and tedious explanations of how each artifact is tied to a plethora of categories in the evaluation rubric.

In fact, the framework supplied by the state from the portfolio cover page to the rubric for the last standard is an overwhelming 26 pages all by itself. That is 26 blank pages already without the teacher’s artifacts, writeup of each artifact, narrative of how each artifact ties to specific standards, etc. Teacher portfolios will resemble the bricks of paper known as closing documents when purchasing a home by the time they are completed.

Which completely defeats the point. The purpose of this master educator program was to reward teachers for the excellent work many educators are already performing in the state. It was not designed to punitively punish educators who already put every spare moment of their time into their classrooms. The application process, however, wants another pound of flesh from teachers already worked to the bone.

The payout for countless hours putting together the comprehensive portfolio that an educator might be eligible to receive after investing significant time that would have been better utilized in professional development or curriculum planning? $4,000.

That’s not an insignificant sum. But it’s not a guaranteed payout either. And for educators looking to increase their compensation it is much more likely they will take a summer or part-time gig of guaranteed wages rather than tempting fate with mountains of paperwork for a check that they might be found eligible for.

Most teachers I talk to about the criteria are so frustrated and angry about the significant requirements that they have already stated their intention to not develop a portfolio or apply for the distinction. That, unfortunately, includes the bulk of educators I would truly call Jedi Master quality teachers.

It appears that the intent in developing this onerous process was precisely to deter eligible candidates from applying. Out of an eligible pool 18,710 candidates the report forecasts that just 374 educators, or an astonishingly small 2% of the population, will qualify for this distinction. That shockingly small number comes from a deliberate calculation to make the process so overwhelming as to hang up a sign that reads “need not apply” for the bulk of Idaho’s teachers.

So congratulations educators in Idaho. The State Board thinks that only 2% of you are excellent enough to receive your Jedi distinction. Clearly, this is yet another reason why qualified talent is moving in droves to teach the children in the Gem State.

Oh wait…

Share on Facebook

Reading

carlson

There is an opportunity for any one of the three Republican candidates for Idaho’s governor – Lt. Gov. Brad Little, First District congressman Raul Labrador, or medical doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist – to show some gutsy leadership skill as well as an understanding that a governor’s role is to solve challenges.

For that matter, the same opportunity exists for either of the possible Democrat gubernatorial nominees, A.J. Balukoff or former State Senator Dan Schmidt.

The issue is that of holding the Department of Energy’s feet to the fire regarding their continuing to adhere to the agreement worked out with former Governor Phil Batt to have removed from Idaho all the various nuclear wastes stored in some form at the Idaho National Laboratory site west of Idaho Fall by 2035.

The Energy Department accepted this part of the Batt agreement because at that time they allegedly believed America would have its National Nuclear Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, up and operating. They badly underestimated the power and skill exercised by the former Senate Majority Leader, Nevada’s senior senator, Harry Reid.

Reid was able to cut off the funding and stop the project dead in its tracks.

The Batt agreement also forbid the importation of additional spent fuel rods recognizing it made little sense to add to a supply of nuclear waste you were supposedly committed to removing down the road.

The implication for many was Idaho would become the de facto repository, keeping all high level wastes on-site while accepting additional spent fuel rods for “research.” Support for this passive acceptence of the status quo quickly became a political litmus test for candidates for statewide office if they wanted support in eastern Idaho.

The reasoning was that keeping waste material on site (other than low-level transuranic wastes which are shipped by rail to salt caverns in New Mexico) would assure continued funding for the site and thus remain an integral ingredient in eastern Idaho’s economy.

Folks in the Idaho Falls Chamber are more than willing to accept the risks of possible contamination of the Snake River Aquifer which could devastate the economy down river in the Twin Falls area.

There is a real possible solution, however, that requires an ability to look over the horizon and recognize what is best for Idaho is removal of all the waste material despite the short-sighted bias of the IF Chamber.

The operating asssumption for several years has been there is no alternative repository with the demise of Yucca Mountain.

Wrong. There will be a fully certified operating nuclear waste repository capable of accepting nuclear waste as early as 2024 known as Onkalo on an island off the coast of western Finland. It has under construction for years, but is nearing completion and is being built by a Finnish company called Posiva.

Presumably Finland would negotiate agreements with the United States, the European Union, Japan and other countries which have nuclear energy facilities but are storing spent fuel rods on site. To prod the process along a governor and a state attorney general could conceivably open its own negotiations.

The point is there is a viable solution. Any or all of the major candidates can and should get on a plane and go see for themselves what the Finns have accomplished that no one else has been able to do.

They’ll see an entrance bored into near seamless bedrock, called gneiss, that is geologically stable and water resistant.

It drops 1500 feet down and then has a series of tunnels that run for miles with storage chambers where spent fuel rods are encased in cast-iron canisters further encased in two inch thick copper which is extremely resistant to corrosion. The chambers and access tunnels will then be backfilld with bentonite clay, which also absorbs moisture.

Here’s hoping all the candidates for governor visit Finland and see for themselves the potential viable solution to an issue that has vexed Idaho for years, but now just may be on the threshold of a real solution for which future Idahoans will be most grateful.

Share on Facebook

Carlson

jones

When a district or appellate judge retires during his or her term of office, the Idaho Judicial Council interviews candidates to fill the vacancy.

The Council carefully vets the candidates and sends a list of 2-4 of them to the Governor for selection of a finalist. Candidates for appointment must complete a searching application and authorize the release to the Council of their tax, criminal, credit, and Bar disciplinary records. The Council also solicits input from the public about the candidates. All of this information is at hand when the Council interviews the candidates in public session.

Having presided over a number of these sessions, I can attest that the Judicial Council is able to determine the best candidates for an appointment. The Council can rate the candidates on the list sent to the Governor as “qualified” or “well qualified” or “exceptionally well qualified.” This arms the Governor with sufficient information to make an informed selection

A gubernatorial appointee must run for re-election in the year when her or his term expires. Also, if a judge decides to retire at the end of his or her term, that vacancy is filled through the election process. Where more than one person runs for a position in either of those events, there is a contested election.

The Judicial Council does not vet candidates in a contested judicial election. Judicial candidates cannot run on “the issues” and, consequently, they get little media coverage. The voters, therefore, generally know little about the candidates or their relative merits.

The Idaho State Bar performs a service in contested elections by asking lawyers to rate the candidates and then making the results public. However, many lawyers do not have pertinent information about some or all of the candidates and the survey often gets little coverage. How do we make voters more knowledgeable about judicial candidates?

Persons running in a contested election for a position on the district court, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court should go through the Judicial Council vetting process, which is public and rather thorough. Those running to fill an important judicial position should have to provide the same information to the Council as persons seeking an appointment to a vacancy and they should sit through an open interview. The Council should evaluate and rate the candidates and release the ratings to the voters. In order to make this process work, the filing period should be significantly lengthened and judicial positions should be voted upon in the November general election. This would take legislative changes but would result is a better-informed electorate.

A 2003 survey of Idaho’s judicial election process by Rachel Vanderpool Burdick concluded that voters had insufficient information about persons running in contested judicial elections and made a similar recommendation as a potential solution.

It is time to take action to improve the election process by giving voters better information on the candidates. Then, we need to end the spectacle of having associates of judicial candidates beating the bushes to finance their campaigns. But that is an issue for another day.

Share on Facebook

Jones

rainey

Barrett Rainey is in the process of a long-distance move, to sunnier climes (more about that, no doubt, soon). He’ll be back shortly. In the meantime, here’s a Rainey column from July 30, 2009, on a subject at least as pertinent now as it was then.

In recent days, three unrelated and irritating experiences have become linked in my mind. They seem to say something about the world in which we now live.

The first happened while driving into town a few days ago. A driver ran the red light to my left, cutting me off as she turned into my lane of traffic. At the next light, I rolled down the window and, at the fear of being flipped off, quietly said to the young woman, “You know, you ran that red light.”

“I did,” she said, “but I’m late for work.”

That response somehow seemed OK for her as she sped off, committing three moving traffic violations as she went; speeding, illegal lane change, no turn signal.

A day or two later, while driving Interstate 5 north of Roseburg, OR, I watched a guy standing in his pickup bed on a parallel frontage road, throwing empty cans, bottles and other junk onto the right-of-way. When I came back a few minutes later, he was gone but the garbage was still there.

The third experience has been watching a family a few blocks from our house leave garbage cans out permanently and, with a garage full of adult toys, park two cars on the narrow street night after night. I’m told this violates a couple of Roseburg city ordinances. The resident, not a newcomer, probably knows that.

So, where am I going with this? Well, one common thread here is a seemingly shared contempt for the authority with which we all live, whether driving, littering or violating garbage and parking ordinances. A second commonality we can likely assume is that all three of these violators knew what they were doing was wrong but, for their own purposes, did it anyway.

So what? Nobody was hurt. Well, maybe not. Then again, where do the Bobby Knights, Darrell Strawberrys and Pete Roses come from? Why do parents get into fistfights at Little League and soccer games while their 10-year-olds watch? Why do otherwise law-abiding citizens cheat on their taxes?

There is another connection in these three scenarios and the questions just asked. That would be a lack of personal responsibility coupled with faulty thinking that no one else was injured by what they were doing so it didn’t really matter: “The rules don’t apply to me.”
But such behavior does matter. And it does hurt. In the case of the red-light-runner, it can kill.

Maybe in their early years, no one held any of these people to a level of expected behavior and followed through with immediate punishment for not meeting it. I can tell you that was not the case in our house when I was growing up. There were rules and swift punishment if those rules were broken.

Oh, I don’t mean physical retribution. No, my wise old parents had better methods. Denial of privileges like riding my bike or later, driving my car. Grounding. Reduced or eliminated allowance. Added chores.

At the time, I was sure the rules were too tough, my world would be forever changed and I would never be “socially acceptable” again! I didn’t have to live by their old rules!

Then, one day, the light dawned. I suddenly saw the reduced allowance as a traffic fine. The denial of my bike or car was driving privileges taken away by the “court” for misbehavior. The added chores were the costs of probation and punishment. It took awhile. But I finally got it.

If someone didn’t do the same for participants in the above examples, those people missed something important. But, as adults, they should have at least heard of the concept of personal responsibility somewhere along the line.

So, for those who have heard and believe the rules apply, and for those who have not, here is a reality. Before getting all hot and bothered about what our kids watch on TV, listen to in their headsets or spout the kind of rotten language they suddenly come up with out of nowhere, maybe we should be more aware of what they watch and hear at home where the rules are.

And that would be … us!

Share on Facebook

Rainey

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

The nomination of Idaho State Senator Bart Davis to serve as Idaho’s next United States Attorney was confirmed the evening of September 14 by the United States Senate.

Idaho’s August seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in 10 years, matching the state’s record low of 2.9 percent in June 2007. August’s one tenth-of-a-percent decline was the sixth consecutive monthly decrease in the unemployment rate and is a result of the first substantial increase to Idaho’s labor force since February. An additional 1,802 new entrants joined the labor force in August, and employment increased by 2,979 for a total of 796,430, absorbing 1,177 unemployed workers.

A team of Boise State graduate students from the School of Public Service teamed up with the Idaho Conservation League to create and submit an application to establish the first dark sky reserve in the United States.

Senator Mike Crapo last week introduced the Freedom of Commerce Act, S. 1779, which would allow consumers to purchase an automatic knife legal in their state, regardless of where it was manufactured in the U.S.

Canyon County Parks, Cultural & Natural Resources will offer winter field trips for the first time as part of a pilot program with the BLM’s Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

Share on Facebook

Briefings

stapiluslogo1

Back when I was covering police and courts for Nampa-Caldwell newspapers, we liked to call it – in honor of a former county sheriff – the Dale Haile Jail. Technically, it was the Dale Haile Detention Center, which it still is.

What it also was then, and still is, is too small.

At least, for the demands being placed on it.

On Thursday, according to the online jail roster, it held 431 inmates, just short of the 477 beds it has. (Weekends tend to be busier.) The situation actually is more complicated because, as one staffer told a reporter, “I can’t put a female in with a male. I can’t put a sex offender in with a murderer. You’ve got to be able to separate all these people out.” And there are people who might have been put in jail if there was as place to put them.

And there’s a lot of traffic in and out. The site noted that, “In 2011, Courts and Transport Deputies drove 65,000 miles in transport vehicles, screened over 400,000 individuals entering the two Canyon County courthouses and escorted nearly 11,000 inmates to court appearances from the detention center.”

Overall, one review after another for many years has maintained that more jail space and overall capability is needed. The Canyon County commissioners recently ordered another review from the DLR Group, a large national building design firm, and it found that Canyon needs a jail able to handle at least 1,000 inmates – double the capacity it currently has.

And that’s just to get the county through the next decade.

The pressure is considerable, because building this thing would cost a lot of money (the county hasn’t released an exact number, but it will be big). The county’s voters have, three times in a row, turned down bond proposals for jail construction.

This is worth pondering even if you don’t live in Canyon County because the jail problems it faces are not so radically different from those faced by many other counties.

Ada County, for example, has space for about 1,200 inmates. Since its population is a little more than double Canyon’s (which has capacity for 477), that sounds about right … except that Canyon is really needing capacity for more than 1,000. Which means Ada County probably should be looking at capacity for 2,500 or so.

Yes, this is expensive.

And there are only so many alternatives.

One might be cheap housing, down to and including tents – a popular idea in some quarters. But aside from temporary and limited use, it won’t work in solving the larger-scale issues of security and safety.

You could simply decide to quit jailing people when the beds are full. That may mean jailing low-risk minor offenders and letting the violent and dangerous go free.

Or, you could suck it up and raise taxes to pay for new jail buildings and staff. It would solve the problem of what to do with the inmates, though it wouldn’t make taxpayers happy (as in Canyon at least it hasn’t).

Or, we might try reconsidering what we choose to jail people for, and maybe try to find other ways of dealing with some of the offenders.

Just a thought.

Share on Facebook

Idaho Idaho column Stapilus

richardson

The wrong Republican Congressman is running for governor. Raul Labrador has thrown his hat in the ring, but I wish it were Mike Simpson making the race.

Simpson and Labrador both represent Idaho in Congress, but the quality of their representation varies greatly. While Labrador, a spotlight hungry member of the so-called House Freedom Caucus, has become an anti-government icon, Simpson represents an ever more rare brand of Republican pragmatism.

Make no mistake. I haven’t forgotten some of Simpson’s more odious votes – like his vote to repeal the ACA. In a great many respects, he is not my perfect cup of gubernatorial tea. But in this ruby red state, Simpson might be the best the Republicans could offer.

To his credit, Simpson has stood apart from his Republican colleagues – Crapo, Risch, and Labrador – in openly distancing himself from the president. Moreover, he has shown a willingness to work with House members on the other side of the political aisle.

Before heading to Congress, both Simpson and Labrador served in the Idaho state House of Representatives. “Served” doesn’t quite describe Labrador’s tenure. A back bencher with a penchant for making headlines but not passing legislation, Labrador had a brief and unremarkable record. In contrast, Simpson was – by most accounts – a very capable, fair-minded state legislator and one of the most adept speakers of the Idaho House.

Anyone who listened to Simpson eulogize his friend Cece Andrus could hear notes of self-deprecating humor, thoughtful reflection, and real humility in his remarks. He gave Cece a lot of credit for the successful passage of his landmark Boulder-White Clouds legislation. I can’t recall Raul giving anyone else, let alone a Democrat, credit for anything.

A few of my friends will be quick to tell me that all Republicans are venal and that Mike Simpson is no exception. I beg to differ. Robert Smylie was a great Republican governor. Phil Batt was too. If he were inclined to run, Simpson would follow in those altogether reasonable footsteps.

Would I prefer a Democrat hold the office? No question about it. And I remain confident that the Democrats will nominate an outstanding candidate. But wouldn’t it be great if the Republicans would do so as well?

Share on Facebook

Richardson