Writings and observations

As we head toward the year 2007 a few days hence, political thought starts to turn toward the doings of the next decade, such as reapportionment. There’s little thought, yet, toward 2020 – after all, while we can make some reasonable stab at population and other predictions three years out, predictions 13 years away are a little tough.

Still, the Rogue Pundit has a post worth notice for those taking the long view – suggesting that, in matters of congressional redistricting, Oregon will retain its current five seats after the 2010 census but should gain a sixth in 2020.

(For the moment, the only reapportionment change we expect in the Northwest in 2010, as matters sit, is a tenth House district for Washington state, which seems to be growing just fast enough to justify it.)

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Oregon

The Boise Idaho Statesman is in process on its editorial page of celebrating five people of local impact in 2006, today citing the “most visionary” area person of the year.

Their pick is Mark Rivers, who has been a key developer of the new BoDo retail and commercial development south of downtown.

Rivers is without doubt impactful (Ridenbaugh Press has listed him in the past among influential figures in Idaho), and BoDo is broadly regarded as a good development.

But does it say something about Boise, about Idaho and about its leading newspaper that its most visionary person in the state this year is thought to be the developer of a shopping center?

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Idaho

New elective office holders as a normal matter want to bring in with them their new team, replacing some people – usually the top decision-makers and those who work most directly with the office-holder – at the start of a term.

That does not usually extend down to the people who actually turn the wheels, stoke the engines and do the work of the agency. That a new elected official and his immediate assistants have a learning curve is to be expected; extending that learning curve over much of an agency is trouble on the wing.

That is why the decision by Tom Luna, the incoming Idaho superintendent of public instruction, to fire broadly and deeply across the Department of Education was so striking. Changes in the superintendent’s office and among the division heads were to be expected, but this went much further.

Some of the impacts were laid out concretely in a letter to the editor today in the Twin Falls Times News, by Sharon Lutkehus, who is a health education instructor at the Filer Middle School. She writes:

“Mr. Luna has eliminated nearly every experienced person in the Bureau of Educational Improvement, Title 1, Special Education, Certification-Professional Standards and Adult Services. In this first wave of firing were specialists in math, language arts, international and civics education, charter schools, testing, technology, health education, and safe and drug-free schools. Others are leaving because they foresee the destruction of all they believe in. This may not seem to be a problem to Mr. Luna because of his complete lack of educational experience. However, it directly and negatively affects schools and students.

During the past six years, I have been a member of the Idaho Comprehensive Health Education Cadre, which was formed by Barbara Eisenbarth, the HIV-AIDS-Health Education coordinator for the Idaho Department of Education. . . . By teacher request, additional workshops and conferences were scheduled for January and February of 2007. These workshops have now been canceled because the people who present at and organize them are gone (fired). Grants that are due in the next few weeks will have no one knowledgeable in the complexities and requirements of writing them. Federal monies could easily be lost due to lack of leadership.”

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Idaho