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Posts published in “Day: February 18, 2009”

Not an easy thing to do, or say


Lawrence Wasden

Lawyers like to sue; it's what they do when they're exercising their professional muscles. (Writers write. Dentists drill.) That's point A.

Point B is that political figures in Idaho can never lose by "taking on the federal government" - just throwing a big ol' middle finger at 'em. Idahoans love that.

But the syllogism breaks down in this case.

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was speaking (about his department's budget) to the legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which writes the budget. A member, Senator Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, was interested in the new developments over federal involvement in wolf population controls; there's a strong feeling among many Idaho policymakers that the effort should be led by the state, not the feds. That question is up in the air with rule changes by the new Obama Administration. So, he wanted to know, would Wasden sue the feds to keep Idaho in the driver's seat?

Wasden said that "We are actually engaged in the process . . . I’ve been working right now to have a meeting with the Secretary of the Interior on wolves."

Then he also said, "The opportunities for litigating the federal government might make us feel good, but they do little more than waste taxpayer dollars."

He is likely right. But less anyone think his response may have come from a lack of stomach for the fight, be it noted: Took a lot more guts to say what he actually said. Wasden continues to impress. (Hat tip: Idaho Statesman legislative blog.)

Who owns the colleges?


At Gonzaga University/GU, Jennifer Raudebaugh

The news yesterday that The Society of Jesus (usually called the Jesuits), Oregon Province, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, is leading to a question of some significance: Who owns Gonzaga University and Seattle University, which are considered Jesuit institutions?

Predictably, the Jesuits say they are separately owned, and the plaintiffs suing them - this is a continuation of the long-running string of pedophile cases - say they are integrated enough that their assets, too, should be up for grabs.

It seems not an easy question. Look on the Oregon Province (it includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska) web site, and you'll find a number of references to Gonzaga and Seattle U, but little that explicitly links the church organization to them. The universities (and several other schools) are described as "educational ministries," but what does that mean in the context of ownership and asset?

A statement from Gonzaga President Rev. Robert J. Spitzer: "The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus is a completely separate organization from Gonzaga University. Gonzaga was separately incorporated and registered with the Secretary of State in Washington in 1894. Gonzaga University's assets are its own and not subject to others’ creditors." It sounds like a credible argument, but we have yet to know what a court will think.

And what does it mean to the communities? Seattle University is a very substantial institution and a significant force in Seattle, but Gonzaga is a really major player in Spokane. Questions about its future go directly to the front burner there.