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Posts published in “Day: July 26, 2012”

The return of the Citizens Guide

Idaho Citizens Guide
Sample pages from the Citizens Guide 


The timing seems right, in a new political era when there's too often not agreement about facts - a time when, as we may hold varying opinions as a matter of judgment, we no longer seem to be drawing from the same well of common information. This book, in the case of Idaho at least, is an attempt at pulling together a common well of information - data, at least, and some reasonably well informed perspective.

Three of us - Mark Stubbs, James Weatherby and myself - wrote the Idaho Citizens Guide in 1999 (it has been in preparation for a while before that), and we had no trouble agreeing on the facts of the matter, the matter being Idaho government, politics, special interests, civic involvement and related subjects. Stubbs, now practicing law in Utah, was a conservative Republican state representative from Twin Falls, just off the campaign trail running for the Republican nomination to a U.S. House seat. Weatherby was a professor of public affairs at Boise State University, and previously a lobbyist and executive director of the state's cities association. I had been a newspaper reporter and editor, and was publishing books and periodicals on Northwest government and politics.

We had three very distinctive world views (still do), and our value judgments differed. But as to the facts of how Idaho government, politics and society generally actually in fact operated, we complemented each other but disagreed virtually not at all. We drew from the same well of information.

The result was a book that, we thought, would be useful to anyone thinking about (or already) active in Idaho's civic life. It offered a guide to what all the pieces were, what the terminology was, how things happened.

We got some solid backing, from ex-governors from both political parties. Cecil Andrus: “You can’t read the Idaho Citizens Guide without increasing your knowledge enormously … I anticipate that it will become a standard reference volume in the libraries of every school, community, government office, elected official and campaign headquarters.” Phil Batt: “As a long-time Idaho businessman, I also appreciate the need of citizens to be able to understand their government and how to get things done. The Citizens Guide can help.”

It ran somewhat over 350 pages. We sold some copies, and then it dropped from sight, and has been effectively out of print for about a decade.

That is what we're reissuing now - well, to be available next week. With a few minor alterations (the original included some maps of the Statehouse that would only confuse since the recent remodeling there), we've returned the book to publication as it was then.

There are a few pieces out of date. Some government agencies, not many, have been reorganized, for example. But in reading through it, what you find is that the well of facts now is very much like the well of facts then.

If you're thinking of getting active in Idaho in some way, even to the point of voting, the Citizens Guide would be a good place to start to get yourself well informed.

Shouldn’t be as important as it is

Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

Many citizens of this country – in my mind far too many – have little to no
idea how it operates, don’t understand how the institutions of government function or relate, don’t apply daily news stories to their own lives, find politics boring/distasteful and go about their own business thinking someone else will handle it. Until something goes wrong or adversely affects them. Then they holler.

While that sounds a bit arrogant, I don’t mean it to be. Evidence supporting that thesis is all around us. Even in Congress. Maybe especially in Congress. Just a few days ago, I was involved in another example of this too-large civic vacuum on my Facebook page. Someone is linked to that page; someone I don’t know but it appears we have a mutual friend or two. I don’t like that feature because that immediately makes your “friends” my “friends” and, in life, that’s not always the case.

But back to the Facebook evidence. This person seemed honestly motivated to start a discussion by asking if Mitt Romney should produce more tax returns than the one he already has and the one he’s promised to. I thought the answer was pretty obvious – he must – but the several dozen answers that came in over the next few hours showed how little some people really know about the important issues implicit in that question.

For the record, most of the respondents clearly had some good education judging by spelling, sentence structure and coherent thought. They seemed interested in saying their “piece” and – whether you agreed/disagreed with their position – did so with some apparent conviction. Problem was, some of those convictions just didn’t square with knowledge of the subject. (more…)