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Governor: Time to build a Legacy

Chris Carlson
Carlson Chronicles

Dear Governor Otter:

Allow this former bit role player on the Idaho political scene to make some suggestions to one of the major players for the past 40 years, as to how you can secure a legacy and bequeath to your fellow citizens one worth remembering.

Leaving a legacy is challenging and frankly most governors are really just caretakers. You have a congressional legacy of sorts. Many will always admire the manner in which you courageously stood almost alone against the excesses of the Patriot Act and its clear threat to many of our precious personal freedoms. Your stand is deserving of a chapter in any new publication of Profiles in Courage.

In looking at your record for the last six years I see nothing extraordinary. You’ll point to a reduction in the growth of government and ignore the reduction in support for public education that has taken place on your watch. You’ll point to the growth in business and your trade missions generating more business, but that’s expected of a governor. It’s not a legacy.

Here are four suggestions that would secure a legacy:

#1. Don’t back down on nuclear waste removal deadlines. Impose the fines contained in the Batt agreement and other follow up memorandums for the failure of INL to meet the year-end clean-up date for beginning to remove the liquefied waste from the site and continue the stance of not accepting any more waste above and beyond the limited amounts already agreed upon.

You are being asked to grant a waiver, but don’t do it. What good is accomplished by ignoring a reasonable timeframe every one at the table agreed upon and then letting it slip, and slip again, and slip again ad infinitum? Don’t be intimidated by those who say such a stance will mean less work for INL. The fact is with budget cuts coming regardless, there’s going to be less funding for INL period. Your responsibility is to see that Idaho’s aquifer is protected and that the waste is safely removed, all the waste, from above the aquifer by 2035, whether the federal government has steamrolled a renewed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada through or not.

You are dangerously close to letting Idaho become the de facto interim storage site for all nuclear wastes unless you take a firm stand and that includes not waiving deadlines or fines.

#2. Clean up the mess at the privately run prison south of Boise. Letting the prisoners run the prison is no answer to solving the woes of increasing costs for incarceration whether public or private. If even one fifth of the charges in the recent lawsuit are true you have a major problem on your hands. Have you looked at the video?

Don’t hide behind lawyers urging you not to comment because there’s a lawsuit involved. Take charge because if you don’t this item alone could condemn your tenure to infamy. Put together a task force with tight deadlines. Give it a charge and frame the questions.

For example, how many inmates are there who were convicted of minor possession and were strictly just personal users. Given where the law is going in other states could Idaho decrease the numbers in our prison by releasing those there for minor drug possession?

#3. Take the lead on putting together a review of the needs for reforming and putting on a firm financial footing public education in Idaho. And keep Tom Luna at arms length. He has rightly been tarred with the brush of politicizing the reform process. Only you have the prestige of an office that can put together all the players and work for a consensus from the ground up process that has everyone sitting at the table truly listening to each other.

Leave the guns and cell phones at the door. Give them a year to discuss and debate and the come back to you and the Legislature with recommendations. And please don’t put any Grover Norquist like constraints on them either.

#4. Support Second District Congressman Mike Simpson’s White Clouds wilderness bill. You of all people ought to respect the careful process he went through to reflect all the stake holders views and the compromises he came up with.

Do these four and you’ll have a legacy your grandchildren will be proud of and your fellow citizens will be truly grateful they chose you to lead them for eight years.



Chris Carlson is a writer at Medimont.

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