Writings and observations

Those people

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
The Idaho
Column

Katty-corner across 8th Street from the Idaho State Capitol and on the northern edge of Boise’s downtown sits a large parking lot, often used over the years by state employees, sometimes over the years by others, usually professionals or lobbyists who work the area.
A Boise redevelopment agency is looking at the partial block for use as a local transit center, like those in many other cities, where buses and other multi-passenger vehicles may arrive and depart as a hub location. Many cities have similar local transit systems.
The Idaho Statesman reported last week that on April 1 two state representatives, Brent Crane of Nampa (the House assistant majority leader who’s being touted in some circles as a congressional prospect) and John Vander Woude told Mayor David Bieter they opposed the transit center, or at least its location across the street from the Statehouse. What was their objection? Bieter quoted Crane as saying he didn’t want “those people” congregating so close to the Statehouse.
“Those people”?
Bieter said Crane’s reference was to bus riders. Vander Woude waas quoted as explaining, “What do you normally see when you go to a bus terminal?” Vander Woude said. “Does it become a collection point, a shelter, even a homeless place where people will park because there’s a lot of people coming through for panhandling or whatever?” Crane evidently hasn’t clarified his intent. But apparently the “those people” comment apparently is undisputed.
There’s been no firestorm since, and it’s a fair guess that a good many Idaho legislators, whether they’d admit it publicly or not, would agree that they’d as soon “those people”, whoever they are, keep their distance.
This has a certain timeliness.
The many changes in the rehabilitation of the Idaho Statehouse are still quite new, and that adjustment in the legislative environment have had an effect on the way lawmakers and the public interact, a subject that came up last week in a Pocatello panel on Idaho politics, sponsored by Idaho State University and the Idaho State Journal. (Disclosure: I was on the panel.) Some of those environmental changes are good, as Pocatello Representative Elaine Smith suggested, in that they allow more public access to meetings and events, in person, in much better and larger meeting rooms, or on line.

But Representative Tom Loertscher was also right when he launched into a discussion about how the arrival of warrens of new individual offices for legislators , among other features, has taken them away from direct interaction with many people – with the public, or even lobbyists or with each other. “We don’t sit and jaw on the House floor as we used to,” he said. Once, many legislators did much of their work on the floor, accessible to the public. Now, legislators retreat to their offices or “escape” from the building by way of obscure elevators and stairways. “Bad move,” he said.

Legislators do see people, of course, often many people, during legislative sessions. But if access to them is limited, they become increasingly likely to see only the people they really want to see, who fit in with their perspective.

If that’s not you, then you may become one of “those people” too.

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