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The paths of 2015

idaho RANDY

Over the last month, I’ve been pondering a list of currently influential people in Idaho (about which, more later) and out a way to find them: Start with a list of what are likely to be big stories in Idaho in the coming year.

What follows are a half-dozen that helped put names on the list – or, more important, what may make for a lot of discussion in Idaho next year.

In no particular order . . .

Nuclear waste. In 1995 Governor Phil Batt reached an agreement with federal agencies calling for removal of nuclear waste at the (now) Idaho National Laboratory. There’s been unease since about just how well that’s been going, but toward the end of 2014 holdups in those out-shipments, largely because of issues in other states, have been accelerating. The terms of the agreement may be violated before long, and that will be a very big conflict, probably the biggest IN:L story in 20 years.

Health care consolidation. Health care services in Idaho (and not just Idaho) are becoming consolidated. This trend has its advocates, as at St. Luke’s in Boise, where the argument is that this is the way to get health care costs under control and service rationalized. The counter-argument of course is that this is a matter of power and monopoly. St. Luke’s, based in Boise, is the biggest player, but not the only one; it’s cross-town critic, St. Alphonsus, has been growing at a hefty rate too, both of them not just just in the city but regionally around Idaho. This consolidation began to poke upward in 2014, and it may become more visible in 2015, especially as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals makes its decision, probably early in the year, on a key St. Luke’s purchase in Nampa.

Boulder-White Clouds. The debate over what should be done in the central Idaho Boulder-White Clouds area goes back a long way (as political historians know, it played a role in Cecil Andrus’ first win as governor). Representative Mike Simpson has been pushing a negotiated compromise proposal for some years, but others argue it’s probably DOA in the coming Congress, and urge President Obama to declare the area, or part of it, as a national monument. This issue may finally be coming to a head, one way or another.

Boise’s downtown core. The central core of Boise’s downtown, a couple of blocks south of the Statehouse, is about to see big-time change, the largest at one time maybe ever. (Or at least since the downtown removal of the late 60s.) The result is supposed to include more residential space, more office and commercial state, a transit center and more. Opinions may vary on what’s around the corner, but it’s a major change for Idaho’s largest city. And it happens as Mayor David Bieter considers whether to run for an unprecedented fourth term; at the end of this term, a year from now, he ties the record for longevity as mayor of Boise.

Shifting education policy. The Tom Luna era is over; the Sherri Ybarra era begins – and no one really has a very clear idea what that means. Idaho will get its first sense of that soon though, since education will be a hot topic generally in the legislature, and Ybarra will have to weigh in.

New adjudications. The Snake River Basin Adjudication is now in the state’s rear-view mirror, or nearly so. Up next: New water adjudications in the Panhandle, and possibly in the Bear River Basin as well. Those may start to come more into focus this year as they move to center stage in the water community.

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