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Posts published in April 2018

A dishonorable evening


By now, most everyone watched the entire televised Washington D.C. Capital Correspondent’s dinner Saturday, sat through some of the grotesque outtakes or read the disastrous - and deserved - criticism.

I’m a former card-carrying member of that organization and have attended a couple of the soirees. As such, I’m embarrassed and deeply ashamed of what that formerly worthy and hugely entertaining event has become.

The evening had honorable roots. There were several reasons for its original purpose. The most important was to celebrate raising funds for journalism scholarships. Recipients were - and are - journalists in the field wanting to continue their educations. Some media folks you respect and enjoy may have had their careers advanced by the Correspondent’s Association.

The second reason was to see some excellent entertainers of the time - in my case, 1970-71. One year, it was Pearl Bailey who charmed everyone in the sizable Shoreham Hotel Ballroom. The next year it was George Carlin, the hippy-dippy weatherman and just plain comedic genius. Each year, most of the program was just that - entertainment.

Thirdly, it was a private time for D.C. politicians and the media members who covered them to have some off-the-record relaxation and fun, taking a few jabs at each other. Nothing was televised. Spouses weren’t generally invited if they weren’t in the media business. It was a white tie affair. If you wanted, you could bring one friend. Period.

There was a lot of joking among participants which usually included the sitting President of the time. Though I had no use for Richard Nixon, twice I watched him sit on the dias taking “hits” from media people. Not professional comics. It was all journalists, writers and producers active in day-to-day news work.

In each case, Nixon got up and gave as good as he got. It was funny stuff. Both ways. The “humor” got a little close for comfort sometimes. For both the media and the politicians. Alcohol consumed in liberal quantities can do that. But it wasn’t the cutting, mean-spirited, foul-mouthed crap the nation witnessed Saturday last.

Fnally, the whole evening was the best damned job-hunting experience a young reporter could ever have. As I said, white tie. So, there we were, in our rented tuxes, pockets filled with folded resumes as we spent hours before and after the main event going from one hospitality suite to the next. All the networks sponsored one. Tidbits of food and lots of free booze.

But, it was also a place to find people like Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, David Brinkley, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Harry Smith and many more. Their producers and directors were also noshing and imbibing. Nothing like rubbing shoulders with the top of your profession while trying to get some of those resumes in the right hands. Someone like a Don Hewitt from “Sixty Minutes.” Some of the people you see and hear now may have gotten their “big break” at a Correspondent’s Dinner.

No longer. It’s become a “meat market” appearance for “celebrities” and wannabe’s trying to get noticed. It’s an embarrassing experience for truly professional people. Even some who may have been ordered to attend by their employers to “carry the corporate flag.”

What used to be an evening of good natured humor between professionals has given way to belligerent, foul mouthed , non-media “comedians” throwing piles of crap both ways. It’s no longer the “Correspondent’s Dinner.” It’s now a junior varsity Emmy or Oscar publicity event drawing hundreds of people who aren’t media “professionals.” A lot of ‘em couldn’t write a “help wanted” ad much less a cohesive news story.

There were scholarships presented this year. Several of ‘em. There were respected members of both politics and mass media in attendance. There was good fellowship and conviviality enjoyed by many.

But, what the public saw Saturday night was a verbal dung heap, passed off as televised “entertainment” with none of the original class and good natured humor.

I sincerely hope the Correspondent’s Board takes quick action to get the cameras and microphones out, send the hangers-on back to the streets and return what used to be a very honorable and rewarding evening, back to the professionals.

Idaho Briefing – April 30

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 30. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Early voting is about to kick in, and the various primary contests – a considerable number of them, in both parties – are reaching their final pitches. Lots of endorsements are coming in (and need to; they’d do little good in another couple of weeks).

About 1.7 million acres of forest land in Idaho is family-owned, representing about 36,000 landowners and 56 percent of all privately-owned forest land in the state. As much as 560,000 acres, or 33 percent of family owned forests in Idaho, are likely to have new owners within five years, according to a new survey released on April 24.

The Challis-Yankee Fork, Middle Fork, and North Fork Ranger Districts recently advertised five timber sales for public bid. Four sales on the Challis-Yankee Fork and Middle Fork Ranger Districts are salvage timber sales, which is material being harvested that is dead or dying and is being removed in order to improve the health of the stand.

The City of Boise on April 24 released its bi-annual Livability Report to highlight and outline progress on the broad array of city initiatives that are enhancing Boise’s celebrated livability.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission recently set rules for the 2018 migratory bird season, which includes ducks, geese, mourning doves, American crow, snipe and coots, and sandhill cranes.

Idaho Power has proposed decreasing the portion of its rates that changes every year due to the variable costs of providing power to its customers.

Idaho public health officials are warning Idahoans to avoid consumption of products that contain kratom because they could be contaminated with Salmonella. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Idaho Public Health Districts, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are collaborating on the investigation of Salmonella infections linked to the consumption of products containing the plant substance kratom.

State regulators have suspended a surcharge that helps qualified Idahoans afford basic telephone service for the second consecutive year as the number of recipients and contributors continues to decline.

PHOTO The state Department of Lands is launching a program to try to block invasive insect species from invading Idaho, setting up trapping sites at various locations around the state. This rtap set is located near the Canadian border. (image/Department of Lands)

Taking the fifth


The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution states in pertinent part: “No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

The Fifth Amendment was adopted by our founders in reaction to the excesses of Britain’s Star Chamber proceedings where convictions were often obtained by browbeating the accused. Over the years, the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that the right to refrain from testifying against oneself attaches in any civil or criminal proceeding at which the answers might incriminate the speaker in the future.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump claimed that innocent people don't "take the Fifth." He also declared that the Fifth Amendment was most likely to be invoked by members of “the Mob.”

Now that Trump's personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen has announced he will "take the Fifth" in the civil lawsuit filed by Stormy Daniels, a lot of people are gleefully trying to hoist the president on his own petard. According to Trump's thinking, they say, Cohen's assertion of his constitutional right to remain silent permits the inference of guilt.

As tempting as it is to beat this drum, it is important to remember that protecting oneself against "self-incrimination" is not the same as "admitting guilt." As the Supreme Court has noted, innocent people can be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. In criminal actions, jurors are routinely instructed not to draw inferences of culpability from a defendant's decision not to testify. And prosecutors may not reference a defendant’s refusal to testify as probative of guilt.

By many accounts, Michael Cohen is likely to be indicted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York. If he is indicted, Cohen will be entitled to a fair trial, which includes the presumption of innocence unless and until the government proves him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Michael Cohen is not a sympathetic defendant - not by any stretch of the imagination. But we must soundly reject Trump's simplistic and erroneous pronouncement that invoking the Fifth Amendment is tantamount to proof of guilt.

To accept that notion is to undermine the rule of law; and unfailing protection of the rule of law must transcend and "trump" any distaste for Mr. Cohen and his most famous client.

Candidate Trump aspired to be “the rule of law president.” However, he has repeatedly shown himself to have little, if any, understanding of what that phrase means. Unfortunately, Trump’s misapprehension of the law resonates with segments of our population. The rest of us – and especially my fellow attorneys – cannot allow Trump’s ignorant views, which he asserts with unbridled conviction, to become conventional wisdom.



There was a moment in the Idaho Public Television debate last week between the three main Republican gubernatorial candidates when one of them started to talk about something that wasn’t a political cliche.

A little more than halfway through, businessman and physician Tommy Ahlquist was discussing health care policy. A former emergency room physician himself, he talked for a minute or a little more about his observations of the way health care costs have risen, about the lack of transparency in costs and methods, and other problems he observed. He spoke of a meeting in Twin Falls where he asked other physicians how much a particular procedure would cost - and none of them had any idea. (That rings absolutely true: I’ve heard about similar questions and replies in other states.) The subject was compelling and would have been enlightening for a lot of viewers, had he pursued it.

But this was, after all, a debate among the three candidates for the Republican nomination for governor of Idaho, so Ahlquist caught himself and veered into support for “reform” of Medicaid (which he didn’t clearly define, but which at the national level tends to mean moves toward defunding it).

Ahlquist was on stage with fellow contenders Brad Little, the lieutenant governor demonstrating the most specific knowledge about state government, and Raul Labrador, the U.S. representative who spoke most clearly and articulately. All three were fluent in GOP primary-speak - as they should be, having become deeply experienced in the world of candidate forums over the last year - and based on their performance the differences between them at this point seemed to relate more to personality and style than to questions of governance.

All three made sure to use the word “conservative” every couple of sentences or so, as if it were a gulp of air when underwater, or fairy dust or a magic potion sprinkled to brighten the picture or ward off opposition. The word also is never clearly defined, of course; to define it would rob it of its all-purpose use. The only point to be made is that, “I have more of it than you do.”

Asked about President Donald Trump, the basic response from all three was to quibble about his “style” (the word seized on by all three, also left undefined) but to express general approval of what he has done, or hasn’t, substantively. “I see great advancement,” Little said; the others more or less concurred.

The attempts by all three to differentiate themselves - as any good marketer would - seemed especially facile this go-round. Labrador talked, “the courage to make the tough decisions”, Little about how, “Idaho is the envy” of other states (a reference to his larger experience in state government, a resume point he didn’t push too hard), Ahlquist about how, “we need to change the status quo.” Every so often someone would offer a specific data point in support, but those were widely scattered and not effectively linked.

After a year of candidate events, you’d imagine that all of them would be prepared for just about any inquiry at this point, but all three had weak moments. The most jarring may have come when Ahlquist was asked about the proposal to impose criminal punishments for abortion, specifically whether he would sign a recently-proposed bill to that effect. Ahlquist’s weave and dodge wasn’t even artful. Labrador and Little both said they would not sign it. When Labrador then suggested Ahlquist’s non-answer should disqualify him from the governorship, and Ahlquist was given the opportunity to reply, his response was to blast Labrador rather than directly answer.

So. There are lots of data points to use to choosing among the candidates for the Republican nomination, which you could mine from news reports, official statements and other places over a period of years. But on the evidence of their statements and performance in the main debate from last week:

If your concern in deciding who to support or oppose is about who is the “conservative” (however you personally might define that), or if you’re a Democrat or a non-conservative Republican, I have no idea what to tell you. Flip a three-sided coin.

An attack on Medicaid and more


The Trump administration is supporting a major policy shift on Indian health programs which could result in a loss of millions of dollars and sabotage treaty rights.

A story in Politico Sunday raised the issue. It said “the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. ‘HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,’ according to a review by administration lawyers,” Politico said.

The new policy on Medicaid work requirements “does not honor the duty of the federal government to uphold the government-to-government relationship and recognize the political status enshrined in the Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and other federal laws, said Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “Our political relationship is not based upon race.”

“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation, told Politico. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Medicaid has become a key funding stream for the Indian health system -- especially in programs managed by tribes and non-profits. Medicaid is a state-federal partnership and public insurance. The Affordable Care Act expanded Medicaid eligibility, but the Supreme Court ruled that each state could decide whether or not to expand. Since the expansion of Medicaid some 237,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives in 19 states have become insured.

Officially Medicaid represents 13 percent of the Indian Health Service’s $6.1 billion budget (just under $800 million).

But even that number is misleading because it does not include money collected from third-party billing from tribal and non-profit organizations. In Alaska, for example, the entire Alaska Native health system is operated by tribes or tribal organizations and the state says 40 percent of its $1.8 billion Medicaid budget is spent on Alaska Native patients. That one state approaches the entire “budgeted” amount for Medicaid.

Other states report similar increases. Kaiser Family Foundation found that in Arizona, one tribally-operated health system reported that about half of visits were by patients covered by Medicaid in 2016. And, an Urban Indian Health Program, reported that its uninsured rate at one clinic fell from 85 percent before the Affordable Care Act to under 10 percent.

Those Medicaid (and all insurance) dollars are even more significant because by law they remain with local service units where the patient is treated (and the insurance is billed). In Alaska more than two-thirds of those dollars are spent on private sector doctors and hospitals through purchased care for Alaska Native patients. And, unlike IHS funds, Medicaid is an entitlement. So if a person is eligible, the money follows.

A recent report by Kaiser Health News looked at Census data and found that 52 percent of residents in New Mexico’s McKinley County have coverage through the Medicaid. That’s the highest rate among U.S. counties with at least 65,000 people. “The heavy concentration of Medicaid in this high-altitude desert is a result of two factors: the high poverty rate and the Indian Health Service’s relentless work to enroll patients in the program,” Kaiser reported. Most of McKinley County is located on the Navajo and Zuni reservations.

Kaiser Health News said Medicaid has opened up new opportunities for Native patients to “get more timely care, especially surgery and mental health services. It has been vital in combating high rates of obesity, teen birth, suicide and diabetes, according to local health officials.”

However the growth of Medicaid is resulting in unequal care for patients in the Indian health system. The benefits in some states, including those that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, are more generous. Other states not only refused to expand Medicaid and have been adding new restrictions such as requiring “able-bodied” adults to have their Medicaid eligibility contingent on work.

But the Indian health system -- the federal Indian Health Service and tribally and nonprofit operated programs -- are in a special case because there is a 100 percent federal match for most services. So states set the rules, but do not have to pay the bill. (Medicaid is often the second largest single item in a state budget behind public schools.)

Medicaid is the largest health insurance program in America, insuring one in five adults, and many with complex and long-term chronic care needs. The Trump administration and many state legislatures controlled by Republicans see Medicaid as a welfare program. While most Democrats view it simply as a public health insurance program.

Work rules are particularly challenging for Indian Country. Unlike other Medicaid programs, patients in the Indian health system will still be eligible to receive basic care. So stricter rules will mean fewer people will sign up for Medicaid and the Indian Health Service -- already significantly underfunded -- will have to pick up the extra costs from existing appropriations. That will result in less money, and fewer healthcare services, across the board.

A letter from the Tribal Technical Advisory Group for Medicare and Medicaid said American Indians and Alaska Natives “are among the nation’s most vulnerable populations, and rely heavily on the IHS for health care. However, the IHS is currently funded at around 60 percent of need, and average per capita spending for IHS patients is only $3,688.” The latest per person cost for health care nationally is $10,348 (totalling $3.3 trillion, nearly 20 percent of the entire economy).

The tribal advisory group said it is “critically important” that there be a blanket exemption for IHS beneficiaries from the mandatory work requirements.

A report in September by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that the majority of American Indians and Alaska Natives on Medicaid already work, yet continue to face high rates of poverty. It said over three-quarters of American Indians and Alaska Natives are in working families, but that’s a gap of about 8 percent compared to other Americans (83 percent).

The Trump administration’s characterization of tribal health programs as “race-based” is particularly troubling to tribal leaders because it would reverse historical precedence.

A memo last month from the law firm of Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “has ample legal authority to single out IHS beneficiaries for special treatment in administering the statutes under its jurisdiction if doing so is rationally related to its unique trust responsibility to Indians. Under familiar principles of Indian law, such actions are political in nature, and as a result do not constitute prohibited race based classifications. This principle has been recognized and repeatedly reaffirmed by the Supreme Court and every Circuit Court of Appeals that has considered it, and has been extended to the actions of Administrative Agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services even in the absence of a specific statute.”

Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a Shoshone-Bannock tribal citzen. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Cross posted on Indian Country Today.

Pot, meet kettle


Over the 40 years I’ve been involved in politics I’ve come to loathe negative campaign ads.

They demean the process and cheapen it. They thrive on distortion, half-truths and outright lies. They are proof positive that, because they are covered by free speech, one can make any charge and it doesn’t have to be factual or even close to the truth.

Many years ago when the young Lyndon Johnson was an aide to a Texas congressman running for re-election the congressman repeatedly charged his opponent with something and LBJ knew it wasn’t true. Finally he confronted his boss with continually repeating what he knew wasn’t true.

The congressman’s terse response was “let him deny it.” He knew if his opponent denied it the story would carry for another day. That’s the essence of negative campaigning in a nutshell. Put your opponent on the defensive and make his to deny a charge no matter how ridiculous.

I’d like to think that people want to know what a candidate is for, not how rotten his opponent is. Unfortunately, voters are easily manipulated for the record shows negative ads often work because people like to believe the worst about others.

Last week I was ready to convey the character award to Brad Little until I saw that in response to a negative ad by Tommy Ahlquist, Little decided he had to go negative. How disappointing and we’re all losers, for the truth gets lost and trampled in the process.

Little’s ads were every bit as distortive as Tommy’s. Shame on them both. Little’s ad was a classic list of guilt by association and false syllogisms. Follow this twisted logic full of false syllogisms:

Ahlquist gave $5000 to his good friend A.J. Balukoff’s race for governor. He is immediately tagged as a DEMOCRAT in sheep’s clothing (Better keep a good eye on those herds of sheep you run, Brad). Ahlquist also gave a like amount to Governor Otter’s campaign, but of course that’s not mentioned..
Ahlquist is a Republican and he is running for the GOP nomination. Makes no difference to Little’s campaign consultants.

The $5k to AJ means he is a Democrat and by golly he gave at a time when Obama and Pelosi were trying to take away our 2nd amendment gun rights. Don’t you see the connection?

Oh, and let’s be sure and punish Ahlquist for not supporting Trump during the primaries but rather someone else, Ahlquist should be commended for recognizing Trump is not qualified to be president and readily and honestly answering a question. Instead he is held up to ridicule. It’s a known fact that privately Little has said some less than nice things about the President.

Then there are the code words - Ahlquist is a liberal, a big spender and he wants to tax everything he can. Not one shred of evidence supports any of that.

Come on Brad, give me a break. Both your ads and Tommy’s are beneath both of you. Stick to the issues and quit panderng to the lowest common denominator of the voters about cutting more taxes. That’s a code phrase for further cuts to education. Idaho is near last in per pupil support by a state as you well know and the U of I is cutting core classes. Yet you all piously say you support public education.

Your portraying yourself as a conservative tax cutter just doesn’t ring true. You and Tommy and Raul are all capable of debating issues. So eschew the negative and get back on the positive path.

There’s only one gubernatorial ad campaign out there that is all positive. It is Balukoff’s and if he sticks to the high road whoever wins the GOP nomination just might see the crown slip away in November.

What happened to law and order?


When I was growing up in the Republican party, I learned the lesson of responsible fiscal policy by heart - government must live within its means. That did not mean government could refuse or neglect to perform services or fund programs that were required by the constitution because Republicans were not law breakers. And, we believed the law required the funding of programs necessary for public safety unless there was a serious financial crisis at hand.

The three candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor seem to have forgotten that critical government programs can’t be provided if they are not funded. All three of them praise the state tax cut recently enacted into law, while calling for additional tax relief and reduced spending. There is little explanation of how this can be accomplished without ignoring the laws of this good State.

Mr. Labrador has fixated on the number 5, calling for a 5% across-the-board reduction in the budget of every State agency (unless an agency can prove it needs more), along with cutting income and sales taxes to 5%. Dr. Ahlquist pledges to cut government spending by $100 million within 100 days of taking office, while also cutting taxes. Brad Little is calling for tax and spending cuts.

It is not as if the Legislature has been throwing money around like an intoxicated person. Since the 2008 recession, state agency budgets have been cinched tight, squeezing out existing fat. There may be a few wasteful dollars here and there, but not nearly enough to allow massive tax and spending cuts.

As a matter of fact, the State has failed to carry out its constitutional responsibility to provide adequate funding for a number of programs. The most glaring example relates to Article 9, section 1 of the Idaho Constitution, which requires the State to provide a thorough system of public schools. The Idaho Supreme Court has held on several occasions that the State is shirking this constitutional obligation. The Legislature has increased funding for school budgets in recent years, but admits it is still violating the law. Aside from operational funds, the State of Idaho is also obligated to provide substantial funding for school facilities--the bricks and mortar--so that Idaho kids have an atmosphere conducive to learning. That doesn’t happen in dilapidated school buildings.

The State is also constitutionally required to provide an adequate system for the defense of indigent criminal defendants. It is no secret that Idaho is not meeting its responsibility in that regard. Some progress has been made in the last year but the State still has a long way to go to meet its constitutional responsibility.

Many of Idaho’s roads and bridges are dangerous and in serious need of repair. We have committed future revenues to do some of this work through issuance of GARVEE bonds, but that simply is nowhere near enough to do the job. Public safety is at risk.

At some point we need to realize that taxation is not a dirty word. Rather, it is a critical ingredient of constitutional government. State government must provide lawfully-mandated programs and services, which includes raising sufficient revenue to pay for them. Responsible candidates for offices of public trust do not promise to do what they should know is impossible. If candidates contend they can fulfill their lawful responsibilities while continually whacking away at revenues, they should explain exactly how that can be accomplished.

Oh yes, it’s different


“He’s 92 and I’m 88 and we’d like a divorce,” she said.
The attorney asked, “Why did you wait so long?”
Said she, “We didn’t want to do it when the kids were alive.”

Disgusting, right? A bit sick, too? Yep. But, when you live in one of three adjoining 55+ communities comprised of about 90,000 seniors, you hear “jokes” like that. Few folks seem to take offense and often have one to give back.

Though we moved here when I was past four score years, we’ve learned a lot about retirement we never knew. Things no amount of “due diligence” visiting would have uncovered unless you lived here awhile.

For example, normal driving here doesn’t exist. It’s rubber tired bumper cars. Our insurance rate went up 40% - same car - same driver. Most companies use zip codes in their factoring of rates. After six months here, it’s easy to see why we got a hike.

As I said, I’ve passed four score years. But, we got a new state driver’s licenses with no written or behind-the-wheel testing. So did everybody else it seems. Crazy! So, pick a violation. Aw, go on. Pick an imaginary driving aberration. You can’t come up with one we haven’t seen. Daily.

Despite the fact a lot of our major roads are six lanes wide - excellent roads - many oldsters drive “souped up” golf carts. Hundreds and hundreds of ‘em. Not your usual country club variety. No Sir! These have been updated with “mechanical steroids” to go 30 mph! Seat belts, mirrors and (unused) turn signals added. State licensing and liability insurance required. Imagine yourself sharing those six lanes with these miniature hotrods being driven by 80-somethings.

Church is interesting, too. At ours, the director of our wonderful music program is a pro. Stickler for detail in everything. When he wants the choir to stand or sit, he wants them to all move at the same time. Boom! But, with a couple of dozen hip and knee replacement choristers in their 80's, the ups and downs look more like exposed cylinder heads in an idling Chevy V-8.

“Snowbirds” are a pain for permanent residents. “Birds” come from all over - even Europe and Asia. Canadian “birds”can only stay for six months so they’re usually here first - come down in September. Rest arrive in October and leave in April/May.

When “birds” are here, tee times at the dozens of golf courses in the area are booked out days-weeks in advance. Lines at theaters and restaurants are never-ending. When your gas gauge is on “empty,” you’ll make eight loops around the gas pumps looking for a spot. Beards can grow just while waiting in checkout lines.

The better grocery stores are an experience. Because folks come from all over, shelves are stocked with not only the usual wares found at Safeway or Fred Meyer, but with larger kosher and outsized Hispanic departments. Even Norwegian and Swedish. For the Michigan-Minnesota-Dakota crowd. And, for those who want a little more in a shopping experience, one of our local markets has a large wine and beer bar right in the middle of the store. Opens each morning at eight and seating goes on until evening. Nice rest stop between frozen foods on one wall and bakery across the huge store on the other. And you meet the nicest people. Usually after you’ve been there awhile.

Almost no residential grass here. Which attracted me. Fool! Most “lawns” are crushed rock with citrus trees and cactus for greenery. What we didn’t expect is that the rock needs to be “raked” because, somehow, it moves. People walking leave footprints or kick it up. Our resident coyote leaves the extract of his digestive tract. Birds, too. Rain (yes, rain) exposes the black vapor barrier. Underground digging critters leave holes and unexpected gravel piles. The yardwork may be different. But it’s still damned yardwork!

Unusual businesses. Rabid rightwing politics. Very different utility practices from the Northwest. Unusual ecology efforts for- well - unusual ecology. More grist for future columns.

Oh yes, there is this one other thing. Nearly every building material for houses and all other buildings for dozens of square miles is stucco. Top to bottom. And, nearly all are the same color - tan. Entire subdivisions of tan stucco. Far as you can see. Every subdivision. Every where.

Makes it damned hard to find your way home after a grocery trip. And an extended layover at that wine bar.

Idaho Briefing – April 23

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for April 16. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at

Campaigns for major office in Idaho roared ahead this week, with a number of major debates in many of the top contests held, and a string of new television spots released. Little additional polling has surfaced, however.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management has approved routes for segments of the Gateway West electric transmission line project on public lands in southwestern Idaho, connecting previously authorized routes in southern Wyoming and eastern Idaho. The project will improve the nation’s energy infrastructure and boost the economy in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West.

State regulators have approved a settlement agreement in a case involving the relicensing of Idaho Power’s largest hydropower complex. The settlement allows approximately $216.5 million in expenditures related to the relicensing of the Hells Canyon Complex to be designated as prudently incurred and eligible for inclusion in customer rates at a later date.

The Idaho State Board of Education on April 19 voted to increase tuition and fees for fulltime undergraduate resident and nonresident students at each of Idaho’s four-year institutions effective in fall 2018.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to 2.9 percent in March, ending a six-month run of 3 percent and remaining at low levels last seen in 2007 and 2008. The state’s labor force – the total number of people 16 years of age and older working or looking for work – increased by 1,646 from February to March for an all-time record high of 848,097.

The Salmon-Challis National Forest announced they will be extending the comment period on the Wild and Scenic River Draft Eligibility Report to July 16, 2018. The Forest was originally seeking comment by May 4.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has been very open about his support for Lt. Governor Brad Little, and on April 10 he makes his endorsement official.

One of Pocatello’s busiest intersections will be getting a facelift. Starting April 23, crews will begin work on the intersection of East Alameda Road, Jefferson Avenue, Hiline Road, and Pocatello Creek Road.

PHOTO As soil temperatures rise and snow melts, reforestation efforts are underway on private lands burned in the 2015 Clearwater Complex Fire. The Idaho Department of Lands in partnership with the Idaho County Soil and Water Conservation District is leading the tree replanting effort. Approximately 27,000 Ponderosa Pine seedlings were just planted on 90 acres of private land in the Lolo Creek drainage. The seedlings are part of a larger project that will bring more than 130,000 seedlings to private forestlands hardest hit by the 2015 catastrophic fires in the Clearwater basin. The project targets non-industrial private lands that are at extreme risk of landslides, insect and disease outbreaks, and weed invasions post-fire. (image/Department of Lands)