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Posts published in April 2018

Braggarts and liars


Most of us have an innate dislike for braggarts when we bump into one. They are an all too familiar figure from our high school days. They tend mostly to be insecure males who want to draw attention to themselves by telling everyone how smart they are or what a great athlete they are, or how many girls they’ve dated.

Usually there is someone who has the ability to issue a quick put down and pops their balloon. I thought about this the other day as I read another report that once again First District Congressman Raul Labrador was claiming to be the only Republican running for governor with integrity. Someone ought to pop his inflated ego.

Voters beware when any candidate starts trying to claim the moral high ground. Usually, with a little digging one easily discovers the feet of clay. We’ve come to expect one candidate to claim he or she is more capable to lead or has a better program ready to implement, but when one claims more integrity and in effect says he or she is morally superior one sees an adult form of the old insecure high school braggart.

So, Mr. Integrity, would you care to explain to the voters why you carried your wife on the office payroll for years? Some seriously questioned how much real work she did for that compensation. Critics saw it as a thinly disguised effort to supplement household income.

Or go ahead and explain why you supported a hard right conservative to enter the Second District primary and try to take out their popular representative, fellow Republican Mike Simpson? That was a real profile in courage and did so much for delegation unity. You ever heard the expression “people in glass houses shouldn’t cast stones?” And what was Reagan’s 11th Commandment?

In the Idaho where I was raised we were taught not to brag, that if we did something noteworthy let someone else comment. Deeds speak more loudly than words and where I was raised we always appreciated the humble person who knows virtue is its own reward. Its called third party verification. Oh, I forgot---you were raised in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas. Correct?

Equally disappointing and certainly reflective of the”character” issue is a television ad that doctor/developer Tommy Ahlquist is running that does a hatchet job on Lt. Gov. Brad Little. This ad is so full of falsehoods it does allow one to question just what kind of character, if any, Ahlquist has.

The ad accuses Little of supporting a gas tax increase. Not true. It accuses Little of advocating a property tax increase. Not true. The ad accuses Little of helping himself to a 22% pay increase. Not true.

It refers to Little as a career politician. Since when is a job as a part-time state senator and a part-time Lt. Governor somehow morph into a full-time career political job?

Candidates are supposed to personally testify that they have signed off on the ad. This one is so bad one has to believe Ahlquist casually signed off on what his campaign aides put in front of him and didn’t ask any pointed questions.

That does not augur well for his being a hands on detailed oriented governor if elected, does it?

Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan once wrote a fine little book entitled “When Character Was King.” Character, like integrity, cannot be self-proclaimed. One is perceived by others either to have it or not.

Voters do assess a candidate for high office and whether they have character for it is easier to posit trust in a governor we believe to be trustworthy.

So far in the contest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination (i.e., the next governor) there is one clear leader in the character category---Lt. Governor Brad Little.

Judge for yourself and watch the three debate on Idaho Public Television at 8 p.m. Monday night, April 23rd.

A Meridian milestone


This seems too significant a milestone in Idaho history to go unheralded - and noted for what Idaho is becoming.

From the Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho (COMPASS), on Tuesday:

“In 1990, the City of Meridian had a population of less than 10,000. Today we estimate a population of 106,410 – a leap of more than 10-fold in 28 years, making it one of the fastest growing cities in the nation.”

That’s not exactly an official number, since it isn’t a U.S. Census statistic, but it’s probably pretty close. Likely it means that after the 2020 census, Meridian will be reported with a population well over 100,000, and Nampa, which will be in third place among Idaho cities, has a good chance of clearing 100,000 as well. (Below that the numbers will fall steeply, down to Idaho Falls at probably about 65,000.)

The city on top, Boise, now is estimated at 232,300 people.

This means those three largest cities, all within a few miles of each other, between them will be home to nearly a half-million people. But even that understates the picture, since COMPASS also estimates the current overall population of Ada and Canyon counties at 688,110. At the current growth rate, if that number is a good estimate, then those two counties may account for close to 750,000 people by the time of the next census.

Idaho’s total population is now estimated at 1.75 million by the Census. If COMPASS is right, then Ada and Canyon alone now account for 39.3 percent of the state’s population. In, say, 1980, that percentage was 27.1 percent.

Put another way, Ada and Canyon together are becoming a much bigger piece of the Idaho population. A generation ago, it accounted for about a quarter of the Idaho population; not many years from now, it may account for half. This is a long-term trend, and it will change Idaho.

What does the future of Idaho look like?

Look at Meridian. When I came to Idaho in the early 70s, Meridian’s population was under 6,000 people; now, you have to add 100,000 to that. They live mostly in a vast expanse of subdivisions and other housing developments.

What has generated that development? At core, it isn’t business or government growth. Lots of businesses and government (and educational and health facilities) have sprouted, but they’re mostly there to service the people who moved to the area. These people moved to a sprawling field of suburbia, a relatively affordable place with lots of new housing and new services. It is a bedroom community, serving the nearby area and its own internal growth.

Don’t expect this to end soon. In the new book (put together by the Association of Idaho Cities and which - disclosure here - I published) called Idaho’s 200 Cities, Meridian saw its future this way: “By 2050 Meridian’s population will more than double with many of its boundaries abutting those of neighboring cities.” That does not sound like an unreasonable projection from where we are now.

The smaller-population areas of Idaho that also have been growing quickly - around Twin Falls and Coeur d’Alene, for example - are similar: Suburbs that look a lot like Meridian.

The people of Idaho were once, in large part, cowboys, farmers, miners and loggers. Some still are, but increasingly they are suburbanites. Look upon Meridian, and see Idaho’s future.

The new independents


In the 1960’s over 90% of all voters identified as Democratic or Republican. Today 42% of voters identify as independent.

These independent voters are still more likely to support Democratic or Republican policies. So as rational voters in a two party system they still consistently lean towards one legacy party or another. Which means the growing number of independent voters isn’t all due to policy differences with the Democrats and Republicans. So why are voters who consistently vote no Republican or Democrat policies not joining those party? Something is happening.

American democracy also has foundational values largely informed by the enlightenment. Though it’s true that we have too often fallen short of achieving or honoring these values, these are still American democracy foundational values even if imperfect in implementation. When our government works best, it has adhered to American democracy foundational values. The rights of the minority; hard work; honoring public service ; the democratic process; fairness; equality; equal economic opportunity; justice; fair play.

So how does a person – a voter – react when a political group whose policies she generally supports no longer honors some of the important fundamental moral foundations and American democracy foundation values? It seems logical that they’d quit that organization, though in our two party system, they’d still continue voting in a logical pattern in support if the party candidates due to policy position.

In other words, you’d see the party affiliation trends we are now experiencing. Growing numbers of independents, reducing membership in the Democratic and Republican (legacy) Parties.

The American Values Voter

Today’s independent voter is the modern American values voter. We are identified by the weight we place on moral foundations and American democracy foundational values when making political decisions. Not that partisan voters ignore these foundational values, but there key differences between American values voters and many legacy party partisan voters.

Partisans give more weight than independents to loyalty to the party rather than the moral foundational value voters. Independent American value voters have freed themselves from the loyalty to party value so give more weight to whether a particular candidate adheres to our moral foundations and American democracy foundational values. Polling showed for instance that independent American values voters were reluctant to vote for Roy Moore even if they were closer to him on policy matters. Republican Partisans believed it was more important to have a Republican in the Senate and were willing to overlook his serious violation of moral foundational values.

That’s not to say that policy isn’t important to Independent American values voters or that moral foundational values aren’t important to partisans. But American values voters do care more about how a candidate incorporates moral foundational values and American democracy values into their candidacy, relationships and actions. In fact, for many, it’s the most important trait of a candidate. Modern American values voters can accept a candidate that has a different position than we do on school vouchers perhaps, but we’re unlikely to support a candidate who agrees with us on vouchers but ridicules the rule of law in a tweet.

Some Defining Characteristics of the American Value voter

American values voters may be clustered around the traditional political center, but they also include very liberal and very conservative voters who understand the importance of our American democracy foundational values and their importance to our Democratic institutions.

Core characteristics of the modern American value voter could include:

Fairness and justice: Today party operatives and political advisers – the political industry – have largely ignored fairness and honesty. They use technology, the media, voting barriers and importantly the inherent weakness of our election architecture that allows just two political parties to challenge for power, to divide us into two tribes using hate, anger and fear. They find more success by making us distrust and fear anyone not part of our tribe. Modern Values voters are disgusted by the political games that have undermined our democracy. (In a recent Pew Research poll, they found 71% of Republicans and 63% of Democrats cite the harm from the opposing party’s policies as a major reason to affiliate with their party.)

Character: Protecting minority interests requires the powerful to have good will and to act fairly. Negotiating with your loyal opposition requires honesty. Being a part of the opposition caucus requires loyalty to our democratic institutions. Asking Americans to sacrifice requires the willingness to self sacrifice. Elected officials who lack character seldom veer from established party dogma because doing so may create a primary revolt from the zealot party activist base motivated by fear and anger. Honest disagreement within a party based on a matter of conscience or character or legitimate disagreement on fact is a rare thing today.

Loyalty to American values, Country over party: Independent Value voters honor our democratic process and our men and women in uniform. Most independents recognize and admit to the flaws of our country, including the greatest flaw – America’s original sin – but we also recognize our strengths of institutions, and our people. Importantly, Independent American values voters believe in country over party. They reject tribalism and are loyal to all peoples of America and not just the “ingroup” represented by party affiliation.

Authority and respect: Independents understand the value of our constitutional democratic process and institutions. That we can’t always win but we must respect the authority of the outcome. They know that an independent judiciary is vital to freedom and liberty. They respect wisdom, education, science, and institutions that have those values.

Hope and working together: As contrary as it may seem, independent modern American values voters seek to work together for the betterment of our country and world, and actually have hope in America. It may not always seem that way. Independents will vent, display frustration, or be critical of our governance and elections. But that’s because of our frustration at how the current political elite continue operate in violation of moral foundational values and American democratic values. It’s why we’ve left the legacy parties. And why we’re looking for a new path to restore moral and American democratic values.

What Impact Will American Values voters make?

Independent voters represent an unmet demand for candidates elections and processes that represent American democratic foundational values. But our current election architecture makes viable independent or third party candidacies rare and building a third party difficult because under our current first past the post voting architecture there’s really only room for two parties. There is a possibility that the Democratic or Republican party will decide to focus on character and American democratic values. But the sad fact is, tribalism and fear is more powerful than hope, and the current strategies of dividing us into tribes has worked. And from a business standpoint, no political consultant has ever lost a job by giving the same advice that every other consultant offers.

The best path may be in States that allow citizen initiatives, such as Oregon, where the people can petition for a change to their election choice architecture. This would be vehemently opposed by the entrenched political industry and the Democratic and Republican Party leadership. In Maine the people passed Ranked Choice voting by initiative and both legacy party leadership did all they could to subvert the reforms. But, a modern American value movement could use States as proving grounds for different reforms. There are plenty of new values voters who would support such a path if they could be organized to contribute, walk, talk and work.

The need and demand is out there. Americans have always been innovators. We need some political innovation right now.



It is an old gambit if there are many candidates for the same public office. One has to figure out how to separate themselves from the others.

Some use gimmicks like inflatable dragons. Others campaign with a country music or a rock ‘n roll band. Some hand out pens or hot pads. Still others make outrageous statements.

Such was the case last week with State Senator Bob Nonini (R-3rd)who is one seven faceless, obscure candidates running for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor. Speaking in Moscow to an anti-abortion gathering, Nonini gave them more red meat than any reasonable person should.

In a beyond the pale statement Nonini said any woman who had an abortion should be executed and any one aiding and abetting should be imprisoned. No if’s, and’s or but’s; no exemptions for rape, incest, or life of the mother. Really, Senator?

If you really believe that, Senator, shouldn’t the guy that got the gal pregnant also be executed? I mean, it takes two to tango without taking protective steps or are you one of those who thinks the woman bears all the responsibility?

Last time I checked, Senator, there are more women voters than men and I think your incredibly absurd statement may have cost you 95% of the Republican female vote even in your home county.

Yes, life begins at conception. And yes government has an obligation to protect life. And yes abortion is deplorable, immoral and a sin. And yes it is wrong and tragic but you should know by now that legislatures cannot pass legislation that covers every contingency. Beginning of life and end of life decisions are intensely personal and private. They should be left in the hands of the family most especially the woman whose body is involved.

You see abortion as murder of the child in the womb. The law does not agree. To propose another murder as the “solution” is just borderline insane. It is not a responsible response.

You have succeeded in separating yourself from the pack, as you desired. However, most voters I’m willing to bet will not mark the ballots for someone that argues “eye for an eye.” You in all probability disqualified yourself. Consider withdrawing.

Will young Americans rescue us?


Until I stepped into a few classrooms last October, I had the impression that today’s high school kids were just interested in weird music and various types of social media. After visiting classes of Cindy Wilson at Capital High and Sharon Hanson at Boise High, I came away greatly impressed.

The kids were well informed on current affairs, asked relevant questions, and made thoughtful comments. It gave me hope for our country--that perhaps we could get back to debating without trying to shout over one another, that we might be witnessing a generation willing to exercise leadership and common sense to solve seemingly intractable problems. It was not just how the students handled themselves in the classroom, but also what they said in written comments they submitted to these fine teachers afterwards. I received the comments and they are a real treasure.

I spoke to all of Mrs. Wilson’s government classes, leaving plenty of time for interaction with the kids. Questions and comments from the students dealt with every major issue facing the country, including the cost of college, climate change, refugee policy, guns, national debt, net neutrality, political discourse, public service, war, peace, and you name it. A recurring theme was that these issues should be debated back and forth, without rancor, and then be resolved through thoughtful compromise.

Incidentally, since I spoke to her classes, Mrs. Wilson has thrown her hat in the governmental ring and is running for the office of Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction. From what I saw, she would be a good one. I expect she is an inspiration to her students.

I spoke to one of Mrs. Hanson’s classes and had the same experience--smart, well-informed and thoughtful students. She introduced me to the Boise High Humanitarian Club, a large group of socially aware students whose purpose is to make a difference for the good in their community and country. I was so impressed with the Club that I invited its President, Therese Etoka, to help with a speaking engagement I had with a local service club. She was a big hit with the group.

What the experience taught me is that we need to ensure that all schools around the state emphasize the value of civics education so kids can learn how our government works and understand how individuals can and should make a difference. We need to make sure that each school has dedicated teachers like Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Hanson and that they are valued for the important job they do.

It is incumbent upon the state to adequately fund schools across the state, to provide classrooms that are safe and conducive to learning, and to provide a curriculum that looks to the future, not the past. The Idaho Constitution requires us to provide “a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” We can’t do that by continually hovering near last place in the nation in per-student school expenditures. Idaho is in clear violation of its constitutional responsibility.

We have students who are smart, motivated, and willing to work for the betterment of society. The state needs to support and encourage them in every classroom in the state, whether urban or rural, so they can do their part in cleaning up the mess we are leaving them.

The timing is right


So. Paul Ryan counted on his fingers and toes and found there probably wouldn’t be enough Republicans in the House after the next election to make up a bowling team.

And, faced with a minority - probably a distinct minority - the best he could hope for would be leader of a distinct - well - minority. And maybe not leader.

Ryan decided to cash in his 20 years in Congress and take his taxpayer $79,000 a-year lifetime “entitlement.” Since he failed to slash Social Security, he must have figured, “What the Hell, gimmie some.”

With Ryan’s exit - stage right, of course - that Trump fella has taken complete control of what used to be a functioning, respected Republican Party. A national Party now headed into a well-deserved irrelevance for at least a couple of election cycles. Maybe more. A Party without honor as it uses what’s left of its “influence” to prostitute itself to dishonestly defend our dishonorable president.

It’s to be dearly hoped that, during that enforced hiatus, the GOP will do some surgical cleansing of philosophy. That it will return to what made it respectable before letting the far right purge intelligence and common sense.

The only humans likely to believe the cover story that Ryan “checked out” to “spend time with his growing kids” are likely the kids themselves. He saw the handwriting on the wall and decided he didn’t want to be part of the graffiti.

Ryan’s fleeing the mess on Capitol Hill might also be a good time for Democrats to do some cleaning in their own houses - House and Senate - after the 2018 elections.

Nancy Pelosi is 78 - Chuck Schumer is 68. They’ve each served much of their elected time in some form of leadership. They’ve done well in those posts, have weathered many political storms and - for the most part - honorably carried the Democrat banners.

But, January, 2019, might be a good time for each to pass the torches and either exit - stage left, of course - or take more comfortable seats on the “back bench” in more advisory capacities.

Judging from candidacy filings, the next crop of new faces in Congress will be younger - in their 30's to 50's. There’ll be more women in both houses. Many will be new to both Washington and national politics. While they’ll be coming in with their own ideas and energy, Pelosi and Schumer could provide a lot of quick education about the “ins and outs” of how things work. Not telling them WHAT to do - more like teaching them HOW to do.

As for the vacancies, if Pelosi and Schumer were to step aside, there are some seasoned, younger people ready to go. In the Senate, Patty Murray, Rob Wyden, Amy Klobuchar, Ed Markey and Chris Van Hollen have “earned their spurs.”

In the House, Joe Kennedy, Joaquin Castro, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, Jackie Speier, Barbara Lee and a dozen more have grounded themselves in the grunt work and earned promotions to leadership.

Democrats are in a much better position to reorganize their Party than are Republicans. They have a more singular set of values, broad enough nearly all can get behind. They can, that is, if they’ll bury the Clinton-Sanders squabbles. That battle is over.

Republicans, on the other hand, are so fractured they don’t have enough “timber” to build the stairs to a platform, much less flooring for a platform itself. It’s to be dearly hoped the GOP will find new, more moderate blood to move things more to the center of the road instead of noisily floundering in the right hand ditch.

Whether Trump will still be there in 2019, is an open question at this point. With or without his divisive presence, real power is likely to shift to Congress and the courts for the next several years. That’s what makes this November’s balloting so damned important.

About 60% of Americans eligible to vote in 2016, did not. And look what happened. Given the damage Trump and his band of unfit minions have done to our government, we cannot afford that again.

Ryan’s exit can mean more than just one zealot being kicked to the political curb. The “attack” by voters has to be twofold: cut the irresponsible and dangerous voices off at the bottom of the ticket and encourage new leadership at the top. (photo/Gager Skidmore)

Idaho Briefing – April 16

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

Candidate debates have become almost old hat in Idaho this cycle, since contenders for governor have been sharing stages for most of a year. But more major activity on this front is picking up, as two of the major statewide debates aired late last week.

A Boise federal grand jury has indicted four current correctional officers employed by the Idaho Department of Correction, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis said. In another case, the grand jury indicted a former IDOC correctional officer, a former IDOC inmate and the inmate’s associate.

Idaho National Laboratory, together with the Idaho State Board of Education, is breaking ground on two new research facilities: the Cybercore Integration Center and the Collaborative Computing Center.

The Idaho National Laboratory reported that on the evening of April 11, a barrel containing radioactive sludge ruptured when it came into contact with air. The agency said that no injuries were reported and no waste escaped into the outside environment. Some emergency operations were undertaken on April 12, but those were concluded by the day’s end.

The city of Idaho Falls and its partners on April 12 held a groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s newest park – Heritage Park, at Snake River Landing.

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.

The city of Boise’s biennial citizen survey is now open to all members of the public interested in participating.

PHOTO KSAS, 103.5 KISS FM’s Morning Show Host Keke Luv (Steve Kicklighter), along with his fellow on-air hosts, Lucky The DJ and Mateo, will once again draw attention to child abuse in the Treasure Valley. As in past years,Keke will urge the community to discuss and push forth the “Cycle to Break the Cycle” message during the 175-consecutive-hours live broadcast. Keke is asking his listeners to help him achieve the community awareness goal by pedaling stationary bicycles that are each connected to a power inverter that will provide electric power to the radio station’s studio custom built at the event. (image/Townsquare Media)

Notes . . .


The word of the day is kakistocracy. It's a little obscure, since we traditionally haven't had a lot of cause for the use of it. Comes from the Greek, where (as the Washington Post helpfully notes) "Kakistos is Greek for “worse,” so kakistocracy means government by the worst people."

Shouldn't be very hard to figure out why this word is suddenly trending hard, breaking recent records for lookups around online dictionary sites ...

Although, it's come up before, notably about a year ago. Then it seemed to quiet, and now it's back. Hmm.

Oh, and there's also this.


The Democratic contest?


Will Idaho Democrats get a seriously contested race for the gubernatorial nomination this year?

The apparent answer is yes …

The party often has had contested primaries, in the strict sense of more than one person on the ballot. But the last time a Democrat won the nomination for governor with less than an outright landslide was 20 years ago (Robert Huntley, with 54.3%), though even that was a runaway win in a four-person field. The last close contest for the party’s Democratic nomination for governor was in 1970, when Cecil Andrus won over Vern Ravenscroft, with a plurality of the vote.

Could the contest this year between A.J. Balukoff and Paulette Jordan come close?

Balukoff has some major advantages which might lead him to a decisive win. Democratic voters know him from having run statewide for the same office four years ago so he is positioned to pick up from where he left off in organizing and contacts, and an already-prepared message. And, of course, money; he has a good deal of that, and demonstrated last time he’s quite willing to spend it. He has also been very civically active, on the Boise School Board and elsewhere.

In 2014 he seemed to display ambiguity about just how much of a Democrat he was (in common with the Democratic governor nominee before him, Keith Allred), but appears more aligned with the party now. On the other hand, some Republicans and some Democrats each point out that as a Boise business community kind of guy, he has been close to the Boise business Republican community; current Republican governor candidate Tommy Ahlquist donated $5,000 to Balukoff four years ago, as many in both parties well remember.

That gets into the internal Democratic argument against him: That he might seem more like another (failed) attempt to appeal to Republicans, instead of someone who might excite Democrats.

The idea of exciting that Democratic base, modest as it might be in Idaho, is a lot of what undergirds Paulette Jordan’s bid. Jordan is a now-former state representative, the last legislator (at this writing) elected in Idaho between Boise and the Canada border. She has presence (and by many accounts, some charisma), a history of actually being elected as a Democrat (in highly contested elections), legislative background (meaning experience in state government) and a life story that can hook many people’s attention. She is a member of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and has won election to the tribal council.

Some party people, though, have questions about her preparation for the candidacy and the job. Her accomplishment report card as a legislator gets mixed marks depending on who you talk to. There was the confusion last legislative session, for example, about whether she would resign or not, and seeming lack of think-through about the implications of quitting or staying.

Her core stances on state issues resemble Balukoff’s, but the approach and tone is different. Some politics watchers suggest that many 2016 Bernie Sanders supporters may break for Jordan, hearing from her something closer to their sensibility. Sanders did well in the Idaho caucuses in 2016, though that’s a smaller group, and a different type of voter, than primary election voters.

Again, how many voters will the Democratic primary attract next month, when so many hot races are underway on the Republican side? If the number is small, who does that help? You can argue either way.

The answers may come down to what Democrats are looking for: A standard-bearer to charge with their message, or a more centrist-appealing candidate who might pick up the pieces if the Republican primary end game goes sour.

Look in the answer to that question for the likely result of the Democratic primary. Which might indeed be closely contested.