A place for the writings and the ideas of the people in and around (and coming to the attention of) the Ridenbaugh Press.


University of Idaho President Chuck Staben is living on borrowed time. His days are numbered and the reason is simple: He just doesn’t get the fact that in today’s environment of winners and losers, the key to the perception that a university is exceptional and successful is whether it has a winning football (and to a somewhat lesser degree a winning basketball) program.

A statewide survey the University commissioned four years ago appears not to have been read by the then new and incoming president. That survey indisputably demonstrated that Idahoans all across the state rate Boise State number #1 in almost all categories measured. This position of superiority is a direct outcome of BSU’s football and basketball success.

When alumni identify with a university’s success they more quickly reach for their checkbooks. This becomes self-sustaining and self-fulfilling as success breeds more success. Respondents to the survey appear to believe that BSU is more efficiently run, a safer campus with a better faculty, and a better school for delivering a post graduate job. Few of these views are correct.

Staben’s major sin was deciding Idaho would be better off dropping down to the second tier FCS (Football Championship, the former Division I-AA) Big Sky Conference as opposed to staying at the FBS (Football Bowl – the big dogs like the PAC-12) level.

In Staben’s defense he did talk to the university’s many shareholders and did contract with Collegiate Consultants to review athletic spending at both peer universities and other schools. Staben is keenly aware that the Spokane television market is large enough to support just one major collegiate program, and in the Inland northwest that is Washington State in football and Gonzaga in basketball.

Idaho, Eastern Washington and Montana have to scramble for the crumbs left over.

Ironically, Staben’s decision comes in a year when the Vandals have a shot at the six wins needed to qualify for an invite to a bowl. Coach Petrino appears to have turned the program around, but to the chagrin of Athletic Director Rob Spear (whose crunching of the numbers shows it may cost Idaho more to step down) it may be too little too late.

It’s not so much Staben’s decision, it’s how he made it and when. Also, many are speculating who he listened to last before deciding. Critics are especially angered that Staben announced his decision in April after promising to wait until the fall football season was over. They also point to his use of the Operational Study by Collegiate Consulting not released until May 2nd but cited in April as part of the justification.

Many of Staben’s critics are large athletic donors who feel he lied to them by making a premature announcement. They charge Staben with deliberately sabotaging ticket sales and contributions to assist in making his decision a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Furthermore, Staben allegedly claimed the Big Sky Conference had given Idaho a “drop dead” date for deciding, which the Big Sky commissioner later denied.

Staben is further faulted for not really listening to those with differing opinions, and for who he does listen to last. Some point to Mike Parry as one of those overly influencing Staben. Others throw out other names.

Parry came to Idaho as part of a “package deal” that brought his spouse, Mary Kay McFadden, the highly successful vice president of development, family and alumni relations at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, back to Idaho as the new vice president for advancement.

Whoever or whatever, Staben was led to believe a solid majoriy of large donors supported the move to the Big Sky.

This is absolutely not true critics say and claim Staben can cite few large athletic donors other than former interim Idaho president Gary Michael (the former chief exeuctive of Albertson’s ) and former Vandal football coach Keith Gilbertson, who now resides in Coeur d’Alene, as move supporters.

Staben does appear to have a tin ear regarding Idaho politics and just how political his job is. He is faulted for awarding much higher salaries to his new hires. Critics charge this has come at the expense of increasing student tuition which in turn has led to declining enrollment that is fast becoming a major issue within the university community.

Additionally, they point out Idaho no longer participates in the “good neighbor” tuition reduction program that used to be in place for applicants from any state touching Idaho’s borders.

Staben also received some poor advice telling him that it was illegal to offer a tuition reduction incentive program for alumni children to enroll at the University of Idaho. He also has long promised to start acting on a strategic plan that would restore the image and prestige of the University. So far little success has been noted.

Critics note the Idaho Board of Education which has the dual duty of being the University’s Board of Regents, appears to be totally in the thrall of Boise State partisans.

The real bottom line here, and why Staben should dust off his resume, is he has lost all credibility with a major constituency of the University of Idaho. When a chief executive of any kind of entity loses his credibility, its best for both the executive and the entity that the person pack his bags.

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A couple weeks back this column critiqued a “double truck” ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press written and paid for by a prominent local real estate executive, Chris Walsh, who owns Revolutionary Realty.

His firm caters in part to the “preppers,” those who seek out somewhat isolated property in northern Idaho where they build their homes, stockpile food and weapons and wait for Armageddon.

Walsh fired back and we each took another shot at the other, stereotyping the other, getting snarkier while getting close to the line, if not outright crossing it, of engaging in personal attack. I’ve long had a policy of not responding to comments on or attacks at my political musings, but also try not to engage in any sort of personal attack.

Something about Walsh’s passion as well as his still seeing Republican nominee Donald Trump as the only agent of needed change captured my attention.

So I sent him an e-mail suggesting we cease shooting and instead sit down over breakfast and listen to each other. I also apologized for the stereotyping as well as my snarky overtone. Walsh graciously accepted both the apology and the offer of breaking bread together.

We met for breakfast at the Elmer’s just off I-90 and Highway 95. We began by focusing on what we agreed upon. There was a surprising amount:

  • We felt both political parties have been captured by their large contributors, have lost touch with their base and reflect the special interests, not the public interest.
  • Both party caucuses in both houses of Congress are equally responsible for the gridlock that holds the nation’s capital in its thrall.
  • Too many federal agencies are filled with too many folks who see preserving their jobs as their prime purpose, instead of providing the public with efficient, effective service.
  • A systemic issue in the bureaucrats’ desire to preserve their jobs necessitates the writing of more and more regulations for them to interpret and administer.
  • The best vehicle for really changing the D.C. culture would be the imposition of term limits on both our elected representatives and those in the civil service.
  • Critical issues facing America and whomever becomes president are not being addressed, such as the looming bankruptcy of many of the nation’s pension funds, which all will look to our empty Treasury expecting a federal bailout which Congress will not be able to do.
  • The Simpson/Bowles Commission on Restoring Fiscal Accountability to the nation’s finances by starting down a path of reducing spending and paying down debt is an unfortuate lost opportunity.
  • Resource conversion is what brings new dollars into the economy, whether trees into 2 x 4’s, wheat into bread, minerals into metals and computers; and, while it is important to undertake more of these activities, it has to be done in an environmentally responsible way.
  • An educated workforce is critical to the betterment of any state and Idaho has to do more in the arena of support for public education.
  • The shrinking middle class does indeed subsidize the top tenth of 1% many of whom take full advantage of the numerous loopholes in the ungainly, overly complicated U.S. Tax Code, which has to be simplified.
  • Health care costs more than ever while covering less than ever.

Where we still disagreed is Walsh’s belief that because Trump is the only outsider left in the race, and the public knows change is needed, therefore he is the one a citizen should vote for.

Even if elected (which seems more and more unlikely given the release of another embarrassing tape), Trump has alienated so many of the constituencies one has to work with in order to get things done he will be utterly impotent and unable to produce anything he has promised.

With all due respect, I told Walsh my conclusion was the Donald was not the man to lead us out of the wilderness and the slough of despair. We parted friends, both the better for having sat down and listened to each other with full respect to our free speech rights. We agreed to meet again.

I presented Walsh with a copy of my three books and I accepted his offer of a flying tour of north Idaho in his vintage Beech Bonanza. I divined that he well understood the old caution to flier’s: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots.”

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Former Arizona Governor and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt was in Coeur d’Alene recently to address the first annual north Idaho dinner for the Idaho Conservation League.

The dinner is also a living memorial to the late Scott Reed, a Coeur d’Alene attorney who helped found the ICL, and who also became an expert on Environmental Impact Statements and water law.

Reed is survived by his beloved spouse, former State Senator Mary LouReed, a daughter, Tara, and a son, Bruce, who served former President Bill Clinton first at the Democratic Leadership Council and then as President Clinton’s chief domestic policy advisor.

Fellow Coeur d’Alene attorney and ICL board member Buddy Paul spearheaded the effort to put the sold-out dinner together.

At 78, Babbitt still is ramrod straight in posture, quiet and modest in demeanor, has a ready smile, a great sense of humor, an intellect like few others, and an undiminished passion for protecting the environment.

For an hour before the dinner, Governor Babbitt (the 47th Secretary of the Interior) sat down to discuss the future prospects for survival of the ocean-going salmon on the Columbia and Snake River systems, with two of Idaho’s leading conservationists: Pat Ford and Rick Johnson. For years Ford headed up the Boise office of the group “Save Our Salmon,” and before that was the executive director of the Idaho Conservation League.

Rick Johnson is the current executive director of ICL.

Ford is a strong advocate of taking out the four lower Snake dams, breaching them to restore natural river flow. Once again (4th time?) a Federal District Judge in Portland, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, has ruled that the Biological Opinion on whether the dams too adversely inhibit the journey of the smolt to the sea is deficient. Therefore, ipso facto, the EIS so dependent on the BIOP, is also deficient.

Ford is the quintessential “lean, mean fighting machine,” and a vigorous advocate for restoring the salmon and steelhead runs, He speaks eloquently and writes with style and passion on the need for the region to take the proper steps before wild salmon and steelhead are extinct.

Still freckle-faced with red hair, he was quickly called “Pixie” while attending Columbia and receiving his undergraduate degree. Though “retired” Ford is still a master of detail as well as a master strategist.

This particular day Ford has a specific ask given that new hearings have been ordered by the judge. Ford has chafed at the inadequacy of the previous BIOP’s and EIS’s in part because none of the previous one’s did an honest and diligent examination of the breaching option.

He instinctively knows that a better examination by the Task Force charged with the responsibility will create more support for his goal. He wants to make sure that the incoming administration knows the importance of the issue. He also has spotted a shortcoming that has contributed to the inadequate reviews: there is no one from the Interior department’s fish and wildlife agency or from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Task Force.

His ask of Babbitt then is a letter to another former Interior secretary, Ken Salazar, who heads up Hillary Clinton’s Transition Team with Babbitt encouraging the Transition Group to pay heed to his request.

The former Arizona attorney general and 9-year governor still absorbs quickly and acts decisively.

He jokingly tells Johnson and Ford that he is once again a public employee working for the State of California at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, heading up a Task Force that is examining California’s overworked, overdemand, overconsumed rivers.

He tells Johnson and Ford he is already zeroing in on the need salmon have for stream temperature no higher than 56 degrees if one wants to maximize the reproduction capabilities of the salmon and steelhead.

Ford commits to doing a draft and is rightly pleased to have achieved another small step in his relentless pursuit of preserving at least some of the historically magnificent salmon runs. Three warriors for the environment to whom future generations will owe much amble off to the reception.

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A few weeks ago former Idaho Attorney General and Lieutenant Governor David Leroy turned 69. He has stayed in good shape (Obviously exercises daily)and except for his all white, perfectly coifed hair one might think he was in his late 40’s or early 50’s.

With apologies to Irish poet Dylan Thomas, Leroy is not quietly going into the good night, nor with apologies to General Douglas MacArthur, is he like an old soldier fading away.

Still bursting with energy, a ready smile, a sense of humor and plain smarts tell one why he came so close to winning Idaho’s governorship in 1986.

Early in his political career Leroy idolized former governor and U.S. Senator Len B. Jordan, a principled but reasonable conservative. The Leroys even named their first child, a daughter, after Jordan. In addition, he gave an eloquent and heartfelt eulogy at Grace Jordan’s funeral services.

Somewhere along his political path Leroy became more and more enthralled with the 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. He stumbled, metaphorically speaking, across the factoid that Lincoln had signed the legislation creating the Idaho territory in 1863. The more he read the more enthralled he became. It truly can be said that he is a self-educated genuine Lincoln scholar.

He has traveled the state talking about Lincoln and his impact on Idaho. He easily won a grant from Idaho’s Humanities Council to support some of the expenses for these lectures. The grant, however, does not cover all his expenses so he donates his time as well as his treasure to the cause.

During these past years he and his wife accumulated a decent collection of Lincoln memorabilia which they have donated to the Idaho Historical Library and a wing of the Idaho archives contains a fine display of much of their donation.
In early September Leroy announced the formation of the Idaho Lincoln Institute, a non-profit that will be dedicated to public education, opinion research and presentations taking educated guesses on where Lincoln might be on divisive political issues of our time. Early next year he intends to announce the formation of an advisory board and to begin fund-raising.

With the announcement, Leroy sent out several pages of quotes from Lincoln on issues still under debate today such as amending the Constitution and holding a constitutional convention.

Oddly, though Leroy had no quote touching on one of the major issues still dividing Idahoans today and that is the grants of every other section of public land to the routes railroad companies constructed across the west. The grants were incredibly generous incentives to the timber firms that emerged from these railroad firms—companies such as Weyerhauser, Potlatch and Plum Creek can trace their lineage to these grants which in places like Idaho’s upper Lochsa and the upper St. Joe have become management nightmares.

This has led to often controversial land swaps in which the public land agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management try to work out equitable in value land swaps and block up holdings for more efficient management.

Leroy does mention Lincoln’s equally important signing of the Homestead Act that especially in southern Idaho spurred economic growth as settlers received 160 acres of land to farm.

Leroy’s selection of quotes does make it clear that Lincoln had no problem with selling public lands to private interests and he clearly believed in public/private partnerships.

Oddly enough, this stance by Lincoln would put him at odds with the Republican nominee for president today, one Donald Trump. When asked about the selling of public lands to states or private interests at a September 22nd fund-raising event in Boise, Trump’s son, Donald Junior, raised more than a few conservative eyebrows by saying: that he and his father have “broken away from conservative dogma a little bit” on public lands. “We want to make sure that public lands stay public,” he said. “I’m a big outdoorsman, I’m a big hunter, when I lived out here that’s what I hunted on, public land, and I want to make sure that the next generation has that ability to do that.” He said if federal lands were transferred to state control, they could be sold off when a state has a budget shortfall, “and then all of a sudden, you never have access to those lands ever again.”

At least Trump has one issue correctly sized up. The more things change the more they stay the same.

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Generally I try to avoid on this list items which come down to policy judgments. People of good will, and similarly presidential candidates, may disagree about some of these items.

But can people of good will really disagree about the wisdom of abruptly throwing 20 million people off health insurance? Donald Trump has proposed exactly that, saying he would move to demolish the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as soon as he became president. Plenty of people, including many other Republicans, agree.

But think for a moment before you do that. The effect of doing that would be to throw 20 million people off health insurance, and upend the country’s health infrastructure for years to come.

This is not to argue that the ACA is perfect and can’t improved. Of course it can, and no less than Barack Obama has made that case.

But 20 million people deliberately and swiftly thrown off health insurance. Preseisting conditions or – hell, any reason at all – for dropping health coverage will return.

How is that helping or protecting the people of the United States? Or even – since for some politicians the well-being of businesses matter when that of individuals does not – what does that do to the economic and financial side of health care in the United States? Health insurers and providers spent years adjusting to the ACA; imagine the chaos if they have to adjust virtually overnight to going back to what was. And what was, for millions of people, was no great bargain. To put it mildly. – rs

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Chris Walsh, the realtor who has made a fortune selling north Idaho land to “preppers” – those folk who believe they have to stockpile food and weapons to protect that food from hungry urban hordes come Armegeddon or the Russians invade – is buying three “double page” ads for three Sundays in a row in The Coeur d’Alene Press telling readers Donald Trump is the person to lead America back to prosperity.

Why not spend $3000 a pop or about $10,000 total? After all, his business feasts off fear and people being afraid, so afraid that they spend a fair amount of money purchasing land from which they can plug the starving hordes trying to steal their food-supply.

Walsh was recently quoted extensively in a long piece on the American Redoubt Movement in the Washington Post by Kevin Sullivan, one of their fine reporters.

Donald Trump, therefore, is the only choice. Trump doesn’t mince words as he plays to American insecurities about the future, too much illegal immigration, crime, the drug epidemic, American troops fighting proxy wars; and, the state of the economy. You’ve heard it all and so supposedly you’ll blindly stampede to the polls to vote for the biggest con man in history.

So, you bet, Mr. Walsh, let’s do what’s good for your business and urge people to vote for the fear-mongering artist par excellence, Donald Trump.

Walsh buries his real goal in copy that says the universal answer is creating more good-paying jobs.

In looking at his polemic it is easy to spot classic rhetorical devices such as rhetorical questions, false either/or’s, false syllogisms, use of the vague “they” as in “they said,” and the straw dog argument one builds and then tears down.

Early on Walsh uses a false syllogism regarding youth’s alleged lost work ethic. He claims if the unemployed young had good-paying jobs they would rediscover the forgotten virtues of a decent job. Not necessarily so, Mr. Walsh.

Then he makes use of the vague “they,” as in “they sold us down the river,” “they told us that moving jobs overseas would not hurt,” “they were wrong, it’s a lie.”

Just who are “they?” Well, of course, the politicians and the super-rich. You can bet when Mr. Walsh is flying any of the super-rich around looking for property he doesn’t read this part of his thesis.

He throws out for consideration one of the mantras of this world’s cons: “The answers are actually simpler than most think.” I’m sorry but that is a pure lie. Life is full of complexities, ambiguities, and nuance. The thoughtful know there are no simple solutions to any serious divisive issue. Those that say otherwise just don’t get it and probably never will.

Walsh then lays out four ideas on how to creat jobs and get America moving. He sees a resumption of more natural resource conversion as the first principle. He sees a hard-working citizenry; he sees government at all levels as supportive, not dictatorial; and, he sees the need for legitimate trade agreements. Even I can agree with much of this and we could find common ground. The touble is this is Walsh speaking, not Donald Trump. Like many, Walsh thinks he knows wehere Trump is coming from. The truth is he doesn’t have a clue and neither does Trump himself.

Walsh also believes all these Trump generated jobs will end racism in America. I wish. Where’s he been the last eight years as the hard-right mounted its vicious, hate-filled campaign against President Obama?

Given all these preliminaries Mr. Walsh stuns with his primary reason to support Trump: “Because the Democrats and Establishment Republicans hate him.” That’s it, Chris? Seriously? Because he is hated Trump should be elected?

Walsh ends by saying it comes down to a hard choice. However, he again makes the mistake of framing matters in the false language of the either/or.

He ends by invoking a phrase made famous by the Beatles: The words “come together.”

The entire phrase in the lyrics is “come together, right now, over me.”

Not going to happen, Chris. Trump is a divider, not a unifier, and you know it.

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No, Brody vs. Mckenzie is not the name of some famous legal case that one should know something about. However, it is the last name of the two finalists seeking a rare open seat on Idaho’s State Supreme Court, and Idaho voters should know who they are and what their approach to the law is.

Unfortunately, there are too few who know who they are and where they stand on the various complex matters that come before the Supreme Court.

Idaho’s few political pundits believe Ms. Brody will win largely based on her having won the May primary, with 30.3% of the vote to McKenzie’s 20.7% (45,282 votes to 41,348). In addition, the Rupert attorney who practices business and water law, represents schools and hospitals as well as small farmers, is also a competent trial attorney. The $176,000 she raised for the primary was more funds than her three challengers combined.

State Senator Curt McKenzie’s supporters question why trial attornies are so heavily investing in her candidacy, not so subtley implying she would be indebted to them and favor their side of cases regardless of the law. It’s a vicious canard and has no place in a judicial campaign. Supporters of Ms. Brody in turn have encouraged her to cite Idaho Power’s strong support for McKenzie by allegedly”loaning” Governor Otter’s former campaign chief, Jeff Malmen, to McKenzie to offer advice. Malmen is now the government affairs director for Idaho Power.

Her reluctance to make an issue of Malmen’s role may in part stem from her utilization of another Otter campaign staffer, Jason Lehosit, to provide her advice.

Asked how she responds to the trial attorney issue, she smiles, cites her broad-based clientele and then says “I also tell folks the most famous trial attorney ever was a man named Abraham Lincoln.”

The other reasons she will win are because she is the better candidate, has more personality, and has run a smarter campaign than has the conservative Republican Senator from Boise more noted for his strong pro-life views than anything else.

Brody has campaigned all across Idaho, spoken before Republican and Democratic gatherings, Rotary Clubs, and any group that will give her a lectern. Whenever she hits a community she already has a list of that communities “movers and shakers,” and she starts dialing the phone and introducing herself. In short, she is running a traditional Idaho campaign that stresses the importance of personal relationships.

She exerts energy, smarts, charm and has a nice narrative. Born in Wayne City, Michigan 46years ago, she and her siblings moved frequently because both parents worked for United Airlines. She attended high school in Colorado and then attended the University of Denver on a scholarship majoring in International Studies and Russian. She spent one year in St. Petersburg, then returned to the University of Denver where she double-majored, obtaining her law degree while also getting an MA in International Studies.

She married another attorney who had fallen hard for Idaho and had located in Twin Falls. They have two boys and are active members in the Rupert Catholic parish. For her first ten years in Idaho she worked for and became a partner in a small but well-known Twin Falls law firm. Then she decided she had to shorten her commute so founded her own law firm in Rupert just around the corner from the police station and the courthouse.

Her former partners all speak highly of her and she received the highest rating from the Idaho Bar Association. She has always displayed great respect for the concept of legal precedence and does not believe judges should be activists creating new law.

Everywhere she goes she makes new friends. She is proud that she has campaign coordinators in 38 of Idaho’s 44 counties and hopes to have all 44 covered by October 1st.

If elected she would be the third female member ever to serve on the Court following Linda Trout and Cathy Silak both of whom were initially appointed by Governor Cecil Andrus and then stood for election . She does not make her gender a major part of her pitch, instead stressing her competence and judicial temperament. She does, however, say she believes she would bring a unique and broadening perspective to the bench.

In the May primary approximately 180,000 ballots were cast, a miserable turnout of 23% of eligible voters. Even more sad was that there was a “drop-off” of 30,000 voters not bothering to even make a choice in the Supreme Court race.

Here’s hoping Idaho voters recognize the opportunity to elect a truly exceptional candidate who will make them proud.

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Labor Day has come and gone which means Americans and Idahoans are about to be assaulted with a barrage of polls all breathlessly reported by a media fixated on the “horse race” viewpoint. Unfortunately, polls in recent years have become less reliable because turnout of eligible voters is becoming tougher to project.

Two recent examples should serve as cautionary flags. Most major polls in the U.S. and Canada predicted Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper would keep his ten-year hold on the office. Wrong. He was clobbered by young Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau.

In Great Britain most pollsters predicted the British people would vote to remain in the European Union—-the so-called Brixit vote. Wrong again.

In each case there was a significant increase in voter turnout which pollsters failed to capture.

The media makes much about head to head races because they are easy to gauge. Inevitably they fail to report that it could be totally irrelevant if there is a surge of new voters previously eligible but who have not voted before.

For example, we’ve all seen poll reporting hat shows Donald Trump with as little as 1% of the African/American vote, or only 20% of the important Hispanic vote. Then a reporter will pontificate, stating that Mitt Romney received 40% of the Hispanic vote and Trump will have to do as well as Romney. Wrong.

A surge in turnout could overwhelm either of those minority numbers.

This is why a well-organized campaign is built around identifying your voters and getting them to the polls on election day, or verifying that they have mailed in their ballot. Professionals will tell one it truly is all about turnout.

The perspective one must keep in mind is this: there are approximately 250 million eligible voters but only a little more than half actually are registered and vote. Of late, even in presidential years, the turnout has been around 50%. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, during the primary season drew a number of new voters from that eligible to vote but never voted pool.

If he continues to draw more of the disgruntled but never voted crowd he wins going away. So keep an eye on turnout predictions, not horse races.

Some other items to watch include the difficulty of matching the polling pool with the actual voting pool. The advent and explosive increase in cell phone usage has made it difficult for pollsters to get a handle on the under 50 years of age voter.

Historically, pollsters could call folks on land-line phones and could purchase lists of perfect voters, usually referred to as “four for fours” (meaning they voted in the last four elections in a row including school levies).

As most know, young people purchase a cell phone or pad, select a number with the area code of the point of sale and the number stays with them even as they move from one telephone area code to another.

Additionally, pollsters are admitting it is taking more time to obtain the response mix that reflects the area they are polling because more people are refusing to participate. Even more worrisome is the number of respondents who outright lie about their party, or age, or income or whether they are registered.

Polls one should always dismiss are the Interactive Voice Response (IVR’s) ones, often utilized by television news departments and some newspapers. An IVR also means one is talking to a computer.

Recently, the Idaho Democratic Party underwrote a poll for one of the north Idaho legislative districts. Its conclusions were totally off-base because of the skewed demographics.

For example, the usual gender split is 51% women, 49% men. This one was 58% women. Of the 403 respondents, the 50 plus age group represented 93% of the respondents, which tells one they could not come up with a proportional breakdown of the under 50 voters. Thus, it came as no surprise that they had only called folks with landline phones.

Older voters of course tend to be more conservative, more regular church attendees, and more Republican. This particular district has a 10 to 1 Republican registration lead. The IVR computer pretty much just called Republican voters.

The poll was a total waste of money. It should serve as an object lesson for all voters.

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The anniversary passed largely unnoticed last week, but it is part of the context which one must weigh in order to understand the “Redoubt Movement” taking place in north Idaho today as well as isolated and sparsely settled parts of Montana and Wyoming.

Inspired by a manifesto written (2011) and posted on his website (survivalblog.com) by survivalist author James Wesley, Rawls, the document urged folks worried about the next financial crash or Armageddon to move to the sparsely settled areas of the upper mountain west.

Rawls pointed out that these areas would be good places to live by those who felt oppressed by exploding government regulations and a federal government over reaching in people’s lives. He noted places like north Idaho had a justifiable reputation for being libertarian and a terrain that could more easily be defended. Thus, he urged folks to relocate where their numbers might be few but their unity could disproportionally influence their political milieu.

With Rawls emphasizing little interference in their private life and the access to nearby U.S. Forest Service lands for hunting, fishing, berry-picking and a real estate agent aggressively marketing all this, Rawls supporters claim thousands of folks have migrated here.

Local officials in Bonner and Boundary counties dispute those claims, but the truth is no one really knows. What is known is the “redoubters” are participating in local politics. State Reps. Heather Scott and Sage Dixon, with “redoubter” support, have captured two of the three legislative district one seats. They have failed, however, to knock off Senator Shawn Keough, current co-chair of the powerful Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee.

Critics see similarities between the “Redoubt” movement and the old posse comitatus in its emphasis on the sacred status of the Constitution and the supremacy of a county sheriff as the top law enforcement officer. Rawls has been careful to avoid anything close to appearing to be a racist. To the contrary, all are welcomed, he says, who share a desire for less government.

The contextual aspect mentioned earlier with regard to an anniversary still lingers in the minds of many Idahoans. August 21st was the 24th anniversary of the beginning of the siege at Ruby Ridge in which federal agents were responsible for killing Randy Weaver’s wife, Vicki, and one of their children. Anyone who reads former Spokesman-Review reporter Jess Walters’ excellent book on the siege comes away convinced that the federal government engaged in pure entrapment.

A brilliant Wyoming defense attorney, “Gunning for Justice”
Gerry Spence, proceeded to tear apart the government’s case and a Boise jury acquitted Randy Weaver of all charges after 19 days of deliberation.

The message many took away from Ruby Ridge is that the federal government can literally kill with impunity. However, if the time comes, Rawls’ message to redoubters is also one of possible murder, though he would call it self-defense. What they preach is, be ready to shoot to kill all the panic-driven folks who will pore out of cities in search of sustenance.

Seeing Idaho as a haven for anti-government, take the law into your own hands types is not the image Idaho wants to convey. It can have a real downer impact on a local economy, especially if some national organization serves notice of a boycott. Losses could be in the millions.

The legitimate concern that Idaho’s elected officials should be sounding alarm bells about is the tendency of national media to want to characterize the Redoubt movement as the reincarnation of the Richard Butler/Neo-nazis plague that afflicted Idaho’s image world-wide for years.

Jame Wesley, Rawls and the redoubters are certainly hard right libertarian conservatives who can intimidate simply by showing up at meetings wearing their pistols whether there is an open-carry law or not. There is no evidence, however, that they espouse the hate-filled, white supremacist racist views of Butler. National and even international media are already monitoring and watching perhaps hoping they are.

The August 6th Economist magazine had a long and some would say sympathetic article extolling the desire for less government regulations and more individual freedom. The author errors though in repeating the belief that thousands have already moved here. He also seemed to think people can still homestead in the west. In addition, two months ago the Washington Post sent one of its Pulitzer prize-winning reporters, Kevin Sullivan, to northern Idaho to explore the possible story. (Editor’s note: Sullivan’s article appeared in the August 28th issue of the Post, two days after this column was written and distributed.)

An obvious question is what’s the difference between the Butler era and the Rawls era? The answer is that though it took some time to get it together, local leaders in Coeur d’Alene did unite with the state’s political leadership to denounce the racist, hate filled language of the neo-Nazi’s.

Governors Andrus, Batt and Kempthorne all worked with local leaders like Tony Stewart, Father Bill Wassmuth and Marshall Mend to denounce Butler and company. In other words there was real political leadership both at the local and state level.

One has yet to hear a peep from Governor Otter, or Senators Risch and Crapo, or Congressman Raul Labrador, speaking out that even the “redoubt movement,” possibly a more benign posse comitatus group, is not reflective of Idaho, its citizens and its collective values.

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The following story came close to happening. The reader can decide whether it should have.

It was mid-November of 1994, a few days before Thanksgiving. Early in the morning a black cadillac with plate #1 briefly stopped in front of an apartment in downtown Boise. Walking briskly through the door was governor-elect Phil Batt, who jumped in the passenger seat. At the wheel was four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

The two old friends, though of different political persuasions, respected each other and had worked well together over the years. They chatted about Batt’s narrow election win over Attorney General Larry Echohawk as they drove to the private aviation side of Gowen Field. There they were met by Echohawk, Lt. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Senate Pro Tempore Jerry Twiggs.

They quickly boarded a jet provided by Hewlett-Packard and headed for Idaho Falls where they touched down briefly to pick up House Speaker Mike Simpson. Then took to the air again heading south. Their destination? Salt Lake City. Their purpose? To explore with the leadership of the LDS Church the sale of Idaho State University to the Church in lieu of the Church turning Ricks College into a four year college and renaming it Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Earlier that fall Andrus had received a memo from a former top aide urging him to consider the idea. The memo argued compellingly that if the LDS Church turned Ricks into a four-year college it could lead to significantly less enrollment at ISU and ultimately a regression to a junior college status akin to the College of Southern Idaho or North Idaho College.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to secretly negotiate the sale of ISU to the Church, which would then avoid the expense of building additional capacity in Rexburg? The State might gain $150 million from the sale; there would be more general funds available to Boise State and the University of Idaho if ISU were out of the mix; and, tying its future to the Church might be a better guarantee to the people of Bannock county for campus longevity than its continuing role as the poor third sister in Idaho’s university mix, living most often off of the crumbs.

So the memo argued and so Andrus persuaded the Republican legislative leadership and the governor-elect to at least explore the idea.

The delegation was met by Apostle Dallin Oak at the Salt Lake airport. A former president of BYU and a former Utah Supreme Court justice, he was the acknowledged expert on higher education among the 12 apostles and he was interested in talking. Soon, the delegation was sitting in President Howard Hunter’s office in the LDS office building next to the Temple. The rest is history.

The above scenario is imaginary. The memo and the recommendation to Andrus, however, was a fact. Andrus flat rejected the idea saying there were too many obstacles to overcome in taking a public entity private, and such a drastic move would have to be approved by patrons and the public by some kind of plebesite before he would even think about it. He never raised the issue with Batt.

Perhaps he should have for the memo was prescient. BYU-Idaho is now bursting at the seams and has the second highest enrollment among the state’s seven public colleges and universities and its three private colleges. It has a total enrollment (both full-time and part-time)in excess of 15,000 students whereas the University of Idaho and ISU are both experiencing declining enrollment with Idaho having approximately 11,534 and ISU having 12,543. Boise State tops the list with 20,000 students.

A case can be plausibly made that much of BYU-Idaho’s growth has come at the expense of ISU. Folks at ISU point out, however, that they are the beneficiaries of more LDS graduate students pursing their advance degrees at ISU. They also point out that BYU-Idaho has announced there will be no new buildings at the Rexburg campus which could portend a resumption of more LDS student attending ISU.

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He turns 85 on August 25th. He has always had an ability to turn a phrase, and is particularly quick at utilizing well-known colloquial expressions at appropriate times. So, if asked how he feels about turning 85 he would probably say he’s been “rode hard and put up wet” a few too many times. Then he would crack that smile that lights up his eyes and is an essential part of his charm.

That charm, coupled with a prodigious memory for names and faces, as well as his political skill in solving seemingly intractable problems, inspires people to trust him. Besides, he is just a downright likable human being.

Over the years he has challenged Idahoans to dare to be great, to do more and with less if necessary. His unstinting support for more funding for public education, his insistence that critically important economic development cannot come at the expense of existing business, his belief that one first has to make a living before they can enjoy Idaho’s incredible environment has resonated well with voters.

“He” of course is Cece Andrus, the former four-term governor of the state, former 44th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, former State Senator from Clearwater county as well as the city of Lewiston. By any measure he is the most successful and greatest governor in Idaho’s history.

He left public office in 1995 but remains the most popular political figure in the state and despite an entire generation having grown up without even having had the chance to vote for him he is more liked and his favorable to unfavorable numbers are higher than any current major officeholder.

He is the essence of Shakespeare’s Henry the Second, the Lion in Winter with teeth still sharp that can take a big bite out of anyone’s hide as the folks at the Department of Energy’s INEL site learned when they tried to bamboozle he and former Governor Phil Batt into abrogating the historic agreement banning future shipments of any nuclear waste into Idaho which has a commitment to take all waste from the site by 2035.

The list of his many accomplishments on behalf of Idahoans and all Americans is long and distinguished – too long to list here. However, perhaps his greatest legacy was his critical role in convincing President Carter to use his powers to create National Monuments in Alaska under the Antiquities Act. It became the critical piece of leverage that forced all parties to come to the table and negotiate the bill that became the historic Alaska lands legislation.

Overnight the National Park Service doubled in size. Ironically the anniversary of the Park Service is coincidentally August 25th. There will celebrations in and on NPS properties all across the nation including West Yellowstone – the nation’s first national park.

Andrus deliberately chose not to be there. He wants to fade away quietly, his time in the limelight having come and gone. He knows his career was made possible by thousands of Idahoans who trusted and supported him, indeed sustained him. He was always so proud and considered it to be a real privilege to represent the great state. He never put on airs; glory never turned his head. While in D.C. he placed his own phone calls, played on a softball team in the Department’s recreational league. He knew who he was, from whence he came and to where he would return.

Like most of us who inevitably age he has faced and handled several life-threatening health challenges in recent years, but he forbid those close to him to say anything not wanting his health challenges to detract from others facing the same. His goal is to live to be 100, thereby beating his father, Hal, who lived to be 99.

Yes indeed, Andrus is still one of the most competitive individuals one will ever meet. He doesn’t like to lose at anything, whether tiddlywinks, fly fishing, goose hunting, golf or elected office. Starting a political career by losing a race for governor twice in the same year is not only humbling, it can be motivational.

One drawback to living so long is one knows and sees far too many friends passing on. He could probably attend a funeral every day somewhere in Idaho. As John Donne wrote in the 16th century, every person’s death diminishes us all and the departure of so many friends and supporters takes a toll on Cece.

Andrus is the natural at so many things but in particular he is a superb teacher who relates to any student whether five or twenty-five or sixty-five.

Neither is he afraid to show his emotions. He is human but also humane.

Once, while visiting he and Carol in Boise, I quietly walked into their living room only to see the good, great governor sitting there with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had happened to catch on television a Fish and Game commercial from a couple years back that featured him and his then favorite hunting dog. The dog was of course gone, but not forgotten.

There are thousands of Idahoans still alive whose lives are better because of Cece. In a spirit of thanksgiving for an extraordinary life of public service join me in wishing the Lion in Winter a happy and healthy 85th.

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Been pondering the complicated issue of relations between minorities in Idaho and between law enforcement and those minorities. As most people know, Idaho is one of the more lily-white states in the nation, with 83.5% of its appoximately 1.6 million citizens characterized as white.

People of African-American heritage are less than 1% of the state’s population. Chances of an Idahoan working with or knowing a black family are practically nil. Most Idahoans exposure to African-Americans is limited to watching talented and skilled members of the black community playing football or basketball in exchange for a college education.

Idaho’s largest minority is its Latino community with 11% of the state’s population being so identified. As in other western states, the Latino community is growing more rapidly than the white population and other minorities.

Already, in the State of California demographers report the combined birth rate of minorities is more than 50% of new births. Indeed, the far-seeing eye of history may be recording a reversion of the west back to its Spanish and Latino roots.

The United States may have appeared to win the Mexican War of 1848 with its subsequent turn-over of millions of acres which eventually became new states in the union, not to even mention the “annexation of Texas, but it looks to many like an Hispanic and Latino recolonization is well underway.

Idaho’s native Americans are also few in actual numbers. They represent 1.1% of the state’s population. As most people know minorities are disproportionally imprisoned, are more likely to come from poor economic circumstances and are under-educated. It should come as no surprise then that minorities commit more crimes.

This inevitably leads some in law enforcement to develop either a subconscious or a fully cognizant bias against one or more minorities, whether ethnic, gender or sexually based. And it often can lead to feelings on the part of the minority interest that they are being subjected to some kind of profiling which whites seldom if ever experience.

So is there an answer to this challenge in Idaho? There is certainly no one size fits all solution, but allow me to make five suggestions that could and should make a difference. If acted upon in a timely manner, especially in the Treasure Valley and the rapidly growing counties of Ada and Canyon:

1) All of Idaho’s cities and certainly all of its largest counties should “add the words” that have a community going further in its commitment not to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, age or ethnicity. And the LDS members of the Idaho Legislature should recall the many years in which being Mormon resulted in discrimination, and take the lead in passing a state version of add the words.

2) Members of Idaho law enforcement should hold town meetings, or ice creaam socials, around the state once a month or once a quarter with various minority groups and primarily listen. The goal though should be to establish good dialogue on how to address issues of mutual concern.

3) A large community’s police force should reflect the larger minority interests in the community. If Nampa’s Latino population is 20% of its population, there should be approximately 20% Latinos in the police force. Yes, most people don’t like quotas but the benefits outway the negatives.

Spokane has almost 30,000 Russian speakers within its borders. Yet unless things have changed recently there are no Russian speaking members of the force. Ever tried to resolve a touchy domestic dispute but had to wait a couple hours for an interpeter to be found and brought to the scene?

4) Members of a police force should be required to live in the jurisdiction which they police. The benefits should be obvious. In addition, police officers should be incentivized to locate in tougher neighborhoods either through a rent subsidy or a mortgage subsidy.

5) Patrolman and police officers should be allowed to drive their cars home when they go off-shift. The mere sighting of a patrol vehicle can be a deterrent and it speaks loudly to the city’s commitment to public safety. Studies also show it is more cost effective than having to check a car in and out of a car pool every day.

There is no perfect answer, but Idaho, more so than most states is in a position to do it correctly the first time.

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