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Posts published in “Carlson”

Game changer


In the wake of another school shooting, with all its heartbreak and tragedy, words from two of Nobel prize winning songster, Bob Dylan, come to mind: “Come gather round people wherever you roam/ and admit that the waters around you have grown/ and you’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone/ for the times they are a-changing.”

And the second:

“How many deaths will it take till he knows/ that too many people have died.
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind/ the answer is blowing in the wind.”

Wake up folks. The water is growing and way too many of our children are dying.

Listen up, all my friends and readers for whom the Second Amendment is the most sacred part of the Constitution, you’d better come forth with some construction suggestions that will reassure the mothers of America that their children are still safe while at school.

The status quo is not enough. Clearly our government should just enforce the laws already on the books. That isn’t enough either, for they will learn, in a democracy, the power of the majority and angry voters can work their will.

Millions of mothers and women across the country are fed up with President Trump’s actions, not to mention his prevarications, philandering, petulance, and pettiness. Polls are starting to show a dramatic shift away from the GOP by women voters and millions more are registering to vote for the first time. And they sure as hell aren’t going to dutifully follow hubby’s lead.

A blue tsunami is shaping up and it may bring about changes, the likes that have not been seen, since FDR’s 1932 sweep. Make no mistake, my friend, this movement is targeting Republican office holders, especially members of the House of Representatives.

Women have every right to be angry with the most misogynistic President in US history. Just look at an sample of anti-female policies Trump is working on. For example, is it any surprise that a man who has 19 female assault charges against him has his Department of Education revising guidelines upwards for the burden of proof for students accused of rape?

On one of womens’ touchstone issues, the right to choose, his administration has made it easier for employers to strip from healthcare plans birth control costs.

Women, like most men, are as concerned about his lack of temperament and judgment and his inability to exhibit self restraint.

Single handedly President Trump is galvanizing the #MeToo movement which is going like topsy and is going to retire many Republicans in November, in part, because he is exercising zero leadership in this issue of protecting our schoolchildren.

Allow me to offer a constructive suggestion:

1. Looking forward, no one under 14, or anyone else can own a handgun or automatic weapon without first having attended and satisfactorily completed a firearms safety course conducted by the NRA.

2. Course instructors will receive additional training on how to spot potentially unstable individuals and can refer them for additional evaluation.

3. Future gun owners will have to have insurance just as car owners have to have insurance.

4. States will conduct the licensing of firearms and as done with licenses they will periodically need to be renewed.

5. Teachers who have taken the gun safety course will be permitted to open-carry in the classroom or carry as a concealed weapon. Teachers have to be able to protect themselves and their students.

Gun owners everywhere should recognize that change is coming. The issue is will they guide the change or will the change drive them.

Will first district voters ever learn?


The Congressional Candidate’s Forum this past weekend at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library sponsored by the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans was a depressing exercise testifying to the validity of George Santayana’s saying that “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

The parallels to 2006 were uncanny. As Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said “its déjà vu all over again.”

In front of a standing room only crowd of 300 people were six Republicans, all possessing solid conservative credentials. Three of the six gave thoughtful, constructive conservative-based answers to a series of questions, and three were hell bent on trying to establish that they were the only true blue conservative and the rest were dangerously close to being RINOS (Republicans In Name Only).

Does anyone remember Bill Sali? In 2006 when Butch Otter opened the seat up by his decision to forsake Congress and run for governor there were six Republicans who thought they saw a member of Congress when they looked in the mirror. An obscure little known state legislator from the Treasure Valley far to the right of many main-stream Republicans none the less emerged from the primary as the party’s candidate with just 26% of the vote.

Sali played up his adherence to Christian values, his 100 percent pro-life record and once he was seated he voted against the first legislation authorizing a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for kids from low income households. He also voted against then President George W. Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform bill because it allowed for some amnesty. Sound familiar?

Sali was such a disaster as a congressman that he was defeated in his bid for re-election by Democrat Walt Minnick. This was the first time an incumbent was bounced after just one term since 1952 when Coeur d’Alene’s Dr. John Wood lost his bid for re-election to Democrat Gracie Pfost.

Of the three pandering to the far right the worst was Mike Snyder from Bonners Ferry. He is the living definition of a demagogue. He began his introduction by shouting “how many of you out there believe Hillary Clinton ought to be in jail?” Two thirds of the audience raised their hands but one brave person shouted loudly “no.” “How many of you believe Robert Mueller should be fired?” Again, two thirds of the hands raised.

“How many of you believe the Federal Reserve Bank should be abolished?” Again two-thirds of the hands raised. Utterly unbelievable there are that many folks who get suckered by such rhetoric¸ and not only don’t trust government but hate all levels.

Oh, there’s an exception though - Snyder says government is needed to enforce the right to life and no exceptions for the life of the mother, rape or incest. Snyder continued his pandering by shouting he would vote against any bill that contained as little as one penny for Planned Parenthood.

Later he implored the audience to drive the RINO’s out of the Republican party and he accused Arizona Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of being RINO’s. One had the feeling that any one who didn’t agree with him was a RINO.

Initially Nick Henderson, the late Frank Henderson’s grandson and a commercial pilot, sounded sensible but before long he was charging that the entire Congress was corrupt and that he wanted to be there to clean up the corruption which he saw as primarily driven by lobbyists.

Former State Senator Russ Fulcher still comes across as one wishing to be governor which he originally declared for until Raul Labrador decided to run for governor. His answer for everything seemed to be read the Constitution and read your Bible and one will have the answers.

Any sensible person would scratch Snyder, Fulcher and Henderson from their list. None of the other three came across as zealots or single issue types. State Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d’Alene), former Attorney General and Lt. Governor David Leroy and State Rep. Christy Perry (R-Middleton), all conveyed that they would work to make Congress functional again while adhering to their major conservative principles from balancing the budget to support for lower taxes and effective efforts to limit bureaucratic regulations.

Leroy’s experience separated him from Malek and Perry. His answers were more specific and his knowledge of the issues deeper. If grading the top three on a scale of one to ten I’d give Leroy an 8, Malek a 6, and Perry a 5. On the other side Henderson gets 3, Fulcher a 2 and Snyder a 0.

If you want someone who will be an island unto himself and not able to work in a legislative environment go ahead and vote for the reincarnation of Bill Sali. And history will repeat itself with a Democrat taking the seat back after one term.

There are polls, and there are polls


All pollsters tell clients that a poll is just a snapshot in time and attitudes can change swiftly. They also say the polling instrument is only as good as the input and how well questions are phrased. Garbage in, garbage out or filet mignon in, filet out.

Dr. Corey Cook is dean of Boise State’s school of public service. He also is an expert on polling. In an interview about BSU’s third annual statewide survey of 1000 Idahoans on issues of public policy and where they stand from health care and insurance to education to the economy to taxes to transportation he was candid, sharp and informative.

He went to great lengths to explain why this was a poll about public policy and should not be considered a political poll.

He conceded, however, that in keeping with transparency he should have acknowledged that the firm handling the polling, GSStrategic Group, is led by Greg Strimple, a nationally known Republican pollster. His firm is currently handling polling for doctor/developer and gubernatorial aspirant, Tommy Ahlquist. Dean Cook said he was convinced the firm had kept a firewall internally.

When asked the cost Cook said it was $50,000 for the 20 minute, 60 question poll - approximately $30,000 from public funds and the rest contributed by five private companies: Blue Cross, the Idaho Realtors Ass., Midas Gold, Monsanto and Western States Equipment.

The price did not include focus group sessions to test the wording of the questionnaire nor any follow up to verify contacts and responses.

Despite Dean Cook’s eloquent arguing to the contrary, almost any poll asking questions about public policy is by definition “political” and can be used for political purposes. Idahoan views on the inadequate underfunding of public education as well as teacher pay has ramifications when presented to the Legislature

Indeed, in several places the poll invites the respondent to choose between options on whether and how the Legislature should act.

Because it does have political implications it becomes critically important to understand decisions made with regard to internal dynamics. For example, the pollster has to choose between “weighting factors,” such as deciding to over sample in north Idaho to make sure the poll reflects a decent number of respondents from the ten northern counties.

Several variables come into play and in looking at these red flags should be raised. The split between calling those with land lines as opposed to cell phones was clearly subjective. Idaho is supposed to lead the nation in folks who just have cell phones. Thus, of the 1000 calls 590 were made to cells, or 59%. Dean Cook, estimates the correct number to be 65%, not 59%.

Cell phones tend to be the purview of the young and the tech savvy. Older voters stay loyal to their landlines and also vote at a much higher percentage than the young. So, weighing a higher value to a land line holder might be a shrewd move.

Other than saying they had purchased commercial lists to get to respondents who primarily use a cell phone, the Dean did not reveal the GSStrategic Group’s methodology and the firm did not return my calls.

In previous polls the Dean said they would ask whether the respondent had voted in the last presidential election. This is a wasted question for few want to self report to anyone that they did not do their civic duty. One is far better off to purchase a list of the active voters, the so-called four for fours in order to get a better read on a possible political result.

The gender split was almost 50/50. That’s ok for a policy survey but a political survey should be 53% women, 47% men. It is also fair to say that the BSU poll surveyed “white Idaho.” Hispanics comprise 11.5% of Idaho’s population yet the breakout on the cross tabs indicated that only 2.3% of the respondents were Hispanic. This is a most unfortunate undercount.

When it comes to voting by party preference the numbers don’t really reflect current demographics. The same is true for the response to religious preference. The BSU poll had self-described affiliation at 39% for independents (too high), 37% for the GOP (a bit low) and 16% for the Democrats (way too low).

As to religious affiliation, the 2017 poll indicated 115 respondents were Roman Catholic (too high), and 181 were LDS (way too low - it's more like 25%). The education numbers appeared to be badly skewed also as were the income numbers. BSU’s breakdown on education was 18% on high school grad or some high school but the Political Almanac shows the number at 38%. BSU’s 2018 survey shows the number at 50%. Which is it?

With income the numbers did not square with other data either. The Almanac indicated Idahoans with income under $50,000 was 52% of the population. BSU’s poll indicated it was 35%.

Bottom line is Dean Cook was correct. This cannot and should not be used as a reliable political poll. There are just too many questions. It is indeed about policy and accurately reflects Idaho residents views. Marty Trillhaase, the Tribune’s fine editorial page editor, drew the other correct conclusion. Idahoans say they are green/blue on the issues but they always vote red.



The Idaho Conservation League has a hard-earned and well deserved reputation for being an environmental organization that deals with facts and objectively pursues issues involving the protection of the state’s invaluable assets such as clean water, clean air and wilderness.

When challenged a few years back by the late Governor Cecil Andrus to work constructively for a mining permit with a company willing to adopt virtually all of ICL’s requests to ensure the mine would not harm the environment, Rick Johnson, their executive director, took on the challenge and ICL ended up endorsing the proposed Formation Capital cobalt mine 50 miles northwest of Salmon.

Thus, it was disappointing to see an op-ed by ICL’s Matt Nykiel that was nothing less than an ignorant, fear-mongering hit piece aimed at stopping BNSF’s proposed second bridge parallel to the existing bridge across a corner of Lake Pend Oreille.

As is typical with these kind of hit pieces, they always leave out inconvenient facts that counter their distorted version of the truth.

The facts are:

Fact: Idahoans will have a voice and the lead federal and state agencies have a history of soliciting public comment on projects like this. For Nykiel to say Idahoans will not have a voice is simply ridiculous.

Fact: When trains cross the Lake standard operating procedure is to slow down considerably as they cross. For over 100 years trains have been crossing the lake and to the best of my knowledge not once has there been a derailment above the lake.

Fact: BNSF is the industry leader in the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC), a GPS system that automatically slows a train if it starts to exceed the preprogrammed directive.

Fact: BNSF inspects more tracks more often and more thoroughly than any other railroad in the nation. It is a pioneer in the use of drones for inspection. BNSF also accepts responsibility for being accountable to all its neighbors despite Nykiel’s claim to the contrary.

Fact: BNSF works closely with all first responders along its tracks, underwrites special training for dealing with any hazardous waste spill and provides grants for purchase of hazardous waste response items. Note Nykiel does not cite by name those he claims are critical of emergency response preparedness plans.

Fact: At a Lakes Commission meeting Nykiel claimed the response plan was deficient. His view is not shared by those who worked on the plan’s development with BNSF.

Fact: Nykiel’s use of pejorative terms like gamble, roulette and risk is a deliberate prejudging and puts ICL on record as opposing something before there has even been one hearing.

Fact: From an environmental standpoint moving goods and materials by rail is still far easier on the environment and safer than using trucks.

Fact: Nykiel should admit that he has ICL already on record because of the group’s belief that coal and Canadian oil exacerbate the global warming issue. Thus his answer is to stop trains from carrying coal or oil---a clear interference with interstate commerce. But when you’re a true believer the end justifies the means.

Unfortunately¸Nykiel is prematurely dealing away ICL’s ability to be the constructive player they can be when they want to be.

(Editor’s note: Carlson was the founding partner of the public affairs firm, the Gallatin Group. BNSF was a major client for many years. In addition, the piece is entirely the author’s view.)

Say adios, Raul


Congressman Raul Labrador (R-1st CD-Idaho) ought to drop out of the race for the Republican nomination for Idaho governor. The reasons are multiple, but simple. They boil down to the incontestable fact that he and his administration would not be problem-solvers, they would be problem creators.

We elect governors to solve challenges and problems, to instigate solutions, not to become part of the problem by kicking the can down the road or pointing the finger of blame at someone else. Labrador forgets that when he points a finger at his opponents four fingers are pointing back at him.

Labrador’s 5x5x5 gimmick for further reducing state taxes is phony as a $3 dollar bill. Putting such an unneeded additional drain on the State coffers would eviscerate funding for k-12 education and Idaho’s colleges and universities. It would signal the end of the step increases for newly hired teachers and assure a continuation of the teacher drain out of state.

This past week he joined his congressional colleagues in the so-called Freedom Caucus in endorsing a shut-down of the federal government, once again putting ideology and partisanship ahead of the public interest and the best interests of his constituents. It’s downright disgusting.

He and GOP House and Senate leadership have known since last fall a show down was coming over the immigration issue yet the majority party did not call or hold a single negotiating session. Instead they just kicked the can down the road. The ensuing months saw Congress pass a series of continuing resolutions to keep the government operating while supposedly engaging in negotiations over a solution to the “dreamer” challenge as well as the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

But no, they’d rather play Russian roulette with the lives of at risk children and ignore almost 800,000 people brought here while under five years of age by parents seeking to better themselves. As young adults today many are teachers or serve in the armed forces and they pay their taxes. President Trump considers them to be illegals and would rather send them back to a native land they have virtually no knowledge of.

Republicans like Labrador think the Democrats will get blamed. Guess again----their party and the president will be held accountable. Do you think for one minute there is a DACA child or a CHIP mother that does not know who is using their loved one as a pawn?

Do Idahoans really want this style of brinkmanship and ideology sitting in their governors’ chair. Do they really want someone who has no respect for state employees, who boasts he can cut a billion dollars out of the biennial budget?

Do they really want a conservative without a conscience who doesn’t support medicaid expansion and who believes in dismantling much of the local, state and federal framework that has arisen because of the need for services which individuals themselves cannot afford?

Do Idahoans really want as governor a person who like the president he idolizes, is a divider not a unifier? My guess is not. It’s a good guess also that many second district Republicans still remember Labrador supporting a wing-nut challenger to their own beloved congressman, Mike Simpson. Likewise many in eastern Idaho will remember Labrador saying that cuts at INL were to be expected and that people just had to recognize there were no sacred cows and all had to carry a share.

His gubernatorial race strategy of hiding out in D.C. so as to avoid joint appearances with his two main challengers, doctor/developer Tommy Ahlquist and Lt. Governor Brad Little, will not sit well with many voters either. He may have polls showing him leading but some pundits believe by primary day each of the three will have corralled about ¼ th of the expected vote and the remaining ¼ will stay undecided until primary election day.

Overall, conservative Republicans in Idaho may support President Trump until his policies start to bite and his inability to lead becomes even more apparent, but one suspects they’ll not want to see that kind of double-talking leadership sitting in the governor’s office in Boise. It’s one thing to have chaos in the White House, quite another to have it much closer to home. (photo/Gage Skidmore)

Corporate greed and Alaska


Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, has accomplished one goal that no other Alaskan senator, despite incredible efforts, ever achieved. Not the longest serving Alaskan senator, the legendary “Uncle Ted” Stevens; not her own father, Frank, during his time in the Senate; not the egotistical and shameless Democrat, Mike Gravel; nor Alaska’s junior senator, Dan Sullivan; nor Alaska’s only other Democratic senator, Mark Begich.

Senator Murkowski delivered what is close in Alaska to a near unanimous bi-partisan supported issue: Obtaining legislation that allows the nation’s oil companies to conduct exploratory drilling in the heretofore sacrosanct 1.5 million acre coastal plain of the Alaska National Wildlife Range, referred to by it initials (ANWR) and pronounced “An-war.”

It has been a long dispute over what may be a small resource, much smaller than Prudhoe Bay, according to the U.S. Geological Survey which estimates there might be enough petroleum product that Americans would consume in six months. Consensus estimates zero in on about 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable product.

In the meantime, wildlife biologists worry that the pipeline would interfere with the 200,000 member Porcupine Caribou herd’s historic migration route in addition to posing a threat to declining numbers of Polar bears.

Alaskans basically don’t care. They believe there’s lots oil underneath the refuge and it can be drilled in an environmentally safe manner and then fed into the existing pipeline without any problems. This also means additional revenue into the Permanent Savings Fund from which each Alaska citizen receives a check based on their length of residency, drawn on the interest from the fund.

The declining price of oil in recent years coupled with breakthroughs in technology that have placed the United States in a position of world leadership due to new extensive reserves has seen payouts decline.

Thus, Murkowski’s ability to successfully attach language to the new tax cut bill permitting exploratory drilling, even though President Obama put an overlay of wilderness designation on the refuge, was welcomed by most Alaskans.

Ever since President Carter signed the Alaska Lands legislation into law in 1980 the resource developers of the world have coveted this refuge. No matter how one dresses it, it is still a pig driven by greed There is no national need for the product, we’re awash in oil. Common sense says treat it like a Naval oil reserve, to be opened only if there is a national emergency.

Then there is an argument skillfully advanced by Carter’s Interior secretary, former Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, in a speech to the annual meeting of the Sierra Club in 1979 in San Francisco. Call it “the last best place” argument. Behind him on the dais was a large map of North America.

Andrus began talking about all the oil and gas leases off-shore of the United States. He started off Maine, went down the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico, went up the Pacific coast to Alaska, went around the Alaskan coast to the far northeast corner of Alaska. He kept saying “we can drill here; we can drill there.”

He then asked the rhetorical question: “Must we have it all? Must we explore and exploit it all?” Can’t we say that all these other areas are enough? Can’t we say there is one area left where a pristine wilderness and an entire eco-system untouched is also a national priority, a value in and of itself that transcends mere dollars?”

He sat down to a thunderous standing ovation.

Senator Murkowski delivered the answer last week. “No, Cecil, you can’t. We want it all and we’ll explore it all and exploit it all. Money trumps everything.”

How sad. Some may say it was a blessing that Andrus, who passed away last August, did not live to see this travesty.

The quiet man


One of Idaho’s most effective “behind-the-scenes” operators is making the rounds at the Capitol building this week introducing his successor to legislators and key folks in state government. Well known in that small group of movers and shakers because he is one of its key participants, he is soft spoken and rather taciturn.

When he speaks though, others listen for his take is always matter of fact, objective, informative and to the point. He radiates integrity and commands respect because he possesses that rare quality called gravitas. He also has a subtle sense of humor and his word is his bond.

His name is Bob Boeh and he is the vice president for government affairs for the Idaho Forest Group. When he turns 70 on May 13th he’ll hand in his hard hat and formally turn his post over to Tom Shulz, the former director of the Idaho Department of Lands. Shulz knows he has a tall order in trying to fill Boeh’s boots.

Mark Brinkmeyer, chairman of the Idaho Forest Group (formerly known as Riley Creek Timber Company), would be the first to tell one that hiring Bob Boeh away from Plum Creek was one of the smartest moves he ever made. As a key advisor to the chairman, Boeh was instrumental in working on the management team that has seen IFG expand from one mill when Boeh first went to work there 20 years ago to six mills today with the recent acquisition of the St. Regis mill.

IFG’s other mills are at Moyie Springs, Laclede, Chilco, Lewiston and Grangeville.

Boeh’s 20 years with IFG following 26 years with Plum Creek gives him almost half a century in a business that has faced more than its share of challenges during the past half century. Boeh jokingly tells folks that it’s time to retire when you realize you’re older than many of the trees one is running through their mills.

Born in Butte and a 1970 graduate with a forestry degree from the University of Montana, one of Boeh’s hallmarks is he has always kept an open mind and has listened carefully to all the industry critics, including folks from the Idaho Conservation League and the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Group, and not just to the traditional business support.

He also played a critical role in helping Plum Creek redo the way it was conducting business in the Rocky Mountain region. The day he saw Plum Creek described by a Republican congressman on the front page of the Wall Street Journal as “the Darth Vader” of timber companies he knew things had to change.

Then Plum Creek chairman Dave Leland also knew some changes had to be made in the way they did their job, as did the Rocky Mountain region vice president, Charlie Grenier, along with his deputy, Mike Covey (now the chairman of Potlatch) and Boeh.

They assembled their unit managers, foresters and biologists and listened to the harsh results of a comprehensive poll as well as a tough talk regarding how private timber companies had to recognize they might own the ground but the public had a vested interest in keeping water clean that passed through the land, maintaining air quality and protecting the wildlife that lived on the land. They had to recognize that any business operates by public consent.

It also became crystal clear that no matter how the industry tried to package it, most of the public hated clear cuts. Even business in their home communities detested clear cuts. With this information in hand Boeh and Grenier led their foresters through an exercise that evolved into a binding commitment to adopt ten principles of environmental forestry and some significant changes in the way they got out the cut.

The decision was also made to seek “green certification” which they obtained and not to advertise until they had walked the talk. One former critic was former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus who early in his first term sent Leland a picture of a stream bed piled high with slash. Grenier invited Andrus to come take a second look during his third term and Andrus was suitably impressed at the changes.

Boeh, when asked what he considered his legacy to be, quickly cited opening meaningful dialogues with environmental groups, including forest collaborative groups, helping Brinkmeyer grow the business, and making clear cutting a practice of last resort.

Retirement plans call for he and his wife, Sandi, to visit as many of the national parks as they can, a cruise up the Inland Passage, continuing to raise and train hunting dogs, more hunting and fishing as well as more time with the granddaughter.

Those that appreciate professionalism, candor, integrity and ability will miss this quiet man who epitomizes the phrase made famous by President Teddy Roosevelt - walk softly but carry a big stick.

The art of ambiguity


For someone who claims not to be a politician, doctor and developer Tommy Ahlquist is displaying an amazing aptitude to master the art form quickly. He is speaking out of both sides of his mouth on two issues, gaming and a proposal to breach the four lower Snake dams to ensure Idaho’s salmon and steelhead runs survive.

On both he should have done more research than he did for his comments manifest a misunderstanding of the issue that is simply unacceptable.

Asked this fall if, like Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, he would have vetoed a bill in 2015, only in a timely manner (Otter failed to act in time), which repealed state acquiescence to video historic horse races passed in 2013. Ahlquist said yes.

He saw the issue primarily as one of state “good faith,” and felt it was wrong for Idaho to encourage “small” businessmen to invest the millions in equipment and employee training and then jerk the rug out from under them. Whether two of his large contributors, Larry Williams and Harry Bettis, who were large investors in the conversion of Les Bois, influenced his stance is for the reader and the voters to decide.

Asked about the underlying but obvious issue that wasn’t this an endorsement of gambling forbidden in Idaho, Ahlquist opined that it was up to the courts and lawyers to decide if it fell under the prohibition in the Idaho Constitution. For Idaho’s gaming tribes (the Coeur d’Alenes, the Nez Perce, the Sho-Bans and the Kutenai’s) there is no doubt that these historic horse racing videos are gaming. They view it as unfair competition and are adamantly opposed which Ahlquist was told first hand when he met with the Coeur d’Alene’s chairman, Chief Allan, this past August.

As one legislator put it upon looking at the “one armed bandits” of historic videos with all the bells and whistles: “If it walks like duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Ahlquist apparently doesn’t think so and will leave it to the legal beagles. In a move to have it both ways, though, he says he philosophically is opposed to any form of gaming (other than Idaho’s Lottery, presumably).

Coming from a self-styled “leader” one wonders just what his definition of leadership really is.

Similar sentiment regarding speaking from both sides of his mouth is being expressed by those who attended a Idaho Wildlife Federation forum at Boise State on December 2nd.. Asked where he stood on the issue of breaching the four lower Snake dams if a federal judge ordered such as the only way to save diminishing salmon and steelhead runs that come back to Idaho, Ahlquist indicated he was open to listening to all sides on the issue.

Even a willingness to listen was too much for the dam lovers who push backed hard prompting a clarification op-ed from Ahlquist published in The Idaho Statesman stating that a desire to listen was not an invitation to the dam breachers, that breaching was off the table. He stated in his clarification that he had always been opposed to breaching, something he did not state at the “Hook and Bullet” forum.

Ahlquist then displayed his ignorance on the issue by indicating that breaching was a threat to Idaho water rights.

Come again? Nice try at muddying the water but simply not true. Right now Idaho water contributes to augmented flows that assist smolt in getting to the ocean more quickly. Breach the dams and there is no longer a need for augmentation, something one would expect a candidate for the Idaho governorship to know.

Whoever on his staff “ghosted” the misleading op-ed ought to be reprimanded. If one didn’t know Alquist is not much of a fan of President Trump (He supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio for the presidential nomination) one might think he was taking a cue and dropping from his vocabulary phrases such as “fact-based, science-based, vulnerable populations,” etc.

He is mastering the art of a typical ambiguous politician, though. Now drop the posture and quit throwing stones at your opponents for being what you are aspiring to be.

If at first . . .


Most folks can complete the ellipse in the title with the correct “try, try again.” The latest to utilize the thought that generated the well-worn phrase is A. J. Balukoff, the multi-millionaire businessman and developer, as well as long-time member of the Boise School Board.

Though soundly defeated in 2014 by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter in a quest for the governorship, he is letting the word spread that he intends to formally declare a renewed effort in Idaho Falls on January 9th to secure the Democratic nomination. Following that he will take a state-wide swing hitting Twin Falls, Boise, Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene, finishing the announcement tour on January 13th.

He even has a primary opponent, State Representative Paulette Jordan (D-Plummer), who will generate interest and help to keep Democrats and independents home instead of watching many defect to the GOP temporarily in order to vote for the most rational Republican.

Balukoff welcomes a primary for he knows it will generate interest and, as the previous nominee he has invaluable personal relationships built up from his campaigning previously. While welcoming her candidacy, he is NOT taking her lightly.

He recognizes she is tall, an excellent speaker, and colorful. No one would use these phrases to describe A.J. Presumably she will be well-financed if gaming tribes across the nation line up and pony up. That is a big question mark right now. A.J.’s timing may be excellent in that a blue tidal wave may be forming that will sweep across the nation, though, and even Idaho could see a Democrat elected state-wide and perhaps to Congress.

It is clear also that Balukoff learned a lot from his first venture. His answers to questions during a 30-minute chat were crisp and on point.

One won’t hear phony budget cuts in spending nor irrational tax cuts at the state level to mimic federal cuts coming from his mouth. He clearly sees all three of the leading Republican candidates as pandering to a traditional Republican animus towards taxes regardless of the fact that no one, not even the businesses in the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), are clamoring for tax relief.

The fact is business in Idaho is satisfied with the balanced three legged stool of state taxes (sales, income and property) and would rather see more investment in public education and college education.

A.J. remains passionately committed to better funding for education and teachers. He knows the key is expanding the economic pie and that the old Andrus formula still applies: “first you have to make a living, then you have to have a living worthwhile.”

Asked if he had a poll in the field, he said yes. Asked if the comprehensive statewide poll that probably cost $40,000 was based patially on deciding the degree of challenge represented by Jordan, and that it might provide a rational excuse not to spend $3 million of his own,” he said no, he was committed to the race and repeated he welcomed Paulette into the fray.

Balukoff is a student of Idaho history and knows in recent times several Idaho governors tried and failed to win the governorship in their initial run. Among this group one can find future four-term Idaho governor Cecil Andrus who lost both the primary and the general election in 1966; John Evans; Phil Batt; Butch Otter, C. Ben Ross; and C.A. Bottolfsen.

While he appears to be a much-improved candidate than he was four years ago, A.J. share the same challenge that faces Tommy Ahlquist - both are multi-millionaires, developers, and members of the LDS Church who must overcome the appearance of trying to buy their way into high public office.

Both also know and like each other with Ahlquist actually making the maximum personal contribution one could make to Balukoff in 2014. Both may have selected the party they are members of out of political convenience.

Neither has a particularly good and persuasive answer as to why Idahoans should entrust their future and those of their children and grandchildren to a political novice with no governmental experience but nonetheless thinks he can and should start at the top.

Baseball and equity


Most Idahoans who follow major league baseball know that Harmon Killebrew, the Hall of Fame home run slugger for the Minnesota Twins, was born and raised in Payette. They can probably tell you that Larry Jackson, a stalwart pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals, and Vernon Law, a star pitcher for the Pittsburg Pirates, were also Idaho-born.

Ask even the most fanatic fan one can find if they could tell you anything about others on the list of 30 Idahoans who made “the show” or are still in the majors, and one is liable to see nothing but a blank look.

Ask if they could say any factoid about Bruce Ellingsen, a pitcher born in Pocatello, or Bob Martyn, an outfielder born in Weiser, who graduated from Twin Falls High School and went on to Linfield College.

Or how about Frank Reberger, a pitcher born in Caldwell, the younger brother of Phil Reberger, the former chief of staff to Dirk Kempthorne when he was a U.S. Senator and Idaho’s governor and considered by many to be the most influential Republican operative in Idaho.

The latter three “unknowns” share or shared one common denominator: for years they were denied the retirement benefits of Major League baseball which in 1980 adopted a rule that eligibility required a minimum of four years of major league service and was retroactive to players who were in the show between 1947 and 1979. The rule change caused 500 former major leaguers to be left high and dry, as if a high and inside fastball had been tossed at their heads.

The pooh-bahs of baseball do toss a small carrot to these players based on a complicated formula that doles out $625 for every quarter of service these players may have accrued. Under this formula a non-beneficiary could receive a maximum payment of $10,000 a year if he served slightly less than four full years.

Compare that to a vested retiree who can receive a pension as high as $210,000. Nor can the dole for a non-beneficary be passed on to a surviving spouse or other designee. This is what happened to Weiser born Bob Martyn, an outfielder for the Kansas City Athletics who played in 154 games between 1957 and 1959 and died at age 85 in 2015.

Given that the Major League Pension Plan has $2.7 billion in assets, according to Forbes, one would think baseball could be a tad more generous. The four year requirement explains why many former players cultivate relations with the management of various teams in part because if one becomes say a bull pen coach or a pitching coach he can significantly pad his retirement benefit or qualify for a nice pension.

Take for example Caldwell born former Vandal pitcher Frank Reberger. Drafted by the Cubs he made it to the majors in 1968. Shortly after making the roster he was drafted by the first year expansion San Diego Padres. He enjoyed some success against the San Francisco Giants so they went out and picked him up and the rest of his brief caeer was spent with the Giants until he left baseball in 1972---just short of the four year requirment adopted in 1980.

Ten years later he realized the value of qualifying for the major league pension. During his brief career he had gotten acquainted with the great Dodger executive Buzzie Bavasi who helped him get into the Angels organization as a bull pen coach. The day he reported for work in the Angels organization he qualified for the pension program. Later, the expansion Florida Marlins made him their first pitching coach.

During Reberger’ slightly less than four year player career he won 14 games and lost 15. His ERA was 4.51; he pitched 389 innings giving up 404 hits, issuing 197 walks and striking out 258 batters. He appeared in 148 games for the Cubs, Padres and the Giants. He started 37 games, and pitched five complete games.

Since he was a National Leaguer there was no “designated hitter”so he had 100 at bats with 23 hits (no home runs) for a .230 batting average. Today he is retired and resides on Camano Island in Puget Sound.

Pocatello born Bruce Ellingsen pitched briefly for the Cleveland Indians. He appeared in 16 games and was the starter in two. He pitched a total of 42 innings and finished with a respectable ERA of 3.21. Today he is retired and living in Laguna Hills, California.

In Bob Martyn’s 154 games he had 358 at bats with 94 hits which included 12 doubles, 11 triples ¸3 home runs, 35 rbi’s, and scored 35 runs while with Kansas City. Brief as some of these careers were one can bet that they all will always treasure that they were in “the show.” It would be nice to receive equity in a pension but there are some things money cannot compensate for or buy.

(Note: I am indebted to author Douglas Gladstone for much of the research in this column.)