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Recognizing Archie Teater


Southern Idaho’s Archie Boyd Teater died in 1978 and was mostly overlooked for the next four decades, but recent showings of his work could well establish him as a premier regional Western painter.

Everyone knows the widely-reproduced Western art of Remington and Russell from the 19th Century. Their paintings of range cow hands, soldiers, cattle and wide-open space are iconic Western images. Teater’s art is not so well known, but is well regarded in its own right.

Teater’s work has had several recent showings, in Idaho Falls and this summer in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the Jackson Historical Museum, as well as in a program by the Idaho Humanities Council and the Idaho Historical Society, which has a broad collection of Teater information.

Although a prolific painter, Teater didn’t have the gallery connections or sales network necessary to advance his work after his death. His art portfolio was passed around among various non-profit groups, but has not had broad showings until recently.

But a visit to Jackson Hole last month and stop at the Museum there shows Teater’s range and skills. He was mostly self-taught, spending his early life on the Snake River near Hagerman, working at gold-mining sites, logging cuts in the mountains, cattle ranches and wherever he could scratch out a living.

He began painting an early age and by the time he settled in Jackson Hole in the 1930s, he was well established locally and had patrons who promoted his work in New York galleries and elsewhere. His Grand Tetons paintings are iconic for the area.

Art critics today regard Teater as an accomplished impressionist “primitive” artist. Teater’s popularity waned in the 1980s, and you could then buy a Teater painting for a song. A 2016 coffee-table book on his art by longtime admirer Lester Taylor (The Life and Art of Archie Boyd Teater, Gibbs-Smith, also on Amazon) has many examples which feature his Snake River and rangeland vistas.

Taylor, a retired Arizona State economics professor, does a marvelous job of capturing Teater’s artistic styles, subjects, life and travel. It’s as good an artist’s profile as you’ll find anywhere.

The Jackson Hole showing, on through October, is built around Taylor’s personal collection of Teater’s art. There are wonderful landscapes of the Jackson Hole area, the Grand Tetons and town and bar scenes of early Jackson Hole and Ketchum, Idaho where Teater also painted.

Taylor’s book includes remembrances of Teater at Jenny Lake, painting the Tetons, his favorite mountain spot. He had a small shop in Jackson, and often displayed his paintings on a clothesline hung out with laundry clips where people could buy them “right off the easel.”

Although it would be a stretch to call him a feminist, Teater’s art shows many Western women at work, in logging camps, mining digs and as ranch hands. His bar scenes often include dance hall ladies in their best weekend outfits.

His Southern Idaho paintings are particularly delightful. One shows the Snake River prior to its trout farms of today, cliffs in the background and a hint of spring in the fresh bloom of purple lilac bushes. Another is a quiet scene, probably along Billingsley Creek, with its willows and crystalline flowing water over low lava rocks. Taylor writes that he was a master at painting water, moving or still. It was something he intuitively knew how to do.

Another painting captures the desperate attempt by ranch hands to turn a herd of cattle from an Owyhee cliff. Frightened, wide-eyed cows balk at the precipice as the cowhands struggle to contain them.

There are quite a few photographs of Idaho’s early river days along the Snake, but Teater’s scenes are both historically accurate and detailed, complete with mules, water wheels, sluice boxes, huge sturgeon and mining equipment. They are thus important historical documents as well as works of art.

Teater was prolific, turning out perhaps 4,000 paintings in his lifetime. Many are in private collections today, prized possessions of those who have them. They don’t come on the market very much, and when they do, they’re no longer cheap. Collector Leslie Taylor says he is often turned down when he makes a purchase inquiry.

Another local aspect of Teater is the studio/house he and his wife built near Hagerman in the 1950s. It was designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and is the only building by Wright in Idaho. It’s owned privately today but there are occasional tours through the Hagerman Valley Historical Society, which also has some of Teater’s work.

The home is more of a studio with a grand view on a promontory above a Snake River bend, almost invisible now under the trees. It’s unusual design, with a trapezoid floor plan and sweeping window views, is a memorable example of Wright’s custom home work. Teater and his wife lived there mostly in the off season, when they weren’t traveling. Many of his paintings were produced there.

As dramatic as the home is, it’s Teater’s paintings which marks his reputation and now resurgence. He was someone we ought to know more about, both in Southern Idaho and in the state at large. The recent visibility of his work should lead to more attention to this long-lost Southern Idaho artist.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Sacrifice and love of country


The Roman philosopher Cicero tells us a lot about duty. We have duty to God, parents, family, children and to community, but the first duty should be to country. It is a concept not heard much today; to many, duty means only a task you must perform. They do not see the sacrifice inherent in the call, nor the value to the nation.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Islamic terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers. The buildings were destroyed but our love of country was enhanced. It seemed Americans were united, setting aside politics, advantage and intrigue, leaving only an appreciation of sacrifice.

Now, twenty years later, at the end of August, America lost 13 of its brave soldiers who stood guard at the Kabul, Afghanistan airport and gave their last efforts to help those who would flee oppression and find new freedom elsewhere. As Lincoln would say, they did not die in vain, as they gave freedom to so many others. Surely, there is a special place in Heaven for soldiers such as these.

They came from different walks of life in different service branches. Eleven were Marines, one was a Navy corpsman, one was United States Army. Two were young Marine women in their 20s, enlisted personnel like their male counterparts, putting their lives at risk to save others.

Like all of us, they had dreams, hopes for the future. A photo of one of these women shows her holding an Afghan baby who presumably made it onto a departing flight. Her own final flight to eternity lay only six days ahead. A life cut short by circumstance and discord. She was 23.

These young men and women y were from America’s small towns and big cities, rural countryside settlements, the deep South, the coasts and the Intermountain West. I was in Jackson, Wyoming a couple of weeks ago following their deaths, where flags were at half-mast across the state to honor a Wyoming young man, Rylee McCollum, among those lost.

His family, schoolmates, friends, and others from his small town of Bondurant remembered him particularly for his love of country. They said he had always wanted to be a Marine, and so he was. He put country ahead of all else. Sadly, he leaves behind a wife and a yet unborn child. (Casper Star-Tribune, 8/29). He was just 20.

The path of human history gives us many examples in which duty to country outweighed whatever fear the defenders of freedom may have carried. They went to do what they were asked to do.

In Kabul, they laid down their lives for people they did not know, for generations yet to come. As Scripture tells us, there is no greater love. They are today’s equivalents of the patriots on Lexington Green, the defenders of Little Round Top at Gettysburg, the men who scaled the cliffs at Normandy and who fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia.

In one recent election, one candidate was a flight officer in the Vietnam War; John McCain’s campaign signs said simply “Country First.” That’s where Cicero tells us to place our first duty, because without country, the freedoms and way of life we enjoy either never materialize or are lost.

This week, we remember the horrible events of September 11, 2001 in which thousands of Americans perished in a moment. But we should also remember that for some, the sacrifice was the call of higher duty. As the fourth terrorist airplane made a beeline for Washington, DC, on that September morning, citizen American passengers on board Flight 93 understood both the risk and their opportunity. “Let’s roll,” one could be heard saying as they struggled to gain control of the terrorists in the cockpit. The plane crashed in rural Pennsylvania and all were killed.

Islamic terror seems to be a feature of our times, reaching big cities like New York as well as tiny Bondurant, Wyoming, population of fewer than 60 people. (US Census, 2020). Brave American men and women stand by the nation they love; it matters not where they are from, nor their gender, nor race. It is the same faith of freedom, whether it be Kabul today or on September 11, twenty years ago. Though separated by time and a generation, the American soldier’s devotion to love of country is unbounded in both circumstances.

That more than 120,000 Afghans were flown out to freedom is surely to be welcomed. They did not have the luxury as we do of policy debate. Rather, they were just the latest of the world’s displaced. “Give me your tired, your poor,” writes Emma Lazarus on the Statue of Liberty (1883). “Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The Wyoming soldier’s life and those of his comrades should bring us a deep appreciation and honor for those who went before, directly into harm’s way. Cicero and our forefathers would be proud indeed.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Redistricting issues


The new census data for Idaho was released this month, and for Southern Idaho, there’s likely to be more pressure on the Democratic island of Blaine County and District 26 which could well tip to Republicans in coming elections.

The reason is in the numbers. The Wood River Valley with its traditional Democratic representation in the Legislature, is surrounded by three other counties that are solidly Republican: Gooding, Camas and Lincoln. Those three in the past have not had enough population to outweigh Blaine County’s liberals, so the district has had mostly Democratic legislators for several terms.

But new census numbers show Blaine County does not have enough population on its own (24,272) to warrant its own seats. Looking in any direction, it’s a Republican landscape, county by county all through the central and Southern Idaho. There are no adjacent areas of Democratic strength from which to draw liberal voters.

The upshot is that the district will be much more competitive for Republicans in any new configuration and thus puts at risk the long-held Democratic seats.

The really good news, from a GOP perspective, is that the rest of the Magic Valley is solidly Republican and unlikely to change much with the new census. District 24, Twin Falls city, has almost precisely the population numbers to keep its legislative profile. The same is true for District 25, rural Twin Falls County and Jerome County, which are heavily agricultural and have been Republican for decades. Population growth in these two counties fits almost exactly with the new census “target” population of 52,556 per district.

District 23, which now includes several precincts in Western Twin Falls County, could go undergo a reconfiguration if the Twin Falls precincts are returned to their home county. That would leave district 23 with just two counties, Owyhee and Elmore, which don’t have enough population and thus would need more numbers to get the magic figure of 52,556. So the two counties might be attached to a larger physical district that would likely be closer to Boise and include towns on the North side of the Snake River.

District 27, Cassia and Minidoka Counties, could expand East to pick up precincts and communities closer to the American Falls reservoir.

There are two basic reasons behind these changes. One is rapid growth or Idaho’s overall population, but the growth has not been even across the state. Larger communities have benefited more; smaller communities and less-populated counties were either flat or in some cases declined.

The other reason is Idaho’s odd shape. Redistricting plans going back several decades start at the top of the state and continue South and East, adding districts. Redistricting law also requires districts to have common interests and to follow existing county lines to the degree possible. Any wide variation from this one-man-one-vote standard is likely to draw a lawsuit.

Thus, the Treasure Valley will pick up one new district based on population growth, which squeezes current representation of more conservative parts of the state. Depending on how that new district is drawn, it will impact Democratic numbers and seats. It is thus likely to be sharply contested in the redistricting process and subsequent elections.

Indeed, strategically thinking, Democrats may be better positioned long-term in the new Treasure Valley district than in isolated, outlying areas like Blaine County.
For those isolated Democrat islands in a Republican sea, Democratic prospects are risky and dimmer. Except for resort and college towns, (Moscow and Teton County), Democrats are likely to remain the distant minority party overall outside of Boise and Ada County.

We saw this pattern in 2018 election, where Gov. Brad Little carried every precinct in the Magic Valley outside of Blaine County. An extreme liberal Democrat candidate like his opponent, Paulette Jordan, is unlikely to substantially change the big picture, and even less likely to win the state.

This Idaho pattern can be seen in other states where political polarization is occurring by region, urban versus rural, resort town versus rural countryside, natural resource economy versus tourism and recreation.(Idaho Capital Sun, 8/20).

It’s a fact of American political life today that where you live and what you do shape your views of politics and your voting preferences. Add in other factors like family structure, faith patterns, and employment in various industries, and it’s easy to see how Southern Idaho is likely to retain its basic social profile for the foreseeable future, which means Republican. That’s good news if you’re in the GOP, less so if you’re a Democrat.

Contests will still be spirited. Traditional Republicans will continue to hold most of the region, but more ideological partisans on the right could emerge.
Redistricting thus has another level which is more reliant on local politics than ever. It’s been that way and American government for decades; the new census won’t change those Idaho patterns appreciably.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Whither the federal money


In just a few days, Idaho will begin its annual budget process with agencies submitting their initial proposals for the upcoming budget year. But already, the state is working on how to spend and manage a federal windfall from federal COVID-19 payments of over $1.4 billion.

A working group has already started on how the money can best be leveraged for the best long-term goals. Some on the left want to see increases in salaries for teacher pay and a long list of social welfare programs. They see the new money as a “need” which never ends.

Looking further ahead, others think the money would best be invested in Idaho’s many infrastructure needs, including community sewer systems, broadband, water purification and similar projects. (IdahoPress, 7/30).

They make a good case. Social service spending is always going to be part of Idaho’s budget, and there has rarely been money beyond routine state revenues to deal with infrastructure. That’s why it makes sense to direct this windfall to capital projects that will benefit Idahoans for years to come.

Put simply, it’s either now or piecemeal later. Take transportation for example. Idaho is a huge state (over 80,000 square miles) with long stretches of highways, important bridges and increasing traffic volume. While the state roads have ranked relatively well in national surveys, (Reason Foundation) there’s much to be done, particularly on secondary and county roads.

Take a drive anywhere this month in southern Idaho and you’ll see numerous agricultural trucks, and heavy farm equipment moving about the highways to bring in the harvest. A good transportation system is essential for Idaho products to move, from then production to processing to shipping to a hungry world.

Against this rapid growth, many Idaho communities, particularly small ones, are relying on water and sewer systems that are obsolete. These systems often date back to when the towns were first founded more than 100 years ago. They are badly in need of upgrades virtually everywhere and many are under the watchful eyes of new federal water and sewer regulations on contaminants like arsenic. Using the federal money to work on reducing these federal mandates would also give taxpayers relief from having to fund them out of property taxes, a welcome change indeed.

The same is true with broadband expansion. If we want a vibrant rural economy, we need to provide the broadband infrastructure to deliver it. This is similar to the 1920s and early 1930s, when farsighted lawmakers first approved rural electrification across America. That decades-long initiative brought electricity to rural users and thus brought rural prosperity to much of the country.

Wisely, legislators and the office of Gov. Brad Little have put together working groups to prioritize uses across this far-flung state. Additional money is expected on the transportation side through the state’s plan to increase roads and bridges funding from a growing portion of online sales.

And that’s before the recently-passed federal infrastructure money comes down to the states. Projects like the third bridge over the Snake River near Twin Falls and Jerome, as well as improvements to roads and highways in the Treasure Valley, are high on the radar of needed work. So are improvements to Highway 95, Idaho’s, Idaho’s primary “goat path” corridor connecting North Idaho with the rest of Idaho.

There are those who think Idaho should reject all federal money as a way of asserting our so-called state sovereignty. These legislators, led by arch-conservatives like Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, and backed by the Idaho Slavery Foundation, want to keep Idaho a backward and ignorant state in which their out-of-state monied interests can dominate governmental affairs.

But failure to invest in our future needs is indeed shortsighted. Nate and others want to dismantle government at every level. The state they envision would indeed be a backward place.

A recent article points in a better direction. Led by Gov. Little, and including key legislators, agencies, and outside groups, these working groups are planning ahead. They want to build a better state, not one that wallows in conspiracy theories, archaic economic notions and cherry-picked constitutional clauses. (Idaho Press, 7/30).

Advocates for spending on social programs and pay raises typically overlook where Idaho’s revenue really comes from, which is from hard-working folks in industries like natural resources such as agriculture, forest products, mining and energy research. Without these, we’d be a state of recreationalists crowded onto limited rivers and waterways. We’d still be a beautiful state in the travel brochures, but not so much for people living and working here.

There’s nothing wrong inherently with recreation activities nor industries like tourism and retail shopping. These are important features of a mixed economy. But without investment in the basics, Idaho’s appeal would be certainly lessened. There are lots of national parks in America and open spaces, and people don’t want to drive on inadequate roads to get there.

As with other common-sense issues, the Idaho Legislature is likely to focus on these infrastructure needs, along with aquifer replenishment and water storage. Many legislators know how important their local economies are. It’s a matter of keeping things in balance.

With money now available to make important improvements, Idaho would be foolish indeed to turn away from these essential tasks.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

The Giddings hearing


The hearing itself was heartbreaking to watch as a legislator charged with an ethics violation weaved and dodged questions from what could have been an enlightening fact-driven proceeding. Instead, she distorted and flat-out lied about what she had done.
In the end, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, got off easy by being left on two of her three legislative committee assignments. The Ethics Committee mercifully tried to get her to show any remorse. She didn’t.

She was left on the Joint Finance & Appropriations, and Agriculture committees, but was removed from the Commerce & Human Resources. A full House vote will come later, but the Ethics Committee recommendation – or something close to it – is likely to hold but perhaps with more sanctions.

House Rule 45 gives the Ethics Committee four possible outcomes for ethics complaints. One is dismissal of the complaint as unwarranted or trivial. Two is a reprimand, which is a formal notice of displeasure. The third option is censure, which may be expanded to include various conditions, and four, expulsion from the House. (House Rule 45).

Given the known facts, censure seemed the appropriate overall sanction, but the Ethics Committee could have included additional conditions, such as removal from all three of her standing committees, and/or restricted her ability to introduce bills.
These would’ve been appropriate further actions, and may still be on the table, as any House member can bring a motion to add to the censure restriction recommendation when the full House votes on the matter.

In not getting a stronger sanction, Giddings effectively got a pass, and by implication, told the voters of Idaho - particularly female voters - that they can expect deceitful legislators like her to continue to exploit their legislative power to “out” sexual assault victims if it serves their political purposes.

Giddings called the hearing a mockery, but she knew exactly what she was doing when she posted a sexual assault victim’s name and photo on her own Facebook page and in her constituent newsletter. She did this in retaliation to the young lady for bringing the complaint against another right-wing legislator for sexual assault who has since been forced out of the House.

Giddings says she thought “Jane Doe’s” private information, name and photograph were within the public purview by having been previously posted, but that didn’t absolve her of her own actions. Knowing how bad it looks, she repeatedly attempted to deflect and lie about what she had done, both under oath and in various media interviews. Her fanatical anti-government followers picked up her chant that she was the real victim.
This is the way fanatics often work. They paint others as part of an imagined “enemy” to be destroyed. They alone have found the “truth.” It is this contempt for others which underlies many of her incendiary remarks.

As to the case itself, the evidence was clear. Giddings knowingly undertook a personal vendetta to attack the female sexual victim of another legislator. The assault itself was deplorable, and it is sad indeed to see another legislator telling Idaho women you can expect little support if you are assaulted or harassed.

The findings were severe, but the sanction, not so much. At the close of the hearing, R. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, repeatedly pointed out the evasive answers or non-answers that Giddings gave, some of which were direct lies. Other committee members and witnesses cited her complete lack of contrition or recognition that what she had done to a common citizen was simply wrong.

None of this apparently bothers Giddings, who is so power-hungry in her quest for to be the next Lieutenant Governor that she will crush anybody to get there, even a 19-year-old intern. She showed herself to be a callous and remorseless individual, undeserving of public office, much less of advancement.

The history of ethics violations in Idaho government shows that these incidents result in the person leaving office in disrepute. Even with further sanctions, Giddings is likely to suffer the same fate. She will fade in Idaho political history, a non-entity who left only a negative impact on the state and its people.

She will also likely get some sanction from the US Air Force, where she is a reserve pilot, at least for now. The specific sanction is unknown, but her conduct clearly is contrary to the Air Force’s long traditions of how officers should relate to others.

Voters in this state are unlikely to give an individual with Giddings’ obvious human defects an opportunity to spew more hatred and anti-female rhetoric. You can’t stay in office in Idaho long by telling half the population that they’re not worth protecting from sexual predators. Giddings has already diminished herself in the eyes of many by her deceits and lies. Whenever or how ever she leaves office, it will not be a day too soon.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Pot in Jackpot


A marijuana dispensary shop, opening in Jackpot in September, will bring only further drug misery to the Southern Idaho region. Its promoters acknowledged as much, saying they don’t care about Nevada politics, much less about Idaho’s concerns. It’s just about the money.

It’s a sad state of affairs that Idaho is being surrounded by pot dispensaries in Oregon and now Nevada. It’s just a matter of time before the drug becomes legal across the United States by either federal decree from the Biden administration or through state dispensary shops. Sure, it’s good for the marijuana industry investors, and both the lefty and rightist legislators they support, but how is it good for Idaho?

The Jackpot pot store plans to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks year. There’ll be a drive-up window so you can get your stash delivered in the middle of the night, right to your car window, just like a hamburger and fries to go.
Then, you can roll up a toke in your car, light it up and take your hits while you mosey on down he road, either back to Twin Falls or further south into Nevada. You just drive by any time, day or night, to get your stash. Yep, sure will be convenient. Again, how is it good for Idaho or the Magic Valley to have pot-addled drivers going back and forth on Hwy. 93?

No one asked Idaho citizens if they wanted a pot shop in Jackpot, just 45 miles south of Twin Falls. No one took any real measure of the impact on our law enforcement, jails, policing, much less on social disruption, broken homes, school performance, healthcare and other social needs. Hey, it’s a Libertarian world where we get to do what we want and disregard the rest. We’re apparently too busy toking up to care about thefts and domestic violence, childcare, increased crime, accidents and deaths, disrupted lives and lost family members.

Pro-marijuana druggies, some legislators, media and defense lawyers will frame the issue as one of personal “choice.” The media, where marijuana use has been around for decades, won’t tell you if marijuana is involved in the next fatal crash. There will be the usual handwringing by liberals, but that’s it. Those who raise broader concerns will be labeled fuddy-duddies, Puritans, old fogies, etc. These issues will affect all of the region, as pot will now be closer and more available to everyone from Ashton to the Magic Valley.

In a perverse way, the new dispensary just over the border will also hasten the push to legalize drugs in Idaho as it puts more pressure on Idaho lawmakers to approve recreational marijuana use in the state. They will say, “look at the money were losing to Jackpot. That tax money should stay in Idaho, so let’s get in the drug business by legalizing it and collecting a tax.” There will be a push to legalize recreational drug use here, as Oregon has done by its Democratic controlled legislature, a position also taken by the new Biden administration which apparently wants the whole nation to be high.

We’ve already seen political campaigns built on this. In last year’s Republican primary, pro-marijuana folks poured money into campaigns of various rightists, such as Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Challis. These were not small amounts. In Moon’s case, a reported $50,000 by out-of-state pro-marijuana groups was spent to help elect her again.

To such libertarian and rightist thinking, people have a near absolute right to do whatever they want, whenever and whereever. Arguments against this are brushed aside. Social good? Who cares? It’s my right to do my own thing. I’ll smoke pot if I want to. It’s only my business. It’s none of yours. Nor your state’s business.

Same with many in academia, the pot-professors and their “Doonesbury” generation of tokers and rollers, bong pipes and various so-called “medicinal” uses to relieve “pain.” They want us to all be like Europe or Las Vegas where you can’t walk a street that isn’t permeated by dope smoke.

This kind of all-for-me thinking is pervasive among many in society today, and in Idaho in the Idaho Slavery Foundation. Both young people and hardened rightists don’t want anyone impinging on their “choices,” for any reason. They favor closing down prisons, dismantling public education, legalizing prostitution, etc. Down this road (which they want someone else to pay for) lies anarchy, chaos, and a society way less attractive than the Idaho we now have.

It’s true that there’s not much Idaho could legally do to prevent Jackpot’s pothead store. It’s in a different state, like Ontario, Oregon where Boise area potters get their hits and reportedly spend millions of dollars annually. Twin Falls County commissioners raised the issue. Law enforcement patrols will be increased. But that’s it.

Another likely effect of the plot dispensary opening is that it will reduce regular traffic from Twin Falls in the Magic Valley to Jackpot for the shows and entertainment. People who used to go there will say, “I don’t want I don’t want to take a chance that I’ll be hit by a pothead driver.” So Jackpot, now an entertainment venue, will become reliant on the pot era as well.

Yea, count me as a fogie on this if you want, but a pot shop on our border is a terrible idea. Too bad it’s coming.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Lottery money


Well, well…..seems the Idaho lottery is doing just fine, thank you, bringing in some $72 million in record revenue this past year, more than half of which goes directly to Idaho schools.

Yet unbelievably, ten members of the House State Affairs committee voted in March to end the Powerball game after they were stampeded by rightist committee crazies to fear intrusion from foreign governments. (Associated Press, 3/10)

And who might those dangerous foreign powers be? Australia and Great Britain, you know, those other democratic republics and American allies on many issues.

But to members like Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, any involvement with another country leads inevitably to world socialism, ala the United Nations and reduces American national and state sovereignty. So, no lottery which allows other new nations to participate, even though Canada is already a member and has stricter gun control laws than the United States.

It’s hard to see how adding Great Britain and Australia would harm American sovereignty in any way, much less the limited state sovereignty of Idaho. This is yet another bogeyman dragged out to sway emotional opinion. It’s an old ploy of fanatics everywhere who prey on public ignorance to advance their own one world authoritarian order.

A delay in admitting Australia and Great Britain kicked the decision at least a year away and lottery officials hope to resolve it by then. Meanwhile, the popular Powerball game continues to add record revenue to Idaho schools, an estimated $45 million, some $15 million over last year. Over its three-decade life, the lottery has brought in over $1 billion for schools and other public buildings. (IdahoEdNews, 7/16)

The money is wisely earmarked for public buildings and school building support, which many small school districts struggle to fund. But if the knot-head crazies prevail, there goes that revenue.

This is what ideological extremism looks like: even beneficial, popular, revenue-generating activity which helps schools like the Powerball game can’t pass conspiracy thinking, for which Scott and others are well known. Welcome to Cuba, Venezuela or the Soviet Union, just with a “Ruby Ridge” Idaho twist.

If these malcontents expand their power, we will see a Legislature dominated by even more extremists spouting crazy ideas they glean from troll-heavy blogs. This trend has been underground in Idaho politics for many years, but only recently have the extremists gotten undue media attention.

IdahoEdNews (7/16) has a good list of these extremists, most of whom are in the House with concentrations in eastern Idaho and North Idaho. The Magic Valley and the Pocatello areas have not escaped this trend, but are not dominated by it. This group of approximately 20 legislators most often votes as a block on social issues, education funding and numerous other hot-button proposals.

Following the directives of the Idaho Slavery Foundation for example, these legislators oppose public school funding in toto and would like to see huge cuts in university budgets. Who needs colleges or universities? To them, traditional education is superfluous. For example, Sen. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, opposed universities budgets and said trade school was all Idaho young people needed. She’s even voted against CSI’s appropriation. How’s that for short-sightedness.

This kind of public official illiteracy is a sad reflection on the state of affairs which infects Idaho’s political rightists. It seems to come from websites with little credibility but whose intent is to overturn republican democracy wherever it may be found.

Their idea of government is one in which only they exercise power, limit speech and impose their own distorted values on the rest of us. As puppets of the Idaho Slavery Foundation, they take their directives from out-of-state oligarchs and special interests, which is then filtered across Idaho by biased blogs and radio blowhards. They’ll continue these efforts until the voters have enough.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Teacher education


It’s a fact of modern political life that naysayers get the media attention, but the real work – and often successes – goes unnoticed in the hustings of criticism. Here’s an example from Idaho’s continuing attention to school funding, teacher recruitment and retention.

When it started in 2018, the teacher training and recruitment program at the College of Southern Idaho had fewer than 20 students. (TN, 10/7/19). Now, just four years later, it’s at 150 students and poised to grow further as districts across Idaho look for ways to “grow their own” teachers from their own communities,

The goals are to boost classroom instruction, meet expanding minority populations and help fill teaching vacancies – all at lower cost than traditional education training. (IdahoEdNews, 7/12).

The program uses a streamlined module approach which focuses on the teaching craft, and which allows the prospective teacher to effectively leverage their prior life experience or other college credits into teaching positions.

It’s a non-traditional route, for sure. Most teachers today have graduated from a four-year college teacher education program, eight semesters of study and a heavy dose of classroom learning and student teaching experience. The system endures, partly out of familiarity and partly due to the watchful eye of the teachers’ union, which generally opposes broadened certification and many other innovative ideas which undermine union negotiation clout.

The new CSI program gives prospective teachers a condensed immersion in teaching methodology in just two years, just four semesters, part-time, at less than $1,000 a semester, a fraction of what a four-year degree in education would cost. It also has an online option.

A key success element is that the prospective teacher is paired with a paid mentor, usually a retired and experienced former teacher, to get further into the “nuts and bolts” of the teaching craft.

Another key feature is that the program is open to students with college degrees in other fields, as well as to people who have some, but not all, college degree credits. It’s also open to people who want to become teachers but who are now employed as para-professionals, teacher aides and classified staff.

Former Twin Falls Superintendent Wiley Dobbs has worked to expand the grow-your-own as a solution. Dobbs says retention and recruitment are among the most pressing challenges facing rural school administrators. “It’s very difficult to get teachers, but for smaller districts, it’s even more difficult because they have to talk people into moving into a small community,” Dobbs said. “And while they’re lovely communities, not everybody wants to (move there), especially people that already have families.” (IdahoEdNews, 7/12).

CSI’s program was designed, in part, to remedy that problem, certifying community members to be teachers, as they have already laid down roots in their home school districts. The hope is that grow-your-own teachers will stay in their communities.

Why are prospective second-career teachers piling in? It appears to be a combination of low costs, flexible hours, eliminating the need to leave home and probably other factors like rising teacher pay and health benefits with average salaries now mostly over $50,000 annually.

Teachers in Idaho are also part of the PERSI (Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho), which provides pensions based on years of service and pay level, an important consideration.
Increases in the Legislature’s continued fiscal commitment to education have added to the appeal of teaching as a career, particularly in small communities. By eliminating previous barriers, the CSI program is a new model for the workforce needed in the teaching profession in our growing state.

The CSI program is also a great example of the iron laws of economics and self-interest. People want to better themselves in every profession, and the new entrants have strong motivations to do so. They just need the opportunity.

Sure, there are questions. But if it succeeds in producing quality teachers, why shouldn’t Idaho expand the model? Why are we spending millions of dollars annually on traditional four-year programs which may need revision? Many teachers will tell you privately that the “pedagogy” they slogged through in four-year education programs could well be condensed.

College education deans and faculty might see such innovations, particularly coming from a community college, as an intrusion on their traditional turfs. It may be seen as a “short cut” by some. And it will surely affect four-year campus enrollments, since it can be taken online.
Despite these hurdles, the program is well worth a closer look. It’s already attracting students in droves. That is good news for Idaho education in general.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Dawn of an orderly era


We’ve seen short water times before in Idaho, but this year’s extended drought has put into sharp relief the decades-long Idaho water adjudication process playing out in the Bellevue Triangle just South of Ketchum/Sun Valley/Hailey/Bellevue.

Mostly, it’s been an orderly and legally-reliant curtailment, driven by clear prior court rulings and sound legislation which has established Idaho’s water law over more than 30 years.

It wasn’t always that way. It was Mark Twain who reportedly once said whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting. Even if he didn’t say it, the phrase has the ring of truth when it comes to Idaho water disputes. In the early days, water was thought to be abundant enough for every use. But groundwater pumping beginning in the 1960s quickly showed a declining Snake River Plain Aquifer. That led to various water “calls” by senior users.

It took a couple of decades for this to play out, through the Swan Falls Agreement, (1984) clarifying legislation and a series of court rulings establishing the “First in Tine, First in Right” principle of prioritization firmly in Idaho water law.

There were many participants who worked out the details on water prioritization, but one important step was the creation of a Snake River Basin Adjudication court within the Idaho judiciary. The court’s role was to review and establish, claim by claim, the priority rights of senior and junior water users. By 2014, it was estimated that nearly 40,000 claims had been heard, as well as some 36 Idaho Supreme Court rulings. (Jones, A Little Dam Problem, 2016).

Which brings us to the Bellevue water case. Shrinking aquifer resources led the Department of Water Resources to issue a curtailment order in early July for the Bellevue Triangle area, affirming prioritization of downstream senior users over junior groundwater pumping. There was no fight over this; the process went smoothly forward without undue dispute. No court battles.

The order was lifted a week later following negotiations between user groups led by the DWR and the office of Gov. Brad Little, as well as Speaker of the House Scott Bedke (TN, 7/9) who has been a leader in state water negotiations for years.

That’s called cooperative leadership but without it, not much can be accomplished, as we witness daily in Washington, D.C. On the court side, adjudication judges have applied the evolving law fairly and evenly for more than 30 years, beginning with Dan Hurlbutt and continuing with Roger Burdick, Barry Wood, John Melanson and Eric Wildman, the current water adjudication judge. Interested parties weighed in, included Clear Springs Foods, the Surface Water Coalition and canal companies up and down Idaho’s irrigate farmlands.
It was all these parties, working together, which led to today’s water resolution framework. When disputes arose, the parties looked for solutions, unlike the my-way-or-the-highway vindictiveness of far rightists and other narrowly-focused interests.

“This settlement is an important first step and sets the stage for a long-term solution in the Wood River area.” Little said of the agreement. “I appreciate the efforts by the surface and ground water users to come to a resolution that protects senior water rights while allowing some groundwater pumpers the ability to provide valuable crops,” he said. “I would also like to thank Idaho Department of Water Resources Director Gary Spackman and his team for their expertise and genuine desire to reach a meaningful resolution. This kind of coming together to face our challenges head on – especially during an extreme drought year – is what Idahoans do.” (IdahoPress, 7/9).

That led to a solution this year to provide water for some 140 Triangle growers covering about 23,000 acres. That’s a tiny percent of Idaho’s 3.3 million acres of irrigated farmland, but the fact that it was accomplished without rancor or delay speaks well of what we can do in the state when there’s common sense and the willingness to find solutions rather than to obstruct.

Again, it was Bedke whose leadership and solutions-oriented focus led the parties to agreement. (Statesman, 7/10) After two decades in the Legislature, ten years of which he’s been Speaker, Bedke is running for Lieutenant Governor, where his expertise and even temperament will be an enormous asset.

"We live in the arid West,” Bedke said, “and we're fast-growing, and these will always be problems. And so these agreements, these solutions that last way into the future, will continue to serve us." (IdahoPress, 7/9). Amen to that.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at