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Posts published in “Idaho”

Idaho behind bars

cell Some years back, when Idaho started getting into the business of outsourcing prisoner control to private contractors, we predicted that investigative scandal stories would be on their way, the only question being how long that would take.

Took a little longer than we thought, owing mainly to a decline in investigative reporting. But, coming some days after a report on how Idaho has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, here we are.

From a report by John Miller (at Boise) of the Associated Press: "Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector. More than 140,000 U.S. prison beds are in private hands, and inmates' rights groups allege many such penitentiaries tolerate deplorable conditions and skimp on services to increase profits."

The story focused on an Idaho prisoner being held by a private contractor in Texas, until he escaped by slashing his throat with a razor blade.

This AP report is today's must-read.

Not for the campaign brochure

Larry Lyon

Larry Lyon

Does this mean Larry Lyon is not running for re-election this year? After only one term?

Well, you wouldn't put this on your campaign brochure. From a news alert by the Idaho Falls Post Register:

"Idaho Falls City Councilman Larry Lyon has filed a tort claim against the city of Idaho Falls for emotional distress. He alleges that in January a city police officer threatened and intimidated him while trying to cite him for having a dog at large. Lyon is asking for $500,000."

Might've had a hard time anyway, to judge from some of the chatter at IdahoFalls.com. Lyon's own blog (with an interesting contribution from his wife) is also available.

Clarifying the mission

The just-announced candidate for Idaho's 1st congressional district is Republican this time. (This district has abruptly become the busiest House district, by far, in the Northwest - now in both parties.) So what are we to make of the newcomer, Matt Salisbury?

We know only but so much. We do know he has a compelling personal story: A Nampa businessman serving in the Idaho National Guard, he was deployed to Iraq, spending considerable time in the Middle East. (A decade ago he was an Army airborne ranger.) He was there to see, among other things, elections in Iraq; he doubtless has some interesting stories to tell. His background will generate some immediate respect.

The reasons behind a challenger's entry into a congressional race - especially for a primary challenger, since Salisbury presumably would be trying to take out Republican Representative Bill Sali - are crucial in evaluating his candidacy. And those seem a little unclear as yet.

On the biggest issue of the day, and the one his background would suggest - Iraq - he's reported as saying simply that the United States ought to stick by its allies as they try to rebuild their country. Nothing inflammatory there, and nothing Sali likely would take much issue with.

The Nampa Press-Tribune quotes him this way: “The greatest issue driving my campaign is the belief that Idaho’s 1st Congressional District deserves a candidate whose singular drive is to independently serve the public trust in such a way that the people know they have a leader in Washington committed to serving his constituents rather than a political career.”

He may mean exactly that; the catch being, it's something every other candidate in the race (Sali, a first-term representative, included) could also say. So what's the specific rationale for the race - a reason for his entry so compelling that it calls on voters to fire the incumbent and install him instead?

That could yet be coming. If it does, we may get a better feel for this candidacy, and how it fits into the mix next year.

ALSO A correspondent adds this, from an Associated Press story: "Matt Salisbury, 34, of Nampa, described himself as a 'Lincoln Republican' who believes politicians should stay 'out of your bedroom and out of your social mores.' 'Idahoans deserve a candidate who doesn't represent social engineering, who doesn't represent anything other than carrying out the public trust,' Salisbury told The Associated Press on Thursday." From that, you'd conclude: Not a social conservative. We'll await more information.

SCID round II

Okay, so our projection about the frontrunner for the Idaho Supreme Court seat filled last month - we pegged Idaho Falls Republican Senator Bart Davis as the guy to beat - didn't pan out so well. (He didn't make the final cut of four by the Idaho Judicial Council.) But are we going to let that stop us on round II?

Of course not.

The Council this morning released the list of a dozen applicants for the high court spot to be vacated by Linda Copple Trout, who is resigning. (The last seat filled, by attorney Warren Jones, had been held by Gerald Schroeder.) There's less overlap than you might think between the old list of 19 applicants and this list of 12. Only one of the Council's final cut from last time, 4th District Judge Joel Horton, is back. The other two, both key figures in the state attorney general's staff, didn't try again.

(Least likely of the 12 ultimately to be selected by Republican Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter: Bill Mauk, a highly-regarded Boise attorney who also happens to be a former chair of the Idaho Democratic Party.)

In looking at the new list, it's worth bearing in mind that Trout is the only woman on the court, which gives some immediate interest to the four women on the list: one private practive attorney, Debora Kristensen, and three district judges, Kathryn Sticklen, Darla Williamson and Juneal Kerrick.

Our attention, however, went immediately to another name: Sergio Gutierrez, a judge on the court of appeals and previously a district judge. Well-regarded professionally, he also would be the first justice of Hispanic background on the high court (as he is the first on the Court of Appeals). It would be a solid choice both substantively and symbolically, something Otter probably will consider as he replaces the only woman on the court.

Of course, we've been wrong before . . .

Grant’s re-entry

Larry Grant

Larry Grant

The 2006 Democratic nominee for Idaho's 1st House district, Larry Grant, is formally back in. Grant for Congress has shot an e-mail this morning saying he has filed formal paperwork to that effect with the Federal Election Commission. (No link for the release, unfortunately.)

In normal cycles, we'd all be wondering at the early entry - nearly a year and a half till the 2008 general election. Not in this cycle, with primary opposition either in the field (Rand Lewis) or in development (Walt Minnick). And not with his counterparts in other districts, such as Democrat Darcy Burner in the Washington 8th, doing the same thing - on maybe an even more accelerated schedule.

What will all these campaigns look like when we get to October 2008?

Micron scramble

Micron Technology

Micron technology

Possibly nowhere else in the Northwest would a quarterly stock report for a single corporation carry such significance, or be (legitimate) cause for so many major news stories. Even when the corporation isn't talking to the main news outlet in the area.

So it is with Micron Technology and Boise; the firm is headquartered at Boise and employs somewhere around 10,000 people in the area (with the employment of many more connected to those thousands). A drop in prices for computer memory left Micron with a $225 million loss in the last quarter, a loss evidently considered serious enough to require a substantive response to Wall Street. CEO Steve Appleton responded, in a lesser way by stepping down from the corporate presidency (a lesser position, and ultimately probably an unimportant move) and in a bigger way by promising serious employment cutbacks.

The Associated Press reported that "Micron did not say how many of its 22,000 workers will be laid off, but reductions will likely affect Idaho employees as the company moves production closer to customers in Asia, where it does more than 70 percent of its business. Spokesman Dan Francisco said some of the job cuts will affect Micron facilities near Boise . . ."

Pay attention to the phrase "moves production closer to constomers in Asia"; it seems likely to become a phrase familiar to Boiseans in the months and years ahead. Another instance, from a stock analyst report after the quarterly announcement: "Recent checks indicate that Micron Technology has achieved a significant rebound in Asia with its new DRAM 78nm process."

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Invisible earmark ink

Mike Crapo

Mike Crapo

We will say up top that singling out Idaho Senator Mike Crapo on the question of earmark information release, as the Anderson Cooper show did last night on CNN, isn't fair, on two grounds. One is that the bulk of U.S. senators of both parties take the same position - or at least hold the same bottom line - as Crapo does. The other reason is that Crapo picked up the notoriety because his press secretary was trying to helpful and explanatory, which shouldn't have earned a ding.

The larger point the program was making, though, is another matter, largely undiminished after we went through it this morning with Susan Wheeler, the press secretary. Let's run through this, and see whether most of the Senate (not Crapo alone) are right or wrong.

"Earmarks" are budget items specified for a particular purpose. A county, for example, might seek an earmark for federal funding for a park, or maybe a state seeks one for a health building. Or whatever. Certainly, private parties are interested in earmarks too.

For our purposes here, you can fit the earmarking process into three parts. There's the request from someone in-state to a member of Congress that their request be included for federal funding. The second stage comes as members of Congress and their staffs sift through these requests, and propose some of them to an appropriations committee or subcommittee for action. The third stage is the formal, public action by the committee to approve some of those requests (extending, of course, into further floor and committee action on the way to ultimate bill signing).

The third part of the earmarking process, at the committee level and beyond, is public, and there's no dispute about it. The first part of the process, which involves constituent communications (a category that also includes such things as constituent negotiations over Social Security payments), is commonly taken as a confidential communication, and there's not much dispute about that either (though we'll partially asterisk that and return to it below). The dispute concerns the second area - the work that the member of Congress and staff do before the committee acts on the proposal: Most senators, including Crapo, say information about what earmarks they propose to the committees should not be released to the public.

What gets left out of the process is any information about earmarks proposed but rejected by the committee, and about which senators proposed any of the earmarks at all.

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Self-serve

An indicator of the times, via the Spokesman-Review's Huckleberries blog: "Coeur d'Alene faced another loss this month. Its only full-service gas station closed. Many people with a wide assortment of impairments cannot perform those seemingly simple duties offered by a full-service gas station attendant. Each withdrawal of such a service takes a new toll on people who are already challenged by daily living."

It's a useful point. (Dave Oliveria adds, "It would be nice if a gas station offered curb service at certain times of the week. And mebbe profitable.")

And maybe useful too as a comeback from Oregonians who put up with snickering from their neighbors about the illegality of self-serve gas: At least service, oftimes mechanical as well as for fuel, is still available.

No peace for the AG

Greeting Gonzales in Boise

Greeting Gonzales in Boise/Idaho Democratic Party

The thinking must have been something like this: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, embattled on all quarters, needs a respite. Fine. Have him talk about something popular, like local anti-gang efforts. In some place deep red, like, say, Idaho. Safe.

The prep overlooked that Boise isn't quite as red, anymore, as much of the rest of the state. As Gonzales headed to a news conference at the Boise Community Center, protesters - blasting him on his torture advocacy and related matters - made themselves plenty visible. What had been planned as an outdoor press conference, in sight of the general public, was moved indoors, out of general sight. And the press conference reportedly lasted maybe five minutes.

No place to hide.

The second Justice Jones

We don't know a lot about Warren Jones, the appointee - as of today - to replace Gerald Schroeder on the Idaho Supreme Court. He is apt to bring some difference in viewpoint to the group of five: On swearing-in, he will be the only one of the five who had never served as a judge (three of the others previously had) or in other elective office (Jim Jones, the other Jones on the court, a two-term attorney general).

Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter remarked on the selection, “His colleagues in the Idaho Bar agree that he is balanced, fair and impartial, and that his temperament will fit well in a collegial setting with the other justices.” Certainly he isn't a bounce-around kind of guy: He's been with one Boise law firm, the old and cohesive firm Eberle Berlin, Kading, Turnbow, McKlveen and Jones since 1970 - for 37 years. You don't see that kind of one-shop career run very often any more.

He has not been an especially publicly visible attorney (not the same thing, of course, as in-profession visibility), so we have a limited amount of background to go on. The Idaho Statesman has noted a couple of cases from his background: "He was counsel to a couple accused of slander in the 2004 state Supreme Court case that found charter schools cannot sue for slander. Jones also represented Quickburger Ltd. of England in a 1993 lawsuit against J.R. Simplot Co. about eight months after Otter resigned from his post there. Simplot was ordered to pay Quickburger $1 million for breaking a license agreement and misappropriating trade secrets." You get the sense from that, maybe, of a successful attorney and also one not necessarily wedded to the most popular and powerful local interests; not a bad thing, if such conclusions could be drawn.

But, as all governors learn, we'll all find out from scratch what we have after Warren Jones puts on the robes. Most justices turn out to be at least a bit of a surprise.