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Posts published in “Idaho”

A door-opening decision

Anderson Ranch Dam reservoir
Anderson Ranch Dam reservoir

The decision by the Idaho Supreme Court in the groundwater v. surface water case - American Falls v. Idaho Department of Water Resources - awaited for so many months with such trepidation, turned out to be an anticlimax.

And a good deal more limited in immediate application than a lot of people probably figured.

The case was set up as a showdown between the older (senior) water right holders, who had rights on the main surface water sources in southern Idaho, and the newer (junior) groundwater pumpers. The lower court decision, by Judge Barry Wood (a former presiding judge over the Snake River Basin Adjudication), was taken to have sided mostly with the surface water users, and the Supreme Court ruling, which overturned Wood's core conclusions, was thought to side mostly with the ground water people.

But it's a lot more convoluted than that, and the key participants in the case generally, on both sides, seem to have been wise enough to withhold their celebrations.

The decision more simply means that the state's established process for determining the relationship between surface and ground water, and the approach to regulating it, can go forward . . . to the extent it is able.

The decision offers plenty of room for interpretation and legal challenges of various sorts. And in some underlying ways, it was less a reversal of the Wood decision than some might think. If you doubt that, take a look at pages 7 and 8 of the decision, in which the justices (in an unusual gesture) said they appreciated much of Wood's logic, and added, "While this opinion does not reach those same conclusions, we nevertheless accept large parts of the district judge’s analysis and attempt to use his analysis to clarify our interpretation of the CM Rules."

More to come.

Straight Outta (Idaho) Journalism

There is a clear career path for journalists in Idaho – straight outta journalism. Is it more true in Idaho than most places? Our first impulse is to say yes (although that’s a point we want to explore more fully.)

And so we’ve compiled a list of Idahoans who worked in Idaho newsrooms once, but now work (in Idaho) doing something else. We've compiled a list of these former journalists - those we know about, to which will be added others brought to our attention. And it' a long list.

More on this page

Philosophical rankings

For your amusement - or as an argument stopper, or starter - the National Review rundown of "liberal" and "conservative" rankings for all the members of Congress.

Readers of this site will recall our frequent argument that both terms of political philosophy have been so twisted and abused by the politics of the last generation that both are meaningless as a practical matter. As a loose descriptor of where these members fit into the policy picture, though, it's worth a look (and maybe as a case in point of our point). These are, we should note, reviews of 2006 voting; this year's activity isn't factored in.

Northwest overall, on the liberal side, the highest numbers went to Washington Representative Jim McDermott, with second place to Senator Patty Murray. Top conservative numbers regionally went to - you were expecting Idaho to show up here, right? - Washington Representatives Cathy McMorris and Doc Hastings, respectively. All of the Oregon and Idaho members ranked in between.

All depends on how you count.

NW Presidential

More Northwest developments in the presidential run: Republican Mitt Romney will hold a fundraiser ($1,000 a plate, we're told) at Boise on the 13th. Early indications are that, with half the state's congressional delegation signed on, he will get plenty of support in the Gem state.

As in Washington the trend lines are looking good for Republican John McCain, who is picking up useful endorsements (former Senator Slade Gorton's, for one) and Democrat Barack Obama (who held a massive rally at Bellevue last month).

In part prompting us to launch our 2008 NW Presidential supporters list - a list of prominent (or at least politically active) supporters in the region, by state. The list of Northwest supporters is not extensive but likely to grow.

Sounds like a winner

Steven Thayn
Steven Thayn

So far Idaho House Concurrent Resolution 24 remains in the House Education Committee, but there's no denying it sounds like a winner in the Idaho House.

Here is its statement of purpose:

This concurrent resolution points out the importance of the parental role in the education and training of children. It emphasizes that early childhood education can be, and should be, delivered by parents in a home environment. It encourages the Idaho State Board of Education and the Idaho Department of Education to work with parents, rather than with the children under the age of five, except in unusual situations. It also encourages the Department of Education to post on its website, in a form that parents may easily access, the skills and attitudes they feel are necessary for children to learn before they enter kindergarten.

Reflecting, in that last sentence, an apparent need for the state to tell parents how to raise their early-age kids.

It is sponsored by freshman Representative Steven Thayn, R-Emmett (with support from House Majority Leader Mike Moyle). Introduced just recently, on February 22, it appears to be a response to several early-child measures this session which have been dealt with so far in the normal Idaho House fashion - deep-sixed.

This is not a group, of course, with much use for either social programs or regulation. But the core argument against the measures appeared to stem from variations on the comment by Representative Tom Loertscher, R-Iona: "What can we do to keep mom at home?"

The reaction to that has generated some unusually strong commentary. Could it be to the point that some of it actually sinks in on the solid Republican constituency?

Don't hold your breath on that last. But the comments are pretty strong.

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What Otter forbids

There hasn't been much notice of the substance because the bill in question sounds so boring, but we'll note here that Idaho Governor Butch Otter has issued a veto. (The fact of the veto has gotten some attention; the substance, little.) It's just one veto (so far) to the 33 or so bills he has thus far signed into law, and it doesn't portend any great political conflict. But as it offers an indicator of priorities, let's pause for a moment.

The measure in question is House Bill 8, and the short legislative description of it is that it "Amends existing law to provide that a notice of levy and distraint be sent by regular first class mail instead of certified mail when collecting state taxes." (Please don't fall asleep; this gets a little more interesting.) It generated no major debate; it passed the Idaho House 64-2 and the Senate 35-0.

It was a small-government, or cut-government-cost, measure, proposed by the State Tax Commission (whose members are appointed by the governor). Here is its statement of purpose: "Current law requires the Tax Commission to send a notice of levy to taxpayers by certified mail. This costs about $28,000 annually to send more than 10,000 notices. Almost half are returned as refused or unclaimed. Changing the certified mail requirement to first class mail will likely result in more taxpayers actually receiving the notice more cost effectively."

So . . . what's the rationale outweighing this?

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Head to head

Those interested in our post from two weeks ago on the explosive growth of dairy operations in Idaho's Magic Valley, and especially around Gooding and Twin Falls counties, will find the lead piece in today's Twin Falls Times News of note as well.

It points out how Gooding County, which is by far the most concentrated dairy county in the Northwest (a quarter of Idaho's dairy cattle are there) is working on restricting dairy activity locally, and the support and opposition the effort has brought. Opposition groups have persuaded the county commission to impose a moratorium on new dairies, and it still is in effect.

The next public review of a new governance proposal will occur Wednesday at 7 p.m.

A Boise mayoral prediction

Sort of, and it isn't ours, though the rationale is credible enough.

This year will bring the mayoral (and councilmanic) election in Boise, with a November runoff if no one takes a clear majority. Mayor David Bieter is expected to run for another term, and there's been, for at least two years, a widespread presumption about who his opponent (chief opponent, at least) will be. The Boise Guardian (David Frazier) is predicting that presumption will materialize, in the person of Council member Jim Tibbs.

Jim Tibbs
Jim Tibbs

They have history. Not long after taking office as mayor - he had just barely won a clear majority in 2003 - Bieter had to select a new police chief. Tibbs, who had served in the Boise force for a third of a century and was at that point interim chief, had substantial support, but didn't get Bieter's nod. Talk emerged almost immediately that Tibbs would run for council in 2005 and, if he won, would challenge Bieter in 2007. In fact he did run and win in 2005. So, now: Will he run?

Evidently there's been nothing definite, but the Frazier suggests that he's seen enough indicators to call it. And maybe he will. As Frazier points out, Tibbs is in mid-term; if he loses for mayor, he still stays on the council.

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Idaho Legislature: Approaching backend?

Idaho legislators are approaching the point at which they'll be starting to consider how many more days are left before sine die - going home. A few observations after a little prowling, observing and conversations . . .

There is external pressure for an adjournment in another month or so: Renovation of the Idaho Statehouse is supposed to get seriously underway in April, and the plan calls for the Idaho Legislature to be gone by then, and its staff and offices - some of which are year-round - to evacuate by then.

There's nothing about this session that requires a push of that envelope. Finances are not tricky this year (though lawmakers may want to be a little cautious, since an economic slowdown on the horizon is barely reflected in budget numbers so far). Nor are there any other hot topics that constitute likely speed bumps. There's some aura of speed to the legislature this year, to the point of raising some wondering of whether speed in some places (the budget-setting Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, for one) is moving to the point of shortchanging careful consideration.

However, two uneasy passes do exist.

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Nampa Urban Blues?

One piece of the regional theory of political development we've been developing over the last several years suggests that an urban state of mind is a usual precursor to Blue/Democratic voting patterns. We'll get into what that state of mind entails elsewhere; for now, we'd suggest that simply a population that has clustered isn't sufficient. More is required.

The city of Meridian, Idaho, for example, has somewhere upwards of 50,000 people, enough to develop an urban core, but there's little to no ballot evidence that any transition from its traditional Republican core to Democratic has occurred. (If anything, it has become darker red.) A drive around Meridian, which in essence is a large suburb, helps make clear why.

Old Nampa Neighborhood
Old Nampa Neighborhood map/Old Nampa Neighborhood Association

Nampa may be another matter. It is only recently, in the last decade, a large city (probably approaching 80,000 now). At present, there's little voting evidence of any transition. In central Nampa, there's long been a small - consistently outvoted - core of Democrats among railroad workers, Hispanic voters and some others; a few precincts there have gone Democratic. But it rarely has amounted to enough to seriously influence, say, a legislative race - and never at all in the last two decades.

But the logic of urban mentality, given the historic core of Nampa which is undergoing a renaissance, suggests that could be changing. (We noted last fall in a post-election post that central Nampa could be a political place to watch in the years ahead.)

We mention this by way of pointing to a provocative post in the Mountain Goat Report, which is emerging as one of the better Idaho political blogs. In its current post, it focuses on the Old Nampa Neighborhood Association, which is trying to spruce up its corner of Nampa in a way similar to that of the Boise North End Neighborhood Association a generation ago. Many factors went into the development of the Boise North End in its transformation from Republican to Democratic bastion, but one clearly was the development of a local urbn mentality, and its association was one of the keys to that.

The Mountain Goat post gets into the Nampa developments with some detail, of changes that could be in their embryonic stage but are notable regardless. It's worth a good read.