Press "Enter" to skip to content

Posts published in “Idaho”

Goodbye to all (or some of) that

An so Albertson's is about to be no more, so we may conclude.

Albertsons has been sold (pending some final but expected approvals) to a group of business interests, and the second-largest grocery store chain in the country, one of the largest enterprises ever created in Idaho (and one of that state's bragging points), likely will be no more, and most of its currently large Boise presence, and the associated business activities, likely will move elsewhere.

Is that too firm a conclusion? Possibly; there's nothing in the massive buyout that explicitly keeps the Albertsons stores and operations from going on and doing business exactly as they have been doing. But if that's all that lies ahead, why go through the whole business of a sellout and buyout? Something different is in the wings.

There's no positive conclusion what that will be. But some careful thinking was underway in downtown Boise on Monday, and underlying it is the point that Albertsons is going not to a single operator, but to a consortium with different interests. Some are in retail. But others are in real estate, and still others have other interests.

Credible current speculation runs along these lines:

Supervalu, which apparently gets the Idaho and Northwest Albertsons stores among many other properties, would replace Albertsons as the second-largest grocery company nationally. But there are quirks: Will all those stores retain the Albertson's name? (Don't count on it.) How does that part of the deal mesh with the part relating to Cerebrus investments, which seems to be approached more from a real estate and property management perspective?

As for Boise headquarters, the immediate word was: no change. But then, that was the word out of Albertsons leadership three weeks ago. Current expectations: Most corporate and administrative offices will be stripped out of Boise, though probably one or two divisions will be left in place. (That appears to be a standard procedure with some of the purchasing companies.) Not everything will be moved out. Most of it will be.

The grocery world, and Boise's business world, has been upended.


Those porous borders around the Northwest are super-sensitive to legislation, maybe more so than anywhere else in the states. Subtle distinctions can have a big effect on interstate traffic.

As a student at the University of Idaho at Moscow, I would watch from my form window toward the west, to the point where Idaho became Washington, and where cars slipped between the two on Highway 8. Early in the evening, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, I would watch the steady stream of white lights from Pullman - heavy traffic to Moscow. After midright, the lights would turn red, traffic headed back to Pullman, home of Washington State University. The reason? Idaho's drinking age then was 19, to Washington's 21.

Change now drinking to smoking, as reports now point to smokers flocking across the border from Washington - where almost all public places, including bars, are required to be smoke-free - to Idaho, where the rules aren't quite so strict. That's ironic, since Idaho did toughen its statewide smoking rules considerably just a couple of years back.

So expect to see some altered traffic flows on the Lewiston-Clarkston, Pullman-Moscow and Spokane-Coeur d'Alene lines. The legal marketplace at work.

Job gaps

Before any Northwest politician makes pronouncements in this campaign year - and most of them, of both parties, will - about how wonderful their state's economy is, they had better first read and take into account the new report Searching for Work that Pays: 2005 Job Gap Study.

Job Gap studyIf they have any real interest in how real people in their states really live - not just an unfortunate sliver of people either, but most of them - this study by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations should have a strong sobering effect.

Consider this key finding and then ask how much our "booming economy" is doing for actual Northwesterners: "Of all Northwest job openings, 34% pay less than a living wage for a single adult and 79% pay less than a living wage for a single adult with two children, as shown in the chart below. It is important to note the distinction between jobs and job openings. Not all jobs come open during the course of a year, but some jobs may open repeatedly during a year due to turnover or seasonality of the work. Job openings are of particular interest because they provide employment opportunities for people looking for work."

The days of all boats experiencing a lift clearly are over. And yet the problem, and solutions, have to do with more than job pay in itself. (more…)

Idaho immigration: Answers and approaches

Among the issues standing foremost among the hardy perennials of time, immigration just about stands alone - as a never-ending source of discord, and as a topic that never goes away, anywhere. People have been moving around since people have been on the planet. In this country alone, immigration has been a hot topic since English settlers in the mid-Atlantic complained about all those damned Germans moving into Pennsylvania. (We don't know what compaints the native Americans had a century before that, but they had the biggest cause of legitimate complaint: The first European newcomers were the only ones who really did bring massive death, disease and destruction.)

There are two ways of looking at immigration: Mindsets, really. One is the fearful, the xenophonic, the alarm about the alien "then" - formerly southern Europeans or the Irish, most recently people from south of our borders. The panic-attack mindset sees these people as as a threat, or worse, as an invasion, putting us real Americans in peril.

Not a few people think that way, but most Americans probably take a calmer view. Immigration, after all, has been happening in this country since before it was a country, and while not everyone arriving here has necessarily been a model citizen, these arrivals have helped keep our nation vital, energetic and on our toes; they help us avoid complacence. This larger attitude isn't a "throw open the doors" mentality; most Americans want non-porous borders. But most Americans probably take the view that immigration is a matter of approach, that it should be managed, rather than a slam-shut final answer which would (presumably) aim at closing the borders. People should be allowed to come in, but to the point and in such a way that the country receives more benefits than problems.

All of which is a long way around to the debate between two of the Republican candidates for Idaho's 1st House district seat, Robert Vasquez and Sheila Sorensen. (more…)

Polls and Democrats

The most trenchant part of Dan Popkey's Idaho Statesman column today was the lead: "Idaho Democrats fill ballrooms every two years to shout, 'This is our year!' The balloon bursts on election day."

Sure has, for election after election since the early 90s. The year will come, at some point, when Idaho Democrats quit playing Charlie Brown's football game with Lucy: No political status remains quo forever. So, is this the year? In today's column, Popkey maps out a case in the affirmative. Wisely, he makes no flat predictions. But he does note that Idaho Democrats are getting a little more aggressive (which, by degrees, they are). And he says, noting a new Idaho Association of Realtors poll, the issues seem to be lining up more favorably toward Democrats than toward Republicans, and this gives the Democrats a major opening.

That last is the debatable point. (more…)

Back to the block

We probably were thought a little churlish when Albertsons last month announced it was calling off its attempt to sell itself off, and going back to business, with the implication of status quo for the foreseeable future. Our post headline was that that sale was off - for now.

So here we are, less than a month later: News reports both local and national are noting that Albertsons is resuming sales talks, after shareholders complained about the backoff from its near-sale last month. We said then that Boise had no cause for comfort; and, obviously, it doesn't.

Land sale

This seems not to have gotten a whole lot of attention, but southwest Idahoans might want to take note of a large land sale being proposed by the Bureau of Land Management.

A posting in today's Federal Register spells out the proposal, which concerns "approximately 2,056 acres of public land north of Star in Ada
County, around Pickles Butte and north of Lake Lowell in Canyon County,
east of Payette in Payette County, and within the city limits of
Cascade in Valley County. The purpose of a portion of the sales in
Canyon and Payette Counties is to provide land for purchase by the
respective counties for important public objectives including expansion
of the landfill at Pickles Butte, further development at Clay Peak
Motorcycle Park, and various other recreation and public use
opportunities. The other lands will be evaluated for sale as the tracts
are difficult and uneconomic to manage as part of the public lands,
some of which will serve to expand communities or provide economic
development opportunities."

There's not necessarily anything wrong with this. BLM lands are, historically, lands which were intended for dispersement to private parties, and which no one ever wanted. Does sound, though, as if the number and variety of uses these lands would get could change significant parts of rural southwest Idaho. The agency is open to comments.

Practical economy

As the governors talk about the wonderful economies in their states - and in their state of the state speeches, both the governors of Washington and Idaho talked about them - the relevant numbers were those of business and job creation.

Those are reasonable numbers, but they tell only a part of the story, and not the part of the story that most people in those states directly experience. For most people, a more relevant measure would be the growth, or not, of personal income, and how that compares to the national picture. And here, the tales of the states diverge. (more…)


They're still coming. The map from United Van Lines' study this year of states where people are mostly inbound or outbound shows Washington as neutral, but the text of the study says Washington is still basically inbound, and that the rate picked up more than 2% in 2005 over 2004.

United migration study

Oregon and Idaho, on the other hand, are more definitively inbound states - they're still a-coming.

Idaho SoS: small

Alongside an often ambitious and even impressive program in Dirk Kempthorne's Monday State of the State speech, sits an odd and puny abdication, of what probably is the hottest subject in Idaho politics at the moment.

That is property taxes, which for many homeowners have been rising fast. The reasons don't have to do with any sudden leaps in spending by local governments (which in Idaho are almost exclusively the recipient of property taxes); the aggregate amount of property taxes paid has been rising but not superfast. The increase in residential payment has more to do with the way the property taxes are - under state law, and the counties have scarcely any room for discretion - supposed to be assessed, and the way exemptions are doled out. Those have had the effect, in steadily increasing fashion over the last generation, of diminishing the share paid by business and other organizations, and increasing the share paid by the residential sector.

Kempthorne's central comment on this: "If citizens believe they are paying too much in property taxes, that debate belongs in the county courthouses and the city halls."

Not, in other words, with the legislators who write the property tax law. Consider not (then) how the tax is assessed, or whether various taxpayers are paying their fair share, only whether another meatax can be swung at it.

That was not all he had to say about it; for the aged and disabled he offered another government assistance program. And he didn't warn of a veto if lawmakers choose to revise the law.

But his message evidently was: If you're taking on the property tax, you're going to do it on your own.