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Posts published in “Idaho”

Smith: Probable?

After Idaho Senator Larry Craig's trouble with his previous proposed nomination to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals - the failed proposal for attorney William Myers III, whose ties to industry and agriculture proved too strong for the comfort of some senators - there are some indicators that the new nominee, Randy Smith, will fare better. (The two have been proposed for different seats.)

But these are complex waters.

On the plus side is Smith himself. He has a political enough background, serving as state Republican party chair in the early 90s (he was a good one, and not especially more partisan than the position would dictate). But he has gotten good reviews from a wide spectrum of reviewers in his role as judge, including strong comments from current state Democratic Chair Richard Stallings. He does not have Myers' lobbying liabilities, has proven himself as a capable judge, and is likely to arouse no angry howl in Idaho, even from Democrats.

There is another issue, though: Is the seat "Idaho's" - and should Craig be the senator nominating for it? (more…)

Affordability

The minimum wage, in theory, was set up to provide a floor income allowing anyone who worked (again, in theory) to earn enough to survive on a 40-hour per week job. At a federal rate of $5.15 an hour that has, of course, been something of a lie for quite a while now.

But the report released this week from the National Low Income Housing Coalition puts concrete numbers to what most of us assume. Natonally it notes, "more than 80% of all renter households live in jurisdictions where the minimum wage is less than half of the Housing Wage. In other words, the vast majority of renter households find themselves in localities in which decent housing is unaffordable unless their combined income exceeds that of two wage earners working full-time, with no vacation or sick days, at the minimum wage." In other words, out of reach of even a couple both of whom work full time, at minimum wage.

And in the Northwest? (more…)

Inquest

The real issue in the legal case that has been preoccupying Boise for the last three months or so - the justification, or lack or it, for a police shooting, of a teenager named Matthew Jones - drills down to this: How confident are Boiseans that their local elected officials are making straight decisions on police shootings?

Erwin Sonnenberg, who has been Ada County coroner almost forever, is central here. The concern raised is that he's too close to the Boise police, close enough that he will see things their way in evaluating a police shooting rather than taking a strictly neutral view. Back in the 90s when the Boise police had a larger rash of shooting incidents, similar concerns were also raised, though with less visibility than this time.

Much of that, whether valid or not, is personal to Sonnenberg. Which doesn't weaken the valid contention by Ada County Prosecutor Greg Bower that the system for handling especially sensitive determinations of death - by inquest - is outmoded. The Idaho Statesman article today on this notes:

Bower on Wednesday called the current inquest system "archaic" and said his staff is investigating alternatives. The point of an inquest is to "promote public confidence" in the investigations of shootings, Bower said. But inquests may be having the opposite effect by unnecessarily delaying the release of information, he said.

An inquest also can create unneeded grief for the officers and families of the deceased by requiring them to relive highly emotional events when prosecutors already have a clear idea of whether criminal charges will be filed, Bower said.

Changes in this area would have to be addressed in state law. Expect the subject to arrive at the Statehouse in January.

Idaho meds

Maybe it had to be an interim president of Idaho State University to bring up the idea of creating a full-fledged medical school at Idaho State University. The last president, Richard Bowen, never broached the idea - publicly at least - and if anyone ever has, it's gone unremarked. Which would seem unlikely.

Idaho State UniversityInterim President Michael Gallagher has nothing to lose by floating the idea, which on the surface and over the long haul seems not unreasonable. Of Idaho's higher ed institutions, ISU is the one most closely allied with medical training.

Gallagher's specific language was a little more diplomatic than that: "ISU is charged as the lead institution in health and support sciences," he said. "We are willing to work with the board and the Idaho Medical Association, plus other institutions including the Legislature, to help define what the future of health and medical education should look like in Idaho." But his meaning was clear enough. (more…)

The tougher budgets

The old adage has it that the toughest budgets - in public organizations, if not private - are those where expected revenues exceed expected expenses. That extra money is just so tempting.

The northwest states are facing some of this. Oregon has no legislative session next year, so the pressure is less immediate in the Beaver State. But already the talk has arisen about eliminating the corporate kicker. What's notable about this talk, as showed up in the Oregonian today, is that even the corporate lobby isn't trying to defend it. The fact that two-thirds of the rebate would head directly out of state provides a real shift to the argument.

Washington appears headed, this next session, for a $1.4 billion surplus, which takes any discussion of tax increases off the table. Democrats in the legislature (or some of them) will see this as an invitation to spend a little extra, and Republicans (some of them) will similarly agitate for a tax cut.

Governor Christine Gregoire shows indications of trumping both views by emphasizing the temporary nature of the surplus. Talking with a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter, she said that by the time the 2007 budget cycle rolls around, there will be no surplus - in fact, she said, "There's no scenario after we fund the mandates that doesn't result in us having a deficit going into the next [2007] biennial budget." Sounds like a line in the sand for a rainy-day fund, which could be the logical centrist approach. Her challenge will be holding the center together.

Idaho is looking at a similarly substantial surplus, and its Republican legislators will be tempted to go the same route they did when a big surplus appeared in 2001, and they sliced state income tax rates. That earlier cut came back to bite them, hard, in 2003 when the state's economy took a dip, and a - horrors - tax increase was required (by Governor Dirk Kempthorne) in response. Will that lesson have been learned? There will be pressure too for doing something about increasing property taxes. Will the state surplus provide a handy, albeit tricky, solution for some of them?

Grant blogging

We will try to keep track here of campaigns which use blogging (regular, daily, consistent blogging, not just a dead page posted week after week) as part of their campaign efforts.

To that end, attention is directed to Grassroots for Grant, a blog from the campaign of the Democrat running in Idaho's 1st congressional district. Say this: There's already plenty of material on it.

Tales of two recalls

Spokane Mayor Jim West probablywould like to swap places with David Young right about now.

Young has been the target of a planned recall, but yesterday the Canyon County residents who were behind it acknowledged they were falling short, failed to get the required number of petition signatures by their November 30 deadline, and settled for saying that, well, at least they got a discussion of Young's record out there. But there were less labor-intensive ways to do that. (more…)

Courier

On the senator's part, he's just doing what senators usually do by way of passing along information. The question is, why is Senator Larry Craig - and no doubt he isn't the only 0ne in this position - being used by federal agencies as bearers of bad tidings?

Larry Scott of VA Watchdog, who lives in Washington and is heard on Portland radio, has a peculiar story to tell. Here's an excerpt from his post on Op-Ed News.com: (more…)

The new(er) Aspen

The comparison of Ketchum/Sun Valley to their peer ski resort towns - Jackson, Aspen, Park City, Telluride, and others - is no new thing. But the specific head-to0head comparison between K/SV and the "granddaddy" of these places - Aspen, Colorado - gets a good going over in the Idaho Mountain Express.

Basic conclusion: The parallels aren't perfect, but yeah, they have a whole lot in common.

Whose quality of life?

And sometimes you just drop your jaw however much you may expect it. Such as the instance of an immigrant family settled into Cataldo, Idaho from Yakima, Washington, moved there for reasons having little to do with "quality of life" - at least, as most people are led to understand it. Next time you hear someone say they've come to Idaho for the "quality of life," ask for a definition: Some people view it differently than others.

The facts apparently are not at issue. Dotys, who have become a cause celebre in some circles, have seven children, and they run a house-moving business. The interaction of the two is the issue: Two of the older children, Zach, 13 (when the dispute began) and Stephen, 11, were put to work as employees, operating heavy machinery such as bulldozers and backhoes. They also were assigned to ride on top of houses moving down the road, to push low-hanging electric power and telephone lines out of the way. All of this is part of the home schooling (you were expecting that, weren't you?) which is the education for all seven children.

Washington officials had a few problems with this, including violations of child labor laws and failure to pay worker compensation insurance, and fined Jude Doty $100,000. Doty's response was to contest the fine, and decamp to Cataldo. There - Kootenai County Prosecutor Bill Douglas is quoted as saying - the state simply doesn't regulate child labor in businesses which take in less than $500,000 in revenue annually and operate entirely within the state. The Dotys are free in Idaho, to put their pre-adolescent kids befhind the controls of heavy machinery, balancing on the roofs of houses moving down the highway while handling high-voltage power lines.

Unregulated free enterprise in action. (more…)