Archive for the 'Idaho' Category

Mar 07 2014

Cracks in the armor?

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Idaho Senator Jim Risch’s cruise to easy re-election just may not be the lock Republicans would like to think.

A poll of 773 Idaho voters (the margin of error is +/- 3.5%) during late February by Public Policy Polling revealed some potential problems for the often acerbic, staunchly conservative senator who is the 15th most wealthy member of Congress.

The numbers have to be heartening for Risch challenger Nels Mitchell, a successful Boise raised attorney seeking his first public office.

There are two key numbers that incumbents, pundits and lobbyists give careful scrutiny: the favorability number and the re-elect. Both in the case of Risch signal potential problems.

Risch’s favorability number was 47% (22% very favorable, 25% somewhat favorable). An old and venerable political rule of thumb is that anytime an incumbent’s number is below 50% there’s trouble on the horizon.

Even more troubling for Risch was the so-called re-elect number. The question can be posed several ways: “If the election for the U.S. Senate were held today, would you vote for Senator Risch?” Or, “Given what you know today regarding Senator Risch and his record, would you return him to office or would you consider someone else?”

According to the PPP, only 36% of Idaho voters are solidly committed to Risch while 48% think it is time to consider someone else. Like many Republicans, Risch is especially in trouble with women voters, particularly independent women voters, as well as Democratic women voters and pro-choice Republican women. Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Mar 06 2014

An upset alert

Published by under Idaho,Malloy

malloy CHUCK
MALLOY

 
In Idaho

Governor Butch Otter, as the leader of Idaho’s Republican Party, should have clout when it comes to issues such as closed primaries. But on this issue, party loyalists are more likely to listen to former Sen. Rod Beck than Otter. Now, the governor is stuck with a voting system that could bite him on the backside as he seeks his third term in office.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Otter should have no trouble sailing through the primary and winning re-election. I’m not buying it.

With a closed primary and a probable low voter turnout, Senator Russ Fulcher has a legitimate shot at pulling off the upset. Fulcher doesn’t have Otter’s bankroll, and the media is largely ignoring his campaign. But Fulcher has one big thing on his side: People who vote in primary elections and have no hesitation about registering as Republicans. Tea party supporters and social conservatives aren’t bothered by the lack of press coverage; they don’t care much for Idaho newspapers anyway.

So Fulcher has a clear path to victory. The first step is rounding up those who supported Congressman Raul Labrador and former Bill Sali. Fulcher has served plenty of red meat to that crowd, voicing his displeasure with Obamacare and Common Core. The senator can count on help from social conservatives, who learned a long time ago that political power comes from voting in primary elections. Otter is many years removed from a DUI arrest and participating in tight-jeans contests, but religious conservatives have long memories and Fulcher is about as squeaky clean as a politician can get. Fulcher also could look to support from those advocating for term limits. All they need to know is that Otter is a 71-year-old career politician who is seeking a third term in office. And there’s nothing stopping him from going for a fourth, fifth and sixth term – unless he dies, or voters boot him out.

So don’t be too quick to write off Fulcher in this election. Otter supporters may like the numbers they see. But will their voters come out on May 20? I worked with former state Senator Sheila Sorensen’s congressional campaign in 2006 and we were pretty optimistic about the numbers we saw two months before the election. Bill Sali, the most conservative candidate in the field, was the clear winner. Vaughn Ward probably felt good about his numbers two months before the 2010 primary, but his campaign imploded and Raul Labrador – the more conservative candidate — was the easy winner.

Those things happened when Republican primaries were “open” to Democrats, independents and anyone else who wanted to vote. Today’s closed-primary format sets up perfectly for Fulcher.

Otter’s concerns about closed primaries are legitimate. In a speech to Farmer’s Insurance agents, as reported by the Statesman’s Dan Popkey, the governor talked about voters’ reluctance to sign a paper declaring themselves as Republicans. As Otter accurately states, many people are disenfranchised with closed primaries, including state employees who are supposed to be non-partisan.

“Now when you sign this piece of paper, it says that ‘I am a Republican,’ and it’s the only way you can get on the Republican ballot,” he said.

In my view, it’s Otter’s own fault for allowing himself to be steamrolled on this issue. Sure, he made a few token statements in opposition to closed primaries, but he wasn’t putting himself on the line. After two embarrassing political defeats – the dismissal of Kirk Sullivan as the GOP chairman the killing of his gas-tax proposal to improve Idaho roads – Otter wasn’t about to take a third whipping.

“I didn’t think it was a good idea to do that,” Otter told the insurance agents. “But that’s what the party wanted to do and that’s what the Central Committee voted for, so that’s what we do.”

Now that’s what I call leadership … for a church mouse. Otter was merely employing the kind of political survival skills that have allowed him to hold high office for parts of four decades.

If he had stood up to the Rod Becks of this world and put up a real fight against close primaries – as one might expect from the party’s leader — he would have lost big. And he knows it.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Mar 02 2014

The tentpoles of religious exemption

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

In 1874 George Reynolds, a secretary to Mormon President Brigham Young and husband to two wives, was charged with the crime of bigamy. The case didn’t come out of the blue: The LDS church (with Reynolds as volunteer) had sought it as a test.

Reynolds argued his marriages were constitutionally protected as his practice of his religion, since the LDS church then supported polygamy on religious grounds. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The 1879 decision in Reynolds v. United States didn’t deliver as hoped. The court drew on the writings of Thomas Jefferson, who argued that “religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God … the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions.”

The court closely followed his reasoning: “Laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices. Suppose one believed that human sacrifices were a necessary part of religious worship; would it be seriously contended that the civil government under which he lived could not interfere to prevent a sacrifice? Or if a wife religiously believed it was her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband; would it be beyond the power of the civil government to prevent her carrying her belief into practice?”

So: How would the Idaho Legislature today answer those questions?

Freedom of religion has been at least the rhetorical premise for several pieces of legislation this year.
The best known, effectively killed for now on February 19 after initially working up steam toward passage, was House Bill 427, which would have barred government in Idaho from pulling or restricting a professional or occupational license for “Declining to provide or participate in providing any service that violates the person’s sincerely held religious beliefs or exercise of religion except where performing emergency response duties for public safety. ” Though the potential scope was broad, it was widely described as allowing professionals not to do business with gay people.

A bill cutting the other way didn’t even get a hearing.

Idaho law currently says “The practice of a parent or guardian who chooses for his child treatment by prayer or spiritual means alone shall not for that reason alone be construed to have violated the duty of care to such child.” Representative John Gannon proposed House Bill 458 to add: “However, this exemption shall not apply whenever a child’s medical condition has caused death or permanent disability.”

Gannon’s prompt was not hypothetical. The Oregon-based Followers of Christ church was a locus of infant and child mortality, including a number of cases deemed to be easily treatable by conventional medicine, and it eventually drew state legislative response. Church members were prosecuted in Oregon for failing to obtain medical treatment for their children. Since then, Oregon journalists found a remote Idaho graveyard where many of the children of the sect, denied medical treatment, are buried. Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Feb 23 2014

In the end, no gag

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Backers of the CAFO anti-videoing legislation – “ag-gag” – have already lost the war, even if the legislation passes.

Especially if it passes.

Senate Bill 1337, which has passed the Senate, bars a person who “without the facility owner’s express consent or pursuant to judicial process or statutory authorization, makes audio or video recordings of the conduct of an agricultural production facility’s operations.” More specifically, it’s intended to ban (though various existing laws already theoretically do) the videotaping of what happens to livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations. This is significant in Idaho, home to some very large CAFO operations in the Magic Valley and southwest. The new bill would punish violators with up to a year in jail or a $5,000 fine; critics note that’s the same as the state penalty for animal abuse.

Similar legislation has been proposed, most often failing to pass, in more than a dozen states; a Utah law is being challenged in the courts.

The Idaho bill was specifically prompted by a video shot in 2012 at Bettencourt Dairy at Hansen, showing workers beating on livestock. Last week another video shot at an Idaho CAFO, which added animal sexual abuse to the mix, was released. Both have had many, many views, and they’ve gone viral on social media.

We can’t know if the videos alone would have generated massive international attention. We do know the videos, combined with legislation to ban shooting more of them, has sent interest in the subject sky high, in news reports nationally and overseas. The story is irresistible: An attempt to keep the lid on what people have already seen. But memories aren’t so easily erased. Nor is the technology, which keeps moving in the direction of disclosure, as privacy advocates regularly remind us.

Among other responses to the bill are petitions, some inside Idaho, some by national animal advocacy groups. Petitions usually do little by themselves, but they can assist organization efforts, and they keep the subject visible. Not only smaller and relatively hard-core groups like Mercy for Animals, which released the Bettencourt videos, are involved in this, but also larger and better-funded groups like the Humane Society of the United States. The subject of CAFO livestock has gone mainstream.

If you doubt that, watch the latest series offering from Netflix: The satirical but pointed “Farmed and Dangerous.” (The initial plot hook involves an exploding cow.) Once issues like this get into cultural discussion, national regulation and legislation may, in time, follow. It’s in the spotlight now.

The Magic Valley has benefited recently from arrival of a number of food processors who came there largely because of the easy supply of dairy products. Don’t be surprised if boycotts of some of them start – and lead to business responses. To see this playing out, Google the Wiese Brothers Farms in Wisconsin, and read about the videos and other reports that led a frozen pizza company to cut all ties with them.

Nor is that all. If SB 1337 is signed into law (as seems likely), watch for this: An activist who deliberately violates it, shooting more video intending to get caught – and insisting on a very public trial that could draw more national and international attention, kicking in the cycle all over again.

The problem for livestock operations is not insoluble. The simplest out is to improve and closely monitor operations, then throw open the doors for public viewing. Some CAFO advocates have argued that much of what’s been shown on the videos has been unusual aberrations, that most livestock is treated better before slaughter than the videos suggest; an open door policy would be the one practical way to prove it. Some of what inevitably happens in the best of meat processing businesses is of course difficult for many people to stomach, but the operators could fairly argue that if you want your meat at the supermarket, this is how it has to get there. Since most people do want their steaks and burgers, the argument might settle down, on at least higher ground than it occupies now.

Legislation has its uses. But CAFOs here have among other things a PR problem, and these kinds of laws seldom are much help with that.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Feb 15 2014

Household name to – who?

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

After the governor and the four members of the congressional delegation, the Idaho politician with the closest to a household-familiar name probably is Tom Luna, the two-term superintendent of public instruction. A year from now, since Luna isn’t running again, the next superintendent will be someone most Idahoans haven’t known very well.

The time has come for those candidates to get about the business of defining themselves, or getting defined by someone else. Since the results are likely to be mined for what they say about Idaho, let’s have a look at how the field is shaping up so far.

At present, four people have announced for the office. There may be more. Just one of the four has been a statewide figure before: Jana Jones, the one Democrat in the race, who ran for this job in 2006, losing to Luna in the election that made him superintendent. The result was a close Luna win. Jones, who then was chief deputy to Luna’s Democratic predecessor as superintendent (Marilyn Howard), hasn’t been very visible since. But she surely retains some contacts and the outlines of a campaign organization, and some experience as a candidate, which would help her get started this time. They also may be enough to clear the Democratic side of the field before the primary. As a Democrat she has automatic disadvantages running statewide in Idaho, but then the contest on the Republican side is for now hard to fathom.

Three Republicans have announced: Randy Jensen, principal of the William Thomas Middle School at American Falls, John Eynon, a music and drama instructor at Cottonwood, and (as of last week) Sherri Ybarra of Mountain Home, whose announcement identifies her as having worked as a principal and teacher.

The Idaho superintendent’s office traditionally has been filled by professional educators; Luna’s election in 2006 was a major break in that informal rule. But so far, everyone now running appears to hit that bar.

So how do Idahoans differentiate? Or, more immediately, how will Republican primary voters do so?

Eynon seems easiest to define. His web site says specifically, and right up top, he running “because he is opposed to our children being taught to the unproven standards envisioned by Common Core.” His issues page also includes a long quote, and it’s the only quote by anyone, from former Representative Ron Paul. On the campaign trail (such as at Kellogg last weekend) he seemed to include support for state Senator Russ Fulcher, who’s challenging incumbent Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter for governor. Eynon appears to be working the Tea Party side of the street.

Jensen, who has been stumping around the state with Secretary of State candidate Evan Frasure, seems to be closer to the mainstream conservative side of things, but there’s some guesswork in that suggestion, and not a lot for evidence. He plays up the professional side of his background (notably, a 2005 award as national principal of the year); his website has plenty about professional background and little about “issues”; news articles about him look much the same. So why exactly is he running? He’ll need to get more specific about that. And maybe he will.

One reason he’ll have to is because Ybarra is positioned very much the same, also highlighting her professional credentials but not yet positioning her on the hot issues of education in the state.

And those issues are plenty hot. What do the three candidates think of the “Luna laws” passed in 2011 and rejected by the voters the next year? What about the governor’s schools commission report? Eynon has made clear his view on common core (which Luna has supported); what do the other two think?

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Feb 09 2014

Immediate and longer term intentions

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

There’s the short-term and immediate, and the long-term and the eventual.

The political side of discussion within Idaho about the arrest last week of more than 40 protesters for gay rights at the Idaho Statehouse – wearing “Add the 4 Words” shirts and hands over their mouths – tended to focus on the first. That’s understandable, because it’s what’s most immediately right in front of us.

The protesters did not settle for rallying on the sidewalk outside, or even in the Rotunda, where such events sometimes also happen. They stood in front of the main doors (there are others as well) to the Senate, shortly before the floor session started for the day, blocking the doorway from being closed. Since that ran afoul of Senate rules of procedure (as they surely knew, especially since their ranks included a former senator, Nicole LeFavour), they were removed by law enforcement, and (as they also expected) arrested. The Senate even passed a suspension of one of its rules to allow for arrest of LeFavour, who as a former senator was (by rules) allowed on the floor during sessions. Be it noted that the Senate Democrats voted for that rule suspension alongside the Republicans.

The incident ticked off quite a few legislators, including a few who might sympathize with the protesters’ cause. Whatever miniscule chance they had of progressing their cause in this session, to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to anti-discrimination law in the state, was squashed.

That’s the short term. But it’s not the whole story, as some legislators realized. Senate Majority Bart Davis, for one, was quoted as saying, “Today, it hurt their cause. But as time goes by, I don’t think it does. She’s [LeFavour] not the only voice on the issue.”

To see what he meant, try Googling “Idaho gay arrest” – look for news stories – and see what comes up. KBOI-TV’s website headlined, “Arrest of gay rights activists in Idaho gets national spotlight,” and they weren’t kidding. On a quick try I pulled up 177 news article on the incident, many well illustrated (there were good photo ops), which guaranteed visible play. Large national blogs carried pieces. The news organizations ranged from the Guardian in England to the Province in Vancouver, British Columbia, from the Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise to the Tribune in Seymour, Indiana. In USA Today: “Dozens of gay rights activist arrested in Idaho.” There was a lot of TV coverage as well.

The story had staying power because it reinforced something else: The controversy associated with progress through the legislature of Representative Lynn Luke’s “religious freedom” bills. That has drawn no lack of attention either, from the Everett (Washington) Herald to the Danbury (Connecticut) News Times to the Houston (Texas) Chronicle. The Greenfield (Indiana) Reporter headlined, “House panel votes to keep religious freedom bill alive, dozens say it enshrines discrimination.”

Guess what Idaho is getting renowned for these days?

That reputational damage will have its effects. Idahoans do pay some attention to what people think about them, much as many would like to think otherwise, and the national attention will not go unnoticed, or un-responded to. The 44 protesters last week may have irritated and turned off legislators in the short run, but they got attention. If their intent is to play a longer game, they may have taken a step forward.

Share on Facebook

One response so far

Feb 02 2014

The Luna scenario

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Before the conventional-wisdom version of the departure and replacement of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna sinks in further, it’s time to poke a few holes.

The scenario was laid out in the January 28 Idaho Statesman: “Tom Luna takes one for the team.” His announcement of not seeking re-election this year, in that telling, had partly to do with clearing politics out of this legislative session’s consideration of the schools reform package, and partly to allow the Republican Party to move on from the “Students Come First” package Luna once championed, and which was trounced by the voters. And – snap of fingers, in a puff of smoke, in the public’s view – the name of Melinda Smyser emerged as the all but unstoppable replacement come this November.

We’ll not descend here into trying to read Luna’s mind, or anyone else’s. But before anyone thinks they’ve been given the final word on the matter …

Luna announced his non-run on January 27. About a month earlier, on December 20, he was quoted as saying he fully intended to run. The logical question is: What changed? Certainly not this year’s schools package at the legislature; it and its proponents and opponents were well known before then. If that were the consideration, a better time to announce would have been before this year’s legislative session started. Luna’s big annual appearance before the legislature, at the budget committee, already happened before his announcement; if damage to the school package was being done (which is doubtful anyway), it was done already.

The other part of the purported equation involved Luna harming Republicans by running. Again, that calculation, however valid or not, could have been made as easily a month ago, although it’s possible that polling or other maybe informal research might have been underway in that period. If so, we haven’t heard.
So you have to wonder: Did something else change as regards Luna, and his plans public or private?

The quick rise of Melinda Smyser, who as it turned out didn’t want to run, as the sudden frontrunning Republican nominee seemed a little odd too, though her name apparently has been spitballed as a possibility in Boise conversations for a while. It’s not that Smyser was an unrealistic candidate for the office; she has been a teacher and counselor and had been a member of the Parma School Board, and she was a state senator, not a bad resume combination. But no one seems to have asked her if she was even interested; as it turned out, within hours, she wasn’t. Usually when a name surfaces quickly that way it’s because that person had been quietly promoting it, but evidently that wasn’t the case here.

No other names seemed to rise so quickly to the surface, not those of the little-known educators in American Falls and Grangeville who have said they plan to run for the Republican nomination for the office, nor Steve Smylie, a former Republican legislator and educator who did run for superintendent in 2006, who was exploring the idea. Nor, at first, state Senator Steven Thayn, who evidently is very interested.

Was there interest in some quarters in foreclosing some of those options? The possibility of an incendiary Republican primary, based on the names of people already certainly interested, is quite real as matters sit.

These are all points that probably ought to be factored in considering the succession, and are likely to be shown up as relevant when more of the story is told.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 28 2014

Risch’s vulnerabilities

Published by under Carlson,Idaho

carlson CHRIS
CARLSON

 
Carlson
Chronicles

Because Idaho is considered the most Republican state in the nation few political prognosticators, whether in Idaho or the nation’s capital, believe Boise attorney Nels Mitchell has a snowball’s chance of defeating the long-serving Republican officeholder.

There’s one big caveat, though, and that comes down to a question of money as in can Mitchell raise enough to pound away on three vulnerabilities for which Senator Jim Risch has no adequate response. If Mitchell can get the funding to saturate the major television markets with good ads exposing these “wounds,” at a minimum he can make what many expect to be a run away Risch victory into a much narrower race.

Here are three concepts for 60-second ads the Mitchell people ought to fine tune and run:

Ad #1: You pay more taxes, Risch pays less.

Recall folks 2006 when then Governor Jim Risch sold the legislature a bill of goods about switching the one quarter of public school funding that comes from property taxes to an increase in the sales tax.

He claimed public education would lose nothing. He was wrong—they lost $50 million and the evisceration of public school funding in Idaho accelerated significantly. Idaho now is 50th out of 51 states and the Federal District, behind even Mississippi in state per pupil support.

Risch claimed no personal benefit from the switch. In a one-day special legislative session in August, while most Idahoans were enjoying vacations, he rammed through the Legislature a bill he knew would lower his Idaho property taxes by at least $4,000. He remained silent about his break while the vast majority got the shaft.

He said if it could be proven he benefitted personally he would drop out of the race. The proof was submitted but he’s still sitting in the Senate.

You can’t afford Jim Risch and Idahoans can’t trust Jim Risch. I’m Nels Mitchell and I authorized this message.

Ad #2 Arrogance

There is only one word that describes it: arrogance. In a December 2012 interview with the Idaho Statesman, Senator Jim Risch said there was no sense working hard in Washington, D.C., because everything is so partisan only grid-lock thrives. Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 26 2014

Legislative tracking from home

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

When I started covering the Idaho Legislature in the mid-70s, there was literally no substitute for heading down to the Boise statehouse, picking up on the paperwork and watching the session unfold, not if you wanted to follow developments there at all closely.

No longer. You can track this 2014 session almost as well from your home as you could on the scene. (Well, not quite – there’s still something to be said for personal contact and interaction. But close.) Credit the legislature, over the years, with making it easy.

Back then, printed lists of committee agendas, bill status and bill copies didn’t emerge widely from the Statehouse. Now, that same material, and more, is on the legislature’s own website, at http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/. Go to that page and in the center, at the top of the list of links, is “Bill Center.” There you can find any piece of legislation by number (divided by House and Senate), if you happen to know it, or you can search by subject.

Click on the bill, and you get not only the bill text but the legislative history – where it is in the process, and how it got there – and the statement of purpose, which is a relatively plain-language brief description of what the bill is designed to do. Mostly, the SOPs are straightforward, though some are written as much to obscure as illuminate: So read them carefully. And there’s a fiscal note, if the legislation is expected to cost the state anything; sometimes the fiscal notes can become the subject of heated debate. Everyone with an interest in the legislature ought to prowl through the bill lists. And do read the bills of interest to you; they’re written in plain English (more or less), as either amendments or additions to the current law, or sometimes as repealers. Anything deleted has a strike-through on it, anything added is underlined. Sometimes the real intent is a little obscure, but that’s something legislators, lobbyists and reporters periodically struggle with too.

That alone is not a bad collection. The main thing missing, which some legislatures provide, is an alert letting you know when the next action on the measure is expected, if something has been scheduled. (Sometimes bills are sent to a committee and are, well, never heard from again.)

If you really want to bear down, you can look at the same thing legislators have been spending much of their time on these first few weeks of the session: Administrative rules. Legislators review them, and can kill them, during sessions, and there’s even a proposal to lock that role into the state constitution. (I think the state did just fine in the years before 1995 when legislators reviewed the rules simply when someone had an objection to one, but we’d be talking about the legislative giving up authority now.) Those rule books are all on line.

Reporters and everyone else used to rely on printed agendas for floor and committee action. They’re all posted online, and in the main reliably. And you can read the “progress report,” the number of bills and other measures introduced and passed this session compared to this point in the last five sessions. (This year, so far, they’re introducing more than last year but fewer than the years before.)

And then there’s watching the action. You can go to to the Idaho Public Television page www.idahoptv.org/insession/leg.cfm to watch the Senate or House floor action. Not all of the committee meetings are video streamed but many of them are, in the Lincoln Auditorium, the budget committee room and a House hearing room.

Read the legislative reports from journalists; you can get more and faster that way than by peering through the official reports. But those official reports can broaden and deepen your grasp of what’s going on.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 23 2014

Coziness

Published by under Idaho,Reading

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

An opinion piece written by Idaho Democratic Chair Larry Kenck.

We the People of Idaho do not control what happens in our Statehouse. Lobbyists and special interests are calling the shots there. The outcome: more cash for the wealthy and higher taxes for the rest of us.

If Idaho’s rank as 50th in family wages is not enough proof of that, then look at the cozy relationship between high-powered lobbyists and GOP politicians.

On January 10th, GOP politicians skipped work to attend a free campaign school organized by Idaho’s most powerful lobbyists—for more than two hours during a time of day that our legislators to be working for all of us.

Over 50 GOP politicians attended the “Republican Incumbents Campaign School.”

School attendee, Sen. Dean Mortimer, said this: “Skip and the others are saying, ‘Anything we can do to help get you re-elected, we’re here.’”

Idahoans should note—the lobbyists said they’ll do “anything” to keep GOP politicians in power. (“Skip” is former Sen. Skip Smyser, longtime lobbying powerhouse who is partnered with a former chief of staff for … Governor Otter.)

Why does this matter? What does this lobbyist-GOP politician partnership mean?

It is the reason that Idaho families are suffering through an economic catastrophe. After 20 years of handouts to the wealthy and well-connected, our families are paying for it. Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 19 2014

Lesson from the past

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

An array of familiar Democratic faces turned up Tuesday at the Boise press conference where attorney Nels Mitchell announced his run for the Senate against Republican Jim Risch, but one in particular may have resonated for people familiar with recent Idaho politics.

He was Mike Burkett, a former state senator and like Mitchell an attorney. Also like him, he has run as a Democrat against Risch. What’s remarkable about Burkett is that he is one of the few people ever to beat Risch in a political contest.

That was in 1988, long before Risch was a U.S. senator, but at another time when he was powerfully positioned in the state, as Senate president pro tem. Risch then had been winning elections for 18 years (for county prosecutor, then senator) and had never lost one. He was very smart, disciplined, an excellent speaker and debater and (with his wife Vicki) a fine political strategist, and centrally positioned among Idaho Republicans in his points of view.

There was also a rap on him: That he was arrogant, loved to wield power, stepped on people. Respect was there; likability slipped over time. By 1986 Risch’s winning margin was 54 percent, not a marker of strength. In 1988 he made the mistake of backing a primary challenge to a sometimes obstreperous member of his caucus, Rachel Gilbert. Gilbert, as was her wont, shot back, describing Risch as a Statehouse power out to crush independent-minded people like her. She won her primary.

When Burkett ran against Risch that year, he played a role Gilbert could have scripted: As an outsider and an unknown with a small-town demeanor, which didn’t stop him from blasting Risch strongly, feeding the narrative of Risch as a powerful insider. Risch lost.

That of course was a quarter-century ago, and Idaho was a different place then, less Republican than now. Risch since has gone on to win more elections. (Disclaimer here: I was campaign manager for one of his opponents, in 2002.) The power-seeker rap wouldn’t work nearly as well now in the context of a U.S. Senate seat, where he’s one vote out of 100, and in the minority (at present), and working mostly outside the state. Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 18 2014

The desire named street car

Published by under Idaho

From the Boise Guardian web site, based in Boise.

Thousands of tax dollars later, Team Dave’s desire named street car has resurfaced.

This time around instead of hiring a PR outfit to create public support for Mayor Dave Bieter’s dream of a “downtown circulator,” city officials are aiming for a Jan. 29 meeting to seek “input” on what type of circulator in the downtown area is desired… not presuming no street car is desired, based on past surveys.

The GUARDIAN can only echo years and years of reports, studies, surveys, and studies. Give us a damn bus system and quit wasting our money! People wanting a streetcar make as much sense as those who hailed the runaway bus driver as a hero–before coppers filed charges against him for whacking trees and nearly wiping out the Idaho Power building.

Hint: the city is unlikely to get streetcar permission from ACHD if they can’t get the hockey pucks installed to monitor parking meters.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 12 2014

Water projects

Published by under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s state of the state speech last week was mostly a recitation of the familiar – education? Check; wolves? Check – but his reference to $15 million he’d like to spend on water projects seemed a little out of the blue.

“Water sustainability initiative projects”? Doesn’t sound very Otter-like.

And 2014 would seem to be a year when water matters settle down: This is likely to be the year a “final decree” is issued in the Snake River Basin Adjudication, which at last nails who has rights to what in Idaho water.

Throw in a few factors from here and there, though, and it does begin to fit.

There is, of course, the growing likelihood that this will be a parched water year.

Another was the reference to water not long after he spoke about economic growth in the Magic Valley. Many businesses setting up in that region either rely on a strong water supply, or rely on other businesses that do.

Idaho and its history are richly woven with water projects, the bulk of them more than 50 years old. The collapse of the last major project, the Teton Dam, seemed to slam the lid on big dams in Idaho.

Bear in mind that, although his proposal for $15 million was singled out in the speech and got a fair amount of media attention, the amount of money is, in context, small. To build a single large dam would cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars, one of the reasons so few have been built in recent decades. What Otter is proposing are much smaller-scale.

Those include (his budget book says) “acquiring water rights to provide a reliable water supply to Mountain Home Air Force Base ($4 million); conducting studies of the Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer to support the establishment of [city] water rights for long-term needs ($500,000); initiating environmental compliance and land exchange analysis for the Galloway Project ($2 million); completing Arrowrock enlargement and flood control feasibility study ($1.5 million); beginning Island Park Reservoir Enlargement Project ($2.5 million); developing computer infrastructure necessary for the operation of the Water Supply Bank ($500,000); and developing additional managed recharge capacity ($4 million).” Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 09 2014

Wireless juice

Published by under Idaho

Found this remarkable paragraph in the most recent report on Idaho National Laboratory operations for late last year. I can’t recall seeing any news reports …

INL researchers recently released independent testing results of a wireless charging system designed for plug-in electric vehicles. The system tested, Evatran’s Plugless Level 2 Charging System, uses inductive technology to wirelessly charge a PEV’s traction battery, which powers the vehicle. Soon, drivers of electric vehicles may only need to park to begin charging their batteries. INL continues to conduct independent testing of PEVs and charging systems. The Plugless system is the first wireless power transfer technology to be independently documented and published.

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

Jan 08 2014

Court tech

Published by under Idaho

ridenbaugh Northwest
Reading

A guest opinion from former Idaho Supreme Court Justice (and former chief justice) Linda Copple Trout.

From Amazon to Google, Apple to Microsoft, 21st Century business is driven by technology, the Internet and constant and necessary improvements in efficiency and productivity. Idaho’s court system must also perform at the highest levels and in the same modern information technology environment.

Idaho courts have long taken pride in staying abreast of the needs of a 21st Century economy and we have reached a critical point where technology investments must be made if we hope to ensure that the thousands of cases that come to Idaho’s courts annually are resolved fairly, timely, and efficiently.

Idaho’s courts will be asking the coming session of the state legislature to invest in a well-planned, comprehensive approach to updating the judicial branch’s critical technology infrastructure. It’s not inexpensive, but it is essential and we have developed a range of options to fund the necessary upgrades that we believe will allow the legislature and governor to meet the need.

In truth, the court’s existing technology infrastructure has reached what the experts call “the end of life.” The software that supports the court’s statewide ISTARS system, in place for 25 years, is obsolete and licenses are no longer renewable. Realizing that we must face these technology challenges if Idaho’s courts are to continue to meet the Constitutional mandate to resolve cases without delay, the Supreme Court established a technology committee to evaluate options.

After months of work and consultation the committee is recommending a modern 24/7 web-based case management system for Idaho that will benefit every aspect of private commerce and public business in the state, and will join all of Idaho’s 44 counties into one cohesive system. By taking advantage of significant advances in technology generally, and in court technology specifically, the new system will generate across the board cost savings, while enhancing productivity and efficiency. Continue Reading »

Share on Facebook

Comments Off

« Prev - Next »

 


Pike Place's plans for a new waterfront entrance.

 

THE OREGON POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

The Field Guide is the reference for the year on Oregon politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Compiled by a long-time Northwest political writer and a Salem Statesman-Journal political reporter.
OREGON POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Hannah Hoffman; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
THE IDAHO POLITICAL
FIELD GUIDE 2014

by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase is the reference for the year on Idaho Politics - the people, the districts, the votes, the issues. Written by two of Idaho's most veteran politcal observers.
IDAHO POLITICAL FIELD GUIDE 2014, by Randy Stapilus and Marty Trillhaase; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. $15.95, available right here or through Amazon.com (softcover)

 
 
NEW EDITIONS is the story of the Northwest's 226 general-circulation newspapers and how they're dealing with the day of the Internet. New Editions tells you where your newspaper is headed.
New Editions: The Northwest's Newspapers as They Were, Are and Will Be. Steve Bagwell and Randy Stapilus; Ridenbaugh Press, Carlton, Oregon. 324 pages. Softcover. (e-book ahead). $16.95.
See the NEW EDITIONS page.

How many copies?

 
without compromise
WITHOUT COMPROMISE is the story of the Idaho State Police, from barely-functioning motor vehicles and hardly-there roads to computer and biotechnology. Kelly Kast has spent years researching the history and interviewing scores of current and former state police, and has emerged with a detailed and engrossing story of Idaho.
WITHOUT COMPROMISE page.

 

Diamondfield
How many copies?
The Old West saw few murder trials more spectacular or misunderstood than of "Diamondfield" Jack Davis. After years of brushes with the noose, Davis was pardoned - though many continued to believe him guilty. Max Black has spent years researching the Diamondfield saga and found startling new evidence never before uncovered - including the weapon and one of the bullets involved in the crime, and important documents - and now sets out the definitive story. Here too is Black's story - how he found key elements, presumed lost forever, of a fabulous Old West story.
See the DIAMONDFIELD page for more.
 

Medimont Reflections Chris Carlson's Medimont Reflections is a followup on his biography of former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus. This one expands the view, bringing in Carlson's take on Idaho politics, the Northwest energy planning council, environmental issues and much more. The Idaho Statesman: "a pull-back-the-curtain account of his 40 years as a player in public life in Idaho." Available here: $15.95 plus shipping.
See the Medimont Reflections page  
 
Idaho 100 NOW IN KINDLE
 
Idaho 100, about the 100 most influential people ever in Idaho, by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson is now available. This is the book about to become the talk of the state - who really made Idaho the way it is? NOW AN E-BOOK AVAILABLE THROUGH KINDLE for just $2.99. Or, only $15.95 plus shipping.
 

Idaho 100 by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson. Order the Kindle at Amazon.com. For the print edition, order here or at Amazon.


 

    Top-Story-graphic-300x200_topstory8
    Monday mornings on KLIX-AM

    watergates

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Randy Stapilus

    Water rights and water wars: They’re not just a western movie any more. The Water Gates reviews water supplies, uses and rights to use water in all 50 states.242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    intermediary

    ORDER IT HERE or on Amazon.com

    More about this book by Lin Tull Cannell

    At a time when Americans were only exploring what are now western states, William Craig tried to broker peace between native Nez Perces and newcomers from the East. 15 years in the making, this is one of the most dramatic stories of early Northwest history. 242 pages, available from Ridenbaugh Press, $15.95

    Upstream

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    The Snake River Basin Adjudication is one of the largest water adjudications the United States has ever seen, and it may be the most successful. Here's how it happened, from the pages of the SRBA Digest, for 16 years the independent source.

    Paradox Politics

    ORDER HERE or Amazon.com

    After 21 years, a 2nd edition. If you're interested in Idaho politics and never read the original, now's the time. If you've read the original, here's view from now.


    Governing Idaho:
    Politics, People and Power

    by James Weatherby
    and Randy Stapilus
    Caxton Press
    order here

    Outlaw Tales
    of Idaho

    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    It Happened in Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here

    Camping Idaho
    by Randy Stapilus
    Globe-Pequot Press
    order here