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Posts tagged as “Idaho”

First take

Something seemed likely to happen this year on the Boulder-White Clouds area, because of the pressure on for a presidential declaration of a national monument in the area if no congressional action happened. And, though not much mentioned this week, that prospect seems to have lit a fire under certain people associated with (or in opposition to) the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill long pushed by Representative Mike Simpson. That doesn't, of course, diminish the proper credit Simpson should get for the bill; it just helps explain why it slipped through the House and Senate this year when it failed in years previous, during times when it seemed to be forever stuck. Part of good legislating is persistence, and Simpson demonstrated that, keeping after the bill through good times and back, and skillfully striking when the opportunity arose. It was a demonstration of pure legislative skill and on a topic important to Idaho. A question: Has there been a congressional action specific to Idaho of greater significance since the designation of the River of No Return Wilderness (since renamed to include Frank Church) more than three decades ago? Passage of this bill may give Simpson the clear edge as the most consequential member of Congress for Idaho in the last generation. - rs (photo/"Alice Lake" by Fredlyfish4)"Alice Lake" by Fredlyfish4)

First take

Bert Marley seems to be on the surface a rational choice for chair of the Idaho Democratic Party, and a good choice for some less obvious reasons. He has plenty of personal political experience, going back to when his dad (also named Bert) was in the legislature. This Bert was in the legislature too, serving from an area where Democrats could win but could not take a win for granted. He also has run statewide, last year for lieutenant governor. Like his father he was an educator by profession, and he worked for the Idaho Education Association, and his experience there may have provided a useful lesson for the Democratic Party in Idaho. While Marley certainly should focus a good deal of attention on pure party-building (filling those precinct spots, strengthening the county organizations), it could also start to use ballot issues as a way to organize and draw distinctions with the Republicans. That happened in 2012 when educators, in three ballot issues, turned back a series of major education changes proposed by then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. There hasn't been much ballot issue followup since, but Marley's experience with the IEA just might bring a few ideas to mind. - rs

Tom Boyd

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In 1986, Idaho politics was not frozen in ice as it is today. It was fluid, and no better case for that could be made than Tom Boyd’s election that year to the speakership of the Idaho House.

It was still the Reagan Era in Idaho, but late Reagan Era, and the results of the 1986 election were all over the place. Democrat Cecil Andrus was returned to the governorship, but just barely, and Republicans did well among the rest of the statewide offices. Republicans won a serious U.S. Senate race, but not by a lot, and a Democrat won in the 2nd district U.S. House seat. The election was a true mixed bag: The overall tilt was Republican, but nothing and no one could be taken for granted.

Especially the party thought to be dominant in Idaho, the Republicans. As majority Republican legislators prepared that year to choose their leaders, they had some decisions to make, especially in the House.

There, the speaker for the previous two terms had been Tom Stivers, a conservative with some rough edges – the kind of guy who often generated what we now call “viral” quotes and anecdotes, like the time he replied to an Idaho teacher planning to leave the state over complaints about state funding and treatment of teachers, with the single word: “Goodbye!”

Stivers had been buoyed to some extent by the 1984 Ronald Reagan landslide but he opted out in 1986, possibly sensing a shift in moods. Many of the Republican legislators of the incoming 1986 group sensed that change too, not any massive shift to the left but some dissatisfaction with what voters were seeing and hearing from the legislature. And – this part was important – many of them felt a need to respond to that.

Candidates emerged to replace Stivers, all with an easy-going style that contrasted with the outgoing speaker. The two main vote getters were Robert Geddes of Preston, who as assistant majority leader had been a part of Stivers’ leadership team, and Tom Boyd of Genesee, who was considered more moderate, part of a group calling itself the Steelheads, centrists who in the Idaho House could readily compare themselves to the fish that swims upstream.

The contest was a near-tie, and a break from the norm in the Idaho House where the more conservative candidate typically wins the race. Boyd emerged as speaker, and was re-elected twice to the post. Along the way he would turn back a challenge from now-U.S. Representative Mike Simpson.

Tom Boyd, who died July 28, was not a hard-charging politico, and never considered a run for higher office; he was a friendly, sociable, low-key farmer whose run for speaker surprised many people who knew him then, as uncharacteristically ambitious. He proved well up to the job, developing an unexpected toughness but also changing the face of the Idaho House.

He changed it in the direction most of his fellow legislators had wanted, as more open and welcoming to larger groups of people. He by no means shut out conservatives in key House spots; Geddes for one got a key seat on the budget committee (which he later would co-chair), but he expanded the dialogue in a number of ways.

Tom was missed when he left the legislature and will be missed now, as will be the kind of politics he thrived in.

First take

The Lewiston Tribune reports this morning about the Manning Crevice Bridge, in some ways the major remnant of the biggest highway project never finished in Idaho history. To get to the bridge, you travel east from Riggins (which is on Highway 95) about 14 miles; what you encounter is an 80-year-old bridge across the Salmon River badly in need of repair if it's to be continued in use. The bridge is the easternmost main development in what was intended to be a road running east along the Salmon River all the way to North Fork, just a few highway miles north of the city of Salmon - creating a highway link between the two parts of Idaho, west and east. It's a fascinating thought, and would likely have become a wonderful drive, had it been built. It might also have discouraged wilderness area designations in that in-between area. And there is this to consider: We don't necessarily need roads between everywhere. Not many people, only a few, really would have had much need of the Riggins-Salmon road. As a connector between Salmon (which isn't a large population center to start with), it would not have been an improvement on the current main route between the two, which runs through Idaho City, Stanley and Challis - the two routes would have taken about the same amount of time. It would have only a little quicker than the current route from Salmon to Lewiston over route 12, and no benefit at all headed to up Spokane and Coeur d'Alene. The story today used to phrase "road to nowhere," which isn't right; but "road to why" might be applicable. - rs

First take

The Idaho State Police on July 2 engaged in an unusually extensive and difficult high-speed pursuit in the Lewiston area. From a report by the state police:

On July 2, at about 9:43 a.m., the Idaho State Police initiated an enforcement contact on a 2002 Ford pickup on US-95 at MP 286, for speeding. It was determined the vehicle was stolen out of Gooding County, Idaho. The male driver fled the scene northbound and was pursued by ISP. The driver of the Ford operated the vehicle at high speeds and in a reckless manner. Assistance with the pursuit was provided by the Nez Perce Tribal Police.

Two unsuccessful attempts were made to stop the Ford utilizing spike strips. At MP 305 on US-95, the Ford began traveling recklessly northbound in the southbound lane almost striking a patrol vehicle and the motoring public at a high rate of speed.

At MP 308 on US-95, ISP utilized a pit maneuver to stop the Ford. The Ford lost control and rolled. The Ford stopped momentarily and as Troopers approached on foot, the driver then attempted to strike a Trooper with the Ford. The Trooper fired his duty weapon to protect himself and to stop the operation of the Ford without regard for the safety of others.
The Ford then traveled southbound on US-95 at a high rate of speed. At approximate MP 306, the Ford veered into a Historical site turnout, then over and down a steep embankment to the Clearwater Rivers' edge.

The male driver exited the Ford and jumped into the Clearwater River. The driver swam across the river and exited on the south bank then disappeared into the trees. The Idaho State Police, Nez Perce Tribal Police, Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office, and Nez Perce County Search & Rescue initiated a search for the driver. The Lewis County Sheriff K-9 assisted with the search. The Lewiston Police Department is conducting the investigation involving the discharge of the Trooper's duty weapon in accordance with the Critical Incident Task Force agreement.
The driver is identified as David R. Pegram, DOB 04/10/1984. Pegram is 5'9", 160 pounds, blue eyes and blond hair. Pegram was last wearing dark shorts, flip flops and no shirt. Pegram has a tattoo of a naked lady on his right chest area. At the time of this press release, Pegram is still at large.

(An update noted that Pegram had been captured.)

First take

Idaho may be more like what America was, in some ways, but it's nonetheless getting more ethnically diverse, according to new numbers out from the state Department of Labor. The Hispanic share of the population now is 12%, compared to 11.2% in 2010. Consider this broader picture: it was 7.9% in 2000, and 5.3% in 1990. That's some major change in the last quarter-century. On the other hand, the department also offers this tidbit: "Hispanics between the ages of 40 and 64 had the largest numeric increase at 1,889, but the age group over age 65 had the highest growth rate at 8.2 percent. This ethnic section of Idaho’s population is aging slightly faster than the state as a whole."

What the land’s for

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The criticism was on target this spring when word got out that trustees for the College of Western Idaho had bought a large chunk of land near downtown Boise (largely an empty lot at present) with the idea of expanding operations on to it. The critics pointed out that no proper appraisal of the land’s value was done, and the college seems to have greatly overpaid for it.

The board’s chair, Mary Niland, argued afterward that the college didn’t overpay but, “If I had it to do all over again, I would have looked at the tax assessment and would have asked for the appraisal,” the Idaho Statesman quoted her as saying. “All I can tell you is we didn’t think about it. It was a mistake, and we are accountable for that.”

The lack of appraisal was a legitimate complaint, one the institution apparently will have a chance to correct next time around. That may be near-term, since last week came reports the college is planning to buy 32.5 acres north of its campus at Nampa, for $815,000. The deal was supposed to be done by early July.

Prices and process aside, these two land purchases – and the developments apparently slated to follow – suggest something significant that hasn’t gotten a tremendous amount of attention yet: The explosive growth of the College of Western Idaho.

For many years, the Boise metro area was either the largest or one of the largest metro areas in the nation without a general-purpose community college. That absence wasn’t discussed a whole lot, and for a long time there was little push to create one. That’s bearing in mind that what’s now Boise State University effective was a community college for many years before it became a university in 1974. Not for another 30 years would a serious effort (based partly around a push by BSU President Robert Kustra) be made to set up a new community college in Idaho’s population center.

In 2007 voters in Ada and Canyon counties passed a ballot measure setting up a community college district in the area. Probably underestimating the effort involved in establishing a new college, the plan was made to open it just two years later. The first CWI president who oversaw that effort, Dennis Griffin, wrote about it in a book called From Scratch, who told about just how difficult it was to get it up and running in time. Disclosure: I published that book through Ridenbaugh Press.

On opening, the college was expected to enroll 1,700 students. It got 1,208, which led to the inevitable headlines about how it missed its target.

A few years after that, while talking to Griffin (he had retired as president by then), he threw out the idea that CWI might one day have as many as 50,000 students. A third person drinking coffee with us laughed and said he doubted it. I said that I didn’t.

I’ll hold to that view. In the fall of 2013, CWI's enrollment was 19,861 with 9,204 credit students and 10,657 students taking non-credit courses.

The fall 2014 enrollment rose to 20,697, almost evenly divided between credit and non-credit students, about two-thirds part-time. It awarded 1,260 degrees.

These are large and fast-growing numbers and, it turns out, indicative of how much Boise really did need a community college. An enrollment of 50,000 doesn’t seem so far off for one day, considering the rate of growth.

And while the trustees should be adhering to take care and watch the dollars when they buy land and construct buildings, it demonstrates clearing the need to keep doing those things.

First Take

Oregon doesn't allow for a procedure for impeaching a governor - a point that came to some note earlier this year - and the talk about setting one up, though constitutional amendment, has been growing. (Oregon is the only state without a means for impeachment. It seems to have skidded to a halt in the Senate, where President Peter Courtney has been opposed, noting (the Oregonian reported) "Oregon voters have the ultimate right of impeachment through the recall process and they aren't shy about using it. They successfully petitioned for that right in 1908. Two years later they voted to prohibit impeachment." Of course, that was some time ago. The Oregonian posted a reader poll on the question, and so far 63.1% say they're in favor of an avenue for impeachment.

Maybe not such a bad idea, as Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney proposes, to require governmental officials to adhere to the same lobbying rules - when they lobby the state legislature - as others who lobby. That would involve filing reports on lobbying efforts, and filing as lobbyists. This could complicate some cases and create some odd gray areas, such as state employees called in to testify before committees but not engaging in other lobbying. But if the lines are drawn in the right way, this may be reasonable. It's all in the details.

First take

Think about it and it seems increasingly remarkable, and indicative: The first major Spanish-language radio station in the Magic Valley is celebrating its first year in business, and it held a celebratory event at the Jerome County Fair. Okay, fine; no big deal. Except, according to the Twin Falls Times News, "thousands of people" showed up for it. How many businesses, or much of anything else, would draw people by the thousands in an area of that size? (Jerome itself only has but so many thousands of people.) This is speaking pretty strongly both to the numbers of Hispanic people in the Magic Valley, and in Idaho. It also speaks to the culture taking hold there in a serious way.

What people in other countries think of us ought to always be of interest - not by way of telling us what to do, but by way of giving us an alternate lens for how we look at ourselves. Foreign Policy has an amusing article on what other governments tell their citizens about what to watch out for when they visit the United States. It's definitely a different way of looking at the country than most of us here have (and say a lot about those counties too).