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Posts published in July 2021

Some legacy


No politician ever admits to caring about a “legacy.” It’s a lie. They all want to be remembered, to be memorialized in some way for their good works or brave deeds.

They all wonder what the third paragraph of their obituary will say about them. “Senator Snort led the defense of Social Security when the program was under attack.” Or “Congressman Cleverton engineered the federal funding for Cleverton Dam, the massive concrete structure that bears his name.”

Or will the legacy be, as was the case with Congressman Charles E. Wiggins when he died in March 2000, a fact the gentleman from California would rather we forget?

“As a congressman, Mr. Wiggins was considered one of [Richard] Nixon’s staunchest defenders. Along with two other members of the House Judiciary Committee, he led the president’s defense when the Watergate hearings began in the summer of 1974. The strategy was to construe the evidence as narrowly as possible, require ironclad proof and propose benign explanations of information damaging to the president.”

In fairness to the memory of Mr. Wiggins – he later became a federal judge – he eventually decided Nixon was a crook and came around to support his impeachment. As the New York Times reported, in order to change his mind, Wiggins had to hold in his hands the transcript of the taped conversation where Nixon committed to obstructing justice. Wiggins had to read the actual words of presidential betrayal to believe what he had been defending was a lie.

I thought about the long-forgotten Charles Wiggins when earlier this week, a burly, bearded Capitol Police officer, Harry Dunn, recounted for a congressional committee his experiences during the January 6 insurrection. Dunn was graphic, detailed and totally believable. He laid bare the lie that the riot of Donald Trump supporters was no big deal, as well as the fiction that Trump had not helped instigate the attack on American democracy.

“This n—– voted for Joe Biden!” Officer Dunn said a rioter screamed at him, prompting the crowd to turn on him with shouts of “Boo! F—— n—–!”

Later, Dunn implored elected members of Congress to uncover the full extent of Trump’s role.

“There was an attack on January 6, and a hit man sent them,” the police officer said. “I want you to get to the bottom of that.”

Imagine being, as old Charles Wiggins was in 1974, among the last to call into question the actions of a president in the face of such obvious and total depredation of democracy?

Imagine, for example, being Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader, who first attempted to turn a bipartisan investigation into a clown show and then refused to participate at all. McCarthy couldn’t be bothered to watch Officer Dunn’s testimony this week. Too busy, perhaps, working on denial of his own role on January 6. We know McCarthy spoke to Trump that day. What do you suppose they talked about?

Or imagine being Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale, an election denier, who expressed his disappointment with the words of fellow Republican Liz Cheney, one of the few Republicans who has called for a reckoning with Trump and his incitement of insurrection. Cheney, who is in perpetual GOP purgatory for her embrace of the truth, urged lawmakers to find out “what happened every minute of that day in the White House” on January 6. “Every phone call, every conversation, every meeting leading up to, during and after the attack.”

“We did not have an armed invasion of the Capitol,” Rosendale said in response. “We had a breach in security.” Try telling that to the Capitol Police officer who testified under oath that one Trump supporter tried to gouge his eye out. Or the story of another officer caught in a scrum where one attacker shouted to get his gun and kill him with it.

Or imagine being Idaho Senator Jim Risch or Wyoming’s John Barasso or Montana’s Steve Daines, all of whom opposed an independent, bipartisan investigation of January 6, and near as I can tell had no reaction to the officer’s testimony this week. What the three senators were outraged about was a letter written more than 30 years ago by a college environmental activist who warned that trees in a proposed Forest Service timber sale had been spiked. Tracy Stone-Manning will be the next director of the Bureau of Land Management, but Risch, a little man in high performance dudgeon, called her a “terrorist” and a “criminal.”

Risch and Barasso and Daines have been on this attack line for several weeks but have nothing significant to say about an attack on the Capitol that put their own lives are risk. They have gladly enlarged the January 6 memory hole of denial and deflection; the modern characteristics of what it takes to be a leader of the Republican Party. And let us not let Senator Mike Crapo continue to skate away in silence. Crapo voted against an independent investigation and now sits on his hands awaiting a re-election he demonstrably does not deserve.

What perverse level of political sycophancy, what degree of moral depravity has overtaken these people and dunked them in the turgid water of Trumpland?

The conservative writer Mona Charen has it right. It’s easy to blame it all on the far-right “base” of the Republican Party, the deplorables who have hijacked conservatism in fealty to conspiracy, science denial, and the anti-democratic Trump cult. But Charen argues the base excuse is a cop out, pardon the pun.

“We have seen the end of 160 years of the peaceful transfer of power,” Charen wrote in The Bulwark. “We’ve seen the majestic United States Capitol turned into a scene from a dystopian fantasy; an armed mob attempting to subvert an election. They smashed and tortured and caused deaths. They erected a gallows and hunted for the speaker of the House and for the vice president. And Republicans, almost to a man and woman, are excusing, downplaying, or whitewashing what happened. An entire political party has abandoned commitment to the rule of law.”

Recall that these Republicans – Risch, Crapo and all the rest – who quake in fear of the authoritarian reality of their party and its leader could have done something. They did nothing. They knew he was a con and a crook, and they were against him before they weren’t any more.

“The great tragedy of this moment is not that Trump attempted what he did,” Mona Charen said, “but that so few Republicans tried to stop him when it would have made a difference.”

That is their legacy. And the country’s legacy, too.


Coming to a wildfire near you


As I write this (on Monday), here’s what the National Interagency Fire Center - based in Boise, you’ll recall - has to say about wildfires in Idaho.

Idaho land on fire amounts to 195,355 acres, third-most in the country after Oregon (with its enormous Bootleg fire) and California.

Idaho has 23 NIFC-recognized active wildfires, more than any other state, which may mean that Idaho’s wildfire situation is especially complex.

The situation is worse than that suggests, though, partly because NIFC-listed major fires are only a part of the overall picture. The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, for example, said that within its bounds it “is managing 39 active fires, seven are contained, 22 in extended attack, and eight are being evaluated for further action. Today, hotter and drier conditions will develop across the region.” And just this week batches of new fires erupted, notably in eastern Idaho.

Many of these fires are not especially large, but they add up, and their sheer number makes it more difficult getting a handle on them.

Beyond that, these 23 NIFC fires are widely scattered around Idaho, mainly between the Canadian border and Boise, with others not far from Lewiston, Harvard, Orofino, Kooskia, Pritchard, Kellogg, Hope, Dixie, Salmon, Pierce, and McCall.

But southern Idaho has by no means escaped this year, and likely won’t as the season, which still has a couple of months at least to run, goes on.

And remember, the current fires are in addition to those that came earlier and those yet to come.

Warnings (from the governor, researchers, public safety people and others for months on end) that this may be a rough fire year for Idaho, much worse than the last few, clearly seem to be smack on target.

And of course there’s the subsidiary set of issues, like the smoke that has enveloped a lot of the state and will be drifting over more.

More than in prior years, most people in Idaho will have a personal association with areas that have been or are on fire. So many places in Idaho are, or have been, or will be, on fire this year, that nearly everyone in the state will have some form of personal connection to what’s happening.

In all of that, Idaho may come out with something useful.

In the last couple of decades or so, a rough consensus has started to develop over the question of how best to manage forests and other lands to avert disastrous wildfires. Obviously, we’re not there yet. But some progress is being made.

Some of the most visible developments in this area have been happening across the border in Oregon, where in several places timber communities and environmentalists, so often for so many years at each others’ throats, have been finding common cause in developing ways to manage forests. A report from the columnist Nicholas Kristoff last year told of a John Day stewardship agreement - small and imperfect, but still profitable for local businesses and workers and environmentally friendly for activists - showing how effective forest management is often more complex than either side would immediately want, and yet gives something to each. The deal involved both tree cutting and steps for careful forest management, yielding a situation that is neither side’s ideal but is working.

Disasters can have the odd effect of bringing people together. The conflicts over the environment that have typified so much of recent Idaho history could see a turning point. The many fires bedeviling us now could be the prompt to cause many people, enough to make a big difference, to sit down and think outside their traditional boxes.

Will Trump primary Crapo?


Idaho’s senior U.S. Senator, Mike Crapo, is up for re-election in 2022 and, as recently as March 5, 2021, the twice-impeached Former Guy declared that Crapo had his “complete and total support.” But after recent developments, I wonder if that support will hold.

Although Crapo wasn’t a member of the bipartisan group that negotiated the deal, he joined 16 of his fellow Republicans in voting to allow the infrastructure bill to proceed. That came as a welcome surprise to many of Crapo’s constituents, including yours truly, but Trump is likely not impressed.

Shortly before the procedural vote, the Florida man fussed, “any compromise with Democrats is poor optics for Republicans.” He argued it makes them “look weak, foolish, and dumb.” He also blustered, “If the deal happens, lots of primaries will be coming your way.”

Of the twenty Republican Senators whose seats are up in 2022, five have announced that they will retire when their term expires. Of the remaining fifteen, ten voted in opposition to allowing the infrastructure bill to proceed and are presumably safe, at least for now, from the Former Guy’s wrath.

That leaves only five Republican senators on the ballot in 2022 who voted to allow the bipartisan infrastructure bill to proceed. In addition to Crapo, these include Senators Grassley, Hoeven, Murkowski and Young. The Former Guy has already announced that he will work to defeat Alaska’s Murkowski, who had the audacity to vote to impeach him.

In light of these developments, I have a few questions:

Will Crapo be cowed by Trump’s threat and vote against the bill when it comes to the floor?

If Crapo votes for the bill, will The Former Guy pull his endorsement of Crapo?

Will Crapo then be among those Republicans facing a primary challenger recruited, and supported by, Trump?

And, if that happens, who will The Former Guy anoint? I shudder to think.

Idaho boasts such a long list of Trumpian wackadoodles. Unfortunately, theirs is a very, very deep bench.

Medical debt


The twisted method we pay for our health care in this country just doesn’t seem to get people riled up like immigration, guns, abortion, or any of the other hot button issues. But it got the attention of Frank Vandersloot, conservative Idaho Melaleuca CEO in 2020, and he took his idea to the Idaho legislature. Idaho Republican legislators love to rail against regulations, but they took Frank’s ideas to heart and passed laws regulating the collection of medical debt.

This is not a small problem. A study just published last week pointed out that the medical debt held in collection agencies last year totals $140 billion. It is the largest sector of debt that collection agencies own. Their study estimated 17.8% of the population has medical debt in a collection agency. And these were pre-pandemic numbers.

Mr. Vandersloot got his glimpse into this twisted universe when a collection agency attempted to garnish wages of a Melaleuca employee. The unpaid doctor bill (that the employee had never received because of a bad address) was for $294. The collection agency wanted to tack on $5000 in “legal fees.” Melaleuca refused to garnish the wages and fought the collection in court. Then Frank took his regulatory proposal to the Idaho legislature. And the very conservative body passed his proposed law.

So now Idaho requires billing health care providers to submit a bill within 45 days of services. Seems fair. But if you have a high deductible, and most people do, you pay cash for the first bill you get until you meet the deductible. The later billing entities haggle with the insurance company.

Insurances have contracted payment schedules. Medical providers want to dun the folks who are likely to pay, and health insurers have the deep pockets. I’ll bet a $10,000 deductible would hit most folks hard.

Further, the Idaho Patient Act requires hospitals to send a summary bill of all the services received by the patient within 60 days of discharge. Many folks don’t know that the radiologist who read your CAT scan bills separately from the hospital, since she is an independent businessperson. This is even though they work in the hospital, the CAT scanner is in the hospital, and the radiology techs who ran you through the machine are employed by the hospital.

Same with the surgeon who took out your appendix. But not the nurse who started your IV. So, the hospital now must collate these charges in a summary bill for you, under this new law. It seems fair. We need to know what we owe, don’t we? Aren’t regulations wonderful? But somebody will be paying for somebody to do this work.

The IPA also limited what attorneys can charge for their “collection” services. It turns out this is a lucrative business for some folks, collecting medical debt. When asked to comment, the attorneys shrugged and said they would just charge the hospitals more for the service, so their yacht payments would be protected. And our health insurance costs will keep going up.

So, this is the vision for a solution to the medical debt payment morass in this country from a conservative Idaho billionaire, Frank Vandersloot, and the conservative Idaho legislature. And indeed, it will “solve” some problems. Frank said he was motivated because he saw “people being bullied”.

Interestingly, the study that chronicled the huge amount of medical debt owed to collection agencies saw a sharp distinction, state by state. The states that had expanded Medicaid had much less debt than states that hadn’t.

Medicaid pays hospitals and doctors for their services. Doctors and hospitals hate it because it pays them a lot less than private insurance or private individuals. That’s a different regulation. I wonder what Mr. Vandersloot thought of Idaho when we expanded Medicaid coverage in 2018.


Powerful still


Like it or not – and there are a lot of people who won’t like this – the Idaho Freedom Foundation is the most powerful lobbying group in Idaho.

There isn’t even a close second. In fact, I know of no group over the last 35 years that can come near to the power of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The IFF certainly isn’t the best-liked, or most respected, group by any means; those in the political world either love or hate Wayne Hoffman’s organization. But there is no question about the lobbying group’s astounding level of power and influence.

Rep. Pricilla Giddings of White Bird, a candidate for lieutenant governor, uses her 100 percent voting record with the IFF as a bragging point in her campaign. Getting a perfect voting record with the IFF takes some doing. Hoffman’s team floods legislators with their positions on issues along with a scoring system attached to positive (or negative) votes. To attain a perfect voting record, a legislator has to absorb all the information, discard anything that might come up in a debate and vote according to the wishes of the IFF.

It’s legislators selling their souls to a lobbying group. Every single time the IFF takes a stand on a bill.

Giddings isn’t alone. Rep. Chad Christensen of Iona also has a 100 percent voting record, four others are at 99 percent; 12 are 90 percent or above and 16 are 80 percent or above.

Now, that’s power. And those at the top of the food chain seem to treat IFF memos as something that comes from the Bible. That’s double power – but nothing compared to what you’d see if Lt. Janice McGeachin wins the governor’s race and Giddings gets in as lieutenant governor. If that happens, we might as well shut down all the state agencies and turn over the whole operation to Hoffman & Co.

For sure, that would mean job security for quite a few editorial writers. And maybe it would be added life to Hoffman, who seems to thrive on media controversy.

Not surprisingly, the IFF comes under attack quite a bit – from people such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, former Attorney General Jim Jones and legislators both past and present. Recently the Idaho Capital Sun, an online news outlet, produced a series of articles investigating the IFF and saying, among other things, that the organization is breaking non-profit laws through extensive lobbying.

“I think of the Idaho Freedom Foundation as a lobbyist for liberty,” says Bryan Smith of Idaho Falls, the organization’s vice president. “The only ones really complaining about the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the Idaho Freedom Index are Republicans who say they’re conservative to get elected but vote like Democrats once in office.”

These opinion pieces and negative stories are hits with IFF detractors. But supporters, who may view Redoubt News as the most trusted source in reporting, are left yawning. Hoffman, an old newspaper veteran, doesn’t take these things lying down, often coming down hard on those who produce negative material about the IFF. He labels Winder as a threat to democracy, Jones as dishonest and dismisses the Capital Sun as a “propaganda” factory.

“If it’s a negative article about the Idaho Freedom Foundation or a conservative officeholder, you can bet the Idaho Capital Sun will write it and your local newspaper will run it,” Hoffman says.

As for the media in general, he says, “Most of what you read in the Idaho media is not real journalism. It’s just hot air designed to undermine Idaho’s conservative values, organizations, and politicians. Don’t believe it.”

It all works out to Hoffman’s advantage. If conflicts with the media help the IFF raise money, then there’s some loot coming through the front door. He’s taking a victory lap.

“I must say, you should be flattered,” he tells his supporters. “If principled conservatives like you and me weren’t making a difference – if we weren’t a threat to the socialist agenda in Idaho – no one would run advertisements, write hit pieces and file meritless complaints against us.”

For whatever the reason, Idaho Freedom Foundation’s power seems to grow with every election and its coalition in the Legislature keeps getting larger with each session. It’s apparent that Hoffman and the conservative/libertarian think tank he has built will be around for a long time – for better, or for worse.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

Ain’t happening


There are people, in every time and in every land,
who want to stop history in its tracks.
They fear the future, mistrust the present
and invoke the security of a comfortable past.
Which, in fact, never existed.
Those are the words of Robert Kennedy, spoken on the presidential campaign trail in 1968, a few weeks before he was assassinated.

Those words, to me, essentially describe the anti-vaxxers and the Trumpers who believe in their false prophet. They “mistrust the present” and long to return to a past that “never existed.” They believe they can relive 1954 again. Which, of course, they can’t.

As for the America of the ‘50's being “perfect,” I remember “nuclear bomb” drills with kids hiding under desks for “protection,”the military draft interfering with the futures of millions of young men, the Korean War, beginnings of the war in Viet Nam, iron lung machines for polio victims and a lot more. It wasn’t all “Mom and apple pie.” “Dinah Shore and Chevrolet.”

Kennedy’s words, spoken long before Trump became a twice-impeached President, seem to describe why some 30-million souls ignore the realities of today. Millions now live and believe the lies that make up the prison of their imaginary world.

President Biden, speaking “off-the-cuff,” recently opined Faux Neus was “killing people.” Later, he amended those words, softening them just a bit.

But, as originally spoken, Biden’s words do have a truthful basis. Faux, and their equally complicit partners at Newsmax and One News, are spreading lies about vaccines and their effectiveness as they urge millions of viewers to reject the underlying science. With COVID on the increase in 50 states, medical statistics confirm more than 90-percent of the recent dead were unvaccinated. That’s a fact. All the right-wing B.S. to the contrary.

In addition, the continuing lies are eating at the base of our Republic. Millions of Americans are “believers.” A recent poll of Republican voters showed some 62-percent believe Biden is either not the President or that his election was a fraud. Sixty-two-percent! How can governance - by either party - be effective if that many of the governed believe the system under which they live is false?

The politicizing of our pandemic by those purveyors of lies is “the gift that keeps on giving.” By mixing COVID with politics, capitalizing on fears associated by millions when it comes to medical science, adding a constant stream of lies emanating from right-wing media, with Trump seen as the “savior” of their non-existent world, the mix has created fear, hostility and anger across the country. In fact, Biden was right!

Interesting little background check here. Faux Neus is home to Hannity, Ingraham, Cavuto, Bongino and Doocy. All of whom have heaped praise on Trump and bad-mouthed vaccinations. Which makes it interesting to note that all have been vaccinated. All of ‘em! Further, Faux has instituted an internal “COVID passport.” Get a shot, put it on your “passport” and you can avoid the daily testing of all employees. Isn’t that sweet?

Still their voices form a daily “choir” of lies, half-truths and ignorance directed at an audience of millions who swallow all the verbal swill these people dish out. Reminds me of one of the political truth’s of years gone by: “Ignore what they say - watch what they do.”

But, there’s something else interesting to add to all this. Seems recent polling indicates 62-percent of vaccinated Americans at-large - are asking for a booster shot. At the moment, none of the pharmaceutical companies is suggesting that. But, in about three months, we’ll be told to get our seasonal flu shots. Maybe there’ll be a “booster” option offered.

This nation has always had what my Dad called “aginers.” People who opposed one thing or another just out of onryness. Or, determined ignorance. We’ve got our share of those today.

While Kennedy’s words still seem appropriate for our times, they serve only as a societal recognition of the millions who are living in another world. They offer neither response nor a method to overcome the steady flow of misinformation with which we’re afflicted today. Kennedy never had to deal with the media pervasiveness we have in our lives now. There were far-right conspiratorial voices in the ‘50's,” but not the (un)social media of unedited garbage that fills so much of our lives these days.

While we’re not the first generation having to deal with angry miscreants and outliers by the millions, we are the first having to contend with the constant, daily flow of broadcast and computerized verbal fuel that feeds so many millions. That keeps stoking the angry fires.

First Amendment or not, some way must be found to shut off the spigots of misinformation and falsehoods. If we can’t find an answer to ending the flow of lies being passed off as fact, the fuel for the fires will continue to infiltrate our lives. If that flow can’t be stopped, it will continue to threaten our Republic from within. We must relieve the pressures that could impinge on the freedoms of the rest of us.

I was a supporter of Bobby Kennedy. His words were optimistic, his efforts in various positions of authority were positive and hope-giving.

We could use more of that today.

(image/James Vaughn)

Behavioral health


There is a chronic shortage of behavioral health resources in Idaho. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that about 100,000 Idaho adults had an unmet need for mental health treatment in 2018-2019. Children fare no better in the Gem State. Idaho has received a 46th place ranking among the states for child access to mental health care. The Idaho suicide rate hit a record high of 420 in 2020. Suicide calls have seen an uptick in Boise, and most likely across the State, since the first of the year. There were 250 reported drug deaths in Idaho in 2018. These problems have intensified since the onset of the pandemic.

There is a critical lack of crisis intervention help for people with serious mental health or drug abuse problems, particularly for those without insurance coverage or other financial resources. People who need immediate help are often turned away because existing crisis response facilities are already crowded. Sometimes, the only alternative is to call in law enforcement officers, many of whom are not trained to deal with mental health and other crisis issues.

To its credit, the state has begun to reduce the behavioral health deficit with Regional Behavioral Health Centers but there is a long way to go to meet the need. The Idaho court system has contributed with its problem-solving courts. Drug Courts, Mental Health Courts, and Veteran Treatment Courts have been instrumental in helping troubled people deal with mental issues and drug abuse. The problem is that these services are only available to those caught up in the justice system. So many people in Idaho who are not yet in legal trouble but who need similar support simply cannot find it.

Idaho should adopt an approach now being used in 42 other states, including every state that borders Idaho except Wyoming. That is, establishment of what are called Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). This program has produced good results in making mental health and substance abuse services available to many localities across the country on an around-the-clock basis.

CCBHCs have been established in all but 8 states to help address the shortage of resources. They provide 24-hour crisis care and evidence-based services to anyone in need of mental health or substance abuse treatment services, regardless of ability to pay. That saves lives and, by providing for intervention before situations reach truly crisis proportions, government dollars.

The CCBHC program was begun in 2014 as a Medicaid demonstration project in 8 states and later expanded to include a grant program. Because of favorable results, it has gained rare bi-partisan support in both Houses of Congress. Legislation has recently been introduced to expand the CCBHC program and put it on sounder financial footing. The legislation, called the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act of 2021 (Senate Bill 2069), is co-sponsored by Republican Senators Blunt, Ernst and Daines and Democrat Senators Wyden, Tester and Cortez Masto, among others.

CCHBCs would significantly improve Idaho’s ability to deliver behavioral health services within its borders, and grant those in crisis situations immediate access to those services, without consideration of their ability to pay. All we need to get things started is for Idaho’s U.S. Senators to sign onto the legislation and support its funding. The Governor’s implementation of the program would seal the deal.

Teacher education


It’s a fact of modern political life that naysayers get the media attention, but the real work – and often successes – goes unnoticed in the hustings of criticism. Here’s an example from Idaho’s continuing attention to school funding, teacher recruitment and retention.

When it started in 2018, the teacher training and recruitment program at the College of Southern Idaho had fewer than 20 students. (TN, 10/7/19). Now, just four years later, it’s at 150 students and poised to grow further as districts across Idaho look for ways to “grow their own” teachers from their own communities,

The goals are to boost classroom instruction, meet expanding minority populations and help fill teaching vacancies – all at lower cost than traditional education training. (IdahoEdNews, 7/12).

The program uses a streamlined module approach which focuses on the teaching craft, and which allows the prospective teacher to effectively leverage their prior life experience or other college credits into teaching positions.

It’s a non-traditional route, for sure. Most teachers today have graduated from a four-year college teacher education program, eight semesters of study and a heavy dose of classroom learning and student teaching experience. The system endures, partly out of familiarity and partly due to the watchful eye of the teachers’ union, which generally opposes broadened certification and many other innovative ideas which undermine union negotiation clout.

The new CSI program gives prospective teachers a condensed immersion in teaching methodology in just two years, just four semesters, part-time, at less than $1,000 a semester, a fraction of what a four-year degree in education would cost. It also has an online option.

A key success element is that the prospective teacher is paired with a paid mentor, usually a retired and experienced former teacher, to get further into the “nuts and bolts” of the teaching craft.

Another key feature is that the program is open to students with college degrees in other fields, as well as to people who have some, but not all, college degree credits. It’s also open to people who want to become teachers but who are now employed as para-professionals, teacher aides and classified staff.

Former Twin Falls Superintendent Wiley Dobbs has worked to expand the grow-your-own as a solution. Dobbs says retention and recruitment are among the most pressing challenges facing rural school administrators. “It’s very difficult to get teachers, but for smaller districts, it’s even more difficult because they have to talk people into moving into a small community,” Dobbs said. “And while they’re lovely communities, not everybody wants to (move there), especially people that already have families.” (IdahoEdNews, 7/12).

CSI’s program was designed, in part, to remedy that problem, certifying community members to be teachers, as they have already laid down roots in their home school districts. The hope is that grow-your-own teachers will stay in their communities.

Why are prospective second-career teachers piling in? It appears to be a combination of low costs, flexible hours, eliminating the need to leave home and probably other factors like rising teacher pay and health benefits with average salaries now mostly over $50,000 annually.

Teachers in Idaho are also part of the PERSI (Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho), which provides pensions based on years of service and pay level, an important consideration.
Increases in the Legislature’s continued fiscal commitment to education have added to the appeal of teaching as a career, particularly in small communities. By eliminating previous barriers, the CSI program is a new model for the workforce needed in the teaching profession in our growing state.

The CSI program is also a great example of the iron laws of economics and self-interest. People want to better themselves in every profession, and the new entrants have strong motivations to do so. They just need the opportunity.

Sure, there are questions. But if it succeeds in producing quality teachers, why shouldn’t Idaho expand the model? Why are we spending millions of dollars annually on traditional four-year programs which may need revision? Many teachers will tell you privately that the “pedagogy” they slogged through in four-year education programs could well be condensed.

College education deans and faculty might see such innovations, particularly coming from a community college, as an intrusion on their traditional turfs. It may be seen as a “short cut” by some. And it will surely affect four-year campus enrollments, since it can be taken online.
Despite these hurdles, the program is well worth a closer look. It’s already attracting students in droves. That is good news for Idaho education in general.

Stephen Hartgen, Twin Falls, is a retired five-term Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the Commerce & Human Resources Committee.  Previously, he was editor and publisher of The Times-News (1982-2005). He can be reached at

Flood the zone


In his book about the modern history of tyranny the Yale historian Timothy Snyder writes that the founders of the American experiment were “concerned that the democratic republic they envisioned would collapse.” Those founders drew on history – Greek and Roman – to contemplate “the descent of ancient democracies and republics into oligarchy and empire.”

“History does not repeat,” Snyder writes, “but it does instruct.”

The worrying, dangerous signs are all about. Pick through the headlines and you’ll find, if you care to find, lots of evidence – issues and concerns both small and large – of democratic descent that presages collapse.

Yes, it can happen here. Consider:

A rich friend of the former, and he hopes future, president was indicted this week for using his access to the highest officials of our government to advance the interest of a foreign government. Federal prosecutors characterized what Donald Trump’s pal Tom Barrack did as “extremely serious offenses based on conduct that strikes at the very heart of our democracy.” Barrack is just one of many striking at the heart of democracy.

In Albany, Oregon, a community in the Willamette Valley south of Portland, the brand-new majority on a local school board took, as Oregon Public Broadcasting reported, “a dramatic step … summarily firing a superintendent who had received positive performance reviews and whose contract had just been renewed. Perhaps more strikingly, most of them won’t say why.”

The action was apparently stimulated by “political rifts over COVID-19 and racial equity that have played out nationally.” The campaigns of the majority members of the board who engineered the firing were funded largely by money outside the community. In short: another local school board has become a hot battleground in the raging culture wars that serve to divide Americans and breed a level of intolerance that can lead to something much worse than a debate over how to teach kinds about history.

A variety of indicators tell similar stories. Significant numbers of Americans actually favor breaking the country up. Sixty-six percent of southern Republicans, according to a new poll, support “leaving the U.S. and forming a new country. Those sentiments were shared by 50% of independents and 20% of Democrats.”

Some eastern and southern Oregonians are advancing the fantasy of a “greater Idaho” that would divide the mostly rural areas of Oregon from the allegedly out of touch radicals west of the Cascades.

A climate crisis is upon us that threatens vast disruption of world food supplies and a deepening of global inequality. A pandemic rages for which a proven vaccine exists, but millions of Americans refuse to accept the science and logic that can save them from severe illness and even death.

But … but … in the midst of the division, chaos, controversy and cynicism of daily life it pays – believe me it pays – to live with someone who refuses to play the pessimism card, while still recognizing the perils we face. I’m lucky. So, taking a page from Professor Snyder’s rules for resisting tyranny – and with encouragement from the breakfast table – I offer my own six-part mini-survival guide for our troubled times.

    • Refuse to be a victim. Many of the defendants facing charges for the

assault on the U.S. Capitol in January

    • are invoking the defense that

the mob made them do it

    • . Nonsense. No one is forcing you to be a political victim. It’s a choice you make. Knock it off. Democracy doesn’t settle disputes by smashing things, but by elections and compromise. You got a grievance, don’t nurse it, use the political system to work for change. Anything less is a call for anarchy, the kind that has crippled effective response to real problems in cities like Portland. Being a victim is easy. Real, responsible political change is damn hard work.

Act on your frustrations. But do it responsibly. Give your time, treasure and talent to causes and people you agree with, but at all cost resist the comfortable impulse to support the dividers and the haters. Every town in America has a non-profit or ten that exists to feed the hungry, house the homeless, heal the sick or stimulate our souls. Get off the sidelines and get in the real game.

Check your priors, or better yet update them. We all come to adulthood with “priors,” beliefs, notions, ways of seeing things that may or may not be valuable or even correct. Self-awareness is a powerful thing. Most of us are never more certain of what we really don’t know much about.

Seek truth, not a validation of an opinion. This is a corollary to the previous thought. You really can find factual information if you want to. Sifting through the garbage is tiresome and demanding but remember as you search, history’s tyrants always seek to confuse and devalue objective reality. The loathsome Steve Bannon, a world-class purveyor of misinformation, said the quiet part out loud in 2018. “The Democrats don’t matter,” Bannon said. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” Don’t believe all the crap out there.

Remember that ethics and character count – always. In our tribal society we tend to believe my side can do no wrong and your side is evil. What is commonly missing from this formulation is the fundamental democratic requirement that demands that leaders always operate within widely accepted ethical boundaries, and that they have the character to not lie to your face, enrich themselves in office or abuse their power. Without ethics and character democracy dies.

Think about the future. We are all short timers here. What is our responsibility to the next generation and the next beyond that? Most of us won’t be remembered beyond family and friends, but let us live so as to not be remembered for making things worse, but for trying to make things better for a next generation of Americans.

A great challenge of our times is to prevent political and cultural cynicism from becoming self-fulfilling. “If you once believed that everything always turns out well in the end,” Timothy Snyder writes, “you can be persuaded that nothing turns out well in the end. If you once did nothing because you thought progress is inevitable, then you can continue to do nothing because you think times moves in repeating cycles.”

History is not destiny. It is a guide. Get off the sofa. Get in the game to preserve American democracy.