Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Amy Goodman coming to Boise

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 9:06 AM

Just in: Democracy Now! hostess Amy Goodman will appear in Boise on April 23 in a benefit show for Boise Community Radio.

Goodman will speak at 7:00 pm on April 23 at the Linen Building, 1402 W. Grove St.* The $5 to $10 donation requested at the door will benefit Boise's burgeoning independent online radio station as it tries to raise enough cash to get on the airwaves.

Goodman will also schmooze with an exclusive set of 18 people before the show. To secure tickets call 208-484-8000.

Goodman is currently touring with her new book, Standing Up to the Madness. It is about the political activists that work just beneath the mainstream media headlines (we have not read it though).

*Start time has been changed from original post.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Workers’ choice

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 5:54 PM

The Idaho Senate delved into national labor politics this morning, passing a resolution opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. The Act, which is just short a vote or three in the U.S. Senate, would make it easier for labor unions to organize workplaces by eliminating employer-controlled elections if a majority of workers sign on to the union at the outset.

Idaho’s business lobby, including the Retailers and the Lodging and Restaurant associations supported the resolution, which was first introduced by Mountain Home Rep. Pete Nielsen in the House, but then pulled and reintroduced by Caldwell Sen. John McGee in the Senate.
While the best legislators can do is opine and perhaps jockey for future campaigns—McGee lives in the First Congressional District*—Idaho’s federal delegation is not quite decided on workers’ rights.

Sen. Jim Risch opposes what Republicans call the card check bill (after the union cards that organizers collect) but Sen. Mike Crapo is still taking a hard look at the language, though spokesman Lindsay Nothern said Crapo opposes the move away from “secret ballots” in the current version.

Rep. Mike Simpson also opposes the bill and favors the secret ballot. But First District Rep. Walt Minnick, the only Democrat in the delegation, is hoping for a compromise version of the bill before he has to vote on it in the House.

Earlier this month, Minnick told state Democrats at the Frank Church banquet that he favored a measure “to ensure that every working man and woman has the unfettered opportunity to join a labor union free of corporate coercion.”

Idaho AFL-CIO boss, Dave Whaley, and many of the union organizers at the Democratic banquet heard that as an endorsement of EFCA and Whaley told citydesk last week that Minnick had pledged his support.

But Minnick told us today that negotiations over the language of the bill in the Senate are underway and he has not decided how he’ll vote.

“I think that the bill I’m going to vote on is going to be different from the bill that was originally submitted,” Minnick said.

Minnick said he thinks workers should be able to organize without coercion and that neither labor nor management should know which way they vote.

“I would prefer a bill that does give both sides in an organizing drive an opportunity to state their case,” he said.

EFCA has been cast as a partisan measure, with a U.S. Senate cloture vote hinging on Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, who said last week he'd oppose it, denying Democrats the 60 votes they need to force a vote. Idaho's Senate also considered it through a purely partisan lens, with McGee and Majority Leader Bart Davis praising the secret ballot as a virtue of democracy.

“If Congress passes the EFCA employees will effective lose their right to private ballot elections,” McGee said. "Private ballots are a basic American right."

Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly countered that EFCA allows for a secret ballot but takes the decision to hold an election out of the hands of management.

“The Employee Free Choice Act lets workers, not companies, decide how a union is formed,” Kelly said. “Those who have jobs need to be able to advocate for themselves.”

Davis referred to an August 2008 letter from Democrat George McGovern published in the Wall Street Journal opposing EFCA and asked for an explanation. Kelly told him privately to ask McGee.

But whether or not a card check system for forming unions would help or hinder business in Detroit or New York, there is one not-so-small remaining problem: union membership is optional in Idaho's "right-to-work" climate.

What we're watching for is the Right to Free Choice Work Act of 2010. We know how we'd vote on that one.

*McGee's district has been corrected from an earlier version of the post. 

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Owyhees wilderness signed

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 2:30 PM

About an hour ago, President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Lands Bill into law, creating 2 million new acres of wilderness across the United States, including 500,000 acres in the Owyhee Canyonlands. [Map .pdf]

You can watch the 20 minute signing ceremony on C-SPAN. And you can read more about the Owyhees at boiseweekly.com.

Robert Bear, chairman of the Sho-Pai Reservation at Duck Valley, which borders the wilderness, got a personal shout-out from the president at the ceremony.

Obama said:
Ranchers and fishermen, small business owners, environmentalists, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats on the local, state and federal levels -- all united around the idea that there should be places that we must preserve; all doing the hard work of seeking common ground to protect the parks and other places that we cherish.
Also invited to the signing: Sen. Mike Crapo who championed the bill through Congress, Fred Grant, chairman of the Owyhee Initiative Work Group and Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League (who snapped the photo above for citydesk with his handy iphone).

Sen. Crapo is holding a pair of events on April 14 to celebrate the wilderness declaration and to discuss future opportunities for "collaboration," according to Crapo spokesman Lindsay Nothern. The first is at the Owyhee County Historical Museum in Murphy at 11 am, followed by a reception at Lisk Gallery, 850 W. Main St., in Boise at 1:30 p.m.

Below is a version of Obama's remarks provided by the White House.

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 30, 2009


East Room

3:11 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much, Ken, for that extraordinary introduction and for the work that you and your team are undertaking at the Department of the Interior. We’re going to add a little bit to your plate today as a consequence of this extraordinary piece of legislation.

I want to thank all the members of the legislature who helped to craft this. Many of them are on the stage here today. Obviously I've got to single out the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for her extraordinary leadership, but also our Leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, who worked so diligently on this bill and made sure that it got done. And so please give all of these legislators a big round of applause. (Applause.)

If you'll indulge me, there are just a couple other people I want to acknowledge: Nancy Sutley, who is the Chair of our Council on Environmental Quality, who is here. Where's Nancy? There she is, right in front. (Applause.) Jane Lubchenco, who is the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Please, Jane -- (applause.) A couple of great friends from Indian Nation -- President Joe Shirley of Navaho Nation, who is here. Go ahead, Joe, stand up. (Applause.) And Tribal Chairman Robert Bear, of the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Tribes. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

It is fitting that we meet on a day like this. Winter’s hardships are slowly giving way to spring, and our thoughts naturally tend to turn to the outdoors. We emerge from the shelter offered by home and work, and we look around and we're reminded that the most valuable things in this life are those things that we already possess.

As Americans, we possess few blessings greater than the vast and varied landscapes that stretch the breadth of our continent. Our lands have always provided great bounty -- food and shelter for the first Americans, for settlers and pioneers; the raw materials that grew our industry; the energy that powers our economy.

What these gifts require in return is our wise and responsible stewardship. As our greatest conservationist President, Teddy Roosevelt, put it almost a century ago, "I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us."

That's the spirit behind the bipartisan legislation I'm signing today -- legislation among the most important in decades to protect, preserve, and pass down our nation’s most treasured landscapes to future generations.

Many senators and congressmen here deserve enormous credit for making this bill possible. I'm grateful to all their hard work. As I mentioned before, Harry Reid made this a top priority. He made sure this was the first bill the Senate passed this year. This day would not be possible without his tireless dedication to protecting our treasured lands.

This legislation -- just to give you a sense of the scope -- this legislation guarantees that we will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parks, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted; but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That's something all Americans can support.

And that’s why so much of this legislation, some of it decades in the making, has the backing of Americans from every walk of life and corner of this country. Ranchers and fishermen, small business owners, environmentalists, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats on the local, state and federal levels -- all united around the idea that there should be places that we must preserve; all doing the hard work of seeking common ground to protect the parks and other places that we cherish.

We’re talking about places like Colorado, where this bill will realize a vision 35 years in the making by protecting the wild back country of Rocky Mountain National Park, which attracts 3 million visitors a year.

Folks in communities around this park know they don’t have to choose between economic and environmental concerns; the tourism that drives their local economy depends on good stewardship of their local environment. And year after year, these communities have worked together with members of Congress in an attempt to ensure that Rocky Mountain National Park will forever remain as breathtaking as it is today.

And that is what this bill does from coast to coast. It protects treasured places from the Appalachians of Virginia and West Virginia to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; from the canyons of Idaho to the sandstone cliffs of Utah; from the Sierra Nevadas in California to the Badlands of Oregon.

It designates more than 2 million acres across nine states as wilderness; almost as much as was designated over the past eight years combined.

It creates thousands of miles of new scenic, historic, and recreational trails, cares for our historic battlefields, strengthens our National Park System.

It safeguards more than 1,000 miles of our rivers, protects watersheds and cleans up polluted groundwater, defends our oceans and Great Lakes, and will revitalize our fisheries, returning fish to rivers that have not seen them in decades.

And it wisely faces our future challenges with regard to water. This bill assesses how growth and climate change will affect our access to water resources, especially in the West and Southwest, and it includes solutions to complex and long-simmering water disputes. It’s hard to overstate the real and measurable impact this will have on people’s lives -- people like Frank Chee Willetto, a Navajo code talker in World War II, who's joined us today. And because of this legislation, Frank, along with 80,000 others in the Navajo Nation, will have access to clean running water for the very first time. That's something worth applauding. (Applause.) Thank you for your service. (Applause.)

When coupled with the Recovery Act, which makes an historic $3 billion investment creating jobs that will restore and protect our landscapes and our ecosystems, preserve our national monuments, retrofit our facilities for energy efficiency and renewable energy-- taken together, today’s legislation takes another step toward fulfilling Teddy Roosevelt’s vision for this land that we love.

It’s a vision that sees America’s great wilderness as a place where what was and what is and what will be -- all are the same; a place where memories are lived and relived; a place where Americans both young and young at heart can freely experience the spirit of adventure that has always been at the heart of the rugged character of America.

Now, the legislation I'm signing today also makes progress on another front for which many Americans have long waited.

The Christopher and Dana Reeve's Paralysis Act is the first piece of comprehensive legislation specifically aimed at addressing the challenges faced by Americans living with paralysis. (Applause.) Many folks and organizations from across the disability community worked hard to get this bill passed, and we are grateful to each of you for bringing us that much closer to providing all Americans with disabilities a full, fair and equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.

This act creates new coordinated research activities through the National Institutes of Health that will connect the best minds and best practices from the best labs in the country, and focus their endeavors through collaborative scientific research into the cure for paralysis, saving effort, money, and, most importantly, time.

It promotes enhanced rehabilitation services for paralyzed Americans, helping develop better equipment and technology that will allow them to live full and independent lives free from unnecessary barriers. And it will work to improve the quality of life for all those who live with paralysis, no matter what the cause.

That's the mission of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. In the lobby of their facility in New Jersey sits Christopher’s empty wheelchair. And his son, Matthew Reeve, was once asked if the sight of it ever saddened him, and he replied no. He said, "Empty chairs -- that was Dad's goal," he said. "We hope there will be many more of them."

Matthew is here with us today. And the legislation I'm about to sign makes solid progress toward the realization of that hope and the promise of a brighter future.

All in all, this legislation is that rare end product of what happens when Americans of all parties and places come together in common purpose to consider something more than the politics of the moment. It's the very idea at the heart of this country: that each generation has a responsibility to secure this nation’s promise for the next. And by signing this bill into law, that's what we're doing today.

So -- is Matthew here, by the way? Matthew, come on up. (Applause.) Let's sign this bill. (Applause.)

END 3:22 P.M. EDT

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Budget writers cut public schools

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2009 at 5:17 PM

Idaho budget writers snatched $109 million from Idaho public schools Friday morning, backfilling some of the state cuts with some $40 million in federal stimulus money, but leaving teachers, principals and superintendents with a $69 million hole in the coming fiscal year.

It's the first time in history that the state has allocated less money for public schools than the prior year. The general fund cut amounts to 7.7 percent of the 2009 budget.

Though Democrats on the Legislature's budget panel opposed most of the cuts and the teachers' union said members were dismayed and saddened by the proposed 2010 budget, there has been little public outcry over it.

"This year has been a very very different year…" Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood told citydesk. "Our members, educators out there across, the state understand that we are in a different circumstance than we’ve ever been in before."

To that end, IEA members have been walking around with band-aids on for a week, rather than marching on the temporary statehouse in Boise.

“To say we’re going to rally over this budget, it’s just very difficult to do,” Wood said.

The IEA will hold a mock JFAC meeting next Wednesday, April 1, at 6:30 p.m. at Boise High School to provide a public forum on the K-12 budget. JFAC does not take public testimony at its meetings.

Boise Democratic Sen. Nicole LeFavour said at the meeting and reiterated just now on the phone to citydesk, that there was money to keep public schools whole but that some legislators do not necessarily like public schools.

“We have so radically underfunded education for so long that when you cut this much things fall apart,” LeFavour said, as she attempted to compose her own blog entry about the day.

Idaho schools chief Tom Luna released the following statement, after stumbling over the words at a press conference: 
"No one wants to cut education, least of all me. Unfortunately in these unprecedented economic times, the members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee had to make the tough decision to cut public education. While I am not happy that we had to cut public education, I am relieved JFAC made every effort to minimize the cuts to education as much as possible."

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Idaho Senate debating liquor law reform

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 11:01 AM

The Senate is debating SB 1148 right now, Gov. Otter's overhaul of state liquor licenses.

"We currently have  system where the state limits the number of licenses that are available... we artificially create wealth by the state by having the system where you put your name on a list and hope you get to the top and then sell it or you come to the Legislature and if you have enough ability to put your case forward you can get an exception," said Nampa Rep. Curt Mckenzie, who is carrying the bill and is just now opening up debate.

You can listen in live and comment below.

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Ada County wants stimulus money for garbage-to-fuel project

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 8:53 AM

Ada County plans to apply to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for federal stimulus package funds, Commissioner Fred Tilman said at a town hall meeting last night.

Ada County wants the funds to expand its landfill, and Tilman said the landfill is a perfect candidate for funds earmarked for renewable energy projects. The landfill has a project under way to produce fuel from the methane gas given off by garbage.

"We have one of the best alternative fuel projects in the whole Pacific Northwest, in my opinion," Tilman said.

Ada County applied for stimulus money from Gov. Otter as soon as Idaho received its funding, Tilman said. "We didn't make the short list," he said. "We didn't even make the list."

But Ada County still has opportunities to apply again. Most of Idaho's aid was sent to state agencies like the Idaho Transportation Department and DEQ, and those agencies will disburse funds to projects around the state.

"Every dollar we can get that way is less money we have to get from you, the taxpayer," Tilman said.

Commissioner Sharon Ullman said Otter's focus on rural Idaho might prevent Ada County from getting funding, however. "I had privilege of hearing the governor speak a week ago," she said. "He was going to focus on rural Idaho. We have some rural areas of Ada County, but we can't submit that and claim we are rural."

The town hall meeting, at Meridian City Hall, was the first in a new effort by commissioners to take their show on the road. Other topics discussed included open space, property taxes, liquor laws, and election consolidation. Not quite two dozen people attended the event.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Ignite Unite!

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2009 at 3:14 PM

Video from last week's Ignite Boise at the Egyptian (shot by Meshel Miller, edited by citydesk):

Ignite Boise I from Boise Weekly on Vimeo.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Boise to consider streetcar proposal by end of summer

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 11:23 AM

Boise City and CCDC,  the city's redevelopment agency, are circulating a timeline and letter to downtown property owners and other stakeholders updating them on plans for a streetcar line.

According to CCDC ED Phil Kushlan, who just stopped by the BW offices, the Boise City Council could vote on a streetcar plan, including a new downtown taxing district, as early as the end of this summer.

A March 9 letter to "downtown stakeholders" indicates that a detailed feasibility study is underway and will be shared with the public upon completion. If the City Council approves the plan--and the new taxing district--the cars could be ordered as soon as this winter, with construction underway through summer 2011.

The timeline matches calls by Mayor Dave Bieter for a streetcar clanging in Boise by 2011.

Some 1,200 downtown properties could be included in the streetcar district, meaning property owners along the route (down Main and up Idaho, between 16th and Broadway) would foot the bill for its construction. Kushlan said they are still calculating the costs and trying to make them as fair as possible. Properties that front the rail line would contribute more than outlying blocks.

The city is not seeking and federal or, by golly, state money for this first phase of development.

Along with Kushlan at BW HQ this morning was Cece Gassner, the city's economic development adviser, Clay Carley, who owns several blocks along the route and Joanne Taylor, PR director at Drake Cooper, who is advising CCDC on how to spin the streetcar plan.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG hearts Meridian

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2009 at 5:34 PM

U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick made the following statement at today's hearings on retention bonuses paid at the giant insurance schemer which still has a presence in Main Street Meridian:
I opposed the TARP bill and I opposed the bailout for AIG. I'm a businessman, and when I bought businesses I took due diligence seriously. We taxpayers shouldn't buy companies or socialize businesses. Having made the mistake with AIG we should not now throw good money after bad. Instead, we should now withdraw taxpayers' support and let AIG go bankrupt, let a federal bankruptcy judge void these ill-advised bonus contracts, sort out the losses, and bring in new, qualified management to properly manage AIG free of one more nickel of taxpayer support. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
AIG Chief Liddy promised to return some of the bonuses

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Idaho Obamanomics

Posted By on Tue, Mar 17, 2009 at 10:04 PM

This week's Unda' the Rotunda features a brief examination of President Obama's still developing economic philosophy. We recommend David Leonhardt's detailed and insightful review of Obama's economic analysis during his campaign.

We also knock the Wikipedia around a bit in the column. Many journalists have been taught to fear Wikipedia... our policy at citydesk is that Wikipedia is a tip sheet like any other, in the same way that any old chump can call the BW or drop in on us unannounced and hand us a stack of information. Our job from there is to check it out, and Wikipedia provides plenty of handy links to primary materials.

For instance, we had no idea that Rep. Bedke had spent time in Italy. We'll have to ask him about that next time we see him, before we report it as fact. Oops.

Perhaps someone will add information on Bedke's economic philosophy gleaned from this week's Unda' the Rotunda to Bedke's nacsent Wiki page...

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