Sunday, May 31, 2009

New York times flies over Salmon River country

Posted By on Sun, May 31, 2009 at 9:11 PM

They're at it again. New York Times western regional reporter William Yardley flew Ray Arnold's mail route into the Frank to get a story about the U.S. Postal Service deciding NOT to cancel mail service to about 20 ranches along the Salmon River. It costs 10 times the average route, at $46,000 a year for weekly mail service.

The folks on the route love Ray:

“There’s a tremendous community among the people in this canyon,” said Doug Tims, 62, who owns Campbell’s Ferry Ranch. “He’s the thread that ties it all together.”

Last week we blogged aboutsome of the other recent NYT hits in Idaho.

USA Today also touched on Idaho last week, though that's less surprising since there is always at least a sentence a day about Idaho in the USA Today.

But a great graphic shows that Idaho and Washington—presumably because of nuclear cleanup projects, though the short article does not go into great detail (go figure)—have gotten far and away the largest per capita chunk of federal stimulus spending contracts so far.

Idaho is getting $245.63 per person, based on $374.3 million in contracts, while Michigan, with the highest jobless rate in the nation, has won a mere 21 cents per person in contracts.

Nationwide, federal agencies have awarded nearly $4 billion in contracts to help jump-start the economy since President Obama signed the massive stimulus package in February. But, with few exceptions, that money has not reached states where the unemployment rate is highest, according to a USA TODAY review of contracts disclosed through the Federal Procurement Data System.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

See Hoffman on C-SPAN

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 1:58 PM

e781/1243455088-risch_door.jpgI recently traveled back to Baltimore to watch my little cousin get married. In my downtime I took the MARC train to Washington, D.C., to catch up with Idaho Sen. Jim Risch. Because, I mean, what else was I going to do on my vacation? (Drink with my high school buddy, Kaveh? Walk around Camden Yards? Aquarium? Spend time with my mom?)

I wanted to write about Risch's appointment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and luckily, the day I visited former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who always sounded like C3PO to me, was to testify on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

You can read the story here.

Risch is clearly enjoying being a U.S. senator. He has a large spacious office with its own john (he can go before leaving for the airport ...), he's on a first name basis with many of the security guards and elevator operators (U.S. senators get lots of perks), and he knows his way around Capitol Hill better than most staffers. Strangely, he has a door on display in the lobby of his office gilded with: "Governor James E. Risch and First Lady Vicki Risch." He says it's a replica; he did not steal the governor's door from Boise.

I observed Risch on both the Foreign Relations Committee and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which met at the same time on Thursday afternoon. The Select Committee on Inteligence also had a meeting scheduled, to which I was not invited, but it was canceled. Risch left the Blair talk for a bit to go vote and then returned to ask Blair—an envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations—some questions.

How do they get anything done if they schedule everything at the same time? Wait ... do they get anything done?


I wanted to think that some of his questioning was for my benefit, but Risch has been asking lots of questions on his committees and even getting some national press for it. At the end of the hearing I took my little point and shoot camera and rushed up to the tables, past the Secret Service (or MI6?) dudes, trying to catch the Risch-Blair handshake.

The picture sucked, but ... I got in the way and my shooting stance was aired on C-SPAN.

It was a perfect D.C. reporting afternoon. Except I never got to eat the yebeg alicha that I crave.

You can watch Risch in action below. Or just FF to the last 30 seconds and see me.

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Obama recovery funds in Idaho

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2009 at 11:10 AM

677e/1243444972-recovery.jpgThe Obama Administration released a report on the first 100 days of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act today. The report claims that 150,000 jobs have already been created across the nation.

But only one Idaho project is mentioned in the document.

91. Recovery Act funding will enable the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho to keep running, and help clients find jobs. “The Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho has found its second life thanks to the federal stimulus money. After losing its state funding during the recently completed legislative session, the foundation had faced the prospects of closing its Idaho Falls office and cutting services to the 15,000 Idahoans with epilepsy..." On May 8, [foundation director Marcia L. Karakas] learned her nonprofit organization received a $115,000 one-time grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The foundation works with nearly 2,000 people with epilepsy. Its goal is to ensure people who have seizures are able to participate in all life experiences, including working. [Idaho Falls Post Register, 5/20/09]

We asked Mayor Dave last week at his Boise Young Professionals talk what federal stimulus monies had been spent by the city already and the answer was not totally clear. First he ordered another beer from the bar at the Basque Center. Then he spoke about lots of stuff that has been promised—road resurfacing, a footbridge between Garden City and Boise, sidewalks for the eastside of downtown and $2 million for energy efficiency block grants.

But we want to know: where is the cash. Show us the money. is trying to accomplish this, but it's still not clear when it gets spent. now has info up for whistle blowers, but no contact info for check writers.

Maybe we're still thinking we got some ARRA funds ... Arrrr

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

City of Eagle to regulate smoking... maybe

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2009 at 4:14 PM

fed4/1243376292-nosmoke.jpgEagle's Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, an effort to regulate smoking in the city, was scheduled to be discussed at 6:30 tonight at Eagle City Hall. However, it has been pushed back to June 9th.

Is this a conspiracy to throw off the public? Staffer Jeff Lowe assured me "It's no conspiracy, we pushed it back because not all council members will be present at tonight's meeting."

citydesk hears that Councilman Norm Semanko was not able to attend the hearing tonight, hence the delay.

After a March 24th public hearing, the city council delayed making a decision on the smoking ban. That decision is now delayed again, until June 9th.

The proposed ordinance has rattled some Eagle residents including one who emailed Mayor Bandy saying "I am concerned at the continued loss of liberty in our country at large and in our city in particular."

Mayor Phil Bandy has confirmed that "the ordinance does not prohibit smoking; it limits the location of the activity so as not to negatively impact non-smokers in public places."

You can read the concerned citizen's email to Mayor Bandy and the mayor's response here.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Awkward cop interaction leads to seat belt ticket

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2009 at 9:46 AM

ticket.jpgSure, I'm guilty. But it wasn't supposed to go down like that.

Boise cops are in the midst of a seat belt enforcement gig—they get extra grant money to work overtime citing seat belt scofflaws, such as myself.

But yesterday after work, you'll recall, the weather was really nice. I did buckle up between the office and my kid's friend's house. But on the short trip back to our house, I did fail to click-it.

As I rounded the bend near Camel's Back Park where the police are frequently found, I saw the Ada County Foothills motorcycle cop, whose uniform reminded me to slow down. I considered reaching for my belt, but then I saw another officer friendly 100 yards ahead, pointing his radar gun right at me and thought it wiser to just stay the course.

I gave the BPD officer a little wave, slowed to a stop and continued on through the intersection. In my rearview, I saw him slowly mounting his motorcycle, coming up behind me and flashing his lights. Damn.

I apologized to the kid, who usually reminds me to buckle up and who, I had forgotten, was dressed only in panties in her kid seat. Then Officer Wieden (at least that's what his name looks like on the ticket, badge #469) asked me if I usually wear my seat belt.

Now, I know the law, but when you're caught red handed, it's hard to protest. He is not supposed to pull me over for waving at him without my seat belt on. Seat belt offenses are still a secondary offense in Idaho; you can be ticketed for free-belting, but not stopped for a violation of the seat belt laws.

I'm going to pay the thing. But the $10 citation is enough to piss me off but not enough to change my behavior. And the attitude of these special enforcement patrols, where quantity is awarded over quality, is a major issue in our society and one which deserves a full public airing in the near future.

Anyone want to talk about it?

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mtn. Home pilot challenges Don't Ask Don't Tell

Posted By on Thu, May 21, 2009 at 2:42 PM

A highly decorated pilot from Mountain Home Air Force Base went on national television this week to publicly oppose the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.

Barring intervention from Air Force Secretary Michael Donley, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, an F-15E weapons systems officer, will soon be honorably discharged, according to Air Force Times. The reason for his dismissal: Fehrenbach is gay.

Fehrenbach will not receive his retirement benefits if discharged. BW has a tentative interview with Lt. Col, Fehrenbach tomorrow, so check back for more information on this case.

You can watch Fehrenbach's interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow below:

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tamarack back from the dead?

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 10:50 PM

Don’t sell the skis just yet.

Tamarack Resort may have a buyer, principal owner Jean-Pierre Boespflug told the Idaho Land Board earlier today.

Boespflug notified the board that it could be contacted by an interested party within the next 60 days, though he declined to name the potential buyer, citing a confidentiality agreement. He urged the board to be ready to expedite the buyer’s requests for data or other information that would aid in the sale, so that the economy and unemployment rates in Valley County could begin to mend.

“Me and my partner, we are wiped out… We want to see the community survive, to see some kind of legacy for Idaho. What matters is that these people are not in a situation again where they have something very difficult to endure,” he said, referring to the way Valley County’s economy tanked in the early 90s when the logging industry largely pulled out of the area.

Continue reading »

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Tibbs won't seek reelection

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2009 at 4:44 PM


Boise City Councilman Jim Tibbs told citydesk this afternoon that he will not seek another term on the Council when his seat expires in January 2010.

Tibbs, a retired Boise police lieutenant, said he was looking into other ventures, possibly a return to law enforcement, but that he had not figured out what his next gig might be.

"A lot of the agencies are not hiring right now—Nampa, Caldwell, Meridian are all in the same economic situation," Tibbs said.

TJ Thomson, an internal auditor at Idaho Power Co., has filed an intention to run for the seat held by Tibbs. The official filing period for candidates begins Aug. 24 and Council members Maryanne Jordan and Vern Bisterfeldt are also up for re-election.

Tibbs was first elected to the Boise City Council in 2005, beating longtime Councilman Jerome Mapp.  He went to work for the Boise Police Department in 1970 and served in various roles at the department for 34 years. After leaving BPD, Tibbs worked as an investigator at the Canyon County Prosecutor's Office for about a year.

Tibbs said this afternoon that he fell in love with the Canyon County area while working there.

His tenure in Caldwell was short-lived as then Gov. Jim Risch appointed him the state drug czar about the same time he won his first City Council term. Tibbs also ran for Boise mayor in 2007 and would not rule out the possibility of future political runs.

Tibbs said he had not met Thomson but was pleased that the candidate had been through Boise's Citizen Police Academy and that he volunteers his time as McGruff the Crime Dog.

Thomson reiterated that his campaign was never against Tibbs and that he just wants to bring a "fresh voice" to the city.

“I had a high respect for Jim Tibbs because of his service in the military—we’re both veterans— and his service in the Police Department,” Thomson said.

Tibbs has mentioned that he won't seek reelection to other council members and said he does not know of anyone else eager to run for his seat in the November election.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Boarded up home belongs to U.S. Senator’s family

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2009 at 2:59 PM


A home registered to a living trust for U.S. Sen. Jim Risch’s mother-in-law and registered to the senator’s own address, remains boarded up and an eyesore, two years after being gutted by fire.

The 109 year-old home on the corner of Myrtle and Fifth streets along one of downtown Boise’s busiest thoroughfares, has been repeatedly penetrated by vandals, irritating Jeff Day, a hair stylist at Olivers Salon, which sits right behind the dilapidated house.
“I was born and raised in this town and there’s no need for that to be sitting like that on such a busy intersection,” Day said.

On Tuesday, Day placed a sign in the front yard alerting passersby to the connection to Risch. It reads: “Jim Risch owns this shack, owns this property.”

The property is registered to the Helen Choborda Living Trust, and Risch’s address on South Cole is listed as a contact.

Jason Risch, a Boise attorney and political advisor to the senator, his father, said that the family is battling an insurance company in wake of the fire, two years ago.

“It’s mired down in negotiations with the insurance company over the cost of repair,” he said.

Jason Risch said the Risch's would like to get it fixed up so that his grandmother can continue to derive income from the house as a rental property.

But even before the fire, there were complaints about the historic property.

In the Summer of 2005, city officials investigated a growing number of cars parked on the property and issued a notice to abate, which was followed. Inspectors cleared the propertyof the citation about a month later.

And in May 2006, the city declared the yard a public nuisance and ordered the weeds abated. Again, the owner complied.

This week city code enforcement manger Michael Meloy noticed that the property had become overgrown and that the door was wide open.

“That’s a public nuisance,” Meloy said, of the open door. “We need to get it boarded up.”

Jason Risch agreed that the door should not be open and said they had paid to have the home 
boarded up following the fire.

Day recalled that a large Risch sign appeared in front of the boarded up house during Risch’s recent Senate campaign.

“He’s posting his campaign signs, so I’ll post mine,” he said.

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Friday, May 1, 2009

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