The Obama Administration has just announced that former IACI Veep Dick Rush will run the USDA's Farm Service Agency in Idaho and Idaho Lottery Alum Wally Hendrick will serve as State Director of Rural Development.
Rep. Walt Minnick nominated the two for the positions back in March. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the appointments today.
Hendrick's job description, from USDA:
USDA’s Rural Development administers and manages over 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress through a network of 6,100 employees located in 500 national, state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of over $114 billion in loans and loan guarantees.
And Rush's task:
The Farm Services Agency works to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Some of the agency’s efforts include providing direct operating loans for farm equipment, seed and fertilizer, as well as rural housing loans to help rural people buy, build or rent housing. FSA also procures various commodities to benefit low-income families through domestic food assistance programs. At the same time, the agency creates jobs by funding the growth and creation of rural businesses and cooperatives.
The City of Eagle was well on it's way to becoming the first smoke-free city in Idaho, until last week, at least. Councilman Michael Huffaker put a stop to the city's Clean Indoor Air Ordinance when he changed his vote on June 23.
The ordinance would have prohibited smoking at all businesses with more than five employees, including standalone bars, and would limit where smokers could light up outside, within city limits.
At the June 9 City Council meeting the ordinance was read for the first time and passed with a vote of 3 to 2. It seemed as if residents could soon breathe fresh air in Eagle. There were few objections to the ordinance except for a sprinkling of residents who were concerned about over-regulation.
Huffaker joined the skeptics last week when he changed his vote in opposition to the ordinance saying that possible detriments to the City of Eagle outweighed the benefits to the city. Huffaker cited a study that claims that if bar rats can't smoke in their favorite bar in Eagle they will drive to neighboring cities to get their fix and then drive home drunk.
In a statement to the citizens of Eagle, Huffaker says, "I came to the Council meeting on June 23rd fully prepared to vote the same as I did on June 9th, but after listening to all the arguments again both for and against the ordinance, I felt myself being persuaded that although the intent and purpose of Ordinance 622 was good, that passing this particular ordinance was not the best way to accomplish that purpose ... It was a very difficult decision to make but I felt I had to vote my conscience and for what I thought would be in the best interest of the city as a whole."
Eagle City Council hasn't quite stopped fighting for clean air just yet, though the ordinance has been tabled. They plan to send a resolution letter to the Idaho Legislature to encourage a statewide ban.
The City of Boise has put together a "Coordinated Community Response" for bike safety in order to address the three cyclist deaths that have occurred this summer. The team includes people from police, prosecutors, the Ada County Highway District, and an unnamed (or yet-to-be-named) rep from the Idaho Transportation Department. The City Council reviewed a draft report last week and is expected to suggest any revisions by Wednesday.
The report states as its purpose:
After three bicyclist fatalities in less than a month, an unusual and tragic circumstance for all Boiseans, Mayor Bieter has called together local agencies and community table partners to address this important public safety issue. The Mayor is directing agency leaders to find ways to further educate drivers and cyclists about bicycle safety, and to develop supporting strategies to address this serious problem.
The Mayor has directed a team of city leaders and staff, including Boise’s county and state highway partners, to immediately review current efforts to promote roadway safety and to make recommendations on improving safety for cyclists in the immediate and longer-term future. Because the problem, by its very nature, involves the interaction between cyclists and motorists, any solutions must address both sides of that interaction in a balanced manner.
The group will examine the League of American Bicyclists Six E's: Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Encouragement and Equality (between cars and bikes). It will also put together an evaluation process.
The team will report back to Mayor Dave Bieter by August 24, quick by government standards. Mike Zuzel, who represents the Mayor's Office on the team, said there will be a large component of public outreach and comment in late July and August.
Canyon County Prosecutor John Bujak told the Idaho Press-Tribune last week that there may be DNA evidence to exonerate Sarah Pearce, who was convicted in 2003 of assaulting motorist Linda LeBrane.
"The investigation has been reopened because the Innocence Project believes they have a lead on new DNA evidence that would prove the defendant's innocence," Bujak said. "My understanding is that the (national) Innocence Project has successfully worked to free defendants wrongfully convicted." —Bujak
We interviewed Idaho Innocence Project Director Greg Hampikian last week. In a statement that arrived over the weekend, Hampikian praised Bujak's willingness to examine the new evidence.
“We are very pleased that John Bujak and his investigators have reopened this case and are following up on new leads, and we are happy to play a supporting role in their investigation. We believe that a mistake was made in this case and that there is potentially someone who has committed a crime who is still on the streets while the wrong person is behind bars. The IIP is very pleased to be working with police departments and victims as well as prisoners and their families to find the truth. We’re more than an Innocence Project; we help find the truly guilty people, too.” — Hampikian
In the wake of three recent cyclist deaths, Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson is stepping up enforcement of bike laws on Boise Streets.
Masterson told citydesk this morning that he's, "not going to jump to conclusions that automobiles are at fault in all three of them [the cyclist deaths].” Masterson does not expect that drug or alcohol use were a factor in any of the fatal crashes, though he is waiting for toxicology reports to come back before confirming that. And he said that he had preliminary investigatory information that indicates the cause of some of the crashes but is not ready to release that information either.
No one has been charged in any of the fatal crashes yet. Masterson explained the delay in a recent guest opinion piece, saying that death investigations always take extra time.
But since the three deaths, which came within a few weeks of one another, several cyclists have been cited for rolling violations, including riding against traffic, and police, including the department's public information officer Lynn Hightower, have noticed many cyclists breaking the law.
Masterson has asked officers to issue warnings to cyclists who are breaking the law including the following regs:
1. Riding against traffic - Position on Roadway (by far, say officers, the most frequently observed violation) - Boise City Code 10-14-06 (A) , Idaho State Code 49-717 (1). You'll notice the Boise City Code is more specific and actually cites "riding against traffic", however, this law is in place statewide. Fine = $46.50
2. Going through "Stop" sign without slowing for traffic - ISC 49-720 (1). Though a cyclist can go through a stop sign without completely stopping, they are required by state law to stop for traffic that's close enough to be an "immediate hazard". Many cyclists are seen by officers not slowing at all. Fine = $46.50
3. No headlight at night - BCC 10-14-03 (D), ISC 49-723. Headlights are not for the vision of the cyclist but so the cyclist can be seen by others! Fine = $46.50
4. Riding through "Don't Walk" signal at crosswalk - BCC 10-14-08, ISC 49-721 C. Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians when riding on sidewalks and in crosswalks. When cyclists ride off the sidewalk into the road, they must observe motorist traffic laws. Fine = $46.50
And while Boise Police have also been targeting aggressive drivers in recent weeks, there is no special awareness campaign targeted to them. Masterson said police cannot do anything about drivers texting or reading the paper, unless they commit another violation.
“We’re still in a state that allows TVs in motor vehicles that can be viewed by drivers. That’s crazy,” he said. “I think we all need some help from the legislature on that.”
The headline possibilities are endless, and the people at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are back, this time with a message about barbecuing, just in time for the Fourth of July. They will faux-grill a live human being at high noon on Friday, June 26 at the northeast corner of Eighth and Main streets. They did it yesterday in Reno.
"Flesh is flesh, and animals feel pain and suffer just as humans do," said PETA spokesperson Lindsay Rajt in an press release about the event. "What revolts people about the idea of eating humans should also revolt them when it comes to the idea of eating other animals."
Don't animals eat animals, though, and in their great sentience wish they had barbecue sauce and the knowledge of fire?
In writing this week's news feature on Jack's Urban Meeting Place, we went for a little lap around the Simplot site, bounded by Front and Myrtle streets on the north and south and Ninth and Eleventh to the east and west.
The four-block area is somewhat trapezoidal, or, as JUMP architect Susan Desko called it, "kind of like a piano ... Driving down Myrtle, you get this really dynamic kind of curve ahead of you."
We found a few surprises on the site. First of all, there is a Borah Street. The continuation of Broad Street (which runs through BoDo) is called Borah. There is currently access to surface parking via Borah Street, but citydesk hears that the Simplots are requesting that Borah and the alley that comes onto the property from Myrtle be abandoned to accommodate their plans for the site.
Also within the future JUMP (what do ya'll think we should call this? JUMP feels silly... like BoDo...) there is a network of railroad spurs that once served the downtown warehouse district. There are photos of all this stuff in the slide show below.
The Emerald Club and Knock 'em Dead Dinner Theater are slated for demolition in this project, but Breck Seiniger, Jr., the attorney who owns the law firm on the corner of Myrtle and Ninth, refused to sell his corner to the Simplot family.
"They made us an offer that wee didn't think was reasonable and we made them an offer that they didn't think was reasonable," Seiniger said.
When JUMP is built, if indeed it excludes commercial activity, Seiniger is thinking his corner might be prime real estate for some commercial activity... a Starbucks, perhaps?
And here is a little bonus treat. It is not super clear, but for a sneak peak of the landscape plan for JUMP, check out the future Web site for the project... look closely behind the little jumping girl...
citydesk got a little choked up on Friday, bidding adieu to analog television. Not because we were missing Friends, or whatever it is people are watching these days. It happened during a National Public Radio report on the digital transition in which television critic David Bianculli pointed out that poor kids, who learn to read on public television are most likely to be left behind by digital signals. Then he played “Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away…” the theme song to Sesame Street and we shed a tear for a bygone era.
Then we went home and found that our Idaho PTV was not coming in, despite our shiny new converter box.
Just one more reason to kill the TV.
Tuesday night, Eagle Mayor Phil Bandy cast the deciding vote to prohibit smoking at all indoor public places within city limits.
The ordinance will go through two more public readings before residents will have to relinquish their habits in public places. Shauneen Grange of Smokefree Idaho, the group that brought the ordinance to Eagle, commended the city in a statement, saying, “Secondhand smoke is a known public health hazard and no one should have to choose between a job and good health."
The council members were split with Norm Semanko and Jeanne Jackson-Heim voting against and Michael Huffaker and Al Shoushtarian voting for approval. Bandy cast the deciding vote.
Semanko first moved to pass the notion of a public smoking ban on to the state Legislature for statewide consideration, rather than voting for it at the city level, but his motion failed. Huffaker then suggested passing the Eagle ordinance and also asking the Legislature to consider a statewide ban, as Semanko had suggested.
Smokers not following the ordinance will receive a warning for the first offense and a $25 fine, second and third violations face a $50 fine.
Eagle is the first city in Idaho to expand statewide smoking limitations to bars, small businesses and all public places. Smokefree Idaho has also approached Boise, Garden City and Meridian.
In other tobacco news, Idaho's entire congressional delegation has voted in favor of FDA regulation of tobacco products in the form of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. Sen. Jim Risch issued the following statement: “Tobacco products and their effects are a scourge to our nation. They take a tremendous toll on our health and make up a significant portion of our soaring health costs. This bill continues the general tightening of restrictions on the industry to limit the spread of these dangerous and addictive products.”
The Ada County Commissioners will host a town hall meeting in Kuna tonight to discuss Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power's Gateway West transmission line project.
The power companies want to build 1,150 miles of transmission lines between Glenrock, Wyo. and Murphy, Id. Both utilities as well as the Bureau of Land Management will update the commissioners on the project and take questions from the public tonight with an open house starting at 6 p.m. at Kuna High School, 637 Deer Flat Road in Kuna. Public questions begin at 7 p.m.
People in Kuna and Parma have raised significant concerns about the erection of high voltage power lines over their towns and both city councils have registered opposition to Gateway West and the now-delayed Boardman (Ore.) to Hemingway (near Murphy) transmission line.
Idaho Power also filed a report with the Security and Exchange Commission indicating that it plans to push ahead with a new 300 megawatt gas-fired power plant at Langley Gulch in Payette County. A large group of Idaho Power customers and environmental groups has challenged the Langley Gulch proposal before the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.