Tuesday, September 29, 2009

East Parkcenter Bridge Opens

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 5:00 PM

For the last year and a half, most mornings on Warm Springs Mesa have begun to the sounds of heavy equipment pulverizing the landscape, beeping trucks backing up, and the general din of a construction site. Since it was first envisioned in the 70's, the dream of connecting Warm Springs Avenue to Parkcenter Boulevard has slowly come to fruition. Now the four-lane bridge complete with two bike lanes sweeps through the previously forested wetlands, six weeks ahead of schedule.

The new bridge, as seen from Warm Springs Mesa
  • Mathias Morache
  • The new bridge, as seen from Warm Springs Mesa

“This beautiful bridge represents the culmination of a community vision for southeast Boise and the Barber Valley, a vital new transportation connection that will benefit the community for decades to come,” described ACHD Commission President Carol McKee in a press release. The grand opening kicked off with a ceremony this morning, complete with a tour of the bridge's pillar-less structure, bald-eagle friendly construction process, and commemorative plaque by Irene Deely of Woman of Steel art gallery fame.

The ambition is to intermingle neighborhoods. Mesa dwellers need only jaunt across the river to access Bown Crossing, while Boiseans dwelling on the south side of the Boise river now have prime Greenbelt access. Additionally, with a new route into downtown, ACHD hopes to take traffic off of Warm Springs Ave., which for most of the summer was shut down and then rerouted on a new circuitous course through the fields of Harris Ranch.

Bikable bridge.
  • Mathias Morache
  • Bikable bridge.

The Greenbelt too is due for a makeover, with future plans to take the path along the north bank of the Boise river. Next to the bridge sits an immense dirt lot disappearing east along Warm Springs Ave to Barber Mill, where all remnants of vegetation have been torn out in preparation for the future 70 acre Marianne Williams Park which sooner or later will be replanted with native vegetation. Some evenings the deer that used to frequent the former wetlands still appear amongst the bulldozers and orange porta-potties. While there are still some finishing touches to be made, the final cost of the bridge is estimated at $20.7 million and the cost of construction at $14.8 million.

Tonight, though, maybe I'll make the jaunt to Bown Crossing for a few beers. Cheers to you, ACHD.

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Two Council Candidates Drop Out

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 4:22 PM

The race for Boise City Council Seat Four narrowed tightly today as two of the four candidates dropped out of the race. The tensity of the race has increased sharply to mirror the partisan rift on the national stage.

Erstwhile candidate Steven Siebers told citydesk today that he was dropping out to back David Litster because he feels that the race has been split down party lines, even though political affiliations are supposed to be checked at the door. He said, "We're doing this for the city, we're not doing it for us."

Leland Lay, loosely affiliated with the Tea Party movement, has dropped out as well, stating that he will "withdraw in deference to Mr. Dave Litster." He believes that Litster is the right man for the job: "He's got an MBA from Harvard; I just move dirt," Lay said.

Lay and Siebers will announce their resignation during a press conference tomorrow morning at 10:30 p.m., though citydesk could not confirm the location. That leaves TJ Thomson, an internal auditor at Idaho Power and Obama backer, and Litster, who has a Harvard MBA and experience in commercial development in the race.

According to Lay, "there's not a dime's worth of difference" between his ideals and those of Siebers and Litster.

UPDATE: Litster will make an announcement at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at City Hall.

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Rex Rammell Reads the Tabloids

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:13 PM

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Idaho governor candidate Rex Rammell made the tabloids this week, appearing in a "list" of Pres. Barack Obama's top 25 enemies. But the best part is Rammell sent out the list in an email this afternoon, proving that ... Rex Rammell reads The Globe.

The list, which claims to be a secret White House document, but is probably the result of a fun brain storming session at the Globe offices (published by the folks who bring you The Enquirer), seems pretty comprehensive. Topped by Glenn Beck, who spends all of his air time making stuff up about Obama, and Larry Sinclair, a guy who claims he took drugs and slept with the prez, Rammell appears at No. 16.

His claim to infamy: "GOP contender for Idaho's governorship said he'd buy a license to 'hunt' Obama."

Rammell appears on the list between two country stars: Toby Keith who apparently told Beck that Obama doesn't act black and Hank Williams Jr., who said Obama doesn't really like the National Anthem.

Rammell's reaction: "Although the "Obama tags " comment has been completely blown out of proportion, I am honored to be #16 on his hit list. When I am governor of Idaho, I expect to move to the top of the list. Not because I want to hunt Obama, but because I plan to challenge him and the federal government on their usurpation of Idaho's states' rights. It is my intention to show President Obama the power of the 10th Amendment."

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Body Found in River

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Over the weekend, kayakers discovered the body of a man in the Boise River near the end of 48th Street in Garden City. While the Ada County Coroner’s Office has made an identification, the victim’s name is being withheld until family can be notified.

According to Coroner’s Office officials, an autopsy done on Monday, Sept. 28 showed the cause of death to be accidental drowning, and added that there were no signs of trauma, although the results of toxicology tests are still being waiting on.

The victim was between 30 and 40 years old, and was found in just more than 1 foot of water along a small island in the middle of the river. Because of its location, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office is handling the investigation.

Check back for updates as we get them.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Otter's Tiers Again Revealed

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 3:36 PM

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In announcing a 4-percent holdback for state agencies today, Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter made explicit which agencies he likes and which he finds to be "other."

Otter announced the holdbacks at a press conference this morning, indicating that some agencies would face 2.5 percent cuts while others will have to figure out how to trim 7.5 percent of their budgets (averaging out to 4 percent).

"This goes way beyond the difference between 'necessary' and 'nice.' It goes to the fundamental requirements and expectations that we have for state government," Otter stated.

Otter has used the "necessary and nice" language before. But now that he is talking about, "launching a public dialogue with Idaho taxpayers, lawmakers, agency officials, state employees and other stakeholders on how best to achieve meaningful reorganization of state government," it helps to have the priorities whittled down to three categories.

Under "Critical and Constitutional Required Services": The Governor's Office (which is taking a 5-percent hit), public schools, cops, elected officers ...

Under "Essential Services": Ag research and extension, public defenders, colleges and universities (6-percent cut), Legislature, Military Division, Tax Commission ...

And under "Other," most of which are taking 7.5 percenters: the "nice" commissions (aging, arts, blind, human rights), lands, labor, Species Conservation, Public Broadcasting ...

Some of the agency budgets are broken up in interesting ways. Public Schools and the Superintendent of Public Instruction are listed separately—the super is getting a 2.5-percent cut, while the schools are being paid back in reserves. The Department of Corrections' budget of $95 million does not include any contracts with the private prison operator or other private contractors, who are held harmless in the cuts: A contract is a contract.

Superintendent Tom Luna lauded his own foresight earlier in the year in passing the first ever cuts to public education and refraining from dipping into reserves.

Luna: “This validates the decisions that we made in the last legislative session. There were many who wanted to completely drain the State Stabilization Fund to avoid any cuts in education. If we would have done that, schools would be facing severe mid-year cuts, something we all want to avoid. It’s clear we made the right decision, thus avoiding devastating cuts to public schools mid-year.”

Otter was backed by CDA Sen. Mike Jorgenson and Rep. Scott Bedke, assitant majority leader at his presser. Democrats were briefed on the cuts, but issued statements of concern this afternoon.

“While the governor’s proposal may respond to the immediate financial crisis, we are concerned that the proposal falls short in adequately preparing for Idaho’s economic future. The revenue shortfall is a symptom. Unemployment is the disease. For our economy to recover, Idaho needs to step up efforts to build jobs,” House Minority Leader John Rusche said.

And Sen. Minority Leader Kate Kelly: “The reserve and economic stimulus funds come from our taxpayers. That money doesn’t help our economy if it sits in a savings account. We should be maximizing our use of federal funds and more aggressively accessing our reserve funds to save jobs, create jobs and help build a future for our children. Instead the Governor’s proposal further erodes services at a time when Idahoans need them most.”

Boise State President Bob Kustra, who is dealing with a $4.7 million loss, appears to agree, and has been socking away reserves of his own.

“In anticipation of possible holdbacks, Boise State made appropriate financial plans and will cover this holdback from central reserves on a one-time basis. At this time, the university will be able to avoid furloughs and layoffs of its employees," Kustra said. "Boise State recognizes that the recession has affected everyone, creating hardships for our students, faculty, staff and their families. The reductions further focus our attention on ensuring that the university supports its core functions, maintains its capacity to serve students and identifies operational efficiencies where possible."

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Here Come the Endorsements

Posted By on Fri, Sep 25, 2009 at 3:00 PM

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We’re just a month away from the November general election, and the endorsements are rolling in for Boise's City Council race.

Political newcomer T.J. Thomson, who is in a four-way race with David Litster, Steven Siebers and Leland Lay for the seat being vacated by Council Member Jim Tibbs, has been at the front of the endorsement parade for more than a month.

Thomson’s list already includes Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, four of five sitting City Council members, former Governor Cecil Andrus, Rep. Walt Minnick and a laundry list of state legislators as well as the Boise Fire Department. Latest on that list is the Boise City Police Union and Conservation Voters for Idaho.

Just today, Conservation Voters also formerly endorsed City Council President Maryanne Jordan, who is running against Lucas Baumbach and David Webb. The green group also picked incumbent City Council Member Vern Bisterfeldt, who is being challenged by Daniel L. Dunham and David A. Honey.

As to the challengers, three of them have endorsed each other: Baumbach, Lay and Dunham have got one another's backs.

As the weeks tick by, we’re sure the endorsements will keep rolling in.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Gov.'s Innovation Summit offers food for thought

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 4:03 PM

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I just got back from the Idaho Dept. of Commerce’s 2009 Governor's Innovation Summit today on the fourth floor of the Stueckle Sky Center at Boise State, where I caught the presentation by the panel on higher education and research.

Through floor-to-ceiling windows, the Stueckle Center affords a ridiculously incredible view of the city. While the higher ed/research discussion was a bit dry, if I'd had the time, I'd have sat through the entire summit just for that view.

The higher ed. panel was manned by the state's university presidents: Dr. Robert Kustra, president of Boise State; Dr. Arthur Vailas, president of Idaho State University; Dr. M. Duane Nellis, president of the University of Idaho; Dr. Jerry Beck, president of College of Southern Idaho and Dr. Harold Blackman from CAES (the Center for Advanced Energy Studies.) One unifying theme coming from the education heads was the idea of cross-pollination: sharing information and resources not only among the universities but between departments within them, i.e. law students should be working with business students on patent regulations. Funding, of course, popped up as well as the need to put kids on a trajectory to college long before high school. They also discussed basic research and development versus applied R&D in conjunction with work within the infrastructure of the government, public arenas and education to maintain and foster growth in Idaho's tech sectors.

The council is made up of a number of business managers including Jefferson Jewell, managing director of Blackfin Technologies (Boise); Robin Woods, president of Alturas Analytics (Moscow); Douglas Sayer, founder of Premier Technology (Blackfoot); Steve Hodges, president of M2M Communications (Boise); Jason Stolworthy, commercialization manager for Battelle Energy Alliance (Idaho Falls); Mark Warbis, director of communications for Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter; Donald A. Dietrich, Commerce Director; and Milford Terrell, a member of the State Board of Education.

Though free and open to the public, less than 100 people sat in the audience—including only one kid who looked like a student (he was the only person in there with a backpack). Most of the attendees wore suits and bore name tags that identified them as business owners or members of government agencies. While not the most exciting event, the Innovation Summit—and the announcement that Micron received a cool $5 mil in stimulus funds for work on LED technology—did serve as a reminder that technology is still high on Gov. Otter's list of priorities. I think he should add "build more places like the Stueckle Center" to that list.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Another Thing Obama Did Not Lie About

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 11:57 AM

In his recent health care speech to Congress, President Barack Obama promised to call out any elected official who misrepresents his health-care reform initiative.

This morning, shortly after Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo delivered his opening remarks in the Senate Finance Committee mark-up on the Baucus health care bill, the Democratic National Committee sent out an e-mail refuting Crapo's claims that the expansion of Medicare Medicaid [edited 14:14] would cost states more.

According to the DNC, Crapo said: "The bill is going to put an unsustainable burden on states through the unprecedented expansion of Medicaid, a government program that is consumed by waste and fraud and where we should be finding more savings."

But the DNC cites six mainstream media reports refuting that claim and asserting that the Baucus bill actually increases the proportion of federal payments to states for Medicaid, the New York Times and The Hill.

“We’re sensitive to their concerns. We want to do this right but make them sensitive to our imperatives, too, which are: we’ve got to pay for all of this,” Baucus said. “We can’t foot the entire bill for the states. We just can’t do that,” Baucus said. “We can’t let U.S. taxpayers pay the full state bill” for the expansion. — From The Hill

You can watch Crapo's remarks below.

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Boise Community Radio gets Fed Grant

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 11:10 AM

Jeff Abrams, Radio Boise
  • Jeff Abrams, Radio Boise
Boise’s online radio station, radioboise.org, is another step closer to over the air broadcast with a $226,198 U.S. Department of Commerce grant, awarded through the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program.

The grant requires a $75,000 local match, and executive director Jeff Abrams said they also need to raise $150,000 for the first year of operation.

The BCR effort began in 2002. Last year the station won a permit from the Federal Communications Commission to broadcast on 89.9 FM in the Boise area. Now they need to buy stuff to broadcast, including a transmitter, antenna and studio gear, which Abrams hopes to secure by late spring or early summer of 2010.

“We are the biggest area in the country without community radio. This is just the next step in creating an independent, noncommercial, locally-programmed radio station that we can call our own,” Abrams wrote in an e-mail.

Radioboise.org has a nearly-full line up of programming, including many local DJs and radio personalities, many of whom are ready to move to broadcast.

Idaho Public Television and Boise State Radio also applied for funds.

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Go See Trolley

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 10:40 AM

The City of Boise will host an open house on Mayor Dave Bieter’s proposal to bring a streetcar to the downtown area. On First Thursday, Oct. 1, you can speak with city officials about the plan, hear how the idea came about, how it might be funded and where it might roll.

Bieter first proposed the streetcar in 2008. A Streetcar Task Force is studying the idea and expected to release a report by the end of the year. You can leave comments on the plan at the open house, from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the storefront at 821 W. Idaho St.

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