Thursday, February 25, 2010

Federal Government Gives Idaho Hopefuls Two Thumbs Down

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 4:20 PM

The Panhandle Area Council's proposal for a fiber optic network was rejected by the Rural Utilities Service, according to project manager Ernie Bray. He's anxious to make adjustments and reapply for round two, but there's a huge problem: The deadline for round two is Monday, March 15, and he doesn't know why RUS denied the application.

"The problem is, we got an e-mail saying we were rejected. We've been in phase two due diligence for weeks and gotten no word," he said. "Just all of a sudden, nope, you're rejected. But we don't have a letter yet."

Bray is frustrated because he knows the two federal government agencies responsible for awarding and distributing broadband stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are going to be getting stronger applications because of more clear priorities for round two. But he doesn't know what RUS didn't like about his round one materials.

"You're thrown out on your ear two weeks before the new deadline, and they still haven't given us the reason," he said. "Plus a lot of stakeholders only meet once a month. How can you make your second application better? You can't."

City of Ammon IT director Bruce Patterson told BW that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration denied its application, as well.

"We intend to revise it and try and comply with the second round priorities and resubmit," he said.

Mary DeWalt, director of Ada Community Library is not planning to reapply for public computer center funds after also receiving a rejection letter from NTIA.

"We'll still have public access computers in the new [Lake Hazel] branch," she wrote in an e-mail. "Just not as many and no special equipment or formal instruction setting, unless we can find another way."

DeWalt previously asked BW to clarify for the record that no one helped the library prepare its application. In a Feb. 10 news feature, I wrote, "According to a loud chorus of applicants, Rep. Walt Minnick's office took the lead in helping the Idaho dozen prepare applications."

However, DeWalt agreed that the Congressional staff was good about communicating information about the process.

While the Utah Education Network was awarded $13 million this week, BW was not able to confirm that any of the 12 Idaho-based applications had been funded. All notifications from the two agencies are expected to be made by Monday, March 1.

BW has been working with RUS to secure an interview with Chairman Jonathan Adelstein. Look for updates on citydesk as the story progresses.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cope Keeps Butch Up at Night

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2010 at 11:10 AM

The headline above is not quite accurate.

But Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter did tell a breakfast crowd of reporters this morning that he bristles at the headlines he sees that attribute some motive to his actions as governor. His chief example, though he did not name BW columnist Bill Cope, was Cope's recent column, The Kill Joy. (Subhead: Otter's inferior past is Idaho's inferior future.)

Otter wrote about his treatment by the press in a recent OPINION column that some newspapers across the state ran on their EDITORIAL PAGES:

However, I did not propose closing any parks or eliminating any agencies. I did not propose “a batch of half-baked plans to zero out small but politically popular state services.” I did not ignore “hidden costs.” My approach was not, “If it brings joy to people, government has no business doing it.” And I am not trying “to run parks or public TV on the cheap.” —Otter's recent guest opinion

Otter says that contrary to some of those headlines, the cuts to state government that he is making keep him up at night, cause him to call legislative leadership late at night and early in the morning and are tougher than he once thought to implement. He said he "bristles" at the headlines and asks for some compassion from columnists.

"Otter doesn't want to cut," Otter said. "I would like to see some compassion. This is a tough tough position to be in and I've got to pick and I've got to choose."

Otter said the headline he'd like to see is "Otter obeys the Constitution."

At the same event, Otter was asked what he would want the hallmark of his tenure to be, were the state budget flush with cash.

"Happiness," he responded.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Debates Go Statewide

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Local TV stations took a lot of flack in past years for their handling of political debates (limiting access … not having all the candidates … ), but it looks like this year they’re at least trying to reach more voters.

KTVB Channel-7 and its parent company, Belo Corp., announced that it’s joining forces with two other stations to broadcast a series of four general election debates across the state.

KTVB will cover the southwestern and central portion of the state, while KREM Channel-2 will cover North Idaho and KIFI Channel-8 will take care of the eastern chunk of Idaho. The partnership means the debates will be available in every home in the state.

To get them out further, the debates will be available for Idaho Public Television to broadcast as well.

The Idaho governor’s race debate will be held at the College of Idaho on Wednesday, Oct. 13, while the debates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House District 1 will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and Wednesday, Oct. 20, respectively, at Northwest Nazarene University.

Finally, the U.S. House District 2 debate will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the College of Southern Idaho.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Boise Courts Google for Real High Speed Internet

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 6:33 PM

I just tested our bandwidth here at BWHQ and got a pokey 1.58 megabit per second download speed. We use Fiberpipe for our ISP and happen to be across the street from a Qwest switching station.

A recent commenter at boiseweekly.com suggested the Japanese get more like 28 megabits per second.

Google wants to build an experimental 1 gigabit per second fiber optic network in one or more communities across the country. That means we can blog 1,000 times faster, for one. It also means we can do things online that aren't even imaginable right now.

This is how the Goog describes it:

In the same way that the transition from dial-up to broadband made possible the emergence of online video and countless other applications, ultra high-speed bandwidth will drive more innovation—in high-definition video, remote data storage, real-time multimedia collaboration, and others that we cannot yet imagine. It will enable new consumer applications, as well as medical, educational, and other services that can benefit communities. If the Internet has taught us anything, it's that the most important innovations are often those we least expect.

In other words, with high speed internet you might just pee your pants. And no one would know. It's that fast.

Take it from James Kelly:

That's got Boise economic developer Cece Gassner thinking. Since Google announced the test project, Gassner has received some 50 e-mails encouraging the city to throw its hat in the ring.

"We have a pretty temperate climate and a relatively easy terrain to navigate," Gassner said. "With the natural need in this area for better broadband service ... I think it would be a great addition to Boise"

Gassner is filling out an application on behalf of the city, but anyone can nominate their city here.

Google will accept applications through March 26. They are looking to roll out fiber to between 50,000 and 500,000 consumers and businesses in one or more towns as part of the test.

I'm still figuring this all out, but last week we wrote about federal broadband grants that appear to be overlooking many small, worthy, innovative projects in favor of existing ISPs. It's clear that Google's move is a direct challenge to those existing ISPs, going directly to interested city and county officials to make their best pitch for why super-high-speed internet would unleash a flood of innovation.

Google wants us to do a little jig though, producing little videos and executing little social media strategies to get their attention. Seattle and many other cities are interested in being picked, so Gassner is planning to at least set up a Facebook page for Boise soon. Anyone else out there have some ideas? Anyone else peeing their pants yet?

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Buy Idaho, Unda' the Rotunda

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 5:43 PM

When venturing out of the press room on the Garden Level, you never know what you'll run into on the upper floors of the Capitol. Sometimes it's a gaggle of kindergartners, hands clasped together around the imported mosaic. Sometimes it's an onslaught of home-schooled children showcasing the fruits of their labor.

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Today, lawmakers and lobbyists were inundated with a trade show from the "Buy Idaho" and "Idaho Preferred" folks. The governor's push with this program has included commercials and a special "Buy Idaho" logo for businesses that keep it in the state, and today was the showcase for a host of Idaho commercial enterprises.

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Just touring around the building, I chatted with a woman working with blueberry fudge, a new concoction from the company "Dorothy" here in Boise. I talked with a man about the new Idaho Driver's licenses slated for 2010, saw a contraption that changed a regular motorcycle into something akin to a snowmobile, and other knickknacks.

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Passing a massage table, I spotted a radio reporter getting his nerves worked on. That tax exemption on services is probably feelin' real gooood right about now ....

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8 of 10 Missionaries Released in Haiti, 2 Idahoans Held

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 4:58 PM

The Haitian authorities have released eight of the Idaho-based missionaries being held there on child abduction charges, but are keeping the two ring leaders for further questioning, according to press reports.

According to the Associated Press:

Judge Bernard Saint-Vil told The Associated Press that the eight were free to leave Wednesday without bail or other conditions.

"The parents of the kids made statements proving that they can be released," he told AP, explaining that the parents had given up their children voluntarily.

Idaho's Congressional delegation released the following statement:

“We are pleased the Haitian court has released eight of the ten arrested without posting bail on the condition they return if needed for questioning. This has been a difficult time for these Idahoans, their families, and friends. We stand ready to assist with any needs that might arise to get them back home as quickly as possible. At this point we do not have any details of their release and return to the United States.

“We urge the Haitian court to quickly resolve the legal issues surrounding Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter. We have asked the State Department to ensure they are treated appropriately, especially considering the medical issues involved, and that they have adequate access to legal representation. We recognize that Haiti is a sovereign country with a judicial process that must be followed. It is our hope the remaining legal questions can be quickly resolved and the two can return home to the United States and Idaho.”

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Anti-Health Bill Passes, Pro-Health Forces Take to the Streets

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 2:30 PM

The group on the Idaho Capitol steps today demands change in the nation's health care status quo.

healthcareforamericanow.org, which organized similar marches across the country today, was emblazoned on professionally done multi-color posters that advocated the need for a national health care plan. Idaho Main Street Alliance, partnered with United Vision for Idaho, to declare that the American system of health care is broken, and needs a fix.

UVI statehouse rally on health care.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • UVI statehouse rally on health care.

Numerous speakers took the steps above the Liberty Bell replica, including Adrienne Evans, Director of United Vision for Idaho.

"We want real health care. We can achieve that through taxation that's just, and fair. We're advocates of a progressive tax. Did you know that just 2 percent of Idahoans made more than $200,000 last year? I think it's indicative of our priorities [as a state]...We're not working together," she said.

Dave Whaley, President of the AFL-CIO group of labor unions, also spoke in favor of health care reform.

"This country needs to do something new and visionary in regards to health care. If those in Congress won't do that, the people need to voice and vote their opinion when the time comes," he said.

When asked about the Legislature's efforts to combat any US Congress-led health care reform, both Whaley and his wife, who was also in attendance, shook their heads.

"What a waste of money, money that could go into school programs and agencies being cut like IPTV. This idea of opposing the Government publicly and looking foolish...it's time to get beyond that," Whaley said.

The bill, ironically dubbed the Health Freedom Act, passed the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning, on a near party-line vote, with only Lewiston Republican Joe Stegner opposing it as "meaningless legislation," according to the Spokesman-Review.

Supporters of a national health care plan gathered outside, while opposition to such a plan coalesced inside.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • Supporters of a national health care plan gathered outside, while opposition to such a plan coalesced inside.

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Boise Snubbed in Federal Grant for Streetcar

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 9:37 AM

The City of Boise failed to make the cut for a piece of $1.5 billion in federal TIGER grants, which officials hoped would pay for the bulk of a downtown streetcar project.

Tucson, New Orleans, Dallas and Portland all received funding for streetcars. Top dollar grants funded rail freight projects including $105 million for a freight rail line across the Midwest and Atlantic Coast, $100 million for freight rail projects around Chicago and $98 million for freight rail in the Mid-Atlantic.

The list of winners, including descriptions of projects is here, in .pdf format.

Fifty-one transportation projects got a piece of the funding.

“TIGER grants will tackle the kind of major transportation projects that have been difficult to build under other funding programs,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. “This will help us meet the 21st century challenges of improving the environment, making our communities more livable and enhancing safety, all while creating jobs and growing the economy.”

We'll be checking in with Boise officials later today, so check back for Plan B.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Marvel Editor Apologizes for Tea Bagger Ref

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 11:16 AM

Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada told a Comic Book blogger that any references to the Tea Party movement in the current Captain America book were a mistake.

The recent issue portrays an anti-tax protest in Boise that is an obvious reference to Tea.

I heard the Marvel apology on Le Show this weekend, during Harry Shearer's weekly apologies segment. You can read the original apology from Quesada here:

Where Mr. Houston is correct is in our accidently [sic] identifying in one of the held up signs, the group as being a part of the Tea Party instead of a generic protest group. That’s something that we need to apologize for and own up to, because it’s just one of those stupid mistakes that happened through a series of stupid incidents.

The interview goes on to ask how the comic books handle political allegory, which has been integral to story lines for 60 years. Quesada goes on:

Our books are no one’s soapbox. I have always made it a point never to publicly talk about my own political beliefs as I don’t feel it’s my place to do so and use Marvel as a bully pulpit. Our readers come in many shapes and sizes, and we need to be respectful of that. Yes, we have characters that have certain attributes built into them, like political beliefs and religious affiliations, but we try to handle those as carefully as possible, and when we present one side of a coin, I encourage my editors and creators to fairly show the other side. Do we always succeed? No, sometimes things slip through the cracks.

I feel like I should sum this up somehow, but I don't really want to use the Boise Weekly as a bully pulpit.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Memorial Services for Lawmakers Past

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 2:26 PM

Every year, the Idaho State Legislature honors the legislators who have passed away since the last session.

This year, they honored these former colleagues:

John Wilkins Batt, Jr.
Served Canyon County
1963-1964

Charles F. Cook
Served Benewah County
1953-1956

M. Reed Hansen
Served Bonneville and Teton Counties
1985-1992, 1995-2000

S. Lynn Loosli
Served Bonneville, Butte, Clark, Custer, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison, and Teton Counties
1991-1996

Wayne Meyer
Served Bonner and Kootenai Counties
1995-2004

Rich Orme
Served Freemont and Madison Counties
1981-1984

Carol A. Pietsch
Served Bonner and Boundary Counties
1995-1996

Bruce L. Sweeney
Served Nez Perce County
1971-1974

The ceremony called up current Representatives to pay homage to the deceased. Each one presented stories, the lives of the legislators at large, and personal anecdotes and stories.

Rep. Tom Loertscher’s presentation for Reed Hansen was complimented by a potato on the podium; a fixture on Hansen’s desk for years. Hansen would continually remind the Legislature that it should return home as the potato spoiled.

Performances accompanied the ceremonies on both sides of the Capitol, with the Boise State University Meistersingers in the House, and Miss Idaho, Kara Jackson, playing violin in the Senate.

Bruce Sweeney was also honored in the Senate, after the House session.

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