Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dogs Take a Dive

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 5:10 PM

Dogs rule the pool! At least Boise's Natatorium on Tuesday, Aug. 31. To say goodbye to summer, the folks at Boise Parks and Recreation teamed up with the Idaho Humane society for See Spot Splash.


The rules were simple. Dogs pretty much had the run of the pool. Admission was free, but donations help special projects like the Morris Hill dog park. Don't worry about health issues, the Natatorium closed for the summer earlier this week.

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Boise Council Holds Collective Nose and Approves Funding for Mediation

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 4:49 PM

"Mr. Mayor, I hope you've been brushing up on your history of Middle East peace talks."

And with that, Boise Council Member David Eberle joined his colleagues and begrudgingly approved a transfer of $10,000 from the citywide contingency account to be used to fund mediation services between the Greater Boise Auditorium district and the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau. City spokesman Adam Park told Citydesk that the $10K includes contingency funding as the initial contract with a mediator is scoped for $5K.

The short but lively conversation that preceded the vote was consistently pessimistic.

Council Member Alan Shealy: "I feel a little queasy about this. I'm just not sure we out to put a dog in this fight."

Council Member Vern Bisterfeldt: "I've had some bad experiences with one of these groups. If this thing is settled, we ought to get our money back."

Council Member Elaine Clegg: "I too have my qualms."

Council Member T.J. Thomson; "I believe $10,000 is where we ought to draw the line on how much we spend on this."

Mayor Dave Bieter: "I'm plenty uneasy about this myself. I got both parties past some of the early issues, but when we came down to nominal, yet legally challenging difference, I thought we ought to get a mediator."

In the end, the vote was unanimous to fund the mediation.

The spat between GBAD and BCVB erupted when the auditorium district voted 3-2 to cut off funding to the bureau, effective September 1.

"The genesis of the mediation," said Bieter, "is that the visitors bureau is so fundamental in the marketing of our city and our region.

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New Home for Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau...for Now

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 10:30 AM

While the Boise City Council considers paying $10,000 for mediation services between the Greater Boise Auditorium District and the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau, the BCVB is moving into new digs.

John May, manager of the Owyhee Plaza Hotel, told Citydesk that he's offered office space rent free to the bureau, for now. Ten staff members will receive the final paychecks Tuesday, Aug. 31, in the wake of GBAD cutting off funding in a 3-2 vote. To add insult to injury, GBAD sent a letter to BCVB to move out of its long-time headquarters on Front Street.

Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, citing the importance of BCVB to the city's economy, is offering to pay for mediation services to bring the parties back together, but he needs council approval. That item is on Tuesday afternoon's work session agenda.

The BCVB will be relying on a $328,000 operating grant from the Idaho Travel Council, but none of the funds can be used for salaries. In the meantime, staff say they'll be working for free.

May tells Citydesk that the 2500-square-foot space at the Owyhee was currently unoccupied, and he offered to host the BCVB until the space is leased. May says the bureau staff was still unpacking and getting organized on Tuesday morning.

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Boise State, CWI Mull Funding for Public Transit

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 10:15 AM

A decision is expected by Wednesday, Sept. 1, on funding for Route 45, the popular Boise State Express operated by Valley Regional Transit. Currently, VRT runs six round-trips daily between Boise State and College of Western Idaho's Nampa campus. Both institutions provide a funding match for the route. VRT officials said if the schools come in at 2010 funding levels, at least one trip will be lost.

Public comments about other route changes have altered VRT's plan to cut services. Originally, a number of routes were to be cut at the beginning and end of the day. But public comment sent transportation planners back to the whiteboard where they decided to spread cuts throughout the day.

For example, Route 40, better known as the Nampa Meridian Express was originally slated to see its 5:25 a.m. route slashed, but medical professionals voiced their opposition and the route was saved. However, VRT officials say effective Monday, Oct. 4, at least four routes on the Nampa/Caldwell fixed-line service and two routes of intercounty service will be eliminated.

Full details are available at valleyride.org

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The Beginning of the End

Posted By on Tue, Aug 31, 2010 at 9:53 AM

President Barack Obama will speak from the Oval Office Tuesday night, marking the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq. But he isn't expected to make the mistake of saying something like, "mission accomplished."

Just less than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq-down from a peak of nearly 170,000 during the 2007 surge. And this fall, about 1,500 citizen soldiers from Idaho, 600 from Oregon and 600 from Montana will be heading into an Iraqi operation known as New Dawn. The men and women are members of the 116th Cavalry Brigade.

Ostensibly they'll be trainers but in practice, they'll be soldiers who will likely perform some combat duties. Rarely a day goes by in Iraq without some loss of life and large attacks such as last week's violence that killed 56 people still happen with regularity.

The president addresses the nation at 6 p.m. mountain time.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Boise Council Will Consider $10,000 for Mediating GBAD-BCVB Feud

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 5:27 PM

The financial divorce between the Greater Boise Auditorium District and the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau will be a topic of interest during Tuesday, Aug. 31's work session of the Boise City Council.

A last-minute item has been added to the agenda for the 4 p.m. meeting. Mayor Davie Bieter is asking for approval of a transfer of $10,000 from the Citywide Contingency account to be used to fund mediation services between GBAD and BCVB. The council will be asked to approve a change to the city's interim budget to move the funds.

GBAD voted 3-2 on July 22 to stop funding the BCVB effective Wednesday, Sept. 1. Bieter offered to step in to bring both parties "back to the table." But until Tuesday, the price tag of the mediation was unknown. In the request from the Mayor's Office, the mediation is described as "a mechanism for discussion on a possible path forward for the two organizations to continue their longstanding relationship."

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October Hearing on Oil Shipments Slated for Idaho Supreme Court

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 5:00 PM

Idaho's high court has decided to fit into its packed schedule a hearing on the controversial proposal to move four mega-loads of oil equipment across U.S. Highway 12.

Three Central Idaho entrepreneurs successfully halted the shipments when Second District Judge John Bradbury ordered the Idaho Transportation Department scrutinize the plans a bit closer. But oil giant, ConocoPhillips appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, citing financial hardship to the tune of $9 million.

The justices have scheduled a rare hearing Friday, Oct. 1. Traditionally, it takes 10 months to a year to be placed on the Supreme Court schedule.

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Verbal Brawling Continues Over Canis Lupis

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 2:27 PM

On Monday, Boise's City Club hosted Cal Groen and John Rachael of the Fish and Game Department, offering insight into a debate that’s simmered for over two decades. Beginning with reintroduction in the 80s, the cycle of the “are they or aren’t they?” endangered species listing for wolves reaches a boil. In this episode, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula struck down the reversal of wolves as endangered, reclassifying them as protected animals, and effectively banning all hunting of the creatures.

“This was a federal rule that failed, and it failed Idaho,” said Robin Thorson, the regional director of the National Fish and Wildlife Service, before the decision was made. “We regret that. We believed that this path was merited, and the court disagreed.”

Conservation groups cite the move as a win for what some believe to be a misunderstood species. "This decision is a significant victory for wolves, for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, and for all Americans who care deeply about conservation," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.

In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area, allowing for protection until a viable population was attained. Once a defined thirty breeding pairs was reached, Idaho and Montana moved forward with management plans. Idaho began its first wolf hunt in September of 2009, Wyoming declined to create management plans, instead opting to adhere to their view of wolves as predators only—with a shoot on sight listing outside of the national park.

“The path to recovery is through Wyoming. That’s going to be a difficult, impossible path,” said Cal Groen, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Their legislature is very satisfied with their position,” said Groen. “Without Wyoming having a management plan, wolves in Idaho will continue to remain on the endangered species list.”

Judge Molloy ruled that this selective definition of wolves was a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Idaho is pushing the federal government to turn the management over to the state level, while simultaneously courting Wyoming lawmakers, in an attempt to get the three states on the same playing field.

“We have sovereignty,” said Groen. “Our governor will be writing a letter to the secretary of the interior. Our governor has talked to their governor. We’ve offered to talk to their legislature, but they’re very comfortable with where they’re at.”

Expect wolves to be a big topic this coming legislative session.

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HP Gives Nod to $10 Billion Share Repurchase

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 1:58 PM

With approximately 3,000 employees at its Boise facility and thousands more of Treasure Valley retirees, stock-watchers are keeping a close eye on Hewlett Packard's plan to repurchase $10 billion in shares.

HP's board authorized the buyback Monday while the company was in the middle of a bidding contest with rival Dell for the data storage company 3Par Inc.

On Aug. 27, HP raised its offer for 3Par to $30 a share, or $1.88 billion. Dell has the right to match any higher bid and have its offer take precedence within three business days. 3Par specializes in technology that doles out storage space on the fly, keeping data storage costs low.

At the end of last quarter, HP had $14.7 billion in cash and short-term investments.

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House Ethics Committee on Hart Will Meet in September

Posted By on Mon, Aug 30, 2010 at 11:41 AM

It looks like it will be mid-September before a special House Ethics Committee will reconvene to consider Athol Republican Rep. Phil Hart's tax issues.

Iona Republican Rep. Tom Loertscher, the Committee chairman, told Citydesk, "I've been on the phone all morning, trying to get a hold of the committee members so that we can get together. But I've had zero luck."

Loertscher said he wants to meet "sooner than later, but it will not be happening sooner than the next 10 days."

Earlier this summer, the same committee voted to clear Hart of a conflict-of-interest charge in connection with his failure to pay state and federal income taxes.The ethics committee delayed any decision on a charge of abuse of legislative privilege, pending a ruling from the State Board of Tax Appeals. Last week, the board ruled against Hart in his appeal to delay paying back taxes, saying his appeal was not filed in a timely manner.

That clears the way for the Ethics Committee to gather again to consider Hart's fate.

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