Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Simplot Hill "Art"

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Does somebody have a beef with the Simplots?

Or maybe they're upset at Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter?

Either way, their anger, expressed in unique graffiti on the giant grassy hill of the governor's mansion, formerly the Simplot mansion, is at least misplaced, however, um, pointed it is.

The Simplot mansion's new flair. - SHEA ANDERSEN

It's pretty hard to miss if you're cruising up Bogus Basin Road. If you squint closely at the photo here, you'll see that, yes, someone used grass killing chemicals of some sort to outline the shape of a giant male phallus, pointed up, on the grass of Simplot hill.

Neither Simplot nor Otter live in the house, which was donated to the state by the potato magnate last year.

There's no telling when the perpetrator did the deed. But Mark Reed, the manager of Zamzows on Federal Way, said the common yard herbicide Roundup would have done the trick pretty handily.

"It pretty much kills anything, especially when the heat is on it," Reed said. "When it's 100 degrees, it would take it down pretty quick." If the perpetrator used a backpack sprayer, Reed said, the job would be pretty easy.

Update: It's still there, and stories following the BW scoop have since appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, KTVB Channel 7 and, our favorite, on the Wonkette blog.

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A Sign of Season's Change

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

No surer sign of a season's coming shift: Bogus Basin needs ski patrollers.

If you think you're hot enough, like skiing or boarding in all kinds of weather, and you can ride while towing a sled, have they got a job for you.

Here's the info from Gretchen Anderson up at Bogus:

The 2009 Special Olympic Winter World Games are coming to Boise and Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. In preparation for this, the Bogus Basin Ski Patrol is accepting new candidates for its 2007/2008 training program. The Ski Patrol is a volunteer program and serves Bogus Basin’s guests and area managers on weekends.

BBSP is seeking advanced and expert level alpine and nordic skiers and snowboarders who are prepared and committed to participate in intense training. Serving on the patrol is a very rewarding community service experience. The work is challenging, the pay is in gratitude and the Ski Patrol is entrusted with significant responsibilities.

If this interests you and you have always dreamed of opening the mountain on untracked snow -- prepare to earn your white cross! As a Patroller—you are the elite, the best of the best.

The registration deadline for the next Outdoor Emergency Care session is August 15, 2007. This session will require attendance on Wednesday evenings through November 15th, 2007. For more information and to apply please visit the Bogus Basin Patrol Web site.

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She's On The Job

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2007 at 4:00 AM

We sent writer Rachel Abrahamson down to the premiere of Bourne Ultimatum last night, to check out the crowd, and maybe report on the reporting of the event (so meta!)

How do we know she was on the job? We saw her on the cover of both the Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Way to get the story, Rachel. We'll look forward to the story. Say, isn't that due, right about now?

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Micron's Side of the Story

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2007 at 4:00 AM

In a recent edition of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce newsletter, we got the longest version of Micron's side of things we've heard yet, from their lobbyist Mike Reynoldson.

In his open letter to the chamber, which we'll print in its entirety after the jump, Reynoldson talks about the reasoning for Micron's layoffs, what the state's economic incentives mean to the company and where Micron is going in the future. It's good timing, since the state's tax incentives for Micron have drawn some scrutiny, as documented here by the Idaho Business Review.

Since Appleton's not talking much, this is as close as we get to a view into their side of the story. The letter is not unlike any number of presentations lobbyists like Reynoldson might make to lawmakers in hopes of either (a) getting out ahead of scrutiny on the worth of fat incentives or (b) explaining the need for more. Not that you'll get new inside dope here, but it's worth the read all the same.

The letter was sent by Nancy Vannorsdel, the president and CEO of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Here's the letter:

Friends,

Recently, you may have read or seen some news, opinion, commentary, or speculation on Micron Technology and our operations here in Idaho.

Micron is the largest private employer in the state, so when we announce a downturn in our business, it is very appropriate for the news media to cover that activity.

But press coverage can also be a little frustrating - particularly when those leveling the criticism are giving "opinion" or "speculation" in 400 words or less. The WHOLE story does not typically make it in these types of articles - Which brings me to this email that I am sending to you today. I want to make sure you have the whole story about Micron's commitment and investment in Idaho.

Unfortunately, some of the figures I am providing to you sound like I am bragging. I prefer to let the investment by the company speak for itself, but with all of the misinformation floating around, I felt like I had no choice but to provide you with some relevant facts to provide some balance.

Incentives

The Idaho State Legislature and state leaders have consistently encouraged employers like Micron to invest in Idaho. They recognize that U.S. manufacturing (particularly high-tech manufacturing) has decreased or been lost to other countries over the years, and the best source for new investment is from those who already have a footprint in the state.

Some have criticized the efforts by the legislature. The critics look at the downturn in our industry and somehow claim that economic development incentives in Idaho are not working. But if you look at what Micron has done since 2005, you will see that we have made substantial investments and brought in new employers who are investing in the state as well.

Please keep in mind, incentives only kick in if a business spends money. The examples below are just a few of the Idaho investments by Micron since the legislature established economic development incentives in 2005:

*In Fiscal Year 2006 (Sept. 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006) Micron spent over1 Billion dollars directly in our Idaho Operations. This includes equipment, tools, remodeling, real property, and research & development. I challenge you to find any other private employer in the state that has come close to this type of annual investment.

*In May of 2006, Micron formed a joint venture with a Connecticut-based company, Photronics. The result of this partnership is a state-of-the-art fabrication facilitycurrently being built on our Boise site. This is a $150 million investment and 100 new jobs. (and a new company investing in Idaho)

*In February of 2006, Micron purchased the former Zilog (company) facility in Nampa. This is a 19 acre site that had not been in operation for several yearsand had not been benefiting the Idaho economy or tax base. Micron has invested tens of millions and is now employing hundreds of people at the site.

*In 2006, Micron also purchased (formerly) California-based Lexar Media. This company has been merged with Micron subsidiary "Crucial Technology" in Meridian, Idaho.

Return on Investment for Idaho State and local government, along with local schools, have seen a great deal of benefit due to Micron's recent investments in the state. Below are some figures that relate directly to Micron and the company's workforce. Additional benefit due to outside vendors and local merchants are not included in this data, but obviously have a substantial impact.

*Micron pays over $13 MILLION in property taxes every year. Incentives encourage companies to invest in local people and property which results in revenue to local government and schools.

*Since 2005, Micron has employed over 10,000 Idahoans every year. It is estimated that Micron employees pay over$40 million in property taxes each year. Incentives encourage companies to invest in local people and property which results in revenue to local government and schools.

*The state sees its share of revenue as well. It is estimated that Micron employees pay over$25 Million in income taxes and over$19 Million in sales and fuel taxes. Once these dollars are collected, they are distributed by state government to benefit the entire state.

Community Contributions

*The Micron Technology Foundation is the largest corporate foundation in the state with over $130 Million in assets.

*Since 2002, the Micron Foundation has paid $14.6 Million to Idaho organizations and individuals.

*Beyond those already awarded, and additional $16.8 Million in future grants have been committed by the Foundation.

*For the school term 2006-2007, Micron's K-12 Programs (outreach programs to Idaho schools) provided:

811 educational events reaching 18,746 students and 1,681 teachers and counselors in 163 different participating schools.

Downturn

Micron is the only U.S. based company producing the specific products we sell. This was not always the case, but all others have either ceased doing business or moved on to something else. It is no secret that other parts of the world have significant cost advantages, and an environment that is very supportive of business development, all of which our competition takes great advantage of. But since Micron was founded in 1978, our corporate headquarters and largest employee base has been in Idaho.

Following the recent reduction in workforce, Idaho remains the largest employment center for the company - employing about half of the company's entire worldwide workforce.

Unfortunately Micron has seen losses of $277 Million in calendar year 2007. Our current structure needs to be adjusted in order for us to better compete in our industry.

We are able to control some of the factors affecting our business such as reducing our costs, but other factors are out of our control - namely the prices being paid for our products. Our prices are subject to market forces, and they declined 40% in just 3 months. Think about the ramifications to ANY business of a 40% decline in sales prices in just 3 months! This type of a price decline makes it very difficult to achieve profitability.

While many speculate on our business decisions and motives, or try to push an agenda, they often overlook or ignore the fact that we have lost $277 Million in the first 6 months of 2007. Could your business or industry survive such losses without making a change?

Friends, these are some of the highlights. I hope that I have not taken too much of your time and that you find the above information useful.

My motive is simply to help provide you with the facts.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Hot Inner Child In the City

Posted By on Sat, Jul 28, 2007 at 9:50 AM

It's going to reach temperatures of over 100 degrees today here in the City of Trees. My spouse of many years usually mows the back yard (the neighbor kids mow our front yard as part of their chores. Yes, we have very good neighbors) but was busy loading a hundred cans of old paint for a trip to the hazardous waste section of the dump. Some of that paint was here when we bought our house 10 years ago. Ugh. I decided the least I could do was get one of his usual unglamorous domestic tasks out of the way for him, so, do-rag on my forehead and mp3 player on my arm, I started up semi-self-propelled gas mower and got to sweaty task of cutting the grass.
Turns out my life sort of does have a soundtrack. My job includes writing about music--interviews, profiles, previews, reviews--which is really lucky for me, because I'm always listening to something.
My playlist today included Keane, Helio Sequence (one of the Sub Pop label's most brilliant moves) and a little Earth, Wind and Fire. If you can listen to EWF's "September" and not move, you're in a coma or dead. Two of our neighboring houses (including the home of the aforementioned kids who give teens a good name) are two-story abodes, so if anyone was on a second floor looking out over our backyard this morning, they probably got an eyeful of my lawnmower dance. But I figure, if you can't groove to a little disco in your own backyard, whilst slogging through what would have been a terribly dreary domestic task otherwise, for fear that someone might be watching, then your inner child needs a swift kick in the keister to bring him or her a little closer to the surface.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

She works hard for the money

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 8:51 PM

OK, I work hard for the money. But sometimes it doesn't feel like work.
We had a freelancer party at BW today; a little food, a little drink; just a little way of saying thanks for all the hard work they do. While we wish we could do stuff like this more often, we make sure we do it at least once a year. If it weren't for those freelancers, the paper just wouldn't get out. It just wouldn't. They are an amazing bunch of people and the energy when they're all in a room together is palpable. They're bright, funny, clever, nutty...everything a good journalist should be.

A couple of our regular columnists came by as well. I'm always so pleased to see Bill Cope, who has been writing a weekly column for the paper for around 16 years. So many people--including other writers--read him regularly, and I get the sense that it's a pleasure for them to meet him; put a face to the name. Dr. Ed Rabin writes a bi-weekly column called "The Antidote" and he hung out for awhile as well. His column is one of the funniest bits of writing I've read, but what's so brilliant is that it's always funny. Getting to know and working with those two is not something afforded to just anyone and I'm honored to work with them both.


Right at this moment, I'm watching a new HBO show called Flight of the Conchords. It's a show about two working New Zealand musicians/best friends, Bret and Jermaine, trying to make the big time in New York. They and their music are weird and freaking funny and really pretty damn good. A review in Wired magazine wasn't the most favorable so I was a little hesitant, but I think it's hysterical and well worth checking out. One of the songs I heard on tonight's show made me think of the Style Council. "My Ever Changing Moods" is one of my all-time favorite songs (used to be on every mix tape I ever made). Thank god for YouTube. I just clicked over, did a search and suddenly, it was 1984 again.

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Merrill's Future?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Spent some time on the phone with Eagle Mayor Nancy Merrill, who's in the news just now for brokering a private meeting between Ada County mayors and others.

But she's got some other things on her mind, too.

You may recall that Merrill recently announced that she would not be running for re-election for the mayor's office.

But that doesn't mean Merrill, 60, is ready to throw in the towel on other political pursuits, she said.

"There's lots of ways to serve," Merrill said. "I just don't know what direction my feet will go."

Although she's getting mixed reviews bout her decision to hold a private meeting with other valley leaders, she's still a name that pops up in consideration for possible political runs, whether it's in the Legislature or otherwise. Merrill is a Republican.

She wouldn't say never, she said.

"You never turn anything down," she said. "I'll look at every opportunity that comes along and see how I can best serve."

Merrill has been mayor of Eagle for five years. She began her involvement with that city in 1992, when she served on a city committee on design review and urban renewal. She was on the city council for seven years. In 2003 Merrill was appointed to fill out the term of Rick Yzaguirre, who became an Ada County Commissioner.

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Merrill's Future?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Spent some time on the phone with Eagle Mayor Nancy Merrill, who's in the news just now for brokering a private meeting between Ada County mayors and others.

But she's got some other things on her mind, too.

You may recall that Merrill recently announced that she would not be running for re-election for the mayor's office.

But that doesn't mean Merrill, 60, is ready to throw in the towel on other political pursuits, she said.

"There's lots of ways to serve," Merrill said. "I just don't know what direction my feet will go."

Although she's getting mixed reviews bout her decision to hold a private meeting with other valley leaders, she's still a name that pops up in consideration for possible political runs, whether it's in the Legislature or otherwise. Merrill is a Republican.

She wouldn't say never, she said.

"You never turn anything down," she said. "I'll look at every opportunity that comes along and see how I can best serve."

Merrill has been mayor of Eagle for five years. She began her involvement with that city in 1992, when she served on a city committee on design review and urban renewal. She was on the city council for seven years. In 2003 Merrill was appointed to fill out the term of Rick Yzaguirre, who became an Ada County Commissioner.

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Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

With fires already burning on the Boise National Forest, officials are increasing restrictions in an effort to keep even more from starting.

Forest officials announced earlier today that Phase II fire restrictions are now in effect for the Boise, Payette and Sawtooth National Forests. Basically this means no open flames on the forest, including campfires, field burning or any open burning of any kind.

Additionally: Smoking is banned outside an enclosed vehicle or building; all motorized vehicles must be on designated roads and trails; all chainsaws or other motorized equipment must have spark arresters, and anyone using this equipment must patrol the are for at least an hour before leaving; and blasting and welding cannot be done between 1 p.m. and 1 a.m.

“The whole point is to try to keep the firefighters working on the fires they have ... rather than jumping off them to deal with initial strikes on human-caused fires,” said Kristy Bryner, fire information officer.

Campers are still allowed to cook with propane or white gas.

There are spotty closures across all three forests, as well as across the state. Bryner said anyone still hoping to do some camping this weekend should head to the southern end of the forest (south of Idaho City). Currently, only the Boiling Springs and Stolle Meadows campgrounds are closed, although the threat of more dry lightning forecasted for Friday could change the situation quickly, Bryner said.

The Trapper Ridge Fire has burned 11,159 acres on the Boise National Forest, while the Cascade Complex is up to 11,981 acres and is only 2 percent contained. The Middle Fork Complex has burned 5,900 acres and is 20 percent contained.

The Murphy Complex fires, south of Twin Falls continues to be the largest in the nation, having burned 649,131 acres. The fire is now 37 percent contained.

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What's the Word? Ah, "politburo"

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2007 at 4:00 AM

In Stalin's Russia, the Communist governing body was known as the Political Bureau, or politburo for short.

As he consolidated power, Stalin turned the politburo into a "supreme executive and legislative body" that was "entirely in command of its membership, decisions, and debates," according to the ever-handy online Marxist Encyclopedia.

I just can't help but think of a certain Boise company these days when I'm perusing politburo history. (You know, because I'm constantly pondering Russian history...ahem... )

Of course, it's Micron we're all talking about here. The company announced this morning that its outspoken board member Gordon Smith, he who dared speak ill of Steve Appleton, would be leaving the board.

Now that's what I call exercising some control over the message.

They've shown their ability to do so by yanking Smith from successive interviews with other media, and by allowing Appleton to speak only with KTVB, whose reporters lobbed softballs at Appleton, letting him spin the story about layoffs to his advantage.

And now? Smith has to make tortured statements about leaving the board "for personal reasons," which is akin to a politician, seared in the press for some scandal, saying he'll leave office to "spend more time with my family."

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