Boise Weekly publisher calls for salary cuts
On Friday, Dec 5, Boise Weekly publisher Sally Freeman asked the staff at Idaho's only alternative weekly newspaper to take a 10 percent cut in pay through the end of February, optimistic that revenue would rebound by spring. Freeman told the staff the cuts were necessary to make up for a shortfall in November advertising revenue and a bleak outlook for the coming months.
After the quick announcement at BW's regular Friday staff meeting, Freeman cried briefly and offered to meet with each employee individually.
When Freeman bought the paper with then-husband Bingo Barnes in August 2001, she faced an even more daunting task.
"When I first bought it, in one day, I laid off 11 people," Freeman recalled.
At the time, the paper, owned by City of Roses Newspaper Co., a small Portland, Ore.-based newspaper chain, had 22 employees and half the revenue it has today. While revenue is up and the staff is nearly at the level it was in 2001—when BW boasted a full-time feature writer who left for Eastern Europe after the layoffs—Freeman told Boise Weekly's staff that weak ad sales have rent her bottom line.
Boise Weekly's revenue was down 4 percent on Dec. 3, as compared to 2007, Freeman said. She came in $90,000 below budget in the last six to seven weeks and projects an 8 percent revenue drop-off by year's end, based on languishing December ad sales.
"There were already lots of layoffs happening in media before there was any indication that we were being impacted by the economic downturn," Freeman said.
The same week that Boise Weekly's 20 employees put 10 percent of their paychecks back into the company coffers, some 2,000 newspaper workers in Gannett towns joined the unemployment rolls. More than 15,000 journalists, ad reps and other inky-finger types lost their jobs this year, according to one online accounting.
Boise Weekly sustained itself through the first few months of the national recession in part because it is a locally owned business that depends on other local businesses for much of its support, Freeman said.
Boise Weekly is also poised to embrace the next generation of news delivery in launching a redesigned Web site after the first of the year. The design and implementation has already been paid, Freeman said, and will not be derailed by the economic downturn.
New Democratic leadership
After a decade of leading Idaho House Democrats, Rep. Wendy Jaquet relinquished her position as House Minority Leader to Lewiston physician Rep. John Rusche during the Idaho Legislature's recent organizational session.
Reached by phone, Jaquet told citydesk that she was very pleased and that she would be taking a seat on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, which holds court every morning of the legislative session, pouring over the minute details of the state budget.
Backing up Rusche, as assistant minority leader, will be Pocatello Rep. James Ruchti, whose name sounds quite different than Rusche's when pronounced, though both are frequently butchered by the linguists with microphones that rule the Annex. Boise Rep. Bill Killen will serve as Democratic caucus chair, rounding out the minority leadership team.
On the Senate side, Sen. Clint Stennett remains minority leader, with Sen. Kate Kelly and Sen. Elliot Werk at No. 2 and No. 3.
On the GOP side, Sen. Russ Fulcher, of Meridian, took a brief stab at becoming Senate assistant majority leader during Republican leadership elections at the Annex, but Lewiston Sen. Joe Stegner retained the position.
Not that we saw these proceedings or anything, as leadership elections take place within the GOP caucus meetings, which in one of the perennial First Amendment battles of the Idaho Legislature, are closed. (Democratic leaders were not sure if their leadership elections would be open or closed to the public were anyone to ask, but their caucus meetings are generally open.)
But Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis said that Fulcher still got some fine committee assignments, despite his challenge to Stegner.
"We don't have an attitude of retribution in the Senate," Davis told citydesk.
Davis retained his position as did Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bob Geddes and Caucus Chair Brad Little.
Also in the Senate chamber during the organizing meeting: Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who told citydesk he is not really moving to Washington, D.C., to join the U.S. Senate.
"We come home every weekend, you know," Risch said. The Risches have rented an apartment in the nation's capitol, however.
The House Republican leaders also remain unchanged and, according to another source, went unchallenged.
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, Majority Leader Mike Moyle, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke and Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts also remain.
Dry Creek delayed again
Ada County commissioners delayed a decision on a large planned community proposed for a former ranch east of Highway 55 until Jan. 7, 2009, to review some new information that was presented at a Dec. 3 public hearing.
Todd Lakey, an attorney for the Las Vegas-based developer Land Baron Investments, told commissioners that the Dry Creek Ranch proposal for 4,300 homes meets or exceeds the requirements of the county's planned community ordinance.
The vast majority of testimony opposed the development, including comments from Heidi Patterson, whose grandfather bought the ranch and turned it over to her uncle, Julius Jeker, who died in 2005.
"He would have never sold it for this type of development," Patterson said of her grandfather. "Jekers bought land; they didn't sell."
Craig still guilty
The Minnesota Court of Appeals rebuffed Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's attempts to withdraw his guilty plea stemming from a June 2007 encounter with an undercover police officer in a Minneapolis airport restroom.
The decision, handed down Dec. 9, said that Craig failed to prove that his guilty plea was not specific enough to the charges to hold and that his lawyers also failed to prove that the state's disorderly conduct statute was overly broad.
Craig is considering another appeal. His U.S. Senate term ends Jan. 6.
war in Iraq
U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008, 4,211 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,361 in combat and 767 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,464. In the last week, six U.S. soldiers died.
Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,061 soldiers have died.
Source: U.S. Dept. of
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 89,600 and 97,828.
COST OF IRAQ WAR: $578,136,740,584