Wednesday, December 24, 2008

It Hurts Obama: BW Healthcare Meetup

Posted By on Wed, Dec 24, 2008 at 5:06 PM

An invitation to share your health care system views and woes, from the Boise Weekly:

Throughout the month of December, President-elect Barack Obama has called for small groups of Americans to meet in their local coffee shops and talk about health care reform. In January, the Boise Weekly is calling on all readers to storm the downtown streets and demand an equitable, comprehensive and 21st century health care system.

Wait! No storming the streets just yet.

Actually, we are hosting a Healthcare Meetup of our own on the subject of reform, to gauge the anger level of uninsured, underinsured and insured but unhappy Idahoans, brainstorm ideas for the future of health delivery in our cities and come up with a plan that works for all Americans.

We’re calling this summit the “It Hurts, Obama: BW Healthcare Meetup.”
Because everyone knows we are sick.

So join Boise Weekly at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 4, at the Egyptian Theatre, 700 W. Main St.

Bring your doctor’s office horror stories, a notepad or personal digital assistant of your choice and your best ideas for getting America healthy again.

And just like a pap smear in Canada, this appointment won’t cost you a thing.

For updates on the It Hurts agenda, including resources to help you come better informed and infinite holiday cheer, check every day.

… and healthcare for all.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Idaho bank gets bailout

Posted By on Mon, Dec 22, 2008 at 12:30 PM

With almost $200 billion in federal bank bailout funds out the door and another $47 billion approved as of Dec. 22, the official U.S. Treasury Department position remains “trust us.”

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, that $700 billion bill that Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed in October, was intended to encourage banks to start extending credit again. But no one has tracked what the banks are doing with the money.

“Each financial institution’s circumstances are different, making comparisons challenging at best, and it is difficult to track where individual dollars flow through an organization,” said Treasury official Neel Kashkari earlier this month, according to, an investigative news site that is tracking bailout funds.

But that ‘s more than Curt Hecker, CEO of Intermountain Community Bancorp, pictured above, is saying.

Hecker, whose Sandpoint-based bank is the only Idaho bank to receive bailout funds to date—$27 million—did not return repeated phone calls to citydesk over the course of a week.
Intermountain, a holding company for Panhandle State Bank, the largest locally owned state bank in Idaho, applied for the TARP money and was approved Nov. 7.

“Our concern in this is what are we getting for the money? There’s no requirement for the banks to lend the money,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, which is researching each of the banks that has taken bailout money.

Panhandle’s original mission was to invest community money back into the local economy. But its holding company, Intermountain, now has branches as far flung as Sandpoint, Nampa and Gooding.

So where’s your TARP money going, Hecker?

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Newbie pols: Stephen Hartgen

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 2:27 PM

In 2005, Stephen Hartgen left the publisher’s chair at the Twin Falls Times-News. He got out just in time.

As Hartgen tells it, he left the newspaper holding stock valued at $44 per share, and promptly cashed out. Lee Enterprise stock is plummeting well below $1 this month, hovering just above the quarter range.

Perhaps Hartgen will bring his investment intuition to bear on the state, as he slips into a new chair on Jan. 12 when the Idaho Legislature convenes: Hartgen was elected to represent part of Twin Falls and Owyhee counties as the new District 23 representative.

He has already made some news, floating the idea of a bill to crack down on anonymous posters on Web sites; the suggestion raised the immediate ire of anonymous posters on internet sites. And of the state’s editorial page editors.

Hartgen is not sure if he'll introduce a bill on anonymous commenting, but he's also interested in adding internet harassment to the state's telephonic harassment statute.

Citydesk caught up with Hartgen recently at the Annex where he lamented his old paper’s softening stance on public schools, hailed the process of the state capitol renovation (he chairs the Capitol Commission) and recalled his trip to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis earlier this year.

Hartgen said in his days at the Times-News, the paper was more conservative on education, oriented to accountability and merit pay.

“That’s where I am philosophically,” he said. “I think we need to support education but I also think we need to scrutinize it.”

Hartgen grew up in university family in Maine and he taught journalism prior to becoming a publisher.

In July, after Rep. Bert Brackett moved up to the Senate to fill the late Sen. Tom Gannon’s spot, Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter appointed Hartgen to Brackett’s House seat. Hartgen than ran to defend his appointment in November, winning a solid 65-35 margin against Democrat Mike Ihler.

In recent years, Hartgen has served as a business and political consultant in the Twin Falls area. Hartgen said in an interview that he considers the names of his clients a private business matter.

But according to Idaho Secretary of State expenditure records, in 2006 and 2008, Steven Hartgen & Associates did consulting work for Reps. Fred Wood, Jim Patrick, Bert Stevenson, Sharon Block and, not surprisingly, Stephen Hartgen. He was paid for advertising, media relations, advice and general campaign expenses by several of his newest colleagues.

“The clients–it’s a one time thing–it’s people that I helped, but once the campaign is over, and I would tell you that they all won, it’s not an ongoing relationship,” Hartgen told citydesk.

Along with his stock picks, it's a sign that Hartgen, at least, picks winners.

Citydesk would like to accompany this guy to Vegas for a state legislator convention sometime.

This is the first in a series on Idaho's newest class of legislators.

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Who knew Deep Throat was an Idahoan?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 19, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Just yesterday we picked up the citydesk phone and a voice on the other side said, "This is Deep Throat." We instantly knew who it was, and the individual on the other side of the phone did provide a modicum of banal historical information, on deep background, which may or may not soon appear on the pages of the Boise Weekly or circulate in bits on this blog.

But this morning we awoke to news that the original Deep Throat had died peacefully at home in Santa Rosa, Calif., on Thursday.

What we didn't know but should have, was that Mark Felt, the former FBI associate director who secretly led Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein through the morass of Watergate, was born in Twin Falls.

From today's Washington Post story on his death (page 5, online):
William Mark Felt Sr. was born Aug. 17, 1913, in Twin Falls, Idaho, the son of a general contractor and a housewife. He worked his way through the University of Idaho, waiting tables and stoking furnaces, and graduated in 1935.

He moved to Washington to work for two Idaho Democrats, Sen. James P. Pope and then Sen. David Worth Clark, while attending night law school at George Washington University. He graduated in 1940.

After law school, he worked briefly at the Federal Trade Commission, where he was assigned to ask consumers about their impression of the Red Cross brand of toilet paper. He disliked the job, and in 1942, he joined the FBI.
May more Idahoans in positions of power learn from his example, trust a reporter and do the right thing. Amen. (By the way, you can reach citydesk at 344.2055, anytime. There are plenty of parking garages in the vicinity of our BoDo office...)

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

This Week in BW (12.17)

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 9:00 AM

Why write about what's in this week's issue when you can watch Rachael Daigle talk about it, live, on the air:

Daigle on The River, 12-17-08.

Read Schnoor's sculpture shifting piece here.

Also, Daigle doesn't get around to opining on our news section, but we have a story on green realtors from Lora Volkert that examines whether environmentally friendly home sales is more than a fad. And we try to check in with newly elected Ada County Commissioner Sharon Ullman only to find that she's not going to be talking to the press. Is this more of Ullman's wacky antics or a carefully crafted form of spin control she ripped off Barack Obama? We'll just have to wait and see...

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Idaho budget sucks

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2008 at 9:40 AM

State economist Mike Ferguson delivered a 45 minute slide show lecture on Idaho’s and the nation’s declining economic fortunes to the state’s television, radio and print media recently.
His message: “From the standpoint of the economy what we’re going to be experiencing is pain.”

To prove it, Ferguson delivered a series of charts showing lines that rose, rose, rose, leveled out, rose, and then glissaded steeply below zero in the past few months.

You can watch the rest of the Steve Jobs-like performance at Idaho Public Television's Idaho Reports. To view a .pdf of the slides click here.

The charts, Ferguson said, demonstrate that (1) Idaho’s economy is faced with unprecedented economic volatility; (2) after 20 years of spectacular growth, Idaho has the most rapid decline in economic progress in the nation; and (3) that Idaho is one of the hardest hit states so far during the current national recession.

But don’t get your hopes up for a bailout from President Elect or the new Congress, Idaho.

Ferguson’s economic model already includes an assumption that the Feds will dole out some $550 billion in economic aid to the states next year.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Green parking

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 3:54 PM

Five cars, a small truck and a motorcycle are now parking for free in downtown Boise, about a month after the city's new zero-emission vehicle parking ordinance went into effect.

The new city law allows zero-emission cars to park at city meters for free, as long as they display a $10 permit.

“It’s my firm belief that government needs to set the example,” said city parking chief John Eichmann.

Eichmann said the city realizes that only a few Boise drivers have fully electric cars, but that one day there may be thousands of them out there. When citydesk pointed out that could put him out of a job, Eichmann said it would all work out in the long run.

"I'd rather save the environment," he said.

Owners of zero-emission vehicles (no, your Prius does not count), must fill out a form and then have a special emissions inspection.

“The main thing the guys will inspect it for is that the darn thing doesn’t have a tailpipe,” Eichmann said, remarking that some of the cars he's seen have a plug where the gas cap used to be.

Most of the zero-emission vehicles registered in Boise are retrofits, but some factory models are available. California has pushed for more zero-emission vehicles since 1990, to little avail, and more recently offered incentives for hybrid electric cars and trucks as well.

Boise electric car drivers don't get a total free ride; they may park for free, but are still held to the time limits displayed on meters. Overstay your welcome and you may find yourself taking an unnecessary trip in a gas guzzling cab out to the impound lot to recover your tin can.

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Idaho casts four votes for McCain-Palin

Posted By on Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 1:54 PM

In 1964, Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter voted for Barry Goldwater for president, his first time voting and a choice he recalls with pride.

“First time I ever got to vote,” Otter told a crowd of students before presiding over the state canvass of presidential electors at noon today. “That was one of the best votes I ever made.”

Goldwater lost big to Lyndon B. Johnson winning only 38.5 percent of the popular vote and only 52 electoral votes.

Fast forward 44 years and Idaho’s four Republican electors—Darlene Bramon, Ben Doty, John Erickson and Melinda Smyser—cast their votes today for John McCain and Sarah Palin, who did better than Goldwater-Miller with 45.7 percent of the popular vote and 173 electoral votes. But still not good enough.

Otter lectured the assembled students, classes from Centennial High School and from Boise’s STEP program, a high school continuation course for older students with disabilities, on the sensibility of the Electoral College: “There was never a shot fired, there was never a death caused by a peaceful transition of government,” he said.

Six copies of Idaho’s Electoral College certificates were signed and will be sent to Vice President Dick Cheney, the U.S. archives, the Idaho Secretary of State’s Office and to Idaho’s U.S. District Court Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill. Congress will officially count the electoral votes prior to Barack Obama’s inauguration next month.

Outside the Borah Building, while the votes were being cast, a small crowd gathered to celebrate Idaho’s Constitution Day and read a proclamation that Otter had signed. In the audience, a Ron Paulite on a BMX bike, Pro-Life, a former U.S. Senate candidate who offered to bring more strawberries by the BW office next spring and two guys in wigs, dressed up like Ben Franklin and Patrick Henry held forth on the infallibility of the U.S. Constitution.

As for Otter’s 1964 vote for Goldwater, a candidate who would have fit in well at the Constitution Day event on the Post Office steps, even without a wig: that was the last year that Idaho’s presidential vote went to a Democrat.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ICE detainee marries

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 11:23 AM

Juan Manuel Diaz-Juarez is getting his day in court this morning. But last night, Diaz had his day at the altar.

Diaz is one of 16 Mexican men that immigration officers arrested last week during a raid on a Nampa factory. Arrested for unspecified immigration violations, Diaz went before federal judge Mikel H. Williams at the U.S. District Court in Boise this morning.

But last night, his fiancee, Veronica Mason, visited him at the Ada County Jail, and brought along a retired Presbyterian minister, Rev. Ed Keener.

“I did what was necessary and it doesn’t matter where you get married,” Mason said. “We’re both very happy.”

Mason met Diaz a year and a half ago, online and moved from Mountain Home to Nampa to be near him. On Dec. 4, Immigration and Customs Officials arrested Diaz during an immigration raid at Idaho Truss in Nampa.

We wrote about the raid in this week’s BW. Nine of the men arrested have initial appearances before Williams today and more are on the calendar tomorrow.

The wedding ceremony, the first first jailhouse union Keener has performed, took place by telephone, through a thick glass window.

“I blew him a kiss,” Mason said. “We’ll get plenty of kisses in later.”

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Larry Craig guilty plea upheld

Posted By on Tue, Dec 9, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Minnesota's Court of Appeals ruled this morning that Larry Craig, Idaho's senior senator, is not entitled to withdraw his guilty plea in a disorderly conduct case that began in an airport bathroom stall.

Read the ruling here and comment below. We'll have a more detailed report later.

Response from Craig: “I am extremely disappointed by the action of the Minnesota Court of Appeals. I disagree with their conclusion and remain steadfast in my belief that nothing criminal or improper occurred at the Minneapolis airport. I maintain my innocence, and currently my attorneys and I are reviewing the decision and looking into the possibility of appealing. I would like to thank all of those who have continued to support me and my family throughout this difficult time.”

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