Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gov's healthcare recommendations

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 4:54 PM

citydesk has obtained a copy of Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's Select Committee on Health Care report, referenced in his State of the State speech. The document forms the basis of this week's Unda' the Rotunda, which hits stands in the morning. 

The report, viewable below, contains a very useful overview of the state's healthcare system and meager efforts at expanding coverage in recent years. The recommendations, as we tactfully note in Unda', are either unfunded or uninspired.

The only option that has been implemented so far (ok, the governor has only had the report for a few months) is called Healthy Idaho, and for those of you not willing or able to take the challenge issued in our column, this is what it amounts to: mere government sponsored PR.

Our thesis: put the report on the shelf (or send it to Crapo and Risch and them) and work toward a national healthcare system. 

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Nadia is coming

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 7:21 AM

The Special Olympics just released an initial list of dignitaries attending the games:

Vivian Fernández de Torrijos, First Lady of Panama; Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Amina of Morocco; Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa); Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho); Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter (Idaho); Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (California); Maria Shriver, First Lady of California; Vanessa Williams, Actress/Musician; Tom Arnold, Actor/Comedian; Johnny Knoxville, Actor/Comedian; Mariel Hemingway, Actress; Darius Rucker, Musician/Artist; Kenny G., Musician/Artist; Scott Glenn, Actor; Lt. Andy Baldwin, TV Personality (ABC “The Bachelor”); Scott Hamilton, Olympic Figure Skater; Bart Conner, Olympic Gymnast; Nadia Comaneci, Olympic Gymnast; Donna de Verona, Olympic Swimmer; Sam Perkins, Former NBA Star; Lucas Radebe, South African football player; Teófilo Cubillas, Peruvian football player, Billy Kidd, Olympic Skier; Casey FitzRandolph, Olympic Speedskater; Carly Patterson, Olympic Gymnast/Singer; Kristi Yamaguchi, Olympic Figure Skater...
Any suggestions on who BW should interview during the games? First Lady of Panama? Teófilo? Or perhaps, Nadia Comaneci? 

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Is Caldwell an exurb?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 26, 2009 at 9:58 PM

In his lead to the recent New York Times story on boise's smog problem, William Yardley refers to Caldwell, in relation to Boise, as, "this high-desert capital and its outermost exurb."

Exurbia is a term that has come of vogue in recent years, earning mentions on NPR, dropped into magazine articles and about to be Twittered by citydesk. Our layman's understanding of "exurban" is that it is an area to which suburbanites might flee as the city encroaches on their once-tranquil white picket existence.

We have looked it up before, but that was our rough understanding until now. Needless to say, we have not used the term in print, since we don't really know what it means.

But Yardley's usage threw us for a loop: How could Caldwell be an exurb, if there is a barely an urb here? 

A recent Brookings Institution report on exurbia appears to agree with our instincts, mapping zero exurbia in the state of Idaho and little to no exurbs in the Mountain West.
It defines exurbs as: "communities located on the urban fringe that have at least 20 percent of their workers commuting to jobs in an urbanized area, exhibit low housing density, and have relatively high population growth."

Some of this fits Caldwell and Boise's other western outskirts as well; lots of commuters, sprawl and influx of new residents. So the New York Times is not completely off base. 
Brookings continues: "Not yet full fledged suburbs, but no longer wholly rural in nature, these exurban areas are reportedly undergoing rapid change in population, land use, and economic function."

But the Brookings breakdown breaks down at the size of Boise Metropolitan Statistical Area in that it's less than 500,000 people. So nowhere in Idaho, Wyoming or Montana can be considered exurban.

While Canyon County certainly has some exurban characteristics, it seems a bit presumptuous to characterize it that way. But maybe we should write an article about it to find out what exurbia really means before up and blogging about it.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Nampa Rec Center denies family pass to lesbian couple

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 6:07 PM

A Lesbian couple from Nampa is challenging the city's policy of denying family recreation center memberships to same-sex couples.

"It's pretty obvious they're discriminating,” Rachel Dovel said about the Nampa Recreation Center's refusal to sell a family pass to her partner and their son.

Dovel and her partner, Amber Howard, wanted to get a family membership pass to the Nampa Recreation Center for themselves and Howard's 4-year-old son, Logan Henderson. According to Dovel, the Rec Center staff at first told them that they could get a family pass if they had legal documentation proving they were domestic partners—documentation that Dovel and Howard have because Dovel carries Howard on her insurance plan.

But when Howard returned to the Rec Center with the papers, the Rec Center denied them a family pass because Dovel and Howard aren't married under Idaho law.

We are a family even if we can't get married,” Dovel said. “The Rec Center is standing behind those laws as a cop-out.”

The family pass policy, which states that "the primary member and spouse must be legally married," didn't add up to Dovel. The Nampa Rec Center gives family passes to single parents. Moreover, Dovel and Howard checked with Howard's sister and brother-in-law, only to find out they hadn't been required to show their marriage license to get a family pass.

Nampa Mayor Tom Dale defended the city-owned Rec Center's policies, saying that they aren't designed just to exclude gays and lesbians. They also exclude roommates and unmarried couples who live together, he said. Rec Center staff have turned away unmarried heterosexual couples who wanted a family pass, he said. When the staff comes across a family pass application with different last names, it raises a red flag, he said.

The Rec Center's policies have nothing to do with sexual orientation, Dale said, but he said the center gives out passes only to families as defined under Idaho law—laws written to exclude homosexual couples from getting married in Idaho, adopting children together, or being recognized as a married couple if they were married in another state or country.

Marriage rights aside, Nampa's policy discriminates against gay couples by charging them more for identical services: Individual passes for three at the Rec Center would cost $400 a year more than the family pass, Dovel said.

Fortunately, the Caldwell YMCA allowed them to buy a family pass, which is good at YMCAs across the Treasure Valley. Although the costs are slightly higher than the Rec Center's family membership prices and they would have a longer commute, Dovel is grateful that the YMCA recognizes her family.

Other gyms, including the Idaho Athletic Club and Anytime Fitness, have also told Dovel they offer family memberships to gay and lesbian couples.

Dovel and Howard could still have gotten a family pass for Howard and her son in a single-parent family arrangement, while Dovel bought an individual pass, Dale said.

The Rec Center's family pass prices are so low they have to draw the line defining family somewhere, Dale said. “We have to protect the integrity of our funding structure,” he said. Otherwise, he said, “Any two people who happen to be roommates and say, 'Hey, we're family, give us a discount'—we would suffer financially.”

The Rec Center is funded strictly by membership dues, not tax dollars, he said.

Dovel said she plans to fight the Rec Center's policies. She and the editor of PrideDepot.com and members of other LGBT groups plan to rally and protest in front of the Rec Center.

We want to make this as big as possible because LGBT issues that are going on here aren't as out in in the open as in other places,” she said. “We don't want to get it changed just for us. We want to get it changed for everyone.”

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dalai Lama disinvited to Special Olympics

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 11:57 AM

A letter from the Dalai Lama's office that just came across the citydesk indicates that an invitation to attend the Special Olympics World Games opening ceremonies in Boise next month was withdrawn.

The U.S. Office of Tibet in New York City says that the Dalai Lama was first invited to attend the opening ceremonies, to be held Feb. 7 at the Idaho Center in Nampa. But according to Dalai Lama spokesman, Lobsang Nyandak, the Chinese government threatened to boycott the games and shut down Special Olympics programs in China, putting pressure on the organizing committee to alter its invite.

After this pressure, which the Tibetan official says was applied in Nov. 2008, the Special Olympics proposed that the Dalai Lama attend the end of the games, but he was already booked elsewhere later that week.

"It is important to realize that if the people in a free and democratic society know-tow [sic] to the political pressure, we are emboldening the other side in their wrong doings. Standing up against injustice will help China become a responsible member of the world community," the Office of Tibet letter reads. See below for the full text.

The Special Olympics World Games responded to a recent letter to the editor in the Mountain Express that first exposed the controversy. The Special Olympics is placing blame on the Dalai Lama for not being able to attend:
"This invitation was still open when the Dalai Lama unfortunately decided he could not attend. Although regrettable, we respect this decision and hope that this inspirational leader will be able to celebrate Special Olympics with us at a future event."
Special Olympics spokeswoman Kirsten Suto Seckler said that the Dalai Lama was invited to attend the games in general and not for a specific portion of the games, much like world leaders in all 180 countries in which the games have a presence.

Nyandak stessed that the Dalai Lama is still praying for a peaceful winter games in Idaho: "It is not the fault of the organizing committee," he said. "We wish that the games be held peacefully and successfully."

KTVB has more response from local Special Olympics organizers.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama Spurs City Council Run

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 1:34 PM

At last night’s Obama Inaugural throwdown at the Linen Building, TJ Thomson, local 2009 “Grassroots Organizer of the Year” and leader of the Idaho for Obama campaign announced his intent to run for the seat now held by Jim Tibbs on the Boise City Council.

Though Bush countdown clocks have only recently settled at zero and Obama supporters are still nursing their celebratory hangovers, citydesk wastes no time bringing the focus back to local politics. We chatted up Thomson this morning about his upcoming campaign and vision for local change.

“I spent the last two years speaking with people all across Boise while leading the Obama campaign and it gave me the opportunity to hear their thoughts on what needs to be corrected and improved,” explained Thomson. “Based on my experience, I felt like I could come up with the initiative to solve those problems.”

Thomson’s platform is dotted with pretty standard local bullet points: protecting the environment, promoting water and air quality, increasing open spaces, managing growth and urban sprawl and advocating a light rail system.

Some of his more specific platform points include: focusing on green energy development, increasing the number of dog parks, integrating modern technology into local decision making and promoting small local businesses and start-ups by reducing cumbersome bureaucratic requirements.

“In terms of the economy, I really think it’s important that we work closely with the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce,” said Thomson. “I want to bring a high profile to small businesses in particular.”

Thomson is getting a jump-start on the city council races; none of the council members, including his presumptive opponent, two time mayoral candidate Tibbs, have indicated at this early date if they intend to run again.

Thomson hopes that his closeness with Mayor Bieter and their similar political viewpoints will help the City Council to unify and accomplish more over the coming years.

“I’m a big fan of [Bieter] and it’s no secret that I’m a supporter of him. In that regard, it’s going to be a very close working relationship in terms of our similarities and the fact that I know him as a friend and I’ve worked with him in the past,” noted Thomson. “Those initiatives that I’ll be working on will compliment what he’s doing, but at the same time help take some things off his plate. So I think that we’ll be able to work in unison.”

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citydesk digging on New York Times this morning

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 10:33 AM

We've been thinking about ways to make boiseweekly.com more useful and beautiful of late. 

Though we've been reading news online almost exclusively for at least two years now, and have experimented with our own forms of news presentation online, we must say the New York Times is doing amazing things in this area.

Three links from this morning.

First of all, here at citydesk we use tags, labels, keywords, whatever you want to call them. Most news Web sites use them, but we are not super savvy about tagging, nor about the use of tags.

The New York Times used keywords from some 200 years of inaugural speeches to show recurring themes and some of the standout phrases from Obama's speech. You can click the keywords for each president to see them in context. This is a very useful and informative interactive graphic/indexing exercise. We are jealous.

From there you can click through to the Times actual presentation of the speech, which is video accompanied by the text scrolling in time with Obama's cadences. This is helpful for digesting the speech in multiple ways; we really like the experience of reading along. It also allows you to scroll back and forth in the video based on the text.

Finally, did you catch the photo on the front page of the NYTimes.com? We're not sure how long it will be up, but it is a zoomable and scrollable photo that is very nicely presented. Check it out now and if anyone can find a permalink for the photo leave it in the comments.

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Latin tunes and Obama's howdy

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 10:23 AM

In Boise State Radio personality George Prentice's final recordings from D.C., listen to Latin star Marc Anthony, for a warm up, and then listen to Obama's intro to his dance with First Lady Michelle Obama.

Latin Reprise. 

Postcard 6. Obama addresses Western States' Ball

citydesk would like to thank George for hitting us with all this sound!

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Prentice parties; inaugural style

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 5:18 PM

citydesk and Boise State Radio correspondent George Prentice checks in from the ball scene in Washington, D.C., hours before he may get a chance to boogie with the prez and first lady.

Postcard 5. George Prentice teases us about the after parties

... and his sign off: Time for some caffeine. This is a young man's game. You should be here. Actually, everyone should be here.

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More from citydesk's roving radio jockey in D.C.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 6:07 AM

Boise State Radio personality George Prentice, the voice of Morning Edition in town, is up early and feeding us more sound from Washington, D.C.

Postcard 3. Tuesday's frigid hot morning on the National Mall

Postcard 4. Pretice is still looking for Idaho in D.C. (LeFavour Live, Roark Live)

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