Monday, November 23, 2009

Amidon Sues in Genital Taser Incident

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 4:45 PM

Gerald Amidon
  • Gerald Amidon
Gerald Amidon, the man Boise Police officers Tased in the groin on Valentine's Day, has officially filed a federal lawsuit against the city.

The complaint provocatively recounts the night with subtitled sections such as "The Valentine's Day Spat and the Big Guy," "The Officers Arrive and Force the Door," "Plaintiff Is Tased Despite the Fact that He Offers No Resistance To Arrest and Cuffing," "Plaintiff is Further Threatened and Tased While Handcuffed," and "Post Arrest Factual Allegations."

The lawsuit was filed Nov. 13 against Boise Police Department and officers Cory Bammert, Diedra Harr, Guy McKean, Mark Abercrombi, and officers identified as Does 1-10 and John Roe.

Amidon alleges that an officer used a Taser to shock him at least twice. A recording of the arrest appears to indicate that an officer, allegedly Officer McKean, threatened Amidon saying he'd Taser his "balls" if "he move[d] again."

The lawsuit alleges also: "Plaintiff could feel the heat of the recently discharged Taser against his testicles and terrified of what might happen next, attempted to remain motionless while trying to get air into his lungs.

Ron Coulter with Coulter Law Group alleges that Amidon was a victim of excessive force utilized by defendants. The lawsuit states that:

At all times throughout the incident, Defendants Bammert, Harr, McKean, Abercrombie, and Doe were present and aware of the violations being committed by one or more of their co-defendants.

The document also alleges that, "Although use of force reports were filed and investigated per Boise police procedure, the investigation was wholly inadequate excluding any photos of the Taser burns, any documentation of the interviews with officers on the scene, and no interview at all was done with either Plaintiff or his girlfriend who was on the scene."

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City Denies Homeless Charges

Posted By on Mon, Nov 23, 2009 at 4:34 PM

The City of Boise has filed a response to the seven homeless people who sued last month, asserting that camping arrests did not violate their civil rights.

The lawsuit charges the city and the police department, which city attorneys claim is immune from litigation, with civil rights violations for arresting people for public camping when they have no other place to sleep. In the 10-page response, assistant city attorney Scott Muir denies any wrongdoing or constitutional violations by the Boise Police Department and details some of the arrests cited by the plaintiffs.

Muir said the merits of the lawsuit would be argued in further motions, after discovery begins.

In the lawsuit, the seven homeless plaintiffs detail their arrests and the costs—both cash money and to their chances for pulling themselves out of homelessness.

9. Plaintiff CRAIG FOX is a homeless Boise resident. He moved to the Boise area
three years ago to help his elderly mother who lived in Meridian. He became homeless several
months ago after he lost his job at a convenience store. He has had difficulty obtaining
employment because of the economy and because he has severe arthritis in his hip, which limits
his mobility. He has explored the possibility of housing assistance, but Boise currently has a six-
month waitlist for any form of housing assistance. In May 2009, Fox received a disorderly
conduct citation for sleeping in Ann Morrison Park in Boise. During the afternoon, while he was
waiting for the Sanctuary shelter to open, he laid down on a bench in the park. A Boise police
officer woke him up and issued a disorderly conduct citation. The officer explained to Fox that it
is illegal to sleep on a bench within the Boise city limits and that he could only lie on the grass.
Fox was convicted of disorderly conduct and served two days incarceration. Fox worries that
having this conviction on his record will make it more difficult for him to find employment,
housing, and benefits. He also fears that he will receive additional citations and fines that he
cannot afford to pay. Fox tries to keep moving, to the extent that his arthritis allows him to, in an
effort to avoid being noticed by Boise police officers. When he stops in any one place, he tries
to remain hidden.

Similar data is provided for each plaintiff. The city acknowledges the arrests, in each case, but puts its own spin on the facts, by providing more details from the casefiles:

Answering paragraph 9 of Plaintiffs' Complaint, Defendants admit that Plaintiff Craig Fox was cited on May 12, 2009, for Disorderly Conduct. When Plaintiff Fox failed to appear on the charge, a warrant was issued. Plaintiff Fox was arrested on the warrant, booked into the Ada County Jail, and appeared in court, all on August 28, 2009. At that time he was appointed a public defender, pled guilty to the charges of Disorderly Conduct and Failing to Appear, and received a sentence of 2 days jail, with 2 days credit. Defendants deny the remainder of paragraph 9 for lack of information, knowledge, or belief.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Intern Statehouse Gander Induces Dizziness

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 at 5:21 PM

Having moved to Boise in late 2007, I’ve only known the monolithic Capitol building as the gated structure that sits between Sixth and Eighth Streets, always with a watchful security guard and bevy of construction activity. Boise natives have often told me of their fourth grade trips to the Idaho Statehouse, and their lessons on the architecture by John E. Tourtellotte.

So when I found myself staring straight up into the oculus of the 208 foot tall Rotunda of Idaho’s most stately building, I was overcome with vertigo. I craned my neck to capture all of the gleaming marble. I believe my simple statement was something like: “Wow.”

Robyn Lockett, capitol services coordinator, guided me through the new underground legislative hearing rooms that replace the old fashioned ‘Knight of the Round Table’ style rooms that were used in the early part of the century.

After we descended the outside staircase into the basement, we walked down a long marble hallway. Robyn told me, as we passed an antique 20’s roll-top desk, that we’d just entered the original basement. A few short steps seamlessly blend the new with the old.

The additions are capped with skylights made of a special glass that keep the basement from roasting, but allow both an excellent natural light source, and provide a view of that impressive dome.

TheĀ Idaho State Capitol Commission released a statement this week, deeming the Capitol building “substantially complete.”

The Legislature will begin moving in, selecting chamber seats, and finalizing furniture arrangements this coming Monday, with the executive following within the next month and a half. The building will open once more to the public on Jan. 9, “on-time and on-budget” as Robyn put it.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Former ITD Director Still Wants Her Job Back

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 1:14 PM

With news of the appointment of a new ITD director this morning, we were reading up on the fate of Pam Lowe's wrongful termination lawsuit, which The Spokesman-Review has been following. Former Idaho Transportation Department Chief Lowe, who threatened a lawsuit in August, filed suit last week and added six more counts to her complaint this week.

She alleges sex discrimination on the ITD Board, for which she tells the Spokesman's Betsy Russell, she has proof that will emerge at trial. But she also alleges cronyism, corruption and political favors all the way up to the Governor's Office that thwarted her efforts to do her job, as Russell reports:

Lowe contends that she was fired because she insisted on cutting back a $50 million contract with a politically well-connected contractor to manage a string of bond-funded highway projects, with Otter’s then-chief of staff, Jeff Malmen, and Transportation Board Chairman Darrell Manning directly pressuring her to keep the big contract intact. Malmen hasn’t responded to requests for comment; Manning has disputed Lowe’s charges.

You can read the lawsuit, courtesy of the Spokesman-Review. The state will respond in a few weeks.

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ITD Hires Michigan Engineer for Director Slot

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 10:29 AM

ITD Director Brian Ness
  • ITD
  • ITD Director Brian Ness
The Idaho Transportation Board has selected Brian Ness, a regional engineer in the Michigan Department of Transportation's northern region, to head up the Idaho Transportation Department, according to an announcement this morning. Ness has a master's degree in public administration and worked with MDOT—a $3 billion agency, compared to Idaho's $500 million budget—for 30 years.

"Ness possesses the professional background, leadership skills, and energy to make an immediate impact on transportation in Idaho," stated Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Darrell V. Manning in the ITD press release. "We know that his degree in public administration coupled with his transportation background will serve him well in effectively leading the transportation department."

Ness begins Jan. 11, 2010, replacing Acting Director Scott Stokes, who took over when former Director Pam Lowe was terminated in August. Lowe recently filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Manning and the rest of the Board. Stokes will resume his former position as deputy director.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Boise Rescue Mission Dedicates New Shelter

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 3:44 PM

City Light Guest House
  • City Light Guest House
The Boise Rescue Mission dedicated a new, 58-bed women's and children's shelter this morning, to accommodate the overflow they have seen all year at the City Light Home for Women and Children across the street.

The new shelter, called City Light Guest House, 1417 W. Jefferson, is in what was once a parking area for the apartments above. The Mission fully renovated the space with mostly donated labor and materials.

“Women with children have been the fastest growing population of homeless people over the past decade. With the economic situation as it is we have seen that number rise even faster. For the past several months, we have had up to 46 women and kids sleeping on the floor at City Light. In order to be sure we can meet this growing need, and to better accommodate the women and kids we’re serving, we are pleased to accomplish this project,” said Mission director Bill Roscoe.

Mission residents Lavern Powe and Randy Marlette, Jr. provide security at the ribbon cutting.
  • Mission residents Lavern Powe and Randy Marlette, Jr. provide security at the ribbon cutting.

The Mission also installed 82 new beds its men's shelter on 13th Street. All the new beds are a step toward filling the shortage of beds for homeless people in Boise, but the Mission is clearly not on board with homeless folks who sued the Boise Police Department for harassment a few weeks ago.

BPD Chief Mike Masterson, with Mission Director Bill Roscoe

Roscoe effusively introduced Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson, calling BPD the "finest and most compassionate" police force. Masterson avoided the topic of the lawsuit altogether, talking about volunteering at the Mission and officers handing out meal tickets.
BPD Chief Mike Masterson, with Mission Director Bill Roscoe

  • We waited a while to ask Roscoe, who has not returned several calls from BW for several days now, and Masterson, about the city's anti-camping policy, but the list of donors Roscoe needed to thank took a very long time.

    Jean Lockhard, director of City Light, in the new shelter.
    • Jean Lockhard, director of City Light, in the new shelter.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Minnick America Bill Short and to the Point

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 5:50 PM

Rep. Walt Minnick introduced a workforce training bill today that he's dubbed the AMERICA WORKS Act, as in the American Manufacturing Efficiency and Retraining Investment Collaboration Works Act.

The bill encourages community colleges and professional-technical programs across the country to design and offer training programs and industrial certifications that are transferable anywhere in the country. The bill is supported by manufacturers, labor and community colleges, what Minnick spokesman John Foster called the "three-legged stool" of the workforce.

Alisha Hyslop at the Association for Career and Technical Education, which represents teachers and administrators at community colleges, said they support industry recognized credentials that are national and portable, but she said the bill appears to be driven mainly by industry concerns, specifically the National Association of Manufacturers.

But Minnick also demonstrated support from organized labor, quoting the Pacific Northwest Carpenters union in his press release, along with representatives of NAM and North Idaho College.

But here's the best part; the bill is short, as in a page. Here it is in its entirety, from the Library of Congress:

A BILL

To require that certain Federal job training and career education programs give priority to programs that provide a national industry-recognized and portable credential.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `American Manufacturing Efficiency and Retraining Investment Collaboration Act' or the `AMERICA Works Act'.

SEC. 2. NATIONALLY RECOGNIZED AND PORTABLE CREDENTIALS FOR JOB TRAINING PROGRAMS.

(a) Workforce Investment Act-

(1) GENERAL EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING ACTIVITIES- Section 134 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2864) is amended by adding at the end the following:

`(f) Priority for Programs That Provide a National Industry-Recognized Credential- In selecting and approving training programs or services under this section, a State, a local board, and a one-stop delivery system shall give priority approval to programs that provide a national industry-recognized and portable credential, certificate, or degree.'.

(2) YOUTH ACTIVITIES- Section 129(c)(1)(C) of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (29 U.S.C. 2854(c)(1)(C)) is amended by redesignating clauses (ii) through (iv) as clauses (iii) through (v), respectively, and inserting after clause (i) the following:

`(ii) to the extent available and appropriate, a national industry-recognized credential, certificate, or degree;'.

(b) Career and Technical Education- Section 3(5)(A)(ii) of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (20 U.S.C. 2302) is amended by inserting `that is nationally recognized and portable and which may provide a basis for additional credentials, certificates, or degrees' after `an industry-recognized credential'.

(c) Training Programs Under TAA- Section 236(a)(5) of the Trade Act of 1974 (19 U.S.C. 2296(a)(5)) is amended by inserting after the sentence that follows subparagraph (H)(ii) the following: `In approving training programs under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall seek to approve programs that provide a national industry-recognized and portable credential, certificate, or degree.'.

PS You may have to read the three other lengthy pieces of legislation this bill amends in order to fully comprehend this stuff. But it's still short.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Tailgating for Books

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 3:15 PM

I hate to be late. Following the mantra to “show up at least five minutes early” expounded by my father, I’ve mastered the art of the casual, on-time stroll into events, parties etc.

At least, until now, thanks to citydesk editor Hoffman, who gave me 10 minutes notice for this assignment.

I boarded the elevator to the Stueckle Sky Center for an apparently formal noon luncheon with the President of my school, Bob Kustra and his rival fresh-off-the-boat chief at the University of Idaho, Duane Nellis, at exactly 12:08 p.m. I tapped the “close door” button repeatedly, until I emerged on the sixth floor, and was overcome by the panoramic view of Boise from the sky.

The luncheon, scheduled before tomorrow’s Broncos vs. Vandals football game, brings to light the little told story of partnerships between Boise and that school in Moscow.

I managed to maneuver to a nearby table, just barely catching the end of the remarks made by University of Idaho's new president, Duane Nellis. Frank Zang, Kustra’s media-relations guy, pulled me aside to fill in the details. Turns out I'd only missed cursory opening remarks; the banquet was more high-class tailgating than the research collaboration symposium promised.

At the tables around me sat numerous members of faculty from Moscow as well as from here in Boise. The professors are members of multiple groups that seek to foster a more heady research climate in the state of Idaho.

Working together, the faculty seek to further the relationship between Boise and Moscow, as well as with the Idaho National Lab, to help Idaho prosper in biomedical research, new energy development, creating research opportunities for students, and managing innovative water solutions.

Those in attendance were a part of the groups CAES, the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, EPSCoR, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, INBRE, the Idea Network of Biomedical Research Excellence and IWRRI, the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute.

Duane Nellis said: “It’s about competing on a national level. Without investing in higher education, we will lose our edge against other states."

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bryan Fischer Says No Muslims in U.S. Military

Posted By on Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 11:07 AM

It sounds like Boise's old buddy Bryan Fischer is continuing his headline making habits in his new home. The former Idaho Values Alliance director, who relocated to Tupelo, Miss., last summer to take a job with the American Family Association, is making waves with his call to kick out all Muslims from the U.S. military in the wake of the Ft. Hood shootings last week.

Writes Fischer in his Focal Point blog:

It it is time, I suggest, to stop the practice of allowing Muslims to serve in the U.S. military. The reason is simple: the more devout a Muslim is, the more of a threat he is to national security. Devout Muslims, who accept the teachings of the Prophet as divinely inspired, believe it is their duty to kill infidels. Yesterday's massacre is living proof. And yesterday's incident is not the first fragging incident involving a Muslim taking out his fellow U.S. soldiers. (Nov. 6)

It's an argument that builds on an Aug. 27 post in which Fischer posited that devout Muslims cannot be good Americans.

Fischer's comments also briefly riled the feathers of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who called Fischer a "knee jerk racist."

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Roberts Drops out of Congressional Race

Posted By on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 12:57 PM

ishot-13.jpg
Idaho House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts of Valley County has withdrawn from the race for Idaho's First District congressional seat, now held by Democrat Walt Minnick.

“It is with great reluctance that I withdraw from the race for the First District congressional seat of this great state. For the past several days, I have been dealing with an unexpected health issue that has affected my candidacy and hampered my ability to make this run. I feel that it is my responsibility to my family to step out of the race at this time and concentrate on my health.”

Roberts said he had carried the "conservative banner" as far he was able, and said that two potential conservatives have approached him about the race.

An hour and a half after Roberts' announcement, Eagle Rep. Raul Labrador told Dan Popkey at the Idaho Statesman that Roberts had been referring to him and that he would be running for the post.

Vaugh Ward at BW HQ
  • Vaugh Ward at BW HQ
It is now clear that Roberts was not talking to Vaughn Ward, who has raised close to $300,000 in the race and has been running full time for more than seven months. Ward even stopped by BW offices last week for an introduction and short interview.

Ward, who has now taken to referring to Minnick as "Walter," tried not to talk about the congressman too much, but could not help himself in a few instances.

"This idea of voting no isn't enough," Ward said. "There's a lot of hand wringing ... my intellectual honesty is not a curiosity, it's what I believe."

Ward also positions himself as a conservative, a real Idaho Republican, asserts that he does not see eye to eye with Sen. John McCain, though he worked for his presidential campaign in Nevada and stresses his relative youth. He fired off a list of Idaho politicos and their ages when they entered politics: Steve Symms, 34; Larry Craig, 35; Dirk Kempthorne, 40; even Frank Church, 32.

Ward is 40.

We asked Ward, who remains in the Marine Corps Reserve, about his past CIA involvement and this is the best answer we could get: He was a case or operations officer—an agent. He was recruited, there are no job ads for that position. And his job was roughly to "engage known Taliban or al-Qaeda and then to get them to do something for us."

Today, Ward commended Roberts legislative service, dropped Pelosi's name again in close proximity to Minnick's and reiterated his conservative cred.

Roberts campaign manager Kevin McGowan issued a terse announcement of his Oct. 23 resignation just yesterday. Popkey also reports that former U.S. Rep. Bill Sali has neither confirmed nor denied his interest in the race.

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