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Friday, April 30, 2010

Idaho to Weigh in on Farm Bill

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 5:07 PM

Rep. Walt Minnick and some members of the House Committee on Agriculture will be in Nampa tomorrow to hear from Idaho farmers about their needs for the 2012 Farm Bill.

The committee is touring the country in advance of congressional debate on reauthorizing the farm bill.

The following producers were chosen to testify live at the event. Minnick spokesman Dean Ferguson said the committee reached out to various sectors of Idaho ag to identify them:

Mr. Fred Brossy of Shoshone, organic wheat, bean, potato and hay producer.
Mr. Scott Brown of Soda Springs, wheat and barley producer.
Mr. Doug Gross of Wilder, potato producer.
Mr. Kelly Henggeler of Fruitland, apple, plum and peach producer and packer.
Mr. Galen Lee of New Plymouth, sugarbeet, mint, asparagus, hay, grain, corn and cattle producer.
Mr. Brian Kernohan of Coeur d' Alene, forestry.
Mr. Ron Bitner of Caldwell, winegrape producer and vintner.
Mr. Charlie Lyons of Mountain Home, cattle producer.
Mr. Adrian Boer of Jerome, dairy producer.
Ms. Cindy Siddoway of Terreton, lamb producer.

The public can submit comments as well on the official Farm Bill Feedback Form.

The hearings start at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1 at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa in the Old Science Lecture Hall, 623 Holly Street.

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Debating Some Stuffs

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 4:58 PM

It's tough to drum up public interest in a non-presidential year primary election. We've provided a forum for debate at Electionland, but only a few of you have taken the initiative to ask candidates questions.

The Statesman now has its Voter Guide up, profiling 85 candidates in 33 races, including Treasure Valley legislative races. The Statesman got a pretty good response rate to their predictable questions (count the number of candidates whose most recent read is Going Rogue and we'll give you a cookie), providing one of the only places to find some candidate positions.

Read the Statesman guide and then pose your own followup questions at Electionland. Many of the candidates will answer your questions personally there.

Tomorrow, Tea Party Boise is holding a candidate forum at Eagle High School (6 p.m., 574 Park Lane, Eagle) to focus in on candidates for U.S. Congress. Tea Partiers will ask about: FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY, CORRUPTION & ETHICS, SOVEREIGNTY & STATE’S RIGHTS and LIBERTY in all caps. (The invite says it's for the "voting public," so bring your birth certificate!)

On May 4, Idaho Public Television hosts its first Idaho Debates debate with Idaho Supreme Court Justice candidates John Bradbury and Roger Burdick, starting at 8 p.m. and limited to 30 minutes. On May 9, candidates in the Second Congressional District—Chick Heileson, Russ Mathews and Mike Simpson—will debate, starting at 7 p.m.

Simpson is being a good sport here; Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter has refused to debate on Public Television for years and Sen. Mike Crapo also turned down the League of Women Voters, which sponsors the Idaho PTV debates.

On May 11, First Congressional District candidates Vaughn Ward and Raul Labrador will try to out-conservative one another on tax-payer funded public television and on May 18, Rex Rammell and Sharon Ullman will take turns pummeling the ghost of Otter—the former with an inflatable dinosaur—as they seek to peel off votes from the incumbent governor. Both debates begin at 8 p.m.

You'll note that several candidates are missing from the list, including Otter and Crapo, as we mentioned. Otter makes a good point in his refusal to participate, though it appears to be a hollow excuse. Otter told the League that he deplores the decision to limit participation to active candidates, thereby excluding fellas like the affable Pete Peterson.

“Mr. Otter has always objected to the fact that we’ve established criteria for who should participate,” said Elinor Chehey, debate coordinator for the League.

Chehey sent us a .pdf of a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Arkansas Public Television to establish objective criteria for participants in political debates, Arkansas Educational Television Commission v. Forbes. Still, we think Pete ought to be included in the debate, especially since an unnamed public television personality reportedly has a pair of Beat Butch briefs displayed on an official bulletin board.

Peterson makes the point that he's had campaign events in London and is airing television commercials in Kentucky (what)? And that his platform includes beating Butch, having a good time and increasing voter turnout. He's repeatedly said he does not want to be governor.

On May 11, the Eagle Chamber of Commerce will hold a debate for Legislative candidates from Eagle. It is 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Eagle Nazarene Church, 1001 West State St. Lunch is available for a charge and there are free seats for observers.

We'll let you know about the other debates out there next week.

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boise Mexican Consulate Warns Travelers to Arizona

Posted By on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 at 9:49 AM

The Mexican Consulate in Boise is circulating an alert to Mexican nationals who plan to travel to Arizona, warning of the dangers implied by the recent passage of Arizona's “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” (SB1070).

"As was clear during the legislative process, there is a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors," the travel alert states.

The alert comes from the Mexican Foreign Ministry and urges all visitors to Arizona to carry immigration documents with them, to avoid seeking work along public roadways and to be aware of their "inalienable human rights" under state, U.S. and international law. It also urges that any protest of Arizona's new law be conducted in a peaceable manner.

The Mexican government communicated its concerns to Arizona authorities several times prior to passage of the law.

"Criminalization is not the way to solve the phenomenon of undocumented migration. The existence of cross-border labor markets requires comprehensive, long-term solutions. Joint responsibility, trust and mutual respect should be the basis to address common challenges in North America," the Mexican government said in a press statement.

The Mexican government also pledged to continue to fight organized crime along the border while calling on U.S. officials to "continue to strengthen their actions to curve the demand for drugs and to control the illegal traffic of weapons, bulk cash and chemical precursors."

Read the full travel alert after the jump.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Downtown makes Boise go 'round

Posted By on Thu, Apr 22, 2010 at 2:43 PM

Charles Royer
  • Charles Royer

If you happened to be walking through the North End last night, you might have seen former three-term Seattle Mayor Charles Royer sittin’ on (CCDC boss) Phil Kushlan’s porch, talkin’ about Boise and world issues.

According to Royer, who was in the City of Trees to deliver this morning’s keynote at the 23rd annual State of Downtown meeting, the front stoop consensus was that “healthy cities have healthy downtowns,” and that downtown investment will speed economic recovery.

“It starts from the center,” said Royer, who served as Seattle mayor from 1978 to 1990 before going on to lead Harvard’s Institute of Politics. Today he owns The Royer Group consulting firm. “It’s where you go to throw your hat in the air after World War II.”

While that last statement self-admittedly dates him, Royer added that the sentiment—downtown as a city’s civic heart—rings true even in dark times like these.

“The news is the buck still pretty much stops on Main Street,” he said.

But “Main Street” has developed more than a few potholes over the past couple of years, and the big question is how cities will adapt to the “new normal,” which demands they do business differently.

A central component of that “new normal”: Recognizing the “nexus of transportation, housing and the environment.”

In short, Royer said, what’s needed in the current recessionary epoch is increased urban density, beefy public transit systems and cultural shifts that emphasize environmental protection and a healthy work-life balance.

“The most conspicuous attribute of our wealth is to be able to walk to work,” he said.

Boise is doing a lot of things right. It has ample green spaces and pedestrian friendly downtown districts, civic pride and a nearby university that actively reaches out to the community.

According to Karen Sander, executive director of the Downtown Boise Association, 52 new businesses opened downtown in 2009, while 24 closed. The 60-block “downtown business improvement district” still enjoys the lowest commercial vacancy rates in the Treasure Valley, and parking receipts are on the upswing.

A slate of development projects are in the works as well, ranging from Concordia University’s new law school on Fifth and Front streets, to Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP) on Ninth and Broad, to the Capitol Plaza office complex on Capitol and Front.

“We’re poised to rebound,” Sander said.

Where Boise lacks, Royer said, is in local control—something Mayor Dave Bieter has long championed as a necessary tool for much-needed, and long-delayed, infrastructure investments. (See: The Streetcar.)

Without local autonomy, Boise is at “the tender mercies” of a Legislature that doesn’t always buy into “the liberal tendencies of its largest city,” Royer said. Barring any sudden—and unlikely—grant of local taxing authority, he emphasized regional partnerships and mechanisms that “have teeth,” and “can’t be ignored up the street at the capitol.”

“Without a strong coalition that’s diverse enough not to be ignored by the Legislature, you’re not going to get very far,” Royer concluded.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Oklahoma City, Closer than you Think

Posted By on Mon, Apr 19, 2010 at 1:35 PM

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. The anniversary is also marked by surges in anti-government activity verging on the type of militancy that spurred the bombing, and a new poll showing that a majority of Americans, not just the lunatic fringe, distrust government to some extent.

As a member of far-right militia movements, and an avid fan of The Turner Diaries, a book in which a second American revolution is fought against the federal government, Oklahoma City bombing perpetrator Timothy McVeigh was known for taking part in protests similar to those happening in Washington and Idaho.

In the clip below, Portland State University sociologist Dr. Randy Blazak, an expert on far-right groups, explains more about how the Oklahoma City Bombing had its roots in movements closely related to what has been playing out on the streets in recent weeks.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Welcome to the Tea Party Comrade Minnick

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Yesterday was Tax Day, now the venue for an annual tea party protest in Boise and elsewhere, for the second year running.

While we noted in January that the fire and brimstone was gone from the tea partiers, at least locally, others have noted the same of yesterday's events, including Tea Party Boise events lead Russ Smerz, who told citydesk the march and rally this year was much more organized and structured this year, if somewhat less well-attended.

Smerz accepted a crowd estimate of about 2,000, a visibly smaller crowd than last year. He also agreed that describing the rally as "anti-Obama" was a fair characterization:

"I think if there was a focal point it was anti-socialism, and really tying Obama into that as well," Smerz said.

Prior to the march, a national group that hitched its wagon to the tea party train—The Tea Party Express—released a list of congressional targets and heroes. Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick made the list of tea party heroes, an announcement met with surprise (then incredulity, mockery and incomprehension) from multiple corners, starting with the Minnick campaign itself.

"Um, sure," Minnick spokesman John Foster replied when the a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/15/walt-minnick-tea-party-en_n_538837.html">Huffington Post asked if the campaign was accepting the Tea Party's backing. "Walt is not in the habit of turning down support," Foster continued.

Minnick accepted the endorsement, appearing on CNN Friday morning to describe the tea partiers as “just ordinary folks that think the government ought to balance it’s budget.”

"You’ve got some fringe within the group, that’s for sure," Foster acknowledged to citydesk this afternoon.
"You’ve got to base your views on people based on your interactions with them"

Foster said Minnick has some rapport with local tea party activists. He also said he spoke with a representative of the Tea Party Express today who told him they'd looked at all the Blue Dog Democrats and decided that Minnick was the only one worth endorsing, particularly for his anti-earmark stance.

“It’s for the most part a group of people who are frustrated by spending in Washington,” Foster characterized the tea partiers.

That's not exactly how Smerz, who said he resents the "government takeover of everything," (not to mention the "socialist" bomb above) characterizes it.

“They just seem to have their hands on everything and I don’t think it’s necessary, we should do it ourselves,” Smerz told citydesk.

Moreover, the national Tea Party Express, which is run by establishment GOP operatives, never asked the local tea partiers their opinion on Minnick.

"We at Tea Party Boise were not consulted or given the opp for giving our input to Tea Party Express," Smerz said. The local "party" has not endorsed any candidates, though they will publish candidate surveys on April 24. Smerz was listed as an Ada County campaign chair for GOP candidate Vaughn Ward, who is running in the May 25 primary for a chance to challenge Minnick.

He said he dropped his affiliation with the campaign when he took on more Tea Party responsibilities.

Ward said he's running for the tea party vote too.

“I think that any candidate in Idaho would be foolish not to look at them as a strong voting block,” Ward told citydesk.

Ward said he shares many tea party stances including limited government, accountability and the fact the "the Constitution does matter."

Raul Labrador, a state legislator who is also running in the GOP primary for the First Congressional District, had not returned our calls by press time (the time we press the button to publish the blog). Candidate Harley Brown, who stopped by BW last week, had just come from a meeting with local tea partiers who he described as "my kind of guys."

Here's some photos of Minnick's ordinary folks, as they marched up Capitol yesterday.

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Idaho Public Employees Union Rallies Against Cuts and for Solution at Capitol

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 3:22 PM

  • Josh Gross
About 30 representatives and members of of the Idaho Association of Government Employees/SEIU, the Idaho public employees union, rallied on the capitol steps Friday morning to protest cuts to state services and jobs, and to push candidates in the upcoming election to make clear their plans to solve for Idaho's revenue crisis.

"These cuts hurt everyone," said union representative Daniel Wolf, asserting that closing offices and limiting services only further clogs what's left, making it more difficult for everyone, rich and poor alike, to live a productive life.

"We save nothing by cutting jobs or lengthening lines," said Wolf.

Wolf then told the audience that they needed to start asking every candidate what they will do to help state employees. Wolf yielded the stage to a disabled state employee to tell her story and share her frustrations with the cuts.

Wolf told BW that the rally was the first step toward energizing and mobilizing Idaho's voter base for the fall elections and that they have a series of candidate forums planned for the summer.

"Every voter needs to start asking candidates these questions," Wolf says. He added that he's not passing the buck by pushing voters to ask rather than using his position as a union rep to demand answers because candidates should be listening to their constituents. "We need to start voting in candidates that support public services," he said.

Wolf also said they specifically want Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter to respond, but didn't ask him to speak today because he had a conflicting speaking engagement in the afternoon, though Wolf said he was considering pressing Otter for answers at that appearance.

Then a member of the audience approached us in the midst of an interview and asked Wolf if he could adjust the microphone, as she was having trouble hearing the speaker over the sound of lawnmower tending the park across the street.

The rally was a far cry from the estimated 2,000 tea party protesters that rallied at the Capitol steps just the day before.

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Idaho Women's Network Closes Doors

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 2:41 PM

The Idaho Women’s Network is shuttering its doors after 22 years, a victim of deprioritization of Idaho by politically progressive national donors, IWN public policy director Taryn Magrini tells citydesk.

Today is Magrini’s last day on the job, after the group lost grants from two large foundations in recent months.

“Quite frankly, I think we’re seen as a lost cause to national funders,” Magrini said.

IWN has lobbied on behalf of women, families, gay and lesbian rights and other progressive causes. This past legislative session was frustrating, Magrini said, with IWN taking defensive stances on many bills and failing to get hearing on others, like the Idaho Human Rights Act.

“Legislatively it wasn’t the greatest session for IWN,” she said.

IWN Executive Director Donna Wade sent an e-mail to supporters today announcing the closure.

“I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to all of you who have made our work possible, especially to our founding mothers who passed a hat all those years ago and started an advocacy organization that has been serving Idaho for two decades,” Wade wrote.

The IWN Board of Directors is considering keeping the IWN brand alive as a volunteer organization, Wade said.

Gail Heylmun, executive director at the Fund for Idaho, a local foundation that has supported IWN, confirmed that progressive foundations have pulled money from Idaho as it solidified as a red state over the last decade and especially as the recession took a bite out of their funding capacity.

At the same time, conservative foundations appear to be pouring money into the state.

UPDATE: Heylmun just sent over a long list of IWN victories over the years. Click the jump to view her list.

Continue reading »

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We Don't Much Care for Sweatshirts Round These Parts

Posted By on Fri, Apr 16, 2010 at 11:44 AM

President Barack Obama held a "Beer Summit" at the White House in an attempt to quell tension over the arrest of black Harvard Professor Skip Gates by a white cop who suspected Gates of breaking into his own house.

And now, Boise City Councilman TJ Thomson, an ardent Obama supporter, has organized the first ever "Burger Summit" to quell tension over his recent Facebook posting, which has drawn more than 100 comments.

Before we get into the circumstances of Thomson's unrest, here's the details: Burger Summit (AKA Burgerfest) Wednesday, April 21, at 6:30 p.m. Five Guys Burgers in Meridian, 2830 North Eagle Rd. Anyone is invited to show up in political garb of any ilk, to share a burger, not make any speeches, and peacefully co-exist.

So what could spark such madness? Thomson trying to get a burger this week and having the exact opposite experience.

On Wednesday April 14, Thomson threw on an old sweatshirt to jog down to Five Guys to pick up some dinner. The sweatshirt happened to be 08’ Obama campaign garb, something other diners took vocal issue with.

“It was like a wild west film where the music stops.,” says Thomson. “And I thought it was fine, I’d just go about my business. But there was all this talk. One woman said, I bet this bum doesn’t have a job. He’s probably here hoping for a job, cause my shirt said hope on it.”

Thomson says what started as one couple muttering and eye-rolling to one another spread virally throughout the restaurant and created a truly uncomfortable situation. Not wanting to start any issues, he waited silently for his food and went home.

When he got home he made a post on Facebook about the experience, expressing his frustration that even just a campaign shirt brought out the worst in political discourse, that it was enough to temporarily make him question his faith in neighborly love.

Thomson told BW that his post was to express dissatisfaction, not with what people said, but that people cared what he was wearing.

That post received over 100 comments, many reproduced at the liberal blog The Daily Kos. Some of them sympathetic, some of them also frustrated with the tone of modern political dialogue, and some of them further attacks on the Obama administration. One frequent contributor to the thread went so far as to say that support for Obama would have been enough for Thomson to lose his vote.

“I have a stack of sweatshirts I cycle thru when I get home each night. One is from the '08 campaign. But it shouldn't matter what I am wearing. I understand there is some disrest out there, but what I do at the City level is a far cry from what happens in D.C,” Thomson responded.

One of the commenters suggested Thomson and friends go back in Obama garb to express support for a tolerant public sphere; an Obamarama. Thomson then widened the idea to include any political garb of any ideology or candidate, saying that it’s not about a single candidate or party as much as it is about supporting the freedom of speech and showing we can talk politics without name-calling.

Thomson says this isn’t directed at the restaurant, that he just wants to get some people together to enjoy the best burgers in town.

Further comments on Thomson’s FB post seemed supportive of the idea, but even Thomson admits there is the possibility he’s being overly optimistic. “I don’t know what to expect,” Thomson says. “But I like to have faith that neighborly love is better than what I experienced the other evening.”

Shawna, an Assistant Manager at Five Guys Burgers, says she didn’t know about the situation, but she’s all for the burger summit.

“I’m glad to have people enjoy burgers and celebrate the freedom of speech at the same time,” says Shawna.

Thomson says that since this idea is fairly abstract, he can't really make any sort of predictions on attendance. “If even one person joins me, it’s a success,” he says. “Regardless of how many people show up, dialogue is the main idea. Doesn’t matter what your views are, or what you’re wearing, we can still eat together.”

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Compassionate Conservative has Medical Marijuana on His Mind

Posted By on Tue, Apr 13, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Tom Trail
  • Tom Trail
A compassionate Republican legislator plans to introduce new medical marijuana legislation during Idaho's 2011 session. If passed, it would make Idaho the 15th state in the nation to legalize marijuana use for patients with chronic illnesses who are currently forced to buy legal medical marijuana out of state and risk bringing it home.

Nearly a year ago, BW published my in-depth look at medical marijuana's supporters. Initially, my editor and I wondered if Idaho could save money on policing and generate revenue through taxation. Turns out, however, that decriminalization, taxation and lowest police priority are all off the table.

Tom Trail (R-Moscow) circulated a press release Monday promising to dialog with stakeholders for nine months before introducing his long-awaited bill next year. His proposal faces an uphill battle, as elected evangelicals and many Democrats have been unwilling to stand up to 'soft on drugs' pressure. But his approach, pushing for the most restrictive MMJ law in the nation, could gain support beyond states' rights Libertarians and youth with their heads in the clouds.

Modeling Idaho's plan after New Jersey's and carefully blocking loopholes exploited in other states, Trail hopes to quell the fears from law enforcement and state officials who puffed up their rhetoric the last time he mentioned it. The key this round is only allowing legal access for patients diagnosed with specific, severe illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis.

The personable Ag Committee Chairman promises growing and distribution will be monitored by the state. Though his recent hemp efforts went nowhere, he knows the ins and outs of regulating agriculture. Meanwhile, patients would be limited to just two ounces of herb per month and forbidden from growing their own, or rolling it up in public.

While he is not looking to pass the pipe to recreational marijuana users, or promising to line the pockets of the sober folks in charge of Idaho's budget, he is angling for thumbs up from the Department of Health and Welfare and the Idaho Medical Association. Ultimately, his proposal makes clear who this is about. Trail is trying to help his suffering constituents. From the press release:

Rep. Trail was approached over a year ago by several constituents who suffered from chronic health conditions—brain cancer, glaucoma and other severe health conditions. They receive prescriptions from their doctors and have them filled in Washington State. One constituent, who has multiple sclerosis, said his doctors have recommended marijuana to treat neuralgia, which causes him to lose the feeling and use of his right arm and shoulders. The M.S. Society has shown that this drug will help slow the progression of the disease. Rep. Trail has talked to many doctors who support this type of legislation.

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