Thursday, September 30, 2010

Big Fuel Spill from Rig on U.S. 12

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 3:25 PM

Less than 24 hours before Idaho's Supreme Court takes up the controversial issue of whether to allow massive loads of equipment to traverse across U.S. Highway 12, a new piece of evidence may have surfaced.

Hazmat teams are on the scene of a 7,500-gallon diesel spill near the Lochsa River after a tractor trailer failed to negotiate one of the tight turns on U.S. 12 and slammed into a borrow pit. The Lewiston Tribune reports that rocks from the hillside ruptured a trailer tank and diesel began pouring into the river.

Traffic remains open on U.S. 12 Thursday afternoon, but an Idaho State Police spokesman said the fuel appears to have pooled in caverns under the highway.

Friday morning, Idaho's high court will take up an emergency hearing on whether to allow the Idaho Transportation Department to green-light ConocoPhillips' request to transport massive coke drums from the port of Lewiston across U.S. 12 and into Montana. If approved, that's also expected to clear the way for Exxon Mobil's request to ship hundreds of similar loads across U.S. 12.

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Millions for Idaho to Put More Family Doctors in Communities

Posted By on Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 9:29 AM

The Affordable Care Act, aka health-care reform, will pump more than $3 million into Idaho to help expand the workforce of primary caregivers, with emphasis on rural communities.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the grants with nearly $2 million earmarked for the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho. Residency Program Director and CEO Dr. Ted Epperly told Citydesk that the funds will put more family doctors on the front lines of care.

"By the time the major portions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect in 2014, we'll need to have more primary care physicians available. We'll need to be providing more preventive care," said Epperly. "Right now, in our practice we know of a lot of people who are living paycheck to paycheck and they won't come in for basic checkups or preventive care because the co-pay or deductible is too high. They're living sicker and they're dying younger."

The residency operates three separate tracks in Idaho, a core program in Boise, and rural training tracks in Caldwell and Twin Falls. The new grant moneys will allow the Caldwell program to grow by a third and will result in doubling the Twin Falls program.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Caregivers Visit with Attorney General Over Healthcare Lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 4:31 PM

A group of Idaho physicians made a house call Wednesday afternoon to State Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The patient's vitals? Warm and cordial. The diagnosis? Agree to disagree.

The subject was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as the new health-care reform law. Wasden has joined a 20 state lawsuit to block implementation of the law. A group of physicians signed a letter earlier this month stating the suit might harm their patients or delay the implementation of the act.

"We agree that health care in this country needs to be improved," Wasden told Citydesk. "It needs to be fixed. It needs to be remedied."

"That's right," confirmed Dr. Timothy McHugh of Meridian, one of the attendees. "But the attorney general said this was really a matter of law and whether the new health-care reform act is in synch with the U.S. Constitution."

"The question is really about the system that has been put into affect by this new statute and whether it fits into the confines of the Constitution," said Wasden. "It is not a question about policy."

Wasden told Citydesk he fully expects the entire matter to make its way to the Supreme Court. And whether it takes two years or more, Wasden said, "The federal legislation is now the law. It is the law of the land. And all of those processes to implement the reform need to move forward."

Citydesk asked the attorney general about last week's Idaho visit by Regional Director of Health and Human Services Susan Johnson. Johnson said the A.G. should, "Slow down and take a deep breath before going forward the lawsuit."

"I don't comment on hearsay," said Wasden. "But I'm more than happy to meet with her in person at any time."

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Introducing the Bike Barn

Posted By on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Anybody who commutes by bicycle knows: it ain’t always easy bein’ green. Now, Boise State is trying to offer solutions for those who choose to ride on two wheels to work or class.

With more and more people switching to cycling as a primary, or even secondary means of getting around, Boise State’s campus has sought to focus more on cyclists. They’ve installed dozens of new bike racks, providing hundreds of spaces, Still, it seems every time a new rack is installed, a dozen more bikes rush to fill it. Some people worry about the safety and security of leaving a bike chained up on campus.

“I think one of the things we’re missing right now, largely, is long-term secured bike parking,” said Casey Jones, the director of Parking and Transportation at Boise State.

Enter the Boise State bike barn, installed in the Brady Garage off University Avenue. Essentially, the barn is a caged-in section of the garage where students and faculty hang their bikes in a secure location. The cost will be $15.00 per semester, and will accommodate up to 65 bicycles, stored in a vertical position on the wall.

“We think it’s going to be very successful,” said Jones. “We’re so sure, we’re planning a second bike barn in the parking addition across from the student union building.”

Boise State also reached out to attendees last weekend's Oregon State football game, providing a valet parking corral for cyclists.

“I noticed probably 500 bikes locked to just about everything that you could possibly imagine,” says Jones of the days before the corral. “It’s a great need on a day when weather’s really nice to provide for bikes.”

Jones foresees providing the service in bigger and better ways from now on.
“Any major event, we think there’s a place for valet bike parking,” said Jones. “If it’s the right kind of concert, where we think we’ll get quite a few bicyclists coming to campus, we’re going to offer it.”

Expect cycling and transit to be a big part of Boise State's future. With an increased focus on shuttle services, the push for bus use by students, the recent ZipCar addition, and the dwindling number of parking spots, the campus is also constructing a transit center on the West side of the Student Union Building. The facility is designed to be multi-modal, providing plenty of bike racks, and access to shuttles and buses.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Whole Foods Planning and Zoning Hearing

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 1:11 PM

Whole Foods, the Austin, Texas-based health foods behemoth, is finally moving ahead with plans to build a Boise location on Front Street and Broadway Avenue.

Though doors won’t potentially be open for two years, Texas-based developer Schlosser Development has filed a conditional use permit with the City of Boise, which will be given a public hearing on Monday, Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

For a look at the hearing agenda, click here.

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Yet More Traffic Woes

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 11:33 AM

As if getting around Boise on Saturday, Sept. 25 wasn't going to be hard enough already, ACHD is closing the intersection of Hill Road/Harrison Boulevard/Bogus Basin Road through the weekend.

The closure is part of a water main project, and traffic will be detoured around the intersection. Work on this section is expected to be finished by Sunday evening, but the crew will then move west, shutting down a four-block section of Hill Road between Harrison Boulevard and 20th Street.

Wonder if anyone thought about delaying the work a day or two considering the massive traffic nightmare that Downtown Boise will be on Saturday thanks to the Boise State vs. Oregon State game and the Women's Fitness Celebration.

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Jaquet: Governor "Unwilling or Unable" to Address Mismanagement of Tax Commission

Posted By on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 at 8:05 AM

The Idaho State Tax Commission has become ineffective, claimed Democratic Representative Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum. A member of the powerful Joint-Finance Appropriations Committee, Jaquet called for comprehensive reform, citing a need to bring the commission “into the 21st century”.

“We now have a 1950’s model, with no accountability except to a politically elected Governor who won’t take action,” said Jaquet. “It is time to appoint a professional administrator who would not be tied to special interests.”

Last year, commission whistleblowers stepped forward to uncover cases of “sweetheart deals” or tax amnesty granted by the commission, Former commission employees came forward, highlighting cases such as a golf course that was given amnesty for $700,000 worth of taxes on high-priced membership fees, and the waiver of $400,000 worth of penalties on a taxpayer who wrongfully claimed over $5 million in Idaho tax credits.
During the 2010 session, lawmakers learned of the “tax gap”, a $225 million hole in collections that the commission claimed could be filled with better staffing. The issue became a hot potato between republican leadership and democratic critics.

Jaquet also questioned the relationship between the commission’s chairman, Royce Chigbrow, and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s re-election campaign, where he has previously served as treasurer.

”The governor appoints the chairman, but he appears unwilling or unable to get his long-time political associate to address the obvious mismanagement at the Commission. It is time for the legislature to act,” Jaquet said.

Jaquet’s bill would create an entirely new agency, the Department of Revenue and Taxation, to be headed by a Director of Revenue, administrator of the agency. Many of the commission’s duties would be turned over to the new agency, and it would move to fulfilling the constitutional requirement as board of equalization. The commission would become a part-time body, with the new Director of Revenue presiding as ex officio executive.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Downtown Events Mean Saturday Traffic Closures

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 2:52 PM

Planning on heading downtown on Saturday, Sept. 25? Good Luck.

Between the Women's Fitness Celebration (estimated 12,000 participants), the Boise State vs. Oregon State game (estimated 16,000 participants for the pre-game festivities alone) and the assortment of regularly scheduled weekend events, parking and driving in the downtown core is going to be challenging at best.

Here's the rundown of some of the traffic restrictions according to the Ada County Highway District to help you plan your route:

• Capitol Boulevard will be closed from 8:30-10:30 a.m.

• Crescent Rim Drive will be closed from 8:30-11 a.m.

• Americana Boulevard will be closed between Shoreline Drive and Crescent Rim Drive from 7 a.m.-noon.

• A 12-block area of Downtown, from roughly State Street to Grove Street, between Capitol Boulevard and Sixth Street will be closed from 7-10:30 a.m.

Parking will be a pain starting as early as 5 a.m.—that's when the die-hard Bronco fans are being told to show up at Bronco Stadium to participate in the GameDay broadcast. Because of the conflicting events, anyone heading to Boise State is advised to use Broadway Avenue.

ACHD will be monitoring traffic throughout the day, but no matter what, it's sure to be a headache for drivers.

As usual, parking will also be a gamble, but to help the situation, downtown parking garages will charge only $5 for event parking and a regular shuttle will take fans to and from the game. Pick-up locations will be at:

• Eighth and Main streets

• Eighth and Broad streets

• Sixth and Grove streets

• Ninth Street between Main and Idaho streets

• Eighth and Fulton streets

The shuttle will run every 15 minutes starting two hours before the game (which starts at 6:12 p.m.), as well as for one hour after the game.

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Regional HHS Director tells Wasden to "Take a Breath"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 2:02 PM

President Barack Obama's "point person" for the Northwest on health and human services came to Boise Thursday to commemorate a landmark in health-care reform. As HHS Regional Director, Susan Johnson works with federal, state, local and tribal officials on a wide range of health and social service issues.

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Thursday is the six-month anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and today a number of its most central consumer protections take effect.

Beginning Thursday, Sept. 23, insurance companies can no longer exclude children because of pre-existing conditions (diabetes, birth defects). Johnson told Citydesk that the new provision could enable 72,000 uninsured to gain coverage. Insurers also will be prohibited from imposing lifetime limits on benefits.

The law also now forbids insurers to drop ill clients after discovering a technical error on an application. The measure also now requires that anyone under the age of 26 may remain on their parents' policies.

"We've still got a long way to go," Johnson told Citydesk, "But six words say it all: right care, right place, right time. Simply put, Americans will have more choice and more control over their care."

As for Idaho joining a 20-state lawsuit to block implementation of the new rules, Johnson said, "The law is the law. I would tell your attorney general to take a breath, and see how this benefits Idahoans and all Americans."

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House Panel to Scan Concussion Laws

Posted By on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 10:26 AM

In March of this year, Idaho lawmakers listened to an impassioned plea from Kort Breckenridge. The Tetonia resident suffers from long-term brain damage after suffering a concussion while playing a high school football game in 2005.

After hearing Kort's story, legislators listened to health care professionals, and athletic trainers, all pleading to craft a law requiring coaches to remove players from action if a possible head injury has occurred. Fearing litigation, lawmakers watered down the bill and passed a new rule requiring the State Board of Education to post concussion information on its website.

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Thursday, a U.S. House Education and Labor committee will hear testimony from communities across the nation, like the town of Sequim, Wash., which was profiled in Thursday's New York Times. Washington has the Lystedt Law, named after a young man who like Kort Breckenridge, sustained permanent brain damage during a high school football game.

The issue is expected to be revisited during the 2011 Idaho legislative session.

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