A Year in the Life 

Remembering the haves and have-nots of 2013

A mid-December snowfall had wrapped Dry Creek Cemetery in winter white, so it was challenging to find the gravestone.

"There's a black bench about a quarter-mile past the entrance," Laura Seeley told Boise Weekly. "He should be right there on the left."

And indeed, there it was: Mark Seeley Dec. 26, 1960-Dec. 30, 2012.

Born at Christmastime, died at Christmastime. He even asked love-of-his-life Laura to marry him on Christmas Eve 2006.

So, it was only appropriate to call Laura to wish her a Merry Christmas and again thank her for helping us to tell Mark's story this year (BW, Feature, "Citizen Mark," May 1, 2013).

"It was very nice of you to call; I needed a little boost," she said.

Perhaps more than any other story, Boise's citizenry commented on our chronicle of Mark Seeley's life: his struggle with severe bipolar disorder, success in becoming an author, advocate for the disabled, homeless and veterans, and even becoming a 2005 candidate for the Boise City Council (his campaign fund was $18.43 and he still secured 7,121 votes).

After 52 years, Mark Seeley found peace on earth before dying of cancer a few days after Christmas 2012.

"I really want you to do your best and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year," Laura told BW.

In memory of Mark and inspired by Laura's indomitable spirit, here's a look back at the long shadows that were cast by 2013.

"The Long Goodbye"--July 17, 2013

Chris and Sue Anderson's Kamiah home, folded into the peaceful surroundings of the Clearwater River, was the very definition of peaceful. Yet their personal heartbreak was immeasurable.

In a series of tear-stained interviews, the Andersons told the story of how the U.S. Air Force had disrespected their family in refusing to be forthcoming about their daughter Kelsey's mysterious death in 2011. Five months after her assignment began, USAF Airman First Class Kelsey Anderson was found dead, shot with her own service pistol, while on duty as a security officer at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. But the Pentagon refused to tell the Andersons anything about the details surrounding her death. She had been scheduled to return to her Idaho home for a monthlong respite just a few weeks later.

The Andersons ultimately had to sue the U.S. government, with summonses appearing on the doorsteps of the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho.

Two months after our report, and nearly two-and-a-half years following her death, the Andersons learned that their daughter had asked for a reassignment closer to her home, was put on a suicide watch and had her service pistol taken away; but her weapon had been returned to her approximately one month before she used the gun to kill herself.

"Out of the Panhandle, Into the Fire"--June 5, 2013

There has been significant media coverage of the Boise City Council's September vote to prohibit solicitation for donations "colored by intimidation, obstruction of right-of-way or repeated attempts at solicitation after a negative response." The anti-panhandling measure came under fire from a number of homeless advocates, but the Council voted 3-1 in favor of the change, with only Councilwoman Lauren McLean voting no.

But perhaps the most underreported story of 2013 was how the city of Boise had modeled the anti-panhandling measure on a similar ordinance in San Francisco and, more importantly, how San Francisco's ordinance came under instant scrutiny from its own police department.

An independent review found that a majority of merchants said the ordinance had not been effective at abating aggressive panhandling and the city's police department had regularly ticketed a small group of homeless individuals who were struggling with significant health conditions.

And Boise's biggest debate over the controversial measure is expected to be played out sometime in 2014 in a federal courtroom.

On Nov. 4, the ACLU of Idaho, as threatened, officially filed suit against the city of Boise, arguing that Boise's anti-panhandling ordinance was in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"This lawsuit should come as no surprise to anyone and especially not the city," said ACLU of Idaho Legal Director Ritchie Eppink.

"The Food Stamp Myth"--Aug. 28, 2013

In early November, one in seven Americans instantly became less food-secure. A 13.6 percent boost to the nation's supplemental assistance program--which had been enacted at the height of the recession--lapsed; and with the U.S. Congress still not being able to hammer out a Farm Bill before taking off for Christmas, the future of Food Stamps is even more uncertain. A bill sponsored in the Republican-controlled House would cut $39 billion from the program, while a bill sponsored by the Democratic controlled Senate calls for a $4 billion cut.

In August, Boise Weekly examined the deaths of Idaho's Food Stamp program and revealed several realities that flew in the face of often-repeated falsehoods: No. 1, well over half of Idaho's food stamp recipients are children; No. 2, adult recipients are expected to work the equivalent of 30 hours per week; No. 3, if recipients aren't working, they participate in training to secure employment; and No. 4, there are few exceptions to the must-work rule.

Idaho Food Stamp recipients peaked in January 2012--nearly 250,000 people--and are still staggering: As of Dec. 1, there were 218,317 Idaho Food Stamp recipients, representing 13.7 percent of the state's population. There are 44,734 participants in Ada County and 40,647 participants in Canyon County. Together, the two counties total 39 percent of all Idahoans participating in the Food Stamp program.

Turning the page on another calendar year, Boise Weekly will no doubt continue to detail the gap between the haves and have-nots, but we'll also do our best to give a voice to those who are hungry, homeless or alone.

"Happy New Year? Sure. Why not? I'm going to try to have one one way or another," said Laura Seeley.


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