citydesk 

Holdbacks, H8 & Fish

More budget crunching

In September, Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter ordered a 1 percent budget holdback for all state agencies to the tune of $27.3 million. Now he is looking at an additional holdback that could hover around an additional 1.5 percent.

"We asked them to kind of revisit those numbers that we asked them to hold in reserve and just prepare for the potential if that needs to be withheld," Otter spokesman Jon Hanian said, adding that an announcement would be imminent.

"They should have made those preparations," Hanian said. "The notice was we weren't sure we'd have to ask for more."

In the September announcement, Otter asked agency heads to plan for up to 2.5 percent in budget cuts, and he recently alerted them that the additional cuts appeared more likely.

Otter is leaving it up to individual agencies to figure out how to reach the new bottom line. Each agency has put together a budget holdback plan and has taken a second look at the plans, in anticipation of more cuts.

H8 baiting

This may not be the Golden State, though a majority of Idahoans may have voted for a Constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2006, but none of that is stopping some members of the state's LGBT community from having their say on the issue.

Pridedepot.com's Jody May-Chang is working long hours to compile Boycott H8 (as in "hate"), a list of Idaho businesses and individuals that financially supported the passage of Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage in California. At a gay-rights rally in front of Boise City Hall that coincided with national demonstrations last weekend, May-Chang distributed the list to those in the crowd.

At the top of the list is a name gay-rights activists are used to seeing: Vandersloot. According to May-Chang's list, Belinda Vandersloot, the wife of businessman Frank Vandersloot who runs the Idaho Falls health care product company Melaleuca, contributed $100,000 to the California YES on Proposition 8 campaign.

The bottom of the list dwindles down to contributions of a mere $50, with close to 150 businesses and individuals in total named, from Boise to Burley and Rexburg to Rupert.

"It's labor-intensive to make sure they're accurate," said May-Chang. "I'm cross referencing between information from California's secretary of state and Idaho's secretary of state's records."

In addition to the Idaho list, May-Chang is compiling similar lists for Utah and a nationwide boycott using information available through public records.

The complete list can be found at pridedepot.com, where May-Chang has urged visitors that the list "is NOT to be used in ANY way to harass or otherwise harm anyone in any way or for any form of solicitation."

—Rachael Daigle

Boon to Boise

locomotive group

The U.S. Department of Transportation's transit arm has denied a request from Boston's T to allow two pilot locomotives to be built across the pond.

A Boise company had bid against a German-Spanish firm for the large contract. The foreign firm wanted to assemble the first two locomotives in the 28-car order overseas, in violation of the Federal Transit Administration's Buy America requirements.

But the FTA, in a letter to Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority general manager Daniel A. Grabauskas, denied a waiver of the protectionist provisions for federal funding of transit projects.

"Absent factors like safety or the introduction of significant new technology, FTA has consistently denied public interest waiver requests predicated on a cost saving of less than 25 percent," FTA Deputy Administrator Sherry E. Little wrote.

MBTA flak Joe Pesaturo told citydesk in an e-mail that the FTA letter was to be reviewed: "Our procurement team will meet on Monday to discuss the MBTA's options, and decide what future course of action is in the best interest of the Authority, fare-payers, and Massachusetts taxpayers."

Asked whether the decision takes Vossloh Espana S.A. out of the running for the contract, Pesaturo repeated himself in another e-mail: "Our procurement team will meet on Monday to discuss the MBTA's options, and decide what future course of action is in the best interest of the Authority, fare-payers, and Massachusetts taxpayers."

Pesaturo responded to a third e-mail at press time in much the same vein.

The other company, Boise-based MotivePower, drew support from two members of Idaho's congressional delegation and from Boise Mayor Dave Bieter.

"It would be a travesty to use American taxpayer dollars and a loophole in American law to allow this sophisticated technology and the jobs related to it to be lost to overseas competitors. We are pleased with the FTA's ruling," Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo stated.

Big fish in the Boise River

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is releasing some 1,000 steelhead into the Boise River this month, after raking in good returns at the Oxbow Hatchery on the Snake River near Hells Canyon Dam.

The hatchery traps fish below the dam for breeding, and the excess steelhead are shared with Idaho Indian tribes and in most recent years, Boise's endemic anglers.

"We're confident that this year's hatchery steelhead run will easily allow Oxbow Hatchery personnel to fill brood-stock needs," Fish and Game anadromous fish coordinator Sam Sharr said. "Any additional hatchery fish returning to the fish trap will be divided equally among Idaho Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife."

Steelheaders lined the river near the Parkcenter Boulevard bridge and in other release spots as 300 fish were set free on Nov. 13, according to an IDFG spokesman.

Another 300 are planned for release on Nov. 20 from Glenwood Bridge to Barber Park, the third such Thursday release this month. One more release is possible before the end of the season.

Steelhead fishermen need an Idaho fishing license and a separate steelhead permit, which costs $12.75, to tangle with the big trout.

The adipose fin—a small fin normally found between the dorsal fin and the tail—has been snipped from these fish, indicating they came from a hatchery. Anyone catching a steelhead without a permit should quickly release the fish. Barbless hooks are not required for Boise River steelhead angling.

Anglers can only take three steelhead per day from the Boise River. Any trout caught that is at least 20 inches long and lacks an adipose fin is considered a steelhead. They weigh between 4 and 10 pounds.

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008, 4,202 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,392 in combat and 810 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,793. Since Election Day, nine U.S. soldiers died.

Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,052 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 88,952 and 97,094.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $572,212,675,591

Source: costofwar.com

—Nathaniel Hoffman

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