On Nader, CWI, Risch's water and more

Nader wants on Idaho ballot

He's back. Ralph Nader is running for president, again, and citydesk spotted a crew of signature gatherers at the Farmers' Market on Saturday, Aug. 16, trying to get him on the Idaho ballot.

They need 5,985 verified signatures by Monday, Aug. 25, and were shooting for 12,000 just in case. According to Idaho coordinator Ciarran Burch, the campaign has about 2,500 verified signatures and may file a lawsuit against the Secretary of State challenging the state's policy on out-of-state signature gatherers.

In case you hadn't heard, Nader is running for President with Matt Gonzalez, a former San Francisco Supervisor and mayoral candidate. Nader tried and failed to get on the ballot in Idaho in 2004. The Secretary of State ruled that he was short more than 600 signatures and a judge agreed, but Nader got 1,115 write-in votes anyway.

Nader is already on at least two-dozen ballots and has filed for even more.

Libertarian candidate Bob Barr has already qualified in Idaho and will appear with Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain.

And where's Chuck Baldwin?

On Idaho's most urban news column

And what is citydesk you ask?

In place of News Shorts, this space will now be called BW's citydesk, a weekly roundup of Idaho's most urban news. It will be a companion to our citydesk blog, which, after we figure out how to define a host header and resolve various IP addresses, will be available this week at

The citydesk is a place to keep readers updated on stories we've covered, short news tips and things that are funny as hell. In a serious way.

For example, we reported a few weeks ago in these pages that the College of Western Idaho trustees would also appear on the November election ballot and that it was quite easy to register as a candidate.

Well, two of the sitting trustees, all appointed by the State Board of Education, are not running again. Hatch Barrett and Jerry Hess will not file for the election, so at least two seats are wide open.

Hess, who is 70, told the Idaho Statesman that it was a lot of work.

And the funny as hell in a serious way part: Boise Guardian's Dave Frazier called with this news after it appeared in the Statesman. He wanted to conspire with BW to foment a board takeover. We declined to conspire, but do encourage anyone with an interest in community colleges to throw in his or her hat.

Incidentally, if you want to learn more about the college, attend an forum on upcoming Thursdays: Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Nampa Civic Center and Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Boise Centre on the Grove.

Farm labor contractor cited

Since Idaho established a farm labor contractor license in 2003, eight contractors have been convicted of operating without a license.

The latest case involves Hector Hugo Flores, 35, of Buhl, who is expected to appear in Twin Falls magistrate court the day this issue of BW hits the streets. According to the Idaho Department of Labor, Flores told a compliance officer in a bean field that he took money from farmers and paid the crew but that he was not a contractor.

The Twin Falls Sheriff didn't buy it and cited Flores.

Apparently it runs in the family. Flores' father, Jose Flores, was fined $300 in 2006 for the same crime.

About three dozen farm labor contractors are registered with the state, which is supposed to ensure that farm workers are paid fairly.

E-hitching to work

The Idaho Transportation Department has a new way for folks to get to work:

The state bought into the Idaho portion of a Web site that covers all of Idaho and parts of Oregon and Washington, allowing users to find a carpool to work, or, better yet, to concerts at the Gorge.

"We receive real limited funding every year to put in a ride share," said ITD's Public Transportation Administrator Randy Kyrias.

Who even knew ITD had a public transportation department?

Each year ITD has distributed about $60,000 in grants to local highway districts or transit authorities for ride-share programs, which are mostly vanpools. Ada County Highway District runs 15 commuter vans.

"Now all of a sudden our requests are outstripping the $60,000," Kyrias said.

By a lot. ITD had more than $260,000 in requests for ride-share grants this year.

The commuting Web site is owned by King County Metro in Seattle, Kyrias said. ACHD's Commuterride and the Mountain Rides system in Sun Valley ran part of it previously, but now ITD has used the federal Transit Administration funding to buy the service for the entire state.

Some 17,000 people now use the online commuter system, of whom only about 600 live in Idaho. But the Idaho numbers have doubled this year and now that ITD has expanded the system—and people are desperate for rides—Kyrias expects enrollment to grow.

Of course, there's always Craigslist ...

Glass totally full

At the first of a series of live debates between U.S. Senate candidates Rex Rammell and Larry LaRocco, a glassful of water sat ominously at an empty seat at the end of the table.

The chair was for Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, who declined repeated invitations to debate the Democratic and independent candidates at venues around the state. The debate was streamed online using a better-than-YouTube streaming technology.

As the candidates bantered before the debate began, Rammell could be heard saying, "I would imagine Jim's watching, don't ya think."

The LaRocco campaign said Tuesday that more than 1,700 people watched the debate online, "making it the most viewed non-televised debate in the history of Idaho."

The Web site carried the debate, moderated by retired North Idaho College political scientist Tony Stewart. Several news and campaign Web sites carried live streams.

In the glass-half-empty category, a brief in last week's BW about Rep. Bill Sali having his congressional office, and now a campaign office, in the Second Congressional District while representing the First combined with criticism from Sali's hometown newspaper to yield what will become a campaign quote for the textbooks.

In a guest opinion in the Idaho Press-Tribune, responding to charges of incompetence in executing his campaign, Sali spokesman Wayne Hoffman charged that: "The Press-Tribune has, regrettably, joined the chorus of shrill news lemmings all marching willingly to a sea of liberalism, filth and innuendo."

Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work we go.

And now for the numbers.

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 4,147 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,370 in combat and 777 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,557. In the last week, five U.S. soldiers died.

Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 3,997 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 86,658 and 94,553.


COST OF IRAQ WAR: $546,713,075,351


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