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Playing legislative re-cap with myself

Every few weeks, I have to lock myself in the bathroom, face my stern reflection in the mirror, and conduct a little mission statement refresher course for my entire staff. Which would be me.

"Bill," I start. "I know you would rather direct all of your columns to whatever the Big Boys are doing back in Washington." (At this point in the speech--I've heard it so many times, I know it by heart--I nod and mutter, "That's right, boss. I would." Then I continue on as though I hadn't heard me.) "But the thing is, Bill, you write for a paper with a circulation that doesn't reach much farther beyond the Boise city limits than a couple hundred miles. On a good day, a 10-speed biker can pedal farther than your column travels. A healthy magpie can fly farther than your very best opinions. Do you understand what I'm trying to say here, Bill?"

God, how I hate myself when I talk to me like that. We both know what I'm getting at, and I just wish I'd make my damn point and let me get on with my job. But I play along like a good grunt. "Yes, boss. I understand what you're trying to say. You're trying to say I don't write enough about what goes on here in Boise, and that nobody cares what I think about what goes on back in Washington anyway, and that I should spend more time on local matters because I owe it to my audience to focus more on Idaho. That's what you're trying to say here, isn't it, boss? Well, boss, I'll make it all good. Next week, for sure, I'll write something about Idaho. Or maybe week after next. Count on me, boss. I'll do better."

Normally, that would be the end of the conversation. I'd say, "See that you do, Bill," and I'd be outa there, free to write about what's going on back in Washington for a few more weeks--until the next bathroom staff meeting.

But this last get-together, I was furious. I was so angry, for a while there, I thought I might actually can my ass. "Bill," I shrieked. "Are you aware the state legislature has finished up for 2007, and you haven't written one single word about them since they began the session back in January?"

"Wull, boss ... uh ..." I had me scared. This time, maybe I'd gone too far. "Uh ... wull I meant to, boss. But there was just so much stuff going on back in Washington. You know ... the surge. The Gonzales scandal. The Walter Reed scandal. The Scooter Libby scandal. I just thought it was important that ..."

I didn't let me finish. "And you don't think it's important that these state legislators left town without contributing one damn thing to solving the problems Idaho's going through with this lousy population growth?" I'd never seen me this upset. I worried that if I italicized one more word, I might have a stroke or something.

"Gosh, boss. OK. OK. Calm down. I'll write about the lousy legislature. Right now. This week. I'll get to it as soon as we're done here. Uh ... are we done here?"

"You're not getting off the hook that easy, mister! I want to know exactly what you plan to say! If I have to, I'll stay in this room all day until you come up with something about the legislature. Now, what is it!

I had to think fast. The trouble is, these Idaho politicians bore me so thoroughly that when I find out about, say ... that trick the new majority leader ... what's his name? Doughy? Dimmy? Ah, Denney! When I hear about him screwing the Democrats out of their rightful number of seats on the budget committee, I think "What's new?" I mean, it's not like I expect fair play out of a self-inflating puffball from a podunk manure clog like Midvale.

Or when I hear that the entire "Hick Caucus," as I call them--being the combined dead weight of all those rubes from greasy little towns out in the sagebrush sea--have shut down every suggestion that would elevate the living index for us'ns here in civilization, I think, "No surprise there, either." After all, what benefits would slow country cousins like these see in a community college or a regional transit system? These are the sort who figure they've already learned everything worth knowing and gone everywhere worth going to.

But I can't make an entire column out of "What's new?" and "No surprise there!" Besides, I'd never hear the end of it from the hicks were I to write about their "greasy little towns" or call Midvale a "podunk manure clog."

If only to get me off my back, though, I started rattling off ideas. "Uh, OK, boss. Hows about if I write that the Republicans in the legislature love the hell out of development when it means they can sell off their sheep fields for subdivisions and highway right-of-ways. But they're either too irresponsible, too lazy or too stupid to address the infrastructure troubles that inevitably come with wild, unchecked growth."

"You'll have to do better, Bill. Everyone already knows that."

"Well then, hows about this. Idaho is changing so fast, that it's like a wild west gold rush camp. Get it, boss? And the legislators, well, they're like the corrupt camp council that's perfectly happy to suck the cream off the top, but they refuse to spend the money it takes to keep up ... like with transportation options or higher education options or safe day-care centers. And even worse, they spout that 'less guv'mint is best guv'mint' cow flop like it's some kind of Prime Directive, but really, it's just a cover to protect their backers, who are making money like boom town whores while the rest of us wallow in the mess they've made. And since so many of these legislators come from gopher holes like Athol and Challis and Midvale, they don't have to suffer for their own cultural retardation, anyway."

"Hmmmm. Tell me more. Let's see where you're going with this."

"Uh, I guess I'd finish up by pointing out that it won't be long before the Treasure Valley has more legislators than the rest of the state combined. Not with the way it's growing, and all. And then let's see what happens when the rubes come crying to Boise for things they need. We'll show 'em, won't we, boss?"

I nodded thoughtfully. "Uh-hmm. Uh-hmm. I like it. Now that's what I'm talking about, Bill. Good ol' Idaho stuff! You let Washington take care of itself and stick to Idaho stuff, and ..."

I was relieved to hear impatient stomping from the other side of the door. "Dah-yud! Are you about done in there? I have hair to curl, darnit!"

I shrugged. "Guess the meeting's over, huh, boss?"

"Uh-hmm. For now, Bill. For now."

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