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The views expressed in letters to the editor and guest opinions are not necessarily those of this publication.


6-17-17

Summer Reading theme is 'Build a Better World'

Dear Editor:

The Clearwater Memorial Public Library would like to thank the following companies for their donations supporting the Library's Summer Reading Program: Riverside Lanes, Goffinet and Clack, The High Country Inn, Wells Fargo, Valley Motor Parts, Inc., Dr. Douglas Gray, P1FCU, Walrath Agency, Inc., Kiwanis Club of Orofino, AAUW Branch, Hanson Garage, Inc., Rotary Club of Orofino and Atkinson Distributing Inc.

These donations help to provide the Summer Reading Program with books and fun prizes that the kids receive throughout the event. Thank you to Orofino Builder's Supply for donating our Summer Reading t-shirts (pictured above) for the sixth year in a row. The shirts are always a big hit with all the kids that participate. The library would also like to thank Express Name Tags and More! of Weippe for the great job they did printing the shirts.

The Summer Reading Program registration runs from June 26 to July 8 . The program starts on July 10 and ends on Aug. 4 with a party in the Orofino City Park. Every Wednesday and Friday at 10:30 and 2:00 there will be a storytime and crafts for children from 0-9 years old. At 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. there will be crafts for children 10-13 years old. Come join us and 'Build a Better World'.

Marcia Player / Clearwater Memorial Public Library Staff


6-15-17

Crane expresses thanks for community support of ICARE

Dear Editor:

A huge heartfelt thank you to all the people who live in our great Clearwater River communities and may/may not have contributed to the success of the ICARE project.

ICARE (Cancer Assistance & Recovery Effort) was formed nine years ago. There are still many who are unaware of the non-profit organization that financially helps local people who are actively undergoing treatment for cancer.

When we hear of someone who is battling cancer, we contact them and send them an ICARE Request Form. Once returned, the information is considered and generally funds are issued within a couple weeks. In 2012 the amount given, called a 'Gift of Love', was increased to $500 where it remains the same today.

ICARE facts:

  • 212 Individuals helped
  • In 20 local area communities
  • $98,900 have been issued

One might say…" Wow! They are doing great!" and yes, while that is true it takes ongoing effort and funds by many. As a director of ICARE, a constant concern is, "Is there enough money to help the next few people? If not, then what can we do to assure the funds are there? Pray! Ask for help! Never give up! Just recently, a 'Hootenanny' was hosted by Tom and Gayle Marek which raised $600 for ICARE. If you know someone who might like to do a fundraising event, please contact us.

Not only is this letter to share information with you, it is also a reminder to consider a gift to ICARE and thank you for continued support in helping us help your Friends, Neighbors and Family.

Dee Crane
ICARE, Inc.
c/o 2134 Canyon Creek Rd.
Orofino, ID 83544


6-12-17

Legislators advocate improving relations with Cuba

Guest opinion by Rep. Mat Erpelding/(D) Boise and Rep. Luke Malek/(R) Coeur d'Alene

The Administration's plan to roll back policy initiatives between the United States and Cuba is a missed opportunity for the country and a substantive blow to potentially lucrative markets here in Idaho.

What you may have missed from the news reporting on this issue is that bipartisan support for improved trade relations with Cuba is alive and well. It is my opinion that together, Idaho Democrats and Republicans can cultivate a healthy economic relationship with Cuba that will prove fruitful to all Idahoans. That's why we are working to advance this critical issue.

The opportunities that exist in Cuba for Idaho businesses are significant. Consider the fact that presently, Cuba imports 60-80 percent of its food, a market estimated at $2 billion. That means that farmers and suppliers of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy goods and countless other necessities currently enjoy access to this large and sustainable market. The problem is, virtually none of our American farmers are profiting from that due to the restrictive nature of the current U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

Clearly, if there's one thing that Idahoans know, it's agriculture. Imagine the possibilities for our state to expand its global reach and serve as a leader in exports of our high-quality goods to the island. Again, that market figure is two billion dollars. To capture just a slice of that pie would produce strong returns for our state and put more people to work.

We need relations with Cuba, especially in trade, to advance, not regress. We recognize that, and so do many other influential Idaho politicians, businesses, religious groups, universities and others who comprise the Idaho State Council of Engage Cuba. This group is a coalition chaired by Governor Butch Otter that is actively lobbying Congress to lift the trade embargo. Regardless of affiliation, profession, or background, we all share the same interest in serving Idahoans as best we can. In this case, we wholeheartedly believe that working with Cuba, rather than shutting them out, is the right thing to do.

Agriculture isn't the only arena in which Idahoans can benefit. The technology and communications sector is able to invest in Cuba today thanks to a policy exception called "Support for the Cuban People." This exception allows companies to provide Cubans with phones and tablets, as well as Internet access, infrastructure and other related services critical to business and communication needs. Imagine the opportunities for Idaho's blossoming tech sector, led by Micron and HP and startups such as Cradlepoint, Kount, or Because International and others. Helping to construct a communications grid in a developing nation is no easy task, but Idaho tech companies and professionals possess the knowledge, experience and solutions to get the job done.

Doing what's right for each other is what Idahoans do, and doing what's right for Idaho is what we and the coalition aim to do. Together, we can continue to position our state as a leader in the evolving global economy.

Editor's note:

Rep. Mat Erpelding (D-Boise) is the Democratic Minority Leader in the Idaho House of Representatives. He is currently serving is third term from District 19.

Rep. Luke Malek represents District Four in the Idaho State House of Representatives. He is currently serving his third term in the Legislature.


4-29-17

Crapo: Property seizure abuses must end

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

In past columns, I have written about legislative efforts to stop the abuse of asset seizure laws to take Americans' property without proof of a crime, or even an arrest or warrant. A recent report from the Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration (TIGTA) sheds further light on the alarming property seizure practices of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

TIGTA's mission is to provide oversight of the federal tax system to ensure the IRS "is accountable for the trillions of dollars in tax revenue it collects each year." Following reports of the IRS seizing the legal assets of Americans, TIGTA looked into the IRS's seizures of the property of Americans suspected of structuring their financial transactions to avoid Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting requirements.

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 was intended to prevent money laundering and requires financial institutions to report daily cash transactions that exceed $10,000. Some small businesses with legal earnings have been accused of "structuring" cash deposits to fall below the reporting threshold and have been subjected to costly, drawn-out processes to try to get their money returned. However, the reporting requirements were never meant to be a means for stealing the assets of Americans making legal financial transactions, but rather a means to deter criminal activity. As TIGTA points out in the report, "the BSA reporting requirements were not put in place just so that the Government could enforce the reporting requirements. They were put in place to give the Government tools to address criminal behavior."

Unfortunately, based on the findings in the report and the accounts of Americans, including those who have testified before Congress, the overwhelming amount of funds seized by the IRS came from legitimate sources, many from mom and pop small business owners. TIGTA's report includes the following alarming findings:

  • "Most of the seizures for structuring violations involved legal source funds from businesses."
  • "$17.1 million was seized and forfeited to the Government in 231 legal source cases."
  • "Structuring seizures primarily involved legal source funds from businesses, and tax crimes were rarely established."
  • "Interviews with property owners did not meet all criminal investigation requirements, and advice of rights was not provided."
  • "There is a lack of evidence that property owners' reasonable explanations were considered."
  • "Property owners were not adequately informed of pertinent information."
  • "Noncustodial advice of rights were generally not provided."

TIGTA noted the IRS's policy change to no longer pursue seizure of legal assets for banking law reporting violations, but also found inconsistencies in following this policy and made recommendations that include establishing controls to ensure cases pursued meet the policy; returning funds seized in legal source cases; and ensuring that reasonable explanations are considered. We must be ever watchful and maintain pressure to ensure that such practices are stopped for good.

I am continuing to question the IRS about its seizure practices and have again co-sponsored S. 642, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. Fellow Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) introduced this legislation that would better protect property owners from wrongful property seizures and decrease potential monetary incentives for agencies to seize assets. The FAIR Act would put the burden of proof where it should be-on the government, not innocent Americans. Similar legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Federal agencies must not ignore the limits on their powers to swipe the earnings of America's small businesses. Property seizure abuses not only are unjust and run counter to our system of government, but also suppress innovation and growth. I will continue to press for adherence to and enactment of commonsense restraints to end these abuses.


2-22-17

Erpelding sums up Idaho Legislature activities

Guest opinion by Idaho House Minority Leader Representative Mat Erpelding

We are now half-way through the legislative session and still, the Majority party is doing nothing to empower Idaho's working class, prepare Idaho's students for high-paying jobs that are going unfilled or improve the quality of life for all Idahoans. The list of regressive anti-job and anti-local control measures continues to pile up.

Taking away your local elections

For starters, Rep. Manwaring (R-Pocatello) brought House Bill 150, which defines the timeline when counties can start early voting. The bill would require all counties in the state to adopt the same early voting timeline instead of leaving it up to local election boards. The Idaho Association of Counties wanted the law left as is. However, this big government grab passed the State Affairs Committee 8-7 and is heading to a vote of the full House.

Idaho Democrats cast "no" votes on this bill for obvious reasons. It substitutes local decision-making with state control. It also threatens to restrict early voting which benefits Idaho's working residents - both Democrat and Republican. This legislation has little to do with party-affiliation and everything to do with the desire for more state control over your local elections. We will continue to side with Idaho's working class against big government and vote "no" on this bill. I would encourage you to call your state legislators and tell them to keep their hands out of your local elections.

Bi-partisan common sense criminal justice reform

There was one bright note this week regarding common sense criminal justice reform. Democratic Representative Ilana Rubel and Representative Perry co-sponsored House bill 179 which would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offenses in Idaho. Instead of allowing the State to dictate how drug crimes are sentenced, the legislation would put control and discretion back in the hands of your locally-elected judges. This bill would bring some much-needed common sense to sentencing and could save you money in the long run by lightening the load on local jails and state prisons. This bill has bi-partisan support, so I would urge you to contact your state legislator and state senator and tell them you want to take back local control of your courts and put discretion in the hands of the judges you elected - not the heavy hand of the state. Tell them to keep their noses out of your courts.

Idaho students losing out on high-paying STEM jobs

A recent presentation by the Idaho STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Action Center revealed some startling numbers that shows just how much money Idaho is leaving on the table when it comes to jobs in STEM fields. Even though Idaho's technology sector is growing by leaps and bounds, an estimated 3,800 STEM-related jobs go unfilled throughout the state every year! The median STEM-related job pays an astounding $32 an hour, compared to about $15 an hour for all other jobs. When you add it all up, Idahoans could be making an extra $4.8 Million a week from STEM jobs! So what does the majority party do?

They remove critical pieces of education from the teaching curriculum. Last week, members of the House Education Committee voted to strip five paragraphs from the proposed school science standards regarding biodiversity, human impact on the environment, and the effects of climate change on our water sources.

This was a set of modified standards that were developed after the Education Committee rejected the standards last year. These standards were developed by the Science Standards Committee that included highly respected science education professionals, Idaho engineers, and included extensive public input. This is a shortsighted political move and harms our students looking to get into high-paying STEM jobs.

We value accountability and transparency. If you have any concerns about pending legislation, ideas for legislation, or if you need assistance dealing with a state agency, please feel free to call us at 332-1132.


1-25-17

Crapo warns about tax season scams

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

"As the tax filing season approaches, it is critical that all taxpayers remember to be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees," warns the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), J. Russell George.

He further cautions that the callers are aggressive and relentless. "Once they have your attention, they will say anything to con you out of your hard-earned cash. We continue to actively pursue those perpetrating this fraud, and we ask you to remain vigilant and report any calls you receive to our web site."

TIGTA released a flyer and poster to help alert taxpayers about fraudulent calls from scammers impersonating Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Treasury employees. Links to both and information about the scams can be accessed on the Treasury Department's website, www.treasury.gov.

TIGTA cautions that, "The IRS generally first contacts people by mail-not by phone-about unpaid taxes and the IRS will not insist on payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order, or wire transfer. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or any social media. The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number over the phone."

TIGTA also provides recommendations on what to do if a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and asking for payment is received. The recommendations include hanging up; reporting the scam via TIGTA's web site, www.tigta.gov; and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Further, TIGTA recommends that attachments in IRS-related email scams should not be opened and links should not be clicked, but rather reported, and encourages awareness of other scams, such as claims of winning lottery or sweepstakes and solicitations for debt relief offers that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

TIGTA describes the scam as the largest tax impersonation scam ever in the U.S., and reported that 56 alleged scammers associated with 5 call centers have been indicted, and 21 individuals were arrested in the U.S. Reports of more than 1.8 million people receiving an impersonation call have been made to TIGTA, and more than 9,600 victims have collectively paid more than $50 million as a result of the scam. An additional approximately $21 million in losses and more than 4,000 victims have accrued since TIGTA sent out a similar alert last year.

I am trying to help get word out about this scam in the hopes that more do not fall victim to it. It is galling that Americans are spending millions on compliance with an overly burdensome tax code while having to be on guard against scammers manipulating its complexities. Unfortunately, Americans must be suspicious anytime they get a cold call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, given the well-document difficulties the IRS has just being able to answer legitimate phone calls from taxpayers with questions. I continue to work for comprehensive, long-term reform of our overly-complex and anti-competitive tax code to assist with economic and job growth and ease compliance. Eliminating complexity, broadening the base and significantly lowering rates for all Americans will make the code more clear, easier to meet its obligations and ideally more difficult to exploit.


1-7-17

Addressing the college, career part of Idaho's education system next step

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

As we near the midway point in successfully implementing the 20 recommendations from the 2013 Task Force for Improving Education, it's time to turn our attention to the postsecondary part of Idaho's K-through-career education system.

I believe our success in implementing transformative initiatives in our K-12 education system over the past three years is due largely to the process used by that task force. The group's diverse makeup, the study of best practices and research, and the robust discussion of potential improvements led to a five-year roadmap for improving student achievement and creating a world-class K-12 education system in Idaho.

That's why I have again asked the State Board of Education to lead a new task force to develop a five-year plan for higher education in Idaho as we seek to make more rapid progress toward our "Go On" goal of 60 percent of Idahoans between the ages of 25 and 34 attaining a postsecondary degree or certification by 2020. We know that Idaho's future economic prosperity depends on our ability to develop a more skilled and educated workforce.

The Higher Education Task Force will be comprised of a diverse group of stakeholders including our college and university presidents, representatives from business and industry, legislators and students. Their charge will be to study the state of higher education in Idaho, initiatives already underway and proven practices, and to report findings and recommendations on the strategies that best support postsecondary access and completion. The Task Force also will consider the State's role in funding higher education and recommend how to transition to a State-funding formula for higher education that rewards outcomes toward completion.

I am pleased that the Task Force will be co-chaired by Bob Lokken, CEO of WhiteCloud Analytics Inc. and chairman of the Idaho Business for Education board of directors, and Dr. Linda Clark, vice president of the State Board of Education. Both were members of the previous task force and have been instrumental in our efforts to implement the five-year plan for K-12 education. I have complete confidence that they will lead this new effort with the same spirit of inclusion, public discourse, and consensus.

"The task force is critical in illuminating a path into the future for the State's higher education system. Our economy and the fundamental nature of work continue to evolve - and it places unprecedented demands on our postsecondary education institutions," Lokken said. "We look forward to a diverse task force makeup to help us tackle this work and to align the State's efforts in a way that is critical to making meaningful progress."

"I am honored to be asked to serve as the Task Force co-chair, and I appreciate the Governor's strong commitment to further improving education in Idaho," Clark said. "Engaging a broad range of stakeholders in this manner will provide important impetus to the work of our higher education institutions in meeting the State Board’s 60 percent goal and ensuring a strong economic future for Idaho.”

"We have all seen the long-term commitment to public elementary and secondary education that has grown from the Governor's Task Force for Improving Education and its recommendations. We are excited at the prospect of developing similarly impactful recommendations to bolster the investment and support needed for our public colleges and universities," Board of Education President Emma Atchley said. "It is imperative that the State ensures access to high-quality and affordable public postsecondary education for all Idahoans."

The Legislature's participation in this endeavor will be invaluable as recommendations are developed and budget impacts are discussed. I appreciate the support of House Speaker Bedke and Senate President Pro Tem Hill as we seek to enact policies with significant and lasting benefits for our citizens.

A complete list of Task Force members will be available in the coming days on my web site, https://gov.idaho.gov/.

Our focus must always be on what is best for our students and families and how to achieve our shared goals. I look forward to the report and recommendations of this Task Force, and I thank all those who serve and participate in this important endeavor.


1-6-17

Crapo: The need to shore up Social Security is mounting

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

In its most recent report out in June, the Trustees of the Social Security trust fund provided another warning that Congress must act now to address the shortfalls of the Social Security trust fund.

The trustees reported that the Social Security program will be "unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2034" and recommended that lawmakers address these shortfalls soon, so that "a broader range of solutions can be considered and more time will be available to phase in changes while giving the public adequate time to prepare." Many Americans depend on Social Security, and we must not waste more time and act on this warning to prevent the program's insolvency.

By law, the Social Security Trustees provide an annual assessment to Congress of the current and projected condition of the Social Security trust fund. This report builds on past warnings that the trust fund's shortfalls must be addressed now. The Trustees' report included the following troubling projections:

  • Social Security's combined trust funds will be depleted in 2034, the same year projected in last year's report;
  • When the reserve is depleted, income to the funds would be sufficient to pay 77 percent of the scheduled benefits to retired workers, their families and survivors of deceased workers;
  • The Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund that supports the DI program, which assists disabled workers and their families, is projected to be depleted in 2023, at which time continuing income to the DI Trust Fund would be sufficient to pay 89 percent of scheduled DI benefits;
  • "If substantial actions are deferred for several years, the changes necessary to maintain Social Security solvency would be concentrated on fewer years and fewer generations."

The program provides benefits to millions of senior citizens and the disabled, and the solutions are increasingly difficult as more time is wasted. The Trustees report that there were 61 million Social Security beneficiaries and 171 million covered workers and their families in 2016. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that, "maintaining financial balance after trust fund insolvency would require substantial reductions in Social Security benefits, substantial increases in income, or some combination of the two . . . The sooner Congress acts to adjust Social Security policy, the less abrupt the changes would need to be, because they could be spread over a longer period and would therefore affect a larger number of workers and beneficiaries."

The warnings are clear. As a new Congress and new Administration kick off this month, we must act as the trustees advise, "With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action . . ." to prevent Social Security's insolvency.


12-29-16

Crapo explains 21st Century Cures Act

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As participants in the decisions made in Congress, Idahoans contact me with valuable input about the issues our country faces.

Realizing that many may not have the chance to contact me, I post the top five issues of concern from Idahoans and my responses on my web site http://www.crapo.senate.gov/issues/constituent_letters.cfm?. The following is my response regarding the 21st Century Cures Act:

I voted in favor of this important legislation. The 21st Century Cures Act, H.R. 34, is a landmark health care innovation package that will accelerate the discovery, development and delivery of new cures and treatments. The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 34 on Nov. 30, by a vote of 392-26. Then, the Senate passed it on Dec. 7, by a vote of 94-5. President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 13.

This comprehensive legislation contains a wide variety of policies, but its centerpiece is the establishment of Innovation Funds within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). H.R. 34 authorizes $4.8 billion over 10 years to the NIH and $500 million to the FDA. These funds are subject to the annual appropriations process and the increased discretionary spending will be offset with an equivalent amount of savings from mandatory programs. The 21st Century Cures Act includes the following key components:

  • $4.8 billion over 10 years for the NIH to be used for the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovation Neurotechnologies Initiative, cancer research and regenerative medicine using adult stem cells,
  • $500 million over 10 years to clear out the FDA backlog and increase the speed at which drugs and medical devices are approved,
  • $1 billion over 2 years for grants to states to supplement opioid abuse prevention and treatment programs, and
  • Numerous provisions that address the country's mental health crisis and help the one in five Americans living with mental illness

The passage of the 21st Century Cures Act is a critical first step in modernizing health care. Throughout my tenure in the U.S. Senate, I have always supported medical research initiatives and will continue do so. Scientists, researchers and doctors continue to make great strides in finding treatments and cures for many conditions; however, there is still much that we do not know. We need ongoing research to better understand all aspects of medicine. I look forward to continuing to promote health policies that are in the best interests of all Idahoans.


11-18-16

Recognize the heroes among us

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

For the past 14 years, I have had the honor of recognizing some of the remarkable service of Idahoans with the Spirit of Freedom: Idaho Veterans Service Award.

This award is presented in two categories: veterans and volunteers who assist veterans. Many of these Idahoans participated in formidable world events and returned home, raised families, built up our communities and continued to serve in many capacities assisting fellow Idahoans, including veterans and their families. Their examples of selfless service are beyond worthy of recognition and are a tip of the iceberg of the many outstanding Americans who make Idaho home.

This year, 19 Idahoans are being honored with the 2016 Spirit of Freedom Award:

Veterans:

  • Lloyd Kent Brown, Garden City;
  • Henry W. Clark, Boise;
  • Charlie A. Hollenbeck, Lewiston;
  • Bud Kelly, Pocatello;
  • Timothy James McBride, Fruitland;
  • Ned Mickelsen, Pocatello;
  • Jacob D. Sattler, Boise;
  • Erin Smith, Boise;
  • John A. Spurny, Mountain Home;
  • Irving Tyrrell, Jr., Boise;
  • Douglas E. Welch, Lewiston;
  • Joseph H. Whilden, Nampa;

Volunteers:

  • Barbara Gehring, Pocatello;
  • William A. Hamilton, Nampa;
  • Boyd L. Pedersen, Lewiston;
  • Wayne Sall, Boise;
  • Brett Waters, Shelley;
  • Rita Weber, Boise;
  • Jim White, Lewiston;

I am continually inspired by the lives and leadership of the award recipients. The veteran awardees exemplify valor, perseverance, sacrifice, honor and freedom. One veteran assisted with the liberation of a concentration camp during World War II while another was freed after being taken as a prisoner of war during the Battle of the Bulge. Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to honor the first female armor enlisted soldier in the nation to graduate from the U.S. Army's M1 Armor Crewman School. The veterans honored with the Spirit of Freedom award often go beyond serving our country in the military. Most of them have returned home and help in their communities.

Idaho is not only home to an exceptional populous of veterans, but also we are blessed to have volunteers who embody the spirit of service and are dedicated to the well being of our veterans, like the gentleman who has helped refurbish more than 105 wheelchairs for disabled veterans or the Idahoan who has volunteered countless hours over the past nearly 20 years helping to calm the nerves of veterans awaiting health services. These are some examples of the remarkable service of Spirit of Freedom awardees. Biographies of 2016 and past year Spirit of Freedom Award recipients are posted on my web site at http://www.crapo.senate.gov/issues/veterans/spirit_of_freedom.cfm. They truly are heroes among us, and it is a privilege to help honor them.

Thank you to the nominating organizations for bringing the service of the awardees to our attention. The Boise Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the Idaho Military Division, the Idaho State Veterans Home-Boise, the Idaho State Veterans Home-Lewiston, the Idaho State Veterans Home-Pocatello, the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, the Lewis-Clark Valley Veterans Council, the Department of Idaho Military Order of the Purple Heart and the Vietnam Veterans of America Idaho State Council are among the organizations that submitted nominations for the award this year.

Since the award's creation, 247 Spirit of Freedom Awards have now been presented. The award recipients have answered our nation's call of duty and are not just identifying needs in our communities, but also working hard to meet those needs. They are truly what makes our communities, state and nation great and are representative of the innumerable other Idahoans who perpetuate the Spirit of Freedom through bettering our communities and encouraging others through their examples.


10-29-16

Otter: HJR 5 is a solution in search of a problem

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Continuous bickering and name calling at the top of the ticket in this election year are understandably creating a lot of anxiety among voters. So there's no need for anyone to add to that angst by frightening folks about the Idaho Legislature having too little authority to protect them from government bureaucrats run amok.

Yet that is precisely what advocates of HJR 5 on the November 8th ballot are doing. They should get no more support in their effort this year than they did two years ago when Idaho voters rejected the same idea - putting into the Idaho Constitution what already is the law of the land.

When it first emerged last spring, my initial impression was that it wasn't a bad idea. After all, everyone wants government to be more accountable, right? But after considering it further, my conclusion is that HJR 5 is about as good an example as you will ever find of a solution desperately in search of a problem. I'd call it unnecessary but its potential consequences are more serious than that implies.

The Idaho Supreme Court decided in 1990 that legislators have the authority to reject rules from Executive agencies that they believe are inconsistent with the legislative intent of the law behind the rule. The review process dominates the opening weeks of each annual legislative session.

But HJR 5 would go further, embedding in the Idaho Constitution a legislative practice that can be found nowhere in existing law. The amendment would give lawmakers additional authority to reject rules "in whole or in part" - essentially creating a lawmaking process in which the governor is constitutionally barred from vetoing the result. For example, the governor could do nothing if the Legislature unilaterally altered the basic intent of an agency's rule simply by changing its language "in part" from "the department shall not" to "the department shall" take a particular action.

That fundamentally changes the dynamic of legislative review and is a serious breach of the balance and separation of powers between the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches - a hallmark of our form of government. Forget about "checks and balances." By taking a belt-and-suspenders approach to the rules review process, HJR 5 would disenfranchise the other branches and make the Legislature Idaho's preeminent government organ.

I want to make it clear that I have no problem with the Legislature's rules review process as it now exists in statute. It is designed to protect Idaho citizens from what HJR 5 proponents contend are the threats of rules that undermine legislative intent and bureaucrats imposing unreasonable regulations - shortcomings more accurately attributed to the federal government. Not satisfied with the existing guarantees that legislative intent will be protected in rules, HJR 5 backers now are seeking constitutional protection against the existing law and court precedent somehow being overturned.

That prospect seems pretty dim 26 years after the court upheld the constitutionality of legislative rules review. And the price for reassuring concerned legislators of their authority in the event of some future court challenge could be endless opportunities for mischief. It could mean opening the door for self-serving interests to further assert their influence in the process and running the legitimate risk of needlessly extending annual legislative sessions.

Does any of that sound good to you? Does anyone want a single branch of government writing the laws and developing the rules for how those laws are implemented with no check on its authority? If not, I encourage you to join me in voting NO on HJR 5 on Nov. 8.


10-04-16

Political signs being taken down

Dear Editor:

For many years I have put up political signs each election year and I have enjoyed it. This year has been different, every time I put up signs someone takes them down.

I don't know the reason but I am sure it is not a good one. It is hard work to put up all the signs and this year especially as I fell and fractured my shoulder, elbow and wrist, so doing the signs is a little painful.

So this weekend I will put up signs again and I ask whoever has been taking them to leave them alone. Every party has a right to put up signs. I don't touch theirs and I ask for the same respect.

Thank you,

Joy Hall
Pierce


9-29-16

Ybarra: We need multiple strategies to address Idaho's serious teacher shortage

Guest opinion by Superintendent Sherri Ybarra

Idaho is seeing an increased demand for teachers, but the supply is hitting a critical low and school districts across our state are struggling to fill teaching positions. Given the importance of a high-quality teacher in the classroom and how it relates to achievement, it's time we begin to find strategies and realistic solutions to an issue that is also getting national attention-the very evident teacher shortage.

There are fewer students entering teacher preparation programs. According to the most recent Idaho Educator Pipeline Report, released by the Office of the State Board of Education in July, headcount enrollment in Idaho's teacher preparation programs last year was about 3,000 teacher candidates, less than half of what it was in 2009.

Based on national trends and research, there are several other key points that are also affecting the supply and demand of our teachers, right here in Idaho:

  • Increases in enrollment statewide
  • Retirement attrition (this varies by district, but it is a contributing factor that will continue to impact the issue)
  • Non-retirement attrition (people leaving the field, based on compensation or lack of mentoring)
  • The rural nature of our great state
  • Negative culture or perception to the profession of education

In a collaborative effort two years ago, there was an attempt to address this very serious issue by the legislature with the development of the career ladder. The intent was to help provide some direction on this issue, while providing better pay for current certificated Idaho teachers. However, it was also intended to attract great teachers and leaders, but only two years into this strategy, it has not been in place long enough to determine the impact it will have on this shortage.

We need many more solutions and strategies that can be enacted now, and one of those strategies is already working right in front of us-it's called classified staff. These hard working individuals can be seen throughout our districts and schools, dedicated people who know their communities, parents, schools and their students, along with the process by which a school functions. We have instructional aides, office support staff, and technical staff alike, who are dedicated people and deeply care about kids. These folks are passionate about education, yet they cannot teach in Idaho simply because they are not properly credentialed.

With the submission of my 2018 (FY18) public schools budget proposal, I have increased the classified staff salary and benefit dollars to better support these very hard working people. In my budget proposal, you will see a line item for Rural Education Support Center Initiative. This request, if funded, could provide a realistic and manageable solution for district leaders. The Rural Education Support Center could assist a "grow your own" program strategy, providing financial support and incentives to classified staff who would like to pursue teaching in Idaho. The Rural Education Support Center could assist by advertising positions and job sharing. This is an effort to remove the barriers to becoming a teacher and provide another strategy that can assist with the teacher shortage in our rural communities. Given that 45 states have rural education centers; Idaho's Rural Education Support Center will have a positive impact considering the rural nature of our great state.

This is an effort to allow district leaders the opportunity to fill positions now. This is not a long-term solution and I don't fail to recognize that this is a band-aid approach to a very serious issue that nationally, has been cited to become critical in the years to come. We need to begin growing the number of future teachers enrolling in our colleges of education. We will need to work with higher education institutions on ways to recruit more individuals into those programs, as well.

Other strategies do exist for individuals already working in our Idaho school districts. One example is Teach for America (TFA). This is an opportunity to teach in schools which serve low income students. Currently, there currently 28 TFA teachers in Idaho, and we would like to increase that number in the years to come. TFA isn't intended to solve the long-term teacher shortage, but it is a realistic, short-term strategy to the shortage that Idaho's districts are faced with today.

Troops to Teachers (TTT) is another great organization that can assist in our short-term efforts. This program is through the Department of Defense and is designed to provide our great service men and women an opportunity to become a teacher, as well as develop a second career following their service in the military. There are currently 73 TTT teachers serving in the state of Idaho.

We have already begun to work on one of the most evident contributing factors to the teacher shortage, and that is the culture and climate of public education in Idaho. Since taking office in January of 2015, it was evident that our educators needed to be included in conversations, and to be recognized for the great work that they do every day, the behind the scenes work that occurs and that most people will never see. I have said many times, that there are things teachers do to support and protect the well-being of students that may never be recognized, things that are outside of their job description. This is what teachers do, they work hard in supporting schools and students to achieve because it is the right thing to do-they are tireless supporters of Idaho's children, and by recognizing this, is in part how we can address this critical teacher shortage in Idaho.

With all this being said, our work is never done and we will continue to seek out solutions to the teacher shortage. With districts growing their own, awareness of teaching programs, and a collaborative effort in changing the culture and climate of education, we will attract and retain those great teachers and leaders our children deserve. We will continue to work with stakeholder groups, the business community, and other state leaders to explore and pursue other options to help solve the teacher shortage, as our children of Idaho depend on it!


9-28-16

Idaho fighting wildfires through the power of partnerships

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Diverse interests are working together in unprecedented ways in Idaho to improve the health and resiliency of our lands.

Our goal, in part, is to reduce large wildfires that cost taxpayers millions of dollars to suppress, damage wildlife habitat, pump millions of tons of carbon into the air, pile sediment into our waterways, hurt our economy, and harm the health of our citizens.

The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) auctioned a federal lands timber sale for the first time in Idaho during the past week. It was a milestone for the State of Idaho in working with the U.S. Forest Service, timber companies and other forest partners on an "all lands" approach to restoring forested lands in Idaho and providing additional wood to sustain Idaho's forest products industry - our mill operators, loggers, and truckers.

The Wapiti Timber Sale on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is the first of several forest restoration projects planned in Idaho using Good Neighbor Authority, a federal law extended to all states under the 2014 Farm Bill that enables the Forest Service to work with states to achieve landscape objectives across ownership boundaries.

Other projects are planned for the Payette National Forest in west-central Idaho and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests in northern Idaho.

Before Good Neighbor Authority, Idaho could not legally help the Forest Service with the enormous and complex job of restoring our national forests.

Federal, State and private lands are intermingled in Idaho, so management practices on federal lands inevitably affect neighboring State and private lands. Idahoans wasted no time before taking advantage of the opportunities presented by Good Neighbor Authority.

IDL forestry professionals are skilled and efficient in managing nearly 1 million acres of state endowment forests for long-term health and sustainability. Selling timber from endowment forests helps fund Idaho's public schools and other State institutions.

We are lending IDL expertise in preparing and administering timber sales, conducting field layout for timber sales, and collecting data to augment Forest Service efforts. The State of Idaho, the timber industry, and the federal government all have pitched in and provided commitments of time and money to increase the pace and scale of forest and watershed restoration projects happening on federal lands in Idaho.

Wildfire is influenced by three factors: weather, terrain and fuels. Only fuels can be managed.

While some firefights dominate headlines for months, few people know that State and federal fire managers suppress hundreds of additional wildfires every summer in Idaho before they get bigger than a few acres. Many of those fires are stopped because proactive management robbed them of fuels along their path.

While Good Neighbor Authority is a godsend, it is not the only way in which State and federal authorities are working together to restore the health of federal lands in Idaho.

Idaho ranchers have been working with the Bureau of Land Management and IDL since 2012 to set up rangeland fire protection associations to assist with quick initial attack of fires. That has resulted in nearly 8 million acres across southern Idaho that now receive primary or secondary fire protection from the people who live and work on the land. Idahoans' work with federal agencies to create fire breaks to prevent habitat loss for sage-grouse is yet another example.

There is no Washington, DC, mandate behind the cooperation happening in Idaho. Partnership is happening here because Idahoans are results-driven people - including those in positions of leadership within State and federal agencies in Idaho.

Like me, Idahoans can be proud of the terrific progress happening in our state because of our desire to roll up our sleeves and put planning into action for the improvement of our environment and the benefit of our people.

9-2-16

Labor Day offers chance to celebrate Idaho's private sector job growth

by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Labor Day traditionally is a time for celebrating our working men and women, the folks who keep our society running, who keep us healthy, who build our communities, who feed and clothe us, who serve and protect us, and who sacrificed over the years to improve working conditions for all of us.

Work is the gold standard of self-determination and freedom. Work opens the doors to opportunity and helps us achieve our goals of independence and self-reliance. An appreciation of work is both a value to be passed from generation to generation and one goal among many to help us measure our success in life.

Job growth is a metric aggregating those individual success stories into a measure of broader economic progress. So it's great news, and not surprising, that Idaho has been leading the nation in job growth. Our statewide unemployment rate now is 3.8 percent, down sharply from 9.7 percent in June and July 2009.

But it's important to remember that while job growth is a primary indicator of an improving economy - especially when it raises per capita income levels in a community or a state - not all job growth is created equal.

Don't get me wrong; good-paying jobs are inherently valuable wherever they are created. But economically and politically, growing the number of government jobs in society generally is not considered real progress. After all, government is the ultimate service industry. Its focus is not on producing or manufacturing but rather on improving the underlying conditions for private-sector economic growth.

The First Lady and I greatly value our hard-working State employees who strive every day to meet the needs of Idaho citizens. They have our deepest respect and gratitude for their labors, as do all whose bread is earned by the sweat of their own brow.

But except when the bottom fell out of the global economy in 2008-2009, job growth in Idaho's State government has been consistently outpaced by private employment growth throughout my tenure as governor. From my point of view that's the proper dynamic between government employment and private-sector jobs, and it's the way I am committed to keeping it while I hold this office.

Even in 2009-2010, when the private sector was taking it on the chin to the tune of an actual 1.1-percent decline in Idaho jobs, our State government reduced its employment by 5.3 percent. And as the economy started to turn around, Idaho businesses began growing jobs at rates from two to four times that of the State.

That was and remains a result of entrepreneurs and business leaders expressing confidence in Idaho's recipe for job growth and economic success: Keep government small, efficient and responsive; live within the people's means, and keep more money in taxpayers' hands.

We still have a lot of work to do. We need more and better-educated, better-trained people to meet the growing demands of our employers. We are addressing that need through my K-through-Career focus on improving education and workforce development with sustainable investments in our public schools and post-secondary educational opportunities.

Some critics also contend the Tax Reimbursement Incentive we enacted a couple of years ago goes beyond government's proper role in Idaho's economy. But it's tough to take issue with public policy that in two years has resulted in 4,737 new jobs in Idaho and $2.1billion in new payroll generating an estimated $216.7 million in new State revenue and a 400-percent return on taxpayer investment.

Add that kind of proven carrot to make our outstanding work force and world-class standard of living even more attractive to employers and the result is more jobs, higher wages, and the kind of economic environment that really makes Labor Day a time to celebrate Idaho!


8-4-16

Blue Light

Writer asking support for law enforcement with 'Blue Light' campaign

Dear Editor:

I was driving from Idaho to Lake Tahoe last week and was saddened by all the news involving the police. We could put blue light bulbs on porches or anywhere else around our homes. My hope is an officer drives by a home or business notice's a blue light and it will touch their hearts, and can see firsthand there is support for them.

I've started sending emails to the media nationwide. So I'm hoping everyone that has read my email will help get this message out. I called Lowes they said they would have plenty of Blue light bulbs on hand or I'm sure any place that sells bulbs would have this color. I hope for your support and any other ideas how to make this work. I'm hoping soon we can flip a switch and America will be lit up with blue light bulbs.

I'm sending this message to every media outlet in each state. I'm going to keep emailing anybody that will listen. I'm proud and thankful for the media from different states that interviewed me so far on face time and helped me get this message out. I know this has been done in different areas but I would like the whole nation to come together and light up blue. My hope is each station will do the story at least once if that would not be huge support I don't know what else to do.

This is the light at my house with my dog and a sign supporting the K-9 officers. I'm going to buy bulbs and start passing them out around my area.

I also hope the White House will follow us and light up with blue lights.

Kelly Gunderson
Lake Tahoe, CA


6-18-16

Crapo: Wildfire season has become a misnomer

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)

In the past, warm spring weather touched off the start of the worst wildfires. Now, unfortunately one fire season essentially runs into the next.

Summer is just starting and states already are reporting what the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) calls "large fires." More than a million acres have already burned this year. (https://www.nifc.gov/fireInfo/nfn.htm)

It is time to get ahead of the terrible trifecta of high temperatures, drought and massive fuel build-up that sparks bigger, hotter fires that cost more and burn longer. These conditions are worsened by an unsustainable funding structure making it harder to carry out forest health projects that improve forest conditions.

Wide agreement exists that the dangerous cycle of borrowing funds from fire prevention for fire suppression must end. Together, we have been fighting for a bipartisan congressional budget fix that would provide enough funding to clear hazardous fuels and manage our forests instead of continuing to neglect them.

Last year, Congress bandaged the problem a bit by passing a bill that funded firefighting at 100 percent of the 10-year average of firefighting costs. But the Forest Service has said those funds would not have even covered the costs of last year's full fire season. This year is predicted to be worse.

That's why we are doing whatever it takes to get to a solution. We have joined with the leaders of the Senate Energy Committee, Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and colleagues in putting forward a new bipartisan compromise to fix the broken wildfire funding system.

This plan would also fund firefighting at 100 percent of the 10-year average of firefighting costs. But in years with fewer fires when not all the fire budget is used, this plan would siphon funding left over from suppression to fire prevention projects.

For the first time, this compromise would allow local communities to self-identify as fire at-risk, giving rural communities a voice in what prevention work gets accomplished quickly.

This proposal is not an end-all solution, but it is a step in the right direction toward bringing everyone to the table and renewing our years-long call for action on wildfire funding.

Congress must start recognizing and treating wildfires like the natural disasters they are, because it is not just wildfire programs that are threatened by the current unstable funding structure. Forest Service programs in Midwestern, Eastern and Southern states that manage timber sales, stream restoration, trail maintenance and recreation get shortchanged when money is diverted to fighting wildfires.

Over the last few years, we visited fire camps throughout Oregon and Idaho and have spoken about wildfires on the Senate floor. We have raised the issue in committee hearings and introduced a funding fix in bills and amendments. We have worked closely with a bipartisan and bicameral group of colleagues on a compromise. Congress needs to act on a long-term solution to this growing problem.

We will not stop fighting until federal wildfire funding policy reflects the reality that "wildfire season" has changed.

You may access the Senators' web sites through the following links: http://crapo.senate.gov/ and http://wyden.senate.gov/.


5-9-16

Bradbury supporting Brody for Idaho Supreme Court

Dear Editor:

Lewiston Tribune columnist Chuck Malloy reports: "As [retiring Supreme Court Justice Jim] Jones sees it, there are not many issues for the Supreme Court candidates to talk about."

Really?

Most Idahoans can't afford a legal system where some lawyers charge $300 or more an hour. The public defender system is woefully inadequate. Except for Orofino, there are no mental health courts in rural Idaho where no other services are available.

The court makes meaningless gibberish of the Idaho Constitution's school funding mandate by refusing to enforce it.

The State Bar winks when lawyers ignore the bar rule that requires personal experience with judicial candidates as a condition of rating them so they can skew the poll results.

The court is also one of only two supreme courts in the country without a woman on it.

Robyn Brody is a smart, able, personable and professional Rupert lawyer. She can bring real change to a Supreme Court badly in need of it.

A vote for her is a first step toward a Supreme Court that Idahoans can once again take pride in. A vote for her is a vote for hope.

John Bradbury
Lewiston


5-6-16

OJSHS 'We the People' competitors express appreciation to community

Dear Editor:

On behalf of the Orofino Junior Senior High School AP (Advanced Placement) Government Class we want to express our profound thanks to the Orofino Community and those surrounding it.

This past year we set forth on an endeavor to earn over $40,000 to aid us in attending the national 'We the People' competition. At this competition we got to explore areas of our government that we normally do not encounter, such as the history of our government and how it is implemented in today's society. At the end of this competition we narrowly missed placing in the top 10 in the nation. This program allowed us to further our education, both in the classroom, and in the real world and without the donations from the generous people of Orofino, and surrounding area, this trip would not have been possible.

Orofino Junior/Senior High School Advanced Placement Government students pose at the Einstein statue. They are from left sitting in front, James Bolling, Bryton Anderson, Gabe Turner, Tyslee Chen; second row standing, Mrs. Janet Owsley, Kolby Brink, Emily Gasaway, James Shively, Cassidy West, Mrs. Pam Danielson; third row, Gabi Kessel, Sicily Erb, Crystal Lundgren, Bekah Kaminski, Hannah Dugger, Morganne Raines; fourth row, Quinn Kendall, Tristan Dennison, Nikki Tran, Amy Gladhart; top, GuoXing Wu. (Photo courtesy of Pam Danielson)

This money went towards our entry into places such as the National Spy Museum and the Newseum. We also explored the Natural History Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and the American History Museum. This also gave way to other educational experiences in Washington DC other than that of the competition itself, such as the memorials of Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln, The Korean War, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, WWII, Pentagon Memorial, and even included the laying of a wreath at the Iwo Jima Memorial by Mrs. Janet Owsley.

In addition to this, our group of students had the opportunity to tour the Capitol building, the Library of Congress, and Arlington National Cemetery.

Thank you all for making this wonderful experience possible for the students of the 2016 AP Government Class at OHS, this was an amazing experience that we will not soon forget and we are proud of the feat that our small community was able to achieve, overcoming all of the obstacles that we faced. It was truly one of a kind experience and we are forever grateful. If we forgot to thank anyone, it was not on purpose and please forgive us.

Pam Danielson
OJSHS 'We the People' advisor


4-8-16

Be on alert for tax season scammers

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

With tax filing deadlines hitting, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is advising Americans to stay on alert for threatening calls from impersonators falsely claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service.

TIGTA indicates it received reports of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scammers making more than one million contacts over the past few years, and more than 5,500 victims have collectively paid approximately $29 million as a result of the scam. The scam is described as criminals fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials making unsolicited calls to taxpayers telling the intended victims they owe taxes and demanding that that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards, money orders or wire transfers from their banks. Intended victims are threatened with being charged with a criminal violation, a grand jury indictment, immediate arrest and more for refusal to pay. TIGTA reports that taxpayers in every state have been hit with the scam.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, J. Russell George, warns, "If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS or in a new twist, the Treasury Department, and uses the threat of legal action if you do not pay immediately, that is a sign that it is not the IRS calling, and your cue to hang up. Again, do not engage with these callers. If they call you, hang up the telephone."

TIGTA cautioned that, "The IRS generally first contacts people by mail-not by phone-about unpaid taxes and the IRS will not ask for payment using a prepaid debit card, a money order or a wire transfer. The IRS also will not ask for a credit card number or your bank information over the phone." TIGTA also provides recommendations on what to do if a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS and asking for payment is received. The recommendations include hanging up; reporting the scam via TIGTA's web site, www.tigta.gov; and filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov. Further, TIGTA recommends that attachments in IRS-related email scams should not be opened and links should not be clicked, but rather reported.

It is terrible that Americans have to spend millions on compliance with an overly-burdensome and complicated tax code, while also having to be watchful for criminals trying to manipulate Americans trying to meet their tax obligations. Unfortunately, Americans should be suspicious anytime they get a cold call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, given the well-documented difficulties the IRS has just being able to answer any phone calls coming from taxpayers with questions or who are in need of assistance. It has gotten to the point where this lack of responsiveness from the IRS makes us wonder if the IRS even has phones anymore. So, a phone call should be the last thing one would expect from the IRS.

We must simplify our overly-complex and anti-competitive tax code to not only assist with economic and job growth, but also to ease compliance. This includes eliminating complexity, broadening the base and significantly lowering rates for all Americans. I will continue to press for comprehensive, long-term reform of the tax code that would provide needed certainty to families and businesses, as I am hopeful that Idahoans and all Americans do not fall victim to tax scammers exploiting a shamefully onerous tax code.


3-8-16

Downed trees across the Lolo Creek present hazard to kayakers

To Whom It May Concern:

The 2015 fire season was one of the worst in recent history for the Clearwater River Basin area. Clearwater County experienced large wildland fires near Weippe, Pierce and Orofino causing damage that will take many years to fully recover. One specific area of concern is the Lolo Creek drainage because of the steepness of the drainage and that the fire burned both sides of the drainage. As spring approaches many people like to try and kayak down Lolo Creek.

On March 7 the Clearwater County Sheriff's Office along with the Back Country Medics flew over Lolo Creek to check for mudslides and log jams that could cause a public safety concern. What we found was that no mudslides had occurred, but numerous trees had fallen into the creek causing logjams. We saw several others trees that had fallen along the creek that will be washed downstream when the water rises with spring runoff. We only checked the area from the bridge outside of Weippe down to the Clearwater River but we found six different places that trees were completely across the creek. There were three places that the logjam was not only all the way across but also several logs deep. There were two places that had logjams right after a 90-degree turn in the creek. We are especially worried about these because you cannot see them until you are into them.

Those that have been in the Lolo Creek drainage know about the steep and unforgiving terrain. This causes a significant challenge to first responders when someone gets injured or trapped in the canyon. Please consider this when planning to kayak Lolo Creek. Anytime you go out into backcountry make sure that someone knows where you are and what time to expect you back. Don't hesitate to call the Sheriff's Office when someone does not show up on time. We would rather start searching early for someone that is over due and find that they didn't need help than to wait and delay finding them when they really did need help.

Go to the county web page at: www.clearwatercounty.org to view more pictures of Lolo Creek taken on March 7, 2016.

Chris Goetz
Clearwater County Sheriff

Photos courtesy of Clearwater County Sheriff's Office


3-5-16

Crapo: Fire borrowing must be fixed now

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Disaster-scale wildfires are going to continue to be a threat. We can better prepare for the increasing costs of wildland fire suppression by providing land managers and fire fighters the certainty needed to plan and allocate resources properly without robbing from other priorities during each fire season. I recently had the opportunity to join fellow Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) in speaking on the Senate Floor and offering a bipartisan amendment to draw attention to the need to permanently fix wildfire funding now and end the senseless practice of raiding fire prevention and other U.S. Forest Service accounts to fight this year's fires.

We introduced an amendment to the energy bill being debated by the full Senate that would end fire borrowing for good, stop the erosion of the Forest Service budget and ramp up fire prevention projects, thereby reducing wildfire risks and fire suppression costs. This followed our work with lawmakers from both parties and from both the House and Senate to develop the amendment, which would update the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act we introduced. That bill has support from 21 Senate co-sponsors, 145 House co-sponsors and more than 250 groups representing hunters and fishers, timber companies and conservationists.

Although a spending bill passed in December increased fire funding for one year, it still leaves agencies vulnerable to fire transfers, does not solve the problem long term and does little to hold down long-term firefighting costs. Every opportunity to achieve a permanent fix must be used, because a lack of a solution enables the problem to worsen.

The statistics from last year's fire season are sobering. Nationally, 68,151 fires burned 10.1 million acres and cost more than $1.7 billion in suppression operations. These fires accounted for the loss of roughly 4,600 structures, and most tragically, the lives of 13 wildland firefighters. When it comes to how wildfires are budgeted, we are in a crisis. For more than a decade, as fires have raged across the West, necessary suppression costs associated with these disasters have been seriously under-budgeted.

To make matters worse, the lack of resources to fight the worst of our annual fires has forced land management agencies to engage in so-called "fire borrowing" that results in less resources for the very activities that can prevent the large, devastating fires from happening in the first place. When the Forest Service is forced to "borrow" funds to fight fires, they are actually borrowing against Idaho jobs and recreational opportunities. Fire borrowing results in less timber, jobs and access.

Less work in the woods means this harmful fire cycle is only going to get worse. The only thing worse than fire borrowing for work in our forests that improves the health of our forests and enables recreational activities on our public lands is fire itself.

While lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both Houses of Congress are in agreement that a fix to fire borrowing is needed, there are different approaches on a legislative solution. I continue to work with these lawmakers and members across the political and jurisdictional spectrums, to find common ground on a solution that ends fire borrowing for the betterment of Idaho communities.


3-1-16

Brandt endorsing Donald Trump

Dear Editor:

I am endorsing Donald Trump for President of the United States.

The stakes could not be higher. The politically correct socialists are about to destroy our country. Donald Trump is the common sense conservative that can change Washington, DC.

Donald Trump has the establishment (Democrat and Republican and alike) scared to death. Why? Because Trump is a private sector businessman that is use to saying 'Your fired'.

The liberal media continues to spin reality. One of those is that Trump is destroying the GOP. However, it is just the opposite. Because of Donald Trump, the Party is growing in size and strength.

Donald Trump is truly proud of America. Donald Trump will not apologize for our greatness. Donald Trump will put America first.

Donald Trump will 'Make America Great Again'! Vote Tuesday, March 8, Donald J Trump for President!

Skip Brandt
Kooskia
Idaho County Commissioner, former Idaho State Senator


2-27-16

Republicans holding Lincoln Day dinner

Dear Editor:

I have been contacted by people wanting to know how to get tickets for the Republican Lincoln Day dinner on March 11th in Orofino. The best way is to contact your precinct chairman or our treasurer Donna Curfman can be reached at 476-5837. A lot of people don't know their precinct chairman so here is a list:

  • Precinct #2 Mike Ryan--(208) 816-0812
  • Precinct #3 Damon Popovics--476-0332
  • Precinct #4 Gordon Balla--(208) 476-7049
  • Precinct #5 Rick Winkel--(206) 718-4546
  • Precinct #7 Morris Hardman--476-7577
  • Precinct #8 Carol Galloway--476-7110
  • Precinct #10 Joy Hall--464-2685
  • Precinct #11 LeeAnn Callear--(208) 76-0298
  • Precinct #14 Jon Walton--476-7709

Precincts # 1,6,9,12,13 do not have precinct chairmen at this time. You can contact me at 464-2685 and leave a message or contact Donna Curfman at 476-5837 Mailing address: 250 Turkey Run, Ahsahka ID 83520.

Hope this helps those who had concerns.

Joy Hall
Clearwater County Republican Central Committee Chair


2-27-16

Vian encourages 'yes' vote on school levy

Letter to the Editor,

There are only two issues on the March 8 ballot. The Republican Presidential Primary vote and the Orofino Joint SD Maintenance and Operations Levy. The Levy funds 28 percent of the total cost of operations and is very important to continuing the services for your children. Most the improvements we have been able to make the past three years including technology upgrades, full day kindergarten, and a large number of repairs to your schools are all due to the levy you have supported the past three years.

I would ask everyone to please vote, either absentee or at your polling place, whether or not you are a Republican. You can ask for a non-partisan ballot and vote on the levy or you can change your party affiliation and vote in the presidential primary and on the levy. If you are near the County Courthouse you can stop at the Clerk's Office and vote absentee in a couple of minutes.

I ask you to support a Maintenance and Operations Levy of $2,685,000 each year for the next two years. The current M & O Levy is $2,285,000. The operations portion of the levy has not increased for the past three years. This levy would extend that to five years with no increase in operational cost to local taxpayers. The $400,000 increase for next two year is needed to replace the roofs on Orofino Jr/Sr. High School and Timberline School. The money spent on the actual operation of the district will not change.

In two years the levy will expire. The M & O Levy must be approved by taxpayers, who will vote on a new M & O levy in 2018. At that time they can judge the new levy request on the basis of their ability to pay and the district's use of the funds in this levy for the proposed roofs.

The current M & O Levy tax rate is $4.46 per thousand. The rate with the additional money for the roofs will be approximately $4.59. The increase each year for a home valued at $194,745 (the value of the Homeowner's Exemption for 2016) would be $12.65 per year or $1.05 per month. This money will buy you a new roof for your schools.

Everyone in the district has seen what happens when roofs are not repaired. We do not have any space to move students if another build has to be abandoned due to lack of maintenance. A new "30 year" roof will be installed at OHS this summer with a new roof at Timberline being installed next summer if this levy passes.

A strong vibrant school district is important for the entire community, not just for the children. Recruiting businesses and professionals to Orofino is highly dependent upon a quality school system.

I believe we have done a good job spending tax dollars to maintain your buildings the past four years. If you agree please vote yes to maintain your public school buildings.

Robert Vian
Superintendent
Orofino School District

Editor's note: March 8 is also the primary in Clearwater County for the Constitution Party.


2-26-16

Corrections department seeks to harness Idaho's volunteer spirit

Guest opinion by Director Kevin H. Kempf, Idaho Department of Correction

I recently came across a statistic that says a lot about the people of Idaho. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Idahoans volunteer at a higher rate than just about anywhere else. In fact, we're second on the list of 50 states, just behind Utah, for the number of citizens who donate their time to help others.

At the Idaho Department of Correction, we depend on volunteers. More than 1,100 of them work in our correctional facilities. In addition to conducting religious services, volunteers teach inmates practical life skills like how to get a job, stick to a budget and be better parents.

However, we don't have those same connections in our Probation and Parole side of the house. Frankly, that's been our fault. Even back when I was probation and parole officer we didn't truly understand how much these volunteers and community organizations could help.

That doesn't make sense. Not only are these volunteers willing and capable but many of them also represent organizations that already have just the kind of resources offenders need to transition from prison back to society -- things like food and clothing, even housing and jobs. Our probation and parole officers are some of the best in the country, but could even be made stronger with having the offender connected to the community.

We need to think differently. So the Idaho Department of Correction is launching an innovative program aimed at recruiting a select few from Idaho's army of volunteers to mentor offenders.

IDOC's Community Mentor program will match volunteers with offenders while they're still in prison. From the day the offender walks out the prison gate, their mentor will be there to guide them as they take on challenges like searching for employment and housing.

But it takes more than a job and an apartment to become a law-abiding citizen. So along the way, the mentor will help the offender grow roots in the community by connecting them with activities involving the offender's faith, their family and their positive avocations.

The Community Mentor program is not for everyone. The mentors will be carefully screened, trained and supervised. Former probationers and parolees, with track records of clean, successful living, will be welcome to apply. We need to take advantage of their experience and wisdom.

We often look to government for solutions. But I believe that community and faith-based groups have much to offer when it comes to changing hearts and turning around lives -- especially here in Idaho where the volunteer spirit remains strong.

To learn more about IDOC's Community Mentor program and apply to serve as a mentor, visit the Volunteer Services section of the department's web site at idoc.idaho.gov.


2-12-16

President's Day celebrates contributions of past presidents

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The Smithsonian's American History Museum is home to the inkwell President Abraham Lincoln used while writing the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation. The museum notes that Republicans in Congress were urging President Lincoln to take a stand for freedom, and Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation ordering that on Jan. 1, 1863, all slaves in states still in rebellion would be "then, thenceforward, and forever free." The original of the Emancipation Proclamation now rests in the National Archives.

Like President Lincoln, many of our nation's presidents led our country through difficult times, shaping the course for advancing our great United States of America. The Smithsonian aptly titled its exhibit on the American Presidency "A Glorious Burden." This Presidents' Day we celebrate, once again, the enormous contributions of the past presidents who guided Americans and helped build our nation into the leader of the free world.

The celebration of this federal holiday is tied to the birthday of our nation's first president, George Washington, who led our country during the American Revolutionary War and helped form our government as a Founding Father. The holiday typically falls between the birthdays of President Washington and President Lincoln. President George Washington was born Feb. 22, 1732. President Abraham Lincoln was born Feb. 12, 1809. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), in 1879, Congress added George Washington's Birthday, Feb. 22, to the list of holidays observed. Then, in 1968, through the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, the commemoration of the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February. CRS notes that contrary to popular belief, federal law did not mandate the name of the holiday be changed from Washington's Birthday to Presidents' Day. Nonetheless, the holiday has been widely recognized as a time to honor all of those who have served in our nation's highest office.

This Presidents' Day, we can reflect on the collective legacy of some of our nation's great leaders and assess what we can do as Americans responsible for the future of our nation to maintain the foundation they built and propel our nation forward into a new era of progress. President Lincoln's words in his annual message to Congress in 1862 still ring true today: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we might rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." We have our work cut out for us to grow our country and set it on a sound path, but we have every opportunity to rise to the occasion.


2-3-16

Investing in K-Career education makes sense for Idaho's economy

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Survey after survey and election after election, Idahoans tell us loud and clear that education is their top priority and a proper, even essential role of our State government. That's reflected in my budget requests to the Idaho Legislature for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Idaho's future prosperity depends on the responsible, targeted, data-driven and sustainable investments we make today in kindergarten through high school, in professional-technical training programs, and in our college and university system.

My K-through-Career budget recommendations for fiscal 2017 and new initiatives for implementing the recommendations of my Task Force for Improving Education represent comprehensive, strategic, long-term investments in the people of Idaho. The people's mandate is clear - build a transparent and accountable public education system that produces talented and motivated citizens prepared to take on our 21st century challenges.

My budget recommendation for K-12 schools focuses on continued implementation of the 20 Task Force recommendations. That includes funding for the second year of the career ladder for Idaho teachers and $10.7 million in new funding to help kids struggling to read in kindergarten through third grade. Early intervention is essential to help students gain reading proficiency by the end of third grade because from then on, the focus of their education is on reading to learn.

We must ensure that those students who struggle with reading early on are not left behind for the rest of their educational journey. And since that journey should be a lifelong endeavor, I am asking legislators for $5 million so our schools can provide better college and career counseling to help students and parents explore opportunities beyond high school.

A focus on K-12 education alone will not be enough to move Idaho forward and ensure our economy stays strong and competitive. We should feel a sense of urgency - as our employers certainly do - to help more Idahoans pursue a postsecondary certificate or degree.

Despite an extensive public awareness campaign, Idaho's "Go On" rate has been declining, from 56 percent to 52 percent over two years. And despite our recent focus on students finishing their college education, Idaho's postsecondary completion rate edged down from 42 percent in 2012 to 40 percent in 2014.

Idaho is one of 12 states where the young adults who soon will drive our economy are less educated than their parents. Unless we act now, Idaho could be producing the first generation to be less educated than the one before. That is not acceptable - not to parents, not to community leaders, not to businesses, not to me, and certainly not to our future.

The higher education initiatives I am proposing are focused on helping individuals get a college degree or professional-technical certification on which to base a career.

We know that the cost of attending college can be a significant barrier, so I am proposing to double the funding for our Opportunity Scholarship, a need- and merit-based award of up to $3,000 a year for four years. We had nearly 6,000 applicants last year and were able to award fewer than 2,000 scholarships to help recent high school graduates go on to one of our technical schools, colleges or universities.

My Tuition Lock proposal would provide a fixed rate of tuition for students at Idaho's four-year higher education institutions. That would provide more predictability to students and families as well as an incentive for students to finish their degree program in four years. The cost to Idaho taxpayers will be a relatively modest $6 million to $8 million per year once the first freshman hit their senior year in the fall of 2019.

Approximately 28 percent of Idahoans have some college, but no degree. So I am asking the Legislature to establish a Completion Scholarship. It would help adults who have been out of postsecondary education for at least three years by providing up to $3,000 a year for four years as an incentive to come back and finish up that certificate or degree program.

The economic imperative is evident. On average, college graduates earn nearly twice as much as high school graduates. Meanwhile, right now there are more than 21,000 Idaho job openings that employers are unable to fill because applicants lack the necessary skills. That workforce gap figures to grow to 63,000 jobs by 2025 - and that could be a best-case scenario.

As Idaho citizens, we have a shared responsibility to ensure that those who succeed us are prepared for a smarter, more connected and competitive world. Please join me in helping the next generation of Idahoans become the architects of their own destiny and the builders of a brighter, more prosperous future.

Contact your legislators today and encourage them to keep investing in tomorrow.


1-30-16

Crapo: Improving nation's economic wellbeing first priority

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The start of this year is the beginning of the second half of the 114th Congress. This is a good time to reestablish legislative and federal policy priorities for the year ahead. Improving our nation's economic wellbeing remains my first priority, as addressing our fiscal crisis is paramount. I will continue to use every opportunity to make progress on this and other efforts of importance to Idahoans.

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I will work with my colleagues to build on last year's passage of the first budget resolution conference report in years. We must follow a balanced budget that stops the unsustainable growth of our national debt, which now exceeds $18.8 trillion, and contains strong budget controls to curb the explosive level of federal spending.

Simplifying our overly-complex and anti-competitive tax code remains an essential part of the economic reform our nation needs. This requires dramatically simplifying our tax code, eliminating complexity, broadening the base and significantly lowering rates for all Americans. We must build on the pro-growth provisions included in last year's tax extender legislation, which made important policies, including the research and development (R&D) tax credit, permanent. Comprehensive, long-term reform of the tax code would provide needed certainty to businesses and families, rather than the continued uncertainty of extending these policies for a year or two at a time.

As mandatory programs comprise the majority of federal spending, debt solutions must also address automatic federal spending. Most importantly, we must improve the solvency of entitlement programs-Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-to ensure that they are sustainable for current and future recipients. As the third ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, that oversees taxes, Social Security and certain health care programs (Medicare and Medicaid), among others, I will continue to press for progress.

Additionally, crushed under an ever-increasing regulatory burden, community banks and credit unions are disappearing from America's financial landscape. My focus as the second most senior Republican on the Senate Banking Committee is to work with my colleagues to create a regulatory environment in which traditional lending can thrive in all communities, with an emphasis on personalized services that meet the needs of local residents and businesses. In addition, I will work to protect taxpayers, stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, push back on regulatory agencies' collection of big data on private financial accounts, and end the Department of Justice's Operation Choke Point.

Serving on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also provides opportunities to make progress on issues from stopping the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's aggressive overreach into the lives of Idahoans to ensuring that rural areas are fairly considered for infrastructure funding. I welcome the opportunity to promote sensible and effective environmental policies that do not jeopardize the economy and small businesses. I will also continue to advance locally-driven collaboration as a best means of addressing many of our environment and public lands issues.

There are many more critical issues: reducing regulatory overreach; expanding market opportunities for U.S. businesses; Secure Rural Schools reauthorization; border security and immigration reform; renewable energy promotion, including advancing the Idaho National Lab's nuclear energy research as a reliable, safe, clean and efficient part of a diverse national energy portfolio; Endangered Species Act improvements; addressing wildlife species concerns; fire management; water, timber and mining complexities; confirmation of a new federal district court judge for Idaho; 2nd Amendment rights; domestic violence prevention; addressing veterans' needs; education improvements; and many more. I will continue to advocate for Idahoans' priorities in the Senate.


1-25-16

Idaho wolf management a success

Guest opinion by Virgil Moore, director, Idaho Fish and Game

When Idaho Fish and Game took over wolf management in 2011, the wolf population had grown unchecked for more than a decade after reaching federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves eleven years earlier.

This was due to repeated lawsuits that stalled delisting and delayed transfer of wolves to state management.

As a result, wolf conflicts with livestock and elk populations were rampant in most parts of Idaho north of the Snake River and livestock producers and hunters grew increasingly frustrated.

After five years of state management of wolves in Idaho, we're seeing positive results:

  • In 2010, the year before wolves were delisted, there were 109 confirmed wolf depredations on livestock in Idaho. Now livestock depredations by wolves are down by almost 50 percent (59 in 2015).
  • The most recent livestock attack by wolves occurred last October. We haven't had a depredation-free stretch last this long since 2004.

I'm also pleased to report Idaho's elk herds are rebounding too, but there are still some places in Idaho where predation impacts are unacceptable. Conflicts are decreasing because regulated wolf hunting and trapping seasons are helping us balance predator and prey populations.

As I write this, Fish and Game scientists are conducting the latest wolf population surveys. While these are not yet complete, it's obvious we far exceed federal recovery levels of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs, and have met these levels for at least 16 years in a row.

The bottom line is Idaho has a healthy, sustainable wolf population that is over seven times higher than the federal recovery goal. Idaho Fish and Game has proven we can responsibly manage wolves, provide regulated hunting and trapping opportunity, and reduce conflict. That is good both for the people of Idaho and our wildlife, including wolves.

In a few short months, the federal five-year post-delisting oversight window will close and Idaho will continue to sustainably manage its wolves.

A few advocacy groups are determined to keep federal oversight in place and their lawyers are already publishing articles making all sorts of claims that simply aren't true. Professional wildlife scientists at Idaho Fish and Game monitor Idaho's wolf population and all our monitoring reports are available on our web site. The 2015 report will be available in early April.

We at Fish and Game are proud of our demonstrated ability to scientifically manage wolves and elk. We will continue to do so in a manner that upholds our mission to preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage our wildlife.


1-22-16

Crapo: Working to nullify EPA water grab

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The states, not the federal government, have always had primary jurisdiction over the allocation, management and use of water. This management must remain with the states not seized by federal bureaucrats thousands of miles away and disconnected from the issues on the ground. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed legislation, previously passed by the U.S. Senate with my support that would block the Administration's harmful attempt to exert jurisdiction over virtually all of our water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) "Waters of the United States" Rule sets a dangerous precedent, subverts state water sovereignty and jeopardizes private property rights by significantly expanding federal authority-allowing the EPA to regulate nearly every stream, ditch, pond and puddle on state and local lands, as well as private property. The courts have repeatedly rebuked similar efforts to hand authority over virtually all of our nation's waters over to the federal government. Additionally, I have helped block past legislation in the U.S. Senate to exert federal control over non-navigable waters.

Without congressionally-authorized authority, the Administration has been side-stepping Congress and the American people to seize control of our water. Congress reiterated its opposition to the Administration ignoring the will of Congress and the American people by passing S.J.Res. 22, a joint resolution providing for congressional disapproval of the "Waters of the United States" Rule. The House of Representative's recent passage of the resolution by a vote of 253-166 follows the Senate's November passage of the resolution by a vote of 53-44.

The Congressional Review Act provides Congress with specified procedures to overturn federal rules put forward by the Administration, and S.J.Res. 22 utilizes this authority. To block the rule from taking effect, both the Senate and the House must pass the joint resolution, and the resolution must be signed by the President, or Congress must override a presidential veto. The President should have demonstrated that he is listening to Congress and the American people by signing the resolution and discontinuing the rule, but instead he chose to veto the resolution. Therefore, work continues to stop the rule.

Passage of the joint resolution of disapproval also follows movement of legislation with similar goals in both chambers of Congress. For example, last May, the House passed legislation requiring the Administration to withdraw the rule. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I supported the committee's passage of similar legislation. Fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch and I are co-sponsors of S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act, that would prevent implementation of the final "Waters of the United States" Rule and direct the EPA and Corps to redo the final rule. Any new rule must adhere to the principles that waters of the U.S. are limited to truly navigable waters.

I will continue to use every opportunity to permanently block this harmful rule, and I encourage all those interested in this federal overreach to stay engaged on this EPA overreach. Clean water remains a necessity, but EPA's jurisdictional grab of our waterways violates its statutory authority and congressional intent and must be stopped.


1-21-16

PCAP could be great start toward keeping more Idahoans healthy

Guest opinion submitted by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

I've read and watched with interest in recent days as legislators, healthcare providers, community leaders, columnists, editorial boards and citizens have reacted to the Primary Care Access Plan that I unveiled Jan. 7th.

Responses have run the gamut from "It's not enough - just expand Medicaid" to "We shouldn't do anything but focus on repealing Obamacare."

Despite what seems to be an immutable impasse, it certainly is a conversation worth having, and I'm glad we are having it. But critics seem to be missing the point of the proposal that Director Dick Armstrong and his team at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare crafted specifically for Idaho. The fact is that the PCAP option - or something very much like it - is all that we can reasonably hope to achieve right now in the context of Idaho's political environment.

That difficult but unassailable truth is occasionally referenced by commentators. However, so far it has been quickly dismissed as an illegitimate and weak-willed excuse for advancing an admittedly limited public policy initiative. Like a horse that starves waiting for oats while grass grows thick all around, they couch the debate in absolute terms - short-circuiting constructive discussion with a false "either/or" choice between expanding Medicaid and doing nothing at all.

The latter position has carried the day so far, and I will stick to the commitment I made to legislative leadership in June 2010 not to act unilaterally on any Obamacare-related issue. Yet I believe it is my responsibility to build support for homegrown solutions - not government entitlements but rather the kind of cost-effective solutions that involve building public-private partnerships and which reflect the independent, self-reliant character of Idaho citizens.

Our public discussion must recognize that PCAP is not short for "panacea." It is intended instead as a point of departure for a longer-term effort to improve access to primary and preventive healthcare, especially in our under-served rural communities. It's based on a patient-centered "medical home" model focused on connecting patients with a healthcare provider who supervises their long-term primary and preventive care.

The need is undeniable. Approximately 78,000 people in Idaho fall into the "gap" - the working poor who do not qualify for Medicaid, people who fell through the Obamacare net. But rather than growing the entitlement culture, PCAP embodies goals and priorities - including personal responsibility - which we have been independently developing here in Idaho since I took office in 2007, pre-Obamacare.

Haven't we gone long enough without addressing the issue?

The point of this column, and of my administration's work during this legislative session, is to make it clear to everyone that PCAP is not the final word on providing Idaho citizens with the opportunities they need to keep themselves and their families healthy. But it could be a great start.


1-15-16

IRS pulls new overreach that threatened charitable giving

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

For many Americans, January is a time to plan for the year. This includes reviewing annual charitable giving and preparing for the often-dreaded task of filing tax forms. In yet another overreach, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) could have made all of this even more problematic. That is why I have joined with my Senate Finance Committee colleague Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), who has introduced S. 2370, legislation that would stop a new, IRS-proposed regulation that would have subjected Americans to increased security risk of their sensitive information and saddled charitable organizations with additional cybersecurity, reporting and other costs. Thankfully, the IRS recently withdrew the proposed new regulation.

In September, the IRS issued a proposed regulation calling on charitable organizations to send the IRS the name, address, Social Security number or tax identification number of any donor who makes a contribution of $250 or more. This reporting would have been in addition to the current practice of charitable organizations providing written confirmation of donations to the donor that the taxpayer can then use to substantiate tax deductions.

This IRS overreach would have created another avenue that risks Americans' sensitive information. The rising number of data breaches in which hackers have stolen personal information from so-called, secure databases provide zero confidence that the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information can be stored securely. The Administration has not even been able to secure the sensitive information of many current and former federal employees. Just last year, the Administration indicated that sensitive information, including the Social Security numbers of more than 20 million Americans, was stolen from background investigation databases. This is just one of the increasing number of breaches of sensitive information from both government and non-government databases.

In the proposed rule, the U.S. Treasury Department acknowledged that, "The Treasury Department and the IRS are concerned about the potential risk for identity theft involved with donee reporting given that donees will be collecting donors' taxpayer identification numbers and maintaining those numbers for some period of time." This threat of disclosure could have created a disincentive for charitable giving, with donors not wanting to subject themselves to increased risk of identity theft.

I heard from a number of Idaho nonprofits with concerns about the rule, which led me to agree to co-sponsor S. 2370, the Protecting Charitable Contributions Act. The measure would stop the proposed rule, maintain current IRS rules governing the substantiation of charitable contributions and prohibit the IRS from issuing, revising or completing any new regulation that would alter the existing rules. Similar legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In December, the IRS closed the comment period for the proposed rule. Then, on Jan. 7, the Treasury Department announced the rule's withdrawal, writing that it decided to withdraw the rule after receiving many comments that questioned the need for the reporting and expressed significant concerns about charitable organizations collecting and maintaining the information.

Creating another opportunity for fraudulent actors to gain sensitive information of millions of Americans is unwise, and the withdrawal of this rule is a positive step. The IRS was proposing the collection of information as a voluntary option for charitable organizations, but the rule would have put pressure on charitable organizations to conform, and was a possible step toward a mandatory requirement. Although the rule has been stopped, I encourage all those interested in this issue to continue to engage and help stop the reemergence of this rule and other IRS overreaches.


1-8-16

Improving the administration of veterans' benefit important

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

This is the third in a series of columns to discuss the findings from my 2015 Veterans Survey. In this column, I will discuss the findings regarding the Veterans Benefits Administration.

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is one of the three unique branches of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The VBA administers a wide range of veterans' benefits, including compensation, vocational assistance and pensions. Filing a claim is the initial step to seeking compensation for disabilities resulting from a veteran's military service. Claims can be based on disabilities that existed when entering military service but were made worse, disabilities that occurred during service, or disabilities that arose after leaving military service. For more information, please visit http://www.benefits.va/compensation/process.asp.

I am grateful to the VBA personnel who process veterans' claims efficiently and seek to ensure that veterans can access needed benefits. The work they do to ease paperwork burdens and keep veterans informed throughout the process is indispensable. Many are working hard within the VBA to help veterans, as more than twice as many (53 percent) of survey participants characterized their interactions with VBA staff as "satisfying" or better compared to the twenty-two percent who found their interactions with VBA staff to be "dissatisfying" or worse. Fifty-two percent of survey participants were "satisfied" or better with their overall experiences with the VBA, and 41 percent said their experiences with claims processing were "satisfying" or better. Those who are working diligently on behalf of veterans deserve to be commended.

However, the survey also showed that the VBA needs special attention. Twenty-nine percent of survey participants were "dissatisfied" or worse with their experiences with the VBA, and 39 percent characterized their experiences with claims processing as "dissatisfying" or worse. My staff and I are working with the veterans community to identify ways to improve the VBA's ability to serve veterans. Specifically, I will focus on working with VBA leadership to improve the following issues:

Pace-Participants frequently found the VBA's pace to be slow and expressed frustrations with delays in claims processing. Accessibility-Participants frequently stated that telephone assistance was poor and that they often could not reach a person to help them. Several individuals claimed they had never interacted with the VBA because they were not aware of benefits available to them. Claims Consideration- A large portion of participants expressed their sense that the VBA's general policy is to deny all claims and require veterans to go through an appeals process before a claim is fully considered. Travel Reimbursements-Many individuals expressed frustrations with changes to travel reimbursement processes that result in lengthy delays and undue burden on many rural veterans who cannot afford high travel costs.

The survey results help guide my efforts to improve services available to veterans and can be found on my official web site at www.crapo.senate.gov. I am continuing to work to address other critical issues that emerged from the survey results, including travel-related challenges and wait times for appointments.

Additionally, those seeking to file claims with the VA may wish to learn more about the Fully Developed Claims (FDC) program, an optional initiative that offers veterans and survivors faster decisions from the VA on compensation, pension and survivor benefits claims. More information about the FDC program can be accessed at http://www.benefits.va.gov/FDC/index.asp. If you find yourself in need of assistance with a specific agency, please contact the staff in one of my regional offices to discuss your situation. More information regarding assistance, including contact information, the required privacy release form and frequently asked questions, can be accessed through my official web site, at www.crapo.senate.gov.


12-31-15

Timely response key to improving veterans services

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

This is the second in a series of columns to discuss the specifics of the findings from my 2015 Veterans Survey. In this column, I will discuss the findings regarding the Veterans Health Administration.

Knowing who to turn to at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is an important part of accessing needed services. The VA is composed of three unique administrations-the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the National Cemetery Administration. Often, it may be difficult to distinguish between the VBA and the VHA although they have shared, yet distinctly different missions. The VBA administers a wide range of benefits, including compensation and vocational assistance, to veterans. The VHA manages all aspects of providing health care, and VHA staff provide many veterans direct medical treatment.

Sixty-six percent of survey participants characterized their experiences with the VHA as "satisfying" or better, while 19 percent characterized their experiences as "dissatisfying" or worse. Generally, survey participants were more satisfied with the VHA than with the VBA. Of the participants who had experience interacting with the VHA's medical staff, 76 percent found those interactions to be "satisfying" or better. Seventy-three percent of applicable participants were satisfied or better with the quality of care they received. The VHA should be very proud of these satisfaction numbers. I am grateful that we have such good medical personnel serving our veterans in Idaho.

Nonetheless, it is clear that improvements are needed at the VHA, especially in terms of its ability to provide timely and responsive service. While 58 percent of survey respondents were "satisfied" or better with the timeliness and responsiveness of the VHA, 24 percent of participants were "dissatisfied" or worse. My staff and I will work alongside those in the veterans community to identify ways to improve the VHA's ability to serve veterans in a timely and responsive manner and make needed improvements. The insight from the veterans community on this issue is valuable, and I will continue to press ahead on this issue.

Listed below are more VHA-related findings from the survey and areas where I continue to work with Idaho veterans and the VA for needed improvements:

  • Appointment notifications-Most participants were happy with their ability to communicate with the VHA over scheduling issues. The remaining participants described frustrating situations in which appointments were made without notification and the veterans were penalized when he or she missed the appointment. In other instances, appointments were cancelled without notification, frequently after veterans had travelled long distances. Participants' frustrations were further exacerbated when they had to wait long periods of time to reschedule.
  • Lost paperwork-Several respondents shared specific instances of times when a VHA facility had lost the participant's medical documents or paperwork.
  • Mental health services-Several veterans expressed frustrations with the VA's mental health care system.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Evaluation-Many veterans were frustrated with the evaluation process for PTSD.

In the weeks ahead, I will be detailing some of the other critical issues that emerged from the survey results, including improving access to private care for veterans who are considerable distances from VA facilities. Travel-related challenges and wait times for appointments are two critical issues affecting veterans' access to needed services. The survey results, which I am sharing with the VA, are helping guide my efforts to improve veterans services and can be found on my official web site at www.crapo.senate.gov.


12-28-15

Idaho Youth Challenge Academy creating new opportunities for teens

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

In a remote corner of northern Idaho's Clearwater County, there is a place where young people at a difficult time in their life are finding motivation and direction toward a better future.

The Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy is flourishing in Pierce, a tiny timber town that's benefiting from the program's presence there almost as much as the dramatic and inspiring changes that those once-wayward teenagers are experiencing.

Maj. Gen. Gary Sayler (left) and Academy Principal Bicker Therian present a $1,000 scholarship to a graduating Idaho Youth ChalleNGe cadet at the Dec.19 graduation ceremony in Lewiston.

On Dec. 19 in Lewiston, Youth ChalleNGe leaders joined the families and friends of 101 graduating teens. It was the largest class yet for the program established by the Idaho Legislature at my recommendation in 2011 as part of the Idaho National Guard's mission - thus the capitalized "NG."

Cadets in the most recent graduating class came from 27 of Idaho's 44 counties, led by 26 graduates from my native Canyon County. Thirteen cadets received their high school diplomas and another 12 earned their GED certificates. Sixteen graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average, and since the Academy started its cadets have averaged academic improvement of more than two grade levels during their 17? -month residential stays.

Just as impressive, the latest group of cadets contributed over 4,600 hours of community service valued at $33,524 during their time at the Academy. Since it opened, 333 cadets have contributed almost 20,000 hours of community service in and around Pierce.

There was early uncertainty among some folks about the State of Idaho getting into the business of helping troubled dropouts get their lives back on track. After all, there are plenty of private-sector and even non-profit alternatives. But most skeptics came around after seeing what other states have done with Youth ChalleNGe programs and coming to understand the value that such a proven, affordable and accountable option provides for the next generation of voters, taxpayers - fully functioning citizens of Idaho.

Families and students volunteering for the program are looking for a way to succeed outside of a traditional school setting. At the Academy, cadets learn self-discipline, leadership and responsibility while working to complete their secondary education or re-integrate with their high school class back home.

Once they leave the Academy itself, new graduates start a 12-month "Post Residential Phase" designed to help them continue their progress. They have Idaho Youth ChalleNGe case managers and community mentors helping them continue their education, enroll in college, begin job training, find employment or enlist in the military.

For some of these kids, Idaho Youth ChalleNGe is providing them with their first taste of success. And it's not a Band-Aid that quickly wears off. Fully 80 percent of Academy graduates re-enroll in high school or go on to college, military service, employment or volunteer service for at least 30 hours per week.

But the real change is in the hearts and minds of the teens who learn how to follow, how to lead, how to respect others, and most of all how to respect themselves.

That is the real measure of the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe program - how it changes the lives and the futures of adolescents at risk, not by restricting and marginalizing them but by enabling them to enter the mainstream of society with pride in what they have accomplished and the confidence to go even farther.

Find out more about how the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe is changing lives, families and communities at http://www.idyouthchallenge.com/success-stories/.


12-10-15

OPD sponsoring Christmas 911 program

Once again the Orofino Police Department will be sponsoring and participating in the Christmas 911 program. The last 6 years the Police Department has been providing full Christmas dinners and gifts to families in our area who were experiencing hardship and most likely would not have had much for Christmas. Each year we accept donations from businesses and community members to fund the program. We have been able to provide meals and nice gifts for up to approximately 30 families and over 70 children each year. The meals included turkeys, hams, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, rolls, vegetables, milk and desserts. The gifts were age appropriate for all children in the family who are of school age or younger and were of extremely nice quality. The needs of each child are identified to us early on so many of the gifts actually accommodate their needs.

Although it may seem like a small impact for the community, the program has had a large and long lasting effect on the families we served as well as all the people who volunteered time and/or donated money toward the program. Seeing children smile as gifts were placed under their tree and seeing parents cry with relief and joy knowing they would be able to have a wonderful family Christmas was moving for the officers, city staff, school officials and other community members who made deliveries the last 6 years.

We look forward to providing meals and gifts to additional families again this year. We are once again soliciting donations from businesses and private individuals to make this year an even bigger success. If you are willing to donate, please make checks payable to Christmas 911. Checks can be dropped off at Lewis-Clark Credit Union or mailed to Orofino Police Department (Attention Christmas 911) at P.O. Box 2603, Orofino, ID 83544.

I thank you in advance for any assistance you are able to provide. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me anytime at 208-476-5551.

Sincerely,
Chief Jeff Wilson


12-4-15

New County Republican Chair seeking participation

To the Editor:

At our last meeting, I was elected Chairman of the Clearwater County Republican Central Committee to take the place of our chair who had to resign.

I have been worried about how our county, state and nation have been heading for a long time. Now it is hitting me pretty hard as I see more and more how we are losing our freedoms and our country as we knew it.

I am seeing more and more foreign laws and regulations being brought into our county, state and nation many thru the United Nations Agenda 21. Many of our officials are just going along to get along or for the money they can get from the federal government.

Idaho as a whole and each county separately has issues that need people to work on them. Our Congressmen, Senators, Representatives, and others need volunteers to help them get the information they need daily. They do not have the time to do all the research themselves. The County Central Committees and local voters can help with this.

Locally our Central Committee consists of:

  • Chairman
  • Vice Chair
  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • 14 Precinct Chairmen
  • State Committee woman
  • State Committee man
  • State youth delegate

As of today we have several precincts that have no one to represent them. Even if all our positions were filled, that is only 21 people in Clearwater County who give input into our Central Committee. We need and want 'You', the Republican voters to come to our meetings, give us your input, your ideas. We need each and every one of you. We need you and your passion to move us into a new dynamic.

Our meetings are the second Monday of each month at the school district office at 6 p.m.

Joy Hall
CCRCC Chairman


10-20-15

Can you help resolve the murder of my dad?

Dear Editor:

Seventy years ago, on Nov. 9, 1945, an unknown person rested a .22-caliber rifle atop a gatepost outside the newly built home of my father Harold (Neil) Bonner and my family on Upper Ford's Creek north of Orofino, Idaho and shot through the glass window. To this day this nightmare murder of my dad has not been resolved.

My father, then 27, a mechanic in town, and my mom had been standing at the kitchen door when a bullet shattered the glass and hit him in the back. My brother and I were sleeping in the next room.

Mom's screams could be heard 100 yards away at the home of my grandfather, Douglas Bonner, who came running. I ran to my father who was slumped into a chair.

Now 77, I am Neil's daughter living in Whitefish MT. This is the horror I remember.

Before we all get any older, I pray that anyone who can still shed light on this tragedy will come forward with any information that could help put this nightmare to rest for me and my brother. If you can help, please contact the Clearwater County Sheriff's office. Tip Hotline: 208-476-4521. Or e-mail sheriff@clearwatercounty.org. The contact can be anonymous. Someone has all too long lived with this horrible guilt.

Thank you,
Carla Bonner Allen
Whitefish, MT


10-17-15

Crapo: Seeking meaningful changes for veterans

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

We must see meaningful and lasting change within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to improve veterans' access to high-quality services. In a recent letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, I detailed some of the concerns I am hearing from Idaho veterans with their experiences with the VA. I urged the VA to pay special attention to Idahoans as the VA works to improve the beleaguered Veterans Choice Program (VCP) and invited him to Idaho to hear firsthand from Idaho's veterans.

I asked the agency to report to Congress on how it plans to streamline the VCP and improve access to health care services for veterans. The VCP is not working as it should for many veterans, and many Idahoans would like to see the department reinvigorate other non-VA care programs providing individual treatment outside the VA system. Some recommend that the VA directly hire more health care providers to address unmet care delivery needs. Recognizing the VA cannot adequately fill vacant positions because of nationwide provider shortages, this challenge clearly requires a robust complementary outside care program to exist in tandem with the Veterans Health Administration network. As the VA works to consolidate non-VA care programs, the following questions must be addressed:

  • What steps will the VA take to address the special needs of rural and highly rural communities?
  • How will veterans' individual insurance plans be affected by the non-VA care program consolidation?
  • How will the consolidated non-VA program interface with TRICARE?
  • How will the VA ensure timely and accurate reimbursement of providers?
  • How will the VA ensure third-party administrators (TPAs) are reimbursing providers in a timely and accurate manner?
  • What role will TPAs serve in a consolidated program?
  • Many Idahoans have expressed concerns after having difficulty reaching the TPAs. How will the VA ensure its TPAs are providing timely assistance to veterans?
  • Will the VA ensure that veterans have another means to schedule care if the TPA is untimely?
  • What training will VA staff and TPAs have to understand and administer the new consolidated program?

The letter was sent as I concluded a second statewide Veterans Survey at the end of September. In conjunction with a town meeting tour, I have sought to learn more about the experiences and needs of Idaho's veterans community by having current and former service members and those active in the veteran community provide feedback through a survey. Idahoans' willingness to participate in the survey is encouraging and critical to guiding meaningful reforms.

While some progress has been made, ensuring timely, high-quality veterans care is an ongoing effort. We need lasting solutions close to home, not short-term, top-down attempts that fail to take into account the needs of local veterans. As continued improvements are sought, thank you to Idaho's veterans for their service and their ongoing help with improving veterans' access to high-quality care.


7-31-15

Crapo: EPA water grab must be permanently blocked

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson recently issued a temporary injunction blocking the controversial U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) "Waters of the United States" rule, which otherwise would have gone into effect in all 50 states.

The states, not the federal government, have always had primary jurisdiction over the allocation, management and use of water. This short-term victory underscores the need for Congress to act quickly to permanently block the Administration's harmful attempt to exert jurisdiction over virtually all of our water.

Under the court's recent preliminary injunction, the 13 states, including Idaho, that were parties in the suit against the regulations will temporarily be exempted. This action is essential because the Administration's water grab is harmful to our economy and goes far beyond the legal scope of what Congress intended in the Clean Water Act. The rule sets a dangerous precedent, subverts state water sovereignty and jeopardizes private property rights by significantly expanding federal authority- allowing the EPA to regulate nearly every stream, ditch, pond and puddle on state and local lands, as well as private property. The court's decision comes as no surprise as the Supreme Court has repeatedly rebuked similar efforts.

Congress must act immediately on S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. I co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by 37 other Senators including fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch. S. 1140 would rein in the EPA's misguided attempt to exceed the bounds of its statutory power. S. 1140 would prevent implementation of the final "Waters of the United States" rule and direct the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redo the final rule. Any new rule must adhere to the principles that waters of the U.S. are limited to truly navigable waters. The legislation would prevent the EPA from exerting control over the isolated ponds; stormwater, floodwater and wastewater management systems; agricultural irrigation systems and virtually all other non-navigable water bodies that the agencies are seeking to control.

This needed legislation would make the limitations on the federal government's authority over our water even more clear. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation requiring the Administration to withdraw the rule. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I supported the committee's passage of S. 1140 out of the committee. Now, the Senate must act.

While the actions in the courts are a short-term victory, I will continue to work with my colleagues to enact a legislative fix to permanently block this harmful rule. Maintaining clean water is an ongoing necessity, but EPA's jurisdictional grab of our waterways violates its statutory authority and congressional intent and must be stopped.


7-31-15

Medicare 50th Anniversary a call to action for reforms

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

July 30th was the 50th Anniversary of the creation of Medicare, which has been of considerable importance to many Americans. Medicare's anniversary should serve as a call to action for achieving the reforms needed to prevent Medicare from becoming insolvent.

To protect current and future Medicare enrollees, comprehensive reforms of the Medicare program must be enacted. The Medicare Trustees report the program faces an unfunded liability of nearly $25 trillion, and the program is currently on track to be insolvent in 2030, if action is not taken to reform the program. Additionally, the federal government is expected to dramatically increase Medicare spending over the next decade, increasing the program's already enormous contribution to the national deficit. Social Security and Medicare together accounted for 42 percent of federal program expenditures in Fiscal Year 2014, according to the recent Medicare and Social Security Trustees report. We must address its cost burden now to ensure that it is sustainable.

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the President signed into law H.R. 2, which made substantive reforms to Medicare. This law repealed the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula and contained needed adjustments and reforms to our Medicare system. For the first time, the law included structural reforms to the program intended to help reduce deficit spending and improve Medicare's solvency. These include Medigap reform and modest means testing. However, more work is needed to ensure the program's long-term solvency.

On July 30, 1965, then President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Social Security Amendments of 1965 into law, creating Medicare. Medicare was initiated to address the deficiency of health insurance coverage of America's senior citizens, and was later expanded to assist the permanently disabled. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service reports that in Fiscal Year 2015, the program will cover approximately 55 million persons (46 million aged and 9 million disabled) at a cost of about $632 billion.

While I have focused this column on Medicare, as this program recently reached a significant milestone, the Social Security program, which turns 80-years-old in August, is also in need of reform to ensure that it does not become insolvent. In less than 10 years, spending on Social Security benefits will exceed interest earnings, and trust fund reserves are projected to be exhausted by 2035. The disability insurance portion of Social Security is expected to be depleted in late 2016. At that point, beneficiaries will see a 19 percent reduction in benefits.

Reforming these programs requires tough decisions, but decisions that need to be made now. The need for reforms have been discussed for decades, and it is time to act. If we wait to address the problem, the only solutions will be substantial tax increases and massive new borrowing or large cuts in benefits or other government programs. As I continue to work for reforms, the foremost objective will continue to be maintaining the promises made to protect current recipients, while strengthening the system to guarantee benefits for future retirees. We must use this significant milestone as a call to action to bring about the reforms necessary to shore up Medicare.


7-18-15

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder awareness important

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

An astounding number of people-nearly 7.7 million-are affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the U.S. While progress is being made in recognizing and treating PTSD, unfortunately, far too many cases go undiagnosed. Greater awareness of PTSD can help ensure that more who suffer from PTSD get the help they need.

I joined 22 fellow senators in introducing a bipartisan resolution that designated June as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month and June 27 as National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. The objective of the resolution, which the Senate passed unanimously, is to raise awareness about PTSD-related issues, reduce the stigma associated with PTSD and help ensure that those suffering from the invisible wounds of war receive proper treatment.

As reflected in the resolution, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that in 2014 alone more than 535,000 of those who sought care at a VA medical facility received treatment for PTSD. While military trauma can cause PTSD, a psychological response to a traumatic event, there are a number of other traumatic experiences that can lead to PTSD. The VA provides four categories of symptoms:

  • Reliving the event (Examples: nightmares, flashbacks);
  • Avoiding situations that prompt reminders of the event (Examples: avoiding crowds, because they feel dangerous);
  • Negative changes in beliefs and feelings, which include changes in the way a person thinks about themselves and others because of the trauma (Examples: not having positive feelings toward other people and staying away from relationships);
  • Feeling keyed up (Examples: being jittery, always on the lookout for danger, sudden anger or irritability, having trouble sleeping and concentrating).

PTSD symptoms can start soon after the traumatic event, not happen until months or years after the trauma or come and go over many years. The Department of Veterans Affairs suggests keeping track of symptoms, talking with someone the you trust about them and seeking professional help from a doctor or counselor.

Resources are available in Idaho to assist with PTSD:

These are just some of the resources available to assist with PTSD, and often the assistance is provided at no financial cost to veterans. A number of non-government organizations also offer PTSD assistance. Those who serve our nation more than deserve access to high-quality services to ensure their wellbeing. Awareness of the symptoms and resources available to the millions of Americans struggling with PTSD can help ensure that more Americans do not suffer in silence.


6-16-15

Dworshak Master Plan approved

Dear Community Members:

I am very pleased to inform you that Lieutenant Colonel Vail of the Walla Walla District of the Corps of Engineers has approved and signed the Dworshak Master Plan and associated FONSI for the Environmental Assessment done on the plan. This document sets future directions for recreation and natural resource management actions at Dworshak.

I want to personally thank you for all of your interest and involvement in this plan through the years. I am very pleased knowing that the final product has a great deal of local public input and involvement.

Copies of the final plan will be available for download in the very near future on the Walla Walla District web page, http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Projects/DworshakMasterPlan.aspx. If you would prefer a CD version or hardcopy of the final plan please respond to me and I will get one coming to you very soon.

Thank you again for your support and patience.

Please feel free to call or e-mail if you have questions and please share this information.

Thank you
Paul J. Pence
Natural Resources Manager
Dworshak Dam and Reservoir

208-476-1258
Paul.J.Pence@usace.army.mil


6-4-15

From the mailbag: Social Security and Medicare solvency in jeopardy

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As active participants in the decisions made in Congress, Idahoans contact me with valuable input about the issues our country faces. Realizing that many may not have the chance to contact me, I post the top five issues of concern from Idahoans and my responses on my web site. Idahoans frequently contact me to share their experiences with Medicare and Social Security. The following is my response:

Medicare and Social Security are both in need of comprehensive reforms to better serve the people of Idaho. The Medicare program must undergo holistic, systemic changes in order to protect the current and future enrollees. The Medicare Trustees report the program faces an unfunded liability of nearly $25 trillion, and the program is currently on track to be insolvent in 2030, if action is not taken to reform the program.

In recent years, over half of the $1 trillion that the federal government spent on health care went toward Medicare. These numbers are expected to dramatically increase within the next 10 years. While Medicare is essential to seniors on fixed incomes, it is one of the main contributors to the national deficit, and suffers from significant inefficiencies. To ensure that a sustainable and quality Medicare program will be available to America's aging population, we must address its cost burden now.

Social Security has been an important, successful program for over 65 years, providing benefits to millions of senior citizens and the disabled. However, I also recognize that Social Security must remain a system on which our children and grandchildren can depend.

In recent years, there has been widespread acknowledgement that the government must address the long-term health of the Social Security system. Accordingly, a national discussion has evolved regarding the future of Social Security. Our first and foremost concern is to maintain the promises made to protect current recipients, while strengthening the system to guarantee benefits for future retirees.

The seeds for the current debate date back to the mid-1970s when it became apparent that changing economic and demographic circumstances would strain the financial condition of the existing system. In 1950, 16 workers paid into the system for every one individual receiving benefits. When our children retire, the ratio will fall to just two workers per beneficiary. In addition, life expectancy has increased. While this is good news, the combination of falling birthrates, increasing life expectancies, and retiring Baby Boomers places tremendous pressure on the Social Security system.

In 2010, Social Security spending exceeded the program's non-interest income for the first time since 1983. In less than 10 years from now, spending on Social Security benefits will exceed interest earnings, and trust fund reserves are projected to be exhausted by 2033. After that point, seniors will only be able to receive three-quarters of their scheduled benefits.

Even more pressing, the Disability Insurance Fund will be insolvent by the end of 2016, without necessary reforms. If we wait to address the problem at that point, the only solutions will be substantial tax increases and massive new borrowing or large cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs. It would be easy to turn away and leave the tough decisions to others, but we owe it to current and future workers to address the problem now. In fact, according to the Social Security Administration, each year of inaction increases the bill to the next generation by more than $600 billion.

I am committed to protecting the Social Security benefits for all of our current seniors, and am working hard to make the program solvent to assure these benefits will also be available to future retirees.


5-29-15

Crapo working on repealing the death tax

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Idahoans were on the hook for more than $26 million in estate taxes for 2013, according to U.S. Internal Revenue Service statistics. This is an average $1.6 million in federal tax liability for the Idaho families who had to meet this burden while enduring the loss of a loved one. High federal taxes should not prevent a family farmer, rancher or other business owner from passing the business they built onto their children. This unfair tax must be permanently repealed.

That is why I am again backing legislation authored by Senator John Thune (R-South Dakota) that would fully repeal the federal estate tax, also known as the "death tax". This measure is similar to legislation I have supported in previous years.

The estate tax may be the most unfair tax on the books. Set at 40 percent, the death tax is a hefty double tax on income already taxed when originally earned. The penalty is especially burdensome in areas where agricultural land values have soared, making it difficult for families to meet the high tax burden to pass farms and ranches onto the next generation of producers. Additionally, families often have to go through costly, time-consuming estate planning to meet this burden while facing the passing of a loved one.

This onerous paperwork is necessary because the death tax is one of the most confusing and frequently-changing provisions. Prior to 2001, the death tax was set at a 55 percent maximum rate, with a $1 million exemption. Under the bipartisan tax relief enacted in 2001, the tax was phased down and the exemption was phased up. And, in 2010, Americans were offered a short-term reprieve from the federal estate tax when it went to zero for the year before legislation was enacted setting it at 35 percent through 2012, with a $5 million exemption. Then, in 2012, the rules were changed once again with enactment of legislation setting a 40 percent rate and $5.25 million exemption.

Inexcusably, in the years that have passed while the death tax rate has fluctuated, Congress and President Obama have failed to enact the comprehensive tax reform needed to eliminate this unfair tax, lower tax rates for all Americans and broaden the base to decrease the complexity of the current tax code and help put our nation on better economic footing. A full and permanent repeal of this punitive tax would be a step in the right direction as I continue to work to simplify the tax code and increase competitiveness. At a time when lawmakers should be focused on economic growth and job creation, repealing the death tax makes sense on the path to simplifying our overly-burdensome tax code.


5-22-15

Right choices need made for veterans

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

In March, I wrote about working with Idaho veterans to press for needed changes to the Veterans Choice Program to ensure that Idaho veterans can access the services they so greatly deserve. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently made needed changes to its policy regarding private health care access for veterans that means more veterans can get health care closer to home without traveling distances to VA care facilities.

The Veterans Choice Program offers the alternative of care in a private medical facility if veterans live 40 miles or more from the closest VA medical center, clinic or facility. However, the VA's original implementation of this program left many veterans unable to access the program's benefits due to the VA measuring 40-miles "as the crow flies" rather than by driving distance. This was discriminatory for many veterans, including many in Idaho. Given our mountainous terrain, distances traveled by care can be far greater than simple air miles.

I have been disappointed with the VA's efforts to make the Choice Program difficult to use when improved access to high-quality veterans services is greatly needed. That is why I joined legislative and written efforts to get the VA to change course. I co-sponsored S. 207, the Veterans Access to Community Care Act of 2015 that would require the VA to consider distance by driving miles and begin measuring the 40-mile distance from the nearest facility that provides the service needed by the veteran rather than the closest VA facility in general.

Additionally, I joined Senate colleagues in pushing back against the President's request for Congress to allow the VA to move the funds for the Veterans Choice Program into other VA accounts. We urged VA Secretary Robert McDonald to act quickly to address the problems with the Veterans Choice Program and implement the program as Congress intended. I will continue to push the VA to allow veterans seeking specialty care to utilize the program.

Secretary McDonald's recent announcement that highway miles will be the new standard for measuring distances and availability for treatment in private health facilities is a step in the right direction. In making the announcement, Secretary McDonald stated, "This update to the program will allow more Veterans to access care when and where they want it. We look forward to continued dialogue with Veterans and our partners to help us ensure continued improvements for Veterans to access care."

The Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 was intended to provide veterans relief, not extra bureaucratic hurdles. I will continue to rely heavily on the valuable input of Idaho veterans as I continue to work to make sure that Idaho veterans can properly access the services they need. Thank you to all the Idaho veterans who have provided the insight necessary to improve veterans programs.


5-13-15

Child support bill is about personal responsibility, accountability

Guest opinion by Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Director Richard M. Armstrong

Idaho's special legislative session to address child support is Monday. For all of us, it is critical that we uphold the values that make Idaho great. At the top of that list is personal responsibility.

Plain and simple, personal responsibility is what the Idaho Legislature will address next week - parents should be personally responsible and held accountable for the safety, well-being and health of their children.

This is not about state sovereignty, due process or the protection of personal information from foreign governments. If you examine the proposed bill, there are safeguards to protect our privacy and state authority.

There are no hidden agendas here. This is about Idaho standing firm to effectively work with other states and countries so children do not go hungry or rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs. Idaho and all other states were at the table crafting this uniform law. States have driven this legislation from the start. Why? Because parental responsibility is the foundation of healthy families, healthy communities and healthy states.

By adopting these uniform laws, all states use the same playbook in working together to collect child support. Irresponsible parents cannot flee to other states in hopes of avoiding their obligations. For the first time, the uniform laws will include child-support orders from approved foreign countries with which states want a working relationship. We don't have this today, and Idaho children suffer as a result.

I am the first one to wish we did not have to enforce child support in our state. But the reality is that enforcement is necessary. We only collect 16 percent of child support voluntarily. This legislation is the one tool that can hold parents accountable so children don't suffer. It prevents a parent from shifting their responsibility to the other parent. It prevents growth in public assistance programs. It prevents our state from becoming a haven for deadbeat parents.

There has been a lot of discussion about the financial impact to Idaho if we fail to accept the uniform laws being approved by all other states. We could lose up to $46 million in child support administration and family support funds. But when it comes down to it, the possible loss of federal funding has little to do with protecting our values as Idahoans. If we stand alone and refuse to hold parents accountable for their children's well-being, we lose our integrity. If we lose that, we lose an irreplaceable part of Idaho.

Let's stand together as proud Idahoans on Monday. Let's make things right and show the world that parental responsibility is a family value we hold dear.


5-12-15

OHS AP Government class expresses appreciation

Dear Editor:

The AP (Advanced Placement) Government class thanks Sandy Clay and the Edge for sponsoring our pancake breakfast.

Since our class did not raise enough money to go to Washington, DC, we will be going on an educational visit to Seattle. The money raised during our pancake breakfast will be donated to next year's AP government class.

Pam Danielson
Orofino High School


5-7-15

Youth Challenge Program fosters positive growth

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Organization-Maturity-Discipline-Motivation-These are qualities a graduate of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program credited the program with instilling in him.

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program provides training and mentorship for struggling youth to help set them on a productive course. The program's mission is to "intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens." Through the program, Idaho youth participate in a 22-week residential training course followed by a year of mentoring at the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy. Two residential class cycles are provided for Idaho youth per year.

Since the program was started by the Idaho National Guard in January 2014, two classes, or 151 cadets have graduated from the program. Eighty-one percent of Youth Challenge graduates return to school or are working. Additionally, program participants provided 5,800 hours of service to Idaho communities. Idahoans may have noticed their impact at the Dworshak Fish Hatchery, Hells Gate State Park, the Renaissance Fair setup in Moscow, Christmas light setup in Lewiston, highway cleanup and food drives.

At the national level, the Youth Challenge program has graduated more than 130,000 teens. Together, they have contributed 8 million hours of service to communities throughout the program's 22 years of operation.

We should be proud of the graduates of the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy. One young man participated in the program when he was 16, and the program helped him set the course for a better life. He improved his academics, returned to school and began working. On top of this, he lost 60 pounds and developed an appreciation for reading. These accomplishments will help him in his future professional and personal endeavors. Another graduate returned to school and went on to volunteer with her mother working with Hospice patients. Many graduates say they leave the program feeling better able to interact with others and handle the situations that life sends their way.

Additional information about the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy, including how to apply, can be accessed through the program's web site at www.idyouthchallenge.com, www.facebook.com/IDYCA, and www.twitter.com/IdahoYCA.

Academy participants must be 16-18 years old; at risk of not completing high school; unemployed or underemployed; drug free; and may be required to meet other requirements in order to be accepted into the program.

If the true measure of a person is how they confront setbacks, then these young Idahoans have proven they have the strength of character to overcome significant challenges. I commend them for their commitment to setting a course for a bright future. Their strength and determination provide valuable examples to other Idahoans facing similar challenges.


4-29-15

Advancing county payments not easy, but needed

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Extending Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act (SRS) payments and fully funding Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) is not a simple undertaking, especially considering the federal government's overspending problem. However, when the federal government took over millions of acres of lands across our nation, it also took on the responsibility for the impact of federal ownership on local communities. The federal government can, and must, meet its responsibility within its budget.

A provision that would set the stage for renewal of the SRS program and fully fund PILT was included as a part of the Senate budget framework that cleared the U.S. Senate and is being considered in a joint Senate-House conference committee, on which I am serving. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I supported the inclusion of amendments to the budget resolution that remove procedural hurdles within the budget framework to facilitate SRS renewal and fully fund PILT, while making explicit the need to increase timber harvest to render such payments unnecessary in the future. Additionally, with my support, the Senate passed H.R. 2 that includes the restoration of critical payments for rural counties, and work continues to ensure that the assistance is restored without adding to our mounting national debt.

Property taxes fund county governments, allowing them to provide basic public safety services and infrastructure maintenance for local communities. However, lands managed by the federal government cannot be taxed by local or state governments. To help offset losses to local governments from the presence of non-taxable lands, laws have been enacted that provide payments to offset the impact of the presence of non-taxable lands. PILT payments are received for lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior. The U.S. Forest Service compensates counties through SRS payments.

The PILT program, established in 1976, provides crucial resources to nearly 1,900 counties in 49 states and 3 U.S. territories. A fully-funded PILT program helps to ensure that counties housing federally-managed lands can continue to provide these essential services. Like PILT, rural counties rely heavily on the SRS program, an outgrowth of the 110-year-old requirement for the U.S. Forest Service to return a portion of its receipts to the states for use in counties where national forests are located, to provide essential services to residents. These payments reach over 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests throughout the country and support public schools, roads, forest health projects and other county projects.

Congress has acted a number of times to extend SRS and fully fund PILT, but these extensions have been short-term. The most recent extension expired, leaving rural communities across the nation wondering if they will be able to maintain needed services.

Rural communities should not be asked to exhaust their resources and plan under a cloud of uncertainty because they house federally-managed, untaxable lands. Until we are able to increase timber harvests to render such payments unnecessary, we must uphold our obligation to these communities to assist with funding roads, schools and other critical services.

We have a lot more work ahead to ensure that this obligation is met. Ultimately, we need a long-term solution that provides a consistent mechanism for the federal government to meet its responsibilities while controlling federal overspending. The Senate-passed legislation are steps in the right direction. As Congress works to fund federal priorities, I will continue to press for it to meet its responsibility to rural Idaho communities.


4-4-15

Crapo: EPA must not undercut water projects

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The importance of having clean water cannot be overstated. The fact that we can turn on the tap in most places of our country and know that the water we drink will not make us sick happens because communities across our nation invest in the infrastructure necessary to ensure high water quality. This is not easy, especially with often rigid and increasingly stringent federal mandates and limited pools of resources to meet them. My hat goes off to the towns across Idaho and our nation that deliver clean water while facing unfunded, new federal mandates and growing pressures on our water resources.

Federal agencies levying hefty fines on small communities struggling to fund water quality improvement projects is counterproductive to achieving higher water quality. Such heavy-handed tactics deplete the limited resources the communities have to improve water quality. Working with the communities and leveraging resources to make any needed improvements is a far more productive path. That is why I have long been a proponent of requiring the federal government to step up to the plate and assist local communities with meeting their water treatment needs.

As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), I recently had the opportunity to question Administration officials on why they would choose to cut water quality assistance in the President's recent budget request for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The federal government has an overspending problem, and we must cut deficit spending to get our nation on a sustainable economic path. However, as we work to decrease the deficit, assistance with ensuring a life essential-clean water-is an unreasonable target when the Administration is proposing increasing funding for programs and initiatives that remain controversial.

Despite the EPA asking for $8.6 billion in spending, a 6 percent increase, the EPA calls for a reduction in funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds. Revolving funds, such as these, combine federal, state and local resources to make improvements while loan repayments fund additional water projects and maintain a continued funding source. For every federal dollar invested in the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds, community wastewater systems have received $3 in assistance, and $1.75 in assistance for every dollar invested in the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Funds. Unfortunately, the Administration's proposed reduction will shrink the available resources for small communities needing assistance to ensure their water systems meet state and federal environmental regulations.

According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, cities are spending $115 billion a year to provide water and wastewater services and meet federal mandates. Communities are investing nearly 50 times more in these services than the federal government invests in the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Taking a hard look at how we are asking cities to spend their citizens' money, and especially absent sufficient federal funding, examining the mandates themselves are important steps. To truly make progress, the federal government should not simply overwhelm communities with unfunded mandates. Water infrastructure investments safeguard public health and support jobs. Enabling these projects, rather than undercutting them, must be a priority.


3-20-15

Crapo: No more short changing seniors

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

I recently led a bipartisan group of 52 senators in calling on the Administration to refrain from making additional harmful cuts to the successful, market-based Medicare Advantage (MA) program. These targeted cuts, coupled with the drastic reductions to the program under Obamacare, mean increased out-of-pocket costs, fewer coverage options, reduced benefits and, in many cases, cancelled plans for seniors. This shortchanging of America's seniors must stop.

Medicare Advantage, which remains one of the most popular programs in Medicare, continues to be an attractive option for seniors seeking comprehensive, high-quality coverage at an affordable price. Additionally, this program is a successful effort to push Medicare more toward market based health care. MA offers beneficiaries the opportunity to enroll in private health plans best suited to their individual health care needs outside of the fee-for-service model of traditional Medicare. MA plans typically include a range of innovative services and benefits not available to standard Medicare beneficiaries. Examples of these services include vision and dental services and important prescription drug coverage, among others.

More than 16 million seniors and individuals with disabilities, including more than 70,000 Idahoans, seek health care coverage through the MA program, and that number is growing. Despite widespread enrollment and high rates of satisfaction from beneficiaries, the Administration, in an attempt to force seniors into one-size-fits-all traditional Medicare, has left Americans with fewer and fewer health care options. On top of the new reductions proposed recently, the program faces more than $200 billion in cuts in the coming years as a result of Obamacare.

In rural areas, such as much of Idaho, MA plans are a significant part of the insurance coverage network for Medicare patients. Idaho, which has one of the higher percentages of seniors nationwide who utilize MA coverage, has felt the impact of reductions to the program in recent years with MA plan availability decreasing dramatically. As a result of the move by the Administration, no longer are MA plans offered in numerous counties in Idaho. For example, in Custer County in 2013, the number of MA plans available to seniors was six. After reductions to the program, seniors were forced to enroll in traditional fee-for-service Medicare as there was no longer an option to enroll in an MA plan for 2014-as was the case in Lemhi, Bear Lake, Butte, Clearwater, Idaho and Lewis counties.

Further, studies have shown that additional cuts to the MA program are likely to disproportionately affect beneficiaries with low incomes-the very people the President pledged to protect. Forty-one percent of MA enrollees have annual incomes below $20,000. The increase in out-of-pocket expenses would constitute a significant burden to these enrollees.

In the letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 52 of my Senate colleagues, including fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), and I wrote, "At a time of broad agreement on the need to shift U.S. health care to focus on care coordination, quality and value-based payments, it would be counterproductive to jeopardize a program that is already driven and aligned toward these goals. We urge you to provide stability to the MA program that will protect MA enrollees from disruptive changes in 2016."

Implementing additional cuts to the MA program is unreasonable, as we have seen the dramatic impact cuts are already having on beneficiaries. This dynamic must not continue, and the President must quit contradicting his oft-repeated pledge, "if you like your plan, you can keep it."


3-16-15

Hall recounts 'Night of Terror'

Dear Editor:

It was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to vote. The women who fought for our rights were innocent and defenseless, but on Nov. 15, 1917 they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, carrying signs asking for the vote. By the end of the night they were barely alive.

Forty prison guards wielding clubs and with their wardens blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of "obstructing sidewalk traffic".

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.

They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. Additional affidavits described the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women. Thus unfolded the "Night of Terror" when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White house for the right to vote.

For weeks the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food-all of it colorless slop-was infested with vermin. When Alice Paul embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press. Woodrow Wilson and his cronies tried to get Alice Paul permanently institutionalized. But the psychiatrist refused. His comment? "Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity."

So please explain to me why women today take our right to vote so much for granted? Why do we let a few speak for so many of us. We will never agree on how to vote, but one thing we can agree on is that we should and have the right to vote. I encourage you women in Idaho to register to vote and then VOTE.

Information: Documentary "Iron Jawed Angels" and http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/suffrage/nwp/prisoner.pdf.

Joy Hall
Pierce


3-5-15

Crapo: IRS abuse of small business must be stopped

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

At a recent House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight hearing, a Maryland dairy farmer testified about Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents seizing $62,000 from his family's bank account and filing criminal charges after his family made cash deposits from dairy sales. Like many Idaho producers, his family gets up early every day to operate and manage the farm. The farmer, who has faced losing the family farm several times throughout its operation, testified that the IRS returned little more than half of the farm's money despite the U.S. attorney admitting he did not think the farm was involved in criminal activity. IRS abuse of small businesses must be stopped.

There have been similar reports of the IRS using various methods, including the Bank Secrecy Act, to seize the bank accounts of other small businesses across the U.S. making cash deposits of money earned legally. The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 was intended to prevent money laundering and requires financial institutions to report daily cash transactions that exceed $10,000. Some small businesses with legal earnings have been accused of "structuring" cash deposits to fall below the reporting threshold. These small businesses are getting caught up in costly, drawn-out, bureaucratic nightmares to try to get their money returned.

Reports of this outrageous abuse prompted me to contact the IRS late last year to request additional information about the reported cases of IRS mistreatment and the agency's October revision of some of its related policies. IRS Commissioner John A. Koskinen recently responded to my inquiry recognizing that "small businesses and other bank account holders often make deposits under $10,000 without any intent to avoid the reporting requirements," and he detailed the process for asset seizure and what constitutes the "crime of 'structuring'". While the commissioner pointed out that the "property owner has the opportunity to challenge the government's evidence in court," unjustly, this opportunity comes after the account has already been seized. This is backward.

We must not make it easier for drug dealers to operate, but it is not too much to expect the federal government to meet a high threshold of proving illegal activity especially when seizing personal property. Our system of government should not give the IRS cart blanche to take an American's hard-earned money and then require the accused to prove the IRS should not have taken it. That is beyond outrageous and requires immediate attention.

I recently co-sponsored S. 255, the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration (FAIR) Act. This legislation that was introduced by fellow Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) would better protect property owners from wrongful property seizures and decrease potential monetary incentives for agencies to seize assets. Most importantly, S. 255 would put the burden of proof where it should be-on the government, not innocent Americans. The government would have to prove that the assets were used to facilitate criminal activity.

I support the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight's recent hearing. As the new Chairman of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, it is my intention to hold a subcommittee hearing this year to review the implementation of the related, new IRS policies and to determine whether additional action is needed to protect taxpayers. Americans across this country have enough challenges in trying to keep the doors of their small businesses open. They should not also have to worry about depositing a day's earnings because it may look shady to the IRS. Federal agencies must quit crushing American productivity.


2-21-15

Congress important as part of checks, balances

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Congress' Constitutional oversight and authority is an integral part of the American system of checks and balances. More than ever, Congress has a responsibility to this country to ensure that our co-equal branches of government function in a manner consistent with the Constitution.

For the past six years, the Obama Administration has acted with willful disregard for the American people and repeatedly exceeded the bounds of the law in pursuit of its own far-reaching political agenda. From flouting immigration law to picking and choosing Obamacare provisions to enforce, the President has selectively ignored his constitutional directive to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." The lines carefully established by the framers of the U.S. Constitution between the branches have become increasingly blurred--now President Obama threatens to abandon these foundational principles with his boastful 'pen and phone' declaration.

Government accountability is a cornerstone of a healthy and vibrant republic. For this reason, I support measures to ensure any President abides by the constitutional duty to ensure our laws are faithfully executed. S. 11, the Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments (ENFORCE) Act, would authorize Congress to challenge directly the executive branch for failure to properly administer the laws of the land. Further, the ENFORCE Act would allow for an expedited procedure for the courts to consider such challenges. The legislation, which is also co-sponsored by 22 fellow Senators, including Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), is a needed step to check the abuse of executive powers.

As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reports, "Often overlooked, the Declaration of Independence was not only America's official announcement of independence, but also the new nation's first formal endorsement of the principles of the separation of powers." The clear separation of powers is at the bedrock of our country's formation, and it is incumbent upon us to ensure that this separation is maintained.

The Constitution gives Congress, not the President, the power to legislate. The President can make recommendations to Congress, but must enforce the laws enacted, regardless of whether the President likes the laws. I encourage Idahoans to share your interest in this issue with your friends and family and continue to contact me with your views as we work to eliminate executive overreach.


2-5-15

Family appreciates care at Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics

Dear Editor:

Our matriarch Violet Robson Bruce, a mother, a grandmother, a great grandmother, a mentor and a friend lost her battle with pneumonia. Mom departed this earth for her heavenly home exactly five minutes after midnight the early morning of Jan. 31st. Just 17 days earlier, she had celebrated her 99th birthday. We are confident she now abides with our Lord and Savior. Mom spent her final days on this earth undergoing definitive medical care at the Clearwater Valley Hospital. Mom loved this hospital for the great care they had given her during other medical episodes. She felt a unique confidence in her family physician, Doctor Kelly McGrath.

As her family, we want to take this opportunity to acknowledge that special care she received at our local hospital. During her eight days of hospitalization, I spent nearly 20 hours each day near Mom's side so was able to observe first hand the care rendered. My brother Theron and other family members and friends spent many, many hours with her as well. We were impressed with the quality of care.

What did we observe? First off, we witnessed a lot of courtesy, concern and professionalism. Next, we realized there is a lot more to hospitalization than what meets the eye at face level. Of course, the doctors, through consultation with the family, make the major medical decisions but the heavy-lifters administering the care are the nurses and their assistants. The work of the lab and x-ray technicians backs up the medical decisions. The custodians keep the facility clean and germ-free whereas the maintenance crews repair, replace and resupply as necessary to keep that same facility in working order. The cooks provide the nourishment for patients, guests and staff. The administrators oversee the whole operation including gathering revenue and paying the bills. With a summary this condensed, we may have missed someone or some category. Our apology and thank you as well.

Our community will soon be blessed with a new medical clinic which will further enhance medical care at the local level. We are so very fortunate to have Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in our home town.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


1-31-15

Idaho's wildlife professionals to advocacy groups: Stop Crying Wolf

Guest opinion by Virgil Moore, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

It's important for state agencies to understand and respect differing points of view. But when a few advocacy groups try to grab headlines by skewing Idaho Fish and Game scientific wolf monitoring data in ways that simply aren't true, it's also important to set the record straight.

Here are the facts:

  • Idaho has more than 100 documented wolf packs and over 600 wolves. Idaho's wolf population far exceeds federal recovery levels of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves.
  • After meeting federal recovery levels in 2002, Idaho's wolf population grew largely unchecked for the remainder of the decade, resulting in increased conflicts with other big game populations and livestock.
  • After four harvest seasons since the 2011 delisting, livestock depredations have declined. Wolf predation continues to have unacceptable impacts to some elk populations, but there are signs elk populations are responding positively to wolf management.
  • Wolves in Idaho continue to be prolific and resilient. Idaho will keep managing wolves to have a sustainable, delisted population and to reduce conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

Despite these facts, a few advocacy groups chose to take the breeding pair metric out of context to make claims that Idaho wolves are "teetering on the brink of endangered status once again." That's hogwash. And it's the kind of polarizing misinformation that undermines responsible wildlife conservation and management in Idaho.

Confirming a pack meets U.S. Fish and Wildlife's narrow definition of a "breeding pair" is costly and labor-intensive. With vast reductions in federal funding to the state and Nez Perce Tribe for wolf monitoring, Fish and Game has focused our effort on demonstrating Idaho has at least 15 "breeding pairs" to comply with federal recovery requirements. Idaho closely surveyed 30 packs and confirmed that 22 of them met the breeding pair standard at the end of 2014. Because Idaho has shown it is well above federal recovery levels, we may rely on less intensive monitoring for the other 70 + packs as we complete our final 2014 population estimates. One can assume these 70+ packs include some additional breeding pairs. We will publish our annual monitoring report in March.

As trained scientists, Idaho Fish and Game stands by our data and our wildlife management plans. We manage wolves to ensure we keep state management authority and address conflicts with people, livestock, and other big game populations.

I hope people who truly care about wildlife conservation ignore the exaggerations and misinformation and help Fish and Game focus on the real issues affecting Idaho's wildlife.


1-30-15

Reining in federal regulation important

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Duplicative, often burdensome federal regulations imposed on the private sector continue to stifle economic growth and discourage innovation. An efficient and accountable regulatory structure is of paramount importance and fundamental to ensuring taxpayer dollars are being used properly. Regulators must make our communities and small businesses-those most impacted-a central part of the decision-making process.

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported that 409 "major" final rules were published in the five-year period from 2009-2013 alone. A "major" rule is a federal regulation that is likely to result in an annual $100 million effect on the economy; significantly increase costs or prices for consumers; and adversely affect competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation or the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises.

Given the magnitude of the potential impact, many Americans share my hope that these rules, like other federal regulation, remain rare and well-reasoned. Unfortunately, that is not the case. "Major" rules are just one type of the 2,500-4,500 final federal rules that CRS found are published each year. Congress has passed legislation attempting to limit federal regulation. But, clearly, more must be done. An economy cannot get on sound footing while being stymied by federal regulation.

That is why I recently co-sponsored Senator Rand Paul's (R-Kentucky) Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act. S. 226 would require proposed rules and regulations put forth by federal agencies with an estimated economic impact of at least $100 million be subject to congressional approval before taking effect. Under current law, the Congressional Review Act allows regulation to take effect unless Congress acts to overturn the rule with a joint resolution of disapproval, which the President can veto. In contrast, the REINS Act would require the enactment of a joint resolution of approval before any major rule could be finalized, increasing much-needed transparency in the federal rulemaking process.

Further, the REINS Act would enable better public oversight of "major" rules by requiring longer time periods for Americans to review and comment on new regulations. The legislation would also require delayed enforcement of legally challenged interim final rules, and it would address agencies using rule-making mechanisms to sidestep broad public participation in the development of regulations. Also of significant importance, the legislation would provide for the cleanup of current overregulation by requiring agencies to reassess current regulations and identify for repeal those that are outdated, ineffective or excessively burdensome.

Currently, the federal rulemaking structure provides tremendous autonomy to federal agencies with no real congressional oversight, allowing agencies to propose and finalize thousands of regulations each year, many of them controversial, without a full public discussion or involvement, or disclosure of the data supporting a rule. According to CRS, there were 26,417 pages of final rules published in the Federal Register in 2013. This increasing wave of federal regulations that Americans must sift through and comply with must be controlled.

This bureaucracy is an unnecessary drain on our economy that impedes our nation's growth. As part of the solution for improving our nation's economic footing, I will continue to advocate for eliminating unreasonable federal regulation that hinders the ability of American businesses to expand and increase jobs. We must remove the excessive layers of regulation that are not providing benefits but are just bogging down innovation.


1-22-15

Keystone XL Pipeline analyzed extensively

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

To say the Keystone XL pipeline project has been analyzed extensively is an understatement. Over the more than 7 years since TransCanada originally applied for a Presidential Permit, the U.S. State Department has conducted extensive studies of this project in coordination with at least 12 federal agencies, along with various state and local agencies and Indian tribes and considered nearly 1.9 million comments. The following are some considerations as Congress debates the project's merits.

Environmental Protection

Pipeline opponents assert that the project will have detrimental effects on groundwater and air quality, increase greenhouse gas emissions and result in more oil spills.

According to the State Department, the project is not expected to contribute to the violation of any federal, state or local air quality standards.

  • The State Department analyzed possible effects on area aquifers and concluded that potential spills are unlikely to affect the water quality of aquifers along the project route.
  • A lower risk of spills through the project were projected compared to alternative shipping methods.
  • The department estimated that alternative transport options would result in a 28 percent or higher annual greenhouse gas emissions as compared to the proposed pipeline.
  • Ninety-five special mitigation measures, including some "above what is normally required," that Keystone agreed to incorporate into the project to reduce spill risk were noted.

Economic and job growth

Those who oppose the pipeline also attempt to discredit the potential job growth and economic benefits of the project and claim that focus would be better spent on transportation, instead of pipeline, projects.

  • The State Department estimates that the project would support approximately 42,100 jobs and approximately $2 billion in earnings throughout the U.S.
  • The Canadian Energy Research Institute found that an additional 85,000 U.S. jobs could be generated.
  • Further, the State Department projects that the project's construction would contribute approximately $3.4 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product, and a total estimated property tax in the first full year of operations of approximately $55.6 million spread across 27 counties in three states.
  • Transportation and pipeline jobs are not mutually exclusive. We can, and should, do both. The Keystone XL pipeline, which is a privately financed project, can proceed while federally-funded transportation projects also proceed. To truly give our economy the boost it needs, we must consider all avenues of job growth, not solely concentrate on one effort.

Fossil fuel dependence

Opponents also claim that completion of the pipeline would further increase our nation's dependence on fossil fuels and the project does not make sense given current low crude prices.

  • The cyclical nature of oil prices means that we need to plan beyond today's market.
  • We cannot deny that our nation remains reliant on fossil fuels, and we should not forgo the better utilization of these resources. We must implement a long-term, strategic energy plan that reduces environmental risks while improving domestic energy production.

I support the approval of Keystone XL as it would provide a significant economic boost to our country. The $7 billion privately-funded pipeline project would create thousands of jobs and provide tax revenue to states along its route. Additionally, this project can help North America increase its energy security by reducing reliance on foreign resources from volatile countries and regions around the globe. The American people should be allowed to realize the benefits of this project and not miss out on an important economic opportunity.


1-8-15

Idaho needs great teachers

Guest opinion by Emma Atchley, President, Idaho State Board of Education

Effective teachers are essential to student achievement and success. Providing competitive, professional-level salaries is critical to recruiting, developing and keeping great teachers in the classroom.

The State Board of Education has forwarded a proposal to the 2015 legislature to implement a career ladder that will provide nearly $200 million of additional funding for teacher salaries over the next five years. The career ladder would elevate teacher salaries to levels comparable to other states and to the private sector. More competitive, professional level salaries will help attract individuals to the profession and provide incentives for effective teachers to stay in the classroom.

Once fully implemented, the career ladder will provide a minimum salary of $40,000 for new teachers and require robust and meaningful mentoring for those new teachers. Funding for veteran teachers will range from $51,000 - $58,000. Current funding tops out at $47,000. Overall, funding for teachers will increase approximately $8,000 to $13,000 per teacher depending on where teachers fall on the ladder. Under the plan, teachers will also be compensated for attaining advanced degrees and may earn leadership bonuses based on assignments and needs within their local district.

The plan does include reasonable accountability measures intended to improve teacher effectiveness and support student achievement. Teacher effectiveness would be assessed through teacher evaluations and by student growth measures established at the local level. While the proposed career ladder does set a minimum salary level and provides for varying levels of apportionment to districts, local districts would still have the ability to fund teacher salaries at rates higher than the state apportionment. However, the career ladder funding model will significantly increase funding to help reduce the gap for districts that must pay more than the state apportionment to be competitive and will ultimately provide more financial stability for all districts in the state.

The board believes that the need is obvious and the time is right to take this critical step to improve Idaho's education system. We believe strongly in the need to increase funding for teacher pay and view this step as the best opportunity to make significant and sustained change.


12-31-14

Keystone XL pipeline one of top topics in mailbag

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As active participants in the decisions made in Congress, Idahoans contact me with valuable input about the issues our country faces. Realizing that many may not have the chance to contact me, I post the top five issues of concern from Idahoans and my responses on my website. The top issues constituents have contacted me about recently include interest in the Keystone XL pipeline project. The following is my response:

Canadian oil company TransCanada has been working with the U.S. Department of State since 2008 to secure approval of the necessary permits to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, an international oil infrastructure project. The Keystone XL pipeline would be an extension of the existing Keystone pipeline and would transport Canadian sedimentary oil deposits in Alberta to refineries in Texas. Approval of this project was originally denied by the Obama Administration on Jan. 18, 2012. However, TransCanada reapplied for the necessary permits shortly thereafter with a revised proposal, and the Department of State released a draft environmental impact statement as it reviewed TransCanada's most recent application on March 1, 2013.

On Jan. 31, 2014, the State Department released its final environmental impact statement. Similar to the draft analysis, the final statement again concluded that the development of oil sands in Alberta, Canada, would not be significantly altered with the Keystone XL pipeline. A decision not to permit the pipeline would lead to the development and shipment of Canadian oil sands crude via alternative methods, including by rail and barge, to crude oil customers elsewhere.

S. 2280, a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, was introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-North Dakota). This measure would have authorized TransCanada to construct and operate the pipeline, as well as the facilities needed to maintain it. On Nov. 18, 2014, the bill was brought to the floor of the Senate, where it was defeated by a vote of 59 to 41, with a 3/5 majority required for passage under the established rules.

I support the approval of Keystone XL as it would provide a significant economic boost to our country. The $7 billion privately-funded pipeline project would create thousands of jobs and provide tax revenue to states along its route. Additionally, this project can help North America increase its energy security by reducing reliance on foreign resources from volatile countries and regions around the globe. The recent report issued by the Department of State further confirms that the development of this resource will continue with or without approval by the United States.

The Administration should deem this project to be in the United States' national interest so the American people can begin to realize the benefits of this project and not miss out on an important economic opportunity. I recognize the importance of this issue to our nation and will continue to ensure Idaho's views are represented at the national level.


12-26-14

Cybersecurity: A non-stop job

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

With the holiday shopping season well underway, consumers, retailers and banks are reminded of the great need to protect financial data and payment information. Statistics show that data breaches do not necessarily increase during some of the busiest shopping days of the year, but each swipe of the card is a stark reminder of the significant amount of trust placed with retailers and financial institutions to keep our private financial information safe and secure.

Consumers, businesses and our economy benefit from fast, safe and accurate financial transactions. Whether we use credit cards at the gas station or grocery store, or even use our smartphones to purchase Christmas gifts online, we expect our personal information to be protected and not compromised. Recent data breaches reveal just how much information different entities collect about consumers. While financial institutions devote substantial resources to strengthening cybersecurity, including in some cases as much as hundreds of millions of dollars per year, there are still many entry points that could be attacked in our payments system.

Recently, a "60 Minutes" segment aired calling 2014 "the year of the data breach." One recent study estimated that 60 percent of companies overall have experienced a breach in the last two years. This includes a number of high-profile breaches in which hackers have stolen personal and financial information from millions of consumers. These breaches can result in frustrating experiences for consumers, including obtaining new credit or debit cards, monitoring accounts for fraudulent activity and the disruption of pre-authorized payments. Victims of credit card theft also commonly face lingering credit problems that can result in a tough road to recovery, according to an Identity Theft Resource Center study. Additionally, financial institutions, especially community banks and credit unions, face significant costs in reissuing cards and covering losses.

The financial sector itself is also a primary target for hackers because, as some have pointed out, "that's where the money is." The largest banks are under constant attack every day and spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year on cyber defense. What many may not realize is that the cost of defending against cyber attacks is remarkably disproportionate compared to the cost of attacking. Hackers can purchase tools to exploit vulnerabilities for a just few hundred dollars, while firms must spend upwards of a million dollars or more to defend against specific cyber attacks. The costs and burdens on smaller financial institutions to defend against attacks can be enormous.

The Senate Banking Committee, on which I serve, recently held a hearing to assess enhanced cybersecurity coordination in the financial sector. Encouragingly, many government agencies have made cybersecurity a priority and are coordinating efforts to stop cyber criminals at the earliest signs of a threat. Likewise, the financial industry has devoted substantial resources to protecting its information systems and is widely viewed as one of the most advanced sectors in terms of prioritizing cybersecurity. However, as hackers continue to search for gaps, ensuring the private sector gets timely threat information while also making certain the process has not become so complicated that it slows down the outflow of information and hinders coordination must remain a priority. Law enforcement, government agencies, federal banking regulators and the financial services industry must work together to maximize the speed of information sharing and minimize the risk of and damage from cyber attacks.


12-18-14

Veterans survey results released

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Over the past few months, I have written about efforts to seek input from Idaho veterans about their experiences with veterans' services. On Veterans Day, I released the results of my Fall 2014 Veterans Survey. The survey results are guiding my efforts on behalf of Idaho's veterans and are being shared with officials in Washington, D.C., and with the VA to help push meaningful policy changes.

More than 1,000 Idahoans from the veterans' community participated in the survey. More than 80 percent of survey participants took the time to provide additional, optional information about specific experiences with the VA. The results of the Fall 2014 Veterans Survey are available on my official web site at www.crapo.senate.gov. The following are some of the major findings from the survey:

  • Approximately 51 percent of participants rated their experiences with the VA as "satisfying" or better.
  • Around 30 percent of participants rated their experiences as "dissatisfying" or worse.
  • Twenty-five percent of survey respondents expressed interest in assistance with an ongoing issue with the VA.
  • Most of the participants' statements reflect the participants' experiences with VA timeliness and/or communication with the VA.
  • Direct, open communication with veterans and their caregivers is critical in increasing veterans' faith in the VA.

I asked Idahoans for their feedback to gain a better understanding of where to focus VA reform efforts following the reports of veterans having difficulty accessing care. I met with veterans and veterans' advocacy groups throughout the state and asked Idahoans to share their unique perspectives on the VA. Simply giving the VA more money is not an appropriate way to address the VA's problems. The VA needs targeted, meaningful reforms that allow it to use its existing resources to better serve the needs of veterans. Surveys of the satisfied veterans help identify best practices that may be applied in other areas. The surveys of dissatisfied veterans identify areas of concern that should be addressed with the VA. This includes a review of resource utilization in circumstances that are less than satisfying for Idaho's veterans.

While it is promising to hear that many are happy with the VA, work must continue to address the concerns of the large number of people who are not. Veterans' willingness to share their stories is greatly appreciated. I will continue communication with VA leaders to ensure they understand the experiences of Idaho's veterans and act appropriately to meet their needs. There are some hardworking VA staff who strive to fulfill the VA's mission "To fulfill President Lincoln's promise 'To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan' by serving and honoring the men and women who are America's veterans." There are some individuals who need to be reminded of their mission.

Moving forward, I encourage all Idahoans to contact any of my offices for assistance with federal agencies when needed. I will continue to monitor implementation of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act. Ensuring that Idahoans are able to participate in the new Veterans Choice Program without experiencing significant delays when they are eligible is a priority. Additionally, I am leading an effort to create a working group aimed at improving Idaho veterans' experiences with the VA. Further, I plan to re-survey veterans in 2015 to see if the VA is making progress with all of the veterans it serves.

Thank you to all those who are assisting with this effort. Together, we help ensure that veterans policy best supports these extraordinary individuals who put their lives on the line to safeguard our freedoms.


12-13-14

IDFG ending celebration of 75th year anniversary

Guest opinion by Virgil Moore, Director Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Idaho Fish and Game is ending a year of celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Fish and Game Mission by the people of Idaho.

Hunters, anglers, trappers and others who cared about wildlife wrote it and passed it by a citizens' initiative, approved by 76 percent of voters in 1938 - still the highest margin of victory for any such initiative in the history of our state.

Fish and Game is proud of our Mission:

Wildlife Policy. All wildlife, including all wild animals, wild birds, and fish, within the state of Idaho, is hereby declared to be the property of the state of Idaho. It shall be preserved, protected, perpetuated, and managed. It shall be only captured or taken at such times or places, under such conditions, or by such means, or in such manner, as will preserve, protect, and perpetuate such wildlife, and provide for the citizens of this state and, as by law permitted to others, continued supplies of such wildlife for hunting, fishing and trapping. IC 36-103(a).

For me personally, the Mission has been the single most important guide throughout my 37 years as a fishery and wildlife management professional in Idaho. It keeps me on track reminding me who we are at Fish and Game and what we do for the public we serve and I refer to it regularly.

Fish and Game is a public trust management agency providing benefits to Idahoans with specific direction to preserve, protect, perpetuate, (i.e. conserve wildlife), and once that is done, our paramount role is to provide for continued supplies for hunting, fishing and trapping. Harvest of wildlife is implicit in our Mission.

Fish and Game funding in Idaho comes predominantly from hunter and angler user fees, with no state general tax funds. This approach has been a key and successful aspect of the North American Model of Wildlife Management, the most successful large scale approach to wildlife conservation ever taken in the world.

Idahoans hear a lot about threats to that heritage from anti-hunting and anti-trapping groups. In Idaho, I believe we are united in confronting such threats as demonstrated two years ago when the citizens of Idaho reaffirmed our Mission by overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment (75 percent of voters). The amendment preserves the public's right to hunt, fish and trap and states that these are the preferred methods of managing Idaho's wildlife populations.

In 1977, as a newly hired Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologist, I witnessed the closure of Idaho's Chinook salmon fishing and I wondered if it was gone for good. Today, we are regularly opening seasons and catching Chinook on the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon Rivers, providing opportunity to thousands of anglers to experience that fishing heritage. Idaho hunters are experiencing one of the best deer seasons in years, thanks to recent mild winters and management that have helped populations grow, providing much opportunity. The new Elk Plan http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/elkPlan/ provides zone-specific population objectives and strategies to deal with limiting factors including predation mortality by wolves and other predators. After four-and-a half successful hunting seasons, working together with Idaho hunters and trappers, we're getting our wolf population down to more manageable, but still sustainable levels, and our elk population is beginning to show signs of improvement in many zones.

Idaho Fish and Game is front and center as part of Governor Otter's Sage-Grouse Task Force http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/sageGrouse/. Many volunteers, including hunters, are doing everything from participating in population surveys to helping us plant sagebrush. In addition to these on-the-ground efforts, hunters and falconers are helping support sage-grouse conservation through their purchases of licenses and tags. Despite that, a Southern Idaho newspaper recently claimed in print that this year's sage-grouse hunting season creates a "perception problem." I responded with an op-ed pointing out that sage-grouse seasons are set based on science not perception and that we carefully monitor sage-grouse populations and allow hunting only where populations are strong and do not hesitate to close areas where populations or habitat are limiting. That's how we manage all game species, with sound science, and with opportunity for our hunters, anglers and trappers always in mind.

Fifty-three percent of Idahoans fished and 35 percent hunted in the last two years and our numbers are growing. We certified over 13,500 new hunters, bow hunters and trappers last fiscal year, a 14 percent increase over the previous year. And 3,900 ten and eleven year olds hunted their first deer or elk this year. We are also busy with our "Take Me Fishing" trailers, helping nearly 24,000 people over the last two years learn to fish. These are just a few examples of how Fish and Game, and a dedicated corps of volunteers are working to preserve, protect and perpetuate Idaho's wildlife and our hunting and fishing heritage.

Indeed, hunting, fishing and trapping generates $1.4 billion per year for Idaho's economy, supports over 14,000 jobs and is the second most popular outdoor activity in Idaho (behind camping) because we have such outstanding wildlife resources. Fish, game and other species exist today thanks to your license dollars and the strong foundation for wildlife conservation and management outlined by our forefathers when they created and implemented the Fish and Game Mission. That is why we use it as a daily guide as Fish and Game strives to make Idaho a better place for fish, wildlife, hunters, anglers and trappers, and all citizens who benefit from this incredible resource.

Looking ahead to the next 75 years, I want to both thank you and reassure you that a top priority at Idaho Fish and Game will always be the hunter, angler and trapper and maintaining our wildlife heritage. Demands and issues facing our agency (i.e. endangered species, habitat loss, etc.) are much greater than they were when our Mission was created and the challenges will continue to grow, but nothing will ever be more important than making sure our fish and wildlife populations are healthy and available for hunters and anglers to use.


12-5-14

Trapping accidents best reduced through education, not restrictions

Guest opinion by Fred Trevey, Chairman, Idaho Fish and Game Commission

In Idaho, trapping is a constitutional right. Despite that, a recent editorial in an Idaho newspaper said the Idaho Fish and Game Commission should have restricted that right based on a couple of instances last year where dogs were accidently caught and killed in body-gripping conibear traps.

Make no mistake, Fish and Game Commissioners and trappers empathize with the owners of those dogs, but we feel it is better to use education, rather than restrictions to prevent these kinds of unfortunate occurrences from happening in the future.

The Commission last month directed Fish and Game staff to work with trappers to develop a proposal requiring trapper education for all trappers in Idaho. Commissioners believe the proposed mandatory trapper education course should include instruction in ethics and best practices on how and where traps are placed on the landscape. This should help to reduce instances of dogs and other non-targeted species being caught not only in conibear-type traps, but foothold traps and snares as well.

Mandatory hunter education became a requirement in Idaho more than three decades ago, in part to stem the number of hunting-related accidents that were occurring in our state - and it worked. The accident rate has dropped significantly over the years and new hunters go afield trained to be safe, to respect the rights of others, and to conduct themselves responsibly. The vast majority of trappers conduct themselves responsibly too and the Commission is confident that like hunter education, trapper education will make a difference.

Trapping in Idaho dates back hundreds of years and continues to be a time honored tradition here today. Trappers harvest furbearers such as beaver, bobcat, otter, marten and more recently wolves have been added to the list of species that can be legally trapped.

Trapping also cultivates stewardship values and encourages another way to learn about wildlife and their habitat. It is a primary tool used to control some species of depredating wildlife that impact the agricultural and ranching communities and for biologists to capture wildlife for research and management.

It's worth noting that two years ago, 75 percent of Idaho voters approved the constitutional amendment protecting the right to hunt, fish and trap in Idaho and it is important for all of us to respect each other's rights on the land.

For more information on how to recognize traps on the landscape, and how to release your dog from a trap, please visit Fish and Game's web site at: www.fishandgame.idaho.gov/trap.


11-14-14

Need for veterans casework continues

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Thank you to the more than 1,000 of Idaho's veterans who have taken the time to share their experiences with veterans' services through a survey I recently conducted. As I look carefully at this valuable input and share the results, I am struck by the volume of survey respondents who are seeking assistance with specific U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-related cases. This increase in VA-related casework speaks to the need to continue to work to ensure that veterans programs are best meeting the needs of Idaho veterans.

At times, I am contacted by Idahoans who find themselves in need of help with a personal issue that involves contacting a federal agency. I contact the agency on their behalf to assure that they have been given every consideration available by law. Nineteen percent of the survey participants have asked for further assistance with personal VA-related issues. During August through October, the two months the survey was open and immediately following, 44 percent of incoming cases pertained to the VA. Overall, open cases have increased 117 percent from this time last year, and VA cases alone have increased by 519 percent within the same time period.

Nearly half of the veterans' casework opened during the survey relates to service-connected disability claims. Twelve percent of respondents seek assistance with appointment scheduling, including rescheduling surgeries that have been postponed. Ten percent have issues regarding the quality of care received through the VA. Four percent of respondents seek assistance in each of the following areas: requests for reimbursement for non-VA treatment; survivor benefits and dependency claims; and VA medical care access issues, such as the enrollment process. Three percent of respondents need help with communication frustrations, and another 3 percent are experiencing delayed processing of retroactive pay for benefits. I welcome the opportunity to assist with these and other issues as we work to make any needed improvements to veterans programs.

From the onset of the survey, I have endeavored to help the VA better serve veterans. The broad scope of services the VA provides requires it to be responsive to the ever-changing needs of veterans. The information I received from Idahoans will help inform officials in Washington, D.C., on the way the VA works and where it can improve. Those who use the programs best understand the inner workings of VA programs, and veterans' experiences will help VA officials take note of the changes necessary to meet the challenge of delivering service in the 21st Century.

The extent of those seeking assistance with personal casework demonstrates areas of needed improvement. In the weeks ahead, I will be sharing more about the results of the survey and the changes needed to address concerns and better meet the needs of our nation's veterans. We must continue to shape veterans policy into a system that provides the best assistance for those who have met our nation's call of duty.

If you find yourself in need of assistance with a specific agency, please contact the staff in one of my regional offices to discuss your situation, after which I will contact the agency on your behalf. While I cannot direct a certain outcome, I can help communicate the circumstances and request that the agency take appropriate actions to assist you. Additionally, due to jurisdictional constraints, I can only assist with federal agencies. If your concern is with a state or local entity, you may wish to contact the appropriate jurisdiction for these issues. More information regarding assistance, including contact information, the required privacy release form and frequently asked questions, can be accessed through my web site, at www.crapo.senate.gov.


11-7-14

Congress has responsibility to show they can do the job

Guest opinion by Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador

The American people sent a message Tuesday, putting Republicans in control of the Senate and boosting our majority in the House. Now, it is our job to show that we can govern so we can restore the shaken confidence of our constituents and put the greatest country in the world on the right track.

Americans are weary of both congressional gridlock and executive branch incompetence. By working with willing partners in the House and Senate, we can send President Obama legislation that will heal our country and grow our economy.

For example, I have two bills to boost the timber and ranching industries in Idaho and the West that have already passed the House. Harry Reid and the Democrats refused to even give them a hearing. I'm optimistic they will now get serious consideration in the Senate.

These bills are a good first step in our effort to lift the regulatory burden slowing growth in the public lands states. Our national forests have been mismanaged for too long, dropping timber harvests by 80 percent in 30 years. I believe state and local governments can do a better job.

My Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act would establish pilot community forest projects of about 200,000 acres, totaling up to 4 million acres nationwide. Local governments would manage the land in accordance with state laws. The result would be responsible production, creation of rural jobs and reduced wildfire risk. My hope is demonstrating the benefit of guardianship closer to the people will prompt management transfer of millions more acres in coming years.

The Grazing Improvement Act would extend livestock grazing permits on federal lands from 10 to 20 years, giving ranchers the certainty to boost operations and local economies. The bill addresses a backlog in processing renewals by extending permits under existing terms. It also offers regulatory relief and would discourage frivolous lawsuits.

More broadly, the GOP change in the Senate means Congress should pass a free-market alternative to Obamacare. It means tax reform, which lowers rates, eliminates corporate welfare and tax loopholes, and raises additional revenue through growth. It means cutting our $18 trillion debt now, not down the road. It means regulatory reform and step-by-step immigration reform. It means legislation to protect religious freedom, check spying on Americans and shield citizens from IRS abuse.

Republicans should act swiftly, in the first 100 days of the new Congress. We need to prove that limited government can work efficiently and effectively.

My hope is the president, heeding the message of the American people and mindful of his legacy, would work with us in Congress. Unfortunately, in his post-election news conference, he seemed reluctant to acknowledge the scale of the GOP wave and the need for change. I'm especially troubled that he repeated his vow to move ahead with a provocative executive order on immigration before Congress has time to act.

But even if the president fails to work with us, a Republican Congress can pass a common sense agenda that will show exactly what we want to do to improve the lives of all of our constituents.

Millions of Americans are unemployed, underemployed or simply so discouraged they've left the workforce. We must make every effort to revive President Reagan's brilliant conception of America as "a shining city on a hill," blessed with boundless promise.

The new Republican majority can unleash the pent-up energy of millions of Americans ready to go to work in an economy that restores fiscal sanity and assures a level field in tax and regulatory policy.

In January, the Senate logjam will break. Republicans must not take the responsibility lightly. The American people want results. It's our duty to deliver.


10-31-14

EPA attempts water grab, control over ponds, puddles, ditches

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

I have previously written about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) efforts to wrongly assert jurisdiction over nearly all waters of the United States. The Administration's action, which is taken without statutory authority, undermines states' constitutional water sovereignty, threatens the nation's economy and encroaches on private landowners' ability to utilize their property. This misguided proposed rule must be withdrawn.

Now, federal small business advocates are among the critics of the rule and are calling for its withdrawal. In a letter to the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) reinforced the concerns raised by many Americans. SBA advocacy concluded, "The rule will have a direct and potentially costly impact on small businesses. The limited economic analysis which the agencies submitted with the rule provides ample evidence of a potentially significant economic impact." SBA advocacy explained these concerns and recommended that the agencies withdraw the rule and conduct a Small Business Advocacy Review panel before proceeding any further with this rulemaking.

Under our constitutional system, the states, not the federal government, have always had primary jurisdiction over the allocation, management and use of water. The federal government's jurisdiction has been limited under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to navigable waters. In an unjustified manner, the federal government is seeking to assert jurisdiction over all waters of the United States through a rule proposed by the EPA and the Corps to revise the definition of "waters of the United States" under the federal CWA. If made final, the EPA's action would significantly expand federal authority, allowing the agency to regulate nearly every stream, ditch, pond, puddle and other local water bodies.

It is past time to heed the concerns that the agencies have received and withdraw the rule. Members of Congress are not letting up in opposition to the rule. I recently joined Senate colleagues in again raising the ongoing concerns with the rule and addressing the many inaccurate claims made by EPA about the merits of the overregulation. We called on the EPA and Corps to "reverse course, withdraw the proposed rule, and commit to working more cooperatively with interested stakeholders in future regulatory proceedings."

This recent action is part of my ongoing efforts with Senate colleagues to oppose this federal water grab and urge the Administration to change course. I joined 37 Senators, including fellow Idaho Senator Jim Risch, in co-sponsoring S. 2496, the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014, that would prohibit the EPA and the Corps from finalizing the proposed rule. I continue to work with my colleagues to attach this important legislation to bills under consideration by the full Senate.

The EPA's jurisdictional grab of our waterways violates its statutory authority and congressional intent. Past legislation to achieve this jurisdictional expansion by statute has not been enacted into law. I have helped block it in the U.S. Senate. Further, the water grab is harmful to our economy, undermines state water sovereignty and infringes on property rights. The Administration must demonstrate that the extensive concerns it has received are heard and withdraw the rule.


10-23-14

Irby supporting Hunter in Nov. 4 election

Dear Editor:

I am supporting Karen Hunter as a Write-in candidate for the office of Clearwater County Court Clerk/Auditor/Recorder.

have known Karen since she was a 4-Her in high school and she has always presented herself as intelligent and caring towards others. She enjoys helping people learn new skills and has a great work ethic. So join me in writing her name on the ballot on Nov. 4.

Julie Irby
Orofino


10-22-14

Allen supporting Goodwin for Assessor

Dear Editor;

I'm supporting Mike Goodwin for Clearwater County Assessor. I've had the opportunity to have worked with Mike for over 40 years. He knows what it takes to do a quality job and has the integrity and knowledge to do it right. He works with people in a respectful way.

Having worked in the Assessor's office, Mike has a broad understanding of the Assessor's job as well as how County government works. He also volunteers countless hours to our county to improve services and infrastructure in the county. Just this past summer, he volunteered over 100 hours of his time to the Clearwater County GIS Department, helping locate and establish section corners to improve our county's web map accuracy. Mike Goodwin has my total support.

Thank you,

John Allen
Orofino


10-22-14

Hunter running as Clearwater County Court Clerk/Auditor/Recorder

Dear Editor:

I am running as a write-in Republican candidate for the office of Clearwater County Court Clerk/Auditor/Recorder. I am part of a family who homesteaded in the area, and has been actively volunteering in Orofino and Clearwater County.

I have continued my education to the Master's Degree level in International Business, and in Paralegal Studies. I have over four years of experience as a Paralegal and two years of experience in the Court office.

I consider myself to be a conservative Constitutionalist and practice Servant Leadership in all areas of my life. I would appreciate your support by writing my name in for Court Clerk/Auditor/Recorder when you vote on Nov. 4.

Thank you.

Karen Hunter
Orofino


10-21-14

Allen urges vote for Chilcott

Dear Editor:

If you live in District 7-Clearwater, Idaho, Shoshone and part of Bonner counties--vote for Jessica Chilcott. You may not know who your current representative is, who has been there for four years already, so it might be a great time to elect an energetic young woman, Jessica Chilcott, who says she will provide "active, involved representation for my district."

Her passion is to work for education as an investment in our future, and to work for economic growth, for all our hard working Idaho families. She's a working woman with a teenage son, so she knows these issues first-hand and will work hard to make them better. Look for her name on the ballot and do us all a favor! Thanks.

Kathryn Allen
Orofino


10-21-14

McLaughlin supporting Goodwin for Assessor

Dear Editor:

I have personally known Mike Goodwin since he came to the Clearwater Area some 40 years ago. I have worked with him professionally in the logging industry all through his 32 years with Potlatch Corporation and his 5 years as an appraiser with the Clearwater County Assessor's office.

I have talked with him at length on many topics relevant to our entire county and I am always impressed with his specific knowledge of the area and more importantly his ability to share that information in an understandable way. He has a keen memory for detail which makes it easy to talk to him about any specific area in the county.

Taxes are never an easy issue, but with Mike as Assessor there will be an opportunity for all individuals to better understand how the tax base system works. His knowledge and "open door" policy will be a benefit available to the entire county. After visiting with him, you may still have to pay the same taxes but at least you will better understand why.

Since his retirement in 2012, I know personally that he has probably read over a hundred books on Clearwater County and the surrounding region because of his interest and love for the area. Without hesitation he has assisted individuals who needed help. Friends and family know they could count on him for everything from a ride to the doctor, to the assessment and possible removal of a wayward tree, to the refurbishing of a flag pole and installation of a new flag in the front yard of a proud veteran.

We are very fortunate that Mike made the commitment to once again offer his services to the entire county.

Marguerite McLaughlin
Orofino


10-18-14

McLaughlin supporting Ebert for Commissioner

Dear Editor:

I am asking the electorate of Clearwater County to vote a smart and informed vote and re-elect Don Ebert as County Commissioner. Don has knowledge of the Federal and State Constitution, the Laws and Rules and Regulations needed to make informed decisions on issues that come before the Commission. The decisions he makes are for the common good for the County as a whole.

He has worked tirelessly on the timber issues facing the County, with experience and knowledge of the real and perceived problems. His work within the collaborative group has resulted in an increased volume of resources that benefit Mills and timber workers depending on access to adequate timber product for jobs. These decisions that are made by that group working together will have a positive impact on the timber industry in the foreseeable future.

Don fully understands the need for the economy of Clearwater County to expand into a broader concept and worked diligently to approve the National Guard School in Pierce, the continued State funding and operation of Dworshak State Park and under Don's guidance we have seen a vast improvement in our roads with construction adequately funded with Federal, State and local funds. During his tenure as Commissioner all County Departments of Government have experienced adequate funding without expanding our tax structure beyond what is allowed.

Don would appreciate your vote on November 4th.

Marguerite McLaughlin Orofino


10-9-14

Transportation option for seniors pulled from rural Idaho

Open Letter To:

Mike Crapo, U.S. Senator
for Idaho James E. Risch, U.S. Senator for Idaho
Window on the Clearwater

My name is Deryl Ketchum, Coast Transportation Bus Driver, Orofino Idaho. I have driven the Senior Bus in Orofino for 17 years, I relieved Lawrence Hunter in 1996, and he drove the bus for 16 years. We have a long history of Senior Transportation in our community.

In June of 2014, Senior Transportation abruptly ended. Seniors were basically left standing along the side of the road. Why we asked, I wrote the governor of Idaho, Butch Otter, and received the following reply. Frankly I was impressed as it was obvious the Governor had read my correspondence.

"FROM:
C. L. "Butch" Otter
Governor of Idaho

With the provision of FTA funds comes accountability that is required by the federal government. Over the past couple of years COAST has failed to follow acceptable accounting procedures, placing it out of federal compliance. ITD made many attempts to work with COAST in an effort to return the organization to compliance, including an onsite visit in June. COAST recently changed leadership and is working diligently on a plan for compliance. ITD will continue working with COAST to help achieve federal compliance as quickly as possible."

I also sent many E-Mails to concerned parties throughout the transportation system and eventually received the following response from, Heather Wheeler.

"FROM:
Heather Wheeler Executive Director
Community Transportation Association of Idaho
913 River Street | Suite 440 | Boise, ID | 83702
Phone: (208) 344-2354 | Fax: (208) 343-4543
ctai.org | facebook.com/CTAIdaho | Twitter @CTAIdaho

CTAI's Nationally Recognized Program Could End in October Unfortunately, ITD has not adequately managed the Federal Transit Administration funding for the last 5 years. Inaccurate accounting and poor financial oversight has created a 1.1 million dollar deficit; 20 percent of the annual allocation of federal funding program for rural communities in Idaho. As you can imagine, this will have profound implications on statewide mobility and transit programs.

The CTAI statewide mobility management grant with ITD expires on Sept. 30, 2014. To date, ITD has not been forthcoming about renewal of the contract. As a result of the expiring grant and the accounting errors, ITD has recommended either eliminating the statewide rural mobility management program effective Oct. 1, 2014 or, cutting the funding to the transportation providers across the state by approximately $750,000. This would set Idaho's public transportation system back years, and erase the hard work we have all done together.

In my opinion, cutting funding to the entities providing transportation services across the state is not a viable option. Nor is eliminating the program assisting rural communities to improve their transportation options.

We Need Your Help
There are solutions to this problem, and CTAI remains committed to working with ITD to develop a viable solution and continue to increase mobility options for Idahoans."

I asked myself, where do I go from here?, all I see is finger pointing. Does this address the issue for the hundreds of seniors that have had a historical transportation asset yanked from under their feet in the five Northern Idaho Counties, (Area 2 ). Plus thousands of Seniors within the State of Idaho. Seniors have been abandoned, left without the ability to shop, see a doctor, go to the drug store, without imposing on neighbors or relatives. It is humiliating for a Senior. The bus gave them a sense of independence. Independence is Very Important to Seniors, ask your Mother or Father what independence means to them!.

The funding for Transportation comes from the Federal Government, Tax dollars. Idaho creates entities such as I.T.D. (Idaho Transportation Department) to administer Senior Transportation throughout the State of Idaho. The real need exists in the rural communities. Where is the oversight? Federal $ are lost, mismanaged or who knows what? The Federal dollars keep coming in for Senior transportation but the Seniors are still standing on the proverbial curb. Where is the oversight? Are the administrators of transportation suffering? I bet not!

There is an election coming soon and you, U. S. Senators, Idaho Governor and a few other ranking officials are the ones the Seniors and their families will be pointing the finger at. I myself am a Conservative living in Idaho but I am ashamed of the leadership I have witnessed. The way you treat Seniors in this great State of Idaho, the people that have the most invested are the least respected. A pathetic state of affairs exists in Idaho and it is absolutely shameful.

Good luck November 4th.

Deryl Ketchum
Orofino


10-4-14

Johnson promotes preparing for emergencies

Guest opinion by Aaron Johnson, Acting State Executive Director

As the Acting State Executive Director of USDA Farm Service Agency in Idaho, I have traveled around this great state and have personally seen the resilience of our farmers and ranchers. I have watched them rebuild from natural disasters and bounce back from the harsh blows dealt by Mother Nature.

The USDA Farm Service Agency plays an active role in aiding producers during hardships such as these. We do a good job of caring for the constituents we serve. However, we all should do a better job of preparing for disasters when they strike, especially the ones that put our families at serious risk.

September was National Preparedness Month and the Farm Service Agency participated in America's PrepareAthon by sharing helpful tips to educate the local community on the importance of being prepared for emergencies. The National Day of Action was Sept. 30. The event, hosted by the Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps, is a month-long effort to encourage households, businesses, and communities to prepare and plan for emergencies.

It is important that you be prepared in the event of an emergency that may force you to be self-reliant for three or more days. Situations such as lost electricity, contaminated water supplies, or roads cut off so you cannot get to the supermarket - these are things you may rarely think about. There may even be a time when you have no access to police, fire, or rescue. What do you do in those situations?

Our focus during this month is turning awareness into action by encouraging all individuals and communities nationwide to make an emergency preparedness plan. In 2012, there were more than 450 weather-related fatalities and nearly 2,600 injuries, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. As few as 39 percent of individuals reported having an adequate household emergency plan.

You can start preparing with four important steps:

  • Stay Informed: Information is available from federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial resources. Access the Ready.gov web site to learn what to do before, during, and after an emergency.
  • Make a Plan: Discuss, agree on, and document an emergency plan with those in your care. For sample plans, visit the Ready.gov web site. Work together with neighbors, colleagues, and others to build community resilience.
  • Build a Kit: Keep enough emergency supplies - water, nonperishable food, first aid, prescriptions, flashlight, and battery-powered radio on hand - for you and those in your care.
  • Get Involved: There are many ways to get involved especially before a disaster occurs. The whole community can participate in programs and activities to make their families, homes, and places of worship safer from risks and threats. Community leaders agree that the formula for ensuring a safer homeland consists of volunteers, a trained and informed public, and increased support of emergency response agencies during disasters.

We know all too often that emergency situations do not wait for us to get ready. They hit unexpectedly and with little or no time to prepare. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to take action and now is the time to plan so that your family, neighbors, and communities can be ready for any natural disaster that may arise.

For more information about the Ready Campaign and National Preparedness Month, visit www.ready.gov/be-inform or call 1-800-BE-READY, 1-888-SE-LISTO, and TTY 1-800-462-7585.


10-3-14

Idaho's plan for improving schools designed by educators for educators

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

After Idaho voters' 2012 rejection of the "Students Come First" laws and amid continued calls from education professionals and business leaders for improvements to our public school system, it became clear that the stakes were too high and the need for reform too great not to try something different.

So I called on the State Board of Education to facilitate a discussion aimed at identifying and then advancing the best practices around Idaho, America and the world. As a result, a broad cross-section of education groups representing teachers, administrators and school boards brought their best and brightest into the collaborative process.

The charge was to create a vision for Idaho schools that would not be bound by politics, cost estimates or the old way of doing business. I essentially told the group, "You tell us where the path to excellence lies and I will help build the road to get us there."

My Education Task Force embraced the State Board of Education goal of ensuring that at least 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25-34 have some form of post-secondary credential by the year 2020. That ambitious goal seeks to stimulate greatness in high school students, drive economic prosperity, address remedial needs in our colleges and universities, and foster a seamless and high-level system of post-secondary education and training that we now call K-Career.

The Task Force did its work with professionalism and integrity, achieving broad-based, bipartisan consensus. It produced 20 specific recommendations that together form a road map to achieving our goals as well as clearly identifying the obstacles standing in our way.

The work produced by my Education Task Force addressed - in a detailed and methodical fashion - a sustainable five-year plan to address such challenges as:

  • Enhancing teacher compensation
  • Restoring operational funding
  • Creating a career ladder for compensation to elevate starting teachers' annual base salaries from $31,000 to $40,000 within the next five years
  • Providing ongoing professional growth opportunities tied to a modern licensure system for teachers
  • Investing in classroom technology
  • Expanding dedicated broadband Internet access
  • Achieving literacy proficiency in third grade
  • Exploring the feasibility of a mastery-based system that enables students to achieve at their own speed
  • Providing incentives for teachers to maintain or improve to levels of excellence by adding more mentoring time
  • Providing more opportunities for collaboration and in-service training

This vision captured a critical mass of thought, led by educators, and soon spread as the basic framework of every conversation about education in Idaho.

For the past eight months the State Board of Education has been tasked with adding to the Task Force's framework. Last winter the Legislature approved my request to appropriate $35 million more in operational funding as a significant down payment toward meeting the needs of school districts, more money for technology, increased emphasis on advanced opportunities, and more time for classroom teachers to collaborate.

The vision now is coming into sharper focus with Task Force committees working to fine-tune recommendations on school autonomy and local accountability, literacy, career ladder and tiered licensure.

I intend to see this vision through to fruition, just as Idaho's educators and business leaders have done their part by shepherding these ideas from their infancy to implementable strategies.

The Task Force established a fiscal stability group that studied those issues related to fairness and the bond levy question. What they recommended includes not only increased focus on certainty in the State budget from year to year, but also such efforts as restoration of operating funds and implementing the career ladder - which will enable rural districts more opportunity to keep their best teachers.

Simply put, my school improvement plan is Idaho's plan. It's our plan. It was designed by educators, for educators. Its goal is to remove the politics and angst from the conversation and get to the heart of what is right for Idaho students, teachers, and our communities large and small. It will require all of us to ensure it succeeds.


10-2-14

State taking aggressive measures to protect troubled youth

Guest opinion by Director Sharon Harrigfeld, Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections

I entered the field of juvenile detention and rehabilitation because I wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of Idaho's young people. It is a challenging but fulfilling career, and a profession of which I am proud.

So I am profoundly troubled by allegations that former Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections staff at our Nampa detention center had sexual contact with youths in the agency's custody.

And I know this is just as disturbing to the parents and loved ones of other juveniles in our State facilities. But it is important to note that the alleged incidents occurred several years ago, and that a number of significant steps have been taken to address those concerns and restore public confidence in Juvenile Corrections.

The dedicated professionals with whom I work are as committed as I am to improving the lives of young people. The citizens of Idaho have my personal assurance that the safety and well-being of those juveniles who are entrusted to our custody is of paramount importance to me and my staff, and that I have been and will continue taking aggressive measures to improve security and accountability throughout the agency.

There is new leadership at the Juvenile Corrections Center-Nampa since the alleged incidents occurred. Lynn Viner is an exceptionally engaged leader, certified by the Idaho Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy and with a thorough knowledge and understanding of the facility, its personnel, operations and clients. Management and staff in Nampa and throughout our system are working every day to ensure what allegedly happened before will never happen again - in Nampa or any other Idaho Juvenile Corrections facility.

On-site personnel throughout our system now perform unannounced, around-the-clock spot checks in all our facilities. Their mission is to assure compliance with all Juvenile Corrections policies and to be available to hear and immediately respond to staff and clients' concerns. We also have adopted a new protocol for training staff and informing clients about how to anonymously report misconduct.

Just as importantly, through the work of Governor Otter's Zero Tolerance Task Force and implementation of the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), Idaho Department of Juvenile Corrections policies have undergone a top-to-bottom review to make absolutely clear that sexual misconduct will not be tolerated by anyone, in any form, anywhere in our organization.

Within the next six months, U.S. Department of Justice-certified auditors will inspect the Juvenile Corrections Center-Nampa to ensure its compliance with the tough new PREA standards. I welcome the inspection, as I did the one we recently and successfully underwent at our St. Anthony center. My team and I will use the resulting insights and information to help make all of Idaho's juvenile corrections facilities even safer and more secure.

Public confidence in State government's operations is critical to the success of our mission of protecting public safety by turning around the lives of troubled juveniles. We are committed, individually and as an organization, to ensuring that incidents such as those recently alleged are a thing of the past.


9-8-14

Idaho, Montana, Wyoming supporting USFS decision on wolverines

Dear Editor:

The states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have noted the recent criticisms about U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Aug. 12 decision to not list wolverine in the western United States as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

For the record, our states opposed the Service's original recommendation to list wolverines based on our concerns about listing a species that is at its highest population level in the past 80-100 years-and still increasing. This fact supports the conclusion that state management works for wolverine. The states also expressed our concerns over the uncertainty inherent in using projected changes in climate over the next 40-80 years to speculate what might happen to wolverine habitat and wolverine populations.

The Service, however, did not reverse its original proposal due solely to state input. The Service chose instead to convene an independent panel of climate and wildlife scientists to review and discuss the science underlying the original listing proposal. Endangered Species Act listing is a complex arena that requires decisions based on imperfect data, and we applaud the Service's efforts to seek independent advice. It is likely the model used for wolverines, a model based on cooperation with the states, will have utility for future decisions. Ultimately, the Service made the right decision for wolverines for the right reasons. We thank the Service for its willingness to listen, to keep an open mind, and to utilize additional methods to fully explore science in its decision process.

Together we remain fully committed to the conservation of wolverines.

Sincerely,


9-4-14

Crapo asking veterans to complete survey about VA services

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Throughout the past month, I have invited Idahoans to provide input about their experiences with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through participating in a short survey.

The input gathered through the survey is meant to help guide my advocacy for meaningful policy changes that will best ensure quality VA services for Idaho veterans. Through the survey, I am receiving valuable insight into the experiences of Idaho veterans. There is still time to participate in the survey through Sept. 30, 2014.

So far, I have received more than 800 survey responses with a wide range of opinions about the services and benefits available through the VA. Idahoans have shared their experiences with health care, claims processing and educational benefits. Many Idahoans have shared very personal experiences with me: I appreciate the thoughtful suggestions and insights of these individuals. Nineteen percent of survey participants have asked for further assistance with VA-related issues. I will continue to review the survey feedback and work to help those Idahoans who have contacted me in need of assistance with personal care issues. I encourage the participation of Idahoans who have not had the opportunity to complete the survey.

The brief survey is meant to be a straightforward, uncomplicated and not time-consuming way for Idahoans to help guide reform efforts. We must address the VA's shortcomings while being careful not to harm programs that work well. Sharing both positive and negative VA experiences is critical to making carefully thought out adjustments that will truly improve care.

There is still time and multiple ways to complete the brief survey through whatever means is most convenient. Veterans can take the survey online through my web site at http://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/survey.cfm and through the Idaho Division of Veterans Services. Veterans can also call one of my offices to have a staff member administer the survey. The following phone numbers can be used to reach my offices: Washington, DC (202) 224-6142; Idaho State Office (Boise) 208-334-1776; South-Central Idaho (Twin Falls) (208) 734-2515; North Idaho (Coeur d'Alene) (208) 664-5490; Eastern Idaho, North (Idaho Falls) (208) 522-9779; North-Central Idaho (Lewiston) (208) 743-1492; Eastern Idaho, South (Pocatello) (208) 236-6775. Additionally, Idahoans are welcome to visit any of my regional offices to take the survey in person. Friends and families of veterans are also welcome to take the survey to share their experiences. Idahoans in need of specific assistance in dealing with the VA or other federal agencies and navigating programs may also contact my office for further assistance through the survey or separately.

Congress recently passed VA-reform legislation. Federal agencies must now act, and the willingness of Idaho's veterans to assist with improving the care and service they receive is critical to ensuring that the new legislation helps. The nation must keep its commitment to them for putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom. Please continue to provide input as we work together to ensure our country honors the service of our nation's veterans.


8-25-14

Forest plan revision open for public comment

Guest opinion by Rick Brazell, Forest Supervisor

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have been working to revise our land management plan (forest plan), which provides strategic direction for the Forest for the next 10 to 15 years. We've developed a proposed action with the expertise of our natural resource professionals and with input from the public either in person or through our website and email.

Recent letters to the editor have raised concerns regarding the size of even-aged regeneration harvest units (which the public sometimes referred to as clearcuts) proposed in our revision effort and I would like to correct some misinformation and clarify our intent. The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) requires us to establish maximum size limits for areas to be cut in one harvest operation. This includes various types of regeneration harvest that result in open stand conditions. NFMA planning regulations establish that maximum opening size as 40 acres for Idaho, but allow exceptions where necessary to achieve desired ecological conditions.

The proposed action for the revised forest plan includes a standard establishing a maximum opening size of 150 acres in the breaklands and 80 acres in upland mesic conifer vegetation types. We are not proposing to create 1,500-acre even-aged timber harvest units. Analysis of forest historical conditions indicates that over time, naturally created openings in canyon breaklands ranged from less than 1 acre to 1,500 acres, with more than 50 percent of old forest acres found in patches (areas of similar vegetation age structure) over 150 acres. Naturally created openings in upland mesic conifers areas ranged from 1 acre to 800 acres, with more than 50 percent of old forest acres found in patches over 80 acres. The proposed maximum opening sizes are based on analysis of these old forest patches.

The reason we are proposing these new maximum opening sizes is based on ecological reasons such as more effectively addressing insect and disease (e.g., bark beetle outbreaks) or improving wildlife habitat. Long term, larger patch size may provide better elk security or interior habitat for species that require it. For example, northern goshawks prefer contiguous patches of 400+ acres for nesting and brood rearing. Over time, continually dispersing smaller regeneration harvests within the managed front country will result in many, smaller varied-age patches across the landscape, with fewer large, contiguous patches of mature trees. Historically, natural disturbances such as fire often created patches greater than 40 acres. Vegetation management practices that strive to emulate the scale, intensity, frequency and vegetative responses of natural disturbances follow the coarse filter philosophy, which aims to create forest conditions similar to those present historically, thus, maintaining the wildlife habitat needed to support a wide range of native species.

I encourage everyone that cares about the future of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to become personally involved so you can draw your own conclusions and provide input on how the forests should be managed. You can visit our website at www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater or call our office at 208-935-2513 to find out how you can be involved.


8-22-14

Idaho's journey to education excellence continues

by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

As Idaho students head back to school, I'm reminded of how far we've come toward improving education in Idaho - and how far we still need to go. It's been an interesting and instructive journey, and one that reinforces my belief that how we get where we're going is just as important as the destination.

Almost two years ago I called on education stakeholders to join policymakers in charting a bold new course for Idaho's schools. In response, the State Board of Education assembled a diverse group of working educators, business leaders, legislators and other experts. The product of their work was a slate of 20 visionary recommendations that now serve as our path forward on improving education. It is the first time in Idaho history that we have a school improvement plan supported by teachers, administrators, patrons, the business community, and leaders of both political parties.

In early August, the State Board of Education approved a new tiered certification system for Idaho teachers. This is a bold first step toward fully implementing the taskforce recommendations calling for elevation of the teaching profession, more compensation, and additional mentoring, planning time, and support for Idaho teachers. As we invest new taxpayer resources we also will increase accountability, ensuring the focus remains on the students and their growth as the single overriding goal. Idaho teachers deserve the chance to excel in that context, and I have every confidence that they will.

We are continuing to implement my five-year plan for responsibly and sustainably putting the other taskforce recommendations in place. I have committed to replenish classroom dollars and we are poised to continue building on this year's $35 million investment in operating funds. This money not only supports our teachers and administrators, but also will continue building more effective classroom learning environments in a number of meaningful ways.

Taskforce committees continue to emphasize the value of technology for our classrooms. As I have often said, technology that each of us use in our daily lives has the potential to expand opportunities for kids across Idaho. We are poised to build on our success in providing dedicated broadband Internet access for every Idaho high school - opening up a world of connectivity for our students, particularly those in rural and underserved areas.

We also are connecting the dots between education and the world of work. While we are investing more in our community colleges, universities and professional-technical programs, it is important to recognize that implementing the taskforce recommendations is a foundational element of my K-through-Career effort to ensure at least 60 percent of Idahoans ages 25-34 having a post-secondary degree or professional certification by 2020.

For students, teachers and parents around Idaho, the new school year is full of opportunity and possibility. Thanks to the dedicated work of our State Board of Education and our taskforce of educators and other stakeholders, we are embarking on a journey of great promise. We are on a course that provides both more opportunity for our students and greater support for teacher excellence - and we are doing it together.

There is no journey more exciting, more worthwhile, or more important for Idaho's future.


8-7-14

O Mill photos being sought

Dear Editor:

I am searching for photos of O Mill. O Mill was where my Grandparents Fred and June Snyder lived when we were young children and this place is near and dear to our hearts. O Mill today looks nothing like it did in the 1960's.

If any of your readers have access to photos and would like to share with me, they can either email them to tlubke@frontier.com or drop off a copy at the Riverside Water and Sewer District.

Tracy Lubke
Orofino

7-31-14


Senator Crapo seeks help of Idaho's veterans

Guest opinion by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The men and women of our Armed Forces face many challenges as they protect our nation. Because of the unique challenges they face and solemn sacrifices they make, Congress must support the needs of service members both on the battlefield and upon their return. The recent exposure of the mistreatment of veterans seeking assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) again underscores the need to improve the delivery of assistance to our nation's veterans. The scandals prove that the stakes are high: Congress must get VA reform right this time. As I work with my congressional colleagues to address the needs of our nation's veterans, the policies I advocate must have a meaningful impact on our veterans in Idaho. In an effort to improve my understanding of veterans' needs, I invite Idahoans to share their VA experiences with me through a brief survey.

Your responses to this survey are critical as I work to represent Idaho's veterans and advocate needed changes. Addressing the VA's shortcomings is essential. What do you think those shortcomings are? Ascertaining where the VA is doing well is also important. What do you think the VA is doing well? In Congress' rush to make improvements, we must be careful not to harm programs that work well. I invite Idaho's veterans to share both their positive and negative VA experiences.

Veterans can take the survey online through my web site at http://www.crapo.senate.gov/contact/survey.cfm. Veterans who do not have Internet access or are uncomfortable with computer use can call one of my offices to have a staff member administer the survey: Washington, DC (202) 224-6142; Idaho State Office (Boise) 208-334-1776; South-Central Idaho (Twin Falls) (208) 734-2515; North Idaho (Coeur d'Alene) (208) 664-5490; Eastern Idaho, North (Idaho Falls) (208) 522-9779; North-Central Idaho (Lewiston) (208) 743-1492; Eastern Idaho, South (Pocatello) (208) 236-6775. Additionally, veterans are welcome to visit any of my regional offices to take the survey in person. Friends and families of veterans are also welcome to take the survey to share their experiences.

This short survey contains questions about the level of satisfaction veterans have with the VA generally. It also asks where veterans receive health care treatment if they use VA facilities. The survey provides the option of sharing individual positive and negative experiences. Idahoans in need of specific assistance in dealing with the VA or other federal agencies and navigating programs may also contact my office for further assistance through the survey or separately.

The input of Idahoans is very valuable as we work together to tackle these significant national challenges. I encourage Idaho veterans, their communities, friends, and families to provide input through the survey. I look forward to hearing from you.


7-26-14

Butler: Feeling betrayed

Dear Editor:

I am a native of Idaho and lived here the majority of my life.

In 2010, I was diagnosed with a very serious liver disease that I have been fighting ever since.

April of this year, the gastroenterologists at Virginia Mason basically told us that it had gone too far and that they no longer could help us. They transferred me to University of Washington to see if I could get on the liver transplant list.

They did finally approve me to be on the transplant list, but I really do not know what that means other than I am several thousands in debt that I cannot pay.

Medicare will only cover in-hospital cost. Not even the doctors. When I got home, I contacted Medicare to see if there were any supplemental insurances to help pay for transplant. They told me no. Idaho chose to sue them instead of adopting the federal programs. We contacted state Medicaid and I am over income for them. When I asked for suggestions, I was told to move out of state. Is this the way Idaho should treat their citizens?

Michael Butler
Orofino


6-24-14

Dworshak large boat moorage information shared

Dear Editor:

This is in reference to a poll about houseboats in last weeks local Orofino paper that was based on a Lewiston news paper artcle about moorage on Dworshak. The information in that Lewiston paper article was incomplete and contained numerous errors and misconceptions. Just as the old story goes, a newspaper reporter just doesn't seem to print what they are told, they print what they want to hear or thought they heard in the interview.

It was determined about 10 years ago that the Big Eddy Marina was not designed to handle larger boats like houseboats. The Corps of Engineers designed a single buoys system to moor a large boat in the Merry's Bay area and the Dworshak State Park managed the moorage under a lease agreement with the Corps. The state collects a yearly moorage fee for the buoy, like they do the moorage slips at the marina. To keep a boat on a buoy requires a substantial yearly moorage fee paid to Dworshak State park.

Twelve buoys were approved for installation. After six were in place for a few years it was determined that a flaw in the initial Corps buoy design was getting the cables from the buoys entangled when the reservoir drops and as the water rose, the buoys were hanging up. A re-engineer by the Army Corps added cable to the buoys which made matters worse by adding more entanglement to the system. The Corps admits and owns up to the design flaws.

The Dworshak Reservoir Association and large boat owners are currently discussing and working with the State of Idaho, Corps of Engineers and an Idaho dock engineering firm to possibly come up with a better design for large boat moorage on Dworshak. We are keeping the County Commissioners informed as they have a vested interest in the Clearwater County economy and recreation opportunities.

There are numerous hurdles to a better large boat moorage system for the reservoir. The process and system has to be first be approved by the State who would submit that to the Corps for review and approval. At this time the State and Corps have no funds to purchase and install a system. The full cost of a moorage buoy or dock would probably fall on the boat owner who would then donate or sign over the system to the state. There is and will never be a "private dock" on Dworshak.

The substantial cost of the system incurred by the boat owner would then be amortized by a lease agreement between the boat owner and State of Idaho. We are in the early stages of looking into this whole process. It may never get passed step one which is state approval, but we are trying to work with all parties involved to move forward. The drawdown of the lake makes the camps un-useable most of the year and more personal large boats or rental boats with overnight facilities would be a boom to the local economy. Just look at Lake Shasta, Lake Mead or Lake Roosevelt, they have been great for the local economy with large boat marina facilities and moorage. If we can get some process in place, it would at least give anyone wanting to moor a large boat on Dworshak a means to do so. Currently there is a waiting list of large boat owners who would like to place their boat on Dworshak but there is no place to moor them.

Your poll should have been:

Do you think adding to recreation facilities on Dworshak like more large boat moorage, more destination docks or a bigger marina would benefit Orofino?

or

Do you think the historical promises to provide Recreation Opportunities with Flood Control and Power generation are being honored by the Corps of Engineers?

Ed Lozar
President Dworshak Reservoir Association and Boat Owner
http://www.dworshak.org/


6-6-14

Idaho has many opportunities to follow the 'Call of the Trail'

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "The influence of fine scenery, the presence of mountains, appeases our irritations and elevates our friendships." Fortunately, in Idaho, we have many opportunities to benefit from fine scenery and reflect on historical, nation-shaping events that took place along Idaho's trails.

For example, Idaho's section of the Lewis and Clark National Trail stretches across north-central Idaho from Lolo Pass to Lewiston. A number of historic sites and trails can be accessed along it. According to information provided by the Idaho Secretary of State, a visitor seeking the true Lewis and Clark experience can hike a five-mile trail up a ridgeline in the Whitehouse Pond area. Additionally, the Oregon and California National Historic Trails, which generally track the Snake River through southern Idaho, were utilized by miners and farmers heading to California in the 1840s and 1850s. The Nez Perce National Historical Trail stretches from Wallowa Lake, Oregon to the Bear Paws Mountains in northern Montana and crosses through Idaho as it follows the course taken by a group of Nez Perce in 1877 and the U.S. military, who pursued them over 1,500 miles for three and a half months.

These examples are a small fraction of Idaho's abundant outdoor recreation opportunities that make our great state a desirable place to live and raise a family. Bicycling, walking and running trails contribute to our quality of life and support economic development throughout the state. The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that total earnings per resident in counties with recreation are higher than in other rural counties. Additionally, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that spending time outdoors has physical and mental health benefits and identified five specific potential benefits: increased vitamin D levels; more exercise; elevated moods; improved concentration; and faster healing potential. Our trails provide these opportunities and more.

Our access to these resources would be limited without the help of the many volunteers who clear the trails and prepare them for users. Volunteers provide critical help in maintaining the trails so that they are safe and accessible. A number of organizations, such as the Northwest Youth Corps, the Back Country Horsemen of Idaho and the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, assist with conservation and maintenance projects, including trail construction, clearing hazardous forest fuels and enhancing wildlife habitat. These Idahoans help enable our access to the outdoor recreation opportunities that we enjoy.

At the federal level, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) enhances outdoor opportunities by helping states develop and maintain recreational trails for motorized and non-motorized trail uses. Common trail usage includes hiking, running, bicycling, equestrian use, snowmobiling, four-wheel driving, all-terrain riding and other off-road vehicle use. The program has proven popular in many communities to enhance public access and use of public lands. Recently, I worked with my Senate colleagues to maintain the RTP in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's recently approved highway reauthorization bill. As Congress continues its work this summer on addressing our nation's transportation and infrastructure needs, I will continue to advocate for this important program.

Throughout Idaho, there are many opportunities to take to the trail for recreation, fitness, exploration, a walk through history, views of Idaho's scenery and wildlife and to get inspiration. These outlets are an important part of our communities and way of life. I will continue to work with Idahoans, my colleagues in Congress, and federal, state and local agencies to develop and execute effective and efficient land management policies that protect the environment and provide adequate and safe access to our public lands.


5-22-14

Crapo helps honor families of fallen heroes

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

This month, I have the honor of presenting the Spirit of Idaho award to the mother of an Idahoan who lost his life serving in Iraq. She continues his commitment to serving others through a program she created to help meet the needs of active military, veterans and Gold Star families. Her son's legacy of giving lives on in her work to help service members and their families in his loving memory.

Families of service members who lost their lives serving our nation are an important part of our communities. This Memorial Day and every day, as we honor Americans who serve and have died in service to our nation, we cannot forget the sacrifice of the many families who lost loved ones defending our country.

In 1947, Congress acted to establish the Gold Star Lapel Button to provide identification for the families of members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives serving the United States in World War I, World War II and later hostilities. These Gold Star Pins are a gold star on a purple circular background bordered in gold and surrounded by gold laurel leaves. They are emblematic of the gold stars families have hung in their windows when they lost their loved ones serving overseas and the gold stars former President Wilson authorized mothers to wear to honor the child they lost in war.

Congress directed the issuance of Gold Star Lapel Buttons to spouses, parents, children and siblings of a member of the Armed Forces who lost his or her life while in active military service. Later, Congress acted to also provide Next of Kin of Deceased Personnel lapel pins, which are a gold star on a gold background surrounded by four oak sprigs, to the next of kin of service members who lose their lives while serving on active duty or while assigned in an Army Reserve or Army National Guard unit in a drill status.

Many may have seen these pins and not have recognized the meaning behind them. The pins represent the love and loss family members of America's service members sustain. They stood beside their loved ones who served, and they shoulder the price of the defense of our freedom. They raised children and maintained households while their loved ones were far from home. They endured sleepless nights worrying about their loved ones serving in harm's way. They carry the memories of their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers in their hearts.

As we honor those who have served, we also have the opportunity to thank the families of those who serve with them and carry on their legacy of service and sacrifice.


5-19-14

Walk thanks city council for stopping annexation process

Dear Editor:

The annexation plan was voted on by the Orofino City Council members May 14, 2014.

Four members voted to stop the annexation and two members voted to continue with the annexation. The four members in favor of stopping the annexation were; Don Gardner, Marguerite McLaughlin, Avery Dunaway, and Shannon Schrader. Those opposed were Mark Swayne and Sean Simmons.

A special big thank you to Mayor Ryan Smathers for allowing us to have healthy discussions at the City Council work sessions and the City Council meetings.

We the people of Konkolville, the 10 properties in Riverside and Clearwater County citizens stood united and strong in opposing the annexation plan and it is with the greatest heartfelt thanks to the Orofino City Council for listening and understanding our concerns and making the right decision to save the City and everyone involved from further heartaches and acrimony.

Thank you so very much; God Bless America and God Bless you all for your understanding of our individual personal situations.

Thanks,
Mike Walk
Orofino


5-14-14

Work needed to end IRS targeting

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and arguably the "Father of the Constitution," understood that freedom of speech was instrumental in holding government accountable. Unfortunately, we have seen multiple attempts by this Administration to stretch its regulatory authority and try to stifle this freedom. The effort to use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to silence political dissent is intolerable and undermines our nation's founding principles.

That is why I once again joined Senate colleagues in pushing back against this Administration's inexcusable and continued use of tax policy to hinder political opposition.

In a July 2013 Special Report to Congress, Nina Olson, the nonpartisan National Taxpayer Advocate, recommended that the IRS leave the job of defining political activity to the Federal Election Commission or another agency with greater experience and expertise in such matters. Despite this determination by the independent watchdog within the IRS, on Nov. 29, 2013, the IRS issued a proposed rule broadly defining political activity. Under this definition, social welfare organizations would face limitations on their participation in voter registration, voter education, communications that mention a candidate or party, grants to 527s and events in which a candidate participates, among other activities. The proposed regulations could significantly limit free speech rights and force the shutdown of many politically concerned organizations, including conservative grassroots organizations.

The IRS should not be the determiner of political activity and certainly should not be using its authorities to hinder the activities of groups that they disagree with. That is why I joined a number of my colleagues in writing to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen requesting that the proposed regulations not be finalized. We wrote that, "If you allow the proposed regulations to become final, the cumulative effects of the Administration's actions will have achieved the goal of marginalizing its critics and keeping them on the sidelines of public debate." Further, we pointed out that it is not just conservative groups that have weighed in against the proposed regulations.

Additionally, I joined Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and 39 Senate colleagues in introducing the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act. This bill would prevent further targeting of organizations by the IRS by reverting back to the IRS standards and definitions that were in place on Jan, 1, 2010-a date prior to the agency's targeting. The bill would suspend for one year any IRS rulemaking related to 501(c)(4)s.

Since learning of the inexcusable IRS targeting, the American people have been demanding strong reforms to ensure these actions never happen again. The Obama Administration must stop using the IRS to stifle speech and Congress should act quickly to complete the investigations and enact needed reforms that protect Idahoans' freedom of speech and their ability to exercise their political beliefs.


5-7-14

Thank you for the support

Dear Editor:

The YWCA Outreach office in Orofino as well as Clearwater County Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Task Force would like to express our gratitude and say thank you for those who participated in the awareness to end sexual assault in our community.

A personal thank you to Koala Kafe', Just Brew It and Awesome Augie's for their willingness to put labels on latte's, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinic, LCCU, American West Bank for participating on Denim Day to raise awareness about the myths of sexual assault.

Thank you to the devoted, active members on the Clearwater County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Task Force members for helping with PSA's and hanging ribbons, and thank you for the support in the continuing efforts to make our community a safer place to raise healthy families!!

Staci Taylor
Orofino YWCA Outreach


4-24-14

Candidate running as a Lewis Country write-in

Dear Editor:

I have filed to run for the position of Lewis County Clerk as a Write-in Candidate on the Republican Ballot. I would like the opportunity to serve the people of Lewis County in this position. I bring with me basic knowledge of the position. I am currently the Clerk of the Winchester Rural Fire District and work with the budgetary guidelines so I am familiar with the process of budgeting. I am also the P & Z Coordinator for Lewis County and work in the Treasurer's Office. I am a CPA and ran my own business for several years and possess supervisory skills which will help in the position. I would appreciate your write in vote for me, Shelley Ponozzo, on May 20, 2014.

Thank-you, Shelley Ponozzo Lewis County Write-in Candidate for Auditor, Recorder and Clerk of the District Court


4-14-14

Clearwater, Lochsa named to America's Most Endangered Rivers list

Dear Editor:

Oh, happy days folks! You just gave away rights to Clearwater and Lochsa rivers to the federal government. When are people going to understand, when the feds are involved we have no say.

The people that the feds listen to are the tree huggers, the wolf lovers, the Sierra Club, now the Idaho Rivers United. They speak of industrialization on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater and the Lochsa. Wake up, get a clue, we can't have businesses up river from Lewiston because we can't get natural gas.

Now they are sighting megaloads as big business. ROW (River Odysseys West), you might have just shot yourself in the foot. With the feds involved you will be saddled with so many regulations you will probably go out of business; in this area anyway. Think about it. Are the megaloads a threat? More than commercial trucking, fuel, pesticides, chemicals of all sorts? I am ashamed, you've been played like a cheap fiddle and now we will all pay. You have given away what we have preserved for generations. Pathetic.

Deryl Ketchum
Orofino


3-20-14

A to Z Counseling not closing

Dear Editor:

Sounds like rumors are amuck! I have heard that both of you have inquired about our agency closing so I thought I would set some things straight and since I know you have connections, perhaps you can share this with them. I have been open with my staff about possibilities so that no one is blind-sided by a major change, but the key word is possibilities and of course the downside of being upfront is that all kinds of misinformation gets circulated before things are through, as usual, the game of password is veering off track! A to Z is not going out of business!!! We will be here to ensure that people in this community have a place for treatment, but here is the situation, please feel free to share this email with anyone speaking of the rumors.

Idaho's Behavioral Health Transformation has made the long term viability of mid-size agencies like mine and Fred Malone's very unlikely due to the dramatic reduction of authorizations for Community Based Rehabilitation Service CBRS (formerly PSR- Psychosocial Rehabilitation), the cuts in reimbursements for assessments and the increased administrative responsibilities to provide services. Within one year we know that we will not have the authorizations for services that we currently have, which leaves us both to either dramatically downsize and basically have psychotherapy only clinics or grow and add substance abuse, med management and possibly even DD services so that we can survive as a larger entity. The problem for both Fred and I is that we do not have the resources to expand because of the fact that 85% of our reimbursements go back out in salaries, leaving us with little for overhead and expansion. A psychotherapy only clinic will only support a very small clinic and staff.

For now, CBRS is being authorized for a period of 3 to 4 months with the expectation from Optum (the new managed care company) that we will be discharging the majority of our PSR clients after that 3 month period. Fred and I have both been looking for larger companies that might be interested in assuming our businesses and possibly offer even more treatment options to the Clearwater and Lewis County communities. We even discussed merging, but again, lack the resources to expand that and make this a viable business.

According to the National Behavioral Mental Health Council, it is a national trend for behavioral health to become a business that is only sustainable by very small individual specialized providers, or very large corporations with the resources to fight fire with fire. I have 15 employees and Fred has 5 or 6 and that will be cut in half at least by the changes.

Optum, a subsidiary of United Behavioral Health is a corporate monster, our situation is much like David and Goliath, but our story will not have the happy ending that the Bible did if we try to fight this so instead, our best option is to find larger companies interested in expanding to rural communities. If we sell, it will most likely be the same people providing similar treatment and services with cuts to CBRS, but possibly adding peer supports and more case management and maybe even substance use and DD, which would be awesome.

Again, nothing is certain! I think Fred may be closer in his selling than I am, but we will absolutely ensure that people have a place for mental health treatment here no matter what.

Please feel free to call me or refer others to call me if they have questions. I am being completely open about all that we are considering realizing that it could create anxiety, but feeling it is much better than being blind sided like I was by this whole Optum train.

Thanks for your time.

Sincerely,

Cindy O'Brien, Owner/Director
A to Z Counseling, LLC


3-8-14

School Board chairman responds to letters about the levies

Dear Editor:

I would like to respond to the letters that have been in the paper the last two weeks regarding the school levies from Mark Miller and L. Fyler.

First of all I would like to say that I have not had the pleasure of meeting either of these patrons, and I would very much welcome an open conversation to explain the rationale for the decisions that the district makes on any given topic. I can tell you without reservation that none of the five of us on the board take our responsibilities lightly and we welcome and encourage input from our constituents so that we can make informed decisions in the best interest of all stakeholders. Since our school board meetings are generally not well attended unless there is a controversial topic, I am guessing that neither of these individuals actually heard the discussion and process that justifies the decisions being made. Perhaps if they attended the meetings we could hear their view prior to making a decision and take them into account, I believe it would also give them a different perspective on the money being spent.

With regard to the money spent on extra curricular activities, I will only echo the sentiments of Heather Sporano in her letter; These activities only serve to enhance the education of our youth by giving them a venue to learn and practice critical life skills that are not found in a math, reading or science book, but are nonetheless a valuable education shown to have a significant impact on accomplishment and success. Not to mention that they provide constructive, positive activities that are sorely lacking in our community outside of school. To Mr. Miller, you are correct, the local spending has increased, but the state spending has significantly decreased. In 2010 state support was over $7 million to our district. In 2013 state support was just under $5.5 million for our district. It always makes me cringe to hear a state politician say that control needs to be "given back" to the communities, because underlying that statement is that the communities bear the burden of financing it as well. Despite the fact that our district lost over a million and a half dollars in state funding in the years that you refer to, the local levy has only increased $545,000. I would say that saving the tax payers a million dollars overall is pretty good budgeting.

As far as the decision to run a 2 year levy and a plant facilities levy, if you would have been at the meetings you would have heard that those were actually made with the intention of saving money. Thankfully the majority of this community is overwhelmingly in support of the maintenance and operations levies for our schools because the benefit to educating our youth is apparent to the majority. It does not just help kids, it helps us all. Operations levies here have successfully passed in this district for more than a decade and it was the consensus of the board that with that in mind, we could save the tax payers even more money by assuring that we would not raise the maintenance and operations amount for two years while also saving the cost of an annual election. There was no hidden agenda there. Simple dollars and cents.

As far as the plant facilities, again, a savings overall, when you take into account the energy costs that will be saved with replacement of windows and efficient heating systems, not to mention that if we do not put money into maintenance of our buildings, they will fall apart like the Jr High and we will be left with even greater expense. This recommendation by our Superintendent was an extremely conscientious decision with vision and planning specifically to save money overall, Mr. Vian has outlined the savings in his articles.

Again, I invite everyone to attend our public meetings, there is much to consider and we all wholeheartedly welcome community input.

Cindy O'Brien
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Joint School District 171


2-28-14

Idaho well represented on Olympics team

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Americans and people around the world have gathered by their televisions to cheer on athletes in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Thanks to talented Idahoans competing this year we have had the opportunity to applaud local Olympians. Idahoans earned two gold medals and one silver medal. They contributed three of the U.S. team's 28 total medals.

Idaho has been well-represented on the U.S. Olympic team:

  • Nick Cunningham, a graduate of Boise State University where he captained the track team, is a Sergeant in the New York National Guard. At Sochi, Nick earned 12th place in the two-man bobsled and 12th in the four-man bobsled competitions. Nick placed 12th in two-man bobsledding at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and helped earn two gold medals on the America's Cup tour and a silver and bronze medal at the 2009 National Championships.
  • Kaitlyn Farrington, who earned a gold medal competing for the first time as an Olympic snowboarder in the halfpipe competition at Sochi, was raised on a ranch in Bellevue. Kaitlyn took 4th place at the 2013 World Championships, 5th place at the 2013 World Cup Sochi and was a bronze medalist at the 2013 World Cup Park City.
  • Erik Fisher of Middleton went to Sochi as part of the U.S. Olympic team. Erik, an alpine skier, was born in Boise and learned to ski at Bogus Basin. Erik was on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, was on the 2009 World Championships team and earned a 2011 Europa Cup downhill victory in Samtal, Italy and 2006 NorAm super G championships.
  • Simi Hamilton, a Sun Valley skier, competed in cross country skiing in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games where he placed 6th in the men's team sprint classic and 11th in the men's 4x10k relay. Simi also competed in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games where he placed 13th in the men's 4x10k relay, 29th in the men's sprint and 64th in the men's 15k.
  • Nate Holland, who grew up in Sandpoint and has a water sports business on Lake Pend Oreille, placed 25th in men's snowboardcross in Sochi. He placed 4th in men's snowboardcross in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and 14th in men's snowboardcross in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
  • Jessika Jenson of Rigby competed in the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle competition in Sochi where she finished 13th. Jessika's snowboarding accomplishments include placing 4th in the 2012 Sprint U.S. Grand Prix.
  • Hilary Knight of Sun Valley competed once again in women's hockey in the 2014 Winter Olympics where the team earned a silver medal. She also earned a silver medal as part of the U.S. women's hockey team in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Hilary scored 5 goals in achieving the silver medal at the 2012 World Championships and earning the gold medal at the 2011 World Championships.
  • Sage Kotsenburg, a Coeur d'Alene native, took home the first-ever gold medal in the new men's slope style event and the first U.S. gold medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • Sara Studebaker from Boise competed in her second Olympics in biathlon competitions at Sochi where she helped earn a 7th place finish in the Women's 4x6k Relay Biathlon. She placed 34th in the Individual race in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Olympic athletes' significant commitment to excellence is commendable. Their determination and commitment to training and preparation are inspiring. Olympians inspire us to push beyond the limits of what we may think is possible.

Congratulations to Idaho and American Olympians on their extraordinary efforts during these Olympics and their many achievements.


2-27-14

Restoring focus on legislative priorities important

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

The 2014 session of the Idaho Legislature is more than halfway complete. The critical issues have been clearly defined and healthy discussions are progressing.

For me, and I believe for most legislators, the most important issues are education, workforce development, economic opportunity, and responsibly fulfilling the other proper roles of government within the people's means. The work of addressing those issues can be bruising, but it is all the more necessary for its difficulty.

I appreciate the value of our public process and the importance of free and open debate. I also understand the passion behind other, equally legitimate policy issues. But as important as those issues are, they must not push aside our central priorities.

Our focus must remain on advancing practical, measured and sustainable investment in the recommendations of my public schools task force, advancing K-through-Career goals for workforce development, professional-technical training and higher education, and ensuring that Idaho remains a safe harbor of fiscal responsibility in a sea of government deficits and debt.

Other issues do indeed reflect pressing public concerns. Yet I know that our legislators and the people they represent remain focused forward on how we can make Idaho an even better place to live, work and raise a family, how we can better prepare our children and grandchildren for an increasingly competitive global economy, and how we can better serve Idaho taxpayers.

It is encouraging to see significant progress being made on establishing regional behavioral health crisis centers, on improving our management of precious water resources, and on addressing the revolving door to our prisons with more community-based resources and more effective probation and parole tools.

Likewise, it is apparent to me that legislators understand and share my commitment to being responsible stewards of our public resources. They are rightly demanding transparency and accountability from our State government, and they are effectively breaking down artificial barriers between such central issues as public assistance, mental health and public safety.

I believe that truly transformative change - change in the hearts and minds not only of those engaged in the arena of public policy but also those affected by it - comes with time, understanding, and sustained effort. It is a marathon, not a dash, and it requires of us an extra measure of patience and goodwill.

What I saw in the first month and a half of this year's Idaho Legislature was a process that works - certainly not as quickly or completely as some would like, but in a way that seeks to safeguard our future while respecting our past and who we are now.

We probably won't see the words added, Medicaid expanded or the minimum wage increased in 2014. But the fact that we're having those discussions, debates and demonstrations says a lot about the health and vitality of our republic. The kind of grassroots involvement and deep-seated feelings about such public policy issues that we see each winter bears witness to the value of our process.

It is my sincere hope that for the balance of this year's legislative session we will find the political will to act with purpose on our shared priorities while finding within ourselves the peace that comes with confidence that - despite the high-profile debates and occasionally disappointing immediate outcomes - our process and our people are keeping us on the right path.


2-1-14

Our country faces serious challenges

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

I watched President Obama's State of the Union speech interested to see what his view is on the current condition of our nation and the challenges he plans to address in the weeks and months ahead. President Obama's current economic approach seems to include adding to the tax and spending increases that have caused much of our nation's serious challenges. His comments about his plans to use executive power to bypass Congress if Congress does not enact the policies he recommends are a step in the wrong direction. We must break the gridlock in Washington, but we also need to change the course in Washington. Our nation needs a work-together, not a partisan go-it-alone, approach to address our debt crisis, reform the burdensome tax and spending policies and grow our economy.

We must focus harder on our massive national debt. Now at a staggering $17 trillion, this level of debt is irresponsible, unacceptable, and quite frankly, dangerous. An overwhelming majority of voters want the president and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt, and while modest progress in cutting discretionary spending has been made over the last few years, these cuts still fall woefully short in addressing our country's deteriorating fiscal picture. Our focus should be on implementing true reforms that fix our broken tax code, stop the federal spending machine and control the explosion of regulations that are choking our economy.

Thousands of Americans are struggling to find work, and many have given up looking altogether. Now is not the time to double down on Washington's tax and spend mentality. Jobs are created in the private sector by shrinking government and getting Washington out of the way. Starting construction on the shovel-ready Keystone XL pipeline project, overhauling the train wreck in our health care system and passing trade-related bills are all actions that could quickly be taken and would lead to positive economic growth.

Lowering the tax burden on Americans should be a top priority of this administration and Congress that would spur economic growth and job creation. There is large bipartisan support for comprehensively reforming our tax code, but 'reform' should not be mistaken for endless increases in taxes on hard-working Idahoans. True reform means simplifying the tax code by eliminating its vast complexities and lowering the rates for all individuals, families and businesses.

Many Idahoans are among the millions of Americans who have lost health care coverage and are facing much higher premiums due to the health care law. Repealing and replacing the failed policies with achievable reforms that result in affordable health care coverage and improved access to quality care is what people want and deserve.

Our country will continue to face serious challenges in the months and years ahead. These challenges might seem daunting, but the solutions are achievable. Now is the time for cooperation, not polarization and executive actions. We must work together to put the United States on a sustainable, prosperous path for current and future.


1-11-14

Gardner: My Nominee is...

Dear Editor:

Every year organizations ask us to nominate someone for person of the year. This year I want to provide the first nomination.

Let me introduce you to my nominee.

They are the local men and women who volunteer their time as firefighters. They range in age from 15 (cadet) to 73 (maybe even older but they won't admit it). Some are business owners, company employees, truck drivers, loggers, government employees, self employed, sheriff department employees and stay at home parents. They are our firefighters in Clearwater County.

I think about how our firefighters come home after working their "real job"-maybe putting in an 8 - to 10-hour or more work day/night somewhere, then rushing home so they can quickly have dinner and spend a little time with their loved ones. They might help with their kid's homework, coach the little league game, or take care of something on that never ending "to-do" list at home. Yet through all of this they stand ready to respond to a fire call or attend training. Many don't just volunteer as firefighters but some also volunteer as EMT's, Search & Rescue members, and with churches and social groups.

We often see what they do when they answer a fire call but a firefighter cannot just jump on a truck and put out a fire, it requires many hours and years of training to become proficient. Then there are the extra "routine" tasks that are part of the fire department, work that goes into keeping a volunteer fire department humming along. Fire trucks and equipment must work every time and so firefighters are always fixing and maintaining trucks and equipment. You may notice the shiny fire truck in a parade and not realize that it took years to plan for and a lot of fundraisers to purchase the equipment.

Our firefighters have worked hard this past year, from a fatal house fire that made national news to multiple wildland fires that resulted in evacuations. Then add in the other house fires, business fires, chimney fires, car wrecks and working with school kids and businesses teaching fire safety awareness. It has been a hard and busy 2013.

The ranks of our firefighters are filled with honorable, hardworking, and dedicated members and so it is my honor to nominate All Firefighters in Clearwater County as Person's of the Year 2013.

Don Gardner
Orofino


11-19-13

'Idaho Core Standards' are really 'Common Core Curriculum'

To: Senator John Goedde & Representative Reed DeMordaunt

I read your open letter to fellow legislators. Do they attend Idaho schools? Just curious. You speak of Idaho Core Standards as an educational opportunity for the Idaho educational system. When I searched for Idaho Core Standards on the Internet it came up as the Common Core Curriculum. Odd that you and your cohorts would try to disguise Common Core.

Common Core has become very controversial in the last few years because of its content. It turns out that it is kind of like Obama Care. You can't know what is in it 'til you accept it. How is that going these days? Pro Common Core ranting touts that 46 states have accepted it. Many states are rethinking that decision in spite of the lucrative bribe offered by the government.

I remember when I was young and attending school, statements were made that we could be anything we wanted, even the President of the United States; if we worked hard. Now we have a president that on numerous occasions said that we can strive to be middle class. Is that the height of aspirations for our children now? Opponents of Common Core admit that it has some good aspects but it has some aspects that dumb down America. How about this, Idaho students are near the bottom of the list of student education. After common core and student levels are averaged around the lowest, Idaho students will be average!!, wont that make parents proud!! Instant gratification by the stroke of the pen. I have read quite a bit of the common core literature and it is the most flowery non-descript reading I have ever experienced. I am curious about another thing, if Idaho Students are so poorly educated, whose fault is that?? Couldn't be the States elected officials, could it??

Another aspect of Common Core is the support of Bill Gates. How generous he is, 200 million dollar contribution!! You don't suppose that might have something to do with the new software that common core requires, do you? If software is all we need, why can't we just get a computer and a chair for our kids?? That way we could eliminate schools and teachers all together! WOW, that will save us a bunch of money!!. Some educators have used Common Core to build family databases with information provided by our children. In Texas, one of the questions was, "do you have any guns in your home" (Paraphrasing). First, I would not want my children interrogated in school by anyone. I am also curious, are questions about guns in the home a tool to make adjustments in your health care plan? Seems that everywhere we turn the United Socialist States of America are gaining strength and burrowing into the private lives of citizens, brainwashing our children. Ignoring the Constitution, What next?

We will be so much better off following the imperial leader, baaaa baaaa baaaa. nuf said...........

Deryl Ketchum
Orofino


11-16-13

Goedde, DeMordaunt write open letter to fellow legislators

Dear Colleagues,

Since we adjourned last spring much has been said about the Idaho Core Standards. As chairs of the Senate and House Education Committees, we are strong advocates for staying the course and continuing to fully implement the Idaho Core Standards for the following reasons. The Idaho Core Standards are critical in making sure every child is prepared for success after high school.

First and foremost, the Idaho Core Standards raise the bar on what our students learn in math and English. These Standards are higher than Idaho's previous standards. If a student masters these standards, we know they will be prepared for college, community college, professional-technical education, the workforce - or whatever career path they choose to pursue.

Idaho's previous standards were not preparing our students for life after high school. We have proof: While more than 80 percent of students were performing at grade level in core subject areas in K-12 education, nearly half of those same students would be required to take remedial courses just three months later once they got to college or into the workforce.

As a result, it is not surprising that only one out of four of those students ultimately ends up graduating with a certificate or degree. They become frustrated with being forced to take remedial courses and often drop out.

This is unacceptable. As a state, we have to break this cycle and give every child the opportunity to pursue a meaningful job and career. It has to start in our K-12 public schools.

The Idaho Core Standards will help address this challenge. These Standards move our education system away from rote learning and memorization to a system where students learn concepts as well as how they can apply those concepts in the real world.

They will master skills like the ability to analyze information, draw conclusions, think critically, and express their thoughts in writing as well as orally. These are all skills that employers need from employees in the 21st Century workplace - no matter the employer or the job.

Some people have voiced concerns with the implementation of the Standards. Let's address those.

A few have said this state-led effort will lead to a national curriculum. But Idaho law prevents this: Idaho Code 33-512 specifically outlines that curriculum adoption is up to the locally elected school board. This is how it was in the past under state academic standards, and this is how it remains today. While the state adopts standards - or goals for what each child should know and be able to do - the local school board determines how teachers will help students meet these standards, through a locally adopted curriculum or textbooks. If anyone wants to change it, they have to go through the Legislature first.

In fact, under these new Standards, teachers and school administrators say the new Idaho Core Standards give them more local control over how to teach and what students will learn, not less. Lori Bargman, a Second Grade teacher in Mountain Home, said, "Looking at the new Core Standards has helped me to focus my teaching on specific skills and to better assess my students' progress."

Some have claimed that the state should slow down because the Standards were "rushed through." Yet, Idaho is three years into a six-year process of development and implementation. In 2009, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and other state school chiefs came together and created a state-led effort to develop these Standards. The state voluntarily chose to adopt them in 2011 after nearly a year of public comment and feedback. Idaho's schools have been preparing to implement the standards for the past two years, and it will be another two years before the state administers the first test measuring students against these new, higher standards. Clearly, our adoption and implementation of the standards has been a phased-in, transparent approach.

Several parents have voiced concerns about the collection of data. While these concerns are not related to the Standards in any way, we share these concerns. Today, the state is not sharing any personally identifiable data with the federal government. However, we want to make sure this does not occur in the future. That's why Senator Goedde is working on a bill that would prohibit the State Department of Education from sharing individual student data in the future. Superintendent Luna is fully supportive of this legislation.

In the end, the Idaho Core Standards will give parents the peace of mind they have been seeking for years: the comfort that when their child walks across that stage and earns that high school diploma, it means they are truly ready to go on.

For these reasons, the Idaho Core Standards have earned widespread support, not just from us, but from every education, child advocacy and business group in the state. Member organizations as diverse as the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Idaho Education Association have stepped forward to voice their support. The Governor's Task Force for Improving Education also offered its strong endorsement for the full implementation of the Standards.

As the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees, we urge you to stay the course. We have raised our academic standards in Idaho and increased expectations for every student to make sure they graduate from high school prepared to be successful. Now is not the time to go backwards.

Senator John Goedde
Representative Reed DeMordaunt

Senator John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, is chair of the Senate Education Committee and Representative Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, is chair of the House Education Committee.


11-02-13

Sorry to read party preferences in candidate resumes for city election

To the editor:

I was very sorry in reading the candidates resumes for the Nov. 5th City of Orofino election that party preferences were front and center.

When it comes to elections, city governments are somewhat unique. City governments in Idaho are non-partisan. Though those who are elected and city staff may have party preferences, those are not a part of this level of government.

With this Orofino City Council election, there has been some confusion about whether candidates belong to particular parties. While they may or may not, it is not a part of the process.

Municipal elections are officially non-partisan and Idaho Code 50-430 provides that the declaration of candidacy cannot include any reference to partisan affiliation. Candidates do not run as members of particular parties.

I strongly advise that future elections for City and School Board elections follow the rulings for those elections. It is important to elect the most capable persons to those positions without political party agendas.

Marguerite McLaughlin
Orofino


10-26-13

The shutdown strategy and Obamacare - Idahoans deserve the truth

Guest opinion by U.S. Congressman Mike Simpson

WASHINGTON, DC - You may be hearing more and more from people in Idaho and some in Washington, DC who would like you to believe that I support Obamacare. They are attempting to reinvent my longstanding position opposed to the law, and are painting my vote to end the government shutdown as implicit support for a law I have consistently opposed. They should be held accountable for those comments.

"This is a sad distraction. You deserve honesty from your elected officials.

"The simple fact is the only disagreement between Republicans over the last few weeks has been over strategy, not policy. Every Republican is united in opposition to government run health care. I ultimately opposed the strategy of shutting down the government and threatening the U.S. credit to continue a fight without a possible resolution.

"For these people now labeling me inconsistent, it wasn't about winning, it was about the fight.

"It isn't about putting up a fight, because in the end we lost this fight. It is about winning. I want to win. I want Obamacare repealed, forever. The truth is the only way to get rid of Obamacare is to win elections. And shutting down the government and alienating voters will not help repeal Obamacare. Not surprisingly, Republican support in almost every national poll has shown a significant decline in recent weeks.

"Idahoans expect their elected officials to do more than throw political bombs and tear down their opponents. They want to hear realistic solutions to the problems facing the country. The health care crisis is real, and more than that, health care is not just an economic issue, it is a personal issue. It impacts all of our lives. Unfortunately, we have seen a shift in this country away from patient centered care, toward government controlled care that limits our options.

"I've laid out my vision for a health care system many times. It starts with full repeal of Obamacare. Idahoans won't be fooled by attempts to paint me as supportive of something I have voted to repeal or reform 42 times. Once Obamacare is gone we will spur competition by allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines and pooling of plans by small businesses, reform medical malpractice laws - also known as tort reform, protect those with pre-existing conditions, and expand Health Savings Accounts.

"The simple fact is Obamacare will remain as long as President Obama is in office or Harry Reid holds the Senate. Now is not the time to play politics with health care. Now is not the time to eat our own, now is the time to come together to lay out a vision for more accessible, affordable, and personalized health care. Let's get to work."


8-30-13

Kudos offered for good communication

Dear Editor,

I want to thank the staff at Orofino Junior/Senor High School for the great communication this year. I appreciated the registration night for all fall sports.

Today I received in the mail a newsletter that contained a wealth of information about new teachers and administrator, Booster Club, Parent/Teacher Conferences (with dates and times), a detailed calendar through January, testing information, and fall athletic schedule.

Kudos to you all!

Signed,
An Often Confused Parent of a Senior (Jenine Nord)


8-17-13

Friends of Lewis-Clark Early Childhood Program report super successful bake sale

Dear Editor:

The bake sale to benefit Orofino's Head Start Project can be declared a genuine success, and we didn't sell a single thing. Instead, Orofino citizens donated anywhere from $10 to $150, in exchange for baked goodies of their choice, for a whopping $1,270 in donations in just 4 hours!

Thank you to the dedicated members of Friends of Lewis-Clark Early Childhood's Orofino Project, Tami Plank and Tim Roehr of Community Action Partnership, Joe Pippenger of Panhandle Power Wash, Janene Leaton, teacher of Orofino Head Start (giving up a part of her summer break) and others who dropped by to help run the booth, or drop off baked goods and other supplies. Thank you to the Orofino Postmaster for inviting the sale to be held inside the post office on a very hot day. Thanks to the bakers, IGA for bailing us out when we ran out of goodies, and most of all, thank you, generous donors.

We have met our first fund raising goal, which was to raise enough money to move the new and much improved Head Start classroom from the Plummer-Worley School District to Orofino. With the $16,000 we have raised, we were able to pay R&R Homes and Clearwater Homes to tear down and move the two section classroom, and park both pieces in the lot owned by Larry and Christy Skinner. The next funding phase will cover excavation and foundation work along with the purchase of the classroom, which was loaned to us for $15,000 until full payment could be made. Thanks to discounted services from R&R and Clearwater Homes, we are able to carry forward $5,500 to the next phase of the project. We need to raise an additional $10,000 to pay off the classroom and another $5,000 to cover excavation and foundation work.

Please support our next fund raiser, Orofino's First Annual Dog Wash to Benefit Orofino Head Start on Sept. 7, on the grounds of Orofino School District. The public is invited to bring well mannered, leashed dogs to the elementary school, where groomer and dog trainer, Kathy Deyo, and her excellent assistants from the 4H club and the Friends group, will wash, rinse, dry, and comb dusty dogs for a donation to the Head Start project. For the dog's people, hot dogs and beverages will be available, along with toy dogs for donors for our generous supporters. For more information, please call Joe Pippenger 476-7796.

Thank you!
Friends of Lewis-Clark Early Childhood Program
The Orofino Head Start Project


8-16-13

Destroying the timber industry failed, so feds want to kill competing owls

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Consider Neanderthals. They were shorter, slower and less mobile than their cousins, modern humans. As a result, Neanderthals' range stayed small and restricted over time while smarter, more adaptable humans spread across the globe. Eventually, the competition was too much for them and Neanderthals died out.

Now consider the northern spotted owl. It's smaller, less aggressive and more specialized in its diet and habitat than its cousin, the barred owl. As a result, the spotted owl's range stayed small and restricted over time while the barred owl spread from the East Coast to the Pacific. The competition was too much for the spotted owl, but they didn't quite die out.

Instead, man intervened.

In 1990, the federal government tried to save the spotted owl by listing it as a "threatened species" and by shutting down logging on vast swaths of Northwest old-growth forests, destroying an industry and the communities it supported. Since that didn't work, wildlife experts now want to try killing thousands of those bigger, stronger, more adaptable barred owls.

Clearly the Neanderthals could have used some federal experts and Endangered Species Act protections.

Meanwhile, John James Audubon and Charles Darwin are rolling over in their graves.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced plans to spend about $3 million to kill 3,603 barred owls in four areas of Oregon, Washington and northern California over the next four years. That works out to almost $833 for each dead barred owl.

Back in 1994, when the Northwest Forest Plan was launched to protect about 20 million acres of federal land from logging in defense of spotted owls, we all were assured that habitat was the key to their survival. We were told that abandoning an economy and a culture that had supported generations of people would pay off with the salvation of an "indicator species" and, by extension, a unique and irreplaceable ecosystem.

It sounded a lot like what's by now become shop-worn shorthand for the insanity of war: "It became necessary to destroy the town to save it."

As it turned out, that federally protected old-growth habitat did nothing for the spotted owl population, which has continued to decline. That's a lot more than unfortunate for the timber towns and the families who used to live there. But now the Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the real culprit, and has it in its sights.

A final decision is expected this month on whether to "experiment" with the systematic killing of barred owls, which now outnumber spotted owls by as many as five to one in some locations.

We soon may have armed federal experts roaming through our forests, calling and then killing thousands of one type of owl to save another. You might recognize these folks as the same ones who "reintroduced" wolves to Idaho, and now they're desperately trying to salvage what a misguided but powerful government policy has failed to achieve for decades.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

Like most federal programs, it figures to be LOPSOD - long on promises, short on delivery. But if it winds up working better than shutting down our forests did, which is a very low bar to clear, should we then start saving a place on the endangered species list for barred owls next?


7-16-13

Christmas 911 program seeking donations for families in need

Christmas 911 is a program started here in Orofino, Idaho in 2010. It began as just a thought but quickly evolved into a structured program which was designed to help families in need over the holidays.

I am the Jeff Wilson, Chief of Police for the Orofino Police Department. In this position I have a great deal of contact with the people of my community, often times encountering them during stressful times when the challenges of life are the most difficult. I often interact with people in their homes and get to see them and know them in a way that most other people don't have the opportunity to experience.

Shortly before the Christmas holiday season in 2010 I had the occasion to be in a home where clearly the family was struggling. Mom and Dad were struggling to meet the most basic needs of their three children, including just putting an adequate amount of food on the table. It was only 10 days to Christmas and I noticed there was no Christmas tree in the home and no decorations of any kind anywhere in the home. I asked them if they had plans for Christmas and the mom told me there was nothing planned as they had nothing to offer their children but love. I was immediately overwhelmed with the need to help this family. I could see how hard they were struggling and felt it was possible to give them a Christmas day they would never forget. One filled with excitement and joy that would be uplifting for the entire family.

When I left that home I started to reflect on how many families were in my community who were in the same situation. I thought about the parents who wanted to do more for their children but because of difficult circumstances would be able to do nothing, not even offer any kind of family Christmas dinner. I thought about the kids who might not feel special on a day that we should all be made to feel special. I thought about the kids who were not even excited for Christmas because they knew it was just going to be another day.

I work with wonderful people in my department and immediately approached them about the thought of starting a program to help offer full Christmas dinners and gifts to families in need. I explained that if we all did a little bit to help we could make a big impact to a large number of people. My hope was to inspire others by getting them to see that we all have the power to make a difference. I wanted them to see that we should all be willing to help and serve others because we can make a difference in people's lives, even the lives of strangers.

Within 24 hours we had a name for the program, Christmas 911, and began seeking donations from businesses and people in our community who were in a position to help. Within just a few days we raised over $5,000. We worked with the local schools and other community service organizations to identify families in need of help. We reached out to them and asked if they were willing to be part of our program. We identified the number of children in each home and received information about their needs and what their hobbies and interests were. We quickly assembled lists and began shopping for gifts and the items necessary for full Christmas dinners.

In just a matter of days we were able to help 16 families in need. Police officers and other city staff delivered meals and gifts to the families on the evening of Dec. 23. We got to see smiles and tears of joy from children and parents alike as we made repeated trips into the homes with food and gifts.

The program served 26 families in 2011 and 27 families in 2012. We have provided gifts and meals to families in Orofino as well as the surrounding area in Clearwater County and adjacent counties.

The number of families we serve is limited only by the funds we are able to raise through donation and this year our community has been hit hard with other needs already this year so we are afraid we may not be able to raise the funds to make this year a success. Any donation that you are able to provide would be greatly appreciated.

Donations can be mailed to: Christmas 911 Fund c/o Chief Jeff Wilson Orofino Police Department P.O. Box 2603 Orofino, ID 83544 (208)476-5551 or through this web site: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/2tn2/christmas911.

Chief Jeff Wilson
Orofino Police Department


7-9-13

City's 'zero-tolerance' on illegal fireworks policy successful

This 4th of July the Orofino Police Department took a "zero-tolerance" stance on the use of illegal fireworks in the city limits. Illegal fireworks are those which explode or are capable of traveling in excess of 20 feet above the ground. The purpose of the zero-tolerance stance was to improve public safety relating to the use of the fireworks. Over the last few years the Police Department has received an increasing number of complaints from residents regarding the use of illegal fireworks. Property owners have reported fires being started on their property as a result of illegal fireworks. In addition, the Police Department received numerous general disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct complaints.

In an attempt to reduce the risk of fires and keep our neighborhoods safe and quiet, officers of the Orofino Police Officers were instructed to issue citations to any violators using illegal fireworks in the city limits. The Police Department made every effort to inform and educate citizens of the zero-tolerance stance. The Police Department requested information to be put out through the Clearwater Tribune and Window on the Clearwater. KLER was also contacted for some radio spots regarding the advisement. In addition the advisement was put on the Orofino PD web site as well as through the Orofino PD Facebook page.

The result of the zero-tolerance stance was extremely positive. The Police Department received very few complaints regarding illegal fireworks in the city limits compared to the past several years. There were no reported fires as a result of illegal fireworks anywhere in the city limits. The public comments received by the Police Department were overwhelmingly in favor or the zero-tolerance approach.

The public education campaign was effective as the Police Department issued only four violations for illegal fireworks in the weeks leading up to and including the 4th of July. Based on the positive impact of the tougher stance on illegal fireworks I anticipate zero-tolerance will be the approach in future years as well.

Chief Jeff Wilson
Orofino PD


7-2-13

Use caution while recreating during Independence Day

Dear Editor:

On behalf of the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association I would like to urge everyone to use caution while recreating and celebrating during the Independence Day holiday.

Despite the recent rain, we are approaching high fire danger due to the onset of triple digit temperatures. During the holiday period, my two concerns are fires ignited by fireworks and escaped campfires. It's been a few years since we've had extensive areas of cured grass in the valley for the Fourth of July Holiday like we do now. These light, dry fuels ignite easily and fires can spread very rapidly. Fire suppression is extremely expensive and the costs associated with any wildland fire started willfully or negligently will be billed to the responsible individual.

Burn barrels, residential yard waste, campfires and barbeques are currently the only forms of open burning allowed. Burn barrels and residential yard waste require a permit between May 10 and Oct. 20.

Isaac Hull - Orofino Area Fire Warden, C-PTPA


6-14-13

Summertime can mean educational chutes and ladders

Guest opinion by Lauren Necochea, Director of Idaho Kids Count

Summer is a wonderful time for children to swim, play, and simply act like kids. Unfortunately, summer is also a time that determines if children are going to advance, tread water, or slide back in their academic progress.

At Idaho Kids Count we collect and study data on the well being of children. We know that kids without access to summer activities lose knowledge from the school year, while kids with more opportunities continue to learn during the break.

When school ends and children stop learning and lose skills, this is called the "summer slide." Children without access to learning opportunities can lose up to three months of the reading comprehension skills they built during the school year.

Most young people experience a slowdown in learning over the summer, but we see a dramatic gap when comparing children from low-income and middle-income families.

Children from middle-income families start their first year of kindergarten more advanced than those from low-income families. During the school year, both learn at the same rate. But when summer comes around, the middle-income children enjoy enriching activities like library summer reading programs. They advance their skills by one or two months, while the low-income children slide back, losing precious time and skills.

This pattern repeats itself every summer. By fifth grade, there is a 2 to 3 year gap in reading comprehension skills. By ninth grade, the summer slide accounts for about two-thirds of the reading gap.

The Idaho State Department of Education reports that in spring of 2012, 82 percent of kindergarteners had grade-level reading skills (i.e. scored 'benchmark' on the Idaho Reading Indicator). When those same first-graders returned in the fall, only 64 percent were at grade level.

Our collective investment in our children's reading skills is critical to ensuring we have strong communities in which young adults are prepared for bright futures. Summer learning loss is a hole in the bucket, letting some of that investment slip away every year.

The good news is that Idaho offers summer learning programs in many communities. Many of these programs are free or have scholarships for low-income families. Programs held at libraries, parks, community centers, and museums as well as online resources can help fight the summer slide. Research suggests that summer programs with small class sizes, experienced teachers, challenging content, group learning, individual support and hands-on activities can maximize learning.

Libraries can also help immensely. In 2011, Idaho libraries saw more than 69,000 students participate in summer reading programs. The number of books kids read over the summer is directly related with how much a child learns. When children have guidance in libraries-an adult directing them to choose challenging books-they will improve their reading ability instead of treading water.

This summer, let's help the children in our families and neighborhoods continue to learn. With more trips to the library and some extra effort to make everyday experiences educational, our children can be ready when school starts in the fall.

--Lauren Necochea is the director of Idaho Kids Count, a nonprofit program of Mountain States Group, Inc., which engages citizens and policy makers in nonpartisan, research-based discussions to improve outcomes for Idaho's children.


6-14-13

Hall upset over 'Common Core Education'

To the Editor:

Last Saturday I went to a meeting in Orofino about "Common Core Education" and was very surprised and upset at what has been going on in our schools. The changes that has been implemented that will affect our children and grandchildren I hope everyone will look up the following sites and find out for themselves what is going on. We really need to stop this in Idaho; some states have already backed out of this awful program.

Right now in Idaho we already have two classes being taught, one of which is math. When my granddaughter told me that it did not matter if she had the right answer or not, she just had to be able to tell how she came up with the answer I thought she was lying. She was not!! That is Common Core. I called an apologized to her.

Joy Hall
Pierce


6-13-13

Mom finds heroes at Young Eagle activity

Dear Editor,

Superman, Batman and Spiderman are all heroes in the cartoon world, however I would like to focus on a hometown hero. The definition of the word hero is "a person who has qualities that are admired". As a mother of four children, one of which that has extensive special needs, we have met many people who take the time to make the world a better place and could be considered heroes. Last Saturday was Free Flying Day for kids ages 8 to 17.

Two of our daughters fit that age requirement and it was an easy decision to take one of them. However the decision to take our other daughter was filled with questions, beginning with would they even allow her to fly. Emilee lives with Rett Syndrome and is non-verbal, has limited mobility and little hand function, regulates her body temperature poorly, gets over stimulated easily and has grand mal seizures. I desperately wanted her to be able to fly and just take part for one day in a typical child activity. Just for one day I wanted her to be able to participate like everybody else.

When we arrived there we were greeted warmly and I asked about Emilee being able to fly. All the volunteers were welcoming and very nice. They were all taking time out of their schedules to introduce children to the joy of flying. I was informed there was a four-seater plane that we could go up in. Our pilot, Mr. Johnny Stewart, was beyond nice and helpful. He asked several times if Emilee was okay as she fell asleep five minutes into our flight. I rode in the front as that was where I needed to be for the weight and our two girls rode in the back. I knew my oldest daughter had desperately wanted to ride in the front of the plane but never complained or showed she was upset when she needed to get in the back. Our flight was wonderful, the pilot exceptional and it was a wonderful experience. Upon landing, Mr. Stewart, asked our older daughter if she wanted to fly; he volunteered to take her up again so she could experience the opportunity to be in the front and to help fly the plane. She was overjoyed.

Both of our girls had a wonderful time and it is most likely going to be the highlight of our summer. Thank you, Mr. Stewart. You are a hero in our book.

With gratitude,
Amanda Wheeler
Peck


6-12-13

Perils of the Patriot Act

Guest opinion by U.S. Rep. Ra?l Labrador

During the past week, we've heard about a series of major violations of our civil liberties, including the extremely alarming news that the National Security (NSA) is collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon. This wholesale snooping on innocent Americans is an unacceptable violation of one of our most basic freedoms, the right to privacy and to be free from government surveillance, and one of many unintended but predictable consequences of the USA Patriot Act.

I proudly voted against reauthorizing the Patriot Act three times because of its potential for abuse, and more people are starting to see that abuse. Even former Vice President Al Gore - not someone I normally agree with - had the right response to the NSA report, tweeting "In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?" It's not just you, Al. I agree!

Of course, what's happening with the NSA is just the latest example of the government abusing its power. We've all heard about the Internal Revenue Service scandal, in which one of the most powerful agencies in the government deliberately targeted conservative organizations for audits and other forms of harassment. We've all heard about what happened with Fox News reporter James Rosen, whose phone was tapped by the Justice Department even though Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee "that potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I have ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy."

Needless to say, what Holder said under oath is sharply at odds with what happened to Rosen, and I've joined with my Judiciary Committee colleagues in sending a letter to the attorney general requesting that he appear before the committee again to explain these discrepancies. Then, just this past Friday, The Washington Post reported that the NSA and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet services, including Google, Facebook and YouTube, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs. Who knows what we'll learn next!

When thinking about all of these scandals, I'm reminded of what James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 51 in the early days of our country:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."

In recent years, many members of both parties have forgotten Madison's lesson - a lesson that infuses our founding document, the U.S. Constitution - that government powers must be limited because governments, by their very nature, have a hard time "controlling" themselves.

During the Bush years, many Republicans ignored that truth, and in the Obama era, many Democrats have ignored it too. What's happening with the NSA, the IRS, the DOJ and other agencies should correct the misguided idea that it's OK to give the government more powers so long as the "right" party is in power - because parties change. And, to quote Madison again, "enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm."

For all of these reasons and more, I voted against the USA Patriot Act, which, despite its nice name, was written in such a sweeping way that it opened the door for the NSA to invade the privacy of millions of Americans. That is because the USA Patriot Act's Section 215 allows the FBI to seek the production of "tangible things" to obtain foreign intelligence and to protect against clandestine intelligence activities.

But because the statute does not require that either the caller or recipient of the call be a foreign agent or located abroad, you can see how the FBI could be tempted to collect broad swaths of data concerning Americans' telephone calls to detect patterns of activity, as many analysts suggest may have happened in this case.

That is why on June 6, I joined several of my House colleagues in sending a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller and NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander requesting more information concerning their agencies' data collection activities.

Given public outrage about the NSA's abuse of power, it is time for Congress to reexamine all sections of the USA Patriot Act, and I am leading my House colleagues in starting that reexamination. Now is the time to work together to reduce the scope of government power before it becomes so large and so impenetrable that regaining our freedoms becomes almost impossible. Now is our moment, and we must seize it.

--Labrador, who has represented Idaho's 1st district since 2011, serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.


5-31-13

Taking county funds is not the solution

Guest opinion by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The Budget Control Act of 2011, a concept first proposed by the Obama administration, requires across-the-board spending reductions in federal government programs. For Fiscal Year 2013, the estimated sequester is $85 billion and would apply to federal agencies and programs unless otherwise exempted by law. The administration has been implementing sequestration based on its priorities. The administration's decision to cut Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act (SRS) payments is one that is baseless and can have significant impacts on local communities.

Federal lands cannot be taxed by local or state governments, and local communities have little control over management of these lands within their jurisdiction. Laws have been enacted that provide payments to offset the impact of the presence of federal lands. PILT payments are received for lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior. The U.S. Forest Service compensates counties through SRS payments, commonly called county payments.

Due to the large amount of National Forest System land in Idaho, nearly 80 percent of Idaho's counties receive county payments. These payments, along with PILT, have been instrumental in ensuring that Idaho communities, with limited revenue due to large amounts of neighboring federal land, are able to provide for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement, emergency response and other needs.

Despite payments being made based on formulas related to revenue and impacts to counties, the administration has proposed reductions in these payments. It is incongruous that the administration is targeting its obligations to counties rather than cuts within its discretionary spending. To add insult to injury, the administration has requested states return part of the SRS payments made months ago. The sequester did not sneak up overnight. Requiring repayment of already-allocated assistance can be more detrimental than not providing it in the first place. There has to be a more responsible way to handle this issue.

Since 1908, the U.S. Forest Service has been required to return 25 percent of its receipts to the states for use in the counties where national forests are located. Unfortunately, federal policies have decreased timber receipts to the point where the federal obligation is not met through the receipts alone. SRS was enacted in 2000 to provide a more stable payment to communities where Forest Service receipt-sharing payments have declined significantly. Congress acted a number of times to extend SRS and fully fund PILT, but these extensions have been short-term. The most recent extension expired, leaving rural communities across the nation wondering if they will be able to maintain needed services.

We need a long-term solution that provides a consistent mechanism for the federal government to meet its obligation to rural communities accommodating federal lands. We should not be tapping into these payments to meet sequestration targets; we should not be proposing reductions to timber sales on Forest Service lands, as President Obama has called for in his 2014 budget; and we should not be asking our rural communities to exhaust their resources and plan under the cloud of uncertainty because they house our federal lands. Leaving rural communities in limbo is not the answer.

Our current debt and projected future debt are unacceptable. Overspending is the primary reason for this debt. We must develop a comprehensive strategy to address this overspending that is sustainable while also meeting federal responsibilities. When the federal government took over these lands, it also took on the responsibility for the impact of federal ownership on local communities. I will continue to press for a resolution that ensures the federal government meets its responsibility and removes the uncertainty currently facing many rural communities.


5-15-13

Quality schools important to the community

Guest opinion by Bob Vian, Superintendent Joint School District #171

Quality schools are essential for maintaining the communities we enjoy living in.

Quality schools mean people move here and more importantly, they stay here.

Quality schools mean business can survive in Clearwater County and new businesses have a reason to move here.

Quality schools mean doctors recruited by the Clearwater Valley Hospital want to move to the area.

Quality schools mean less drug and alcohol use by our young.

Quality schools mean fewer issues with crime.

Orofino Joint School District 171 operates five schools with nearly 1,000 students and 185 employees including coaches, bus drivers, teaching aides, secretaries, custodians, food service workers, district office staff, teachers, administrators, technology specialists and support staff. The Maintenance and Operating Levy provides 28 cents of every dollar used to operate the district.

As your new superintendent I have worked with building administrators and Business Manager Trina Snyder to improve our facilities while improving the learning environment for students. I feel we need to be accountable for every single tax dollar we spend.

In order to exemplify accountability, I'd like to outline what we have done so far this year with your tax dollars. Improvements to the district include a new sewer treatment facility at Timberline, a new energy efficient heat pump at Cavendish, new carpet in several classrooms, rain gutters on OHS (prevented water from leaking into the ground floor classrooms), electrical upgrades at OHS for the computer labs, return of one rental modular at Timberline, purchase of one modular for Timberline, and removal of the old modulars at Orofino.

Removing the modulars at OES saved the District over $8,000 in electricity. The stench from damaged carpets in some classrooms had made them unusable. The savings from the modular heating costs more than paid for the new carpets at OES.

The return of one rental module at Timberline has saved the district $1,700 per month. The purchase of the other module will pay for itself in 40 months and provided enough elementary classrooms so that we could move the third grade out of the high school hallway.

This summer we will replace the roof on the bus barn, paint Timberline, and put a new high efficiency boiler system in Orofino Elementary using Federal Timber money.

So what does this levy support?

We have reduced spending to the point that 80 percent of our funds are used for salaries. Non-salary expenses include heating, electricity, insurance (both health and building), fuel, maintenance, and supplies; items that we have little control over with regard to cost. The levy supports about 30 percent of our staff

.

The current levy of $1,940,000 has been in place for two years. I asked the Board of Trustees to ask you for an additional $345,000. The increase amounts to $2 per month for a homeowner of a house appraised at $75,000. A homeowner of a $160,000 home will see an increase of about $4.35 per month. The projected levy rate will be approximately $4.36 per thousand of assessed value, after the homeowner exemption. To calculate the rate at which your home is taxed, divide the assessed value in half up to a value of $162,000. For homes assessed at more than $162,000 subtract, $81,000 from the home value to find the taxed value.

The increase in the levy is needed to fund our district at a level which maintains district effectiveness. This levy will be used to establish full-time kindergarten ($100,000) for all our students. Full day kindergarten is recognized as the most efficient, cost effective way of improving student learning.

The district has been trying to maintain our technology with only $40,000 annually. Of this sum, half is spent on licensing of software of which most of which is mandated by the state. With only $20,000 to repair and replace equipment we have reached a point where our computers are so old they will not operate on the systems that are still viable and maintained by the technology industry. $150,000 will allow us to start a three year upgrade to get back into the ball game of a 21st Century School.

The most important part of the increase is $95,000 to maintain our current staffing. The Federal Sequestration will cut Federal funds in excess of $30,000 next year. When several teachers retired last year we used some of the savings to hire additional teacher aides as seen in this year's ISAT results. The great teachers and additional aides we were able to hire at Timberline and Orofino Elementary allowed us to show significant learning growth in our elementary students.

Please contact me if you have questions regarding the district or the operational levy at 476-5593.


4-19-13

People moving to Orofino look for quality schools

Guest opinion by Joint School District #171 Superintendent Bob Vian

Quality schools are among the first things people moving to Orofino look for in the community. Quality schools attract the doctor who is looking to come to Clearwater Valley Hospital or a business person who is looking to locate in the area. Quality schools also keep people living in our communities. People can commute to Lewiston to work if we offer a good quality of life. Most importantly, people want to know that their children are getting a good education here. Whenever we interview for teachers, administrators, or staff positions, one of the first questions asked is "What about your schools?"

Quality schools are not just "for the kids." Quality schools mean a store owner can stay in business offering more places to shop in Orofino. High quality schools mean less crime. Quality schools and well educated workers encourage new businesses to locate in Orofino. A quality school system also allows our young families to stay in Orofino and raise their children.

Beginning with the recession in 2009, the state has failed to fund school districts at a level that has allowed schools to be maintained properly. Since , the citizens of Joint SD #171 have stepped up to fill the void. The current operating levy was put in place for the 2010-11 school years. The local property tax levy currently supports about 25 percent of our funding for schools.

Tough economic times have meant that the district trimmed spending and "right sized" the district staff over the past few years. Last year, we had several openings in teaching staff when teachers retired or moved, which were not filled for this school year. We used the savings to hire instructional aides and perform long over-due building maintenance.

The increased number of staff working with our most challenged student has improved the educational quality of those children's lives and the educational quality in the general classroom.

As your Superintendent I have sought ways to upgrade our schools, focusing on items that also saved you money. For instance, the custodians at Orofino Elementary removed dirty, torn, smelly carpet and subflooring in three classrooms, replaced it and made those classrooms usable ($8,775). That allowed us to remove the dilapidated portable classrooms and resulted in savings for heating costs of well over $8,000 during the past winter. By giving the portables to the people who removed them, the site was cleared at no cost to the district.

For the past seven years the district has rented two portables at Timberline for classroom use at a cost of $5,900 per month. We sent one back to the owners and purchased the other which was sited to provide class rooms for elementary students who had been in the middle of the high school. The cost of purchase, $69,000 will be recouped in a couple of months and we will start seeing a savings each month.

We used about $70,000 of our savings for badly needed maintenance around the district including a new high efficiency furnace and air conditioning system at Cavendish, $17,223. The furnace will pay for itself in a couple of years with the energy savings. The district had to replace the old sewage ponds at Timberline or face "crushing fines" (as high as $18,000 per day) from the Environmental Protection Agency. The district used $268,721 from the "building reserve fund" with an assist from the Rural School Fund to build a state approved septic system which is projected to last for another 40 years.

The district has allocated the majority of this year's Federal Rural School Funds for three large projects. The highest priority was replacement of the boiler system (projected cost $170,000) at Orofino Elementary. The system that was installed when the building was built was "red tagged" at the beginning of the school year (repairing something this old is just not a sane investment). The new electric boilers are projected to save you as much as $500 per day (340 heating days to recover cost).

The bus barn roof has been leaking for years, causing dangerous working conditions and concern about dry rot. Replacement with a 30-year roof at a projected cost of $72,000.

Timberline school has not been painted (except for some touch ups) since it was built. Rain water is seeping under the paint and causing the building blocks to blister and deteriorate. A complete scraping, sealer, and paint job is estimated at $60,000. Replacement of the school would be in the millions.

After careful consideration our budget for next year, the school board has decided to make the Maintenance and Operation Levy $2,285,000. That amount is $345,000 more than the current levy and allows for three important improvements to the district. We will hire one and a half teachers to allow for funding full time kindergarten in all our schools, put $150,000 into new technology, and maintain current staffing. Your administrators and staff are committed to using this increase to improve student learning.

Kindergarten is the best use of educational funds available to any district. Graduating quality students doesn't start when they are juniors or seniors. It starts the first day the student enters our schools.

The technology in the district is dismal at best. We have been investing $40,000 per year of the Federal Rural School Funds in technology each year. Half that money goes to licensing requirements from the state. The remaining $20,000 has been used to maintain our ancient fleet of computers and occasionally replace a few units. The current computers will not operate the new technologies and their operating systems are no longer being supported by the software industry.

We will combine the money from Federal Rural School Funds, our newly received $44,400 grant from the Albertson's Foundation and the levy money to make big improvements and get the district moving forward in technology. The first improvement will be to make the district buildings wireless (est. $39,000 for all five school buildings).

In today's technological classroom, computers allow students to do more and learn more in less time. Building computer labs is expensive, space intensive and not conducive to classroom learning. With wireless connectivity, every classroom becomes a laboratory that can be used by mobile carts of laptops, Chromebooks, and I-Pads. One size fits all technology is another waste of money. To save money, we will be purchasing the technology needed to do the specific tasks. Math needs are not the same as language arts or social studies. Chromebooks (math) cost $200 -$250 and laptops or I-pads are at least twice that much.

The smallest part of the increase will go to maintaining our current staffing levels. We have trimmed and cut, wherever possible. Without this levy request we will lose several classroom instructional aides and/or a teacher. Technology allows students to learn at their own pace, but it still takes teachers, aides, and others to help them learn.

Our goal is to have the finest school system in America. We are working hard to earn your trust and support.

* numbers based upon the best information available at the time, please contact the County Assessor for information on your property.

If you have questions, please contact me at 476-5593 or via email at vianr@sd171.k12.id.us


4-16-13

Sympathy expressed to families

Dear editor:

I want to express my deepest sympathies to the families who have suffered this tragic loss. It is particularly difficult for me because of my friendship with Alan and ownership of the property. At this point, we do not know what caused the fire, but I can tell you that there were smoke detectors in the house and, as of last fall, I know that they were functioning. Again, my heart goes out to the families of the victims of this tragedy.

Patrick Graber Orofino


4-15-13

School Board approves Maintenance and Operating Levy amount

by Danielle Hardy, trustee Joint School District #171

The District 171 School Board approved the 2013-2014 maintenance and operating school levy for $2,285,000. That is an increase of $345,000 from last year's levy. Voters will decide on the levy May 21.

Superintendent Bob Vian presented information to the school board on the needs of the district that will be met with current funds and those that will be met if the levy passes. Current funds will be used to replace the Orofino Elementary School boiler, paint the exterior of Timberline and replace the bus barn roof. These are issues that must be done now in order to prevent further costs in repairs. Next year's increase will help to provide full time kindergarten in Orofino, update technology district-wide, and maintain the current staff. Vian explained that voters have approved the annual levy for many years and stated "we are fortunate to have a community that supports education".

Taxpayers will see an increase of $2.71 per month (on an assessed value of $100,000) for the increased levy. Even with the increase, Orofino still has a low per student cost of $1,637. In comparison, Nez Perce has a rate of $3,248 per student cost.

While the State of Idaho constitution requires that the state provide for a complete and thorough education for all of Idaho's children, funding has steadily decreased. As a result, local communities have had to make up for the difference. Of the 115 Idaho school districts, more than 2/3 of them request local levies each year to supplement state funding. A recent study done by the non-partisan, non-profit organization Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy outlines how much public school funding has changed since 1980. You can read the study by going to idahocfp.org and going to the "reports" link at the bottom.

Anyone with questions on the budget is strongly encouraged to contact the district office at 476-5593, which is open Monday through Friday. You can also go to the district web site at sd171.k12.id.us to view various budget reports, including an updated year-to-date budget (go to "Finances and Public Reports" link on the left side of the homepage). In addition, a series of informational presentations on the district budget will be given to a variety of community organizations by Superintendent Vian to educate the public on the importance of supporting the levy.


4-12-13

How have Americans reached this point?

Dear Editor,

My daily reading of the newspapers has left me perplexed and asking myself, "How did we get here?"

Capitalism, Liberty, Personal Property, Profit, Individual Responsibility--these were once valued in American society as building blocks to happiness and prosperity. How is it that we've reached the point where so many Americans have let themselves be brainwashed by Liberals into thinking these are bad?

Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt
Kooskia


3-12-13

Bald Mountain ski season a success

To the Editor:

The 2013 season at Bald Mountain was a success!

The Clearwater Ski Club Board of Directors is very appreciative of the businesses and individuals who stepped forward to help this season; and all of you snow riders who came out and enjoyed our slopes. Without you it wouldn't be possible.

We will be working throughout the year to continue making improvements, doing maintenance and hosting fun events. Keep an eye on Facebook/Baldmountain and/or www.skibaldmountain.com for news and updates. If you are interested in adopting your favorite run or helping out contact Chris, chrisstg@frontier.com or 435-4782; she'll happily add you to the list of volunteers.

Chris St. Germaine-Allen
Pierce


3-6-13

State-based insurance exchange preserves options

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

At my request and after careful, deliberate consideration, the Idaho Senate recently approved legislation affirming my choice of a state-based health insurance exchange.

That bill now goes to the Idaho House of Representatives, where debate figures to be just as passionate. That's understandable, since most members of the Idaho Legislature share my intense opposition to the so-called Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

But the issue before us has nothing to do with how we feel about Obamacare, how we feel about overreaching federal authority and the government's failure in this gargantuan and unworkable piece of law to address the essential goals of more affordable and accessible health care.

It has quite simply to do with our right and responsibility to keep as many options as possible open to the people of Idaho. As much as we might object to the necessity, creating a state-based exchange is the only way to preserve options, oversight and accountability for our citizens.

If we fail to seize this opportunity, if we default to total federal control of this process, the result will be an unresponsive, one-size-fits-all federal exchange wreaking havoc on some of America's most reasonable costs of coverage.

At its core, this is a matter of state and individual rights. A state-based exchange enables us as citizens to be, if not the architect of our own destiny, then at least the general contractor.

Everyone reading this knows how I feel about Obamacare. As I have from the day it was enacted, I will continue encouraging and supporting efforts by our Idaho congressional delegation and many others to repeal and replace the law. But the fact remains that for now and for the foreseeable future it is the law. And as responsible elected officials we're sworn to uphold the rule of law - not just those laws that we support.

So I urge the people of Idaho and members of the Legislature to stay engaged in the important work of changing a misguided federal law, but in the meantime we need to work at preserving for Idaho the option of having a voice in how one element of that law is implemented.

A state-run exchange that works for Idaho is neither a Trojan horse nor a white flag of surrender to Obamacare. Rather, it's an opportunity to positively influence local outcomes under difficult circumstances, but we have to seize it.

Doing nothing leaves us with a federal exchange, administered from Washington, DC, by unknown bureaucrats making decisions about Idaho citizens under the cover of an all-seeing and all-knowing government. That's simply not acceptable to me or, I believe, to most of you.

More than a decade before Obamacare started giving health insurance exchanges a bad name, they were at work in the private sector, used mostly by large companies seeking to provide affordable group health coverage for their employees. Some states, including Idaho, also have had private exchanges selling small group and individual policies for years.

Then Obamacare started confusing the issue. Its passage and court approval, and the subsequent re-election of its namesake, left those of us seeking a market-based approach to addressing the issue frustrated and disappointed.

But much as we may wish otherwise, resisting Obamacare by simply refusing to act is no remedy at all. It sounds great in principle - even heroic. Yet history tells us it does not effectively influence public policy, change the law of the land or even protect our interests.

That requires relentless, tireless and consistent work to change hearts, minds and votes. Creating a state-based exchange maximizes our flexibility and degree of self-determination while that important process continues.

Make no mistake: Defaulting to a federal exchange is a worst-case scenario for Idaho. While advocates of doing nothing contend there is no substantive difference between a federal exchange and a state-based exchange, their arguments put philosophy and political wishful thinking ahead of facts like these:

  • Nobody is required to buy health insurance through an Idaho-based exchange.
  • Defaulting to a federal exchange would add extra layers of bureaucracy for Idaho insurance buyers.
  • A state-based exchange would conduct all its business publicly and transparently - which would not be the case with a federal exchange.

Designing our own unique plan, having the exchange run by locally chosen Idaho citizens who will meet openly right here at home, gives us the best chance of weathering the Obamacare storm while meeting the needs of Idaho citizens.

As one member of the Idaho Senate so eloquently put it: Given a choice, I choose Idaho.


2-2-13

School Board sets vision for district

Guest opinion by Danielle Hardy, Joint School District #171 Trustee

The Joint School District 171 Board of Trustees adopted their annual goals and a strategic plan at the December 2012 meeting. The board will use the goals to set the focus on what needs to be accomplished this year. The strategic plan is the step-by-step map on how to attain those goals.

The three goals are to improve the level of mutual respect between all students and adults in our schools, strengthen the practice of having "high expectations" for our students in all their work, and continue with facility planning-including updating and repair.

Each goal has been closely aligned with the newly adopted strategic plan, which can be viewed on the district web site at http://www.sd171.k12.id.us under the "School Board" link. A committee made up of community members, parents, and staff met numerous times to develop the strategic plan.

The board will use the goals and strategic plan to make informed decisions. It is also a way to provide a vision to the district staff and sets the stage for everyone involved. The plan is very specific-it outlines who is responsible for each task, deadlines, and a measurement for success.

Leadership means having a vision. Achieving the vision requires high expectations. This is certainly the case in what the school board has established and will continue to work towards so that students have the opportunities available to them to succeed.


2-1-13

Crapo: 113th Congress should focus on fiscal crisis

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The most important objective of this Congress should be to focus on efforts that solve our fiscal crisis, create jobs for Americans and get our economy on the right track.

I have written about the opportunity that this Congress has to take long-term actions to improve our nation's economy and discussed some of the solutions, including reforming our broken tax code and stabilizing entitlement programs. We must also address the spending problem and strengthen budget enforcement mechanisms to stop Congress and the President from breaking spending controls we have fought to enact. Americans are fed up with out-of-control, unsustainable federal spending, a frustration I share. The problem is simply that the government spends too much and has so far refused to enact meaningful policies that will bring common sense back to our federal budgeting process. Washington cannot continue to operate this way.

Over the past two years, we have adopted spending reductions of over $2 trillion from the Congressional baseline over the next ten years. We need to cut more, in addition to reforming the entitlement system. These cuts and others must be locked in with real, enforceable budget enforcement mechanisms. In addition to working to advance these reforms, I will continue to press for the following priorities:

Regulatory reform

Along with comprehensive tax reform, removing unnecessary restrictions on capital formation and reducing regulatory overreach can help expand economic activity and American job growth by making it easier to turn ideas into successful businesses and making it easier for small businesses to remain successful and grow while maintaining important protections for consumers and investors.

American competitiveness

Expanding market opportunities to strengthen the U.S. economy and create American jobs for U.S. industries and ensuring trading partners adhere to trade commitments must be a continual focus to improve our nation's global competitiveness. Maintaining technical manpower through access to high-quality education and addressing development and infrastructure needs is also crucial to compete successfully. Preserving Idaho's priorities in a comprehensive transportation reauthorization will help maintain the infrastructure necessary for shipping Idaho products and accessing markets, but in this time of massive deficits, funding for critical transportation programs must be based on a sustainable fiscal plan, and we can no longer rely on borrowing funds to prop up short falls.

Collaborative natural resources problem solving

Many challenges, especially environment and public lands issues, are best addressed through collaboration to achieve locally-driven solutions that are better than the status quo for all stakeholders. The Owyhee Initiative, started by the Owyhee County Commissioners, utilized a collaborative model to address challenges in Owyhee County. The result was a landmark legislative compromise, and work continues to implement all facets of the agreement. Work also continues to advance efforts of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) Work Group, an advisory group I helped establish to find solutions to contentious land management and wildlife issues in Idaho's Clearwater Basin. The CBC has spawned new discussions of job creation through timber harvesting and landscape improvements, which could benefit habitat for wildlife.

There are many more critical issues-Secure Rural Schools and Farm Bill reauthorizations; border security and immigration reform, in the context of H-2A reform or other workable new guest worker programs; renewable energy promotion; Endangered Species Act improvements; wolves, wolverines, sage grouse and other species concerns; fire management; water, timber and mining complexities; 2nd Amendment rights; domestic violence prevention; addressing veterans' needs; housing finance reform; education improvements; and many more. I will continue to advocate for Idahoans and their priorities on these and other issues that come before the Senate. We must make the most of the opportunities ahead to make progress.


1-5-13

Prioritizing entitlement program reform

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

As discussed in a recent column, addressing the debt crisis remains the most pressing issue our nation faces and my number one priority in the 113th Congress.

Along with comprehensive tax reform, strengthening budget controls and addressing the spending problem, stabilizing entitlement programs is a critical part of this effort. As mandatory programs makeup the majority of federal spending, debt solutions must address automatic federal spending. Most importantly, fiscal strains on mandatory programs must be removed to ensure their continuation. We must make the most of the opportunity to improve the solvency of entitlement programs-Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid-to ensure that they are sustainable for current and future recipients.

Social Security has been an important program for more than 70 years, providing benefits to millions of senior citizens and the disabled. In order to ensure it remains solvent, serious issues must be addressed. The Social Security Trustees reported that Social Security will be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than previously projected. After 2033, income to the Trust Fund will be sufficient to pay only three-quarters of scheduled benefits. The foremost objective in addressing the long-term health of this system is to maintain the promises to protect current recipients, while strengthening the system to guarantee benefits for future retirees.

The Medicare program faces similar difficulties. The Medicare Trustees reported the program faces an unfunded liability of nearly $25 trillion, and the program is currently on track to be insolvent in 2024, if action is not taken to reform the program. Systemic reforms are necessary to guarantee solvency, and the time to act is now. The American people saw clearly with the fiscal cliff process what happens when leaders in Congress and the White House wait until the last minute to negotiate. Hopefully, a lesson was learned from that unfortunate process. We need leaders on both sides who recognize the imminent threat of insolvency that we are facing with these important programs, and who are willing to work now on the necessary reforms.

Like Social Security and Medicare, the pressures on Medicaid are increasing. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported "the aging of the baby-boom generation portends a significant and sustained increase in coming years in the share of the population that will receive benefits from Social Security and Medicare and long-term care services financed through Medicaid." Further CBO noted that the increase in beneficiaries and growing per capita spending on health care "will put increasing pressure on the budget in the coming decade and beyond. Moreover, increases in federal debt lead to higher interest payments for the government, reduce national saving, limit lawmakers' ability to use tax and spending policies to respond to unexpected challenges, and increase the likelihood of a fiscal crisis."

The solvency of these programs and the financial future of our country depend on Congress' and the President's willingness to confront these challenges. We have the ability to avoid insolvency in these programs and avoid the economic damage from our debt crisis, but we must take strong, bold actions. We must act now to reform our failing entitlement system to both achieve major cost savings and make the programs sustainably solvent. This objective will remain among my top priorities as I work with my colleagues to ensure the long-term solvency of these programs.


1-5-13

Bald Mountain opens

Dear Editor:

We've all heard the saying a community will raise a child, well I'm here to say a community can rebuild a ski hill! This week, the first week of 2013, a local group of folks took a leap of faith that we could ski enough to pay a hefty insurance bill to open Bald Mountain, and open we have.

The first day we were down three times and AVISTA had to come get power back to the rope tow, on the second day the T-bar was down twice and the third day only once, but on the fourth day, we learned we were really down. The T-bar cable had come off the main bull wheel at the top. What to do?! Well, in our part of the world, they also have a saying 'When things go whacky, call Maki' and thankfully Bill came!

With over 100 ready go snow riders from as far away as Coeur d'Alene waiting, we all patiently waited for news. Mid day the local experts and committed hill workers came down, was it good or really bad news? It wasn't good. Hill staff tried to make contact with each and every snow rider to let them know what was going on throughout the day, as time went on and the rope tow got its fair share of use what we found were smiling faces, patience and supportive comments.

It is with utmost sincerity that that Clearwater Ski Club THANKS its community for understanding, support and continued excitement as we strive together to keep Bald Mountain a place for family winter fun!

See you on the slopes throughout this winter. We will be open Saturday through Sundays and holidays. Updates and information are at www.skibaldmountain.com or www.facebook/baldmountain.

Chris St. Germaine-Allen
President Bald Mountain Board of Directors


12-28-12

Improving schools means continuing the conversation

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

After voters on Nov. 6 rejected the process, pace and policies for improving Idaho's education system enacted in 2011, it became the task of everyone who cares about the quality of Idaho public schools to constructively continue that conversation.

My staff and I spent the next several weeks reaching out to educators, business leaders and Idaho citizens about staying engaged. Now that I'm optimistic we have a critical mass of interest, I've asked the State Board of Education to shepherd a statewide discussion about school improvement.

I'm asking the board to guide the work of a broadly representative group of concerned Idahoans in studying best practices in school districts around the state and using data and experience to drive sound decision making. The group is likely to be large, but only large enough to include the diversity of opinion needed to properly study such a complex issue.

I'm not going to direct the discussion or the issues covered in any way. There must be no "third rail" in this conversation. But I am asking participants to come to the table ready to speak openly and candidly, and to bring ideas. I will not be prescriptive other than to say I remain committed to equal access to opportunity for our children and to increasing support for our educators.

The goal is to move education in Idaho forward for our students, our educators, and the businesses, colleges and universities that receive the product of our K-12 system. I do not expect this to be entirely about producing a legislative product. If participants find that best practices can be shared and schools improved without statutory changes, so be it.

Should legislation be necessary for school improvement efforts I expect this group to build consensus around those ideas by the 2014 legislative session. It is imperative that our partners in the Legislature engage in this process and I am pleased to have the support of House Speaker Bedke and the Senate President Pro Tem Hill in balancing this fragile dynamic.

I expect this group to have meaningful discussions and reach out to communities all across our state. For those groups representing educators, I am asking that they not only bring people to the table, but that they also serve as a conduit to their memberships in school districts throughout Idaho. Everyone involved will be responsible for the tone and substance of this conversation.

I'm asking that the Idaho Education Association, the Idaho Association of School Administrators, and the Idaho School Boards Association in particular reach out to a diverse cross-section of their members to join this process. I would hope they select members balancing urban and rural, small and large districts, but I also emphasize that the choices are theirs to make, and I trust them to make the right ones.

I am encouraged by the positive response to this initiative from education leaders.

"IEA members believe it is our moral imperative, as professionals, to be the voice for our students and for our profession. Research shows - and we believe - the one factor that can make the most difference in improving a student's achievement is a 'knowledgeable, skillful teacher' in front of the classroom," IEA President Penni Cyr said. "On behalf of the members of the IEA, we look forward to working with other stakeholders, including parents, business leaders and elected officials, to identify policy recommendations that will assure our state's students have access to a world-class education system."

"I have already met with representatives of each stakeholder group individually and am anxious to move beyond discussion through an open, transparent, accountable process so we can all take the steps necessary to move our education system forward," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said.

"With money being tight, we must find ways to most efficiently spend those dollars for the benefit of our children," Senate Education Chairman John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene said. "I look forward to serving and will come to the table with an open mind. I sincerely hope other stakeholders approach the meetings with a similar attitude."

"For more than a decade, Idaho has been engaged in school improvement efforts including the statewide development of education standards, student achievement assessments, teacher quality and professional development, and measures to increase rigor in high school to better prepare students for postsecondary education," State Board of Education President Ken Edmunds of Twin Falls said. "The Board appreciates the Governor's leadership as we take the next step in designing quality improvement efforts, and we look forward to a positive and inclusive process."

Men and women of good will can sometimes disagree passionately about the specifics of public policy, especially when it involves our children. But I'm confident we can broadly agree on the need for improving how we educate Idaho students, and I'm equally confident that the people of Idaho will rise to the occasion of this renewed opportunity for taking positive steps toward achieving our shared goals.


12-22-12

Idaho's mental health is everyone's responsibility

Guest opinion by Ross Edmunds

In media coverage of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CN, I heard repeatedly, "Somebody has to do something." As the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Administrator in charge of the state mental health system, and more importantly as the father of three young children who attend a public elementary school, I believe we all can do something.

Given effective care, a person with mental illness is no more likely to be violent than anybody else. Mental illness is a chronic disease, like diabetes and asthma. There is not a cure, but it can be treated and managed. I believe that hope can be as powerful as treatment. Hope that they will find help. Hope that someone will show them compassion. Hope that they can be a part of a community rather than just a spectator. Any one of us can help create that hope. If we all take the responsibility to reach out to a neighbor, a friend, a family member, or a co-worker that we see struggling, we can be a part of the solution. Showing we care and asking, "Are you okay?" and teaching our children to do the same, can have immeasurable impact. We can all watch for the warning signs.

Mental illness can cause a person to have disorganized thoughts and difficulty differentiating what is real from what isn't. People with mental illness often struggle to find purpose in life and cannot see where they fit into their communities. A person with mental illness is much more likely to hurt themselves than someone else, which is also tragic.

The more we allow individuals with mental illness to live in the shadows, be ignored, and go without treatment, the greater the chance they will view themselves as outsiders. Any person disregarded to a great extent can be unpredictable, whether they have mental illness or not.

The mental health laws in Idaho and nationally are built around the premise of self-determination. The exception to this is when a person with mental illness is at imminent risk of life-threatening harm to themselves or someone else, or is disabled to the point of not being able to meet their own physical health and safety needs. This is a legal process that requires a judge to effectively order them into treatment. However, individuals can access care voluntarily and services are available to meet the needs of Idaho's citizens. If you know or see someone that needs help, please don't assume someone else will assist them. Together, if we accept the responsibility for the mental health of our communities, we can have an impact and hopefully prevent tragedy in Idaho.

Please call the 2-1-1 Idaho CareLine or visit www.211.idaho.gov to get more information or to ask for help. If you need to talk to someone because you feel unsafe, call the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Ross Edmunds is the administrator of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Division of Behavioral Health, which oversees mental health and substance use disorder services.

Photo: Ross Edmunds


12-14-12

Curbing overspending a challenge for Congress

Guest opinion by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Senate procedure can be too cumbersome and detailed to adequately discuss concisely. However, given the recent use of a Senate budget point of order in the consideration of the Sportmen's Act, it is a good time to take a look at budget enforcement measures and the need to strengthen them. Tougher budget enforcement measures are one of the tools needed to reduce federal overspending.

Our national debt has risen to more than $16 trillion, and $1.1 trillion in deficit spending has been added to this burden this year alone. No matter what near-term agreement hopefully gets achieved to avoid the fiscal cliff and reduce federal spending, responsibility commands that we continue to reduce deficit spending and the debt in order to get our nation on a sound economic course.

Currently, the Senate has a number of budget points of order that Senators can use to keep federal spending in check. For example, Senators can raise points of order against attempts to pass legislation that would exceed established spending limits and increase Social Security deficits. Senators can also use points of order to enforce prohibition of enacting spending legislation if a budget plan has not been enacted. A point of order can also be raised against designating a provision as an emergency in order to get around spending limits.

If a budget point of order is successful, it forces Senators to work together to address any overspending if the legislation is to be passed. Supporting a budget point of order raised against a particular piece of legislation does not necessarily mean that a Senator is opposed to the underlying legislation. Rather, it reflects a commitment to reducing the deficit and debt. We must continually be focused on the taxpayer cost of each measure considered and not let up in reducing federal debt. Unchecked federal spending cripples our economy and cannot continue.

However, none of the points of order currently available require more than 60 Senate votes to override the spending prohibition. Some may believe that this is already a high bar. However, given the extreme federal spending despite these checks, the bar needs to be raised higher. The Congressional Budget Office reported that Fiscal Year 2012 marks the fourth consecutive year with a deficit above $1 trillion. Much stronger budget enforcement measures, beyond the current 60-vote threshold, are needed to make it harder for the federal government to spend beyond its means.

I have been working with senators from both sides of the aisle to advance responsible solutions to address our growing debt crisis and support plans that would make it more difficult for Congress to enable irresponsible spending. I have been pressing for a higher vote threshold of 67 votes for proposals to exceed budget caps on spending bills, because it should be more difficult to overspend. We also must enact provisions to reduce the abuse of so-called emergency spending by limiting Congress' ability to avoid fiscal constraints through emergency spending designations.

As a member of the Senate Budget Committee and through my work with the bipartisan group known as the Gang of Eight and other efforts, I will continue to press for stronger budget controls. We cannot continue to spend beyond our means to have a strong and exceptional nation. The ability of Congress to exceed spending limits must be curbed. Strengthening budget enforcement measures is essential to this effort.


12-01-12

Anderson children express shock, anger

Dear Editor:

This letter is to notify Clearwater County residents that the children of Cliff Anderson were shocked and angered to learn about the ad for Carole Galloway that appeared in Window on the Clearwater in late October. We consider using the picture and quotes from a person who passed away April 10, 2011 very "shoddy" campaign practices. We are also certain that Cliff would have been angered and disappointed as well.

No one will be able to verify who he would have voted for. However, as a life-long Democrat, it is highly unlikely that he would have supported a Republican, even if he was disappointed in the Democratic candidate Allen. He probably would have left that one blank.

We continue to have an interest in Clearwater County as the Anderson Ranch has been under family ownership for 107 years. Therefore we expect a public apology by Carole Galloway and her supporters!!

D. Craig Anderson
Greta Anderson-Sola


11-09-12

November recognized as Native American Heritage Month

Guest opinion by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Much of Idaho's history begins with Native American tribes. The Coeur d'Alene, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute contribute to the richness of Idaho's history and are each important to its future.

The U.S. Senate passed a resolution I co-sponsored that recognizes this November as National Native American Heritage Month and celebrates the heritages and cultures of Native Americans and their contribution to the United States. A provision in the resolution highlights some of these important contributions: "Native Americans have made distinct and important contributions to the United States and the rest of the world in many fields, including the fields of agriculture, medicine, music, language, and art, and Native Americans have distinguished themselves as inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders and scholars."

An important contribution also recognized in the resolution is the honor and distinction with which Native Americans have served in the Armed Forces of the United States. I have written often about the outstanding service of our nation's veterans, including this month as our nation celebrates Veterans Day. Their commitment to our country continues to inspire. Native American veterans are an important group of these American heroes.

Native American service members have served honorably throughout our nation's history. The U.S. Department of Defense reported that "historically, Native Americans have the highest record of service per capita when compared to other ethnic groups." Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) detailed Native Americans' high rate of service over the years. In addition to noting the service of Native Americans in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, the report includes the following findings:

  • Roughly 12,000 Native Americans served in the military during World War I.
  • More than 44,000 Native Americans served during World War II, when the entire population of Native Americans in the U.S. was less than 350,000 at the time.
  • Approximately 10,000 Native Americans served in the military during the Korean War.
  • More than 42,000 Native Americans served in the military in the Vietnam War, and more than 90 percent of these service members were volunteers.

Additionally, a high number of Native Americans continue to step up to protect our nation and defend our freedoms. The VA estimated that 31,155 Native Americans serve in Active Duty, the Reserves and the National Guard. A higher percentage of these service members are female as compared to all other groups of service members, and the number of young Native American service members (age 24 or younger) is nearly 14 percent higher than for all other service members.

Native American veterans have returned home and continue to return home from service, they make up an important part of Idaho's communities. The Native American veteran population in Idaho is estimated at 1,213. As we recognize the significant contributions of Native Americans throughout this National Native American Heritage Month, tribute must also be paid to this remarkable group of America's heroes.


11-05-12 Paid political ad

11-02-12

Hall supporting Galloway, Heighes

To the Editor:

If re-elected I believe that Carol Galloway has the desire and courage to be honest and do what is necessary to protect the citizens of Clearwater County from over reaching Federal and State agencies. She is a get in their face and stand up to them commissioner. I know this has put her at odds with some people. But do we want someone who fights for us, no matter what or someone who goes along to get along. She has been working behind the scenes on many issues: the reopening of the Weitas Bridge, our wolf problem, Clearwater County coordination, and many others.

Also running for Clearwater County Commissioner is Trever Heighes from Weippe. I have met Trever and he is a very likable and intelligent man. He is new to the political scene but all public servants started out somewhere. He was alarmed when he saw all the Federal regulation changes that were affecting his work place and the stress it was putting on his boss. Being county commissioner will put him in a position to put a stop to some of the harassment to local businessmen and businesswomen.

I fully support both of these candidates.

Joy Hall
Pierce


11-02-12

It takes working together to put improvements in place

Dear Editor:

This is in response to County Commissioner Carol Galloway's paid ad in the Clearwater Tribune concerning actions as commissioner. She reported that she asked the question in a commissioner meeting, 'is there someplace closer?.to take our solid waste?'

The transfer station and the garbage we all create is a perfect example of county-level government at work. The county is responsible for disposing of our garbage. Each household pays $154/year. Most see this on their property tax information.

Five or six years ago, the county launched a recycling program with the help of county residents who volunteered to advertise and promote the effort. Initially two commissioners volunteered extra time to breakdown and bale cardboard boxes for several months to make sure it was cost effective. After several months of volunteer labor, they determined it was well worth it. Money was made from selling baled cardboard and money saved by not hauling to a landfill. Then staff was hired to do this job.

Recycling metal, cardboard, plastics, paper and selling re-usables in the shed called ClearMart, were other parts of this large project. Hands-on commissioners, county staff at the transfer station and road departments, and community volunteers all worked on it over several years. The monies earned and saved are in the hundreds of thousands. The commissioners, Ebert, Allen and Leach were very involved in all steps of the process and know well, how it all works. They know what resources are out there. They were working with nearby county commissioners to explore a regional landfill site for future use.

The question, "is there any place closer?" in a planning meeting this summer, is one part of the process for working through projects and changes at commissioner meetings. But it takes the work of many, working together, to put changes and improvements in place.

On several occasions, in material written by Galloway and her supporters, they refer to John Allen, Stan Leach and Don Ebert as "the good ole boys" and suggest that they do nothing but "sit in their ivory tower!" The name calling trivializes all the work it takes by county commissioners who really understand the workings of our county, who understand our limited budget and who strive to make it all work. Whether it is garbage, fighting for school funding, supporting emergency services, getting grants to pay for road improvements, going to our legislature to support the Youth Challenge, we need people who understand the commissioner job. If it is running well, it is usually un-noticed.

We say, they aren't good ole boys, they are great! Yes, they do get two years older every time the election cycle rolls around! Gender is irrelevant to the job but they do happen to be men. Let's vote for hard-working people who like to work through complex problems and projects and are willing to work in garbage if that's what it takes. We ask you to vote for Don Ebert and John Allen for Clearwater County Commissioners Nov 6th.

Kathryn Allen and Cammie Ebert,
Orofino and Weippe, respectively


11-02-12

Urges researching 'Luna Laws'

Letter to the editor:

Regarding the Luna Laws, I am surprised at all of the ads put out by the Teachers' Union to scare us into voting against Propositions 1, 2 and 3. I hope that people will look into these issues personally instead of letting others tell them what to decide. I did my research after meeting Tom Luna at a conference in McCall in September. The information he shared with us is clear and straight forward. I can pass this information on to anyone interested, or you can look it up on the Yes4idaho.com web site.

Proposition 1 is to return local control to Idaho school board members. That means to me that the people in our community know what the needs of our kids are, better than people in Boise or Washington, DC. Prop 1 also gives parents more input on teacher and principal job performance evaluations as determined by the local school district. These evaluations will be determined by student achievement under that teacher. Prop 1 also phases out tenure, or lifetime contracts for teachers. That will provide the opportunity to give incentives to teachers to give a little more to the students. Negotiations will become transparent, being conducted in open meetings; and opens communication with all teachers, not just those appointed to be involved in negotiations.

So, Prop 1 opens up communications between teachers, administrators, parents, students and school board. It also holds teachers, administrators and school board accountable for their job performance. It also returns control to the local community.

Proposition 2 pays our best teachers better. This means the teachers will be paid based on their performance, education level and experience. Teachers will be rewarded for increasing academic achievement and by teaching in hard-to-fill positions. This Legislature is fully funded, so the money is already there for this pay-per-performance.

So, Prop 2 pays teachers based on their job performance. As in every other industry where people have evaluations which lead to promotions or to more training, the teachers will be held to the same standard. If a teacher goes above and beyond his job requirements, like take the students on field trips or conduct special projects, they will receive bonuses.

Proposition 3 brings Idaho's classrooms into the 21st century. This will increase the availability of advanced placement and dual college credit classes, so that students can earn a year of college credits, all paid for by the state, while still in high school. It will create equal access to all students to a wireless computer, and wireless Internet to all schools. It provides tools and training for teachers. It also brings our schools into a 21st century learning environment for every child.

This program is the Kahn Academy. In this system, students' homework consists of watching videos by scientists, doctors, physicists, and other experts in their fields. Then, when they come to school, they will work on their worksheets, quizzes and tests in the classroom on their laptops. While they are working, the teacher has the opportunity to monitor each student's progress from her desktop computer. She can see if Johnny is spending too much time on one problem, so she can go give him individual attention. She can also see that Susie is already done with her work and is ready to go on to the next chapter. This individualized attention to the students gives some kids the chance to work at their own pace and other students can get more attention from their teacher.

Idaho has good schools, but there is a lot of room for improvement. In 2006 PISA tested all the countries in the world on the quality of their education. They counted each state as a country. The state that scored the highest at #17 was Massachusetts (Thank you Governor Romney). The United States, as a country came in at #49. Idaho came in at a dismal #71.

Our kids are smart. I know that for sure. But they are not getting the opportunities they need that the state is already able to provide. The Teacher's Unions are looking out for themselves. Not the teachers and not the students. They just like the power they have from all the money they collect from the teachers who pay their dues. We have great teachers in Idaho. But if our kids can learn physics from Steven Hawkins, or economics from Harvard Business School, then we should take advantage of that.

I hear people say the teachers need to be paid. I can prove to you that the teachers in Idaho are paid very well. Go to the web site accountableidaho.com and look under payrolls. You can look up the pay for any employee of the State of Idaho. It is a free web site, but you do have to register your name and email address. The information I found on there is quite interesting.

I urge you to vote "YES" on Props 1, 2 and 3 for our students, schools and communities. There are companies like Melaleuca who have jobs they cannot fill because there are no qualified workers. Our kids deserve the best education we can provide. As voters, we have the ability to provide that. Please do not listen to the scare tactics.

But don't take my word for it. Do your own research.

Karen Hunter
5th Generation, Clearwater County


10-25-12

Hall supporting Propositions 1, 2, 3

To the Editor:

Propositions 1, 2, and 3 have already passed. We The IDAHO voters had our say, we want this for our students.

So, I would like to know why out of state unions are so interested on getting proposition's 1, 2, and 3 voted down. What do they have to gain? Why is it worth millions of dollars to them that is what they are spending in Idaho?

Proposition #1

  • Parent input on teacher evaluations (You as parents get to give your opinion)
  • Tenure phased out (teachers with tenure will keep it) new teachers will start at a higher pay rate.
  • Contract negotiations' done in open, public meetings (No hidden agenda's)

Proposition #2

  • Implements a Teacher pay for performance plan. (No more teachers goofing off during class time at the expense of students.) ( I have several examples from the Pierce/Weippe area)
  • Teachers can earn up to $8,000 for student academic growth. (Better grades for students)

Proposition #3

  • High school juniors and seniors can earn up to 1 year of college credit-paid by the state.
  • Students will have access to quality teachers across the state and the technology will be in their own classrooms and their local teachers will be able to concentrate on other students who need her help in the classroom.

Personally I wish we would have had this when my children were in school. I am sure we have all had to put up with teachers who were not doing their jobs for one reason or another. I am so glad that my grandchildren have this opportunity and do not want them to lose it.

Thank you Idaho for caring for all the students in Idaho.

I am voting Yes-Yes- Yes.

Joy Hall
Pierce


10-25-12

Bruce: Re-elect Carole Galloway

Dear Editor:

Carole Galloway is my choice for Clearwater County Commissioner. Carole clearly demonstrates she is not a rubber-stamp in her decision making. She provides balance on the Board of County Commissioners which sorely needs to hear a conservative woman's point-of-view.

Carole believes government authorities must be held accountable for their actions as they impact the people, land, water and air of our county. She believes our county's leadership must confirm our right to full participation in coordinated management plans for federal and state lands. Carole showed her ability to stand alone on an unpopular issue when she fought the battle for truth about the "nutrient enhancement program" at Dworshak Reservoir and forced the involvement of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Carole fervently supports those cherished principles our county subscribes to in its Comprehensive Plan which include protection of private property rights, protection of local customs and cultures, and preservation of traditional economic structures. We witnessed first hand Carole's concern for a citizen's group seeking redress with regard to a conflict between private property rights and a road and bridge project. And then, a simple question from Carole to her contemporaries about garbage disposal saves the county tens-of-thousands by moving the end-point for the trash transfer from Missoula, MT, to Asotin, WA.

Carole is my kind of true patriot. She fully acknowledges and supports those most important five freedoms designated in the Bill of Rights--the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.

Vote to re-elect Carole Galloway to Clearwater County Commissioner.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


10-11-12

Writer supports Galloway for re-election

Dear Editor,

I want to write to you in support of Carole Galloway and her run for re-election as Clearwater County Commissioner. I have known Carole for almost 30 years. She has always been a stable and down to earth person. I have looked to her as a mentor, friend, advisor and teacher. Many people change over a period of 30 years, but I have seen Carole only become more bold and outspoken when she believes in something. Carole believes in doing right by Clearwater County. She remembers what it was like before changes have made this a different community than what it was like when we were growing up.

Carole is well-grounded in her religious beliefs and her understanding of being a good steward of what has been given to her. She is practical and level headed. I am so proud of her and the good she has done in her last term, and I know she will do even more good when she is re-elected.

Thank you for your time,
Karen E. Hunter
5 generations, Clearwater County

10-6-12

Fish and Game Commission supporting HJR 2a

Dear Editor:

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission strongly supports the proposed Constitutional Amendment (HJR2a) establishing the right to hunt, fish and trap in Idaho. We urge our fellow citizens to vote "yes" on HJR 2a when they go to the polls in November.

Hunting, fishing and trapping have always been and remain important parts of our heritage and the fabric of Idaho. Recent surveys confirm that a strong majority of Idahoans continue to support these outdoor activities. However, opposition groups in other states have sought to hijack wildlife management by restricting or eliminating these activities. It's important for Idahoans to act now to ensure future generations an opportunity to experience Idaho's sporting heritage.

Public hunting, fishing and trapping are our primary tools for managing wildlife. Without these tools, Idaho Fish and Game would have to rely more on government actions to manage wildlife populations and conflicts, at greater expense and risk. The abundant and diverse wildlife we enjoy in Idaho today exists because of the conservation ethic of hunters, anglers and trappers who pay for science-based, professional wildlife management when they buy licenses, tags and sporting equipment.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission's legal authority to regulate hunting, fishing, and trapping and require licensing is not impacted by this amendment. This amendment would also keep punishment for those who violate our wildlife laws.

In 1938, the people of Idaho created the Idaho Fish and Game Commission through a citizen's initiative that mandates that we "preserve, protect, perpetuate and manage" Idaho's wildlife, including providing for hunting, fishing, and trapping. 75 years later, we ask Idahoans to join us in casting a vote for wildlife again - this time to preserve, protect, perpetuate, and manage wildlife and uphold Idaho's sporting heritage for future generations.

Please vote "yes" on HJR 2a on November 6.

The Idaho Fish and Game Commission

Anthony McDermott - Panhandle
Fred Trevey - Clearwater
Bob Barowsky - Southwest
Joan Hurlock - Magic Valley
Chairman Randy Budge - Southeast
Kenny Anderson - Upper Snake
Will Naillon - Salmon

10-5-12

Pool Committee making awareness, fundraising efforts

Dear Editor:

During this year's Lumberjack Days activities, the Orofino Pool Committee placed concerted efforts on raising awareness and funds for the Orofino pool project. As in years past, committee members received positive response from citizens, while also receiving questions about the status of the project, the organizational structure, and progress. The committee appreciates this feedback and interest and is excited to share this update.

Foremost, over the last year the project has made significant progress. The decision was made to transition from a recreation center to a pool facility. This allows the project to be handled in a manner which adopts a phased system, one which is more economically feasible and allows for an assessment period prior to further development. Initial construction will institute a zero-entry pool, pump-house, locker rooms, and outdoor recreational use area. A conceptual rendering is on display at Camas Financial and in Lewis Clark Credit Union.

"Clearwater Community Complex" is the 501c3 registered name under which the Pool Committee operates, and all funds generated through activities such as the bingo booth and raffles go into the Clearwater Community Complex account. Last year's ATV raffle was a good income generator and this year we are currently raffling off a Polaris RZR 800 side-by-side. Only 500 tickets will be sold for the Polaris raffle and the drawing will take place once all tickets are sold. In addition to these activities, the committee has promoted a tile sponsorship opportunity; the funds from these tiles are set aside in a separate account and we encourage people to purchase a tile in their name or as a gift.

The Pool Committee meets regularly one time per month and sometimes more often, as necessary. General committee meetings are open to the public and attendance is encouraged. We are seeking volunteer groups to assist in supporting fundraising functions and we enthusiastically welcome youth oriented groups to adopt a project to help raise funds for a pool, which we feel is a staple of a strong, healthy community. Please contact Lyn Anderson at 476-5908 regarding meeting times and dates or tile purchase. Polaris raffle tickets are available for purchase from IGA, LCCU, Orofino Body Shop, P1FCU, Camas Financial Services, Bud's Saw Service, Joann Deyo, Lyn Anderson, Amber Hanes Miller, Pam Steinbruecker, Shannon Simpson.

Orofino Pool Committee:

Lyn Anderson, Chairperson
Shannon Simpson, Board Member
Joann Deyo, Board Member
Pam Steinbruecker, Board Member
Teri Bolling, Board Member
Will Wiese, Board Member
MaryAnn Munda, Board Member
Bernice Pullen, Board Member
Lonnie Simpson, Consultant
Steve Clack, Treasurer
Pam Jones, Secretary
Amber Hanes-Miller, Grant Writer


10-4-12

The true cost of Idaho wildfires comes in more than dollars

by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

State and federal tax dollars spent on wildfire suppression in Idaho so far in 2012 add up to a whopping $189 million - and it's increasing by the hour.

But the actual cost of a bad wildfire season isn't just about dollars spent on suppression. It's also about impacts on the environment and public health, loss of life and property, and of course the lost opportunities for improving the lives of our citizens through the economic benefits offered by healthy, actively managed forests and rangelands.

Despite the best efforts of our congressional delegation, Idahoans and all Americans will continue paying in many ways for the lack of direction - or misguided direction - that federal laws and policies provide public land managers. And while our exceptional firefighters put their lives on the line, the challenges they face on the ground are aggravated by litigious single-interest environmental groups devoted to economically undermining such traditional industries as ranching and forest products.

Estimates indicate that Idaho wildfires this year already have been responsible for more air pollutants being released into the atmosphere than all automobiles and industrial sources in Idaho combined. Severe wildfires also create ash, fine sediment and debris that wash into nearby streams and impact important fish habitat and drinking water sources - rolling back progress made by the millions of dollars paid every year by Idaho taxpayers and utility ratepayers to help restore salmon runs.

Wildfires also cause long-term soil instability, reducing the chance for natural restoration and re-vegetation. That compromises wildlife habitat in some areas, affecting travel corridors for species and in some cases eliminating habitat altogether. That enables the feds to further restrict multiple use of lands designated as "critical habitat" under the Endangered Species Act.

This year will be one of Idaho's worst fire seasons since the Panhandle's deadly "Big Burn" of 1910. To date, 1.7 million acres have burned in Idaho during a fire season that likely will extend for several more weeks. And it's important to remember that 93 percent of the acres burned in Idaho this year are owned and "managed" by the federal government.

The existing approach to managing these lands and the fires on them is unacceptable. Public land management and priorities have been studied and debated to death. Federal land managers are hamstrung by laws that try to be everything to everyone on every acre. Their path forward is being determined by environmental lawsuits and bureaucratic inertia.

Some folks want to return our public lands to their most natural state, when the West was populated only by relatively small numbers of native people. But our federal land managers need a legal framework that encourages proactive management and takes into consideration the 21st century challenges we face.

Fire behavior is affected by weather, terrain and fuels. Fuels are the only piece of that equation that humans can modify in a short time through active management. Particularly in areas where homes meet wild lands, active management not only removes fire-prone fuels but also contributes to increased economic activity. For instance, every million board feet of harvested timber supports 13 family-wage jobs at $55,000 per year.

Idaho families need that kind of opportunity now more than ever.

Managed fuels and better access make fighting wildfire less expensive in a managed area, too. Road systems make it possible for people, engines and bulldozers to respond to fires on the ground so that expensive aerial firefighting resources aren't the only option. Removing fuel by logging or grazing isn't the answer for every acre of public land, but it certainly should be considered where it's needed.

Catastrophic wildfire is a western issue that needs western leadership to find a solution. Idaho's congressional delegation knows the challenges federal land managers face, and Idaho wants to pave the way for change. We have a history of working together and a desire to see public lands in Idaho managed under the principles of active stewardship. It's the right thing to do, not only for enhanced economic opportunity but also to protect our people and property from the shortsightedness of absentee federal landlords.

Idaho and the nation can't afford the enormous and unnecessary costs of another fire season like 2012. It's time for a new dialogue and a new approach to federal land management.


9-27-12

Lessons can be learned from this relentless fire season

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

This year, Idaho has had more than 600 fires on federal land. More than 100 of these fires have burned in excess of 100 acres. As we take stock of where we go from here, we must continue to work to ensure that we are prepared for the worst, equipped with the best methods to deal with catastrophic fires and trained for mitigating the consequences of fires.

The impacts of the fires have been hard felt in Idaho communities. The tragic loss of Anne Veseth, a student from Moscow who was fighting a wildfire near Orofino, was a reminder of the dangerous service of fire crews working to keep us safe. In addition to the risk to human lives and health, there have been other impacts. Homes, property, livestock and pets have been lost. There has been the stress associated with the uncertainty of evacuations and lost tourism revenue. There are also longer term effects like the loss or impairment of important wildlife habitat, the release of particulate matter into the atmosphere, the impact to watershed functions or water supplies and even significant releases of carbon dioxide that in bad fire years can be nearly a quarter of total emissions.

Additionally, catastrophic fires erode the resources necessary for prevention. This year, an estimated more than $90 million has been spent fighting fires in Idaho, and this cost will likely grow before the year is over. The Trinity Ridge fire has burned more than 140,000 acres and cost $27.4 million. The Mustang Complex fire that has burned more than 280,000 acres has required 960 personnel, including 14 hand crews, 76 engines, 5 bulldozers and 3 helicopters. Estimates have the fire costing $17.5 million so far.

The dedication and exceptional efforts of the fire crews near the front lines of Idaho's fires are extraordinary. The organization and communication from the National Interagency Fire Center, local governments, fire departments and law enforcement and the level of calm in the face of fires bearing down on communities make all the difference. But, we can take steps to make the fire crews and response coordinators' jobs less difficult and dangerous. Working together to ensure effective land management; reducing fuel loads through grazing and other fire management tools; and collaborative efforts to reduce the threat of large-scale wildfire are essential steps.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have supported legislation that provides land managers with more tools to counter unhealthy conditions in our nation's forests and other lands to reduce the threat of fires. For example, I helped enact the Healthy Forest Restoration Act and the Forest Landscape Restoration Act to expedite forest management decisions to enable fuels reduction, promote landscape-wide forest restoration projects, encourage collaborative efforts that create new forest jobs and prioritize energy and value-added products from timber harvest. Partnerships between federal, state and local stakeholders are essential to productive outcomes and fire prevention on public lands. The success of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative with the Selway/Bitterroot landscape restoration project is an example of the effectiveness of collaborative efforts in natural resources management. This project reduced hazardous fuels near homes; decreased noxious weeds; improved trail and roads; produced timber and biomass fuel; and supported 105 full-time and part-time jobs in Fiscal Year 2011.

Together, we can replicate these successes. In the aftermath of this severe fire season, we must work together to enable land managers to reduce the fuel loads that make it possible for the fires to burn so long and relentlessly. This can help ensure that more of the limited funding goes toward fire prevention rather than resource-depleting response.


9-20-12

ICARE Project supported by local communities, businesses

Dear Editor:

If you live in one of the many Clearwater River communities and have been diagnosed with cancer in the past few years, odds are you're among the 84 people who, on the flip side of 'your battle', may have been 'blessed' with a 'Gift of Love' that began with a giving heart of someone who cares.

Not just one 'someone', but many people have made that financial and prayer support possible.

At 4 1/2 years old, the ICARE project (Cancer Assistance & Recovery Effort) continues to be helpful to people who are undergoing treatment for cancer. Those who believe in the organization continue to be supportive and that list steadily grows. Their heartfelt support is necessary and fundamental to this project that has issued $36,550 to date.

Many clubs and other organizations also help through fundraising events for ICARE. Thank you ICARE supporters. Of the 84 ICARE recipients, 73 are survivors and thanks to you, their 'battle' became a bit easier and their burden a bit lighter.

Recently, two Orofino businesses have shown their commitment to ICARE; and we are thrilled to have their support. Dave and Helen Clark (owners of 'Elite Repeats') and Jeannie Hodges (owner of 'Gentle Event') are to be commended for their contributions to our area.

The two businesses are next door to each other on 1st St.(diagonal from Les Schwab) in Orofino. 'Elite Repeats' is welcoming donations made to ICARE and are graciously giving a large percentage of those sales to the efforts of the organization. 'Gentle Event' has allowed display space for ICARE items and information which helps people to know and learn about the organization which has a 501(c)3 non-profit status.

These folks contribute to helping people in the area in many ways and we ask that you support them and their businesses whenever you can. One can generally find something he/she cannot live without in both establishments. If nothing more, there's the very presence of delightful people to enrich your life.

You can also find us on the web at www.icarehelps.org where you can learn more about us as well as making contributions online.

Dee Crane
Orofino

8-25-12

OCS says thank you to Barb Wityczak

Dear Editor:

While gathering, preparing and organizing the reams of paperwork needed to form the non-profit incorporation which would be known as OCS (Orofino Clean and Sober) Drop-In Center, Inc., many hours went into the creation of its Mission Statement, Vision Statement, Bylaws & 12-Concepts for Non-Profit Service. Jan. 5, 2011 OCS was Incorporated & on June 20, 2011 we held an information and support meeting to establish a list of the folks who would likely be selected to sit on the Board of Directors for the early phases of this huge project.

Of course, Barb attended this meeting. She looked over all the paperwork, held up the stack of papers which were the bylaws for OCS and said, "These will probably come in handy, but we need a building."

On June 21, 2011 we had the keys to a building on Johnson Ave. and the board went to work. The first official board meeting was held in this building with Barb present, of course. In fact she came to the meeting armed with the new name for the Drop-In Center along with its logo and letterhead design. How could we say "Nay"? It was an awesome name and design! We also used this meeting to select what positions each one on the board would fill. Of course, Barb said, "I'll do promotion because that's what I do.". Barb had taken on the position before we even got started and never stopped thereafter. We signed our lease on July 14, 2011.

As one of only two members on our board who had had any previous board experience, Barb tirelessly led us through many rough spots as we struggled to learn what being a board member means to an organization. Over the months OCS faced many seeming "road blocks". However, Barb didn't seem to have the word "can't" in her vocabulary. If there was something that needed to be done or problem which needed a resolution, Barb searched until she was successful in meeting that need.

The very day Barb was rushed to Lewiston for the exam which would begin all of the many procedures she would have to endure over the next months of her life, Barb had gone home from a board meeting where we had been at a loss for how to hang onto the Drop-In without having the funds to pay our way, and she went online to order us the Bingo Game that continues to be a mainstay of our income to this day.

Over the next few months Barb still did not miss our board meetings. She was always at her place in the middle of the table on speaker phone with her ideas &and other input. Her strength and stamina to do what she could to help the Drop-In Center was phenomenal.

We at OCS Drop-In Center will miss our board member, Barb, but we will miss her friendship more. There was never a time when Barb didn't have the time or patience to listen and help anyone who crossed her path. She seemed on the look-out for folks in need so she could help them in some way. And, of course, that was what she did that made her who she was.

On Saturday, Aug, 4, 2012, OCS Drop-In Center, Inc. received it's final letter from IRS officially deeming us a non-profit tax-exempt 501(c) (3) Public Charity. On Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, Barb left us, stronger and better prepared for what is to come from here. We love you thank you, Barb, for everything.

From all the folks at the OCS Drop-In Center (by Geri Goldsberry)


7-27-12

Summit to be a conversation about Idaho's wildlife

Guest opinion by Virgil Moore -- Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

A recent June day of salmon fishing with my family and friends on the Salmon River brought many things, including my wife's first Chinook.

Waiting for "the bite" also brought us western tanagers feeding on emerging caddis flies, river otters frolicking near our boat, a cow elk nursing her new calf. As the soft glow of evening draped shadows across the water, we spotted some white-tailed does and fawns feeding in a field along the river. On a bench above them, several curious coyotes nosed their way along, watching the deer. This scene captured our attention, and we watched the animals until the evening light faded into night.

As I reflect on this fishing trip, it reminds me strongly about how all wildlife is such an important part of the fabric of our outdoor experiences. Seeing those deer and coyotes made a wonderful day of fishing even better. It is now a wildlife memory that I will carry and share with my grandchildren. It reminds me that no matter how Idahoans enjoy wildlife, that wildlife is our common ground, our shared responsibility. That includes hunters and anglers, bird watchers and wildlife photographers, hikers and campers. It is a rich legacy that we have inherited from the past. Today the question is what we want that legacy to look like for our grandchildren.

This question is the fundamental focus of the upcoming Idaho Wildlife Summit, Aug. 24 - 26. Thanks to a voter initiative in 1938, Idaho's abundant wildlife resource has benefited from professional management through the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. However, much has changed since 1938, and our wildlife faces many challenges. Over the past 74 years, Idaho's population has tripled - two-thirds now live in cities. Important wildlife habitat has changed or disappeared. Invasive species compete with native wildlife, altering habitats and changing the landscape.

Wildlife-related recreation has changed as well. Idaho's population is increasing faster than the number of Idahoans who hunt and fish, and wildlife watching is increasingly popular in our state. While 80 percent of Idaho's wildlife is not hunted or fished, hunters and anglers support most of the cost to manage all species through license and tag fees. No general tax revenue goes to manage the wildlife we all enjoy. The Summit is a starting point for exploring how to generate broader support for wildlife conservation and wildlife related activities.

I am excited about the Wildlife Summit and encourage you to attend. It is an opportunity for Idahoans to gather to discuss the future of our rich wildlife heritage of hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation. It is neither a referendum nor a vote on any policy or program. It is instead an opportunity to explore our common ground to foster a renewed enthusiasm and commitment for wildlife conservation in Idaho. It is a commitment to discuss the future course for an abundant wildlife resource and its legacy - a legacy I hope will include my great-grandchildren fishing on a Salmon River ringing with the songs of canyon wrens and the sun throwing shadows over some deer being watched by curious coyotes.

Please visit the summit web site at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/summit for more information.


5-29-12

Securing a future for INL without putting aside the past

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Two decades ago, Governor Cecil Andrus took on the federal government, rallying Idaho's citizens to the cause of protecting the vitally important Snake River Plain Aquifer - a sole source of water for hundreds of thousands of our citizens and an indispensible foundation of our economy.

Governor Andrus stood up to the feds over the issue of nuclear waste stored on the eastern Idaho desert, training a much-needed spotlight on many years of tension, disagreement and broken promises that put the role and future of what now is the Idaho National Laboratory in doubt.

It was a landmark beginning to a process that culminated in 1995 with Governor Phil Batt's crafting of a historic agreement with the Navy and the U.S. Department of Energy to get the waste out of Idaho. It was a signature moment in Idaho history, a pillar of public policy foresight, and the agreement itself has become as close to inviolable as public sentiment and enforcement by federal courts can possibly make it.

What's more, it was a testament to state's rights and Idaho's commitment to the kind of redress of grievances guaranteed by the Tenth and First amendments. And it was the right thing to do.

That being said, and with all due respect, Governor Andrus is tilting at imaginary windmills with his recent allegations about state and federal officials "hatching a secret scheme" to open Idaho to disposal or long-term storage of commercial spent nuclear fuel.

I'll say this as plainly and as unequivocally as I can: Idaho will not be a repository for nuclear waste. There is no scheme - secret or otherwise - and I have stated repeatedly and publicly that Idaho will not be the nation's nuclear dumping ground. I was lieutenant governor to both Governor Andrus and Governor Batt throughout this process, and I will continue to hold the federal government accountable under the 1995 agreement.

Some of Governor Andrus' concerns apparently stem from my recent creation of the Leadership In Nuclear Energy (LINE) Commission to study and advise me on opportunities for expansion of Idaho's employment base - read that "more jobs" - in research and development at the Idaho National Laboratory on more advanced, efficient, safer and cleaner nuclear technology.

Yet Governor Andrus contends that the State of Idaho is in league with the feds in a shady plot to "gut an agreement that protects Idaho from becoming the home for more waste." Nothing could be further from the truth.

Perhaps he should read my Executive Order creating the LINE Commission, which I direct to "identify appropriate roles and opportunities for the enhancement of research and development at the INL, while adhering to the long-standing position of the State of Idaho under the 1995 Settlement Agreement that the state will not be a repository for spent nuclear fuel or high-level waste."

Governor Batt's agreement is safe and sound. So is Governor Andrus's legacy in helping to bring the issue to a head. And for as long as I have a role in assuring it, so are the people of Idaho.


5-14-12

Willis: Thanks a lot Idaho Department of Fish and Game for trail closures

Dear Editor:

Thanks a lot Idaho Department of Fish and Game! The Forest Service relied heavily on your comments in regards to the Clearwater Travel Management Plan in order for them to concoct the closure of 200 miles of single track trails in the North Fork area to "protect" what's left of the elk herds.

The demise of the elk population is entirely the doing of you, the Forest Service, and your buddies at Fish and Wildlife Service (the feds).

You have a lot of nerve suggesting that taking our endangered species (the trails) can make up for your ineptness, or was it planned that way in the first place? I bet someone knew that the wolves would eat all the elk and in turn you could use that to persecute dirt bike riders and other people deemed to be politically incorrect by the tree-huggers.

I'm not going for this any more than Rosa Parks went for riding in the back of the bus!

Jim Willis
Orofino


4-11-12

Second Chance Animal embarks on new adventures

Second Chance Animal was recently awarded a grant to be used in Idaho and Washington rural communities for the spay and neuter of low-income families' dogs. This was awarded to us by a private national foundation that does not give funding to animal shelters or humane societies. Because we are in the business of pet retention services (keeping owned animals out of shelters and preventing the next generation of homeless pets), we have a wide variety of grants available to us that aren't available to the local shelters. This is a new kind of animal rescue; getting to the root of the problem through education and an aggressive spay/neuter program for families that own pets. The Clearwater County Humane Society does a wonderful job and they are a huge asset to the community, as is Second Chance Animal. Our two organizations have different missions and offer different services and yet are equally important to this small town that has such large animal issues.

Our presence in the community has been intense and we never realized how many people would come forward for assistance with their pets. We have had long waiting lists and there seemed to be more of a need than our tiny little thrift shop could handle. So Danielle Hardy put her grant-writing skills to good use for us and we have been blessed with more funds for our spay/neuter program. However, this doubled our work load over night and we are up to our elbows in paperwork. We had to choose the next best strategy for the organization. The Board of Directors voted to sell the Orofino store and concentrate on our newly funded project. The sale of the thrift store is bittersweet because, while we are sad to pass it on to someone else, we know that we have just taken our organization to a whole new level. This newly funded project is renewable each year if we can meet the funder's expectations and is an exciting new chapter of our journey.

We will continue to target the needy families in Clearwater County and provide free and low-cost services as needed. In fact, since opening our Pullman thrift shop we have been able to bring back hundreds of pounds of dog and cat food, and 19 dog houses which were donated to the Pullman store and dispersed to the Orofino area. We did not charge for any of these services. Because of the new Washington branch, we have been able to enrich the lives of hundreds of pets in North Idaho in just three months. The population is 10 times larger in Pullman and we are receiving enough pet supply donations to help people all over Northern Idaho and Washington.

Since Second Chance Animal was founded three years ago with nothing but a dream and a few bucks, we have blossomed into a well-respected 501 c 3 non-profit charity with a strong mission and hearts that are bottomless with courage.

To date we have helped 562 animals in need, given 56 free dog houses to outdoor pets, and given thousands of pounds of free pet food away to families in and near Orofino. Please remember that we are not a government agency and we have not done any of this with taxpayer dollars. We are not rich. This was all accomplished by a few cat ladies who raised a couple bucks in their own free time. We believe in giving back and we will continue to work tirelessly until all animals have the life that they deserve. Thank you for your support.

For questions, or if you are a family in need please contact Georgia Martinell at (208) 553-5357.

Humbly,
Georgia Martinell, Founder and Executive Director


3-13-12

Wolf controversy causes resident to take matters into his own hands

Dear Editor:

It seems as though each week there is a letter or notice of more and more wolf sightings in the state of Idaho and surrounding states, especially during hunting season. After three failed attempts on the Idaho Fish and Game web site to report a wolf-killed elk cow sighted while riding on horseback near our home in Orofino, I decided to take matters into my own hands and founded a non-profit organization, the Northwest Wildlife Foundation, Inc. and started a real-time, resident-reported, wolf sighting mapping program with the intent of better public safety. At the time of this letter being drafted, the map has now been active for nearly six months and has managed to be viewed over 13,000 times and has gathered over 500 Facebook Fans in that short period. Since then, because of the mapping program's popularity and the over 350 sightings I have received and mapped the map has been expanded to include not only the remainder of Idaho, but now includes Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.

The map is completely resident driven and the sightings are color coded to include wolf sightings, wolf scat sightings, wolf tracks, suspected wolf killed animals, as well as resident reported wolves taken with hunting tags. I have received numerous reports of horses, dogs, elk, deer, and cattle killed by wolves as well as numerous hunters, hikers, and campers coming face to face with these predators. Several residents have even reported wolves sighted within feet of their homes and small children, and even wolf scat found at a local school bus stop within a few minutes of our town. Alarmingly, I have been told many times of firsthand accounts that these 100+ pound creatures have been sighted in packs of up to 25 animals per pack and many have been reported to have a complete lack of fear of people, even when fired upon. The intent of this map is to educate residents of these states to be aware of active wolf locations so that they may plan their hikes, camping trips, horseback rides, prospecting, and hunting trips accordingly. Residents can view the map at www.NorthwestWolfSightings.org and can report sightings through the link on the map. They can also join our Facebook page there.

The mapping program has also now been featured on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show as well as on the TrademarkAmerica.org Wolf Coordination web site, and on the Oregon rancher-sponsored LifeWithWolves.org web site.

Dr. Damon Popovics
Orofino


2-21-12

Willis: Brandt's Lochsa Land Exchange has silver lining

Dear Editor:

Skip Brandt's plan for the Lochsa Land Exchange is a cloud with a silver lining for recreationists and the people of Idaho County.

The Forest Service will trade their prime land to Western Pacific Timber for logged off land, which will grow back. This land is much more secure in private ownership than in government ownership. Under Forest Service stewardship it will be locked up bit by bit so as to be inaccessible to most people wanting to recreate. It won't be logged, thereby providing no local jobs. Under WPT ownership, the required recreation easements will keep the land open forever and they will be logging the land providing many jobs for Idaho County and revenue for local businesses. These easements will stay with the property, even if it is sold in the future. None of which will happen under the Forest Service. Plus having the land in private ownership will keep it on the tax rolls bringing much needed funds to Idaho County.

Jim Willis
Orofino


2-2-12

Willis: Library policy goes too far

Dear Editor:

The Library Bill of Rights states in part: Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.

Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas. It also states that the "Freedom to Read", which includes all media and information sources, is guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Clearwater Memorial Public Library's By-Laws and Policy Handbook states: Section XIII Internet Use Policy:

"Because the Internet is a global entity with diverse users, the library cannot monitor and has no control over the information accessed through the Internet....

....Freedom of access to information is a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. We do not censor information and there are materials you may find personally offensive, controversial, or inappropriate."

As you may be aware, in July 2011 Clearwater Memorial Library received a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program ( BTOP) grant through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; thereby receiving all new patron computers and a wireless router. Part of this grant specified that there be filters on the Internet against child pornography, things harmful to a minor, and obscenity.

However anyone using the public access computers since that time knows the filters have gone way beyond what is required. The Idaho State Lottery site is blocked because it is "gambling", I cannot order my wife a present from Victoria's Secret because their site contains "swim-wear and lingerie", buying alcohol is also forbidden. Gun manufacturer's sites, such as Ruger or Smith & Wesson are blocked along with sellers such as Lolo Sporting Goods in Lewiston. These are examples of what I myself have found, there may very well be more.

It looks to me like the library's new policy is in direct violation of The Library Bill of Rights, it's own By-Laws, and the Constitution of the United States.

Jim Willis
Orofino


2-1-12

Michael: Industry pushing to limit local control

Guest opinion by Washington County Commissioner, Rick Michael (R)

The natural gas industry has come to Idaho, and with it, a push to limit local control.

As a commissioner of a county that has piqued the interest of the natural gas industry, I am both hopeful about the potential economic impacts and concerned about the risks this industry's activities pose to groundwater, property values and quality of life. For those who claim that there are only two sides to this issue: for or against, I can attest that there is a middle.

Washington County's oil and gas draft ordinance is a product of months spent researching other county ordinances across the nation, addressing public concerns, allowing for the state's rules to get updated, etc. The process involved our county planning and zoning office, our P&Z commission, public hearings, etc., and resulted in an ordinance that we believe protects citizens while still allowing for the development of the gas industry.

County governments are charged with very different duties than the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. While the IOGCC is authorized to protect correlative rights, prevent waste and protect groundwater, local governments must provide for safety, protect public health and welfare, protect property values and quality of life, etc. When a drilling permit application comes across the desk of the Department of Lands, they will review that application only through the lens of their statutory duties. It is up to local governments to broaden that lens to incorporate the concerns specific to our communities. Local governments must have a substantial voice in this process.

Unfortunately, the Idaho Petroleum Council views the local process as a hindrance to their desire to develop gas quickly and cheaply. They have drafted legislation that will strip citizens and local planning and zoning commissions of their authority over the land use permitting process for gas drilling. This legislation also applies to cities and all other political entities in the state. Instead of following the same process as any other industry or entity looking to acquire a special use permit, the gas and oil industry's legislation allows them the privilege of bypassing the local planning and zoning commission and a public hearing. Their application will only be subject to an "administrative permitting process." This would involve the Planning and Zoning administrator going through a predetermined, generic checklist - and having only 21 days to make a determination. This process will eliminate our ability to determine or enforce site-specific conditions.

The industry and Idaho Association of Counties' proposed legislation will significantly impact a local government's ability to create meaningful permitting requirements, or to exercise much authority or control over siting, residential setbacks and applicable site-specific conditions - particularly concerning exploration and siting of well pads and pits. Had Washington County been included in the discussion with IAC and the industry, we would have requested that local control also be maintained in the exploration and drilling/development process. The perceived danger was that if the counties and cities did not support this legislation then the industry would try to cut the local governments out of the permitting process entirely.

In a state as large and as geographically diverse as Idaho, a one-size-fits-all approach to regulation will never address the needs of every community, which is why meaningful local control is critical. The counties and cities should not allow the State and a single industry to strip them of local control. The IPC's proposed legislation is a direct attack on local government, local control and citizen involvement in land use regulation. This legislation does to the counties and cities exactly what the State does not like the Federal Government doing to them, and sets a dangerous precedent that other industries may follow. Please contact your State legislators and local officials and urge them to publicly oppose this attack on local control by the Idaho Petroleum Council.


1-23-12

Republicans planning presidential caucus

Guest opinion by Idaho Republican Party Chairman Norm Semanko

On Super Tuesday, March 6th, the day of Idaho's Republican Presidential Nomination Caucus, every county in the state will hold a county caucus. Instead of selecting Idaho's nominee for the GOP presidential candidate at the polls in the May primaries, voters must show up to participate in their counties' Caucuses. Idaho has 32 delegates to send to the national convention. That is more delegates than Iowa, New Hampshire or Nevada. Idaho will be a big, early prize for the winning Republican Presidential candidate, and we should expect to see candidates paying more attention to Idaho Republican voters.

Idaho deserves a voice in the Presidential nominating process. Folks in Carey, Idaho deserve to have the same input on our next president as folks in Concord, NH. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case in recent presidential election cycles. Many states have moved their primaries or caucuses to earlier dates, leaving states like Idaho lagging far behind.

In creating the new Idaho Caucus, we were able to pick the best parts of the systems already in place throughout the country so that we could implement a new system quickly and effectively. The two largest problems of the primary system were the timing and the non-binding delegates. The caucus system fixes both.

Previously, only six states had primaries later than Idaho's. With a large majority of states casting their votes early in the process, the nominee is usually decided by late February or March, and, with the Idaho Primary coming months later, in late May, we had no real voice on who became the Republican presidential nominee. With the caucus system, leading presidential candidates may see Idaho as an important piece to their strategies to win the nomination.

Another result of the new caucus system is that candidates can now be confident in receiving all the delegates that are pledged, incentivizing them to come to Idaho to seek the support of Idaho voters and to consider many of the issues important to Idaho voters. Furthermore, any candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the statewide county caucus delegates total will be awarded all 32 Idaho delegates for the Republican National Convention.

The Idaho Republican Party will play a supporting role to help make the process work and to help educate the counties and their leadership on how the caucus system will be conducted. All registered Republican voters are eligible to vote in their respective county caucuses. Voters may register to vote as Republicans as they enter the caucus site, but are encouraged to do so ahead of time to avoid long lines. The voting will be conducted by secret ballot and takes place in successive rounds. Each round, low vote-getters are eliminated until a candidate receives a simple majority of the votes.

Join us in the historic, first ever Idaho Republican Party Presidential Nomination Caucus on March 6th in your county. (To learn more details about your County's Caucus, visit us at www.idaho-republican-caucus.com). Together we can make Idaho relevant in the decision of our next GOP presidential candidate.


1-21-12

Idaho Education Network reaches historic milestone

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

You might have heard or read in my recent State of the State address about my December visit to St. Maries High School in northern Idaho. I went there to commemorate the completed connection of all 194 Idaho high schools to the Idaho Education Network (IEN).

I came away more impressed than ever by the potential for this incredible tool and this great milestone in Idaho's history. It truly is welcoming the world into classrooms - and the minds of students - all over our state.

That visit to St. Maries marked the start of an era in which high school students' educational opportunities no longer are restricted by time zone, ZIP code or geography. Like transcontinental railroads and the interstate highway system, the IEN is an example of how barriers can be overcome with well managed public-private partnerships.

Thanks to the Idaho Legislature, Superintendent Tom Luna, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and my Department of Administration, I am proud to say that we finished installing high-speed Internet connections at every Idaho high school nearly a year ahead of schedule and 16 percent under budget.

That's how an efficient government should work for Idaho.

The IEN is redefining our Idaho public schools by guiding them from the Industrial Age - where distance limited opportunities for world-class learning - to the Information Age, where opportunities for our students extend as far as their imaginations. Whether it's St. Maries or Sugar-Salem, Soda Springs or Sandpoint, all our high schools now have access to the same cutting-edge instruction thanks to their connection to the IEN.

Prior to the IEN, some schools had less broadband connectivity than many homes. In some cases, we increased the bandwidth for schools that already had an Internet connection by many times what it was. Now, school districts like Meridian, Weiser, Twin Falls and Bear Lake are creating and tapping into advanced learning opportunities that improve the chances of students achieving college success - including more ways for even the most remotely located students to earn college credits while completing high school studies.

These students will be the leaders, entrepreneurs, CEOs, doctors and teachers who will drive Idaho's success in an increasingly competitive and connected world.

And the IEN serves more than high school students; it serves communities.

Idaho State University's Workforce Training team is using the IEN to bring business classes to chambers of commerce members and classes for firefighters to rural Idaho towns. The Peace Officers Standards and Training Academy in Meridian is delivering classes to officers as far away as Lemhi and Bonner counties.

Those examples and many others will contribute to a more vibrant and diverse economy because we will have more highly educated and better-trained citizens attracting businesses and enabling the ones we already have to grow.

Back in St. Maries, by collaborating with St. Louis University's School of Medicine, anatomy and physiology students experienced what even a generation ago would have seemed impossible. They get to see and talk live with doctors about medicine and science - from 1,800 miles away.

St. Maries Principal John Cordell and Superintendent Joe Kren are showing that, with the help of technology, they can create opportunities for students and communities that are as critical to their success as the arrival of the schoolmarm in Idaho's hardscrabble pioneer towns more than a century ago.

In communities throughout Idaho, champions like John and Joe in Idaho schools large and small are finding innovative ways to tear down barriers to educational excellence and helping students and communities achieve their dreams.

Now that the high schools are connected, we next will work to bring broadband Internet to even more schools in every corner of Idaho. Meanwhile, dedicated and innovative educators like John and Joe are expanding the rigor and options in Idaho schools with technology to serve all learners - even Governors.

Please check out what's possible in your community by going to www.ien.idaho.gov.


1-13-12

What does the Upper Lochsa Land Exchange mean to Idaho County?

Guest opinion by Skip Brandt, Idaho County Commissioner

Folks, here is what we have before us. Western Pacific Timber http://wptimber.com/ is the largest private property owner in Idaho County with holdings that comprise over 1/5 of Idaho County's private timberland. WPT, in an exchange with the USFS, is in a position to trade almost 40,000 acres of land in the Upper Lochsa for the same amount of acres of heavy timbered lands in the vicinity of our existing sawmills. You want jobs? Here it is! Bennett/ Shearer/ Idaho Forest Group owns only about 10,000 acres of land in Idaho County, so imagine what 40,000 acres managed under the Idaho Forest Practices Act would do for the timber industry (loggers, truck drivers, sawmill employees) in Idaho County. Also imagine what that would do for the other local businesses (restaurants, bars, car dealers). This could be huge 'if' you want to see more local timber jobs.

Additionally, WPT has agreed to tie the lands up in recreation/ conservation easements into perpetuity. No matter who owns the land in the future, it would have to be sold with the same easements. This means that there will be no subdivision development allowed on these acres, and the citizens would be able to continue to recreate (hunt, pick berries and mushrooms, snowmobile, ride ATV's) as they have always done on the 40,000 acres.

Last Wednesday, the USFS released their Clearwater Forest Travel Plan which removes over 200 miles of roads and trails from motorized access on the Clearwater National Forest. The Nez Perce National Forest travel plan is expected to be released later this summer, locking up even more areas on the Nez Perce Forest. The easements proposed on these private acres would be forever; not influenced by the desires of the radical left.

There is a lot of misinformation being circulated, so let me address some of the misinformation. The Idaho County Alternative is contingent on the following conditions: 1) WPT paying the Federal Government the difference in the appraised value; 2) WPT guarantees to continue the current grazing and outfitter leases; and 3) WPT agrees to the recreation /conservation easements (these easements have to be concrete enough that the easements would not be impacted by a change in ownership).

The left/ opposition is trying to paint a picture that we are better off by nationalizing more private lands because the Federal Government will pay us more (via SRS and PILT funding) than we would get in taxes. This proposal suggests that we should rely on a welfare check from the Federal Government and ignore job creation. These folks apparently do not recognize that the Federal Government is over spent. The handouts cannot continue as they have in the past. America has to get back to work and the one industry that we have in the Clearwater Basin is timber. Recreation is great, but in a down economy, we need to start producing if we are going to climb out.

If we are not successful in guiding this exchange to get us back into the woods and to keep our tax base whole, Idaho County is going to be in a world of hurt. The USFS will either exchange most or all of the acres outside Idaho County or if an exchange does not take place, a conservation group will step up (just like they did across the border in Montana), purchase the acres, and then deed it to the USFS, thus removing it from the Idaho County tax rolls to the sum of nearly $100,000. This year it was $92,193 which breaks down to $27,172 for fire suppression funds, $4,777 for hospital, $27,740 for the county, and $32,503 for District 244. These funds would be gone forever and the burden of filling the gap created would fall on the backs of the remaining taxpayers.

This loss is in addition to the current expected loss of Secure Rural Schools funding. Idaho County expects to lose 54% of the Road and Bridge monies and School District 244 will lose over $1.2 million dollars. A loss of this magnitude cannot be absorbed and will most likely force District 244 (and other Idaho County school districts) to run a levy that would be double that of last year.

I can't believe local residents are joining forces with radical environmentalist like Sun Vally's Scott Phillips (Sierra Club, Earth Justice, Western Watersheds Project), Gary MacFarlane (Friends of the Clearwater), etc. who don't care about our jobs and want no one in the forests at all. To see who's who and what these groups are saying look at http://idaho.sierraclub.org/sawtooth/whoweare.html, http://www.fseee.org/news/northern , http://www.friendsoftheclearwater.org/.

With the help of our Congressional delegation we can make this work. Just as wolves were delisted in response to the efforts of Idaho County citizens, so can our plea to protect our tax base and create jobs be heard. However, it is time for the local working class to get involved. Do we want to send a message that logging and timber jobs are no longer desired in Idaho County? That logging is devastating to the county's landscape?

Or, shall we call on our common roots and let folks know that we have what it takes to stand on our feet and work for and with the natural resources we've been given? The choice is clear-if only we will follow that choice by action.


1-7-12

Health Insurance Exchange makes sense, but how its done makes a difference

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

You likely have heard a lot in the news media over the past several months about health insurance exchanges. I've heard from few people objectively opposed to the idea of a one-stop clearinghouse for the best, most up-to-date and concise information available about options for insuring themselves and their families against the potentially catastrophic costs of health care.

But I also share the concerns of many about who would operate such an exchange, and whether it would be market-driven and locally focused or more attuned to the top-down models we have come to expect out of Washington, DC.

Unfortunately, President Obama's so-called "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" effectively halted plans by Idaho and some other states to improve healthcare accessibility and affordability. Idaho joined 25 other states in challenging the constitutionality of this unprecedented overreach of federal power. So as we await a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the case in 2012, I want Idaho to be prepared for the nationwide healthcare environment - economic and regulatory - that results from the court's ruling.

Obamacare mandated establishment in each state of a health insurance exchange - essentially an Internet portal where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. But long before the passage of the law, Idaho was exploring ways to create its own exchange emphasizing free-market principles and creating a competitive marketplace that would improve access to coverage and keep insurance decisions between Idaho patients and insurance providers.

But federal red tape created by Obamacare - plus accelerated expansion of Medicaid programs - complicated the process for states to independently set up such a marketplace. Now Idaho is left with some tough choices.

I allowed our State agencies to apply for a health insurance exchange grant in order to preserve the opportunity for legislators and our citizens to discuss our options and decide what's best for Idaho. Now this next statement is particularly important so please take note: Passing up the opportunity to apply for the grant would have left Idaho with only one option - a health insurance exchange imposed and operated by the federal government.

The decision on how to proceed with a health insurance exchange is difficult, given continuing uncertainty about the federal law and what seems to be a growing number of strings attached. Our path forward is one that warrants input from those who will be most affected. The Legislature will need to act with the best interests of Idaho and our citizens in mind. In the coming weeks we will be working together to weigh all our options and the potential outcomes associated with each of them.

Legislative approval to spend the grant money would enable Idaho to build an exchange, but even that option has potential complications. If Idaho sets up an exchange using federal dollars and the federal government does not approve of how the exchange is structured, it will step in and take over. If the Legislature rejects the grant money and the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare, Idaho loses control and our citizens will be subjected to a federal exchange.

I want to work with the Legislature to find IDAHO solutions to Idaho's healthcare issues and minimize the federal government's footprint on how Idahoans obtain their health insurance. The fact that it could be June before the Supreme Court issues an opinion on constitutional challenges to Obamacare in no way diminishes the need for the Legislature to discuss the issue during its 2012 session.

I look forward to the discussion and hope that it will be civil, informed and open. And I hope it will have at its heart the deep-seated desire that I know most Idahoans share to be the architects of our own destiny.


1-5-12

Wilson: Christmas 911 program successful

Guest opinion by Orofino Police Chief Jeff Wilson

The Police Department has wrapped up another year of Christmas 911. This was the third year for the program and once again it was a success. This year the Police Department provided full Christmas dinners and gifts to 27 families with a total of 78 kids. The Christmas dinners include everything you would expect for a Christmas dinners. The families receive hams, turkeys, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, rolls, vegetable trays, cranberry sauce, canned vegetables, pies, milk and butter. Everything you need to have a nice family dinner.

Each child receives a variety of gifts. We try to satisfy a needs list that often includes shoes, coats, pants, socks, and even bedding. After trying to accommodate the "needs list" for each child we also try to purchase a few fun items such as toys, games, DVDs, MP3 players, art kits, jewelry kits, stuffed animals, remote control cars, etc. Between the "needs list" and the "fun list" the Police Department was able to purchase over 500 gifts for these deserving families.

We often get questions about the program so I would like to take a moment to answer some of those questions and provide additional information about the program. I am often asked if this is just for residents in the City of Orofino. The answer is no, not at all. This year we actually provided to more families outside the city limits than within. We provided meals and gifts to families in Weippe, Cavendish, Peck, and in areas outside the city limits on Wells Bench, Grangemont, Chase's Flats, and Ahsahka. Just because we are the City of Orofino Police Department doesn't mean our effort stops at the city limits.

The program is funded through donations from businesses and private individuals with a Christmas 911 account set up at the Lewis Clark Credit Union. Some of the donations are actually made anonymously. When purchasing the meals and gifts, we attempt to spend as much money as possible locally.

When it is time to wrap gifts we receive help from a lot of volunteers. Several City of Orofino employees help with this process as well. Without the help of volunteers it would take us several days to get all the gifts wrapped. This year we completed the process in a day and a half.

On the evening of December 23rd the staff at the Police Department delivered the meals and the gifts to all of the families. That is the night when all of the hard work pays off and you get to see kids and parents alike smiling and getting excited about Christmas. After the deliveries were made by the officers we all met for pizza and pop and shared stories of the reactions from the kids and kind words and acts that were shared with the officers.

Christmas 911 is a positive project for the Police Department and families in our area who are in need. I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone that makes this program possible. There are too many people and businesses to name but thank you to all of you who donated, volunteered, and otherwise assisted us in making this project a huge success!


12-28-11

Special school trustees meeting set Jan. 9

Patrons of Joint School District #171,

I have been a trustee in Zone 5 for eight and a half years. I feel I have represented not only my zone but the entire district well. Many of the current board members are questioning my residence in Zone 5. A special meeting has been scheduled for January 9th to discuss my residency. The open session is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the district office. As your elected official I am writing this letter to ask the patrons who know that I have represented the district with honesty and integrity to come to the meeting to support me. I would like to complete my term on the school board which will be complete on June 30th 2013. Due to my current work situation, I am out of the district some nights. I have a child and grandchild attending school in the district, I own a home in Zone 5, pay property taxes in the county, my vehicles are registered in the county and I am registered to vote in the county. I believe there is some motivation behind these actions being taken. Some board members have not even been notified of this action at this time. As I am an elected official I will comply with what my electors want of me. Again I am asking the support of all of the patrons of Joint School District #171.

Hoping for the best for our district!

Theresa Graber Orofino


12-20-11

Appreciation expressed for Live Nativity participants

Dear Editor:

I don't think it is possible to name everyone who was involved in making the Live Nativity such a success this year. There were those who worked on repairing the stable, setting it up and cleaning things up. There were those who decorated the pickup and the trailer for the float in the parade, those who shared their goats and sheep for the night, those who provided and served hot cocoa and cookies, those who were actors and the narrator for the presentations, the carolers, those who helped with the arrangements and blocking the street and those who took time to stop by and watch the presentations.

There was a lot more community involvement this year and I had fun working with everyone.

A big thank you to you all,

Pam Jones
Live Nativity Coordinator


12-15-11

Thank you to the community

Dear Editor,

As we celebrate the holidays, I'd like to recognize how generous and supportive our community has been during this fall and winter season. Many individuals, businesses, and organizations have programs and share resources that contribute to the well being and ongoing traditions of our community and schools.

I'd like to thank the IGA for their donation of pumpkins to the schools at Halloween. Owner, Cory Watson, and produce manager, Matt Ludiker, generously provided over two dozen large pumpkins to the high school art classes for their pumpkin carving lesson taught by volunteer guest artist, Mike Tetwiler.

Mike shared his time and worked with the students on two days. He brought pumpkin carving to an awesome level.

Also, IGA donated over 350 pie pumpkins to Orofino Elementary School so that every child, grades K - 6, would have a pumpkin to decorate.

In November, Eagle's Nest owner, Cynthia Statler, shared her enthusiasm and advice, along with a donation of materials, as art students were creating bead loom bracelets. Her support complemented the presentation of volunteer guest artist, Roger Amerman, who is nationally recognized for his Native American bead work.

We appreciate the generosity and expertise of Cynthia and Roger. Roger's beadwork was remarkable in beauty and skill. Next year, I hope to see more programs and guests in our schools in recognition of November as Native American Heritage Month.

Thank you to these businesses and individuals and to the many others who take actions to strengthen the experiences of our town and schools.

Sincerely,
Sandy Goffinet
Art Instructor, Grades 6 - 12
Orofino High School


12-8-11

Leaner, more focused government must be our new normal

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

How can a largely rural western state of roughly 1.5 million people - a state whose Republican credentials are matched only by its almost contrarian sense of independence - possibly set an example of responsible governance for the rest of America?

In Idaho, we did it by reassessing the proper role of government in people's lives. We did it by identifying what our Constitution and laws require government to do and eliminating much of what they don't. We did it by instituting zero-base budgeting and bringing business principles to government. We did it by making tough choices and difficult adjustments early in the economic downturn. And we did it by being cautious, prudent, and yes, conservative with taxpayer dollars in order to live within the people's means.

The result was meeting the Idaho Constitution's requirement for a balanced budget each year, a nearly 20-percent reduction in the size of Idaho's general fund budget, and a leaner, more efficient and effective State government with an improved bond rating and a strong pension system for State employees.

We didn't raise taxes. We didn't spend down our reserve accounts at the first sign of trouble. We didn't spend one-time federal stimulus money on continuing fiscal obligations. We avoided one-size-fits-all solutions and instead built more and stronger partnerships with the private sector to address such challenges as making affordable, accessible health care available to more Idahoans and - most importantly of all - improving on an already business-friendly economic environment to bring more career opportunities to our citizens.

It wasn't easy, and it wasn't always popular. We took plenty of heat along the way from those for whom growing government - and the sense of entitlement it inevitably fosters - had become a way of life during the years of economic expansion. We listened to taxpayers, we worked to be more inclusive while overcoming hind-bound resistance to change, and we instituted sweeping reforms of our public schools to prepare our state and our students for an increasingly competitive global marketplace.

The people of Idaho honored me with a second term in 2010 on a theme of "limited government; unlimited opportunity." My commitment now is to ensure the changes we made during the Great Recession become a permanent part of how Idahoans view government's role in their lives. It no longer can be all things to all people and or even their primary social safety net, but it can and should be part of a continuum of private and public assistance that begins at home and extends to families, social organizations and communities.

My goal is for Idahoans to see their State government as more of a partner than a provider, more of a facilitator than a regulator, and more focused on educating and empowering citizens to find local solutions than on imposing its own from afar.

We all remain hamstrung by gridlock and uncertainty in federal policies and the frailties of the global economy. That makes it all the more important that we put our own houses in order, be aggressive in addressing the issues we can handle on our own, and work to help people understand that this is not a matter of crisis management; it's our new normal.

The sooner the federal government recognizes what we in Idaho know - that people are tired of rearranging deck chairs in Washington, D.C., tired of government that over-promises and under-delivers, and ready for fundamental changes in their relationship with government - the better off we all will be.


11-25-11

Winter parking rules in effect

by Orofino Police Chief Jeff Wilson

With the arrival of winter I wanted to remind everyone of the winter parking regulations. City Ordinance 10-5-9 requires that between Nov. 1st and April 1st no owner or operator shall park a vehicle on Michigan Ave., Johnson Ave., College Ave., Main St., Wisconsin Ave., First St., A St., or Riverside Ave. between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Additionally, at no time after the accumulation of any snowfall of four or more inches, no owner or operator of any vehicle shall park or allow such vehicle to stand on the above mentioned streets until snow removal has been completed.

Any vehicle which shall be left parked or standing in violation of Ordinance 10-5-9 may be removed without notice to the owner or operator of such vehicle. Any costs and fees related to the removal of such vehicle shall be paid by the person claiming the vehicle from the impound facility. Owners of vehicles who do not remove their vehicle(s) from the street when snow accumulates to four inches or more shall be fined $50 per incident, per vehicle, per day.

To read this Ordinance, or any other Parking or Criminal Ordinance, please visit our web site at www.orofinopd.com or stop by the Police Department during regular business hours.


11-14-11

Thank you to the community

Dear Editor:

We would like to express our appreciation to the businesses and individuals in the community that supported our efforts with the Orofino Christmas Festival in 2009 and 2010. To the committee members, Grand Clauses, Santa, parade judges, parade organizers, parade participants, those who provided refreshments, served refreshments, donated materials and helped set up for the tree lighting, those who provided the color guard and raised the flag, those who performed and provided music, and our powder monkey who provided the ka-boom as the tree sparkled to life, those who provided electricity to power the Santa House, the businesses who sponsored the passport program, those who purchased passports and visited local businesses, designed the logo, printed materials, helped with publicity, provided prizes for both the parade and passport winners, those who hauled materials, decorated businesses, held open houses, organized the Live Nativity, set up the stable and participated in the Live Nativity scene, those who hung lights and wreaths around town and those who came together as a community to celebrate the season, from the bottom of Our Hearts THANK YOU!

Those who have questions about Christmas Festival 2011 may contact: Christmas Festival Chairman Ryan Smathers at 476-5112 or Orofino Chamber Director Stephanie Deyo at 476-4335.

May the Spirit of Christmas be with you this year and always.

Teri Bolling
Nancy Butler
Orofino Christmas Festival Co-chairs 2009 and 2010


11-7-11

Mother expresses appreciation for help after accident

Dear Editor,

Wednesday night my son was in an accident. I want to thank all the nameless people who responded; thank you to the dispatch who contacted my husband, to the stranger who stopped and provided assistance to the boys, to the fire department and police who provided safety for the boys, to the paramedics who provided immediate medical assistance and transported them safely to the emergency room, and to the nurses, technicians, and doctors who worked quickly and confidently on the boys. All of these people were calm and reassuring to the boys. So many of the faces are familiar and that in itself was comforting. So thank you to all of the volunteers and civil servants who were there for us. And thank you to my son's youth leaders and friends who have shown support. And thank you most of all to the parents of the boy who was my son's passenger for being so kind, humble, reassuring, and Christ-like to my son. We are very blessed to be a part of this community.

Jenine Nord
Orofino

Below are photos of the accident shared by Jenine Nord:


11-3-11

Crosswalk flags enhance public safety

Guest opinion by Orofino Police Chief Jeff Wilson

Most of you have probably observed the bright orange flags located at some of the crosswalks on Michigan Avenue in the downtown area and near the Elementary School. The flags were placed at some of the city's busiest intersections for the purpose of public safety. The Police Department had received an increased number of complaints from citizens regarding drivers failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks with many of the complainants reporting near misses. Additionally, Orofino Police Officers were reporting an increase in traffic stops relating to crosswalk violations.

The Police Department wanted to increase safety at some of our busier intersections before a pedestrian was injured as a result of a vehicle accident. Too often it is a tragic event that spurs action. We wanted to be proactive and find a way to increase safety before any serious accidents occurred.

Corporal Vince Frazier took the lead on this project and was instrumental in the placement of crosswalk flags. He researched the effectiveness of crosswalk flags, researched materials and costs, ordered supplies, constructed the flag holders, and took the time to mount the holders himself.

I have observed numerous people using the flags and I believe the flags do improve safety. Driver's seem to identify the pedestrians better in the crosswalks and are stopping sooner and less abruptly. Many citizens have reported that just having the flags mounted at the intersections brings attention to them and reminds them of the possibility of pedestrians. The flags are certainly not a "cure all" but they do enhance safety, particularly for children.

I have been asked several questions about the flags. One repeated question is if the flags are mandatory and the answer is no. Use of the flags is encouraged but is most certainly optional. Some folks feel a bit silly using the flags and others appreciate them a great deal. They are nothing more than a tool to enhance public safety.

I have also been asked several times about the crosswalk law. An excerpt from Idaho Code 49-702 reads, "?..the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping, if need be, to yield to a pedestrian crossing the highway within a crosswalk."

This law in essence gives right of way to pedestrians who are physically within the crosswalk requiring oncoming vehicles to stop. However, with that being said, pedestrians also have a responsibility to make sure they can safely cross without darting in front of traffic. Reading further through Idaho Code 49-702 it states, "No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard." The fact of the matter is that pedestrians need to be cautious by making sure they can cross safely and drivers need to be alert and prepared to stop for any pedestrians who are crossing.

The last question I am usually asked is whether or not any of the flags are being stolen. We have had approximately 15 flags stolen from various intersections since the program was implemented. Anyone with information regarding stolen flags or any further questions regarding our crosswalk program can stop by the Police Department or contact us by phone or email anytime.


10-26-11

Banks supporting Donner for council

Dear Editor:

As an Orofino City Council member for the past 24 years Doug Donner has a vast knowledge of how city government functions. During his long tenure he has served on numerous committees that have contributed to many improvements in out community, including the development of the Orofino Industrial Park. He has also been active in the council's pursuit of building a much needed new water plant for which the city has received the funding and is now in the planning stage.

A life-long resident of Orofino, Doug is committed to making Orofino a great place to live and raise a family; he and his wife raised their two children here. He is a graduate of Orofino High School and attended Lewis-Clark State College for two years.

In addition to his experience on the Orofino City Council Doug spent many years in the retail grocery business including being manager of IGA. For the past nine years he has been self-employed as the operator of Donner Rural Land Development.

Retain Doug Donner as part of an excellent team of people who work to make Orofino a great place to live. Vote Donner for Orofino City Council.

Ron and Charlene Banks
Orofino


10-18-11

Banks supporting McLaughlin for Orofino City Council

Dear Editor:

We are very proud to support Marguerite McLaughlin for Orofino City Council.

Marguerite has dedicated a great part of her life to promoting the welfare of the state and community. She is an experienced legislator, having served 4 years in the State House of Representatives, 18 years in the State Senate and 6 years on the Orofino City Council.

Marguerite played a major role in saving Lewis-Clark State College; many of us can remember the great effort expended to close the college. Marguerite fought long and hard to ensure that LCSC remained open to serve so many of us.

While currently serving on the Orofino City Council, Marguerite also remains active in the family logging business. Prior to serving in the legislature Marguerite was a Joint School District 171 Trustee. She has also served on many local boards and commissions, including the Clearwater Valley /St. Mary's Hospital Board for 10+ years.

Marguerite always supports the needs of our community. The citizens of Orofino are fortunate to have a lady of this caliber to serve them.

Please cast your vote for Marguerite so she can continue to serve our community.

Ron & Charlene Banks
Orofino

9-30-11

Dent Acres Campground needs volunteers

Dear Editor:

You may have seen or heard about Corps of Engineers recreation budget reductions in the coming fiscal year including some changes at Dworshak Reservoir. Our primary recreation mandate is to maintain access to water-based recreation facilities, and we'll continue to do that to the best of our abilities. Here's how we plan to continue to serve our visitors in the midst of budget reductions.

We plan to keep Dent Acres boat ramp open, and we're doing our best within budget limits to keep the Dent Acres campground open and maintained in the same excellent, clean, safe condition as in the past. We truly could use some help-volunteers are needed, and it really does help if you "pack it in, pack it out" with your trash.

As planned, starting in 2012, Dent Acres will seasonally switch to an unreserved "first-come, first-served" campground through hunting season. Next year, campers won't be able to reserve campsites using the ReserveUSA.com reservation service, which we have to discontinue. We could really use some more volunteers for maintenance and other chores, and let me add our big "thanks" to those that are already part of our great volunteer staff.

No changes are planned in campsite fees, but we will no longer (be) able to take credit cards- only cash or checks will be accepted. We will still accept the Golden Age Passport and the America the Beautiful Senior Pass for discounts. We will take phone reservations for the Dent Acres Group Camp and sun shelter, but not for the main campground. You can always call us to see how full we are-call the Visitor Center at 208-476-1255 or try the Dent Acres booth at 208-476-9029.

Individuals and organizations can volunteer. Just contact Paul Pence at 208-476-1258 or me at 208-476-1256.

One more thing, we do count visitors to our recreation sites, and visitation numbers are one factor in calculating the following year's budget. So visit your favorite Dworshak recreation site, come see us at the Visitor Center, or participate in our special events this coming year. We always look forward to seeing you.

Deb Norton, Lead Ranger
Dworshak Dam and Reservoir


8-29-11

Reggear: 'Our Kids, Our Community, Our Future'

Guest opinion ubmitted by Bob Reggear

The facilities committee would like to let the patrons of Joint School District #171 know about the process we went through to come up with the current bond levy recommendation. The committee is made up of community members asked by the school board to look at facility needs of Jt. School District 171. There were three main buildings of concern: Orofino Junior High, Orofino High School, and Timberline School.

Closing the junior high upset some people in the community. Many felt it should have remained open. Representatives from the committee along with Rick Burnham and John Anderson evaluated the costs to reopen the junior high with needed repairs and improvements. They stopped counting when costs surpassed $2.5 million. Additionally, there would be an annual cost of $220,000 to staff and operate the building. Because of these costs and the age of the building, the facilities committee recommended not to reopen the junior high.

Committee members toured OJSHS (Orofino Junior-Senior High School) and discussed with the administrator and staff issues that arose with the addition of the eighth graders at the high school. We found inadequate locker room space, gym space, and classrooms. More students can be added to each class, but when you add more grades to the school, that requires more classrooms. Currently, the junior high gym and locker rooms are being used by the seventh graders and other community groups. When the building sells, the seventh graders will be placed in those overcrowded locker rooms and gym. For these reasons, the committee recommended adding six classrooms and a multi-purpose room to OJSHS.

The committee recommended adding four classrooms and a multi-purpose room to Timberline School. The additions will provide adequate classrooms and practice facilities, provide adequate play area for elementary students during winter and inclement weather, eliminate high utility and rental costs of the portable trailers and increase campus security.

We feel now is the time to pass the levy. The initial cost for classrooms and multi-purpose rooms at Timberline and Orofino is $7,735,000, but with the Sinking Fund earnings of 2 percent, less Levy Equalization providing 15 percent off the principal, and Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB) at 0 percent interest the net cost to district taxpayers is $5,548,952. That's a savings of $2,186,048. Now is the time to pass the levy for our kids, our community, our future.

To view a video with information about the bond levy, go to www.sd171.k12.id.us, or look on Facebook and search "Vote Yes for 171". There are also yellow brochures available at the schools and various businesses in the community.


8-29-11

It takes a village to raise a child

Dear Editor:

It takes a village to raise a child. This is as true today as it was several hundred years ago. Children are our future and we need to do anything we can to support their educational process in our communities. The global challenges we have presented them are tremendous and monumental. Why don't we give them the tools and space necessary to learn about new ideas and build new skills to find creative solutions?

These children, our children, deserve your support. They deserve the very best that our beautiful communities can offer. Please vote "Yes" in the School Bond Levy Election on August 30th. Show them that you care. Give them the learning environment that they deserve. Supporting our schools means supporting our communities and building towards a better and more successful future. We all need to do our part. Get involved and help us create the healthy communities we all deserve.

Signed:

Dr. Michael Meza
Dr. Phillip Petersen
Dr. Kelly McGrath
Dr. Vanessa Brown
Dr. Charity Robinson
Dr. Enrique Montana
Dr. Linden Bishop
Dr. Clayton Bunt
John Beeh, CPA
Hal Joseph, CPA


8-29-11

Think about the importance of education

Dear Editor:

I hope that each citizen in District 171 will take the time to think about the importance of the education of our youth and go out on Aug. 30th to vote for the school bond levy to build new facilities. Our children deserve the best education that we can offer and facilities are just as important as quality staff and good curriculum.

A positive learning atmosphere with adequate space and capacity for technology are critical elements to being successful in learning now more than ever and they are a definite need in our schools, both at Timberline and Orofino. If you think it is not so, take the time to tour the facilities and see for yourself what our children need. It is hard to deny when you see it for yourself.

I have heard the comment that this bond is to support athletics because of the proposals to build multipurpose rooms which include a gymnasium and weight rooms at both schools. These facilities will definitely help the athletics programs, but let us not forget that health and physical education are a part of our academic curriculum and with the epidemic of childhood obesity and the growing trend of sedentary activities, physical activity is more important than ever. These facilities will be beneficial to this community in a multitude of ways.

I know that the economy is bad and money is tight for everyone, but at a cost of under $6 per month for a home valued at one hundred thousand dollars, I am hoping that our citizens will recognize that this is an investment in their future and is worth the sacrifice of a $6 per month luxury. I was surprised to learn that currently many, (not all) of us pay more for disposal of waste than we pay for our schools. For people who have no luxuries to sacrifice and it is truly a hardship, the state offers a circuit breaker program that will pay for some if not all of their taxes.

Please don't believe the rumors you hear - get the information for yourself about the conditions in the schools, the benefits of passing the bond right now and how little it will really cost each of us to ensure that our children have what they need to learn. This affects us all, with or without children. If we do not invest in their educations we will end up paying for it one way or another. I know that the majority of this community wants what is best for our kids. Please show it. Get out and vote to pass this bond.

Cindy O'Brien
Orofino


8-25-11

Reggear expresses support for school bond levy

Dear Editor:

This letter is to the patrons of School District 171. I have been part of the Plus 5 Committee and am currently co-chair of the facilities committee. My wife was part of the building committee about 15 years ago and has taught at the junior high for 24 years.

Yes, we were very upset with the closing of the junior high. The staff there worked hard to provide a great educational experience for students. But, things change. Over the past several years, the state has cut education funding by nearly a quarter of a billion dollars - $240,000,000. District 171 can no longer afford to maintain and staff a 100 year old building.

Currently the junior high is split, 7th grade at the elementary and 8th grade at OJSHS; that is not a good situation. Passing the building bond levy, will get those grades back together. I have spent many hours talking to the staffs and touring buildings at Orofino and Timberline. These classrooms and multi-purpose rooms are needed. This will be our last chance to build these facilities at a bargain price.

When new businesses look for a place to start and when new medical professionals move to our area, one of the first things they ask about is the schools. Clearwater County has had unemployment rates in the upper teens for many years. If we want that to change, we need new businesses.

If we want our communities to grow, we spend the $5.61 (per $100,000 evaluation) per month or $67.36 per year. That's a small price to pay for our kids, our community, and our future. Vote Yes on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Robert Reggear
Orofino


8-22-11

Schwartz: 'Vote yes for kids'

Dear Editor:

Jt. School District No. 171 has proposed a special Bond Levy to fund major facility needs of our district. This proposal has been reviewed and endorsed by the Facility Committee composed of patrons, parents and educators.

In addition, Jt. School District No. 171 qualifies for the State Levy Equalization Subsidy and the Federal Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB). The deadline to qualify for the QSCB is Dec. 31, 2011. These two funding sources provide a saving of $2,186,048 to District No. 171 tax payers.

Proposed 15-year bond.....$7,735,000
Less subsidies.................$2,186,048
Net cost to taxpayers........$5,548,952

In summary, remember when you go to the polls on Aug. 30. Our schools, Our community, and our future rests on your decision.

Vote Yes For Kids.

John Schwartz
Orofino


7-27-11

Comprehensive fiscal policy shift needed

Guest opinion submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

An American child today inherits a larger public debt burden than at any time in American history. Our almost $15 trillion national debt puts a debt burden of nearly $50,000 per U.S. citizen. In the last 10 years, federal spending per household has risen by roughly $10,000 to more than $31,000.

If this trend is not corrected, federal spending will balloon to nearly $36,000 per household by 2021. We can correct this by comprehensively shifting our fiscal policy through aggressive federal spending cuts to reduce our deficit and debt and grow our economy.

Irresponsible federal spending compounded the problem. Federal spending, which averaged 20.4 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) over the last 50 years, has grown to 24.5 percent.

Since 2007, when we were on track to balance the budget, Congress and the President have accelerated spending and borrowing to unsustainable levels. If left unchanged, federal spending will continue to rise to increasingly dangerous levels, and federal spending is projected to increase faster than revenues.

The government already borrows 42 cents for every dollar it spends this year. This unsustainable spending ballooned our national debt to almost 69 percent of GDP, up from 40.3 percent in 2008. If we continue on our current path, Congressional Budget Office projections show public debt growing to 100 percent of GDP in 2021. However, budget conventions mask part of the government's liabilities. Gross debt, which includes the government's borrowing from those to whom it owes future commitments, is much higher. In 2011, our nation's gross debt is estimated to be 99.8 percent of GDP. This means that we have obligations equal to the entire economic output of our country, and foreign creditors currently own more than half of our public debt.

Debt this extreme drags our economy further down, increasing interest rates, slowing economic growth, hindering job expansion and discouraging private investments. Higher debt levels will require higher interest payments on that debt, which eventually require either higher taxes or a reduction in government benefits and services. By 2025, current revenue estimates will only cover interest payments, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Every other federal government activity-from national defense and homeland security to transportation and energy development-will be paid for with borrowed money. Tax increases and higher interest costs worsen the problem, weighing down small businesses and entrepreneurs that drive economic growth. Fixing this requires creating a business environment that enables American job creators to compete successfully.

Our fiscal challenges are serious and real. Action cannot be postponed, and the costs of doing it later only increase. That is why I worked with a group of Senators to construct a comprehensive fiscal reform plan to tackle the deficit, reduce federal spending and provide the economic growth needed to get our nation back on track. The plan would fundamentally overhaul our tax code with a pro-growth formula that dramatically cuts taxes. Not only would it make significant cuts to all individual tax rates, but it would also lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to as low as 23 percent ending the U.S. reign as having the world's second highest business tax consequently making American business more competitive on the world market. It would dramatically reduce discretionary spending and enact entitlement reform to control the explosive growth of spending and strengthen the solvency of Social Security. Finally, it would institute strict enforcement tools to tighten the government's budget processes. Though this combination of provisions, spending would be reduced by nearly $4 trillion over 10 years and the substantially reformed tax code would promote economic growth and job creation here at home.


7-19-11

Consideration, respect needed by those using city park

Guest opinion by Orofino Police Chief Jeff Wilson

I wanted to take this opportunity to provide some information regarding the City Park. As many of you well know the City Park is intended to be an enjoyable, peaceful setting for a variety of daily activities, as well as special events, for people of all ages. It is a wonderful location of shared activities that offers recreation for all. I believe the City Park to be one of the City's greatest assets and an important resource. However, the City Park can be used to its full potential only when all groups and individuals are considerate and respectful of others in the Park.

Over the last couple of months the Police Department has received numerous, well founded disorderly conduct complaints regarding a variety of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviors in the City Park. There is an increasing element of unacceptable behavior in the Park that is causing many good citizens to simply avoid the area entirely. There is an increasing presence of late teens and young adults who frequent the park who often demonstrate a general disregard and lack of respect for others who are present. This inappropriate behavior and lack of respect for others consists of using foul language in a loud and boisterous manner, littering, speeding, deliberating blocking the thoroughfare with no intent to move, and a variety of other intimidating behaviors.

The Police Department has a lot of responsibility to correct this type of behavior and activity in the City Park. We have undertaken several measures to address this growing problem. We have stepped up patrols, both on foot and in police vehicles, in the park in an effort to be more visible and deter some of the above mentioned behavior. We have placed on-duty officers in plain clothes in the Park during afternoons and evenings to monitor activities and step up enforcement against violators. For many years we have had video surveillance in the park but we are now using that video surveillance much more effectively. In addition, we are attempting to build better partnerships with the public to help us in our efforts to make the City Park a clean, safe, and enjoyable location for all.

The Police Department has recently been given another tool that will help clean up problems in the Park. The City Park is a public park; however the City still has full authority to govern it. At the last City Council meeting the Council unanimously approved giving authority to police officers to trespass individuals from the Park when appropriate. That means that, with cause, officers can force individuals to immediately vacate the park and not return for a time period specified by the officer. In the event that it becomes necessary to issue a trespass warning based on some type of disorderly conduct, the standard time period that individuals will be removed from the park will generally be 30 days. If the individual returnd to the confines of the City Park during the period the trespass warning is in effect, he or she will be subject to arrest for trespassing. It is my hope that this authority will not have to be exercised very often. However it is a great tool for officers to rid the Park of individuals who demonstrate inappropriate behavior.

I am asking that all citizens assist us with our efforts to improve the conduct in the City Park and make it a place that can truly be shared and enjoyed by all. If you witness criminal activity or inappropriate behavior please get involved by taking the time to report that information to law enforcement.

Thank you for your assistance and continued support.


7-9-11

Real Medicaid reform requires input from states

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

For millions of people, Medicaid has become a lifeline - more important in many ways than family or community. For some, it is a profit center. For others, it is a nightmare of bureaucracy, entitlement, and too often disappointment.

Nationally, healthcare costs continue grabbing headlines, and the issue will be a major part of the 2012 political debate.

Meanwhile, Idaho and other states are working hard to create public-private healthcare partnerships and foster local solutions - and along the way to nudge the national Medicaid reform discussion toward common sense and reality.

Many aspects of our healthcare system are linked to Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded health benefits program for those meeting eligibility criteria including poverty and disability. Idaho and other states have been grappling with the complexities and challenges of this massive government program and its federal mandates since the 1960s. Medicaid cost the State of Idaho nearly $359 million in the fiscal year ending July 1, and it will take up a projected 18 percent of Idaho's General Fund budget in the new fiscal year.

That's to say nothing of how much it costs Idahoans in federal tax dollars every year.

In May, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan sent a letter to all governors asking for feedback on the challenges they face and for ideas on how to make Medicaid work better. They cited the fact that both Democrat and Republican governors have expressed the need for Medicaid reform, seeking to replicate the successful model used in overhauling the welfare system in the 1990s.

"Solutions for sustainable welfare reform came from the states - not just Washington - and the same model will work to fix Medicaid," they wrote. And I couldn't agree more.

I recently joined 27 other Republican governors in signing a letter responding to the request for input. We agreed first and foremost that Obamacare should be repealed to allow states the opportunity - and the flexibility - to keep addressing our unique healthcare challenges.

We agreed that Medicaid should be reformed in a comprehensive and sustainable manner, not only to improve care for our nation's most vulnerable citizens, but also to address the inequities, inefficiencies, excess costs, fraud, waste and abuse that unfortunately are far too prevalent in Medicaid programs across the country.

An expanded report detailing recommendations built upon each state's input is being developed for Senator Hatch and Congressman Upton.

Idaho's input will be extremely valuable in helping Congress understand how states with smaller populations are impacted by the Medicaid system - through our budgets and the wellbeing of our citizens - and what we already have found will work to improve it.

Understandably, the news media's focus has been on our legal challenge to Obamacare, confronting an unconstitutional abuse of power and asserting our rights as citizens of a sovereign state. But that's only part of the story. Little attention has been paid to our efforts to more effectively coordinate Idaho initiatives in healthcare through the work of the Idaho Health Care Council.

I established the council in 2010 to support and implement Idaho's best solutions in making healthcare more accessible and affordable. Together - patients and physicians, hospitals and insurers, employers and employees - are helping us develop innovative, sustainable and market-based solutions to improve healthcare right here at home without waiting for federal permission, directives or mandates.

But we're not alone in working to move our healthcare system in the right direction. I am collaborating with 27 other governors and their states, as well as our congressional delegations, in a unified effort to reform Medicaid in a way that implements proven best practices and leverages both public and private resources.

Our shared goal is to establish and maintain a responsible safety net for our children's and grandchildren's generations without breaking our economy or putting those same generations and beyond even deeper in debt. And we are committed to doing it without giving up our self-determination or freedom.


6-11-11

Idaho's sleeper industry is on the rise

by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

There are a few industries in Idaho that get most of the limelight. We talk a lot about agriculture, technology, and lately renewable energy.

But we're fortunate to have a more diverse base these days, which is a big change from where we were two decades ago. Over time, diversity stabilizes our economy, making us less likely to have disruptive booms and busts. You can see the results of such single-industry dependence in some of our former timber communities that have been devastated by federal forest policies.

That's why I'm glad to see a burgeoning aeronautics sector taking off and gaining altitude in Idaho. We're seeing small- and medium-sized companies throughout the state, even in some of our more rural areas. That's gotten the attention of GE Aviation - the world's largest producer of large and small jet engines for commercial and military aircraft - which came to Boise to meet with potential Idaho suppliers of parts and services.

The number of aeronautics companies here has grown steadily over the past decade, from 55 in 2001 to 92 today. There are more than 1,000 Idahoans employed by these companies - a business segment to which we're paying particular attention as part of my Project 60 efforts to grow and diversify Idaho's economy.

Aircraft and aeronautics parts exports from Idaho grew rapidly in 2010. The entire segment grew from $13.7 million to nearly $308 million year over year. Aircraft parts alone grew from $2 million to nearly $19 million and aircraft exports grew from $11.5 million to $18.7 million. The largest segment was for powered aircraft, which grew from zero to $269.8 million.

Over the past year, several of our companies reported some great news.

Quest Aircraft in Sandpoint received a significant investment from private investors that will help the company ramp up production and invest in its customer service centers. This unique company manufactures the Kodiak, a small, rugged aircraft that's used for everything from humanitarian missions and charter services to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The company received its FAA certification four years ago, and since then has delivered aircraft in more than 10 countries.

The confidence that investors have in Quest bodes well for the growth of this small startup business. It took a hit during the economic downturn but rode out the storm and now is in good position to grow as the nation continues its slow recovery.

Empire Aerospace in Hayden also received a boost a few months ago when it secured a long-term contract for heavy maintenance and aircraft modification work for Horizon Air. That meant creation of about 100 new jobs at Empire's 50,000-square-foot facility at the Coeur d'Alene Airport. These are jobs that typically pay an average of $44,000 a year for work that had been getting done in Portland, OR.

Another interesting aviation-related company is Unitech Composites in Hayden. It's one of the region's largest manufacturers of composite products for aerospace, the military and several other industries. Unitech recently was awarded some new contracts, including one to produce better components for the V-22 Osprey - a hybrid aircraft used by the U.S. military. Unitech will be working with Boeing on that project, which is an important connection to Idaho when the aircraft giant considers additional contracting opportunities.

A second Unitech contract, awarded last year, is for work on a pressurized oxygen tank that soldiers use on missions that take them over bodies of water. Unitech will reduce the weight and improve the performance of the product, increasing breathable air time of the system by 50 percent. That's critical to survivability in emergency situations.

You might not be familiar with these companies. After all, flying in Idaho often is seen as a necessity over our rugged terrain and sometimes becomes a favorite hobby for enthusiasts, but seldom is the business end of aviation highlighted.

The fact is there are a number of companies serving the aeronautics industry. While most are relatively small and specialized, together they do everything from providing interior design services for corporate aircraft to making complex composite aircraft parts and even entire planes.

They are quietly successful. They also are among our Project 60 Partners, contributing to Idaho's economic diversity and continued growth.


6-1-11

Otter: 'Hire One' is an effort needed to succeed

by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

Our economy is starting to grow again, but too many Idahoans remain out of work.

That's what I said in January in my annual State of the State address as I proposed augmenting our broader Project 60 initiative with a "Hire One" campaign encouraging Idaho's roughly 55,000 employers to add personnel to their operations whenever possible.

Employment levels haven't changed much in the past four months. Many Idaho companies are showing an increase in business and more profits. Financing is getting a little easier, and Idaho exports are on track to set records. Unfortunately, our jobless numbers don't reflect the uptick in business activity. About 74,000 Idahoans are still out of work, leaving us stalled at an unemployment rate closer to 10 percent than any of us would like.

Until that situation starts improving, any talk about the economic downturn being over is premature. It certainly isn't over for the Idahoans who are unemployed - a number greater than the total combined populations of Lemhi, Power, Teton, Boise, Caribou, Bear Lake, Lincoln, Custer, Oneida, Lewis, Adams, Butte, Camas and Clark counties.

For real growth to happen, it needs to occur at all levels, from the small businesses on our Main Streets to Idaho's biggest employers, from our rural communities to our more urban areas, and from the Panhandle to the high desert.

I recently was very pleased to be joined by some of Idaho's hardest-working economic development professionals, Chamber of Commerce officials and community leaders as I signed the Hire One Act, a new law passed by the Legislature that encourages and rewards businesses that add to their payrolls, and to Idaho's future prosperity.

Hire One provides tiered, targeted, refundable income tax credits for qualifying employers who create jobs or expand career opportunities in Idaho. There are three levels of qualification for the credits based on how each employer is rated by the Idaho Department of Labor for payment of unemployment insurance taxes. Those levels in brief are:

  • New employers hiring Idaho workers will qualify for a refundable tax credit equal to 4 percent of a new employee's gross annual wages.
  • Existing businesses with a positive unemployment insurance payment rating that add an employee would get a refundable tax credit equal to 6 percent of that new employee's gross annual wages.
  • Existing businesses with a deficit rating that add an employee would get a refundable tax credit equal to 2 percent of that new employee's gross annual wages.

Call it a bonus. Call it a reward. Call it whatever you like, but the fact is we expect the income tax credits paid out to employers will be more than fully offset by the income, sales and property taxes paid by those new employees in the workforce - not to mention the private economic activity they will generate. With minimum qualifying pay rates of $12 per hour in counties with 10 percent or more unemployment or $15 per hour in counties with jobless rates under 10 percent, and with employer-provided health insurance also required to qualify for the tax credits, we aren't just promoting employment; we're promoting career opportunities that can help keep a family off Medicaid or other public assistance.

You will see more about Hire One in coming months as we reach out to businesses around the state to join in building Idaho's economy through job growth. We soon will launch a web site at www.hireone.idaho.gov, which will be the go-to place for businesses to get their questions answered. The Department of Commerce, Department of Labor and State Tax Commission already are helping businesses understand Hire One benefits and requirements.

So if you're employed, mention it to your boss. If you're involved in a chamber of commerce, share it with your members. If you're involved in local government, adopt Hire One as your campaign too.

This is an effort that we all should take personally. Hire One can help get our friends, family and neighbors back to work. Right now that might be the most important step of all for Idaho's economy, communities and citizens.


4-28-11

Group promoting repeal of 'Luna Laws' seeking signatures

Dear Editor:

Please sign the referenda to repeal the three Luna laws. Signing the petitions just means you would like the three laws to be put before Idaho voters on the ballot for the next general election which is in 2012.

Petitions will be available to sign at the Community Clean-up and Yard Sale Saturday April 30 at the Orofino Park.

For further information call Pam Danielson 486-6361.

What's in the Luna Laws?

Senate Bill 1108:

  • Rolls back the collective bargaining rights of Idaho teachers
  • Prohibits professional negotiations regarding such issues as class sizes, lesson planning, and student health and safety
  • Requires that school districts advertise on behalf of professional liability insurance providers
  • Ends the practice of issuing renewable contracts to teachers
  • Allows trustees to reduce salaries and change teacher working conditions without negotiations or due process
  • Eliminates the fact-finding process in professional negotiations
  • Allows school districts fire proven teachers without legitimate reasons or a fair hearing
  • Takes away funding safeguards for school districts experiencing unexpected enrollment declines

Senate Bill 1110:

  • Bases teacher performance pay on student test scores
  • Establishes a complicated, vague and unproven pay scheme
  • Requires local school districts to spend $89 million on bonuses without providing a source of state funding

Senate Bill 1184:

  • Reduces state funding to local school districts by $156 million over the next six years
  • Requires individual "mobile computing devices" for high school students
  • Authorizes school districts to reduce the teaching staff by up to 25%
  • Mandates online courses for high school graduation
  • Forces local school boards to offset funding cuts and pay for laptop computers by:
    • Increasing class sizes,
    • Cutting pay for teachers and other school employees,
    • Shortening the school year
    • Eliminating extra-curricular activities and enrichment programs, and/or
    • Raising local property taxes

Pam Danielson
Orofino


4-25-11

A 'gem' of an idea for Idaho's economy

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

While small businesses are and will continue to be the foundation of our economy and the source of most employment in our state, it's only a matter of time before the next big employer rises in Idaho. I don't know who it will be or in what industry, but I'll put my money on one thing: It will be an Idaho start-up.

The Idaho Technology Council (ITC) understands that too. They have launched a new initiative called IGem that seeks to foster the new Idaho business 'gems' with the potential to have a major impact on our economy. The organization is working with the Department of Commerce and my Idaho Innovation Council in pursuing our shared Project 60 goals.

Jay Larsen, president of the ITC, says his group sees three ways of doing this:

  • Increase the amount of research at the universities;
  • Get more great research technologies from our universities turned into businesses;
  • Help more startup companies launch and grow.

Those are straightforward goals that have my full support and deserve yours as well. Now comes the hard work.

The ITC is a private group creating public-private links so everyone pulls together, in the same direction. Its research and development committee consists of vice presidents of research from all three public universities as well as top executives from the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, INL and private companies.

By the end of this year, the group will work out a proof-of-concept for IGem and create a detailed plan for putting it into action.

"When the economy grows again, we don't expect to see the state government grow. We hope that revenue increases then would be freer for possible uses such as research and development and growth programs like this," Larsen said.

IGem is patterned after a similar program in Utah called USTAR, created five years ago. That program is state-funded and has a goal of attracting world-class researchers to Utah universities in order to generate bigger and better ideas for commercialization.

The ITC isn't banking on state funding. Its leaders understand that showing a unified front makes researchers and programs more competitive for federal grants - and those are the big dollars. Connecting researchers with a structure to commercialize their ideas, and providing links to those who can provide business funding and business skills will also be an integral part of IGem.

As Larsen explains, this collaborative initiative could help someone in Rexburg or Salmon or Emmett connect with the right people to get their business launched. Having a structure in place to facilitate those connections will be especially important as the economy begins to grow again.

For a long time, Idaho has celebrated its home-grown successes.

There are some big ones: Albertsons, J.R. Simplot Co., Micron Technology, Melaleuca and Keynetics are among them. It's hard to remember when they were small start-ups. But many of Idaho's largest companies today grew from the ground up right here in Idaho.

These companies are important to the state and its citizens by contributing tax revenues that build roads and schools, and providing thousands of jobs. They also have been fiercely loyal corporate citizens for Idaho, with founders and top executives who grew up here and have done everything possible to stay here over the years.

Of course, some have had to make business decisions that took company headquarters elsewhere. That happens. But that doesn't diminish the fact that a huge employer grew up here and continues to supply hundreds of jobs throughout the state.

It's just a matter of time before the next company surges forward. There already are some contenders - like Inovus, M2M Communications and Transform Solar.

Like me, the ITC is in this for the long haul, and IGem isn't something that will be developed quickly. You can expect to hear a lot of talk this year about how IGem can be put into action. ITC members are working closely with me and our state agencies, and plan to meet with legislators in the coming month to discuss how they also can be involved.


3-17-11

Bruce: Heavy on opinions light on facts

"Heavy on opinions light on facts," that is my assessment of the outcome of the recent Joint School District 171 Special School Board meeting. The Board was looking for options to alleviate overcrowding at the Orofino Elementary School and Orofino High School. This condition resulted from their decision to close the Orofino Junior High School last year and divide those students between OES and OHS. In the interim the District has had to continue using parts of OJHS for the displaced students to cover their physical training programs. The bottom-line conclusion by the Board at the special meeting was to run a repeat of the bond election for new construction, the very option the patrons turned down last year and an option I hope is turned down again.

Riverview Construction, a firm owned by John Anderson and Rick Burnham of Orofino, offered a free evaluation of the OJHS facility to determine the feasibility of restoring use of one floor of vacant classrooms at OJHS. This would solve the overcrowding situation at OES and OHS. The School Board argued vehemently against this option arguing that they just can't accept volunteer assistance because the volunteer must be licensed and bonded. Guess what-Riverview Construction is licensed for General Construction and Plumbing with a bond for 10 million dollars and is licensed as a Public Works Licensed Contractor with a bond for 5 million. As well, they have an array of subcontractors to cover every other aspect of construction. As In the past, most of the Board membership opts against using OJHS because of their personal prejudices and, I suspect, hidden agenda.

At the special meeting, a representative from the State's Department of Commerce and Labor presented a report on local demographics from the 2010 Census. The report clarified that population and school enrollment will continue to decline over the next decade. Even with this information in hand, the Board still insists on new construction instead of using the existing facilities to their fullest potential.

Three of the five School Board members are up for reelection this spring. I encourage the patrons to exercise their right at the ballot box and vote in a new School Board membership, one that will acknowledge the facts of declining enrollment and a sagging economy, and one that will not indebt us with new construction or unnecessary renovations.

As patrons, become activists and write letters-to-the-editor and contact each School Board member with your concerns. They are: Alyce (Reuter) Arnsberg, Don Ebert, Theresa Graber, Amy Jared, and John Schwartz. Contact information is available at the district web site www.sd171.k12.id.us. The School Board members have the power of the vote, not the superintendent. They are the ones you must convince as to your point of view.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


3-15-11

Drug, alcohol use by school-aged children a community concern

Guest opinion by Orofino Police Chief Jeff Wilson

This week I would like to inform you about a topic of concern that has received a great deal of attention in our community as of late. I want to share some information with you regarding drug and alcohol use/abuse among school-aged children. With the recent expulsions of five children from the Orofino Elementary School there has been a lot of discussion in the community and in the media regarding this topic. Though most of the attention and discussion has been narrowly focused on these five children, the reality is that drug and alcohol use by school-aged children is a widespread problem. This is clearly not just a school problem or a youth problem, but rather a community problem. Underage drinking and drug use is often detected in the school setting because of the number of caring adults interacting with kids but it is clearly not a problem that only relates to schools. It is a community problem that will require a community solution to affect positive changes among youth and positive changes in social and community norms and expectations.

Clearwater County routinely ranks among the top two or three counties in Idaho regarding usage rates of drugs and alcohol by minors. These statistics are normally generated through self disclosure on surveys that are completed by school-aged kids. According to Magistrate Judge Randy Robinson nearly 100 percent of the juvenile offenders who have been committed in Clearwater County to the Department of Juvenile Corrections were assessed and diagnosed with a substance abuse problem. There is an obvious correlation between substance abuse and at risk behaviors and criminal activity. Juveniles who begin drinking at or prior to age 15 are 4 to 6 times more likely to suffer from alcohol dependency as adults than those juveniles who choose to be alcohol free. These statistics are frightening and deserve attention by students, parents, community leaders, and other caring adults in the community.

For the past few years the Police Department has focused attention and resources toward this issue in hopes of reducing underage drinking and drug abuse among minors. We have routinely sent officers to national and regional underage drinking conferences to learn more effective strategies for enforcement and education. We began conducting periodic compliance checks among businesses licensed for the sale of alcohol in hopes of limiting access to alcohol by minors. We began a well publicized "zero tolerance" enforcement measure on open containers of alcohol in public to further reduce the availability of alcohol to minors. We have had police officers participate in coalitions such as the Clearwater Substance Abuse Workgroup (CSAW) and provided various training to our youth and community members. In the last two years we have worked with our schools and CSAW to bring Idaho Drug Free Youth (IDFY) into the schools and community to provide education to both students and adults regarding underage drinking and drug abuse. In conjunction with CSAW we have been able to schedule yet another school and community program for students and adults from March 17-18. These presentations will feature Jermaine Galloway, a police officer from the Boise Police Department who has received national recognition for his work relating to underage drinking and trends among teens and young adults.

I wanted to share this information to demonstrate our commitment to significantly reducing underage drinking and drug use among minors in our community. We are committed to consistent and unbiased enforcement of drug and alcohol laws. We will continue to provide education to students and adults in the community regarding the risks and consequences of underage drinking and drug use. Additionally, we will continue to support and empower the youth in our community who choose to remain drug and alcohol free and serve as role models for their peers. We will also continue to devote time to our schools in hopes that our presence in the schools will serve as a deterrent to drug and alcohol use and other at risk behaviors among students.

Feel free to contact the Police Department if you have any questions or comments relating to this issue. You can follow us on our web site at www.orofinopd.com or through Facebook.

3-7-11

'It takes a whole village...'

Dear Editor:

There has been a lot of attention paid to the incidents involving some of the seventh graders in Orofino. Though I agree that something needs to be done about this serious problem, I just wish we paid the same amount of attention to some of the good things our children do. Not all kids drink, do drugs or get in trouble. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with youth, and it never ceases to amaze me how awesome they are. I have found that when given the right amount of attention and respect, they will almost always not disappoint you.

I would like to respectfully ask the community to get to know our youth better by becoming part of the solution. Volunteer at one of the schools. Help out with a little league team. Volunteer at the Teen Center or any other after-school program. Come out and support a sporting event, or a music program, or any other youth program, event or fundraiser. Join one of the many great local clubs/organizations who devote their time and energy to youth. (If you are already doing this, thank you and kudos!) You might be amazed at how much fun it is, and how great our kids really are. Sure there are "bad apples", always have been always will be, but there is hope for them too, if we give them a chance.

Why do kids smoke, drink and do drugs in the first place? They will most often tell you it's because they want to "fit in", "feel good" and "be accepted". I believe that if we can find a way for them to achieve this without using a substance, we go a long way in solving the problem. We as adults play a huge role in making this happen. As a community, we need to make sure there are fun, healthy activities for our youth, and we need to get out and support these activities. We need to encourage good grades, good behavior and honor their achievements. We need to listen to what they have to say and respect their ideas and opinions. And as parents, we need to know and care about, where our kids are, who they hang with, and what they are doing?. Oh, and never ever make excuses for their bad behavior!

I most definitely believe in the African proverb "It takes a whole village to raise a child". If everyone in our "village" plays a part in helping our youth succeed, we all win.

Barbara Wityczak Orofino

3-3-11

Take the opportunity to become educated on the problem

Dear Editor,

The recent activity at the Orofino Elementary School regarding the use of drugs and alcohol has brought a lot of attention to our community. Substance abuse and underage drinking is a community problem that is a constant challenge for our school system and law enforcement. However unfortunate this situation has been for our community, it is an opportunity to become educated on the reality of the problem.

Clearwater Substance Abuse Work-group (CSAW) has been actively involved in these issues for over 10 years. The group sponsors education seminars for our students, parents and community members. Instead of making this recent incident an opportunity to point fingers, take this opportunity to become educated on what your community is really dealing with in regards to underage drinking and substance abuse.

Jermaine Galloway, a Boise City Police Officer and nationally renowned speaker, will be in Orofino March 17 and 18 presenting information to the Orofino and Timberline schools. There will also be a Community Forum and free chili feed at the Orofino Junior High multi-purpose room from 6 - 9 pm on March 17th. This event is for adult community members to get a reality check on what youth are up against in regards to underage drinking and other substances. Jermaine will then be meeting with community leaders on Friday, March 18 to conclude his visit to Clearwater County.

Because underage drinking and substance abuse is a community problem, we would like to challenge the Clearwater County community to be involved in the solution. For more information on these events and on CSAW please visit www.csaw-orofino.org.

On behalf of the CSAW Board of Directors
Heather Leach, Chairman

2-25-11

Thanks to the Idaho Public Employee's Association

Dear Editor:

We, as public employees didn't sign up for public service based on salaries. At present, virtually any public servant of 20 years or more can take that salary and compare it to private sector jobs of similar classifications an see we have never kept pace. We knew it when we hired on!

So why do we do it, a big part of the answer is PERSI. It is a benefit of public employees that Legislators haven't totally destroyed. Oh, they have tried! As I reported, over 10 years ago the Legislators enacted laws to legally tap PERSI funds. They'll say they were giving it back to you. They won't say they took a huge chunk themselves damaging the fund. Ken Roberts fails to mention that in his Lewiston article. Nor does he justify his thinking with fact. He does try to ease your pain by saying it affect's only new employees, not retirees.

With Legislators telling tales like this, we only have ourselves to blame for falling victims to politicians like this. Can the State absorb another $500 million dollar business annually, and growing, to shut down? That's what will be lost if PERSI turns to a 401K? This economic engine to Idaho's economy costs thet axpayer nothing, nothing! It builds its own funds, something Idaho politicians are extremely jealous of. At least the ones that are in that office for themselves and not you. Ken, don't fix what ain't broke!

I'm thankful to Donna Yule of the Idaho Public Employees Association for keeping us informed. We will meet again at a more convenient time to discuss further a course of action to level the playing field; thank you Donna for the facts! Public Employees State, County and City wide watch your backs.

Dan Davis
Cascade


2-24-11

Students Come First invests in Idaho's teachers

by First Lady Lori Otter

Whether you have been at the head of the classroom or in a desk on the other end, you know the importance of quality teaching. It makes all the difference.

With the help of a great teacher, a struggling student can excel. Under an ineffective teacher, that student may never catch up. We know this from our own school experiences, as well as extensive research.

The teacher is and always will be the most important factor in student success.

If we truly want to put students first, we have to make sure we invest in Idaho's teachers. That's exactly what the Students Come First plan does.

As a former teacher, I am excited about the possibilities this plan provides for great teachers now and in the future.

Some have claimed this plan "devalues teachers." That couldn't be further from the truth. It's the only option that actually invests in teachers.

Right now, our state faces an unprecedented funding cliff. We cannot cut our schools more. We cannot raise taxes on hard-working Idahoans. Taxpayers and parents want the government to figure how to do more with less. Students Come First gets us there.

Through this plan, Idaho will save $500 million over the next five years - all of which gets reinvested back into the classroom.

Half of this money goes directly into teacher pay. While other states are cutting teacher salaries, Idaho is working to put $250 million into raising pay for teachers, restoring the funding grid, and finally rewarding excellence in the classroom.

Pay-for-performance will be in addition to the base salary. Why am I excited about this? Well, if I was still in the classroom, I could earn up to $8,000 in bonuses a year. We have great teachers all across our state. It's time we showed our appreciation.

Teachers also will have access to advanced technology through an unprecedented $53 million investment in hardware, software and professional development. Every year, teachers vie for technology grants for their classrooms. Now, this will be commonplace in every school. Technology provides many opportunities for teachers to work smarter, not harder.

Above all, the state of Idaho will establish a professional, quality working environment for educators. From now on, teachers will be evaluated on their skills and performance, not longevity. Evaluations will be fair and equitable. Student achievement will be measured based on academic growth, not solely on proficiency. All professional development will focus on what students and teachers need.

These are the things highly effective teachers have been demanding for years. I heard it as a classroom teacher, at the administrative level, as a citizen, and the First Lady of Idaho. Through Students Come First, we can finally provide teachers with the tools they need to help raise student achievement.

The time is now. In the words of Gabriela Mistral (1945 Nobel Laureate in Literature): "Many things can wait; children cannot. Today, their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, and their senses are being developed. To Them, we cannot say 'tomorrow.' Their name is Today."

Let's work together to make sure our Students Come First?Today.


2-21-11

Ketchum: I have an opinion too Mr. Tidwell

Dear Editor:

I have an opinion too, why do we need a United Nations puppet telling us what to do in Idaho or any state within the United States of America? We don't need some United Nations bobble head under the guise U S Forest Service telling Idaho Government how to manage our forests. Idahoans have a vested interest in our forests. The forests are one of the greatest renewable resources in the State of Idaho. The goal of the United Nations is to control all of the countries of the world. This bobble head says that the USDA Forest Service is committed to "investing in the future", isn't that right out of the Obama play book? Apparently the puppeteer has trained Mr. Tidwell well. Is he a fresh appointee or a Czar in our new type of government?

Mr. Tidwell makes reference to "conservation groups, landowners, businesses and governments" In his dissertation and look who shows up first, "conservation groups". Gee! I wonder where Mr. Tidwell's loyalties lie. OHH! I forgot that these innovations will help global warming. Is there anyone out there in the world with their eyes open that hasn't realized that global warming or climate change is a natural occurrence in a rhythmic fashion? Sometimes the rhythm is altered by natural occurrences like, large volcanic eruptions, meteor strikes. Maybe you should check this link to one of our other government agencies, one that keeps accurate records. Link -http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/cag3/na.html

Check the date span or change it to your liking and hit submit. You will notice with the given data, which the first years after 1900 seem to show the same trends as are shown currently. Even with the planet covered in smoking, choking, fuel burning vehicles. Humm , maybe the puppeteer has a broken string or two? And then! Mr. Tidwell goes on to make statements regarding 4,000 acres of open space being lost to "new building" every day. Now it seems to me, the last visionary statements of our President were all about building high speed rail and putting people to work doing construction, "shovel ready jobs". Are they going to do all of this on already developed ground? Well, maybe the puppeteer is working the wrong stage?

I think I best stop now, I am soon going to lose control of the content of this note. And yes, some agencies do not deserve capitol letters. This IS NOT the government my father left to me.

Deryl Ketchum
Orofino


2-14-11

What legacy will 'my generation' leave

Dear Editor:

"My generation", I feel I can comment, at least on my generation in the Clearwater country having lived here my entire life less a stint in a foreign war. When I was young I remember the excitement generated when the road up the Lochsa was finished and usable, the talk was about the reduced prices that would result from lower transportation costs, access to hunting and fishing and the reduced travel time for those going East or West from our beautiful Basin. This road along with other taxpayer funded roads provided our region with a better standard of living brought about by more and higher paying jobs. My generation took full advantage of the opportunities provided. Groceries were cheaper, fuel prices came down (in real terms), life was good, cars were faster, air conditioned, as were our homes. We paid taxes knowing the results would be a better life for us and our kids (later grand kids). Along the way we had our bumps and bruises which we overcame or solved, American ingenuity you know has always came through for us.

Being a "Mountain Person" I always liked going places and seeing the big beautiful homes people built, I didn't covet these homes after all I had the whole world to live in or so it seemed. Living in the North Fork Region has been a stress less, rewarding experience. Little did I know that some folks of my generation were counting their taxes as an investment in their personal retirement. They thought they could move to the "beautiful basin" and count the tax funded roads as their own driveways, and other uses would be suspended. So my generation has taken to courts to prevent the use of our roads by our kids and grandkids. Does my generation plan to close these roads to logging trucks, fuel trucks, grocery trucks and farm trucks? Maybe, if we let them succeed in their current endeavors. "My Generation" has turned out to be the most blessed generation in the history of the planet, are we now going to be the most "selfish generation"?

Sincerely,
Ed Galloway
Lenore


2-12-11

Willis: 'Tree huggers' stop Salmon-Challis Travel Plan

Dear Editor:

So; the tree huggers have sued and stopped the travel plan for the Salmon-Challis National Forest. This is a classic example of why I detest tree huggers.

I am in my sixties and have been riding dirt-bikes for over 40 years. This means I have been persecuted by these lowlifes for most of my life. The situation where everything that happens must meet their approval or they sue must end.

The tree huggers are responsible for most of our problems today. We have coal fired power plants spewing out massive pollution because they killed nuclear power. We are dependant on foreign oil because they won't allow us to drill for our own. The Forest Service can't make a balanced travel plan because they want OHVs eliminated from the planet.

Well I feel the same way about them. That's why I am announcing my candidacy for president of the Republic of Idaho. If elected I will keep our dirt bike and ATV trails open; I will let the mega loads roll; I will exterminate the wolves; and I will round up the Friends of the Clearwater and all the other Commies I can find and put them in concentration camps with smallpox infected blankets.

Oh, and I think I will ask Rex Rammel to be my Secretary of State.

Jim Willis
Orofino


2-11-11

International Year of the Forest is a time for reflection, action

Guest opinion by Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the Department of Agriculture

The International Year of the Forest, a United Nations-sponsored celebration to focus the world's attention on the need to sustainably manage the world's trees, is not merely an event but a reminder that we are at the precipice of change. We are guardians who have an obligation to protect and restore our world's forests, grasslands and wetlands, all of which are the source of clean air and water, the protectors of fish and wildlife habitats and the greatest assets to mitigate the effects of global climate change.

The USDA Forest Service is committed to investing in the future of our public lands through our work with partners at home and abroad. The value of our forests cannot be underestimated. In addition to providing clean air and water and wildlife habitat, the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people rely on forests worldwide. At home, one in five Americans depends upon clean water originating in national forests.

In the United States, conservation groups, landowners, businesses and governments at all levels are involved more than ever before in efforts to address environmental and economic challenges on many fronts, including in the development of a new Forest Service Planning Rule that will govern how we manage and conserve America's 193-million acre National Forest System. Our ability to come together now to address a myriad of concerns will have great impact on future generations.

Public and private forests are under substantial stress from the effects of climate change, wildfire, insects and pathogens. Privately held forests also face pressure from development of housing and other real estate - America loses more than 4,000 acres of open space to new building every day. The private forests and rangelands that are being parceled off for housing developments and urban sprawl adversely affect our water supply, our air and our wildlife habitat.

The Forest Service is tackling these issues with an all-lands approach that requires looking broadly across public and private lands to protect the environment and create wealth in rural communities. I have faith that by working with our communities and our partners, together we will be innovators, collaborators and defenders of our precious natural resources. As we find new ways to protect our national legacy, we will also work to create or expand emerging markets at home and abroad, such as for carbon and sustainable bioenergy that can provide landowners with another source of revenue.

It is time for us as a nation and as part of the global community to focus on what's really at risk. Issues affecting our natural resources aren't limited to any single ownership or any specific part of the planet. They extend across boundaries and are best addressed collaboratively. As we move through the International Year of the Forest, I urge everyone to become engaged.

Conserving our forests isn't just something that we should choose to do. It is something that we must do.


1-31-11

Double standard exists

Dear Editor,

A double standard exists between what is said and what is promoted in Orofino. In last week's Clearwater Tribune there were articles and advertisements against underage drinking and drug abuse. Our Mayor had a message that spoke of a "Community Problem" about alcohol and prescription drug abuse in our school. I agree with him, there is a problem. Why then is the main visible activity of the Orofino Chamber of Commerce a Beer Wagon/Garden. This vehicle and associated seating is set up whenever a major event is happening in Orofino. This seems to be at odds with what this or any organization should be promoting in our city.

Thank you,
Steve and Jo McGill
Orofino


1-27-11

Help with the 'Community Problem'

Guest opinion by Orofino Mayor Ryan Smathers

We have a strong and urgent need for help in our community. We have a "Community Problem" which is affecting some of our most valuable citizens. The alcohol and prescription drug issue at the elementary school is an urgent and dire situation needing a strong and deliberate response from all of our citizens. Don't Stop Reading Now. You may be asking yourself, is there anything I can do to help. Well the first thing is Lock Up your prescription medication. Even if you live alone, the potential for a visitor having access to your prescriptions is high. Locking your prescriptions away protects you and also the youth of our community.

Second, it is not alright to be buying alcohol for minors. If you're doing it Stop. If you know someone purchasing alcohol for minors, report them. You may be of the frame of mind that alcohol is not an issue. You're wrong. Studies have shown that alcohol at younger ages affects brain development and learning abilities. There is a legal drinking age for a reason. Let's do our part to keep alcohol out of reach or locked up.

Perhaps the most troubling is the combination of the two substances above. There are reports of parties where prescription medications and alcohol are used together. This is a lethal combination.

I am asking for help. Please lock up all your prescription medications and alcohol. Please talk to your kids about the dangers of these substances. Let them know its okay to talk to you, me or a police officer about suspicious activity they see. Talk to their teachers, principals and the school board about ways to be more involved in the schools as a deterrent to these kinds of activities. This a "Community Problem", so lets come together as a community and resolve this very important problem. After all, Orofino is one of the 100 Best Communities in the nation to raise children.


1-22-11

Loss of wallet has a happy ending

Editor's note: We received this letter in early December and it got missed in the Christmas Festival rush. We would like to share this happy ending with our readers now.

Dear Editor,

The lost has been found! I am happy to write that my son's wallet that was lost on Nov. 23rd has been found and returned fully intact. It was "Frozen Solid ", . but all accounted for.

On Sunday, Dec 5, in the afternoon The Dennis and Elizabeth Hill family were coming to the bowling alley for their son's seventh birthday party. While getting out of their car one of their children spotted something frozen in the snow and worked and got it lose and recognized it as the wallet that was missing and brought it inside, We were all shocked and surprised. We thought it was gone forever and we are so grateful and thankful to this family and to the fact that it was found.

After drying the wallet and contents, everything was saved! I have one happy little boy who now knows that there are "Old Fashion Honest People" out there and that we all live together in one small caring community. And believe me he has learned a valuable lesson to make sure its tucked tightly in his pocket.

On Thursday Dec. 2nd, he asked to see Santa. He told me later that he had asked him to help him find his wallet that's all he wanted for Christmas, Then Saturday an anonymous person with a big heart left a wallet at Riverside Lanes for my son to replace the one he lost, along with a nice surprise inside. To you, who ever you are, "Thank you ". You also showed my son there are people out there with compassion for others. In this world, we live in that is sometimes forgotten. And thanks to all the people who asked and helped look and let us hang signs and put it in the paper. With all of this chain of events, we truly had a happy ending.

From the Lashly family
Orofino


1-21-11

Mauldin: Idaho should be proud of charter, virtual schools

Guest opinion by Leslie Mauldin

Idaho is a state with some very unique geographical opportunities that also present some challenges. Our rural character and the lifestyle that it fosters is a fantastic blessing, and it has led to many creative solutions in providing public services. The delivery of mail by jet boat to the year-round residents of Hells Canyon is one example of this. Idaho's many virtual and charter schools are another.

Many people are unaware that there are 43 virtual and charter schools in the state of Idaho. In fact, many people are unaware that these educational facilities exist at all, which is why the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families was formed in 2003 to educate people about the benefits of these educational facilities. Currently there are nearly 7,000 Idaho students waiting for a chance to learn in a Public Charter environment.

The purpose of the Coalition is to promote and advocate for public policy at the State and Federal level that furthers the advancement of public charter schools, virtual education and distance learning opportunities. The Coalition works to ensure that every Idaho student has equal access to the option of enrolling in a public charter school, virtual charter school or supplementing their education through distance learning.

There is a strong and vocal minority in the state of Idaho that consistently attempts to thwart expansion of public charter and public virtual schools. The actions of these well-meaning but mistaken individuals would limit our choice of educational opportunities for our children and others who would benefit from these schools.

We understand that the state of Idaho is facing an unprecedented funding crisis. During these trying economic and budgetary times, we are striving to find ways to assist the state in providing funding and support for our educational choice. Our coalition is working to encourage the state to provide equity in public funding and extracurricular activities.

Since charter and virtual schools cost the taxpayers 23 percent less than traditional public schools and produce better results, these schools actually save taxpayer dollars. Thus, it is important to stand in support of more choice, not less.

The upcoming Legislative Session provides all Idahoans with a unique opportunity to reach our elected leaders and tell them about the issues that are vital to us. Members of the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families will be traveling to Boise on Feb. 2nd to speak with our elected officials in an effort to protect our right to choice in education for our children. We also want those on the long waiting lists across the state to have the same opportunities to educate their children as they choose.

I would ask anyone who supports the concept of choice in education to please consider attending! Our children and families need your support at our day at the Legislature on Feb. 2nd. The last time significant legislative progress was made; it was because so many charter and virtual school families and supporters showed up and demonstrated our commitment. In the current financial climate, we need to show up and command the attention of the Legislature once again, and send the message that choice in education is a good thing for the state of Idaho.

We are planning a wonderful event that will be educational and informative, culminating in a rally on the Statehouse steps, and the singing of God Bless America and the National Anthem in the Statehouse rotunda. As a professional musician, I know how effective music can be in passing information from the mind to the heart.

I am looking forward to meeting many of you at this event and at future events we are planning for 2011. Let's kick the year off right by letting our lawmakers know that people support the right to choose the way that children are educated in the state of Idaho. You can register (it's free!) at www.idchartercoalition.org. I'll see you there.

Leslie Mauldin serves as president of the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families. She is also the chair for Victory Public Charter School and a director of Idahoans for Choice in Education.

Photo: Leslie Mauldin


12-23-10

Black Hat Team makes a difference at Department of Corrections

by Director Brent D. Reinke, Idaho Department of Correction

Here at the Idaho Department of Correction we've dubbed ourselves the Black Hat Team. The hat is a symbol of our commitment to the core values of our mission - safety, accountability, partnerships and opportunities for offender change. We chose black because we know we're not very popular around the Statehouse at budget time. People would rather spend money on the white hats, schools and universities, than on prisons. In a perfect world, I would, too. But the world is not perfect, and it doesn't appear it's going to be anytime soon.

Brent Reinke

In recent years the Black Hat Team has quietly become a leader in the corrections field. Here are just a few examples our success:

  • The rate at which Idaho offenders return to prison after they've been released is among the lowest in the nation. In fact, Idaho's success rate is almost as high as California's failure rate. In Idaho, 62 percent of all released offenders stay out of prison for at least three years. In California, 67.5 percent of all offenders are back in prison within three years.
  • Idaho is emerging as a national leader in the implementation of innovative, evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs. We're getting more offenders better treatment faster. As a result, they're spending less time locked up in prison at taxpayer expense, and succeeding as law-abiding citizens at a higher rate when they're released.
  • Idaho has managed to put the brakes on explosive growth in the size of the state's prison population. In fact, for the past two years the population has actually gone down.

What makes this success story even more impressive is that it's been done in a time of declining resources. In FY09, IDOC's general fund budget was $173.4 million. In FY11, it was $145.7 million. That's a 16 percent drop. We have asked the men and women of IDOC to do more with less, and they have come through with more than any of us dreamed.

While I am proud of the Black Hat Team, I am also worried about the future. For three years IDOC has required employees to take time off without pay. Even as the furloughs started, independent legislative auditors were warning that the department's prisons were dangerously understaffed. Now, because of this additional constraint, we are having to leave more important work stations unstaffed for periods of time.

The furloughs are also impacting employee retention. After declining for several years, the rate at which employees leave the department is on the rise. We're losing the correctional professionals who are responsible for our success. If present trends continue, we'll see a 24 percent turnover in our correctional officer ranks this fiscal year alone.

I know that Idahoans will never cheer on their Black Hat Team like they do the Broncos, the Vandals or the Bengals. But as we gear up for a new legislative session, I hope people will understand they have a stake in the team's success. If we stay on course, more offenders will be held accountable and given opportunities to change. If we are weakened, Idaho will pay more in the form of taxpayers' dollars and crime victims' tears.


12-2-10

Lt. Gov. Little supporting Crapo stand on national debt reduction

Dear Editor,

Now is the time for leaders to stand up and address our burgeoning national debt. Idaho has such a leader in Senator Mike Crapo, who has made the bold step to support the current proposal by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The measure seeks the first comprehensive pathway to a fiscally responsible future for America. Is it perfect? No. Is it incredibly important for securing our children's and grandchildren's economic and peaceful well-being? Absolutely!

I urge Idaho to stand behind Senator Crapo and all who work to reduce the federal deficit and secure future economic opportunities for our country.

Brad Little
Idaho Lieutenant Governor


11-30-10

Youngster loses wallet

Dear Editor,

On Tuesday, the 23rd of November, my eight-year-old son lost his wallet coming out of Hayes Food Store.

That day was a very cold and busy day. I truly feel someone had to have seen it happen or later found it. I am not sure if his name was in it, but I do know of the contents which happened to be all of his birthday money he had saved and a gift card plus two coupons for Toys R Us.

When he returned to me, he realized it was missing and we went right back retracing his steps in the snow to the store asking people, but no one saw it just that he had left the store with it, He said he had put it in his pants pocket, but in the excitement of spending his own money and all the people, he missed his pocket.

Most importantly, is the wallet itself means a lot to him. It was his big brother's who had given to him to use as his first wallet. It's a black Velcro one with a Blind Skateboard logo on it with some red.

What I am asking is that whoever might have seen it or picked it up, please find it in your heart to return the wallet no questions asked and show a little boy that there are still some old fashion honest people out there. It can be returned to Riverside Lanes.

Sincerely,
Theresa A. Lashly
Orofino


11-27-10

Smathers: Community pulls together after storm

It is with pleasure that I communicate with the citizens of Orofino regarding last week's unfortunate wind storm that hit our community with unprecedented gale winds. It is estimated that winds exceeded 85 miles per hour in a matter of seconds. With the exception of a few pets, we are thankful that no deaths or injuries occurred during this devastating period. However, there was extensive damage to homes, garages and other structures that will take many months to rebuild. Our hearts and prayers go out to all those who suffered damages. We are a resilient community with great resolve and many resources. We will recover.

On another note, I would like to publically acknowledge the immediate response I personally witnessed during the early morning hours of Nov. 16th when the storm hit. I saw many individuals in the middle of the night who set aside their own personal damages and looked after their neighbors. I observed local churches that provided food and shelter for those who lost homes. Their concern was not for themselves, but for others in need. For this, I, and the Orofino City Council thank you for your unselfish acts you provided. It only demonstrates that we are a community that pulls together in time of need.

Finally, I cannot overstate my appreciation for the professionalism and unconditional commitment of our City Administration, Public Works, Police, Fire, Building, and Water-Wastewater Departments. Employees in these departments went above and beyond their normal job duties to clear roads, remove trees and debris from homes, assist individuals in need, and coordinated with outside resources for additional assistance. In short, they quickly developed a plan and worked as one team on behalf of all residents. For this, I thank them for pulling together and thinking of our community first. You are truly the best.

Orofino Mayor Ryan Smathers


11-6-10

Idaho taking lead in energy efficiency research, application

by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

We in Idaho are blessed with an almost instinctive desire to preserve and protect what we have - not shelving it, but rather using it carefully and to its best long-term advantage. That's called "stewardship," and it is at the heart of my efforts to advance the cause of both public and private energy efficiency.

On October 27th I joined representatives of our Idaho universities, the Idaho National Laboratory, my Office of Energy Resources and some of Idaho's most prominent and energy-intensive businesses in pledging our support and collaboration to the Center for Advanced Energy Studies' Energy Efficiency Research Institute.

It was yet another element of my Project 60 initiative to grow Idaho's economy and create more career opportunities, in this case by leveraging our strengths in alternative and renewable energy development. And there is nothing more renewable or sustainable than using less energy to produce more of everything from computer chips to potato chips.

Also joining us in affirming support for bringing together Idaho's world-class knowledge and technical expertise to help make the most of our limited and increasingly precious energy resources was Ralph Cavanagh of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Now, it might be surprising to some that conservative, redder-than-red Idaho would care about, much less solicit, the support of such a well-known environmental organization. But the fact is we share a commitment to stewardship, and an understanding that efficiency and conservation are the lowest-hanging fruits in our energy orchard.

What we can conserve, we don't have to generate, leaving more energy available to meet the growing needs of new technologies and our desire for new and expanding employment opportunities. What could be more conservative than that?

Ralph Cavanagh, an internationally known expert on energy efficiency and renewable energy, made the point in adding his support for the Energy Efficiency Research Institute that Idaho is at the cutting edge, leading the way among Northwest states in moving energy conservation from rhetoric to a real policy priority.

He said such a venture, bringing together producers and consumers of electricity under the umbrella of scientific research and development of technologies for improving energy efficiency, has been discussed for years, but that actually committing to do it is unprecedented in our region.

That shouldn't be the case. As Paul Kjellander, administrator of the Office of Energy Resources, points out, applying cost-effective energy efficiency measures requires no lengthy permitting processes such as those which bog down development of new energy transmission or generation capacity. And such measures represent a tangible resource that can produce returns on investment in a relatively short timeframe.

That's a paradigm that can be appreciated by diehard conservationists and bottom-line corporate executives alike. At the same time, it's a strategy that makes particular sense for a state which has fewer traditional energy resources like coal, oil and gas than some of our neighbors and yet enjoys some of the lowest electricity costs in the nation. That means energy efficiency isn't something being forced upon us - we're embracing it because it's the right thing to do.

The Office of Energy Resources has earned some well-deserved recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy for the way in which it deployed federal stimulus dollars to help make schools, public buildings and large industrial customers more energy efficient. The agreement to join together in support of the Energy Efficiency Research Institute also reflects the commitment of such Idaho companies as Idaho Power, Micron and Simplot to more aggressively move advances in energy efficiency from the laboratory to the marketplace.

For example, the Office of Energy Resources has studied the feasibility of using "Sorption Waste Heat Recovery Heat Pump Technology" at Idaho food processing plants. At the two facilities where the technology has been studied in-depth - Jerome Cheese in Jerome and McCain Foods in Burley - it was found that installation would save the plants an estimated $143,000 and $151,000 in energy costs each year, and the investments would pay for themselves in four years and four and a half years, respectively. That money could be used to expand operations and hire more people, actually growing Idaho's economy by using less energy.

Our Office of Energy Resources also routinely participates in Energy Saving Assessments at Idaho industrial plants to help find ways to make operations more efficient. And it participates regularly with the U.S. Department of Energy in providing energy efficiency training and certification courses aimed at industrial facilities, both in Idaho and throughout the region.

Combining that kind of focus with the phenomenal capabilities of the scientists, technicians and other researchers at our universities - and especially their collaborative efforts with the INL at the Center for Advanced Energy Studies - the Energy Efficiency Research Institute being developed in Boise is in a unique position to make Idaho a world leader in this growing field. That will mean more career-path jobs and a more attractive environment for employers to relocate or expand.

And we're just getting started.


10-28-10

Rural counties need to band together

Dear Editor:

It has now become necessary for rural counties to band together. Divided and one county at a time we have minimal chance of affecting the bureaucracy that we are confronted with day to day. The time has come for us local government officials to stand up, step up, and stand together for the people of who are the true government of this land. It is time to elect folks like Republican Carole Galloway. I can tell you that Carole is exactly the right kind of leader Clearwater County needs.

A county commissioner serves as The Voice of The People to state and federal agencies. We, the rural citizens and counties, must band together to preserve our customs, culture and economic stability.

I look forward to teaming up with Carole as your newly elected County Commissioner. But first, you need to get out to the poles on November 2!

Vote Carole Galloway, Clearwater County Commissioner.

Skip Brandt
Idaho County Commissioner
Kooskia


10-28-10

Calling for order in wolf debate

Many hunters are rightfully angry that a federal judge has put the gray wolf back under federal protection based on legal technicalities. Taking management away from state authorities allows wolves to multiply and spread. Wolves are already so plentiful they are cutting down herds of elk, moose, and deer, and are also killing livestock and pets. Wolves need to be controlled and we must continue toward that goal in an orderly fashion.

We sportsmen want to bring wolves under state management because this will sustain wolves, control the problems that wolves cause, and protect wolves from poachers. To do so, we look forward to working with other affected citizens, government, and other allies to clear up the legal technicalities and finalize the transfer to state management. This way, wolves will be managed the same way as other wildlife based on the best available science with protections against illegal killing.

State management of wolves is best for the wolves and people, and wolf populations are so large now that the time is past due.

State management will be the best deal wolves have ever had. Wolves have never been managed sustainably in the lower 48 states. State and federal governments purposefully eradicated wolves, and then restored them under complete federal protection. This full protection has restored wolf numbers far beyond recovery goals: all 6 states with gray wolves in the lower 48 have at least doubled the number of wolves beyond their recovery goals. Idaho is at least 8 times over its goal. There are about 3,000 wolves in Minnesota, 600 each in Wisconsin and Michigan, at least 800 wolves in Idaho, 500 in Montana, and 300 in Wyoming.

Switching to state management will not be easy: federal and state managers have tried it three times in the last seven years, having each effort struck down either because the law was fuzzy on how it could happen or too strict about why it cannot. These interpretations in federal district court are the latest examples of judges second-guessing government experts ? an error for which the next highest appeals court has admonished its judges.

To achieve state management, hunters need to turn their anger into passion, speak up, and ask for hard but fair commitments from state and federal government. We need passion the way Theodore Roosevelt had passion in creating American conservation, which is our legacy and heritage to perpetuate. We need to stay in the arena of debate and decision and stay out of the bogs of blame and bad-mouthing. It is self-defeating to blame or antagonize federal and state officials. They agree with us on what needs to happen and we need their help. We need hard commitments from them to try new approaches within current law and, ideally, to change law and policy to close loopholes.

This complex task is already underway through a cooperative partnership between the state and federal governments. The Obama Administration has already filed an appeal of the recent federal court ruling. States have petitioned for greater management authority. Legislators from Montana, Wyoming and Idaho have begun meeting to devise a solution and have invited the federal government's participation. We appreciate these straight-up attempts that demonstrate the resolve of our government. We acknowledge the sovereign authority of each state to manage its own laws and budgets.

Finally, as we seek hard commitments from government, we also need to draw a hard line for ourselves: we are sportsmen, not wolf-haters. Statements on the Internet about poaching wolves are an affront to the American conservation ethic. Illegal killing is wrong, self-defeating, and exactly opposite of how sportsmen created conservation and the privilege of ethical hunting in the first place. Hunters in America fought poachers and pushed for laws to regulate hunting. Later, sportsmen paid fees and taxes on our own licenses and equipment to fund wildlife restoration that brought wildlife back to abundance, including the game we hunt. Ours is a history of self-restraint and respect for wildlife.

Today we are asking for wolves to be brought under modern state management. We will pursue this goal with the diligence we take to hunting itself, working professionally with the agencies, seeking allies, and pushing forward the policies that will prevent this tragedy from happening again with other wildlife.

Boone and Crockett Club
Lowell E. Baier, President

Mule Deer Foundation
Miles O. Moretti, President/CEO

Pope and Young Club
Roger Atwood, President

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
M. David Allen, President/CEO

Safari Club International and Safari Club International Foundation
Dr. Larry Rudolph, President

Wild Sheep Foundation
Gray N. Thornton, President/CEO

Wildlife Management Institute
Steven A. Williams, President


10-27-10

Vote for the best candidate

Dear Editor:

Since the Oct. 13th gubernatorial debate, I've heard several people remark that Jana Kemp was the best candidate, yet they weren't voting for her because they didn't think she could win.

First, there are no guarantees in politics-if the polls were always right, we wouldn't need elections at all. Second, voting for a less qualified candidate because you think the more qualified candidate can't win is exactly how we get the mediocre leaders we are now burdened with. Third, the privilege of self-government and the right to vote are such precious gifts; they should never be used casually or cynically.

Each of us has a responsibility to cast his or her vote for the best candidate. If we do less, how can we possibly expect a better outcome?

I'm voting for Jana Kemp, the best candidate for Governor.

Lance Thompson
Meridian


10-27-10

A breath of fresh air seen in Idaho politics

Dear Editor:

In this election I see a breath of fresh air in Idaho politics. Jana Kemp, the Independent candidate for Idaho Governor has risen above partisan politics by reaching out to Republicans, Democrats, and true independents to give Idaho voters a choice for real change.

One of her opponents does not really want to be governor, and the other has never held public office.

As a member of the Idaho house in 2004-2006, Jana Kemp spoke up for open government to the dismay of both parties. Jana also proposed $25 million in savings for Health and Welfare. As governor, Jana Kemp will make state government transparent and get rid of the "good ole' boys" mentality of our current governor. Jana has been a successful, independent Idaho business owner for over 17 years. Her focus has been helping other businesses be successful with her leadership, management and training skills. As governor of Idaho, Jana Kemp will bring her skills of communication, leadership, and business management to the governor's office. She will also bring integrity, honesty, openness and accountability to our state government.

If you are tired of politics as usual, vote for a true independent, Jana Kemp for governor.

Glida Bothwell
Eagle


10-22-10

Who gets consideration for my vote?

Dear Editor:

Any candidate who wants me to vote for them must meet a basic litmus test. They must acknowledge and support the five freedoms designated in Article I of the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution, those being the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. With regard to the first of these, that candidate must also profess that the limitations rest with the government in that the "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof?" and not with the individual as subscribed by those who profess "separation of church and state."

For those candidates passing the litmus test, let me know so I can put you on my "consider" list.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


10-11-10

What are options after School Bond Election failed?

Dear Editor:

With the advent of the political season, I implore you not to lose track of pending District 171 school issues with regard to the failure of the "school bond election." The School Board, the governing body of the school district, has not accepted the mandate of the voters and is on the verge of pursuing other options to accomplish their original goals of new classroom add-ons, renovation and change at Orofino and Timberline schools. At 7 p.m. on the evening of Oct. 18th, the School Board will meet at Orofino High School (OHS) to decide on an option for follow-on action. As patrons, you owe it to yourself and your fellow citizens to attend this meeting and express your dire concerns with School Board actions.

In the midst of declining enrollment and a sour economy, this district does not need to indebt us with new construction or unnecessary renovations. Their plan has been suspect from the beginning when they shut down the Orofino Junior High School (OJHS) as a cost-savings measure. It's obvious they used the resulting overcrowding as an attempt to leverage the patrons to approve a bond to add-on classrooms at OHS and Timberline. On top of that, the district renovated a dilapidated modular at the Orofino elementary during the summer to house the kindergarten because of over-crowding generated by the closure of OJHS. Where did the money come from to accomplish this renovation project? How much was spent in name of cost-savings? What's wrong with the classrooms we have abandoned at the OJHS?

As patrons, become activists and write letters-to-the-editor and contact each School Board member with your concerns. They are: Alyce (Reuter) Arnsberg, Don Ebert, Theresa Graber, Amy Jared, and John Schwartz. Contact information is available at the district web site www.sd171.k12.id.us. The School Board members have the power of the vote, not the superintendent. They are the ones you must convince as to your point of view.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


10-1-10

'Rec-Tech' manufacturing industry great fit for Idaho's economy

by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Like our traditional industries of agriculture, mining, forestry and tourism, some of Idaho's most successful newer businesses and sources of new employment are based in rural areas and dependent on access to our wonderful natural assets.

Recreational technology or "rec-tech" is an industry focused on our Idaho outdoor lifestyle and the equipment used to enjoy it. And it's a big part of our Project 60 initiative to create more career opportunities right here at home.

If you fish, hunt, hike, bike, golf, ski or pursue any number of other outdoor leisure activities, you've used equipment that may have been designed or manufactured in Idaho. Those companies are finding that Idaho is a great fit for them. After all, they have a real-life laboratory to test their equipment right outside their doors.

From boats and guns to optics, ski clothing and knives, rec-tech has a lot to offer Idaho's economy. It's projected to have substantially stronger growth here in Idaho than nationally.

The outdoor recreation industry already generates about $154 million in annual State tax revenue for Idaho while producing about $2.2 billion a year in retail sales and services. About 37,000 Idahoans are employed in the rec-tech sector. And with so much rural landscape and so many smaller communities in Idaho, it's an industry that works well with our lifestyle. About 70 percent of rec-tech companies are located in Idaho's smaller cities.

One interesting development is the recent creation of a consortium of boat builders in the Lewiston area. This cluster of aluminum boat builders along the Snake River is working with similar companies in Clarkston, Washington to sell their products globally. There now are at least nine boat companies in the Snake River Boat Builders' Export Program 2010, and they already are getting some attention from Germany. A trade mission of European boat buyers will visit the Lewiston-Clarkston area in November and the consortium will attend a trade show in Germany in January.

The companies in this consortium employ about 140 people and their focus on exports has the potential of growing employment in that region.

In Grangeville, Idaho Sewing for Sports is seeing a surge in business and is expected to quadruple its revenue over the next two years. The company completed a contract earlier this year to make protective gear and training suits for law enforcement officers. The flexibility of the company has taken it from producing all the padding for the speed-skating tracks at the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City to making chairlift seat covers for ski resorts. Adding product lines helps this small company stabilize its employment base, an important factor in a small rural community where job options are few.

There are rec-tech companies of all sizes reporting success stories and expansions, and Idaho is benefitting.

Take Lucky Bums, a children's outdoor clothing designer in Boise. It doubled its sales this past year. And Aire Inc., an inflatable boat manufacturer in Meridian, has seen a significant uptick in sales, even with its middle- and high-end products. In Coeur d'Alene, a new company called ATAV Inc. has established operations to build its all-terrain, all-climate vehicle that you just have to see to believe.

Biketronics in Moscow, a high-tech fabrication company that makes electronic components for Harley-Davidson motorcycles, relocated from its 3,500-square-foot shop into an 8,000-square-foot building this summer. And when I reached out to employers in our neighboring states that raised taxes earlier this year - inviting them to move to Idaho - it's not surprising that Next Generation Arms, a rifle manufacturer from Oregon, was one of the takers. They moved to Hayden over the summer.

Nightforce Optics in Orofino recently was awarded a $25 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense for its gun scopes. The company's products will be used by special force for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps snipers.

Of course, I love to recount the story of Buck Knives' move to Idaho. The company closed up shop in San Diego to move its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility to Post Falls, Idaho, several years ago. The company's owners were lured by the cost efficiencies Idaho offers, but many of their workers came too, lured by affordability and lifestyle. What you might not know is that Buck Knives - which manufactured more than a million knives in 2008 - has been pulling back some of its production from China and moving it into the Post Falls facility. Idaho's business environment is one big reason why.

Whether the company or the town in which it's doing business is big or small, it all amounts to one thing - advancing our Project 60 goals with more jobs and career opportunities for Idahoans. We're seeing the growth of a dynamic new industry that's a great fit for Idaho and our people. And the best is yet to come.


9-9-10

F&G Commission: Open Letter to Hunters and Idahoans

Dear citizens:

Wildlife managers and biologists agree that the wolf population in Idaho recovered years ago, and that wolf numbers now need to be controlled to reduce conflicts with people and wildlife.

The recent court decision bypassed science and put Idaho wolves back under the protection of the Endangered Species Act based on a legal technicality. Now we must deal with a difficult situation.

The Endangered Species Act severely limits Idaho's abilities to manage wolves, and it is tempting to turn wolf management over to the federal government until wolves can be delisted again. But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials have told us they wouldn't manage wolves to protect Idaho elk herds, and they don't share our motivation to protect the interests of our ranchers, pet owners, hunters and rural communities.

We looked carefully at our options and potential consequences. We decided that as long as we are making a difference, we must stay engaged in wolf management to protect Idaho's interests and rights. Only as a last resort will we leave the fate of Idaho residents and wildlife entirely in the hands of the federal government.

Part of the reason we feel that way is because of how we got to where we are. With the court decision to relist wolves for the second time, the federal system has failed us. Defenders of Wildlife and other special interest groups are using a parade of lawsuits to tie the federal government in knots, and the result is against common sense, responsible wildlife management, and the stated intent of the Endangered Species Act. While we will work within the rule of law; we will use all of our influence and authority to make this right and put wolf management back in Idaho's hands where it belongs.

Idaho's lawyers will ask a court of appeals to overturn U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy's ruling, but we believe the best solution is to change the law directly. We will work with Idaho's congressional delegation, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and other states to resolve this problem through federal legislation. Solutions will probably not be easy or quick. We will need all of the support we can get to make this happen, and we will keep you posted as to how you can best help these efforts.

While we are pursuing change in the courts and in Congress, we will make the most of the authorities available to us. We support Gov. Otter's efforts to reach a new agreement with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to ensure as much flexibility as possible in managing wolves. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission recommended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service be in charge of Endangered Species Act enforcement while Idaho focuses on protecting its elk herds and reducing wolf conflicts. It should also be the federal government's role to fund wolf management, and we support restricting the use of hunters' license dollars for wolf management as long as wolves are federally protected.

We will continue to insist on population control, particularly in areas where wolf predation is hurting our wildlife. The processes for getting federal agency approvals involve considerable paperwork and time and impose requirements that are an additional source of frustration. For example, because of federal legal requirements, Idaho Fish and Game managers have to use wolf population estimates that are "minimum," so we know we are underestimating the number of wolves in Idaho.

Likewise, to control wolves to protect elk herds under the "10(j)" provision of the Endangered Species Act, Idaho must demonstrate wolf predation impacts based on data that takes time to collect. We must also have our proposals reviewed by at least five scientists outside our agencies. That means we end up a year or more behind the times, using data that often doesn't match up with what you see in the woods today. We have gotten to the point where we will soon submit a "10(j)" proposal to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wolf control actions in the Lolo Zone, and other proposals are being developed. When delisting occurred previously, we were poised with a proposal then, too.

As you can tell, we are in a tough struggle to regain state management, with scientific and legal battles on many fronts. We are concerned that some matters are dividing our community when we need to be united. For example, there are some who want to argue about what happened in Idaho politics when wolves were introduced in 1994. While we commit to learning from history, we do not want to waste our energy trying to attack, defend, or change the past.

We are fighting a national battle of perception. It is easy to paint an ideal world of nature from a desk far away from rural Idaho. We need your help to explain why it is important to manage Idaho's wolf population, just like we manage other wildlife. Someone who wouldn't think twice about calling animal control to pick up stray dogs in the city may not think about how wolves are affecting the lives of Idahoans in similar ways - unless we tell them.

National activist groups try to portray the average Idahoan as a wolf exterminator, lazy hunter or crazy extremist. We need your help to prove them wrong, just as Idahoans did when we participated responsibly in the first wolf hunting season in the lower 48 states. We need your help to support change through social networks across the country.

If state authorities are further undermined by court decisions or inaction at the federal level, there may come a time where we decide the best thing to do is to surrender and leave wolf management up to the federal government until wolves are delisted. But for now we believe the best place to fix the system and protect Idaho's interests is by staying involved in management. We appreciate your support.

Idaho Fish and Game Commission

9-3-10

Otter: Defenders of Wildlife break another promise

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

In Idaho a promise is a promise. We have lived up to our promise of responsible stewardship of wolves under our approved state management plan. Despite the frustrating federal court decision almost four weeks ago, Idaho remains prepared to manage wolves when State management is once again rightfully restored.

Now that the species will inexplicably receive federal protection, can we expect Defenders of Wildlife to keep its promise to pay for livestock depredations caused by the wolves it fought so hard to bring to Idaho? The answer is no.

Not only did the Defenders of Wildlife sue to overturn delisting and oppose state management, the group now has announced it will break one of its original promises devised to increase public acceptance of this species that was forced upon us by the federal government. That pledge was to reimburse livestock producers for wolf-related impacts while the species remained under federal protection.

With this unfortunate action, and the Defenders of Wildlife's disingenuous approach to the depredation reimbursements it did make, it now is clear that the organization never intended to keep its commitment to any agreements.

The Defenders of Wildlife has unreasonably opposed state management at every turn. Wolves in sheep's clothing perhaps? This lack of sincere commitment is not a surprise for those who have wrestled with the wolf issue and Defenders of Wildlife's compensation program since the wolves were planted here 15 years ago.

More troubling is the group's conveniently forgotten commitment to support delisting when the species met recovery goals, which we have since 2002. Now we have three times the wolves required for delisting in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and the Defenders of Wildlife wants to change recovery levels before federal protection is lifted.

The Endangered Species Act does not work and won't work as long as promises are broken. Unfortunately, the real tragedy is the continued loss of livestock and the impacts to our ungulate herds. Rest assured, I am working with the Office of Species Conservation and Department of Fish and Game to do everything within my power to restore state management and hunting. That's my promise to every Idahoan and the Defenders of Wildlife.


8-19-10

Healthcare industry driving force in Idaho's economic recovery

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

It's easy to get excited about the prospects for Idaho's economic future when you look at our healthcare businesses. They represent one of our fastest-growing industries, creating lots of career opportunities for our citizens in every corner of the state and enthusiastically participating in my Project 60 effort to grow Idaho's economy.

Healthcare jobs are expected to grow by 14 percent nationally and 21 percent in Idaho over the next decade, with an average wage of more than $40,000 a year.

Idaho's largest private employer - with 8,289 employees - is Boise-based St. Luke's Health Systems, which has facilities in four Idaho cities. St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, also based in Boise, also is among Idaho's top 10 employers, with 3,390 workers.

An area of healthcare even larger than hospitals, in terms of employment and wages, is the sector that includes clinics, specialists and private medical offices. This sector added 11,100 jobs over the past decade and is expected to grow by another 25 percent in the next decade. Then there are nursing facilities, residential care facilities, insurance carriers and social assistance - all areas projected to grow by double digits.

Those impressive numbers are driven, in part, by the nearly $1.5 billion that Medicaid contributes to Idaho's economy through more than 11,000 healthcare providers throughout the state - all the more reason to quickly and completely iron out complications with our new benefits contractor to ensure those payments are made promptly and efficiently.

In recent years, healthcare facilities also have been heavy investors in Idaho. As a group, Idaho's hospitals have invested more than $400 million here in the past few years. And the industry expects to invest three times that much or more in Idaho over the next decade.

Take a look at what's happening all over Idaho:

  • St Luke's, already the state's largest private employer, is still hiring, with 350 open positions right now. It already has grown by 1,600 employees in the past year. St. Luke's now has Idaho's largest commercial construction project - a $220 million, 700,000-square-foot facility being built in Twin Falls. St. Luke's Magic Valley Medical Center employs an average of 350 construction workers at the site each day, and the new hospital is scheduled to open next spring.
  • Last fall, St. Luke's purchased two vacant Micron Technology buildings in Boise, investing nearly $20 million to transform them into a new central laboratory and central laundry facility. It also invested several million dollars in expansions of its Cardiac Cath Labs in Meridian and development of a Cardiac Rehabilitation Center. Over the next decade, St. Luke's alone plans to invest $1 billion in new facilities and equipment in Idaho.
  • The new $220 million Portneuf Medical Center being built in Pocatello will open next year. The medical center has 1,300 employees - with an additional 400 jobs during the construction - and is the largest taxpayer in Bannock County.
  • St. Alphonsus spent $10.5 million in the past year to improve patient access to healthcare and maintain its quality of care. Improvements included a $2.9 million expansion of its physician network, a $2.1 million electronic medical record system, $4.6 million in improvements to equipment and facilities, and nearly $1 million in laboratory automation technologies. The hospital also spent more than twice that much in community and charitable services. Meanwhile, St. Al's has increased its employee count by nearly 100 over the past year.
  • Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls broke ground in July on a $20 million expansion and renovation of its Women & Infants Center. The project creates 140 construction-related jobs, and another 20 permanent jobs will be created when construction is completed. EIRMC is the third-largest employer in Bonneville County, with 1,374 employees earning an average of $26.51 per hour.
  • Mountain View Hospital in Idaho Falls spent $11 million to expand its facility last year, doubling the number of in-patient rooms and expanding several other areas. The expansion led to a 14-percent increase in the hospital's employment, to 421 people, and an increase in payroll by 24 percent. This year, Mountain View is expanding again, building a transitional care facility with partner Ball Ventures. The $5 million facility opens this month and will create 50 new jobs once it is fully operational.
  • Regence Blue Shield, with operations in four states, has made a significant commitment to Idaho. In Lewiston, it built a 57,000-square-foot building in 2006 and expanded it in 2008. The company cites its commitment to Lewiston and Idaho's solid workforce as reasons it stays here rather than putting those resources into other locations in Oregon, Utah and Washington. In recent years, Regence Blue
    Shield has opened new locations in Twin Falls and Coeur d'Alene, as well as keeping an office in Pocatello. Its employment in Idaho has grown from 484 in 2001 to 767 in 2010, and it plans to keep growing here.
  • Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot is nearly finished with its multimillion-dollar construction and remodeling projects, including a sky bridge connecting the hospital to a new medical office plaza. Ninety-nine percent of the work on the office project was performed by Idaho workers, and the hospital itself has nearly tripled its employment to more than 600 since 2005.

Healthcare costs and availability are grabbing national headlines every day. But in Idaho, the growth of career and economic opportunities in healthcare fields is the real news. And there is much more to come.


8-5-10

Wilsons thank supporters of Haag tournament

On behalf of the Trevor Haag Memorial Tournament we would like to thank the following people and sponsors. With out all of your hard work and donations this tournament would not be the success that it has become. We greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Thank you again,
Jeff & Jamie Wilson

Tracy Haag
Annette Haag
Justin Haag
Wes Haag
Tim & Carol Adams
Denise Duren
Shae Duren
Kellyn Fuller
Tim & Cassie Adams & Family
Diane Haag
Wade Wilson
Adam Wilson
Skip Wilson
Lindsi Wilson
Lacey Wilson
Russ Card
Avery & Jennifer Dunnaway
Keith & Kerry Brink
Tyson & Michele Cobbs
Mike Powell
Hunter Cobbs
Kyla Cobbs
Josh Goodwin
Mike Goodwin
Stephanie Vankomen
Stacy & Randy Lee
Michelle & Tory Knapp
Kayliah Knapp
Jon & Jolene Isbell
DJ Wright
Matt Brink
Cindy Haskett
Tabitha Haskett
Scotty Lee
Drake Kuykendall
Galen & Mary Kuykendall
Mark & Rachel Bensen
Mike Shore
Joe Basquez
Don Melton
Rocky Barlow
Dave Schwartz
Mike Schwartz
Denise Pomponio
Seth Melton
Jason Thompson
Nick Pomponio
Ethan Gilliam
Bo Cummings
Jeff Wright
Chris Lamont
Shannon Wilson
Kristen Wilson
Sean Diffin
Doug Adams
Earl Vicory
Orofino Youth Baseball
Avista
Orofino Girls Softball
Riverside Pizza & Pub
Lewis Clark Credit Union
Krystal Cafe'
Clearwater Crossing
Les Schwab
Orofino Body Shop
Riverside Physical Therapy
Bills Auto Body
Glenwood Pharmacy
Riverview Construction
Walrath Insurance
Lodge at Rivers Edge
Potlatch #1 Federal Credit Union
Orofino Physical Therapy
Inland Cellular
Harvest Foods
Anytime Bail Bonds
T.I. Ice Cream
Camas Financial Services
Debco
Orofino Flower Shop



7-24-10

Energy is Idaho's next industry frontier

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

Idaho is great at leveraging its abundant natural resources to develop industries. So it's no surprise that we're rapidly developing an energy industry around our natural resources of wind, solar and geothermal, and the new technology that's making them competitive in the marketplace. The result is a host of new career opportunities for Idahoans, now and on the horizon.

Alternative and renewable energy development is a big part of my Project 60 initiative. It's a particularly good fit for our state since we have long relied on clean, renewable hydropower for a substantial part of our energy portfolio. Geothermal has historically been used in a number of communities to heat homes, fish farms, greenhouses and even our state Capitol. And anyone who knows Idaho is familiar with our sunshine, and wind. The result is growing interest by both alternative energy producers and manufacturers - and this interest has led to some positive news for our economy.

GE Financial Services recently purchased majority equity ownership in Idaho's largest wind power project, being developed by Exergy Development Group near Hagerman and Burley. This is a huge project, consisting of 11 wind farms valued at nearly $500 million, and comes with 20-year power purchase agreements with Idaho Power. The project is expected to create up to 175 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs in the region. The backing of the huge GE organization bodes well for the future of this project.

Last month, I had the opportunity to sign one of the first wind turbine blades for what will become Idaho's largest single wind facility. The Goshen North wind farm in Bonneville County will be in full commercial operation by the end of the year, with a generating capacity of 124.5 megawatts, or enough to power about 37,000 homes. Ridgeline Energy and its partners will employ about 250 workers during construction and 10 permanent employees.

Meanwhile, Boise-based Micron Technology is moving ahead with its solar energy manufacturing arm. Micron this year announced a partnership with Australia's Origin Energy to create a new company called Transform Solar, which will be based in Boise. The company will develop ultrathin solar cells and will manufacture the solar panels. This new operation will sustain jobs at Micron, where research and development supports the new product and new jobs are coming to Transform's manufacturing site.

Of course, success breeds success, and it seems that renewable energy manufacturing and energy efficiency manufacturing go hand in hand. Through support from the State of Idaho and federal stimulus funds, Micron has established an LED lighting manufacturing facility that is helping Idaho diversify its technological manufacturing base. As Idaho's success in these areas becomes more widely known, corporations with similar interests are more likely to consider Idaho for their next ventures.

Another big reason that those companies are considering Idaho is the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES), a U.S. Department of Energy facility in Idaho Falls that is working closely with our Idaho universities and business community on leveraging their energy technology research into the next generation of cleaner, more efficient and sustainable energy generation, transmission and smart-grid technologies.

There are numerous other alternative energy projects this year that have launched or received funding - creating or sustaining career opportunities for more Idahoans:

  • Hoku Corporation received a $28.3 million credit agreement with China Construction Bank, one of world's largest banks, to complete its polysilicon production plant in Pocatello.
  • Boise-based U.S. Geothermal Inc. received a $102.2 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a 22-megawatt power plant in eastern Oregon.
  • Mid Point Energy in Jerome is planning a solar farm using 150,000 solar panels that would produce enough power for 45,000 homes.
  • Boise's geothermal system will be expanded from downtown to Boise State University, possibly heating businesses and homes along the way.
  • Bridge Resources is developing four potential natural gas wells in Payette County. These wells not only provide construction jobs but generate taxes and royalties for the state.
  • Boise-based M2M Communications - one of Idaho's fastest-growing companies, led by Steve Hodges, a member of my Idaho Innovation Council - secured a $2.1 million U.S. Department of Energy Grant this spring to build a smart grid-compatible irrigation load-control system in California's Central Valley.

Interest in Idaho from renewable energy manufacturers has been growing significantly over the past two to three years. Last year, 20 percent of inquiries into expanding or moving into Idaho came from energy-related manufacturers, and we've stepped up our efforts in this area. The Department of Commerce is working closely with the Idaho Office of Energy Resources, power companies, alternative energy companies and the Idaho National Laboratory in developing its recruitment strategies.

The bottom line: This is an area that we're targeting for rapid growth, which we're aggressively pursuing. That's great news for our economy, and especially for anyone looking for a career opportunity right here at home.


7-13-10

Pool project being re-evaluated

Dear Editor:

Dennis Harper has resigned after serving as a board member for the past eight years on the Clearwater Community Complex project. We would like to thank Mr. Harper for his years of dedication and service. At this time, we would also like to dispel any false rumors that we are going to take the property back that we donated years ago for the swimming pool project. We are now taking this opportunity to re-evaluate the property and hopefully move forward. It has always been our sincere and deepest desire for the children as well as the adults of Orofino to have a public swimming pool.

Sincerely,

Lonnie and Shannon Simpson
Orofino


6-25-10

Watch those 90 minutes

by Congressman Walt Minnick

Thirty years ago, this nation was sliding into recession and in the grip of a lagging economy.

We were hamstrung in the Middle East by extremists who took hostage our citizens just because they were Americans.

Businesses were failing, gas prices were soaring and times were tough for everyone.

But early that year we saw the best of ourselves.

At the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, a scrappy team of college kids took on the most storied hockey dynasty in the world and won. Our boys beat the Russians to chants around the nation of "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

Their win in that critical game and in the following game for the gold medal gave us hope in tough times. It brought us together and reminded us that our spirit and determination are unrivaled anywhere in the world, and are at the heart of what makes us a nation.

Now, 30 years later, we are again reminded of the power of sport and what it can do for our country.

For 90 minutes on Saturday, most of the eyes in this country will again be on the world stage, where our boys will go onto a soccer field with the simple goal of winning, but also with a higher purpose.

As a "soccer dad" who has lost count of all the youth games I have attended over the last couple decades, I will be watching, too.

During the 90 minutes my youngest daughter is on the soccer field, I'm not a businessman or a congressman. The worries of the day melt away, the cell phone is turned off and I am just a soccer dad. I stand there with the rest of the soccer dads, watching our daughters give them best of themselves for a sport they love.

It is a game of grace, a game of beauty. My four children have all played, and learned valuable lessons exemplified by the U.S. team for which we will cheer on Saturday.

Those lessons represent many of the many things we must do as a nation if we are to set ourselves on the right course: teamwork, discipline, self-sacrifice, personal responsibility, decency, fair-play. (Although if we have one more goal taken away in this tournament I may have to call for a Congressional inquiry.)

So to the U.S. National Soccer Team, I say this: Thank you. Thank you for reminding us that a beautiful moment in sport viewed in the company of friends, neighbors and fellow citizens is one of the things that makes us Americans. Thank you for reminding us of what we share in common, and that our shared beliefs and ideals can help us come together.

And to my fellow citizens, fans and "soccer dads" I say this: For 90 minutes on Saturday we get to be one nation. For 90 minutes we can be one people. For 90 minutes we will be united in one cause.

We will, unapologetically, cheer with great national pride for our country. We will set aside our worries about tough times and instead chant, "U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!" as we did in 1980.

We will, as we did then, be reminded that we bow before no nation that we submit to no other authority, that we make no apologies for our belief that we are the greatest country on earth.

We will rally behind a team that represents the best of our commitment, our diversity and our unity, and be reminded of what we can do as a people.

During those 90 minutes we will not be Democrats or Republicans. We will not be divided by religion or geography or ideology. We will not care about the things that keep us apart, and for 90 minutes will be filled with the deep pride that comes from being Americans.

And that will be a very good 90 minutes, indeed.


6-18-10

Bruce: Time for patrons to say 'no'

Dear Editor:

Superfluous: to be in excess or exceeding what is sufficient, necessary or normal.

Essential: to be fundamental, vital or necessary; maximum in importance.

I believe the term "superfluous" fits the actions of the School Board and the Joint School District 171 Leadership Team to a tee. Anyone who can propose saving $200,000 by spending $7.3 million must have learned their math from our Federal government. The Board and the Leadership Team demonstrate this insatiable appetite to spend money on new construction and I believe it is past time for the patrons to say "No." During the period June 14 through June 25, the District is conducting a telephone survey to determine if the patrons are gullible enough to buy into their new math. I hope the patrons will develop the spine to say "No" to the bond proposal. I know the Board is leveraging those with children by placing their children into an unnecessarily congested classroom environment that cuts educational programs and activities. You must still say, "No."

Why does the District want to spend all this money, especially in this climate of economic despair? Through faulty reasoning, the Board decided to shutdown the Orofino junior high, an "essential," functional facility that was operating at near capacity, forcing those displaced students into the Orofino high school and elementary school. The junior high must have been essential because the Board now proposes we patrons foot the bill for new class-room construction at the high school in Orofino to offset this loss. They also propose new classrooms at Timberline with the newest facility in the District standing vacant at Pierce. To top that off, the District wants two new "multi-purpose facilities," the new term for gyms. When you think about this plan for new construction, ask the question, "Why would the District build new facilities, when its school enrollment has been steadily declining for nearly 40 years and there are plenty of classrooms and gyms in existing facilities?"

The State Department of Education requires School Districts to establish a Ten-Year Facility Plan, a plan that will sort out what is superfluous and what is essential. To quote from a November 6, 2006 School Board Meeting, "This plan is to include: projected enrollment patterns, inventory building capacity and conditions; assessment of educational suitability, determination of energy efficiency, technology readiness and ADA accessibility; identifying needed site improvements; (and) developing a preventative maintenance plan." After nearly four years, where is the District's plan for the future? Why would the District shut down a facility operating at near capacity whose only major problem is neglect? Isn't the District's proposed savings of $200,000 an inflated number? Why not propose a lesser bond for spending to cover just repairs-no new construction?

I suggest to the patrons that the District's decisions are based on forcing us into the new-construction mode as the situation at the high school and elementary school becomes untenable. They have the idea that new is better. I don't follow that logic. I ask you to say "No" to the bond proposal and "Yes" to reopening the junior high.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


6-10-10

Minnick: America is Not Too Big To Fail

by Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho)

We are about to learn that deficits do matter.

Nine years ago the budget was balanced. We then went to war and failed to pay for it. Next came the worst recession of our lifetimes and an $800 billion Stimulus Bill, none of it paid for and most of it borrowed from overseas. In 2000 our national debt was $5 trillion. Today it is $13 trillion -- in eight more years it will eclipse $20 trillion and approach 100 percent of the nation's total economic output. Add in the unfunded obligations of Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs and the national debt already exceeds $200,000 for every man, woman and child in this country.

As the ongoing Greek debt crisis in Europe demonstrates, indebtedness at these levels will eventually cause lenders to lose confidence in our ability to manage our fiscal affairs and ability to repay our debts. Chinese President Hu Jintao has twice warned us this day is near. Investors fleeing the dollar would trigger devastating economic consequences, including sharply higher prices for imported goods, rising interest rates, more unemployment and renewed recession. Longer term consequences include surging inflation as we resort to printing money to pay off our creditors, a dramatic decline in our strength as a nation and our kids being the first generation of American children to grow up with lower living standards than their parents.

Simply put, our way of life is in danger, and failure to address our runaway deficit spending is the greatest systemic risk to our nation's future.

Addressing it requires an end to the hyper-partisanship that poisoned the health care debate. As the former CEO of a global company who is now serving in Congress, I believe strongly that both parties need to work together and take a business approach to managing our nation's financial crisis.

Start by ending the addiction to earmarks. Earlier this year I introduced legislation to ban them all, because it is unacceptable for Members of Congress to talk about fiscal responsibility while simultaneously requesting 10,000 special-interest earmarks costing over $16 billion per year.

I have also introduced The Belt Act, a constitutional version of the Presidential Line Item Veto struck down by the Supreme Court in the 1990s. This legislation would allow the President to prod Congress to zero out individual pork barrel projects tucked into larger appropriations bills. If any spending proposal cannot on its own merits muster a majority vote in Congress, taxpayers shouldn't be stuck with the tab. The President has endorsed my proposal, which has been incorporated into a deficit reduction bill I hope we can get Congress to adopt it yet this summer.

We must also support the new debt commission, tasked with making the painful trade-offs required to reform federal entitlement programs and assure that future outlays match future cash inflows. The next Congress must muster the courage to give the commission's recommendations an up-or-down vote.

As the economy continues to show signs of recovery, we must cut spending and seek to balance our budget. These decisions will be painful and require meaningful participation from both political parties. Future budgets should include deep spending cuts, and no options should be off the table.

Finally, Congress should adopt, and the states should ratify, a balanced-budget Constitutional amendment. Its provisions could only be waived in times of depression, war or national emergency on recommendation of the President and with the concurrence of both the House and the Senate. I have co-sponsored this essential legislation.

This is strong medicine, but the party is over. The federal government requires the same fiscal discipline that we expect from state and local governments and for our own family finances. It's also time to set aside the petty political posturing that has characterized this debate for far too long. Only by so doing can we give our children and grandchildren the same opportunities we have had to live our lives in the world's strongest and most prosperous nation.

We owe them no less


5-28-10

Come play, come stay

Dear Editor:

With the Memorial Day Holiday and the summer camping season upon us, the Orofino Chamber of Commerce would like to take this opportunity to welcome all visitors to our beautiful communities to enjoy the many camping and recreation opportunities in the region. We are always greatly appreciative of the visitors to this area who often make stops in town to fill up their gas tanks, purchase groceries, stop at a local merchant or dine in one of our many fine restaurants.

We would like to take a moment to remind our visitors and locals alike that we all enjoy these abundant pristine areas and must take care in making sure the resources are available for our children and their children. Steps are being taken to stop some of the environmental impact issues that are taking place in our forests that may be mistaken for trying to keep visitors out of camping areas and discourage their use of the beautiful natural resources. Taking vehicles too close to rivers and streams causes erosion as well as provides opportunities for leaks to reach our water systems. The Forest Service will be placing some rocks in areas that are being impacted by motorized vehicles being used too closely to water, taking special caution up Kelly Creek, which is a world renowned fly fishing stream. Please remember that we need to keep all vehicles up and away from the water line. Finding camping spaces that have ample room to park your vehicles, ATV's UTV's, etc?without crowding vegetation or having to disturb or cut down foliage is the responsible way to use the forest. Another issue that is never pleasant to bring up is how to deal with human waste in the wilderness. Though not fun to talk or hear about, it is even less pleasant to see while out enjoying nature.

Folks, please continue to visit our forests, rivers, streams and trails. The secret is out; we have a fabulous playground right in our backyard and can continue to keep it nice for generations to come if we all exercise some responsibility. So, come to play, come to stay. You are always welcome.

Sincerely,

Orofino Chamber of Commerce


5-28-10

School district graduation rates soar

Dear Editor:

The 2010 graduating class will see 107 students accepting their high school diploma this year. Year after year the school district graduation rate exceeds the benchmark of 90 percent and the Idaho state average of 89.07 percent. Joint School District #171 graduation rate is currently 92 percent. Idaho sets the rate in proportion of students who begin in the ninth grade and complete the twelfth grade with a diploma.

A high rate of graduating students equals a better job for the graduate and a better economy for the country. Many studies have shown that high school drop-outs earn less...an average of $10,000 less per year. Of the wage-earning jobs available now, 90 percent require education beyond a high school diploma.

In rural areas like ours, it is even more important for our schools to have a high rate of students graduating. By creating a large percentage of youth with high school diplomas, we are maintaining a population that is talented and capable of keeping our community going strong. So as we congratulate the Class of 2010, we should also congratulate our communities for sustaining a positive future.

Danielle Hardy
Orofino


5-18-10

Davis expresses support for Heinrich

Dear Editor:

I often wonder if it is just me or are other Republicans having trouble recognizing our own party. The newest and extremely frustrating example is some who consider themselves leadership in the Republican Party are opposing incumbent senator Lee Heinrich. The rub seems to be that Senator Heinrich opposed H.B. 488 which would have granted a sales tax exemption to a company which fixes airplanes in Ada County. Lee is correct to oppose a bill which would benefit one company while shifting the tax burden to all of his constituents in Valley, Idaho, Clearwater, and Lewis counties.

Lee was obviously correct in his decision but apparently guilty of offending leadership in the Idaho House of Representatives. To encourage opposition to Senator Heinrich by Idaho Republican leadership is as confusing and frustrating to me as it was when Republican leadership at the national level threw Senator Larry Craig under the bus, a man who earned awards and a standing ovation at the Idaho Cattlemen's Convention last fall.

Senators Heinrich and Craig are both people who possess and legislate the principles of the Republican Party. The opposition of this great statesman by the leadership of our own party suggests I may need to work to change leadership or change parties. I suggest we change leadership.

I encourage you to vote for Lee Heinrich on May 25.

Phil Davis
Republican


5-11-10

Bruce: Who is Clel Fay?

Dear Editor:

Clel Fay is the candidate for County Commissioner I will vote for on May 25th.

Clel's concept of government is to be proactive rather than reactive. His blueprint for regaining economic prosperity in Clearwater County includes capitalizing on the increased demand for electrical power production. Even with the current economic downturn, the General Manager for Clearwater Power Company says this region will suffer a 30 percent shortfall in electricity over the next decade, a huge void to fill! Clel's vision is to add to and/or create new electrical generation facilities that will bring back a flood of family-wage jobs.

Clel uncompromisingly "clings to his Bible, the right-to-life, the right to free speech, and the right to own guns" and considers his most important credential to be his Christian faith. These are values I and many others cherish as well.

Clel Fay was born Sept. 25, 1954 to Andy and Mae Fay at Saint Joseph's Hospital in Lewiston. He did all his growing up in the lower Grangemont area exploring the wonders of Whiskey Creek canyon. Clel graduated from Orofino High School in 1972.

After high school Clel Fay joined the U.S. Army serving for 9 1/2 years. He was awarded three Army Commendation Medals for exceptional service in defense of the United States and the Republic of Korea. Clel served as a tactical director and duty officer for Nike Hercules and Hawk air defense missile systems.

In 1975, Clel married In Suk Lee. This union of 35 years has weathered the storm from a society that is losing its commitment to enduring marriages.

After Army life, Clel Fay attended Hartnell College located in Salinas, CA. He graduated with an Associate of Arts degree with emphasis on computer science. From this stepping stone, Clel was selected to enter corporate America to work for the prestigious Electronic Data Systems (EDS), the brainchild of Ross Perot. From EDS, Clel did a couple of stints in manufacturing working in mid-level management positions.

Upon returning to Clearwater County, Clel has worked for several small businesses as a laborer or bookkeeper and as an independent contractor processing cedar product.

In 2007, Clel Fay was appointed to serve as a member of the City of Orofino's Planning and Zoning Commission. He currently holds that position.

Clel Fay's farsighted, proactive approach deserves your vote on May 25th. Don't forget to vote.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


5-11-10

Goffinet: Vote 'Yes' to support schools

Dear Editor,

There have been many voices in the dialogue about our schools this spring. Each person is trying their best to contribute to resolving the financial and organizational issues that School District 171 faces.

I want to encourage voters to vote 'Yes" to support the Supplemental Levy for District 171 on May 18th. As a teacher, I want to know that the community has our back and understands the need for local support and the value of a solid education for young people.

Here is what I see and think and feel.

I teach art at the junior high and high school. It is not a full time job, yet every day I work full time hours.

I came back to Orofino in 2002. This is my home town. It was six years before this job became available, so I know what it is like to be unemployed or underemployed. It was my education and work experience that prepared me for this job, and it is determination and work ethic that keep me going. My parents and my teachers prepared me to be able to work. It takes families, schools, and the community working together to help young people to be their best and be ready and able to continue learning and to work.

Many students present teachers with great needs every day - the need to be valued and recognized, the need for correction, the need for guidance, the need for specific lessons and adjustments. Teachers see hunger, worry, fatigue, and inadequate clothing. We also see humor, kindness, hope, amazement, achievement, genuine learning, and the gradual maturing that is necessary for a successful life. It can all be wrapped up in one person, in one moment.

Multiply that moment by the dozens of students we have, and you'll get a glimmer of the challenges and rewards of being an educator.

All of these young people are filled with potential. Sometimes, when I look into their eyes, I see that person as a young adult, as a mechanic or artist, writer or small business owner, truck driver or salesperson. I see them as someone's husband or wife, someone's parent. Educators look for the future in each student.

Every day I also look around me and admire the work of my colleagues. The teachers, staff, and administrators go the extra mile to teach and guide, and to correct and inspire the growth of personal responsibility. I see the teacher who drives a young man to apply for vocational school and pays the fees out of his own pocket. I see the principal who spends extra time talking with students who need guidance. I see the cooks preparing meals for many, and the maintenance crews keeping things ship shape. I see the young boy, seated next to his teacher after school, getting one-on-one instruction in order to be able to complete his lessons. I'm proud of the people I work with, as I am proud of my students.

Families and community members, please know that there is a deep and underlying river of caring for young people flowing in our schools. Educators really like your kids, we love seeing them grow and change and become more capable. Each and every student is important to us.

Please vote 'Yes' on the Supplemental Levy for District 171 on May 18th to support this work. This is the way we pool our resources for the common good. Invest in education. Have faith in the positive motives of those who are working hard every day to resolve the very complex and changing issues that face our schools.

Thank you,

Sandra Goffinet
Orofino


5-10-10

'Save the Pierce Pool'

Dear Editor:

I am writing on behalf of the Pierce Recreation District for the Pierce Community Center and Pool to ask for help. For those of you who have never been to Pierce, we are a small community about an hour from Orofino out in the mountains. As the manager of the Community Center I have taken on the job of raising funds to open and operate the pool this summer. We desperately need to raise funds to help with expenditures in excess of the $13,000 we can budget yearly for the pool. These fund raising efforts will provide extra monies needed to help open and also keep the pool open longer than the projected 2-3 weeks.

Except for new heating boilers for the pool/building, new sliding doors, front patio, and shower room modifications, there has been very little updating to the pool itself since built in 1973. This includes any needed updates as far as the heating system goes. With costs for heating, electricity, staff, chemicals, cleaning supplies, water, bathroom/shower room supplies it costs approximately $500 per day to run the pool. On such a small budget we will be lucky to keep it open for more than 2-3 weeks.

Basically, the pool needs major updates to make it more efficient and attractive, but there is barely enough money to open it each summer. In addition, the local community has been unable to provide the financial support needed to keep it open and update it. The last season the pool was open (Summer 2008), only 20 individuals in the area purchased season passes. And very few people from Orofino utilize this pool in their own county as they feel the drive is too long. We are a friendly community up here and would be happy to share our pool with all the residents of Clearwater County! There may also be job opportunities for young adults over the age of 15 in the Orofino area if they are interested in becoming life guards and if they would be willing to commute up here a couple of days a week! I am hoping to change the future of this pool through aggressive fund raising and local community support.

On May 22, 2010, I am organizing a "Save the Pierce Pool" Fund Raiser Dinner/Auction at the Vug on Main Street in Pierce. Please consider donating time, money or an item to help me with this very worthwhile cause. I will be happy to make arrangements to pick up any donations! If you have any questions about the pool, the fund raising efforts, would like to make a donation or want to know anything else about the Recreation District please do not hesitate to contact me at 464-2443 Monday through Friday from 3-8 p.m.

Brandi Crawford, Manager
Pierce Community Center & Pool


5-4-10

Supplemental levy, school facilities bond different issues

To the Editor:

Several "letters to the editor" in the Clearwater Tribune of the past week supported a "no" vote on the Supplemental Levy for Joint School District #171 and have created confusion with the facilities issues and the future bonding for buildings of the school district.

The Supplemental levy and a School Facilities bond are two different issues and should not be confused. The Supplemental levy is a necessity brought about because of less than needed funding from the State of Idaho for the past five or more years to adequately support academic education programs for our children and rural school districts are especially impacted by their actions.

Even if we are losing student enrollment we must deliver as high a standard of education as we can afford. These enrollment losses are district wide and do not in anyway provide enough leeway for the District to make major cuts in what the district provides for programs. We already have made a major cut by going to four-day school weeks. The children in the schools today deserve a quality education and access to the same programs as are provided in other school districts and we should do all we can as adults to provide for it.

For those that say they cannot afford it, I say we cannot afford not to. Please support the supplemental levy for School District 171 on May 18th and leave the continued debate of the "pros" and "cons" of the facilities issue for the future.

Marguerite McLaughlin
Orofino


5-3-10


Bruce: Accountability in education

Dear Editor:

Vote No on Levy. On May 18th, the school district will ask you and I to go to the polls and approve an M&O Supplemental Levy to the tune of $1.74 million!! This is an increase of 17 percent over last year's $1.49 million levy and enrollment has declined by 83 students. The levy's funding will come from our property taxes. I will vote against this levy because it is the only way I have to counter the leveraging tactics the School Board and District leadership are using to achieve their ill-advised student consolidation and unwarranted new construction.

The challenge. Idaho's Constitution mandates that "...it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools." No doubt the framer's miscalculated the word free when it came to judging the fiscal appetite of our current school system. Based on the summary below, you should realize that expenditures for Education go far beyond the amount that shows on our property tax bills. These expenditures also include most of our state's income and sales taxes.

Where does the money come from? According to Idaho's "Budget Activities Summary" and "General Fund Revenue Book," state government has a "Total Fund" which draws revenue from the General Fund, Federal Funds, Dedicated Funds and Other Funds. The General Fund contributes the most to the Total Fund. Our Individual Income Tax and Sales Tax generates about 85 percent of the state's General Fund.

Where does the money go? More than 41 percent of the state's Total Fund expenditures go to Education through State Foundation Revenue. Health and Human Services takes another 28 percent. The remaining 31 percent is shared by Economic Development, Public Safety, Natural Resources and General Government. Total Fund expenditures for Education equal an amount greater than 95 percent of the revenue generated by the state's General Fund. Public Schools account for nearly 70 percent of the Total Fund expenditures for Education.

Joint District 171's cut of the pie! According to the Presnell Gage Auditor's Report, the District's 2009 total revenues exceeded $11.6 million with more than $7.5 million coming from State Foundation Revenue (based upon student enrollment and attendance). State and federal grants accounted for the next largest chunk by contributing more than $2.1 million. Property taxes accounted for more than $1.5 million. "Other revenue" summarizes the rest of the funds with forest receipts contributing a meager 0.119 percent. The district uses its revenue to cover Program Expenses such as Instruction ($6.58 million), Support Services ($4.40 million), Food Services ($0.47 million) and Capital Outlay ($0.09 million).

What do we get for our investment in public schools? Joint School District 171 educated 1,221 K-12 students in the 2008-09 school year. During 2009-10, enrollment has dropped to 1,138 students. In my opinion, the quality of the education ranges from superior to less than satisfactory. I base this assessment on the educational experiences of my children who attended and graduated from Orofino schools and the experiences of local patrons whose children currently attend District schools.

Funding Adequate for Quality Education. Education in District 171 is a large-scale, multi-million dollar enterprise. I believe we have provided sufficient funding for quality education. As with any large activity, those who govern the Education system must show accountability to the patrons. In my opinion, they have not. I encourage all patrons to vote "NO" on the supplemental levy.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino

4-27-10

Bruce: New school construction unwarranted

Dear Editor:

Obviously, the School District leadership does not share the economic pain of the majority of patrons. Instead of seeking out every avenue to cut spending, the leadership proposes a grandiose plan for spending $7.35 million throughout the 2010-17 timeframe under the label of a "plant facilities tax levy." This spending figure comes from a preliminary proposal by Design West Architects who the District retained to design their scheme for plant facilities improvements. This proposal includes over $6.5 million of new construction. Using the "plant facilities tax levy" is a slick way to organize an election for new construction without having to meet the more stringent supermajority requirement needed to pass a "bond tax levy."

I am a fiscal conservative. I oppose any new construction in Joint School District 171 because of the declining trend in enrollment. An October 2009 independent audit of the District by Presnell Gage established enrollment within the District has declined from 1,453 students in the 2000-01 school-year to 1,221 in the 2008-09 school-year, or a decline of 232 students in the 9-year period. Current District enrollment for 2009-10 continues the declining trend with the number at 1,138 students.

I do support reactivating the Pierce Elementary School (the most recent construction in the District) to accommodate the students now using temporary facilities at Timberline and I do oppose closure of the Orofino Junior High School, both with conditions. Once enrollment decreases to the point where it is impracticable to maintain these facilities as a whole, my position is to consolidate the students into the remaining District facilities without new construction. My position opposes busing to the OJHS or Pierce ES gyms while conducting classroom education at other locations. If the District needs those gyms to complete the education process then use the whole facility rather than proposing new construction of class rooms and gyms separate from those facilities as outlined in the proposed "plant facilities tax levy."

By the way, the District's "plant facilities tax levy" will be in addition to the annual "M & O supplemental tax levy." This year's proposed $1.74 million for the supplemental tax levy shows an increase of 17 percent over last year's $1.49 million for the same tax levy. I encourage District 171 patrons to vote against both of these tax levies in order to bring the School Board and District leadership back to their senses.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


4-20-10

School Board fiscal responsibility

Dear Editor:

The school board voted to increase the supplemental levy based on the fact that state funding of schools has decreased. Why has state funding decreased--because there is a decrease in tax revenue due to the recession and the high rate of unemployment? To expect the local tax payers to make up the shortfall doesn't make sense because the unemployment rate in this county is higher than in the state as a whole. No one wants to impact the education of the children, but the district needs to examine their budget line by line with the assumption being that they will not receive any extra funding, just like the taxpayers must do with their household budget. When cost-saving suggestions are ignored the district is not being fiscally responsible to the taxpayer. The taxpayers must use their voting power to demand fiscal responsibility and accountability at the local and state level.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


4-16-10

Bruce: Save Orofino Junior High School

Dear Editor:

At the April 6th, 2010, Special School Board meeting, Travis Reggear presented compelling testimony that was visionary in nature and warrants our support. Central to his concept is student redistribution at Timberline. His proposal would move the Timberline high school students to the Orofino High School (OHS). This move would free-up classroom space at Timberline for the remaining K-8 students. That would negate the need for new construction at that site. More importantly, the Timberline high school students would benefit from a broader and more comprehensive course curriculum, both academic and vocational. The Timberline students would also benefit from a broader slate of extra-curricular activities. Retaining the Orofino Junior High School (OJHS) as an active facility becomes essential in this scenario in order to adequately house and separate the seventh and eighth graders from OHS, a concern of parents with junior-high children. As well, the OJHS could absorb the 6th grade if overcrowding becomes an issue at the Orofino Elementary School. Important to the tax-payer in our state of economic recession and high unemployment, the District would realize an economic benefit by being able to avoid new construction at the OHS site.

Mr. John Schwartz, a member of the Board, acknowledged the brilliance of Travis' idea but did not have the will to break away from his establishment colleagues to give the idea a fair evaluation. Instead, his vote turned the tide to commit the District to expenditures that will deplete the reserve funds and add to the tax burden for the patrons. Each of us must express our concerns by contacting District officials with a phone call, e-mail, or letter and by attending and speaking our concerns at upcoming School Board meetings on 12, 22 and 26 April. We patrons must be willing to leverage the Board as they have leveraged us by withholding approval of the supplemental-levy and any bond-levy for construction.

Trelawny J. Bruce
Orofino


4-12-10

Troutwine: Reconsider OJHS closure

Dear Editor,

At the very time that County unemployment reaches 19.3 percent and the State of Idaho closes its Health and Welfare Office in Orofino, the School District 171 Board votes 3 to 2 to move the students out of the Orofino Junior High School (OJHS) and to add-on new construction at the Orofino High School (OHS) and Timberline school complex. These actions will put Orofino's next-year seventh grade students at the Orofino Elementary School (OES) and the eighth grade students at the OHS. This is not only a bad idea because of the scheme for new construction, but because of added class sizes and congestion at the OES and OHS facilities. In order to conduct this new construction, the Board plans to deplete its reserve funds and, in the end, leverage the patrons to pick up the remainder of the tab through a "bond-levy." A bond-levy will significantly increase taxes for property owners, a factor that magnifies considering declining property values. Any bond-levy will be in addition to the "supplemental-levy" the District asks for on an annual basis, last year to the tune of $1.4 million. With declining enrollment, it seems logical that the patrons would question the need for this new construction. The District has already demonstrated its inclination for poor planning; especially, considering its ill-advised 2007 closure of its newest school facilities in Pierce in order to leverage the patrons to foot the bill for new construction seven miles away at Timberline.

My position is to put aside any new construction and use the facilities we have to their greatest efficiency. That means, leave the junior high students at the current OJHS until enrollment declines to the point where consolidation can occur without new construction. We need a flood of patron involvement to turn this situation around!!! Letters to the editor, personal testimony, school board elections and the power of the purse (levy elections) are the tools available to the patrons with regard to influencing or reversing School Board decisions. These tools are only as good as the patron's willingness to participate.

Respectfully,

Rose Troutwine
Orofino


4-10-10

Closure of DHW office shows callous disregard for humanity

Dear Editor:

Concerning the decision to close the Orofino DHW (Department of Health and Welfare) office -I cannot believe the callous disregard for humanity evidenced by the decision to close the DHW Orofino office serving Clearwater County. Our county's unemployment is now above 19 percent. People applying for, or currently receiving welfare don't have the funds to drive the 80 miles from Pierce, 60 miles from Weippe or 44 miles from Orofino to Lewiston. Their answer is to apply via phone-but "expect to wait awhile." What if they don't have and/or can't afford a phone. It is criminal not to provide service to the families who need help. We can and we should do better.

Evelyn Olsen
Orofino


4-1-10

Concern rests in unresolved building problems

Dear Editor:

During the past weeks I have written many letters addressing the funding problems schools for District 171 are experiencing, and have always put them in the wastebasket because they tend to sound too critical. I have followed very closely the information that has been shared with the public and I feel that some of the information and cost factors and impacts shared have been inaccurate and many times are changed from meeting to meeting.

My concern rests on my assessment of not having the building problems solved before you close a school. Intent to close must be firm but a more permanent and quality plan must be in place before action is taken. Most of the figures that have been shared with the public as to savings that will be realized if we close the Jr. High seem to change when more thought is given to the problems the different cuts impose. We are told there will not be any negative impact on the students with the changes proposed but I will share a few. The Jr. High now has science labs and the new changes proposed will not provide science labs without further financial changes being made. Fewer teachers and fewer classroom aids certainly do have an impact on student academic proficiency. Traveling from school to school for different activities and classes takes time away from the time spent in the classroom by both instructional staff and student, and has fiscal impacts not adequately projected. I think we are asking a lot for students to excel with our four day school week, now we will require the same criteria and academia for Jr. High students with less time spent in the classroom. Are all of the students of Jr. High age ready for this change in how education classes and social challenges are experienced?

It is sad that our teachers need to have this problem on their backs when they already have had benefit cuts and less wage increases thru the past three to four years, Teachers should be concentrating on their classrooms academics not working on budgeting and building problems and concerns if they will have a job come next school year. All of the proposals I have had access to will have an important negative impact on the classrooms. The state says they have no choice but to make extreme cuts in funding, I disagree, I think they have other options but prefer to be pessimists rather than leaders. Other constitutional officers have shown different options with more funding that would limit the impact the state budget proposed will have on the small rural schools ability to adequately fund programs for their students.

We all know schools will be under funded, but we do have choices of how we implement the changes that will be required and those changes should be implemented with the least impact on the classrooms and students as possible. The public is now involved and there have been some good and reasonable options presented and they do deserve to be listened to. Sometimes it is prudent to step back and review our process and procedures and make improvements in the process. We all want what is best for the young children involved.

Marguerite McLaughlin
Orofino


3-12-10

Idaho's door open for business

by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

It's true that a rising tide lifts all boats. But how those boats are handled makes a big difference when the tide is out and the waters get rough.

State governments across the country are dealing with the continuing national recession in different ways. In Idaho, our focus is on stability. Predictable tax and regulatory policies are what our employers need in order to maintain their operations through this rough patch, and it's what employers elsewhere are looking for when they consider expanding or relocating.

Other states, however, have chosen some interesting and in my view counterproductive approaches. Last month, for example, Oregon voters approved their legislature's decision to raise taxes on the wealthy and on many businesses by $727 million. The immediate result was that my phone started ringing - and so did phones over at our Department of Commerce. It seems that word has spread about our Project 60 initiative, and that we are open for business, including theirs!

The businesses that have called are emotional about this subject, and they have every right to be. Rising costs - especially during a recession - could put some employers out of business, or at least prompt layoffs. More than 2,000 Oregonians joined a Facebook group to protest the tax increase and commiserate about the repercussions. No less an Oregon business icon than Nike's Phil Knight calls it "Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law II."

Legislators in the state of Washington are talking about even bigger tax increases to tackle a budget deficit that figures to be as big as Idaho's entire State budget. Businesses in both states are like those in Idaho; they are facing the most challenging times in decades, and even incremental cost increases can mean the difference between surviving and closing up.

The problem in Oregon is that folks were convinced that state government was what needed to be shored up rather than the jobs- and revenue-producing private sector for which state government is supposed to work. As a result, they're chasing some of their cash cows to the border. And I welcome those businesses with open arms.

We now are reaching out to hundreds of Oregon businesses, and will do the same with those in Washington if the legislature there follows Oregon's lead. We aren't offering many bells and whistles, but what we can offer is a business-friendly State government, a highly qualified and motivated work force, and communities where people understand that while government cannot be the solution to their problems it can and must be a champion for their own solutions.

Businesses small and large are the backbone of Idaho's economy. They employ our citizens, who in turn can provide for their families. Businesses and individuals also pay reasonable taxes that enable State and local governments to provide such essential services as public schools and public safety. And make no mistake: Any business that doesn't pass along its operating costs to consumers - including their tax bills - doesn't stay in business for long.

Of course, Oregon businesses can choose to accept their higher tax burden, and many will. After all, I understand that the quality of life over there is pretty good. But they have nothing on Idaho in that regard.

For those Oregon businesses facing a decision about whether to lay off employees or close their doors entirely, I have a proposal: Move to Idaho. The Tax Foundation rates our corporate tax burden at 17th in the nation, compared to Oregon's ranking of 31st. Our individual tax burden is lower, too. Those kinds of numbers can make a real difference to a bottom line.

For Oregonians reading this: Find the best Idaho community for your business by visiting us online at www.gemstateprospector.com. Or call our Department of Commerce toll free at 1-800-842-5858 for details about available land, buildings and incentives.

I'll continue to share information wherever I can about Project 60 and our business-smart state. Find out what so many folks already know - Idaho is a great place to live, to work, and to create career-path jobs and opportunities.


3-6-10

Idaho is not waiting for federal healthcare 'reform'

by Governor C.L. 'Butch' Otter

It seems like Washington, DC, is tilting at political windmills these days. The Obama administration and Congress are still promising to slay the fire-breathing dragon of healthcare costs. But the beast they are fighting is, to a large extent, the product of the government-installed cage in which it evolved.

For 35 years now the federal government has been essentially running healthcare in America, masking market signals and supplanting the judgment of patients and physicians with the determinations of politicians, bureaucrats and lawyers. It should be no surprise that healthcare became "health management," people became statistics, and the fear of liability became the biggest expense of all.

Now the federal government is poised to rescue us from the disaster it created, promising "reform" that amounts to little more than increasing government's already dominant role in the healthcare system and further reducing the role of states like Idaho, not to mention individual patients and providers.

The public, policy makers and even patients contributed to the problem with their complacence. Having been lulled into a false sense of security by the promise of Medicaid and Medicare, we failed to insist on meaningful change and self-determination. But now the federal government has seized on healthcare reform as its mission in life, which means we should brace for still higher costs.

Largely missing from this discussion is the real work that Idaho and many other states are doing on their own to address healthcare needs, fulfilling their role as laboratories of the republic. That work includes controlling costs and improving access through a market-driven focus on preventive care, health promotion, building public-private partnerships, and application of technology and professional development.

I convened the Idaho Healthcare Summit in 2007 to evaluate Idaho's healthcare system and recommend ways to make healthcare more affordable. The Governor's Select Committee on Health Care evaluated the recommendations, gathered additional data and provided its top recommendations for implementation in a report submitted to me in 2008.

The recommendations focused on expanding the statewide use of electronic medical records to provide better coordinated patient care; expanding the use of patient-centered medical homes that shift the focus of healthcare to primary and preventive care; expanding the number of already eligible children to register for the State Children's Health Insurance Program; and expanding the number of residency opportunities to attract primary care and specialty physicians to our state. We are making great progress on all those fronts. And at the close of 2009 I created the Governor's Health Policy Implementation Committee, consisting of people who are experts in these fields, to foster continuing advancement of the priority areas over the next couple of years.

While there is still much more to be done, this much is clear: The federal government should not dictate our healthcare choices. The states, with public and private input, are capable of making changes to foster a better and more affordable healthcare system. We no longer can afford to be complacent and wait for the federal government to make things worse and take decisions out of our hands.

As Thomas Jefferson said, "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned - this is the sum of good government."

3-5-10

Lolo Zone elk population in trouble

by Cal Groen, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The Lolo elk herd is in trouble. The latest counts put the herd at 2,178 with poor survival of the cows and calves needed to replenish the herd.

Idaho Fish and Game is committed to saving the Lolo herd and keeping Idaho's other elk herds healthy.

The elk situation in the Lolo elk management zone didn't happen overnight. The Lolo elk herd had glory days after major fires in the early 1900s created phenomenal elk habitat in the Clearwater Region. Elk numbers peaked at 16,000 in the 1980s. But re-growth of brush and forest turned great elk habitat into poor habitat. Predation by bears and mountain lions took its toll.

Following the severe winter of 1996-1997, Lolo elk numbers dropped by nearly half. When the population didn't rebound, Idaho Fish and Game took aggressive steps. We drastically reduced hunter numbers, and ended all cow harvest. We increased bear and lion hunting opportunities to reduce predation. We worked with other partners to improve habitat. Elk numbers started increasing.

Then wolves took over and became the leading cause of Lolo elk deaths. It wasn't until May of last year that the state could finally manage wolves. By then, the balance of elk and wolves in the Lolo Zone was completely out of whack. Extreme predation on adult females and calves means not enough calves survive to replace the adults that die each year.

Idaho began taking steps to reduce wolf numbers with its first regulated wolf hunt starting Sept. 1, 2009. But hunters in the steep, brushy Lolo country have had limited success, taking just 11 wolves of the Lolo zone harvest limit of 27 to date.

With the latest Lolo elk numbers, it is clear more aggressive wolf management is needed to restore the herd. State wildlife managers will recommend significant changes to wolf seasons in the Lolo and other elk-depressed zones, consistent with the 2008-2012 Idaho Wolf Management Plan. These management tools could include increased harvest limits, multiple tags, trapping, and asking outfitters to help reduce wolf numbers.

Even with fewer wolves, changes in the landscape make it unlikely Lolo elk will return to the all-time highs of the 1980s. But Fish and Game will do what it takes to restore the health of the Lolo herd. For many of us, it's more than just professional interest; this herd has personal significance to many Idaho wildlife managers. And finding the right balance for our big game herds and other wildlife is at the heart of Fish and Game's mission.

2-11-10

Otter: F-35 Lightning right project at right time for Idaho

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

Most people who don't live here - especially those from back East - think of Idaho as an out-of-the-way place. We usually are "fly-over country" for national politicians.

But right now, Idaho is front-and-center, standing tall with the United States Air Force. And that's a very good thing.

Two Idaho military bases are on the short list to be training and operational homes for the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Mountain Home Air Force Base and Boise's Gowen Field are two of 11 sites nationwide that are competing for these new missions.

The project has been flying under the radar a little, but the fact is that this is one of Idaho's biggest economic development stories in years. It has moved to the top of priorities for my Project 60 campaign, and for good reason: The potential is there for 3,000 direct, career-level jobs being secured - not to mention the enormous additional economic opportunities resulting from those jobs, and the chance of solidifying the position of both bases as pillars of our economy for another 50 years.

These two bases together contribute more than a billion dollars to our state's economy each year, so this is a very big deal for all of Idaho. While the bases are in southern Idaho, they have a statewide impact. Each job saved or created at Mountain Home and Gowen has a ripple effect throughout our economy. Jobs off the base are affected as demand for goods and services rises. That in turn affects tax revenue, which directly impacts State services throughout Idaho.

When a small employer hires a few people, we celebrate. Every bit counts in this economy. But when two of the state's largest employers face a huge potential new mission, it's my responsibility to make this a top priority. It also is a top priority for the Department of Commerce and the Idaho National Guard, which are working diligently to coordinate and align support with our Idaho congressional delegation, private businesses, the Legislature, and communities throughout Idaho.

Cities from Nampa to Greenleaf to Mountain Home have lined up in support of this project, as have the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the Association of Idaho Cities. The Air Force now is conducting environmental impact surveys and community support is a critical element to this part of the process.

It's important to note that Mountain Home Air Force Base is not competing against Gowen Field for the F-35s. Each of these bases has made it to the short list for separate missions - Mountain Home is up for operations and Gowen Field is being considered as a training base. One or both bases could be selected.

It also is important to point out that if our bases are not selected, their long-term future could be in jeopardy. While they will remain important to the military for some time to come, our bases eventually could face cutbacks unless we have a role in the Air Force's new missions.

You can play a role in all of this by voicing your support. A series of open house "scoping" meetings are being held this month throughout southwestern Idaho. Information will be available there and questions will be answered by Air Force representatives in an informal setting. Attendees can fill out comment cards. A schedule of meetings can be found at a new informational Web site we've launched, at www.idahof35.com.

Idaho has a long history in military aviation, and our citizens have a proud history of supporting America's fighting men and women. This is the perfect location for the Air Force's new mission, but we need your help to make that case. So now is the perfect time for all of us to stand up and be counted in support of the F-35 coming here to Idaho.


12-24-09

Fiscal responsibility is a national security issue

Guest Editorial by U.S. Senator James E. Risch

Billions and trillions. Debt and deficit. Tax, borrow, and spend. Those words are getting close attention these days with the February 1 unveiling of President Obama's proposed budget.

Every American needs to take a moment to ponder our country's financial condition and consequences of failure to get our fiscal house in order.

The President is proposing to spend $3.8 trillion in the next fiscal year, which begins October 1. He is also asking for tax increases and limits on deductions (more tax increases). Even with $2 trillion in new revenue the President wants we would still be $1.3 trillion short and the administration will borrow much of that from the Chinese.

In this current fiscal year, we are running a record $1.6 trillion deficit. Moody's Investor Service has said that this deficit jeopardizes the triple-A bond rating held by the U.S. This current deficit is 10.6 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the highest since World War II.

I serve on the Joint Economic Committee which issued a report on government debt, finding that peace-time debt can be more difficult than war-time debt. It said, "Peace time debts have no natural end and can indicate unstable underlying political economy dynamics which may endure for a long time."

Democrats in Congress recently raised America's debt ceiling, our line of credit if you will, by $1.9 trillion to a total of $14.29 trillion. By this time next year, Congress will have to raise it again to keep the cash flowing.

Interest on this debt is $202 billion this year and by 2019 projections show it will exceed $700 billion annually.

Every economist, liberal or conservative, republican or democrat, agree that this is unsustainable. We must eliminate deficit spending and balance our budget if we are to maintain our superiority in the world. It is among other threats, a national security issue.

On occasion someone will ask why I don't support a tax increase to reduce our deficit and debt. To me it comes down to two fundamental reasons - taking more money out of the pocket of people and businesses harms economic growth; and second, government has rarely shown the fiscal discipline to not spend more than it takes in.

So we must begin right now to reduce our government spending and determine our real priorities. We must thoroughly examine each agency's budget and ask, like the EPA, for example, why they are getting even more when last year they received a whopping 37 percent budget increase?

If we don't start now we will all owe our children and grandchildren an apology for the nearly unsolvable mess we will leave them.

12-24-09

Say 'thank you' for city crew's work

Dear Editor:

I cannot find the words to express how proud I am of Orofino's City Crew. The Christmas 911 project started out as a Police Dept. goal headed by Chief Jeff Wilson and quickly spread to other city departments and individuals. The project was an outstanding success and brought a very Merry Christmas to 15 local families!

Most people never know how much the City Crew goes through to make sure everything runs smoothly for the rest of us! When you see them out and about, whether it's the Police, Fire Dept., Public Works, Building Inspector, Water Dept., or simply stopping by City Hall to pay a water bill....take a minute and say Thank You!

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2010!!!

Ryan Smathers
Orofino


11-23-09

You have got to be kidding me

Open Letter to Edward Jones
Mr. Jim Weddle, Managing Partner
Mr. Chuck Rogers, Principal
St. Louis, MO

Dear Editor:

On Nov. 5, 2009, I received a letter from Mr. Weddle of Edward Jones that my Financial Agent Teri Bolling had left their firm. Come on, Mr. Weddle. You fired her because her numbers were not high enough for you. In his letter he cautioned me about any "financial advisor approaching me about moving my accounts." In his letter he also stated that the relationship I currently have with Edward Jones "should be built on a foundation of clear, open and frank communication." I agree. Then how come he didn't tell me the truth?

If Edward Jones sincerely cared about "my investment" (which I realizes isn't much), they would not have fired my Financial Advisor, Teri Bolling. I made my meager investment because of Teri, not because of where she worked.

In case you did not know, allow me to point out a few things:

  • Clearwater County in Idaho has the largest unemployment in the State. I know you need your Financial Advisors to produce numbers, but really, 16.5 percent of us in this county don't have jobs.
  • Teri grew up here, went to school here, and is known here in this small town.
  • Teri pounded the pavement drumming up business when she first opened the Edward Jones office in Orofino.
  • Teri continued to bring in business by continuing to make personal contacts, driving considerable distance within our county and surrounding counties. (Our town is small, but our county is rural and quite large.)

And now you want us to just roll over and play dead like nothing happened? You want us to work with someone none of us know and let him build up on what Teri started?

You have got to be kidding me!

Having the true Idaho spirit, Teri has landed on her feet. I hope every person who gave their money for Teri to invest will move their funds back to Teri. She can be contacted at 476-7100.

Connie Jo Connolly
Orofino


11-23-09

When did competition become a bad thing?

At what point did having competition become a bad thing?? I personally cannot believe the pathetic and unnecessary act of Riverside Sport Shop to block the visibility of Camp, Cabin, & Home.

In economic times like these, Orofino should welcome any and all businesses that are willing to make a significant investment here. I applaud Riverside Sport Shop for also making an investment and their recent paint job. Your building looks much better also....That being said....Move the 5th wheel and welcome a new competitor to Orofino. If you have been running your store in a friendly and welcoming manner a little competition should be a good thing!

Ryan Smathers
Orofino


11-17-09

Cutbacks threaten destruction of important programs, projects

Dear Editor:

I am happy to read Governor Otter's expectations that Idaho's economic situation is beginning to mend. The problem he didn't mention is that his last order for cutbacks in state spending will result in destruction of very important programs and projects that are indispensable to the people of Idaho.

Clearwater County finds itself losing in major ways: Dworshak State Park provides an estimated $5 million income for the county and surrounding area -- let alone its value to the citizens who use it. The State Park and Recreation Department has chosen to close it without provision of time for the "locals" to even contemplate plans for a rescue. Seems to me a shortfall of $147,000 shouldn't cancel $5 million income.

State Hospital North operations are being diminished internally to "cut back". What about the patient care and necessary services? The statewide cuts to Medicaid will cause more problems for needy citizens as well as sacrifice federal matching dollars.

The Department of Corrections statewide and at ICI-Orofino have endured personnel cuts that endanger us - let alone the incarcerated.

Could we ask that rather than destroying valuable programs we might sustain an across the board increase in income tax that could help preserve our established service structures?

It will help turn recession around and when recovery comes we can welcome a return to lower taxation. I'd like to pay my share and if it means income tax increase - so be it!!

Jo Sharrai,
Orofino


11-12-09

Idaho businesses rolling up their sleeves

by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

This month: Some good news, and a few words of caution.

We heard recently that the recession may be over. Our nation's economy grew about 3.5 percent during the most recent quarter, marking the first three-month period of growth in more than a year. But before we celebrate, let's remember that while we may finally be at the bottom of this downturn and starting to turn things around, we are not yet anywhere near where we were or where we want to be.

Employment is what economists call a "lagging indicator," and things might still seem a little worse before we start realizing they are better. Caution and continued frugality are just as important as optimism right now, and the last thing we should do is declare victory and return to business as usual.

That being said, there is positive news in a wide variety of sectors across Idaho, from retail to wind energy. That speaks well of our growing economic diversity - a quality that we are working to cultivate. And even seen through the eyes of caution, it's paying off in more career-path jobs and opportunities.

Jayco Inc. in Twin Falls is ramping up production and hiring another 30 workers, which will bring its employee count up to 180. Better-than-expected sales are credited for the increase in production, which will bring the travel trailer company's employment level to nearly pre-recession levels.

In New Plymouth, a new headquarters is being built for Internet Truckstop - along with two of its spinoff businesses. The groundbreaking online service for truckers nationwide is optimistic that it will continue growing, so it's left room for expansion. The company also is taking care to use Idaho products and labor as much as possible, creating even stronger ripples in our economy.

Federal stimulus money continues to help Idaho's economy, especially in the energy sector. Last month, another $10 million in U.S. Department of Energy grants were awarded for geothermal projects in Idaho, resulting in a number of career opportunities created in the areas of drilling, exploration and construction.

Another round of grants sent $2.2 million to Boise's M2M Communications, creating nearly 80 new jobs; and millions of additional dollars went to Idaho Power and Avista to build infrastructure which, in turn, will lead to more growth.

Even more energy projects are on the radar for Idaho. There is interest from two different wind energy companies in establishing projects in northern Idaho, and another company is considering Jerome. In addition, the Hoku Scientific plant in Pocatello is quickening its pace on construction after the company brought on a new investor. That solar-energy industry manufacturer will start production early next year.

In Nampa, more retailers have moved into the new Gateway Center, giving that major shopping center a strong launch. And a winery incubator has opened in Caldwell to stimulate new businesses in that growing sector.

In northern Idaho, U.S. Silver Corp. in Wallace recently created 21 new jobs. Its silver production is up, and the company is investing money in its site.

Finally, the first year of operation at the Lewiston pulp and paper mill under the management of Clearwater Paper is shaping up as a huge success. The Potlatch spinoff just reported excellent revenue and profits for its first nine months, and that means employment stability for the 1,600 people who work there.

While companies are focusing on their own business needs, many have taken the time to invest in Idaho's future as well. Nearly 100 Idaho companies from throughout the state have answered my call to actively participate in today's recovery and tomorrow's prosperity by becoming Project 60 partners. They realize that economic growth is not just government's business - it's an effort in which we all have a big stake.

The teamwork and sense of community we are fostering throughout Idaho is making a critical difference. We are all in this together. None of us should be taking this recession lying down, or taking recovery for granted. We are addressing our challenges head on, and I'm proud to be part of that effort.

Remember to share your stories of success and struggle with me at www.project60.idaho.gov. I want to hear about the start-up enterprise in your garage or barn, or any ideas you've been working on to help grow our economy - the Idaho way.


11-6-09

We need tough rules for big banks, Wall Street

Guest opinion submitted by Congressman Walt Minnick

Throughout my decades as an Idaho business leader, I always made sure I could look my associates in the eye and explain every decision.

That's why my managers would share motel rooms, rent economy cars and get the same health insurance as the newest file clerk. That's why when times got tough I cut my salary first and most before I asked anyone else to sacrifice.

These values are why I ran for Congress, and why the people of Idaho are giving me a chance to serve them in Washington.

These values are why I voted to force lenders to re-negotiate mortgages, why I voted to reform the unscrupulous practices of credit-card companies, why I voted to expand prosecutions of corporate fraud, why I voted to crack down on government waste and why I voted to give women new rights to challenge unequal pay. It's also why I demand an end to the excessive millions paid to out-of-touch Wall Street CEOs.

These values have shaped how over the last nine months I have helped write landmark legislation to overhaul the way we regulate Wall Street and the financial industry, to keep them from ever again bringing our economy to its knees.

Countless hours in hearings and meetings with my fellow members, with financial experts, with regulators and with officials from the administration have resulted in legislation that is nearly complete. By year's end, Congress will vote on a sweeping bill which will include a host of reforms, including two portions I was privileged to have written: regulations for the complex derivatives market and a measure to force lenders who sell their loans to share in any losses if those loans go bad.

I strongly support this financial reform bill, which in most respects will reflect approaches proposed last summer by the president and his financial advisers.

However, in some areas the administration has been too timid with its regulatory reform, and in those areas I have worked to strengthen the proposals. For example, I seek to consolidate four overlapping federal bank regulators into just one agency, and two securities regulators into a single, more effective organization.

The administration proposal would keep most of the current framework, a framework which has been proven ineffective. It allows two agencies to continue overseeing derivatives rather than one, and allows big banks to continue "shopping" for the regulator that will have the least oversight.

I also am working for stronger and more uniform regulation to help better protect consumers - whether they deal with a local payday lender or a big Wall Street bank. We can do it, however, in a more effective, simple way than creating the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency proposed by the president.

We get better protection if we have fewer federal agencies with broader responsibilities. Every regulation impacts both a bank's profitability and how well it serves its customers.

To create two regulators for every bank and other financial institution - one trying to keep it sound financially and another to protect its customers from abusive loan practices - will lead to conflict and paralysis. It also will increase the burdens on the small banks that are the primary sources of credit for homeowners and small businesses in my district desperately trying to create new jobs and get us out of this recession.

My proposal would give the largest and most important of the four federal bank regulators, The Comptroller of the Currency, the power to establish both tough new consumer protection regulations and its existing safety and soundness regulation. It would also create a Council of the other federal and state financial regulators who would have the power to standardize consumer regulations across all other financial regulators

Unfortunately, my common-sense solution has been attacked by (those) who do not understand why my solution will be stronger, simpler and better for Idaho's financial institutions and their customers than what the administration has proposed.

We will not reform Wall Street by adding new, overlapping federal agencies, creating new turf wars and continuing to run the risk that gaps will form.

We must protect consumers and prevent future speculators from finding new ways to bring this nation to the brink of economic ruin.

Idahoans want me to make sure that government plays an appropriate, limited but effective role. They want Congress to punish those who caused this mess, fix the problems so it doesn't happen again and then get out of the way to let free enterprise work.

That's what I want, too.


10-23-09

Idaho Delegation: Post bills online before votes

The following guest opinion was submitted by Senator Mike Crapo, Senator Jim Risch, Representative Mike Simpson and Representative Walt Minnick

Earlier this year Congress faced some tough choices. It was clear the economy was headed in a dangerous direction, and the country faced financial challenges not seen in generations. Action was required to prevent another Great Depression.

There was a lot of debate about the right course to take. Some wanted aggressive action by the federal government; others felt that limited and strategic government action was warranted. Still, others supported a combination of tax relief and incentives to motivate the private sector to act on its own.

The debate was critical because it helped the public learn about the slipping economy; the public, in turn, helped inform the debate by providing feedback to Senators and Representatives. That process should have continued after bills were introduced, so the people most affected by the slipping economy and by proposed deficit spending - the public - would have say in the final proposal.

Unfortunately, the public did not get as much opportunity to weigh in on the final bill. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act - the stimulus bill - was formally introduced just hours before the first vote in Congress.

Regardless of your position on that bill or any others over the last ten years, it simply isn't right to write legislation without giving the public - let alone members of Congress - the ability to read it first. It's not good government, and it's not the way this country should make public policy. Most importantly, it's not the way Idahoans want government to work.

As your elected Senators and Representatives, we have a responsibility to represent Idaho values in Washington, D.C. At our regular delegation meetings, we always search for the right approach for our state, without worrying about what's best for ourselves or our political parties.

That's what Idahoans have come to expect from their elected officials: to seek consensus, to reach out to the people who put us into office and solicit their input. When we take the time to listen to the people we represent, our work is better. In fact, the work of both Houses of Congress would better reflect the wishes of the country if the public was able to better track the legislative process.

This is critically important for the upcoming votes on health care. Throughout Idaho over the summer, it was clear that you were informed about the various proposals before Congress. The efforts at town meetings demonstrated that Americans want to read and understand the bills. It's imperative to know how the proposals will affect our families, but time is needed to delve more deeply into the actual legislation without relying on broad talking points and media sound bites. You need sufficient time to review the language and the financial analysis.

With technology now available, it's easy for such information to be made available. That is we strongly support efforts to require Congress to post bills online no less than 72 hours before a vote so the public can have an opportunity to read, review and provide feedback. We have all supported various efforts to move efforts along to provide bill language on the Internet, as well as efforts to force a vote by Congress on those measures.

We will continue advocating for these policies and will continue to seek more ways for you to be better engaged and informed on the issues before the U.S. Congress. That's part of the job you hired each of us to do.


10-17-09

Innovation helping Idaho companies move forward

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

As I travel around the state, I have the opportunity to visit a lot of businesses, business owners and their employees. I'm constantly reminded - in ways big and small - that businesses, like people, need to be willing and able to change in order to stay relevant and succeed.

That was the theme at my recent Innovation Summit. It doesn't matter if you sell alfalfa or write software, it takes innovation to efficiently produce value, get your product to market and grow your business.

At the Innovation Summit, as well as my Business Summit in August, I was reminded again just how strong and resilient our companies are in Idaho. We have industry leaders who aren't seeking shelter from this economic storm; instead, they are actively repositioning themselves and innovating for future success.

One example is the Camas Prairie Winery's project to utilize solar energy. The Moscow winery has cut its energy bills by more than half by installing solar panels, paid for in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Energy for America Program. That not only reduces business costs but also is an example of how renewable energy can make Idaho businesses more competitive.

On a larger scale, Micron Technology is developing a new light-emitting diode technology that can be used in energy-efficient lights. This is a significant new product area for Micron. I announced a $5 million grant to Micron for the project a couple of weeks ago - part of our federal stimulus funding - because of the tremendous potential for creating new career-path jobs and charting new directions for the ones we have.

Innovation doesn't always mean "high-tech." Sometimes it means employing innovative business practices. Coeur d'Alene-based franchise Pita Pit recently was ranked the 49th top franchise in the world based on such factors as financial performance and corporate citizenship, as well as on its ability to innovate.

As I heard at my Innovation Summit, applying innovation to existing businesses and industries is just as important to the success of Idaho's economy as using innovation to create new products and services.

And businesses throughout our state are finding success. Many companies are still expanding, hiring and getting new contracts. For example, I heard recently from Synoptek, an Idaho company that is very pleased with the success of its business since moving here from California. In its first year of operation in Boise, Synoptek expanded to a new office, hired more employees and established a state-of-the-art information technology hosting center. This summer, it was recognized nationally with a 131st ranking on the Inc. 500 list.

Meanwhile, Intermountain Gas and its three sister utility companies are opening a new customer service center in Meridian to serve nearly a million of its customers across eight states. The center will hire about 140 workers by the time it is in full operation next year.

In eastern Idaho, the Idaho National Laboratory received national recognition recently for its work in partnership with small businesses. That kind of public-private partnership is particularly important because most of Idaho's employers are small. And when they succeed, the benefits ripple out across the entire community.

It also was great to see that a Kansas-based business, Watco Companies Inc., is so impressed with the success of its existing ventures in Idaho that it's upping the ante. The company plans to lease-purchase 36 miles of railroad track from Boise to Caldwell. Once approvals for the deal are received, a new line called the Boise Valley Railroad will be in business, with high hopes for continued growth here.

That kind of positive message - of optimism and opportunity - is why I am so appreciative for the many Idaho business leaders who are stepping up to join the Project 60 team. We all are working together to advance Idaho's economy, to create good jobs that lead to careers, and to improve everyone's bottom line.

Project 60 partners are leading the way by helping with everything from contacting businesses interested in expanding to Idaho, to providing great advice on how to succeed here, to sharing stories about that success. Take a look at the Project 60 web page, www.project60.idaho.gov, and I'm confident you will want to be part of this exciting effort to grow our economy, the Idaho way.

10-1-09

Invasive species effort paying off, will continue

Guest opinion by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

Idaho is taking important steps to protect our natural resources from the threat of invasive species, including quagga mussels and zebra mussels. The Idaho Invasive Species Act of 2008 advanced our effort to prohibit introduction of such invasive species, which can do irreversible and costly damage to our water, land and wildlife habitat.

Think of quagga mussels and zebra mussels as our version of the pythons that are taking over Florida's Everglades, or the snakehead fish in the Potomac River. Rather than waiting for what some folks said was the inevitable advance of these tiny sharp-shelled mollusks - which are wreaking havoc in several other western states - we chose to be proactive and aggressive in defending our precious resources.

In Idaho, the State Department of Agriculture is primarily responsible for defending against such threats. This year it launched the most comprehensive campaign yet, using revenue from the sale of Invasive Species Fund stickers for watercraft to implement an inspection program targeting boats entering Idaho from other states. That same fund helped the department inform the public, beef up existing monitoring efforts statewide and purchase watercraft decontamination equipment.

Quagga mussels and zebra mussels can quickly encrust surfaces and cause severe economic and environmental harm. If they spread to the Pacific Northwest, the threats to hydropower, irrigated agriculture, drinking water, recreation and salmon recovery will be immeasurable. The invasive mussels were first found in the West in 2007, and already Idaho is one of only eight states in the West that is not affected.

They have spread throughout the lower Colorado River system and major water distribution systems. They now infest waterbodies in Nevada, California, Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Utah. In these tough economic times, local, state and federal agencies are being forced to launch multimillion-dollar control and mitigation programs to protect vital hydropower and water delivery infrastructure.

Unfortunately, we know that we cannot protect Idaho by our own efforts alone. When I realized that boats were leaving infested waters managed by the federal government without proper decontamination, I wrote to Interior Secretary Salazar to ask for help. As I told him, it is unacceptable that states like Idaho should have to continue bearing the burden of protecting our waters from this known and - with determined and coordinated actions - preventable danger.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture's watercraft check stations this summer were located where there was the highest likelihood of intercepting boats crossing into Idaho from states known to have infested water bodies. Crews were equipped to decontaminate boats on the spot if they were considered at high risk of being infested. Several boats were decontaminated and two mussel-fouled boats were found before the check stations closed for the season.

They will reopen in the spring. But in the meantime, make no mistake: We must remain vigilant against this incredibly serious threat, and we can't do it alone. We can't be everywhere all the time. This effort will require everyone who cares about Idaho's water and other resources to participate.

Please take the time to clean, drain, and dry your boats every time you take them out of the water. Let's assert some "mussel control," and keep Idaho what America was meant to be.

9-28-09

Cuts stop short of governor's office

Opinion by Mike Butler

Recently I have become concerned over the lack of responsibility of our Governor. Twice now in the last two years, Governor Butch Otter has asked state agencies to make cuts in their budgets to help the state balance their budget by the end of the fiscal year. That is responsible government. However, I noticed that the buck always stops before it hits the Governor's office and or his own pocket.

Why as citizens in such economic times are we paying the governor to live in his own house. I do not understand. Nobody pays me to live in my own house, especially when the state has a governor's house that he refuses to live in. I emphasize, he refuses to live in. It seems to me that decision alone should cause the lawmakers of this great state to refuse to pay him for living in his own house.

I have heard the discussion that the state should sell the governor's mansion since Governor Otter does not want to live in it. What happens when the next governor does not come from the great state of Ada? Do we then purchase a house for them, or are we going to pay them to live in some other house?

Does this not end? I think in the tough economic times that the governor should step up to the plate and discontinue the payments for living in his own house. That certainly would save the state a lot of money over the year that could be used for better purposes.


9-16-09

Responsible health care reform needed

Guest opinion by U.S. Senator Jim Risch

As the health care debate took shape this summer it became clear to me Idahoans did not want government-run health care. Every day people called, wrote and e-mailed asking me to vote against a government takeover and any public option. As I traveled throughout Idaho in August, I heard the same thing-no government-run health care. I wholeheartedly agree.

I heard complaints about our current system and that some reform is needed, but time and again, Idahoans told me we must know the consequences of any proposal before it is enacted.

It was disappointing to hear the President push, once again, for a government takeover and a public option when he addressed Congress and America. I cannot support the goal he and the liberal members of his party have, which is the takeover of America's health care system. The President's speech had some ideas we all agree could reform health care, but he has not delivered a specific bill with details of how to accomplish those reforms.

If we want reform, there are four things we must do: 1.) Start over. The reform bills being considered by Congress must be scrapped due to their vagueness and lack of understandability; 2.) Go slow. Health care reform is complex and affects every American. We must get it right, not quick; 3.) We need to understand each component of health care reform. We cannot get it done in one big bill with a bureaucracy writing the details; and 4.) We must know the consequences of changes made to health care. It is too important to leave to chance or hope.

So, what should be done to reform health care? I urge:

  • Wellness Initiatives - individuals need to be responsible for their health. A substantial percentage of health costs are incurred due to personal habits.
  • Tax Credits for Individuals - those who purchase their own insurance should receive the same benefit as those who have company-sponsored health plans.
  • Pool Small Businesses Together to Purchase Insurance - a larger pool of people reduces risks, spreads costs and lowers premiums.
  • Electronic Medical Records and E-prescriptions - improve safety and eliminate duplicate testing.
  • Portability - allow employees to move plans from job to job and across state lines.
  • State Health Insurance Information Centers - Allows comparison of benefits and premiums of plans in an easy-to-understand format.
  • Get Treatments Right the First Time - medical mistakes harm thousands of people each year. The airlines have a zero tolerance of error for obvious reasons. The medical industry should do the same, which would lower tort and all costs.
  • Divert Routine Medical Visits from Emergency Rooms - using less expensive clinics for routine health care would reduce costs.
  • Initiatives to Fight the Five Medical Conditions that Consume 75 Percent of Health Care Spending - coronary artery disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma and depression.

We can and must improve the delivery of affordable health care in America. It won't be easy, but it is time to get to work.


9-12-09

Bipartisan solutions needed for reforming health care

Guest opinion by U.S. Congressman Walt Minnick

Did you know that Idaho orthopedic surgeons pay half the malpractice insurance as do their counterparts in Pennsylvania, thanks to our state's tort-reform law?

Did you know that many Idaho businesses have dropped health insurance altogether, due to the cost, and are now offering high deductible health-savings accounts or no insurance at all?

Did you know that many Idaho doctors who practice specialty medicine are strong advocates for increased preventative and general care?

I didn't know those things before I came home from Washington, D.C., at the beginning of this month, but I know them now. During the six weeks I was home traveling to all 19 counties in my district, I met many of you and have heard your stories about the need for improving our health-insurance system.

There was the woman whose daughter fought leukemia and won, only to be denied insurance later on because she had been ill in the past. There was the man who was injured while working on his dairy farm, and who now cannot get health insurance at all because the pins in his shoulder are defined as a "pre-existing condition." There are the over-burdened, low income clinics, overwhelmed and understaffed, which must deal day after day with an increasing flood of patients who no longer have health insurance and who cannot afford to pay to visit a doctor.. There was the businessman who told of offering health insurance to his employees, only to have his youngest workers turn it down and ask for raises instead. And there was the self-employed contractor who now cannot afford to buy insurance for himself and his family, and who worries every day that even a minor accident could bankrupt his business and cost him his home.

I have learned, I have heard your stories, and I will do what I can to incorporate their lessons into the health care proposals Congress is considering this fall. But what I knew before also continues to hold true: The vast majority of Idahoans want improvements to the health-insurance system.

While there has been much debate over the health-insurance reforms where people differ, I continue to be struck by the areas where almost all Idahoans agree:

  • We want any reforms to be fiscally sound, and to leave our country in a stronger fiscal position for having adopted those reforms.
  • We want affordable insurance to be available to all Americans without regard to where we work, our age or the current state of our health.
  • We want to see changes made that reduce the skyrocketing costs in our health-care system and drive up our premiums.
  • We want more access to preventative care, and more health-care professionals in rural communities.
  • We want to choose our own doctors and remain free to make our own health care decisions.

Finally, Idahoans want accountability - from insurance companies to make sure those companies provide basic, reliable coverage at stable costs. And we want more accountability from the federal government, to make sure every nickel we spend is spent wisely.

Both items are critical, and are among the reasons I continue to oppose a new taxpayer funded and government-run insurance company. I have come under heavy fire for this stance in Washington and even here in Idaho, but I believe there is a path forward. If we allow small businesses and individuals to band together and create large, new pools of those needing insurance, they can negotiate with insurance companies and drive the kinds of hard bargains which lead to reduce premiums, more efficient service and a lot more customer choice.

It's a solution, and there are many such solutions that would help us achieve meaningful reform, including several put forth by the president in his address to the nation. Yet while Idahoans I have met with are always respectful, passionate and engaged on the issue, the national media has focused on the angry few at the far edges of the political spectrum. That's unfortunate, because there is far more agreement than disagreement.

Last month you sent a clear message that you wanted Congress to slow down and allow more time for discussion and debate. That you want us to reform health care in a bipartisan way incorporating the best ideas from both parties. Although the debate has been at times stressful for us all, the last month as been a most useful exercise of democracy.

As the discussion continues, I urge all Idahoans to look beyond the national rhetoric and disagreements, and instead look for common ground. We must fix a system that has failed that young woman with leukemia, and the dairy farmer with pins in his shoulder. We need comprehensive health care reform but we must get it right.

And as Americans, not Republicans or Democrats, we need to do it together.


8-14-09

Jobs, careers are the core of recovery

Guest opinion submitted by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

A jobless recovery doesn't do much good for people who need to pay the mortgage and buy groceries. That's why I focus on jobs in this monthly column. While growing Idaho's gross state product to $60 billion is a great goal for economists and policy makers, creating jobs that become career opportunities is the foundation of real recovery for Idahoans. And it is at the heart of my Project 60 initiative.

There are businesses around Idaho that are growing and hiring, and the value of Idaho products being sold to other countries went up 11 percent in the most recent quarter. Rising export values mean Idaho companies are seeing an upswing in business, and that directly impacts employment.

I'll continue sharing with you the good news on the employment front:

  • Nunhems has a $28 million, 10-year expansion underway at its USA headquarters in Parma. This global seed company will hire 40 to 50 full-time employees here over the next five years.
  • Bingham Memorial Hospital in Blackfoot has two major expansion and construction projects underway, valued at $11 million, and has increased employment from 226 in 2005 to 634 this year.
  • AMX International in Rexburg will hire another 8-10 workers this year and up to 30 more next year.
  • Qwest Communications' Idaho Falls call center is hiring another 100 employees.
  • Several federal stimulus transportation infrastructure projects broke ground this summer - including the Ten Mile Interchange in Meridian, Dover Bridge in northern Idaho, the Vista interchange in Boise, and major eastern Idaho routes in Chubbuck and Rigby. This not only means the retention but growth of construction jobs - a total of more than 1,500 for the five projects. Improving these important transportation corridors also will improve the economic development potential for these communities.
  • Portneuf Medical Center is building a new $150 million-plus facility in Pocatello, which will provide stable good-paying construction jobs through its completion in 2011.
  • Finally, I'm happy to announce that Darigold is expanding production at its Boise processing facility. The company is spending $20 million to increase production capacity for sour cream and cottage cheese. The expansion, which will be completed next spring, will add another 30 jobs to the facility and will enhance the stability of its current workforce.

I also am looking to the future. Earlier this summer, I announced $500,000 in Gem Grant awards, which provide funding to communities to develop job-creating infrastructure. One example of how this works is the award to Moscow. It will go toward developing an industrial park master plan, helping the city establish a new 65-acre light industrial park. This new park could be the home for an estimated 780 new jobs.

On Monday, Aug. 31, I will hold the Governor's Business Summit in Boise, where Idaho industry members will let me know the current direction of their industries, the challenges and obstacles they face in Idaho and what state government can do to help create a climate in which they can succeed. The goal is to collect practical suggestions about what my administration can do to facilitate growth and prosperity for all Idahoans, then put those ideas to work.

The bottom line is that people need career opportunities now. That's why we have trained staff in 25 Department of Labor offices around the state matching worker skills and talents with employer needs. We also are fortunate to have the Workforce Development Training Fund, which reimburses qualifying businesses with up to $3,000 per employee for the cost of training workers.

It appears the nation is bumping along the bottom of this economic recession, and we're likely to be traveling this bumpy road a little while longer. It's important to remember, however, that there are good things happening throughout Idaho, and there is much more to come.


7-25-09

Idaho business is on the move, growing

Guest opinion submitted by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

Idaho's economy is recovering. Businesses are growing. Jobs are being created.

Yes, overall unemployment is up, sales receipts are down and we are keeping our budgets as tight as any responsible manager would. But the bad news isn't all the news. In fact, there are positive and promising signs in virtually every Idaho community.

I planned on sharing just a few positive news items with you here. But as I looked around the state, I realized there was even more to hoo-rah than I thought. I had a great response to my last column about positive news. So here are some more of the latest highlights.

In eastern Idaho, more than 225 new jobs have been created at the Idaho National Laboratory by companies using federal stimulus money to cleanup decades-old buried waste. Not only that, but one of the companies also is able to retain more than 200 existing workers because of the project. The INL is important to Idaho's economy far beyond its eastern Idaho home - including the $24 million in construction work that now is under way there.

I love it when our own companies succeed and grow. Melaleuca in Idaho Falls just broke ground on a new $3.28 million manufacturing facility. About 120 new jobs are expected to be created there over the next few years. And new construction work is having an immediate impact, helping contractors and their employees and subcontractors.

Northern Idaho also is on the move. A new $10 million Western States CAT facility just opened in Hayden, and it's good to see they also have plenty of room for expansion. BioLife Plasma Services just broke ground for a 15,000-square-foot center in Hayden and will hire 25 to 50 employees. And Unicep Packaging in Sandpoint has a new contract to provide packaging for the giant pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. Unicep, an Idaho startup, has increased the number of its employees by 50 percent over the last couple of years and now employs 150 people.

Boise's Exergy Development is building 152 wind turbines for 14 wind parks in southern Idaho, creating more than 275 construction jobs and ultimately 22 permanent jobs. Last month I was there as Meridian launched a business area it calls The CORE, a health sciences and technology corridor that employs more than 3,000 Idahoans. The area is anchored by St. Luke's and Blue Cross of Idaho, and that area is buzzing with construction work right now.

Federal stimulus dollars are heading around the state to four different woody biomass projects - a total of $9.75 million going to Adams, Gem, Boise and Ada counties. That will help us keep dozens of jobs in those rural areas. And last month, Premier Technology broke ground for two new manufacturing buildings at its headquarters in Blackfoot, continuing its rapid growth. Premier has doubled its size in less than three years, now with more than 350 employees and hiring 30 more. This month, I joined community leaders in breaking ground on the new High Country Business Park in Mackay, with Premier Technology as an anchor tenant.

Finally, you should know that Idaho is fundamentally one of the healthiest states in the country. Because state law requires a balanced budget, we are in much better shape than many states these days. Idaho has the equivalent of the top AAA credit rating. This kind of governmental stability and fiscal responsibility is important to companies and our citizens. There will be no IOUs issued here.

Yes, we still have our challenges. But we're working every day to overcome them. In the meantime, I want you to know that good things are happening in your communities, all throughout Idaho.


7-11-09

Dear Editor:

I took my son's girlfriend to CVH clinic to a doctor's appointment. Her primary is on vacation. She saw the on-call physician's assistant. She was complaining of hip pain. This is an on going complaint since she was 17 or 18. It is a genetic condition of some sort.

When she was pregnant, the pain seemed to be worse than usual. She was told that it should get better after her baby was born. He was born in February. It isn't getting better, if anything it is getting worse.

So she went in today for X-rays to see if the doctors could see if they can help her. She is tired of taking pain pills that don't work. The physician's assistant told her that she needs to visit the fifth floor at St. Joe's because these complaints are all in her head. After the X-rays were taken he continued this same conversation and proceeded to block the door so she could not exit. She told him she needed to go home and be with her son. That she did not need to go to the fifth floor.

After telling her that it is all in her head, he wrote her a prescription. If it is in her head, then why did he write the prescription?

I brought her back home. She was in tears most of the way home.

This isn't the first time a member of my family has been treated rudely at this hospital/clinic. As for my husband and me, we go to Lewiston if we need a doctor.

How do the doctors at this hospital/clinic get away with treating people this way?

Janice Berry
Orofino


7-10-09

Otter asking Idahoan to urge Senate to scrap cap-and-trade legislation

Guest opinion submitted by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) is a 1,201-page piece of legislation jammed through the U.S. House of Representatives recently in the name of addressing climate change. Unfortunately, all it actually would do is raise taxes and energy costs while eliminating jobs and slowing our economy.

Your help is needed to make sure the U.S. Senate doesn't follow the lead of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat legions bent on making this bad economic and environmental policy into the law of the land.

In a recent letter to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, our Senator Mike Crapo and other members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote that "some estimates place the total economic footprint of (climate) legislation in the trillions of dollars." They also point out that those costs will affect "families, farmers, drivers, and workers" with "higher prices for power, gasoline, diesel, food, and other consumable goods."

In other words, they will hit every one of us.

The senators' letter and the concerns it details about the EPA's economic analysis of ACESA raised my hackles too. While I fully support and advocate greater energy independence, energy efficiency and responsible environmental protection, it also is prudent to ask at what point proposed actions become cost-prohibitive and what tangible benefits there would be for American consumers already struggling through a deep recession.

Is this "cap-and-trade" legislation - no matter how well intentioned - worth driving our utility bills higher?

Beyond the direct costs, there also may be unintended consequences of ACESA, especially for our nation's food supply. Such costs as farm machinery, fuel, electricity and agricultural chemicals certainly would increase under the bill, as would the cost of delivering food from the farm to the dinner table.

As our Congressman Mike Simpson said after the House vote on Friday, "This is a classic example of Congress rushing to fix a problem it doesn't fully understand and implement a solution it hasn't fully considered. In the end, this legislation represents the largest tax increase in American history and a devastating blow to the competitiveness of American agriculture and manufacturing."

We owe it to our families, farmers, drivers and workers - indeed, to every American taxpayer and consumer - to carefully analyze the proposed changes in energy regulations so we know who exactly is being helped and who is being hurt. With a 1,201-page behemoth of a bill, that will take time, effort and critical thinking.

The EPA's own assessment of the bill assumes a 150-percent increase in our nation's nuclear power generating capacity by 2050. That would be great, and I for one hope we get there. But it might not be practical or realistic unless financial and waste management and disposal barriers are addressed by Congress first.

At least 224 amendments were offered to ACESA in the House. Yet House Democrat leadership allowed only one of those amendments to be considered, sweeping aside meaningful debate before rubber stamping the bill. That speaks profoundly to the complexity and level of concern surrounding this issue.

Our Idaho congressional delegation understands that. Others might not, so please join me in thanking our Congressmen Simpson and Minnick for their "No" votes and supporting Senators Crapo and Risch in their efforts to stop this bill. The impacts are far-reaching, and we all will have to pay the price.


7-6-09

It's time for a little good news about jobs, business, expansion

Guest opinion submitted by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter

With all the negative economic news, it's hard to find a bright spot. But they do exist - all around Idaho.

Good news rarely makes the front pages of the newspaper. Yet if you heard about the new contracts our companies are getting or the new jobs being added or the expansions occurring, you would be encouraged - as I am - that Idaho is weathering this storm.

That's why I plan to regularly share some of this good news with you. Our Project 60 efforts are working to strengthen Idaho's economy. Many people are working behind the scenes, helping our companies and communities recover and prosper.

None of that lessens the very real challenges still facing many Idahoans right now, but I hope it offers some hope that we are on the right track.

On to the good news.

Did you hear about the 57 jobs restored to the Idaho Air National Guard? The squadron has been charged with retrofitting half of the nation's A-10 "Warthog" combat aircraft with new high-tech equipment. This will create a "mini depot" at the Boise facility, which could open the door for even more of this type of work on the nation's military equipment right here in Idaho.

The new contract is expected to provide jobs through 2010, one step toward stabilizing employment for the region. We will do all we can to support the concept of using Gowen Field as a central depot, efficiently putting the Air National Guard's key equipment - and Idaho people - back to work.

In northern Idaho, Post Falls is benefiting from Idaho's great business climate. Burly Products is breaking ground this summer on a 20,000-square-foot plant in the Riverbend Commerce Park, bringing 16 jobs - and maybe more - to that area. Burly is moving to Post Falls from Spokane because owners say they will save on business costs ranging from payroll taxes to product liability insurance.

And it's important to note that Burly isn't just moving to Idaho. It is nearly tripling its facility size because of business growth. The company builds everything from aluminum boats to truck bodies, so its success both reflects and has the potential to create additional economic activity for other Idaho businesses and workers.

In Lewiston, there are several good-news items to report, but I'll mention just one today that has a compounding impact: Three new companies, up to 100 new jobs and outside investors showing confidence in Idaho. The three new companies are being created by a partnership between current Lewiston business Howell CNC and Machine, Ammo Load Worldwide, and an outside investment group that sees potential in expanding ammunition manufacturing here in Idaho.

We heard about this project just weeks ago, and the deal was sealed in short order with $200,000 from the Department of Commerce's Business and Jobs Development fund that will be used for needed water improvements. With this type of quick response, these companies are expected to be up and running later this year.

Folks, this is progress - the Idaho way.


6-26-09

Representing Idaho's independent values in Congress

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick

C.L. "Butch" Otter is now the governor of Idaho, but on October 24, 2001, he was serving in the U.S. House as the representative for Idaho's First Congressional District. The country was still reeling from the events of 9/11, and on that October day the House voted on the Patriot Act, a sweeping measure which we now know compromised the core Constitutional rights this country holds dear.

But given the mood of the public and their leaders, the level of political posturing and the heated rhetoric of that time, no one was surprised by the lopsided results of the vote in the House. The Patriot Act was approved overwhelmingly, 357 to 66. Only three Republicans voted against the bill, and one of them was Otter. Some pundits in D.C. may have been surprised by his vote, but it surprised none of us in Idaho who know well Butch's independent, libertarian values, values rooted in Idaho's history and culture.

Cecil Andrus is a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, but in October 1988 he was two years into what would prove to be his third of four terms as governor of Idaho. Andrus was and is a committed conservationist who got his start in Idaho politics after working as a lumberjack and helping run a saw mill. He has never been afraid to encourage the intelligent, careful use of Idaho's natural resources, but he has been just as insistent about protecting natural resources and keeping this state pure.

That's why in 1988 he had finally had enough. The U.S. Department of Energy, over the objections of Andrus and many others in Idaho, had for years been shipping radioactive nuclear waste to a storage site near a national laboratory in Eastern Idaho. Federal officials were not listening, so Andrus made them listen: He sent troopers to the state line and ordered them to stop a train with nuclear waste bound for Idaho. The train sat on the tracks for weeks before finally being shipped back to Colorado.

Frank Church first came to national attention in 1956 when, at 32, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was known in Idaho as a World War II veteran and brilliant young attorney who had lost a bid for the Idaho Legislature. However, in 1956 he stunned the state and won the Democratic primary before going on to win election to the U.S. Senate. He quickly made a name for himself, winning appointment to the Foreign Relations Committee and championing western causes such as wilderness conservation and dam construction.

In 1975, Church was named chairman of a special committee to investigate allegations of abuses by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency. He took up the cause with vigor and without regard to the views of some in the Washington, D.C., establishment who felt that his inquiries were, to say the least, impolite. He pushed for reforms and got them: curbing illegal wiretaps, ending burglaries of American citizens, stopping the harassment of Civil Rights activists and exposing plots against foreign leaders.

Senator Church, Governor Andrus and Governor Otter all reflect something important to Idaho. As elected leaders they represented Idaho's spirit of independence, its citizen's insistence on doing what is right and just, and our rich history and heritage of a libertarian culture which arises from the land and forests of our state. Representing party, ideology and self-interest were not on the list of priorities for those three men, and they are not on the list of priorities for the people of Idaho.

As a Congressman, the values I am charged to uphold are the bedrock upon which my state and its people base their daily lives: Hard work. Personal freedom. Paying for what you spend. Insisting upon limited, effective government. A right to privacy. The opportunity to succeed. Voting to uphold those values has given me the status as the most independent member of Congress, an honor for which I am quite proud.

However, over the last several months it has become clear that our nation's political system too often forces the placement of party and ideological interests before the interests of individual states and citizens. And that means the only thing wholly represented in Washington, D.C., is the dysfunctional culture of Washington. D.C.

We must change our political culture from partisan to effective, from angry to collaborative. Doing that requires more than a desire and willingness to change. It takes more than sending new people to Congress who, like me, are not afraid to cross party lines. It will in fact take a new devotion to independence, to personal freedom, to the core values defining us as a people.

It will, in short, mean making Washington, D.C., a lot more like Idaho.

6-20-09

Turn the housing market around

Dear Editor:

If we want to maintain Idaho's timber industry, we need to fix the housing market in this country.

Idaho's forest products industry, as anyone who lives here knows, has faced many challenges throughout our history. For the last few decades, our major challenge has related directly to log supply. Most of the mills in Idaho rely heavily on Forest Service lands for our raw materials. There are plenty of logs out there, but the political will to go and get them and clean up the forest is lacking. Now, with the implosion of the housing market, we're facing a challenge from the demand side as well. People aren't buying Idaho lumber like they were a few years ago, so there is no incentive to go into the overstocked, unhealthy federal forests and thin them out. In the meantime, production is being cut, jobs are being lost, the forests get more and more crowded and unhealthy, and Idaho's rural economies (and the families that rely on them) are suffering.

If we want to maintain Idaho's timber industry, we need to fix the housing market in this country. The home-building industry plays a critical role in America's overall economic health, and its recovery is key to our nation-wide economic revival. The depth and pace of the current plunge in we are experiencing in the housing market cannot be overstated. We have not only dropped from the highs of almost 2 million single family home starts in 2005-we have also dropped far below the long term historical average of approximately 1.5 million new starts annually.

The impact on those of us who make wood building products has been especially devastating. When the financial crisis hit, and the housing market began its freefall at the beginning of 2006, it took with it more than just banks and home-owners. It also took away the jobs of 182,000 workers across the United States who manufacture lumber and building materials-products which represent one-half of the cost of a new home. Locally, our industry is an incredibly important contributor to Idaho's economy, employing more than 13,000 people and generating $3 billion in annual sales. Unfortunately, most of the mills in Idaho are running at greatly reduced capacity, if they are running at all. Some well-run mills, which have survived previous downturns and the unreliable supply of Forest Service timber, simply won't be able to hang on until the recovery begins.

Both President Obama and Congress have taken recent steps to stem the flood of foreclosures as part of the housing market recovery. These efforts are important and must continue but should be coupled with increased efforts to restore the housing market, which is the root of our country's economic problems.

In the recent stimulus bill, Congress extended the current, $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit through the end of 2009 and eliminated the repayment requirement if the home is held for two years. This tax credit for first-time buyers is a good start and has driven the recent uptick in existing home sales and new housing starts. However, first-time homebuyers only account for 43 percent of the housing market. This tax credit must go further to cover all primary home purchases so we can solidify and further these recent gains by encouraging the other 57 percent of prospective home buyers to purchase a home. Congress should act quickly to get prospective homebuyers back into the market. Both the Congress and the Administration are discussing different programs that would better utilize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide fixed low-interest loans to qualified buyers. These too, would have a positive effect on helping the housing market rebalance in the face of the current economic realities.

None of these options are easy or inexpensive, but housing is interconnected to so many other sectors of our economy that its recovery will have a powerful multiplier effect, not only for wood products, but for the hundreds of communities and workers who manufacture lumber and wood products. We will certainly feel a positive impact in Idaho's wood products industry if we can get people buying homes again. This recovery will then enable purchases of consumer goods and the many services Americans have decided to forgo based on the drop in their home values.

We urge Congress and the President to not leave the job half finished. Idaho's beleaguered lumber and wood industry can't wait much longer for the recovery to begin. We must move quickly and complete the work needed to get housing sales and new home construction growing again.

Brett Bennett is the vice-president of family-owned Bennett Lumber Products in Princeton, Idaho.


6-12-09

It is time for outdoor fun

Guest opinion submitted by Abigail R. Kimbell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service

Remember playing outside when you were a kid? Venturing into nearby woods or field - maybe to look for a grasshopper, build a dam, have a snowball fight, or try to catch a fish-maybe just to explore.

When was the last time your kid did those kinds of things?

For most kids, life is different these days. Parents seem more afraid of letting their kids out of sight, except for things like sports-structured, supervised events. Kids seem to have more demands placed on their time, and when they do have time they often prefer to "play" in front of a TV or computer screen. They don't get outdoors as much.

Health professionals are concerned. They point out all the benefits kids get from playing outside on their own, letting their imaginations run wild, challenging their bodies in new ways, developing social skills impossible to learn indoors in front of a TV. Kids have always needed that as part of growing up, and now they are not getting it enough.

Opportunities are fewer these days. As America has become more urban and less rural, people have fewer open spaces where they can roam and play-except on public lands.

Most Americans have a local park within easy reach. Some live within driving distance of a national forest or national park, where they can truly experience the outdoors. Whether in a remote wilderness area or in a spot of nature in the heart of the city, they can explore the woods, see wild animals, maybe catch a fish, maybe even pitch a tent and build a fire. They can touch and smell trees, see and hear wildlife, ponder the mystery of rivers, learn about America's outdoor treasures and the need to conserve them.

President Obama has issued a proclamation for the month of June as Great Outdoors Month. On June 13, the U.S. Forest Service is joining together with the American Recreation Coalition and other partners to celebrate National Get Outdoors Day. We are hosting events at more than 50 locations across America to get kids outdoors for some fun-for some hiking, biking, fishing, and more. To find out more, we invite you to visit www.nationalgetoutdoorsday.org.

Remember that sense of awe and wonder you felt as a kid in the woods, up close and personal with nature? There is no substitute for touching a pinecone, watching what ants do, listening to the cascade of a river, or smelling a forest after it has rained. There is no substitute for assessing the risks of climbing a tree or crossing a creek and maybe skinning a knee and getting dirty.

Kids need these things. Isn't it time for some outdoor fun?


5-26-09

To the Editor:

Thanks to the generosity of the community to the Cinderella Project, 15 girls from 3 different local high schools were benefited. These young ladies were able to fulfill a dream of attending the prom that was unreachable without your help. This community has a very great heart and I am so proud to be a part of it.

The Cinderella dresses will continue to be available for young ladies who have future needs. The dresses may be used in a fund raiser for a local group. Please contact the fairy godmother named below for arrangements.

Thank you again to my fellow fairy godmothers, including Linda Sutton Jackson and the ladies at the Nazarene Compassionate Ministries. You are all angels.

Special thanks to Pastor Terry Gugger and the Orofino Community Church for opening the facility for our use.

Karen E. Hunter
Orofino


5-26-09

Legislature made real progress for Idaho

Guest opinion submitted By Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, Senate President Pro Tem Robert Geddes, and House Speaker Lawerence Denney

By any measure, the 2009 Idaho Legislature was too long and too expensive.

However, by no means was it the partisan waste of time that Democrats want you to believe. To draw an analogy to a typical Idaho family, we didn't buy a new car or remodel our kitchen, but we gave the old car a tune-up and reinforced the foundation of our home.

It is the minority party leadership's privilege and indeed its duty - absent the burden of responsibility for enacting and implementing public policy - to point out what it considers the shortcomings of how the people's interests are represented by their government.

They are entitled to their own opinion; they are not entitled to their own facts.

The truth is that the 2009 Legislature made extraordinary progress under extremely difficult circumstances. And it did so while being accused of not doing more with less on one hand, and for not doing less with more on the other.

Most importantly, the Legislature did yeoman's work in crafting a budget that recognizes the proper role of government in people's lives, and endeavors to meet our constitutional and statutory responsibilities within the means of Idaho taxpayers.

At the same time, the Legislature stayed true to our commitment to provide at least some degree of relief to the neediest among us by continuing the phased increases of our grocery tax credit. It protected those Idahoans most directly affected in this recession by extending and enhancing unemployment benefits. And it encouraged and facilitated our economic recovery and future prosperity by extending tax credits and rebates for small business expansion beyond their 2010 sunsets.

The Legislature also strengthened the foundation for real advances in education policy and technology by approving a sweeping reorganization of education governance from kindergarten through college, and by funding the Idaho Education Network initiative to bring the best and most cost-effective learning experience to every student via the Internet.

And our resources future is more secure as well with approval of the landmark Swan Falls water rights agreement with Idaho Power Co., and funding of the Comprehensive Aquifer Management Plan process.

In addition, the Legislature showed great fiscal responsibility and fended off future financial disaster by dramatically reducing the unfunded liability for state employee medical benefits, and by reforming the system for indemnifying local governments against catastrophic indigent medical costs.

Working together, we established a solid framework for effectively and efficiently using one-time federal stimulus funding to help put Idahoans back to work, including a state accountability web site to enable citizens to track how the money is used.

What's more, the Legislature enacted a Department of Health and Welfare plan for toughening regulation of day care centers with seven or more children, and requiring background checks for caregivers with more than four children. And it encouraged voter participation in the democratic process by consolidating elections to four dates each year, starting in 2011 - a move that has been needed for years as a way of ensuring election results reflect the people's will.

Last but certainly not least, the Legislature showed the wisdom and value of the checks-and-balances system that we too often take for granted when we reached a transportation funding compromise. It includes a commitment for ongoing new revenue and modernization of the user-pay fee structure while recognizing the steps being taken to advance real accountability and efficiency at the Idaho Transportation Department.

Minority leaders contend differences between the House and Senate, between the Legislature and the Governor, and between Republicans and Democrats reflect disconnects from the people and communications failures on our part.

Putting aside the unprecedented way that minority leadership was included at the highest levels of policy discussion, we believe those differences actually reflect the sometimes messy realities of a dynamic, open and inclusive system that works - eventually - in the best interest of all Idahoans.

5-16-09

Thanks expressed for White Pine face lift

Thank you to the following businesses that donated to giving the White Pine building a face lift:

  • Orofino Builders Supply
  • Tripco
  • ICIO-Givens Hall

Also a big Thank you to Craig Gilmer for helping out.

Staci Lee, President Orofino Celebrations, Inc.
Orofino


5-16-09

GSA preserves America's legacy of historic buildings

Guest opinion by Paul Prouty, Acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration

At the U.S. General Services Administration, we believe that our nation's historic public buildings - similar to family heirlooms, chronicling the passing of eras - are monuments to the strength, spirit and longevity of our government, forever preserving a place in time.

Since May is National Preservation Month, a celebration of the diverse and unique legacy of our country's cities and towns, it is a great time to recognize the heritage and history of our nation's historic public buildings.

Architectural treasures such as the Tomochichi Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Savannah, GA.; the U.S. Custom House in San Francisco; and the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., all share a common thread. They're all part of GSA's building legacy and represent just a few of the agency's 301 historic buildings that have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

GSA currently manages 482 historic properties, 107 National Historic Landmarks and two National Historic Sites. From stately Greek revival monuments to bold modern masterpieces, GSA's buildings reflect 200 years of architectural excellence. They include custom houses, courthouses, post offices, border stations, and federal agency offices across the United States and its territories. Many are grand structures with ceremonial spaces that symbolize the permanence and stature of the federal government, and serve functional purposes.

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, GSA has been entrusted to spend $5.5 billion on approximately 250 building projects nationwide. More than half of this funding will be spent on historic properties.

These buildings not only stand the test of time, each has a rich history. Among GSA's inventory of historic buildings is the oldest operating federal building in the nation, the Robert C. McEwen U.S. Custom House in Ogdensburg, NY, built in 1810. It is closely linked to the development of Ogdensburg and shipping along the St. Lawrence River. Over the years, the building was used for customs offices; patrol assembly; radio, record, and customs files rooms; a dormitory for immigration officers; and detention facilities. The U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marines also maintained offices there.

GSA's Center for Historic Buildings provides national leadership for compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and other stewardship directives. To help GSA accomplish these goals, the center develops strategies and promotes best practice sharing to support the viability, reuse, and integrity of historic buildings GSA owns, leases, or has an opportunity to acquire.

To celebrate National Preservation Month, GSA's Center for Historic Buildings has unveiled a new Web site, www.gsa.gov/historicbuildings, which features interactive exhibits about the history, geography and architectural style of GSA public buildings in the United States.

GSA also offers the 2009 Historic Building Poster and Brochure Series online at www.gsa.gov/historicbuildingposters. The series highlights more than 100 of GSA's most significant historic buildings.


4-24-09

Congress needs to aid victims of crime

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services estimated that over 790,000 children in the United States had been maltreated, that is, subject to neglect, physical or sexual abuse, psychological abuse and medical neglect. That is a rate of just over 10 children for every 1,000. Of these, nearly 32 percent were under the age of four, and approximately 75 percent had no prior history of maltreatment.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, close to 233,000 women and close to 28,000 men aged 12 and older were victims of rape and/or sexual assault in the United States.

In 2006, approximately 6.1 million attempted and/or completed crimes of violence occurred, including rape and sexual assault, robbery and aggravated and simple assault.

While the incidence of females killed by intimate partners declined between 1975 and 2005, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in recent years, about one-third of female murder victims were killed by an intimate partner, compared to three percent of male murder victims and, of all female murder victims, the proportion killed by an intimate partner has been increasing.

In 2006, the Department of Justice calculated that the total economic loss resulting from personal and property crimes totaled over $18.4 billion.

April 26 through May 2 is National Crime Victims Week, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), historic legislation that established the Office of Victims of Crime at the U.S. Department of Justice and created the Crime Victims Fund, a dedicated, mandatory fund into which fines and forfeitures in federal court are deposited and then granted out to provide victims' services and direct compensation to victims of crime nationwide. In Idaho in 2008, $1.6 million was allocated to victims' assistance projects and programs from the Crime Victims Fund, and approximately 450 Idahoans who were victims of crime received direct compensation that included money from the Fund as well. In the beginning of Fiscal Year 2009, the Fund had over $2 billion. However, for the past nine years, Congress has substantially restricted the amount of money allowed for these critical grants. In 2009, in fact, Congress only allowed $635 million of this non-taxpayer fund to be used for its stated purpose. I am working to change that through the Budget Resolution where I've included a technical point of order that would stop Congress from redirecting the remaining balance to other purposes, as it has for almost a decade.

Hundreds of thousands of victims of crime went without assistance or services last year. Many Idaho shelters saw service-ending and door-closing cuts to critical federal dollars. This is intolerable, when there are non-taxpayer dollars from perpetrators of crimes mandated, by law, to be used for this purpose-two-thirds more than Congress is currently releasing. It's time for Congress to abide by the law that it passed in 1984. It's time for the Members in Congress today who were original co-sponsors of that law in 1984 to abide by the very law they argued for 25 years ago.

During Crime Victims Week, find ways to help locally-volunteer or make a donation to a local shelter or victims' advocate organization, thank the victims' advocates in your community, and thank law enforcement for their dangerous and vital work. Together, we can help ease the financial, emotional and psychological burden that victims of crime in our communities, state and nation bear.


4-18-09

Earth Day is a time to celebrate conservation milestones

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Today, America continues to grapple with how best to ensure future generations have access to abundant natural resources while evaluating global warming mitigation strategies such as cap and trade and additional environmental regulations. April 22 is Earth Day-an appropriate time to reflect on federal programs that improve the environment the right way, through incentives rather than mandates.

I was fortunate to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee, where I acted as Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit during the writing of the 2008 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill invested more than $4 billion in new spending in incentive-based conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the newly renamed Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

These programs benefit everyone, resulting in clean air, exceptional water quality by global standards, and fertile soil that provides an abundant food supply and is further leveraged for purposes like carbon sequestration. Through EQIP, conservation practices have been applied to 145 million acres nationwide. In Idaho, EQIP and WHIP have helped stabilize nearly eight miles of the Coeur d'Alene River's banks that were eroding contaminated soil into the river system. EQIP has assisted grain and dry pea farmers in Latah County reduce soil erosion and improve soil health. EQIP is also behind a pilot project on the Weiser River Watershed to address conservation concerns including sage grouse habitat on rangeland. In Caribou County, WHIP has helped restore Trout Creek, addressing sedimentation, nutrient, wildlife habitat, and altered stream channel issues. There are 2,155 permanent GRP acres under easements in Idaho, and 558,454 CSP contract acres in 14 Idaho counties. CRP-enrolled land will likely reduce soil erosion by 400 million tons annually nationwide. Landowners, U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service employees and conservation partners are working together to advance these and other important projects.

The 2008 Farm Bill also includes a new program: the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP). AWEP assists agriculture producers with water quantity and quality enhancements. Given the significant water challenges in the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer, I worked to include this region as an important program area. AWEP is in its initial stages of implementation, and Idahoans have put considerable interest and effort into submitting competitive proposals.

Also, since the majority of threatened and endangered species live on private land, the best way to improve conditions for these species is by assisting private landowners with enhancing habitat. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I worked with my colleagues to include a provision in the tax title of the Farm Bill establishing a deduction for site-specific management measures in Endangered Species Act recovery plans.

With efforts to fully implement Farm Bill conservation programs underway, I rejoined the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Committee this Congress. The EPW Committee is involved in discussions regarding global climate change mitigation legislation. Agricultural producers and forest landowners must be included as key partners in any solution. Efforts they undertake to improve land, water and air quality must be properly recognized and encouraged.

While environmental improvement efforts continue, we must not lose sight of what is working. Rather than recreating and increasing environmental mandates, we can take lessons from Farm Bill conservation programs and ESA incentives that improve our environment through landowner involvement. These programs and environmental achievements should be our guide. While Earth Day serves as a call to better care for our incredible natural resources, part of that celebration should be favorable reflections on successful environmental conservation efforts.


4-16-09

Tea Party participants praised

Dear Tea Party Participants,

It is great to see Americans exercising their constitutional rights. As your elected representative, I want to let you know what I have been doing to promote a fiscally-responsible government.

In the three months since I took office there has been an unprecedented increase in government spending with the release of additional TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) funds, the so-called stimulus package and the FY 2009 and 2010 budgets. In all four cases I urged my Senate colleagues to slow the process down, thoroughly debate the bills, and remove wasteful spending. In the end, I could not persuade them to enact responsible legislation so I voted against each of those measures.

In an effort to improve the bills, I did support a number of amendments, a few of which were passed. Those items include the following:

  • An amendment to strip $7.7 billion in earmarks from the FY 09 appropriation bill
  • An amendment to make the marriage penalty tax relief permanent
  • An amendment to provide up to $15,000 in tax credits for home purchases (it was reduced to $8,000 in a conference committee)
  • Co-sponsored a substitute to the stimulus bill that would have had zero cost
  • Co-sponsored a bill to investigate the near collapse of the U.S. financial system
  • Supported a budget freeze for FY 2009
  • Supported an amendment to prevent taxpayer-funded bailouts for automakers
  • Supported the establishment of a reserve-fund to address our national debt
  • Supported an amendment to end automatic pay raises for Congress
  • Supported an amendment to prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from spending funds to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine

Although my efforts to rein in spending have in many cases been unsuccessful, I remain committed to restoring solid fiscal principles to government. I have signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill by Senator Jim DeMint that calls for a ban on earmarks. I am working on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to ensure that the new package of energy legislation expected later this year is both reasonable and fiscally responsible. And I am always looking for ways to end government's uncontrolled appetite for spending.

These are difficult times for America, but together, we can make a difference and return our country back to fiscal responsibility.

Very Truly Yours,
James E. Risch, United States Senator


4-14-09

Minnick: Why I will not partake in the earmark process

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Congressman Walt Minnick

Several people in the media and in Idaho's political elite have taken me to task for my decision to refuse participation in the earmark process for 2009. They view this as a symbolic gesture, one not worth the money Idaho might receive if I had decided to utilize a system the vast majority of Idahoans and of Americans agree is flawed.

My response is that I am not a career politician who measures success by the dollars of pork I bring home to my district. I am a businessman who is working in Congress to make this country a better place for my children and my grandchildren, and for the state I love. That means doing what is right, and that's why I am standing firm against earmarks.

Our country is in trouble. Unemployment is climbing, the economy is stagnant, and our financial system is still not functioning properly. The recovery will be painful, and the choices we have made over the last six months to spend trillions of dollars we have to borrow from the Chinese and other foreigners on bailouts and stimulus have assured that the pain will be felt by future generations long after this recession is over. We are borrowing astonishing amounts of money for projects and programs which will do very little to create jobs in the short term. And there is no plan to pay it back. Adding onto this year's record deficit another $50 billion or $60 billion of special interest earmarks just makes the problem that much worse.

Neither party has a real path to bring down the deficit and ultimately lead us to the balanced budgets Americans demand. We can only do that if government makes the same kinds of sacrifices Americans now make every day. If ever there was a time to take a stand and demand changes to a system that is broken, that time is now.

For us to truly and permanently cut the amount that government spends, we must reform the way the spending happens. It's not unlike someone whose credit cards are maxed out, while carrying a large car payment and living in a home he cannot afford. That first step - cutting up the credit cards - is crucial.

So it is with ending earmarks. We must reduce spending, but we must also reform the system so all government spending is subject to public scrutiny and debate instead of decisions being made by powerful politician in hidden back rooms.

In refusing to utilize the earmark system this year, I join with leaders from both parties. The top Republican in the House, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, refuses earmarks and Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat and close ally of the president, refuses them, too. Unfortunately, far too few of my colleagues in the House of Representatives have chosen to join these pioneers for fiscal reform.

Like them, I worked to pass a complete ban of earmarks. When that failed, I called for deeper reforms than the superficial ones which ultimately passed. Those reforms require members to publicly disclose which earmark requests they will submit. That is a step toward opening up the process, but it does not inject any accountability.

The point is not to shine a light on requests - it is to shine a light on the decisions. The dirty little secret about the earmark system is that when those doors close and the "open and accountable" lists of requests are scrutinized, the real horse trading begins.

So in the end, I believe quite firmly that my decision to forgo earmarks for at least this year will ultimately help Idaho, not hurt it. For those concerned about my decision, I make these three promises:

First, I pledge to work directly with those who will put Idahoans back to work with focused projects to help local communities, by assisting them with applying for competitive, open grants through a process subject to public scrutiny.

Second, I pledge to continue seeking earmark reforms while voting against spending I do not believe is in the best interests - short term or long term - of Idaho or America.

And third, I pledge to listen, learn and evaluate my decision over the coming year while fighting in every way I can to get this economy moving again so we can restore fiscal discipline and balance the budget.


4-10-09

Steps need taken for energy independence

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

As many Idahoans know, energy and climate change issues continue to dominate discussions about our future, our economy and our security. During the recent consideration of the Senate's Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Budget Resolution, there was an attempt to include controversial cap and trade provisions in the annual budget resolution. While this effort was defeated in the Senate, the future in conference discussions is uncertain. Regardless of the outcome in the final FY 2010 Budget Resolution, Congress will continue to discuss and debate various legislative proposals on energy policy and climate change. As we seek to solve these pressing issues in a manner that promotes domestic energy security and economic competitiveness, it is important to review and build upon the achievements of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Today's energy landscape is changing because of the 2005 Energy Bill; renewable energy sources have been developed and expanded all over the country and, for the first time in over 20 years, we are looking at building new nuclear plants. One of the most important provisions within the 2005 Energy Bill was the loan guarantee program which provides private energy developers access to critical financing required to build the nation's next generation of clean energy-producing technologies. That is why during the recent budget debate I pushed for and was successful in including an additional $50 billion in loan guarantee authority for the Department of Energy (DOE) program. The current loan guarantee program is oversubscribed, having received over $120 billion in loan applications for a program limited to $50 billion in loan authority. Doubling the loan authority will provide a cost-effective means to accessing the necessary capital to build our clean energy infrastructure, creating significant new jobs in the construction and manufacturing sectors at the same time.

Another important piece of the 2005 legislation was the recognition of the importance of continued research and development across energy disciplines, including the future of nuclear power. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is the lead national laboratory for nuclear research and development (R&D) activities. The INL, working with other national laboratories throughout the Department of Energy (DOE) complex, is looking to expand the commercial use of nuclear power, a technology that today provides 20 percent of the nation's electricity and has avoided over three billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the last 20 years. Today's R&D priorities include supporting the continued safe and efficient use of the existing reactor fleet, supporting the development of the next generation of reactors, and providing the technologies to recycle and re-use spent nuclear fuel economically and in a proliferation-proof manner. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is already working to re-authorize the nuclear R&D provisions from the 2005 legislation. To support that effort, the Senate unanimously agreed to accept my budget amendment that creates the necessary budget space for the next five years to support these nuclear R&D activities.

Clearly, energy demand will increase. My recent amendments to the FY 2010 Senate Budget Resolution are two important steps that the U.S. can take toward meeting that demand with domestic energy resources. The two amendments are, of course, only in the Senate version and opponents of nuclear power will likely work hard against them. Like the outcome of the cap and trade proposal, the future of these amendments will depend on the conference negotiations with the House. I will continue to advocate strongly for them as Congress moves through the FY 2010 Budget Resolution process.

A sound, secure energy supply must be affordable, environmentally responsible, innovative and grow American industry and jobs. In this way, we will maintain our competitive edge and piece back together our struggling economy.


4-4-09

April a time to look at personal finances

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Tax season tends to be a time when people think more often about their personal finances-savings, investments, income and expenditures. This year, turmoil in the economy and financial markets, job losses, uncertainty in the housing market and concern over proposed and significant changes in the tax code have caused people to re-assess allocations of personal expenditures, long-term savings and investments. Personal savings rates are rising again after years at historically-low levels, but this also comes at a time when the economy could benefit from greater flows of cash and capital. It is more important than ever those individuals and families understand and teach their children about finances and the importance of saving, investing and spending wisely. An educated approach to personal finances is the best way to boost our economy and improve the quality of life for our families.

Congress has again declared April 2009, as "Financial Literacy Month." As we contemplate ways to balance our incomes and expenditures, we should take advantage of resources available to help. One in four American adults has never checked his or her credit score, and nearly half of American adults do not know that credit reports can be accessed for free. Nearly 10 million U.S. households do not have an account at a mainstream financial institution such as a bank or a credit union. Establishing such an account gives consumers access to less expensive and more secure options for managing finances and building wealth. Increased financial and economic literacy can help people navigate around the countless pitfalls that confront working families. In 2008, there were more than one million personal bankruptcy filings in the United States, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. This was the highest personal bankruptcy mark since bankruptcy laws were amended in 2005. Approximately 76 million adults say they do not have any nonretirement savings, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Recent surveys indicate that high school seniors score failing grades on tests determining knowledge of personal finance. Fortunately, Idaho is ahead of the game-it is one of a minority of states in which the public schools require a form of financial literacy for high school graduation.

Personal financial education helps prepare individuals to manage money, credit and debt. Responsible financial management is the key to becoming an effective investor, entrepreneur, business leader and citizen. It's also the key to consumer protection. When our personal financial house is in order, it gives us the freedom to enjoy our lives, our families and plan well for the future. If necessary, seek out financial counseling resources available through your financial institution or through community, state or federal resources. The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition will be holding its third annual information session on Friday, April 10, at the Nampa Civic Center. The conference is free, and information will be presented on a variety of topics including investment, Social Security, savings, credit, home buying, debt elimination and retirement planning. The Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition (IFLC) includes over two dozen Idaho financial institutions, state agencies, consumer protection agencies, educational institutions, financial planners and accountants.

When our financial houses are in order, it can make difficult economic times easier to manage.For those with concerns, there is help available to put you back on the road to financial independence and security. For more information on the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition and financial literacy in general, please visit: http://crapo.senate.gov.


3-23-09

Idaho is ready and able to manage wolves

Guest opinion submitted by Cal Groen, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The recent decision by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to remove gray wolves in Idaho and Montana from the endangered species list was great news for our state.

Idaho has been preparing for this day in wolf management for nearly 15 years.

Idaho Fish and Game will manage wolves in much the same way as we do bears and mountain lions. Healthy bears and lion populations exist across Idaho, and they have done well under the state's classification as big game.

Before the early 1970s, black bears and mountain lions were classified as predators in Idaho with very little protection. Back then it was controversial to change management for these species. Now both are prized big game animals, and their strongest supporters are the hunters who pursue them.

In a few areas, lions and bears are hunted under more liberal rules where they are a factor in limiting their prey base. These populations are carefully monitored, and seasons are adjusted to manage these predators in concert with elk and deer populations. Idahoans in general appreciate their bears, lions, elk and deer and would object strongly if Fish and Game were to do anything that might tip these animals toward extinction.

Wolves are, of course, different animals from the other two large predators, and management will have to be tailored to their unique biological characteristics. But wolves will never take their place among the state's wildlife if Idahoans feel they are not part of the management wolves, especially while unmanaged wolves remain at numbers well above the recovery objective.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game will manage wolves responsibly. We have adopted a wolf management plan designed to ensure the long-term health of the region's wolf population, with provisions for hunting seasons focused on areas where wolves and livestock clash and places where big game herds are in trouble.

Where wolves live in Idaho, their prey of choice is elk. There is no question that wolves have affected elk hunting in Idaho. Elk hunting has been reduced in some areas because of unmanaged wolves. Elk are more wary and some have moved into different habitats.

Even so, hunter harvest statistics show that Idaho is still one of the best places in the West to hunt elk.

We at Idaho Fish and Game have some serious work to do. Now we just need some room to do it in. Over the past 70 years, we have done our best to "preserve, protect, and perpetuate" wildlife for the people of Idaho, and with reasonable success. We will continue to do our job.

3-21-09

Proposed federal budget indefensible

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

On March 18, high school students and mayors from Caldwell and Nampa presented me with a petition signed by over 400 Treasure Valley students, indicating support for a balanced budget. They talked about the problem of high school dropouts and the unsustainable national debt. I'm impressed with these students' interested in the state of our economy and the actions or inactions of government. However, it's troubling that these young people, who are just embarking on the journey of adulthood, rich in promises of education, job opportunities and a family, have to worry about the egregious and irresponsible behavior of those a generation ahead. I sit on the Senate Budget Committee and we are reviewing the President's budget. Congress needs to be very careful about using that budget for any type of guideline.

First, a visual: one trillion one-dollar bills laid end to end would stretch from earth to the moon and back about 200 times. The President's budget proposal contains an estimated tax increase of at least $1.4 trillion over 10 years. Many of us believe that it's well over $2 trillion. The budget proposal increases mandatory spending by $1.2 trillion and discretionary spending by $700 billion over 10 years.

Tax increases: the Administration claims that tax increases won't affect 95 percent of taxpayers. This number is only accurate when looking at income tax. No matter what verbiage you choose to use, revenue collected for the federal treasury is tax. Taxes in the proposed budget will raise revenue by increasing the cost of doing business, costs that will affect consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and/or services. It's disingenuous to pretend otherwise. One proposed new tax on energy, couched in the term "cap and trade," will impose taxes of almost $2 trillion on carbon-emitting entities: electrical, gasoline and natural gas to name a few. These costs will end up in your home energy bill and transportation fuel expenditures.

Budget spending is mandatory and discretionary. Mandatory spending is essentially automatic and includes Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on the national debt. This amounts to almost 2/3 of all spending in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget. Discretionary spending is spending on everything else. Discretionary spending includes national defense, homeland security and non-defense discretionary spending. This budget grows our government by nine percent in non-defense programs, and cloaks an actual reduction in defense spending by projecting spending for Iraq that is counter to Administration stated policy.

Finally, public debt numbers are frightening. Debt is the accumulation of deficits over time, and 2009 numbers suggest a debt of about $7 trillion. With the spending implemented and proposed over the past six months, the debt held by the public will double in five years (when high school seniors today graduate from college) and triple in ten. The wall of debt is growing; the response, more taxes and zero spending restraints (except, dangerously, the military). Treasury Secretary Geithner defended the tax cuts' expiration in 2011 as happening when the economy will be better. I asked the secretary if tax increases were contingent on a strong economy. He ducked the question, which says to me that taxes are scheduled to increase regardless of the state of the economy.

What Congress and now the Administration have imposed on Americans over the past six months spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much-high school students understand this, so should Congress! In New York City, a famous debt clock (billboard showing the national debt) is expected to be redesigned this year to allow for a quadrillion-that's 200,000 times to the moon and back!

3-20-09

Team USA readies for challenge of a lifetime

Guest opinion submitted by Paul F. Prouty, acting Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration

What a time to be part of the federal work force.

Thanks to President Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Congress, government workers will play a central role in helping America through the most turbulent economic times since the Great Depression.

Employees at the U.S. General Services Administration have seized on this amazing challenge and opportunity. GSA is the central management arm of the government, responsible since 1949 for providing goods, services and workspace to federal agencies at best value.

The act has provided GSA $5.5 billion to invest in our federal buildings, which will lead to jobs for construction workers, electricians, plumbers and many other trades. At the same time, we'll be stimulating long-term growth in energy-efficient technologies, alternative energy solutions and green buildings.

GSA will use $300 million provided in the legislation for hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles, and will also be pivotal in helping other agencies strategically spend their Recovery Act funds. GSA is also managing Recovery.gov, the official Web site that will report the progress on the reinvestment funding to the public. We welcome this assignment and fully support the transparency that will help ensure that citizens can see how the funds are being spent.

Of course this is an enormous team effort. Throughout GSA and throughout the entire federal government, agency officials and employees have been working feverishly on action plans aimed at achieving the goals of the act. Public expectations are high. And yet we've found that the patriotic mission to help restore our nation to prosperity has been energizing and unifying.

Considerable work has gone into developing the list of GSA building projects that will soon become public. The top priority was given to projects that: have been designed or are in design with a focus on energy; can be developed and awarded quickly; and that can be completed before 2015.

As President Obama has said, public service is a privilege. "It's not about advantaging yourself," he said. "It's not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It's not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organization. Public service is simply and absolutely about advancing the interests of Americans."

At GSA, that goal is paramount.

3-16-09

A letter from Carrie

Dear Community:

Thank you for your love, support and prayers! I cannot begin to describe the strength I receive from first of all God, and then my family, friends, and community.

When I was first told I might lose my legs, my response was simply, "That's okay because I can still teach from a wheelchair".

Kids if you're reading this, know that I love and miss all of you! On difficult days, thinking about you and my desire to get back to school is what keeps me going.

I am improving everyday and know that I will make a strong recovery.

I want to thank each and every person for all they've done to support my family and me during this time. I am receiving cards and letters of encouragement from across the nation.

Orofino truly is a little community with a great big heart! How fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful and spectacular area! I hope I have an opportunity to someday pay my family, friends and community back!

Take Care and Love to All,
Carrie Brooks

Editor's note: Carrie was critically injured in an early morning two-vehicle accident Feb. 21. She is at Harbor View Medical Center in Seattle, WA. Readers can follow her progress at: http://careaboutcarrie.blogspot.com/.


3-16-09

Home mortgage interest credit and detoxification of troubled assets

Dear Editor:

To immediately create jobs and provide support to the U.S. housing market, Congress needs to offer a tax credit for home mortgage interest paid rather than the current tax deduction.

Implementation of the home mo