Idaho lawmakers have their priorities upside down
Commentary by PAT MURPHY
No Ph.D needed to see whats wrong with this picture:
Idaho Republican legislators, whore cold-blooded misers about
repairing public schools where children spend their days engulfed by dangers, are rushing
pell-mell like big spenders to ladle out $40 million to repair dilapidated parts of the
Capitol that pose safety hazards to them.
Even the threat of being forced by court order into fixing public schools
fails to budge lawmakers into doing what most thinking people consider urgent and just,
even as they pamper themselves with urgent Capitol repairs.
This seems to be a pattern with conservative politicians, who treat public
education as a special whipping boy worthy of no priorities.
In the end, the political skinflints are too close-minded to realize whom
they really hurttheir own children and grandchildren.
Tinkering with Mother Nature and the environment is ticklish business, as
opponents to dam breaching to save the slowly vanishing salmon may soon discover.
They claim they can rescue salmon from extinction without breaching dams.
If their schemes fail, however, then theyll discover what others
have ruefully learnedthat altering Nature for economic and political benefits often
creates either totally irreparable results or solutions that demand gargantuan costs.
Three decisions in my native Florida come to mind.
In the early 1950s, long before there was a serious and influential
pro-environment lobbying apparatus, Miami Beach developers found a judge who ruled they
could cover the shoreline with new hotels, built almost down to the high tidewater line,
leaving only narrow alleys between hotels for the public to reach the Atlantic Ocean.
The consequence: the public was squeezed out of easy access to the beach
and had to endure the gawdawful eyesore of hotels, cheek-to-cheek for miles.
The nearby city of Fort Lauderdale was wiser: it banned any sort of
construction on the beach, now one of the worlds most popular.
Then there was the disastrous decision allowing real estate promoters to
drain wetlands to construct huge new housing developments and commercial properties west
of Miami on fringes of the Everglades.
Thereafter, salt water backed up into the Everglades aquifer, threatening
wildlife and drinking water for millions of South Floridians. Now, the federal and state
governmentsread that, "taxpayers"are spending billions of dollars to
reverse the damage.
And finally, a scheme to carve the Cross Florida Barge Canal across the
peninsula from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean that all but destroyed the
picturesque Oklawaha River in central Florida.
The project, which wouldve shortened barge trips from the Gulf to
the Atlantic by 600 miles through a 15-foot-wide, 12-foot-deep waterway, now has been
junked as not only a pointless boondoggle but an environmental disgrace. And once again,
taxpayers are dishing up millions of dollars to restore what was destroyed.
One wonders what the postscript will be to the Idaho history of building
dams in the name of jobs that now threaten the extinction of salmon.
Pat Murphy is the retired publisher of the Arizona
Republic and a former radio commentator.