Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Otter?s surprise


Gov. Butch Otter's abrupt order putting a hold on expansion of the Capitol has a whiff of grandstanding.

What first comes to mind is that the new governor is marking his turf and sending a message to state legislators as their 2007 session gets under way. The message: He will not be trifled with, and he'll use whatever it takes to get his way. He's now Boss.

If that's a fair assessment, then expect Otter to lift the hold order so work can resume on the $40 million project creating two underground wings.

The governor has himself to blame for nurturing suspicions about his motives.

The Capitol project isn't new. It has been debated and in the news for the better part of six years and given its blessing by the big feet of the Legislature's leadership, Republican and Democrat.

Some $130 million in bonds have been floated for rehabilitation of the statehouse and the two wings. Work has been done.

There's no evidence that Otter, the gubernatorial candidate, ever picked up the phone and asked questions about the project, even as he was complaining about it on last year's campaign trail.

Nor had he had any meetings after the Nov. 7 election with legislators who've been wet nursing the project for years.

Hence, the question: why such a late, last minute and uninformed decision?

Had Gov. Otter approached the issue with a managerial eye, he would have made efforts to find out the pros and cons of the project. Then he could have rendered a decision to allow it to continue or to block it and given his reasons without causing this delay and disruption while he gets the facts—after the fact.

Otter's style is not reassuring.

The Capitol expansion is needed, not to pamper lawmakers, but to provide adequate space in a growing state government for the public to meet and be heard and for legislators and staff to have adequate facilities for serious public work.

Idaho deserves grownup thinking in the governor's office.




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