Friday, January 21, 2011

Sun and powder, or fog and ice?

For winter recreation, there's nothing better than a day of sunny skies and new powder snow. There's not much worse than a day of fog and ice.

It's the same in politics and economics—some decisions bring the public bright days and some leave us grappling with the fog. Here's recognition for the best and the worst of local, state and national political decisions and events this week.

Sun and powder: To the Blaine County School District for getting a $250,000 grant to install solar panels to generate electricity at Carey School. The money will come from federal economic stimulus funds. The district is rapidly becoming a leader in the state in adopting alternative energy technologies and demonstrating what they can do.

Fog and ice: To Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador for voting with their new Republican majority to repeal health care reform, the only tool in the toolbox for reining in skyrocketing health care costs. They did so without any other plan to get millions of uninsured covered by health insurance, get staggering health costs off the backs of businesses and protect individuals for whom a catastrophic health event will have catastrophic economic consequences.

Sun and powder: To Congressman Mike Simpson who, for the eighth time, has introduced the Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act in Congress. The bill would designate 332,775 acres of wilderness in the Sawtooth and Challis national forests.

Fog and ice: To Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who continues to oppose any new wilderness.

Sun and powder: To the volunteer board members of the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, who yesterday unveiled the first marketing plan for the area in almost a year since the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley shook up the economic landscape by canceling further contracts with the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber of Commerce.

Fog and ice: To an Idaho legislative committee that recommended hiking vehicle registration fees by $10 to cover a drop in revenues for the Idaho State Police caused by shifting money to highway maintenance. The committee recommended the increase even though studies have shown that heavy trucks, which inflict far greater damage than passenger vehicles, don't pay their fair share for state roads. Was the recommendation a ploy to shortchange ISP while trying to look constructive?

Sun and powder: To local businesses for weathering the past two years of severe recession and keeping services intact, and who are now finding local economic indicators such as bus ridership and local-option sales tax collections creeping, albeit oh-so-slowly, upward.

Fog and ice: To the seven of about 30 retired admirals and generals who resigned as U.S. military advisors when required to reveal outside income. They quit jobs paying up to $440 an hour rather than reveal any ties to defense contractors that could have constituted conflicts of interest.

Sun and powder: To U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who required that everyone serving as a military advisor disclose business ties in order to be hired. Gates also capped the advisors' pay at $179,000. Score one for transparency in government and for the public's interest.

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