Friday, December 13, 2013

Shabby extortion

    Picture this: Flames are leaping from the roof of your house, but when you ask your neighbor for help he wants to negotiate a rate for his services.
    That’s what the Idaho Department of Lands apparently said to the U.S. Forest Service when it wanted to expand its fire camp onto state property when the Beaver Creek Fire blew up and threatened Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and the Wood River Valley in August. For a time, the fire was the No. 1 fire in the U.S. It shut down commerce, drove away visitors and whipsawed residents with danger, uncertainty and sudden emergency evacuations.
    Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen told a legislative committee last week that he had to mediate between the federal and state agencies over the rate on a daily lease of the state’s property.
    Compare the greedy, grasping and callous action of the Department of Lands to the Good Samaritan private property owner who had allowed the fire camp to be located on his property at no charge.
    The department that engaged in this shabby extortion is part of Idaho’s government, which collects sales and income taxes from area workers and businesses every year without fail. Gov. Butch Otter, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and State Controller Brandon Woolf all serve on the Land Board that governs the department.
    It’s inconceivable that these elected officials support making natural disasters profit centers for the state. Using disasters as opportunities to put the squeeze on the federal government for more money is disgusting in a state that collects more than its share of federal subsidies.
    The Land Board members should be ashamed. They owe Blaine County citizens an apology, every Idahoan a change in policy and the U.S. Forest Service a refund.

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