For the week of November 11 thru November 17, 1998  

Future train wreck

Idaho’s future was writ large on election day. The blueprint looks a lot like a train wreck. By a two-to one margin, this is what Idaho voters approved:

More crumbling schools: Governor-elect Dirk Kempthorne is the man without a plan. Less than a week after being elected, he said had been wrong to propose reducing the super-majority required for school bond elections. So much for campaign promises. He also opposed moving funding for new school construction from the local level to the state level, so it looks like those bricks will keep falling down. Maybe counties with broken down schools will have to resort to playing Powerball.

Lip service for better education: Again, lots of talk and no prospect for action. Kempthorne called for volunteer tutors for school kids. A better deal would have been more teachers, better laboratories and a plan to reduce Idaho’s high dropout rate.

Erosion of choice: Radicals will succeed in their demand that juvenile females be required by law to get parental or judicial consent before ending a pregnancy. Doctors who operate without consent will risk prosecution. Kempthorne said he would sign the law that even outgoing Republican Gov. Phil Batt rejected last year. However, don’t expect to see expenditures increased for family welfare or prenatal care. That, of course, will be left to the teen-age moms and their families.

The fish are toast: A plan to breach the lower four dams on the Snake River in order to revive the state’s failing salmon and steelhead runs will get no support. The mighty fish have no future. Unless the federal government intervenes and ignores the noisy protests of Idaho’s Republican establishment, the state will lose its claim to fame as an inland state with anadromous fish runs. Idaho might as well change its name to West Dakota.

Grab your wallet: Developers who don’t want to shoulder the expense of roads and bridges necessary for new subdivisions won’t have to. They can throw the expense on everyone else. With the help of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig and Boise Mayor Brent Coles, developers succeeded in buying the Ada County Highway District election for their hand-picked rubber stamps. With their well-funded below-the-belt campaign, they cleaned house, ousting both incumbents and candidates who dared propose that development pay its own way. The capital city already bears an uncanny resemblance to Los Angeles. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Sweetheart deals: The election of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard will add a Democratic voice to the State Land Board, but Republicans still have a majority. Expect the state to continue to accept low-ball offers for leases on state lands and to subsidize cattle instead of kids. Also, look forward to the sell-off of some precious state lands.

One bright spot: Howard’s ouster of Anne Fox for the education chief’s spot should bring a little sanity and leadership back to that office. Whether she can make progress with a Legislature owned by Republicans remains to be seen.

As the next four years unfolds, Blaine County residents will have to be content with making the best of their little island of sanity in Idaho’s sea of lunacy.


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