Here's a news item from the Associated Press: MIDDLETON, Idaho (AP) — Election officials in southwest Idaho's Canyon County say it appears a do-over vote will be needed to determine the winner in a school board election. The Idaho-Press Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/10Ojjcr) that 23 Middleton voters were assigned to the wrong school zone in Tuesday's election that ended in a tie for a trustee position. Canyon County Chief Deputy Clerk Brad Jackson says the number of voters in the wrong place is high enough to trigger another election. Bu he says he's waiting for the Idaho Secretary of State to tell them how to go forward. The school board election ended in a tie between Marc D. Gunning and Steve Cluff.
Three next-door neighbors in east Boise have had their small dogs attacked by a mountain lion in their fenced back yards in the past two weeks, and two of the dogs have died. Fish & Game officials are calling on the public to immediately report incidents with mountain lions in town. The three attacks happened at Surprise Valley, a neighborhood on the city’s eastern edge that backs up to native sagebrush land; it’s the first mountain lion incident reported in Boise this spring, but the city’s had plenty in recent years. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
“We have mountain lions in Boise all the time,” said Evin Oneale, Southwest Idaho regional conservation educator for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “They come and go all the time. Some of them we see, some of them we don’t, but they don’t tend to cause any issues or hang around. It’s when we have a lion like this that exhibits this kind of behavior that our awareness of the situation becomes heightened.”
Fish & Game learned of the big cat when a Surprise Valley resident called the sheriff’s department yesterday morning. She’d let her two Yorkshire terriers out into her backyard about 5:30 a.m., and a few minutes later, heard a yelp; click below to read more.
Prosecutors now say they won't seek a death sentence for Lacey Mark Sivak, who was one of the longest occupants of Idaho's Death Row after being sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of Dixie Wilson; his sentence was reversed on appeal in 2011, and he's up for re-sentencing this fall. The Associated Press reports that Ada County prosecutors have decided to ask for a fixed life term in prison, after consulting with relatives of the victim, then-30-year-old Dixie Wilson.
“They've waited 30 years for this to end, and now they have the prospect of having to wait another 20 years, because you know how long it takes to get an execution in the 9th Circuit,” Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Roger Bourne told the AP. “They didn't want to wait. They decided they needed closure. So, we are asking the judge for a fixed life sentence.” Click below for a full report from AP reporter Rebecca Boone; Idaho currently has 12 people on Death Row, 11 men and one woman.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The 2013 Legislature's passionate debate over gun rights has been extended beyond the session, with a lawmaker whose bill was killed now complaining that his measure was torpedoed by lobbyists who weren't properly registered. Republican Rep. Mark Patterson of Boise sponsored a measure to charge Idaho law enforcement officers with a crime for assisting the federal government in confiscating newly banned weapons. The bill died. But Patterson this month complained to the Idaho secretary of state that Idaho Sheriff's Association director Vaughn Killeen wasn't registered as a lobbyist. Furthermore, Patterson contends the group's registered lobbyist, Michael Kane, didn't properly disclose his firearms-related lobbying. Killeen and Kane have since amended their filings. Killeen contends he wasn't required to register as a lobbyist, but did so May 15 to avoid future misunderstandings.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Yesterday was Election Day across the state, with elections for an array of school district and special district races. In some of the most notable races, two of three incumbents were defeated for seats on the Greater Boise Auditorium District board, two of three members elected to the board of the financially troubled Nampa School District are new, and in the Coeur d’Alene school board race, a slate of conservative Republican activists, including an appointed incumbent who home-schooled his children, was defeated by challengers.
Voter turnout is typically low for the low-profile races; in Ada County, where ballot issues included the Auditorium District, school board races in Meridian, Kuna and Melba, a bond issue in Eagle, and sewer district races in Eagle and West Boise, a total of 9,457 ballots were cast, for a turnout of 5.38 percent of registered voters; you can see full results here.
For the GBAD board, unofficial final results showed incumbent Peter Oliver winning a two-year term by the narrowest of margins, just 19 votes, over challenger George Tway. For the two six-year terms, challenger Jim Walker was the highest vote-getter, with 24 percent, followed by challenger Steve Berch at 22 percent. Incumbents Rob Perez and Stephanie Astorquia trailed with 19.43 percent and 19.67 percent, followed by challengers John May, 11.37 percent, and Noah Bard, 3.44 percent.
Nampa School District voters returned just one incumbent to their school board, Bob Otten, the Idaho Statesman reports. Twelve-year trustee Dale Wheeler was defeated by challenger Mike Fuller; and former board member Brian McGourty won a three-way race for an open seat after board chairman Scott Kido decided not to seek re-election.
In Coeur d’Alene, school board incumbents Brent Regan and Ann Seddon, both of whom were backed by the conservative Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, were defeated by challengers Christa Hazel and Dave Eubanks. Tom Hearn won an open seat; Hazel, Eubanks and Hearn all were backed by Balance North Idaho, a group that countered the Reagan Republicans’ push to target local non-partisan races and used the slogan “qualifications over ideology.” Reagan Republicans-endorsed candidates did win two seats on the Post Falls school board, however. They lost bids for two seats on the Kootenai Hospital District board; you can read a full report here from S-R reporter Scott Maben.
In other election results, the Idaho Falls Post Register reports that Salmon-area voters again rejected a school bond to replace the local elementary and middle schools – the ninth defeat for the proposal in eight years – and also voted down a $3.6 million proposal for safety repairs at the schools. A state loan program will now step in to cover the safety repairs, and local taxpayers will have to repay the loan. Jefferson School District’s supplemental levy measure failed.
The Boise Guardian reports that just six voters cast ballots in another contest, for a $325 million bond issue proposed by the Spring Valley CID north of Eagle. Four of the six favored the bond, giving it the needed two-thirds majority; future homeowners will have to repay the debt.
Idaho Education News has a roundup here on school bond and levy votes around the state; they report that voters around Idaho said yes to at least $128.7 million in bonds and levies.
Priest Lake cabin owners who object to new Idaho appraisals that showed the state-owned land under their lake homes ballooning in value this year by an average 84 percent can request new appraisals, the state Land Board decided Tuesday, and if they object to the new values, they can appeal. The catch: Once the new values are set, the leases for the cabin sites again would be offered up for potential conflict bids from others. And for those cabin owners who are already part of pending land exchanges aimed at trading other ground to the state so they can gain ownership of the land under their cabins, new appraisals might not be ready in time.
“People are going to have to decide what’s in their best interest,” said Chuck Lempesis, attorney for the Priest Lake State Lessees Association. But he called the Land Board’s unanimous decision “a very positive step forward” that provides “options for our lessees who are in difficult positions.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Uzbek national facing terrorism-related charges in Idaho will remain jailed pending his trial after waiving his right to a detention hearing. Lawyers for Fazliddin Kurbanov on Tuesday waived a hearing where a U.S. District Court judge was to have considered whether he should stay in Ada County jail in Boise until his July 2 trial. Kurbanov is a refugee from Uzbekistan in Central Asia who arrived in Boise in 2009. He was arrested last Thursday. The 30-year-old truck driver was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that included teaching people to build bombs intended to target public transportation. It's unclear whether the alleged targets were in the United States or elsewhere. Prosecutors say they've contained Kurbanov's threat, but haven't said if more arrests are pending.
Idaho remains stuck at the bottom of public education funding, ranking second to last of all states in per-student spending for a third straight year, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today; S-R reporter Scott Maben has a full report here. The latest census data showed Idaho spent $6,824 per student in the 2010-11 school year, above only Utah. Meanwhile, neighboring Washington ranked 30th – up two spots from the previous year – with $9,483 spent per student.
Both Idaho and Washington fell below the national average of $10,560 per student, and the average itself has dropped 0.4 percent from 2010. That’s the first decrease in per-student spending since the Census Bureau began collecting data in 1977.
Asked about the new figures today, Idaho state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna said, “How much we spend per student is an important factor, but it’s not the only factor.” He said Idaho’s low ranking is influenced by demographics. “There’s a reason that Idaho and Utah constantly end up at the bottom end … and it’s because we have large families,” Luna said, adding that he has six children. “We have fewer taxpayers per student in Idaho than we have in many other states.”
The 2000 Census found that Utah had the highest number of children under 18 per family, followed by Alaska at second-highest, Idaho third, and California fourth. However, Alaska ranked third-highest for per-student spending in the latest Census report; California was 36th.
While acknowledging that Idaho’s school funding per student compares poorly to other states, Luna said, “What I measure our system against isn’t how much are we spending per student – it’s are we getting the results?” Currently, he said, the answer is no – too few Idaho students go on to college or other higher education after high school. He said that means Idaho needs reforms for its schools.
The Idaho Fish & Game Commission, at its meeting late last week in Coeur d’Alene, voted to support the removal of grizzly bears in Idaho from the federal list of threatened and endangered species, saying the bears have recovered sufficiently and now are starting to move into areas where there are increasing conflicts with humans. Tony McDermott, Panhandle Region commissioner, said, “Idaho can manage the bears better.”
The commissioners adopted a position statement saying that state has the regulatory and enforcement mechanisms in place to manage grizzly bears, and that people in Idaho would be more tolerant of bears if the state were managing them. “Key to the success of this effort is effective and efficient management of bear-human conflict,” the statement said.
It also said if delisting were to occur, the commission would continue to act to ensure sustainable grizzly bear populations in the occupied core habitats that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has identified in Idaho. You can read the full statement here.
The value of Idaho’s state endowment fund hit an all-time high of $1.46 billion at the end of March, up 14 percent from the start of the fiscal year July 1. That’s partly because of strong investment returns this year – through yesterday, the fiscal year-to-date investment earnings show a 19 percent gain – and partly because of higher revenue from endowment trust lands, which was up 14 percent through the end of March compared to same nine months of the previous year. The receipts: $59.5 million. Much of the land revenue comes from logging on endowment lands. (In April, the fund had more gains, bringing it to $1.48 billion as of April 30.)
The state Land Board was briefed on the fund’s gains today by the Endowment Fund Investment Board, and there were smiles all around.
Investment returns for Idaho’s endowment fund have averaged 6.7 percent for the past five years, a big turnaround from the precipitous drops the fund saw after the state first started investing it in the stock market in the early 2000s. The fund lost nearly 15 percent of its value from 2000 to 2002, going from $803.7 million to $683.2 million.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Federal land managers are imposing a ban on paintball warfare and rock climbing in and around a raptor sanctuary along the Snake River canyon south of Boise. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced the new rules Monday for the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey area. Agency officials have been crafting the rules for several years in hopes of better protecting raptor habitat and improving public safety in the area. New rules prohibit rock climbing and rappelling in the canyon within the sanctuary boundaries to protect 16 species of raptors that nest along the rock walls, though bouldering is allowed. Paintball guns have also been outlawed inside the area and within a quarter-mile of the boundary. New restrictions have also been implemented for campfires. Offenders could be fined or sentenced to prison.
Click below for the BLM's full announcement.
A Sun Valley couple who had been using the Twitter handle @SunValley for three years is suing after the Sun Valley Resort and the online service took the handle away, saying it belongs to the resort. Twitter told the couple that after the resort brought the issue to its attention, it determined that their use of the handle violated its policies as a “non-parody impersonation.” Click below for a full report from the AP and the Idaho Mountain Express.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: JORDAN VALLEY, Ore. (AP) — An animal-rights activist has been arrested after refusing to quit videotaping at an Eastern Oregon rodeo with an event where contestants rope horses by the legs. The Malheur County sheriff's office says 30-year-old Adam Fahnestock (fawn-stock) of Vancouver, Wash., was accused Saturday of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The group Showing Animals Kindness and Respect says he is a volunteer. Undersheriff Travis Johnson told the Ontario Argus Observer (http://bit.ly/12ppCpt) the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo was on private property, so it could refuse to allow videotaping. The rodeo in far southeast Oregon is the only one in the state known to hold an event that sponsors call horse roping and opponents call horse tripping. The Oregon Senate has voted to ban the event. The House is considering the bill.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said earlier that the $250,000 investment loss his campaign suffered in 2008 - and just now disclosed - came at a time when the campaign was between treasurers, so only then-campaign manager Jake Ball authorized the expenditure, in the form of a loan to a longtime friend. But William Corbett, who was Crapo's volunteer campaign treasurer at the time, tells the AP he was never informed about the transaction. “Obviously, if I would have, it would have been reported,” Corbett said. AP reporter John Miller reports that aides for Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Jim Risch say their campaigns have safeguards and internal controls to protect donor money from a similar fate; among other things, investments such as the ones Ball said he employed with his friend would be forbidden. Click below for Miller's full report.
Gov. Butch Otter will accept the $4,500 a month boost in his pay that’s coming June 1 when his housing stipend resumes, Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, confirmed Friday. The state paid the housing stipend to governors until the 2009 when the hilltop mansion donated by the late J.R. Simplot to the state for a governor’s mansion opened for use after renovations, but Otter never lived there; he’s Simplot’s ex-son-in-law. Instead, he continued to live at his ranch in Star, just west of Boise. Now, the mansion’s being handed back over to the Simplot family.
Otter, a multimillionaire, accepted the payments earlier, saying if other governors got the payments, he’d take them as well; Hanian said the governor’s reasoning hasn’t changed. You can read my full Sunday column here at spokesman.com.
The $54,000 a year in housing stipends will be on top of the governor’s $117,000 a year salary; by law, that salary will rise another 1.7 percent on Jan. 1, 2014 to $119,000.
The Idaho Lottery is expecting lines of ticket-buyers into the weekend as the jackpot for Saturday night’s Powerball drawing hits a record $600 million. It’s the second-biggest jackpot on record, eclipsed only by the $646 million Mega Millions jackpot handed out in March of 2012. “We want to strongly emphasize to everyone to please play responsibly,” said Jeff Anderson, Idaho Lottery director. “Enjoy the games and imagine what you might do if you win, but please only play what you can afford.”
The Powerball tickets can be purchased until 7:55 p.m. Mountain time on Saturday; they cost $2 apiece. Lottery officials encourage ticket buyers to sign their tickets right away; lottery tickets are “bearer instruments,” so whoever signs and presents the winning ticket for payment will get paid.
The largest Powerball jackpot collected by an Idaho winner to date was $220,300 in May of 2005. Powerball is a multi-state game played in all but seven states.
Fazliddin Kurbanov made his first appearance in federal court this morning, dressed in yellow-and-white striped scrubs stamped “Ada County Jail” on the back and speaking through an interpreter. Kurbanov, a 30-year-old truck driver from Uzbekistan, is charged with providing material support to terrorists and possession of a destructive device. “For the record, has the defendant been read the indictment in his native language?” Judge Mikel Williams asked. “He has, your honor,” replied federal defender Richard Rubin, who appeared with Kurbanov in court this morning along with Boise attorney Thomas Monaghan; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
“Does the defendant understand the nature of the charges against him and the maximum penalty that can be applied as to each of those counts?” the judge asked. Kurbanov, who has a short, neatly trimmed beard and a full head of dark hair parted on the side, listened to the interpreter on the telephone, then nodded and shrugged. He entered a plea of not guilty to all three of the charges, which each carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison.
The initial appearance was delayed for close to 40 minutes as Rubin got his first chance to meet with his client; they spoke in the courtroom, while the other attorneys and audience waited outside. An interpreter in California translated for Kurbanov into Russian via telephone. Asked if Kurbanov speaks any English, Rubin said, “Very little, very little.”
Kurbanov, who was legally present in the country at the time of his arrest and was living in Boise, struggled to follow the proceedings as he held a corded phone handset to his ear to listen to the interpreter. Court officials said they are working on getting an interpreter to be present in court for Kurbanov’s detention hearing, which was set for May 21 at 1:30. The judge said, “All right. That’ll make things work a little smoother.”
The judge questioned Kurbanov about his financial status in relation to whether he qualifies to have an attorney appointed for him. “The financial affidavit states that you were working as a truck driver up to the time of your arrest, is that correct?” Williams asked. The interpreter said, “Yes,” as Kurbanov nodded. “It also states that other than some used automobiles and a small amount of money in a checking or savings account, you have no other assets or money or funds to hire your own attorney. Is that correct?” the judge asked. After some repeating and pauses, the interpreter told the court via speaker, “That’s correct, your honor.”
The judge then appointed the federal defender to represent Kurbanov, and advised Kurbanov of his rights, including that he’s presumed innocent and the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. He set the trial in his case for July 2 before U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge, though delays likely will push that back.
A Boise man from Uzbekistan has been arrested on terrorism charges; he's been indicted in both Idaho and Utah on federal charges including possessing an unregistered destructive device, providing material support to terrorists, and distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction. Click below for the full new release from the U.S. Attorney's office. Fazliddin Kurbanov, 30, was arrested this morning in Boise and will make his initial appearance in court tomorrow in Boise; that appearance has now been rescheduled from 9 a.m. to 8:30 before Judge Mikel Williams.
You can read my full story here at spokesman.com. In this AP/Idaho Statesman photo by Joe Jaszewski, federal agents search a Boise bench apartment on Thursday in connection with the case.
Five people from Boise and Meridian have been indicted on federal charges for smuggling, money laundering, and selling “spice,” a synthetic marijuana product, and authorities say they were operating across the nation. “This investigation has taken out a major player in the synthetic drug industry who was operating coast to coast,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew G. Barnes. “Criminal drug organizations prey on our youth to line their pockets with millions of dollars in drug proceeds. This emerging industry poses a significant threat to our communities and regardless of how they are marketed, we will continue with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue them.”
Click below for a full news release from U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson; the indictment by a federal grand jury in Boise was unsealed yesterday. The indictments are the result of a joint operation by an array of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. “Although we don't yet know the full toll that these substances that mimic cannabis have taken on users, we do know that emergency room workers, parents and law enforcement officers have terrifying stories of medically dangerous and sometimes deadly reactions,” Olson said. “I commend all of the agencies and prosecutors who spent countless hours bringing the investigation to this point.”
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The warden of the privately-run Idaho Correctional Center has quit, one month after his company acknowledged falsifying staffing records for much of 2012. Timothy Wengler, who works for Corrections Corporation of America, lasted three years as warden of the prison south of Boise. The Nashville, Tenn.-based company with the contract to run the prison through 2014 says Wengler's last day is May 31. CCA spokesman Steve Owen says Wengler had been thinking about quitting for a year and described his departure as a “personal decision.” Wengler was supposed to help repair problems at the prison. He arrived in Idaho in 2010, a replacement for a previous warden the company removed after the American Civil Liberties Union sued over claims of brutal inmate-on-inmate violence. CCA says it's mulling Wengler's replacement now.
Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.