Idaho taxpayers’ costs so far for continuing to challenge the federal court decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage: $71,477. In response to a request under the Idaho Public Records Law, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden’s office reported spending $2,569, for an appellate filing fee and for travel for two attorneys to the 9th Circuit arguments this week in San Francisco. Gov. Butch Otter’s office reported spending $68,899, including $66,920 for outside counsel.
Private attorney Monte Neil Stewart represented Otter both in the arguments in San Francisco, where he gave the state’s entire presentation of oral arguments; in the preparation of the briefs for that appeal; and in requesting an emergency stay of U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale’s decision overturning the ban while the state appealed. Stewart charged the state $250 an hour, with a maximum charge of $50,000 for preparing the briefs and $7,000 for making the arguments; both those maximums were met.
The figures don’t include salary costs for state employees who did the work as part of their existing jobs, including attorneys in the Attorney General’s and governor’s offices, who handled the initial case at the U.S. District Court in Boise. Cally Younger, attorney for Otter, said the money for the additional expenses there came from the governor’s office general fund.
A new analysis from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that states like Idaho, which sharply increased its incarceration rate between 1994 and 2012, had no greater drop in crime than states like New York, which sharply cut its incarceration rate during the same time period. “States that decreased their imprisonment rates cut crime more than states that increased imprisonment,” the Pew Trusts reported.
New York’s incarceration rate fell 24 percent from 1994 to 2012; its crime rate fell 54 percent.
Idaho’s incarceration rate increased 103 percent during that same time period; its crime rate fell 46 percent. Idaho saw the third-highest increase in incarceration rates in the nation during that time, exceeded only by North Dakota and West Virginia. New York had the biggest drop in incarceration rates, and tied with Florida for the biggest drop in crime rates.
“Despite the conventional wisdom, states are showing that it is possible to cut incarceration rates without comprising public safety,” said Adam Gelb, director of Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project. The project looked at changes since the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act, which led to large increases in imprisonment.
“The crime bill paid billions for new prisons but with nearly 1 in 100 American adults behind bars, we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns,” Gelb said. “There’s now broad bipartisan consensus behind alternatives for lower-level offenders that cost less and do a better job cutting recidivism.” That’s been the focus in Idaho’s new Justice Reinvestment Project, which is seeking to remake Idaho’s justice system to reserve prison space for the most dangerous offenders, find better alternatives for the less-dangerous ones, and reduce rampant recidivism, or repeat offense. That project, backed by all three branches of Idaho’s state government, won legislative approval this past year; it’s aimed at heading off the need to build a big new multimillion-dollar state prison in the next five years.
Pew found that the five states with the largest drops in their incarceration rate saw an average 45 percent drop in crime over the time period. The five states with the largest increases in their incarceration rate saw an average 27 percent drop in crime over that same period. Every state except West Virginia saw drops in crime rates; Pew said leading criminal justice experts say factors other than increasing incarceration – including declining demand for crack cocaine, better policing, technological advances, and reductions in lead exposure – likely contributed to the drop in crime. You can see Pew's 50-state comparison here.
Federal officials still are withholding millions in e-rate funds for the Idaho Education Network, Idaho Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell reports today, and as a result, the IEN plans to ask state lawmakers for another multimillion-dollar bailout when they convene in January. Lawmakers voted last year to give the broadband network that links Idaho high schools $11.4 million state funds to replace the missing federal money; that will only keep the network going until February. At the time, state Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna said she was confident the situation would be resolved and the missing federal money would arrive.
The feds cut off the money – which was anticipated to fund three-quarters of the cost of the broadband network – after an Idaho Supreme Court ruling in a lawsuit questioning the original contract award for the IEN to Education Networks of America and Qwest; the lawsuit still is pending, with its next hearing set for Oct. 10, Sewell reports. That Supreme Court ruling was in March of 2013, but lawmakers weren’t informed until January of this year that the funds had been withheld all that time. They also weren’t informed that the state Department of Administration extended its contract with ENA through 2019, even though it wasn’t yet up for renewal for another year, through 2019, putting the state on the hook for another $10 million.
Sewell’s full report is online here. The IEN mess prompted lawmakers this year to impose new requirements on state agencies to notify the Legislature before renewing big contracts with private vendors.
Idaho Treasurer Ron Crane will participate in his first series of political debates since he was elected 16 years ago, reports AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi, as Crane faces Democratic challenger Deborah Silver in November. He was unopposed in the last election in 2010. Longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby told AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi it's not unusual for incumbents to shy away from sharing the same stage as their opponents, but Crane is unusual for going nearly four terms without participating in either a local or televised debate. Crane's campaign says he didn't duck debates; he just lacked opponents, or lacked opponents who met debate criteria over the years.
Kruesi reports that the state treasurer's position has received more attention since a legislative audit was released in January finding that Crane's office conducted inappropriate money transfers that cost taxpayers millions of dollars beginning in 2008. Crane has repeatedly disputed the audit's findings, but Silver, a longtime CPA from Twin Falls, argues her opponent refuses to comply with all the auditor's recommendations. “I'm looking forward to the debates,” Silver said. “I'm very open to talking about this.”
Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says her current work to revitalize civic education across the nation is “the most important work I’ve ever done.” She said when she retired from the Supreme Court, she had a goal that was “high on my list to accomplish, and that is to restore civic education in our nation’s schools.” She said through research, she learned that the best way to reach young students today is through “embracing the digital age,” so she’s worked with an array of experts to develop a program called “iCivics” that teaches about American civics through video games.
“Yes, this Arizona cowgirl has actually gotten involved with video games, and it’s working,” she told the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership. Millions of visitors have now gone to the iCivics website, and more than 65,000 teachers have created accounts. The program includes “some very exciting video games, curriculum units, lesson plans and online fora for student engagement.”
O’Connor recited troubling statistics about Americans’ lack of civic knowledge. “Civics scores among high school seniors have steadily declined since the year 2006,” she said. “Civics scores among middle school students have remained at the same low level since 1998, and on the last nationwide civics assessment test, two-thirds of the students who took the test scored below proficient. Now only about one-third of adult Americans can name the three branches of government. Think about that. That’s really pathetic. Let alone describe the roles in our system.”
She added, “Less than one-third of the 8th grade students can identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and it’s right there in the name.” Laughter greeted that sharp comment. “Less than one-fifth of high school seniors can explain how citizen participation benefits democracy.”
O’Connor urged the audience to help raise the nation’s level of civic education. “Get busy,” she said. “Everyone in this room can play an important role in that effort.”
Only one name was added to Idaho’s Fallen Soldier Memorial on Sept. 11 this year – that of David Lyon of Sandpoint, who was killed last December in Afghanistan. It was “one too many,” Chaplain Jim Kennedy said at today’s state ceremony; the number of names engraved on the memorial, listing all Idahoans who died in military service since Sept. 11, 2001, now comes to 67. But Lyon’s parents, Bob and Jeannie Lyon of Sandpoint, were appreciative. “It’s an amazing honor,” Bob Lyon said, unable to stop tears. “We’re very grateful. Freedom isn’t free, it’s not.”
Bob Lyon himself is a proud Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam. Jeannie Lyon noted that the U.S. Navy has named a ship in honor of her son. The MV Capt. David Lyon, a 604-foot-long ship in the Military Sealift Command, was chartered in Lyon’s honor in March.
“I want you to know that one man can make a difference, and the differences that David has made in his life and what he has believed in have changed the course of many lives,” said Jeannie Lyon, who is a seventh-grade teacher at Sandpoint Middle School. “That ship epitomizes his philosophy of life, of, ‘Send me – I will protect those who are weak and oppressed. Send me – let me be their strength.’”
Lyon was 28 when he died near Kabul, Afghanistan after a car bomb detonated near his convoy. He was a standout athlete at Sandpoint High School and the Air Force Academy who had served in the Air Force for five years; his wife, Dana, also is an Air Force captain. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com, and see a photo gallery here.
Idaho’s official state 9/11 ceremony is set for 10 a.m. today at the Idaho Fallen Soldier Memorial, which is in front of the Capitol Annex, formerly the old Ada County Courthouse across the street from the state Capitol. Gov. Butch Otter and Lt. Gov. Brad Little, along with the U.S. Navy’s vice chief of operations, Admiral Michelle Howard, will lead a solemn ceremony memorializing the 67 Idahoans who have died in military service since Sept. 11, 2001. Other observances also are planned throughout the valley.
As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act this year, EEOC Commissioner Victoria Lipnic, who spoke in Boise yesterday at the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership, noted a bit of the act’s history that’s largely overlooked today – but that transformed American workplaces.
The act, as originally proposed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and then by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, was all about race. Congress had passed the Equal Pay Act a year earlier, and many felt they’d dealt with gender discrimination by doing that and needed take no further action in that area. “No one was contemplating that there would be a provision added into the law that would protect women from discrimination in the workplace,” Lipnic said. Then, as the bill worked its way through Congress, a Democratic congressman from Virginia, Howard Smith, who was an avowed segregationist, added the amendment to the law. “There was no legislative history, no committee reports, nothing. This was on the floor of the House,” Lipnic said.
Smith’s move was widely viewed as an attempt at a “poison pill” – a provision so onerous that it would cause the whole bill to fail; he later voted against the bill. But of the 12 women then serving in the House, 11 “rose up to support it,” Lipnic said. “That sisterhood in the House of Representatives then carried the debate.” It passed, 168-133.
When the bill moved on to the Senate, prominent GOP Sen. Everett Dirksen planned to propose an amendment to strip out the sex-discrimination provision. Only two women then served in the Senate; one was Republican Margaret Chase Smith from Maine. She went to a meeting of the Republican caucus, and, the only woman in the room, made such a powerful case that Dirksen decided not to introduce his amendment.
“When that provision was added in to the civil rights bill, it transformed the Civil Rights Act to not leave out half of the population, and it revolutionized the workplace,” Lipnic said. “This conference would not be happening today but for the actions of those women in 1964.”
Victoria Lipnic, commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – and a former assistant secretary of labor – said she was stunned when she arrived at the EEOC in 2010 and saw the huge number of sexual harassment complaints. That’s true still in every region of the nation, she said.
“If we wanted to, we could have a docket of nothing but sexual harassment cases,” she told the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership today. “I look at some of the facts of these cases, and I think to myself, what do women have to do to be able to just go to work and do their jobs and not have to put up with some of this behavior?”
She told the largely female audience of more than 800, “You don’t have to put up with this. And so when you find yourself in situations that are either harassing, borderline assaulting, some very real assaulting, or even just really boorish behavior, you do have an outlet, and you should complain about it – and don’t be afraid to complain about it. Because unless and until more women do that, we really are sort of scratching our heads at the EEOC about what we can do.”
Here’s a news item from the Associated Press: IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — Eastern Idaho health officials say four children have been hospitalized due to a respiratory virus. Officials tell KIFI-TV (http://bit.ly/1ulPsuH) that the children on Wednesday are being treated at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. Hundreds of children in more than 10 states have been sickened by a severe respiratory illness that public health officials say may be caused by an uncommon virus similar to the germ that causes the common cold. The four cases in eastern Idaho are the first reported in the state. Hospital officials say the children have symptoms consistent with enterovirus 68. Health experts say the virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms but that this summer's cases are unusually severe and include serious breathing problems.
In her talk, “Pioneering Success,” at the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership today, Admiral Michelle Howard, the vice-chief of operations for the Navy and a four-star admiral, used the stories of pioneering women – from Sacagawea to Barbara Morgan and many more – to offer advice about how women who are pioneers in their field can forge success. She drew on the stories of women who joined wagon trains and traveled west, and distilled her advice to this: “Commit to the journey, travel light, develop stamina, keep a sense of humor, and stay connected to other women.”
Said Howard, “If you’re in an occupation where there’s less than 25 percent women, you’re a pioneer.” Engineering is a perfect example, she said.
Answering questions from the large audience after her talk, Howard was asked if she had a goal of becoming an admiral. “When I started at Annapolis, women weren’t even serving on ships,” she said. Yet she decided she’d like to command one – knowing it was a long-term goal. In 1999, she became the first African American woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.
Howard said the first person to tell her she couldn’t do something because she was a woman was her brother, when at age 12 she declared that she wanted to go to the service academy – but by law, women weren’t allowed. She consulted her mother, who said if she still wanted to go when she was older, she should apply – and if necessary, they’d sue the government. “She goes, ‘Honey, the most important thing in life is trying for what you think is right.’” And solutions could take time, she warned. “You could apply, you could sue the government and you may never get to go but you should keep going after it. … And it doesn’t matter if you never get to go, because if you’re right, the law will change and some women will get to go.”
Howard said she had to deal with “knuckleheads” from time to time in her career. She advised: “Have the courage on your own behalf that when it’s right to push back, push back.”
Idaho women shouldn’t despair over their state’s poor rankings for representation of women in top leadership positions, or for women’s pay vs. men’s, Admiral Michelle Howard, vice-chief of operations for the U.S. Navy and a four-star admiral, said after wowing a big crowd at the Andrus Center Conference on Women and Leadership today. “They will make the change,” Howard predicted. Just last week, Idaho was ranked 45th for women’s pay compared to men, with Idaho women earning 73.5 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Howard, who infused her talk at the conference with humor, had a response to that, too: “Join the military – because we get equal pay.”
Howard, the second-highest official in the U.S. Navy, both the first woman and the first African-American to achieve her four-star rank, and the first African American woman to command a Navy ship – she took command in 1999 – said of all the important things on her plate, talking to women about leadership ranks as “extremely important.” While in Idaho, she’ll also visit the Wyakin Warrior Foundation’s center for injured veterans, and will join Gov. Butch Otter at the state’s official Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony.
Howard was in the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks. “We were on the far side of the building from where the plane hit,” she said. She and other top officials of the joint chiefs were meeting, and watched the New York attacks on television. After the second plane hit, “We really went into overdrive,” she said, clear that “this is not an accident, this is deliberate,” and beginning to organize and mobilize top military resources. “We were getting ready to finish up that meeting when we felt a shudder,” she recalled. Another officer said, “I don’t think that was yellow gear,” referring to the big trucks that rumble in and out of the Pentagon complex. “Pretty quickly we realized we had been hit. We started to lock up all our classified materials, and then the order came to evacuate.”
She and other top brass grabbed bottles of water and headed outside; the Pentagon does so many fire drills that things ran very smoothly, she said. Then someone suggested that the hit might have been the first of many attacks, and everyone began moving down by the river, away from the building. “We could see the smoke,” she said. “I was frustrated and angry. I had trained my whole life, by golly, if I was ever attacked … we’re going to shoot back.” But the 8,000 people evacuated couldn’t all rush over and help; most had to evacuate and go home. “That’s not what I trained for,” she said.
Among her biggest frustrations: Trying to get word to her husband, Wayne, that she was OK. A hunting guide, he was off in the wilds in Wyoming. “He doesn’t even know this is happening,” she said. He ended up getting word the next morning – both that the Pentagon had been attacked, and that his wife was OK.
Both candidates for Idaho’s schools chief job, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, were in the audience last night as two nationally known school superintendents spoke in Boise on improving schools, reports Idaho Education News. The “Super Supers” presentation featured former Massachusetts schools chief David Driscoll and former Florida schools chief Eric Smith; former Maryland schools chief Nancy Grasmick also had been scheduled to attend, but canceled because of an injury.
The two, whose talk was sponsored by the Albertson Foundation, said Idaho needs to ensure equality for all kids, stabilize school funding and master teacher evaluations, reports Idaho EdNews reporter Jennifer Swindell; her full report is online here. Both were excited about new Common Core standards and assessments. “You will see for the first time in history, millions and millions being tested on the same level,” Driscoll said. “We will have strong standards and strong assessments and finally we’ll know what we need to work on.” Added Smith, “We’ve got to stay with it.”
A full slate of political debates stretches before Idaho voters, who are mulling decisions on every statewide office in November; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com. The “Idaho Debates,” a tradition in the state of more than three decades’ standing, will feature seven debates broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television, co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. In addition, other groups also are sponsoring candidate forums and debates – including a local debate in Coeur d’Alene in the governor’s race that’s free and open to the public.
“I’m just delighted to see there’s that much activity, and there are a lot of very interesting races, so I hope the public tunes in or follows these debates and forums closely,” said longtime Idaho political observer Jim Weatherby, a professor emeritus at Boise State University. “There’s a lot at stake.”
Weatherby said debates are particularly important for voters who may be exposed to selective messages from candidates through advertising or other means. “It helps fill in the picture as to who these people really are, rather than hiding behind their campaign ads or the websites or brochures that are carefully prepared,” he said. In addition to putting candidates on the spot about their positions on issues and showing them head-to-head with their opponents, he said, debates show “how effectively they can respond to criticism.”
Nels Mitchell, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, decried GOP incumbent Jim Risch’s decision to participate in only one debate, turning down invitations from the Idaho Debates, the City Club of Boise and more. Click below for Mitchell’s full statement.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) — A former Idaho lawmaker is returning to the public eye after two highly publicized political scandals two years ago caused him to resign. The Idaho Press-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1lQ9wnv ) reports that former GOP state Sen. John McGee is now serving as chairman of the Downtown Caldwell Organization in southwestern Idaho. The group focuses on revitalizing downtown Caldwell to attract more businesses. McGree quit the legislature amid sexual harassment allegations in 2012, preceded by a drunken driving arrest on Father's Day a year before. McGee stepped down before the Idaho Senate ethics committee could conduct an investigation on what happened. He spent 39 days in jail. After a two year respite, McGee says his local community has been supportive as he returns to a public role again.
Both candidates for state superintendent of schools are questioning outgoing Supt. Tom Luna’s decision to award $151,000 in “retention bonuses” to senior managers — including four managers who have since left the state’s payroll, reports Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News. Nearly one-fifth of Luna’s bonuses went to staffers who’ve now left. GOP candidate Sherri Ybarra said the move was “not good public policy,” and Democratic candidate Jana Jones said the magnitude of the bonuses seemed out of line with the salary incentives available to teachers. You can read Richert’s full report online here.
The Republican-controlled U.S. House voted today to condemn President Barack Obama for failing to give 30 days notice to Congress about the exchange in May of American prisoner Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the AP reports. Idaho Congressmen Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador both joined with the majority in the 249-163 vote, though Bergdahl, who was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, is from Hailey, Idaho.
No Republicans voted no, according to congressional voting records, though five missed the vote; Democrats split with 22 in favor and 163 against, with 14 not voting. The vote came at a crucial moment for the administration as it sought to rally international and congressional support for steps to combat the rising threat of Islamic state militants in Iraq and Syria; click below for a full report from AP reporter Donna Cassata in Washington, D.C.
Author Salman Rushdie will give a free lecture at Boise State University’s Morrison Center in November, as part of BSU’s Honors College Distinguished Lecture Series. Rushdie, who was the target of international death threats over his novel “The Satanic Verses” in 1989, is a prize-winning novelist and essayist who was knighted by the Queen of England. His Boise lecture, at 7 p.m. on Nov. 20, will be on “Literature and Politics in the Modern World.” Click below for BSU’s full announcement.
A four-star admiral who is the second-highest official in the U.S. Navy – and also is both the first woman and the first African-American to achieve that four-star rank – is among the headliners at the Andrus Conference on Women and Leadership, which kicks off tomorrow at Boise State University. Adm. Michelle Howard, vice chief of Naval operations, will give the luncheon keynote speech at the conference, which starts at noon in the Jordan Ballroom.
Conference organizers said “a bit of finesse” was required to accomplish the admiral’s visit, as either the chief or vice chief must be present in Washington, D.C. at all times; and the visit includes the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The conference runs through Friday at noon, and also will feature astronauts Ellen Ochoa and Barbara Morgan; 124th Fighter Wing Col. Sherrie McCandless; U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Victoria Lipnic; retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who also addressed the first such conference last year; and Academy Award-winning producer Freida Mock, who will air her film about Anita Hill, “Anita: Speaking Truth to Power,” at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. An array of other female business, political, arts and academic leaders also are scheduled to speak, including Carla Harris, managing partner and vice chair of Morgan Stanley; author Judith Freeman; and Bonnie McElveen Hunter, former U.S. ambassador to Finland and current chair of the American Red Cross. The full agenda is online here.
The conference’s theme this year is “What is Success?” It’s a project of the Andrus Center for Public Policy, which is affiliated with the Boise State University College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs. “It’s a conversation among women on what is success and how to achieve it,” said David Adler, Andrus Center director. Between 800 and 1,000 people are expected to attend. “It’s a wide audience,” Adler said. “It includes university students, working women, people in the corporate world. … Women dominate the audience, but it’s not just for women.”
He quoted Warren Buffet, saying that the nation’s done pretty well using only 50 percent of its population in leadership – and much more could be accomplished if the other 50 percent also were tapped. Women are under-represented in top leadership roles in Idaho, Adler said, from political office to the corporate world. “We lag behind when it comes to women holding key positions in leadership,” he said. “We can do something about it.” There’s more info on the conference here.
The Idaho Debates, a tradition of more than three decades in Idaho, has announced its fall line-up of political debates in advance of the November general election, including debates in an array of the state’s top races. The debates, broadcast live statewide on Idaho Public Television, are co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Voters of Idaho. Here’s the schedule:
Oct. 7, 7 p.m.: Idaho Secretary of State debate, featuring Republican Lawerence Denney and Democrat Holli Woodings
Oct. 9, 7 p.m.: 1st Congressional District debate, featuring GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and Democratic challenger Shirley Ringo
Oct. 9, 8:30 p.m.: Idaho state treasurer debate, featuring GOP Treasurer Ron Crane and Democratic challenger Deborah Silver
Oct. 21, 7 p.m.: Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction debate, featuring GOP candidate Sherri Ybarra and Democratic candidate Jana Jones
Oct. 26, 7 p.m.: 2nd Congressional District debate, featuring GOP Rep. Mike Simpson and Democratic challenger Richard Stallings
Oct. 30, 7 p.m.: Idaho governor debate, featuring GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Democratic challenger A.J. Balukoff, and Libertarian candidate John Bujak
Oct. 30, 8:30 p.m.: Idaho lieutenant governor debate, featuring GOP Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democratic challenger Bert Marley
A debate in the U.S. Senate race had been scheduled for Oct. 12, but was canceled after GOP Sen. Jim Risch declined to participate. Risch’s campaign manager, Melinda Smyser, said in a letter to Idaho Debates organizers, “It has been the senator’s custom to do one debate with his opponent,” and Risch already has agreed to debate Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell on Boise TV station KTVB. The station will provide the debate for re-broadcast by stations elsewhere in the state.
Full disclosure here: As president of the Idaho Press Club, I volunteer on the committee that helps plan and organize the Idaho Debates, which are moderated by Idaho Public Television and feature reporter panelists who are members of the Press Club. The debates are always lively and of interest, and we’re looking forward to them.