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Eye On Boise

Archive for December 2004

Could they top Taco Bell Arena?

There’s been plenty of controversy over the sale of naming rights to Boise State University’s indoor stadium, the Pavilion, which resulted in it being renamed Taco Bell Arena (really). In addition to the obvious question of taste, students and faculty were angry over the $4 million deal because Taco Bell’s parent company buys tomatoes from a Florida source accused of exploiting farm workers.

Now comes word that naming rights may be sold to Bronco Stadium, the BSU football stadium known for its highly unnatural, bright-blue turf. As reported in the Idaho Press-Tribune, the sale of naming rights could be part of a multimillion-dollar fundraising effort to expand and renovate the ‘60s-era open-air stadium, adding thousands more seats and such upscale touches as luxury skyboxes.

One more theory

Longtime Idaho political observer and Idaho Falls Post-Register editorial page editor Marty Trillhaase recently expounded another theory for why Butch Otter announced so early that he’s running for governor in 2006 – so early that it was before Otter even took his oath of office for the third term in Congress he’s about to start. Trillhaase’s “third man” theory, laid out in a recent editorial, suggests that Otter is trying to head off a third candidate – not just expected primary opponent Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, but incumbent Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Kempthorne made it extremely clear earlier that he wouldn’t run for a third term. But after questions arose about his fundraising in the past year, he nudged open the door to the possibility of running again – which allows him to continue to raise campaign cash.

Would Kempthorne run again? Reporters immediately began peppering him with that question when he joined J.R. Simplot this week to show off Idaho’s new governor’s mansion – Simplot’s grand hilltop home, which he’s donating to the state. After all, another term would allow Kempthorne to live in the view home for more than just a year or so. The governor laughed at the question, and answered simply, “There’s no announcement today.”

The rumor mill

Why did Butch Otter announce his ’06 bid for governor so soon – before he’d even been sworn in for the two-year congressional term to which he’s just been elected?

One theory is that Otter wanted to scare off his likely primary opponent, current Idaho Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch, by piling up a massive early pot of campaign cash and high-profile endorsements. Otter’s early filing of a political treasurer certification allows him to start raising money for the gubernatorial campaign, and he just happened to mention on the form the name of his campaign chairman, the popular and respected former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt.

The only problem with this is that Risch, in his very long and successful career in Idaho politics, hasn’t shown any tendency to scare easily. And he’ll have known all along that Otter can generate tons of campaign cash and big-name endorsements, as can any sitting congressman.

Another theory is that Risch will get his own early boost in the campaign, if Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne gets an appointment to the Bush Administration and moves on, leaving Risch to step up as governor. One possibility, to which Kempthorne is saying only “no comment,” is that Kempthorne could replace former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt as EPA chief, as Leavitt moves on to head Health and Human Services. Then, Risch, already serving as governor, would run as the incumbent in 2006. Otter’s early splash could be designed to offset a Risch head start in the race.

Or maybe it’s just that Otter can’t wait to start running for governor, an office he first sought in 1978.

‘You all passed’

Here’s Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s final comment after Idaho’s electoral college votes were formally cast on Monday:

“That would conclude the electoral college – you have all passed.”

Protesters get community service

Eleven protesters, including former Rep. Henry Kulczyk, R-Eagle, were convicted this week of resisting and obstructing an officer when they tried to physically block the city of Boise from removing a Ten Commandments monument from a remote spot in a city park last March. The monument since has been relocated to a high-profile spot outside a church, directly across the street from the state Capitol.

The protesters were warned repeatedly by police that they would be committing a crime if they didn’t move, and some moved. But the 13 opted to refuse to move, and be arrested. Two pled guilty earlier; a Boise jury unanimously convicted the remaining 11 on Wednesday. Eight of them were sentenced to 25 hours each of community service. The final three asked for delays in their sentencing.

Despite the repeated warnings from police, the protesters told the court during their trial that they never intended to be arrested. Afterwards, an angry Brandi Swindell told KBCI-TV, “We have a mayor and city council prosecuting their own citizens. They are punishing us for peacefully standing up for what we believe is right.”

The protesters could have faced maximum sentences of up to 6 months in jail and up to $300 in fines for the misdemeanor offense.

New adjutant general

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne introduces Brigadier General Lawrence Frank Lafrenz, right. Adjutant General Jack Kane is at left.

In the midst of the largest deployment of the Idaho National Guard in the state’s history, Idaho’s Guard is getting a new leader.

Adjutant General Jack Kane will retire on Jan. 15, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne announced this morning, and be replaced by Brigadier General Lawrence Frank Lafrenz. Lafrenz is now Kane’s second-in-command.

“General Lafrenz has played a key role in the development and training of the Idaho Army National Guard,” Kempthorne said. “He’s the right person to lead our citizen-soldiers into the future as they confront the uncertain realities of today’s world and their duties here in Idaho.”

Kane, 60, has been in the Guard for 44 years. He joined up in 1962 “for the sole purpose of learning how to fly a helicopter,” he said. “I appreciate all the support that I’ve had over the years. It’s been an honor to work for Idaho, the greatest state in the union. It’s been an honor to lead the soldiers of Idaho, and sometimes have the soldiers lead me.”

Lafrenz, 59, joined the Guard in Lewiston in 1966 with hopes of becoming an officer. “I’m humbled by this opportunity,” he said. “Governor, thank you so much for allowing me to continue my service.”

Under National Guard retirement rules, Kane could have continued for four more years to the mandatory retirement age for adjutant generals of 64. But if he hadn’t retired, Lafrenz would have hit the mandatory retirement age for his rank in a month. Kane said there’s a whole string of top-notch people who will get to move up in rank during the next four years because he’s decided to retire to his ranch in Garden Valley. “These other people deserve to have opportunity,” he said.

Whoops, not THAT seat

At the organizational session of the Legislature today, members got the chance to pick the seats in the chambers that they’ll occupy for the next two years. Seat-picking goes in order of seniority, so new Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, was among the last to pick. He wandered right over to a prime aisle seat near the door, which apparently wasn’t yet occupied – but Hart couldn’t see the nameplate in front of the desk that identified the seat as that of House Speaker Bruce Newcomb, R-Burley.

Amid laughter, Newcomb intoned from the podium, “Fine with me.” Realizing his mistake, Hart wandered into the well of the House, looking uncertainly around for a space. “There’s some over here – there’s one right there,” Newcomb pointed out to him, helpfully.

Hart found a seat that actually was open. Later, he said ruefully, “I knew it was his, but I forgot.”

Cities have problems too

Post Falls city finance director Shelly Enderud noted that cities in
Idaho are facing tax-related problems, too.

“Citizens feel there is an ever-increasing tax burden with declining
services,” she told the Associated Taxpayers conference. “To a certain
extent that’s true - our revenue has not kept up with costs, and we’ve
had to cut back.”

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About this blog

Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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