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Eye On Boise

Archive for July 2004

Chartering a perfect score

Though recent state test results show 10th graders lagging in math across the state – on the same test they have to pass to graduate – boosters of the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy are pointing proudly to their 10th grade scores.

On this spring’s Idaho Standards Achievement Test, the charter academy’s 23 sophomores all scored at or above the “proficient” level in math – that’s 100 percent. In fact, those same 10th graders also scored 100 percent proficient in the test’s other two categories, reading and language.

Not so for the Idaho Virtual Academy, a statewide online charter school that includes many North Idaho kids. Among that school’s 15 10th graders, just 33.3 percent scored proficient in math, 53.3 percent in language and 73.3 percent in reading.

Among all schools in the state, the Coeur d’Alene Charter Academy’s 10th grade proficiency scores were by far the highest. The only other schools to come close were the Meridian Medical Arts Charter High School, whose 49 sophomores were 91.8 percent proficient in math, 100 percent in language and 98 percent in reading; and the Meridian Charter High School in Technology, whose 57 sophomores scored 98.3 percent proficient in math, 94.6 percent in language and 98.2 percent in reading.

It’s a big file to download, but you can see scores for all schools at this link. ISAT scores by school district, gender, ethnicity and several other categories also have been posted on the web.

Legislative comeback?

Gino White was one of the Legislature’s youngest members when he represented the Silver Valley from 1987 to 1994. Now, White’s making another bid for a comeback from Boise.

The Democrat ran two years ago against moderate Republican Sen. Cecil Ingram of Boise, getting 46.4 percent of the vote to Ingram’s 53.6 percent.

Now, Ingram has retired, and Democratic Rep. David Langhorst is running for his seat, facing Republican Clinton Miner. That left Langhorst’s House seat up for grabs in this swing district, and Republican Jana Kemp won a three-way GOP primary with 43 percent of the vote, defeating former Helen Chenoweth spokesman Graham Paterson and former Libertarian Michael Gollaher.

Now, the Democrat in that race, Don McMurrian Jr., has dropped out, and White has jumped in.

The scene in Riyadh

When Sami Al-Hussayen arrived in Saudi Arabia, “There was a big crowd at the airport - friends, family, kids running everywhere, flowers, TV cameras, people yelling in joy - apparently total bedlam,” said David Nevin, Al-Hussayen’s Boise attorney, who received a happy call from his client late last night.

Abdullah Al-Muhaitheef, a friend of Sami’s and fellow University of Idaho alum, reported from Riyadh via email: “Today is a day that we should write it by water of gold.”

Sami was recognized by well-wishers in the Cairo airport en route to Riyadh, and one agreed to call Sami’s father’s cell phone, to let him know when his son would arrive. The former University of Idaho student wasn’t allowed to make phone calls himself while he remained in the custody of two immigration officials who accompanied him from Boise to Chicago to Rome to Cairo to Riyadh.

Al-Muhaitheef reported, “Thanks God for having our hero back, he arrived on time, his children, family and friends were in the airport waiting for him.”

These photos from the Riyadh airport show Sami reunited with his three young sons; kissing his father’s head in greeting; and taking congratulatory phone calls.

In the dark of night

The Canyon County Jail confirms that Sami Al-Hussayen was released this morning - at 3:36 a.m. It’s apparently not uncommon for immigration authorities to pick up their detainees in the middle of the night. The jail generally has no advance notice of such movements.

Remembering a governor

It was with great ceremony that the body of three-term Idaho Gov. Robert E. Smylie was brought to lie in state in the Capitol this evening. First, a huge cannon in the park across from the Statehouse fired a deafening 19-gun salute, the prescribed number for a governor. Then, the closed, flag-draped casket was escorted inside the capitol, where it stood amid flowers in the central rotunda, with military men and women in full dress uniform ringing it, standing at attention.

Among the crowd that gathered to file through the rotunda and pay respects, conversation drifted from politics to Idaho history to everyday life. Displays of photos and memorabilia included the manual typewriter on which Gov. Smylie famously typed his speeches.

Smylie, governor of Idaho from 1955 to 1967, established Idaho’s state park system, department of commerce, historical museum, an improved state highway system and a retirement system for state employees. He oversaw the end of the political patronage system and the start of a civil service system for the state’s workforce, and the enactment of a sales tax to provide funding for education – a move so controversial that after its enactment, the three-term GOP governor lost the next gubernatorial primary to Don Samuelson.

Smylie also served two terms as Idaho Attorney General. His survivors include his son Steve, a Republican state representative from Boise.

Pain in the governor

There’s some déjà vu in the Idaho state capitol, as Gov. Dirk Kempthorne’s recent back surgery has cleared up intense pain the governor had been suffering and left him far more comfortable. It’s a reminder of the previous administration, when then-Gov. Phil Batt had surgery for a lingering, painful back problem, and came out noticeably more relaxed and cheerier.

Kempthorne’s not known for crankiness, but reportedly was in so much pain the week before the surgery that at one point, he couldn’t even get out of bed. He told doctors his pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, was at 10. After the surgery, which fixed an injury from a mountain biking accident, it was down to zero.

“He was a trooper about it, he didn’t complain about it, you just could tell that the guy was in pain,” said a staffer.

Right all along?

North Idaho Rep. Wayne Meyer says a series of court decisions, including Friday’s appeals court decision invalidating Idaho’s parental-consent abortion law, prove he was right all along. Meyer opposed the consent law when it passed in 2000, but he said the vote that brought him the most criticism in his recent primary election defeat was against a bill to ban “partial-birth abortion.” Meyer didn’t debate the bill, but voted against it, because “several Attorney General’s opinions said it was unconstitutional,” he said. Immediately after it passed, the law was voided by a federal court.

“It’ll be back, and somebody will bring it forward, they always do,” said the five-term representative and bluegrass seed farmer. “The way I feel about it, it’s brought forward just to label people.”

Meyer’s quietly pro-choice record in the Legislature drew less attention than his support for bluegrass field-burning, a practice that’s become increasingly controversial and is opposed by the primary victor, Phil Hart. But much of the talk in the primary was about abortion.

“I don’t like abortion,” Meyer said. “But I still think it should be a woman’s choice,” particularly in cases of rape, incest and threats to the mother’s health. “These people, especially my opponent, say that there’s too much government, too much government, but yet they want to put restrictions on people’s choices when it comes to this issue. So is that really less government?”

Meyer hasn’t decided if he’ll seek office again in the future. This summer, as chairman of the northern subgroup of a special legislative committee studying a major water rights agreement, he’s said he’s busier with legislative duties than he’s ever been.

“I plan on staying involved to some degree,” he said. “We’ll see what happens down the road.”

It’s worth how much?

Let’s say the state endowment is earning $10 a year from a lease for sheep grazing on a parcel of state-owned land. The endowment, of course, benefits public schools and other state institutions. Now, let’s say that land happens to lie near Sun Valley, in a ritzy subdivision where rich folks are building estate homes. Worth looking into how much the land’s actually worth?

That’s just what’s happened, under endowment reforms that Idaho voters approved some years back. One aspect of the reforms calls for the state to sell properties that aren’t earning good returns, and replace them with other, better land investments. It’s about to get its first test.

This morning, the state Land Board approved selling at auction a 57-acre parcel, now used for sheep grazing, that’s in a high-end subdivision near Ketchum. The state Lands Department thought the property might be worth $2 million, but the appraisal is just in – and it’s $5.1 million. That’ll be the starting bid at a late-September public auction.

“We can only make a bunch of money, the way I look at it,” said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who chaired the Land Board meeting as Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is still recovering from his back surgery last week. “I think it’s a great move. Hopefully we can make a lot of money for the public schools.”

Under the endowment reforms, proceeds from any such sale would go into a “land bank,” and the state would have five years to spend them on other land. Otherwise, they go into the permanent endowment fund. Either way, the earnings go to the endowment’s beneficiaries, mainly Idaho’s public schools.

The state most affected

So why did U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman travel all the way to the Idaho state capitol in Boise today to announce the Bush Administration’s new version of the roadless rule?

“This is a state that is the most affected state by the roadless rule in the lower 48, so we thought it was appropriate to come to Idaho to make the announcement today,” Veneman said. “And we also have enjoyed a very close working relationship with both Gov. Kempthorne and Sen. Craig as we have addressed these issues.”

At the statehouse announcement, Veneman was flanked by Craig and Kempthorne, who both lauded the plan to give states a chance to petition for their own, state-specific roadless rules in the next 18 months. If states don’t petition, there’d be no roadless rule, and local forest plans would govern.

Idaho has more than 9 million acres of inventoried roadless land in its national forests, about 17 percent of the state’s land mass.

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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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