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Eye On Boise

Archive for July 2005

How Idaho will decide

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne has announced the process for picking the design for Idaho’s state quarter: Anyone in the state is invited to send in their suggestions by email to or by snail-mail to Idaho Quarter, Idaho Commission on the Arts, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0008. Online forms and information are at

Suggestions, which must include a written description of up to 150 words and don’t have to include artwork, though they can for illustration purposes, must be postmarked by Sept. 9. (The U.S. Mint’s own artists will make up the actual artwork, once the design is selected.)

The Idaho Commission on the Arts will winnow the suggestions down to the top 100 by Sept. 15, then appoint a special commission to choose 10 finalists, which will go to the governor. He’ll pick three to five and send them to the Mint; they’ll send back the designs, and then Kempthorne will make the final pick.

“I will encourage simplicity,” he said, noting that some states’ quarters appear to have been designed by committee, with multiple symbols crowded in. “To the extent that one symbol can best depict Idaho, that’s great,” Kempthorne said.

Here’s what NOT to suggest: “Inappropriate design concepts include, but are not limited to, logos or depictions of specific commercial, private, educational, civic, religious, sports or other organizations whose membership or ownership is not universal,” according to the Mint. They also don’t want state flags or seals; they want landmarks, landscapes, symbols, icons, buildings and the like that will “promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth of the United States about the state, its history and geography, and the rich diversity of our national heritage.”

No head-and-shoulders portraits of people or depictions of living people are accepted; Kempthorne offered this explanation: Since the state design will go on the back of the quarter, and George Washington still will be pictured on the front, if Idaho’s design were a person, the quarter couldn’t be used for a heads-or-tails coin toss. “You’d have to go heads or heads.”

“Our objective is that Idaho will be one of the most distinguished, beautiful, awesome quarters,” Kempthorne said. “In the end, we will have a beautiful reminder of what makes our state so great.”

Idaho on a quarter

If you could capture the essence of Idaho in a design not much bigger than a thumbnail, how would you do it? It’s no idle question – the time is drawing near for Idaho to start designing its official state quarter, which will be issued in 2007. Later this week, Gov. Dirk Kempthorne will hold a press conference with the Idaho Commission on the Arts to announce plans for how Idaho will pick a design.

Lots of states have gone before us, and each used a little bit different process. Somehow, in Wisconsin, it took two statewide votes to settle on their design: the head of a cow, a small ear of corn and a round of cheese. Really.

Kansas held a statewide vote among its high school students to pick among the finalists there, and settled on a catchy buffalo-and-sunflower motif. Oregon’s Crater Lake design was the choice of an 18-member commemorative coin commission, and the state’s governor concurred. More than 100,000 people participated in a statewide election in Maine that picked a design showing a landmark lighthouse shining out over a rocky coastline.

New York’s coin features, of course, the Statue of Liberty, Georgia has a peach, and 112 citizens of Connecticut aged 6 to 87 submitted designs for that state’s coin, with the winner depicting the state’s storied Charter Oak tree. But in California, it took Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself to make the call that the state coin would feature an angular John Muir practically nose to nose with a giant California condor, both towering over Yosemite’s Half Dome – instead of a depiction of the Golden Gate bridge.

So what says Idaho on a quarter? The jagged Sawtooth Mountains? A giant, butter-dripping spud? Clear rivers and deep lakes? A map of Highway 95? One warning: No state seals or corporate logos are allowed.

Smylie’s on the stump

Rep. Steve Smylie, R-Boise, a schoolteacher and four-term state representative, has formed an exploratory committee to look into a possible run for state superintendent of schools. “I’ve formed a committee, had a poll done, raised a few thousand dollars,” Smylie said. “I’m months away from announcing anything, but I’m definitely taking a look at it.”

Part of his decision will depend on who else is running, Smylie said, including whether incumbent Marilyn Howard, a Democrat, will be running for re-election. “There are a lot of other things that go into it,” he said. “A lot of it is running your name up the flagpole and seeing who salutes. A lot of it is the money, because it’s pretty expensive to play politics on a statewide level. … When you’re a schoolteacher, you don’t have a slug of money laying around.”

Smylie, the son of the late former Idaho Gov. Bob Smylie, said he’s been as far north as Bonners Ferry and as far east as Idaho Falls and Rexburg, just talking to people. “I’m pretty passionate about kids, and I’m pretty passionate about education in Idaho,” he said. “As a matter of fact, that’s one of the big motivations for me being in the Legislature.”

Marley may run

State Superintendent of Schools Marilyn Howard won’t say whether she’ll run for re-election for a third term – there’s a while yet ‘til the 2006 election – but rumor has it that she won’t. Howard is currently the only Democrat holding statewide elected office in Idaho.

Sen. Bert Marley, D-McCammon, a fifth-term state senator, member of the influential Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee and a schoolteacher from eastern Idaho, has been rumored as a possible candidate, and when I saw him in a parking lot this week, I asked him. “Of course we’ve got to see what Marilyn’s going to do,” Marley said. But, he said, “Everything we’ve heard indicates she’s not planning on it, so we’re looking seriously at it.”

Former Micron official eyeing congressional race

He’s not an announced candidate yet, but Larry Grant of Fruitland has formed an exploratory committee to look into running for the 1st District congressional seat. Grant, a Democrat whose campaign activity in the past has usually been behind the scenes – serving as campaign treasurer, fundraiser, or get-out-the-vote volunteer – is an attorney who served as vice president and general counsel for Micron Technology from 1985 to 1995. He’s a Boise native, raised in Fruitland, and a graduate of Fruitland High School, Columbia University and the University of Denver law school.

Asked why he’s a Democrat, Grant, 59, said, “That’s easy – John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Frank Church. I’ve always been a Democrat. I remember where I was the day JFK was shot.”

The race already is packed with Republicans, including Idaho Water Users executive director Norm Semanko, former state Sen. Sheila Sorensen, current state Sen. Skip Brandt, and Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez. They’ll face off in May of 2006 in the GOP primary; if Grant decides to run, he’ll face any other Democratic candidates in that party’s primary. Current Rep. Butch Otter is giving up the seat to run for governor.

Grant said he doesn’t expect to announce whether he’s running until September, but after former U.S. Rep. Larry LaRocco decided against making another run, “people wanted to see something happening.” So he formed the exploratory committee. The chairman of the committee? LaRocco.

Oxley leaving AP for D’s

Veteran reporter Chuck Oxley of the Associated Press is leaving AP to become the new communications director for the Idaho Democratic Party. His hire is one of several the Democrats are making with money being handed out by the national Democratic Party at the urging of Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and presidential candidate who’s now the national Democratic chairman. Dean will be in Boise on Friday, and will speak at Julia Davis Park at noon.

Richard Stallings, chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party, said of Oxley’s hire, “We’re really pleased. … He’s on and he’s been helping us with this Dean event.”

In addition to Oxley, the D’s will be hiring two community organizers and have hired a fundraiser, Stallings said. Those staff additions were among factors that persuaded the former congressman to stay on as state chairman. “It’s freed me up some,” he said.

Governor remembers answering to Strong

If it seems like Gov. Dirk Kempthorne is particularly receptive to the counsel of Deputy Attorney General and natural resources specialist Clive Strong, perhaps it’s because when the two began their acquaintance, Strong was the authority figure. Kempthorne, who was noting lots of University of Idaho ties this week as the Land Board approved a $10 million alumni land donation to the university, said when he was a student living in the dorms at the U of I, it was none other than Strong who was the resident assistant for Kempthorne’s hall.

Al’s backyard means ‘upper echelon’

According to a press release from 1st District congressional candidate Norm Semanko, an upcoming campaign kickoff barbecue in GOP fundraiser Al Henderson’s backyard is a sign that Semanko is an “upper echelon politician.”

“The campaign kickoff bar-b-que hosted by Henderson is considered a premier event in Ada County politics,” the release declares, adding, “Political insiders point out that a Henderson campaign bar-b-que at his home signals a clear message that the candidate being hosted is seen by Republican party leaders as an upper echelon politician. Henderson has hosted past such events on behalf of leading Idaho Republican luminaries such as Larry Craig, Dirk Kempthorne, Butch Otter and Steve Symms.”

The momentous event is free to the public this Thursday night at 6:30, at Henderson’s home, 7230 El Caballo Dr. off Cole Road in Boise.

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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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