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Eye On Boise

Archive for April 2007

Lawmakers launch mental health reforms

Just days after state lawmakers approved “monumental” reforms in Idaho’s approach to treating mental health and substance abuse problems, a troubled young man was driving from state to state, allegedly hunting down and killing former high school buddies from Boise whom he blamed for stealing his “powers.” John Delling, 21, had harassed his Timberline High School classmates for years. He’d been violent; he’d been arrested. He’d been kicked out of the University of Idaho after threatening other students. He’d been ordered into anger management. But Delling’s parents said they never found help for their mentally ill son.

“There was no preventative safety net in place to correct or rein in a potentially serious situation; no legislation, no mental health entity, nor any church-based aid could get a firm handle on this,” they wrote in a letter to the Idaho Statesman newspaper in Boise. “John was very sick and needed more than this system had to offer.”

Howard Belodoff, a Boise attorney who for 27 years has pressed the “Jeff D.” lawsuit challenging how Idaho treats mentally ill children, said Idaho still is plagued by a system that lacks treatment options in communities around the state for mentally ill youngsters. “Unfortunately, when somebody gets killed it puts a spotlight on it,” he said. “That’s a symptom of the neglect. Get these kids before they get so bad that they’re lost, and they can’t help themselves.”

It’s not just youngsters that Idaho’s mental health system fails. With no “parity” law requiring coverage, most insurers in the state don’t cover treatment for mental illness. State-funded services for the mentally ill or addicted tend to focus on crisis intervention or costly hospitalization. Few options are available for people suffering from both addictions and mental illness, and Idaho’s per-capita spending on mental health treatment is among the lowest in the nation. Lawmakers for years have viewed the situation as a “black hole” – a problem so great that they could dump any amount of money into trying to address it, and it wouldn’t even make a dent – so they weren’t enthusiastic about trying. But that’s starting to change. Read my full story here from Sunday’s Spokesman-Review.

‘You’re on the air with the governor’

How many Idahoans had questions for Gov. Butch Otter when he went on live TV last night? Plenty. I counted 15 people who asked him questions live on Idaho Public TV (and they didn’t get to everyone), plus another dozen or so whose e-mailed questions Otter addressed. The governor was asked about everything from tribal jurisdiction over Lake Coeur d’Alene docks to privatizing liquor sales, from property tax relief to illegal immigration, from dairy expansion to wolf hunting to anti-tobacco programs to nuclear power plants. The softball question of the night, though, came from a fan who asked, “I was wondering if you would ever consider running for president – you’re honest, I know that.” Otter responded, “Evie, you are so kind,” and noted that “this young lady” and her family have worked on all his campaigns, starting with his first run for the Legislature in 1972. In his responses to various questions, Otter said he’s hoping grocery tax relief will be enacted in the first few weeks of next year’s legislative session; he doesn’t see a “general consensus in the state” to privatize liquor sales; he “would fight to outlaw any kind of distraction from the very serious job of driving,” including cell-phone use and other distractions; and he’s not ready to issue any executive orders regarding dairy expansions. Several of the callers complimented the governor on doing a good job, or a “mostly” good job.

The entire program will be rebroadcast Sunday afternoon, at 5 p.m. Mountain time or 4 p.m. Pacific time. Or, you can watch it online any time at www.idahoptv.org.

Journalist switches to politics

John Foster, the dynamic young managing editor of the Idaho Business Review and a former professional bike racer, has been named the new executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party. Foster, 33, is an Idaho native who previously worked in journalism in New Mexico, and has served as an officer in several professional journalism organizations. He replaced Maria Weeg, who took a similar position with the party in Arizona. Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus said, “John has the kind of competitive spirit that will be a great benefit to our party in the 2008 presidential and legislative elections.”

Vasquez’ withdrawal statement

Former Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez issued this statement withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race, in which he had originally planned to challenge current GOP Sen. Larry Craig next year:

“It is with heavy heart that I announce I am withdrawing from the race for the United States Senate. I have been unable to meet the funding goals required to run a viable campaign, and I cannot in good conscience continue fund raising with the understanding that the outcome will not meet the needs of a winning campaign. My last words on this matter are to encourage whom ever wins to take a firm stand in the defense of America, Idaho, and our fellow American citizens by stopping the efforts to grant amnesty to the millions of illegal aliens in our country. I can only say thank you to the many supporters throughout Idaho that have so encouraged and supported me in my political efforts. God bless you all, God bless our troops in the field, and God Bless America.”

Virginia Tech prof to speak on Boise tech

Heike Mayer, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech’s Alexandria Center, will speak in Boise on Monday on what makes Boise unique among other growing technology centers. That includes how Boise’s high-tech business sector has grown and driven the local university to expand its high-tech offerings, instead of the usual pattern – where a major research university draws and prompts the development of the high-tech cluster in the first place. Why are we different? Find out when she speaks at 1 p.m. Monday in the first-floor conference room of the J.R. Williams Building, 700 W. State St. in Boise (also known as the Hall of Mirrors). Mayer is in the midst of a research project for the National Governors Association on emerging tech regions. For more info or to RSVP for the free lecture, call Kent Neupert at Boise State University, 426-2397. The talk is sponsored by the Idaho Office of Science & Technology and the Boise Valley Economic Partnership.

Everyone stops for the ducks

Driving down busy Warm Springs Avenue this morning, long lines of traffic in both directions stopped and waited patiently as a couple of ducks made their way across the road. The green-headed mallard followed the brown-speckled female as the couple slowly crossed the road, taking tiny, precise steps. And then the traffic resumed, and the ducks headed off toward the nearby Boise River.

Former state prison chief gets national role

Tom Beauclair, Idaho’s state corrections director from 2001 to 2006, has been named deputy director of the National Institute of Correction in Washington, D.C. Brent Reinke, current Idaho director, had praise for Beauclair. “Tom moved the agency forward significantly during his tenure. Because of his leadership, Idaho corrections are recognized nationwide as a leader in re-entry and treatment,” Reinke said.

Beauclair started his career in corrections as a guard at the Old State Penitentiary in 1972 and rose through the ranks to the department’s top job. Then-Gov. Jim Risch replaced him last summer with former Ada County Sheriff Vaughn Killeen. Current Gov. Butch Otter then replaced Killeen with Reinke, who had served as the state’s director of juvenile corrections.

Got questions for the governor?

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter will speak and take calls and e-mails from viewers on live statewide TV this Thursday night. Otter will appear with host Jim Peck on a special, hour-long “Idaho Reports” program, which will be broadcast live on Idaho Public Television at 8 p.m. Mountain time, 7 p.m. Pacific time. The show will re-air on Sunday at 5 p.m. Mountain, 4 p.m. Pacific, but without the live calls.

To submit a question for the governor, call toll-free (800) 973-9800, or go to the Idaho Reports Web site, idahoptv.org/idreports, to submit a question by e-mail. In addition to the live TV broadcast, the program also will be broadcast live on the Internet at idahoptv.org. Peck said, “This is an opportunity for viewers statewide to spend an hour with the governor.”

Dog poisoner sentenced – he meant to kill wolves

A former Salmon, Idaho who tried to kill threatened gray wolves by setting out poisoned meatballs but instead poisoned three domestic dogs, a coyote, a fox and several magpies, was sentenced today to six days in jail and two years of probation.

Timothy B. Sundles, 48, was sentenced by Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Mikel H. Williams, who also imposed a $1,510 fine and ordered that Sundles be banned from federal or public lands for two years. He also must pay veterinary bills of $128.90 for treatment of three dogs who ate the poisoned meatballs. Sundles, who now lives in Montana, earlier signed a plea agreement admitting to setting out the poisoned meatballs in 2004 in the Salmon National Forest near North Fork.

Who wants to be an Idaho Supreme Court justice?

With the upcoming retirement of current Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder on July 31st, the race is on among those who want to replace him. Among them: Three judges, the Senate majority leader, three deputy attorneys general plus one other state lawyer, one county prosecutor, one new state representative, and nine private practice attorneys. The 19 applicants will be screened by the Idaho Judicial Council, which, by law, must forward not less than two and not more than four nominees to the governor, who makes the final choice. The new justice would serve out the final year and a half remaining in Schroeder’s term, at which point he or she would have to stand for election.

Here are the applicants:
• Bart M. Davis, Idaho State Senate majority leader and lawyer in private practice in Idaho Falls.
• Myron Dan Gabbert, Adams County prosecutor and lawyer in private practice in McCall.
• Michael S. Gilmore, deputy attorney general in Boise.
• Ralph J. Gines, lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Joel D. Horton, district judge of the Fourth Judicial District, Boise.
• Larry C. Hunter, lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Warren E. Jones, lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Debora K. Kristensen, lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Lynn M. Luker, freshman state representative and lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Charles F. Peterson Jr., lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Kevin D. Satterlee, associate vice president and general counsel for Boise State University.
• Gardner W. Skinner Jr., lawyer in private practice, Boise.
• Marvin M. Smith, lawyer in private practice, Idaho Falls.
• Kathryn A. Sticklen, district judge of the Fourth Judicial District, Boise.
• Clive J. Strong, division chief and deputy attorney general, Boise.
• Mitchell E. Toryanski, deputy attorney general, Boise.
• Terrence R. White, lawyer in private practice, Nampa.
• Barry Wood, district judge of the Fifth Judicial District, Gooding.
• William F. “Bud” Yost III, lawyer in private practice, Nampa.

Otter names director as water summit opens

Gov. Butch Otter told his Water Summit in Burley today that he’s making Dave Tuthill, who’s been serving as interim director of the state Department of Water Resources, the permanent director. “We can’t achieve long-term solutions with temporary, interim initiatives. And we can’t achieve long-term solutions with a temporary, interim director,” the governor told the assembled water users and policy experts.

Otter said the summit, which includes 19 invited representatives of surface water users, ground water users, spring water users, municipalities, county assessors, industry, utilities and domestic well users, will help figure out how to deal with conflict over water use involving the eastern Snake plain aquifer. The state’s responsible, he said, because it approved water rights beyond the capability of the aquifer to meet. “For that, and for all the people who did that, I’m sincerely sorry,” Otter told the group, which plans to hold part of its meetings today behind closed doors. “But we have to play the hand we’re dealt, and we haven’t been dealt a very good hand.”

Not just life, but life plus 60

A sex offender who was cited as an example of an “epidemic” of sexual exploitation of children that’s being aided by the Internet has been sentenced to life in prison plus another 60 years. Jerry L. Banks Sr., 54, of Boise was sentenced this morning in federal district court for producing a pornographic video of a 2-year-old and sharing it on the Internet with a sex offender in Canada. For that, he got life in prison. The extra 60 years are for transporting child porn between Boise and a person in California “whom he thought was a 12-year-old girl,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, and possession of child porn. Since he already was a registered sex offender, the life sentence was mandatory. There’s no parole.

Banks’ current case – he’d already served more than 12 years in prison on previous child-molesting charges – began in mid-May 2005 when investigators in Edmonton, Alberta, arrested a Canadian citizen for child exploitation offenses. That resulted in an international probe that authorities said has now led to more than 60 arrests in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Europe and Australia, and “more than 20 children being rescued from situations in which they were being sexually exploited.”

Banks’ case was cited as an example of such crimes in Idaho last week as federal, state and local authorities launched “Operation Safe Childhood” to focus on two aims: educating parents and teens about Internet dangers, and increasing law enforcement cooperation in finding and prosecuting Internet predators and child pornographers.

Idaho’s eye on Havana

Eastern Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot’s thoughts on Cuban communism, Gov. Butch Otter zooming off in a black Mercedes with two Cuban police officers trailing on motorcycles, and former Idaho House Speaker Bruce Newcomb’s impressions of how hard Cuban import officials negotiate all can be found in Boise Weekly reporter Nathaniel Hoffman’s latest dispatch from Cuba, where he’s covering the Idaho trade mission. Click here for his full report.

Idaho, Montana publishers to trade jobs

Here’s a bit of news industry news: The publishers of the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa and the Bozeman, Mont. Daily Chronicle are going to switch jobs in July. Stephanie Pressly, who’s been the Press-Tribune’s publisher for the past three and a half years, will move to Bozeman, while Rick Weaver, the Bozeman publisher, will come to Nampa. Both papers are owned by the Pioneer Newspapers chain. So, which publisher is getting a promotion? You decide.

Boise journalist reports in from Cuba

Reporter Nathaniel Hoffman of the Boise Weekly reports that Idaho’s trade delegation spent Tuesday morning meeting with representatives of Cuba’s state-run import agency to find out what Idaho products they could use, and then called home to see which of those needs Idaho could meet. And that “Cubans make an extra hard effort to pronounce ‘Butch’ without sounding like they are talking about Bush.” He also reported that the Idaho delegation, “dressed largely in sports jackets and polo shirts, left for dinner Tuesday night in their big tour bus,” while “the Boise Weekly correspondent dined on arroz con pollo at a Caribbean dive bar. … The sun set over the deep harbor, leaving Havana basked momentarily in a pink warmth.” Read his first dispatch from Havana here at the Boise Weekly’s website.

Barbara Walters couldn’t, but the Boise Weekly can

Enterprising reporter Nathaniel Hoffman of the Boise Weekly is in Cuba covering the Idaho trade mission – even though Gov. Butch Otter’s office was told it couldn’t bring any reporters along. “We were told that the Cubans were not going to allow any reporters in,” said Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian. But, he said, “Nathaniel Hoffman got a visa. … We were told they’ve turned down like 2,000 media requests, including from Barbara Walters, to get into Cuba.”

Hoffman, who is fluent in Spanish, has been to Cuba before. He’s also reported for a variety of news organizations from other hot spots around the world including Gaza, Beirut, Mexico City, and even Nampa, Idaho. His wife, Tara, reported this afternoon, “I just got an email that said ‘I made it.’ He’s pretty excited.”

Idaho has another special license plate

We already know that fewer pieces of legislation were drafted, introduced and passed by this year’s Legislature than in any recent year, even though the session was one of the longer ones. Here’s more proof that this year’s load of legislation was light: Only one new special license plate was approved.

That would be the new “Support Our Troops” plate, to benefit Support Our Troops Inc., a national charity that’s organized in all 50 states to provide assistance to military members and their families. Idaho was the 46th state to approve a special license plate to help fund the group; the last four are in the works. Former state Rep. Debbie Field of Boise, now the governor’s drug policy chief, is chairing the effort in Idaho. Here, legislative sponsors Sen. Lee Heinrich and Reps. Mary Lou Shepherd and Bob Nonini pose with Gov. Butch Otter and an oversized mockup of the plate to celebrate Idaho’s newest special license plate.

Like selling french fries to rice fanciers…

When Gov. Butch Otter was looking ahead to this week’s trade mission to Cuba, he noted that in his past work as a Simplot Corp. exec, he’d done lots of pushing to get Idaho products into far-off markets. “Dealing with governments, getting our products across those borders, I know how to do that,” Otter told reporters last month. “Getting french fries into McDonald’s in Japan, which is a rice-based economy, was one of my toughest jobs, but we did it – and I think I can do that for a lot of Idaho products.”

Otter signs tribal fuel tax bill into law

I’m on vacation this week, but I heard from afar that Gov. Butch Otter has signed into law HB 249a, the tribal fuel tax bill. This is the measure that some thought he’d veto, imposing a Dec. 1 deadline on his negotiations with Idaho Indian tribes over fuel taxes. Under the bill, if tribes haven’t reached agreements with the governor by that date, they lose, and the state imposes its state fuel tax on reservation sales. Several tribes have indicated they’ll sue if that happens; they’ve won all the past court fights on that issue. Sen. Mike Jorgenson, R-Hayden Lake, chairman of the Idaho Indian Affairs Council, appealed unsuccessfully to the governor last week to veto the bill. “I went down personally and asked him,” Jorgenson said. “He gave it some serious thought, he took pause. … Then he said, ‘No, Mike, I can’t do that.’ … I didn’t get the sale made.”

Jorgenson was disappointed, saying in his view, the measure’s deadline is just 30 days before lawmakers are back in session anyway and could address the issue. Said Jorgenson, “I don’t think that’s worth the message it sends, (regarding) the relations with the tribes.”

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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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