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Eye On Boise

Archive for June 2007

Elk rancher wants to take on Risch in primary

Controversial eastern Idaho elk rancher Rex Rammell says he’ll announce on Tuesday that he’s going to run for the U.S. Senate – Larry Craig’s seat, to be exact. “Guess who is my likely opponent? Jim Risch,” he chortled over the phone. “We’re gonna go head-to-head in the primary.” Risch, a Republican, has said he’ll run for the seat if Craig decides not to seek re-election. Democrat Larry LaRocco – who faced off with Risch in this year’s lieutenant governor race – also is running.

Rammell already went up against then-Gov. Risch after dozens of Rammell’s domestic elk, which were raised on a fenced ranch where out-of-staters paid hefty fees to shoot them, escaped into the wild. Risch ordered them all killed, over Rammell’s vehement objections. Later, Rammell’s daughter Amanda was crowned Miss Idaho, and said she’d refuse to pose for a photo with Gov. Risch because of the dispute. Amid concern over threats to Idaho’s wild elk herds, the Legislature this year seriously debated banning “canned hunts” or “shooter bull operations” and imposing other restrictions on domestic elk ranching, but ended up not passing anything. Game ranching already is illegal in Wyoming and Washington, and while it’s allowed in Montana, voters there have banned “canned hunts.”

Rammell, a veterinarian, was arrested in September during the hunt for his escaped elk after he sat on a domesticated elk that had been shot by state Fish and Game officers, and refused to move.

Micron reports big loss

The rumors have been swirling for a while, and today the news came out: Micron Technology has posted a net loss of $225 million for the third quarter of fiscal 2007, and Steve Appleton is stepping down as president, though he will remain as CEO and chairman of the board. There was no specific announcement of layoffs, but that’s what’s been rumored and feared.

Micron, in its announcement, said, “The company is pursuing a number of initiatives to drive greater cost efficiencies and revenue growth across its operations. These initiatives include developing production cost efficiencies closer in location to Micron’s global customers, evaluating functions more efficiently performed through partnerships or other outside relationships and reducing the company’s overhead costs to meet or exceed industry benchmarks. Micron is also exploring opportunities to leverage the company’s industry-leading technology and diversified product portfolio to accelerate revenue growth and increase shareholder value. While some elements of these initiatives will be effected immediately, others will take multiple quarters to implement.”

Chief Operating Officer Mark Durcan, 46, will become president as well as chief operating officer. He’s an engineer who’s been with the company since 1984.

Micron, Idaho’s biggest private employer, said the loss came because of “severe price declines across most memory products.” The firm’s sales of NAND Flash memory products in the third quarter were actually up 75 percent in gigabytes compared to the second quarter, but the prices for those products fell 30 percent at the same time. Prices for DRAM memory, a key Micron product, fell 35 percent.

The $225 million net loss for the quarter came on net sales of $1.3 billion, and equates to 29 cents per diluted share. You can read Micron’s full announcement here.

The news I missed

While Gaza exploded into violence and the woodsy neighborhoods where the locals live at South Lake Tahoe (my old stomping grounds from way back when) turned into a fiery inferno, it appears that not much happened here in Boise in the past two weeks while I was gone. Instead, Idaho’s capital city baked placidly in the sun, some streets closed down for the state Capitol renovation, and my 14-year-old son’s description of what he did for the past two weeks (“nothing”) seems to apply to the news scene as well. There were a few developments: The new Idaho quarter arrived in town, but no one noticed; U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales came to Boise, but when protesters showed up for his scheduled news conference, he retreated indoors to the local U.S. Attorney’s office; some local fireworks rules were tightened up; Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden was elected president of the National Association of Attorneys General, the first Idahoan to head the group; and Gov. Butch Otter named a new Idaho Supreme Court justice, attorney Warren Jones of Boise. That gives us two Justice Joneses – the court already included Justice Jim Jones.

Interestingly, Wasden announced that his initiative for his term as president of the AG’s group will be a focus on energy issues, including global warming, alternative energy and increasing energy demands. At the same time, Gov. Otter skipped an energy summit held by the Western Governors Association, one of just four governors from the 18 in the association to neither attend nor send a representative.

Back in a blink

My eye on Boise will be turned elsewhere for the next two weeks – helping chaperone my daughter’s high school Latin Club trip to Italy. Let me know what I miss. Ciao!

Land Board says float home rents should stay ‘reasonable’

The state’s top elected officials rejected a proposal Tuesday to eliminate a requirement that float homes on Idaho lakes be charged “reasonable” rents, buoying a relieved contingent of North Idaho float home owners. Instead, the Idaho Land Board voted unanimously to direct the state Department of Lands to enforce the “reasonable” rents rule by writing it into future marina leases; ask the Legislature to re-examine the state law that governs float homes to make it more fair as far as rental rates; and conduct an economic analysis of the whole issue. “Everybody wants to do the right thing,” Gov. Butch Otter said after he and the rest of the Land Board wrestled with the issue for nearly two hours. “I don’t want to hurt the person that bought, that recapitalized the land. But on the other hand, we don’t want to abandon and leave (float home owners) victim to whatever economic mischief may be in the offing.” Read the full story here in The Spokesman-Review.

Four nominated for Idaho Supreme Court

The Idaho Judicial Council has forwarded four names to the governor for the opening on the Idaho Supreme Court that’s coming up at the end of July when Chief Justice Gerald Schroeder retires. The four nominees: Michael Gilmore, deputy attorney general; Joel D. Horton, 4th District judge; Warren E. Jones, Boise attorney; and Clive Strong, deputy attorney general. The four were selected after the judicial council last week interviewed 19 candidates. Gov. Butch Otter says he has no estimate of when he’ll make the choice. “He wants to make sure he gets the right person, the right fit for the court,” said Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian. “He’s not looking for an activist judge; he’s looking for a strict constitutionalist.”

Aggressively targeting aggressive driving

Starting this Sunday, Idaho law enforcement agencies will launch an enforcement campaign against aggressive driving, which contributes to more than half of all car crashes in the state. The campaign will run June 10-23, and then again from July 15-28. “More than 36,000 people in Idaho are involved in crashes caused by aggressive driving each year,” said Margaret Goertz, aggressive driving program coordinator with ITD’s Office of Highway Operations and Safety.

Officers will be going after drivers who speed, drive too fast for conditions, follow too closely, fail to yield right-of-way, pass stop signs and disregard signals. They’ll also target seatbelt violators. Now you know.

More evidence that Idaho’s booming

Idaho has picked up a couple more economic distinctions in the past week – the state Commerce & Labor Department reported that Idaho led the nation for its increase in gross state product in 2006, and the Idaho Housing and Finance Association reported that U.S. Census figures show the state ranks 7th in the nation for home ownership and first among the western states.

The numbers: The real value of all goods and services produced in Idaho in 2006 rose 7.4 percent above 2005, more than double the national rate of 3.4 percent. A dramatic increase in manufacturing productivity led growth in nearly every sector of the state’s economy. And, Idaho’s rate of home ownership is a lofty 75.1 percent. The IHFA is trumpeting the figure as it kicks off National Homeownership Month, which runs through June.

Otter names Gwartney to head Admin

Gov. Butch Otter has named his transition director and longtime friend, Mike Gwartney, to head the state Department of Administration, now that former state Controller Keith Johnson has left that post to work for Oracle. Gwartney is a former Boise Cascade executive who headed Otter’s transition team both when he was elected governor, and when he was elected to Congress in 2000.

Otter says decision to cut funding was ‘difficult’

Gov. Butch Otter sent a letter to the co-chairs of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee late yesterday responding to legislative inquiries about cuts he’s making in several early childhood programs, including Parents as Teachers. Otter said in the letter that the decision to eliminate federal welfare funds for “Generation of the Child” programs was “difficult,” but was driven by concerns over rules for spending the federal funds and the prospect of declines in the federal funds in future years.

JFAC members were given copies of the letter and briefed on it while on a bus tour in north-central Idaho, but took no immediate action on it. “We just listened and that was the end of it,” said House Appropriations Chairwoman Maxine Bell, R-Jerome.

In his letter, Otter wrote, “While many Generation of the Child programs have great merit, and some may even be considered necessary – especially in Idaho’s rural areas – we must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. (State schools) Superintendent (Tom) Luna is working with my office and the Department of Health and Welfare to find alternative funding streams and improve accountability measures to ensure the needs of Idaho children and parents are met responsibly.”

Sen. Joyce Broadsword, R-Sagle, said, “I am pleased that the governor has acknowledged that it is a valuable program.” Broadsword said she remains hopeful that some alternative funding can be identified.

You could help run new community college

Want to run a community college? Here’s your chance. The new College of Western Idaho is accepting resumes and cover letters from Canyon or Ada County residents who are interested in serving on the board of trustees for the newly approved community college. “We’re looking for people who can demonstrate a genuine interest and commitment to community and education,” said state Board of Education President Milford Terrell. “This is an exciting time in our state’s history. To be involved with such a grand venture, it will take a significant amount of a person’s time and energy, so we want to make sure we have the best qualified and committed people to fill this board.”

To apply, go to, click on “College of Western Idaho,” and follow the instructions. The deadline to apply is June 7th.

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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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