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Eye On Boise

Testimony: ‘Part of history,’ ‘Pretty grandiose for a governor’

Among those testifying on Idaho's governor's mansion:

Mike Kostanecki, pictured here, spoke in favor of keeping the Simplot home as Idaho's official governor's residence. “My main concern is, What are we going to do with Simplot Hill?” he asked. “It's a part of history. … That hill … stands for Idaho. … I think that reverting it or selling it would be an insult to J.R. and his family. He didn't give it to the state to make money, he gave it becuase he was proud of it and what it stands for. You can't have Idaho without that flag and the hill.” He added, “If you go up there in the winter, there's hundreds of kids up there in the snow. … For the life of me I can't believe we would let this symbol of Idaho go to some developer.”

John Hecht said, “I recommend disposal of the property. … I see no need for a governor's mansion.” He said most Idaho governors have been from within the region, and the monthly housing allowance Idaho governors were given when the state lacked an official residence was “quite generous and quite adequate.” Hecht noted that governors don't entertain seven days a week, and said there are plenty of other sites for such events in Boise.

John Gannon told the Governor's Housing Committee, “I think the 19th century governor's mansion concept just isn't working in the 21st century. And that's why for the last 25 years, we've had a governor's mansion program that is unsuccessful - it hasn't worked. We still don't really have a governor's mansion with a governor in it.” Gannon said no other public official is required to live with his or her family in a residence that's picked out, designed and furnished by others.

Ray Johnson said, “I had the opportunity of living on Irene Street when the old governor's mansion … was around the corner.” He said he liked that. “It was situated within a community in a residential area, and I enjoyed living in the area where the governor was, and I thought the house fit quite well. … That kind of fit the governor of the state of Idaho.” As for the Simplot house, however, he said, “I look at it as an excellent home for Mr. Simplot. I thought it represented his position well and his success in his business. … But I was never quite comfortable with it as the home for the governor.” Johnson said he'd favor selling the home or allowing it to revert to the Simplots, and going back to a housing allowance for Idaho's governors.

Barbara Kemp said, “I think it's inappropriate to continue funding this mansion on the hill.” She said it's too expensive. Plus, she said, “It seems pretty grandiose for a governor that you do want to feel like is part of the citizenry, is down here with us, is working on our problems.”

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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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