Unquestionably, Gov. Jim Risch has made a good impression on North Idahoans, judging from how the CBNI crowd stood in deference as he entered the room this morning — and the standing O it gave his wife, Vicky. He does seem to have started well since Dirk Kempthorne moved off Idaho stage to become the U.S. secretary of the Interior. He also has wisely mended fences in the north by visiting at least weekly. He’s getting a reputation in the north for being frank and committed to getting things done. I like his list of priorities that he has set for his 7 months in office, including holdovers: 1. Making recommendations to the Bush administration on Idaho’s 281 roadless areas, 2. Overseeing massive highway construction projects, 3. Overseeing an upgrade of state parks facilities. Plus (personal priorities): 1. Resolving the property tax issue, 2. Addressing the state nursing shortage, and 3. Addressing the state’s drug scourge.
The devil, of course, is in the details — and here’s where Risch deftly stepped this morning. How can an already lame-duck governor address property tax relief without calling a special session? (He hinted that he plans to make a major announcement between July 1-4. Mebbe it’s about this.) Responding to a question, he said he’s committed to more Highway 95 projects. But didn’t say to what extent. Also, he couched this remark in the context of how people in the Boise area are upset about how much money is being spent on the “goat trail.” Melt it all down, and you discover that Risch’ll be hard pressed to deliver on much because he simply doesn’t have the time to do much before he has to hand the reins to Butch Otter or Jerry Brady. However, he deserves credit for bringing incredible energy to the office and making even skeptical North Idahoans stand up and take notice.