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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Places marked in leadership races

BOISE – When current Idaho House Majority Caucus Chairman Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, leaves the House to become a state tax commissioner on Monday, he’ll leave behind what’s shaping up to be a battle for leadership in the House GOP caucus.

Roberts acknowledged that he had planned to run against current House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, for the No. 2 position in House leadership, up from his current No. 4 post; Moyle worked unsuccessfully to defeat Roberts in the May GOP primary.

“I know that it’s a fluid situation, and there’s been a lot of phone calls made even today about who’s going to run for what,” Roberts said Thursday, the day his new appointment was announced by Gov. Butch Otter. “I have great confidence the House majority caucus will elect individuals to leadership that they can trust.” Asked what he meant by the “trust” comment, Roberts said, “You can take it at face value.”

House Speaker Lawerence Denney, who funneled leadership PAC funds into a series of interconnected PACs that then tried to defeat several GOP incumbents in the primary, including Roberts, is facing a likely challenge from the majority’s No. 3 leader, Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, R-Oakley. Roberts said he wasn’t going to wade into that possible showdown. “The new caucus members that’ll be elected in November, I’ll let them make that decision.”

He said, “There’s four elective leadership jobs that come up every two years. I’m sure there will be some people that will run that have not run before, and I think there’ll be some people that will run that have run before. A lot of things will happen and change between now and the first week in December.” That’s when the Legislature will convene its organizational session and the new leaders will be chosen.

Idaho’s four state tax commissioners work full time and are each paid $87,156 a year.

‘Boise hole’ will finally be filled in

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, the Grill at 8th and Main, offices of the Holland & Hart law firm, 1st American Title, the Idaho Fitness Factory and more will join the Idaho headquarters of Zion’s Bank in a new 18-story office tower to rise at the corner of Eighth and Main streets in downtown Boise, from the infamous “Boise hole” that has stood vacant for a quarter-century. Ground was broken for the office tower last week, and Tommy Ahlquist, chief operating officer of the Gardner Co., the developer, announced the signed tenants.

Also listed: CTA Architects, the Idaho Technology Council and Beck Advisory Group. Ahlquist addressed Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, who attended and spoke at the groundbreaking. “Mayor Bieter … thank you for believing in us and not laughing us out of your office the first time I came in and said, ‘I think we’re going to fill this hole,’ ” Ahlquist said.

John May, board chairman of the Capital City Development Corp., Boise’s urban renewal agency, said, “As the last kind of major undeveloped parcel in the central business district, I don’t have to tell you that this parcel has been a … challenge for many, many years.”

It’s been vacant since the historic Eastman Building burned to the ground in 1987 in a spectacular overnight fire, just as the long-vacant office building was on the verge of a major renovation; squatters who set a campfire inside were blamed for the midwinter blaze. Numerous proposals for often grandiose new buildings there since then have all failed, including one that left tall rebar standing in the hole for years.

At the groundbreaking, a representative of the Native American community was brought in to offer a blessing. “We want good things to happen here,” said Mike Cutler, a BSU professor, who also drummed and sang a traditional song. “We want good things to happen to all the people … making this a useful and helpful place.”

The $76 million building is scheduled for completion in January 2014; ESI of Meridian will be the general contractor.

After three years …

Gary Spackman, who has served as interim director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources for the past three years, has been named the permanent director by Gov. Butch Otter. Spackman, who holds both law and engineering degrees and is a professional engineer, has been with the state for 26 years, and previously served as administrator of the department’s water management division, manager of its western regional office and a hearing officer on contested water rights cases.

He stepped up to interim director in June 2009 when then-Director David Tuthill resigned.

Idaho GOP names new director

Joshua Whitworth, a Mackay native and 2004 graduate of Idaho State University, has been named the new executive director of the Idaho Republican Party by new party Chairman Barry Peterson. Whitworth, 30, fills the position previously held by Jonathan Parker.

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