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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Pretty quiet on fundraising front, but Crapo’s war chest deep

BOISE – Idaho’s four-member congressional delegation didn’t do a ton of fundraising during the first quarter of this year, what with it not being an election year and all. But the numbers do yield some intriguing trends, including that Sen. Mike Crapo has, by far, the biggest campaign war chest.

Crapo, who’s not up for re-election for another four years, had about $3.3 million in the bank at the end of the reporting period in April, compared to $259,523 for Sen. Jim Risch, who’s already announced he’s seeking re-election next year; $235,433 for 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador; and $71,826 for 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson.

Crapo actually spent more than he raised in the first quarter, raising $32,000 and spending $103,000, and his biggest single expense was $29,243 for legal fees. It wasn’t related to his guilty plea to a DUI on Jan. 4, however. Instead, the March 18 payment was for campaign finance legal advice. “No campaign funds have been used in relation to the DUI,” said Crapo’s press secretary, Judd Deere. “It was a personal matter and he paid for it with personal funds.”

Like Crapo, Labrador spent more than he raised in the first quarter; he raised $22,120 and spent $37,158. Labrador’s biggest single expense for the quarter: the $6,046 he paid in salary to his wife, Becca, who keeps the campaign’s books.

Top 10 for what?

In what top-10 ranking does Boise join nine other much-larger cities from across the nation, from the San Francisco metro (No. 1) to Seattle-Tacoma (2), Philadelphia (3), New York City and Washington, D.C. (tied for 4), Baltimore (6), Boston (7), Portland (8) and San Diego (tied with Boise for 9)? The answer: yoga.

Forbes magazine reported on the Top 10 Cities for Yoga in the U.S., and while the Bay Area was tops with its population 59 percent more likely to practice yoga than the general U.S. population, Boise made the list with residents rated as 21 percent more likely.

“Idaho may seem like an unlikely hotspot for yoga,” the magazine wrote. It also reported that San Francisco was the first city to set up a yoga room at its airport.

Trade mission dubbed success

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has returned from a six-day trade mission to Asia and reports that he views the mission to South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam as a success.

During the trip, the Idaho Department of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding with the Taiwan Industrial Development Bureau on cooperation in research and development of geothermal energy.

Two fresh produce importers in Taipei signed up to import onions from the Idaho-Eastern Oregon region this fall; the Idaho Potato Commission identified market segments it can tap in Korea and Vietnam; and Idaho food products, wine and vodka were featured at a promotion in Taipei that included a demonstration by Rod Jessick, executive chef at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

The last time …

It turns out the last time Idaho held a conflict auction for state-owned cabin site leases – as it’s now scheduled to do for four Priest Lake cabin sites and one at Payette Lake this fall – was in 1987, when the state Land Board auctioned off 22 lots at Payette Lake in an effort to establish market values. It was a failure for the state; all but one of the 22 lots sold to existing leaseholders who paid the minimum bid, the Idaho Statesman newspaper reported.

Plus, the paper reported, “The only bidders to contest an existing leaseholder were a Boise couple … whose bids were booed by the crowd at a school gym in McCall. They got the lot, however, paying $46,000, $11,000 over the minimum.”

Times have changed since then. In 1990, the state had scheduled a cottage-site conflict auction, but it was canceled after then-Gov. Cecil Andrus signed into law new legislation protecting cabin-site lessees from conflict bids. Last July, the Idaho Supreme Court overturned that law as unconstitutional.

The idea back then was to charge market rents for the lots, an issue the state would struggle with over the following years, repeatedly backing off from proposed big rent increases after protests from lessees who own the cabins they’ve built on the state land. In fits and starts, though, rents rose substantially.

In 2007, Idaho tried to auction off two new lakefront cabin sites at Priest Lake with a lease rate double what others then were being charged, 5 percent of value versus 2.5 percent. It was a flop; no one bid. About 50 existing leaseholders attending the auction at the Coeur d’Alene Inn burst into cheers.

Now, lease rates are set at 4 percent of value per year. The state is required by the Idaho Constitution to manage its endowment land – including the cabin sites – for the maximum long-term return to the endowment’s beneficiaries, the largest of which is the state’s public schools.

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