Cheers and jeers: Eight … and counting

CHEERS to Victor City Council members Jeff Potter, Wayne Maness, Molly Absolon and A.J. Linell and Mayor Zachary K. Smith. This small eastern Idaho town recently became the eighth to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance. The Victor ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment, went into effect Monday.

“It’s the job of a city to take care of the health, safety and welfare of citizens, and this ordinance does exactly that,” Smith told Boise Public Radio.

Victor. Sandpoint. Coeur d’ Alene. Boise. Moscow. Ketchum. Pocatello. Idaho Falls. In each of these cities, local officials stood tall while Idaho’s legislators continue to stand down. Clearly, this is a state issue. But because lawmakers, for eight consecutive years, have refused a public hearing on bills that would add the words “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to Idaho’s Human Rights Act, folks such as Potter, Maness, Absolon, Linell and Smith were forced to act.

“It doesn’t matter, Republican or Democrat, people believe people should have equal rights,” the mayor said. “I would say 90 percent of the community is for this ordinance.”

Read that list of cities again. Now look at some of the legislators who represent those communities: Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis. House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher. Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chairwoman Shawn Keough. And tea partiers such as Cindy Agidius (Moscow), Bob Nonini (Coeur d’ Alene) and Ron Mendive (Coeur d’ Alene). Folks, your constituents are telling you something. The question is, when will you start listening?

Another question is, who’s next? Lewiston’s council has talked about providing its gay and lesbian citizens legal protections enjoyed by everybody else. What about Twin Falls, Nampa and Driggs? What about Ammon, with a young and progressive council and mayor?

Using the legal system to discriminate against any group is falling out of favor in an increasingly enlightened America. At some point, legislators will act. Until that happens, Idaho’s cities need to do what is necessary to protect all citizens. Thank you, Victor. We’re at eight … and counting.

JEERS to Jefferson County Commissioners Tad Hegsted and Jerald Raymond, who appear to be more concerned with protecting political cronies than constituents.

As reported Wednesday by the Jefferson Star, Hegsted, Raymond and their backroom buddies, Prosecutor Robin Dunn and Sheriff Blair Olsen, did not like the list of problems presented by reform-minded commissioner Brian Farnsworth. That’s to be expected. After all, they are responsible for most of the items on the list.

One bone of contention is the $18,000 Dunn owes the county. The prosecutor said he couldn’t represent the county in federal court. Commissioners hired his private law firm at a higher rate. The attorney general’s office said the prosecutor could represent the county in federal court. So, Dunn owes $18,000 in fees paid to his private firm.

Farnsworth made a motion to instruct Dunn to pay the money by next month. It died for lack of a second because Raymond and Hegsted sat on their hands.

They say their lawyer on this case, John Ohman, advised them to remain silent because the meeting where the repayment was discussed is part of a court case. That should not prevent the commissioners from doing the right thing by the folks who pay their bills. Hegsted and Raymond should join Farnsworth in demanding immediate repayment.

JEERS to Republican Party official LeeAnn Callear of Orofino. The next time some GOP apologist says the battle for control of the party has been overblown by the news media, remember these words: “I am angry that Butch Otter is a corrupt, vindictive, hateful, childish bully! I am ashamed that I helped put him into office. … Why did we let this go so far? He has ruined the brand of the Idaho GOP.”

This was a small part of a nasty email Callear sent to hundreds of GOP convention delegates — and we aren’t reprinting the worst of it. We get the factions aren’t happy with each other. We understand Callear and others want the tea party wing in charge. But this kind of rant is way over the top and has no place in our public discourse.

JEERS to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. A possible presidential candidate in 2016, Paul came to Idaho last week to address the GOP Convention.

The best thing about his father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, is he had the courage to bypass politics as usual, to offer folks truths they did not want to hear. Think of his clairvoyant speech against the Iraq War on the House floor.

The apple, apparently, fell a long way from the tree.

Speaking to the Idaho Statesman’s Dan Popkey, Paul sounded like a politician sucking up to the locals: “Republicans nationally are smart to come (to Idaho) to find out what you’re doing because you’re so successful,” he said.

Forget politics. Focus on economics. At the bottom in wages and the second most minimum wage jobs in the nation is not success. Forget politics. Focus on education. We’re dead last in per pupil funding and, according to Otter, most likely in violation of our own constitutional mandate to provide a “thorough” public school education.

If Paul returns as a presidential candidate, let’s hope he displays his father’s courage. Don’t give us what you think we want to hear. Tell us what we need to know.

JEERS to Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff. Silence. That’s what you heard from the Balukoff camp following the GOP Convention debacle in Moscow. Silence.

The governor is the head of his political party. Otter is as responsible as anyone for what took place last weekend. He has been entirely unable to bring his own party together. How can he hope to do the same for all Idahoans? That’s what you should have heard from Balukoff. That’s what you would have heard from a candidate with both the desire and ability to end the 20-year GOP stranglehold on the governor’s office. Those who want a true competition of ideas come November should hope Balukoff improves. Soon.

CHEERS to Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona. In 2013, Loertscher introduced bills to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of working poor Idahoans and eliminate the state-county indigent program, a dinosaur that improves nobody’s health and sucks property tax dollars at an alarming rate.

Loertscher now serves on a panel examining expansion options. And, as reported by the Associated Press, Loertscher attempted to educate fellow lawmakers during the recent legislative session on this issue. Only three came to him for advice.

“If we can’t get them to talk about the issues, nothing will happen,” Loertscher said.

His colleagues ought to have more faith. Loertscher’s conservative credentials are undeniable. That he can see the sense — and savings — in expanding Medicaid and getting rid of the indigent program ought to be an eye-opener for his friends on the political right.

Corey Taule

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