House editorial: 2017 Commentary page snapshot

During the past year, the Commentary page was lively as ever, hosting nearly 1000 letters to the editor and hundreds of guest and local columns. Here’s a brief breakdown of the Commentary page in 2017.

Letter Count

Jan: 72

Feb: 102

March: 78

April: 109

May: 96

June: 65

July: 54

August: 68

Sept: 68

Oct: 60

Nov: 87

Dec: 58

Top 5 Most prolific letter writers:

1. Bill Craig – 24

2. Trina Pettingill – 24

3. Bob Ziel – 20

4. David Koelsch – 18

5. Stanton Anderson – 14

6. Jay Gaskill - 14

Most prolific local columnist, James Patten

The Commentary page hosts conversation from writers around our region. While we receive unsolicited op-eds from special interest groups around the country, the Post Register’s Commentary page is devoted at every opportunity to local discussions and writers.

This year, the Commentary page published 214 local columns by our regular roster of 36 local columnists. While the average number of submissions by local columnist is seven, a few, including regulars Carrie and Jerry Scheid (12), Steve Piet (13) and Jim Delmore (12) contributed several more throughout the year.

But James Patten became the Post Register’s most prolific local columnist in 2017 when he took on a longer-form project in a series of four columns about the threat of automation in Idaho’s future workforce, bringing his total up to 15 columns in 2017.

Patten lives and works in Bingham county and he devoted extra time to writing for the Post Register despite the fact that he doesn’t have regular access to high speed internet and he does most of his research at the North Bingham County District Central Library.

His series can be found here:

https://tinyurl.com/PattenEducation1

https://tinyurl.com/PattenEducation2

https://tinyurl.com/PattenEducation3

https://tinyurl.com/PattenEducation4

Most talked about topic on the Commentary page

As you could probably have guessed, one of the main topics of discussion in 2017, especially in our letters to the editor, was our new president, Donald Trump. Pres. Trump would be proud to know his name has been published on the Commentary page 370 times so far in 2017.

Here’s a very brief sampling of the spectrum of opinions on Pres. Trump and his performance his first year in office.

Skin like an onion

Published Jan. 11

Our new leader, Donald Trump, seems to have the skin of an onion. And, like an onion, I hope and pray our working with him and the decisions that are made don’t make us all cry.

GARRY BROWN

Idaho Falls

Media instrumental in electing Trump

Published Sept. 13

It is very humorous that the so-called “mainstream” liberal press still hasn’t figured that they were instrumental in electing President Trump.

Candidate Mr. Trump played the liberal media very well. Even though all the press coverage was vicious and negative, one could never buy all the constant coverage the liberal media he received before the election.

Liberal news organizations such as the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS have allowed their hatred of Mr. Trump to destroy their journalistic credibility.

The last seven months have been nothing but hateful, negative reporting about President Trump. Traditional, mainstream Americans are sick of their nonsense and are turning a deaf ear to them.

Electing Mr. Trump President proved that traditional, mainstream Americans can and will continue to think for themselves.

JAN P. MARKOWSKI

Idaho Falls

Month with the most letters: April

April turned out to be a whopper for community participation on the Commentary page.

On March 22, Chris Tapp was released from prison after reaching a sentencing deal with the Bonneville County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. One of our most-read guest columns of 2017, published April 5, was written by Judges for Justice CEO Mike Heavey, a retired judge who has worked on the Tapp conviction and Angie Dodge’s murder since 2013.

The other main topics of discussion in April 2017 were the effort to change Eastern Idaho Technical College to the College of Eastern Idaho by creating a new taxing district in Bonneville County – an effort that was successful in May 2017.

It was also the month the Post Register announced we would stop publishing cartoons and puzzles, a decision we later reversed in October 2017.

Here is a sampling of the spectrum of points of view on the community college issue:

No new education opportunities needed

Published April 2

Opponents of a junior college in Idaho Falls are not opponents of education. In fact, their opposition is rooted in a healthy respect and admiration for institutions of higher education which already offer classes and degrees (including associate degrees and certificates) in Idaho Falls, or within 50 miles. These are too numerous to list here. And our junior and senior high school students already have opportunities to take courses for college credit through programs funded by the state Legislature.

Opposition is also based on the certainty of tax increases. Proponents promise a tax increase of “only” $14/$100,000 of property valuation. But those taxes can be increased up to 3 percent per year with no additional permission from tax payers. This is a forever tax.

HALLI STONE

You spend more on movie and popcorn

Published April 29

Two factors that discourage students from continuing education are cost and the lack of confidence.

A community college in Idaho Falls would give students the opportunity to take a wider variety of dual-enrollment classes in high school, possibly graduating from high school with one (or more) college semesters already completed, and paid for! Those students that are not financially or academically prepared to go to a 4-year college could earn a Associate’s or Bachelor’s and transfer to a 4-year college later.

People who are working full-time and trying to take classes would have more opportunities to continue their education – without the added burden of higher cost of credits, price of gas and loss of time for commuting.

According to the Community College Study Panel Report of July 2016, the Bonneville Co. property tax allocation is fixed at $862,781 for the six-year study. That is an annual cost per average homeowner of $13.37. You’d spend more on a movie and popcorn!

JOANNE MALMO

The most popular letter from April, and one of the most popular Commentary items of 2017, came from Carla Kelly.

The title, “Laughing at nitwittery in print,” proved to be pure clickbait. The letter was in response to an article by the Post Register’s Bryan Clark about the Bonneville County Republican Central Committee’s vote on a resolution to oppose the community college taxing district:

Laughing at nitwittery in print

Published April 20

If Cheerios ended up on my table Saturday morning, here’s why. I was reading the Post Register over breakfast and laughed out loud at this hilarious sentence: “’Once these things [community colleges] have been created, who knows what kind of weird stuff they’re going to do?’”

I’ll probably chuckle all day over such nitwittery in print.

Here’s something about weird stuff. It means people are thinking. It means people who think become what is known in some circles as “educated.” Personally, I like living around smart and savvy people.

There’s this about community colleges – sometimes, cautious learners want to take a few classes to decide if college is right for them. They typically discover that knowledge is fun and useful, and that instructors are eager to help them, if they need it. I’ve seen this happen in universities (I’ve taught in two); I know it happens at the community college level.

Because tuition is more modest, community college is a great way to avoid or ameliorate a crushing student loan debt. Community colleges are also for older folks who want to stay sharp. My husband and I will happily pay $14 a year to see a whole spectrum of better-educated people here. Everybody.

Yeah, I had my laugh today, but I’m dead serious. If we don’t want the world to eat us for lunch, we need to expand the opportunity to learn. It can begin here with a community college. Vote yes on May 16.

(Word count: 245)

CARLA KELLY

Idaho Falls

Finally, the Commentary page hosted several series in 2017, including the weekly “Learning the News” column, written by the Post Register’s publisher of 15 years, Roger Plothow.

Though Plothow has taken over a new division at APG, the Post Register’s parent company, he remains a part of the Post Register’s editorial board and has spun off his weekly series into a 60-minute presentation on media literacy that he offers area classes, schools and organizations.

Here’s hoping the Commentary page in 2018 continues to be as lively a community square as ever.


Katie Stokes is the Commentary page editor. Email her at kstokes@postregister.com.


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