A hypocrite plays his games

By Marty Trillhaase

Robert Bower / Post Register Workers peel off siding on the old Idaho Falls Eagles Building on Wednesday.

Members of the Post Register editorial board are Roger Plothow, publisher; J. Robb Brady, publisher emeritus; Marty Trillhaase, Opinions page editor; and Dean Miller, managing editor.

JEERS to Gary Dance of Pocatello. What a hypocrite.

Lawyer for the Grand Teton Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Dance walked into Judge W.H. Woodland's courtroom last month and argued the Post Register couldn't be trusted with the facts of the Boy Scout molestation case:

"The Post Register's recent articles underscore its true intent in this case, writing inaccurate articles for the purpose of sensationalizing confidential civil matters to sell newspapers."

Dance is one to talk. In court, he displayed some -- but hardly all -- of this newspaper's coverage of the story.

He cherry-picked the one editorial guaranteed to provoke Woodland. That opinion piece argued the judge broke the law by sealing the case and then sealing even that order so the public couldn't know about it. Woodland didn't like what he read. Last week, he called it possibly defamatory and "irresponsible."

He has every right to object.

We have every right to say it.

But that's all he saw. Dance selectively omitted two subsequent editorials that commended Woodland for moving toward opening the case. Those editorials included the following comments:

• "(T)here's been significant progress toward letting daylight in on this story -- and it comes in a remarkably short amount of time ... you can't ignore the good-faith efforts made this week to restore public trust in the system."

• "(T)he lawyer for the victim, Laurie B. Gaffney, said she didn't draft the order sealing the case. Neither did the judge, W.H. Woodland -- although he did sign it. That would suggest the Scouts' lawyers drafted the far-reaching sealing order -- although nobody admitted to it in court."

Of course, showing that to the judge certainly wouldn't have helped Dance's case. But he wasn't trying to inform the judge. He sought to inflame and manipulate him. And Dance did so in a closed court hearing, free to make his distortions without being challenged by the facts.

Fortunately, Woodland didn't take the bait. He opened the file this week.

CHEERS to Rob Bishop. The developer's faith in downtown Idaho Falls was on display this week. Rather than build his high-end theme hotel from scratch, he chose to renovate the old Eagle's Lodge on Broadway -- something that could revive one of the city's most blighted areas.

There's already been a payoff. When the siding was stripped away this week, Bishop revealed a gem of brick and arched windows.

CHEERS to Richard Scarborough of Idaho Falls. Adam Steed, the 14-year-old former Boy Scout who blew the whistle on pedophile Brad Stowell, is one hero in the Boy Scout molestation case.

Scarborough is the other.

Aware that Stowell had abused a 6-year-old boy in 1988, Scarborough went as far and as high as he could, trying to warn them about the offender working with potential victims at a Boy Scout camp.

He ended up frustrated by higher-ups who ignored him, patronized him and told him to mind his own business -- until Stowell was arrested and convicted.

But his efforts established a paper trail. It revealed what Scout professionals knew and when they knew it. Because of Scarborough's persistence, victims had the evidence they needed in court -- and the Boy Scouts got a road map of what went wrong.

JEERS to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne. After the House Revenue and Taxation Committee last week killed his bill to give Albertsons a bunch of tax freebies, the governor went to work. On Wednesday, he swayed committee Democrats with a few improvements, such as a requirement that to qualify for the breaks, Albertsons -- and any company big enough to get the benefit -- pays a minimum livable wage. The measure is heading to the House.

But tax giveaways rarely attract new businesses, and giving away more state tax revenues undermines the very things that create economic development, such as a trained work force and quality education. Idaho has problems with both, and its tax rates are more than competitive with most states. Indeed, two states that could attract businesses now in Idaho -- Utah and Virginia -- get better scores in education.

At the same time, Idaho ranks among the top five states in terms of business failures. Giving breaks to the big guys only puts more pressure on the smaller firms.

And because businesses don't disclose their overhead, there's no way to show what percentage of those costs involve taxes. It could be small. Albertsons' threat to take its headquarters somewhere else unless Idaho yields to this extortion could be a bluff.

It won't stop with Albertsons. Micron already is asking for tax giveaways and talking about moving some operations elsewhere if it doesn't get them.

This is a race to the bottom, where no business will pay taxes in Idaho. The only question is how long it will take -- and who gets there first.

Of course, you'll have to make up the difference.

JEERS to Idaho Falls City Councilman Thomas Hally. He's promoting a runoff election.

Now in place in four Idaho cities, including Boise, runoffs force the two top vote-getters to square off in a second election when no one gets a majority.

Hally is offering both an ordinance and a resolution putting it up to the voters this fall.

The ordinance makes more sense because it would implement the runoff this year. Mayor Linda Milam is retiring, and it's likely the campaign to succeed her will be crowded. It's possible, as in Milam's first election in 1993, that the vote will be equally divided, with the winner coming in well below 50 percent.

JEERS to the legislative budget-writing committee. It's playing games -- again -- with the public schools budget. This time, the panel is claiming it provided cash for both computers in the classroom and providing mentoring for the 20 percent of students who fail the Idaho Standards Achievement Test.

What it's not telling you is it didn't provide any new money. So schools will have to choose between replacing aging and obsolete computers -- or providing extra classes to kids who won't graduate from high school without passing the ISAT. In fact, the committee cut $12 million out of Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's public school budget.

CHEERS to Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg. On Thursday, he relented and allowed the legislative budget panel to pay Medicaid's bills for the rest of the fiscal year. The program is running about $65.5 million short, including $15.5 million in state tax dollars.

Last month, Hill led the charge against spending that money, an apparent sign of his frustration against Medicaid's escalating costs. But it does no good to simply shut off the cash. Unless lawmakers cut programs, the bills keep coming.

CHEERS to Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. Last week, he saved the contractor registration bill -- and took on the Senate's top leader to do it.

Senate President Robert Geddes, R-Soda Springs, wanted to send the bill to the State Affairs Committee. That meant trouble for the bill. Geddes says he has problems with contractor registration, and he controls State Affairs.

Davis, the majority leader, launched a floor fight to move contractor licensing to the far-friendlier Commerce and Human Resources Committee. The test of wills came down to a tie vote. Lieutenant Gov. Jim Risch sided with Davis.

It was gutsy move for Davis because losing carried real political consequences -- and he did it out in the open.

Marty Trillhaase

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