Printed on: October 05, 2007

Please, don't encourage Craig

Cheers & Jeers

Post Register editorial board members are Roger Plothow,

publisher; J. Robb Brady, publisher emeritus; Marty Trillhaase,

Opinions Page editor; and Dean Miller, executive editor

JEERS to the Idaho Hall of Fame. Someday, it might be appropriate to honor Sen. Larry Craig. Not now.

Yet next week, the Idaho Hall of Fame will induct Craig -- along with people such as Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, Idaho National Laboratory Director John Grossenbacher and Idaho Falls businessman Frank VanderSloot.

Craig's nomination occurred in March -- long before he was exposed as the serial liar who:

n Concealed his June 11 arrest and Aug. 1 guilty plea in connection with a gay sex sting operation at a Minneapolis airport restroom. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported Craig's shortcomings Aug. 27.

n Fooled his constituents into thinking he was quitting Sept. 1 with the weasel words "It is my intent to resign from the Senate, effective Sept. 30" -- minutes after he revealed his plans to do otherwise in a phone message that ended up detailed in another Roll Call story.

n Strung us along with the notion that he would remain in office just long enough to hear whether a Minnesota judge would allow him to withdraw his guilty plea. And when he lost that court case Thursday, Craig announced he was serving out the remaining 16 months of his term -- ostensibly to fight a Senate Ethics Committee probe that would disappear the minute he does.

Now Craig says he'll retire at the end of this term.

Do you want to bet?

Really?

Meanwhile, the state's been distracted for six weeks. Gov. Otter has wasted his time interviewing more than three dozen would-be replacements for a Senate seat that Craig had no intention of leaving. And the state's reputation has been taking a pounding.

The Hall of Fame is a private organization and free to do what it wants. But in honoring Craig, the Hall of Fame is only encouraging his bad behavior -- as if he needs any encouragement.

JEERS to Fremont County Commissioner Paul Romrell. On Monday, he read a prepared statement announcing that the commissioners would repeal an ordinance to ease the development of farmland -- the so-called Loosli amendment -- and start the process of adopting a replacement measure. They took that step in response to public criticism and a lawsuit.

One of the people behind that lawsuit, Smart Growth Coalition Chairman Chan Atchley, then made a simple request. He wanted a copy of the statement Romrell had just read.

Public words.

Public document.

Reasonable enough, right?

Nope.

Romrell declined. The statement that had just been read in a public setting was confidential, he said.

Confidential?

Huh?

JEERS to former Idaho Falls City Council member Larry Lyon. Last month, he took the unusual step of resigning his own seat -- where he risked getting beat by two challengers -- in order to run against another incumbent, Tom Hally.

Of course the people who elected Lyon four years ago just lost their voice on the City Council. But not to worry, Lyon said at the time. He planned to continue attending as many council meetings as possible.

"I think voters want someone who will actually fight for the common man and the little guy," he said.

Good rhetoric.

But where's the follow-through?

Lyon was a no-show at the Sept. 13 and Sept 27 council meetings -- and the most recent session should have mattered to him. That's when the council renewed its contract with City Attorney Dale Storer.

Critiquing that contract has been one of Lyon's top causes. If leaving his job in midterm makes you question his commitment to public service, Lyon's absence last week doesn't help.

JEERS to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. It faced some bad choices -- thanks to the Bush administration's Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 -- but Health and Welfare wound up choosing the worst one.

The feds want to balance the budget on the backs of parents making child support payments. It's assessing a $25 yearly fee for each child support collection case.

Idaho's share comes to $950,000 the first year and $1.2 million each year thereafter.

Health and Welfare could have asked taxpayers to cover the cost. Or it could have imposed it against the noncustodial parent writing the child support checks.

Instead, it opted to get the money from custodial parents.

Because divorce is a major factor in child poverty, that means the money will be coming from kids who are already financially strapped. The fact that 33 states handled the federal mandate the same way doesn't change that fact.

Lawmakers will get a chance to make the final decision in January. They should fix this error.

CHEERS to Gov. Otter. Appearing at the Idaho Falls City Club on Sept. 28, the governor was asked this question: Should sexual orientation be a criterion for public service?

Otter said he'd never been asked that question before but said he hoped he would be a big enough person not to let an individual's sexual orientation make a difference.

That was not a parsed or rehearsed comment. Judging from the way he initially struggled with it, Otter's comments were genuine.

It's all the more commendable because Otter's view will not be popular with some members of his own political party.

JEERS to Swan Valley's city leaders.

Will someone explain how signing a contract with the Bonneville County sheriff's office is not in the best interest of that community?

Like other towns, Swan Valley can't afford its own police department. Those cities -- such as Ammon or Ucon -- pay Bonneville County Sheriff Byron Stommel's department a fee to offset the costs of extra police patrols.

Swan Valley's reluctance doesn't make sense financially. If the city signs the $100 contract, it will receive about $700 in traffic ticket receipts that the sheriff's office has collected but is under no legal obligation to remit.

And it doesn't help Swan Valley. Deputies will continue to serve the community, but there won't be time for extras such as enforcing city ordinances or minor infractions.

Of course, if speeding, shoplifting or loitering is your thing, Swan Valley is an open city.

Marty Trillhaase