Printed on: October 05, 2012

Cheers & Jeers

A long-overdue lawsuit


CHEERS to Russ Joki. The Idaho Constitution says the following: "The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools."

Joki, who headed the Nampa School District from 1980-85, is suing the state and Idaho's school districts for fees being charged students to attend those "free" schools.

Joki's twin granddaughters were each charged $45 to register for kindergarten this year. His grandson had to pay $85 in fees to enroll at Meridian High School.

Clearly, charging a fee to attend "free" schools is an oxymoron. The Idaho Supreme Court said as much 42 years ago when it ruled that a $12.50 textbook fee violated Idaho's Constitution. Joki and the 15 other grandparents who joined him in the suit want the state to refund one year's worth of fees -- estimated at more than $2 million -- to parents across the state. But that's not really the point. Joki, and many Idahoans, have grown frustrated at the willingness of the state's political hierarchy to thumb its nose at Idaho's ruling document.

Joki chose to focus his suit on "free" schools. He could have highlighted violations of the uniformity requirement. A school system that erodes state funding by 19 percent over a five-year period and relies heavily on local property tax levies is not "uniform." Or, Joki could have pointed out the ongoing violation of Article VII, Section 5, which demands uniformity in taxation. As demonstrated by Idaho's former chief economist, Mike Ferguson, a property tax levy in the Snake River School District would need to be more than 30 times higher than one in the McCall-Donnelly District to raise the same dollar amount allocated to each student. There's nothing "uniform" about that.

Idaho's governor, legislators and state superintendent appear willing to live with these constitutional violations so long as they serve their political purposes. Perhaps the courts will see things differently.

JEERS to Melaleuca CEO/President Frank VanderSloot. In his Sept. 30 "Community Page" advertisement in the Post Register, VanderSloot published a picture of State Superintendent Tom Luna's vandalized truck. The caption below the photo highlighted opposition to Luna's efforts by the national teachers' union: "And in typical union fashion, it got ugly! Tom Luna's car was vandalized with spray paint, his tires were slashed and his mother was harassed," the ad said.

Here's what VanderSloot did not say: Police have no idea who vandalized Luna's truck. Also, the Idaho Education Association condemned the vandalism when it occurred.

VanderSloot never directly accuses the union of being involved. He doesn't have to. That photo placed in the middle of an anti-union ad under a headline that asks, "Who ya gonna believe ... the Governor, the Superintendent of Schools, AND the State Legislature ... or the Union?" says it all.

JEERS to Luna. During a debate over his Students Come First reforms Tuesday, Luna didn't like opponent Brian Cronin's opening statement. So, in front of about 450 people at the Boise City Club, Luna leaned in, grabbed Cronin by the arm and voiced his displeasure. What Luna actually said is a matter of debate. Cronin said Luna swore at him. Luna denies it. "I don't have any reason to make this up," Cronin told the Idaho Statesman. "It was one of the most unsettling moments I've ever experienced in politics."

Luna didn't like that Cronin went after him personally. Cronin, during the whispered exchange, did admit to telling Luna that politics is a "contact sport." And no, Tom, we don't think he meant that literally.

CHEERS to Rebecca Casper of Idaho Falls. The local Republican stalwart and columnist for this paper went above and beyond to ensure that folks in Idaho Falls know who is running for the Legislature and what they stand for.

Casper organized a debate for candidates in the four eastern Idaho districts containing Bonneville County. It will take place Oct. 18 beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Eastern Idaho Technical College cafeteria.

With all the attention this year on the slugfests over Students Come First and the presidency, it will be too easy for legislative races to get lost in the shuffle. Casper is working hard to make sure that does not happen.

CHEERS to those who make sure we don't forget where we came from. Idaho Falls City Clerk Rose Anderson, as depicted in Wednesday's Post Register by reporter Clark Corbin, is the gatekeeper for Idaho Falls' historical records. Part of her job includes scanning and transcribing records dating back more than 100 years.

Also, political columnist and historian Randy Stapilus and longtime University of Idaho lobbyist Marty Peterson recently published a book called "Idaho 100: The People Who Most Influenced the Gem State."

Interestingly, the No. 1 spot went to one of our own, Lloyd Adams, a newspaper publisher, lawyer and lobbyist from Rexburg who heavily influenced Idaho politics for more than 50 years until his death in 1969.

The good work done by all these folks is appreciated. So check out the book, and the next time you're at City Hall, thank Rose. She deserves it.

JEERS to Ucon Mayor David Blain. As his little town was preparing to discuss whether to allow Cives Steel Co. to build a fabrication plant there, Blain offered little in the way of assistance to his constituents. A story in Tuesday's newspaper by reporter Alex Stuckey detailed dozens of citations issued to the company by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Cives CEO Craig Alderman defended the company's safety record in a column in Wednesday's paper. That's fine. The people of Ucon should be having this debate. But they should also expect more from their mayor, who told Stuckey that residents and not the city need to research Cives' record.

"We don't regulate safety," Blain said. "That's OSHA's job."

True enough. But here's guessing the folks in Ucon would like their mayor to be more engaged in making sure a plant looking to locate in their town operates safely and within established local guidelines.

Corey Taule