Printed on: February 08, 2013

Cheers & Jeers

Reinke makes two good calls


CHEERS to Idaho Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke. Two of the hardest things to do are admit you were wrong and ask for help.

Reinke did both this week.

First, the director pulled his request for bonding authority on a $70 million mental health prison. For many, the estimated $25 million annual operating costs and bond payments were too much, especially since Idaho's mental health budget cuts are some of the deepest in the nation and have caused hardship for service providers, police and clients.

Reinke nailed it when he told legislative budget writers the emphasis should be on providing mental health services before something goes wrong, "so you don't have to be a felon to receive services in the state of Idaho."

Next, Reinke acknowledged that the IDOC needs help handling its most consistent offender, the Corrections Corporation of America.

Acknowledging the IDOC has little control over this rogue company that Idahoans pay more than $30 million annually to manage the Idaho Correctional Center, Reinke asked the Idaho State Police to investigate staffing levels at the CCA prison. Reinke's shop found "potential anomalies" in the prison's monthly reports.

An Associated Press analysis showed CCA guards working 48 hours straight and vacant security posts, giving weight to the charges that the nation's largest private prison contractor pads its bottom line by scrimping on staff, training and programming.

CCA's list of violations in Idaho would make most maximum security inmates blush.

And for those who see no issue in privatizing the prison system, we would say this: The IDOC manages more than 6,000 inmates and several prisons with few issues. No charges of allowing gangs to run their institutions. No videos of guards sitting by while one inmate beats another to the point of brain damage. No conflicts of interest, such as pushing policies that lead to more people landing in prison.

CCA, on the other hand, can't go a month without a bad headline. Its prison is Idaho's most violent by far. Why do we continue to put up with this?

CHEERS to the Idaho Sheriff's Association. While some of its members went off the deep end recently, seeing the ghosts of confiscation in President Obama's 23 executive orders dealing with gun violence, the ISA embraced a sensible resolution at its meeting in Boise. You can read it for yourself at idahosheriffsassociation.com, but essentially, Idaho's 44 county sheriffs approved a statement that strongly supports the Second Amendment while respecting the doctrine of judicial review. Also, Idaho's sheriffs believe, correctly, that violence must be addressed on several fronts. That includes improved mental health treatment, strengthening families and reducing access to guns for those who cannot legally own them. That's sensible stuff. And boy, was this ever needed by one of the ISA's members this week.

CHEERS to Teton County Sheriff Tony Liford. Here's what Liford encountered at an anti-gun control rally, according to reporting from the Teton Valley News: "Anyone who's hoping there's a safe, legal and peaceful way to hold on to his guns is going to be disappointed," said the rally's organizer, JB Campbell. "Gun control is about who is going to run this country -- us or the foreign gangsters."

Campbell didn't stop there. He said "there is no doubt" police departments are encouraged to brutalize citizens, adding, "Many of us have suspected that our military men and women have been trained in Iraq and Afghanistan to brutalize civilians there as a prelude to do the same to civilians over here."

Mr. Campbell has every right to air his views in the public square. It would have been easy for Liford to nod his head and remain quiet. To his credit, he did not. Liford read his association's resolution to the crowd and said this to Campbell: "I'll tell you this, sir, your statements are frightening and I am speechless."

JEERS to Sens. Jeff Siddoway, R-Terreton, and Steven Bair, R-Blackfoot. This eastern Idaho duo participated in the shameful castigation of Fish and Game Commissioner Joan Hurlock, voting with the majority on the Resources Committee against her confirmation. In doing so, Siddoway and Bair helped do the bidding of a fringe Twin Falls hunting group angry because Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter didn't appoint one of its own to the commission.

Here's the case against Hurlock: She was born in California. She hasn't always had a hunting license. And yes, she's a woman, only the second ever appointed to this commission. The case for Hurlock: She's smart, educated, passionate and knowledgeable. It's too bad Siddoway and Bair could not see that. Let's hope the full Senate ignores their short-sightedness and signs off on Hurlock's appointment.

CHEERS to Idaho Falls Mayor Jared Fuhriman and the committee that settled on Randy Fife as the new city attorney. Time will tell whether Fife, a native of eastern Idaho and currently the Moscow city attorney, is the right choice, but the process that led to his selection was transparent and timely, given that former City Attorney Dale Storer will learn the outcome of his criminal investigation today. Most importantly, Fife will be an in-house attorney with no distractions or side projects. He will work for the taxpayers and their representatives and nobody else. That's a change worth celebrating.

JEERS to Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, a Republican from Coeur d'Alene. Goedde introduced a bill that would require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand's libertarian opus "Atlas Shrugged" and pass a test on it to graduate. Why? "That book made my son a Republican," Goedde said.

Goedde doesn't plan to push his bill, which was intended as a shot across the bow of the State Board of Education because he's unhappy with its repeal of a rule requiring two online courses to graduate. Well, thank goodness Goedde was only kidding around. Forcing kids to absorb Rand's 1,168-page filibuster would have spiked the dropout rate and resulted in hordes of dazed youngsters muttering about "stopping the motor of the world" and wondering aloud, "Who is John Galt?"

Objectivism, indeed.

Corey Taule