Printed on: February 19, 2014

Making value judgments in Gov. Otter's Idaho is no easy task


Federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. A fourth-generation Idahoan educated at Harvard, Winmill is respected in his community and profession.

Winmill has the credentials -- and, one would imagine, temperament -- to shrug off the unfortunate remarks made about him by Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter during his Capital for a Day event Feb. 7 in Craigmont. Be careful who you vote for, Otter warned, because they could appoint judges such as Winmill "who might not share Idaho's values."

"Values" is a loaded word. It compels us to look beyond disagreements over policy or law and into a person's character. And by so carelessly playing fast and loose with another man's reputation, Otter forces Idahoans to throw his own words back at him, to inspect the "values" this governor claims for himself and those he was elected to serve.

What are we to say about the "values" of a leader who tells a gathering of cronies his struggling state's biggest problem is "gettin' me re-elected," then proves he means it by delaying controversial but necessary debates until after he receives a third term?

Perhaps Otter didn't care for the "values" displayed by Winmill when he followed the law and delayed megaload shipments on U.S. Highway 12. But Idahoans might wonder about the "values" of a governor willing to risk a pristine river so out-of-state companies, without being asked to post a bond, might boost already massive profit margins.

Folks in seven Idaho cities that passed anti-discrimination ordinances and those protesting at the Capitol for the right to be heard might not care for the "values" of a leader with no interest in advocating for equal rights under the law for all citizens.

Idaho audited one year of paperwork from the Corrections Corporation of America and found more than 26,000 billed hours either unmanned or undermanned. The auditing firm recommended Idaho look at several years of CCA payrolls to get a more complete picture of the company's duplicity. Otter resisted.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden called upon state police to deliver the promised criminal investigation into the company. Otter refused. Only after his primary opponent, Sen. Russ Fulcher, supported Wasden's call did Otter relent and order the investigation.

How does one measure the "value" of being forced to do the right thing?

"Values" are expressed in choices made. In Otter's Idaho, fewer kids attend college, roads and bridges are crumbling, public schools struggle to keep the lights on, and discouraged teachers flee the state while high earners enjoy tax cuts.

If all of the above is what passes for "values" in Otter's Idaho, here's guessing Judge Winmill and a whole lot of other people have no problem being on the outside looking in.

Corey Taule