Printed on: January 18, 2013

Cheers & Jeers

2,590,000 acts of kindness


CHEERS to Senate President Brent Hill, a Republican from Rexburg. Nine years ago, Hill endured the unthinkable, the death of his son, Ritchie, at the age of 28. A nonsmoker, Ritchie Hill died of lung cancer. He left behind a wife and three children.

As reported by the Twin Falls Times-News' Melissa Davlin, the Hill family gathers in Boise every year to celebrate Ritchie's Jan. 27 birthday. That celebration, Hill told Davlin, often focused on acts of service.

This year, however, not everyone in the Hill family could make the trip to Boise. So Hill's wife, Julie, came up with a great idea: Ask friends and family to honor what would have been Ritchie's 37th birthday by performing 37 acts of kindness.

The world is a difficult place right now. Americans are divided. Hatred and hopelessness confront us constantly from our computers and television sets. Imagine the good that could be done, in our communities and in our own homes, if everyone reading these words took Julie Hill up on her idea.

Say 70,000 pairs of eyes hit this page today. Multiply times 37, and we have the potential for 2,590,000 acts of kindness in eastern Idaho alone. As Brent Hill told Davlin, these don't have to be world-changing moments. How about shoveling the sidewalk for the little old lady down the street who just lost her husband? Or allowing the nervous teenager to cut in front of you when traffic is clogged on 17th Street? You might buy your co-worker a cup of coffee. And, if possible, we all might try to have a little empathy and understanding for those who come from a different cultural background or adhere to a political philosophy opposite our own.

Kudos to the Hill family. It's difficult to imagine anything more admirable than using your own personal tragedy to try to make the world better for everybody else.

JEERS to Congressman Raul Labrador. Here we have a fellow who fancies himself a champion of the taxpayer, voting against the fiscal cliff bill and supporting an amendment that would have decimated the Idaho National Laboratory -- all in the name of deficit reduction. And yet it turns out Labrador was one of six Republican House members who took a taxpayer-funded junket led by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa. This contingent traveled to Turkey, Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco and Spain to review security at U.S. Embassies.

That might be appropriate for members of the oversight committee. Labrador, however, no longer serves on that committee. That means he had no business on that nine-day junket. Apparently, austerity is a word that is selectively applied in Congressman Labrador's world.

CHEERS to Idaho Falls City Councilors Mike Lehto and Sharon Parry. As reported Thursday by the Post Register's Zach Kyle, Lehto and Parry are skeptical about how the Targhee Regional Public Transit Authority (TRPTA) is spending the $100,000 contributed annually by Idaho Falls' taxpayers.

Parry voted against continued funding for TRPTA. Lehto is willing to give it until the end of March to improve service. The Great Recession changed everything. There is no longer any coasting by when it concerns taxpayer dollars. TRPTA needs to meet its obligation to the folks who pay its bills. Or it needs to go away. Give credit to Lehto and Parry for their willingness to hold TRPTA's feet to the fire.

JEERS to the Idaho Department of Administration and director Teresa Luna. Last year, in an effort to defuse the Occupy Boise movement, the Legislature passed a terrible law that allowed state police to treat protesters' belongings as "litter." That law, thankfully, was struck down by the courts.

So, the Legislature told the Administration Department to address usage of the Capitol grounds in a rule. What Luna's shop came back with was a heavy-handed mess that disrespected the First Amendment and forced Senate Republicans to make changes: rejecting sections limiting events to certain hours and locations and amplified sound.

Reasonable rules about usage of public property are appropriate. But it's a fine line between reasonable and suppression of free speech. Clearly this state agency crossed that line.

CHEERS to the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Idaho is one of 17 states that don't archive proceedings on the House and Senate floors and make footage available to the public. So, the Freedom Foundation, a conservative advocacy group, has begun posting video of floor sessions at IdahoReporter.com.

That's led to a debate about having the state archive video of floor sessions. The concerns about legislative grandstanding are real, but they are not enough to outweigh the public service in having these sessions available.

But let's not stop with debates on the House and Senate floors. The Legislature ought to be archiving its committee meetings as well.

JEERS to freshman legislator Ron Mendive, a Republican from Coeur d'Alene. During a presentation by the American Civil Liberties Union, Mendive asked whether the ACLU's support for abortion meant it favored prostitution. Mendive said prostitution is a "woman's choice."

That's not always the case. Read the opinion on this page today from Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Often, women are forced into prostitution or led there by mental illness or drug addiction.

House Republican Caucus Chairman John Vander Woude called Mendive's comparison a "very poor choice." He's also been pilloried in the online world. Welcome to the show, Rep. Mendive. Best save those kinds of comments for GOP Caucus meetings. They don't allow reporters in there.

CHEERS to Rep. Brandon Durst, D-Boise. One of Idaho's youngest legislators, Durst is pushing a bill that would make it easier for folks his age to serve. Lawmakers would meet for no more than 60 days in even numbered years and for the usual unlimited time period in odd years.

Annual meetings with no defined end means the Legislature will be dominated by retirees and farmers. Durst had a job in 2009, when lawmakers met for 117 days, but didn't keep it when he went back the next year.

Biennial sessions would be best. But Durst, 33, has authored a decent compromise. We wish him well. A few more Gen Xers is exactly what this Legislature needs.

Corey Taule