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Report: Idaho Has Wasted $61M

March 23, 2015 - 9:31am

The state has spent $61 million on a failed statewide instructional management system called Schoolnet, according to a new performance evaluation out this morning from the Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations. “Poor management, poor decisions, and poor system functionality compounded themselves and prevented the goals for a statewide instructional management system from being realized,” Rakesh Mohan, OPE director, told the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee this morning. Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder, called it “sickening results, if you ask me.” She said, “I think we’ve been waiting to hear this report. … You see that there’s $61 million, you think, wow, that would have gone a long way for roads”/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Question: I've gotten to the point that I'm numb to the waste and mismanagement of state government under the Otter administration. No one seems to care. So let's move on to the next topic. Thoughts?

Senate Panel Kills Constitution Bills

March 23, 2015 - 9:08am

Two measures regarding amending the U.S. Constitution that had earlier passed the House died in the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning. After much testimony, the Senate panel narrowly rejected HB 67 from Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, to set requirements for Idaho delegates to an Article 5 constitutional convention. Committee members questioned whether the requirements were workable. “I realize we’re lawyering this,” Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told Luker; both are lawyers. Davis said the measure attempts to avoid a “runaway convention,” but he said, “I have at least a dozen constitutional scholars … and folks I do trust that tell me it is impossible to avoid a runaway convention”/Betsy Russell, Eye on Boise. More here.

Thoughts?

Gorilla Is Off Zags' Back

March 23, 2015 - 8:38am

Gonzaga guard Kyle Dranginis (3) makes a pass in the first half of a third round NCAA men's tournament basketball game, Sunday, at KeyArena in Seattle. (SR photo: Colin Mulvany)

You could see it when their eyes locked – Gary Bell Jr., Kyle Dranginis and Kevin Pangos – in the final 90 seconds, and broad smiles instantly creased each of their faces. You could see it in the hugs coach Mark Few laid on Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer, which surely left bruises if not vertebrae damage. You could see it, well, you could see it posted online in a video of a raucous postgame celebration behind closed doors. You could see it in Eric McClellan’s backflip – and the encore, something approximating a handstand by the giddy, silly coach. Mark Few. Doing handstands. Really. The only bigger break in character would be if he headed to the fishing hole with a Folgers can full of nightcrawlers/John Blanchette, SR. More here.

Game story: Gonzaga men dominate Iowa/Jim Meehan, SR
Women's game story: GU women upset third-seeded Oregon State/Thomas Clouse, SR

Question: Are you exhaling today?

Clark: Shorty Deserved Better

March 23, 2015 - 8:28am

Won’t be shopping for a pink XXXL tutu anytime soon. There’ll be no slow walk of contrition through River Park Square. Remember? I promised to star in this extreme spectacle on condition that the most absurd crap I’d ever heard in my life turned out to be true. Namely, that Spokane’s Delbert “Shorty” Belton, a beloved World War II survivor of the Battle of Okinawa, was a double-crossing crack dealer. No way. No how. But that was the vile lie contained in a letter found during the arrest of Kenan Adams-Kinard, one of the teen punks who beat Shorty to death in the parking lot of the Eagles Lodge as the 88-year-old man sat in his car. The media repeated the lie because, well, it was unproven and part of the narrative of this horrific crime that occurred on the North Side in August 2013. Shorty the crack dealer. Hey, if you’re going to rob and murder someone, you might as well assassinate his character, too. I mean, it’s not like a dead dude can defend his honor, can he?/Doug Clark, SR. More here.

Question: Do you agree/disagree with the sentences handed down to WW2 veteran Shorty Belton's murderers?

Avista Explains Annual Increases

March 23, 2015 - 8:21am

Construction of a cofferdam at Post Falls dam continued last week. Ongoing work at the 1906 Post Falls Dam is part of $375 million that Avista Corp. will spend this year on capital upgrades. Utility executives say that costly upgrades to aging infrastructure are driving yearly rate increases. The dam's south channel is getting new spillway gates and a face lift, which will replace the outer concrete layer. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Wendi Dunlap lives in a house in Hillyard with an old furnace. Last winter, the social worker qualified for energy assistance to help pay her Avista bill. Many Spokane families are like hers – working, but struggling to make ends meet, Dunlap told an Avista executive at a recent neighborhood meeting. “You’re constantly asking us to open our wallets,” she said. “I didn’t get a raise last year or the year before.” With the Spokane-based utility proposing its eighth rate increase in eight years, Kelly Norwood, Avista’s vice president for state and federal regulation, has been making the rounds of neighborhood association meetings to discuss the company’s request. If approved by Washington regulators, a typical Spokane household would pay about $140 more for electricity and natural gas each year, for an annual energy bill of about $1,940/Becky Kramer, SR. More here.

SR: Idaho Finally Helps Teachers

March 23, 2015 - 8:17am

Prepare to be surprised. The Idaho Legislature appears to have settled on a plan to boost teacher pay that is endorsed by school districts, state officials, the governor and the instructors themselves. It’s a remarkable comeback, given the poor reception HB 296 initially received. The key was inviting teachers to the table, a sensible strategy the state had ignored for years. The public didn’t appreciate that, rejecting the so-called Luna Laws at the ballot box. Under the compromise, announced Friday, the state will spend $125 million more on salaries in the next five years, with a $33.5 million down payment for next year. Teachers would qualify by meeting performance standards and educational benchmarks, such as achieving “master teacher” status/Spokesman-Review Editorial Board. More here.

Question: You have to give the devil his due. Gov. Butch Otter and the Idaho Legislature deserve props for staying with a plan the boosts teachers salaries over the next five years. So no F's when grading this session. Thoughts?

Hucks: Local GOP At It Again

March 23, 2015 - 8:11am

The wacky Kootenai County Republicans are at it again. Last month, the Elephants were asked to approve a resolution requesting that Idaho be declared a “Christian state.” They shot that one down sans discussion but not before it gained national attention. On Tuesday, the local Pachyderms will discuss a draft resolution calling for Idaho to “subtract the words” from the Idaho Human Rights Act. Actually, the resolution wants one word subtracted from the act: “religion.” Although the language in the “whereases” is confusing, it appears that the unknown sponsor wants Christian business owners to be able to refuse service to LGBT individuals. The city of Coeur d’Alene has adopted an ordinance that makes such a refusal unlawful. Never a dull moment when the Elephant herd gathers/DFO, Sunday Huckleberries print. Full column here.

Question: Will this resolution get a better hearing from the local GOP than the "Christian state" resolution did last month?

Starbucks

March 23, 2015 - 8:05am

Michael Ramirez/Investor's Business Daily

Gonzaga Men Defeat Iowa 87-68, UCLA Next

March 22, 2015 - 5:43pm

Gonzaga built up a 17-point lead by halftime and never trailed Iowa as the Bulldogs moved onto a Sweet 16 game against UCLA next weekend. The Zags won 78-69. See game story & boxscore here. Also: S-R photojournalist Colin Mulvany covered GU's NCAA game against Iowa. Check out this big picture gallery of game photos. Also: Boxscore & game story of Gonzaga women's victory over Oregon State here.

Weekend Wild Card -- 3.21-22.15

March 21, 2015 - 12:14am

The unveiling of the names for nonpartisan elective office for various local governments in Kootenai County today was anti-climatic. Only one decent race for a Coeur d'Alene School Board seats. The race for Trustee Terri Seymour's Zone 3 seat will be the main event this spring. Most of the races feature candidates running unopposed, except for the ones in 3 highway districts. Which probably won't be mentioned again here until I post the final result on Election Night. I was expecting a free-for-all like 2 years ago, and I got a snoozer. Now how do I keep you entertained from the end of Legislature until the municipal election season this fall? Here's your Weekend Wild Card ...