Blindsided

Jim Risch

DJEERS ... to Nez Perce County Commission Chairman Doug Zenner and his fellow commissioners, Doug Havens and Don Beck.

Blindsiding people is a crummy way to do the public’s businesss. Case in point: the county commission’s decision to terminate its partnership with Valley Vision and the Clearwater Economic Development Association.

Rather than spend $32,000 with Valley Vision and almost $12,000 with CEDA, the commissioners are placing their bets on the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport’s southside business park.

Nez Perce County has been with CEDA since it was formed in 1967. When Valley Vision was launched in 1996, Nez Perce County was a charter member.

Breaking those relationships is going to be disruptive.

For starters, there’s going to be less money for cooperative ventures. Valley Vision won’t be recruiting new businesses to the valley. CEDA will have fewer resources as it works to secure grants and financing for businesses and education.

Losing Nez Perce County deprives Valley Vision and CEDA of information and feedback from one of the region’s largest players about everything from broadband and workforce development to business startups.

But working in isolation can hardly be productive for Nez Perce County, either.

All of which could have been hammered out in a public give-and-take during the summer budget preparation sessions — if Zenner, Havens and Beck had been open about it. Instead, the commissioners delivered their fait accompli to CEDA and Valley Vision last week.

Witnessing such a last-minute, frenzied process in action hardly generates much confidence in the acumen of this courthouse team, does it?

CCHEERS ... to Latah County Commissioners Tom Lamar, Kathie LaFortune and Dave McGraw.

They’ve come out against the Idaho Legislature’s attempt to impose a work requirement on low-income Idahoans who are about to benefit from Medicaid expansion.

With good reason.

Tired of legislative indifference, Idaho voters last year took matters into their own hands and expanded Medicaid coverage to about 91,000 people who lacked access to health insurance. Nowhere in the Proposition 2 ballot measure was there any talk of requiring people to document their employment to qualify.

That was an invention of GOP lawmakers.

The pattern emerging from states with Medicaid work requirements has been a rising tide of people — many of them legitimately employed — who nonetheless lose benefits because they can’t navigate the certification process. And you won’t find a more severe system than one Idaho is contemplating, where people would be compelled to comply each and every month.

“This isn’t so much a work requirement as a document reporting requirement,” LaFortune said.

Judicial barriers are blocking work requirements in states such as Arkansas, Kentucky and New Hampshire. But if Idaho’s case prevails, the three county commissioners have an inkling of what will come next — a continued drain on the county’s medically indigent budgets.

“When I signed the petition for Prop. 2, I didn’t have any restrictions in mind,” McGraw said. “The idea was to help people. This whole thing of the Legislature trying to change what the people voted for — to me, it’s not right.”

DJEERS ... to U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho.

Add the sudden departure of National Security Adviser John Bolton to the list of topics the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman chooses to dismiss.

Consider this exchange between Risch and PBS NewsHour reporter Lisa Desjardins:

Desjardins: “Reaction to John Bolton firing?

Risch: “I don’t have any.”

Desjardins: “You are the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and ...”

Risch: “Correct.”

Desjardins: “This is one of the most forward-leaning positions in U.S. foreign policy.”

Risch: “It is. ... I know John Bolton. I know the president. I talk to both of them. I talk to both of them regularly. But I’m not going to wade into that internal matter in the White House.”

Desjardins: “Are you concerned about any instability on the president’s national security team?”

Risch: “I am not.”

Even for someone with Risch’s demonstrated deference toward President Donald Trump, how is that possible?

Has the man who now holds a position once occupied by Idahoans Frank Church and William E. Borah not witnessed an administration that is closing in on its fourth national security adviser, has gone through shakeups at the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments as well as at the United Nations and has yet to replace Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats?

How can Risch maintain such serenity while Trump flirts with North Korea and Russia, wages a trade war with China and entertains the prospect of hosting the Taliban at Camp David on the eve of 911?

Tonight, Risch will sit down with the Boise Committee on Foreign Relations at Boise State University’s Simplot Ballroom. Here’s hoping some of the people in that audience won’t settle for Risch’s evasions.

DJEERS ... to former Boise Mayor Brent Coles and former state Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell.

About 16 years ago, Coles got caught ripping off the taxpayers of his community. He was forced to resign from office and then was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to six months in jail.

He thinks he’d make a good mayor.

He’s running for his old job again.

A bizarre 2011 drunken driving episode was not enough to drive McGee from office or his leadership post. Only after he was caught pressuring a female staffer to perform oral sex on him in his fourth floor Statehouse office the following year was he forced to quit.

He later served 44 days behind bars for violating his probation on the drunken driving conviction.

McGee thinks he’d be a good fit on the Caldwell City Council.

Let’s be blunt: These two are crooks. They committed real crimes against real people.

If they want to serve their communities, they have plenty of opportunities. But never again should they place their names on the ballot. There’s got to be a number of law-abiding citizens who have retained the public’s trust available to serve in elective office.

If nothing else, this tells you a sense of shame is a mere liability these days. — M.T.

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