The turn of a year must have some unearthly power, because I can’t imagine what else would have managed to prompt me to look back over the last year’s columns. It wasn’t cheerful reading.
But some reminders from the last 12 months may be useful anyway as we prepare for another set of 12 months we hope will constitute an improvement:
l Jan. 10: In his State of the State, Gov. Brad Little said, “We must also acknowledge that our communities are put at risk when we simply warehouse those who break the law. Our safety is maintained when those returning home from a period of incarceration can become productive citizens. Two-thirds of Idaho inmates are in prison because of probation and parole violations — more than any other state in the country. Idaho taxpayers pay $110 million per year to incarcerate this population. This is a taxpayer issue as well as a public safety issue.”
It was and even more so still is in the wake of COVID-19. But nothing much has come of it.
l Jan. 31: I wrote that “Idaho is a serious renewable power state, probably among the leading clean-energy production states anywhere in the country.” That has become gradually more true through the year (Idaho Power’s push to depress payments for renewable by ratepayers notwithstanding). Just last week, I had the chance to reinforce the point to someone from across the country who was writing about Idaho, but I also added in doing so, “Just don’t wag it in the face of Idaho’s political majority.”
l Feb. 21: I wrote this week about the obviously futile proposal for extending the western boundary of Idaho across eastern and southwestern Oregon and including pieces of Northern California. The enthusiasm for this sort of thing comes and goes, but what’s been interesting with this is the way the headlines, and enthusiasm, seem to have persisted. Not least, it might be added, among a lot of northwest Oregonians who wouldn’t mind detaching from their east.
l March 20: During this last year, I wrote many more columns on the subject of — surprise! — COVID-19 than on anything else. How could it have been otherwise? My first column squarely on the pandemic noted among other things that the Legislature was still meeting and not in a hurry to wrap up. I added, “Gov. Brad Little, who has been describing the illness in serious terms and urging appropriate steps to avoid COVID-19, at this writing hasn’t been willing to take mandatory state actions to close schools or shut down places like bars or restaurants. But that also described places like Oregon up until only a few days ago.” The warning signs were abundant even then.
Two weeks later (April 3), after reciting the pandemic spread numbers in Idaho: “Yeah, this really does look like an emergency.” Still does.
l May 15: Another COVID-19 column I thought made the point about the need for serious enforcement action: “Only takes one.” It recounted the story of pandemic spread at Weiser, from a family event through a food processing center. The idea that such innocent activities could have such disastrous consequences is counterintuitive and hard for a lot of people to grasp. But grasp it they must; sadly, I could have written repeated versions of that same column in the months since.
l July 10: The state political conventions over, I wrote about the prospects for Republicans after the November election: “Indicators now show a probable (national) loss for Trump, with a good chance it won’t be close. If that happens, the national Republican Party — which like the Idaho chapter has thrown in almost fully with the president — will have some serious rethinking to do. Where will it go? Will it try to recreate a Trumpism without Trump?” These questions remain in force, and some of the first indicators of where we’re headed may turn up in the imminent state legislative session. But to date, there hasn’t been much need to revisit this since.
l Dec. 11: “It doesn’t happen especially often, but now and again you do see it: An actual, clear-cut, indisputable profile in courage. Today’s rare example: Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden.” Watch the Legislature to see where other profiles in courage are (the opportunities for such a demonstration may be plentiful) — if any.
Happy new year, and good luck.