CCHEERS ... to Garfield County Commissioners Robert K. Johnson, Justin Dixon and Wynne McCabe and Pomeroy Mayor G. Paul Miller.
As members of the Garfield County Transportation Authority board, they are making it clear that what’s good for initiative entrepreneur Tim Eyman is bad for eastern Washington.
They’ve signed up as the only plaintiff east of the Cascades to challenge Eyman’s Initiative 976 in court. In that endeavor, the rural transportation authority is joined by entities such as King County, the city of Seattle and the Port of Seattle.
Although I-976 cleared 57.5 percent of the vote in Garfield County, the measure was aimed at high-priced car registrations in the urban centers.
By lowering car tabs to $30, the measure would slash resources for state transportation by $1.9 billion during the next six years. That’s going to be rough on rural eastern Washington communities.
Case in point: Garfield’s public transit system. As General Manager Rachel Anderson told Emily McCarty of Crosscut.com, three-quarters of her $350,000 operating budget depends on state support.
“Is it even worth staying open for 25 percent (left over)? We don’t know,” Anderson told McCarty.
Here’s who would get hurt:
l Seniors such as 96-year-old Louise Munday of Pomeroy, who uses the transit for trips to Pasco’s food bank, Pomeroy’s senior center or the hospital.
l Workers and students who commute during the work week to Clarkston.
l Others who rely on the transit system to access stores and health care providers, either at home or in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley.
Eliminate that service and you deprive people of the means to remain independent.
Legal arguments will decide the outcome of whether I-976 survives. On Wednesday, the Washington Supreme Court left an injunction in place. But by lending their support, these elected leaders of Garfield County and Pomeroy have delivered their moral authority to that effort. Eyman’s latest political maneuver has genuine, human consequences and they can show it.
DJEERS ... to Idaho Gov. Brad Little.
Was he trying to be all things to all people at Wednesday’s Associated Taxpayers of Idaho annual conference?
“Education is my No. 1 priority, and you can expect me to continue seeking investments in K-12 education,” Little said. “We have a constitutional and moral obligation to our youngest citizens and our future. ... You are guaranteed to see me push for significant investments for our teachers and literacy efforts.”
But at the same speech, Little outlined five “conservative principles” to budgeting. Among them: “Take steps to put budget surpluses back in the taxpayers’ pockets.”
That’s pandering to an Idaho Republican Party notorious for creating artificial budget surpluses.
The GOP has deliberately underestimated incoming state revenues, thereby justifying flat school budgets or even cuts. Then, when the money turns up, the GOP has declared a surplus and passed out tax goodies to corporations and wealthy families.
As a result, the share of Idaho’s income devoted to public education has slipped 25 percent since the turn of the century.
Let’s face it: If local property owners are paying $214 million in supplemental tax levies to compensate for inadequate state support of public schools, you don’t have a surplus.
If 58 Idaho school districts and charter schools are so cash-strapped they can afford to keep the lights on only four days a week, you don’t have a surplus.
If you can’t compete with what neighboring states are willing to pay for teachers, you don’t have a surplus.
And when the amount of money you can devote to each pupil’s education is smaller than all but one state, you don’t have a surplus, either.
CCHEERS ... to Lewiston School District’s voters.
Nearly three years ago, they passed a $59.8 million high school bond by 75.46 percent. They did it to provide more opportunities for Lewiston’s children. Now their vision is being realized.
Starting next fall, freshmen will move into the high school and sixth graders will join the middle schools. With that added layer of efficiency, the district can do more without adding personnel.
On Monday, Superintendent Bob Donaldson’s staff will ask the Lewiston School Board to adopt 22 new courses at the high school and eight more at the middle schools.
For instance, an honors program in world history would enable students to pursue advanced placement courses in European and U.S. history as well as government.
An honors program in economics opens the path toward studies in marketing, business or law.
Another would expose students to sports broadcasting.
There’s even a “senior success” course that fills some gaps you may have noticed in your teenager’s practical life skills — such as balancing a checkbook or managing a career.
Building a high school is one of the most expensive commitments a community can make. But that kind of investment pays dividends. Here’s the first installment.
DJEERS ... to former Idaho House Democratic Leader Mat Erpelding of Boise.
Nobody would begrudge Erpelding the chance to improve upon the paltry $19,879 he makes as a state representative.
But in resigning, effective today, and accepting a job as vice president of government and community relations for the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce, Erpelding is passing through the well-traveled revolving door of Idaho politics.
Come next January, he will be applying the knowledge and contacts he made representing the public interest as a lobbyist for a special interest. In a lot of states and at the federal level, that’s not allowed. But Idaho has no “cooling-off” period. It also lacks independent public ethics enforcement. And Idaho’s elected officials are under no obligation to disclose how they make their money. All of which leaves the Gem State exposed to corruption.
It was not right when former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s chief of staff, Jason Kreizenbeck, went to work lobbying for private prison contractor Corrections Corporation of America shortly after CCA’s latest contract was renewed.
It’s no better when Erpelding can move seamlessly into the lobbying ranks. — M.T.