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citydesk May 13, 2009

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Legislature Calls it Quits

The Idaho Senate adjourned at 1:49 p.m. on May 8, followed shortly thereafter by the House at 2:05 p.m., leaving 16 bills, some of them conceived, drafted and hatched within the prior 24 hours, sitting on Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter's desk.

For his part, Otter declared victory, ringed by a dozen smiling Republican legislators.

"No other session in the history of the state was confronted with the kinds of problems this one had," Otter said.

In the end, Otter wrung an additional $57.2 million out of various budgets and funding schemes for the Idaho Transportation Department.

"I wanted revenue as much as I wanted gas tax," Otter said, meaning he felt the gas tax was the best way to pay for it, but he'll take the road money even if it comes from somewhere else.

If the economy improves next year and Otter broadens his base of support for it, the House, which remained opposed to Otter's highway agenda to the end, may be "reconciled" to raise fuel taxes, House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke said.

"Sometimes the acuteness of the short-term situation overrides the long term," he said.

Democrats, for their part, left the Annex shaking their heads.

"[Otter] never asked any of the Democrats to stand behind him," said Randy Johnson, director of the Idaho Democratic Legislative Caucus. "We just sat back and let them fight it out."

In the meantime, two newly minted task forces will study the state's entire highway funding scheme and funding for the Idaho State Police and the Parks and Recreation Department, which lost their share of fuel tax funds in the 11th hour.

In the end, everyone did claim victory and sped home.

As Rep. Maxine Bell, co-chair of the legislative budget committee, put it: "This isn't a monarchy. There's three separate bodies, and we all know that we're right.

Tibbs won't run again

Boise City Councilman Jim Tibbs told citydesk last week that he will not seek another term on the Council when his seat expires in January 2010.

Tibbs, a retired Boise police lieutenant, said he was looking into other ventures, possibly a return to law enforcement, but that he had not figured out what his next gig might be.

"A lot of the agencies are not hiring right now--Nampa, Caldwell, Meridian are all in the same economic situation," Tibbs said.

TJ Thomson, an internal auditor at Idaho Power Co., has filed an intention to run for the seat held by Tibbs. The official filing period for candidates begins Aug. 24, and Council members Maryanne Jordan and Vern Bisterfeldt are also up for re-election.

Tibbs was first elected to the Boise City Council in 2005, beating longtime Councilman Jerome Mapp. He went to work for the Boise Police Department in 1970 and served in various roles at the department for 34 years. After leaving BPD, Tibbs worked as an investigator at the Canyon County Prosecutor's Office for about a year.

Tibbs said that he fell in love with the Canyon County area while working there.

His tenure in Caldwell was short-lived as then-Gov. Jim Risch appointed him the state drug czar about the same time he won his first City Council term. Tibbs also ran for Boise mayor in 2007 and would not rule out the possibility of future political runs.

Tibbs said he had not met Thomson but was pleased that the candidate had been through Boise's Citizen Police Academy and that he volunteers his time as McGruff the Crime Dog.

Thomson reiterated that his campaign was never against Tibbs and that he just wants to bring a "fresh voice" to the city.

"I had a high respect for Jim Tibbs because of his service in the military—we're both veterans—and his service in the police department," Thomson said.

Tibbs has mentioned to other Council members that he won't seek re-election and said he does not know of anyone else eager to run for his seat in the November election.

Boarded up home belongs to U.S. Senator's family

A home registered to a living trust for U.S. Sen. Jim Risch's mother-in-law and registered to the senator's own address, remains boarded up and an eyesore two years after being gutted by fire.

The 109-year-old home on the corner of Myrtle and Fifth streets along one of downtown Boise's busiest thoroughfares, has been repeatedly penetrated by vandals, irritating Jeff Day, a hair stylist at Olivers Salon, which sits right behind the dilapidated house.

"I was born and raised in this town, and there's no need for that to be sitting like that on such a busy intersection," Day said.

Last week, Day placed a sign in the front yard alerting passersby to the connection to Risch. It read: "Jim Risch owns this shack, owns this property."

The property is registered to the Helen Choborda Living Trust, and Risch's address on South Cole Road is listed as a contact.

Jason Risch, a Boise attorney and political adviser to the senator, his father, said that the family is battling an insurance company in wake of the fire, two years ago.

"It's mired down in negotiations with the insurance company over the cost of repair," he said.

Jason Risch said the Rischs would like to get it fixed up so that his grandmother can continue to derive income from the house as a rental property.

But even before the fire, there were complaints about the historic property.

In the summer of 2005, city officials investigated a growing number of cars parked on the property and issued a notice to abate, which was followed. Inspectors cleared the property of the citation about a month later.

And in May 2006, the city declared the yard a public nuisance and ordered the weeds abated. Again, the owner complied.

Last week, city code enforcement manager Michael Meloy noticed that the property had become overgrown and that the door was wide open.

"That's a public nuisance," Meloy said, of the open door. "We need to get it boarded up."

Within 24 hours of Day's sign and a call from

BW

, the house was secured again and No Trespassing signs were posted.

Day recalled that a large Risch sign appeared in front of the boarded-up house during Risch's recent Senate campaign.

"He's posting his campaign signs, so I'll post mine," he said.

Day's sign disappeared a day and a half after he put it up.

War in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, May 12, 2009, 4,287 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,440 in combat and 847 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 31,246. In the last week, one U.S. soldier died.

Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 58 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 91,912 and 100,339.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $668,260,697,763

Source: costofwar.com

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