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Census, shooting and benefits

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Count 'em

A coalition of Idaho minority organizations has joined forces with the U.S. Census Bureau to ensure a more accurate count in 2010.

Led by the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, a group called United Voices will spread out to every community in Idaho as the census nears.

"The response in 2000 was 67 percent for Idaho, and in 2010, we are hoping to increase that," said Zee Quintana, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau working in Boise.

Every 10 years, there is strong evidence that minority communities are undercounted in the census. Quintana said that the United Voices group and the state will work to increase minority participation this time around.

Gov. C. L. "Butch" Otter signed a proclamation as BW went to press to encourage a full count. Federal funding formulas, grants and a decade worth of research will be based on the 2010 Census numbers, so it's important to get it as close as possible to reality.

Quintana is also working with cities and counties in Idaho to form "complete count" committees, volunteer groups that will educate the public about filling out the census forms in early 2010. The forms will be mailed to every household in America in March 2010, and Census Day is April 1, 2010.

Only the census short form will be sent out, making it easier to get an accurate head count. The census long form, a more detailed survey, is now called the American Community Survey and is sent more frequently to a sampling of households.

Asian, black, Filipino, American Indian, and gay and lesbian groups are working together in the United Voices coalition.

See citydesk.boiseweekly.com for more from the Census 2010 kickoff in Boise.

Know when to fold 'em

For several weeks now, Gov. Otter has been promising an announcement on the state budget. A press conference was scheduled for Nov. 25, including a state-wide media call-in number. Then it was postponed to Dec. 1.

Otter has asked state agencies to prepare for an additional 1.5 percent holdback but has not said if the cuts will be implemented at that level.

Bike thefts

It's not a ring, but Boise Police suspect that a few thieves are out there stealing expensive bikes and then pawning them.

About 210 bikes have been reported stolen to BPD since August, more than twice as many as the same period last year. And the figures do not include many bikes that are stolen and never reported.

Boise cops recently arrested a man they suspect attempted to pawn a bicycle reported stolen from the Boise State campus library. The same man, Carl Alexander, 46, is charged with pawning another bike stolen from the Downtown YMCA that is valued at $1,400. Police do not believe Alexander stole the bikes, but suspect he is connected to the thieves.

The number of high-priced two-wheel rides being stolen in Boise has caught the attention of BPD, causing the department to put Det. Jeff Dustin on the bike beat.

"Some of the bike thefts do appear to be several individuals committing the crime repeatedly," said BPD spokeswoman Lynn Hightower. "There's a lot of people in Boise who invest a lot of money in their bike."

The number of bike thefts reported on the Boise State campus has doubled to 30 since the same Aug. 1 to Nov. 10 period last year, Hightower said.

Bikes can be registered with the Boise Police Department on its Web site: boisepolice.org.

Cops cleared

Two Boise police officers were justified in shooting a man wielding a soldering gun, according to an outside investigation completed Nov. 24. Twin Falls County prosecutor Grant Loebs declined to file charges against Boise officers Norman Carter and Jason Bruner, both members of the department's special operations team, after a joint investigation by his office and Meridian detectives under the Ada County Critical Incident Task Force.

The two officers shot Dorian Michael Willes multiple times at a North End apartment complex, seriously injuring him.

"The incident, which occurred on June 5, 2008, was unfortunate and has been very difficult for Mr. Willes, his family and the officers involved. It is regrettable that the chain of events set in motion by Mr. Willes forced officers to shoot him," Loebs said.

As Loebs described the incident, officers "heard loud noises coming from the apartment. Further investigation showed that Mr. Willes had burrowed through the ceiling of one of the apartments and was crawling into and out of several others in the complex by bashing holes through the walls and ceilings, and kicking in doors."

When the officers located him, Willes lunged at them holding what looked like a firearm, but turned out to be a pistol-grip soldering gun.

Officers fired 20 shots and seriously wounded Willes.

Boise police ombudsman Pierce Murphy initiated an internal investigation the day Loebs announced his findings, to determine if any department policies or procedures were violated.

"The actions of the involved officers will be evaluated in the light of applicable policy, procedures and training," Murphy said.

Extended benefits

The Idaho Department of Labor is helping idled workers apply for seven weeks of extended federal unemployment benefits that have just been approved by Congress and President George W. Bush.

Anyone who is currently receiving extended benefits will automatically be signed up for the extra seven weeks. Those whose extended benefits have expired will be notified of the additional payments and will have to contact their local unemployment office again.

According to the department, Idaho workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own receive up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The amount and length of payment is determined by the wages they earned the previous 15 months. The average benefit in Idaho has been around $270 per week this year. The maximum weekly benefit amount is $364.

Federal supplemental benefits have been offered for about a year in Idaho and were extended just recently.

war in Iraq

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008, 4,205 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,393 in combat and 812 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,832. In the last week, three U.S. soldiers died.

Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,055 soldiers have died.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 89,278 and 97,458.

Source: iraqbodycount.net

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $574,179,605,541

Source: costofwar.com

—Nathaniel Hoffman

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