Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sunday, July 1, Marks Texting-While-Driving Ban

Posted By on Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 9:59 AM

When motorists hit the road Sunday, July 1, texting while driving will be illegal in Idaho. Tweeting, Facebook and other text input activities could net offenders an $81.50 fine.

Boise Police have been training for the new measure, which allows officers to pull over any texting driver without having committed any other traffic violation.

The law came after years of attempts at the Idaho Legislature to stiffen regulations regarding texting while driving, a contributor to roadway fatalities because of inattentive drivers.

"I found myself weaving and not being in my lane of traffic," said Sagle Sen. Joyce Broadsword in February. "We have to make sure that we're protecting citizens from their own stupidity."

In October 2011, Idaho's Office of Highway Safety concluded that 60 fatalities resulted from inattentive or distracted driving in 2009, representing 27 percent of all fatalities.

Eagle High School students went for a safety "text drive" in March 2011, which Boise Weekly caught on video.

Those initiatives and supporters of the measure came to a head when Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed the texting-while-driving bill into law in April.

If you receive a texting-while-driving ticket, email Boise Weekly at news@boiseweekly.com

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Department of Correction Contracts with Private Company to Move Inmates Out of State

Posted By on Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 9:56 AM

More than 400 Idaho inmates will be moved to a private Colorado prison facility, according to the State Department of Correction, if prison populations continue to grow at their current rate.

IDOC informed the Corrections Corporation of America this week of its plans to award a contract that includes moving some Idaho inmates to a facility in Burlington, Colo.

That CCA facility met IDOC requirements for bed availability, security practices, inmate supervision and experience managing medium-custody inmates, according to prison officials.

IDOC will send 250 male medium-custody inmates out of state in July or August when the contract is finalized.

Idaho's inmate population currently sits at 8,099, with more than 500 new inmates in fiscal year 2011 alone. If the population continues to grow at that rate, said IDOC, they may see as many as 450 inmates moved to the Colorado location.

CCA also runs the Idaho Correctional Center, the facility under fire for violence and alleged misconduct by prison guards.

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Vote to Kill Dynamis Plant Fails, Project Moves Forward

Posted By on Sat, Jun 30, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Plans for a new facility built by Dynamis, the company hoping to turn waste into energy at an Ada County landfill, survived a vote by Ada County commissioners in a Friday, June 29, meeting.

The proposed $70 million facility at the Hidden Hollow Landfill would convert hundreds of tons of trash, including approximately 40 tons of tires, each day, into electricity. The process, called "gassification," has been a controversial topic, with opponents calling the facility's emissions a potential pollutant.

Newly appointed Commissioner Dave Case motioned to dissolve the contract with Dynamis, citing concerns about delayed construction. Dynamis admitted that their company had missed deadlines on developing plans for the facility but cited a request from Idaho Power for more electricity to purchase, requiring a larger facility once completed.

However, Commissioners Sharon Ullman and Rick Yzaguirre voted no, in a two-to-one failure of the motion. The Dynamis project will continue to move forward, with public input meetings scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on July 17-18 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Eagle.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Boise Tea Partiers Want to 'Empeach' Obama

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Boise Tea Partiers at Idaho Statehouse on June 28.

Nearly 12 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling, upholding much of what they call "Obamacare," members of the Boise Tea Party broke out their tri-corner hats and Don't Tread on Me flags to protest the decision Thursday evening on the steps of the Idaho Statehouse.

Chad Inman, president of Tea Party Boise, went through a laundry list of his group's priorities.

"No. 1, repeal Obamacare, the largest tax increase in history," Inman told the crowd. "No. 2, vote for congressmen that will overturn Obamacare."

Inman followed with his other priorities, including an elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of Education and Energy.

One of the tea partiers, Jim Haskin, complete with his misspelled "empeach" sign, insisted that Obama was what he called an "insider" but when Citydesk asked Haskin about any man or woman becoming an insider once they were elected into office, he thought for a moment.

"Yeah, but they would be our insiders and do what we want," said Haskin with a grin.

Jim Haskin with his empeach sign at the Boise Tea Party rally on June 28.
  • George Prentice
  • Jim Haskin with his 'empeach' sign at the Boise Tea Party rally on June 28.

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War Chest 2012: Romney Campaign Begins Taking Greater Individual Donations

“When Mitt Romney became the presumptive GOP nominee, his campaign became a father, of sorts, to multiple accounts. Now, donations can be as high as $75,000 a person.”

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Editor's note: Citydesk will be regularly tracking campaign war chests, local and national, as we follow donations to candidates for the White House, U.S. Congress and the Idaho Statehouse.

If Damond Watkins, Melaleuca's vice president of corporate relations, has his way, fundraising for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney will soon see massive increases, coming in larger amounts from individual donors.

“Normally, individual campaign donations are capped at $2,500,” said Watkins, who was recently placed on administrative leave from Melaleuca to assist with Romney’s campaign. “But when Mitt Romney became the presumptive GOP nominee, his campaign became a father, of sorts, to multiple accounts. Now, donations can be as high as $75,000 a person.”

What allows donors to bypass the $2,500 individual donation limit is Romney Victory, Inc., a new joint fund-raising committee composed of Romney’s campaign, the Republican National Committee and Republican organizations in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont.

According to Trevor Thorpe, political director for the Idaho Republican Party, a joint fund-raising committee allows donors to make large contributions to a single organization, which then disburses the maximum allowable amounts to multiple organizations benefiting Romney’s campaign.

For example, a $75,800 donation to Romney Victory, Inc. serves as donations amounting to $2,500 for the primary election, $2,500 for the general election, $30,800 for the Republican National Committee and $10,000 for the Republican Party’s federal accounts in each of four battleground states in the upcoming election. Each of those amounts represents the maximum allowable donation at its level.

As one of four states comprising Romney's new joint fund-raising committee, the Idaho Republican Party will become a much larger player in Romney’s fund-raising operations, leading up to the general election.

“It’s not that the money will necessarily be spent in Idaho, but it’s great for Idaho to be involved,” said Travis Hawkes, Idaho finance chair for Romney’s campaign. “Idaho has a great relationship with Gov. Romney and the campaign, so we were definitely honored to be a part of the joint fund-raising agreement.”

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Sun Valley Spokesman: No Additional Flights to Wood River Without Guarantees to Airlines

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:24 AM

An assistant chief deputy attorney general has told Wood River Valley communities that it's OK to pay minimum-revenue guarantees to airlines, as long as the deal is crafted with "great care."

This morning's Idaho Mountain Express reports that Assistant AG Brian Kane informed interested parties that they could move forward with minimum-revenue guarantees—funding paid to airlines to ensure that the carriers will make a certain amount of money in small, risky markets. Currently, flights from the Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey to Seattle and Los Angeles are secured by minimum-revenue guarantees. The guarantees are funded solely by the Sun Valley Company, operators of the Sun Valley Resort.

"The cost has been going up radically, primarily due to increased fuel costs over the past few years," Fly Sun Valley Alliance President Eric Seder told the Mountain Express. "Sun Valley Co., unlike any other resort in the Rocky Mountains, is bearing 100 percent of the cost."

Seder said there would be "no possibility of flights to Friedman from any new destinations" without additional minimum-revenue guarantees.

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Tribune: Woman Shot While Phil Hart Snoozed Has Recovered

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:21 AM

An Idaho woman who was shot at a remote rest area, while Athol Republican Rep. Phil Hart was asleep nearby in his car, has recovered.

This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that 28-year-old Kaya Sedlacek suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen early on the morning of April 2 at the Mineral Mountain rest area on U.S. Highway 95, in Latah County. Sedlacek told police that she had been attacked in a restroom by a masked man, and shot with her own handgun. The alleged assailant was never found.

In a bizarre turn of events, Hart was found asleep in his car near the shooting scene. The North Idaho lawmaker told deputies that he had been asleep for about 45 minutes and didn't know anything about the shooting. Police cleared Hart and sent him on his way.

Meanwhile, law enforcement told the Tribune that Sedlacek has recovered from her wound and moved away from the area. The Latah County Sheriff's Office said the investigation into the shooting is ongoing, but no new evidence has been uncovered.

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Star-News: Fired Valley County Prosecutor Sues Commissioners

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:17 AM

In the wake of his firing by Valley County commissioners, former Valley County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Williams is firing back, saying his dismissal was "arbitrary, capricious and retaliatory."

This morning's McCall Star-News reports that after firing Williams, Valley County commissioners began hiring outside attorneys to represent the county, but Williams has responded with a lawsuit. In particular, Williams pointed to a June 14 decision in Power County in which a judge told county commissioners in the eastern Idaho county to stop using funds to hire outside attorneys to avoid using their county prosecutor. Using the Power County ruling as an example, Williams told Valley County commissioners to "cease all outside contracts for representation immediately."

But the Star-News reports that Valley County commissioners responded by saying the Power County case "only applies to Power County and cannot be used to imply sweeping rulings on non-parties, such as anyone in Valley County."

Williams has decided not to seek re-election in this November's race for Valley County prosecutor.

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Report: Micron to Buy Elpida, Japanese Chipmaker

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:14 AM

Japan's Nikkei newspaper is reporting that Boise-based Micron Technology is set to buy bankrupt Japanese chipmaker Elpida Memory for an estimated 200 billion yen ($2.5 billion).

At the opening bell of this morning's NASDAQ exchange, Micron shares bumped up nearly 3 percent to $6.14 per share. Micron was trading as low as $5.53 on June 26.

In early May, Micron won the right to negotiate exclusively for Elpida. If successful with the takeover, Reuters reported that Micron could "more than double its global market share."

Currently, Samsun Electronics is the world's biggest maker of memory chips used in personal computers, but by acquiring Elpida, Micron could boost its share to 25 percent, surpassing South Korea's SK Hynix, and becoming the second-biggest player in the memory chip marketplace.

Elpida, which specializes in chips for smartphones and tablets, filed for bankruptcy protection in February, reporting 448 billion yen in liabilities. Part of Micron's offer could be used to repay Elpida's debts and part would be invested in the chipmaker's operations.

Micron’s purchase of Elpida would mark “the end of a perfectly competitive market as Samsung, Hynix, and the new Micron team become the three main players in an oligopolistic market,” TrendForce said in a June 6 statement.

Taking over Elpida would also help Micron boost its mobile DRAM business, as the Japanese chipmaker held a 17 percent share in the market in the fourth quarter, TrendForce said. Micron controlled 7.3 percent of the mobile DRAM market, lagging behind Samsung’s 54 percent and Hynix’s 21 percent.

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Boise Firefighters Battling Colorado Wildfires

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Members of the Boise Fire Department are on the front lines of the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs. At least one person has died in wildfires ravaging Colorado. President Barack Obama has declared a disaster in the state.

The Boise contingent had planned to participate in a training operation in Colorado, but instead, they have been deployed to help battle the deadly blaze.

Police said they found a body in the remains of a burned-out house in Colorado Springs. A second person was reported missing from the same address. Another 10 people have been unaccounted for since the fires reached the city limits of Colorado Springs on June 26, though some of them are thought to have simply neglected to register with authorities as evacuees.

Some 35,000 people have been told to leave their homes as firefighters struggle to contain the blaze. A total of 346 properties have so far been destroyed by the Waldo Canyon wildfire, the most destructive in the state's history.

Meanwhile, crews from the Bureau of Land Management are busy in eastern Idaho, battling a blaze that has swept through the west bench of Pocatello. More than 1,000 acres have been torched so far in the Charlotte fire and more than two dozen homes have been damaged or lost, while 700 more homes are threatened.

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