Bring out the cold weather gear
As winter winnows out the casual bike commuter from the hard core, the Ada County Highway District is out counting cyclists, again. And this time the numbers are something to write home about.
The agency in charge of most Ada County roads picked a morning a few weeks ago and put a bunch of clip board-armed volunteers out on the corners. At four downtown locations, the volunteers observed 667 bicyclists during two-hours of the morning commute.
"These counts show that the use of bicycles has gone up significantly since the last time," said Justin Lucas, an ACHD transportation planner. "We have seen more people using their bicycles, which supports what we have thought, that gas prices may be encouraging more people to ride instead of drive."
ACHD put counters (real people, not machines) at 10 other locations across the county and found a 23.8 percent increase since the last count in April 2007. While that only amounts to 105 additional cyclists, and the study is only semi-scientific, it is evidence that there are more people using bicycles in town.
ACHD, which has a majority of its commission up for election this year (see story page 10), will use the survey information to prioritize new bike lanes. They call it the Roadways to Bikeways Plan, and it is supposed to become a master plan for the county's bike infrastructure.
The new commission will consider the Roadways to Bikeways plan early next year.
The District's Bicycle Advisory Committee requested the survey. According to a district spokesman, the committee is composed mainly of cyclists, including one member who does not like bike lanes.
In the last decade, ACHD has installed some 180 miles of bike lanes, starting almost from scratch, said Robbie Johnson, district public information specialist.
"If no one is using bikes, we wouldn't put as many resources into bike lanes," Johnson said. "The numbers sort of indicate our system's OK right now and people are using their bicycles."
And if there were more on-road improvements for bikes, Johnson thinks even more people would ditch two of their wheels.
For more numbers, see citydesk.boiseweekly.com.
Micron lets go
Boise-based Micron Technology has made international headlines not once but twice in the last week. On Thursday, Oct. 9, Idaho's largest private employer announced that it would downsize its workforce to the tune of 15 percent, or roughly 3,000 employees, with the bulk of those layoffs happening in Boise. Then on Sunday, Oct. 12, the company announced a two-step process to acquire ownership stake in Taiwanese Inotera Memories Inc.
In a press release posted on the company's Web site, Micron called the layoffs part of a "restructuring of its memory operations." The manufacturer blames those old reliable economic forces of supply and demand for necessitating the restructure, saying declining demand for flash memory has led to an oversupply in the market. Remember your freshman-level microeconomics? High supply and low demand mean a lower price, and for Micron, that price was simply too low to make manufacturing financially viable, especially since the company needed to come up with $400 million in cash for the purchase they finalized days later.
That giant chunk of change—more than half of which is on loan from "strategic sources"—bought Qimonda AG's 35.6 percent ownership stake in Taiwan-based memory manufacturer Inotera.
In order to cope with the approximately 1,500 employees who will be out of a job as Micron begins implementing its layoffs, the Idaho Department of Labor said it will extend its hours through at least early November. Starting Tuesday, Oct. 14, the Boise, Meridian and Canyon County offices are staying open until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and will open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
And here follows a fairly literal read of Oct. 10 campaign finance reports from some of Ada County's more interesting legislative races:
Chuck Winder, a Republican who is running unopposed in District 14, went to the June Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry Legislative Conference at Tamarack on the dime of the Associated General Contractors to the tune of $782.28. He has plenty of money left in the bank after a tough primary.
Rep. Mike Moyle has given $250 from his war chest to dozens of other GOP candidates ... but to Rep. Bill Sali, he sent a mere $50 this quarter. Moyle reports some $40,000 in contributions—nearly all from PACs—since the Primary Election.
His opponent, Democrat Michelle Waddell, has received no PAC donations and is taking on the majority leader with less than $4,000.
District 14 Rep. Raul Labrador, who faces a Democratic challenger with no funds raised, has taken $9,250 since the primary, nearly all from PACs.
Rep. Max Black in District 15 has $29,000, again, mainly from about 40 PACs. He spent some of it on the Jalapeno Open golf tournament in July, to benefit scholarships for Hispanic students, and in the Idaho Governor's Cup. And he hosted a tailgate party at a Boise State football game for $96.03 in nuts and KFC.
Greg Funk, a Democrat, has raised $5,105 to challenge Black in District 15, taking contributions mostly from individuals and one PAC called Restore Representative Government.
Rep. Les Bock, a District 16 Democrat, has nearly amassed a $38,000 war chest this year. While the majority of contributions are from individuals, Bock took $1,000 from Winning for Idaho, a gambling PAC which is giving money far and wide this season, and $1,000 from the teachers' union. He also got money from loggers and from Idaho Power, among other interests, including Walgreens.
Christ Troupis, Bock's Republican challenger, has nearly $67,000 from a different set of business and social interests including a Pro-Life PAC and the Farm Bureau. But Troupis can go head to head with Bock in numbers of individual supporters as well.
In District 18, Sen. Kate Kelly, a Democrat, has raised $54,000 this year to fend off a challenge from Republican Dean Sorensen, who has raised $40,000.
Also in District 18, former GOP Rep. Julie Ellsworth has amassed more than $40,000 this year to knock off freshman Democratic Rep. Brandon Durst, who has raised about $23,000 to date.
And in another case of the challenger out-raising the incumbent, Republican Becky Young has brought in about $32,500 to Rep. Phylis King's $27,300. King is counting on Libertarian spoiler James Oyler, though he only has $30.
Finally, in the District 19 House race, Republican Kevin McGowan has raised enough cash to drop $100 on ballet tickets and pay his way into a few gala events at the GOP National Convention. Democrat Brian Cronin has raised nearly $39,000 to McGowan's $56,000.
war in Iraq
U.S. CASUALTIES: As of Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008, 4,182 U.S. service members (including 31 Idahoans) have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 3,385 in combat and 797 from non-combat-related incidents and accidents. Injured service members total 30,700. In the last week, one U.S. soldier died.
Since President George W. Bush declared "mission accomplished" aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, 4,032 soldiers have died.
Source: U.S. Dept. of Defense
IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 88,373 and 96,466.
COST OF IRAQ WAR: $562,418,650,654