• Andrus and Carlson

"I've long thought that Governor Andrus has never been given the full credit he deserved for the critical role he played in leading the way to passage of the greatest single piece of conservation legislation in American history. So I set out to make sure the history books properly reflect this excellent piece of his legacy." - Chris Carlson

carlson

The following story came close to happening. The reader can decide whether it should have.

It was mid-November of 1994, a few days before Thanksgiving. Early in the morning a black cadillac with plate #1 briefly stopped in front of an apartment in downtown Boise. Walking briskly through the door was governor-elect Phil Batt, who jumped in the passenger seat. At the wheel was four-term Governor Cecil D. Andrus.

The two old friends, though of different political persuasions, respected each other and had worked well together over the years. They chatted about Batt’s narrow election win over Attorney General Larry Echohawk as they drove to the private aviation side of Gowen Field. There they were met by Echohawk, Lt. Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Senate Pro Tempore Jerry Twiggs.

They quickly boarded a jet provided by Hewlett-Packard and headed for Idaho Falls where they touched down briefly to pick up House Speaker Mike Simpson. Then took to the air again heading south. Their destination? Salt Lake City. Their purpose? To explore with the leadership of the LDS Church the sale of Idaho State University to the Church in lieu of the Church turning Ricks College into a four year college and renaming it Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Earlier that fall Andrus had received a memo from a former top aide urging him to consider the idea. The memo argued compellingly that if the LDS Church turned Ricks into a four-year college it could lead to significantly less enrollment at ISU and ultimately a regression to a junior college status akin to the College of Southern Idaho or North Idaho College.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to secretly negotiate the sale of ISU to the Church, which would then avoid the expense of building additional capacity in Rexburg? The State might gain $150 million from the sale; there would be more general funds available to Boise State and the University of Idaho if ISU were out of the mix; and, tying its future to the Church might be a better guarantee to the people of Bannock county for campus longevity than its continuing role as the poor third sister in Idaho’s university mix, living most often off of the crumbs.

So the memo argued and so Andrus persuaded the Republican legislative leadership and the governor-elect to at least explore the idea.

The delegation was met by Apostle Dallin Oak at the Salt Lake airport. A former president of BYU and a former Utah Supreme Court justice, he was the acknowledged expert on higher education among the 12 apostles and he was interested in talking. Soon, the delegation was sitting in President Howard Hunter’s office in the LDS office building next to the Temple. The rest is history.

The above scenario is imaginary. The memo and the recommendation to Andrus, however, was a fact. Andrus flat rejected the idea saying there were too many obstacles to overcome in taking a public entity private, and such a drastic move would have to be approved by patrons and the public by some kind of plebesite before he would even think about it. He never raised the issue with Batt.

Perhaps he should have for the memo was prescient. BYU-Idaho is now bursting at the seams and has the second highest enrollment among the state’s seven public colleges and universities and its three private colleges. It has a total enrollment (both full-time and part-time)in excess of 15,000 students whereas the University of Idaho and ISU are both experiencing declining enrollment with Idaho having approximately 11,534 and ISU having 12,543. Boise State tops the list with 20,000 students.

A case can be plausibly made that much of BYU-Idaho’s growth has come at the expense of ISU. Folks at ISU point out, however, that they are the beneficiaries of more LDS graduate students pursing their advance degrees at ISU. They also point out that BYU-Idaho has announced there will be no new buildings at the Rexburg campus which could portend a resumption of more LDS student attending ISU.

Column

carlson

He turns 85 on August 25th. He has always had an ability to turn a phrase, and is particularly quick at utilizing well-known colloquial expressions at appropriate times. So, if asked how he feels about turning 85 he would probably say he’s been “rode hard and put up wet” a few too many times. Then he would crack that smile that lights up his eyes and is an essential part of his charm.

That charm, coupled with a prodigious memory for names and faces, as well as his political skill in solving seemingly intractable problems, inspires people to trust him. Besides, he is just a downright likable human being.

Over the years he has challenged Idahoans to dare to be great, to do more and with less if necessary. His unstinting support for more funding for public education, his insistence that critically important economic development cannot come at the expense of existing business, his belief that one first has to make a living before they can enjoy Idaho’s incredible environment has resonated well with voters.

“He” of course is Cece Andrus, the former four-term governor of the state, former 44th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, former State Senator from Clearwater county as well as the city of Lewiston. By any measure he is the most successful and greatest governor in Idaho’s history.

He left public office in 1995 but remains the most popular political figure in the state and despite an entire generation having grown up without even having had the chance to vote for him he is more liked and his favorable to unfavorable numbers are higher than any current major officeholder.

He is the essence of Shakespeare’s Henry the Second, the Lion in Winter with teeth still sharp that can take a big bite out of anyone’s hide as the folks at the Department of Energy’s INEL site learned when they tried to bamboozle he and former Governor Phil Batt into abrogating the historic agreement banning future shipments of any nuclear waste into Idaho which has a commitment to take all waste from the site by 2035.

The list of his many accomplishments on behalf of Idahoans and all Americans is long and distinguished – too long to list here. However, perhaps his greatest legacy was his critical role in convincing President Carter to use his powers to create National Monuments in Alaska under the Antiquities Act. It became the critical piece of leverage that forced all parties to come to the table and negotiate the bill that became the historic Alaska lands legislation.

Overnight the National Park Service doubled in size. Ironically the anniversary of the Park Service is coincidentally August 25th. There will celebrations in and on NPS properties all across the nation including West Yellowstone – the nation’s first national park.

Andrus deliberately chose not to be there. He wants to fade away quietly, his time in the limelight having come and gone. He knows his career was made possible by thousands of Idahoans who trusted and supported him, indeed sustained him. He was always so proud and considered it to be a real privilege to represent the great state. He never put on airs; glory never turned his head. While in D.C. he placed his own phone calls, played on a softball team in the Department’s recreational league. He knew who he was, from whence he came and to where he would return.

Like most of us who inevitably age he has faced and handled several life-threatening health challenges in recent years, but he forbid those close to him to say anything not wanting his health challenges to detract from others facing the same. His goal is to live to be 100, thereby beating his father, Hal, who lived to be 99.

Yes indeed, Andrus is still one of the most competitive individuals one will ever meet. He doesn’t like to lose at anything, whether tiddlywinks, fly fishing, goose hunting, golf or elected office. Starting a political career by losing a race for governor twice in the same year is not only humbling, it can be motivational.

One drawback to living so long is one knows and sees far too many friends passing on. He could probably attend a funeral every day somewhere in Idaho. As John Donne wrote in the 16th century, every person’s death diminishes us all and the departure of so many friends and supporters takes a toll on Cece.

Andrus is the natural at so many things but in particular he is a superb teacher who relates to any student whether five or twenty-five or sixty-five.

Neither is he afraid to show his emotions. He is human but also humane.

Once, while visiting he and Carol in Boise, I quietly walked into their living room only to see the good, great governor sitting there with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had happened to catch on television a Fish and Game commercial from a couple years back that featured him and his then favorite hunting dog. The dog was of course gone, but not forgotten.

There are thousands of Idahoans still alive whose lives are better because of Cece. In a spirit of thanksgiving for an extraordinary life of public service join me in wishing the Lion in Winter a happy and healthy 85th.

Column

carlson

Been pondering the complicated issue of relations between minorities in Idaho and between law enforcement and those minorities. As most people know, Idaho is one of the more lily-white states in the nation, with 83.5% of its appoximately 1.6 million citizens characterized as white.

People of African-American heritage are less than 1% of the state’s population. Chances of an Idahoan working with or knowing a black family are practically nil. Most Idahoans exposure to African-Americans is limited to watching talented and skilled members of the black community playing football or basketball in exchange for a college education.

Idaho’s largest minority is its Latino community with 11% of the state’s population being so identified. As in other western states, the Latino community is growing more rapidly than the white population and other minorities.

Already, in the State of California demographers report the combined birth rate of minorities is more than 50% of new births. Indeed, the far-seeing eye of history may be recording a reversion of the west back to its Spanish and Latino roots.

The United States may have appeared to win the Mexican War of 1848 with its subsequent turn-over of millions of acres which eventually became new states in the union, not to even mention the “annexation of Texas, but it looks to many like an Hispanic and Latino recolonization is well underway.

Idaho’s native Americans are also few in actual numbers. They represent 1.1% of the state’s population. As most people know minorities are disproportionally imprisoned, are more likely to come from poor economic circumstances and are under-educated. It should come as no surprise then that minorities commit more crimes.

This inevitably leads some in law enforcement to develop either a subconscious or a fully cognizant bias against one or more minorities, whether ethnic, gender or sexually based. And it often can lead to feelings on the part of the minority interest that they are being subjected to some kind of profiling which whites seldom if ever experience.

So is there an answer to this challenge in Idaho? There is certainly no one size fits all solution, but allow me to make five suggestions that could and should make a difference. If acted upon in a timely manner, especially in the Treasure Valley and the rapidly growing counties of Ada and Canyon:

1) All of Idaho’s cities and certainly all of its largest counties should “add the words” that have a community going further in its commitment not to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender identity, age or ethnicity. And the LDS members of the Idaho Legislature should recall the many years in which being Mormon resulted in discrimination, and take the lead in passing a state version of add the words.

2) Members of Idaho law enforcement should hold town meetings, or ice creaam socials, around the state once a month or once a quarter with various minority groups and primarily listen. The goal though should be to establish good dialogue on how to address issues of mutual concern.

3) A large community’s police force should reflect the larger minority interests in the community. If Nampa’s Latino population is 20% of its population, there should be approximately 20% Latinos in the police force. Yes, most people don’t like quotas but the benefits outway the negatives.

Spokane has almost 30,000 Russian speakers within its borders. Yet unless things have changed recently there are no Russian speaking members of the force. Ever tried to resolve a touchy domestic dispute but had to wait a couple hours for an interpeter to be found and brought to the scene?

4) Members of a police force should be required to live in the jurisdiction which they police. The benefits should be obvious. In addition, police officers should be incentivized to locate in tougher neighborhoods either through a rent subsidy or a mortgage subsidy.

5) Patrolman and police officers should be allowed to drive their cars home when they go off-shift. The mere sighting of a patrol vehicle can be a deterrent and it speaks loudly to the city’s commitment to public safety. Studies also show it is more cost effective than having to check a car in and out of a car pool every day.

There is no perfect answer, but Idaho, more so than most states is in a position to do it correctly the first time.

Column

carlson

Heard from one of my long-time column readers last week – Wayne Hoffman, the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation. While Hoffman seldom agrees with me he would be the first to tell you he appreciates the perspective I bring and the thinking I provoke.

For my part I admire some of the research his group does and the issues they explore. They merit attention because he and his team do a good job of factual reporting. His recent effort to expose the way some legislators can exploit their PERSI retirement by taking a high-paying state job that allows them to average their retirement benefit based primarily on the last three years of their much higher income is one of those “let’s hide from the public this perk” that should be abolished.

Hoffman’s first note to me on last week’s column picked up on the fact that while mentioning that governors make better presidents than senators, as a general rule, and my thesis was parties could only pick for president from their pool of current or former governors, there were in fact two governors that would be on the fall ballot that I’d fail to mention – the Libertarian presidential candidate, former New Mexico Governor Garry Johnson and his vice presidential running mate, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld.

Hoffman wanted to know what I thought about them and whether I might consider actually voting for the Libertarian ticket. I jokingly wrote back that I might give it some thought, but the truth is a vote for the Libertarian ticket is a vote for Donald Trump and there is no way I’m going to waste my vote on a third party candidate.

For all her shortcomings, Hillary Clinton is a far superior candidate and will be a far better president than Mr. Trump. There is simply no choice to be made, it has to be Hillary all the way. I’ll readily concede to Hoffman that the two governors on that Libertarian ticket are competent and qualified. Unlike Donald Trump, either one of them could do the job of president.

Independents and moderate Republicans, however, cannot and hopefully will not waste their vote. Too much is a stake.

I remain puzzled by those who say Mrs. Clinton is a “liar” and that she cannot be trusted. It remains a mantra chanted daily by her critics. The fiasco of American diplomats losing their lives at Benghazi is most often cited by her critics.

Yet, if one bothered to watch CNN’s coverage of the House hearing where she appeared one had to be impressed with how well she handled herself and the tough grilling for 8½ hours.

So she allegedly lies? If so why have no perjury charges ever been brought against her? And what’s the origin of this bunk about her not being trustworthy? What public trust has she violated? And don’t give me the line about selling state department changes in foreign policy in excchange for contributions to the Clinton Foundation.

That is a serious charge of treason and I’m not aware of any responsible journalistic organization coming up with evidence to substantiate the charge nor has anyone brought a successful suit against her.

Until or unless someone comes up with a story that has real legs I suggest folks stop talking in clichés and engaging in psittacism.

It is this writer’s opinion that the trust question is really a mutation of the respect issue which had its origins in her decision to stand by Bill during the entire sad incident of Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office. Many women in particular may have lost some respect for Hillary, and ascribed her decision to crass political calculation rather than accept the possibility that she acted out of true love and loyalty.

It behooves us all to remember one is innocent until proven guilty and Hillary Clinton has never been convicted of one crime, nor do she and Bill have 3500 lawsuits against them.

There really is no choice In November, Wayne, and you know it. There might have been a choice if the GOP convention had selected Governor Kasich, but they did not.

The GOP’s decision to go with Trump has started a Republican decline into the ash heap of history – to the dust from which they sprung where they will be unwept, unhonored and unsung!

Go Hillary!

Column