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Inside Politics: People-to-people politics, Idaho style

This Labor Day weekend had the nicest weather in recent memory this year. I spent it out and about at several activities plus a couple of days manning the Democrat booth at the Twin Falls County Fair. There were some warm days and nights, and it got a bit smoky toward the end. But we were spared rain, strong winds, snow, sleet, locust swarms or any other epic disasters. A couple I met watching Shakespeare in Boise mentioned Eastern Idaho’s small earthquakes, but there was no damage.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the fair, especially doing an entire day from early morning to closing, largely tethered to one spot. The food’s fun for a couple of meals. I enjoy strolling through exhibits. But the music, monster trucks, midway, etc., really aren’t near my fun-seeker’s bullseye.

What I enjoy is talking to people wherever I go, whether friends, strangers, merry-makers, carnies, etc. A person can have a lot of chitchat at the fair, especially if you’re addicted to conversation like me. You can hardly avoid it if you’re tending a political booth. I’m a political junky, unafraid of a good discussion — locked horns, ruffled feathers and all. But (you can believe this or not) I swear off “serious” arguing at the fair. I dewax my ears and brace myself for a healthy regimen of listening. It’s fun and I learn more absorbing the thoughts of others than continually spewing my own.

My wife snickered as she spied that last line on the computer. Not sure if she was laughing with or at me.

The earthquake couple’s conversation detoured to concern over the deteriorating state of Idaho’s roads and bridges. They quipped if the quakes, heavy snow and rain of recent years continue they might have to start riding their horses to town for errands. It was a joke, but the concern was genuine.

The recent eclipse lit up several Labor Day conversations. A lot of us shared the spectacle, awed by the beauty and chill of solar extinction. Temperatures dropped 15 to 20 degrees nearly instantaneously. The event apparently intensified interest in renewable energy among a many Idahoans. It demonstrated how much cheap renewable non-polluting power is out there for the development. Conversations consistently bemoaned the subsidies and life-support for obsolete and polluting fossil fuels. Conversely, folks disparaged failure to adequately encourage expansion of wind, solar and geothermal.

There were a handful of topics that nearly everyone I chatted with at the fair rattled off once they finished fishing through our candy basket or accepting water bottles from our cooler. These were education, health care, good jobs with living wages, preservation of public lands and responsible taxation policies. Many folks noted that this bundle of issues is strongly interconnected. Each synergizes or benefits from adequate attention to the other. All, in one fashion or another, affect quality of life, personal economics and determination of an individual’s or family’s long-term prospects and security.

Taxes are a perennial issue in Idaho elections, both for Republicans and Democrats. As you might expect most of the Democrats that chatted with us chided Republicans for their obsession with tax cuts (especially for the rich and well-connected). Fair-goers expressed their yearning for an Idaho epiphany that low-low taxes that provide low-low adequacy, quality or investment in public services, infrastructure, education and societal amenities shortchange the vast majority of working class families. For them the miniscule tax savings isn’t worth it; they can’t back fill these needs with a stingy tax windfall that barely buys a meal at a sit-down restaurant.

I thought the greatest focus would be on income taxes, but folks groused mostly about the grocery tax. Maybe that’s because our fair booth conducted a grocery-tax macaroni poll. Regardless, people were borderline incensed that, for one of the few issues that Idaho Democrats and Republicans bent over backwards to cooperate on in the last legislative session, Gov. Otter chose to veto the Legislature’s hard work. They also saw it as one of Idaho’s most regressive taxes.

The other opinions my conversations garnered this weekend covered a lot of ground. A handful of self-identified Republicans I chatted with in line in Boise resoundingly condemned the 31 Idaho lawmakers that wrote Attorney General Sessions urging curtailed prosecution of participants in the Nevada “Bunkerville Standoff.” The theater-going Republicans called it pandering to domestic terrorism. They said they and many of their Republican friends were concerned about growing right-leaning radicalization of Idaho Republicans.

The range fires of recent years evoked specific concern of several fair-goers about how Idaho could afford managing these lands and fighting fires if removed from federal control. Anxiety and distrust was also expressed regarding INL’s and the Idaho government’s commitment to preserving the agreement made under Gov. Phil Batt to stop accepting nuclear waste and to clean up INL’s existing contamination.

Some Twin Falls locals complained we need to hold public town hall meetings before and during legislative sessions to influence choices and outcomes. They encouraged Democrats to hold such meetings without Republicans if they were unwilling. The Republicans and Democrats I engaged this weekend all voiced a strong desire to return to what was generally described as the more congenial, cooperative and constructive politics of the Andrus and Batt years.

I enjoyed sharing thoughts with everyone I met this weekend, regardless of their political persuasion. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank our many fair volunteers, the bevy of newbies who signed up for the campaign work ahead and for those who had kind words for this column. Twin Falls Democrats will continue working for the betterment Idaho and all of her people, and I promise we will be listening to what Idahoans tell us is important to them.

Letter: I'm related to Jerry Kimball. Shame on Twin Falls.

My comment is for the family of Kent Storrer and the attorney Grant Loebs as well as Judge Stoker. I realize they are angry and going through a grieving process and I am sorry for their loss and yes it is tragic. But there is no excuse for the inappropriate comments made in the hall of the courthouse about “with the looks of the family, no wonder Jerry Kimball is the way he is.”

We may not be wealthy or look like the Storrer family, but we are work hard and dress the best we can. Tattoos do not make a person white trash, as you implied. And blaming a family for the way one person turns out is pathetic at best. You do the best you can teaching a child right and wrong and living by example, and each child does their own thing and we all pray remembers how they were raised to act.

We aren’t drug addicts or alcoholics, and we aren’t wealthy like you people are, but shame on you for your inappropriate comments and accusations. My guess is you all think you are without sin and are casting all the stones. Pretty sure you aren’t.

And the unprofessional behavior of that attorney should be investigated by the law board. The judicial system in this country and this city is pathetic and Jerry’s sentence was totally wrong. He admits to his wrongdoings but the judge who said he was someone who could be manipulated and deserved 45 years needs to be removed from his position.

Reading the worthless paper Twin Falls produces, I noticed you can kill your wife and only get 20 years in jail and a kid who made the wrong decision about befriending someone gets 45 years. Something terribly wrong with the system.

Barbara Schaeffer

Napa, Calif.

Other View: Americans must stand with the 'dreamers'

Our nation’s sense of morality — and of itself — is once again being tested.

President Donald Trump has scrapped the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, threatening to deport nearly 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants — the “dreamers” — and crassly justifying the decision by hiding behind a false interpretation of immigration law and our constitutional separation of powers.

DACA, which gave undocumented young people brought to the United States as children a chance to work and study here without fear of deportation, has been a dramatic success. The program provided a two-year grant of protection and a permit to work legally in the United States, after which enrollees were required to go through a renewal process. To qualify, immigrant youths had to meet a set of stringent criteria: When applying, they were required to have been enrolled in high school, have a high school diploma or equivalent, or have been an honorably discharged military veteran. In addition, they must have lived in the United States continuously at least since June 15, 2007, and not have a criminal record suggesting they pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In other words, DACA was far from, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested Tuesday, an “open borders policy” that admitted “everyone.” To the contrary, it was a beacon of hope for a narrowly defined group who crossed our borders before they could have fully understood what a “border” was.

Of course, as Sessions emphasized, we are a nation of laws, and the immigration system is no different. We must ensure that our laws are enforced to maintain the vitality, prosperity and security of our polity. But in painting DACA as a flagrant disregard for our constitutional separation of powers, Sessions exhibited a fundamental misunderstanding of what DACA did. The program was based on the well-established executive-branch authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion in setting enforcement priorities. Rather than grant legal status, DACA simply deferred enforcement action against immigrants who met certain qualifications and permitted them to work lawfully in the meantime. And despite Sessions’s suggestion that President Barack Obama departed from established precedent in creating DACA, the practice of granting deferred action has been formally recognized as within the executive branch’s authority since the Reagan administration.

But the Trump administration’s revocation of DACA rests on more than legal misconceptions; it is also based on a misleading characterization of the dreamers. Sessions has justified the end of the program by suggesting that dreamers took jobs away from Americans and that “failure to enforce” immigration laws puts our nation “at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism.” This portrait stands in stark contrast with the dreamers who I, and many others, know, admire and love.

The dreamers I know are husbands and wives, children and parents, cousins and friends. They are business owners, neighbors and soldiers who fight for our nation. Their work in sectors from technology to law to finance continually betters our nation. They are not and should not be defined by their immigration status. They must be defined by their character and contributions to this country, their devotion to our communities, and the dreams they espouse. Their America is our America. As Obama has said, They are Americans “in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

We must look to the truth etched in our past and avoid a tendency to focus on short-term political impulses when it comes to immigration. Immigrants created the United States. Tenacity, entrepreneurship and fearlessness have defined immigrants throughout the centuries and serve as a common bond between my immigrant father and President Trump’s immigrant mother.

After immigrating to America from Barbados, my father served in the Army in World War II only to be refused service — while in uniform — at a lunch counter in the very nation he defended. Nevertheless, his persistence and unshaken belief in this country and the unique American opportunities made available to him enabled his son to become attorney general of the United States. That’s the possibility that comes with immigrating to this country, the dream that this country fosters and has made real. Remembering these truths can help us avoid the self-inflicted wound that will be caused by turning away from the principles that indeed made America great — again and again and again.

I’m calling on all Americans to see and treat dreamers as our own, because they are our own. Congress must urgently enact legislation to restore their ability to build lives in this country. States must resist Trump’s inevitable deportation efforts. The private sector must come together to defend its employees. Americans must raise their voices — and use their ballots. If we are to remain true to our heritage and who we claim to be, we must stand with the dreamers.