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Columnists
Inside Politics: Moving ITD would devastate Shoshone

Talking about the Idaho Transportation Department may not be a subject that gets your blood flowing these days — especially with football season upon us — but we’re not here to talk about new rules for your license and registration renewal or the latest plan for snow removal. There is something more fundamentally important at stake. It involves the lifeblood of a small-town Idaho community, the safety of rural Idahoans and your tax dollars. In summation, the Idaho Transportation Department has never been so vital to so many people.

The subject we’re talking about is a location. In fact, a very specific one — the District 4 headquarters for the Idaho Transportation Department on Date Street in Shoshone. Many of you know it well. It has become a mainstay of the Shoshone community for half a century. However, given its age, the building is not what it used to be. It needs a new roof, new windows, new HVAC system, you name it. The ITD has run the numbers and determined it would be easier and cheaper to simply buy a new building than renovate the current one. Fair enough. The problem is, they are considering moving the headquarters out of the city of Shoshone and into Twin Falls or Jerome. Not only would such a move devastate the Shoshone community, it would be a kick in the teeth to the rural Idahoans who populate the vast District 4 region.

The economic blow to Shoshone is obvious. The city itself has a population of about 1,500 people. The ITD employs 60 of those people at District 4 headquarters. Half of those people are expected to retire over the next 10 years, which means another 30 jobs will be opening during that time period. According to a news report last year, moving the headquarters to a bigger city would drain Shoshone’s local economy of $250,000. There are also concerns about the negative effect a move would have on local property values and Lincoln County’s ability to attract new businesses. For a small Idaho town in a small Idaho county, those are major threats. Moving the District 4 headquarters out of Shoshone would be akin to a saw mill closing in any number of small Idaho towns — a huge economic event that could cripple the local economy for years to come.

Perhaps more important than the economy of a small town is the general safety of rural Idahoans. The ITD District 4 website says it all: “Idaho is home to a lot of rural roadways that present some unique safety challenges.” This was the lead sentence in a post about “Rural Safety Initiatives” that came out just last month. Keep in mind, District 4 covers the third largest geographic area and serves the third-largest population in the state. Of the 11,500 square miles it covers, much of that area is rural Idaho. Shoshone is smack-dab in the center of all of that space — 50 percent of the district is north of Shoshone and 50 percent is south. As such, it is a geographically “fair” location for the district it serves. The last time the ITD talked about moving the District 4 headquarters, the board understood the unique challenges posed by the region (just like it says on their website) and decided Shoshone was the best place to keep it. While we’re sure there are plenty of qualified people in Idaho’s bigger cities (where the ITD is already having trouble filling job openings), the people who work in the Shoshone office understand rural Idaho first hand. That direct knowledge is what helps keep us safe on the roads of South Central Idaho.

Finally, how would you like to save about $200,000? Of course you would. You work hard for your money, so why would you want the ITD to spend your tax dollars on a new headquarters in a bigger city when Shoshone is the cheapest option? According to estimates provided by the ITD, moving the headquarters from Shoshone to Twin Falls or Jerome would cost around $4 million. Moving to a new location in Shoshone would cost a couple hundred thousand dollars less. Why pass up a chance to actually save $200,000? Idaho has enough challenges when it comes to spending our transportation dollars wisely. We can’t afford to throw away tax dollars when cheaper options are available.

The only question we have is why this topic is even being debated. Moving the ITD’s District 4 headquarters to a new location in Shoshone would 1) continue to boost the economy of a bedrock small town in Idaho 2) provide rural Idahoans with employees who understand rural Idaho first hand and 3) save Idaho taxpayers a big chunk of change. This is what we call a win-win-win situation. We hope you see it the same way. And, while talking about the ITD may not normally be your first choice for conversation, the subject has never been so important to this region.

Don’t take our word for it, though. The ITD Board is holding a public meeting at District 4 headquarters in Shoshone on Thursday, Sept. 21, starting at 9 a.m. Be sure to tell Commissioner Jim Kempton that, on this very important issue, all roads should go through Shoshone. We certainly will.


Stennett


Toone


Mailbag
Letter: A helpful home teaching tool

A helpful home teaching tool

My daughter who is in kindergarten is particularly interested in math and constantly counting everything she can. She regularly asks me to quiz her on simple addition and subtraction throughout our day. I love that she is so interested in math and learning new things.

Khan Academy has become one of her favorite after-school activities. She gets so excited as she answers math problems and gets her little electronic reward. I am so grateful for this free online resource. It is an excellent supplement to what she is already learning at school. Right now her interest is math but Khan Academy has a myriad of subjects available. What’s even better, it is for students of all ages and grades. My husband and I even used it as a resource for understanding subjects during our undergraduate and graduate educations as well.

Whether you’re in kindergarten, retired or somewhere in between, we can always learn something new, and Khan Academy is a great resource in furthering our learning. Many teachers in Idaho have already begun using it in the classroom. My hope is that more teachers and parents will use Khan Academy as added support to help Idaho students be successful.

Malorie Pope

Twin Falls


Columnists
Cal Thomas: The option play

It’s football season again, so let’s call this deal the “option play.” It isn’t used much by today’s professional players, but the play is designed to give a quarterback the option of running the ball, or, if he sees he can’t make it through the defensive line, toss it to a player trailing behind him in an effort to gain yards.

President Trump might consider these options in an effort to push through his agenda.

Apparently having grown tired of Republican ineptitude for failing to repeal and replace Obamacare, or do much else with their majorities in the House and Senate, other than to think up new excuses for their failures, the debt ceiling deal might give the president wiggle room to demand concessions from Democrats. The danger is that Democrats may not feel the need to compromise, if they believe they can win concessions from a president who does not have an ideological core.

The second option might be to embarrass Republicans sufficiently to force them to unify and pass a true Republican agenda. That used to include lower taxes, smaller government and reducing the debt through less spending and economic growth. I’m not betting on this option.

Option three would be to put incumbent Republicans in such a bind that primary challengers next year could defeat “moderates” and others who failed to live up to their campaign promises. How many Republicans could successfully campaign on a platform of “re-elect me, because I accomplished nothing and opposed the president”?

There’s also an option the Republican majority hasn’t tried.Rush Limbaugh mentioned it on his radio program: “If just at any time in the past six months, or any time in the next six, if for just three months Ryan and McConnell would work with Trump to advance his agenda, they would own everything for who knows how long. If they would have repealed and replaced Obamacare, if they would have then moved on to tax cuts and ... real tax reform, and if they had built the wall. ... If those three things had serious action with an appearance of unity within the Republican Party on those issues, the Democrats wouldn’t stand a prayer for 25 years.”

Too many Republicans remain embarrassed that Trump won. He would never be allowed to join their inner circle whose mantra appears to be “when the going gets tough, the weak surrender without a fight.” For these Republicans, principles have been replaced by pragmatism.

Trump’s deal with Democrats excluded the children of “undocumented” immigrants. Perhaps the president could allow DACA kids to remain in the country in exchange for money to build the wall. But why should Democrats compromise when they get what they want anyway?

Democrats have a problem of their own after doing a deal with a president they have reviled and ridiculed since he announced his candidacy. If the president is giving them what they want, how do Democrats run against him in next year’s congressional elections?

The deal Trump made with Democrats expires in 90 days. Will Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi use an option they have successfully employed in the past to win more concessions from the president? It’s called the Christmas option and it is designed to smear Republicans as “heartless” politicians who would harm children by not giving in to Democrats’ demands.

President Trump has broken a legislative logjam. The question now is what happens next? That question goes not so much to Democrats as to the Republican leadership. It’s their option now.


Thomas