CITYDESK/NEWS Vaughn Ward faithful prior to the speech. “She’s very folksy and down 10 to earth.” McGee means that as a compliment. But we were a bit offended when Palin said that Idahoans are just average Americans. Where are the above-average Americans? There were two interesting moments during the Palin speech. At one point she asked if there were any “Tea Party-Americans” in the house and got near-universal cheers. While local Tea Party groups have endorsed Ward opponent Raul Labrador, and the same national Tea Party group that Palin has rubbed elbows with gave its blessing to Rep. Walt Minnick, Palin came to town today to steal headlines for Ward. But the interesting thing is this new (to me) usage of “Tea Party-American.” We can’t help but think the hyphen is in opposition to “African-American” or “Asian-American.” But maybe we’re being lamestream. The second interesting part was when Palin brought up Minnick, by name, blessing his heart and saying: “Walt, it’s who you’re hanging with, man.” Should Ward win the nomination on Tuesday, this might be his approach to taking on Minnick in the General Election: No complaints, you’re just the wrong party … which is not very Tea Partyish, by the way. The day before Palin’s speech, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter spoke to Boise Young Professionals, the youth wing of the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce. Following on the heels of Gov. C. L. “Butch” Otter’s March address to the same group, Bieter tried to counter the bad taste the governor left in the mouths of many BYP members, as Citydesk correspondent Josh Gross found. “Boise is the best possible place to pursue your dreams,” Bieter said. “Idaho is still a place where you can build the future you want to see. “Truthfully, Boise is a bigger challenge,” Bieter admitted. “It’s tough. But you all know that anything valuable takes work.” “There’s a pony in this city, and it’s our job to dig it out,” he said, referencing a joke he’d told at the outset of the speech about a child that chooses to play in a room full of manure rather than a room full of toys on the belief that there is a pony buried within. Bieter also took issue with the governor’s comment that Idaho’s universities couldn’t compete with other regional schools. Bieter gave a list of research grants and Fulbright scholarships that Boise State and the College of Idaho students have received, and discussed his own positive educational experience in Idaho. So what did BYP members think of Bieter’s presentation? Brooke Hetmer, who had cried after Otter’s speech, said she liked that Bieter has actually answered every question put to him. But it may be an overheard after-event comment that best exempliﬁes the audience reaction to Bieter’s speech. As Bieter sat down for a beer with some BYP members after the presentation, one of them asked him when he would be running for governor. “I’ve got to clear it with my wife,” Bieter laughed. “I’ll run for mayor again, and then we’ll see.” —Nathaniel Hoffman and Josh Gross
12 | MAY 26 – JUNE 1, 2010 | BOISEweekly
NEWS He speculated that the high level of activism in Oregon arose because the B2H is mainly in Oregon. Findley noted that at least one Idaho group opposed to the B2H got in touch with him to get advice on how to launch a successful campaign against Idaho Power. Idaho Power responded to this opposition across the Idaho-Oregon border by starting a community advisory process. The utility organized groups from Eastern Oregon down to Southwest Idaho to come up with alternative routes. Last year, these teams, representing three geographic areas, developed and submitted 47 alternatives. From those, the groups, along with Idaho Power, picked three plans. McCarthy said he values having such public involvement. “It’s been really painful at times, but it’s always been good information. We’re the engineers, but they’re the people who really know the geography and the issues. We need their input so we don’t go the wrong direction,” he said. Findley said he’s happy with the alternate route through Malheur County, which now 10
puts most of the line on public land. The proposed route also skirts private land in Canyon County. Lakey remains “cautiously optimistic” that it will stay that way. “Idaho Power has done a good job of listening to the citizens and the political leaders,” he said. Residents in Baker City, though, aren’t happy. The original transmission line would have gone over the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and up through the valley. Now the line goes behind the center. Residents argue if the line gets built there, it will destroy a historic view—one that pioneers ﬁrst saw coming through the valley. The Boardman to Hemingway project isn’t a done deal. Idaho Power must clear a number of hurdles before construction can begin. Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council is expected to make a decision by mid-August. Meanwhile, Idaho Power has started the process again with the BLM. Ultimately, the company will have to make the case for why the B2H is needed. Construction could begin in 2013 with the line active two years later.
ROLLING TO WILDER Revival of freight line could spur passenger link RACHEL KRAUSE Community leaders, lawmakers and railroad ofﬁcials were treated to a unique experience last week when a vintage passenger train took them from the Boise Depot to Southeast Boise for a ﬁrst-hand look at what could become a hot spot for rail transportation. The trip followed the city’s announcements of a new agreement with the newly formed Boise Valley Railroad to provide service and maintenance to all Boise-owned rail. Mayor Dave Bieter and John Brown, CEO of BVRR’s parent company, Watco Companies, also signed a letter of intent to explore the development of a new transload and intermodal railroad freight facility south of the Boise Airport. The potential facility would allow goods to be transferred from truck to train and vice versa. The nearest transload facilities are in Portland, Ore., and Ogden, Utah. City spokesman Adam Park said having one in Boise could make the area an “industrial corridor and an economic driver for the region.” For now, the city and BVRR, which was created in November 2009, will work on a joint feasibility study to judge demand and needs for the $2 million to $5 million facility. Brown thinks it is the perfect time for the new facility because “the city is looking for opportunities to grow the rail freight business and continue on with what we do today.” Wednesday’s event at the Depot also served as a ribbon-cutting ceremony for BVRR, which will provide service to all 18.2 miles
of city-owned rail under the new agreement. They will also maintain a testing range for local locomotive builder, MotivePower, which provides nearly 50 percent of the commuter locomotives in service across the country. Upgrades and maintenance to the existing track will enable trains to travel at higher speeds. Bieter praised the beneﬁts of maintaining a strong freight rail system. “Freight rail is more efﬁcient and able to operate at a larger scale than other forms of transportation,” he said. “We’re able to move a ton of freight 450 miles on a single gallon of gas.” This new partnership with BVRR not only has the potential to improve the ability to transport goods throughout the area, but people as well. Bieter, whose plans for a streetcar system have been hindered by lack of funding and support, said the city’s new relationship with BVRR could help further plans for a commuter rail system—something Bieter he has already broached with BVRR. “This kind of relationship really helps give us momentum to be able to accommodate that—we hope—in the near future,” Bieter said. “If you have a relationship and the freight is working well, then you can accommodate passengers.” Brown could not comment on any speciﬁc plans to use the city-owned rail for passenger service but stated “Boise Valley Railroad and Watco Companies are willing to look at anything that is mutually beneﬁcial.” WWW.B O I S E WE E KLY.C O M
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