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The Year in Ideas 

Some of the best points from our commentators this year.

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From “Race to Wisconsin”
By Mary Lou Reed, 2/24/11

The Idaho Education Association (IEA) is a special target of [Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom] Luna’s union-busting Senate bill because it has traditionally been supported by Democratic candidates. As we’ve been seeing in Wisconsin over the past week, the governor and fellow Republicans are using the budget crisis as an excuse to reach an ideological goal — to cut down the power of the teachers’ union.

In my experience, the most effective advocate for improvement in Idaho’s public education has always been the Idaho Education Association. The push for smaller class sizes was led in the ’80s by Jim Shackelford, then executive director of IEA. The union supports more Democratic candidates than Republican because, my experience tells me, most Republican legislators do not care passionately about education.

The constituencies that have the most to win or lose from this legislation — students, teachers and parents — were not consulted in preparing these proposed changes.

It’s a top-down operation. It’s a Students Come Last, Teachers Goodbye, Idaho at the Bottom, sad kind of story. Let’s pull a Wisconsin and descend on Boise.

From “Buyer’s Remorse”
By George Nethercutt, 8/11/11

The United States faces a leadership gap, and a self-inflicted one at that. American society — particularly the young — now disrespects politicians in the worst way possible — they tune them out. It reminds me of the hit song by Sting, “If I Ever Lose My Faith In You,” when he sings, “You could say I lost my belief in our politicians, they all seem like game-show hosts to me.” Having disrespected political leaders in power is not good for either our culture or system of government.

Often we ignore those with whom we disagree, and the public is disengaging from day-to-day politics in increasing numbers. As American society becomes a culture of special interests … we get public officials elected less for their overall judgment and experience and more for their reliable support on a handful of issues.

When voters clamor for leaders they think America needs, and then get them (Obama and other extremists come to mind), and that chosen leadership fails, buyer’s remorse sets in… But the elections of 2012 offer us an opportunity to elect wise, mature, seasoned leaders to exercise the sound judgment in public affairs that America so desperately needs.

From “Otto Pilot”
By Ted S. McGregor Jr., 8/18/11

Of course it’s admirable to defend the police — they are put in deadly situations and have to make snap decisions that sometimes turn out badly. But to take the legal position that our police never make mistakes defies common sense.

This really is a question of leadership. For five years, it’s been hard to find an elected official willing to take responsibility for or even explain the city’s legal strategy. There are times — say, when seven-figure damages are looming — when electeds need to insert themselves and micromanage city legal staff. We elected them to be accountable, especially for big moral and financial decisions like this one.

From “Call for Continuity”
Inlander Endorsement, 10/27/11

You can be doing great on 85 percent of your job as mayor, and Spokane may still kick you to the curb. You can pay the bills on time and keep the toilets flushing, but if you get that one big thing wrong, you’re dead to us. For Mary Verner, that one big thing is Otto Zehm.

As mayor, she bought the city’s strategy, which included lies, cover-ups and blaming Zehm… Meanwhile, Spokane has seen the video refuting the lies and made up its mind: We killed one of our most vulnerable citizens. Spokane has a moral imperative to do the right thing here, and the only person who can rise above the fray and make that happen is the mayor.

Mary Verner has failed to make peace with Otto’s ghost — and he’ll haunt her all through this election.

From “Time to Govern”
By Robert Herold, 11/17/11

Will Mr. Condon learn his way around the building, become expert on the downtown and neighborhood issues, land-use issues, budget issues and social problems? Will he be a good listener? Will he ask the critical follow-up questions — the strategic questions?

Once in office, will he speak for the people, or for special and partisan interests? Recall that he advertised himself as “nonpartisan,” yet he accepted 60,000 partisan dollars from the state Republican committee. He should keep in mind that the same electorate that voted him in nearly passed the Community Bill of Rights — perhaps the most leftist bit of legislation I’ve ever seen.

Finally, unlike many Republicans today, will he actually take governing seriously? Simply saying, “We can do better,” as he did in his campaign ads, was somehow enough to get him elected. Succeeding as mayor is a completely different animal.

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