Hello Idaho by Robert Ehlert: Otter offers his greatest hits, few new ideas

August 28, 2013 

Robert Ehlert

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A little bit about a couple of things ...

There were not a whole lot of new notes in Gov. Butch Otter’s address to the Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday at the Boise Centre. In fact, it would be fair to categorize it as a compilation of his Idaho business accomplishments remixed into a Greatest Hits format.

Before a core base of business folks, he sang the “Legend of Chobani” chorus one more time, lauding the miracle of roping the boundless vision of Hamdi Ulukaya — a guy who could create the World’s Largest Greek Yogurt plant in Twin Falls in 326 days, which has put hundreds of Idahoans to work and its dairy cattle on overtime.

Though there was no actual music accompanying Otter’s folksie delivery, he included some hit phrases explaining that the Chobani plant success has become a “magnetic attraction.”

Otter performed one of his perennial favorites, “Rainy Day Funds,” repeating the refrain that he has worked hard to squirrel away another $85 million and that he’s not about to let it slip back into the hands of people who want to spend it — even though that amount is similar to the estimates for restoring the operational funding that has gone missing for Idaho school districts for about five years.

He introduced ideas for upcoming tunes that could hit the charts at any time and that will make Texas Gov. Rick Perry chile green with envy: “Don’t Sit Around Waitin’ For The Feds” and “Don’t Go To India, China or Brazil ... Come To Idaho!”

It is great that Idaho is in an enviable position financially, and Otter shares the credit with a host of public-private partnerships. But very soon he is going to have to face the music of proposed education reforms that are not going to come easy or cheap.

On Sunday, our Editorial Board will take a look at the challenge Otter faces to honor the just-completed work of his Task Force For Improving Education while balancing the frugal fiscal stewardship he espouses.


I found it pretty exciting that Gardner Co.’s Tommy Ahlquist is studying the possibility of putting that orphaned $12 million transportation hub beneath its newly acquired U.S. Bank building.

Ahlquist told the Statesman in a Tuesday story that he believes a public transportation hub would enhance Downtown’s culture and economy — and that goes both ways. Ahlquist has been a get-it-done player in the Treasure Valley, including the 8th and Main project that has transformed the “Boise Hole” into a skyline icon.

Sure, the Bank Basement Bus Stop is far from a done deal, but the U.S. Bank location makes the most sense of any alternative I’ve heard since the ill-conceived 8th and Jefferson spot fizzled.

Out of both necessity and curiosity, I recently took a bus ride from the Parkhill/North Bogus Basin Road area to Downtown, and then transferred to a Fairview route that dropped me off just a couple of blocks away from the Statesman. It cost me $2 total, and there were plenty of seats available that Friday morning earlier this month. The fact that Ahlquist sees the future better than most of us makes me wonder whether a transit hub/private partnership might just be the ticket public transportation needs to light the way to the future.

Robert Ehlert is the editorial page editor for the Idaho Statesman. He can be reached at rehlert@idahostatesman.com.

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