Friday, January 31, 2014

State Senator explores Common Core Standards

By Sheryl Nuxoll, Idaho State Senator District 7

The family is the basic unit of society, the most local unit of government. Parents are the primary educators of their children. Parents may delegate this responsibility to whomever they trust. From the founding of our nation, parents have chosen the type of schooling that best fitted their children’s needs, based on personalities, family lifestyles and beliefs. The schools in our country were varied, having different aspects of education. No school was exactly the same. Choices of education ranged from public, private, parochial, homeschooling, to tutoring.

Let’s look at the Common Core structure to see if it allows the parent to responsibly educate according to each child’s needs.

SBAC is the acronym for the testing system of Idaho Core, made from using federal and private funds to create a multi-state test. SBAC is a form of extreme testing requiring up to 8 hours (7 hours for 3rd grade). The Idaho Department of Education says Idaho needs a nationwide test to compare Idaho students with students across the nation. Is it necessary our children be the “same” throughout the state and nation? Do we want robots: held back if they want to learn more or disinterested due to lack of motivation if they get lost or discouraged? Students need individual attention to reach their full potential.

The SBAC does not provide immediate feedback needed to help the classroom teacher formulate instruction. The main purpose of the test is to give data to statisticians, rather than help teachers and parents. Our nation’s schools and teachers have always taught according to the tests. The SBAC seems to be a tool for policy makers to monitor, control, and manipulate teachers, students and parents. Who is in control—the curriculum companies or the federal administration?

Since school districts cannot opt out of Common Core, what avenue do parents have to change the system? The only curriculum that parents can choose is one that the state provides. SBAC has no process to lodge a complaint or modify the test. Where is the local control in our schools? In fact one of the books on the reading list for high school is a horrible pornographic book “Bluest Eyes”. The state cannot delete it from the list.

Grammar and literature of Idaho Core are eliminating many or large sections of our founding documents and classical literature to substitute informational manuals “to enter the workforce career ready”. In math a student may get more credit for working the problem using an approved process but getting the wrong answer rather than a student using a non-approved process with the correct answer.

SBAC does not take into consideration stages of child development. Since young children learn mostly from memorization, forcing abstract concepts can cause discouragement and lack of motivation. Middle school ages are ready to discuss. SBAC uses a technique where no outside information can be used to write their essays. This could be potentially harmful or discriminatory to young and vulnerable students. They may be required to defend a belief with which they do not morally or politically agree. Will high school students, who like to think and write critically, have the opportunity to make their own judgments? Does it bother you that tests are formatted, not to promote, but to discourage critical thinking when there can be only closed answers to essay tests?

This top-down approach is a utilitarian “readiness for work” mentality. Contact the State Dept of Education if you believe that these inflexible standards treat everyone like a cog in a machine. Testing today determines our country tomorrow.

No basis for criminal charges in alleged Winchester voting irregularities

Lewis County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Pall released a statement Tuesday finding no basis for pursuing criminal charges based on allegations of voting irregularities that arose following the Winchester City Council election held in November 2013.

The declination follows a lengthy investigation conducted by the Nez Perce County Sheriff’s Office, which was brought in as an independent investigator.

Shortly after the November 2013 election in Winchester, a number of individuals alleged that residents of Lakeside Residential Home in Winchester voted improperly and/or may have been coerced or bribed for their vote.

Residents of Lakeside were given money on the day of the election, according to the statement from Pall’s office. The fact the election took place Nov. 5 meant the money the residents received at the first of the month was dispersed on that date.

“Lakeside has cooperated in providing an accounting of the money disbursed and the sources of that money,” said the statement from Pall’s office. No evidence was found—much less enough for a criminal prosecution—that individuals at Lakeside were paid for their votes, according to the statement.

Another of the allegations indicated that a Lakeside resident didn’t want to vote or be present to vote, but was indicated to vote anyway. This statement was contradicted by the statements of other individuals present, including that of the resident, according to Pall.

It was also alleged that personal gain on the part of Lakeside may have been a motivation for encouraging its residents to vote. No evidence of this was found, according to Pall’s statement.

Some individuals at Lakeside do not reside there voluntarily—they have been committed by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, or are present under a court-ordered guardianship. This means they may or may not be residents of Lewis County; may in fact may or may not be entitled to even register as residents of Lewis County.

Because the ability of individuals under commitment to declare residency is unclear, facilitation of their votes was not a criminal action, according to the statement from Pall’s office.

If those residents were, in fact, ineligible to register as residents, then their votes would indeed have been illegal, and they could be charged with a violation of Idaho Code 18-2304. Persons under commitment have been adjudicated as mentally ill, and a court has deemed them unable to care for themselves; they are then dispositioned to various locations, such as Lakeside.

A provision in Idaho Code 66-325 provides that time spent at a facility does not contribute to residency; however, courts have found that certain restrictions on voting are unconstitutional, or have otherwise upheld the decision to declare residency.

Based upon this, as well as conversations with the staff of the offices of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, Pall feels parts of this law are unclear enough that it would be impossible to prove anyone from Lakeside knowingly aided or encouraged an illegal vote (assuming any votes from Lakeside residents were illegal in the first place).

In the meantime, because the law is so unclear, Pall has requested a formal opinion from the Office of the Attorney General regarding the ability of individuals under commitment to declare their residency

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lawsuit filed in district court against Clearwater County

James Borders has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Clearwater County and two sheriff’s deputies for an alleged illegal arrest, false imprisonment and illegal search of Borders vehicle on Aug. 16, 2012. He is asking for a jury trial and more than $10,000 in damages. The lawsuit claims that Borders’ constitutional rights were allegedly violated by the deputies’ actions.

The case was moved to federal court Jan. 7 after a tort claim was previously filed against Clearwater County, followed by a lawsuit in 2nd District Court. According to court documents Borders was asleep in his 2000 Dodge pickup in a pullout on the westbound side of U.S. Highway 12 near Orofino. Deputies David Koontz and Jerame Lee pulled up behind the pickup and asked Borders to step outside to evaluate whether he was safe to drive. Court documents show Borders wasn’t driving and the pickup wasn’t running.

According to the lawsuit, Officer Koontz filed a probable-cause affidavit to arrest Borders on allegations of driving under the influence and having an open container of alcohol in his possession. Court documents show Officer Koontz later changed the original probable-cause affidavit to remove the driving under the influence charge and leave the misdemeanor open container charge.

Borders was arrested and the pickup was searched. Officers allegedly found an open container of alcohol behind the front seat. According to court records no search warrants were issued for the search. According to the lawsuit the incident cost Borders attorney fees, bond fees and lost wages, a suspended driver’s license while his attorney worked through the administrative process.

According to the lawsuit Borders also alleges Clearwater County failed to sufficiently train its deputies, resulting in the unlawful arrest and search of his pickup. He is represented by Matthew Williams of Cascade and Clearwater County is represented by Sonyalee Nutsch of Lewiston.

School Board approves two levies for March

By Bob Vian, School District Superintendent

The Orofino Joint School District #171 Board of Trustees voted at a special School Board meeting Jan. 14 to place two levies on the ballot for March 12, 2014.

The trustees voted to maintain the current levy request for Maintenance and Operating (M&O) of the district at $2,285,000 per year. The current levy resulted in a property tax rate of approximately $4.55 per thousand dollars of taxable property value during the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Superintendent Bob Vian asked the trustees to approve a two year M & O Levy with no increase either year. The trustees agreed to the request. The two year levy will allow the district to better plan for the future, provides more security for younger staff by providing more stable funding, allow the taxpayer to know what taxes will be in the future for their personal budgeting, and reduces the cost and number of elections by 50%.

Passage of the two year request assures taxpayers that there will not be a tax increase in locally funded operating expenses over the three years that the current and proposed levies are in effect.

The Maintenance and Operating Levy provides 28% of the district’s operating budget.

The board of trustees also supported Superintendent Vian’s request for a School Facility Plant Levy (SFPL). This second levy is allowed, by Idaho Code, for “health and safety improvements” in the district’s five schools.

If approved by 55% of the voters in March, the SFPL will run for ten years at a rate of $100,000 per year. The tax rate is expected to be less than twenty cents per thousand of property tax value. A homeowner whose home is valued at $70,000 (the average home value in Clearwater County) would be taxed on $35,000 worth of value (due to the home owner’s exemption). The cost would be $7 per year, or less than 2 cents per day. A home owner whose home is worth $200,000 could expect to pay about $24 per year.

The funds raised with the SFPL would be used for safety and health related repairs only, specifically to replace the single pane windows in all buildings with double pane, high efficiency windows, replace the heating systems at Timberline and Orofino High School with heat pumps and back up “emergency” heat, and add electronic controls to the heating systems to reduce energy costs and provide fresh air in the classrooms as required by building occupancy codes.

Providing fresh air in classrooms is expected to reduce the spread of illness and improve attendance.

Because the health and safety conditions in the buildings can be declared an Emergency, the district would seek to use the ten year SFPL as collateral to borrow funds to do the necessary building upgrades in the summer of 2014.

Vian stated, “Putting off the repairs and doing them as individual heaters fail or replacing a few windows at a time, over the next ten years greatly reduces the savings on energy and increases the cost due to inflation The board and I are committed to spending this money to save taxpayers money over time, improve the health of our students and staff, and improve security in the classrooms.”

Energy savings are expected to be in the 30% range with the new windows and HVAC systems.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Poachers don’t take a holiday

While most of you were enjoying the holidays and spending time with family, some poachers were still out stealing your wildlife.

Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day two elk were shot and left to waste on the hill above the Glenwood road. On Friday, Jan. 3, concerned citizens called to report seeing the dead elk. Fish and Game investigated and confirmed that both the young bull and a healthy cow had been shot. Evidence indicated that the poachers most likely shot across the canyon, from the Beaver Slide road, and no attempt was made to retrieve either elk.

On Friday, Dec. 27, three elk were poached at the top of Gilbert Grade, right near the Clearwater and Lewis County line. Evidence showed that poachers likely shot from the vehicle and never tried to get to the elk. Responding deputies and Fish and Game officers were able to salvage the meat from these animals.

Then, on Jan. 1, call reported a deer shot on Upper Fords Creek Road, near Weippe. While the caller had a good vehicle description, there were not enough officers working on the holiday to cover the possible routes of escape. Investigating officers found that only the choice back straps of this deer were taken. Two mule deer does were also shot and left on the lower end of Highway 64.

The deer were reported in late November and the first week of December, and both were found 250 yards above the road. One witness commented, “It’s almost like they were used for target practice,” Since Dec. 29, officers working in the Riggins area have investigated five deer shot and left near Pollock.

The deer and elk in this story are only a fraction of the total number of animals poached each year. In 2013 Clearwater officers alone investigated and documented over 120 poached big game animals. Many of these were shot and wasted, but some were taken without tags or in a closed area.

If you think that is a big number, this will scare you: Research has shown that Fish and Game Officers only detect a fraction of the illegal animals, and most say it is less than 5%. So the real number in the region might be 2,400 animals. Now multiply that number by seven, for all the regions in the state, and the number could be nearly 17,000 big game animals taken from you.

All of these investigations are hard because there is little to no evidence left at the scene. Officers do not expect to solve every case, but they always try to find that one item or witness that will make the case. If you have any information on these cases or any wildlife crime, you need to call Citizens Against Poaching, at 1-800-632-5999. You can remain anonymous, and if your information leads to an arrest you will receive a reward. CAP has increased the reward for the multiple elk case to $1,000.
This young bull elk was killed by poachers sometime before Jan. 3, on a hill above the Glenwood road.

This mule deer was shot and killed by poachers, and left to waste, on the lower end of Highway 64 in late November or early December.

Friday, January 10, 2014

ISP to provide megaload travel updates and traffic safety reminders via Twitter

The Idaho State Police Regional Communications Center that covers southern Idaho, as well as county dispatch centers, have been inundated with calls from the public and the media with questions about the location the Omega Morgan or "Megaload" equipment shipment. In an effort to keep the public better informed as to where the shipments are parked during the daylight hours, ISP will post the information every morning on its Twitter account at @IdahoStPolice.

The easy access to the information is being provided with the hope that the public will get the information that they desire to view the shipments, while keeping ISP and county sheriff dispatch phone lines open for emergency communications.

The Idaho Transportation Department issued permits to Omega Morgan for two shipments of equipment that have traveled along southern and eastern Idaho highways over the past two weeks. The shipments are permitted to travel during the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. with weather and road conditions permitting.

Information will not be updated as the shipment is in progress, when the shipment will begin movement or how far the shipment is expected to travel each night. This information is constantly changing as the shipment moves and there are too many factors continuously at play to report the information accurately.

The first shipment did not travel on Monday night and is currently located on State Highway 93 at milepost 341 at the Lost Trail Pass north of Gibbonsville. The second shipment traveled from the junction of State Highways 78 and 51 west of Hammett to US Highway 20 at milepost 126 near Cat Creek Summit east of Mountain Home.

When stopped the shipments are pulled completely off of the roadway. The safety of the public is the top priority of law enforcement at those locations.

The public is reminded to obey all traffic laws and to use common sense when stopping to view or photograph trucks. This includes onlookers staying off of the highway while on foot, pulling completely off of the roadway to photo the equipment from a vehicle and using extreme caution when leaving or reentering the highway. Please use a vehicle turnout when turning around and do not make a u-turn on a highway.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Collaboration on Forest Plan continues

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests will be holding additional meetings in 2014 to collaborate with the public on revising the Forest Plan. This is a continuation of meetings held over the last year to hear from the public on how they would like to see the National Forests managed.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests were selected to be “early adopters” of the Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule which emphasizes collaboration to develop the plan.

Rick Brazell, Forest Supervisor, extends an invitation to the public to participate. “Everyone that has an interest in management of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests is welcome to come and give their input. We’ve had approximately 50 to 60 people participate in each meeting and encourage all thoughts on management. This has been an exciting time to bring people together and hear their ideas.”

The meetings will be:

Feb. 8, at the Orofino Forest Service Office. Topics include Air Quality, Fire, and Fuel Management, Distinctive Roles of the Forest, and What’s Next in the NEPA Process.

March 8, at the Grangeville Forest Service Office. Topics include Air Quality, Fire, and Fuel Management follow-up, Social and Economic Assessment Presentation, updates on Timber Suitability, and Recreation Opportunity Spectrum and Recommended Wilderness.

April 5, at the Orofino Forest Service Office. The topic will be Wildlife Resources.

May 10, at the Grangeville Forest Service Office. Topics include Integration Reports of all resources, a review of Tribal Resources input, and Wildlife Resources follow-up. This is the final planned collaboration session prior to initiating scoping for the NEPA process.

A Draft Forest Plan is expected to be available in June for interested parties to provide formal input through the NEPA process. Public meetings will be held at this time to share key items from the plan, answer questions, and for the public to learn how to provide comments.

For more information on these collaborative meetings or how you can participate outside of the meetings, please contact Carol Hennessey, Forest Plan Revision Collaboration Coordinator, at 208-935-4270 or email at

You can also visit the Forest Plan Revision website at www.fs.usda. gov/detail/nezperceclearwater/landmanagement /planning/?cid=stelprdb5388769.

Boise Internet training company barred from Idaho

Will pay $100,000 to resolve consumer complaints

A Boise-based company that sold ecommerce training is prohibited from doing business in Idaho under terms of a legal settlement with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. The company, eCommerce Support, LLC, also will pay $90,000 in restitution and reimburse the Attorney General $10,000 for the cost of his investigation.

Wasden said more than 70 consumers who purchased ecommerce training services from eCommerce Support will share in the restitution fund. The settlement resolves the Attorney General’s investigation and consumer protection lawsuit against the company.

“My office has seen an increase in complaints against ecommerce training companies located in Idaho,” Wasden said. “I encourage Idahoans considering starting an online business to learn all they can about any training company before they invest in ecommerce training. At a minimum, consumers should check with my Consumer Protection Division and the Better Business Bureau to see if there are complaints against the company with whom they are considering doing business.”

Wasden’s office began investigating eCommerce Support after consumers complained the company misrepresented the written materials and coaching services purportedly designed to help consumers develop Internet businesses. Consumers alleged they paid thousands of dollars to eCommerce Support based on the company’s false claims that consumers: were investing in a business; would earn a specific sum of money within a short amount of time; only had to work 10 hours per week to make money; could deduct the cost of the program from their taxes, and, among other things; and would receive a professional, functioning website.

Consumers in Idaho and throughout the United States claimed they paid eCommerce Support for coaching services, but the coaches failed to provide consumers with adequate time or instruction. eCommerce Support allegedly did not inform some consumers of their right to cancel or allow others to cancel when they contacted the company.

The settlement holds a $50,000 civil penalty in abeyance, pending eCommerce Support’s compliance with the settlement.

By late January, the Attorney General expects to contact the consumers who have filed complaints with his office and are eligible to receive payments. Although they will not be eligible for restitution, Wasden encourages other consumers who lost money to eCommerce Support and have not yet filed a complaint to do so. Consumer complaint forms are available from the Attorney General’s website at or by calling 208-334-2424.