Idaho: Good to remember a great governor

by Judy Ferro

When the weather is so nice, it’s time to think about camping and fishing, not politics–though, at my age, it’s more about barbecues and wading pools.

I don’t want to hear that, for the third week in a row, there is a new story about mismanagement in Treasurer Ron Crane’s office.  First, Christopher Priest filed a claim that Crane fired him last November for revealing waste of public funds.  A week later, Travis Schaat revealed he had been fired after he refused to alter minutes of the investment advisory board for political reasons.  And this week the “Blue Review” at Boise State University revealed that Crane’s secret 2012 agreement absolving Key Bank may have cost Idahoans millions.  Apparently, banks across the nation have paid high settlements for investing customer money in securities known to be high risk.

I really am ready for a cold drink on the patio.  Who cares that Governor Otter is supporting a lawsuit filed by ten states against the federal guidelines for treatment of transgender students?  Though I wonder why the Governor didn’t say anything last year when the Idaho School Boards Association adopted rules.  I suppose one gets more points for fighting Feds?

And this is certainly no time to discuss presidential contest.  Don’t even mention the lawsuits saying that Trump University not only defrauded hardworking people of thousands of dollars, but taught students illegal and immoral ways to defraud others.

I think stories like those are what drove Betsy Russell, political reporter for the Spokesman Review, to write a feature on Governor Cecil Andrus last week.

The Andrus years were better days.

Russell quotes Andrus as saying, “There wasn’t that bitterness and rancor of partisanship that you see that prevails today.”

Yet, if anyone could find a way around bitterness and rancor, Gov. Andrus would.  He had a mellow way of chuckling at himself and getting others to chuckle at themselves also.  He seemed to say, “We’re just folks here—folks working together to take care of this problem.”  He did have a temper though and used both wit and brawn to deal with those who crossed him.

Yeah, a true Idahoan.

Andrus focused on two major issues—education and conservation—and spoke heart-to-heart with everyone he met.

According to Russell, “Andrus attributes his victory to traveling the state widely and making the case that Idaho had enough revenue, but it wasn’t putting enough into education.  ‘They kept wanting to give it away (through tax cuts), just like they are today.’”

Over the years, the Governor worked to increase school funding and, after five sessions, managed to convince the legislature to fund kindergarten in Idaho.  He said, “If you want good teachers, you’ve got to compete.”

Too bad he wasn’t in charge in 2009; legislators would not have got away with cutting education support by 20%.

Andrus’s greatest environmental fight, one he and Gov. Phil Batt still pursue, is to prevent Idaho from becoming a permanent nuclear waste dump.  He’s concerned that four 50-year-old single-wall stainless steel tanks containing radioactive liquid waste still threaten the Snake River aquifer.

His work while governor ranged from stopping Idaho Power from building a coal-powered plant within 30 miles of Boise to helping Senator Jim McClure establish the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

That’s all the politics I can handle these days—thoughts of Idaho leaders who’ve loved our state.

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