Don’t Believe Misleading Facts About Proposition 2

By Sen. Shawn Keough
Reader Contributor

The official voters’ guide from the State of Idaho for November’s ballot contains several arguments against Proposition 2 (Medicaid Expansion) that are false or misleading. Among them: that Medicaid Expansion will lead to cuts in funding for public schools.

Without a doubt, due to the nature of our Idaho Constitution’s requirement for a balanced budget, ALL items in our state budget “compete” “against” each other. Always have, always will. That said, my argument in favor of Medicaid Expansion – beyond the humanity of it – is that we “taxpayers” are already paying for this medical care for the “gap population.” We pay for it through our property taxes when these folks must turn to the county indigent fund to help them pay catastrophic medical care bills. We pay for it through the State’s Catastrophic Fund (AKA Cat Fund) which are our sales and income taxes. We pay for it by paying higher costs for our own care at hospitals, doctors, dentists and other medical services. And, we who can afford health insurance pay for it through the higher insurance premiums we pay on our policies, because insurance companies are in it for the profit. They will always pass the costs to their policy holders and to the doctors, hospitals and others they contract with.

So, although a large percentage will come from the federal taxes we send to D.C. the portion we will pay at the state will come out of the General Fund. Now, will it cut public schools? Beyond the irony of the Idaho Freedom Foundation actually being concerned about the funding for our public schools, I would say that — even though we can and should do more — the Idaho Legislature’s commitment to public school funding is clear: the K-12 budget always comes first and all other budgets come afterward. And, the K-12 budget is and has been between 48 percent and 52 percent of the entire general fund budget for over 20 years!

A couple of other items: Our state economy as reflected in our state general fund income has been increasing since the recession and is currently on an 8-percent-plus  growth line. Additionally, should Medicaid Expansion pass, there will be growth in the economy due to added jobs in the medical field, which in turn will pay more taxes than received today. And, perhaps most importantly, the folks in the “gap” are the working poor. They are working! They are working two and three jobs to keep themselves and their families going! They are in the workforce today and want to stay in the workforce. These, typically, are the folks working in the service businesses the rest of us expect to be there. The clerk at the retail store, the coffee shop, the hardware store — you get the picture.

And finally, if your roof has a leak, usually, you fix it before it gets worse and you must replace the entire roof — which is more expensive. With Medicaid Expansion people will get the preventative care they need which will diminish the burden on our system caused by them waiting until their health gets so bad they go to an emergency room. Medicaid Expansion is just plain common sense: fiscally and humanly.

Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, has represented District 1 as state senator since 1996. Keough announced last year she would retire after this, her current term in office.

Candidates Cover the Issues at Forum

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

Nearly 200 people turned out for a candidate’s forum Tuesday night at the Sandpoint Library, where more than a dozen hopefuls for public office asked for citizens’ votes.

Among the many issues discussed during the forum, the proposed Newport smelter provoked some of the most animated discussion. With widespread opposition to the project organized in both Idaho and Washington, candidate stances ranged from a wait-and-see approach to vocal opposition. Bonner County District 1 commissioner candidates Steve Bradshaw, Republican, and Steve Johnson, Democrat, were both strongly opposed, with Bradshaw saying the land deal that provided the property for the proposed site was done illegally.

District 3 commissioner candidates Dan McDonald, Republican, and Steve Lockwood, Democrat, sparred over the issue, with McDonald saying the county’s legal team advised against taking a position until environmental impact statement data was available. Lockwood claimed McDonald hadn’t done enough to represent the county’s interests in the matter, saying that his wait-and-see approach was inconsistent to his support for the proposed Rock Creek Mine in Montana.

Rep. Heather Scott, up for reelection as District 1’s Republican representative, said that not enough is being done to evaluate the smelter’s potential impact on the area and has worked to mobilize people around the issue, sending out informational letters, seeking legal representation and contacting state officials on the matter. Likewise, her opponent, Democrat Ellen Weissman, said that she opposes the smelter and that everything she’s learned about it indicates it will be disastrous for the local environment.

Rep. Sage Dixon, also up for reelection as District 1 Republican representative, took a more moderate approach, saying he was waiting for more information to be released. In contrast, his Democratic opponent, Stephen Howlett, said he was strongly opposed, saying the plant could result in environmental problems like acid rain.

Jim Woodward, a Republican up to replace the retiring state senator Shawn Keough, said he wanted to evaluate the project with hard science but nevertheless shared concerns and had little interest to see it built in the region. His opponent, Vera Gadman, did not attend the forum.

On Medicaid expansion, up for a vote this year as Proposition 2, Woodward said that while he prefers other solutions, the Proposition 2 ballot initiative is a valid approach to the problem. Both Scott and Dixon opposed it, saying it would eventually be a financial burden for Idaho and that government had no place in health care. Weissman and Howlett supported expansion, with Weissman saying she’s met many locals who have no access to health care.

McDonald said assertions that Bonner County commissioners recently gave themselves a $10,000 pay raise is inaccurate, asserting that the county uses a third-party agency to determine average compensation for county positions and that commissioners approved raises for elected officials on the advice of the Human Resources Department. Lockwood and Johnson said a $78,000 commissioner salary is unnecessary and that they would either decline or donate the pay bump. Bradshaw incorrectly claimed the average Idaho salary for commissioners is over $100,000 (in fact, according to the 2018 Idaho Association of Counties Salary and Benefits Study, the average salary is just over $39,000, with Ada County alone having a commissioner salary over $100,000).

When asked why he did not serve out full terms for two public offices, Lockwood said he had to resign a school board position when he joined the Sandpoint City Council, which he later left due to health issues. McDonald said that whatever the case, voters could count on him to serve the full four years.

Bonner County Assessor candidates Donna Gow and Wendel Bergman both cited their experience — Gow in the Bonner County Assessor’s Office and Bergman in the private sector — as qualifying characteristics. Bonner Soil and Water Conservation District candidates Dale Van Stone and Terry McGuirk, both incumbents seeking to retain their offices, said their love for the county’s natural resources fueled their public work. Their opponents, Allen Banks and Thomas Clark, did not attend the forum.

Candidates covered many additional topics in the two-and-a-half-hour forum. To hear it in its entirety, listen to the podcast at http://www.krfy.org/podcast/ and select the most recent upload under “Other Podcasts” on the right-hand side.  

Locals Vouch for Authenticity of YouTube Clip

October 28, 2018 at 5:00 am | By Keith Kinnaird | Bonner County Daily Bee

SANDPOINT — The source of a controversial YouTube video involving Bonner County Commissioner Dan McDonald is vouching for the authenticity of the clip.

McDonald, who can be heard on the clip nonchalantly urging landowners to sell their homes if they have a problem with PacWest Silcon’s proposed smelter in Newport, contends the nine-minute clip has been doctored. But Carol Lamberson, the Oldtown resident who recorded the clip on her phone’s video camera, said the clip was not altered in any way.

“I don’t even know how to edit it. I just copied from my phone onto my computer,” said Lamberson.

The video was recorded at the Bonner County Administration Building in November 2017, after commissioners met with an Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to discuss the silicon smelter proposal. It was posted to the video-sharing website earlier this month by Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter.

Lamberson said she started recording her interactions with public officials because of the outrageous things that have come out of their mouths during the smelter debate.

“Not once does it pause or stop,” Lamberson said of her recording. “That’s the whole recording.”

McDonald is also heard on the recording accusing the Kalispel Tribe of taking kickbacks and claimed to have proof of the chicanery. The tribe has declined to comment on McDonald’s allegation of corruption.

Also vouching for the authenticity of the clip are Theresa and Axel Hiesener, who are also heard on the video.

The Hieseners are speaking out because they are weary of being called liars by McDonald’s supporters.

“The bottom line is he’s busted and he knows it. He’s backpedaling. He’s flat-out lying is what he’s doing,” Theresa Hiesener said.

Axel Hiesener , a retired law officer and veteran, said he has experience with evaluating recordings and notes that there is clear continuity among the conversations, some of which overlap.

“The audible evidence is pretty clear that the tape is accurate,” Axel Hiesener said.

The Hieseners and Lamberson also dispute that the recording was made for political purposes, such as to aid Steve Lockwood, a Democrat whose running against McDonald for the District 3 seat on the board.

Axel Hiesener said he’s a career conservative and a lifelong Republican.

“This ain’t political for me,” Lamberson said. “I’m not a fan of Lockwood and I’m not a fan of Dan McDonald because of his mouth.”

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

Candidates Debate Smelter, Issues

SANDPOINT — Candidates seeking election to Bonner County’s board of commissioners are flatly opposed the prospect of a silicon smelter being developed in Newport.

Incumbent Republican District 3 Commissioner Dan McDonald, meanwhile, is reserving judgment until the Washington Department of Ecology’s environmental review is complete.

“Then we will take a stand,” said McDonald, who added that the Bonner County Prosecutor’s Office advised commissioners against taking a position until the regulatory process plays out.

McDonald’s challenger in the District 3 race, Sandpoint Democrat Steve Lockwood, is opposed to the smelter and argued during Tuesday’s Sandpoint Reader/KRFY forum that commissioners should be on point in the battle over the proposal.

“I have grave concerns about the smelter,” said Lockwood and took issue with recorded comments by McDonald that residents can sell their property if they are opposed to PacWest’s proposal.

Steve Bradshaw, the GOP nominee for the District 1 seat on the board, also opposed the smelter.

“The pollution is going to be horrendous,” said Bradshaw, who’s being challenged by Democrat Steve Johnson in the Nov. 6 general election.

Johnson said the smelter is a clear and present danger to the paradise of North Idaho, which attracts retirees, those with medical conditions and young families looking for a healthy place to raise children. Johnson recalled looking out over the Silver Valley and seeing the devastation a smelter operation there caused.

“It was just devastating. I couldn’t believe it was North Idaho,” said Johnson.

Bradshaw, a local pastor, said he was not a politician, but was someone who was held to a higher moral authority. Johnson, meanwhile, argued that county commission positions should be decided in nonpartisan elections, such as how judges are elected to the bench.

Candidates also sounded off on the state of land use regulation in Bonner County.

Bradshaw claimed he was misquoted in the press when he said he would do away with planning and zoning if it were up to him. He then reiterated that he would “disassemble” those regulations if he could.

Johnson contended that land use regulations are a bulwark that protects landowners’ property rights.

Lockwood holds a similar view. He opposed cutting the Panhandle Health District out of the loop on building location permit reviews.

“It has resulted in some problems. We shouldn’t have that. It hurts our groundwater. It hurts our aquifer,” said Lockwood.

McDonald defended the de-tangling of red tape which has reduced fees, bureaucracy and headaches for landowners trying to develop their property.

“A permit does not guarantee compliance,” McDonald added.

McDonald was asked about a bootleg event business in the Lower Pack River Valley that is operating without permits, much to the chagrin of neighboring landowners who say their rural neighborhood’s ambiance is being destroyed by traffic and noise.

McDonald said the county shut the business down temporarily, but added that he supports the business because it helps people dealing with addiction.

“It’s all about dealing with addiction,” said McDonald.

Nevertheless, Lockwood pointed out that permits are still required and need issuance before a business can commence operation.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

Doctors’ Orders? No Silicon Smelter

October 23, 2018 at 5:00 am | By JUDD WILSON Hagadone News Network | Bonner County Daily Bee

COEUR d’ALENE — The proposed PacWest silicon smelter in Newport, Wash., would be bad for the health of residents in North Idaho, eastern Washington, and western Montana, say several local doctors.

“This is a monstrous, heavily polluting smelter that they’re proposing. That has me concerned,” said pediatrician Dr. Renata Moon. The Kootenai County native said she is not typically involved in environmental issues, but the proposed smelter “is wrong for our area.”

The smelter will be powered by hundreds of thousands of tons of coal from outside the region, Moon said.

By belching out air pollution and with heavy metals finding their way into local waterways, the smelter would negatively impact children during their bodies’ formative years, she said. Kids’ lungs aren’t fully formed when they are born, so exposure to air pollution affects them for their entire lives.

“Children have a higher susceptibility to air pollutants because they breathe faster, and play more vigorously than adults do,” Moon said, citing an American Academy of Pediatrics statement. “They inhale more over time, and tend to play outdoors more than adults do,”

Moon said numerous studies have shown bad health effects from air pollutants even at levels that were previously thought safe.

“There is no safe level for many of these chemicals,” she said.

The PacWest silicon smelter was planned for Newport, Moon said, because the region has “decent air quality in general, so they have more room to pollute” without getting slapped by fines.

Moon also said lead that is left over from coal burning is a danger to chidren, causing intellectual disabilities even if the lead is removed from their bodies later on.

She said coal-burning, heavy industries should not be located in inhabited areas like eastern Washington and North Idaho.

“Does the heavy industry’s rights to a profit outweigh the rights of the community to a healthy environment?” she asked.

Emergency physician Dr. Robyn Hitchcock agreed.

“I think having a pollution factory nearby would be a travesty. Look at what happened in the Silver Valley. Now it’s still a Superfund site. They test the kids for lead three to four times a year. It’s still a disaster. It would be a travesty if that happened in this day and age,” said the doctor, who works in Kellogg.

Hitchcock said if the smelter is built and begins operations, air quality in North Idaho will be like it is during wildfire season, with discolored skies and people wearing masks outside. “Imagine that, all the time,” she added.

Hitchcock also said when air quality deteriorates, those with sensitivities take it particularly hard. Asthmatics, cancer patients, and others “will be taken down by this,” she predicted. “People come into the emergency room with respiratory failure during wildfires because the air is so bad. That’s going to escalate. And some of them die,” she added.

Hitchcock explained that even those who are otherwise healthy are negatively impacted by air pollution. Once you lose your health, there’s no getting it back, she said.

“I think it would be a disaster on a number of levels,” said Dr. Timothy Bonine of Sandpoint.

The family doctor explained that inversions during the winters would trap and concentrate PacWest smelter emissions “like a pressure cooker.”

He said he could hardly keep up with the number of patients who came in with respiratory problems during wildfires last summer, and feared seeing a repeat of years ago when grass fields would be burned.

“The number of older people with lung diseases and kids with asthma skyrocketed,” he said.

Bonine also feared the amount of coal dust that would be generated by the smelter.

“There is no known safe amount of coal dust to inhale,” he said.

However, Jayson Tymko said such claims are “so far off it’s not even funny.”

The president of HiTest Sands’ U.S. operations said the air quality here would be no worse with the smelter.

Just look at the French Alps, he said, where two silicon smelters have operated for years. Look at Niagara Falls, N.Y., where another silicon smelter has operated for the past 50 years. Tourists flock to both locations for their pristine air and water, said Tymko, and don’t even notice the silicon smelters there.

“One hundred percent of what the plant emits is safe,” he added.

The bulk of what the smelter will emit into the air is carbon dioxide — and as for other gases, it’ll amount to less than what six boats on Priest Lake emit in an afternoon, Tymko said.

Lead will not come out of the smelter into the air or in the water, he said. There are more and worse emissions from the log furnaces throughout Pend Oreille County, Wash., than there will ever be from the proposed plant, said Tymko. The smelter will produce zero coal ash, he added.

Tymko said he wants the public to have full knowledge of what the truth is regarding the smelter, and that’s why he asked the Washington Department of Ecology to conduct a full environmental impact study, and invited in the Washington Department of Health as well.

“If we were going to be polluting the air, Washington State is the last state we’d be doing business in,” he said.

Moon said she has spoken with officials at the Washington Department of Ecology and the Washington Department of Health, but said “Idaho needs to have a voice in this.”

Information about the smelter proliferates online. A website funded by the Kalispel Tribe of Indians is online at stopnewportsmelter.org, while PacWest has its own website complete with FAQs at pacwestsilicon.com. Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter have a page on Facebook, as do the Friends and Allies of the Newport Silicon Smelter.

As part of its EIS scoping process, the Washington Department of Ecology is accepting public comments on the smelter through 11:59 p.m. Oct. 26 at bit.ly/smelterEIS. Residents can also write to Grant Pfeifer, Regional Director Department of Ecology, at 4601 N. Monroe St., Spokane, WA 99205.

Hitchcock said Idahoans concerned about their health and the environment ought to prevent the smelter from becoming a reality.

“Once it’s up and running, it’ll be so much harder to shut down than to keep it from contaminating our air in the first place,” she said.

Sandpoint Approves Wastewater Facility Plan

October 20, 2018 at 5:00 am | By MARY MALONE Staff writer | Bonner County Daily Bee

SANDPOINT — With its aging infrastructure, the city has replaced or rehabilitated nearly a quarter of its wastewater treatment system over the past 10 years.

“So the city has done a lot, but there is still a lot to do,” said Steve James with J-U-B Engineering, during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Council members voted on Wednesday to approve a wastewater facility plan that will be submitted to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for review. The city was awarded a $65,000 wastewater planning grant from the IDEQ more than a year ago, and submitting the draft plan is the final step in the process, James said.

Key factors driving the project include new discharge permits, future permits, high peak flows and aging infrastructure.

On Aug. 1, council members voted to leave the plant at its current site on the bank of the Pend Oreille River, adjacent to War Memorial Field, rather than move it to an alternative site on Baldy Mountain Road.

Back in 2009 the city purchased the 32.2-acre chunk of land on Baldy for $905,000, with the hope that it would someday house a wastewater treatment plant capable of serving all five of the area’s sewer districts. Regionalization, however, was not one of the options council looked at before making a decision on whether the plant would stay at its current site or move to the Baldy site.

Council ultimately decided to bridge improvements, phasing the project out over time, with new technology at the existing site. The option will give the city more time by extending the life of some of the current technology until new technology could be installed. It will also give the city time to reduce inflow and infiltration, which James said is important because treating less flow will keep costs down over the long term. It will also give the city time to pay down its current sewer bond, so as not to “stack debt on top of debt,” he said.

“And finally, a project like this is expensive,” James said. “Anything you can do to line up grant money and funding is important — it takes time to do that … this buys time to get everybody lined up to get the political support to get big funding behind the project.”

The cost of bridging improvements at the existing site was initially estimated at $71-$83 million. According to the agenda report by Public Works Director Amanda Wilson, engineering efforts led to a decrease in the estimate since the last council update. It is now projected to cost $59.6-$74.2 million.

During the first phase of the project, components of the plant that are at the highest risk of failure until bond is paid off in 2022 will be replaced or repaired. The second phase will be construction of a new plant by the end of 2024, and the final phase will include construction of additional capacity to achieve 100 percent biological treatment at peak flows, according to Wilson’s report.

City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said there has been public interest regarding the Baldy site and what will become of it since the council decided not to move the wastewater plant. Stapleton noted during the meeting that is not part of the facility plan, and would instead be discussed at a future council meeting.

She did add, however, that the city is currently in the appraisal process for the Baldy property and is not in conversation with any organizations about disposition of the property.

“I know those rumors have been going around, that there are developers interested … none of those conversations have occurred,” Stapleton said.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

Volunteer-Fueld KRFY Keeps it Local

October 21, 2018 at 5:00 am | By DAVE GUNTER Feature correspondent | Bonner County Daily Bee

SANDPOINT — Local community radio station KRFY-FM got its construction permit in mid-2009 and was on the air by January of 2011. But the conversations that led to the volunteer-run, community funded concept started in 2006, when broadcast visionary Scott Daily began shopping the idea around town and caught the imagination of early allies such as Jeff Poole and Charlie Parrish.

Poole helped steer the station along its first stages of growth, later handing the wheel to current station manager Suzy Prez. Daily, who passed away as his dream was being realized, pulled downtown real estate official-broker Parrish into the fold, impressing upon him the importance of creating a local voice for news, music and information.

“I think we needed a voice of reason in this town — a group of people who appreciate science and truth,” Parrish said. “One of the initial things that grabbed my attention was the Al Jazeera connection. We ran Al Jazeera for about a year before they went off the air.”

Even as the station was exploring what is sometimes described as “alternative” news from syndicated sources, a growing band of volunteers began to craft music programming to help fill the 24/7 broadcast schedule.

“It has changed a lot — from being almost fully syndicated to content that originates here,” said station manager Suzy Prez, who estimated that about 75 percent of broadcast material now hails from the control room through either live shows or pre-recorded “automated” programs put together and DJ’d by KRFY volunteers.

And while it came a few years into the station’s growth story, another one of Daily’s original concepts was to create a broad demographic mix.

“A big part of Scott’s vision was to get young people involved,” Parrish said.

Over the past couple of years, high school-age announcers have been stepping into the control room to create their own shows. The most recent example is Ryan Baumgartner, a senior at Sandpoint High School and host of the “3 O’Clock Rush” that airs Thursday afternoons at that time.

The first half of the hour-long program consists of music pulled from the host’s own library — a mélange of new pop, alternative music and throwback hits. In the second segment, he does live interviews that cover topics from high school clubs and cool classes to sports teams and other activities at SHS. The show, Prez said, has added excitement to the atmosphere around the station, since it draws a steady stream of teens to the upstairs studio for interviews each week.

Ryan got his first taste of being behind the broadcast microphone when he performed at the station with his vocal quartet from school. Afterwards, the foursome decided that they could probably come up with a program of their own. Schedules and homework and life in general interceded — at least for three of the four students — but Baumgartner went straight into the planning mode with a new direction in mind.

“We’re trying to encourage students to be more involved,” the radio host said. “What I wanted, really, was to talk about things I didn’t know about, to meet new people and to get to know about all the different programs available at school. This was a way to share that for me.”

Baumgartner did his homework before pitching his show idea to the station in late summer 2017. By the time school started in September, he had worked out the kinks and was on the air. He aimed the hour of music and talk at a specific audience — high schoolers leaving the SHS parking lot with the radio on. Using the terms “radio” and “high schoolers” in the same sentence seems quaint in a smart phone-driven age, but the young broadcaster had that worked out in advance, too.

“I wanted to make sure it was useful to my audience — high schoolers who mostly drive late-‘90s and early 2000s cars that only have radios and CD players in the,” he explained.

Along with widening its demographic reach, KRFY has been increasing its broadcast area to the point where the original tag line of “Sandpoint Community Radio” needed to be revised to “Panhandle Community Radio.”

“Because we really broadcast to listeners in North Idaho,” said Prez.

With the help of its web page, the station has an even bigger reach, using the live streaming function to pull in listeners from other states and, at times, different countries. The ability to monitor how many people are streaming content prompted an upgrade when the data pipeline was no longer sufficient to meet listener demand.

“We had a capacity for 10 people to be accessing the station at one time,” Baumgartner said. “Now we can have 300.”

KRFY’s annual operating budget of $70,000, which mostly goes to cover licensing fees, membership in the National Association of Community Broadcasters and syndication costs to providers such as Pacifica Radio, hasn’t changed dramatically since the time the station started up, according to Prez. What has changed is how the money gets raised.

Approximately 35 program underwriters do much of the heavy lifting, augmented by listener-member donations and fundraisers. Volunteer broadcasters, meanwhile, help keep overhead to a minimum.

“You always hope for some kind of beautiful windfall, but there’s no guarantee,” the station manager said. “We’re always trying to increase underwriting, fundraising and listener support.”

In the just-finished annual auction fundraiser, the webpage once again showed its worth, as listeners from around the country used live streaming to both catch favorite shows and time their final bids on items that ranged from gift certificates to deluxe vacation stays.

If there is a signature program among the eclectic mix that makes up the broadcast day, it would have to be the “Morning Show” that airs Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays just after 8 a.m. Promoted by Prez as “news and information that can inform and inspire,” the show highlights the good works of local organizations, giving them a regular outlet to reach the community at large. During elections, the slot is used for candidate interviews in local races. It also has the distinction of being KRFY’s most-listened-to program offering.

“What’s special about the ‘Morning Show’ is that it has been so consistent with accurate information,” Baumgartner said.

“And in this day and age,” Prez added, “a community content outlet is a valuable and worthwhile thing.”

KRFY broadcasts at 88.5 on the FM dial. The station’s next event will be the annual public meeting, set for Nov. 28, from 5-7 p.m., at the Idaho Pour Authority.

For more information and to live-stream the station, visit: www.krfy.org (scroll to the bottom of the home page to find the live streaming button).

Those interested in volunteering — including receiving training on how to operate equipment in the control room and host a show of their own — can call 208-265-2992 or email: krfy@krfy.org

Scott has Pointed Smelter Questions

October 17, 2018 at 5:00 am | By Keith Kinnaird | Bonner County Daily Bee

PRIEST RIVER — State Rep. Heather Scott has drafted a comprehensive list of questions and concerns over the proposed silicon smelter south of Newport.

The Blanchard Republican’s cover letter to the Washington Department of Ecology expresses disappointment that a lack of meaningful attention has been given to Idaho residents’ concerns in the run-up to scoping hearings in Priest River and Newport last month. Scott said Idaho roads will facilitate PacWest Silicon’s project, which means they will be used extensively and will require expensive maintenance.

“Bonner County residents will shoulder the full brunt of any downwind negative environmental consequences with the potential to jeopardize Lake Pend Oreille and Priest Lake watersheds, both some of the most outstanding and unique in North America,” Scott said in the Oct. 15 letter to DOE’s eastern regional office.

Scott’s scoping questions cover nearly two dozen topics ranging from water and air quality concerns to transportation and economic impacts.

“I am requesting a full assessment of the environmental, socioeconomic, aesthetic, and auditory impacts of the proposed silicon smelter project that the majority of citizens in west Bonner County, Idaho, and east Pend Oreille County, Washington, citizens do no desire,” Scott said the body of the scoping response letter.

The letter questions impacts to wetland resources, project-related hazardous materials, toxic air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

“What level would be considered elevated enough to invoke a cease-and-desist operation for any parameter with the aforementioned groups of pollutants?” Scott asks in the letter.

The Sandpoint City Council will be taking up its scoping questions for DOE tonight during its 5:30 p.m. business meeting at City Hall.

Oral testimony is limited to 3 minutes per person.

The Gardenia Center in Sandpoint is hosting a smelter scoping workshop on Thursday from 6-9 p.m. Computers stations will be available for submitting public comments.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

 

View Steve Lockwood’s Questions to the Washington Department of Ecology HERE.

McDonald Disputes Truth of YouTube Clip

SANDPOINT — A video appearing to show Bonner County Commissioner Dan McDonald accusing the Kalispel Tribe of corruption has been posted to YouTube.

The 9-minute, 53-second clip uploaded to the video-sharing website was recorded in November 2017 and involved a discussion between Citizens Against the Newport Silicon Smelter and the board’s District 3 commissioner.

In the clip, which was posted to the internet by CANNS member Michael Naylor, McDonald said facts would trump emotion in the contentious debate over the smelter proposal.

“We need to find out whether or not this is actually is going to pose a risk or whether it’s not,” McDonald is heard saying in the clip.

Members of CANSS told the commissioner their property values would plummet if the smelter is approved by regulators in Washington state. He countered by saying they would likely reap a financial windfall if they sold their properties due to the resurgence in the real estate market.

“If you put your house for sale you guys would probably make a ton of money,” McDonald said. “You can make a ton of money if you move somewhere else.”

CANSS members in attendance balked at the idea of walking away from their dream homes in the Inland Northwest, while McDonald advocated for better paying jobs in the region.

“We need more jobs. We need more good-paying jobs here. We’ve got too many service-sector jobs,” McDonald said in the video.

McDonald suggested that the Kalispel Tribe, a vocal opponent of the smelter proposal, is fighting the project because it didn’t receive a kickback.

“They’re the dirtiest group on the planet. I used to work for them,” McDonald said in the video.

An unidentified CANSS member said he would advise the tribe of McDonald’s remarks, but the commissioner was unfazed.

“Feel free because I’ve got the facts. I actually do have the proof. They wanted a $2 million kickback on a $30 million job,” said McDonald, who noted that commissioners in Bonner and Pend Oreille counties have been falsely accused of being on the take in the smelter saga.

At the end of the clip, one CANSS member tells another, “I got it,” presumably in reference to video of the encounter.

“Wow,” a CANSS member replies.

McDonald released the following statement against when asked about the authenticity of the video.

“One of the things that bothers me the most is that they edit out most of what I said with respect to doing business with different tribes and try to make me look like a racist. I’m one-eight Cherokee and my granddaughter is three-quarters Native American and lives on the Coeur d’Alene reservation. His fake recording and comments are out there forever. I just pray my granddaughter never reads or hears this altered audio. It’s a cheap campaign stunt and an utterly disgusting attack on my family.”

McDonald, a Republican, is facing Sandpoint Democrat Steve Lockwood in the Nov. 6 general election.

The YouTube clip can be viewed here: youtube.com/watch?time_continue=5&v=0CHOiSZr8zk

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

In-person Absentee Voting Starting

October 09, 2018 at 5:00 am | Bonner County Daily Bee | Direct Link to Article

SANDPOINT — In-person absentee voting for the Nov. 6 general election gets underway in Bonner County today.

In-person absentee voting will be available through Friday. Nov. 2. Such ballots are cast in the clerk’s Elections Office on the ground floor of the county Administration Building. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on the day of the election.

Voters will be casting ballots for county commissioners for districts 1 and 3, in addition to races for assessor, clerk, treasurer and coroner. Voters across the county cast votes in the commission races, regardless of which district they happen to reside in.

There is also a judicial retention position and two supervisor seats for the Bonner Soil & Water Conservation District.

Voters in the Bayview area, meanwhile, will see a water and sewer district bond measure on their ballots.

At the state level, residents will be voting in governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, controller, treasurer, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, in addition to senate and representative for legislative districts 1 and 7. There also state proposition questions on horse racing and Medicaid eligibility expansion.

Sample ballots for the election can be found on the county’s website (bonnercountyid.gov) under the elected officials tab.

Voters will also be casting ballots in the U.S. representative for the 1st congressional district.

The Elections Office will be publicly testing its ballot-counting equipment at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at the administration building.

Those who are registered to vote can do so at their usual polling location and Idaho allows election-day registration with a valid identification card and proof of residency. Those with questions are encouraged to contacting the Elections Office during regular business hours at 208-255-3631 or at elections@bonnercountyid.gov.

Info: idahovotes.gov