“As a nation, we have begun to float off into a moral void, and all the sermons of all the priests in the country (if they preach at all) are not going to help much. We have got to the point where the promulgation of any kind of moral standard automatically releases an anti-moral response in a whole lot of people. It is not with them, above all, that I am concerned, but with the ‘good’ people, the right-thinking people, who stick to principle, all right, except where it conflicts with the chance to make money. It seems to me that there are very dangerous ambiguities about our democracy it its actual present condition. I wonder to what extent our ideals are now a front for organized selfishness and systematic irresponsibility. If our affluence society every breaks down and the facade is taken away, what are we going to have left?”
Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction
“State and local government total expenditures amount to $2.9 trillion in the United States. While this is less than the federal government’s $4.3 trillion of expenditures, nearly two-thirds of federal total expenditures are transfers (either to individuals or state and local governments). This means that state and local governments have in some respects a more prominent role in decision-making than the federal government. Indeed, state and local governments make key investment decisions—about infrastructure, education, and many other areas—that help determine the long-run capacity of the entire economy.
Mobility across states has declined sharply in the United States, and one reason appears to be that land-use restrictions in economically successful regions make it difficult for many workers to move to these locations. Similarly, transportation resources are not always efficiently allocated, making it more difficult for workers to access high-quality jobs.
This document provides context for policy proposals in the form of nine economic facts about how state and local policies matter for growth. These facts highlight how rigorous cost-benefit analysis, optimal transportation policy, and land-use rules can affect access to opportunity.”
Instead of covering up a previous admission for his despicable college behavior to save his governor seat, the governor of Virginia could have apologized again, after his first direct apologetic response, and then in public forum ask that he be forgiven; then, in turn, allow him to use this time, his platform, for redemption and cultural change for his community, state, and country. Invite people of color to establish ongoing state committees to address race and racial behaviors/profiling.
How many of us have looked at our yearbooks from 35 years prior, or remember the pictures we took part? It is not an excuse. It is reality. The Governor’s fundamental mistake is he did not own his behavior, instead tried to cover up an act he admitted to committing. He wasted and confused a powerful moment of redemption for change.
Now other photos similar in racist behavior are surfacing as well as self-admissions about racial hate/profiling [actor Liam Neeson].
Instead of resigning or terminating positions, can we instead use this time to dialogue on national and community platforms about misguided behaviors, complicit biases, needed changes in language and behavior? Those knowingly guilty of past racial behaviors and rhetoric could add to a culture of redemption and change. This is not a political issue. This is a humanitarian issue. It is invasive and prolific and dangerous. And it continues. We can’t resign this away. Retribution falls to all of us who are complicit in our ignorance and our response.
Blackface is still practiced. One personal anecdote. On a small mid-western liberal arts college campus in 2018 a young student at my daughter’s university dressed in blackface and attended a public event. She later was deactivated from her sorority and forbidden to participate in her graduation ceremony. This is only one event. And it was just last year.
Honesty, dialogue, and redemption. This won’t change until we do.
Father Richard Rohr:
We need to draw close to the pain of the world and allow it to radically change perspective (not push it away).
Embrace imperfection and injustices to allow these situations to change from the inside out.
Reality has a cruciform pattern.
Reality is filled with contradictions.
We have an injury on the body politic in this country, an injury that white Americans inflicted on people of color for generations through oppression and murder. And it continues.
We can not walk away from this…’resign’ it. We must embrace it to end it.
embrace imperfection and injustices to allow these situations to change from the inside out.
“Racist history of blackface began in the 1830’s.”
A racist photo from a 1984 yearbook threatens to end Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s political career. The photo shows two people: one in blackface and one wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood and robe. The image generated intense pressure for Northam to resign and offered the latest example of a prominent white person facing harsh criticism for wearing blackface. Here’s a look at the practice and its history.
If you place two living heart cells from different people in a Petrie dish, they will in time find and maintain a third and common beat.
Yet we often tire ourselves by fighting how our hearts want to join seldom realizing that both strength and peace come from our hears beating in unison with all that is alive. It feels incredibly uplifting that without even knowing each other, there exists a common beat between all hearts, just waiting to be felt.
It brings to mind the time that the great poet Pablo Neruda, near the end of his life, stopped while traveling at the Lota coal mine in rural Chile. He stood there stunned as a miner, rough and blackened by his work inside the earth, strode straight for Neruda, embraced him, and said, “I have known you a long time, my brother.”
“We must be wary of ourselves when the worst that is in man becomes objectified in society, approved, acclaimed and deified, when hatred becomes patriotism and murder a holy duty, when spying and delation are called love of truth and the stool pigeon is a public benefactor, when the gnawing and prurient resentments of frustrated bureaucrats become the conscience of the people and the gangster is enthroned in power, then we must fear the voice of our own heart even when it denounces them. For are we not all trained with the same poison?
As term ends, a commissioner considers legacy,
Larry Schoen looks back at a career in public life
by Mark Dee
Idaho Mountain Express
“I think elected office is immensely challenging. And I felt that, on a personal level, I needed that sort of challenge. I needed to try to live up to my ideals of public service.” Larry Schoen, former Blaine County commissioner
Schoen, who is 63, has had time to consider how a self-described private man transitioned to so public a life in Blaine County. And, he’s had time to consider his motto, which he attached to that career like a goal more than a decade ago: “To leave office with my integrity intact.”
He sat through plans for rampant growth, and saw them hollowed by the global belt-tightening of the Great Recession. He presided during natural disasters, fires and floods that wolfed up swaths of the Wood River Valley in quick and angry bites. He worked on wolves themselves, and other environmental fights that pitted interest against interest. There was Bowe Bergdahl, and the frenzy that swept through Hailey afterward. There were debates with Idaho Power, and Deer Creek and Camp Rainbow Gold—and thousands of other rulings, small to most everyone but the world to those involved, the discrete decisions that make up a career in politics that, at times, surprised Schoen himself.
“I’m a very private person,” he said. “You won’t find a Facebook page for me. You won’t find a lot of personal information out there. I hate having my picture taken, and I’m not very good at remembering people’s names. I’m not the sort of person you’d think of as primed for political life. But I think government service is important. I think elected office is immensely challenging. And I felt that, on a personal level, I needed that sort of challenge. I needed to try to live up to my ideals of public service. ‘To leave office with my integrity intact’—it all goes back to that.”
He turned 18 in 1973, a draft year at the ragged end of America’s involvement in Vietnam. It was a lottery—just luck that his number wasn’t called. Today, with the safety of decades between then and now, he wishes it was.
“I never did military service—I always regretted that,” he said. “I felt that at some point in my life, I needed to do some sort of serious public service. In a way, on a personal level, running for public office was my way of compensating.”
If his work as a reporter helped him explain policy, his life as a farmer helped shape it. He’s tried the three main modes of American living—urban, rural and suburban—and his view for the future of Blaine County is steeped in that experience.
“Hardly anybody has put as much effort into reading things, and parsing language,” said Len Harlig, a former county commissioner who remains a close observer of Blaine County politics. “He’s absolutely meticulous, going through materials to make sure they are correct, and accurate. He brought an efficiency to ordinances. His viewpoint was thorough, exhaustive and unaccepting of any comment not based in vigorous research. Even when you reached different conclusions, you never doubted the effort.”
His environmental record can match anyone’s in the county, according to Harlig, whether that meant advocating for conservation, or securing easements for open space and recreational access, or updating recycling and solid waste.
But Schoen describes himself as a progressive, and a pragmatist. Those combine to form a view of government that is closely tied to customer service, and much of his legacy—from internal communications, to organizational structure, to budgeting procedure—is, like the engine of any operation, hidden under the hood.
“As a county commissioner, Larry was a consummate professional,” said current board Chairman Jacob Greenberg. “His journalism background meant he was our go-to person to articulate policy.”
“Some of the most desirable and valuable communities in America have some of the strictest zoning—thought-out zoning codes that try to project the present and future values of those communities,” he said. “That’s especially true of small ski towns in Europe. And that’s why they still have their charm. We don’t want to lose our charm.”
Maintaining it was part of the Blaine County 2025 planning effort that Schoen participated in during the mid-2000s, as a member of P&Z. Back then, elected officials prepared for an unending boom. There was talk of two new towns—one by Gannett, another at Timmerman Junction. Projections envisioned the population swelling to 80,000 people in 20 years. Soon, Schoen thought, development pressure would burst out into the unincorporated county like champagne past a cork.
“I don’t know that they are all on the same page,” he said. “People acknowledge certain common values, like the need for affordable housing, the need to preserve our public lands and recreational access. The conversations really haven’t been had in a long time. Ketchum is doing its thing. Sun Valley does its thing. Hailey’s doing its thing. We need to work on a regional equation. If people are opposed to increased density in cities, but there’s development pressure, there’s only one place for it to go, and that’s out in the county. The question is, do we want to turn it into a suburbanized area? That’s a question for the community. The community needs to answer.”
Schoen’s personal answer is written across his land. He placed a conservation easement on the property curtailing its ability to be developed; those acres will never be subdivided.
“I would judge his view of county government as that of a purist,” he said. “He interpreted it as it was intended, and was fair in its application.”
Schoen: “When I talk to students, I tell them if you’re going to enter elected office, your main goal shouldn’t be to get re-elected. It should be to do what’s in the best interest of the community. To uphold the law. In a very dynamic, engaged county like ours, that will leave some people happy. Others won’t be. Eventually, that catches up with you.”
“There are roles I’ve been able to play because I was a county commissioner. I’m proud of the connections I’ve made, what I’ve been able to do. This job’s been immensely rewarding—for me personally, and, I hope, for our community.”
[Bob Carr, the creator of Bob’s Crystal Cave near Joshua Tree, Calif., where he welcomed visitors for 15 years.]
Joshua Tree Artist Built A Crystal Cave Of Wonder
With Chicken Wire, Spray Foam
“There’s nothing out there. It’s all you. The whole universe. The etherium. It’s already in you. You’re looking out there.”
Bob could be cryptic, especially when talking about the Crystal Cave. When I asked him why he built it, all Bob would ever say was: “Just plain old unexacerbated joy.”
Despite his radiating happiness, Bob had lived a hard life. He told me he grew up as one of seven kids, to poor parents who fled the Dust Bowl.
“There was never a book in the house. There’s no kind of library, you know,” Bob said. “We didn’t have a shower or a bathtub. Poverty sucks.”
“I needed to express the uncontainable joy I built up over so many years,” he said. “That’s surrender. When I look at you, I can see you. Therefore, I am stunned by the beauty of joy of every single human I meet.”
It may seem strange to suggest that the key to happiness can be found in a spray foam cave, in the middle of the California desert. But Bob taught me that every one of us is capable of making beautiful experiences for each other. Even out of chicken wire and spray foam.
Bob died earlier this month at age 80. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth and daughter Zena. Bob “died as he lived — on his own terms and with dignity and grace,” Elizabeth says.
Bob’s Crystal Cave: https://hiddenca.com/portfolio/bobs-crystal-cave/
“On December 20, DT signed the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (commonly knows as the Farm Bill) into law. The bill, projected to cost $28 billion over the next five years, is one of the largest spending packages in the country, doling out money for low-income nutrition assistance, crop insurance, commodity subsidies and conservation programs, among other things. Learn more about the triumphs and failures of the new farm bill from Marion Nestle on Food Politics and Dan Imhoff on Civil Eats.” -Local Food Alliance
The bill takes up 807 pages, with a table of contents of 11 pages. It will cost taxpayers $867 billion over ten years. That’s more than $1 billion per page.
by Marion Nestle
Recall that more than 75% of Farm Bill expenditures go for SNAP—The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps).
The “bipartisan win”? Attempts to cut SNAP expenditures and introduce work requirements failed to pass (whew), although Congress is still working on ways to cut enrollments.
The bill allows payments to more distant relatives of farm owners—cousins, nieces, nephews—a gift to the already rich. Payments can still go to those earning more than $900,000 a year in adjusted gross income (sigh).
The bill authorizes $395 million in research funding over the next 10 years, and small amounts for data collection, offset of certification costs, and technology upgrades. But the bill weakens restrictions on chemicals that can be used in organic production.
The bill grants $2 million a year for support of hemp as a crop, and authorizes USDA to study the economic viability of its domestic production and sale. It also authorizes Indian tribes (that’s the term the bill uses) to grow hemp.
The bill allows funding for USDA trade promotion programs in Cuba.
The Managers recognize that expanding trade with Cuba not only represents an opportunity for American farmers and ranchers, but also a chance to improve engagement with the Cuban people in support of democratic ideas and human rights…The Managers expect that the Secretary will work closely with eligible trade organizations to educate them about allowable activities to improve exports to Cuba under the Market Access and Foreign Market Development Cooperator Programs.
JOIN THE GRANGE
Founded in 1924, Upper Big Wood River Grange, aka the Hailey Grange, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, fraternal organization that advocates for rural America and agriculture. It also is home to the Wood River Seed Library’s Seed Vault. Learn about becoming a member at the Grange’s January 17 Meeting and Annual New Member Drive – 7:15-8:45pm, at Grange Hall, 609 South 3rd Ave. in Hailey. Guest speaker Aimée Christensen, founder and executive director of Sun Valley Institute, will talk about resiliency and food-related risks and opportunities before us.
Like many “adult” things I try to explain to her (daughter) these days, this one made little intuitive sense. “Because he doesn’t want our neighbors to be able to get in,” I said.
Our president’s desire for a wall has all but brought our country to a standstill. And while his unforgivable dehumanization of immigrants is deeply rooted in white supremacy, the morning chat with my daughter reminds me that it’s also deeply rooted in America’s obsession with private ownership.
I might not be a white supremacist, but I live in a neighborhood — as you likely do — where we live among fences and organize our lives around the maintenance of our own homes and cars and possessions. When those in the upper middle class need help, as we inevitably do, we hire someone — a house cleaner, a childcare provider, an in-home nurse. We underpay these people and keep them off of our social media feeds. In that way, it’s not just our physical surroundings and stuff that we maintain with a lot of attention and energy; it’s our performance of self-sufficiency.
Each day, in a hundred little ways, elite American families build a mental wall between ourselves — capable, efficient, and deserving — and the others — the weak, sick, addicted, uneducated, undeserving. We may even pity the latter, but we don’t — as a rule — believe that our thriving has anything to do with their struggle. Not really. We have our house, our car, our country. They have theirs.
We may have more empathy for immigrants than President Trump, but our daily actions don’t teach our children that each human being on this planet deserves dignity. We tell our kids to share but do little of it ourselves. Maybe, in addition to fighting his walls and his white supremacy, we should be doing more to welcome our own suffering neighbors.
In other words, where are the places where neglect and a lack of moral imagination exist in my life and in the life of my family? I’m trying not to just tell the story over and over again about how much I abhor this president’s politics, but also tell a new story about us.
EYE ON SUN VALLEY
This year’s legislature will also be under the gun to try to improve the Department of Corrections, which sends a thousand inmates to Texas because Idaho prisons are busting at the seams. The Department of Corrections wants $500 million to build a new facility without doing anything about why it’s busting at the seams, Stennett said.
“If someone’s caught with small amount of marijuana, do we really want to spend tens of thousands of dollars to incarcerate them, while rendering them unproductive, rather than enroll them in a good drug program?” she (Sen. Michelle Stennett) asked.
Stennett also warned that many taxpayers may take a major hit on their tax bills this year because no one told them to change their W-4s what with personal and dependent exemptions being eliminated and most itemized deductions being eliminated or capped.
“There’s going to be a lot of outrage,” she predicted. “I’d suggest people go to Idaho State Tax Commission and find out how new tax structure will affect you.”
Stennett praised Blaine County for having the highest voter turnout in the state with 90 percent of registered voters going to the polls. Stennett noted that Democrats gained one seat in Senate, meaning seven of 35 senators are Democrat. They lost one Senate seat by 11 votes but gained three seats in the House.
“We went from 17 percent to 20 percent of the legislature. It doesn’t sound like much but I’ll take every bit of it,” she said.
Stennett said Blaine County residents can put themselves in any committee room via PBS livestream.
“But if you can, it’s can be powerful to be there in person,” she said. “The committee is where the real work done. And it’s where citizens can have their say. Once a bill hits the floor, you can be in the gallery. But you can’t say anything.”
Rep. Muffy Davis will serve on the Judiciary, Rules and Administration committee, as well as Transportation & Defense and Health & Welfare. Davis hopes to put out 2- to 5-minute videos every Friday before she comes home for the weekend.
“I’m looking forward most to the day we get Medicaid Expansion up and running,” she said. “That’s why I got into this to begin with.”
Rep. Muffy Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208-332-1174.
Rep. Sally Toone at email@example.com. Or, call 208-332-1032.
Sen. Michelle Stennett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 208-332-1353.
Rep. Muffy Davis and her daughter Elle at the Idaho Inaugural Ball.
Solstice is Friday, December 21 at 3:22pm Mountain Standard Time
Full Moon is Saturday, December 22 at 10:48am Mountain Standard Time.
Solstices are always about a powerful s gift from the old into something new. This one is no exception. They are important times to release the past and to gain some clarity and set some intentions for the future.
All those transplants living in Idaho? Visits from their friends and family are big for tourism
Tourism, Idaho’s third-largest industry behind agriculture and technology, grew by 11 percent in 2018. In 2017, Idaho businesses made $3.7 billion in direct travel dollars, according to data collected by the Idaho Department of Commerce. They recorded 34.3 million Idaho trips in 2017, 40 percent overnight and 60 percent just visiting Idaho for the day. More than 70 percent of Idaho travelers in 2017 were from outside the state, the department estimates.
Sun Valley Institute, “advancing economic, and social resilience in Blaine County with models and programs that are scalable and replicable nationally.”
Aimee Christensen led a group looking at energy scenarios.
Journalist Karen Bossick published an in-depth exposé today [12.6] on Blaine County’s 1st Community Resilience Workshop. Our valley is the first in Idaho to begin planning for climate changes and the effects those changes will, and are, having in our community, e.g., wild fires, energy sources, food, jobs, and housing. Blaine County Commissioner Larry Schoen: “We’re setting the stage not only for our own action but for other communities to follow our lead.” A second workshop is scheduled for February to begin pursuing concrete actions. The workshop was initiated by the Blaine County Commissioners and organized by the Sun Valley Institute.
Eye On Sun Valley, Story & Photos by Karen Bossick
Brittany Skelton, senior planner for the City of Ketchum, addresses such scenarios where the county might have to kick squatters out of national forest land.
Sawtooth National Forest official Bobbi Filbert and Blaine County Commissioner Jacob Greenberg discuss possible scenarios involving climate refugees.
Hailey City Council Member Kaz Thea points out the need for increased agricultural diversity in the Wood River Valley.
“We’re traveling 10 years into the future so we can move from fear and concern into hope and action,” said Amber Bieg, a facilitator with the Boise-based Warm Springs Consulting.