Editorial Roundup: Idaho

Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:

McGeachin was for business before she was against it

July 14

The Lewiston Tribune

This year’s winner of the John Forbes Kerry Award for Achievement in Political Acrobatics goes to ...

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin.

McGeachin, who wants to be elected governor next year, is following in the footsteps of the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Kerry set the gold standard for political flipflopping when he voted for the war in Iraq but then voted against a funding bill: “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

Friday, McGeachin abandoned all pretense at principle by undermining the right of private businesses to take steps they believe necessary to keep their doors open.

These enterprises just happen to be in the health care sector.

The people running Primary Health Group, Saint Alphonsus Health Systems and St. Luke’s Health System see what’s coming.

Fewer than 37 percent of Idaho’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, just as a more infectious and possibly more virulent delta variant is becoming dominant. Children under 12 will remain unvaccinated as the school year opens. With fall and winter will come more infections and a new flu season.

So the health care providers want their own people vaccinated — with exceptions for medical or religious reasons. The point here — as in requiring staff to get vaccinated against the flu, hepatitis and other contagious illnesses — is to protect patients and to avoid the kind of absenteeism that forced clinics to temporarily shut down during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

But in the current GOP, COVID-19 is a hoax. Face masks are abhorrent. A miracle vaccine that spared the lives of many — including Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch — is political kryptonite.

Being the publicity hound that she is, McGeachin called on legislative leaders to return to Boise and forbid the health care providers from telling their employees what to do.

“As you may know, numerous major health care providers in the state of Idaho have decided to mandate to their employees to take the emergency use authorized COVID-19 vaccine by a certain time, or employees will face termination,” McGeachin wrote. “This has left numerous employees with these major health care companies with little recourse for not wanting to take the emergency use vaccine.”

Whatever happened to Idaho’s laissez-faire state government, which kept its mitts off private enterprise?

Since when did Idaho cease to be an “at will” state, where the boss sets the terms of employment? If you don’t like it, you’re free to leave.

For that matter, why did McGeachin’s predecessors in the Idaho GOP fight so hard to undermine employees’ rights through the so-called “right to work” law if employees can dictate conditions to their employers?

And how does McGeachin’s current concern for the rights of customers and employees square with her grandstanding in Kendrick back in May of 2020? With the pandemic raging, she stood up for the right of Hardware Brewing Co. owners to open their doors in spite of Gov. Brad Little’s lockdown order.

If employees didn’t like it, they were free to leave. And if customers didn’t want to take the risk, they could stay home.

Then, she declared, “The governor is using the Idaho State Police and the Alcohol Beverage Control Bureau to harass and intimidate private businesses in Idaho. Hardware Brewing Co. is offering goods and services only to those customers who voluntarily choose to visit a private business. Article 1, Section 1 of the Idaho State Constitution states unambiguously: ‘All men are by nature free and equal, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety.’ ”

So the state constitution protects the rights of a brewery operator, but not the owners of a hospital?

Kerry paid the price for his notorious flip-flopping, losing the 2004 campaign to President George W. Bush.

Not so with McGeachin’s hypocrisy. If she wants to win, she needs to rile up the largest sliver of the closed GOP primary electorate. In this case, she even outmaneuvered her rival for that hard right base — professional anarchist Ammon Bundy. The best he could do was play it both ways: Health care employees should refuse the vaccines, but the government should butt out, he said.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19-vaccinated Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, is taking this seriously: “I want to make sure we don’t take away from the contract rights of health care providers. There are always two sides to every story.”

A half-dozen Republican lawmakers from Canyon County also are backing McGeachin’s play.

The way this is going for her, the lieutenant governor should take up one of Kerry’s favorite sports — windsurfing at Lucky Peak Reservoir outside Boise.

Online: The Lewiston Tribune

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Boise Police will need to answer these questions about shooting to maintain public trust

July 13

Idaho Statesman

The Boise Police Department needs to be completely transparent with vital details about the June 27 police shooting of Mohamud Hassan Mkoma, a 33-year-old refugee from East Africa.

Police are not releasing many details. We understand the investigation is ongoing, but sooner or later, the Boise Police Department is going to have to answer some important questions about this shooting.

We urge the community to be patient while the investigation is completed, but we hope the Boise Police Department understands that silence breeds suspicion, and not releasing details, particularly in such serious incidents as this, has a tendency to inflame the community, especially those affected by the shooting.

We are encouraged that Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee and Mayor Lauren McLean have met with family and community leaders to address their concerns. It’s a good start.

On June 27, police shot Mkoma after it was reported that a 14-year-old boy — who has been identified as Mkoma’s son — was in danger.

Police located Mkoma’s vehicle, and a chase ensued, including a chase maneuver to spin out the vehicle. Police confronted the man after seeing a Black child in the vehicle, as well as what they thought was a weapon.

Three members of the police force were involved in the shooting, from which Mkoma is recovering after surgery at an area hospital in critical but stable condition.

The shooting has raised many questions that Boise police will need to address.

- Mkoma’s mental state. According to Mkoma’s family, he suffers from a mental health disorder and speaks limited English. Who reported Mkoma to 911 and what were the circumstances? Did the reporting party inform 911 dispatch that it was a mental health call or a crisis call? Did dispatch ask whether mental health was an issue or this was a crisis call? If so, did dispatch relay to police that this was a crisis call?

- Police response. Did Boise police treat this as a mental health crisis? Were the officers who responded trained in crisis intervention? Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee last year committed to having every Boise police officer receive crisis intervention training. Previously, about 60% of Boise’s force had gone through voluntary training in crisis intervention, according to the Boise Police Department.

- Weapon. One of the big questions to answer is whether Mkoma had a weapon. Police initially said they saw a weapon, but they have been tight-lipped about it ever since. To date, police have not said whether a weapon was found in or around the man’s vehicle, what they believed the weapon they saw was or whether the man they shot tried to use it at any point during the incident, including against them. Did they see the man holding a weapon, which hasn’t been identified? Did the man threaten the child with it? Did he threaten police with it?

- Independent investigation. While Ada County’s Critical Incident Task Force, led by the Garden City Police Department, investigates the shooting, we are encouraged to learn that the city’s independent Office of Police Oversight has already launched its own review of the shooting, independent of the task force probe. We hope that the investigations maintain objectivity and that results are released to the public. Once the task force investigation is complete, to which prosecutor will it be forwarded?

Asking these questions should not be seen as an indictment of police officers in general, or of the officers involved in this shooting. We do not have enough facts to make a judgment on whether what went down was proper or improper. It’s vital that all of the facts are shared.

We also do not underestimate the difficulty and the danger of police work. No one ever should. We respect the job police officers have to do every day.

But that’s not to say mistakes are never made.

If mistakes were made here, we hope that the Boise Police Department will share those details of the incident so that we may take the lessons learned and prevent similar mistakes in the future.

Answering all of the questions will go a long way in maintaining public trust.

Online: Idaho Statesman