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Bonners Ferry Becomes Idaho's "Capital For A Day"

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

For a few hours Thursday, Bonners Ferry was the working capital of the state of Idaho.

Governor Brad Little was there and so were several of his cabinet members and regional state agency directors. They had designated the Boundary County town as Capital for a Day.

That Idaho ritual began years ago with the late Cecil Andrus. Other governors since then, including Butch Otter, signed on. And now, so has Brad Little.

“I am all for continuing this tradition, for us to get out and do what’s most important, the most important part of our job, everyone I have around the table, and that’s to listen to the people of the state of Idaho,” Little said.

This was his second Capital for a Day. The first was held in April in his hometown of Emmett.

The governor and several department heads and advisors crowded around a table at the end of a long, narrow meeting room at the Boundary County Fairgrounds. They briefed people about work they’re doing and opened the floor for questions.

The first came from Pastor Warren Campbell, who asked what the state would do about the growing Islamic activity in the area. He said his life and members of his family’s lives had been threatened by Muslims.

Idaho State Police Colonel Kedrick Wills stepped up to respond.

“We are part of the joint terrorism task force, which is a task force made of local city, county, state and federal agencies to investigate those very kinds of threats," Wills said. "So if there’s something along those lines that we can help with on the investigation piece with the threat, let me make sure you have my card and we put you in contact with the right people in Coeur d’Alene.”

There were other pointed questions. Rose Johnson confronted state Labor Department Director Jani Revier about her husband’s claim for unemployment. Johnson wasn’t satisfied with the way the agency has handled the case. She said Revier hung up on her during a phone discussion. Revier said she couldn’t talk about the case because Johnson’s husband’s lawsuit is now before the state Supreme Court. She apologized for the phone incident and said she had thought their conversation had ended.

Tony Brown complained about enforcement by Idaho Fish and Game Department employees in hunting matters. He called the agency a “cancer” and accused it of creating “an ultra police state.”

Brian Wood, who owns a transportation company in Sandpoint, complained that one particular state police officer was harassing his drivers, stopping them six times for mundane reasons in order to do inspections. “I have no complaints about other ISP officers,” he said. “But I think with this one we’re being picked on."

Wills offered to share specifics about Wood's situation in a private setting. Wood said he thought the whole room would be interested in hearing the explanation. Wills then pressed on.

“All right. I’ll be happy to share with you. You’ve actually been inspected 11 times," Wills said to chuckles from the crowd.

At that, Wood decided it would be better to get his briefing in private.

There were other issues. A woman whose son had been killed by a drunk driver earlier this year asked the governor to push for tougher DUI laws. A representative of the Northern Lights utility, which fully uses hydropower to satisfy its customer demand, urged the cabinet to fight efforts to breach dams around the Northwest.

Others complained about state rules. Stephen Howlett asked how the governor would handle the legislature’s failure to reauthorize many of the state’s regulations before adjourning their session. The governor has vowed to step in to make sure some of their rules are reauthorized, rather than simply falling off the books.

“You’re a champion of red tape reduction," Howlett said. "Could you let us in on a little bit of your strategy on how you’re approaching it? Is it just going to be those that are coming up for renewal this year and would the reduction in red tape, will you still require two rules to be removed before one is added?”

The governor has vowed to step in to make sure some of their rules are reauthorized, rather than simply falling off the books. He said his goal, within the next few weeks, is to reduce administrative rules by a third.

Many who spoke said they appreciated the governor bringing the Capital for a Day program to Bonners Ferry.