Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Creeping Socialism

Over a dozen state attorneys general have joined Idaho's and filed suit against the US federal government over health care reform. Texas governor Rick Perry said, "Unfortunately, the health care vote had more to do with expanding socialism on American soil than it does fixing our health care finance and delivery systems."

We have jumped back nearly 50 years to the debate over Medicare. In 1961, Ronald Reagan spoke out against the creeping Socialism in the United States and the imminent loss of "our traditional free enterprise system." He calculated that the federal government already controlled "one fifth of the total industrial capacity of the US" and predicted health care rationing for senior citizens if Medicare passed.

In a recording distributed by the American Medical Association, Reagan urged Americans to write their Congressmen [sic] and urge them to defeat the bill that became Medicare, warning that:

"If you don't, this program, I promise you, will pass, just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow. And behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country, until, one day...we will awake to find that we have Socialism. And if you don't do this and I don't do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children's children, what it once was like in American when men were free."

This was forgotten during the past year's health care debate, when the Republican Party cast themselves as the protectors of the same program they had opposed earlier. Ruling out the predicted Armageddon, my money is on the Republicans to jump on board when they realize how well health care reform works. In another 50 years I predict they will be protecting the recent changes from creeping Socialism.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring, Sprang, Sprung!

One of my favorite spring flowers, sagebrush buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus), is blooming in the Boise foothills. The golden blooms are often seen shining through a late spring snowfall. Today there was just warm, sunny weather.

I returned to the parking lot to find a friend getting out of his truck. He had been driving by and saw my car. He turned in, although he was sure he wouldn't actually find me...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Women Making History: Laytreda Schultz

I wrote about two women for the Women Making History supplement in the Idaho Statesman on March 4th, 2010. Laytreda was one.
The articles are not available at IdahoStatesman.com, so I've posted them here.
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Laytreda Schultz goes to work surrounded by what she fears most. She is a marine law enforcement officer who cannot swim. She is also a visionary who sweats the small stuff and a sheriff’s sergeant with enough financial smarts for street cred at a CPA convention.

“Marine work got me out of the office,” she says, “and it was also a way to make extra money.” But her biggest motivation was overcoming her fear of water. “A lot of kids learn to swim when they’re young, but I didn’t. I grew up afraid of water. Although I’ve conquered that fear, I still have a healthy respect for it.”

Laytreda started with the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department in Mountain Home, Idaho as a dispatch operator when she was a teenager. After 14 years, she had worked her way up to supervisor. When she found that she could go no farther to advance her career, she tried a year working in Boise. But Laytreda soon returned to the sheriff’s department, this time working in both the warrants and the accounting offices. She tracked down outstanding warrants throughout Idaho and across the country. And as an accountant, she honed her skills at tracking down and capturing the funding needed to help keep the sheriff’s department in operation.

When a part-time position on marine patrol opened up in 1996, Laytreda seized the chance to get out on the water and face her fears. Although she doesn’t see herself as a daredevil, she admits that she enjoyed the challenge of running white water. She says, “The first time I took a boat through some rapids the adrenaline rush afterwards was amazing!” And it wasn’t long before she used her financial skills to locate funding for greater resources and better maintenance of the marine facilities.

Laytreda left the paperwork of the warrants office for the towns of Elmore County after she helped obtain funding for a community policing deputy. In this position, she patrolled in town during the week and still spent weekends on the water. During her first year as a new deputy, Laytreda attended the Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) Academy, was certified, and became a sworn law enforcement officer. This gave her the authority to arrest suspects.

Five years later, Laytreda was promoted from deputy to sergeant. “It’s hard to explain what I do,” she says. “My job didn’t exist when I started and it’s different every day.” She supervises deputies in Pine and Featherville, who are responsible for backcountry law enforcement in the mountains of Elmore County. When the primary marine deputy left, she began supervising the marine program as well. Over the years her job has expanded to include Recreation and Search and Rescue.

Laytreda is also responsible for special events like the Three Island Crossing reenactment. This commemorates the Oregon Trail pioneers who crossed the Snake River near Glenns Ferry. The journey was a perilous one for the pioneers, but fortunately for modern-day river crossers, Laytreda was standing by to help ensure everyone’s safety. She especially remembers one year—seeing a close friend swept off his horse in the chaos of an overturned wagon and the struggle to unhitch the horses. Although her friend was not injured, her helplessness, as her jet ski stalled in the moss-chocked water, haunts her. “It’s still hard to think about. I can still see him in the water and remember tying to get to him but not being able to.” Laytreda watched over her last crossing in August, 2009, when the event officially ended after 24 years.

Laytreda is also involved in safer events like Shop with a Cop. This program helps children from disadvantaged families buy Christmas gifts for their siblings and parents. Each December, over one hundred law enforcement officers convoy through Mountain Home, lights flashing, for a shopping spree with young deputies-for-the-day.

Even with a heavy schedule in law enforcement, Laytreda still helps manage the department’s finances—nearly a full-time job by itself. “If I had it to do over again, I would be an accountant,” she says. “You have to live on a budget at home. It’s the same thing here at the sheriff’s department. Knowing your limitations and working within them is the key to a successful program.”

Although she understands the limitations of the sheriff’s budget, Laytreda shows limitless creativity in locating sources of funding. She knows where to look for money and how to secure it through warm personal relationships and persistence. She says, “When I walk in to the county commissioner’s meetings they sigh and ask me what I want.”

Once the sheriff’s department has purchased new equipment, Laytreda shows the same persistence and attention to detail when maintaining it. Her fleet includes boats and jet skis for marine work, and snowmobiles and four wheelers for search and rescue work. She is currently planning a new county building that will provide safe equipment storage, plus offices and classrooms. Even in these difficult times, she has located enough source of funding to reach her goal.

Laytreda’s coworker, Deputy Sheriff Nancy Hawley, says, “Laytreda stays on top of the little stuff, so that the big stuff all works.” Laytreda sees herself simply as a problem solver. “I solve the community’s problems through my law enforcement work, and I solve funding problems at the sheriff’s office.”

Women Making History: Stacy Falkner

I wrote about two women for the Women Making History supplement in the Idaho Statesman on March 4th, 2010. Stacy was one.
The articles are not available at IdahoStatesman.com, so I've posted them here.
____________________

Stacy Falkner starts each day with gratitude. She is grateful for the love and encouragement of her amazing husband, for her “two hysterical kids, close-knit family and wildly wonderful friends.” But rather than “paying back” her many blessings, Stacy feels an obligation to “pay it forward”.

In 2006, Stacy had a fulfilling life as a wife and mother. But she was nagged by the feeling that she could be doing more for others. “I wanted to do more to make the world a better place for everyone,” she says, “and I saw political science as a path to doing that.” Stacy enrolled at Boise State University to complete the bachelor’s degree that she had started several years earlier at the University of Idaho.

One of her professors challenged the class to read a book that was not part of the assigned readings. Stacy chose “The Audacity of Hope” by Barack Obama. Finishing the book was a defining moment for a woman raised in a well-informed family of staunch Republicans. Obama’s message of hope and change resonated with Stacy and echoed her own optimism and desire for a better world.

Even more significant was Obama’s approach to decision making. “He had me at common sense,” says Stacy. His description of past politics, when Congressional members saw each other as worthy adversaries who challenged one another to clear thinking and creative solutions, struck a chord with Stacy. This helped focus her own approach to creating the world that she imagined. “The pursuit of better policy doesn’t have to be contentious,” she says, “it can be collaborative.”

When Obama announced his intention to run for president, Stacy knew she had to act. Designing an internship through Boise State allowed her to combine working for change with completing her degree. The national Obama campaign challenged Stacy to establish chapters of Students for Barack Obama at every college and university in Idaho. This meant locating students who wanted to work for a Democratic underdog in their historically conservative state. Stacy’s first grassroots organizing experience was a success. By the end of her internship, chapters existed at each of the nine schools in Idaho and students were campaigning for Obama.

Embarking on a second Boise State internship gave Stacy a closer look at how policy is created at the state level. She served as an aide to Idaho State Senator (then Representative) Nicole LeFavour. This allowed her to see the valuable role that personal relationships, often crossing party lines, can play in lawmaking. She says, “Individuals can disagree productively when they respect each other and recognize that each person’s beliefs are as valid and as deeply held as their own. Good debate fosters growth.”

After graduation in May, 2008, Stacy was hired as the Idaho Field Director of Obama for America. She “found islands of bold and eager Democrats in a sea of red” as she shared Obama’s vision for America. She credits experience on the Obama campaign with honing her listening and leadership skills. “The most important skill for grassroots organizing,” Stacy says, “is the ability to recognize what is most important to people. This means listening closely to find the one thing that each person feels passionate about and then turning that energy into action.”

In January 2009, Stacy traveled to Washington D.C. for Obama’s inauguration. The following day, when President and Mrs. Obama visited the Staff Ball, the Idaho for Obama team was thrilled to hear their state singled out. The new President stated, “You didn’t listen to the naysayers. You said, ‘I’m Idaho for Obama. Yes we can!’ ” The crowd erupted into chants of, “Way to go, Idaho!” that provided a celebratory end to months of campaigning.

Unfortunately, Election Day meant unemployment for Stacy. But her organizing skills and experience with the legislature paved the way for her current position. She now serves in the Public Affairs department of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest (formerly Planned Parenthood of Idaho). Her job focuses on health policy and lobbying during legislative session and shifts to outreach, education, and volunteer recruitment during the rest of the year.

When women have access to quality, affordable health care, they are more likely to avoid a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or unplanned pregnancy. The key is prevention through comprehensive health education. Stacy point out, “We teach our children about the danger of not wearing a seatbelt even though we don’t anticipate a car accident, but we avoid telling them the risks of unprotected sex because we’re uncomfortable talking about it.”

Stacy is determined that her children will grow up in a more compassionate world. She sees her rewarding family life as the fulcrum on which the rest of her life balances. The happiness she finds with her family and friends gives her the energy to champion progressive causes and dedicate hours to volunteering for organizations close to her heart.

President Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Josie Evans-Graham, Education Coordinator at Planned Parenthood, adds, “This epitomizes Stacy’s attitude and inspiration. She has--and will--play a role in the positive change we seek in our state.”