Archive for the ‘Cenarrusa’ Category

Drawing the Lines

Here’s an Idea…Let Ben Do It

When Idaho’s “citizen” reapportionment panel deadlocked recently everyone in the state looked to the Big Man on the second floor of the state capitol building for guidance. And for good reason. Ben Ysursa has forgotten more about Idaho’s election process than most of us could ever hope to know. So here’s a novel idea that will never happen, but should – let Ben draw the lines. I apologize in advance to my friend, Ysursa, but stay with me.

Rather than Ysursa’s steady and experienced hand on the redistricting tiller, we’ll now have a new reapportionment panel in place next week – three partisan Democrats and a trio of partisan Republicans – trying and do what the first gang of six failed to do in 90 days of expensive trying. In theory the equally divided “citizens” committee seems like a sensible solution to the games legislators historically play when it comes time, as it does every ten years, to decide the shape of the state’s legislative and Congressional boundaries. The sensible idea goes south, however, because both parties bring their partisan agendas to the process and common sense is handed a spoiled ballot. To those who will be quick to say, “but the citizen panel worked last time,” I say it worked only because one member – to perhaps his eternal regret – voted with the other side. The partisan political powers to be seemed determined to not have that happen again.

I know, I know, drawing legislative and Congressional boundaries may be the single most partisan thing done in our politics. Careers are made or ended based on these geographic and population decisions. All the more reason to let a pro call the shots. Suppose for a minute that the Commissioner of Baseball decided that we need to tweak the rules of the great game. Would he assign the job to a group of amateur fans, three Red Sox partisans and three Yankee fanatics? Of course not. Even Bud Selig would be smart enough to call in a Joe Torre or Frank Robinson; an expert who knows and loves the game, but is wise enough not to play games with the rules.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call did a story last week detailing how difficult the reapportionment job is in a smaller states, like Idaho. The biggest states have finished the job, while Maine (and Idaho) seem hopeless caught in the political weeds. Idaho reapportioners wandered into the weeds when Republicans panel members pushed an agenda to create a legislature even more conservative than the current one and Democrats saw the process as offering a small sliver of opportunity to get the party back to relevance. Next stop: deadlock.

Of course, my solution – let Ben do it – will pass muster with no one, including most likely Ben. What sane person would want this job? But consider this: Ysursa has been in the Secretary of State’s office since just after statehood, or at least it seems so. Ben first toiled as long-time Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa’s chief deputy and he has held the top job himself since 2002. Ben has twice been overwhelmingly re-elected with bi-partisan support. You would be hard pressed to find a loyal Republican, as Ysursa proudly is, who is seen by partisans of every stripe as both a professional and completely fair minded. I can think of no person in either party who would approach the partisan job of reapportionment with more dispassion and with a long view as to what is in the best interest of Idaho. He could have the lines drawn by tomorrow afternoon and I’d bet a ticket to a Red Sox – Yankee playoff game that Ben’s plan would pass Constitutional muster if, as always seems likely, the ultimate plan goes before a judge.

Somethings are too important to be left to politicians and, with all due respect to the six people who tried to write a plan, some things are too important to be left to amateurs. The lines defining Idaho’s legislative and Congressional districts should be drawn based, number one, on common sense as defined by population, communities of interest, geography and history. If six truly independent people brought that notion to the Idaho process they could write the plan in a week. Partisan considerations make that impossible.

Think that letting Ben do this job is crazy? Maybe, but let’s see where we are in six weeks or so.

 

More on Pete

cenarrusaI Stand Corrected: Make That Two “R’s” and One “S”

I received a very gracious note yesterday from former Idaho Secretary of State Pete T. Cenarrusa thanking me for my post on his long career in Idaho politics and the publication of his new memoir. Pete also, ever so gently, pointed out that I have apparently been misspelling his last name for 35 years! And, of course, I did it again on Monday.

 

Pete said the misspelling is a common problem – even in the Basque Country – but I should have known better and extend my apology for the error. For a guy whose mother decided to spell his first name the way mine is spelled, I am particularly sensitive to such things.
By the way, Pete spelled my name correctly when he wrote his nice thank you!

 

My error does give me another chance to tout his fine new book – Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. [two "r's" and one "s"] Cenarrusa.

 

Congratulations to Pete on his recent 92nd birthday and the publication of a great addition to the Idaho political bookshelf.

From Bizkaia to Boise

cenarussaCenarrusa Writes It Down

His record of holding elected office continually for 52 years is not likely to be bested and the standard he established for running a non-partisan office as Secretary of State has, we can hope, been institutionalized in Idaho.

Pete T. Cenarrusa, the eight-term former Idaho Secretary of State, is 92 now and has been back in the public spotlight the last few weeks thanks to his welcome and worthwhile memoir.

The book – Bizkaia to Boise: The Memoirs of Pete T. Cenarrusa, written with long-time Associated Press reporter Quane Kenyon – is a fine addition to the relatively thin line of books about Idaho politicians and politics.

[Steve Crump had a nice Cenarrusa piece in the Twin Falls Times-News Sunday and the same paper correctly noted in a recent editorial that the Basque sheepherder from Carey is the most important politician the Magic Valley of southern Idaho has ever produced.]

Cenarrusa presided as Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives during the landmark 1965 session when the state’s modern tax structure, including a sales tax, was put in place and the state’s Departments of Parks and Recreation and Water Resources were created. By common consensus that was the greatest legislative session in the state’s history. Governor Don Samuelson appointed Cenarrusa as Secretary of State in 1967 and no one laid an electoral glove on him afterward. He retired in 2003.

There is much worth saying about Pete Cenarrusa, but his real lasting legacy to Idaho may well be the fact that not once in my memory (which dates to the mid-1970’s) was the Secretary of State’s office seen as anything but a professional manager of the state’s elections and its lobbying and campaign finance disclosure process. With the help of a dedicated staff, including current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa [is another Basque in training for this job?] Cenarrusa dispensed good advice, conducted clean recounts and played by the book on Sunshine disclosures.

During a time when it seems that everything is partisan, everything is up for debate, Cenarrusa and his crew kept the playing field fair and tidy. Always the loyal Republican, Cenarrusa never played partisan games with the essential functions of his office. So should it always be.

Pete’s book, published by the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, is available there or in local bookstores. Proceeds help support the Cenarrusa Foundation for Basque Culture at Boise State University.

One quick personal Cenarrusa story: in 1992, while I served as Chief of Staff to Governor Cecil D. Andrus, I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to accompany the Governor on an official visit to the Basque region of northern Spain. The trip came about as a result of an invitation from the Lehendakari – the President of the Autonomous Basque government Jose Antonio Ardanza Garro – who had visited Idaho two years earlier.

It was a wonderful and wholly memorable trip climaxed with an Andrus speech to the Basque Parliament, the first time a non-Basque had officially addressed the Parliament. A day or so later, while touring with our Basque’s hosts, we stopped in a small, roadside tavern for some afternoon refreshment. The tavern was near the mountain town of Durango in Bizkaia, the Basque province from which Cenarrusa’s family emigrated to the United States. As we walked into the bar someone mentioned we were the group from Idaho. The bartender looked directly at Cece Andrus and said: “You must know Pete Cenarrusa…”

Now, that’s what you call name recognition – from Biskaia to Boise.