For 31 years, my grandfather Arthur Davis worked around Boise on a road crew fixing roads. He knew the city well. An observation he shared with me, which I’ve thought a lot about since, was that there once were two area companies making bricks: one made good bricks, the other made cheap bricks. A few decades ago, people around Boise were dismayed to see historic buildings crumbling. The ones with cheap bricks fell and were demolished. Many structures made with good bricks are standing today. The wisdom here is simple: If you are building for the future, choose good bricks.

Right now, that’s the opposite of what is happening in Idaho. This week our Legislature sits idle because there was a predictable, avoidable COVID outbreak. So, Idahoans are paying two extra weeks ($37,000 per day cost to Idahoans) for what House Speaker Scott Bedke is calling “a long weekend.” Months ago, legislative leaders ignored science and health experts. During the height of the pandemic, they refused to require masks in a building that draws people from all over to enclosed spaces. This is what you get when you pick cheap bricks to build with.

But there’s more. The cheap bricks Republican leaders build with are all around us. Did you know that as Idaho’s population booms, we are trading well-educated people trained in fields like nursing, engineering, education and business, for people who have little or no education? For every college-educated person who moves into Idaho, 13 are leaving for Utah, California, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming. Contrary to what a growing number of Republican lawmakers claim, Idaho universities produce exceptional students. Our businesses need those graduates. Health-care facilities and our schools need them. Instead, we supply neighboring states with hardworking Idahoans, people who our schools taught to have the know-how it takes to compete in the modern world. Those people flee to other states for better pay, better jobs and communities with well-funded public schools because our legislators build with cheap bricks.

A radical decline in support for education is, of course, just one way that Idaho decision-makers harm our present and future. It’s not good for business. It’s not good for Idaho. The Legislature refuses to make it illegal to deny housing to or fire someone because they identify as LGBT. This is a fundamental human rights issue. Folks need a place to live. Period. Folks need jobs. Period. To deny those rights is to decide that some people are lesser the moment they are born. I don’t agree with that. Idaho doesn’t agree with that. You can also be sure plenty of highly skilled folks who could be lured here to work will avoid a place that won’t outlaw discrimination.

On top of all that, the Legislature is dead set on making Idaho one of the most restrictive states in America as far as true freedom goes. One legislator saw a sculpture he didn’t like, so he wants to stop art. One legislator doesn’t want people to even entertain the idea that people of color are disadvantaged by our social systems or government. Legislators have sought to punish Boise State University and other universities for creating programs geared toward helping students succeed.

So, when we Idahoans are paying these people to take a two-week “long weekend,” it’s natural to try to figure out if we could have done things better.

On March 13, 2021, I was elected chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party. I believe that Idaho Democrats are well-positioned to bring much-needed change to how Idaho does business. Instead of telling working folks that we are on their side, we’ll prove it. For instance, that $1,400 check that many people are receiving, that check comes from Democrats. Support to local businesses is coming from Democrats. Dollars for roads, bridges and internet—all coming from Democrats. If it were up to Republicans, the number would be $0. In fact, Idaho Republicans brag about a cash surplus while ignoring our roads that are so bad that they cause the average Idahoan to pay $427 a year on car repairs, according to the Idaho Policy Institute. That’s money coming out of your pocket.

Idaho Democrats believe we can prosper together. When people have good educations, good roads and well-paying careers, we all have a chance to succeed. When Idahoans have opportunities to innovate, start businesses and grow existing businesses, our communities thrive. My grandpa understood that long ago: Don’t choose the cheap bricks if you want to build a strong future.


Fred Cornforth is chairman of the Idaho Democratic Party.

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