Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rubio visits Idaho, speaks at Melaleuca headquarters

Presidential aspirant and Florida senator Marco Rubio shakes hands after speaking Wednesday morning at Melaleuca world headquarters near Idaho Falls. 
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made his first visit to Idaho Wednesday morning, dropping a strong hint that he will be soon making his candidacy for the White House official.

Speaking to an audience of about 400 people at Melaleuca world headquarters, near Idaho Falls, Rubio gave his positions on immigration, foreign affairs, the national debt and economic development.

The speech was at the invitation of Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot, who contributed prominently to the campaign of the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

Rubio called it “improbable” that he, the son of a bartender and made who emigrated to the United States from Cuba in 1956, should be where he is today.

In most parts of the world, people don’t have much opportunity to rise above the station to which they are born, he said. “(Here) they have a God-given right to go as far as their talent and their work will take them.”

Rubio said that under President Barack Obama the United States has been on “the path of decline.” A change in policy is needed, he said, “and the best way to change policy is to change the people who are making it.”

Like other Republican hopefuls he called for an end to Obamacare, labeling it a burden to business and a drag on growth. On other economic issues, he said he is for simplifying the tax code and reforming the nation’s education system.

“We are stuck with a 20th century higher education system,” he said, stressing the need for more training in vocational fields and transparency when it comes to student debt loans.

The American Dream is not about getting rich, he said. It is about having a good enough job to make ends meet, being able to save for a comfortable retirement and for families to have the freedom to do what they enjoy doing. “We have a unique and special obligation not just to preserve it but to expand it,” he said. “If we lose it, we lose what makes us different.”

With regard to international affairs, Rubio said the United States must stand up to radical Islamic jihadism and tyranny around the world. “If America can’t lead on the global stage, no one else can,” he said.

Taking questions from the audience, Rubio called the nation’s current immigration system unsustainable. The problem of 12 million immigrants inside the United States without documentation has to be addressed realistically, he said. If a new immigration system can be enforced fairly and effectively, “I think the American people are willing to be reasonable.”

On the subject of the national debt, Rubio said he favors policies that create dramatic economic growth coupled with fiscal discipline. “We can’t cut or tax our way out of this debt,” he said.

With a mother on Social Security and Medicare, he said he has no plans for changing those programs for people in their 50s and up. For younger people, however, “(they) are going to look different than they have in the past,” he said. “Do we do it now or do we wait until it’s a crisis?”

Zions names new president for eastern Idaho

Merri Johnson
Zions Bank has named Merri Johnson its Eastern Idaho region president.

Johnson joined Zions in 2001 as a customer service manager in the Idaho Falls Downtown Financial Center and later was promoted to operations manager for the region. She has served as financial center manager, commercial loan officer and consumer loan officer.

In her new position she is responsible for the “strategic direction, market share growth and profitability of the region’s 13 financial centers,” according to a Zions news release. She also directs the region’s retail sales and service, small business lending, financial center operations and community relations efforts.

Zions Bank operates 25 full-service financial centers in Idaho and 100 financial centers in Utah. The company's Web site is

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Japanese restaurant opens in Teton Spectrum

Fuji Japanese Hibachi and Sushi, in the Teton Spectrum.
Fuji Japanese Hibachi & Sushi has opened at 2625 S. 25th East, in the Teton Spectrum where Game World used to be.

Based in Little Rock, Ark., the chain typically seeks out smaller markets for its restaurants — places like Grand Island, Neb., and Rapid City, S.D. “We have discovered people love food in the small cities,” said spokeswoman Michelle Guo. “We would like everybody in the community to give us a shot when we open.”

The interior d├ęcor has a Japanese theme including hibachi tables where the chef prepares the meal in the middle of the table, which contains a heating element.

There is also a sushi bar, where diners can watch the chef at work preparing rolls and sushi pieces.
The Ammon location has 16 hibachi stations and a separate banquet room that can accommodate up to 40. Overall, the seating capacity is 323.

Hours are Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

To view the menu, visit To like them on Facebook, click here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pulitzer Prize winning author to speak April 9 in Idaho Falls

Diane McWhorter
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Diane McWhorter, author of Carry  Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climatic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution, will be the speaker at the Idaho Humanities Council's 8th Annual Eastern Idaho Distinguished Humanities Lecture and Dinner on Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m., at the Shilo Inn in Idaho Falls.

Tickets are available for purchase by clicking here or by calling the IHC toll free at 888-345-5346.

General tickets are $45. Benefactor tickets are $75 and include an invitation to a pre-dinner reception with McWhorter in a private home and preferred seating at the dinner and lecture.

At the Shilo, the evening will begin with a no-host reception at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. with McWhorter's talk to follow. Copies of Carry Me Home will be available onsite from Barnes and Noble, and McWhorter will be available for signing afterwards.

The event is being supported by the William J. and Shirley A. Maeck Family Foundation, Teton Toyota and Volkswagen, Bank of Idaho, Idaho Public Television, INL, Barnes and Noble, Melaleuca, Steve and Cindy Carr, the Carr Family Foundation and KISU Radio.

A native of Birmingham, McWhorter started Carry Me Home as an effort to understand her own family's involvement in the cataclysmic events of 1963. "McWhorter pursued her search as both daughter and citizen, making her family a metaphor for her country," says the writeup in the New York Times Book Review of March 18, 2001. "Each encounters its own wrongdoing and lives with suspicions about itself, but her family's revelations inspire more relief than what she learns about her country."

Currently a professor at Harvard University, McWhorter is an American journalist and commentator who has written extensively about race and the history of civil rights in America. She is a longtime contributor to the New York Times and has written for the op-ed page of USA Today, Slate, and many other publications. Carry Me Home was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction and the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize in 2002. It also won the Southern Book Critics Circle Award, is one of Time Magazine's All-Time 100 Non-fiction Books since 1923, and made the "Best Books List" in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and American Heritage.

Here is a program from 2013 in which McWhorter talks about her experience researching and writing about civil rights in her native state.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Teton Toyota celebrating 10th anniversary this weekend

Mario Hernandez
Teton Toyota/Scion will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend, and to say the past 10 years have not been an adventure would be a gross understatement.

Pocatello native Mario Hernandez came to Idaho Falls in 2005 to take over Rocky Mountain Toyota when it was still on East Anderson Street. At the time, Sunnyside Road had not been expanded westward to link with Interstate 15, and the Snake River Landing development was in its birthing stages.

Hernandez and his crew led the land rush to the south, planning a new dealership on the north side of Sunnyside. It opened there about the same time the economy went into recession, but at least publicly Hernandez never questioned the wisdom of the move.

Ten years later, Teton Toyota has been joined by Teton Volkswagen in Idaho Falls and Teton Honda and Teton Hyundai are coming to Pocatello.

In its ten years, the company has proved itself a good corporate citizen, supporting events like the Great Race for Education. Hernandez and his wife, Glenda, are involved with The Idaho Falls Arts Council, the Idaho Falls Symphony, the Snake River Animal Shelter, School Districts 91 and 93, the Holy Rosary School, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Ducks Unlimited.

The celebration begins today at 11 a.m. Lunch will be served today and tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Anniversary pricing will be available all weekend. And of course Buddy, Hernandez’s black lab, will be on hand to greet guests.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hotel on the Falls reopens today

The view from the balcony of the Hotel on the Falls' Presidential Suite, on the eighth floor.
The Hotel on the Falls, an Idaho Falls landmark for almost 40 years, is back in business today, with a new owner and refurbished rooms.

The 85-room, eight-story building at 475 River Parkway, which dates back to 1978, when it was known as the Westbank Tower, was sold at auction Jan. 22. The new owner is Idaho Falls Lodge LLC, a company affiliated with Colorado Hospitality Services Inc. of Northglenn, Colo. Colorado Hospitality Services is owned by Bruce Rahmani of Denver, Colo. The Bonneville County Assessor’s Office reported the sale price to be $2.3 million.

It had gone into receivership in June 2014, when the property’s  then-owner, Idaho Hotel Holdings, filed a default judgment against the management company, Om Shiv Ganesh LLC, for more than $3.4 million. In the interim, it was run by Westerra Realty & Management, a Salt Lake City company that found the new buyers.

"It's in pretty good shape, really," said Brady Kraupp, who has managed the property throughout the transition and oversaw the refurbishing of rooms. There are new TVs, artwork, linens and furniture, but the eight-story hexagonal tower still boasts a lot of its old character. ”I could be partial, but we still have the best view and the biggest rooms,” Kraupp said.

The Westbank dates back to 1928, when Ferris Clark, son of Mayor Barzilla W. Clark and the grandson of Joseph A. Clark, Idaho Falls' first mayor, built two log buildings by the Snake River to accommodate an ever-growing number of motorists on their way to Yellowstone National Park. Over 52 years, Clark expanded the Westbank, first with a red brick motel, then a restaurant and lounge, then a two-story red brick motel. Clark is said to have had plans for a second tower, but declining health sent him into retirement in 1980. He died in 1987 at age 79.

Since the '80s, the hotel has gone by different names, including Red Lion and finally the Hotel on the Falls. Until 2012, the property was owned by Jim and Sharon Bennett and Robert and Sharon Paulus, the children of Olga Gustafson Rigby. In 2012, the hotel was deeded to trusts set up by the families while local businessman Dane Watkins bought the motel, restaurant and lounge and convention center.

Watkins told BizMojo Idaho in November he is looking for someone interested in leasing or buying the business. Signs in the door to the restaurant say "Closed for remodeling," but they're waiting to hear what any potential operator might say needs to be done, he said, adding that he recognizes the site's great location and historical significance.
Empty boxes in the hotel lobby, waiting to be carted away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fire marshal may ask third party to examine water supply to business park

The Waxie Sanitary Supply warehouse at 3839 American Way, which burned early Friday. With water from a private well, the hydrant in front did not have adequate pressure and ran dry after 15 minutes.
While investigators zero in on what caused a fire last week that destroyed a cleaning supply warehouse south of Idaho Falls, Fire Marshal Ken Anderson said he may ask a third party to check into the water supply at the business park where the warehouse burned.

Firefighters were called to the scene early Friday after Bonneville County Sheriff's deputies responded to a burglar alarm. When they arrived, they found the water pressure from the hydrant in front of Waxie Sanitary Supply, 3839 American Way, incapable of supplying enough water to fight the blaze, running dry after 15 minutes. The next nearest hydrant also was inadequate, and it wasn't until they found one 500 feet away, near the Staples warehouse (which has its own water supply and pump), that they were able to get the blaze under control. By then, the fire had consumed the warehouse's storage area. A firewall in the building kept the office from being destroyed, Anderson said.

The Sunnyside Business Park is not inside Idaho Falls city limits and is not on the city's water system. Anderson said the hydrant in front of the Waxie warehouse appeared to be connected to a domestic well capable of pumping around 500 gallons per minute. Under the current state fire code, a warehouse the size of Waxie’s, roughly 4,000 square feet, would require 1,700 gallons per minute for two hours, he said.

“The insurance company could say, ‘If we’re going to rebuild this building it has to have an adequate water supply,” Anderson said. Likewise, insurance carriers may want to examine whether they are giving property owners in the park discounts based on the belief that the fire protection is greater than it actually is.

Under the agreement between the Idaho Falls Fire Department and Bonneville County Fire Protection District No. 1, the city fire marshal conducts investigations in both jurisdictions.

Though the city of Idaho Falls requires sprinkler systems for commercial buildings, Anderson said the state and county do not require buildings like the Waxie warehouse to have one. “You have to have x amount of stuff in a fire area before the code says you have to have a sprinkler system,” he said.

Nevertheless, without a sprinkler system and with inadequate water from the private hydrant, fighting the fire was harder. "If we're going to do our job, we have to have water and a way to get it there," Anderson said.

The loss has been estimated at more than $1 million.