Two of the most fundamental responsibilities of any American converge this week with the election primary on Tuesday. It is incumbent (no pun intended) on all of us to be informed about what government is doing (in many cases to us rather than for us) and to exercise our franchise as voters based upon that information.
We have several statewide and local contested primary races and a few that deserve some special attention. In some races ideology creates the clear demarcation between candidates, and in others, competency is the distinguishing factor.
The Idaho voting system is somewhat different than most other states. At the time you register to vote in Idaho, you don’t have to claim a party affiliation, you just register to vote. The only time you actually indicate a party affiliation or preference through the voting process is when you vote in a Primary Election. At that time, you request either a Republican or a Democrat ballot. The reason is simple: it’s the parties that bring the candidates to the table in an election for the most part, and so the Primary provides the means of sifting through a party’s candidates to rally behind for the General Election held in November.
Independents and other parties, like the Constitutional or Green Party, may have their own candidates on the General Election Ballot in November, but typically don’t have contested primary races to determine the November finalists.
For the US Congress, 2nd District incumbent Mike Simpson is being challenged by several candidates, including most prominently, Chick Heileson from Iona. The Congressman gives great speeches, and articulates values that resonate with most Idahoans, but his voting record doesn’t necessarily reflect that. The Freedom Index, a congressional scorecard which tracks congressional votes vis-à-vis the Constitution, most recently ranked Simpson at 40, barely 4 points over the average for all congressmen. A perfect score of 100 indicates a voting record most true to constitutional governance. It would appear that the Congressman has been smitten by “Beltwayitis,” the affliction which smites most federal lawmakers after they’ve been in D.C. for too long, and is evidenced by votes for spending and government encroachment that they wouldn’t have supported as freshmen legislators. I’ve got to go with Heileson on this one. I think he’ll vote the way he talks and hopefully prove immune to the affliction Simpson suffers from.
A local race that is inscrutable from my perspective, is the challenge to Steve Hadley as County Commissioner by Dennis Spencer. There is no reason whatsoever to make a change here. Steve has done a superb job in keeping the county budget down at a time of great financial challenges all around us. His fiscal acumen is further evidenced by completing the fairgrounds improvements with no adverse impact on the budget, and saving taxpayers a million dollars by using county employees at the landfill. Steve is a proven leader and has a knack for fiscal management which has and should continue to serve the county well for years.
The Bannock County Assessor’s race is probably the hottest local ticket for this Primary. Incumbent Jo Lynn Anderson is being challenged by Geoff Ranere, a former county appraiser. Ranere left the Assessor’s office in 2008 along with three other appraisers due to internal politics and unscrupulous appraisal guidelines adopted by the office.
The Assessors office is required to abide by the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) developed by the Appraisal Standards Board (ASB). These standards mandate equitable and ethical appraisal of property values. Yet I have heard many examples of excessive valuations next to properties virtually unaffected by reassessment, in spite of more improvements made to the neighboring properties. Also contrary to USPAP standards, if the Assessor’s office can’t gain access to a residential property, the Assessor has instructed department appraisers to value the property with a half-finished basement. When the reluctant appraisers were told to engage in these questionable practices, the issue was forced by telling them it was not optional.
Geoff is not only a licensed appraiser well versed in USPAP standards, but he has the ethics which will return the office to equitable and fair treatment of taxpayers. Perhaps even of greater value to us, Geoff has the demeanor and professionalism to make the office hospitable to taxpayers. After all, we are the collective bosses to our public servants. They need to be reminded that they are there to serve us. Geoff has that perspective.
If you’ve been critical of how our government is working, or failing to work for you, now is the time to do something. Collectively, we hire our public officials. Let’s choose wisely, starting this Tuesday.
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