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Richard Larsen: A Look at State and Local Issues and Races, Election 2010

November 1st, 2010 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

In this day and age when our federal government can rack up our collective debt obligations without our approbation, the last thing we should be doing is giving that same ability to local hospitals, airports, or municipal power companies. The proposed constitutional amendments HJR4, HJR5, and HJR7 do just that. They can issue public debt without a vote of the taxpayers. No thank you!

Butch Otter has done a superb job as governor managing the ship of state through some turbulent fiscal waters the past few years. Keith Allred’s criticism of Otter for a 7.5% reduction in the education budget is evidence of his inability to make difficult decisions in a real-life setting. While crucial to our quality of life and the culture of Idaho, education is not a sacred cow to be immunized from fiscal reality. Would Allred have spared education and axed that much more than the 19.45% from the rest of the state agencies? This fiscal myopia is perhaps endemic with academics who have negligible exposure to the real world of financial management. We’ve seen what academics so limited in actual experience have done on the national level, we don’t need to make of Idaho another academic laboratory of fiscal experimentation.

As Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Luna has been an ardent proponent of a customer-driven education system. That’s critical, because in education, the customers are the children and the parents. What’s best for customers is not synonymous with what’s best and most comfortable for the educational bureaucracy and establishment. Stan Olson, based on his own statements, is driven from a practitioner perspective. Read that as a euphemism for “IEA compliant” and “administration friendly.” For the past four years Tom Luna has reduced costs in his department, including his own pay, transferring the savings to the general education fund, while Olson increased his pay (including a $25,000 bonus) and benefits as Superintendent of the Boise School District while cutting pay for teachers in his district. I think Luna is right: actions do speak louder than words. And in these challenging financial times, we don’t need someone in that crucial role who is self-admittedly “bad at math.”

All of our local candidates, without exception, are in the broad sense, good people. And almost all of them are likeable. When we cast votes for elected officials, it should have little to do with their likeability, but much to do with their ideology, their character, their perception of the role of government, and what they plan to do once elected.

We often are critical of the mindset and actions of the ruling party in Washington. What we infrequently do is connect the dots with local politicians to ascertain ideological orientation. There was a benchmark in the legislature this spring whereby those dots could be connected. HB 391, which was a symbolic rejection of the individual freedom-destroying, and expanding government control over our lives, national health care reform known not too affectionately as Obamacare. The entire Democrat legislative contingent from across the state voted against that measure. Such a tacit endorsement of engorging governmental control and debilitation of individual liberty shouts volumes. Based on that one benchmark issue, we don’t need more of the national statist mentality roaming the halls of our statehouse. We need believers in freedom, and a wise and frugal government. We get that from Ken Andrus, Terry Anderson, Jim Guthrie, Lance Kolbet, Dave Bowen, and Brian Nugent.

Larry Ghan has been a fixture in county governance for as long as I’ve lived here. And that’s a long time. Larry was commission chairman in 2008 when the county budget jumped an astounding 27%. I have difficulty fathoming that not only ideologically but as a taxpayer. Howard Manwaring brings a sound fiscal mind and a fresh perspective on county governance which would be superbly complementary to the commission. I think it’s time to retire Larry.

In what shouldn’t even be a partisan race, we have the unmistakable opportunity to hire as Bannock County Assessor someone with all the experience, the credentials, the licensing, and certification that the job demands. Geoff Ranere brings all these to the position, and much more. The underlying question for all to consider in this capacity is, do I want someone who knows how to value property competently and equitably or someone who knows how to sell property? I’ll take the licensed, certified, and professionally competent appraiser any day, hands down.

Local and state political races, though less prestigious than those on the national level, will likely affect our lives much more intimately and personally than the larger elections. Learn about the issues at stake and go to the polls prepared to vote for those you feel will do the best job for our community and state.

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