Nov 11 2013

The Kootenai takeaway

Published by at 8:05 am under Idaho,Idaho column

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

If you’re looking for larger takeaways from Tuesday’s local elections, in Idaho at least, the best you might get come from Kootenai County.

Other things in other places happened too, of course.

Boise voters rejected two large bond issues on fire safety and parks – sort of. They pulled 64 percent and 62 percent yes votes, but that meant they fell short of the two-thirds needed. It’s a high bar; the community overall approved of the plan, just not overwhelmingly. The city council members on the ballot won in landslides. That suggests general satisfaction with City Hall, though the point shouldn’t be pressed too far.

Three-term Mayor Tom Dale was ousted in Nampa by council member Bob Henry, after a campaign debate centering on taxes (Henry was the lower-taxes side). But the differences between the two were not extreme, both were experienced at city hall and incumbents there, and the vote was close, decided by only 113, about half a percentage point.

In Pocatello, Mayor Brian Blad, who surprised many people in town four years ago when he defeated incumbent Roger Chase, beat him again to win a second term. That result was not a great shock.

Not a lot of roiling, at least among the voters who turned out.

A message of a different sort did come, however, from Kootenai County. Politics there has been distinctive, stirred up in recent years by several highly partisan and activist groups seeking to elect candidates generally in line with the Tea Party to not only state and federal offices but to non-partisan local offices too. (The full collection of Tea-type local organizations is too dizzying to recount here.)The dividing lines were clear in the mayoral and council races in Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, which were by far the most entertaining campaigns in Idaho this season. Across the line from the ideologues was a looser-knit group called Balance North Idaho, which included a number of Democrats, independents and non-Tea Republicans.

It was a lively contest, all right. One Coeur d’Alene council candidate, Amy Evans, was even dubbed “Obama Girl” by the opposition. She won, and so did every other Balance candidate for mayor and council in the two cities. Nor were the races especially close: The Tea-backed candidates were crushed across the board.

That sounds like a message: Getting the workaday job done at City Hall trumps ideology.

A bit of business left over from last week.

In the column about attorney Conley Ward, I noted that Ward had been hired on to the Public Utility Commission staff by Commissioner Robert Lenaghen, a point drawn from an essay by Pat Ford, a long-time friend of Ward’s, and from other sources. The job was that of deputy attorney general, however, and the AG then, Tony Park, sent me this note:

“I hired Conley as a Deputy Attorney General right out of law school in 1974. I then assigned him to the PUC as the Deputy for its legal needs. So Bob Lenaghen did not hire Conley nor did Con work for the PUC. He did write the order for the PUC rejecting that dreadful [Pioneer plant] proposal. I also was publicly opposed to the Pioneer Plan in that election year and relied heavily on Con’s input regarding it. Incidentally, when Gov. Evans appointed him to the PUC in 1977, Con was working for me in my private law firm. He was a very good attorney and I hated to lose him.”

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