Candidate for: Bonner County Commissioner, 1st District
Years of residence in Sandpoint and Bonner County: 12
Marital status/family: Married, 6 children, 10 grandchildren
Education: Bachelor’s degree, History, Utah State University; Master’s degree, Business Systems Management, University Southern California
Recent or pertinent employment history:
Public offices held:
Current Bonner County Commissioner District 1
Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong:
Chairman of Bonner County Transportation Team, Trustee and member of Panhandle Health District 1 Board of Directors, Board member of Bonner County Economic Development Corporation, Member of the Panhandle Forest Collaborative
1. Why are you running for public office?
I enjoy serving the people of Bonner County and want to continue to help grow our economy, while keeping taxes low, and reducing government intrusion into our lives.
2. Describe the top three to five issues you believe are most important; why you believe they are important; and your position on these issues.
I support the design and construction of a state of the art fiber network for our schools, businesses, residential and government computer networks. We need this high tech computer service at a decent cost - it is essential in attracting more business to our area. This will mean better paying jobs for our kids and neighbors right here - so they won’t need to move elsewhere ... Together we can build a better economy in Bonner County!
I support increasing Idaho State control of our poorly managed federal land. For years Washington has progressively removed decisions on land access, land use, and land ownership from local control. States, counties, businesses and individuals have been hard pressed to defend against the complex and conflicting federal policies and regulations. These federal directives, choke education funding, restrict our state and county tax base, depress business, and our recreational/social activities. I believe county government should keep things simple and not intrude into our personal lives and livelihood with excessive fees and regulations. I have helped our county Planning and Zoning department make this happen and I’ll continue that effort in our other departments and services as well.
3. At local candidate forums, many of the candidates have identified the economy and job creation as issues of concern – especially with the impending closure of Coldwater Creek and the loss of 300-plus jobs. Do you consider this an important issue for county commissioners to deal with? What specific actions would you advocate to improve the economy and jobs?
It is the primary issue our county faces and one I constantly think of as a county commissioner. I’m a member of the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation that is sponsoring workshops and mentoring our small business owners to help grow our economy. The specific actions I recommend are explained above in question #2.
4. Train hazards: An increase in coal trains through Bonner County has potential safety and environmental impacts, and with new shipping terminals proposed on the coast the coal trains traffic could more than double by some estimates. With 132 railroad crossings in the county, the increased train traffic stands to create traffic delays and safety hazards; in the past six months two young women have been killed at unprotected rural railroad crossings in the county. Additionally, Bonner County has seen an increase in the number of trains carrying highly volatile oil, creating a potential public safety hazard. Do you believe the county commissioners should be active on the issue of increased train transport through our county? What is your position on coal and oil trains? - Environmental issues: I am very much in favor of the Scotchman Peaks' as a Wilderness Area. It is a beautiful and wild treasure of steep and rocky country that will be a great Wilderness for us and our children.
I am very concerned about the public safety hazard that increased train traffic poses to Bonner County. However; I am also in favor of the free-market (not Crony Capitalism) that made our country the economic envy of the free world – and is now struggling because of over regulation and the litigation tactics of special interest groups. I am not convinced the alarming predictions of unreasonable train traffic, pollution and pending ecological/human disasters are inevitable. I am researching the issues and have not yet received all the facts I need to arrive at a firm decision. I am in favor of oil pipelines for transporting oil and I believe that the Keystone pipeline should be approved and completed. This would reduce the potential exposure to an oil train derailment.
5. Do you support or oppose wilderness designation for the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Area? Do you support or oppose the proposed Rock Creek Mine in Montana, which has potential effects on water quality in Lake Pend Oreille? And why, in each case?
- In regard to the Rock Creek Mine – I lived in Alaska and I’m not opposed to mining. Real wealth comes from our natural resources such as mining and timber. However, in this case, indications are that the mine represents a long term risk to water quality. There is the potential that heavy metals are going to flow from the tailings and make their way into the Clark Fork River. The accumulation of toxins over time could affect us like what happened to Lake Coeur d’Alene, and in Kellogg. Also, the management involved in this project has a poor track record in the mining industry. It has left behind Superfund sites, gone through several bankruptcies, and stuck taxpayers with multi-million dollar cleanup costs. Yet, the mining industry pays no royalties based on an archaic law that needs to be reformed (l872 Mining Law).
The best investment we have for the future of our economy is our clean rivers, scenic lands, beautiful parks, wildlife habitats, and recreational areas. Therefore, I cannot support the Rock Creek Mine until they have demonstrated management that is proven and responsible and they can fully comply with all applicable mining/clean water guidelines.
6. What role should the county commissioners play in the management and development of the lake? Also, describe your position on the Rock Creek Mine and control of invasive species in the lake, such as Eurasian Milfoil.
I believe we need to protect our magnificent Lake Pend Oreille! Eurasian Milfoil in Lake Pend Oreille waters is a serious threat and our Bonner County Weed Department under direction of our County Commissioners and in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Agriculture and other agencies, should continue the control efforts that began in 2006. This noxious weed, if left unchecked, will negatively impact the value of our water supply, boating, swimming, and fishing.
The Rock Creek Mine is just over our border in Montana. It was previously under poor management and if that mismanagement continues it is likely the contaminated water would run downstream into the Clark Fork river and on into Lake Pend Oreille. This has the potential to do serious environmental harm and would be unacceptable. I do not support development of the Rock Creek Mine until they demonstrate good management practices and comply with all applicable federal and state guidelines.
- Environmental issues: I am very much in favor of the Scotchman Peaks' as a Wilderness Area. It is a beautiful and wild treasure of steep and rocky country that will be a great Wilderness for us and our children.
7. Do you feel the county has struck the correct balance between taxes and services? If you intend to reduce taxes, what specific services would you eliminate?
The battle to keep our county taxes and fees low while providing essential services is never ending! As a county commissioner I encourage our elected officials and department heads to seek out “best practices” in an effort to provide their services more efficiently at lower costs. I will continue to ask tough questions as I review budget requests. We should always seek better ways to get the job done. Yes, the cost of doing business (fuel, insurance, contracts, etc.) increases every year. The County can only increase our property tax 3% per year, and that is sufficient to cover the increase in operating expenses. If the full 3% is not needed, I will not take it. It is up to the voters to approve any increase in services beyond the 3% cap.
I have encouraged competitive bidding for the healthcare plan and liability insurance services that our county operates under. This bidding process has saved us several hundred thousand dollars in operating expenses.
8. What do you believe is the correct course for the county in the SilverWing lawsuit?
The county did not take or deprive use of any property from Silver Wing and should not pay Silver Wing any of our tax payer’s hard earned money. The FAA controls the airport and will be the deciding authority on where the runway is positioned. That decision will have the greatest impact on Silver Wing’s through-the-fence development near our Sandpoint Airport.
9. Do you support allocation of resources to the Bonner County Fairgrounds, and at what level – higher, lower or the same as currently?
Bonner County's Fairground activities have received international recognition and recently won the prestigious John Deere Award of Excellence Grand Sweepstakes, rating it the top overall among fairs throughout the U.S. and in eight countries. Our hard working fairboard and outstanding County Fair Director, Rhonda Livingstone, continue to bring high quality family events and activities to our fairgrounds every year. The other county commissioner’s and I recognize the immeasurable business activity and dollars that are brought into Ponderay and Sandpoint through their efforts. I intend to continue supporting them with the resources that the commissioner’s can provide at current and higher levels to sustain the great benefits our county receives through their outstanding efforts!
10. What differentiates you from other candidates? Why should people vote for you?
My current experience--working as a Commissioner and building a collaborative network of colleagues in both the private, Non-governmental Organizations and public sectors--along with my complementary experiences on different boards, committees and commissions, best qualifies me for a second term.
Doing the job now… and doing it well – differentiates me from the other candidates.