Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Candidate forum draws a modest but interested crowd

By Alannah Allbrett

October 16 saw a turnout of about 45 people at the Candidate Forum sponsored by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and students from the Advanced Government class at Orofino High School. 

Three candidates for the state legislature were on hand to answer questions of the student panel. But the apparent interest of the audience was focused on local candidates running for seats on the Clearwater County Commission. 

The audience was allowed to write their specific questions for submission; candidates were presented with the chosen questions with no foreknowledge of what issues they would tackle. 

The candidate responses were monitored by timekeepers, holding each to a fixed time to answer their questions. The speakers did a better job fitting the time allotment than presidential candidates of late. 

Not every candidate was asked the same question, however. 

Three of the four people running for commissioner were present. 

John Allen (D), 67, a former commissioner in District 3, introduced himself saying that in his 45 years in Clearwater County he has traveled every road, worked with a lot of people and agencies, and has a background to understand the history of the county. 

Allen recalled, in times past as the owner of the Bald Mountain Ski Shop, when they used to rent out 100 pairs of skis a day – reflecting that the economy was more robust then. He related his four years of military experience, including one year serving in Viet Nam. Allen served as county commissioner from 2006–2010. As a volunteer, he has always been involved in community service doing work for different county departments. He serves on several boards: North Central Health; Clearwater County Waterways; the State Hospital North Advisory Board; Dist. 2, Mental Health Board, and serves on the Farmers Market Board as Co-Chair. 

Candidate Don Ebert (D), 50, currently serving his tenth year as Commissioner in Dist. 1. He related some of his background, stating that he had also served 10 years on the School Board. The Eberts own Mary Ann’s Groceries in Weippe and have been in the community for 50 years. Ebert said that he has a Business Administration Degree. “I love this county and believe in the people,” he said. “They are some of the best people anyone would hope to know.” Ebert said that he has a lot to offer the county. 

Carole Galloway (R), 59, is currently serving the commission on a two year term – her first. Introducing herself, Galloway said that she has lived in this county for 39 years, is a small, independent business owner who is involved in churches, schools. She said that her involvement in coaching has taught her the importance of having strong schools in the community. She stated that she is a parent of four children and nine grandchildren. 

Galloway said her heart has always been in “doing what I can for the people. I don’t give a hoot who you are, but I am here to help in any way I can,” she said. 

She strongly feels the federal government far overreaches itself by imposing too many regulations and that the rules keep changing for businesses and individuals. She said that right now it is very difficult for anyone to start a business, but that there are things that can be done. She enjoys working for and with people and is starting to “hit my stride.” 

Summarizing a couple of the questions candidates were asked: 

Question: Why do you want to be commissioner?

Ebert: “This is one of the places I can do something for the community. I get to help people sometimes. Everybody wants to make a difference, and I feel like I can make a difference. It gives me a sense of community and purpose, and it’s a good thing.” 

Galloway: “I get a chance to help people – to stand up and do what I can. I want to be involved in the forest plan because it’s a huge thing in our community. I am already committed to do the best for our community and do what we can.” 

Allen: “I like the job; it’s a joy to help people. [When I was commissioner] People would come in mad, and pretty soon start talking in a normal voice. We can’t always help everybody when it comes to taxes, etc., but there are so many things we can do for people. I volunteer for the county and sit on a lot of boards. I do it because I like it. I just really enjoy the job and doing it.” 

Question: What are the duties and responsibilities of a commissioner? 

Galloway. “This is the second year of the budget. Our [department] supervisors do a good job, and they know we don’t have a lot of money. This year was kind of a squeaker. We didn’t know if we would have the RSC (Rural School Community Trust) money or not. We’re also trying to do better on our roads.” 

Allen: “One of the duties of a commissioner is that of a being a legislator of the county. They can reduce or raise taxes within the limits of the law. They are allowed to raise it three percent each year if they choose to.” Allen read from public code and said the part of Idaho Code that he really likes is: (paraphrasing) “Commissioners provide for health and improve safety,” etc. 

Regarding fiscal management he said, “We set the budgets – take the revenue and try to match it with expenditures. The trick to being a commissioner is you have to choose your battles and pick ones that make the best difference. We have to try to get along with everybody as best we can and move forward together.” 

Question: What is the number one goal for the county? 

Allen: “The number one goal is to get a good money source for our roads and schools. Fifty-three percent of our county is federal land, and we always got money from them. We shouldn’t have to go begging Washington, D.C. for money to run our schools and fix our roads. We need to try to come up with a steady source of money from the federal government. In 1907, 25 percent of revenue would go to the county and schools when they were logging and mining quite heavily. They don’t do that anymore, and it dried up. We still have expenses and still need money.” 

Ebert: “The top priority is to keep solvent, manage money, and provide services mandated by the state government. We have to keep the county running smoothly. A big goal, beyond that, is to urge the forest service do more active management. We’ve been working on that for quite some time. Last year we cut more timber. The Forest Service Plan is timely, and we’ve been invited to participate in it. My goal is to have the most influence in the process. And I’m going to try to influence the forest service plan in our favor as best as I can. It’s going to take an incredible amount of time. I am going to get the most for our county anywhere I can get it.” 

Galloway: “I want our county to have the opportunity to have more jobs. The state is demanding more and more all the time. We need to work on jobs. We didn’t do all we could do, the last two years. Government regulations are constantly changing. In the last years, it’s the way our country is going. Businesses want to come here, but not knowing how they can comply, they won’t come. We’re losing doctors and several good teachers. We need to do as much as we can to get business going. There are things we can do as commissioners – update the website [as an example]. This is a wonderful place to live and raise kids, and we’ve got to make it so families can make it."

Following the Commissioners’ answers, Sheriff Chris Goetz took his turn fielding questions ranging from underage drinking enforcement, to why the reservoir is heavily patrolled when the river is not.

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