Last week's political forum gave people in the Mountain Home community the perfect chance to meet the men and women who will go on to serve and represent the voters of this area. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed at the turnout -- less than a third of the standing-room-only crowd we had show up at the forum leading into the May primary.
Despite the smaller crowds, there were plenty of questions fielded by a variety of people in the audience.
While this newspaper had the right to ask questions to those running for office, we deliberately chose to refrain from asking any. It was our intent to allow those in the audience to speak about the topics they felt mattered most to them versus having this newspaper "drive the debate," so to speak.
I must admit there were some really good ones asked that evening. Among the most important dealt with water -- an issue near and dear to all of us, especially farmers and ranchers whose livelihood depends on access to this vital and limited resource.
At the same time, however, it seemed there were too many questions and responses focused on giving candidates a chance to focus on their political ideology versus tackling specific issues. They also missed out on a number of opportunities to take time to address the bigger issues affecting Mountain Home and surrounding communities -- issues that will directly affect each of us over the next two to four years.
Among the biggest the candidates missed that evening dealt with the state's economy and what our future lawmakers will do to foster job growth in rural communities outside of the Treasure Valley. After hearing people complain repeatedly over the past 10 years that there's "nothing to do in Mountain Home," I figured at least one candidate would outline what they planned to do to remedy that perception.
Here's something to consider: There are signs out there that things are on the mend here and across Idaho. For instance, we're seeing more cases where companies and corporations are looking at communities for room to build a new factory or warehouse or hope to bring one of their restaurants or shops here.
That's always welcome news in a community that's figuratively starving for something new. At the same time, bringing in a new processing plant, retailer or franchise would create some much-needed jobs to get may able-bodied people back to work.
It would also help make this city and others around this part of the state a lot stronger from an economic standpoint.
Then there's the positive news regarding the local real estate market. The last time I checked, I not only reflect that more people were buying houses here but the price they were fetching continues to steadily rise.
After seeing the value of my home and property fall by nearly half following the real estate market crash in 2008, I've been hoping to see those losses turn into gains, and it now appears that's starting to happen.
However, I really wish I knew what the candidates running to represent all of us at the state capitol want to do to keep this good news continuing to roll in. Rural communities like Mountain Home need and deserve a break versus focusing all the attention on the Treasure Valley. Let's see some of that attention focused our way instead.
Speaking of which, here's something to consider regarding the local economy. It deals specifically with the Ada County Highway District, which uses subsidies -- our tax dollars -- to provide transportation to people who live in the Treasure Valley.
Simply put, this has allowed hundreds of airmen stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base to get a free ride to and from Boise so their families can live there versus living on base or in Mountain Home itself. From my perspective, I don't like my tax dollars being used to drain tax dollars out of our local coffers and into the ones over in Ada County.
I just wish someone at last week's forum had asked whether our legislative candidates were willing to directly deal with that one issue if they get elected.
Instead, I ended up having to sit there and listen to candidates speak on platitudes of wanting to fight to protect our individual freedoms and liberties. Among them were people's rights to own guns, which was a no-brainer since anyone who would dare speak out against gun rights would've likely been hauled out of the Elks Lodge and immediately tarred and feathered.
Then there was the comments I overhead from candidates saying they support the U.S. Constitution. While I can comfortably say that all of them have read that governing document, I wonder how many of them have actually sat down and read through all the case law connected to it.
During the forum, we also heard from people wanting to know if the candidates support a Convention of States to amend the U.S. Constitution. It seems that question has been on the minds of many voters who want to establish term limits for those in public office.
Of course, this comment seems too come from the same group of people who repeatedly vote for the same candidates time and time again strictly because of their political affiliation. Think about it. How many times over the years have we gone to the voting booth and went "straight party ticket" versus taking the time to actually figure out whether the candidates were worthy of our vote?
Take your time. I'll wait while you think that one over.
I suppose the easy answer is that we don't have any problems with the candidates we support, but we adamantly oppose anyone that supports a different perspective on the same issue. I guess "term limits" are only for those from the other political party.
Then there are the candidates out there that are being branded as "traitors to the party" because they dare to support something as rational as wanting to compromise to reach a solution. In recent years, we've seen several lawmakers purged from the ranks because they were willing to breach the political fence to reach an agreement to keep our state and federal governments running smoothly.
It used to be that's how we got things accomplished when it came to complex issues involving the government. I wish both sides of the political fence still understood that need as we the voters prepare to head to the polls in just 13 days.
-- Brian S. Orban