New blood badly needed to serve our communities

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Most of Tuesday's primary election is pretty much cut and dried with many candidates facing no opposition and automatically moving to the general election in November. However, there are a few contested races that hold significant importance at the local and state level that voters in this county should take note.

In our time-honored tradition, the Mountain Home News presents its "kiss of death," where we offer our perspective in key political races. These endorsements represent a majority of views from the members of the newspaper's editorial board versus the editor's opinion or the viewpoints presented in the letters to the editor.

Looking at some of these races, we have some quality gems that stepped into the political arena -- with a few nuts thrown into the mix for good measure.

During a review of each race, it's clear that new blood is needed to get things moving forward to help restore the economic vibrance of the county and state. In fact, some on the editorial board felt a "wipe the slate clean" approach was needed in the state legislature as well as our representation on Capitol Hill.

Despite that viewpoint, a majority on the newspaper board felt incumbent Mike Simpson deserves our support as the Republican facing the Democratic challenger this November. He's remained a staunch supporter of Mountain Home Air Force Base, which in this community is critical to our economic livelihood. In addition, Simpson has tended to listen to the people of Idaho far more often than his fellow representatives from other states.

While we did consider Republican challenger M.C. "Chick" Heileson, he declined to respond to repeated requests for information from this newspaper. If a candidate won't respond to media queries, it raises serious doubts on whether they'd respond to questions from their constituents as well.

Looking at the Democratic side of this federal race, the editorial board was a little less certain on who they preferred. However, the general consensus tended to give Nicole LeFevour an edge over the other two challengers. An experienced state representative with an impressive background that includes time as a school teacher, her decision to serve on Capitol Hill was a logical move that deserves credit.

Moving to the state-level elections, members of the newspaper's editorial board posed plenty of discussion with opinions split between the list of potential candidates.

In the state senate race, the board's vote gave Bert Brackett a modest edge over Tim Corder. While both men have served this state and their home districts very well over the years, the editorial board felt Brackett represents the change this district needs.

However, it's only fair to mention here that Corder was never afraid to step across the political lines as needed versus staying in step with the state's Republicans. Unfortunately, that cost him dearly as his own party seemed to question his "political allegiance." This is something that should never happen since our representatives are supposed to be the voice of the people and not themselves.

In the Idaho House of Representatives, the editorial board overwhelmingly agreed it was time for someone new to sit in this seat. Simply put, a new voice was needed to help end the political gridlock in the state house.

While Matthew Bundy had the international perspective that would've been refreshing to see, the board felt that Steven Millington has the right blend of good ideas and new ways of doing business for this part of the state.

However, whoever wins that race faces a significant challenge from Democratic candidate Pam Chiarella. A teacher at Mountain Home High School, she's made no qualms about the state's repeated failures to promote quality education for students across the state. Republicans who favored the controversial education reform ideas passed by state lawmakers should take note because it could cost them dearly when people cast their votes next week.

Turning to the other elections, six people remain in the fight for two seats on the board of county commissioners. The four people battling for the outgoing commissioner Arlie Shaw's seat have their work cut out for them. Over the past three years, the three-person board has faced monumental challenges that not only provoked plenty of heated discussion but ultimately helped define the county's direction in years to come.

That challenge is one best suited for Nick Nettleton. As the former chairman of the county's planning and zoning commission, he has dealt firsthand with issues ranging from a proposed nuclear power plant near Hammett and the emergence of other alternative energy outlets in this county along with the overhaul of the county's comprehensive plan.

Although each of the other three candidates vying for the district one seat have their own strengths, the editorial board felt Nettleton's background on the county's inner workings would allow him to hit the ground running, so to speak. This knowledge will be invaluable since Shaw's departure will leave the board with very little long-term experience.

The next two issues facing voters next week were probably the easiest for the newspaper's editorial board to reach a consensus. They agreed that the proposed deal between Elmore Medical Center and St. Luke's Regional Medical Center deserves the community's full support. The Boise-based medical center already offers its services in the Mountain Home area, and the deal would simply expand the quality of care people here receive.

Meanwhile, the board also agreed that the Mountain Home School District's supplemental levy has clearly earned a "yes" vote. Simply put, the $2.7 million levy will actually cause people's property taxes to drop without sacrificing the current level of education the district provides students in this community.

While we hope this levy gains the votes needed to pass, the editorial board hopes the district does more in terms of accountability. From our perspective, there's a lot of "gray" out there on issues that should be considered "black and white."

It should also be noted here that the state's lack of support for public education is not only wrong but also counterproductive. Children represent our future, and if we don't give them the quality teachers and tools needed to make them competitive in today's high-tech world, we've sacrificed their potential for the sake of saving money.

From our perspective, that doesn't pass the test.