They won the primaries, now the real work begins

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Our congratulations to all the candidates who earned a vote of confidence from local voters on Tuesday. For the first time in many years, the local primary election offered the city and county a solid field of contenders, each one hoping to make things better for those who live here.

But now the real work begins. With six months to go before November's general election, those who won this week will face an uphill battle to not only maintain their group of supporters but to earn the trust of those who didn't support them, regardless of their political affiliation.

Their biggest challenge, from our perspective, is developing a solid game plan and sticking to it. So far this political season, it seems the main focus on the minds of many candidates was to state their political position and nothing more.

In other instances, candidates highlighted obvious problems in the local, state and federal governments.

For example, many candidates highlighted their concerns with the state's education system with most of them agreeing that it's horribly broken -- or at a minimum needs some work. Others spoke about encouraging new businesses to flock to this state along with notions about how to foster job growth in places like Elmore County.

However, what was lacking in all this dialogue was a serious attempt to highlight workable solutions to the problems these candidates mentioned. It's really tough to say, for instance, whether anyone has a surefire plan on the drawing board that would actually encourage corporations and industries to set up shop in southern Idaho or how many jobs are actually needed to remedy the state's unemployment figures.

In addition, no one really talked about what our school students need in the classroom to be fully prepared for the challenges of tomorrow. A few candidates touched on a few ideas, but many seemed too ambiguous at the first look.

Looking back over the past couple of months, those running for office usually remembered to highlight their unwaivering support for Mountain Home Air Force Base. The local Air Force base remains one of the state's largest economic contributors, so it's an obvious pledge since those who don't appreciate the base (or the military in general) would never make it past Tuesday's primary.

But herein lies another good question: How would these candidates convince our elected officials in Washington, D.C., to take full advantage of what this base has to offer? There's plenty of potential at Mountain Home Air Force Base. We're wondering if these candidates will remember that message when November comes around.

Typically, government tends to work extremely slow at times, even at the city and county levels. To a point, it serves as a type of "safety valve" to prevent our elected officials from making "off the hip" decisions without giving them sufficient time to consider the benefits and, more to the point, the consequences.

Consider the situation in Payette County where the county commissioners tried to rush through a plan to bring a nuclear power plant to their county -- the same proposal Elmore County faced at one point. It was a plan that seemed too good to believe.

And unfortunately, it was.

Payette County's rash decision came just as the developer backing the nuclear power deal was subject to an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC. Now that company is facing a lawsuit on charges of fraud.

It's possible that the county commissioners in that county could face dire repercussions because of their decisions.

Then there's the situation in Mountain Home where a seemingly routine zoning request for a local church turned into a legal nightmare. It cost the city more than $80,000 to settle without dragging it through the court system.

But consequences like these are just some of the issues elected officials accept when they run for public office.

For those new to the political arena, being in charge is a lot harder than it looks.

--Brian S. Orban