by Judy Ferro
Only a relative few of us get to vote tomorrow, one of the Idaho’s four consolidated election days for 2015. Dozens of districts—school, fire, highway, library, etc.—could be holding elections, but only the Middleton School District is. Voters there will decide whether to renew a two-year 2.62 million supplemental levy.
In contrast, only a few of us won’t have ballot choices on the next consolidated election day, Nov. 3. To start with, every city in the county will be electing two or three council members.
Today city clerks will begin accepting candidate declarations for candidates. Filing ends in two weeks; by Sept. 5 we will know what our choices will be. The quality of the candidates filing will be a large factor in determining just how well our cities function for the next two-to-four years. These volunteer positions require a great deal of time and energy and usually entail one or more issues guaranteed to bring conflict and criticism. It’s quite possible that few council seats will be contested.
It’s not hard to become a candidate—one must declare he or she is a registered voter residing in the city and submit either a $40 filing fee or the signatures of five supportive electors. In Caldwell, Greenleaf, and Nampa candidates must specify which seat they are filing for; in Melba, Middleton, Notus, Parma, and Wilder candidates run at large.
In addition, each candidate must now also name a treasurer who will be responsible for filing Sunshine reports listing campaign donations and expenditures.
A good candidate, however, must do a lot more work. If they haven’t attended the majority of council meetings in the last year, they should study the agendas and minutes of past meetings—sometimes available on-line—and understand budget changes during the past few years.
The best candidates may have helped previous candidates by talking to voters about the issues that concern them and researching options adopted by other cities. Or they may have held an appointed position on some of the city’s committees or commissions which make important decisions, but have a narrower focus than the councils, Nampa’s website lists 11 such groups; Caldwell’s 18. Included are panels responsible for overseeing services of airports, senior citizen centers, golf courses, libraries, and historic preservation projects as well as the all-important planning and zoning.
It wasn’t until after I became involved in the Democratic Party that I learned that many Democrats serve on city councils in Canyon County. The issues are so different than ones at the national level, that party platforms and ideology are largely irrelevant. Both parties support responsible local governance.
The seats up in Caldwell this year are seat 4, currently held by Shannon Ozuna; seat 5, by Jeremy Feucht; and seat 6, by Terrence Biggers. By odd coincidence, all three were appointed to their current seats; only Shannon Ozuna has previously run and won her seat.
The seats up in Nampa this year are seats 2, 4 and 6, currently held by Stephen Kren, David Bills, and Bruce Skaug.
Incumbents may file early to let others know that they are ready and willing to serve again. Some, however, may wait, perhaps hoping that a candidate they can support will file and they can pass the responsibilities on. We will not know which seats are “open” until after filing closes on Sept. 4.
We can do more than hope to get good candidates. If you know someone who’d make a good council member, talk to them. If you would be interested yourself, talk to everyone who might help you decide and prepare.
Without choices, the right to vote means little.