Idaho politics: Surprising incompetence and

by Judy Ferro

Much of this week’s Idaho news was not surprising, but there was an exception.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was surprised to learn that our county commissioners had failed to figure in restrictions on use of special funds when they made plans to finance a jail addition with existing money. I had seriously overestimated the competence of Commissioners Steve Rule and Craig Hanson.

I like to think that most people administering 20 separate funds would have some idea which each was for or, barring that, have the sense to ask someone who does know BEFORE publicly announcing plans to spend the money.

Apparently, the Commissioners skipped that important step.

So now we have an ugly public dispute. Commissioner Rule has accused Clerk Chris Yamamoto of not following orders to fund the expansion without a tax increase. Yamamoto has countered that the law won’t allow it.

Reminder to self: our full-time, well-paid commissioners are amateurs.

Two other “news” items fell to the opposite end of the surprise spectrum. Did anyone seriously believe that Otter hadn’t known that the Feds weren’t paying their share of the school broadband contract for months before legislators—and the public—were informed? Admittedly, he didn’t let on that he knew or include increased broadband payments in his budget package.

But he also didn’t fire Teresa Luna when she informed the legislature. If she hadn’t kept Otter informed from the beginning—and agreed to his timeline for informing others—she would have been history.

And we are still being kept in the dark. Nothing yet explains why Luna received a new job after she resigned. The reasons I can imagine would destroy the careers of them both.

An Idaho Statesman editorial pointed out that all Otter (the gubernatorial candidate they endorsed) is working at these days is controlling the fallout of his past failings. It concluded that “the governor could lead the charge to crate a fail-safe set of contract protocols.” Apparently, the paper’s editorial board doesn’t realize that fail-safe protocols would seriously interfere with Otter’s modus operandi. The series of bad contracts his administration initiated are not results of neglect, but of the “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours” practice of “good old boys.”

The least surprising “news” of the week, however, was that poll results indicate Idaho has more Independents than Republicans or Democrats.

Not allowing anyone or any party to tell you how to think is a basic Idaho value.

Keeping your party preference private is also characteristic of the Idaho voter. Even my sister, generally a truthful person as well as a staunch Democrat, made it a practice to never tell two pollsters the same thing.

And, as a partisan, I see being an Independent as a lot less work. No one expects you to recruit candidates, canvass door-to-door, plan fundraisers, contribute to campaigns, etc. An Independent doesn’t even have to defend their beliefs. It’s enough to say that they vote for the person they believe is best.

And, as the poll indicated, for nearly 40% of the Independents the best person is a Republican. The Independent vote tends to divide in the same two-to-one ratio as the partisan vote.

That no longer surprises, but continues to baffle. Why are so many Idahoans loyal to Republican politicians who waste taxpayer money and demonstrate minimal competence?