Kootenai Republicans blame budget for lack of vision

On November 6th, Kootenai County (KC) voters had a real chance to bring balance back to our local politics. Unfortunately, that didn’t materialize.  Democrats in KC lost by clear margins, even though their ideas passed with flying colors. Proposition 2, which expands healthcare to 62k Idahoans, passed by 16 points in KC and even higher margins statewide.  This was a citizen initiative championed by Democratic candidates and rejected by most Republican. 

The story of this election is Idahoans like Democrat’s ideas but still won’t vote for their candidates. So here we are, a couple more years of Republican politics are on the way.  What can we expect from our newly elected state legislators?  My answer; not much.

Last week, we decided to show up to the first town hall hosted by Paul Amador, Jim Addis, and Mary Souza. Even though the night before we also dragged our 9-week old along to the city planning meeting about approving a new river apartment project (it didn’t pass!).

This town hall didn’t offer anything we don’t already know. Republicans think everything is going great. They have everything under control and are getting many, many awards for their accomplishments according to Mary Souza. 

From where I stand we have pressing issues in Idaho; healthcare, teachers pay, pre-k education, overcrowded jails, and the list goes on. A whole lot of people in our state could benefit from strong leadership in Kootenai County.

Town halls are what we get for now.  They are a glimmer of hope that we might spark some tenacity amongst our legislators. Wednesday night that glimmer was quite dull, but there were some interesting moments. 

The town hall attendees seemed most interested in Proposition 2 and if candidates would try to derail it legislatively. Each candidate replied with some version of, “I will follow the will of the voters,” but when pressed if they would be on board with amendments like work requirements or other changes to the law that limit access, not one would nail down that they would support the law unimpeded. So watch this space. 

“I voted against Prop 2” – Mary Souza

Idaho state representative Mary Souza of Kootenai County.

While none of our Representatives said anything substantial about the implementation of Prop 2 the conversation did go in some other insightful directions as to what we might expect them to focus on these next few years.

Questions arose from local teachers in attendance about how to fully fund our schools instead of continuing to rely on bonds and levy’s for roughly 25% of our school’s budgets. Representative Souza’s stance to finding full funding to schools and healthcare is basically she has no idea how to solve those issues. 

“My kids all went to school here and this is the way we’ve always done it […] I don’t know what can be done to change that right now.”

So after the Idaho Republican’s 103 million dollar tax cut of 2018, citizens are asked to swallow the explanation that there is nothing we can do to fund our schools. I guess we will manage the mind-blowing growth and overcrowding in schools on our own with no help from state legislators.

A little reminder about what our beloved state constitution says about the legislature’s responsibility to fund our schools. 

Section 1: Legislature to establish system of free schools. The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.

Representative Souza also mentioned moments later that it’s hard to solve these issues when our projected state income is lower than expected due to the federal and state tax cut.  So nothing has changed there. Republicans think the way to raise revenue, build schools, and improve teacher pay is tax cuts.

“There’s an outfit, and I think it’s going to be a trend, that are looking to reclaim old mining spots” – Jim Addis

Representative Jim Addis seems to think he can find the solution to all problems with a healthy economy.  Which, I don’t completely disagree, but his idea mostly revolved allowing an “outfit” that “sent him a packet” to re-open an old mine in southern Idaho.  Did I mention he brought this up after an attendee asked about plans to look after pollution in our water systems?  The company promises to reconstruct a stream where the salmon used to run. And, mining companies always keep their promises, so we’re all set there… Looks like lobbyists got him sized up quickly.  No surprise to me when a majority of his campaign contributions were from PACs.

Paul Amador seemed to take the lead as the most comfortable elected Republican talking to what seemed like a room of Democrats. This is probably due to the fact that most view Paul as a moderate; a teacher, family man, and a vocal advocate for education. This has unfortunately garnered him the “RINO” nickname with many Republican party leaders.  I generally have nice things to say about Representative Amador, but when it comes down to it, he typically votes party lines.  Like when he voted to keep guns in the hands of domestic abusers. A vote I hope he has to explain until the end of his days. 

So at the end of the town hall, I was left with a clear reminder of the ideological mud we are stuck in. 

Republicans seem to believe the resources don’t exist to solves social issues that would seriously help our communities. That is simply not true.  Just like you, I’m watching the never-ending teardown of small houses to build mini-mansions all over Cd’A. I see the new stream of private jets flying over my house to land at our airport. I see our lake being jammed with huge estates, fancy boats, and new condos.  You don’t have to be a genius to understand that our nation (and region) is flush in cash and resources. It’s simply a matter of WHERE those resources are going. Republicans continue to support the redistribution of wealth back to the wealthy.  Democrats believe we can distribute the wealth to areas that make our society thrive (education, health, infrastructure) in order to have a real middle class, which in turn aids the growth of the country. 

This is where (on Facebook) I get called a commie socialist for holding the obvious opinion that wealth in America is clearly disproportionately divided. This is a bipartisan opinion. But, for a variety of reasons, Idahoans keep voting for lawmakers who ignore even the discussion about how to stop the slow death of the middle class.

For now, those of us who desire more passionate leadership, must continue to show up, speak out, and organize. We may go mad listening to the broken record of budget concerns the Republicans themselves have created, but the end goal is the same. We must work together to change Idaho’s political culture. This will take Republicans, Independents, Democrats, and current none voters. 

And possibly more citizen initiatives (marijuana?) to again show Idaho voters that the blue team and the red team share more in common than the bureaucrats would have us believe. 

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Teuvo was born and raised in Coeur d'Alene. His deep roots in this community give him a unique perspective on local culture and politics.

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