Ada Commish Race, Who Cares?

Granted there wasn’t a huge publicity campaign and there are a lot of candidates, but the Ada County Commishes debate Monday sponsored by the Woman’s League of Voters was sparsely attended at best.
Commish debate.jpg

There were only about 6 non-candidate related people in the entire room. Clerk-Auditor Dave Navarro’s opponent didn’t even show up.

Written questions from the “audience” were presented by BSU political science prof Jim Weatherby in his usual dignified manner.

Answers from the first question surprised few. “Do you accept campaign contributions from developers, realtors or builders?” All admitted they take money from the development crowd.

Incumbent Repub Fred Tilman, was not ashamed to take money from developers. Al Ames, his Demo opponent, admitted to a $50 donation, but said he will finance much of the campaign out of pocket.

In the District 3 race, Steve Kimball–a roofer by trade–wasn’t bashful about admitting payments from developers, builders and realtors. Nearly 10% of his campaign is financed by “Cliffs” Developer Tucker Johnson.

Former commish Sharon Ullman said she got $50 from a personal friend who sells real estate, but does not seek funds or endorsements from the development community.

The biggest surprise was Paul Woods’ answer. Not only does he proudly accept cash from developers, he plans to spend a whopping $45,000 for the county race. Tilman’s campaign budget of $25,000 was the only one that even came close. All the others were in the $6-12,000 range

“Our community has been built by developers, realtors, and builders. They have a tremendous roles to play,” said Woods.

Ames and Tilman traded barbs about inconsistent past positions and Kimball got a long answer out of Ullman on why she voted FOR him in the primary. GUARDIAN says she voted for the Republican Kimball in the primary so she wouldn’t have to go up against incumbent Judy Peavey-Derr.

Saddest comment of the night was Kimball’s answer to the question, “Identify county departments under the commissioners and what you would do to change them.”

Kimball stammered and declared, “I don’t have a basic comprehension of county government…” He then went on to say that “Fred and Judy” said they would help him out to learn the ropes.

Not a pretty event if you are looking for changes in Ada government.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Guardian… this illustrates EXACTLY why growth is taking place unimpeded.

    The pro-development folks contribute to the candidates’ campaigns… frequently to candidates who are running against one another. They obviously know the stakes, and although the recipients declare passionately they won’t lose their independence on account of those contributions, their actions always end up speaking louder than their words.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us remain generally apathetic. We don’t have money to pour into campaigns. We might put a sign in the yard, or pass out literature on a Saturday morning… and hopefully we vote. At this point, we’ve sorta resigned ourselves. What difference will one or two more 50-house subdivisions make, after all? Others have become apathetic or cynical… they see all the politicians in the pockets of the special interests. In an off-year, a 50-percent turnout is pretty special.

    I’d like to see Idaho go to a vote-by-mail. It’s been successful in Oregon for several years. And they just started it in Washington; there’s a story in the Seattle Times just today… 93 percent voting in the primary election! That is impressive, no?

    Washington vote story:

    If enough of us were paying attention and refusing to elect these pro-development toadies, it could make a difference. Barton and Hubble might have big bank accounts, but they can only cast one vote, just like the rest of us.

    (Frankly, the only candidate for ANY office that I’m very excited about, this time around, is Sharon Ullman. Otherwise, it just doesn’t seem to matter whether I vote for the Demican or the Republocrat. Mostly I’ll vote for the non-incumbent.)

  2. Businesses/PACs who donate to political campaigns routinely donate to both sides of the ballot; developers don’t particularly care who is commissioner, just that they’re in their pocket.

  3. I agree with Bikeboy on the voting by mail. A higher voter turnout would certainly occur. Right now most campaign dollars are spent on advertising that usually contains no meaningful information. It would cause the candidates to sell/convince us to vote for them. Currently the candidates are just casting out a hook and worm and hoping something bites. Under voting by mail, the candidates would be forced to cast a fly with the perfect presentation and seduce us into biting.

  4. CLARIFICATION! I made a mistake – in Washington, 93% of the people who voted, did so by mail. The actual participation was around 40%. So maybe it’s not such a big deal. (The local clerks are asking people NOT to vote absentee, which is rather odd.)

  5. Gosh, I was almost feeling guilty about putting a little money and my support behind Sharon Ullman because I have been helping out the County Dems because I believe we need a “regime change.” I was not at all happy that Mr. Woods is happy with developers. Having spent most of my adult life in the real estate business – title insurance, escrow, tax deferred exchanging, and as an investor, I am only too aware that the bottom line is always money – not quality of life. The rich guys can always move to the next paradise and start ruining that one.

    Vote for Sharon Ullman and Al Ames. We need a fresh start with people not indebted to transient money people. Please.

  6. Having not attended and based only on what Guardian reports I am shocked that Mr. Woods is the only candidate making a serious effort to put on a campaign. The budget figures for the other candidates would be more befitting a campaign in rural Idaho for state legislator position or a part time county commission position. Ada County Commissioner is a full time job and when it comes to putting on a campaign I’d like to see ’em break a sweat.

  7. curious george
    Oct 17, 2006, 10:37 pm

    And I hope you will all vote against Prop 2. It would seem that a candidate’s position on this ill-concieved (NYC realtor-funded) proposition would be a fairly sound litmus test on the runner’s support for sound planning.

  8. Sometimes, it is not so much what they say, as what they don’t say.

    Kimbal, as the Guardian reported, did readily admit to accepting money from developers. However, (The Guardian will correct me if I am wrong) at the forum I did not hear him identify Skyline / The Cliffs as the source of a big chunk of his war chest. Not even elected, and he is already hiding his connection to that planned community.

    Speaking of The Cliffs, in response to a question about that development and Avimor, Tilman declined to answer on the basis that discussing The Cliffs would be grounds for disqualifying him when the Board of County Comissioners hears the application on November 15.

    What he failed to mention was that, after spending more than $17,000 of the taxpayer’s money in a failed attempt to avoid being convicted for violating the open meeting law last year, nowhere in his defense did he challenge the fact that The Cliffs was one of central items discussed in the meeting.

    How Fred could think he is not tainted by illegally discussing The Cliffs in private but could be tainted by discussing it in public is a mystery to me.

    Then again, for Tilman, secrecy seems to excuse all sins. To listen to Tilman and Judy Peavey-Derr’s tortured attempt to get The Idaho Statesman quit pestering the Commissioners with freedom of information act requests, visit:

  9. Sharon Ullman scares the “ba-jeebers” out of me. She is a loose cannon. But having reviewed the alternatives, I would rather have a “cannon” calling the shots than listening to those idiotic, self-serving jerks that we currently have. After the “debate” it is painfully obvious that if we don’t make major changes in our leadership, we are just plain “screwed”!

  10. Hey Tony,
    I went to your website and it looked as though a six year old had written it. They didn’t even have the tenacity to spell Yzaguirre’s name right. Tell me you’re not seriously listening to people like this. Or mabee yuuuu lik readin graid sckool matrieal.

  11. clippityclop
    Oct 18, 2006, 10:29 am

    You must have a high estimation of six-year olds’ writing prowess, for the referenced website is quite well written. Yzaguirre’s misspelling is hardly worthy of venom, don’t you think? And yes, I think people are very seriously listening to this. At least the Idaho State Attorney General has… these are the folks that brought you the opening meeting law violation, over which the current Ada County Commissioners have spent tens of thousands defending themselves instead of paying a $150 fine?

  12. If the crime is a tendency toward typos when directly posting late night web entries, and being a poor proof reader, I plead guilty.

    If you are applying for a job as editor of the site, you won’t like the hours or the pay.

    If you think a couple typos outweigh the Commissioner’s trying to tame the Statesman and bury public information, this is an even sadder town than I thought.

    Tony Jones

  13. Bikeboy and Treva – thank you for your kind words and support!

    Osprey – I can understand how you might believe that the amount of money a candidate spends on a campaign defines how much effort they are putting into a race. The media, entrenched politicians, and special interest groups have been conditioning us to think that way for many years. In reality, those of us who run grass roots campaigns put as much or more effort in, because we do not have a paid staff, but rather dedicated volunteers working from the heart.

    Cyclops – Elbert Hubbard said, “To escape criticism – do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” This cannon has her feet firmly secured to this community and any volleys fired will be on behalf of the citizens.

  14. Wow–unfortunately I’m not very surprised. Are you?

  15. Tony and Clippit,

    I am not saying they do not have a valid point or that it means anything less, but have some professionalism in writing. I think if anyone is to be taken seriously they need to come across that way. I don’t care what time of day you post something, at least proof it before you put your name on it. I am not trying to take away from the article…..but it is hard to read something like that and take it serious.

    I would also like to mention the fact that there was such poor turnout at the debate shows that A. they are doing a good job, B. no one cares, or C. no one wants to get involved except to complain when things don’t go their way (that is not directed at anyone specific.)

    Lastly, I also think Sharon is a loose cannon. All I see with Sharon is someone out to make life miserable for everyone. Sharon, weren’t you a Democrat at one point, then a Republican, now an Independent? I read your article about this on your site (which was well written and no spelling mistakes,) and I don’t know if I really buy that or not.

  16. clippityclop
    Oct 18, 2006, 7:17 pm

    I merely want to point out that in your last paragraph, you incorrectly placed a comma within and end parenthesis, which addresses your first paragraph.
    In answer to the options posed in your second paragraph, A. They aren’t doing a good job; B. Many people care; and C. Lots of very involved people had a conflict last night as they were at the Eagle P&Z meeting. Where were you?

  17. Long time reader, first time writer. My loyalty to Paul Woods drives me to put in my two cents. I was elected to the Eagle City Council twice. The first election in 1997 cost me $1500, four years later it was closer to $3000. This covered two ads in the Valley Times, one blanket mailer to the 83616 zip code and extra flyers that I used in my door-to-door campaign. I am just a plain working girl and this kind of money is a big chunk of change for me. I received endorsements from the Building Contractors Assoc and some of my biggest donations came from developers. I had to get the money somewhere… Campaign donations never entered my mind when voting on development projects. (I know you hear this all the time, but my votes are on record so anyone can check them out.) After learning first-hand the real costs of launching an effective campaign, I now specifically save just so I can donate a few bucks to help candidates I believe in. Because I believe he is a quality candidate, Paul Woods received half of the $200 I allocated for this election cycle–and believe me, I am NOT pro-development!

  18. Nice response Sharon. I’m Buying the article and I only hope that you will get some help “aiming” when you put that first one across the bow!

  19. Lynne,

    Sorry to see you leave. I thought you did a great job and represented the people of Eagle well. I thought you were well rounded and listened to all sides regardless.

    Some think you have to spend a lot of money to be serious about politics or that because you have accepted money from a certain group that you in turn favor them. I have always supported you even if we did not always agree on something.

    You also acted as I think an elected official should, with pride and dignity. Too bad we can’t say that about em’ all (yes clippit I know that em’ isn’t a real word.)

  20. Yo, Snoop,

    The post up above, it’s a joke, right?

    I mean, so what if Mr. T has a few typos? There was nothing malicious about them, and they reflect poorly on no one but him. (EDITOR NOTE–Thistle got 3 paragraphs deleted in this comment for not playing nice).

    Meanwhile, back to the point of the thread, some money sources are easier to explain than others. In this town, short of living in a cave, you are going to have friends in the building industry. As LynneSed pointed out, you are not automatically soiled by accepting their money.

    However, some contributions are troublesome, such as the money from big planned unit developers who have application pending before the commission. The Frank Martin source, P&Zs poster boy for conflicts of interest, comes to mind, with a $300 donation to both Tilman and Woods. And then there is the audacity of the $1,000 that Kimball accepted from Skyline Development. Skyline has two planned unit communities in the pipeline that Kimball, if elected, will have to rule on. I almost hope he wins so I can hear his reasons for not recusing himself. That will be precious.

    By my tally, the only two candidates without planned unit developer money in their pockets are Ames and Ullman. They may not be spotless but compared to the hogs feeding at the big trough they look pretty clean. That, combined with the fact that, philosophically, they are also represent the biggest possible departure from the current commission seals it for me.

  21. curious george
    Oct 19, 2006, 8:02 am

    Ahh, democracy.

    Like sausage, it may taste good – but nobody likes to see it being made.

    Unfortunately, Idaho law forces a public official sitting in judicial review (i.e., when deciding whether a land use application should be approved or denied) to recuse themselves if they’ve made a prior public comment on the development. This comes back to what legal-beagles in Idaho interpret as ex parti communication.

    Believe it or not, if a candidate voices an opinion on a potential development (for or against) and then gets elected to sit in judgement on the same development – they must recuse themselves. Otherwise, the decision (approval or denial) will likely be overthrown on an appeal to an Idaho court.

    For anyone who cares about planned communites (for or against), this means that the worst thing that could happen is to see a candidate speak out on the subject. The land use is so specific, that a comment on any one single proposal could be interpreted as a wholesale opinion on the entire subject. The last thing that anyone should want is to see is an elected leader (voted into office to decide on such issues) be forced to remove themselves from the decision-making process. With an office like the county commission (with just three commissioners), even a single recusal could represent a tectonic shift in the objectivity of any decision.

    I know this sounds crazy, but if a decision-maker (P&Z Commissioner, Council member, Mayor, or Commissioner) even visits the site of a proposal during the hearing process – even with no one else present – this counts (in Idaho) as ex parti communication. In other states, when controversial projects get appealed to the courts, if the judge finds that the decision-makers visited the site during the hearing process (separately or together), or bother to go out into the community to ask questions of the public (proponents and opponents) it is weighed in favor of the objectivity of the decision. In several such cases the judges have congratulated such decision-makers for their commitment to educating themselves on the case. But in Idaho, the law would dictate that such actions are unethical and would be prima facia evidence for overturning any decision made by that elected (or appointed) official.

    Idaho sausage is particulary nasty to watch being made.

    EDITOR NOTE–George that explains why so many politicos profess and display ignorance–its the law! Not only are the voters uninformed, so are the law makers. No wonder the guys with the money usually win. What a great state.


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