City Government

Dem Has Good Advice For All Voters

By Judy Ferro
A friend once said he never voted because politicians were so good at deception that he felt he would just end up voting for the biggest liar.

I didn’t have an answer for that, so I asked another friend, Jack Fisher. After a moment of thought, Jack said, “Tell him to vote local.”

It makes sense. Vote for candidates whose friends and critics live nearby, candidates without public relations teams, candidates who are out there speaking for themselves.

Yet voters don’t turn out in droves for local races. In city elections, few of the candidates live more than 10 miles from their farthest constituents. Yet turnout is about half that for elections with statewide candidates on the ballot.

Why? Perhaps too many of us commute to work and don’t know a lot about our community. Low-budget campaigns mean most candidates don’t do mailings, much less advertisements. Television covers only heated local elections; voters in Boise have no reason to be interested in profiles of candidates from Notus, Melba, Wilder, etc.

Plus, there are no Ds or Rs after the names to give out-of-the-loop voters a clue — and most candidates claim to be fiscally conservative.

Well, this week is the last chance to talk to friends, read newspapers, ask questions and make up one’s mind about the city races. These are factors I consider:

Character. Family, length of residence, club memberships, religious affiliation, etc. are meaningful, but mainly as clues to the central question: Does this candidate expect to serve or to be served? Is the ego big enough for him or her to stand firm when necessary, but not so big that winning every conflict becomes more important than serving?

Intelligence/Knowledge. Good decision makers know the basics of government, can comprehend detailed information, and know where to go and who to talk to when they need information. Wednesday night one of the Nampa Council candidates said that taxpayers paid 4 percent on urban renewal loans and only 1¼ percent on public bonds. That scored points with me, for I hadn’t realized rates would be different.

Contribution to team diversity. We elect a team rather than one person, so the council has insight into more of its constituency. We need variety not only in gender and race, but also in age, economic status, contacts and occupation. We wouldn’t want a council made up entirely of contractors any more than we’d want a baseball team made up entirely of shortstops, but it is good to have someone who can estimate costs and review designs.

Ability to prioritize. Any city could benefit from more funding for police, fire departments, libraries, streets, beautification and outreach to businesses and tourists, as well as lower taxes.

Most council decisions aren’t between good and bad, but between good and good. They can be tough. A councilperson must be willing to hear all sides, to compromise and, when the time comes, to say, “I support this because…” and stick by it. It’s a hard skill to judge, but certainly we distrust those who promise too much.

Agreement on some important issues. The probability is high that no candidate will agree with you on every issue, so it is your turn to prioritize. Are you willing to support a candidate who agrees with you on getting more police on the street even if he or she disagrees about more funding for roads and on continuing urban renewal?

We can never really know about most of these things. It’s our duty as members of a republic, however, to do our best. Happy researching! (Video of the forum for Nampa can be found at, and video of the Caldwell forum is available at and

Judy Ferro is the state committeewoman for Canyon County Democrats. Email her at

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. It amazes me how often that the simple criterion “smart and not a jerk” eliminates candidate in both parties.

  2. When is the average Idahoan going to find the time to research political candidates?

    We are either working 60 hours a week on salary, or working two or three different part time jobs to scrounge enough money to not end up at the homeless shelter. Then there is the 5 hours we must devote to whorshipping our TV. Combine that with the time needed to strive for the perfect lawn, maintain all of our stuff, chauffeur the kiddies all over town, and juggle monthly bills.

    Distracted corporate slaves are just not interested in spending non-existent free time carefully researching the politicians they know are lying to them with every word that comes out of their mouths. The system is broken, the politicians are in the pocket of the super wealthy and corporate interests, and every citizen with an IQ above a carrot recognizes that fact.

    Please go sell your democracy nonsense to some poor, resource rich country while bombing them back to the stone age. Local politics is just as corrupt as national politics.

  3. Lots of good stuff from Ms. Judy Ferro. I slightly disagree on the need for diversity in gender, race, etc. … we do NOT need that for diversity’s sake, as long as we have people who are attuned to those differences and willing to represent all their constituents, not just those who look similar.

    I would add one more consideration, that I think is of significant importance:

    Our system of government works best when made up of CITIZENS, rather than career politicians. When people serve for too long, they tend to get too enmeshed in the tentacles of special interest groups, bureaucracy, etc. And – we’ve seen it over and over – they start thinking of themselves as the Big Wheels that could never be replaced by mere mortals. Regular changing-of-the-guard keeps things far more interesting… and would result in better voter turnout, I imagine.

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