On Tuesday, North Idaho politics returns to full boil as the Coeur d’Alene City Council votes on a human rights ordinance that would bar discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We’ve endorsed the ordinance and are encouraged that it’s reached this point.
Lake City residents might’ve thought things would simmer down after contentious campaigns for school and hospital boards culminated in a May 21 vote that repudiated the far-right’s push for partisanship in all areas of government. But it’s unlikely to cool off any time soon.
Mayor Sandi Bloem has reiterated her decision to leave office, setting up a big battle to replace her. She told Dave Oliveria, of Huckleberries Online, she’s “tired of all this,” a reference to the failed recall bid against her and three council members and the amped-up battles over, well, everything.
The battles themselves are part of a larger war for control of the Republican Party. Hard-right conservatives, many of whom emigrated from Southern California, have succeeded in taking over the inner workings of the party and are now trying to shape it in their own narrow image. It’s not enough to be a Republican; you must be a true believer.
Moderates need not apply.
In recent years, Republicans uncomfortable with the constitutionalist/libertarian views of so-called Reagan Republicans (a misnomer if we’ve ever heard one) have been on the run in North Idaho. Reagan Republicans took control of the Coeur d’Alene School Board and have made inroads at the City Council and North Idaho College Board of Trustees. Those outcomes are troubling because experience and qualifications were secondary to ideology.
However, the momentum may have been halted with the May 21 vote, because voters booted Coeur d’Alene school board members Brent Regan and Anne Seddon. The victors, Christa Hazel, Dave Eubanks and Tom Hearn, were endorsed by a new group called Balance North Idaho, which was formed as a counterweight to the Reagan Republicans. The winners emphasized their ability to a job that’s supposed to be nonpartisan; the losers emphasized party allegiance.
Perhaps the sickest symptom of partisan politics run amok was the pitched battle for seats on the hospital board. Apparently, the Reagan Republicans view this as a perch from which to clog the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Last week, two Reagan Republicans announced their candidacies to replace Bloem, whose leadership led to such achievements as the Kroc Center, new library and the growing higher education corridor. But her insistence on keeping partisanship at arm’s length has drawn the ire of hard-liners.
She told The Spokesman-Review, “I’m saddened by the fact that it has all become about political parties. The philosophy that all elected positions should be filled with same-thinking people doesn’t sit well with me. I think diversity of thinking is important.”
We agree and hope the recent school board election is a signal that voters have had enough.