The Commission on Optional Forms of County Government apparently has forgotten its place in Kootenai County government.
The commission is an advisory board - nothing more, nothing less. As such, the nine-member panel serves to make recommendations to our duly elected officials - in this case, the board of commissioners.
Commission members, like those of any other advisory group, should expect their suggestions to be taken seriously. However, they have no right to demand that their ideas be embraced in toto and passed along for a public vote.
Yet, chairman Mike Anderson is asking commissioners to do just that with recommendations that would radically change county government. Said Anderson: “We have a simple message: Let the voters decide.”
Fortunately, that populist argument has failed to sway Kootenai County commissioners, including Mr. Vox Pop himself, Ron Rankin, who likes county government the way it is. In fact, Commissioner Dick Compton has hinted that changes are needed before the proposal is forwarded to the November 1998 ballot.
He’s right. Some of the suggested changes from Anderson’s commission are OK, but others are terrible ideas.
The advisory commission, for example, probably is on solid ground when it suggests that the board of commissioners be expanded from three full-time members to five part-time ones and that a county manager be hired. Such a move would expand geographic representation and open the commissioners office to residents with day jobs.
But the blue ribbon panel wandered afield by suggesting that the following county positions be made appointive rather than elective: sheriff, prosecuting attorney, clerk, assessor, treasurer and coroner. A recommendation like that indicates the committee doesn’t understand the importance of the county’s checks-and-balance system.
Top law enforcement officials such as the prosecutor and sheriff must be free of political pressure to do their sensitive jobs without fear or favor. The fact that no county in the United States has a prosecutor appointed by local officials shows how far off course Anderson’s commission is.
Several years ago, Tom Moore showed how important an elected assessor can be when he challenged county commissioners for dramatically slicing the valuation of The Coeur d’Alene Resort golf course. It’s unlikely that a hired assessor would have had the guts to take on his bosses that way.
Ironically, the Commission on Optional Forms of County Government wants a public vote on its proposal - but not a public vote on key officials. Good thing it’s an advisory group.
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board
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