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Thursday, August 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Check your non-ideology at the door

Worried about property rights?

Government intrusion? Stifling bureaucracy?

Then look no further. Bonner County, Idaho, is bringing property rights – along with other conservative causes – back to their rightful place at the head of the table. The county commission has created the Bonner County Property Rights Council, a body intended to create “property rights impact statements” to analyze the “potential harmful private property rights impacts” that may result from government actions.

Don’t hold your breath for any analysis of potential positives.

Unlike most government enterprises, which operate with at least the pretense of neutrality, the council will march to a very specific ideological drum, and if you want to sit on the council, the council will tell you where to get your drum tuned: the State Policy Network.

The State Policy Network is a network of think tanks. In case you’re wondering, the network is FOR private property rights, and AGAINST things that might infringe on property rights, such as pollution regulations. According to the framework for the council drawn up by the county, the people who serve on the Bonner County Property Rights Council “must commit to continually examine private property rights protection and government failure theories and scholarly perspectives through the information presented by the State Policy Network (SPN) or similar market-oriented think tanks.”

In other words, if you want to sit on this council, you can think whatever you want, as long as you think these kinds of thoughts.

This is the latest creative idea from Bonner County Republicans, who brought us the fiesta fiasco of 2010, when they objected ridiculously to the county fair’s use of the term “fiesta” in its annual slogan, as a way of showing solidarity with Arizona’s immigration policies.

Now they’re making a mockery of good government by creating a council intended to carry water for one ideological group – the very conservative. Supporters of this plan think they are “balancing” an inherent bias – they are bloodhounds for this bias; they see it everywhere they look – but I’d be interested to hear even a single example of another county government council formed with such a specific homework assignment for where to retrieve your ideas.

Pam Stout, the famous tea party member who appeared on David Letterman’s show, has been hired as the head of this council. A fiscal conservative concerned about government spending, she will be paid $25,000 a year for a half-time job. Per-capita income in Bonner County is $23,379.

Stout said she considers the council a corrective to all the liberal bias in government.

“You say it’s ideological, and to some extent that’s true,” she said. “However, most of government is ideological, and perhaps this is just offering the other perspective.”

I tried to contact Cornel Rasor, Bonner County commissioner and local GOP honcho. Rasor is the guy who signed the letter complaining about the fair theme, though he distanced himself from it after the fact. The property rights council appears to be, at least partly, his project, though he did not return my calls seeking comment.

Both Stout and the official county documents outlining the council’s purpose suggest that it won’t stop at property rights. “Private property impact statements do not have to address a pure private property rights issue if a government activity is found wasteful,” the document states. “Inefficiency/wastefulness alone, in some cases, may be considered sufficient to stop or curtail ongoing or potential government intervention.”

The council is instructed, in its defining documents, to promote “bottom-up” or three-tiered federalism – outlining a scenario in which “junior governments” like counties would protect their citizens from overreaching regulation by “senior governments.”

It’s the anti-government government council.

Stout describes an even broader purview. She said she might help the county attorney’s office with legal research. She mentioned getting involved in some cases where Bonner County citizens have had unpleasant run-ins with federal regulators. She said she and the council can serve as a resource for any county department. Soon, one imagines, conservative views will no longer need their own special wing of Bonner County government. They’ll take up the whole house.

For now, the council is a “pilot project.” Stout says it’s mostly an effort by the county commission to be more responsive to constituents. And, lest anyone be too concerned about its influence – any wild-eyed liberals who may wonder why they don’t get a water-carrier of their own – rest assured that this council is only advisory.

“Councilors are exclusively presenting information for consideration,” the document reads. “Therefore, the final decisions must be left to the elected or appointed officials.”

You’d almost think that goes without saying.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.
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