The local government study commission isn’t wasting time. They’ve set a goal for the June 2016 primary to have their proposals before voters so any changes made to our form of local government would go into effect for the 2016 general election in November.
As they get underway, they took the day to interview the current county commissioners about their thoughts on county government. After watching the interviews, here are a few thoughts.
1. They all claim there was support during the election season for keeping the commission at 5. Not surprising though I’d love to know where they got that. Letters to the editor in both newspapers as well as general conversations seem to indicate the only people in favor of that are the commissioners.
2. Jeff Burrows finally admitted the appointment of Valerie Stamey as treasurer was a political move. When asked if some positions should be appointed rather than elected, he claimed he wouldn’t want to appoint a treasurer. (Oh the irony…) He then said that as much as people may say it doesn’t happen, those decisions always become political. Too bad he couldn’t be honest about it during the election.
3. All five want commissioners to be elected at large instead of by their district. Of course they do. They claim it allows them to focus on the whole county instead of just their district, but the real reason is that they know they’d likely lose one seat at least if it was limited to the district. For example, Burrows lost his district in the last election but was saved by being voted on at large. Voting by district would allow candidates to get to know their constituents better. It also allows for more accurate representation.
Curiously, Ravalli County election rules still state that a candidate must live in the district they represent. If you represent a district but don’t have to be elected by that district, why does it matter where you live? Clearly the commissioners are trying to game the system to ensure their party stays in power.
The study commission will be holding more meetings with other county officials in the future and will eventually hold meetings around the valley. It will be interesting to see what they come up with in terms of proposals and how those are presented on the ballot.