Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Johnston wants to help working class

Express Staff Writer

District 1 Blaine County Commission candidate Carl B. Johnston is afraid the county is becoming an exclusive playground for the rich.

"We're moving forward just for the affluent people," he said. "There's not enough emphasis on the affordable housing problem."

Johnston, who's the owner of the Minnie Moore Mine west of Bellevue, said his own children can't afford to buy a home in Blaine County, and he's tired of watching the county's work force flee to places like Shoshone and Twin Falls because of the high cost of living. "It's only going to get worse," Johnston said last week from Kentucky, where he was watching the Derby and drumming up "some business" for Blaine County. "That's why I'm a Democrat—I spent 32 years in the unions and I like to see the working class people taken care of.

"Everybody should be able to buy a house."

A native of Canada, Johnston moved to Las Vegas with his family when he was 11 years old. He relocated to Bellevue in 1972 and has lived there off-and-on since. He has acted in 17 movies but spent the majority of his adult life as an electrician. He retired two years ago.

Johnston's governmental experience is highlighted by a seven-year stint as a staff member for Rep. James H. Bilbray, who served as a Nevada congressman from 1987 to 1994.

His relationship with Blaine County, on the other hand, is highlighted by a lawsuit over his mining operations.

In 1999, the county tried to stop Johnston from mining, blasting or bulldozing on his 283-acre property, citing zoning violations. But in 2005 5th District Court Judge Robert Elgee ruled that Johnston could continue mining operations.

Over the past couple years Johnston claims he voluntarily cleaned up his site and covered a series of mining tailings with sod.

"We've been working with the (Environmental Protection Agency) for a couple years," he said. "We weren't told to do that. That's just something we wanted to do."

He said he's currently sitting on an ore vein that "will be in the millions of dollars once we get it opened up."

In addition to affordable housing, Johnston is a staunch supporter of private property rights.

"I have people come (on my property) all the time with truck loads of trash," Johnston said. "I've had people run off the road and try to sue me. I've had people stick their guns in my face.

"I know what property owners go through—that's why I'm really strong on property rights."

The other candidates are firm believers that future planning in Blaine County needs to be more regional in nature. Johnston is no different.

"I'd like to see Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey, Bellevue and Carey work together," he said. "There needs to be more thought on the long-term impact of what's going to happen."

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