Friday, October 31, 2008

Questions and Answers: Blaine County Commission District 1

1. Why are you best suited to represent south Blaine County?

2. What can and should be done to help create more affordable housing in Blaine County?

3. Should the county take a lead role in the consolidation of local emergency services?

4. What lessons should be learned from the county's rejection of Cove Springs and the ensuing lawsuit?

Dale Ewersen

Age: 58

Party: Republican

Government Experience: Eight years in Bellevue city government from 1981-1989, including three years as mayor, from 1984-1987.

Occupation: Co-owner of Splash and Dash Texaco convenience store and car wash in Bellevue; independent life and annuity insurance agent.

1. My business experiences in agricultural, insurance and retail give me a broad perspective on the problems and needs of the south county. I am in contact every day with numerous south county residents and know their concerns. If elected, I plan to hold regular informal open house sessions throughout the district, called "listening posts," to offer constituents a one-on-one opportunity to meet with their commissioner. This will give working people the ability to interact with their elected representative without having to be in Hailey at a scheduled time.

2. The workforce housing issue should be addressed three ways: 1.) Homes and rentals should be developed through the private sector by offering density bonuses to builders and shared equity programs; 2.) Units should be financed by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and groups such as ARCH without additional taxes; and 3.) The Blaine County Housing Authority would offer its management skills to existing workforce housing inventory. I plan to convene a "builder forum" to receive input from developers concerning the economic reality of building workforce housing units in projects.

3. First of all, do we need consolidated local emergency services? We do only if economies of scale will be realized. I am somewhat concerned about the county taking a role in light of how the consolidated dispatch funding situation has evolved with county leadership on that issue. How many of the chiefs of the various departments and districts truly want to relinquish their authority? When these people approach the county as a somewhat unified voice for consolidation, I would then be willing, as a county commissioner, to consider advancing the cause.

4. Two lessons come to mind immediately: First, the county overstepped its authority with the Blaine County 2025 plan. Even though the court may not have directly addressed the issue of downzoning in this decision, I believe downzoning damaged many county residents financially and was a property rights taking. Second, the Cove Springs developers offered mediation long before this went to court, yet the commissioners refused to listen. Using common sense by knowing when to cut your losses and move on may have been in order.

Larry Schoen

Age: 53

Party: Democrat

Government Experience: Blaine County planning and zoning commissioner, appointed 2003; Blaine County Soil Conservation District supervisor, elected 2005; Carey Rural Fire District commissioner, elected 1994, served until 2002; Blaine County commissioner, 2007 to present.

Occupation: Farmer

1. I listen to south county residents. I have worked hard to represent them and look forward to their support Nov. 4. I'm working to reinvigorate the Blaine County Fair and other events. I work closely with the University of Idaho, which will soon be hiring a new county extension agent. I'm engaged on water issues, finding balance between north and south county interests. I've attended Bellevue Council meetings and visited with and held meetings for Carey residents on many issues. I support a new airport location, getting Bellevue and Hailey out of the approach zone. I'm giving the south county a strong voice in county government.

2. Above all, we must explore many options to incentivize its creation and adopt the successful approaches. We can create productive partnerships between government, quasi-government, the private and not-for-profit sectors. We need to be flexible and responsive. We must acknowledge the goals and roles of the different jurisdictions in our valley and reconstitute the Blaine County Housing Authority as a leading service provider. I am helping to accomplish this and would like to continue.

3. Yes, in the sense that this really is a political issue. The public wants to see a thorough assessment of the benefits and pitfalls of it and, while loyal to their towns and employees, the public wants good service plus greater efficiency from government. In the case of dispatch, consolidation will yield an appropriate level of professional service for less money than the old two-part system. Can we achieve this with our other services, such as fire, police, permit and application processing, grounds maintenance or any other government services? The public wants an unvarnished answer and to get it, we must work cooperatively.

4. Cove Springs is preparing a revised development application to Blaine County, following recent mediation in which I participated. It is inappropriate for you to ask and inappropriate for me to answer this question at this time. If I win re-election, I will hear their application in a quasi-judicial setting. I have been scrupulous in not characterizing any aspect of it at any point outside our process, in which I represent the interests of the people of Blaine County to the best of my ability. I would hope my opponent would take a similar approach, for if he were to win, he would be in my same position.

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