Forum draws large crowd eager to hear candidates speak

Over 100 members of the public attended a candidate forum held Thursday, April 21 at the Vendome in Weiser.
 The forum leading into the May 17, 2022 primary election was hosted by the Weiser Chamber of Commerce, Living in the News, and the Weiser Signal American.
 It was one of the most highly attended local forums in recent memory, according to some sources, candidates for precinct committee persons, Washington County commissioners, and District 9 legislators were given one minute a piece to answer questions submitted by the public and local news media.
 The event was also well attended by the candidates, only one candidate, precinct committee person Kevin Kirby, was not in attendance.
    Patrick Nauman, owner of Weiser Classic Candy, served as moderator for the event.
 
County commissioner candidates
 There was a wide range of questions posed, but perhaps the most pressing was centered on growth and how the county can manage it.
Sarah Odoms stressed the importance of setting easily applied code.
 “My entire life I’ve heard that Washington County is 50 years behind,” she said. “As a kid growing up, that was very frustrating. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that to be a benefit … growth is happening but I see us at a point where there is a fork in the road, where we can take a step back, identify what we want our county to be going forward, have policies, procedures, codes, plannings that are well defined, well interpreted, single interpreted, and then put into place and enforced so that we can have our county be what we want it to be going forward for the future.”
 Gordon Wilkerson said those policies and procedures should ensure the protection and preservation of the county’s agricultural roots.
 “Growth, private property rights and planning and zoning – what a mess. It’s not black and white and it’s not monetary, it’s personal,” he said. “It gets really rough when you start telling somebody what they can and can’t do with their property. I am a firm believer that someone should be able to do with their property what they want, as long as it doesn’t impact somebody else. With that said, the analogy is, just because you own a brand-new Corvette doesn’t mean you can drive it 150 miles an hour. We need to do what we can to guide our growth in areas away from our productive agricultural land. That can be done with a competent planning and zoning board working with a competent set of county commissioners and competent comprehensive plan.”
 Deb Warren, taking a slightly different perspective, cited the effects that unchecked growth can have on local agencies and services.
 “Growth can be a blessing and growth can be a curse. Let me address one thing very quickly: we don’t want to be just a bedroom community. We want to have economic growth as well. As county commissioners, commissioners are involved in some of the economic planning committees that are combined with Payette and some of the other surrounding areas. I would be actively involved in that as a commissioner. Haphazard growth causes chaos and it costs everyone, so if we don’t plan the growth, then it’s going to put strains on our fire, our ambulance, our roads and our law enforcement and it costs us, so we need to be planning.”
 Kelly Erickson made it clear that current codes need to be followed in an equitable manner.
 “The whole concept of growth … it is inevitable, and we’ve seen that growth. I think that the planning and zoning rules and regulations, the codes that we have now, they were designed to control the growth in Washington County,” he said. “We have to apply them and apply them fairly.”
 Incumbent Chairman Nate Marvin said part of the solution would be working to establish zones specifically designating residential and commercial.
 “I believe we have to preserve our farm ground and rangeland. I believe that the county code that is in place now, four splits on an original parcel, is the best compromise that has been come up with by the former county commissioners and planning and zoning,” he said. “Is it perfect? No. But it does work, and I believe we need to work with our planning and zoning commission establishing zones for residential and commercial development. That’s going to be a huge undertaking, but I think it will resolve some problems in the future.”
Legislative candidates
 Questions to legislative candidates shifted to grocery tax – for which all eight candidates expressed support for its abolishment – property taxes, education, abortion, and social issues.
 The candidates were each asked which issues they found most pressing, current District 9 representatives Scott Syme and Judy Boyle, and newcomer Jordan Marques each briefly addressing property taxes and “seniors getting taxed out of their homes.”
 “People work their whole lives for the house where they live; they pay taxes their whole lives,” Syme said. “And now all of a sudden, their property taxes are so high, and they are on a fixed income, they can’t afford to stay in their homes. This is happening all over the state right now, so this is probably the key issue.”
 District 9 senate incumbents Abby Lee and Jim Rice also spoke about property taxes, both citing a bill passed this year that changed the way public defense is funded in Idaho, resulting in $34 million in future property tax relief and the need for similar bills that follow that precedent.
 None of the candidates supported abolishing the state sales tax.
 Incumbent Ryan Kerby spoke about education, stressing the importance of children’s ability to read at grade level and how it affects their future employment, as well as the importance of career technical education programs for interested students.
 Jacyn Gallagher also spoke on education, but focused on what is being taught, particularly what she described as “pornography” that has, in some circumstances, been introduced in schools and the need to stop it in its tracks. Gallagher, who is adopted, said that her main focus, however, is her pro-life efforts, specifically a “Heartbeat” bill she would be working on that would protect the unborn.  
 Kayla Dunn said her number one focus is education, specifically educational choice and parental rights.
 “I feel that the money should follow your student,” she said. “You are seeing your levies, your taxes go up, but you can’t send your child, or your grandchild, to the school of your choice. I am going to work from day one with legislators to sponsor a school choice bill that is going to give parents the right to send their child to a school that is going to benefit them and be tailored to their needs without limiting homeschooling freedom.”
 Early in-office absentee voting is now taking place at the Washington County courthouse at 256 E. Court St.
 

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Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718
 

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