Friday, November 9, 2012

Issues still simmer in wake of election

With the election over, head-scratching, rethinking and realigning are in order.

Locally, a tiny minority of voters defeated a 1 percent increase in the local-option sales tax targeted to sustain and expand air service to the Sun Valley area.

The tax measures in the cities of Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey required 60 percent voter approval for passage. Sun Valley voters approved the increase, but given the failure in the other cities, the City Council is likely to repeal it or delay implementation. The measures failed to hit the mark in Ketchum by 2.1 percent or 37 votes, and in Hailey by 1.3 percent or 41 votes.

It’s too bad the air support, which would have been paid primarily by visitors, didn’t pass given the poor state of the local economy and the fact that this was the only option available that offered a better hope of improvement than simply sitting and waiting for airlines and the national economy to smile upon the area.

The margins of defeat were not so large, however, that supporters should give up. They should do some polling to find out if recasting the measures, placing them on the ballot in a year and having more time for voter education would propel them across the finish line in a second try.

For the first time in many years, Blaine County will be represented as part of District 26 by a majority of representatives who live outside the county. Incumbent Gooding County Democrat Rep. Donna Pence won re-election, but the seat formerly held by Blaine County Democrat Rep. Wendy Jaquet went to Camas County Republican Steve Miller, a lifelong farmer.

Miller demonstrated in the campaign that he doesn’t have a broad understanding of the needs and issues in a resort economy. That understanding is paramount if Blaine County’s dominant industry and the communities that depend on them will be well represented, relegated to irrelevance, or worse.

Miller needs to reach out to city and county leaders to try to craft representation for a district that’s split between the tractor country of Gooding and Camas counties and the boom towns of Blaine.

All but seven of 44 counties soundly rejected the misguided Luna Laws on statewide education reform.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna seems to be in a post-election pout, but Gov. Butch Otter bounced back the day after the election and called for all education stakeholders to come to the table to talk. That’s a different governor than the one who backed Luna when he sprang the proposals on an unsuspecting public and helped ram them through the Legislature. Perhaps Otter will not be so quick this time to place education decisions in the hands of politicians instead of school patrons, parents and educators.

The voters spoke. There’s work to do.

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