What I believe in and why I am running for office
I am running for Bonner County Commissioner to promote our prosperity while protecting our rural quality of life
Our county government exists to protect our quality of life. We must ensure this protection through strong and sensible management. I will represent everyone in the county, not just “my base,” by protecting our air and water quality, public lands and property rights. With the county leading a cooperative effort among our cities, businesses, civic groups, and schools, our family-wage jobs and housing can substantially be improved.
I will focus on delivering high-quality services that are:
- On time
You elect commissioners to deliver high-quality services while keeping taxes as low as possible. I take that responsibility very seriously.
We all care what services cost and want to receive the best value for our tax dollars spent. Basic Bonner County services include roads and bridges, the Sheriff’s office, 9-1-1, courts, emergency services, solid waste collection and recycling, planning, airports, waterways and parks, and elections.
Control budgets the right way
My management experience gives me the skills to work with the other commissioners in reducing budgets and expenses without demoralizing employees. Demoralizing employees hurts productivity, and damages customer service. It appears this is happening to workers at Bonner County.
Controlling expenses is different from reducing budgets. Budgets are on paper. Expenses are spending taxpayer funds. The current commission has not controlled expenses sufficiently for the last two years. Doing so successfully takes oversight and cooperative problem solving year-round. I’ve done this as a manager and bring those skills to Bonner County.
By attending nearly all of the county budget workshops with the department heads, I learned of many needed budget/expense improvements and controls. There are savings to be made!
State law requires counties to balance revenues and expenses. There can be long term leases and obligations to PERSI (Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho) that some mistake for deficits or debt.
County staff turnover is costly, inefficient
Poor decisions by commissioners have resulted in expensive, unnecessary, and disruptive staff turnover at the county. Staff turnovers are expensive—and your taxes pay for them. My ability to give strong, positive, practical leadership will keep personnel expenses under control and keep these valuable experts serving the county.
Controversial turn-overs have resulted in expensive and avoidable lawsuits. These personnel issues are discussed in executive session, not open to public scrutiny, and sometimes result in large, confidential payments. They represent hidden costs of County government.
Bonner County: only Idaho county NOT insured by Idaho insurance pool!
Bonner is the only Idaho county not insured by the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP) state insurance pool. Our county does not take advantage of ICRMP’s training and advice for avoiding sky-high court costs under Idaho’s complex liability laws. I will analyze the risks to self-insurance and act based on facts. ICRIMP has a proven track record in assisting counties to avoid costly litigation.
Bonner County is considering self-insurance for employee’s health insurance .Experts I’ve heard from caution that 450 is far too few for that to be wise. One major health issue could put us at risk.
County services are non-partisan
Is there a republican or democratic way to pave a road? Deal with solid waste? Run an airport? No! We need lean, effective and collaborative government to deliver the services we need and expect.
Family-wage jobs and housing
Family-wage jobs and housing for working families are big issues frustrating many Bonner County residents. Talented young people leave the county because they can’t find quality jobs or suitable housing.
We are competing with other areas and counties for family-wage jobs and need to attract and hold those jobs here. It is important to have a good match between available jobs and qualified people.
The County should form and lead a coalition to grow and attract businesses which provide quality jobs. This strategy needs to be developed and delivered through a countywide team of stakeholders including business, cities, school districts and higher education, civic and trade organizations, economic development groups, local political parties, agencies, and concerned citizens.
I will spearhead the county’s leadership in promoting family-wage jobs and housing for working families.
Public lands are economic and recreational assetsPublic lands in Bonner County are economic assets that provide:
- Excellent jobs for county residents in timber, forestry and recreation
- Ongoing county and school revenue at minimal expense to local taxpayers
- A powerful quality-of-life attraction for employers to grow and settle here.
- A superb commercial and recreational resource including fishing, hunting, timber, snowmobiling, hiking, horseback riding, berry picking and bicycling, as well as clean water for drinking, boating and swimming.
I support working closely with land managers such as the Forest Service to ensure that the County’s interests are always well represented.
Technology creates huge economic opportunitiesUsed wisely, technology creates cost-effective solutions and economic opportunities. It is a key driver of the US economy, and needs to be in Bonner County. City-County fiber optics projects ensure that we, as a region, are attractive to the technology industry with their high-paying jobs. I will work vigorously to expand technology infrastructure! Bonner County must better serve its customers with technology. Websites are an excellent way to communicate with the public and distribute a wide variety of documents, maps and materials. Facebook, text emergency alerts and other social media are tools the County can use to meet people where they live. Commission meetings and hearings should be both live streamed and made available later.
I will support the use of technology, such as telecommunications, for jobs and efficiency.
Property rights / rural characterProtecting our property rights is an extremely important part of our American and Bonner County culture and law. We achieve that with a balance between our freedom to use our land and protection of our use from encroachment by others. To achieve that balance, we follow standards locally established by a very public process. Zoning is a prime example of these protections. Most people purchase property with an expectation that they will be protected by the County’s zoning laws from nearby hazardous or destructive uses. We value the rural character of Bonner County. Maintaining that character depends on following our Comprehensive Plan and the zoning that puts its principles in effect. Recent changes have been made, and additional ones are in the works, that have weakened our zoning protections. These changes have been pushed through-- unlike the widespread public involvement that gave us the Comprehensive Plan. Thousands of us were involved before. It is only fair to have a similar effort for significant changes. Few issues affect more people or are more fundamental to our rural character than the density and types of development that are permitted next door.
Medicaid to fill the healthcare gap
Infrastructure in Bonner County is not just roads and bridges. Health is infrastructure; it supports our quality of life and makes our economy stronger.
I stand behind Medicaid Expansion to fill the gap for two reasons: It will save the state of Idaho and Bonner County a lot of money, and it is the right thing to do.
Bonner County has an indigent fund to help uninsured people get essential care. Medicaid gapfilling will directly save Bonner County taxpayers that money.
Most people in the gap are working, paying taxes, supporting families. People like waitresses, contractors, and veterans can work if they are healthy. However, if they make too much to get Medicaid and too little to get healthcare subsidies, they fall in the gap. A young mother here in Sandpoint who has been diagnosed with bladder cancer has no chance for treatment because she works and earns some money.
Newport smelter potential threat to clean water, air and healthFacts have been scarce about the silicon metal smelter proposed for Newport, Washington. That’s a concern. Clean air and water are essential to our health and economy. Various groups are currently analyzing the full impact of the proposed silica smelter near Newport, Washington. We must maintain the best air and water quality for our county. I’m not confident that the governments of Washington, Idaho, and the US have standards and enforcement that will sufficiently protect the health of residents of Bonner County. Bonner County should carefully conduct independent research on the experiences of other counties with similar smelters and should analyze wind patterns from the proposed site. The County legal team should verify the legality of the process to date -- before the permit process gets underway.
I am pro-business and will work hard to attract business to the County. But if the proposed smelter jeopardizes our health and the natural resources that we depend on, we must do everything we can to ensure that the interests of Bonner County are not compromised.
Transparency protects your rightsHow things get done—the process—is a yawner until you don’t like the outcomes and don’t have a chance to make your voice heard. That’s why transparency is so important.
At the County, I will work to:
- Have the county commission conduct its business in public and be customer-oriented. Having attended numerous commission meetings, it is clear to me that most discussions of issues do not occur in public, but behind the scenes.
- Make sure all meeting agendas and all staff reports are easy to find online. A public information request should not be required for staff reports, as it is now.
- Make it easy to automatically receive notices for the kinds of meetings that interest you.
- Hold public hearings around the county in the evenings, when appropriate.
- Make sure that all advisory commissions and committees have qualified members who represent the breadth of the county’s citizens’ interests and values.
- Transparency is essential to democratic lawmaking. I will work to improve the transparency of all official business at the County.
ConclusionMy experience in managing large staffs and budgets plus my long history of public service prepares me to represent the people of Bonner County. My dedication to open communication, a robust economy, quality jobs and housing, public safety, healthy environment, and protecting our rural quality of life are the key issues that will guide my leadership if you choose me to be your Commissioner.
Steve Lockwood for Commissioner Video Series
Watch some videos that break down the structure of Bonner County and how Steve can benefit our community by being elected County Commissioner
Remember: Vote Steve Lockwood for Commissioner on November 6, 2018!