Something very unusual for Idaho politics is underway in the races for the next Gooding mayor and City Council candidates: The challengers are presenting a united platform in a coordinated effort to unseat the mayor and two current Council members.
The challengers want you to vote for a straight ticket. We’re not convinced that’s a good idea.
For starters, Council challengers Chuck Cram and Colin Smith and mayoral challenger Jeff Brekke seem to have already troubled a significant number of voters with a campaign flier that compared Gooding unfavorably with Kimberly, a city with different problems than those facing Gooding.
Moreover, the challengers seem to lack a basic understanding of the City Council’s purpose and limits. They want the city to spruce up properties downtown, but the Council has limited powers to compel private property owners. And what happens when the city uses taxpayer money to clean up one property but not another?
At a candidate forum hosted by the Times-News last month, the challengers repeatedly complained that the city wasn’t repairing sidewalks around town. Problem is, again, it’s up to private property owners, not the city, to maintain their sidewalks. (And the city is already pursuing grant opportunities to help connect private property owners with funds for repairs.)
The challengers are also critical of the city’s slow progress on repairing a flood wall in town. But the challengers didn’t realize the issue is out of the Council’s hands and is now awaiting action by the Army Corps of Engineers.
The challengers also took swipes at the incumbents for what they perceived was a lack of transparency on the Council. The incumbents countered that all Council meetings are open to the public, and agendas are released ahead of time so residents know what will be discussed.
The challengers complained that the Council was doing little to repair Main Street. And again, the accusations revealed the challengers’ ignorance: Main Street is a state highway; the Council couldn’t so much as fill a pothole on the road, even if it wanted to.
The incumbents are Mel Magnelli and Diane Houser on the Council and Mayor Walt Nelson. Do they have faults? Absolutely.
But at the very least, the incumbents are familiar with what, exactly, the Council can and can’t do. That’s a basic requirement for office that Cram, Smith and Brekke have not proven to voters they can meet.