Group refutes Streamline claims

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An organization promoting the alternative form of county government on next week's ballot is making unrealistic promises, according to a group of elected officials and community activists.

A letter signed by the group, comprised of former Reagan Republican leaders, accuses Streamline Kootenai of spreading misinformation about what the ballot initiative would achieve.

"We are urging the voters to ignore the slick flyers and misleading advertising of Streamline Kootenai and vote to retain our present form of county government," states the letter, which was submitted to The Press late Thursday.

The letter is signed by Larry Spencer, Gary Ingram, Coeur d'Alene city councilmen Steve Adams and Dan Gookin, as well as Jack Schroeder, Mary Souza and Jim Brannon.

The ballot measure for alternative county government would add a county manager position to assume the county commissioners' administrative tasks. It would also make the county assessor, coroner, clerk and treasurer hired, instead of elected.

The conservative group's letter disputes statements in mail-outs from Streamline Kootenai, organized by Commissioner Dan Green to promote the ballot measure.

The mail-out states that $1 million a year would be saved under the restructuring. Green has said the savings would result from cutting the commissioners' pay, and from budget cuts by the new administrator.

But that number is "speculative," the letter states.

"The ballot would require hiring and funding a manager, while not decreasing the salaries of the commissioners," it reads.

The letter also accuses Streamline Kootenai of giving a "false indication" that the commissioners will go from full-time to part-time if the initiative passes.

"I don't think the commissioners are all on board to have three part-time commissioners," said Spencer, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner in the primary election.

The letter further challenges Streamline Kootenai's statement that the restructuring will produce more government accountability.

"Changing our county government to one that has an unelected manager will decrease accountability to the voters," the letter states.

If the alternative form of government is approved, the document notes, the county will not be able to "change it back, if it doesn't work out, for at least four years" under state statute.

Adams said he signed the letter because he worries about losing separation of powers, if several electeds become hired.

"I see this as opening the door for more cooperation," Adams said.

Gookin said he would be in favor of the alternate county government, if the number of commissioners expanded to five or seven.

"If they were to take the four electeds (off the ballot), and replace them with four additional part-time commissioners, then in my opinion, that would mean more oversight," Gookin said.

Commissioner Dan Green could not be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

Commissioner Jai Nelson said she does think it is unrealistic at this point to make the commissioners part-time.

"We have so many things we're required to do by statute, and that we cannot delegate," Nelson said, adding that she often works nights, mornings and weekends. "If I were to have a part-time job, it would be very, very difficult."

Changing the commissioners' pay can't be guaranteed, she pointed out, as commissioners set their own salaries.

"Even if this board determined something, the next board could increase it or decrease it," she said.

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