COUNTY: Elect, don’t appoint

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From Roman bureaucrats in the ancient world to English Royalty in the American Colonies — tax collectors, document recorders, treasurers, coroners and virtually all government positions were appointed by the powerful. The election of such positions is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of humankind and essentially it started right here in America after ridding ourselves of British rule. So, before changing back to the old appointment system, we might want to consider why we finally decided to have voters make these choices.

This monumental change in selecting these positions is based on the importance they hold for society — treasurers keep track of our public funds, assessors determine what share of the tax burden we must pay by virtue of the value they apply to our property, recorders safeguard the documents that show who owns, inherits and has legitimate claim to possessions, and the coroner decides if someone died of natural causes or at the hands of another.

Elected department heads, just like their appointed counterparts, are constantly pressured by lobbyists and powerful special interests to make decisions of questionable merit and legality. The major difference is that those in elected positions can tell these powerful interests to take a flying leap, whereas appointees and employees must worry that they might lose a promotion, their department’s funding or even their jobs for some trumped up reason, if they do not comply with such requests.

I think our nation’s founders were wise to make these positions answerable to the judgment of voters instead of leaving employees vulnerable to bribery, threats, coercion and influence by the powerful.

STEVE NOVAK

Coeur d’Alene

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