Kootenai County elections go to extremes - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

Kootenai County elections go to extremes

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Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2012 12:15 am

Wednesday's final ballot counts marked both a stark victory and a clear failure in the Kootenai County races.

Residents voted overwhelmingly for Ben Wolfinger to take up the sheriff's badge, while they also shot down the proposal for an alternative form of county government.

Wolfinger easily took the four-way sheriff's race with 72 percent of the votes, or 39,707 votes.

Currently major at the sheriff's department, Wolfinger was pleased with the victory on Wednesday.

"The numbers turned out well," said Wolfinger, who has served in all of the agency's departments over the past 30 years. "We're looking forward to moving forward come January."

Wolfinger, who will serve a 4-year term as sheriff, has no plans to immediately tweak the agency of 300 employees, he said.

"I want to talk to a lot of the staff and have their input, and talk to the public and get their input, as well," the 51-year-old said. "I don't think we need to see a ton of changes, but we always need to look for ways to improve."

Independent sheriff candidate Bob Foster came in a distant second with 8,226 votes, or 15 percent of the vote. The other Independent candidates, Joe Bodman and Tom Dickson, respectively garnered 5.9 percent and 6.5 percent of the votes.

Foster couldn't predict on Wednesday if he would run again, but he was disappointed that a new face wasn't taking over at the sheriff's department.

"I wish I could've had a chance to demonstrate the kind of leadership I would've brought to the sheriff's department," Foster said. "I wish Ben Wolfinger lots of luck, and I sincerely hope he's successful."

Current Sheriff Rocky Watson is retiring this year.

The complete election results also showed that 67.8 percent of voters, or 34,877 voters, favored retaining the current form of county government.

Only 16,559 voted in favor of a ballot measure proposing a new county manager position and the appointment of four department heads who are currently elected.

"I think to some, change always raises concerns," said Commissioner Dan Green, who had been a strong proponent of the measure. "A lot of people were uneasy with change, or resistant to change."

Commissioner Todd Tondee was accepting of the voters' decision on Wednesday. The bottom line was for county residents to decide their county structure for themselves, he said.

"I'm disappointed, but I was proud we had it on the ballot," Tondee said.

He doesn't expect the commissioners will roll out another proposal to restructure county government, he added.

Not even to increase the number of commissioners, he said.

"I don't intend on pushing it out there," Tondee said. "I think this was the chance to do that, and it failed. The public, 67 percent, said they want to keep the government as it is today."

Assessor Mike McDowell, who had been an outspoken opponent of the ballot initiative and his office becoming unelected, said the results were gratifying to see.

"It basically sends a message that we need to work together, the commissioners and the elected officials," McDowell said. "And we can do that."

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  • voxpop posted at 3:52 pm on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    voxpop Posts: 738

    It was a power grab and their fingers were caught in the cookie jar. Hopefully these commissioners can also connect the dots concerning a new palace they're wanting taxpayers to fund. These people were elected to do the job. They knew what it was. Stop trying to create your own private kingdom.

    And Ben. Glad it wasn't close. One favor - don't go whacky and float some derelict log cabin across the lake and then lose your shirt. We want to know our sheriff has some fiscal sense.

  • brwing posted at 3:28 pm on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    brwing Posts: 23

    Read Ameritopia. The surest way to tyranny is to appoint instead of elect officials. There is no accountability in appointments. We are already concerned about the commissioners and their land use legislation. Why would we think this is a good thing?

  • estatetracker posted at 12:17 pm on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    estatetracker Posts: 276


    With all due respect--the voters did not object to restructuring government per se, they only objected to the methods proposed by Green and Tondee which was essentially to restrict participation at all levels of County decision making.

    I think that any major restructuring should begin with an advisory vote, but instead, this Board chose to follow some of the recommendations made by hand selected advisors and then cram it onto a ballot without options or real public discourse.

    Then to boot, they had to hire consultants and solicit contributions from special interest to sway voters into thinking that their version of "streamlining" is better than sliced bread. It is unfortunate that Green and Tondee went to so much trouble making the case that County government is broken, but then instead of either scaling back their "repairs",or listening to the lessons learded--they chose to scap any alternative plans.

    This is weak leadership. If the system is broke to the point that it needed the major overhaul as was proposed, and then for Green and Tondee to throw-up their hands is more telling of their unspoken motivations than it is about public service.

  • Tim Herzog posted at 11:49 am on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    Tim Herzog Posts: 355

    Green and Tondee have finally got the message on how the majority of the voters feel about the change of government. When I challenged Todd Tondee in 2008 he was for this form of government.

    Once Dan Green got elected, he took the lead to put this on the ballot. This proposal has failed six times in the past in different counties and this was the seventh time. I think there is a message here!

    What is ironic though, the voters overwhelming voted for these two commissioners, either not realizing their that they pushed for this or because they were the only one's on the ballot.
    There was some kind of disconnect for sure! The press would not recognize several write-in candidates that opposed these commissioners and apparently the voting public did not realize or it was just too much trouble to cast votes for the write-ins against these incumbents.

    I am planning to run again in two more years but never again as a write-in candidate.

    Former Candidate 2008
    Former Candidate 2012 plus write-in Oct. 6th
    Starting NOW to gather supporters!

  • estatetracker posted at 11:14 am on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    estatetracker Posts: 276

    Interesting that Tondee stated that, "He doesn't expect the commissioners will roll out another proposal to restructure county government, he added. Not even to increase the number of commissioners, he said"

    Considering that adding two Commissioners wasn't even on the ballot, I think it is telling of the ultimate underlying goal of Green and Tondee--they want more power in the hands of fewer elected officials (two Commissioners), namely themselves. The ballot would have eliminated elected positions, therefore transferring that authority into the hands of Green and Tondee.

    So with certainty, Tondee showed his cards when he commented that they weren't even interested in expanding the Board to 5 (perhaps part-time Commissioners), because that would dilute the power of his and Green's political positions as Commissioners.

    Bottom line, Green and Tondee wanted more control, and less democratic participation in how this County evolves. Or if that sounds unbelievable, ask this question--why is Tondee so concerned about 2 more Commissioners at this point in time when it wasn't even on the ballot? Or a follow-up question: If County govenment is in need of restructuring, why have they given-up so easilly?

    In my opinion the proposal was a my-way or no-way to any improvements or in other words if Green and Tondee can't fix the problem that they defined in their own way, despite resounding opposition, we'll live with the dysfunction and see how you like that.

  • crust123 posted at 7:03 am on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    crust123 Posts: 166

    well, they certainly did well in this election, eh. If you want them voted out Joe, you better come up with some better alternatives than the write ins this time around. Offer some solutions joe.

  • JoeIdaho posted at 5:33 am on Thu, Nov 8, 2012.

    JoeIdaho Posts: 2841

    No worries, Tondee & Green, you're not going to be staying long regardless, as you'll be voted out at the next election regardless.

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