The rigors of evaluating regulations

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Kootenai County is looking up to a midget.

Sorry if that word is offensive. It’s used here in reference to a diminutive entity, not a person.

And sorry, too, if being referred to as “diminutive” is hurtful to the 7,000 souls inhabiting Boise County, whose seat — Idaho City — boasts fewer than 500 denizens.

Kootenai County’s Board of Commissioners recently emulated not just the ideology but the policy of that sparsely inhabited county and its building codes. Two of three Kootenai County commissioners, Marc Eberlein and Bob Bingham, followed Boise County’s lead and voted against adopting the most recent update of the International Building Code for residential and commercial construction. That’s an annual consent agenda-type item which typically draws only “yeas” and yawns.

Not this time.

Here’s how David Callahan, Kootenai County’s community development director, summarized the impact of the 2-1 vote, with Chris Fillios in the minority, after being instructed to do what Boise County is doing:

“… The board has embarked on a new policy direction for the unincorporated areas of the county in which compliance with building codes will no longer be mandatory, but will instead be voluntary.”

Voluntary compliance with building codes. What does that statement sound like to you?

That anarchy has raised its unruly head, if only an inch above a substandard roof? Or that runaway regulation and government overreach have finally met their match right here in the land where freedom lovers roam and build homes and businesses however they damn well please? Or is it merely a curious move that suggests things at the county level are on their way to becoming curiouser?

There are those in our community who believe the building code brushoff is one small step for bureaucrats and one bold leap in the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee’s alleged quest to hijack county government. The theory goes that Eberlein and Bingham are kissing the ring of KCRCC leader Brent Regan and company, worried that without the committee’s support, they might face daunting re-election prospects in next May’s Republican primary.

Another explanation could be this: Our country and therefore our community is caught up in the desire to throw off perceived chains of government regulatory interference. In cases ranging from mining to manufacturing, regulation has gone too far, and it is constructive to put down the regulatory rubber stamp long enough to examine in fresh new light the pros and cons of those rules.

County government’s responsibility, however, is not ideological but practical. If regulations serve no purpose, get rid of them. Otherwise, Kootenai County residents, beware. Today’s voluntary building codes could become tomorrow’s voluntary sheriff’s deputies.

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