The Morning News â€” Leslie Mielke
County commissioner candidates participated in the forum sponsored by the Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce Thursday evening. From left are Steven Kauer, Kirk Ogden, Ladd Carter, Mark Bair, Matt Thompson, Barry Johnson, Steve Cederberg, Grant Thorson and Merril Blake.
BLACKFOOT â€” Ladd Carter, county commission incumbent representing District Three, understands that opposition keeps elected officials on their toes.
"Our ability to challenge our leaders makes it the best system of government on earth," Carter said. "It's good to have a test. I would be honored to serve the citizens of Bingham County if reelected.
All nine county commissioner candidates participated in the forum sponsored by the Blackfoot Chamber of Commerce Thursday evening. About 100 people attended.
Each candidate answered three question. They were allowed 1.5 minutes to answer. In conclusion, each candidate was allowed two minutes to summarize his position.
The first question was about the proposed Planning & Zoning ordinance.
Mark Bair asked, "Why is [the ordinance] so restrictive? Do we need this?
Bair specifically cited home business that is restrict to three employees.
Merril Blake was chairman of the P&Z commission through Draft 6.
"After we delivered the draft to the commissioners, we got back Draft 15," Blake said. "It needs to be revised completely."
Matt Thompson said the draft is down to 150 pages. He said the ordinance should be passed section by section.
"Use a common sense approach," he said.
Barry Johnson said you cannot have a presentation of a model ordinance. You need to craft the ordinance to meet the needs of the county.
Carter said 20 or more P&Z commissioners have worked on this ordinance for five years. There have been eight public hearings. Work needs to be done on nitrates, wind energy and radioactive material in the county.
How would you help business expand in the county?
Most candidates supported helping to bring in new business.
Grant Thorson said, "We need to create an environment where people have spending money. There needs to be some accommodations, not encroach on existing businesses and create a good infrastructure.
Steve Cederberg said, "We need business that employs a lot of people. Help business with infrastructure, like sewer and water, so it is ready when businesses want to move in here.
Mark Bair said each commissioner needs to be an ambassador to new business.
Kirk Ogden wants growth. "Whatever we can do, we should do; what is the best fit for the county."
"We should have saved Simplot in Aberdeen," Merril Blake said.
"We need to see what's happening in Aberdeen and what we can do to help," said Ogden.
"I'm pro business," said Matt Thompson, "but we must be careful not to give the farm away.
Steven Kauer said, "Taxpayers shouldn't be burdened with any tax relief for new businesses. Business needs to provide for itself."
What experience do you have in directing a multi-million dollar budget?
Barry Johnson cited his experience in a credit union and how he helped the credit union regain solvency.
"We were able to keep the regulators satisfied," Johnson said.
Merril Blake cited his business experience. "I've been in business for myself with $20 million budgets, with 250 to 400 employees in 27 states.
"I will be able to shine and be comfortable in this area," he said.
Matt Thompson works in a cattle operation. "You learn when to invest and when to cut back.
As a member of the executive board of the Idaho Cattle Association, we watch the budget closely, Thompson said.
Steven Kauer said, "I've lived within my budget most of my life. Be frugal with what we have."
Grant Thorson said, "We need to have the best services we can afford."
Mark Bair said, "We need to watch the revenue side and the expense side. The revenue comes in quarterly; the expenses are paid monthly."
Ladd Carter said, "My experience in the past will be helpful in the future."
Steve Cederberg said, "We need to be careful with what's coming in and going out and trust those who are serving."
Kirk Ogden said, "I know how to save money. I can handle this deal."
Communication skills, listening, responding to needs and staying within budget were cited as strengths for this position.
The Primary Election is May 15 across the county.