Last Spring Greg Chilcott leaned across the commissioners’ desk and announced to the citizens in attendance, “It’s a new paradigm, folks.” In other words, decisions are going to be made very differently than in the past and not necessarily with consideration of citizens’ input. The first major change was to substitute long held requirements for the position of County Planning Director to allow an applicant with pretty much any kind of background to be considered for the job. The Planning Director job even has a new title: Office Manager. In looking at their process, I found that an applicant, who graduated in geography with an emphasis in urban and rural planning from the University of Montana, was not even given an interview. Upon graduation, this highly qualified applicant was given the Presidential Award for Excellence. I read verbatim from that resume at the next hearing and received the response from Matt Kanenwisher that I was “twisting things.” Was he doubting my veracity?
Another action with major implications was to change the make-up of the County Public Health Board, so that an employee of the engineering firm presenting the FlatIron project to the county now sits on that board. If that is not conflict of interest I’d like to hear a better example.
And it doesn’t stop there. Next came the rescinding of the resolution promising over 5,000 county residents who had signed a petition that any extension of the runway at the airport would be voted upon by the public. One of the board’s statements was that that promise was not really a right to vote! This decision dovetailed into the next decision to scrap the FAA approved 2A option with its known costs. 2A alleviates the FAA’s safety concerns at the airport having to do with separation of the runway and the taxiway. The FAA would NOT sign off on a plan that did not address the safety issues at the airport. The taxpayers take a hit again with this decision because the process has to start all over again with a new EA or possibly EIS at greater cost the size of which no one knows and possibly years more of an unsafe airport!
Amidst the preceding actions came two more decisions. The first one was to curtail our local volunteers’ efforts at recycling by prematurely denying them an extension of time for using the space at the Fairgrounds. And this decision was in direct opposition to the Fair Board’s opinion, in a 5-1 vote, to extend the timeline for departure of the recycling operation. Another action by the Commissioners was to not give any funds to our local citizens-developed Sapphire Health Center, which serves 700 of our residents, and now has had to close while waiting to see if there will be federal money.
These actions are truly outstanding in their disregard for the common good by putting the good of a few people above the rest. And if you are worried about our business climate, I say utter disregard for the common good and for citizen input is truly bad for business. Business will be stronger here without these inappropriate and expensive alternatives that will cost taxpayers more in the long run. In this still new century, businesses are more sophisticated than ever, and are looking for places to invest in that have a clean environment, good schools and a healthy citizenry, as well as low taxes. And personally, I would not give two bits for this “new paradigm.”