Commissioner Ron Stoltz is asking for our vote when he runs for reelection next year, but I don’t think he deserves it and here’s why:
He didn’t campaign much during the last election, but when he did he promised jobs. It was a bait and switch pledge, because the first two actions he took once he was in office were job killers. In the first instance he voted to eliminate a couple of dozen county positions. But don’t think that resulted in “less government” because it didn’t. It resulted in the same government with fewer people to do it.
County commissioners have no authority over property taxes – can’t increase them, can’t decrease them. What did result from Commissioner Stoltz’s decision to cut government services was that a couple of dozen of our friends, neighbors and family members were thrown out of work. Our property taxes didn’t go down and now we just have to wait in line longer to do business at the county courthouse.
His second job-killing action was to toss out the airport improvement plan that the commission on which I served worked with numerous citizens for 14 long, difficult months to achieve. The result? The many, good-paying airport construction jobs that would have been created in the spring of 2012 as a result of our carefully crafted compromise plan never materialized. Commissioner Stoltz never explained to the public why he voted to throw out a perfectly good airport reconstruction plan that would have put many local people to work at a time when jobs were sorely needed. Now, Stoltz has voted to spend tens of thousands of tax dollars on an entirely new, and utterly unnecessary, environmental analysis for a different airport plan. The consultant preparing this new environmental analysis also over spent his budget by $100,000, a significant budgeting error which Commissioner Stoltz apparently missed. That’s nothing more than poor management that will cost all of us.
He voted to eliminate the animal control officer position that was funded by a dog license purchase program carefully designed by community volunteers over many years. This was a position long requested by the sheriff and the sheriffs before him to free up deputies from having to respond to dog complaints so they could focus on more important calls.
He voted to reject federal funds for the 42-year-old county family planning clinic for reasons he never fully explained, while failing to thank the 480 clients whose health care he cut for providing him with his government-supplied health care.
He voted to fire a highly competent and capable road department supervisor for reasons that appeared suspiciously made-up. That termination sparked a lawsuit in federal court scheduled for trial in May 2014, which could well result in a substantial judgment against the taxpayers of Ravalli County. He voted to replace the fired supervisor with two supervisors, and then voted to eliminate five equipment operator positions in the road department, citing the potential loss of federal funds many months before Congress had even made a decision on those funds.
He voted to appoint the politically well connected but apparently unqualified Valerie Stamey to the grown-up job of county treasurer, a decision which resulted in office chaos and complaints now pouring in from tax-supported fire and irrigation districts across the county.
He strayed far from the role of county government by voting to hire a Wyoming attorney to represent the county in its dubious challenge to the Forest Service over water rights claims on federal land. That the county has no legal standing in the case apparently doesn’t matter to Commissioner Stoltz.
This is just a partial list of examples of Commissioner Stoltz’s fiscal recklessness and unfitness for public office. I also would like to correct two factually incorrect statements he made in his recent letter announcing his reelection bid: The previous board, on which I sat, did not, as he claims “eliminate” the capital reserve fund. In fact, we doubled it to a reasonable and healthy 7%. Any more than that and you’re collecting property taxes and not providing adequate services for them. He also stated that the various decisions he’s made in his disastrous tenure on the commission would result in lower property taxes. As I stated, neither he, nor the board as a whole, can do anything to lower property taxes. The board of county commissioners does not have that authority. What he can do, and has done, is cut government services. We still pay the same property taxes, but under Commissioner Stoltz, we just get far less for them. What he needs to explain to the voters is what happened to the property tax money saved by the elimination of county jobs and his other job-killing decisions. Is it under a mattress somewhere?
This is a question Commissioner Stoltz should answer, although I would be surprised if he could. And while he’s at it, he can answer this one: Where are the jobs you promised, Commissioner Stoltz?