By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Bonner County commissioners voted unanimously in favor of a resolution Oct. 22 that states the county’s position against mandates — specifically mandated actions related to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
The final resolution is the result of two public discussions and one public workshop, kicked off in late August when Commissioner Steve Bradshaw brought forth a lengthy draft meant to declare Bonner County a “Constitutional County.” The resolution has since seen a variety of edits, with commissioners ultimately voting to approve a draft brought forward by Commissioner Dan McDonald.
“It’s just an example of what can be achieved when the three of us come together as a team and work on a solution,” Bradshaw told the Reader in an Oct. 25 email. “My hat is off to Jeff and Dan for their work and insight on this. Without them it would not have happened. Many thanks to them for their teamwork.”
The final resolution cites the commissioners’ duty under oath to “support and defend” both the U.S. and Idaho constitutions, as well as their opposition to mandates — those regarding masks and vaccines in particular.
As for masks, county commissioners actually gained authority under Idaho law in the most recent legislative session to either approve or deny recommended mask mandates by health districts. Therefore, the resolution states that the board “will refuse to approve” such mandates if presented.
The resolution also states that the board will oppose other mandates “to the limit of our authority under the law,” including vaccines, as well as restrictions to rights such as free speech, to assemble, to keep and bear arms, and engage in commerce.
McDonald said he arrived at his draft after tailoring Bradshaw’s resolution — borrowed from an Arizona sheriff — to fit the board’s authority.
“Basically, the state Legislature nor the governor would have taken it seriously as it was an overreach of authority for commissioners,” he told the Reader.
“I tried to take out most of the flowery language and just get to the point,” he added, noting that the final draft includes some “additional language” that “came from concerned citizens who requested some specific language that they had included in a draft they presented.”
Ultimately, McDonald said, the resolution simply reflects the board’s “official opinion and position.”
“It doesn’t have an effect on any other taxing districts or private sector businesses, as that would also constitute a mandate and we are just anti-mandate, especially when it comes to individual rights and people’s own health choices,” he said. “Those who wish to wear masks and/or get vaccinated enjoy the freedom to do so, and we would never want to do anything that would detrimentally affect their freedoms. The same applies to those who do not want to be forced by the government to wear masks or get the vaccination.”
Commissioner Jeff Connolly has been a consistent dissenting voice in regard to the anti-mandate resolution, dismissing the parts of Bradshaw’s first draft that specifically called out Gov. Brad Little for actions taken during the pandemic. Connolly saw the resolution as a “political stunt” by Bradshaw, who is running for Idaho governor in 2022.
Further, Connolly didn’t understand the purpose of preemptively ruling on any and all future mask mandate proposals, seeing as Idaho law now allows county commissioners to vote on health district recommendations.
“I just thought, what are we trying to do here, you know?” Connolly told the Reader on Oct. 25. “Anyway, as we worked our way through it, I still had concerns.”
Despite those concerns, Connolly voted in favor of the resolution’s final draft, citing compromise as his guiding principle.
“At some point, when you’ve got complaints about what’s been presented, and there’s changes made, then I guess you have to — you should, anyway — be willing to then sign onto it,” he said. “I’m still not 100% behind it. I think it was a waste of time.”
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