By Lyndsie Kiebert
Sandpoint Reader: What is a specific challenge you see Bonner County facing in the coming year? How might you face that challenge?
Butch Horton: Responding to the economic downturn in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly take front row. I would face the challenge by exploring new and deepening old relationships with all stakeholders in this county. That is key to the economic progress that will surely come. We must remember that it is timber and agriculture that built this county, as well as this state. To borrow a statement from BCEDC [Bonner County Economic Development Corporation], “A community is defined by the people who plant their roots in an area, build businesses, take risks and transform ideas into realities.”
SR: Over the past year, the largest story to come out of the county was undoubtedly the lawsuit initiated by Bonner County against the city regarding The Festival at Sandpoint’s policy banning weapons from War Memorial Field. Records show that spending on the lawsuit between both municipalities has topped $100,000, to date. There are many in the community questioning whether this spending is justified — especially at a time when economic stability for the region has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. What is your opinion on the lawsuit?
BH: As I have stated before, I am a supporter of the Second Amendment. Having said that, I personally believe that the county could have done more to move away from litigation. One hundred thousand dollars, to date? I’m not a lawyer but I’m not sure the county should have sued on behalf of a citizen. Commissioner [Steve] Bradshaw stated that he spearheaded the suit on behalf of Sandpoint police officers. What concerns me most going forward is that officials are concerned now that this situation has the potential to devolve into a scenario not unlike the deadly clash at a Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017.
SR: The Idaho House and Senate battled during the 2020 session over the issue of how to institute property tax relief for Idahoans — especially in fast-growing counties. What would you, as someone on the “front lines” of the issue as a possible county commissioner, like to see put in place? What policies need to change and why? How would you balance property tax relief with the need for growth to pay for growth?
BH: We are in uncertain times and don’t know what is ahead. We need to gather good information and make pragmatic decisions for all. I do not think we should be making big political decisions on property taxes right now when we are in the midst of a pandemic crisis. Having said that, I understand the concern right now about property taxes. We need a short-term and a long-term approach. Perhaps we might consider a one-year freeze while the governor and legislative body truly evaluates this problem — beyond just a political fix.
SR: What do you see as the essential “nuts-and-bolts” duties of the commissioners? Do you see identity politics — as opposed to more broad-based, non-ideological approaches — as productive or hindering to progress?
BH: The essential role of the county commissioner is explicit in Idaho state code.Title 31 Chapter 8 of Idaho Code sets out the duties of a county commissioner. First and foremost, it is to assess, collect and manage the collection and disbursement of the taxes you and I pay and the fees assessed by the county. Additionally, to supervise the official conduct of all county officers, appointed boards or commissions charged with assessing, collecting, safekeeping, management or disbursement of public monies and revenues; see that they faithfully perform their duties. Within this I see nothing pertaining to identity politics. It would absolutely hinder the job set forth by the state Idaho, as it so often does here.
Publisher’s Note: Butch Horton is challenging Bonner County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw in the Tuesday, May 19 primary election. The Sandpoint Reader sent Bradshaw several emails asking him to participate in this election profile, but his assistant informed the newspaper that he declined. To see local candidates – including Bradshaw – answer questions at the virtual candidates forum on April 28, visit: bit.ly/BonnerCandidatesForum2020.
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal