Martin Hackworth

Martin Hackworth

Writing a weekly column is work and it takes away from trail days during my “ridetirement.” I had a column ready to go this week but events prompted me to give up a day of riding and write another one. It takes a lot to get me worked up enough to stay home and do this but in this case the juice is worth the squeeze.

Two stories have dominated local headlines in the past few days. One involves the Bannock County Assessors office necessary but ham-handed attempts to properly assess property values. The other involves negotiations between the union representing the Pocatello Police Department and the city of Pocatello over a promised raise.

These stories are related in that they both exemplify two things: how some local officials are not ready for the first team and why people commonly abhor government.

Let’s take a look at the assessment fubar first. Like many others I received a property value assessment notice in the mail this week that represented a significant increase over last year’s assessment. Like others I also received this notice the day after the last day to file a written appeal. Having worked with local government in planning and zoning many years ago I’m aware of how these assessments are washed through various processes and typically do not actually result in a large increase in property taxes – at least not right away. The timing didn’t even bother us that much because that’s a mistake I knew the Assessors Office would have to fix.

Up to that point this is a head-shaker but really, what do you expect? Like you I rolled my eyes when “computer error” was blamed - like the computer was a malfunctioning HAL 9000 and Assessor Sheri Davies was just trying to get let back into the spaceship.

It’s an imperfect world. In general one should not presume to be dealing with an entire cadre of rocket scientists in any city or county government and our local officials are no different. Some of them are very good at what they do and some are not. Unfortunately the lowest common denominator often prevails. If that’s bothersome you’d better learn to live with disappointment.

The kicker for me is that now Assessor Davis is not only blaming a rogue HAL 9000 for the late delivery of the assessments but has admitted that some of them are likely in error. That’s bad enough, but instead of figuring out which assessments are in error, which is her job, she’s making her job your job by leaving it to you to file an appeal to get things sorted out properly.

Sorry Ms. Davis, but you just crossed the line between par for the course and incompetent. If you cannot do your job any better than that you need to resign. And if the County Commissioners continue to support this they ought to resign or be voted out of office in the next election.

The other story concerning the apparently bad faith negotiations between City officials and the Pocatello Police Department personally hits home. Even though I do not live in the city I know, like and respect many current and former members of the PPD. They have absolutely the hardest job in city government and they are not well paid by nearly any metric. This is something that should concern every resident of Pocatello.

The reason that this hits home with me is that it reminds me of the worst years of the Vailas administration at Idaho State University. Like Pocatello city officials, ISU made great promises of meritocracy-based wage increases down the road for faculty and staff that never materialized.

None of this,however, stopped ISU adminstrators from lavishly rewarding themselves salary increases because of all the data they had that proved that six figure incomes were not enough to get by in Pocatello. One administrator even managed to get paid more than a quarter of my entire department to not come to work for early a year. Nice work that, when you can get it.

The Pocatello Police are getting hosed, plain and simple. They were promised a raise and they damn well deserve it. I know Mayor Blad a little and he seems like a nice enough person. I certainly didn’t have anything against him up to now. But when he claims in an interview that he really doesn’t know what’s going on and that it’s the responsibility of others to work it all out that’s just a load of manure – especially when he’s in line for a hefty salary increase himself. I’ll bet he’s taking more interest in that.

Shame on you Mayor Blad. If you can’t get out in front of your mess any better than Assessor Davis is getting out in front of her’s perhaps you should join her in ignominy.

Anyone can be an inept public official. That’s not what the public should have to expect or what either Assessor Davis or Mayor Blad get paid for. So, both of you, do your jobs or get out of the way and let someone else do them.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.