ISJ EDITORIAL: Pocatello mayor, council need to rethink raises

Pocatello City Council meetings might have a very different tone in the future following the election of three candidates Tuesday who ran on a platform that the city’s government is broken.

Incumbent Councilman Roger Bray and his two running mates, Chris Stevens and Claudia Ortega, decisively won their races despite a crowded field of mostly competent opponents, including well-respected City Council President Jim Johnston.

Were Pocatello voters sending a message to City Hall by electing Bray, Stevens and Ortega?

You bet they were.

And if Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad and the City Council are wondering who’s to blame for the election’s results, they should simply look in the mirror.

Blad and the council by their own actions in recent months incurred the wrath of their constituents on Tuesday, with the majority of city voters supporting the most reform-minded council candidates on the ballot.

Local voters often shy away from candidates who are perceived as being negative, so the election of Bray, Stevens and Ortega speaks volumes about what Pocatellans truly think of their city’s government.

Blad and the council made a huge mistake by voting themselves big pay raises this past summer despite clear signs that their constituents vehemently disapproved. Making matters worse was the virtual gauntlet that the city’s leadership made Pocatello police and firefighters go through to get raises that were measly in comparison.

But the icing on the cake of Pocatellans’ disgust with their city government was the recent decision by the City Council to spend up to $90,000 on a new logo for the city.

Pocatellans correctly recognized that a plethora of more pressing needs could be addressed with that $90,000, such as perhaps hiring a couple more police officers to protect our community.

If the council was ignorant of the horrific optics of moving forward with the pay raises for itself and the mayor, the logo expenditure was every bit the definition of sheer arrogance.

We suggest that Bray, Stevens and Ortega’s first action as council members come January be to nix this logo nonsense because our city needs lots of things but a new $90,000 logo isn’t one of them.

Our only words of caution to Bray, Stevens and Ortega is to pick their battles wisely. The last thing our city government needs is three council members who are more obstructionists than watchdogs.

All that being said, there’s no denying the results of the Pocatello City Council election were definitely the big story locally on election day.

Less noticeable was the Chubbuck City Council race between Dan Heiner and Darell Stewart, both political newcomers. It’s interesting that Heiner won the race on a platform that called for caution regarding Chubbuck city officials’ desire to spend millions of the city’s tax dollars on a new City Hall and new police and fire stations without any public vote.

We read the election of Heiner as Chubbuck voters sending their city a message that they don’t like the city’s big plans.

Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England and other city officials would be wise to at least put forth an advisory vote during the next election to gauge the feelings of Chubbuck residents regarding the city’s ambitious building aspirations.

To do otherwise would open Chubbuck up to the kind of election that just occurred in Pocatello. If England and the Chubbuck City Council want to stay on the good side of Chubbuck residents, they need to do some listening, and soon, to what their constituents really want.

Because it might not be a new City Hall.

The results of the Pocatello-Chubbuck School District 25 Board of Trustees races, on the other hand, showed that the majority of local residents support the current board and the district’s direction.

But there were definitely some district residents who wanted change this election because of dissatisfaction with the school board on a variety of fronts.

Moving forward, we strongly encourage the school board to reach out to its critics and respond in a constructive rather than dismissive way to their concerns.

Because if there’s one thing Tuesday’s local election results should teach the district’s trustees it’s that ignoring their constituents will eventually result in voter backlash.

On Tuesday, it was the Pocatello City Council that received a needed shake up.

Our leaders within School District 25 and Chubbuck’s city government would be well-advised to take notice.