Local column: Idaho’s ever-expanding political machinery

The success of nonpartisan city leadership has the state Republican party ready to declare open war on city elections, writes Jim Delmore.

The recent Idaho Republican convention has come out strongly in favor of making Idaho’s city elections political as opposed to the present non-partisan elections. They were not shy about stating the reasons why they are in favor of this significant change. They have the goal of having hard right Republican control of all aspects of Idaho’s government; city, county, state and the congressional seats. Not just Republican control, but hard right republican control.

Consider two relatively progressive cities, Idaho Falls and Boise, both of which are an irritant to the Republican hierarchy.

In the 52 years I have been a resident of the Idaho Falls region, there has never been an Idaho Falls mayor who could be considered a Democrat. They have all had the appearance of being either Independents or moderate Republicans. The current mayor is a registered Republican, even though the Republican old guard fought hard to defeat her last year. Her sin was to ignore the dictates of the Bonneville Republican Central Committee.

Under the leadership of our mayors, the city has done very well. Consider two investments they have made that have allowed private enterprise to thrive: the Greenbelt and Sunnyside’s expansion into a thoroughfare.

The Greenbelt has attracted outside corporations to invest heavily in the city. We now have a wide range of motels, hotels, restaurants and various assorted businesses attracted to the area by the Greenbelt. The city provided the infrastructure that incentivized private investors to put tens of millions of dollars into our city.

The rebuilding of Sunnyside was considered risky at the time but has proven to be a phenomenal investment. It has greatly expedited traffic, provides the foundation for an outer belt and provided a huge incentive for a host of private investors building commercial real estate along this thoroughfare. The remaining vacant areas are filling up rapidly.

These and other wise investments often have not had the support of the hard right anti-tax crowd who do not want to pay for anything.

Then there is Boise. They have invested heavily in infrastructure that has incited major private investment throughout Ada County. To be fair, much of the road funding has come from the state. The fact that Boise has a mayor who is a registered Democrat and is doing exceptionally well galls the Republicans and may well be the driving reason to politicize city elections.

I was raised in St. Louis and observed firsthand the effects on the city from the government being run by a political machine. It led to a huge decline in the city after I moved away in 1955. It took generations for it to decline and is taking generations to recover all because appropriate investments were not made in a timely fashion.

It is true that St. Louis had a Democratic machine while Idaho has a Republican machine but the effect is the same: Political machines always end up corrupting the system.

Idaho excels in some areas with non-partisan city elections being an outstanding example even though it is way behind in other areas such as school funding. Let’s not mess up one of our better assets!

Jim Delmore is a retired scientist.