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Faulty laws cost us all

| November 21, 2010 8:00 PM

If you're looking for a fair resolution in the Coeur d'Alene city council election challenge, you're going to be disappointed.

It's not fair that Councilman Mike Kennedy should have to pay the massive legal fees he's personally incurred because of challenges in the last city election, in which he beat Jim Brannon by five votes. Kennedy did nothing wrong, yet he and his family have amassed huge legal bills that he's asked the city to pay.

It's not fair that Brannon must bear similarly cumbersome personal legal expense when weaknesses in Idaho election laws raised doubts of the election's validity in the first place. Seriously, does it seem right to you that someone who has resided full-time outside the U.S. for many years should be able to vote in a Coeur d'Alene city election? The law's faulty elsewhere, too. Why aren't individuals exempted from election lawsuits in the first place?

It's not fair that Coeur d'Alene taxpayers could be on the hook as the legal meters keep running. The city already is responsible for more than $40,000. Kennedy's tab is more than $100,000, and Brannon's bill will only grow as he has decided to put the issue up for Idaho Supreme Court consideration. Kennedy is seeking the city's help in paying his full legal bill, which we understand. Brannon would then be entitled, in the name of fairness, to the same consideration. But where does that end? What precedent does that set?

We discussed with County Clerk Dan English, the top elections official in Kootenai County, the possibility of a runoff election to settle the matter. A separate election to us makes sense: With the vote so close - that five-vote victory margin was narrowed by three in a recent court ruling - why not call it a virtual draw and conduct a separate election with Kennedy and Brannon squaring off, man to man? English estimates that would cost $30,000 to $40,000, a hefty chunk of change yet a great savings compared to the mounting legal bills that have no end in sight.

But English notes that there is no provision in Idaho statutes for runoff elections in close races. If it were an actual tie, that would be different; a simple coin toss would settle the matter, and taxpayers would be spared great expense.

The state's highest court might ultimately decide the issue but only after many tens of thousands of dollars are spent, some of them pulled from taxpayer pockets. That's not fair either, but it might be the price of badly needed changes in Idaho's election laws.

Our official comment to EPA

The people of North Idaho have spoken, and their message to the Environmental Protection Agency is literally unanimous.

The federal entity's proposed cleanup in the Silver Valley of 50 to 90 years is too long. Way too long.

The agency's proposed pricetag of $1.3 billion is too much. Way too much.

That's not just the unanimous opinion of this newspaper's editorial board or the many North Idahoans with whom we've spoken over the past six months or so. It's the universal sentiment from some 900 who attended public meetings on the topic this year, and all seven mayors in the affected region.

It's also the unanimous opinion of every state legislator in the region, the governor of Idaho and all four members of Idaho's congressional delegation. The scope and depth of the EPA proposal simply doesn't make sense.

What does make sense is considering a 10-year, $175 million alternative plan that EPA already has turned up its nose to. It is vigorous examination of this option that we urge Idaho's elected leaders to pursue themselves and insist EPA honestly consider, because it represents the will of the people of North Idaho.

All of them.

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