2020 CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE: Doug Okuniewicz
NAME: Doug Okuniewicz
RUNNING FOR: Idaho Legislature, District 2
CITY OF RESIDENCE: Hayden, ID
DATE OF BIRTH: Age 54
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND: MA Communications, University of Alabama; BA University of Nevada, Reno
MILITARY EXPERIENCE: N/A
EXPERIENCE IN ELECTED OR APPOINTED OFFICES: N/A
YEARS AS IDAHO RESIDENT: 13 Years
FAMILY: Wife Lori and two children
HOBBIES: Fishing, hunting, sporting clays.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE?
It started with a conversation I had with my dad a few years ago. Our talk focused on the way a certain elected official had voted on an issue that pretty clearly seemed to violate the trust of the people who elected him. It was during that conversation that I said something along the lines that I couldn’t understand how anyone would do that, and that if I had been in that fellow’s position, I would never have voted for my own personal interests over the interests of those who elected me. In response, my dad told me to put my money where my mouth is.
Like many of us, my dad has serious concerns about the direction he has seen our country heading throughout his lifetime, away from the values and philosophies of our nation’s founding fathers and instead toward socialism. He told me that if people from my generation don’t start doing something about it soon, our children and grandchildren are going to suffer terribly. I’m running out of a sense of responsibility to my family and our community. We need qualified people in public office who will adhere the principles laid out in the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions, and represent the conservative values of the people living in District 2.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THREE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES YOU’LL FACE?
There are so many important issues, it is difficult to narrow them down to just three. For example, I am staunchly pro-life and a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights, so I will always work hard on issues like these. But, these issues are standard for all conservative Republican candidates.
So, in response to this question, I will focus on three other issues that have reached critical mass in our community within the last year. They are the proposed Criminal Reentry Center, Property Taxes, and Refugee Resettlement.
CRIMINAL REENTRY CENTER: Many of you reading this may already know that last year I started working with our county government and local municipalities to implement code changes that will give our locally elected officials the ability to reject the reentry center in a way that carries the full force and effect of law. I have done this because, like most people in our community, I feel strongly that bureaucrats from another part of the state should not have the unilateral ability to massively impact another community like ours without the permission of the people who live here.
Obviously, nobody wants a criminal facility in their backyard. But, even setting that aside, there are compelling reasons to object to the Idaho Department of Correction’s (IDOC) current proposal:
1. Prisoners Not Local. The proposed reentry center will relocate prisoners who are from other parts of the state here, and release them into our community. The reentry center will not be limited to prisoners who came only from Kootenai County.
2. Recidivism. It is common knowledge that a substantial percentage of all released prisoners will commit new crimes, regardless of the programs they participate in.
3. More Crime. This means many of the extra prisoners from other parts of the state will commit crimes in our community that would not otherwise have happened here without a reentry center.
4. Increased Taxes. These increases in crime would not only negatively impact our quality of life, they will also cost local taxpayers more for greater police presence, increased court costs, and more jail space. In turn, our already sky-rocketing property taxes will have to go up even more to pay for the increase in costs that follow reentry centers. In that respect, this is a clever way for the IDOC to pass on a state expense to local communities. We should not stand for it.
5. Ineffective. Lastly, the IDOC’s own data seems to suggest that the handful of reentry centers already operating in other parts of the state have not been successful in reducing the number of those who re-offend after they are released. So, if they don’t improve anything, why would we want to take a hit to our quality of life, and then pay more in taxes on top of that?
In the next section, I will discuss additional steps that I will take as your
representative in Boise to ensure cities and counties will be able to exert local control over criminal centers before one lands uninvited in their backyard.
PROPERTY TAXES: As a homeowner, I am keenly aware of how my property taxes have sky-rocketed in the last few years. And, just like you have probably done, I have looked at those forms we get in the mail to see where the money is actually going. And, as you probably know, property taxes do not go to Boise. Instead, they go to our various local taxing districts. And, if you dig a little deeper, you will find that what we seem to be dealing with is a “Gordian knot” of local taxation. Which is why this year’s state legislature was drawn into what is more appropriately an issue for locally elected officials.
Personally, I think growth should sustain growth. And, in the next section I will address some of the things I will explore as your legislator in order to reduce property taxes.
REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: For some time now there has been concern about refugees potentially entering the United States from countries that want to do us harm. As Americans, we are sympathetic to people who are trying to escape from those countries. However, many people are also concerned that many refugees still waiting to enter the U.S. may not have been properly vetted under the prior administration. Or, even if they have been properly vetted, that the vetting process itself simply cannot ensure that a refugee will not turn against our way of life at a later date.
I am not an expert on refugee resettlement. But, I listen to my constituents. And, one of the things people in my community are upset about is that Governor Little opted in to the refugee resettlement program on behalf of all of Idaho, even though last year President Trump reversed the Obama administration’s approach and made it possible for states to decline refugee resettlement.
Although Governor Little took this action in response to requests from two Southern Idaho counties (Ada & Twin Falls), his decision has the potential to impact the rest of Idaho as well. As such, it seems to make more sense to require broader input before a decision is made to accept or reject refugee resettlements in the future.
In the next section I will discuss the steps I will take as your legislator to resolve this issue.
IF ELECTED, WHAT STEPS WILL YOU TAKE TO RESOLVE THESE ISSUES?
CRIMINAL REENTRY CENTER: As your legislator in Boise, I will oppose any bills or funding that would go toward placing a reentry center here in our community. I will also draft legislation that will require the Idaho Department of Corrections to seek local approval before they can put a facility in any community around the state. Not only will this provide another line of defense for our community, it will help give other cities and counties around the state the ability to control their futures.
PROPERTY TAXES: I will work closely with local officials from Kootenai County and those from municipalities within the county in order to craft and pass meaningful legislation with my fellow legislators that will reduce the recent tax burdens that have been hammering homeowners. This could result in a massive overhaul of property taxes statewide. Additionally, although it is on a smaller scale, one concept I intend to explore is the potential for consolidating taxing districts located within a county in order to reduce the size of government and the related expenses that are currently passed on to property owners.
REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: As your representative, I will work with my fellow legislators to draft a bill that requires state-wide agreement before the Governor can opt in to the federal refugee resettlement program. For example, one approach that I will research will require every county board of commissioners in the state to approve the Governor’s request to opt in to the refugee resettlement program before any county is allowed to participate. This approach would give every county veto power for the entire state.
WHAT SPECIFIC SKILLS OR EXPERIENCE QUALIFY YOU FOR THIS JOB?
Throughout my professional career I have worked with elected officials in a number of states. I have a great deal of experience drafting legislation, writing requests for Attorney General opinions, testifying before legislative committees, city councils, and county boards of commissioners. I already have a thorough understanding of the legislative processes behind getting a good bill passed, or a bad bill killed. But, most importantly, I have solid, professional relationships with many sitting legislators from around the state. This is extremely important. When you ask them, most legislators will freely admit that their first few years in office are spent learning the system and building relationships with fellow legislators. I have an important head start on this front, which means I will be better able to accomplish results for my constituents than someone who lacks the same established relationships and understanding of legislative processes.
I also have over 25 years’ experience reading and writing legal documents, including draft legislation, requests for attorney general opinions, contracts, licensing agreements, patent applications, patent prosecutions, and patent appeal briefs, as well as a Master’s Degree in Communications.
And, lastly, I also have a solid business background. For the last 26 years, I have worked for a company that has a variety of diverse holdings including banks, construction, fuel distribution, intellectual property management, and ground leasing, for example. I have experience working in large organizations, including managing one with more that 1,000 employees.
WHY SHOULD VOTERS ELECT YOU, RATHER THAN AN OPPONENT?
First of all, I will take my fight against the reentry center proposed for Kootenai County all the way to Boise. In contrast, my opponent has been endorsed by one of the Boise bureaucrats who is trying to force the reentry center into our community. I have diligently worked, and will continue to work, against the reentry center on behalf of my constituents in North Idaho.
Secondly, I have a deep understanding of the legislative process in Idaho and will be able use that understanding to further the interests of people in our community.
Third, my existing relationships with legislators from around the state, many of whom are also supporting my campaign, will make it much more likely that I will succeed at making meaningful contributions on behalf of Legislative District 2 while I work for you in Boise.
Finally, I am proud to be running a clean campaign that exclusively focuses on real issues that clearly matter to my constituents. For those who ignore the issues and instead run negative campaigns, Idaho State Representative Ron Mendive recently said, “making accusations, true or false, we need to investigate the accusers first, or we will never get anyone worth having run for office” (January 25, 2020, Town Hall Meeting at Candlelight Christian Fellowship).
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to call (208-918-1495) or email (voteDougO@gmail.com) with any questions.