OpenCDA

July 15, 2012

Pegging the Hypocrisy Meter

Filed under: Probable Cause — Bill @ 10:10 am

The Coeur d’Alene Press is the propaganda instrument of the Hagadone Corporation, so it is hardly surprising that this Sunday’s editorial titled “Clarify rules for recalls” pegs the hypocrisy meter.   Now the Press wants to see Idaho’s recall election laws examined and reformed.

But where was the Press almost three years ago when Jim Brannon began an action to contest the illegal conduct of the 2009 Coeur d’Alene City election?  Hiding under the beds with some District Court judges, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Kootenai County Clerk Dan English and Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh who did not want anyone understanding  just how FUBAR Idaho’s election administration laws were.  Today, those same laws are SUSFU.  And that’s exactly the way the aforementioned Press and officials like them.

However, today’s editorial is particularly (albeit predictably) insidious, because it wants to amend Idaho’s Constitution and statutes to limit the people’s ability to recall elected officials.

In 2009 and through the election contest lawsuit trial in late 2010, the Press barely paid any attention to the very significant violations of Idaho’s election laws.  Some of those were summarized under the heading “Results of Investigations” on pages 4-6 OpenCdA’s report titled The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Election Contest Lawsuit – 2009-2011.  In fact, the Press barely paid any attention at all to anything connected with the election contest of the 2009 Coeur d’Alene City election.  Didn’t want its readers to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation then, don’t ya know.

Yet in today’s editorial, the Press Editorial Board astonishingly seems to buy into the theory of the absurd that when the Idaho Legislature wrote that petition signature gatherers have 75 [calendar] days to gather petitions, the Legislature didn’t really mean 75 [calendar] days.   Well, if not 75 [calendar] days, then how many?  In 2004 Secretary of State Ben Ysursa testified before the Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee that 75 [calendar] days to gather signatures meant exactly that.  Then in 2011 in “Luna Recall ver. 1.0″, Ysursa said the signature gatherers had 75 [calendar] days.

But in 2012, after receiving guidance from Coeur d’Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers (the same city clerk who hasn’t administered a Coeur d’Alene City election for over 20 years!), Rollover Ben Ysursa had an epiphany.  He concluded that the Legislature has been wrong!  Yep, they made a mistake!  Oh, legislators probably intended that recall signature gatherers would have 75 [calendar] days to gather signature, and they may even have said that in the law, but they left one word in the 2004 amendment to the law that cast doubt (in Weathers’ mind, anyway) about their real intention.   Then ol’ Ben rolled like a cheap Corvair.  Yep, he decided that the Legislature really intended to use “j” numbers rather than real ones to calculate how many days Recall CdA had to gather signatures.   Using Ben & Susan’s complex number theory, to this day Recall CdA still does not know how many days it had.

As bad as the 75-day fiasco was, the Press Editorial Board’s second recommendation is just plain dangerous.   The Press Editorial Board wants to let someone (e.g., a beholden judge) decide if a recall should go forward.

When Idaho’s Constitution was written, the people who wrote it trusted the people who would be governed by it.  The writers pretty much said that any elected official except judges could be recalled for any reason at all.  Reckless wording?  Nope, just trust in the judgment of the people consenting to be governed.  The people who wrote Idaho’s Constitution said in Article I, Section 2:

All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the legislature.

Then in Article VI, Section 6, the Constitution’s writers made it explicit:

Every public officer in the state of Idaho, excepting the judicial officers, is subject to recall by the legal voters of the state or of the electoral district from which he is elected. The legislature shall pass the necessary laws to carry this provision into effect.

The Legislature passed the necessary laws and codified them in Idaho Code, Title 34.   Nowhere in those statutes does it say, as the Press Editorial Board wishes it said and wants it to say, that “… some standard of official misconduct should be required by law. Those bringing a recall issue before the public should have to cite specific charges of malfeasance on behalf of the recall targets.”

If the Press Editorial Board on behalf of the Hagadone Corporation gets its way, what will that standard of official misconduct be?  Who will decide what the “standard of official misconduct” for recall will be?  Who will decide if the “specific charges of malfeasance” are sufficient?

I prefer that part of the recall law remain unchanged.  Idaho’s recall laws have not been abused by the people.   It is perfectly valid for qualified electors to conclude that one or more elected officials have so badly performed their official duties that they must be replaced.  Bad performance need not rise to the level of “official misconduct.”  The Press Editorial Board is suggesting that somehow their misconduct must be found to be criminal before the people can initiate a recall.  That cedes too much of the people’s Constitutionally-provided political power.

It is unsurprising that the Press Editorial Board would prefer that.   As the propaganda arm of the Hagadone Corporation, the Coeur d’Alene Press has a vested interest in assuring its parent corporation retains a disproportionate amount of control over our elected officials.   We will not be surprised if next week’s Press editorial advocates doing away entirely with those pesky public elections.   After all,paraphrasing a line from today’s editorial, “[Elections] are expensive for taxpayers and can take a heavy toll on a community in other ways, like civic pride and economic development.”

Idaho’s election laws do need examination, consolidation, and revision.   Piecemeal revisions like those proposed by today’s Press editorial are exactly the kinds of changes that lead to more confusion about their interpretation.   Uncertainty and ambiguity in election laws which result in decisions being made by beholden dead-ender judges rather than by voters may be exactly what the Press Editorial Board wants, though.

13 Comments

  1. More confusion, that’s the intention. J numbers, you have got to be kidding? Unreal.

    Let’s not mention that while we are busy putting in a commercial park, folks in the city of CDA and most likely all of Kootenai County do not even have functional 9-1-1 services in certain areas. Don’t mention that government botched registration updates and the recall rejected some of those signatures due to 9-1-1 updates.

    Heck no, that is not an issue. If all a person can do is dial the phone because they are choking or having a heart attack, well – good luck. The county “can” update your voter registration without your permission. There is no law that says they can rightfully do that, but they do it anyway because they “can” – and well, there is no law that says they can’t. That is how it works in Idaho.

    This recall was just too close for comfort – that cannot happen again, time to tweak the Idaho Constituion and manipulate a few laws to tighten it all up. Yep, that is how it works in Idaho.

    I suspect at this rate, we will see posted security guards at the polling places so we do not want to vote at all.

    Comment by Stebbijo — July 15, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

  2. Stebbijo,

    Yes, I was kidding about the j-numbers — but not by much.

    Comment by Bill — July 15, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

  3. I think you are right that the recall laws need no major changing Bill. I also think you are overstating the purpose of the Press editorial. To me they are pointing out, correctly, that there is confusion regarding the number of days allowed to collect signatures by the petitioners. In addition, it might be good to adjust the numbers so you don’t need MORE voters signing the petitions than the total tallied in the last election. Maybe 75 % or some more realistic number. recalls are not all that expensive when compared to the possible price paid on projects like McEuen.

    I think the Press editorial was balanced overall even though I disagree that recalls need malfeasance to proceed. I think dissatisfaction is enough reason.

    Comment by Randy_Myers — July 15, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

  4. Randy,

    The Press failed to critically analyze how the 75-day non-issue was caused to become an issue because the City and the County Attorney did not want the recall to succeed. There was no confusion until they created it. The confusion could have been ended definitively had the County gone forward with the petition for declaratory relief. The County did not, because the County Attorney and the City did not want that question timely and definitively answered. I was very disappointed that County Clerk Cliff Hayes went along with that.

    That the Press would prefer to have a judge rather than the qualified electors decide the merits of a recall is no surprise at all.

    The problems with Idaho’s election laws have begun to be documented in the 2009 City election contest and the 2012 recall. How many more honest citizens will need to stick their necks out to try and do the job that our city, county, state, and federal officials, including legislators and the courts, refuse to do? If Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel were to somehow be resurrected today, they would bypass Nevada and come to the lawless state of Idaho to create their haven for criminals. And some of our public officials at all levels would welcome them!

    Comment by Bill — July 15, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

  5. It is less that the mere existence of ‘confusion’…………. It is more a matter of interpretation and the timing of interpretation. When decisions are enacted in clear fashion to intentionally impede the purpose of one party and to the clear advantage of other parties, they should be suspect. What occurred, literally, was changing the rules of the game in the 1st inning and when the outcome seemed clear, changing them again in the 9th inning. Other state recalls had been conducted where the operative laws that applied were not so abruptly shifted about to hamper or favor any participant. What happened in this recall was not kosher. It was more than amateur naivite. At best it should be labeled crass political manipulation.

    Comment by Wallypog — July 16, 2012 @ 6:50 am

  6. Cleaning up Idaho is a monumental task. It’s one I doubt the typical legislature has the collective IQ to handle, let alone the political desire to give the people real power.

    Comment by Dan — July 16, 2012 @ 8:34 am

  7. Dan,

    There already exists an entity that is charged with the responsibility of keeping the entire Idaho Code up to date:

    Idaho Code Commission

    PO Box 388
    Boise ID 83701

    Mission: To keep current so far as practicable, a compilation known as the Idaho Code. Appointed by the Governor. Title 73, Chapter 2, Idaho Code.

    Daniel Bowen, Member
    Rick Goodson, Member
    Jeremy Pisca, Member
    Max Sheils, Executive Secretary
    Ben Ysursa, Ex-Officio Secretary

    ********************

    Code Commission Meeting
    September 6th 2012
    9:30 a.m.
    Secretary of State Conference Room

    Agenda will be forthcoming.

    Comment by Bill — July 16, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  8. “The Press failed to critically analyze how the 75-day non-issue was caused to become an issue because the City and the County Attorney did not want the recall to succeed.”

    So who called in the favor from ysursa?

    Comment by concerned citizen — July 16, 2012 @ 6:27 pm

  9. We don’t know — for sure.

    Comment by Bill — July 16, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

  10. At the end of each legislative session, laws are published by chapter number in a hard bound volume entitled, SESSION LAWS with the year of the session in bold black outline. The codifiers (a publishing house) then enter the Session Laws into the correct places in the Code. As I remember, The Idaho Code Commission is tasked to be certain the laws are correctly placed into the proper section of The Idaho Code.

    Comment by Gary Ingram — July 18, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

  11. Gary,

    Thank you.

    If the Code Commission’s duties are limited to making sure “Tab A” has been inserted into “Slot A,” then who is responsible for making sure the various titles, chapters, and sections are current and consistent with legislation and case law?

    Comment by Bill — July 18, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

  12. Bill,
    Definitely not ysursa. He is just a bigger pawn for the good ole boys.

    Comment by concerned citizen — July 18, 2012 @ 9:51 pm

  13. Bill, It is more than the Tab A thing. It includes your additional tasks mentioned. If a citation, for example, is not present or misplaced, when discovered it comes to the Code Commission for action, I believe.

    Comment by Gary Ingram — July 18, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

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