The great, gray elephant was standing in the middle of Tuesday’s candidate forum at the Chetco Library in Brookings and no one — not even the League of Women Voters staff who selected the questions posed by citizens Tuesday night — addressed it.
The biggest issue that county commissioner candidates face isn’t jobs. It isn’t nickel mining. It isn’t why one candidate is better than their opponent. It isn’t homelessness or housing.
It’s the county budget — and the big question is: How will the candidates address the dire financial situation the county will face next year?
Granted, current commissioners made some strides in their attempts to address this by obtaining grants, spinning off departments into nonprofit organizations, improving our county parks (a phenomenal return on the investment, as it turned out), and a willingness by some commissioners to take dramatic pay cuts.
However, during Tuesday’s forum, the four county candidates — incumbent Susan Brown, Sue Gold, Ron Hedenskog and Court Boice — fielded questions such as, “How do you see the performing arts fitting into economic development?”
That is a gnat on that elephant’s hide. And, as usual, the audience heard platitudes.
Citizens already know “We’re going to have to do something drastic,” “develop more revenue streams,” do something about “economic development.”
Court Boice said he has a plan he’ll unveil — after he’s sworn in.
The exception was Gold, who reiterated her stance about a zero-based budget, starting from scratch and having departments justify their expenditures.
Please, candidates, don’t tell us you’re going to “talk with the people and see what they want.” No more surveys and poorly attended town halls. We’re at crunch time. Don’t tell us you plan to “work hard with your fellow commissioners to address the issue.” It hasn’t worked so far.
Tell us what you, personally, plan to bring to those budget discussions.
Tell us the hard-to-swallow details. Yes, it could be political suicide. Or it could be seen as courage under fire.
It’s not like the citizens don’t know “something” has to be done. The question is “How?”
The great, gray elephant is teetering precariously on the edge of the fiscal abyss.
Show us the plans to save it.