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Dam Breaching
a Tricky Topic at Political Forum

by Sandra Lee
Opinion Letters, Lewiston Tribune, November 2, 2005

One of the few startling moments in Tuesday night's forum for Lewiston City Council candidates was when it appeared Daniel King might support breaching Snake River dams.

He knew as soon as it came out that he'd said the wrong thing, King said after the question-and- answer session for the 10 candidates ended a few minutes later. He meant to say "Do not breach the dams."

Some of the others weren't concise in their positions, either.

"I think it's out of our hands," said Garry Bush, 59. "It's a federal edict."

The majority of people support keeping the dams, said Charlotte Ash, 51, who bases her candidacy in part on trying to follow the wishes of the people. "If I'm wrong, (they) should tell me," she said.

Although dam removal is seen as a fish restoration issue, breaching would create a lot of disgruntled fisherman, Carol Reed, 59, said.

"I think we can have fish and dams," said Douglas Havens, 46.

The big drawdown of 1992 showed the rivers will never return to what they once were, said Jim Kluss, 46.

Advocating breaching would be political suicide, but keeping the dams means dealing with silt and raising the levee height, Dennis Ohrtman, 58, said.

Mark Arneson, 52, reminded listeners that although he once voted against a resolution to preserve the dams, it was only because he advocated staying neutral.

Only two of the 10 candidates, David Mosher, 26, and John Mock, 63, didn't address the dam issue.

The format of the forum put on by the League of Women Voters gave half the candidates a minute to answer a question, but the other half had the option of a 30-second response.

In the same way, Reed and Ash didn't respond to a question about whether they preferred the present council/manager form of city government or would like a strong mayor elected at the polls instead of by the council.

Some of the others answered with waffles. "I probably could live with either," Mock said.

Both have merits, King added.

Bush, Arneson and Ohrtman said they like the council/manager form. A professional manager can bring experience the council may not have, Bush said.

Mosher and Havens said they prefer the elected mayor form. "As long as it's a good mayor, Mosher added.

It's bad if it becomes a popularity contest, said Kluss, who added that having a hired city manager has worked well for Lewiston.

Asked about desirable qualifications in a new city manager to succeed Janice B. Vassar, who is retiring soon, most spoke of experience as chief executive officers handling multimillion dollar budgets. "Character and integrity," Mosher said. Responsibility and accountability for decisions made, Havens said.

Support appeared unanimous for a new library, with some reservations about the ability to pass a bond levy.

"I think it's going to be a tough sell because of the extra," Kluss said, referring to the cost of the property at Bryden Avenue and 10th Street. In the previous two unsuccessful attempts to pass bonds, the property was being donated.

Some also had reservations about getting the two-thirds majority required by state law, but Havens said that's an OK standard because it's a taxpayer issue. He questioned the present council's decision to put up $20,000, half from city funds and half from donations, to hold the land until Nov. 17, after which it would be forfeited.

Anybody with strong feelings about that should go to next Monday's council meeting, Havens said.

King suggested scaling back the plan previously presented to voters, and Mock said corporate sponsors and influential families should be asked to pitch in to get the cost to taxpayers down.

With the Idaho National Guard coming home from Iraq, Arneson suggested asking veterans organizations to band together to create a veterans memorial library.

Several spoke in favor of consolidating the city's two water systems, one run by the city and the other by the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District, if all the legal hurdles could be managed.

Even so, King said, "I'm not sure it's really a good idea."

Reed, whose husband is on the LOID board, said the Orchards is growing and the supply of irrigation water diminishes every summer. Eventually, LOID will have to go to the river for water or the city will have to take over, she said.

There was no sniping among the candidates, and Ash took part of her introduction to thank Mosher, the youngest and probably least known of the candidates, for having the courage to run.

Mosher acknowledged his outsider status as representing the young and the poor who don't vote because they don't feel they are represented in government.

"I just want to make Lewiston better," Mosher said. One of the easiest ways to help the community is to help the poor, he said.

Kluss, Bush and King spoke in favor of preserving neighborhoods and keeping commercial development in its own places. Ohrtman said 30 years ago people were buying houses near the college hoping to make money because of the proximity to the growing school, and still the city professes to be surprised at its expansion.

The two-hour forum will be rebroadcast on cable channel 13 at 9 a.m. today, 9 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday.

Sandra Lee, of the Tribune
Dam Breaching a Tricky Topic at Political Forum
Lewiston Tribune, November 2, 2005

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