Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Really Brought Down Mayor Chase?

As a follow-up to yesterday's post about the defeat of Mayor Chase here in Pocatello, let me address something about Chase's failed race that makes it unique and not necessarily a sign of the times, political or otherwise.

Adam Graham took the defeat of Mayor Roger Chase as an opportunity to warn Mayor Dave Bieter of Boise that his upcoming 2011 race may come down to fiscal conservatism beating out progressive policy. Certainly fiscal conservatism may play a part in Bieter's race a year from now, there's no way to tell this far out, but it most certainly did not play a part in Chase's ousting. Why? Because Mayor Chase is a fiscal conservative. I don't pretend to know anything about Boise politics and the workings of the city council there, Adam Graham would be wise to not make baseless comments about Pocatello politics from his clearly western Idaho vantage point.

If today's Idaho State Journal is any indication of how the community has reacted to Tuesday's vote to oust Chase, I am not the only resident or Democrat shocked by the turnout. In fact, Brian Blad, Roger Chase's challenger, admits to being surprised by his victory. He openly admits that he gave himself a one in ten chance of winning the race. The Journal quotes councilmen Roger Bray and Gary Moore as being shocked as well. The paper's headline--"Shock and Awe"--isn't much of an overstatement. The election of Brian Blad is a shock to everyone in Pocatello this week, save a few Blad supporters, but despite the shock, it has nothing to do with fiscal conservatism.

Over the past few months, this community has been at odds with the City of Pocatello because of a dog ordinance. Yes, a policy relating to dangerous, vicious dogs. The official policy contained in the City Code reads as follows:

A. Vicious Conduct By Animal Prohibited: The owner or custodian of any animal which commits any of the acts defined in this chapter as "vicious" may be cited for a misdemeanor and the animal control department may seize and impound the animal until the matter has been adjudicated. The conduct shall not be deemed vicious if the victim (person, domestic animal, or livestock) was committing a tort against the animal's owner/custodian, or committing a trespass or other tort on the premises of the animal's owner/custodian. Specifically prohibited are the following acts:

1. If unprovoked by teasing, taunting, or a threatening manner by any person, approaching said person in an apparent or perceived attitude of attack upon the streets, sidewalks, public grounds or places, common areas within subdivisions or mobile home or recreational vehicle parks, common grounds of apartment buildings, condominiums, or townhouse developments, or private property not solely owned or possessed by the owner or custodian of the animal; or
2. Biting, inflicting injury, assaulting, or otherwise attacking a human being or domestic animal or livestock without justifiable provocation.

B. Prohibited Animals: No person may own or harbor or have custodial care of any of the following types of vicious animals:

1. Any animal with a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to otherwise endanger the safety of human beings or domestic animals or livestock, unless restrained and/or confined as provided in section 6.04.060 of this chapter; or
2. Any animal which is used primarily or in part for the purpose of fighting, or any animal trained for fighting; or
3. Any dog which has been trained as an attack dog, except dogs used by law enforcement agencies.

C. Impoundment And/Or Destruction: Any animal whose owner has been found guilty of or entered a plea of guilty to the offense of vicious conduct by his/her animal is subject to impoundment and destruction. For a first offense, the court shall set the matter for sentencing and notify the office of the city attorney (prosecutor) of the date, time, and place of sentencing. The prosecutor may request that the court order the destruction of the animal. If the court determines that destruction is warranted, it shall issue an order authorizing any animal control officer or police officer to seize the animal and impound it for destruction if the animal has not been voluntarily surrendered by five o'clock (5:00) P.M. on the date of sentencing.

D. Subsequent Violations: Upon the second conviction or plea of guilty to vicious animal conduct or a first offense of allowing a vicious animal to be at large, regardless of the form of the current or any prior judgment, the court may dispense with notification to the city attorney's office. The court shall order the destruction of the animal.

E. Owner Liability: An adult owner/custodian of a vicious animal shall be liable for all injuries and property damage sustained by any person or by any animal caused by an unprovoked attack by any vicious animal, plus all costs, civil judgments or penalties, criminal fines, final terms, veterinary fees, shelter impound fees, and any other penalties and orders. In the event that the owner/custodian of the vicious animal is a minor, the minor's parent or guardian shall be so liable.

F. Failure To Surrender Animal: It shall be a separate offense to fail to surrender an animal for impoundment and/or destruction. (Ord. 2838 § 2, 2008: Ord. 2764 § 3, 2005: Ord. 2667 § 2, 2001)
The controversy that has emerged regarding the city's vicious dog policy has pitted dog owners and animal rights activists against the City of Pocatello and Mayor Roger Chase has stood firmly in favor of the city's policy. If I am remembering correctly, the policy came into question after an employee with the city's animal control services was bitten and the vicious dog in question was put down. Pocatello, like many cities across the country, has for some time been the home to much discussion about pitbulls and other vicious dogs.

What do dogs have to do with the ousting of Pocatello's mayor? There is a fairly decent chance that those adamantly opposed to the city's policy voted against the mayor who supports the policy. Not only is this possible, it is probable. I say this because the only printed head-to-head comparison of Mayor Chase and Mr. Blad had to do with the vicious dog policy. Each candidate submitted an editorial to the local paper explaining why they support or oppose the city's policy. Despite taking heat from dog owners and animal rights activists here in town who believe the policy should include some type of rehabilitation for dogs who have attacked Pocatello residents, Mayor Chase did not back away from the city's policy and continued to support it through election day.

The quote Adam Graham used to reference Brian Blad's conservatism is the first time I've heard anything about Blad's politics. Blad's participation in the League of Women Voter's candidate forum prior to the election did little to solidify in my mind what Blad really believes about local governance and Pocatello in general. In fact, the statements made in the paper today by the likes of longtime, local conservative Evan Frasure speak to Blad's political views more so than anything Blad had said in the election. Blad is clearly conservative, something his Mormon, southern Idaho upbringing certainly influenced and he may have been taking advantage of the situation Mayor Chase found himself in politically by stating that if the people of Pocatello have a problem with a city ordinance, the ordinance should be reviewed, if not completely rewritten.

Today it is all the more obvious the role the dog ordinance has played in the ousting of Chase. Yesterday, Pocatello residents visited City Hall to complain about the ordinance and their presence forced the city's Animal Shelter Advisory Board to call an special meeting to open the floor for public comment on the policy.

The Idaho State Journal editorial board may have captured the shock of Mayor Chase losing the mayoral race perfectly when it stated today that "[t]he fact that [Chase] had a record with more feats than setbacks adds to the mystery of his undoing. Lesser politicians have won victories at the polls. How could Chase not only lose, but lose to someone with no record?" They go on to commend Chase for his service to this community, something every resident of Pocatello should be doing. We may not all agree with Chase's politics or even his support of the City Code, but we all should be able to agree that Roger Chase has been good for Pocatello and his leadership will be sorely missed.


Jessica said...

Winning a political campaign comes down to GOTV. Perhaps the answer lies there...? Or GOTV and the way the campaign was run from the beginning?

Alan B. Curtis said...

As a former candidate in this political race, I guess I am the only one who saw this coming. Everyone seems surprised. I knew I could have beaten Chase. That is, until Blad threw his hat in the race. I also knew if I had kept my name on the ballot, Blad and I would have split enough votes to push Chase into his third term. I took it upon myself to find out if Blad had the same goals in sight. I talked to Blad a number of times before I withdrew my candidacy. He's on point, and has my full support.

It is really as simple as this: Chase openly receives endorsements from the Democratic Party. The Republican Party will not support members of their party who are running in a capacity that is non-partisan. Therefore, Chase holds the upper hand in that aspect. He also has deep pockets for campaigning (which he didn't use for some reason). This goes to show everyone that Chase really thought he was safe from anyone running, and winning, against him. You do not need political experience to do what he is about to do. Why is this a foreign idea to so many people? Heck, that was one of the reasons I was running.

I don't think Chase has been "good" for Pocatello. I think Chase has been average for Pocatello. I would have run against him 4 years ago, had I not been deployed to Iraq. I also wouldn't classify him as an over-achiever. He has done "just enough" to get by. He never once talked face-to-face with me, or anyone in my sphere of influence for that matter. I guess you have to be a Democrat to hold/get his attention. That is upsetting. The word "politician" has been tainted and skewed so much that I have lost all respect for the majority of career politicians in office today (both Republicans and Democrats). That included Chase. Our Founding Fathers were true politicians. They brought honor and respect to the position and served the people . I have full confidence Blad will turn out to be one of Pocatello's best mayors.