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Stevens, Law among five candidates for Pocatello mayor

East Idaho Elects

POCATELLO — Idaho Sierra Law and Councilwoman Chris Stevens are two of the four challengers to incumbent Brian Blad for Pocatello mayor.

Blad was elected in 2009 and has had held the office for the past 12 years. He will also be challenged by David Worley and local businessman Sam Laoboonmi.

Although sent all five candidates the same eight questions, Stevens and Law were the only two to respond. To learn more about the candidates who did respond, read their responses below. Candidates were asked to keep their answers to 250 words or less for each question, and some responses were edited to abide by this requirement.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

STEVENS: I have served on the Pocatello City Council for two years and spent that time researching, talking with city staff, and digging under the surface of the information presented to us to really understand the issues and questions at hand.

I have lived in Pocatello for 13 years, having retired from Hawthorne Middle school as principal. I served as a middle school administrator for 20-plus years and worked in schools for nearly 35 years. I am involved in a variety of local volunteer efforts, including Rotary, Gateway Coalition for Change “Protect Public Access Roads” and “Sewer Johnny Creek” projects, Portneuf Resource Council, NAACP, Portneuf River clean-up and restoration, and the Elks. I have been the chair of the Johnny Creek Firewise Committee for 10 years.

I have a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts, a Master’s of Fine Arts, and a Ph.D. as well a various education credentials and certificates. I am an educator, and as such, I know how to think critically, analyze information, plan, and execute multi-faceted projects.

In another state, my school was awarded a $10,000 state recognition grant for improvement in math achievement after following a data-based plan I implemented. I also wrote and executed a $1 million grant to support students from families with no training or school beyond 12th grade to ensure they succeeded in high school and went on to college or technical school.

LAW: My Name is Idaho Law. I am a publisher, investigative reporter, multi-discipline educator and scientist – project learning expert, nuclear health physics scientist. Writer, videographer, consultant to corporate government and non-government agencies, city, and state governments, local, state, and international. Also an active environmentalist with experience stateside and abroad interacting with an array of topics and issues.

What are your proudest accomplishments in your personal life or career?

STEVENS: I founded and built a non-profit company in the Midwest 45 years ago that is still strong and carrying on the work I started. I am also very satisfied to have served students and their families as a member of the public school system for more than 20 years.

LAW: I am grateful that God gave me the talents and gifts to directly help save many thousands of lives, if not millions of people and children that I have directly helped to save through my educational, publishing and applied science awareness campaigns! My work in bridging the gap in Cross Straits Relations between China and Taiwan, as well as the other work with Asian countries cross-cultural education and Mexico. Solving the tobacco companies’ dilemma on how the uranium got into the cigarettes and the remedies thereafter — stopping the use of radioactive fertilizers on eastern USA agricultural fields and farms!

What are the greatest challenges facing your community?

STEVENS: Our greatest challenge is that we have no long strategic long-range plan to guide us as we move forward. We have no spending plan that flows from the strategic plan to focus our spending and ensure we are planning ahead and setting clear priorities. Because we have no delineated priorities, we have haphazard spending. Because we have no focused spending plan, we have no organized way to set annual budgets. We spend taxpayers’ hard-earned money with no particular end goal in mind, and budgeting becomes a conflict-ridden battle of opinions about what/who should get funded rather than the fulfillment of organized priorities.

The core elements of a strategic plan need to include:

  • The state-required land and resource-use plan.
  • Individual department plans.
  • Decent-wage job development.
  • Right-sizing city personnel numbers humanely through retirement and internal transfers.
  • Reorganizing the city administrative structure to include a professional chief administrative officer to work hand-in-hand with the chief financial officer.
  • Developing a commercial and residential building plan that allows our community to grow and prosper while still protecting the quantity and quality of our drinking water and our beautiful natural surroundings.

LAW: The Great Pocatello Uranium materials clean-up, of Radioactive City, Pocatello, and Chubbuck (Chubnobyl), Idaho, and all the other eastern Idaho radioactive-contaminated cities, counties and national forests contaminated after the 1976 Teton Flood reclamation project. (INL is NOT Responsible for the catastrophes, but they knew and did nothing except ban the materials from the INL.) First at hand is the elemental processed uranium materials on and around the schools of the most radioactive Places in the world – where people and children live, work, attend schools, and businesses. Pocatello’s greatest challenge is creating an Idaho legacy that involves clean-up and NOT denial, cover-up, and do-not-tell policies.

How is your experience better suited to dealing with these unique challenges than your competitors?

STEVENS: I have a breadth of past experience that gives me substantial understanding of organizational operations, budgets and planning. I have built a nonprofit company from nothing to decades of sustainability. I have worked for 20-plus years as an administrator in educational systems funded by tax dollars. I have served for nearly two years on the Pocatello City Council, so I understand how our city works and where our strengths and weaknesses lie. I have worked on numerous volunteer projects and understand the needs of our city.

Our current mayor has had 12 years in which to enact his vision and overseen the expenditure of nearly $1 billion. At yet, Pocatello grew by only 3.8% over the last 10 years, has lost businesses on a regular basis, has added primarily low-paid jobs, and is now embroiled in a $21 million lawsuit over the Northgate TIF District.

LAW: All competitors have chosen felony misprision, and have never gone public with any of these government and public data information as they try desperately to separate themselves from their involvement creating this dilemma of atrocities to our children and citizens. Furthermore, I am here to save a university, sitting in the middle of the Most Radioactive City in the World by applying and expanding the technical and robotics core for the billions in clean-up by creating safe jobs and a safe community with a possible future.

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views?

STEVENS: I have knocked on virtually every door in this city over the past three years and have talked to citizens at their doors in every segment of our community. I have walked every neighborhood at least three times in the past three years, so I know which neighborhoods have crumbling sidewalks, no sidewalks, historic housing stock, mixed housing, new sub-division housing. I have listened to the stories of the people who live in all these neighborhoods and looked into their eyes as they spoke.

When I was a teacher and school administrator, I served every student and every family equally regardless of background or views. The goal was always to focus on the well-being of everyone in my school through accessibility, transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility.

Experience has shown me the best way to solve problems is to gather stakeholders with various perspectives at the table, examine the facts, define the issue needing solutions, identify possible solutions, evaluate the solutions, choose one, implement it and engage in a continuous process of evaluating the implementation results to determine adaptations as needed. There is no reason city government cannot follow the same collaborative plan providing all stakeholders are focused on the well-being of the city as a whole rather than on pushing their personal agendas – or the agendas of their influencers.

LAW: Everybody wants to have a future! Especially our children! They are those that are simply afraid, self-censoring, or culprits in the dilemma. Although you have the right to live with uranium materials, you do not have the right to endanger yours or anybody else’s children, as well as any visitors or guests without informing them. Essentially, the crimes are child endangerment, neglect and felony misprision. I will not represent trolls, deniers or any person or entity that disseminates disinformation and/or misinformation regarding the safety and health of our communities and children in these regards. Our common ground is a just and healthy survival, for ourselves and for our children.

What are your views regarding the role of the media in covering your city? How can you best work with local reporters to ensure coverage of the issues?

STEVENS: I believe the public has a right to know the facts. I believe the media should be devoted to divulging factual information without bias. I believe the media should not be influenced by the politics of corporate owners and large advertisers. I believe media should publish a clear mission statement, so they can be held accountable for implementing their stated purpose(s).

Media should be notified of agendas and city meetings to ensure they have ample time to cover noteworthy topics and should have access to necessary public records in a timely manner. Media should have a designated contact person within the mayor’s office to ensure easy, open access.

LAW: (I) am a reporter. And when the other private media do not report the facts and truths we will do our best to expose them. … Our media presence throughout Idaho and the USA greatly helps private media be more willing to publish the issues that need to be told, especially regarding our health, welfare, and future. Because if they do not, we will, and expose their misprision as well.

What measures, if any, do you believe your city should implement amid continued COVID-19 concerns?

STEVENS: The City Council discontinued the mask mandate. I voted in favor of that decision. We sat in a room full of unmasked citizens even though our mayor has used his executive power to declare masks mandatory in all city buildings. The city attorney and members of the Pocatello Police were present. When asked if the mask requirement for city buildings was going to be enforced, the mayor shrugged.

Police administration had previously informed City Council that the department would not enforce a mask mandate. Ordinances passed with no apparent intention of enforcement make a mockery of the law.

Citizens now have much more information and choices about how to protect themselves. Currently, health care establishments are enacting their own requirements. PCSD25 is the duly elected body responsible for COVID-related policies and practices in schools. The ISU governing board is responsible for COVID-related decisions at the university. Many private businesses are requesting customers wear masks. Many churches are following best practices. The essentials of the previous mask mandate are largely in place at a comparable level without city ordinance.

The Pocatello mask mandate did not dictate individual behavior within private residences. Therefore, regardless of government mandate, those who choose to take no COVID precautions are free to gather as they wish under whatever circumstances they find suitable.

Decisions regarding required vaccines will not originate at the city level and are, therefore, not within our jurisdiction. What private businesses and the federal government implement is within their jurisdiction – not the city’s.

LAW: Safety first! If you do not wear a mask during the spring, summer and fall here in Radioactive City, you will most likely join the 2 million annual USA cancer deaths while trying to live in the most leukemic cancer place in the world (Bannock County). But it is a choice, and one that if you do not consider the children, you can and should face the laws that apply regarding criminal child endangerment.

If you received a multimillion-dollar grant to use for the city in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

STEVENS: Pocatello needs a long-range plan with an accompanying spending plan, including prioritized projects and timelines. We have no such plan. Therefore, I would not spend a multimillion-dollar grant until we had a thoughtful, fully researched long-range strategic plan with spending priorities and timelines in place.

LAW: I and (we) are after the billions guaranteed for uranium clean-up here. Read the EPA hearings regarding these issues. The City should not be using millions of our tax dollars for trying to hide and cover up the uranium roads. That is a direct burden upon the already overtaxed and in many cases illegal taxing of contaminated properties, of which the city government has NEVER helped a single resident with their contaminated homes. The same applies to the Pocatello School Board of Trustees.

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