It’s always the right time to wonder

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Kootenai County Commissioner Marc Eberlein had the audacity to wonder, in public, no less, if the prospect of privatizing the Solid Waste Department might be worth looking into.

The commissioner probably isnít going to find traction for that particular notion because itís a wrong target. In many peopleís view, Solid Waste is solid gold when it comes to giving Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer decent bang for their garbage buck, rendering good service for reasonable fees, and in this case with excellent long-range planning. No, picking on Solid Waste isnít the best idea but before ridicule runs rampant, letís look at the more important process.

One of the qualities voters should demand of public officials is a willingness to peer into even the most sacrosanct governmental operations and have the guts to ask, ďIs this the best we can do?Ē A certain degree of skepticism toward status quo ó determination to scrutinize the same olí in a new light ó isnít just fodder for good leadership; itís the foundation of innovation. Improvement is impossible without it.

A routine failure of elected officials is to spend, spend, spend when the economy is roaring along, which it just so happens to be doing right now. Departmental belt tightening seemingly is reserved for recessions only ó although in government, it rarely happens even then. But you get the idea.

When an elected official is inclined to poke and prod budgets, risking wrath when the reward just might be righteous for citizens, you can certainly question the motivation. You can also reject the proposed solution. But the process itself is noble, and taxpayers would be better served if this kind of poking were the rule rather than the exception.

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