Community, Laws, Ordinances & Regulations

Fair Representation on the County Board of Health?

Last week, we asked if the County Board of Health was a fair representation of the county. We’ve looked at how people are distributed in the county before, in “Searching Lincoln County Data” and “If LCHS District were a County” and have mostly compared high school districts (which is a handy way of splitting the county into three).

Splitting the Board of Health into representation by high school district:

High School District% of County Population% of Vote on Health Board
Libby50 %57.1 %
Eureka (LCHS)32 %28.6 %
Troy18 %14.3 %

Considering things in terms of the high school districts makes for a much fairer picture than looking at them in terms of Libby, Eureka and Troy- but three members of the board do represent Libby, Eureka and Troy, specifically. There are only three members (plus one county commissioner) available to represent the rest of the county.

Comparing the representation of Eureka, Libby and Troy to that of the rest of the county leaves a rather different picture:

Area% of PopulationBoard Representation
Eureka + Libby + Troy23.1 %Minimum of 3/7, or 42.9 %
The Rest of the County76.9 %Maximum of 4/7, or 57.1 %

Note that those are minimum and maximum values. The board is structured so that Eureka, Libby and Troy each get to appoint a representative, with the remaining 4 appointed by the County Commissioners. It is impossible, under the current structure, for Eureka, Libby and Troy to have less than 42.9% combined representation on the board.

Of course, as was evident in last week’s article, this is a fairly good deal for Troy and Eureka; Troy, with only 4.7% of the county population is guaranteed 14.3% of the vote on the board. Eureka, with 5.2% of the county population gets the same. Libby, at 13.2% is only slightly under represented. (Of course, these are minimums. Nothing says the county commissioners can’t appoint four Libby residents to the board…)

The Lincoln County Board of Health next meets on the 13th of January. The agenda, when available, should be posted on the county website along with the zoom link.

Community

Board Member representing 4.7% of County Proposed County-Wide Grading of Businesses on Mask Compliance

How does someone representing 4.7% of the county end up proposing something for the entire county (with 14.3% of the voting power)? To examine that, we’ll look at the County Board of Health. But, if you’re more interested in what Mr. Seifert had to say about giving businesses A/B/C/D ratings, watch the video or read about the meeting!

Is the Lincoln County Board of Health a fair representation of Lincoln County? Are some sections of the county better represented than others? Under-representation has been a common complaint, and with Board Member Jim Seifert of Troy proposing county wide grading of businesses, it’s worth looking at.

Mr. Seifert is the Board Member appointed to represent Troy. In 2010 (alas, no 2020 census data yet) the area he represents had a population of 938. That’s 4.7% of the 19,980 people living in Lincoln County.

If representation on the County Board of Health were distributed evenly, by population, we would expect Mr. Seifert to have 4.7% of the vote. However, as one of a seven member board, he has 14.3% of the vote.

Looking at the Health Board as a whole (using the information available on the county website) we see:

Area% of County PopulationMembers on Board of Health% of Vote on Board of Health
Troy4.7%1 ( Jim Seifert)14.3 %
Eureka5.2%1 (Debra Armstrong)14.3 %
Libby13.2%4 (Jan Ivers, Laura Crismore, Sara Mertes, George Jamison)57.1 %
Elsewhere76.9 %Josh Letcher (West Kootenai) 14.3 %
Locations for members were taken from the phone book when not stated on the county’s website

The Board of Health doesn’t represent the population of Lincoln County evenly. Far more of the vote is associated with “urban” areas than rural.

The Board of Health, with three members designated to represent the urban areas, is designed to unequal in representation. That’s 42.9 % of the votes on the Board of Health going to represent 23.1% of the population!

The remaining board members are one county commissioner and three appointed as county representatives. Could the board be more equal, with respect to the rural areas? Definitely.

But what about regions? Is North county represented fairly? Is it possible for the board to represent the county fairly? Could the board be designed so that it did? Next week!