Commentary: Lofty Resolutions for Local Governments

By Beacon Staff

The New Year is an opportunity we set aside to make lofty goals. Work out. Cut down on the alcohol. Eat fewer cheese fries. We make and break these promises each year. So, instead of again feeling guilt-ridden, I will provide resolutions for our city and county governments. I hope they enjoy them.

Fewer and fewer people believe the U.S. 93 bypass will ever come to fruition. And who can blame them? It has been talked about for years while little visible progress has been made. Sure, a few million dollars here and there has been secured. But that is trumped by what we see in downtown Kalispell, which is increasingly choked by traffic. So, while no one can expect bypass completion by 2008, at least build something – an off ramp, a bridge, anything that says, “Told you this is underway.” It will make waiting for it a little more bearable.

Staying on the subject of motor vehicles, Whitefish recently unveiled its plans for a parking garage. Bozeman, for that matter, has one as well. Yet working in downtown Kalispell, my employees still must play the parking game (move their vehicle every two hours or pay upwards of $2 a day), because to land a parking permit you have to get on a waiting list. Downtown won’t improve if the people who work and shop there have no place to park. Let’s make some concrete plans to build a garage, whether cutting a deal with Valley Bank or constructing it in the KM Building parking lot. We need to park.

Regarding Bucky Wolford: Approve his mall if all that is really holding it up is stoplights. While one can debate the need of more strip malls north of Kalispell, Wolford has jumped through the necessary hoops to get his project approved.

To the north, in Whitefish, something must be done about the “doughnut.” There is a better way to preserve the “character” of the city without the city council wielding power over people on the outskirts of town who don’t get to vote in city elections. Allow these people to vote for elected officials or on whether they want to be annexed. Or else, it’s a situation that borders on taxation without representation – at least restrictions without representation, which is just as bad.

And Whitefish, please stop sweating the small stuff. So the grocery store wants to expand. The council looks bad when a nice edition is slowed down by bureaucracy for bureaucracy’s sake. Another example is the sign ordinance. The hospital, of all entities, shouldn’t have to argue to break the ordinance. If someone has a heart attack and can’t find the emergency room, a bigger sign is warranted.

In Columbia Falls, even if you’re happy with the current administration, run for office anyway. When every city council member ran unopposed in the last election, it appeared that the populace there is indifferent, which it’s not. Competitive races at least bring pertinent issues to the forefront.

And finally, in Bigfork, it’s time to figure out where the town’s storm water drains. Several county officials have already worked hard to address this issue, but you need to find money to study where these rabbit holes end – especially since many of them end in the lake.

That felt good. It’s a lot easier giving others advice than yourself. Happy New Year.