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Closing Range

Dissing the Franchise

Commentary: Closing Range

When you read this, the results from Super Tuesday should be in with the major parties settling on their guy or gal. I’m gonna have some fun here and put on my Great Carsoni swami hat:

On the D side: Hillary Clinton. The Democratic establishment has too much vested in her and Bill to take a chance on the charismatic-yet-fluffy Barack Obama. On the R side (I’m an R) it’ll be Mitt “Flip Mc” Romney. He’s tall and has better hair than Hillary, and that’s important.

I’ll probably be wrong, but wasn’t that fun?

Here’s what isn’t fun: Flip isn’t my guy. Like most Americans, I had no chance to vote for whom I wanted. Frankly, I can’t remember the last time I did, if ever.

As a snoose-chewing, NRA-lifer, leave-me-alone “old” Westerner, I was hoping an old-West “friendly” candidate would hang on long enough. Duncan Hunter had the best “pro-West” voting record in my view, but he went nowhere. After Hunter came Fred Thompson, sorta. Who went. Barely.

As an example of the profound depth of consideration given Western issues by the survivors, one candidate Web site brags he is “against using tax dollars to subsidize logging in National Forests.” He’s also a member of the Green Scissors Coalition, led by U.S. PIRG (founded by Ralph Nader) and Friends of the Earth, founded by David Brower after he was run out of the Sierra Club for being too extreme. The candidate? Ron Paul.

On the other side of the coin, the Left thinks of West/rural issues mainly in terms of “40 senators represent only 11 percent of the population.” In the wake of the Las Vegas Democratic debates and Nevada caucus, historian Patty Limerick (who is about as emerald green as spring grass) complained the Democratic hopefuls covered regional issues “only in the most perfunctory way.”

The presidential race makes me wonder if voting matters at all … but at the local level, some people are being painfully reminded that it does.

In 2005, Flathead County handed planning jurisdiction for the rural Whitefish “doughnut” over to the Whitefish planning board and city council. I had a feeling then that despite all the yaff about cooperation and comity, city entities would go nuts with their new power over residents who cannot “vote back.”

I was right. The Critical Areas Ordinance and Whitefish growth policy are twin outrages. Even more outrageous is the lack of redress for those subject to these documents. For example, doughnut resident Robbie Holman can’t sit on the county Planning Board because of where he lives. Given the makeup of the Whitefish council, there’s not a snowflake’s chance in heck Holman will ever be picked for the Whitefish planning board. He can’t vote for council members in the first place, nor can he even run.
Granted, doughnut residents are not taxed. Yet. However, the argument that city services are used by doughnutters is specious on its face. City police do not answer crime calls outside Whitefish city limits, for one thing.

The city’s proposal to address this fundamentally unjust issue of regulation without representation falls way short. The “township” scheme proposes allocating a whopping two seats to the doughnut while the city retains six “untouchables,” plus the mayor. Is 3-to-1 reasonable? Do the math: A bit over 7,700 people live in Whitefish, and about 4,800 in the doughnut, roughly 8 to 5. No wonder rural Whitefish residents who wanted nothing to do with the city now want even less.

In a strange way, doughnutters are like the West at large. Against 75,000 residents of greater Flathead County, the desires of 4,800 doughnutters mean relatively little, even if voted as a bloc. Without a vote, they mean nothing at all.

The more important and intrusive government becomes in our lives, the less our votes seem to matter.

What happens when we can’t vote at all? Well, I guess that explains why, at the Republican Feb. 5 caucus, I voted anyway. Lousy as it was, I still had a choice.

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