Opinion

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Guest Column

First, the Doughnut. Next, Wyoming!

Guest Column

Maybe Montana should take over zoning and planning for Wyoming. We Montanans care more about aesthetics and water quality than our southern neighbors. Undoubtedly, the Cowboy State will be happy that we do all the hard work. I mean, just look at us compared to them.
We’re beautiful and they’re screwing up their environment with all that drilling and fracking. Yes, Wyoming will be much better off after Montana takes over.

If some not-so-bright Wyoming folks object, we’ll explain that we know better. If those unenlightened masses demand the right to vote for those who govern them, we Montanans will vote to stop them. And if all that fails, we’ll sue Wyoming in a court packed with Montanans that, hopefully, think like us.

Sound familiar?

The “doughnut case” is far more about civil rights than it might seem. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely” observed historian Lord Acton. This truism applies here. The ink was barely dry on the 2005 Interlocal when the Whitefish City Council, immune from all political backlash from non-voting doughnut residents, imposed on the doughnut self-serving regulations regarding development, lighting, and infill. (Wyoming, fear not, we’ll never do that to you.)

And now Whitefish is appealing Judge David Ortley’s ruling that returned jurisdiction to the county. You know why? Because four city council members either 1) don’t understand or 2) don’t care that they are trampling on doughnut residents’ basic civil rights. Either is alarming.

They offer several justifications. First, the county won’t promise Whitefish that it can do whatever it wants to with doughnut property. Second, they claim Whitefish does a better job at zoning and planning. Third, they have heard that some doughnut residents actually prefer Whitefish’s rule. (Don’t worry Wyoming, if you’ll just sign here, we promise to protect you forever. Even if you do have to give up a few rights, they didn’t mean much anyway.)

Sadly, these are the same arguments that oppressive governments have made throughout history. The elite Whitefish intelligentsia – the same folks that admirably defend the rights of so many others – have now decided to fight for hypocrisy in their own backyard. They had a choice. Acknowledge fundamental civil rights or thwart them. I had hoped to be surprised. But, those four Whitefish city councilors decided, in a meeting closed to the public, to continue to fight for power over their disenfranchised neighbors. So, look out Wyoming, you could be next!

Diane Smith is a member of the Whitefish City-County Planning Board.