Kalispell Proud

The design in Kalispell is just what the downtown core needs

By Mike Jopek

Last year the U.S. Transportation Department notified Kalispell that it would not receive any federal assistance to revitalize the core of the city. In 2013, Flathead County applied for the TIGER grant to move the redevelopment of the rail park. It did not make the cut.

This year Kalispell was successful and grabbed a $10 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant.

Back in 2010 Whitefish received $3.5 million in federal TIGER money that helped modernize the downtown core to be more pedestrian friendly in a curb-to-curb reconstruction between Spokane and Baker avenues. Former Sen. Max Baucus and current Sen. Jon Tester were proponents as well as then Whitefish state Sen. Ryan Zinke.

These federal funds were great for Whitefish. Almost everyone thinks that downtown Whitefish is a grand place with business booming. Hopefully, the design in Kalispell is just what the downtown core needs to move it toward a thriving place for community and commerce to meet.

Tester has been a proponent of Kalispell projects for a long time. His persistence coupled with local dedication will finally bring this redevelopment forward. It’s been a long haul with Baucus originally helping seek the federal funds to relocate the future rail park.

Tester said that Kalispell landing the federal funds took three years, multiple letters, hours of time, and many meetings. Tester said that the Kalispell reconstruction is a “quality of life issue, in a place where quality of life is pretty damn good already.” Tester is right that when “you combine all those projects with this, it’s going to help this area withstand the next recession.”

The media reported that Congressman Zinke made a surprise appearance at the Kalispell ceremony talking about the work achieved when people work together. This stuck me as odd given that Zinke recently voted in Washington to cut TIGER grants by 80 percent for fiscal year ending in 2016.

The White House even wrote indicating that it would veto H.R. 2577 and strongly opposes reducing TIGER grant funding by 80 percent, or $1 billion. The White House wrote that the funding that the U.S. House and Zinke are trying to cut is “despite the fact that the program is vastly oversubscribed due to strong State and local interest, supports some of the most transformative highway, port, and transit projects in the United States, and helps State and local partner leverage public and private dollars.”

Zinke also voted against the last bipartisan budget agreement law that kept the nation from defaulting on our obligations and assured a level of public services through 2016. Services include things like TIGER money and keeping our military well funded, as we are involved in multiple operations worldwide.

Much of leadership requires governing, not simply campaigning. Governing is harder work; even newly elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan voted for the budget deal. Our nation needs leaders who actually vote for laws that help local communities like Kalispell and Whitefish prosper.

Politics is a peculiar mix of governing and campaigning. If Zinke wants into House leadership, he’ll have to realistically work in Washington with people like Tester, those in the other party and chamber of Congress, and vote on laws that fund services.

Tester gets bipartisanship and has voted on many laws that help govern. That takes political courage, as people like me are routinely vocal that our nation is not experiencing a faster rate of change.

Zinke has plenty of political leadership ability; I worked with him in the 2009 Montana Legislature and watched him work with former Gov. Brian Schweitzer in the 2011 session.

I’m hopeful that Zinke gets back into governing and campaigns less; he and Tester could get some really good stuff done for the rest of us.

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