Choice on the Ballot

People like Bullock, Fox and Lindeen have proven themselves as worthy stewards of public lands

By Mike Jopek

If we choose to sit out the election citing distaste for national politicking, there’s a strong likelihood that Republicans gain control of our state land board. The Board of Land Commissioners manages 5.2 million acres of our state public lands for the benefit of public education.

Three of the five members on the public lands commission are running for another term on the board.  Gov. Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox and Auditor Monica Lindeen seek to continue managing our state public lands.

When it comes to protecting our state public lands, keeping timber and agriculture moving or generating big amounts of revenue for our public schools, this bipartisan team got it done.

State lands generated over $109 million last year while increasing the state public lands permanent fund to nearly $615 million. That’s great news for public schools and timber workers who last year harvested 53 million board feet of timber from our state public lands. The vast bulk of this timber harvest is from the northwest portion of our state, in places like the Flathead.

Bullock, Fox and Lindeen offer reliable support of the public lands conservation and recreation projects surrounding Whitefish. They’ve found permanent solutions for Kalispell redevelopment projects like the Kidsports center across from Flathead Valley Community College.

If voters enjoy the new recreation and conservation opportunities occurring throughout the Flathead in places like Bigfork or the north shore of the lake, give thanks to those making it happen. That’s people like Bullock, Fox, and Lindeen.

More locally and in the north valley, is political newcomer Melissa Hartman who seeks the open seat replacing retiring state Sen. Bruce Tutvedt. Hartman is one hard worker with a focus of kids, the local economy, and community.  She’s smart and works well with others.

Whitefish voters won’t find a more inspirational candidate than Hartman, who says that good governance can make a difference in people’s lives.

If Whitefish voters stay home next month or choose not to return today’s mail-in ballots Hartman’s opponent, Rep. Keith Regier, will become the next state senator representing Whitefish.

During my time in Helena, I served with Regier. Regier, over my fervent opposition, helped pass a property tax reappraisal law that yielded big tax bills for Flathead homeowners. Regier opposed each of those conservation and recreation efforts that Sen. Dan Weinberg brought forward to protect the public lands surrounding our towns.

More recently Regier successfully led the House majority to oppose the final statewide infrastructure bill and unsuccessfully tried to block healthcare for people earning minimum wage.

Regier says he wants to eliminate the ability of municipalities like Kalispell to permit concealed weapons and a minimum wage increase for places like Whitefish is a burden.

Even after all my years of observing and serving in politics, I still believe that government can be good. Local and state government offers the best promise and is as good as the people voters choose to elect.

It’s easy to be cynical about politics. I get that; many aren’t overtly enthused about the top of the ticket options. For me, that’s a cheap excuse not to vote.

If we as Montanans value equality, fairness, and justice or if we simply seek better days ahead, then those choices are on todays’ ballot, just down ticket.

People like Bullock, Fox and Lindeen have proven themselves as worthy stewards of public lands. Recall, not too long ago, the Judy Martz administration came to Whitefish indicating it wanted to dispose of some of the best state public lands surrounding town.

Melissa Hartman offers a refreshing opportunity for Whitefish voters to work on things that matter in our everyday lives. Yet she cannot serve unless we turnout and vote.

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