Opinion

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Uncommon Ground

Your Boards

Wherever you live in the valley, it’s local people who make stuff happen

Over the past month I’ve focused some on local governments and how regular people across the valley run our city councils and school boards. This year’s elections occur in May for school boards and November for city councils.

It’s big year to declare your candidacy for office. Our government is only as good as the locals offering leadership.

I ran many past campaigns and agree it takes plenty of effort to win elections in swing districts.

Beyond elected offices, our local governments offer good opportunities to lead. Throughout the school boards and city or county governments our system offers many leadership duties in the form of volunteer boards that run the show or make recommendations on how best to move forward.

These are committees whose membership is largely appointed by the governing jurisdictions. These boards are places where locals can lead without running for office. They serve as a vital part of our democracy.

I’ve participated in plenty of local committees. These commissions offer extended opportunity to listen, advise and act. Our neighbors and fellow citizens are doing work that matters.

For Whitefish, the Architectural Review Committee reviews the standards of commercial, industrial or public buildings, as well as duplex townhouses or some residential projects within city limits. This public committee was formed after some buildings were erected on the strip into town.

Whitefish has the oldest planning jurisdiction in the state of Montana. It’s changed a lot over time but the Planning Board still offers a much-needed public venue to the multitude of land use changes within town. This committee can make stuff happen and has lots of say about how our town grows.

The Whitefish Lakeshore Protection Committee is directed to review and comment on the construction activities abutting the lake.

The Park Board enjoys management and control of all public parks within Whitefish. It’s a powerful committee with two subcommittees. Both the Pedestrian and Bicycle Path Advisory Committee and the Tree Advisory Committee provide valuable information and feedback to the board.

The Whitefish Strategic Housing Steering Committee reports to the city, helping update a housing plan for 2020. The committee reviews and revises strategies with a goal of attracting more housing affordable to workers living in town.

The Whitefish Tourism Master Plan Steering Committee will develop a much-needed tourism master plan, promoting a long-term vision for a sustainable local economy.

The Highway 93 South Corridor Steering Committee is working through a planning process for the southern highway entrance into town.

The Whitefish Housing Authority has a public role established under state law with membership appointed by the mayor. It’s the only Housing Authority in the valley and has a big jurisdiction. The board works on issues facing homeowners and renters. This can be an active board.

There are plenty of other places for locals to volunteer and help run our towns.

Whitefish has a Library Board, Resort Tax Committee, Impact Fee Advisory Committee, Police Commission, Whitefish Convention and Visitor Bureau Committee as well as the Whitefish Climate Action Plan Standing Committee. There are also public committees for public things like for land use appeals and adjustments.

Plenty of public committees have served our towns well. Some have come and gone as our towns have grown and prospered over time. Whitefish has a long practice of public engagement through hearings and committees. Columbia Falls and Kalispell share this value.

Wherever you live in the valley, it’s local people who make stuff happen. We may not want to run for public office like a school board or city council, but there are plenty of opportunities where kind individuals can help steer our governments to make things better.

Big decisions are made everyday in our valley. Our boards need you.