Get a Grip

With no political checks and balances, Republicans can enact any law or policy they choose for Montanans

By Mike Jopek

Yesterday I hauled a tractor bucketload of coarse sand from the shrunken pile in the field and filled the winter buckets at the farmhouse. Ice formed on the steps making slippery walking. It seemed early, but farm life has taught me to expect the unexpected and persist with the work.

Montanans are hardworking people. Day after day citizens go to work and earn an honest wage. Not much stops the work. Even during the sickness that enveloped the planet, Montana keeps working.

I respect that a big portion of our economy is retirees. I hope to join that elite status one day. It doesn’t feel soon at farmer wages. My best friend showed me a cartoon, joked it was us, of an old lady using a walker to poke holes into the ground as the old man plopped seed garlic into the dibbled earth.

I laughed, then sighed. A large segment of workers aren’t feeling the economic boom that’s occurring in the Flathead. A land boom it is – the construction people are lucky. They’re busy making good money, with many employees working outdoors, where the contagious virus is less likely to spread.

The finance, insurance and real estate people are doing well. It’s amazing how many new trucks and fancy all-wheel-drives are on the streets of town. Often, I long for that new rig. Yet having come from a family of gear heads, I value the manual labor of replacing an exhaust system, putting on the winter studs, or swapping out a bad brake caliper.

The people who bang the nails, turn the wrenches, teach the kids, pour the coffee, flip the pancakes, sling the beer, code the software, and toss the pizza work as hard as we on the farm and are as devoted as the nurses and doctors who treat the ever-increasing number of sick locals.

It’s good to see the job the Kalispell Regional Healthcare has done in enacting its drive-thru COVID-19 testing. That’s good news for business, valley wide. I know many workers who’ve driven thru, some with a positive test, some negative, as results have been returned in a matter of 48 hours.

It would be helpful if the three Flathead County commissioners would treat the spread of the contagion with the respect that it warrants. Their continual refusal to accept that they made a grave error by packing the local health board with ideologues erodes public confidence and stymies the work of the local health department.

A lot of downtown businesses have sputtered this summer. Some closed for the winter. Others must remain partially open to pay the rent and keep workers active. It’s a messy situation. The lack of leadership from the commission is astounding. I hold out a lot of faith that the newly elected member will add some good old-fashioned common sense.

Montana turned beet red during the past election, with Republicans to run the state from top to bottom. They control the state Legislature, governor, auditor, superintended of public instruction, secretary of state, public service commission and attorney general.

With no political checks and balances, Republicans can enact any law or policy they choose for Montanans. It’s one-party governing, just like the Flathead. They insist that they’ll grow the economy. I hope they do and lower taxes for working people. People need money to pay the bills that just keep showing up like clockwork.

Unlike Florida, where the people enacted a $15 minimum wage and then overwhelmingly elected Republicans, local and statewide workers in Montana are unlikely to see significant wage increases.

Fortunately, wintertime in the Flathead offers an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors while continuing the struggle and work of safely providing for ourselves and loved ones.

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