Uncommon Ground

War on Local

The attack on the local control of self-governing cities throughout the Big Sky is a direct assault on our state constitution

By Mike Jopek

The robins sung their telltale tune as light eased through the farmhouse windows. Soon the melodious song of the thrush would join the morning chorus. The sun hadn’t yet risen, though a glimmer of hope was on the northeastern horizon. 

These days, mornings are the only quiet time in the valley. The sound of progress has yet to wake the Flathead. Soon the hum of the highway joins the sounds of construction, jet skis, and aircrafts in the familiar grind to work days.

In a handful of months, Montana waged an all-out policy war on local control. The new governor repealed many local provisions, which housed workers, kept people safe during the pandemic, and allowed tourists to help pay the bill for local infrastructure.

Five months fresh into his job, Montana’s new governor repealed Missoula’s voter-ratified local option gas tax, which fixed the streets. The governor repealed the local mask mandate in Whitefish, which kept local business owners safe in a town that sees millions of visiting tourists. The governor repealed local housing ordinances enacted through years of community and business involvement in towns like Bozeman and Whitefish, the fastest growing areas of our state. 

Montana’s unprecedented and preemptive attack on the local control of self-governing cities throughout the Big Sky is a direct assault on our state constitution.

The worldwide pandemic makes the valley feel ever fuller as Montanan’s no-regulation, little-education approach to fighting the killer virus fosters a free-for-all when adventuring into the bustling downtowns full of visitors. 

Whitefish felt the safest in the Flathead, yet that was before the governor repealed all local ability to regulate public safety from the highly contagious communicable disease. It’s unfathomable why Montana hurt our small resort town, which had done an excellent job keeping locals out of the hospital.

The anti-vaccination attitude of the Flathead is pervasive. A meager quarter or our valley population was fully immunized as of last week. Soon COVID-19 may be replaced by COVID-21, a fictitious name, as a world full of disease mutations travel throughout a valley full of freedom-loving unvaccinated citizens.

The sickness travels via people. It’s brought here, it leaves here, much like every place on the planet where people migrate and spend money. And the Flathead, like the modern world, needs money to grease the gears of progress. 

Today, working people need plenty of money to survive. The leaders in Montana and Washington, D.C. insist there’s no inflation and locals don’t need higher wages. What planet do these knuckleheads live on? Have they priced anything recently? 

To the wealthy, whom Montana’s governor is luring into our state with top-tiered tax breaks, everything already must feel free anyway. For working-class locals, the price of food and gasoline has dramatically increased. Everything from new and used cars to lawnmowers to appliances has skyrocketed in cost with uncertain availability. 

The pump-price of diesel is high and the cost of fertilizer has spiked. Don’t even try to buy a 2-by-4 stick of softwood. Everything from airfare, vehicle insurance, to furniture is suddenly, shockingly overpriced.

For workers, the rent remains too high and wages too low. Any working-class home for sale is quickly gobbled up by cash, many well above asking price by out-of-state buyers. And we’re hardly ready for the gasoline shortages plaguing other states.

Come fall the sticker shock of property taxes will descend upon homeowners as our new governor failed to mitigate the dramatic market escalation due to the state’s periodic reappraisal.

Locals must find joy in safe gathering with trusted friends and family throughout our treasured valley. Enjoy the peace of the Great Outdoors in those far-away forestlands where the tire hum of the highway is barely audible. That’s the place where songbirds control the airwaves beyond dawn. 

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