One of the distinct pleasures of being an adult is realizing that municipal matters like parking, sidewalks, healthcare, emergency services, libraries, and schools are vitally important to your everyday life. Perhaps you’ve come to this understanding because your kids are in school or you’re curious about why certain city sidewalks just end as if cement ran out midway. I find that if you live in the Flathead Valley many of us are attuned to these matters and realize the importance local government plays in our daily life.
Before you gloss over this – and I know the temptation is strong because another perk of adulthood is not having enough time to do anything fun, so why bother reading about local politics when a book, podcast, streaming series, or your bed is calling – stay with me. Because, while I agree that watching Only Murderers in the Building is more entertaining than figuring out what ward you live in and what the heck does a ward actually mean and then you fall down the government rabbit hole of deciphering scores of acronyms, it’s worth noting that neither Martin Short or Steve Martin can get us more sidewalks, affordable housing measures, or business improvement projects.
Municipal matters are daunting, confusing, and usually dry. Sadly, as voters we’ve become conditioned to the soundbite or the quick quote designed entirely to incite rather than inform, so we don’t feel comfortable when it comes to talking about local bonds to fund schools or emergency services. National elections get all the buzz, which is exhausting and often utterly disheartening. Which is why all of us should get to know our neighbors who run for local office.
It’s worth a bit of our time and energy to know what’s at stake in our local elections, and to get to know the candidates. Look beyond partisan politics. Look beyond labels. The divide plaguing Washington D.C. has no business setting up shop in the Flathead Valley. Basing your decision on party affiliation doesn’t guarantee good results. It’s too narrow, too limiting and overlooks what each candidate cares about and their qualifications and experiences that will translate well to their elected position.
So, while you’re deciding on your night time entertainment after your kids are in bed, spend just a few minutes reading up on the different candidates and issues that your city is scheduled to vote on this November. I’m going to warn you to take anything posted on social media with a grain of salt – unless it’s the candidate’s own page and you examine what they are posting and keep those tired eyes of yours away from the dreaded comment section. Give five minutes to reading candidate profiles published by your local newspaper. Answers the door if a candidate knocks and tell them about your concerns and hopes for our city. See if you share common ground. Above all, stay informed and stay curious. You don’t have to devote hours to this (unless you want to) but a good few minutes a day makes a big difference.
Elections have profound impacts on all areas of our lives, including what happens right here in the Flathead Valley. Part of adulting means voting, and paying attention. Together, we can do this.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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