Uncommon Ground

Foggy Growth

Our solutions lay in community, our belief in others. The loudest, most rabid political rhetoric may feel newsworthy but it won’t help us govern toward a better Montana.

By Mike Jopek

Montana’s hard-working families remain ignored. Between a world war, the sickness that never ends, and a Congress and state government full of querulous, quarrelsome politicians there’s little time for the real-life issues facing our bustling rural state. 

In the Flathead working families can’t catch a break. Gas and food prices shot through the roof and housing costs are so astronomically high that ordinary working people can’t possibly afford a slice of the valley unless they miraculously win the lotto. It’s quite shocking really.

Montana’s minimum wage hovers at just over $9 an hour. One has to work all day long to fill the gas tank. It’s nuts how little Congress or Montana do about bread-and-butter issues facing working people. They’re more interested in getting books out of our libraries than a chicken in every pot.

There’s that one guy, you know the Big Sandy farmer serving in the U.S. Senate. He’s one of a handful in Congress who retain a commercial driver’s license for hauling grain and food the family grows. He gets it. It’s tough in rural Montana. And working people just want a fair shake.

It’s by design. The statewide politicians controlling Montana keep hammering on culture war issues affecting a small minority. They continually feed locals “anger issues” to distract from the reality that methodically, piece by piece they’re dismantling the very public institutions which make Montana great.

My friends, you have a choice. Keep sending the same boneheads back to Helena and D.C. and expect different results or find common ground with other moderate-minded locals and support candidates that focuses on issues that matter to everyday working people and retirees. 

Our communities changed so rapidly that working people can no longer purchase a home. The Flathead is the fastest growing county in Montana and Kalispell is the fastest growing micropolitan area in the nation. Yes, nation. 

Whitefish and Columbia Falls historically grew faster than Kalispell so it’s no surprise that locals can’t see through this haze of growth. Houses that sold for a few hundred thousand just years ago are suddenly pushing a million bucks. 

It’s April so locals are out about town. Come summer, town feels overbearing to many. Others, like me, just stop trying to make left turns, walk further, and spend more time in the vast outdoors. I still really like the valley and the townspeople.

It’s time to pour some fresh Flathead water on the raging and politically-contrived culture war spreading statewide. Find the moderate speaking candidates throughout the valley and state and help them win. The right-winger politicians don’t give a hoot about your wages, your ability to rent or buy a home, or your capacity to put food on the table and gas in the tank. They’re busy infatuated with power and have little desire to govern.

Nationally the inflationary cost of living grew 8.5% from March a year ago. Feels significantly higher in the Flathead. That’s doubtful to change soon given the supply chain, the war, and worldwide sickness. 

I recall pumping gas at my dad’s station. Back then gas prices spiked to 64 cents and odd or even numbered plates only got serviced on given days. People sat in line waiting to fill their tanks and were plenty ticked off.

The feds changed highway speeds to an obnoxious 55 mph, an efficiency that saved people pocket money. This all seems a lifetime ago. Younger folks hardly believe it given how the world evolved.

Our solutions lay in community, our belief in others. The loudest, most rabid political rhetoric may feel newsworthy but it won’t help us govern toward a better Montana. There’s plenty of good moderate voices. Speak up, be heard. Something’s gotta give. Ignore humanity and no one will like our collective future. 

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