I am a first-generation native Montanan and new resident of Valley County, having arrived here last August by way of Rosebud and Cascade counties after 16 years as an economic refugee in Seattle by way of Salt Lake City. Please indulge me as I attempt to address an issue of local, state and debatably national interest as briefly and clearly as possible.
According to the Montana State Constitution, Article XI, Section 9, the legislature requires an election in each local government every 10 years to review its structure and submit one alternative form of government to the qualified electors at the next general or special election. According to local radio news reports, this issue will be on the Valley County ballot this year and that the last time the question was raised, voters opted to make all local races nonpartisan. I voted in last November’s municipal election and can verify this local procedure.
I view politics as a contact sport, having been involved as a minor party functionary, precinct committee officer and State convention delegate in Washington state as well as Montana during various election cycles from the 1980s through 2012.
I believe that if voters have strong opinions on issues of local, regional or continental interest as eclectic as bison reintroduction, bombing ranges, oil pipelines, gas, oil and mining leases, timber sales, wilderness and monument designation, marijuana, abortion, guns, etc., etc., a candidate with enough intestinal fortitude to be a standard bearer for a broad party platform most closely articulating the voter’s personal convictions is inarguably an enhancement to the democratic process. Granted, an elected official in a Connecticut-sized county with 7,200 people deals primarily with issues of the pothole and stop sign variety; however, the local official is the person in working contact with other creatures and faceless entities higher up the political food chain, be they from one political team or the other.
Political stakes are too high to let elections be beauty pageants or popularity contests. I support reinstatement of party designation in local elections and urge you and your readership to do likewise.
Edward D. Neil