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Parties or the people?

by Lorraine Clarno
| March 31, 2024 12:00 AM

As a business organization and chamber of commerce committed to the prosperity and  sustainability of our community, we value our elected officials' skills, accessibility,  transparency, accountability, commitment to service, problem-solving abilities, integrity,  ethics, adaptability, vision and deliverables. Track records should matter.  

In recent days, we’ve seen decisions made by local political parties through their  endorsements that continue the divisiveness and make us question whether legislators should be 100% loyal to their political parties or to the constituents, people and communities they represent. 

Do decisions now and in recent years encourage and foster civic engagement, promote dialogue and compromise, and cultivate true leadership skills? Are local parties digging in and asking the right questions of new candidates and the incumbents running for re-election on platforms and achievements? 

Let’s quickly look into the deliverables of two legislators for the Kalispell and  Evergreen area and what they delivered for our communities in the 2023 legislation session — as freshmen.  

Rep. Courtenay Sprunger’s partial achievements: Eight pieces of legislation 

• HB 267 – SAFER Act - Roads and Bridges $100 million matching funds for  infrastructure projects 

• HB 791 – Increasing mandatory sentencing for trafficking fentanyl 

• HB 275 – CTE (Career Technical Education) Advanced Opportunities ensuring all  students can afford CTE 

• HB 256 – Permits auxiliary officers in the Sheriff’s Posse to carry less than lethal  weapons for self-protection 

Rep. Tony Brockman’s partial achievements: 16 pieces of legislation 

• Multiple “red tape” bills that eliminated unnecessary and costly burdens on  business as well as outdated policies and committees costing our state unnecessary  money, such as HB 48, 49, 50 (alcohol laws) 

• HB 199 – Improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the Office of Economic  Development 

• HB 5 – Secured funding of phase II of Evergreen’s sidewalks through appropriations 

As the election season heats up, answer the door knocks, get informed and lean in to find out who matches your values, desires and needs for your neighborhood and community, and who will push beyond party politics to deliver solutions that improve our quality of life every day.  

Remember, political parties provide a framework for organizing and advancing policy agendas, while elected legislators ultimately serve the interests of their constituents who have entrusted them with the power to represent them. 

Ask yourself before voting which candidate will work to create a political environment that  values respectful disagreements and finds solutions for Kalispell and the valley. It's about fostering a culture that values pragmatism, compromise and the common good over short-term partisan victories.

Lorraine Clarno is president and CEO of the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce.