By Sarah Schrock
Congressman Dan Newhouse’s neglect to hold open forums during last week’s congressional recess stirred a fire in local political organizers, and citizens showed up. Eager to make their opinions acknowledged by the Congressman, participants packed the gymnasium at the community center.
The town hall meeting, not be confused with actual Town Hall meetings that are conducted every second and fourth Tuesday at Town Hall, provided a civil setting for public information while balancing it with input and activism. The forum addressed four topics: repeal of the Affordable Care Act, crackdown on illegal immigration, proposed legislation to transfer or sell off public lands (of which Newhouse is a sponsor or co-sponsor), and climate change. Each audience participant was armed with green or red voting papers to display their agreement or dissent from speakers’ comments, while voluntary individuals were invited to formally address concerns or present questions directly to Newhouse. The turnout was impressive.
Having been somewhat involved in town related politics over the past decade, I am struck by the discrepancy between the energy at the national level versus local issues. While election years get a little buzz, county commissioner debates are well attended, and hot button land use proposals like mines and water rules bring people out, most issues facing our local town government often go unattended. While the recent civic center hearing brought in some voices, people rarely show up to the vast majority of public hearings and meetings aimed at garnering public participation.
There are exceptions of course — there are some who are always there to put in their two cents. But for instance, the last open seat on the Twisp Town Council had only two names in the hat, and usually council members run unopposed. Maybe this is a sign that local officials are doing just fine; we have a dedicated mayor, working commissions, and committees tackling town policies and projects, and competent staff. Maybe it’s the lack of adequate compensation to serve, but I think there’s something else going on.
I wonder about the disconnect. Perhaps local issues like potholes, sign ordinances and water bills are not as compelling to deal with as revamping health care or building border walls? But likely it’s because going to public hearings is not as empowering as citizen activism outside the formal walls of the chamber where creativity is allowed. Maybe local governments need to utilize social networking more effectively to communicate and encourage participation. This seems to be working at the national scale.
Another thing to note is that local governments are largely non-partisan. Does this lack of party politics perpetuate apathy? I am not advocating we all rush Town Hall for the next meeting, but in a time when activism is growing nationally, I wonder if it all will trickle down to the local governance.
If you are tired of politics at any level, then the Twisp Grange Mardi Gras celebration on Saturday (March 4) will give you a chance to let loose. Entrance is $30 per person. It will be full of authentic New Orleans foods, a jazz band and dancing. The proceeds help support the grange.
Finally, I know you are awaiting to see results of the best icicle contest. I received a handful of entrances and decided that each one had a quality worth noting. Linda and Wayne Mendro submitted the best roof creeper photo. Karen Williams’ icicle receives honorable mention for its form and length, nearly two stories long. Meg Trebon received artistic credits for her sunrise spike. Tory Karpenko’s multi-point monster from TwispWorks and my own photo of the Sawtooth (Family Health Center) Dentistry building’s alley appendage tied for over size and girth. Finally, Clara and Alex George win the cute and creative category as they wielded ice spears from the Twisp Pool.
To end on a pool note, Friends of the Pool are still collecting donations to make final payments for the resurfacing project that saved the pool last year. With a goal of $170,000, less than $10,000 remains to pay off the project! Please send checks to P.O. Box 438, Twisp, WA 98856.