Opinion: Are we paying attention?

More and more, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on with our school board and City Council elections. These aren’t always the sexiest elections — but they’re often the most important.

While it’s exciting to get caught up in a presidential race or look at Congressional races, the reality of the situation is that we’re most likely to have a real voice in the nonpartisan races going on right here in our local districts and cities.

When we’re looking at the school board, auditorium district and City Council, it seems small and mundane at first glance. But this is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we have the first line of defense when it comes to public health issues and where issues like “should we destroy this park?” are decided.

Unfortunately, because we tend to get caught up in big splashy races, we haven’t been seeing that some of our local positions are under attack by extremist groups. The trend is most glaring up north, where races include school board candidates who are backed by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which avowed on Facebook that one of its aims is to dismantle public education, even though Idaho’s Constitution requires the support of public education.

We have City Council and school board candidates here in Idaho Falls who are backed by people tied to the Freedom Foundation — and could likely be swayed by those kinds of extremist views.

One of the biggest concerns, though, is the fact a lot of what we’re seeing is the result of misinformation, as well as coordinated campaigns by Freedom Foundation-like organizations across the country. There is a concerted effort to dismantle some of the systems that are most beneficial to society, including education, as well as block investments in our communities and people.

And these are decisions that have the biggest impact at the local level and are made by members of our city councils, school boards and other non-partisan boards. This is where we have the most pull, and this is where we need to take a stand against extremism right now. Once we get through the non-partisan elections, we need to take a hard look at who’s representing us in the Statehouse.

At some point, if we expect to move forward as a state and even as a country, we need to look beyond partisan politics, especially in a state like Idaho that has a very lopsided one-party rule. It’s almost never a good idea when one party has outsized power — no matter what party that is. And when a small minority of loud and extremist voices starts dominating the party in power, things can get even worse, as we’ve seen in the last two legislative sessions.

It’s time to take a stand against extremism. Look at the candidates. Review their policies. And see who supports them. Because this year and next year could be a turning point for Idaho.

Miranda Marquit, Master of Business Administration, is a nationally recognized financial expert, speaker and writer. She is the state committeewoman for the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.