War in Ukraine. The continuing challenges of a global pandemic, varying responses to that pandemic, and its impact on our economy and our pocketbooks. The rising costs of health care, housing, child care and education. It all feels overwhelming. “I’m just one person, without power, money or influence,” you might say. “What can I do to change any of this?”
We often look to our elected officials — the people we ask to represent us in local, state and federal halls of power where decisions can be made — to know our needs and work on our behalf to make positive change.
Unfortunately, here in Idaho, our elected officials are working diligently on all sorts of bills, but most of them won’t solve problems facing everyday Idahoans. They are instead designed to rile up constituents, keeping voters focused on the outrage of the day. When voters are focused on the latest made-up problem, elected officials aren’t required to govern.
Yesterday I came across a plea from a local nonprofit serving adults with disabilities. The fees they receive are no longer sufficient to cover the costs to provide the services desperately needed. One of our legislators could address this issue — if they cared to. When I talk to those on the other side of the aisle, it is acknowledged as an issue that is heavily supported. We share a sense of compassion for those with challenges.
If this is something that nearly all of us care about, why can’t solutions get any discussion time at the Statehouse?
In my opinion, it’s because actually helping people is no way to win an election. In order to win you need attention. The way that you get attention is to latch on to some cultural wedge issue, blow it out of proportion, scare the constituents and claim you’re the only one who can save them. Bonus: You “fix” something that was not a problem to begin with. Your lack of an actual solution is perfect for a non-existent problem.
Our communities have the knowledge and ability to solve these shared problems. They just need the resources. Resources that our state government has in surplus. I spend much of my time talking to others throughout the state as they work in their communities to solve problems ranging from mental health to substance use and everything in between. These groups have proven solutions making a difference in their communities every day.
I was in a meeting about a week ago. Everyone in the room agreed that we have made a lot of progress tackling some difficult issues. There was a great opportunity with money that came into the state due to the pandemic to fund and try new things. However, there was a huge concern that the gains that we made will be for nothing as the money dries up.
It’s time for our leaders to act. Stop wasting time debating bills that don’t matter and instead focus on doing things that will actually make a difference.
David Roth is a nonprofit director and the chair of the Bonneville County Democratic Central Committee.