Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Board should show that old school vote counted for something

| November 10, 2005 11:00 PM

To the Editor:

I'm in Utah helping my son's family move and I get up earlier than the rest. Yesterday I read through the "Park City Traveler A Guide to History, Culture and Recreation in Park City" that was prepared in anticipation of hosting the 2005 Olympic Games. This paragraph caught my eye:

"Because there was no money to build new buildings or modernize the old ones, Park City had a great inventory of old buildings in various states of decay. Luckily for us, some of the early ski enthusiasts were also preservationists, willing to do the hard work and fight the tough battles to establish a Historic District and preserve the old buildings. Today, Park City's past and present are woven together throughout town, telling the stories of miners, prospectors, ladies of the night, shopkeepers, bartenders and families who formed this fascinating little slice of western lore."

Libby is not a Park City, Utah, nor will it ever be. But, like Park City, it is unique and has a diverse history. The historic Libby High School is an important part of that legacy. And, like Humpty Dumpty, once it "falls" it can never be put back together again.

I suppose all of you know that Libby and Lincoln County used to have a brick foundry or two. I grew up in Libby and didn't know that until someone told me the Historic High School bricks were made in Libby. I haven't taken time to verify that, but I was fascinated by the knowledge of the old foundry(s) history almost lost to me anyway.

In my heart of hearts I believe that those who are indifferent, luke-warm, and perhaps even those who feel strongly about demolishing the building now, will say, "I wasn't sure when this was the issue of the day, but now I'm really glad the building was saved," when and if the historic high school is restored and reused.

If not, people like me will have a sick feeling every time they drive past that site no matter how pretty a park or beautiful a new building is that might someday replace it. And, at least some future residents will see a picture or hear a story and wish like I do about the foundry.

Although I'm not technically a resident of Libby or Lincoln County, I love them. They are my home and I spend as much time there as possible probably more than at my current address. I may be the only person who "lives" in the Kalispell area who purposely shops in Libby every chance I get in order to support the local merchants and economy. It is my intention to live there again one day.

I sincerely hope the high school I attended will still be there.

There is another aspect to this whole issue that doesn't have to do with the high school per se, but that is equally, if not even more compelling to me personally. I have two granddaughters who are currently serving in the military both Libby High School graduates. Thankfully, neither is serving in a war zone at this time, but many other sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters are. One of the most common things said by and about these young, and some not-so-young, people is that they are "protecting our way of life." our democratic way of life.

It is a travesty of our democratic way of life that local elections, especially school bond elections, are notoriously "low turnout" 18 percent, I think in the last one in Libby in May. But it was twice the turnout of the previous one and over 70 percent of those voters who did turn out voted to sell the historic high school, knowing full well that the Friends of Historic Libby High School's $100,000 offer was the only offer on the table.

I worked in and managed Max Baucus' Helena office for worked years doing constituent advocacy. I know that many, if not most, people believe "my vote doesn't count anyway." For the School Board (or any other elected individual or body) to ignore a 70 percent vote only reinforces their sense of disempowerment.

This was a vote where they really could make a difference a difference in the legacy, even the "feel" of their community. Please help show them that voting does make a difference in our country in our way of life.

Donna Martin