Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Ex-commissioner weighs in on CIZ

I recently sent a letter to the Stillwater County Commission regarding its actions on a citizen-initiated proposal and their proposal to make future submissions even more difficult.
I am a former Stillwater County Commissioner. My wife’s family has owned land along the Beartooth Front for the past six generations and signed the recent citizen-initiated zoning (CIZ) petition. My wife and I have been coming to the family ranch for most of the 51 years we’ve been married—including the past 20 years of residing there. I understand the passion of the landowners who want to preserve this area for future generations.
The Commissioners’ minds must remain wide open to fully understand and consider the wishes and needs of all stakeholders in Stillwater County. The final decision in this CIZ matter will likely determine the efficacy and integrity of their legacy more than any other.
I asked the Commissioners to suspend “political expediency” in their information gathering and deliberations because of its typical and frequent shortcomings:
•In attempting to show support for business, it, instead, offers cliché, carte blanche approval and forgives any reasonable costs of doing business.
•It overlooks the important, long-term values of attaining consensus, rather than settling for straw-poll majorities.
•It dispenses with the need to apply critical thinking.
•It overlooks the value of input from the high per capita percentage of highly educated persons living in Stillwater County who do value and apply critical thinking.
•It overlooks constitutional mandates for governance to grant the highest consideration for the health and welfare of current and future generations.
•It allows arbitrary deadlines more than complete and diligent process.
•It inadequately respects the opinions, desires, and needs of every stakeholder class affected.
•It precludes priority order based on optimal forethought.
•It discounts “process” because it may take a little longer. This initial investment of extra time assures the greater value and longevity of its more thoughtful decisions.
•It greatly underestimates the grave risks to Agriculture as a primary industry in the county and state, including: diminished water quality (carcinogenic toxicity of entire aquifers) and quantity (water right accessibility); family dissention and breakup; contaminated farm land and grazing land with ultimate removal from production; herd and crop loss; cessation of ranching farming lifestyles; long-term diminished property values; and diminished property rights.
•It bypasses the critical thinking necessary to predetermine and avoid so-called “Unintended Consequences”.
•It can eliminate many of the reasons that make Stillwater County such an appealing place to move to or stay and pay taxes in.
Making fair, well-informed, consensus-based decisions, allows any organization to avoid most of the short-comings of political expediency. This should be expected from all Stillwater County Commissioners whenever they may “serve.”
Finally, I urged the Commissioners to replace the flawed policy they have been proposing and develop an optimally-informed process that includes input from people who have been working on these issues for years. Stillwater County will be better for this, and the electorate will appreciate an enlightened, inclusive approach.

-Dennis R. Hoyem