Tuesday, April 23, 2024

What tangled webs we weave...

The current situation with the County stalled on a Citizen Initiated Zoning District (CIZD) seems very peculiar since the County Commissioners, alleging they are only following the advice of the Clerk & Recorder, who is following the advice of the county attorney, makes a convoluted farce of the type of self governing that gave them all jobs in the first place.
The idea of citizens within a prescribed area deciding what they want to happen within that area is not new to Stillwater County. In fact, it’s how we became Stillwater County. The creation of this county resulted from a zoning district.
More than 100 years ago a majority of residents — not the 60 percent required now — followed basically the same prescription. Back then, it was decided by some living in an area that became this county that they wanted this county. They lopped off some of Carbon, Yellowstone and Sweet Grass counties and the people within the prescribed area voted.
The signatures of mineral rights owners were not required. Only a majority of the residents within the area needed to approve the referendum to create a new county.
It was a Republican measure back in the day when they were progressive thinkers. The first idea for a county name, in fact, was to honor the leading Republican of the time, Teddy Roosevelt. Later, it was decided to name it Stillwater.
A second zoning measure was used in the 1970s to ensure safe and reasonable development of Stillwater Mine by the residents within an area near it. That, too, was a Republican-inspired measure, by former Stillwater County Commissioner, Mary Donohoe.
It also allowed people within a prescribed area to determine how to handle something — the development of large scale mining — that would have a profound effect on their lives.
That’s what is sought today, a measure not dissimilar from the ones in our past: a measure allowing a modicum of self government in the interests of the public good.
The right to petition guaranteed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is regarded as fundamental in the United States, as a means of protecting public participation in government.
Currently it seems some of those elected believe public interest is meddling in their right to govern. It seems current county regimes think when we’re done with an election whoever won is in control and we simply step aside to let them go.
And it seems they’re more concerned with mineral lease holders who do not reside here holding the whip hand.
Let’s continue to exert pressure on the current Commission — in office thanks to those progressive thinking predecessors. Let’s insist they do the fair thing and create a zoning district more than a majority of residents in the area want. Let’s not let extractive resource companies treat us like third world populations where the potential for profit outweighs the public good.

-Dan Burkhart