An Election Day for the books

Decisions we make at the polls Nov. 7 will have swift, dramatic effects on Sandpoint’s future

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

I did the math the other day, and figured out I’ve covered Sandpoint City Hall under six mayors: David Sawyer, Ray Miller, Gretchen Albrecht-Hellar, Marsha Ogilvie, Carrie Logan and now Shelby Rognstad. After January, I’ll add another name to that list.

That’s a lot of mayoral water under the bridge; and, while I can’t say that I observed every City Council meeting when those folks were in office, I can certainly look back and revisit a sense of what the community was on about during those times.

I remember us fighting about the Sand Creek Byway — or “bypass,” depending on your stance back then — height restrictions, the bank building/Sandpoint Center and Seasons at Sandpoint developments; fluoride in the water; Sandpoint’s trailblazing non-discrimination ordinance; what to do about the former U of I property on North Boyer Avenue; and “The Curve” Version 1.0.

There were many other kerfuffles, of course, but it’s safe to say that the past eight or so years have the previous 15 beat hands down for the number of things we’ve been pissed off about. I’d eat up this whole space just listing them.

Suffice it to say, we’re living in an exponentially more fractious community today than perhaps we ever have, and it underscores what a critical inflection point we’re experiencing. Anyone who’s paid even passing attention to the goings on at City Hall has to agree that no matter what, we’re on the fast-track to some new version of the town in the very near future.

That’s about as far as I’m willing to go in opining on the specifics. Having spent so many years covering city politics, I’ve learned to report rather than offer my personal two cents. The only time I’ve broken that rule was to specifically un-endorse former Reader Publisher and co-founder John Reuter for City Council when he was appointed by Albrecht-Hellar in 2007 and subsequently elected, ultimately serving as council president. 

My opinion didn’t do any good then, so I’ll keep it to myself now — other than to say that in all my time on the City Hall beat, I’ve never seen a more critical election for council and mayor.

Like I said, I’m not going to suggest who anyone should vote for or why, merely to emphasize that the decisions we make at the ballot box on Tuesday, Nov. 7 will have direct and dramatic effects on how this town functions, looks and feels with a quickness.

There is a lot of anger, frustration and distrust out there, mingled with exasperation, excitement and aspiration on a number of fronts. There are many, many plans and visions floating around with much influence being exerted both inside and outside City Hall to see them either thwarted or come to fruition — or some combination of the two, depending which specific plan and/or vision you’re talking about.

With all this change and the turmoil it has caused, it’s more important than ever that whomever Sandpoint residents choose as their council members and mayor, they are making those choices with as much information available to them as possible and the deepest level of consideration they can muster — and that they don’t let up on being engaged on Wednesday, Nov. 8 (or after January 2024, when the swearing-in ceremonies take place).

As of this printing, there have been multiple meet-and-greets and candidates’ forums, including two of the latter hosted by the Reader, KRFY 88.5 FM and, and the Bonner County Daily Bee, respectively; the Reader and Bee have both published candidate questionnaires as well as dozens of articles between them on the various issues animating the campaigns; and KRFY has aired interviews with the candidates for city office — all of that available online. (For more, see Page 6.)

As I’ve written before, Sandpoint and surrounding communities have an unusually large number of local media sources to choose from — use them and vote for the people you think will best represent your preferred future for Sandpoint. I can tell you, based on about 23 years of watching, this Election Day will be one for the books.

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