Working toward civil discourse

Human Rights Task Force asks candidates how to counter community division

By Brenda Hammond
Reader Contributor

The Bonner County Human Rights Task Force recently sent a questionnaire to all the candidates for city office, asking their positions on a number of issues. We asked them about discrimination, about countering North Idaho’s reputation of being a haven for racism and white supremacy and how that reputation affects our community. We asked them what they would do, if elected, to ensure that Sandpoint is a place where everyone is welcome, safe and able to thrive. 

If these issues are important to you, read the questions and their responses on our website: Only one candidate failed to respond. 

Although we cannot officially endorse any candidate, we can help voters know where they stand. Over the many years since the task force was founded to counter the Aryan Nations threat of expanding into Bonner County, we have found that it is critically important to speak out against any attempts to establish racist, anti-Semitic and hate-fueled ideologies in our community. We believe that leadership implies having the courage to do this. As Thurgood Marshall said, “Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out. This is your country. This is your democracy. Protect it. Pass it on.”

On a related topic, the BCHRTF is concerned about the divisions in our community that seem to keep growing wider — and we are looking for ways to bring people together.

We all have different beliefs and varying opinions about important issues. This is as it should be in a country where freedom of thought and expression is valued. The conflicts and divisiveness come from the assumptions we make about people whose ideas are different than ours. What makes it worse is the labels we use to describe those people — labels like right wing, left wing, redoubter, liberal, radical, snowflake and RINO, etc. We use those labels because we don’t really know each other. We assume that our values are different because our opinions are not the same.

Although our opinions vary, the BCHRTF thinks that we actually share many common values. We all value a place where differing views are accepted; we value the freedom we have to express our beliefs without fear of repercussion. We value a place that is kind and uplifting to our young people  growing up here. We value a community in which we can feel safe and respected.

Therefore, we are working on some ideas to bring people of differing ideas and opinions together — to listen to each other and to participate in civil discourse.

If you are one of those who has said, “I wish there was a way we could just talk to each other face to face,” please consider joining us in this effort.

We will be hosting an informal meeting soon to discuss ideas about how to do this. If you’d be interested in joining us, please contact the BCHRTF by email at [email protected], calling 208-290-2732 or by talking to one of our board members. You can also learn more about the task force by visiting our website at

While we have you ...

... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.

You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.

Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal

You may also like...

Close [x]

Want to support independent local journalism?

The Sandpoint Reader is our town's local, independent weekly newspaper. "Independent" means that the Reader is locally owned, in a partnership between Publisher Ben Olson and Keokee Co. Publishing, the media company owned by Chris Bessler that also publishes Sandpoint Magazine and Sandpoint Online. Sandpoint Reader LLC is a completely independent business unit; no big newspaper group or corporate conglomerate or billionaire owner dictates our editorial policy. And we want the news, opinion and lifestyle stories we report to be freely available to all interested readers - so unlike many other newspapers and media websites, we have NO PAYWALL on our website. The Reader relies wholly on the support of our valued advertisers, as well as readers who voluntarily contribute. Want to ensure that local, independent journalism survives in our town? You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.