Sunday, December 10, 2023

OPINION: Welcome, but don't try to change us

by DEAN HAAGENSON/Guest Opinion
| September 20, 2023 1:00 AM

This is an open letter to those of you who have arrived in Idaho since 2019. Welcome. You have arrived in a sanctuary state, not like the sanctuary cities from which you escaped that were sanctuaries for illegal immigrants, but a sanctuary for freedom loving, community-spirited people eager to live and let live and help a neighbor in need.

You came here after a visit and liked what you saw or you may have been encouraged to come by a friend or family member who had come to enjoy our friendly and politically conservative state. There is much to like about Idaho.

In Idaho you enjoy our beautiful scenery and the boundless opportunity to experience all manner of outdoor recreation. Much of our state is still wild and accessible. In terms of physical attributes, Idaho is hard to beat.

Beautiful as it is, the geography of our state is not the only, and perhaps not the most important attraction causing the substantial immigration coming largely from our neighboring states with Pacific coastlines. It is our overall quality of life that draws people here, and it is our politics that make us special.

What do I mean when I say our politics is the primary motive that causes others to want to join our state? I believe it comes down to freedom. We have freedom from excessive taxes having one of the lowest overall tax burdens of any state. We have freedom from excessive regulation being arguably the least regulated state in the country. We have a very low cost public education system yet enjoy achievement results that places Idaho near the best in the country. We do believe in improving public schools and in school choice but also believe in adequately funding a strong public school system. Our government at all levels is open and transparent affording citizens the opportunity to be heard.

So why when you came here because you liked what you saw, do so many of you think you need to fix us? It seems some fear we will become what you fled. I don’t think you need to worry. Most of us who have been here for awhile believe strongly in limited government (though we do believe in government), local control and maximized freedom. We are unlikely to become California.

I urge you to get to know your new neighbors. Get involved in your various communities and help them to be even better. Learn a bit about our history and learn why we are what we are. Be a part of us. In other words, don’t try to change Idaho, but let Idaho change you. We will all be happier.

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Dean Haagenson is a former state legislator and founding member of the North Idaho Republicans.

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