Wallace, let’s stop and see the forest for the trees
While I'm not yet a full-time resident, I am employed full-time in Wallace and an invested community member. I care deeply about our town’s future. Out of deference to both mayoral candidates, I chose to wait until after the election to share my thoughts.
For months now, I’ve been less than pleased at the behavior of a few. The recent election only exacerbated this behavior. Like my late mother used to say, “There’s nothing social about social media.”
What has happened to Wallace? What used to be a bastion for fun, camaraderie, teamwork and friendship has all but disappeared. It makes me sad. Moreover, it concerns me.
Sometimes an outside perspective can frame a different conversation. I hope to offer an alternative take on the crux of all this divisiveness, the Mountain Overlay District (MOD). Sometimes it's hard to see the forest for the trees and we have to be reminded.
When you take the MOD conflict off the table, Wallace is facing a critical shortage of workers, affordable housing and infrastructure. This is a national problem. How Wallace meets these challenges now will determine its future. Being distracted by all the MOD drama and the agendas of 1 or 2 people will not fix the above issues.
The MOD has grown legs. It’s become an overarching distraction to what is really best for Wallace. What’s missing is the leadership to chart a path forward. The "how" and “why” and “when” aren't clear.
The MOD represents the same challenges faced in other communities. Wallace isn't unique. Balancing growth while preserving Wallace's beauty, history and culture is what everyone wants.
What is true about the MOD is that a herd of buffalo are coming over those mountains. You can't stop them, but you can sure as hell slow them down. The level of leadership and tenacity that gave Wallace a victory rerouting the I-90 flyover is all but absent from this conversation. Vision, true grit, leadership and a sustainable path forward is necessary to meet this challenge.
While a few (and I mean a very, very few) residents have engaged in posturing, positioning, bullying and being downright embarrassing, those buffalo continue to graze and look down at the green pastures of Wallace. Last time I checked, just about every building in downtown Wallace is for sale. If there’s not a sign, just ask the owner. So while we’ve been busy infighting over the agendas of 1-2 people, Wallace has left itself wide open to be flanked by a much greater threat.
The truth is that the buffalo have more money, investors, lawyers and PR people than we will ever collectively have. They are adept navigators of the very issues associated with the MOD that the residents of Wallace are so fervently trying to insulate themselves from. What plans are in place for when a Gozzer Ranch or Blackrock-like development shows up on our doorstep?
Think Coeur d'Alene, Sandpoint, Bozeman, Whitefish. Take your pick. You can no sooner hold back the tides than stop them. Technology affords jobs that can be done from anywhere. The pandemic has created a mass exodus. Wallace will continue to be an attractive option for buffalo.
Leadership, not community infighting, brings change. Wallace can meet this challenge by planning now for the eventual arrival of the buffalo. The MOD is largely a Shoshone County issue, not a Wallace one. Effective planning and zoning lies in working with other Silver Valley municipalities, Shoshone County and the state of Idaho, not by isolating Wallace.
My prediction is that Wallace has fallen behind the 8-ball on MOD because of its division. Rather than being divisive and the loudest politically, how about we sit down and have a slice of humble pie and a cup of joe together? Let's leverage our community leadership and all work together toward a common objective to ensure what the town forefathers would have wanted. This isn’t what I've seen so far. It also isn't the path and strategy I've described above.
Let’s get together and get to work, Wallace.
ANDREW W. BERG JR.