November is the annual thanks-for-everything month. My suggested list of blessings we should count is the proverbial mixed bag.
First and foremost, all of us must be grateful to have the longest election season in living, breathing memory over at last. Did we really watch all those interminable Republican debates on television? That flash-in-the-pan Texas governor, Rick Perry? Smart, funny, full of it, Newt Gingrich? The Never Give Up candidate, Ron Paul?
No question, the Republicans picked the best of their candidates, Mitt Romney, to run for president. The entire nation should have appreciated his gracious concession speech. Each of us knows how hard it is to lose. But none of us knows how it feels to lose after spending $1 billion dollars.
Win or lose, there’s always a certain letdown that follows an election. As a political junkie, I’m still struggling to recover from this latest political journey we’ve been through together. I find my fingers wandering over the keys, taking me back to Nate Silver’s 538 blog or realclearpolitics.com. Along with Drew Linzer’s Votamatic, these polling websites are the best in the business and amazingly accurate. Although I never really believe the polls, I still find it hard to leave them behind. The polls provided a dose of comforting reality during this presidential election’s long months of crazy suspense. Thanks, polls.
In Idaho, many of us struggle with living in a red, one-party state. Republicans hold all the statewide elected offices, from the governor on down to state treasurer. Republican legislators will still make up a supermajority in both the Idaho State Senate and the House of Representatives. Idaho can now boast, or bemoan, a total of 20 Democratic legislators out of a combined body of 105.
And I’m thankful that Idaho voters did come together to reject Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s three school “reform” bills. A majority of voters in every one of Idaho’s 44 counties voted against Proposition 3, which legislators passed in 2011, to put laptops in the hands of every high school student in the state.
The trouncing of the Luna Laws by the voters means Idaho’s $182 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard for future laptops is dissolved, at no cost to the state. While online learning has become a staple of education in our times, two-thirds of Idaho voters opposed the plan to trade teachers for laptop computers. Voters wisely thought the trade-off would not be a very good deal.
I am also grateful that Superintendent Tom Luna apologized for calling teachers “union thugs.”
Thank God for teachers, who take on the job of introducing our kids to the exciting world of knowledge, art, science, humanity, dreams and opportunities. Parents, of course, play a huge role in opening their children’s eyes to the wide world of possibility, but not every child has a parent with the energy and vision to do so.
The past week of Nov. 10 through Nov. 18 has been National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. St. Vincent de Paul has headed the cause in Coeur d’Alene with an art show, a Run a Mile in Their Shoes event, a candlelight vigil and a Soup Off.
As winter blows in, we can be grateful for our cozy homes and full larders, the basic stuff we all take for granted.
But keep in mind that an estimated 437 people, both individuals and families, are homeless in our area of North Idaho. Of that number, over 60 percent are individuals who, in addition to no stable home, have neither friends, family, nor a table to call their own.
Perhaps as many as 50 of those homeless are military veterans who fought for their country, came back and never quite fit into their homeland again.
Jeff Conroy, St. Vinnie’s executive director, and his army of volunteers are to be congratulated on bringing the homeless situation to the attention of North Idaho residents. The Coeur d’Alene Press has also played a positive role in raising the issue’s profile this season.
Coeur d’Alene City Councilman Mike Kennedy, the city’s representative on the homeless coalition, shared these words: “Three years into our 10-year plan to end homelessness, our efforts have shown some progress in bringing the homeless numbers down. Agencies and relief organizations are working well together at the H.E.L.P. Center [201 E. Harrison, Coeur d’Alene] to assist families down on their luck find shelter, jobs and some stability.”
Through St. Vinnie’s activities, and nonprofits such as Family Promise, members of the homeless ranks are being folded into schools, churches, businesses and daily lives of North Idaho residents.
Providing a sense of community is as important a gift as food and shelter. And as the homeless become housed, then homed, they build community by helping each other. And for that, we should all be thankful.