August 4, 2021
What Makes Me Tick
By: Pocatello City Council Member Chris Stevens
The Idaho State Journal published an op-ed explaining the virtues of local government term limits by Councilwoman Claudia Ortega recently. I, too, believe elected officials should be term-limited. I agree with the perspective that it can be very positive to allow elected officials to serve long enough to figure out how the system works so they can effectively advocate for their constituents. However, I also believe it is entirely too easy for we humans to settle into a groove and forget why we got into that groove in the first place. I believe allowing elected officials to serve longer than they should results in them adapting to their “government bubble” and losing touch with the people they are sworn to serve.
In a city the size of Pocatello, there is no excuse for elected officials to lose touch. It is not difficult or time-consuming to periodically walk our neighborhoods to talk with residents and remind ourselves that not every citizen lives a comfortable middle-class life. In fact, commitment to exploring how all our citizens live should be an integral part of every elected official’s duty to community.
Pocatello has a significant number of working poor. I acknowledge there are folks who choose not to exert themselves for their own benefit. However, I served as a teacher and administrator in several schools with significant numbers of children and families living in constrained financial circumstances even with both parents working multiple jobs. They reminded me of my parents’ struggles.
Both my parents grew up dirt-poor – my father in a poor urban neighborhood outside Detroit. My mom on a subsistence Michigan farm her family lost when my grandfather fell from a haying cart and was paralyzed. Everyone in both families worked – even the kids – to make ends meet. With help from their communities and support from teachers, my folks managed to pull themselves out of poverty by becoming teachers.
We lived poor when I was young, but we were clean, tough, and programmed to work hard, get an education, and make the world a better place for everyone we touched. I was one of the lucky ones. I was gifted with talents and capabilities. I had the good fortune to be part of a nurturing family that insisted I live up to the responsibilities bestowed on me by my potential. I have never forgotten how I got to where I am and how hard those who came before me labored to give me solid stepping stones to build on.
I never begrudge those who have wealth earned through hard work and honest effort. However, I also do not assume that every person who lives in constrained financial circumstances is there because they want to be or are too lazy to move forward.
I understand this probably sounds a bit sappy to some. So be it. For me, it is real and motivates me to stay involved in our Pocatello community in a variety of ways.
Striving to bring the voice of all our community members – including the well-to-do and the impoverished – is not a reflection of a political stance or a party affiliation. It is about honoring the legacy from which I come and trying to offer every family and child respect, opportunity, and hope.