The Task Force submitted questions to each of the candidates in the upcoming election. Here's the reply from Kate McAlister, candidate for Sandpoint City Council.
1. The mission of the BCHRTF is to affirm the American principles and ideals of the inviolable dignity and worth of each human being. Who do you think experiences the most discrimination in our community? Is it discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status or disability (including mental illness)?
I would say the most experienced, in my opinion, would be race, socio-economic status and mental illness.
We all are familiar with the hateful flyers thrown on lawns, it was deplorable. I was honored to be a part of the press conference put on by the TF to condemn those hateful acts. It was wonderful to see the outpouring of support. The unfortunate reality is, even though that individual has left town, we still have those who think along the same lines.
One of the things I hear on a frequent basis is “only the voices of the rich matter”. To me, this is very disheartening and a signal we have a disconnect somewhere. All of us are a part of the community. I understand what it is to feel disenfranchised and feeling like your voice doesn’t matter. It does matter. It matters because we all make up the fabric of our community, every unique one of us. I have always been a warrior for those who feel left out and unheard, and will continue to do so. I talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, I want to know what they are thinking and how best we can all work together and be heard, socio-economic status should not matter. In my opinion, inclusion means all of us who are already here as well as welcoming any new person who wants to join our culture and embrace our long held values of believing in education for our future, caring for our environment, problem-solving together, and mostly caring for and listening to one another.
Mental illness needs to be addressed and it needs to be okay to talk about it. We talk about cancer and other illness, this too needs to be added to the mix. Individuals need to feel supported and safe when they stand up and ask for help. We need to remove the stigma.
2. The BCHRTF was established in 1992 to confront the growing challenges of white supremacist organizations and activities in our around Bonner County. To what extent do you think that challenge exists today? Is this still a challenge—or should the TF say ‘mission accomplished?
In my experience, unfortunately, the challenge is still here. There also seems to be more of this ideology moving in to our region and we need to continue to stand up and make it known, this attitude and thinking is not who we are, hate is not welcome here. TF is doing a great job and we are fortunate to have such a strong group in our community.
3. What do you think can be done to counter the reputation that North Idaho has, nationwide, as a haven for racists and white nationalists?
We need to continue to repeat the message hate is not acceptable in our communities. Everyone needs to stand up, silence is seen as acceptance. If you feel or see discrimination, in any form, speak out and let your voice be heard. Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”
4. How does this reputation affect the lives of those of us who live here? How does this reputation affect our community’s ability to attract potential employees and visitors?
It can be a barrier to getting great talent for jobs, it also dissuades families of other cultures from moving here and enriching our community. This is not who we are and we need to understand the economic impact it has on local businesses and do more to let everyone know they are welcome and they are safe. America is the great melting pot, none of us are Native Americans; accept Native Americans.
At the Chamber of Commerce in all our tourism marketing we position Sandpoint, and the area, as a welcoming community for anyone who wants to visit here. At the visitor center we frequently talk about what a great community we are.
5. How important do you think it is to work toward making Sandpoint a community where everyone feels valued, everyone feels safe and everyone can thrive?
It is imperative. We need to understand and welcome diversity of thought, of ethnicity, of gender and accept one another as human beings. We do not live in silos, we are a global community and we need to embrace it.
6. Do you feel that has been achieved, and if not, what stands in the way?
It is a work in progress. I feel more times than not, ignorance stands in the way. The only way to defeat ignorance is with education, but, people have to be willing to learn and open their hearts and mind. Persistence is the key, we can never give up.
7. If you are elected, what is the first step you would take toward making the above vision a reality?
Whether I am elected or not, I have, and always will, stand up for what is right. None of us are perfect and we need to embrace the differences and uniqueness of each human being. In 2011, I was the only person to testify for the non-discrimination ordinance and was so proud when it passed. We were the first town in Idaho to pass this ordinance. The number of people who came up to me afterwards and said thank you still fills my heart when I think about it. I will continue to walk this path every day.