Local column: What kind of place should I.F. be?

This mayoral election has, in many ways, become something of a referendum on what kind of place we want Idaho Falls to be, writes Miranda Marquit.

Since moving back to Idaho Falls a little more than two years ago, I’ve had time to reflect on the importance of local political involvement. So often, those who take the trouble to involve themselves in what’s happening locally decide the direction a town moves.

Local politics is where the decisions that impact our daily lives are made. The decisions made by the city councilmembers and mayors we elect shape our community — and determine the direction of our future. Our votes on school bonds and community college designations are manifestations of our values.

When I first moved back, after an absence of 17 years, I was pleasantly surprised. Idaho Falls made great strides during my time away. Our Greenbelt has expanded, economic development has led to more amenities and services than I remember from my youth. Far from being the place I escaped as quickly as I could as an 18-year-old, Idaho Falls is now a place I can see myself staying for a long time.

Many of us look at national — or even state — politics and despair. How can we do anything to impact what goes on?

Local engagement, though, is a different matter. You can make a difference. Watching the vote counts only a couple weeks ago shows you how important your voice is in local issues. A city council race can be decided by less than 500 votes.

According to the Bonneville County website, 44.39 percent of registered voters cast their ballots in Idaho Falls for the general election on November 7. That’s less than half of registered voters. Honestly, by national standards, that’s not bad. But it could be better. Especially when you consider that this mayoral election has, in many ways, become something of a referendum on what kind of place we want Idaho Falls to be.

Are we, as a community, happy with the changes we’ve seen in the last couple of decades? Or do we want to apply the brakes and possibly even reverse course?

Personally, I’m pleased with the direction Idaho Falls is moving. I’ve done research, interviewing CEOs and reading studies about what millennials look for in a community. Guess what’s high on the list for the companies of the future and the workforce that fuels them? Quality of life, technology infrastructure and amenities. Taxes barely make the top five. Idaho Falls is working toward creating an environment that invites the businesses of the future.

Whether you agree with my assessment or not, the voting booth is where you signal your position.

This election is extremely important. It could have a profound impact on the direction of the Idaho Falls. Your voice matters. A lot. You have a chance to make a difference in a way that can affect you right here, where you live, in your everyday life.

Don’t let that chance slip away. Seriously think about what kind of community you want Idaho Falls to be. Then get to the polls and vote in this runoff mayoral election.

Miranda Marquit is a nationally-recognized financial journalist and money expert. She is the chair of the Bonneville County Democrats.