Mayor And AP Stringer Give Sandpoint A Black Eye
By: Tom Carroll
For more than 20 years I worked in Sandpoint before deciding to call this wonderful town home. During those years, I became accustomed to reading articles in national publications, all praising Sandpoint, distinguishing her as being among the most livable small towns in the nation. The scope of this praise went international, when Sandpoint was included among a small number of extraordinary towns in places as far flung as Japan, Switzerland, France, Germany, Morocco, and Canada. Sunset Magazine, USA Today, Rand McNally and many travel related Dotcom’s said in near unanimity; “Sandpoint is a destination unlike anywhere else!”
In 2013, a USA Today article expanded on previous compliments saying, “The rugged Selkirk and Cabinet mountains are reflected in Sandpoint’s Lake Pend Oreille, doubling their visual impact. It’s the perfect backdrop for a small town that’s big on local culture. From wineries and breweries to the arts—Sandpoint is home to major music and film festivals—this little township is a vibrant, happening haven in the wilds of northern Idaho.”
Year after year a rain of praise continued to fall on Sandpoint, drawing the attention of families and individuals who came for a weekend. Thus smitten, many decided to buy homes and join our tribe.
And so it was until last Tuesday, March 8th, 2022, when Nick Geranios, a Spokane writer with Associated Press affiliation aimed his keyboard at Sandpoint, writing a partisan article that was picked up by newspapers and web-blogs across the nation.
In seven-hundred words or less Geranios re-cast Sandpoint’s image from most livable, to a place populated by anti-democracy, white nationalists, preparing for war. Quite an accomplishment had it all been Nicky G’s work. But in truth, he had help.
In Geranios’s article, Carolynn Knaack is quoted as having said, in reference only to Sandpoint, it would seem, that the pandemic and politics, “…has created divisiveness among folks. I’ve been applauded, and belittled for wearing a mask, she says. “I have friends who refused to get vaxed.”
But of course, the Mask – No Mask, and ‘Needle vs No Needle’ controversy is not the result of some unique demographic limited to Sandpoint. It’s national, world-wide, actually. And there are rude people on both sides of these issues. I suspect that Carolynn knows this, maybe she said as much to Geranios. If so, I’m sorry that he made her look a little foolish.
Nick Geranios also had help from Oregon resident, Kate Bitz. Kate is a program manager for Western States Center, a self-described, left- leaning, anti-extremist watchdog group based in Portland. In the article, Bitz is quoted as saying that her group is concerned when “white-nationalists and anti-democracy actors” relocate to the region with the aim of organizing, recruiting, and seizing control of local…” The Daily Bee article ends in the middle of this sentence leaving readers to wonder how much more Bitz had to say. However, she said all that Nicholas Geranios needed to bring his article to a crescendo, alarming readers about an imagined impact of “newcomers.”
Many of these newcomers are conservatives, according to the article. Long-time resident, Linda Navarre is quoted as having said that many of the new arrivals are, “changing the civility.” Navarre’s concern, according to Geranios, is that “… there are so many people who are not nice.” It’s impossible to tell whether Linda is specifically saying that politically conservative persons are not nice. But this is the impression writer, Nicholas Geranios leaves us with.
Most unfortunately, Nick also gave Sandpoint’s Mayor another opportunity to insult a large percentage of Sandpoint residents, and those of Idaho as a whole. In the article, Rognstad is said to be worried that the influence of real estate companies promoting property sales in service to Conservatives only, “pushes Idaho more and more into a playground for extremism. It doesn’t bode well for our sense of community here,” Rognstad continued, “It’s a challenge to civility.” Civility – there’s that word again. We’ll come back to it, answering the question: Who is promoting civility, and who is not? It’s important that readers judge for themselves.
But first, Rognstads words again, “real estate firms that serve only Conservatives…”? Offering help to home and business owners whose property was put to the torch by the BLM and Antifa anarchists, and messaging to understandably frightened, liberal, and conservative residents of metro areas was smart. Smart enough that the accusation of realtors limiting their services to conservatives rang false.
To uncover the truth, I made some phone calls. The first was to Conservative Move, one of the companies mentioned by Geranios.
Speaking with Barbara Chabot, COO and co-owner of Conservative Move, my single question was direct. “Do you work exclusively with politically conservative clients,” I asked?
“No,” she answered in a friendly but firm tone. “We work with anyone living in an area where public policies have been put into place that potentially threaten their safety, and or, negatively impact their quality of life.”
Here is Conservative Moves mission statement from their home page:
“When your community no longer reflects [your] morals and values, it might be time to move. We’re an organization of real estate agents here to help you sell your home, organize the move, and buy a home in a community where you feel safe, valued, and at home.
Chabot didn’t need to say more. It’s widely known that phrases like, “life threatening policies and a downward-spiraling quality of life,” accurately describe conditions in metro areas under the control of liberal governments. And it’s not just conservatives who are impacted – not just political conservatives who are exiting these cities.
Black Rifle Real Estate’s owner Todd Savage also answered my question. As requested by Mr. Savage, I am quoting him by copying the following directly from Black Rifle’s webpage.
“Our client base is made up of folks from all walks of life. The common bond between us is a deep respect and reverence for the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, ultimately providing for a common defense from tyranny.”
Aren’t these values held by American citizens, regardless of subordinate, political considerations?
Contrary to Rognstad accusations, Black Rifle owner, Todd Savage told me emphatically that his company does not discriminate in favor of political conservatives
Sadly, Shelby Rognstad characterizes Savages position as being a “threat to our sense of community,” and, “a challenge to civility.” The mayor’s remarks draw an ugly line between his idea of the perfected progressive liberal, and others, those that Rognstad has labeled conservatives, as being extremists. Using an old but effective tactic, Rognstad lays his own sins at the door of his ideological opponents.
With both positions before us, readers can now decide for themselves. Who is being divisive? Who is being uncivil?
It seems that Rognstad has already moved on, that in his mind, he’s no longer Sandpoint’s mayor, he is already Idaho’s governor. It seems that his campaign strategy is to confront an enemy, even if this enemy does not exist. By “standing up” to his imaginary enemy, Rognstad plays to the emotions of those Rognstad considers gullible, those he is counting on to vote him into the governor’s mansion – or not. Apparently, there’s a fly in his campaign ointment. Is Shelby and Republican or a Democrat? Details, details.
Maybe his next job should be in the private sector, considering that Rognstad posted the following on his Facebook page: “As Idahoans we show up for each other regardless of what political party you associate with.” All I can say is that Rognstad is not the first politician to demonstrate hypocrisy.
What about the AP stringer, Nicholas Geranios? Nick’s a smart guy and a seasoned writer. He knows how to include the proper minimum of opposing views to sidestep accusations of one-sided journalism, and still bring his story in for a landing in support of his personal views, or those of his editor. Geranios accomplished his mission by allowing the opposition to speak first, then gave the favored team the final word. After quoting the oppositions strong arguments he allowed false allegations to stand – the “service to Conservatives only,” accusation.
Giving the story’s final lines to Kate Bitz was perfect. Though she never specifically mentions North Idaho, what sticks is her references to white nationalists and anti-democracy actors – right there before the final word. Oops! Actually, there was no final word… just the lingering assumption that it’s North Idaho she’s speaking about.
From Spokane to Los Angeles, to Santa Fe, and Miami, the article traveled across the nation at the speed of the internet. More people than we will ever know read and were left with negative impressions of Sandpoint. I hope Geranios found the time to thank you, Shelby. His article would not have been as harmful to Sandpoint’s reputation without your help.
Well, okay. So Geranios resurrected negative impressions of North Idaho – home of uncivil extremists. Maybe this will discourage vacationers, lightening summer traffic, putting the brakes on home sales and prices. Hey … was that what this was really, all about?
No matter, opinions change, sometimes as quickly as the weather. But Sandpoint will always be … a destination unlike anywhere else!