The petitions are filed, the candidates have declared and another local election season has begun.
The question that will be answered in the next six weeks is whether the campaigns for office will be rigorous debates based on facts and different views of where cities should concentrate future efforts, or whether they will degenerate into personal attacks and lies.
Voters will be ill-served by the latter.
Yet, given the nasty vitriol and distortions of fact that were served up in the yell-fests known as national town hall meetings on health care reform during the congressional recess in August, it wouldn't be surprising if local contests take on a similar tone.
It doesn't have to be this way.
Ordinarily, Blaine County citizens are generous, open-minded and creative people. Yet, a vicious mental virus sometimes invades some candidates and their supporters during election season with a resulting disappearance of ordinary civility.
To make matters worse, today's unfettered Internet helps breed bad behavior online and perpetuates misinformation like a decaying orange breeds mold.
The level of discourse on the Internet, encouraged by laws that penalize editors, is too often just plain awful. It's astonishing how fast a sane exchange of ideas on blogs or comment areas can sink to name calling, lying and wholesale distortion.
Blaine County candidates and their supporters should hold themselves to a higher standard this election season.
They should aim to educate and illuminate, not hurt, voter understanding of the important issues facing area cities.