Initiative 161 sets a dangerous precedent to decide hunting issues at the ballot box. Montanans are getting farther away from the land and hunting, and next could be making changes in our own resident licenses by the general public in the voting process.
The heart of this initiative is to take away the outfitter sponsored elk and deer licenses. These are not special tag permits that residents have to apply to receive, they are simply a high-priced general Montana elk or deer license that folks who hunt with an outfitter can buy to help support our 9 million acres of block management hunting. Outfitters are not guaranteed hunters, only that if they are able to book a hunter that person will be able to buy a license to hunt in our state.
Outfitters have been regulated for many years by net client hunting use and forest service day and overnight use, and cannot take more hunters without buying an existing business or use days. Nonresident hunters are an important part of tourism that boosts the economy of every small town in Montana.
This is not an access issue; we surely cannot force a private landowner to let someone on their land they do not choose. This is an attempt to destabilize the outfitting industry that contributes so much in jobs and income at so many levels during hard economic times for every Montanan. I live, work, and hunt in Montana and I know the ballot box is not the place to discipline an industry or decide hunting issues. That’s why so many sportsmen’s groups oppose this bill, too. Vote “No” on I-161!
Mike Jopek of Whitefish recently wrote that Montana is a good place to be in business (see “Driven to metaphors,” Letters, Sept. 16, 2010). So he says we should stay the course. Among his claims are that low wages and an idle workforce gives us a competitive advantage. It was pretty good rhetoric but, unfortunately, it doesn’t match the record.
The reality is these are tough times for Montanans. Staying the course doesn’t offer much consolation to the folks who have lost their jobs over the last several months and are trying to figure out how to make ends meet. In Jopek’s backyard alone, the unemployment rate continues to be in double digits, CFAC has shut down, Plum Creek has cut its workforce in half and closed mills in Pablo and Ksanka, and Smurfitt Stone is in bankruptcy.
Here are some important facts: The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council rated our business climate 33rd. They say our workers compensation rates are 50th and our unemployment rates are 45th. CNBC puts us 36th. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce rates Montana’s legal climate for businesses at 43rd. Forbes identifies our regulatory environment at 47th and growth prospects at 45th. Not much to cheer about.
The last five and half years have been the slowest period of job growth for Montana in the last quarter century. Presently there are more unemployed Montanans than ever before. And all the while government has been growing by leaps and bounds. Spending projections for this year are 81 percent higher than 2004. That doesn’t fall within my definition of prudence. It’s also not a path we can sustain.
We need to do better. And we can. We can better manage the budget for the present cyclical downturn. We can challenge the structural barriers to growth. We can identify and promote our comparative advantages in the market place. We can attract more investments.
Clearly we need a better direction. Rather than talking about Ds and Rs, Montanans want our elected leaders to set aside their partisan rhetoric and work together to tackle these difficult problems so that we can all enjoy a more prosperous future and make Montana the Treasure State again.
Former U.S. congressman
I just wanted to send my congratulations and a massive thank you to Rebecca Bowe and the Missoula Independent for the “Under The Radar: The 10 Biggest National and International Stories Ignored by the Major News Outlets” cover story (Oct. 14, 2010).
In a day and age where mainstream news is little more than puerile entertainment gossip and government sponsored propaganda, it is refreshing and awesome to see these major news stories being brought to light. What hope is there for the future of this country when the current mainstream news channels are spewing forth the same talking points from their left or right perspectives? The majority of the population is being kept in the dark while being masterfully entertained with inconsequential drivel. All the while both Democrat and Republican sides of the government are being taken over by greedy and sociopathic banks and corporations. Gore Vidal recently said: “Anybody who tries to hang on to America’s coat-tails is going to find himself up to his eyeballs in, well, deceit and corruption. This is the crookedest place on earth—and I never thought I would go that far, having been to many other countries at least south of our borders,” and I tend to agree with him.
Unless people are awake enough to start looking at alternative sources for news, things are just going to get worse. It shouldn’t be the case that a large percentage of people now look to “The Daily Show” to get actual news. But when you have news stations like Faux News and their ridiculous line up of pompous douchebags attempting to “enlighten” the public, where else can one turn? Well, it seems like the Independent is now a great start! Keep up the great work!
Matt L. O’Connor
The mission statement for Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP):
“Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, through its employees and citizen commission, provides for the stewardship of the fish, wildlife, parks, and recreational resources of Montana, while contributing to the quality of life for present and future generations.”
FWP’s Strategic Plans states that they, “discourage commercialization of wildlife.”
Montana Code Annotated 87-3-303, policy toward nonresident big game hunters: “It shall be the policy of this state to protect and preserve game animals primarily for the citizens of this state and to avoid the deliberate waste of wildlife and destruction of property by nonresidents licensed to hunt in this state.”
The public-trust doctrine states that the wildlife in Montana belongs to the residents of Montana and the state is the trustee that manages the people’s wildlife. Outfitter-guaranteed tags encourage outfitters to lease private land, which often blocks public access to both public and private lands allowing outfitters and their wealthy clients to capitalize on our public assets at our expense. This is the privatization of wildlife and it needs to stop. FWP has been placed in the unethical position of subsidizing a private business; rather, FWP should primarily be the stewards of our wildlife while placing Montana residents first.
Vote for I-161.
It’s not hard to sense the anger in the electorate right now. Corporate interests and the public officials who have been co-opted by them have made a mockery of the political process. That’s why now more than ever, it’s important to ensure that we retain the courageous officials who fight for our interests. The absolute last thing we should do is toss out a champion of the people and replace him with a corporate insider who seeks to preside over regulating the very industry in which he works.
Ken Toole is our champion in PSC 5. While in the state Senate, Ken adamantly fought against energy deregulation. Most politicians sided with big energy and Ken lost that battle, but we all now realize how courageous and correct his stance was. That failed decision led to skyrocketing energy costs for Montanans and an about-face by those who had opposed Ken. Ken has also fought for Montanans while on the PSC by obtaining $16 million in rate reductions for us and ensuring that Qwest extend broadband service to much of rural Montana.
While Ken is an unabashed advocate for the people, his opponent Bill Gallagher is an unapologetic industry insider. Gallagher operates a corporation that would be regulated by the PSC. Worse, this company is partially owned by a Nevada-based corporation about which he refuses to provide details. We’ve been rightfully angered from big oil running Minerals Management Service, and Wall Street running the Securities and Exchange Commission. Now a utility operator wants to sit on the PSC? Haven’t we all had just about enough of corporate interests muddying our waters?
Before you vote in the PSC race, remember that Ken Toole has a long history of being our champion against big business. If the state had more like him in office, we would have a lot lower energy bills, and we would all have a lot less to be angry about.
Montana Conservation Voters
Texas legislator Dr. Suzanne Gratia-Hupp said, “How a politician stands on the Second Amendment tells you how he or she views you as an individual…as a trustworthy and productive citizen, or as part of an unruly crowd that needs to be lorded over, controlled, supervised, and taken care of.”
Every election cycle we see candidates with marginal commitment to gun owners doing a masquerade intended to deceive voters. A standard buzz-phrase these candidates use is “hunter access,” words designed to bait unsuspecting gun owners into thinking the candidate is truly committed to the right to bear arms.
Don’t take the bait for that particular trap, and don’t fall for the on-paper-only, hunting-sounding “groups” that emerge only shortly before each election to offer political cover for candidates who do not fully support the right to bear arms.
Rather, trust the entities that have been in the trenches for decades fighting for your rights—the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) and the National Rifle Association (NRA). Both MSSA and the NRA evaluate candidates for you. Find the MSSA evaluations at mtssa.org or at VoteSmart.org, and the NRA evaluations at nrapvf.org.
Don’t get sucked in by the photo op candidates who borrow a shotgun for a campaign photo. In Montana we call that “All hat and no cows.” Check candidates out carefully or trust MSSA and the NRA to have done a good job evaluating candidates for you. As Dr. Gratia-Hupp implies, a candidate’s true attitude about your gun rights is a litmus for much else about that candidate. Gary Marbut
Montana Shooting Sports Association
This year, Missoula County voters are fortunate to have before them two outstanding candidates for the office of sheriff. I have known both internal candidates, Brad Giffin and Carl Ibsen, for over 15 years. I have a great deal of respect for both of these men—both have extensive experience in the local law enforcement community, high standards of integrity, and the right motives for seeking the office of sheriff.
Two highly qualified candidates make for a difficult decision on Election Day. I believe the key that sets these candidates apart is their vision for the department, and I believe Carl Ibsen has the vision to take a fine department and make it even better. The sheriff’s department is a solid agency with many good officers, but it still has several big areas of opportunity. Two that stand out most to me are the scarcity of women on the force, and the lack of presence in local schools.
Over the past 20 years, the number of women working in law enforcement has grown significantly, but the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) remains static. Of the 50 sworn law enforcement officers currently employed by the department, only one is female. When she retires later this year, it will leave MCSO as an all-male department. The challenge in hiring and retaining qualified females suggests a culture within the department that is not in alignment with 21st century values. Carl Ibsen sees this, and has a plan to change it.
In the past eight years, the presence of deputies in Missoula County’s rural schools has become nearly non-existent. While the Missoula City Police have substantially strengthened their partnership with schools and special community groups in the last decade, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department has done the opposite. Visits to schools from officers have been reduced to barely one or two a year. Community police work prevents crime and helps keep kids on track, yet it has been one of the lowest priorities of the MCSO in recent years. Carl Ibsen understands this as well, and if he is elected sheriff, will make his deputies far more visible for crime prevention in our schools and communities.
I’ve observed that many current and former employees of the sheriff’s department have been outspoken in support of Brad Giffin, and I’m not surprised. Change—even positive change—can be uncomfortable. For the citizens of Missoula County who deserve to be protected by modern, progressive, community-oriented law enforcement, Carl Ibsen is the right candidate.
As an active duty veteran of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Naval Reserve unit based in Missoula, I have had the privilege of knowing Carl Ibsen for over 20 years. In this time I have known Carl to be an honest, fair, even-tempered and hard-working man. I am sad to say that it seems to me that these qualities are becoming increasingly more difficult to find in our society.
This fall, the residents of Missoula County are fortunate to have several qualified candidates running for the sheriff and I am proud to support Carl Ibsen for sheriff and welcome the common sense leadership he is sure to provide.
As a lifelong Democrat, I’ve not seen a more qualified candidate for the Montana House of Representatives than moderate Republican candidate Don Harbaugh. Frankly, in terms of Don’s broad lifetime credentials, skill set, integrity and community experience, we could not have a more clear decision and contrast for Rattlesnake Valley, Seeley Lake and Condon voters than in the current House District 92 race.
Don Harbaugh is a man with decades of community investment across two Missoula public high schools (Sentinel and Hellgate) as teacher and principal, where he’s had thousands of our children daily in his care. Don also understands the private sector as a former successful business owner.
For years, Harbaugh has invested his personal time and resources in Missoula area humanitarian work for the homeless and countless other long-term service projects. In addition to Don’s strong people skills, Don was raised on an eastern Montana ranch. This particularly equips Don in building consensus with strong-minded eastern Montana legislators on educational and other key issues facing us in the next biennium, like Montana’s projected $350 million budget deficit.
Voters can learn much about candidates by accessing their Montana C-5 reports. Sites like www.followthemoney.org provide additional indications of candidate focus and support. My analysis of these two sources show, as of Oct. 4, 91 percent of Don Harbaugh’s contributions have come from Missoula County and only 3 percent—three of Don’s relatives—are from out of state. By strong contrast, only 32 percent of Bryce Bennett’s contributions are from Missoula County, while 32 percent are from out of state along with 6 percent still unidentified. Washington, D.C., is listed as the second largest city, outside of Missoula, for Bennett’s contributions. Out of state and out of county contributors are pouring in money to fund Bennett’s narrow focused agenda. By contrast, Don Harbaugh will truly legislate for all of us and do so out of his deep, proven, centrist common sense roots in Missoula County.
Robert J. Luceno
It seems like we fight many of the same battles year after year in the legislature. Some of the issues faced by agriculture have been debated since statehood, and they’ll likely still be hot-button issues generations from now. Such is the nature of public policy.
One of those issues that seem to keep coming back in recent years is an attempt to impose a second tax on property called a Real Estate Transfer Tax, or RETT. In general, a transfer tax is assessed whenever property changes ownership, which includes sale, exchange, and could even apply to inheritance. Any type of real property could be subject to a RETT, including residential homes, ag property, businesses, commercial property and raw land.
A coalition of organizations, including groups representing agriculture, homeowners and business have been working to keep Montana free from transfer taxes, and have routinely banded to together each legislative session to educate lawmakers on the negative effects this tax would have on our economy.
But no matter how many times we’ve defeated the transfer tax, it just keeps coming back. The Legislature has considered nine RETT proposals in the past 10 years. From session to session, it seems like some lawmakers just aren’t getting the message that Montanans don’t want a transfer tax.
But this election year we have an opportunity to trump the Legislature once and for all. The initiative CI-105 would amend Montana’s Constitution to prohibit the legislature from imposing a RETT. CI-105 simply inserts brief language into the constitution to state that the Legislature and local governments may not impose any tax on the sale or transfer of real property in Montana. CI-105 presents an opportunity to help protect the future of agriculture in Montana.
Perhaps no industry in Montana would be more affected by a RETT than agriculture. The vitality of farming and ranching depends in large part in our ability to pass on our property to the next generation. The imposition of a RETT could complicate inheritance by requiring the inheritor to pay the tax because the property has changed ownership.
And at a proposed tax rate of 1 percent of the property’s value, the burden of that tax could be the difference between an operation continuing for another generation or a family selling out. Younger generations of Montana producers typically do not have the type of liquid capital that this tax would require. And keep in mind a RETT would be on top of current property and estate taxes already imposed.
Agriculture in Montana already faces enough challenges with rising costs and more competitive markets. To further burden Montana’s most important industry with more taxes would have economy-wide ramifications.
We’re fortunate to have a citizen-driven initiative process that can make law outside the legislature. And this is one example where that right can produce important and long-lasting effects. Let’s protect future generations of Montana farmers, ranchers, business-owners and homeowners from double-taxation on their property by passing CI-105.
And don’t worry about our friends in the Legislature. They have plenty of other recurring debates to rehash—they won’t miss the Real Estate Transfer Tax one bit.
Executive Vice President
Montana Farm Bureau Federation
Executive Vice President
Montana Stockgrowers Association