As a candidate for Missoula County Commissioner I appreciate the Missoula Independent publishing the April 24 article about the candidates in the upcoming election, and I would like to take this opportunity to address two subjects highlighted in that article (see "County control").
The first issue I wish to discuss is the gas tax proposed by the city of Missoula for the county to put on the ballot. This gas tax is essentially a sales tax on all county residents. Even though the county would benefit by the tax, the county's budget is under control and no additional taxes are currently required. Unfortunately, the city's budget doesn't seem to be in the same balanced state. At this point, I am not in favor of putting the gas tax on the ballot.
In regards to the issue of the county attorney's lawsuit, the Independent article stated that I was having a "tough time answering either 'yes' or 'no'" when asked if I would support the county attorney's request for funds to contest whether the U.S. Department of Justice had jurisdiction over his office. The reason for my hesitation is my belief that only the sitting commissioners have heard the whole story, and that undisclosed details may make a very convincing case in favor of the lawsuit. I believe that Montana's attorney general has jurisdiction over our state's county attorneys. A chain of command is in place and it doesn't appear that it was followed appropriately. As disclosed, the attorney general asked to be kept in the loop with anything uncovered by the DOJ. This is not the same as the attorney general relinquishing the control over the county attorneys, and there may be a valid reason that should be contested.
I strongly support all efforts to make our county safer for our families and community members, and as a father of two daughters who live in Missoula County, I am highly motivated to work towards a community we can all be proud of.
Why the surprise of Gov. Bullock's actions? He's running for reelection. Do recall in early 2007, knowing we voters could be had, and for chump change, Gov. BS and the legislature dusted off one of the oldest political cons in history and said, "Hey, let's see if we can buy the voters off with $440 million of their own money for the next election." Presto, bingo, the property tax rebate was passed, nearly two years before the election, and most everyone, including Gov. BS retained office. They bought our votes for roughly $400 per vote, no fools they.
Gov. Bullock's proposed $45 million of our money to the northeast part of the state will buy a lot of votes, no fool he. Ramping up logging on 5.1 million acres will do the same.
Meanwhile Ds and Rs keep the clammer up on the airwaves, and in print, to the joys of party bosses, increasing their status as geniuses, at the expense of the continued collective stupidity of the electorate. Forget about dark money, forget about media bias, forget about all that you're told is causing the problems in American politics. Just remember, as citizens our own collective apathy has to disappear before The Same Old becomes a thing of the past.
Thanks to the Indy for letting Montanans know that Gov. Steve Bullock nominated 5 million acres of National Forest land in Montana for "fast track" logging via a cabal of seven hand-picked people that met in secret on the phone five times with absolutely no public notice, no notes taken and zero opportunity for Montanans to provide any input (see "etc.," April 24).
Montanans should also know that when citizens requested basic information about this secret process, the Bullock administration stonewalled the request and even threatened to make people pay. The 5 million acres of National Forests nominated for "fast track" logging fall under a new provision in the Farm Bill that calls for an unlimited number of timber sales up to 3,000 acres (4.7 square miles) in size, each spread across our National Forests. These timber sales are "categorically excluded" from the National Environmental Policy Act, meaning there will be no environmental analysis as to how a timber sale could impact threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, grizzly bear and lynx. Opportunities for meaningful public input have also been severely curtailed, including removal of the citizen appeal and objection process.
To help put this 5 million acres in perspective, it's estimated that 65-80 percent of the forested acres of the Lolo and Kootenai National Forests—outside of Wilderness—are nominated for "fast track" logging, including everything colored green, tan or red on this map: http://bit.ly/1mV4jtP. As a backcountry, public lands hunter I can assure you that many pockets of prime wildlife habitat and beautiful, ecologically diverse National Forests have been nominated for "fast track" logging. Get on the ground and see for yourself.
Recent columns by the Montana timber industry and a handful of "collaborators" defending this secret process ignore the fact that the February conference call agenda clearly states: "April 1st deadline to Governor—after broader public review/input." But as we all know now, that public review and input was never allowed.
In a recent column, NWF's Tom France tried to paint anyone with concerns about the secret "fast track" logging nomination process as part of "fringe groups." Unfortunately, this is just more deception. Fact is, WildEarth Guardians—a group that's won awards for working within open and transparent processes, and with 43,000 members in Montana and across the country—wrote Bullock and requested that he withdraw the designation and restart a full process open to the public, not just hand-picked timber lobbyists and a few other people.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest evidence of the Montana timber industry working with a few well-funded conservation organizations to greatly increase National Forest logging in Montana by weakening our environmental laws, "categorical excluding" NEPA analysis and limiting opportunities for meaningful citizen input. Montanans and our public lands and wildlife deserve far better.
Here's what the GOP's "Paul Ryan" budget would mean for the state of Montana: Middle class families would pay $2,000 more in taxes; 10,952 seniors would pay more for medicine by bringing back the prescription drug donut hole; 1,780 college students wouldn't receive Pell Grants; 236 domestic violence victims would lose access to the STOP Violence Against Women Program; 530 children would lose access to Head Start.
But hey... 485 millionaires would get an $87,000 tax break.
State Rep. Ellie Hill
I want to thank Rep. Daines and Sen. Walsh for co-sponsoring HR 1518 and S1406, the PAST Act, which will reform the federal Horse Protection Act to end the cruel act of horse soring: a horrifying practice in which trainers pursue the exaggerated "Big Lick" gait by burning horses' legs with caustic chemicals, or wedging hard objects into the tender soles of their feet. This is torture, for the sake of a blue ribbon at a horse show and monetary gain to the owner and trainer, and this unconscionable and illegal treatment has been going on for 50 years, throughout the Tennessee walking show horse industry.
The PAST Act will end the failed industry self-policing system, ban the devices that are implicated in the soring process, and crack down on perpetrators with heightened penalties. We in Montana are for protecting defenseless animals, and I am proud that two of my legislators have already signed on as cosponsors of this legislation.
Don't be confused by the two sham alternative bills that recently have been introduced by Tennessee legislators, supported by a small but influential minority of their constituents, who want to continue soring horses for money and ego. I urge Sen. Tester to join the bipartisan group of over 300 federal legislators who have cosponsored the PAST Act: the only anti-cruelty, anti-crime legislation before Congress that can truly end soring. It is time to get H.R. 1518/S. 1406 to the floor for a vote.
Jan and Mike Sousa
I am writing in support of Champ Edmunds for U.S. Senate. I have been reviewing the voting record of Steve Daines, and believe that electing him to the Senate will not promote the values of hard working Montanans. Daines claims to be conservative, but when given the opportunity to stand for fiscal responsibility, he caved to political pressure and, on Oct. 16, 2013, voted to re-open government without requiring any fiscal restraint from the Democrats. He voted for a bill passed with mostly Democrat votes. This demonstrates Daines' true approach to fiscal issues far better than his rhetoric. The Heritage Action Scoreboard finds that Daines, with a score of 60, is below average for Republicans.
We do not need another go-along-to-get-along Republican. We need people like Rand Paul and Mike Lee who will stand up for our constitutional rights and be willing to fight partisan pressure to work across the aisle when it is not in the best interests of Montanans. Champ Edmunds is such a person. Vote for Champ to have an honest, principled senator.
There's something liberating about slipping a raft into a river in western Montana. We are fortunate to have so many clean, free-flowing rivers nearby to enjoy with friends and family. And in my mind, few rivers can match the North Fork of the Flathead. Other rivers may have more thrilling whitewater or more fish per river mile, but few match the North Fork for clean, beautiful water and stunning, wild scenery.
Montana's congressional delegation happens to agree with me on this point. Walsh, Tester and Daines are all supporters of the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. For this reason, it is especially maddening to read news that the bill is being blocked in the Senate by three senators whoin the memorable words of Sen. Tester"can't even find the Flathead River on a map."
Imagine, three Republican senators from Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania blocking a piece of legislation that only affects Montana and is very popular here. This is a perfect example of how broken Congress is because of politicians who only know how to say 'no.' Is that the only word they understand?
Montana's clean water is invaluable. You can't put a price on it. If we want to protect it then that should be our business. I hope Congressman Daines will reach out to his fellow Republicans in the Senate and tell them that Montanans know what's best for Montana. We know the North Fork of the Flathead is wild, scenic and crystal clear. It should be protected as it is, and Sens. Coburn, Cruz and Toomey have no business telling us otherwise.
I am nearly 77 years old and if you sold everything I own I doubt I am worth $1,000. When I was born I had the freedom and the right to trap, which I have done since I was 6. Initiative 169 would ban trapping in Montana. To think that in my 77 years on earth we would deny the freedom and the rights to future generations to trap in the state of Montana is unthinkable.
Two things that must be done to stop this nonsense is not to sign I-169 and amend the state constitution so that no one should be denied their God-given rights. I have one request of the good people of Montana: pass a constitutional amendment to keep trapping legal for as long as this country lasts.
As we discuss our various financial concerns with friends and neighbors, it might be well to reflect on some details that have influenced the current economic situation.
In the era from 1947 to 1979 all classes of Americans saw their incomes grow together. We are now in a new era in which the wealthiest have realized a significantly greater growth in income. From 1979 to 2008, according to census data, the middle 20 percent of Americans saw their incomes grow only 11 percent, compared with a 111 percent growth in the previous 30 years. Meanwhile, the poorest 20 percent of Americans saw their incomes actually decrease by 7 percent, compared with a 118 percent growth in the previous 30 years. Since the 1980 election, and the tax cuts that ensued, America's top 1 percent have seen their incomes increase by 275 percent.
Today, workers' wages as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time low. Yet corporate profits as a percentage of GDP are at an all-time high. The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of the nation's wealth. In fact, just 400 Americans own more wealth than 150 million other Americans combined.
This economic inequality translates into a change from a representative democracy into a "corporatocracy," and thanks to a 5-4 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States, we no longer have a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people," but a government "of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations" that has been put into place by the lobbyists who have been employed by these corporations.
As concerned members of the American society, we need to reach out to our friends and neighbors, and urge them to become informed and involved in taking actions that result in the recovery of the middle class. Most of us, however, continue the grand delusion. We prefer to be spoon-fed comfortable ideological anachronisms while debating the symptoms of inequality with little or no relation to the underlying cause.
In the months ahead that lead up to our opportunity to elect new representatives, let's seek out candidates who will aggressively stand up for the American values that result in a government with a moral mission; to protect and empower all citizens equally. Perhaps they will rediscover the policies from the past that allowed for a successful middle class.
I'm a mom to two young Missoula schoolchildren and since the Sandy Hook shooting in December of 2012, gun violence prevention is my world. Jamie Rogers' story on what Missoula County Public Schools is doing to deal with potential school shootings was important and engaging (see "A history of violence," April 10). But the elephant in the room was scarcely acknowledged. There have been 63 school shootings in America since the Sandy Hook tragedy, illustrating the fact that we're not dealing with the problem at the source.
No matter how we fortify our schools, rigorously train our teachers, unnerve our children with lockdown drills, we won't be able to save them. Not until we deal with the obvious epidemic of gun violence and fix our lax gun laws in this country. How can we put the onus of protecting our children and teachers from a gunman on our children and our teachers, when we won't demand that our legislators stand up to the gun lobby?
Nearly eight children and teens are shot and killed every single day in America. I don't like that my second grader knows what to do when a gunman comes to her classroom, or the fact that this scenario has even entered the consciousness of American schoolchildren. These measures taken by schools across the country are reactionary and do not get to the root of the problem: dangerous people with easy access to guns. Rather than training our children to hide from the bad guys, shouldn't we focus on keeping guns out of dangerous hands?
There is no simple solution to ending school shootings, and I do appreciate the steps MCPS has taken to try to protect our kids when a horrible situation occurs. But there are commonsense things we can do to prevent those situations from happening, like strengthening our background check system. Background checks work—since the system was created, more than two million gun purchases were blocked from prohibited buyers. Unfortunately, background checks are not universal and there are loopholes in the system, which allow gun sales to occur with no check, like sales at gun shows and online transactions. In Montana, no mental health records are submitted to the NICS system (this is in direct conflict with federal law). On any given day in Montana, anyone with a criminal history or a severe mental illness can buy a gun at will ... no questions asked. This needs to stop.
The Montana Chapter of Moms Demand Action is working to fix the system to make our communities safer, which in turn will make our schools a safer and more peaceful place for kids to learn and grow. That's really what we all want, right? So let's stop fearing talking about guns and start solving the problem from the source. If we keep up this mentality of reacting, we have failed to protect our children and it will again and again be too late.
Nancy de Pastino
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America