I’m sorry to hear about the tragic loss of Layne Spence’s malamute (see “etc.,” Nov. 21). Mr. Spence, however, should be ashamed. He needs to be scolded.
Mr. Spence took his dogs out in the woods during hunting season without leashes and at least an orange vest. Animal Control and/or the Humane Society should charge him with animal endangerment and animal cruelty.
People should feel sorry for Mr. Spence’s pup. But people should hold Mr. Spence accountable. His two other dogs should be taken away from him and adopted out.
The guy who shot Mr. Spence’s dog probably feels really bad. He thought he shot a wolf. Now he has to live with killing Mr. Spence’s dog that he was lucky to have. Malamutes do look like wolves and wolves are in season.
The topic of public pensions is an important and complicated one, and it is easily oversimplified. I want to respond to the Missoula Independent article “Private players: Billionaires attempt to remake Montana’s pension system” (Oct. 31) and explain how The Pew Charitable Trusts approaches this important issue.
Maintaining sustainable public retirement systems is arguably one of the most significant fiscal challenges facing states, including Montana, which had amassed $1.5 billion in unfunded pension debt even before the 2008 recession hit. By the end of 2012, the state’s retirement systems were collectively only 64 percent funded, well below the level needed to ensure the systems’ long-term fiscal health. If not addressed, the state’s growing pension debt of $4.3 billion would threaten public workers’ salaries and benefits and could crowd out other essential state services. Montana needed to find a balanced set of solutions that would offer retirement security to public workers while protecting taxpayers and maintaining the ability to deliver important public services.
Pew works on this issue to improve public policy, and with no hidden agenda. All public employees—past, present, and future—deserve a secure retirement. This begins with paying for pension promises that have already been made. But policymakers also need to ensure that they have a sustainable retirement system for the future. This can involve keeping the existing retirement plan but doing a better job of funding it. And it can also involve looking at how pension plans are designed.
At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. How states choose to address pension challenges is up to their policymakers and citizens to decide. Going forward, we need an honest discussion centered around a fair set of solutions that will offer retirement security to public workers while protecting state taxpayers and maintaining the ability of states to deliver important public services.
Public Sector Retirement Systems
The Pew Charitable Trusts
From the bottom of our hearts, we apologize for the disrespect shown to you by our county leaders (see “Revisiting racism” on page 8). The chairman of the planning board should be immediately dismissed for his ignorant bigoted comments. The commissioners also should be and will be voted out during the next election. Their extreme views do not reflect the views of the majority of the citizens of Ravalli County. We are sorry that they have disrespected you under the guise of taking care of the county citizens to the tune of $808 per year. It is shameful, ignorant and deceitful.
Sarah and Andy Roubik
The Ravalli County Commissioners invited CSKT tribal representatives to discuss the transfer of the Medicine Tree site to federal trust. They came in good faith—not to seek permission, defend the validity of their culture, history and rights, or to be insulted by racist public comment.
The commissioners plan to submit an apology for the racist comment made by Planning Board Chairman Jan Wisniewski. The commissioners have an apology of their own to make for less obvious but far more damaging actions. The county has no jurisdiction over tribally owned land and yet assumed they could control the transfer with an opposing vote. The sarcastic tone, line of questioning and rude assumptions demonstrated a stark contrast of conflicting cultural world views with regard to value of place, history and respect.
In addition to respectful conduct, K-12 students have more knowledge of local tribes than our county leaders, due to years of dedication on behalf of the CSKT, schools and cultural organizations and the implementation of Indian Education for All into our public school curriculum. Our government leaders did not have access to this education in school. Hopefully, a new generation will be better prepared to build good working relations with Montana’s 12 Indian tribes. The IEFA “Essential Understandings Regarding Montana Indians” implemented in our public schools may be viewed at www.opi.mt.gov. Answers to the commissioners’ questions are in this concise document, including the validity of oral histories, and the original necessity of tribal/federal trust agreements. Ironically, they were created due to misinterpretations, non-Indian expectations and points of view occurring on the local level.
Hopefully, the commissioners have learned something from this unfortunate event and will take full responsibility and necessary steps to mend a valuable and enriching relationship that so many have strived long and hard to build.
Art and Indian Education Specialist
The tragic death of malamute Little Dave was a matter of when, not if (see “etc.,” Nov. 21). A wolf trophy hunting season a full six months long only increases the odds that tragedy will strike again, placing an unfair burden on benign (non-killing) users of public lands.
A culture of gun worship, a vendetta mentality against predators and the dominance of blood sports—including trapping—in funding the state management agency and setting its management goals have left multitudes of citizens out in the cold and without peace of mind when we venture onto our public lands.
My heart breaks for Little Dave and the human who loved him as family—just as it breaks for wolves who maintain deep, affectionate bonds with their own family groups and whose suffering will increase tenfold when the two and a half-month trapping season commences.
The bullets meant for one canine found another. Either way, the outcome is tragic.
Here in Montana, mercury pollution threatens our health and our environment by entering our waterways and poisoning the fish that appear on our dinner plates. Birds that eat these fish, notably the ospreys that reside on our Clark Fork, are displaying off the chart mercury levels. However, this pollution is harming more than our fish and birds, it is harming us. A statewide health advisory has been implemented to limit our consumption of fish because of mercury pollution.
Mercury, a highly dangerous neurotoxin, is a serious health concern for both humans and wildlife. Even extremely small doses can be linked to many neurological disorders, cardiac disease and can alter the development of small children and infants.
Here in Montana, coal plants are responsible for over 90 percent of mercury pollution. With large ongoing coal operations such as Colstrip and Corette, and the proposal of our nation’s largest new coal strip mine in the Tongue River Valley, this issue can no longer be ignored. Corporate coal must be held responsible for the destruction of both our health and our environment. I urge Gov. Steve Bullock and his administration to consider these adverse effects when considering whether to allow new coal mining here in Montana.
The news is beginning to break. As an avid Wilderness user this is exciting for me. As a new resident of Montana this is exciting because truly my state cares about protecting wild lands. And probably most exciting, as a citizen of the United States I am finally seeing democracy in action. Last Thursday in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act was marked up and voted on. The Senate committee, with a history of bipartisanship, understood after 30 years with no new wilderness in Montana it was time to add 200,000 acres of conservation land and 67,000 new acres of Wilderness.
If you have ever slept under the stars after hiking miles into the wild, or been hunting and seen all the wildlife and space Montana has to offer, you may understand the powerful effect the Last Best Place can have on a person. Even if you have only driven by and been astounded at the beauty composing the unique Rocky Mountain Front from a distance you can understand it too—this place is precious.
Thank you to Max Baucus, who has been adamant about passing this bill that appeals to all Montanans from conservationists to hikers to mountain bikers to hunters. Simply put, Montanans want this. We want to protect the lands we call home.
I hope this momentum pushes Steve Daines to realize this is in the interest of all Montanans. Perhaps it will pave the way for other wilderness inclined bills such as the Forest Job and Recreation Act. With the support of Sen. Baucus and the hundreds of Montanans who support this bill finally we are moving mountains in Congress in order to protect our own here at home.
I have known John Bohlinger for more than 30 years. He was a successful Billings businessman. He was a successful legislator. He represented Gov. Schweitzer admirably. He succeeded in these endeavors because he understood the issues, and he is extremely charming. But, most importantly, he knew how to work with people.
Sadly, he now acts like the Republican he used to be. For whatever reason, today’s Republicans have fractured their party, our Congress and our standing in the world. They haven’t figured out that in order to win, to achieve their goals, to make our country strong, they must work together.
It seems to me that John’s efforts would be better spent helping the Democratic party get solidly behind a candidate, rather than finding reason to criticize the very people he wants to be elected to work with. If elected, John will have to (or get to) work with Jon Tester and many other Democrats in the Senate. That may be harder than he thinks after taking them to task for not supporting him.
At his age, John should offer his expertise, and his name recognition to support John Walsh, who has the potential to be a senator long enough to gain some seniority and thus be able to work for the state of Montana and the nation as a whole.
Unless the Democrats work together, they will end up looking like Republicans.
As a union supporter and past president of my local, I read with interest John Roeber’s letter advocating for a new energy policy based on coal (see “Coal and conservation” in Letters, Nov. 14). It’s clear Roeber languishes in an early stage of grief: denial. Coal is in its death throes. Numerous states limit or prohibit coal-fired energy, including West Coast markets served by Montana. Pennsylvania Power and Light, an owner of Colstrip, hopes to divest of this dinosaur, if they can find a buyer out of touch with reality and the best interests of ratepayers.
The push to export coal is a desperate measure to prolong the inevitable. It is a race against the clock. Even China recently released an energy policy phasing out coal in favor of clean energy development this decade. I say, let America lead the way.
The ultimate irony for a union man like Roeber is that his ardent support for coal is more aligned with Tea Party Republicans than Democrats who have long advocated for labor rights. Arch Coal, which plans to develop Otter Creek, is notoriously anti-union. Arch, along with Peabody Coal, shifted its union employees to Patriot Coal. Roeber should know the intent was to bankrupt Patriot and not honor union pensions, which occurred in 2012. United Mine Workers is still fighting this. In his important role as union leader, his advocacy for the coal industry does a disservice to the employees he represents and to the future of the labor movement as a whole.
I do not envy Roeber’s position, nor condone his trumpeting big coal or attacking environmentalists. Where was he during the decades wasted when we could have been transitioning to a new energy paradigm? With the grossly expensive specter of climate change facing societies worldwide, the time for transition is overdue and the time for real action is now.
While we cannot afford delay, consideration of coal workers complicates immediate actions. Along with debunking any notion of clean coal, it is important to consider a “just transition” for our labor brothers and sisters in the coal industry. Their fate is intertwined with the promise of labor unions—collective bargaining, safe working conditions and wages that support a middle class. Labor and conservationists know companies like Arch and Peabody do not support strong unions or a clean environment.
Like Roeber, I have been involved in the BlueGreen Alliance and attended a national convention. Unlike his Rally for American Energy Jobs, BlueGreen advocates a jobs strategy in the clean economy based on renewable energy, energy efficiency and a smart electrical grid, improving our transportation and water infrastructures, and redeveloping domestic manufacturing. BlueGreen’s Jobs 21! plan supports EPA standards regulating greenhouse gases, which creates jobs retrofitting Montana power plants.
At the state and national levels, the AFL-CIO is also working to build alliances. All these represent opportunities for good jobs, vibrant economies and sustainable communities, without compromising strong unions or clean environment. Together, labor and conservationists can build a promising future, one that “does not count on coal.”
Coal in America is about more than cheap, reliable electricity. It's about more than power plants and emissions. It's about sensible, responsible energy policy that affords the opportunity for economic growth but balances that critical need with the value we place on providing as clean an environment as we reasonably can. The problem is, when we start arguing over electricity from coal, "sensible" and "reasonable" seem to be left out of the discussion.
That's why the recent "Rally for American Energy Jobs" in Washington was so important, and why I traveled across the nation to be a part of it.
I'm the president of the Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager for Boilermakers Local No. 11, but I'm also an active member of the Blue Green Alliance, a group that brings labor and conservation organizations together to tackle environmental and economic issues collaboratively. That's a tough job, but it's one that desperately needs to be done, particularly when it comes to energy policy.
As the name suggests, this rally was about more than coal. It's about American energy jobs. And, while coal jobs are certainly at the heart of it, American energy jobs are present, and critically important, in every part of our nation. Affordable and reliable electricity makes our economy work ... it makes economic growth and jobs creation possible. So, when you speak of "energy jobs," you're really talking about every job in every community in America. Period.
But that fact, as important as it may be to each and every one of us, is lost in the debate over energy policy when all we hear about is why we can't use fossil fuels, and coal in particular. It's an argument that completely lacks balance and understanding of the total needs of a working economy. And, it's an attack, more than an argument, which completely lacks reasonableness and sensibility.
The result? A skewed, ineffective energy policy that wastes tax dollars in pursuit of unachievable goals, while dismissing and outlawing the biggest and most reliable energy resource we have. It kills reasonable debate, destroys the potential for meaningful progress toward a more sustainable energy future, and along with it, hundreds of the thousands of jobs in every locality in America.
So, why did I travel across the nation to participate in this rally? The reason is simple: to fight back against those who would drown out progress toward a workable energy future by doing the only thing we can—raising our voices to demand that we be heard.
Those of us at the rally support American coal and the vast number of energy jobs it creates. We do that by advocating for sensible, reasonable, workable policies that use our resources wisely and that don't strangle our economy by pursuing extreme political views and goals.
Electricity from coal is not an extreme political or environmental position. It's a reasonable and responsible one. Those who would eliminate it in favor of both unproven and staggeringly expensive alternatives are the extremists.
American coal doesn't just protect coal jobs, it protects and creates jobs and economic growth across our entire economy. The men and women that took part in this rally know that, and by attending, they've taken up a much bigger challenge than just their own interests. They've taken up the challenge of creating responsible energy policies that keep our country working.
It's not a zero sum game; although those who wish to eliminate coal electricity from our national energy mix view it as such. What it is, is a battle for a responsible energy future in a country that puts people to work...and works towards a better tomorrow.
Montana State Building and Construction Trades Council
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