In 2011, I opened Advanced Technology Group's Missoula Solution Center with just a handful of employees. As of this year, we've hired nearly 80, 62 of them in Missoula. ATG is a technology business that helps clients optimize their quote-to-cash environment leveraging world-class cloud technologies.
I feel lucky as a Montana native to have been able to come home to the state I love, and I volunteer my time and energy to help create a business climate where others can do the same. It's why I volunteer with the Montana High Tech Alliance's board of advisors, and why I'm passionate about supporting the University of Montana's Blackstone Launchpad with the Last Best Conference, or LBCon, coming up Aug. 25 and 26 at the Wilma.
LBCon aims to become an annual event in the spirit of Austin's SXSW or Portland's World Domination Summit. It is the only experience in Montana where eight national speakers come together with hundreds of amazing people to share their stories of courage and what it takes to pursue their passion. LBCon was inspired by the incredible startup activity in Montana, including our state's No. 1 ranking for startup activity four years running by the Kauffman Foundation.
LBCon matters to my business because part of why ATG can operate from Missoula is because of the high caliber of our employees, most of them University of Montana graduates. Our business depends on securing contracts with large global companies, and we prize those connections. A key goal of LBCon is to strengthen the ties that bind together our business and entrepreneurship community from Spokane to Boise to Billings and beyond, further positioning our state as a regional hub.
Learn more and purchase tickets for LBCon at lastbestconference.com.
Advanced Technology Group
While there are very few people that trap in Montana—about half of 1 percent—they impact the enjoyment of other outdoorsmen and women with their prolific placement of traps and snares, many of them lethal, with no responsibility for what steps into them. Unlike fishing and hunting, trapping is a commercial activity, killing wildlife in horrific ways for financial gain.
When one person's use of public lands interferes with everyone else, it is time to consider the rights of the whole. The trapping industry has always strenuously resisted efforts to further regulate trapping. They believe it is their "tradition" and "right" to trap, that trapping takes precedence over other outdoor activities, whether interfering with those activities or not. Additionally, the Montana FWP commission, deep in the trapping lobby's pocket, has refused to address citizen complaints concerning the effects of trapping on other users. Hence, I-177, an initiative to prohibit trapping on public lands.
There is nothing biologically sound about trapping. It is indiscriminate and kills far more creatures than the ones targeted for profit. In addition, Montana FWP has no real knowledge of what this carnage entails or its extent.
The trapping lobby will throw up numerous smokescreens about "animal rights" groups, "emotional" people opposing trapping and how the demise of trapping will result in a biological apocalypse. This is all nonsense and scare tactics, as there are many states that have already prohibited trapping without issue, such as Colorado, Arizona and Washington. Concerning farmers and ranchers, I-177 will not prohibit trapping on private land, so they can invite trappers onto their property as they see fit.
With FWP unwilling to act, it's up to Montana voters to take our public lands back for the enjoyment and safety of the vast majority of citizens. Please vote yes on I-177.
I am fully behind Greg Gianforte for governor. We sadly and urgently need to unseat current Gov. Bullock. I have talked with Gianforte several times but feel he likely needs more truthful information on the CSKT water compact. Montana candidates and current legislators, including at the federal level, have been extensively propagandized and misinformed by well financed compact proponents.
The CSKT water compact, in combination with bills introduced by Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, have the potential of destroying the Montana economy. The tribes would be acting as conduits to federally manage the administration, allocation and water use "on and off reservation" statewide. This also represents indirect federal control of the land, its uses and productivity. Montana legislation would threateningly set precedent for application by some 326 reservations throughout the U.S. Similar forces are already underway in other northwest states, include dam and reservoir removal, and similar tribal water takeovers. Far from representing healthy capitalistic free enterprise business development, this would be the final stages of feeding our natural resources, private property and wealth into a downward spiral of socialistic governmental control.
We desperately need a dedicated, knowledgeable, experienced, successful businessman as governor, which would be Greg Gianforte.
I live in Dawson County along Highway 254the main route from the North Dakota oil fields to a radioactive oil waste dump site. Since the site opened we've had dozens of spills along our highway and all but two went unreported by the drivers. One truck even overturned spilling its entire load and it wasn't until a local citizen reported the spill to DEQ that they took responsibility and worked to clean it up. With every unclaimed spill (and there have been dozens) taxpayers are stuck with the bill for cleanup and mitigation.
This waste site and those waste sites that are about to come on line are not currently properly regulated—that is to say DEQ has yet to create rules that govern radioactive oil waste sites and its transportation. Even more stunning is the fact that Montana's waste sites were limited to taking radioactive material of no more than 30 picocuries radium—but in January 2016 without any public hearing, it was raised to 50 picocuries to match North Dakota's, we were told. Problem is, North Dakota has rules regulating the waste—Montana doesn't.
We were told in a June 2014 meeting with DEQ staff Ed Thamke that the rules would be written in time for the 2015 legislative session... and we are still waiting.
Working with the Dawson County Resource Council and the Northern Plains Resource Council has been extremely helpful, but more Montana citizens need to get involved. Contact DEQ and tell them to write comprehensive, enforceable rules!
The world's largest corporate power grab, also known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, is just waiting for Congress to sign it and say, "Yes, take away Congress' authority."
This deal gives an incredible amount of power to the largest corporations in the world over national governments. Yes, that includes the U.S. government. No individual American has the resources or right to ensure his or her economic and political interests are safeguarded within this vast global corporate structure.
The clearly desired result of the TPP is to give more power to those with the most money. Indeed, they were the ones who negotiated it, and now they are spending billions to convince you it's a good idea.
Montanans are smarter than that. We can see beyond corporate profiteering, because we depend on our own communities for success. We care about the success of our local businesses.
The TPP contains endless pages with rules for labor, environment, immigration and every other aspect of global commerce—and a new international regulatory structure to spread, implement and enforce these rules under the World Trade Organization. This new structure will meet, appoint unelected bureaucrats, adopt rules and change the agreement after adoption.
If our Montana delegation wants to really represent Montanans, they will vote against this anti-American power giveaway to global corporations. But why haven't Rep. Zinke or Sen. Daines come out against it? They did vote to take Congress' ability to amend the deal. How much more are they willing to concede?
What would it take for Ryan Zinke to repudiate Donald Trump?
Recently, with his poll numbers plummeting and his pathway to legitimately winning the election fading, Trump suggested to his followers that there was a "Second Amendment" solution to Hillary. "If she gets to pick her judges," he said, "nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don't know."
For many on the right, owning guns is not just for personal defense but for the violent overthrow of the government if it "overreaches." If a majority of us, say, do something hopelessly unconstitutional, like electing Hillary president, "Second Amendment people" can exercise their right of gun ownership and veto what we have decided.
Or maybe not. Trump isn't sure. He's willing to let his followers decide—you know, all those reasonably realistic people who believe Obama is a foreign-born Muslim socialist, that global warming is a hoax planted by the Chinese to undermine our economy and that abstinence-only sex education works. It's just a random thought he's tossing out.
Instead of repudiating Trump and all the incredibly racist, sexist and violent things he has advocated, Zinke is doubling down, insisting that "Mr. Trump has good policies," even if he has "a big mouth."
Instead of voting for Zinke, who has volunteered to be Trump's vice president and is now trivializing Trump's incitements to violence, please vote for Denise Juneau, a truly wonderful woman who knows that violence will never fix our problems.
I was visiting your fair city a month ago and picked up the Independent. The story titled "Shooting the Moon," dated July 14-21 and featuring the efforts of Missoula City Councilman Bryan von Lossberg and some mothers group to restrict the gun rights of the citizens of Missoula by wanting to expand background checks to private gun sales, caught my attention. This group actually believes that a private sales background checks measure works? It doesn't, but there is a solution that does work.
What the city council needs to do is follow the example of Kennesaw, Ga. In 1982, Kennesaw required their head of household to have a gun. The results were stunning. Kennesaw Police Lt. Craig Graydon told Reuters in 2007, "When the law was passed in 1982 there was a substantial drop in crime ... and we have maintained a really low crime rate since then. We are sure it is one of the lowest (crime) towns in the metro area."
Because of this law, Kennesaw is far safer than Missoula. According to Neighborhood Scout, Kennesaw is rated as being safer than 36 percent of U.S. cities. Missoula is safer than only 9 percent of U.S. cities, according to the same site.
If this councilman and his mommies group were really interested in helping the constituents in Missoula, they should get a law passed that requires more guns in the city, as Kennesaw did. And if this councilman and his mommies group were really interested in reducing crime, they should read Professor John Lott's book, More Guns Less Crime. They might learn something about real solutions.
They should not waste the Missoula City Council's time perfecting what Einstein called "insanity": doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Colorado Springs, Co.
Retired University of Montana professor Harry Fritz and I recently returned after delivering a series of lectures on the U.S. political system at Nankai University in Tianjin, a city of 12 million people near the Chinese capital of Beijing. This was my fourth trip to China.
Americans who have been there know that Chinese cities are forests of building cranes on the tops of countless high-rise buildings. While one would think the construction boom that is powering China's domestic economy will reach a saturation point, the Chinese expect their population will support it.
Projections show China's population of 1.4 billion falling to 1.125 billion over the next 50 years. That is why the government has modified its one-child mandate and now allows two children per family. According to the Chinese model, population sustains growth. Labor-intensive projects provide millions of jobs. Vast amounts of electrical power must be generated to keep China's manufacturing and employment colossus surging forward. China is a nation of builders, both for its domestic use and for products exported abroad.
The rapid rise of China has been likened to a rhino climbing into the canoe of world nations. It is greatly destabilizing. While China's economy will likely overtake ours, the huge population required to sustain it also has to be sustained. Per capita income in China is improving, but it is only about $14,100 compared to more than $55,800 in the U.S. China's push for productivity is primary. Environmental fallout from total economic emphasis is shocking. Montanans would say you could cut the air there with a knife.
While working at the University of Montana in 2006, I spent several weeks at Nankai University. On this recent visit, Harry and I lectured to a senior-level international relations class. I had explained American politics and culture to that same class when I was there 10 years ago. All have had a minimum of 12 years of English. While few American college kids have any knowledge of Mandarin, no interpreter is necessary in communicating with many upper division college students in China. Though bright and motivated as ever, these students were also noticeably more reticent to express themselves than those I encountered a decade ago.
The reason is probably because the new regime of Xi Jianping is returning to a tougher and more authoritarian form of Maoism. Xi's "firewall" of blocking information into China from the outside world has been surprisingly effective. The Communist Party has a greater hands-on presence than when I was there previously.
A highlight of our trip was attending the annual American Independence Day Celebration sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. It was festive and patriotic. Montana's former Sen. Max Baucus, now U.S. ambassador, spoke well and effectively as our country's representative in China. Harry and I felt deeply grateful for our freedoms symbolized there in China by Independence Day. Baucus made us proud to be Americans and Montanans in this challenging time in world history.
I am 80 years old. On May 3, 2016, I was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer. On May 5, I began chemotherapy, which I will continue until it no longer is effective at holding the cancer at bay.
Medical marijuana has become an important part of my battle against cancer. Over the last dozen years, I have had considerable sleep issues, including sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. I participated in a sleep lab twice, I tried using a CPAP machine, obtained a mandibular device and was prescribed endless pharmaceuticals to attempt to alleviate my sleep problems. After my cancer diagnosis, my sleep problems increased. In early June, I believe I went three days and nights without sleep (if I slept at all, it was a light drifting in and out). It is not possible to fight cancer and endure chemotherapy without sleep.
I discussed trying medical marijuana with my oncologist and obtained a prescription and a state-issued card. In my life, I have never been a pot smoker. I tried it a few times, which I can count on one hand. But marijuana was never a recreational drug I chose to use or enjoy. When I turned to medical marijuana one month ago, it was solely for its claimed medicinal benefits.
I'll be honest: I'm still experimenting with it. My sleep isn't 100 percent. I'm trying different strains, methods of consumption and quantities. But since starting medical marijuana, my sleep is improved from where it was previously. I am using medical marijuana for the very reason voters passed the initiative approving its use in November 2004.
Which brings me to my reason for writing this letter. When the 2004 initiative was passed, it had little structure and was open-ended. It was likely abused by some who obtained marijuana cards but did not have legitimate medical problems. Unfortunately, the 2011 Montana Legislature responded not with "tightening" the 2004 law but by passing a draconian measure. Although it was touted as placing reasonable restrictions on the old law, it ended up making medical marijuana inaccessible to most legitimate users.
Why? The predominant reason is because under the 2011 law, providers are limited to selling to three patients only. In effect, this will put providers out of business, making medical marijuana unavailable to thousands of Montanans, like me, unless they choose to grow their own, which is not easily done. Because of a legal challenge, the 2011 law was "stayed" by the courts, but was recently ordered to go into effect Aug. 31. That means thousands of Montanans are in danger of being without their medication.
It is not a coincidence that the door may be opened again by Montana voters in November. I-182, a citizen's initiative, recently received enough signatures from Montana voters to be placed on November's ballot. It keeps a number of responsible restrictions on the public's access to medical marijuana, but in a workable fashion. Most importantly, it removes the three-patient limit on providers, which in turn will enable them to stay in business so that people like me will continue to be able to purchase medical marijuana legitimately, from licensed providers.
With enough signatures to ensure I-182 a place on the ballot, the initiative's backers are now asking the courts to delay implementation of the 2011 law by two months, until Election Day. With a delay, Montanans like me would not have to worry about having their medical needs met for these two-plus months. I ask the Attorney General to join with the backers of I-182 and seek a delay in the law's implementation until Nov. 8. I believe it is a practical resolution to a needlessly complicated situation.
Professor Emeritus of Wildlife Biology
University of Montana
Our national parks are among our nation's greatest treasures. They are places where people, especially children, can experience the outdoors, get active and develop a healthy lifestyle through fun activities like hiking, swimming and climbing.
Most Montanans live within a day's drive of either Yellowstone National Park or Glacier. We retreat to our national parks for clean air, open spaces and a solace from our busy lives. We expect our national parks to be healthy places to experience the outdoors, and in many ways they are, but they also face threats that jeopardize their health and the health of their visitors, including from air pollution.
In fact, air quality in parks can be as bad—or worse—than in some major cities. A report released just last year by the National Parks Conservation Association found that every one of the 48 national parks are plagued by significant air pollution problems, despite that they have the most stringent Clean Air Act rules protecting them.
The National Park Service turns 100 this year. That's a century of protecting and enjoying our nation's most treasured places. Our parks shouldn't need another century or more to get clean air.
Fortunately, the Obama administration is proposing several revisions to the Regional Haze Rule—the Clean Air Act program designed to reduce this pollution in national parks—that could put parks on a much faster path to clean air. Most importantly, these revisions include enhancing state accountability for reducing pollution that contributes to national park and wilderness air quality problems.
My family welcomed a new baby earlier this summer and Yellowstone is a stone's throw from our home in Livingston. We are blessed to live in an amazing community in a beautiful place. We have clean air most of the year, but visitors to Yellowstone are actually missing out on an average of 50 miles from the scenic views they've come to enjoy because of haze pollution. Even one day of exposure to harmful air pollution or wildfire smoke could have serious impacts on my son. That worries me.
As a parent and an educator, I want leaders that work to reduce air pollution, for my family and for children across Montana. That's why I was happy to learn about a new rule to protect clean air in America's parks.
Our national parks are among our country's greatest achievements, and as we look toward their next 100 years, the Obama administration can leave a legacy to ensure our children and the generations of visitors that will follow enjoy the gift of clean air, free from haze pollution, when they head out to enjoy the spectacular wild and natural wonders of America.
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