It seems Pam Erickson hit a nerve when she correctly called out Public Service Commission candidate Mark Sweeney on his illegal robo calls (see "Going for Gail" in the May 12 letters section). Let's not confuse fact with fiction: automated phone calls are illegal in Montana. Just in case you're not in the mood to look it up, here's how the law reads:
"MCA 45-8-216. Unlawful automated telephone solicitation—exceptions—penalties. (1) A person may not use an automated telephone system, device, or facsimile machine for the selection and dialing of telephone numbers and playing of recorded messages if a message is completed to the dialed number for the purpose of: (e) promoting a political campaign or any use related to a political campaign."
There's nothing unclear or ambiguous about that. It's bad enough that Sweeney is breaking the law. (Not that it matters, illegal is illegal, but the telephone message is 29 seconds, not 15 seconds, as claimed by Sweeney.) Now he's bragging and lying about these annoying illegal calls? (See "Stand by calls," in the May 19 letters section.) Those are two character traits the voting public has had its fill of this election year.
Sweeney ran for a seat on the PSC four years ago and lost in a primary in his own district (Butte/Bozeman). I'd guess that's why he recently moved over the mountain to run in our district.
Gail Gutsche has lived in Missoula for 24 years. During that time, she served four terms in the legislature and one on the PSC, and earned a 100 percent endorsement record from the environmental, women's and labor communities.
The Democratic choice for PSC is clear: On June 7, please join me in voting for Gail Gutsche, an effective, experienced, principled and local leader.
During my tenure on city council I had the opportunity to work closely with both Stacy Rye and Dave Strohmeier. While these are two hardworking public servants, who I continue to be friends with, I will be voting for Stacy Rye. Here is my insider's perspective: Stacy's focus is good functioning government and providing for those in need. Dave's focus is producing legislation. While rules about cellphones, riding in trucks, wearing helmets and lighting fireworks are all somewhat important, I'm not sure a string of government-knows-best rules and regulations is what the county needs. I much prefer Rye's efforts to end discrimination, protect the rights of women and children, and assure there is equity in the distribution of government resources.
Rye also has an impressive ability to empathize with her constituents and is good at articulating her position even in the midst of a very heated and confrontational environment. Stacy also enjoyed a great relationship with the city staff and for the last year has been developing similar relationships with those at the county. Stacy has always had a love for the details of policy and the workings of government. There is a great deal of minutia involved in this work and few people have the desire or aptitude to embrace it. Stacy thrives on understanding the details of budgets and various funding and financing mechanisms. She is incredibly dedicated to her work as a county commissioner and I hope you join me in voting for Stacy this June and November.
"Very few people in the area are driving aggressively," Dan Brooks writes in his May 12 column on the upcoming bicycle season. This statement is worth its own correction, but then he pedals over the edge of the world (which is just south of Darby, where dinosaurs live with humans) by stating "those who are (aggressive drivers) have had their license plates marked with a 13 for the safety of other drivers."
Okay, tongue-in-cheek is fun, and I'm not opposed to the discipline. In fact, I'll challenge Dan to a duel—figuratively speaking, of course—over this longstanding urban myth that newcomers to Missoula seem to get inoculated once they trade their out-of-state plates for their No. 4 Montana ones.
Let's start with the obvious. Just because someone cashed in her California ranch house for her new pastoral existence in the Bitterroot doesn't mean she's a more aggressive driver than the other gal who cashed in her California ranch house for the more-urbane (but still cow-influenced) existence in Missoula. In fact, the Californian or Ohioan or New Yorkian who lands a No. 4 plate on her all-terrain minivan is much more likely to survive the transition with her insanely sped up driving habits than the one who actually has to brake for a cow every now and then in Ravalli County. Speaking as a longtime No. 13er, this is demonstrably proven every time I drive down from the Bitterroot and get rudely cut off five or six times before I reach what used to be called "the Monster Light" and what is still the Black Hole of doomed space-wanderers at the scientifically inexplicable intersection of Russell and Brooks. This is where I'm always obliged to stop for the exact length of time it takes me to reflect on my assumptions about Human Nature, which is traditionally about five minutes. "Oh, yeah, I'm in Missoula now," I remind myself as I wait for a stoplight which may or may not have been installed by Agenda 21 troops from Belgium who've taken over the Missoula City Council and who want to suck my No. 13 brains with a traffic camera.
I don't say this because I think there's anything congenitally different between you 4-plate drivers and us 13-plate drivers, any more than I would say that old people on Social Security are taking all the money that should go to X-genners with massive college debt and therefore should be blamed for all our financial woes with a dismissive "those people."
In the case of these more universally false and trivial divisions that we seem more and more susceptible to in these interesting times, I get so tired of them. I think we need to work a little harder at working together rather than falling so easily in line with such us vs. them myths that don't lend themselves to solutions to problems facing such communities under the gravitational influence of Black Holes, like Missoula, the Bitterroot or the whole U.S.A., which is where most No. 4 and No. 13 drivers really come from.
I offer these thoughts with the best of intentions, fully acknowledging that I also suffer from the human condition of blaming others for my own problems. So I'll close with a prejudice of my own, a simple fact (I think) about the majority of Montana drivers no matter what their number: too often too many of us drive like we vote—with recklessness and without thought of the consequences. As proof of one I offer the results of the other: the Montana Legislature. I rest my case.
I am responding to recent allegations by my PSC primary opponent and her supporters that I did something wrong with recent automated phone calls that were left in voters' answering machines (see "Going for Gail" in the May 12 letters page). The state statute they quote is not as clear-cut as they would like to think. In all likelihood it is unconstitutional. The same law in South Carolina was found to be a violation of free speech.
I stand behind my decision to drop a 15-second prerecorded voice mail that was delivered to voters' answering machines. If you don't like it, delete it. There are nearly 100,000 voters that make the PSC District 4. I would have to send out nearly 1,000 pounds of postcard mailers to get my message out. Multiply that by the number of candidates whose mailers get looked at once. These only end up in our landfill. It is tons of waste. As a conservationist I am appalled by this.
During Gail Gutsche's tenure as a PSC commissioner, she voted to approve the sale of Mountain Water to the Carlyle Group (a vote that is estimated to have cost the city over $10 million in legal fees). In 2012 Gail was the only district and statewide democratic incumbent to lose in the seven counties that make up PSC 4. Jon Tester, Monica Lindeen, Linda McCulloch, Denise Juneau and Steve Bullock all won in these combined seven counties. This gave the entire five-person PSC commission to Republicans and Bob Lake, who has been the utility's strongest supporter.
It is time to elect a Democrat who is a strong leader who will be on the job daily watching out for ratepayer's best interests.
PSC District 4 Candidate
Recently, I received a prerecorded phone call on behalf of Mark Sweeney's campaign. Sweeney is running in a three-way Democratic primary for Public Service Commission, along with Gail Gutsche and Lee Tavenner. Not only do I find automated calls offensive, they are illegal in Montana (Montana Code Annotated 45-8-216). I find it extremely ironic that a candidate who is running for a seat that regulates telecommunications is abusing the law that regulates them. This unprofessional behavior and blatant disregard for the law calls into serious question his qualifications as a candidate for the PSC.
Please join me in voting for Gail Gutsche on June 7. Gail served with integrity on the commission from 2009-2012 and worked diligently for clean energy and conservation. We can count on her to operate within the law and to work hard to solve the important issues facing us.
One of the fastest growing areas in Montana, Missoula County has developed a lot in recent decades. And our community is projected to continue to expand by leaps and bounds in the years ahead. To shepherd us into the future, we need leaders on the Missoula Board of County Commissioners who are visionary, practical and collaborative. We need leaders who will bridge the urban-rural divide—a chasm that plagues local government and community discussions. We need Dave Strohmaier.
Land use decisions are among the most important ones commissioners make. One by one, these decisions shape the character of this place and determine what our lives are like everyday. Our quality of life fuels community development, but left unchecked, the very things we value could be lost. Dave knows we need to maintain a vibrant agriculture here, to keep the public in control of public lands, to provide affordable housing, to ensure civil rights and to build a resilient economy in the face of climate change. He knows we don't need to sacrifice one goal for the others.
A sharp problem-solver, Dave will craft policies that balance competing interests. He will dig deep to understand and address the complex challenges we face as a community. Dave will build consensus around thorny topics, such as agricultural land protection, transportation and environmental review. When it comes to our land, air and water, he will work for the good of current and future generations.
Dave's outstanding track record reflects his strong conservation ethic, developed over years of working in the woods as a firefighter and enjoying hunting and fishing with his family. Please join me in voting for the only conservationist in the upcoming Democratic primary for county commissioner—Dave Strohmaier.
As impressive as forest fire smoke columns can be, research shows that only 5 percent of the carbon in big trees is released by fire. That's because it is the needles, some branches and bark that is actually burned. Most of the carbon remains stored in the unburned tree trunks.
Ground surface fuels account for the vast majority of the carbon released. Grasses and shrubs often begin sprouting and restoring carbon in the same season.
Not only do unburned tree trunks continue to store vast amounts of carbon, they provide essential habitats for a wide variety of birds and other cavity-nesting wildlife. As trees fall to the ground, they help stabilize the soil and begin to replenish it with organic material and nutrients in addition to nutrients released in the ash. Fallen trees are key for many ground- and log-denning species of wildlife.
Forest fires are nature's way of rejuvenating forest ecosystems and the process has been going on for thousands of years. The last thing people should do is to bring in heavy machinery and remove the tree trunks as logs for sawmills and biomass energy plants that release the carbon to the atmosphere. This damages sensitive soils and robs the forest of large carbon-storing trees at a critical point in both the natural forest cycle and global warming.
Research, including Forest Service studies, shows that post-fire logging damages the forest ecosystem. Other studies show that logging green trees in an attempt to prevent fires is largely ineffective, due to the inability to predict where fire is going to occur and to duplicate via logging the positive effects of fire. Simply put, big business has seized upon fires as a smokescreen behind which to hide the immense damage logging does to forest ecosystems and our atmosphere.
Keith J. Hammer
Swan View Coalition
We're voting for Dave Strohmaier, Democratic candidate for county commissioner. Dave is a thoughtful leader with decades of experience administering programs and managing staff. He listens and he acts with respect and with a collaborative spirit.
Dave is a sportsman and conservationist who values good stewardship for Missoula County and understands the imperative to reduce the county's carbon footprint. He received the sole endorsement of the Montana Conservation Voters for county commissioner.
Dave understands that planning is essential and must not be sidetracked by rhetoric seeking to widen the urban-rural divide. He respects private property and the value of public lands.
Dave is a former wildlands firefighter and EMT and chaired the Missoula City Council's Public Safety and Health Committee for four years. He offers a unique perspective on public safety.
Dave is inclusive. He upholds human rights. He understands and supports the importance of cultural enrichment. He has a sense of and appreciation for history.
The above are excellent reasons to vote for Dave Strohmaier. But there's more. As we have come to know Dave and his family over the years, we have marveled at Dave's commitment to our way of government and dedication to making it responsive to the people. He's both positive and pragmatic. At a time when Americans are becoming increasingly polarized, Dave's leadership based upon cooperation more than confrontation brings fresh hope that we can attain the best from our democratic processes.
Dave Strohmaier is a man of vision and commitment: a family man who leads by example whether at work, on the campaign trail or recreating, hunting and fishing on public lands.
Gary and Judy Matson
The Montana Constitution says it is the goal of the people to establish a system of education that develops the full educational potential of each person. This includes helping students with disabilities to reach their potential.
The legislative School Funding Commission is looking at the state funding of special education to determine if students are being provided an equal opportunity to learn. Questions have arisen as to the adequacy of state funding for special education.
The 2015 legislature funded inflationary costs for general public education, but not for special education. If the state fails to fund special education adequately, local school districts have to shift dollars from their general funds. The net effect is less money to serve students who are not in special education.
The state requires school districts to make a 33 percent general fund match for special education dollars, but most are paying much more. Statewide, the average local district is paying 41.3 percent of actual special education cost from its regular education funding.
Special Education Cooperatives serve 81 percent of Montana school districts. Cooperatives do not have taxing authority. They are dependent on a state formula that allots only 5 percent of the annual special education appropriation to them. This amount has not been adjusted since the 1980s, and does not adequately cover the expenses of recruitment, training and support of highly qualified professionals or pay for staff transportation to serve children in large geographic areas.
The School Funding Commission must weigh whether children with disabilities are receiving an equal educational opportunity and whether their services are adequately funded by the state. If money from school districts' general funds has to go to special education, other programs that benefit all students have to be cut back. Equity in special education funding affects all students and must be addressed to meet the requirements of the Montana Constitution.
Bitterroot Valley Education Cooperative
As registered nurse who is interested in both Western and alternative medicine, I have taken time to earn continuing education for health care professionals on the topic of cannabis and endocannabinoid science (see "High and dry," April 28). This has given me an understanding of how cannabis works therapeutically to help and heal people of all ages. Modern research on cannabis shows that cannabis has phytochemical properties that work with a system of receptors in the body called the endocannabinoid system. The action of the endocannabinoid system is to restore homeostasis when acute or chronic injury occurs. Cannabis works on many different diseases because of the wide distribution of these endocannabinoid receptors in the body. This is why so many people are finding relief with cannabis use.
It is becoming increasingly known that many people are healing themselves using cannabis. Veterans, a population with a high risk of PTSD and suicide, are finding that use of cannabis is helping them cope mentally along with healing their physical pain. According to the veterans administration statistics, in Montana, the total number of veterans makes up approximately 10 percent of the population, with the majority of them being Vietnam and Gulf War veterans. Veteran care needs are changing to reflect the experiences of the generations they come from. Many of these veterans are already comfortable with cannabis use. They would like legal access to cannabis as a safe alternative to many medications, including opiates.
When legal cannabis access is supported it also expands the economy of the health care industry and increases the number of people that veterans have contact with. The rate of suicides in Montana puts the state No. 1 nationally. With approximately 20 suicides monthly, this increased contact with cannabis care providers may be therapeutic to at risk populations such as veterans and others with chronic pain and PTSD.
I think it is important for Montana citizens to support safe and legal access to cannabis. I also encourage health care professionals to pursue accredited continuing education units, which are applicable to licensure requirements, in cannabis as medicine and endocannabinoid science.
As a health care practitioner who has taken the time to learn about cannabis science through accredited continuing education, I feel comfortable in saying that cannabis is a botanical medicine that has such healing potential to cure and improve the quality life of so many people, including veterans, that it would be an injustice to withhold access. I encourage those who are compassionate to the health and well being and the economical needs of our citizens to support the initiatives to legal access cannabis in Montana. Our signatures and votes count!
Ms. Tompkins -- thank you.
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