Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Vote Strohmaier

Posted on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 3:49 PM

I met both 2016 commissioner candidates long before they were candidates and I have chosen to support Dave Strohmaier for the following reasons:

Teamwork to Dave means working together with the other commissioners to resolve disagreements and make the best decisions for Missoula County. It means developing good working relations with staff members and department heads, motivating staff and department heads to put forth their ideas without fear, developing a consensus or acceptable compromise, and moving forward with the group's decision as doing their best for Missoula. That is in contrast to being condescending, rude or intimidating toward subordinates and peers when trying to promote your idea as the only good one or going around the process to get your way.

Dave developed and practiced supervisory skills under stressful situations as a fire crew supervisor on the Lolo National Forest and for the Bureau of Land Management. He also understands maintaining good relationships for future efforts. Burning bridges can be life-threatening, so he learned how to build strong bridges with teammates and maintain them for future efforts.

Dave will say what he thinks in any situation, but respects the position and feelings of others—without condescension, rudeness or intimidation to force his point of view.

Dave's commitment to public service is undeniable: His terms on the Missoula City Council (chair of Parks and Conservation Committee and Public Safety and Health Committee); his time on the Historic Eastside Neighborhood Association (some as president); and his campaigns for U. S. Congress in 2012 and the Montana Legislature in 2014.

I strongly support Dave Strohmaier to be our next elected (versus appointed) county commissioner because I believe his personality and work ethic will improve the public's perception of the Missoula Board of County Commissioners to become more positive and restore the commission's good relationships with staff and county departments.

C. Burt Caldwell


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Celebrate Law Day

Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 2:39 PM

Every year since 1958, the nation has marked Law Day on May 1. Law Day provides an opportunity for us to commemorate our national ideals of liberty, justice and equality under the law and affords us an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to those great principles.

The American Bar Association has designated the theme of this Law Day as "Miranda: More than Words" to mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona. In Miranda, the court held that law enforcement personnel must advise a suspect of his or her rights in order to use statements made during a custodial interrogation in a later criminal proceeding. As a result of this case, police developed the Miranda warning, which lets people questioned by police know of their constitutional rights to refrain from speaking to police and to consult an attorney.

The Miranda warning has become so ingrained in our popular culture and consciousness that many of us know all or some of its words, starting with, "You have the right to remain silent." Yet, as the ABA Law Day theme implies, there is much more to Miranda than the words of the warning; it has become a living symbol of the importance of procedural fairness and equal justice under the law in our criminal justice system.

Unfortunately, as a nation, many challenges still remain in effectuating our national pledge of "justice for all," including dealing with racial disparities in the justice system, disproportionate sentencing and inadequately funded public defense systems. We can and must do better; the constitution and our cherished national principles demand it.

This Law Day, let us reflect on the importance of our constitutional rights, promote public awareness and understanding of those rights, and commit ourselves to the work that remains to be done in ensuring that we have a criminal justice system that is fair for all Americans.

Matt Thiel


State Bar of Montana


Vote Rye

Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 2:38 PM

As the clerk and treasurer for Missoula County, I have had a front seat to the governing style of Missoula County Commissioner Stacy Rye. In her short time on the county commission, Stacy has been a fierce advocate for open and transparent government. This hasn't earned her any friends, but it should earn her your vote. Without meaningful public access to county government, public decisions are made in a vacuum. Ultimately, the citizens of Missoula County are the ones that are hurt.

To be clear, I don't believe that anything nefarious is at work. Missoula County is simply behind the times in terms of making schedules, agendas and meeting minutes available to the public. Stacy has proposed having meetings recorded and minutes available online shortly thereafter. This would give Missoula County residents the opportunity to become involved, even if they aren't able to attend every meeting. In turn, that makes it more likely that our elected officials will be able to understand the true impact of their decisions before those decisions are made.

Stacy is making progress at bringing the process into the open. If we cut her tenure short, I am afraid that we will simply return to the comforts of closed government. For this and a host of other reasons, I wholeheartedly and without reservation endorse Stacy Rye. I would encourage you to vote for her and let her finish the work she started a mere seven months ago.

Tyler Gernant


Cutting classes

Posted on Wed, Apr 27, 2016 at 2:38 PM

The retirement of a family and consumer science teacher is leading to the potential elimination of several classes at Hellgate High School that have been beneficial to countless students. These classes include Early Childhood Development, Preparation for Life, Nutrition and Wellness, Textiles and Home Interiors. The only courses that will remain in this department are culinary classes.

The district's philosophy seems to be that if a course doesn't lead to a career, it's not essential to keep. The classes they might be eliminating are the ones that help students to become responsible citizens and parents. Every student should be required to take Early Childhood Development; most will become parents. Early Childhood Development teaches about pregnancy and childbirth and how to provide for the emotional, social, intellectual growth and development of children. It provides information about skills related to jobs in child care and early education.

Preparation for Life classes teach students about individual goal setting for the future, how to write a resume, apply and interview for a job, how to manage stress, how to rent an apartment, about domestic violence and unhealthy/healthy relationships, how to handle sexual harassment and numerous other topics.

Textiles teaches students how to create and select patterns and how to assemble various sewing projects, skills which can lead to jobs in the industry of clothing design.

Nutrition and Wellness classes teach students how food choices affect one's health and how one's nutrition, fitness and physical activity are interrelated, which can lead to jobs as dietitians.

Home Interiors teaches students about different careers in housing, renting versus buying, home maintenance, interior construction, landscaping, remodeling, elements of design, selecting furniture, etc.

As you can probably infer, all of these classes cover possibilities for future careers. These classes are essential, too, in preparing our students to make responsible decisions about their future living styles, relationships, health and dying choices.

Many students at the high school level are struggling to determine what type of career they desire. Not all of them want to attend a four-year university; many want to work after leaving high school. The areas of childcare, textiles, nutrition and wellness and home interior design are careers that high school graduates can enter and be successful at, while providing a good income for their families. Over 125 students per semester will be affected by the elimination of these classes.

There are other classes on the chopping block: one section of Welding, a class which leads to direct employment in the community, as well as Native American Studies, Senior Studio and Sculpture and sections of World Languages.

These classes attract students who are struggling to find a reason to stay in school—they don't see themselves as being International Baccalaureate students. We need options for these students that will help them become responsible citizens and parents. If you agree, please contact the superintendent of schools and your school board members.

Nancy Larum


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Time to change

Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 2:24 PM

For three days, my ex-husband held me captive and beat me, sometimes with a hammer. When I finally escaped, he threatened to kill me. He's now where he belongs—in prison—but even with him there I still, even years later, have to convince myself it's okay to feel safe.

It's an experience shared by many victims of violent crime. Even after justice is served and the offender is locked away behind bars, the trauma of the experience persists. And I know all too well how it can affect your job and your relationships with other people.

What can make it even worse for victims of crime is when the criminal justice system fails to work for them. Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for the hardworking law enforcement officials and usually they get it right. But today in Montana when something goes wrong, victims of crime have no recourse because they do not have the same rights as offenders.

It's time to change that. It's time we made the rights of victims equal to the rights of individuals accused or convicted of crime. And that's why we need Marsy's Law for Montana.

Marsy's Law is a proposed amendment to the Montana Constitution that will establish a Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. Those rights include the right to be notified of proceedings in your case, the right to be heard at proceedings and the right to be notified of changes in your offender's custodial status.

Most states already provide constitutional rights for victims of crime. Montana is one in the minority that does not. We can change that—voters will have an opportunity to enact Marsy's Law for Montana in this November's election.

Crime victims from around Montana have been speaking out in their support of Marsy's Law. I've shared my story with many and the main point that I always drive home is that anyone can be a victim. And if you do find yourself in that unfortunate situation, you want your rights to be respected.

Reforms like Marsy Law can't fix all of the problems that victims of crime face—for some things there's just no way to undo all of the damage. But Marsy's Law will fix the areas of our criminal justice system in which victims can feel underserved or neglected. Please join me in supporting Marsy's Law for MontanaCI-116in this year's general election.

Shari Cooper


Urgent situation

Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 2:24 PM

On Monday, April 11, I was one of 430 protesters arrested at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as part of a weekslong demonstration called Democracy Spring/Democracy Awakening, which began on April 1 with a 10-day, 140-mile march from Philadelphia to Washington. These coordinated events were organized to protest big-money domination in American politics as well as voter suppression and other issues facing our democracy. I had planned to stay until the final day, but for personal reasons I came home to Missoula on April 13. Since then I have watched the demonstrations unfold with great interest. As of this writing on April 18, the last day of the Democracy Awakening gathering, more than 1,000 have been arrested and thousands have rallied in Washington. Media coverage was somewhat sparse, so I am writing this letter to raise awareness in Montana of this historic action.

Although the rallies were (unsurprisingly) swarming with Bernie Sanders supporters, the events' organizers emphasized from the beginning that these were nonpartisan demonstrations, as the issue of corporate and billionaire control of our government is something that affects all voters—conservatives, independents and progressives alike.

Currently there are several bills in Congress related to this issue: the Government by the People Act, the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 and the Voter Empowerment Act of 2015, and the Democracy for All Amendment (as promoted by Move to Amend and many other groups). We participants are now asking you, our fellow citizens, to write your representatives regarding these bills, share information on Facebook and tweet your support for campaign-finance reform. There are also a number of online petitions to sign.

The situation is urgent. There is no way these reforms will happen on their own. We the people must speak out and let our representatives know that we are watching them, we know what they are up to, and we demand they put a stop to the shenanigans and give us back our democracy.

Gwen McKenna


Slap in the face

Posted on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Recently the Montana Legislative Education and Local Government Interim Committee voted against amending a law that would require concussion policies to be in place for all of Montana's youth athletes who play sports outside of school-sanctioned athletics. According to a recent survey by the University of Montana, about a third of youth sports groups do not have concussion policies and are not required to do so under the current law. The committee's failure to amend the current legislation means that almost one-third of Montana's youth athletes may be in danger of repetitive brain injury by not receiving an initial proper assessment and treatment in the event they sustain a brain injury.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Montana, having been a longtime and steadfast proponent of and having collaborated with the drafting of the original language for the Dylan Steigers' Protection of Youth Athletes Act, are extremely disappointed by the decision made by the committee. By leaving the legislation "as is," as motioned by Sen. Matthew Rosendale, R-Glendive, and passed 7-3 by other committee members, our legislators have done a blatant disservice to the children of the state of Montana. The vote is essentially a slap in the face to the countless individuals who devoted significant time, resources and energy to inform and educate legislators on the immediate and long-term consequences of repetitive brain injury and the importance of an evidence-based strategy to ensure our youth are protected.

The committee's vote reflects a sudden change of favorable momentum noted at the committee's January hearing. Moreover, throughout the months of meetings held by this committee there was never any public opposition to expansion, and included the support of a panel of executives from three unsanctioned sports organizations. It is unfortunate that with the exception of Sen. Jill Cohenour, D-East Helena, Rep. Moffie Funk, D-Helena, and Rep. Jean Price, D-Great Falls, the majority of committee members seemingly chose to focus on regulation and liability as reasons to leave this important work undone.

Our work is not done and the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana will continue to actively promote equal safety standards for all Montana youth athletes in our continuing effort to bring awareness to, and the prevention of, brain injury.

Sahra Susman

The Brain Injury Alliance of Montana


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rewriting history

Posted on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 2:12 PM

I read Ted Stroll's latest attempt to rewrite history and congressional intent (see "Power to the pedal," April 7) with great interest. His fables have improved over the many years since he first tried to spin the idea that "mechanical transport" is the same as "motor vehicles." This one, though, contains a glaring contradiction: if the Wilderness Act cannot be cited to ban bicycles (as Ted claims), under what authority could the local manager decide to ban them (as Ted proposes)? Managers don't get to pick and choose what parts of a law to ignore.

Ted quotes Church and Udall on "too strict" management and warning against "stringent purity' criteria" as if the senators were talking about bicycles. They were not. "Too strict" management referred to grazing, which Congress clarified in 1980 with the so-called Congressional Grazing Guidelines. The "'purity' criteria" was a criticism over too readily disqualifying areas during inventories for possible future designations because of past uses of the land. The more appropriate criteria were the basis for the Endangered American Wilderness Act of 1978 and many subsequent laws.

Since the Wilderness Act of 1964, Congress has passed over 130 wilderness laws—many cosponsored by Church and Udall—with full knowledge that the four wilderness-managing agencies prohibit public use of all forms of mechanical transport. And never has Congress taken one of those opportunities to say, "Oh, by the way, we meant to allow bicycles."

Chris Barns


Watch out nonprofits

Posted on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 2:12 PM

New rules related to overtime pay being proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor are cause for concern in Montana's nonprofit community. The changes will cause significant increases in payroll costs, inevitably leading to a reduction of services to nonprofit clients and patrons.

Under current DOL rules, employers, including nonprofit organizations, may designate employees who are in administrative and professional roles as salaried, "exempting" them from hourly wages and mandatory overtime. To qualify, those employees must make at least $23,660 annually and meet specific conditions for their job, as set by DOL. The proposed changes more than double the salary threshold for exempt employees, raising the minimum salary to $50,440.

For most organizations the current rules make sense. Employees in management or administrative roles often need to have more flexible hours in order to fulfill their duties.

Nonprofit staff may have to work longer hours preparing for a board of directors meeting, or a development director may need extra hours working on a grant application deadline, or a direct care clinician may have a client in crisis who needs assistance past 5:00 p.m., or an arts organization may work longer hours hanging an exhibition or rehearsing for a performance. The examples are endless but all are tied to the need for common sense flexibility in the nonprofit workforce.

The proposed change by the DOL means employees earning more than $50,440 would be eligible to be salaried—but all other employees under that threshold would have to be hourly workers. Put in context, Helena Industries, one of the largest nonprofits in Helena, and where I work, would only have two positions meeting the DOL threshold out of 65 full-time staff.

There are precious few nonprofits in Montana that can afford to pay supervisors and managers overtime every time they have to work beyond 40 hours a week. One response to the increase in payroll costs would be to reduce staff to fit within budget constraints leading to program cuts and elimination of services to nonprofits' clients.

For any employer, making this change from salaried to hourly pay structures for management and administrative employees will mean higher payroll costs. But this is especially troublesome for Montanan's nonprofits that typically cannot pass along increased personnel costs to clients. If I have a manager making $40,000 per year, I cannot raise that person's wage to $50,440 because I don't have the budget to do so. Case managers in my organization are paid based on reimbursement rates administered by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. I have no control over what the Montana Legislature appropriates for DPHHS.

Furthermore, for years watchdog groups have taught donors to evaluate how much nonprofit organizations spend on overhead costs versus program costs. Since the DOL rule will dramatically and suddenly increase administrative and payroll costs relative to program expenditures, fundraising will become even more challenging for nonprofits.

For Montana, the proposed DOL rules hit employers unfairly in that they are based on a national one-size-fits-all approach. Low wage states like Montana will have more serious consequences because we have higher proportions of employees whose wages fall well under the newly proposed threshold. With more than 80 percent of Montana's nonprofit organizations having annual budgets of less than $100,000, under the proposed rule the majority of nonprofit executive directors and CEOs in Montana would no longer qualify to be salaried.

Although DOL's proposed policy is intended to promote the well-being of America's workforce and protect employees in particular industries from being exploited, the policy as written is rife with negative unintended consequences. Montana's nonprofit employers champion human rights issues every day and see the wisdom of ensuring employees are not exploited. However, the proposed bill must be modified to take into account the economics of individual states so that communities are strengthened rather than harmed by the proposed regulation.

This is an issue where Congress needs to intervene in order to make sure these types of unintended consequences are avoided. I'm urging Sens. Tester and Daines to join the efforts already moving in Congress to block DOL's new overtime rules and force them to go back to the drawing board.

Russell A. Cargo

Helena Industries


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Colstrip and shellfish

Posted on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 2:43 PM

Climate change is harming Washington's shellfish industry. According to its Department of Health: "As CO2 reacts with seawater, it lowers pH and reduces the concentration of carbonate ions... ."

Shellfish are less likely to form shells in an acidic environment. That endangers this valuable high-protein, low-fat food source. Evidence of ocean acidification in the Pacific Northwest is compelling.

Also, harmful algal blooms usually increase during warmer months. These blooms produce poisonous biotoxins. When molluscan shellfish eat the algae, the toxin remains in their systems. It can cause illness or death in humans and other mammals who eat shellfish.

Nevertheless, some in Montana's political parties say Washington's Gov. Inslee should have vetoed a bill facilitating phase-out of Colstrip 1 & 2 owned by Washington Utilities. Their pleas ignore the fact that Inslee, must "stand up for Washington's shellfish industry and a Montana food source," which will lose jobs as we burn more coal.

For the rest of us, it's "Stand Up for Montana Agriculture" because we'll lose 24,000 jobs in farming and ranching if we continue overheating the earth by producing too much CO2. So we must transition to no-fuel-cost electricity. We support I-180 at as a start.

Elsie Tuss and Russell Salisbury


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