Listen, there's not much to say about voting here, other than to say if you don't vote, you suck.
There are a couple of Missoula County Referendums, in particular, which need a 40 percent turn out to pass, and if they don't, it will indeed be on your head-or that of your neighbors, friends and families.
As for the message behind our endorsements, our aim is to supply some balance to the political proceedings in the nation and state. The candidates and initiatives we've given our blessing to strike us as the best available choices. There's got to be someone who can speak up for those with no vote-in particular, the children and the environment, plus those so disenfranchised that they've simply decided it doesn't matter. The folks we've stood up for here will, we hope, carry a rallying cry to the centers of power.
We haven't weighed in on all the races, however, leaving those which strike us as less crucial to those who have already made up their minds. Throughout the election season, we've done our best to cover these contests in a manner that allows everybody to make educated decisions.
On the local level, we've found ourselves in the ironic position of rooting for conservatism through proxy. That is to say: We want the regulatory controls of the government to slow things down enough for the leaders to come up with a cogent plan to deal with growth-and we want them to pay for community amenities as well.
• U.S. Representative
Endorsement: Dusty Deschamps, Democrat
Rep. Rick Hill has consistently portrayed himself as a centrist candidate, but his voting record indicates otherwise. His low marks from pro choice groups and conservation organizations belie a profoundly conservative agenda. Although Deschamps could stand to be stronger on the environment, his well-reasoned tenure as Missoula County Attorney and his strong advocacy on behalf of working men and women and pro-education stance lead us to believe that when it comes time to do the right thing the Democratic challenger will do so. (Plus, although the president's peccadilloes have provided locker-room humor for the ages, do we really want to allow for the D.C. hate-meisters to get away with distracting the country from such important affairs as welfare reform, peace in the Middle East and the global economic crisis? After all, Hill and his Republican cronies have been Starry-eyed since the getgo.)
• State races
• H.D. 62
Endorsement: John Lynn, Democrat
Incumbent Republican Matt Brainard's anti-federal posturing and weakness on education are amongst the dangers faced across the board by the upcoming state legislature. It's not that Brainard is a bad guy, per se-he's smarter than some of his colleagues, for one-but the last thing the state needs is more gun happy, state's rights politicians making decisions in Helena. Given how the political winds haven't really shifted from the last time Brainard represented Missoula in the House, Democrat John Lynn should act as a balancing voice.
• H.D. 63
Endorsement: Wayne F. Fairchild, Democrat
In this open seat, Democrat Wayne Fairchild is the right choice hands down. As he's fond of pointing out, he's a small business owner with military experience, so he knows a thing or two about commerce and government policies. That his company is Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures, a service that caters to locals and tourists alike, shows that he's also a part of the New West generation, and could provide a helpful perspective to the old timers concerned that as goes resource extraction, so goes the local economy.
• H.D. 64
Endorsement: Ron Erickson, Democrat
Republican Lynn Link sank her own ship in our book by denying the press access. She wants to be a citizen legislator? Where's the accountability? As Link says, her accountability is to the Christian right, not the voters and certainly not the Fourth Estate. Ron Erickson, in the meantime, may be a little green for some tastes, but the long-time Missoula activist has served the community well by fighting for open space and other important issues.
• H.D. 66
Endorsement: Gail Gutsche, Democrat
As has been said in other races, if this were a job, Jon Williams wouldn't make it through the first round. The 18-year-old may think he wants to land in Helena, but Gail Gutsche's been there-albeit as a lobbyist-and knows she wants it. Gutsche's voice can be heard loud and proud as she speaks out for women's rights, against hate in our state and in favor of the environment, public health and safety. Voting for Gutsche's not just right, it's smart.
• H.D. 68
Endorsement: Carolyn Squires, Democrat
The veteran incumbent Carolyn Squires has stood her ground in the past. She's a tough cookie, strong on education, labor and women's issues, and willing to speak her mind on plenty of other issues. 'Nuff said.
• H.D. 69
Endorsement: Carol Williams, Democrat
Not as much of pugilist as her husband, former U.S. Rep. Pat Williams, Carol Williams has impressed us with her continued commitment to education, the arts and responsible resource use. If she had thrown her hat in the ring, she might have beat Rep. Rick Hill in the race for the D.C. House seat. She knows the ropes and how to get things done. Let's put her to work here at home.
• H.D. 70
Endorsement: Linda McCulloch, Democrat
Linda McCulloch's long standing relationship with Senate Minority Leader Mike Halligan bodes well for the Democratic incumbent. She got on the ball early this year, asking Halligan to carry two draft requests concerning transportation legislation-including one clearly intended to encourage public transportation and protect minors by giving buses the right of way at intersections. A librarian, McCulloch is also strong on education issues.
• Missoula County races
• County commissioner
Endorsement: Bill Carey, Democrat
If Democratic commisssioner Fern Hart, a moderate voice through her tenure, got so fed up with the tenor of the debate over growth in Missoula County that she had to quit, is there any reason to think that Jerry Ballas, the Republican newcomer to electoral politics, can find a middle ground?
We're not so sure, nor are we sure it's his intent.
But Democrat Bill Carey, who's got experience dealing with the high-strung state legislature as well as the infighting in the local Democratic machine, might stand a chance. That fact combined with the reality that somebody's got to put the breaks on growth and develop a planning strategy for Missoula makes Carey a keen choice for commissioner.
We only hope that if he gets elected, his fellow commissioners Republican Barbara Evans and Democrat Michael Kennedy will let him get a word in edgewise.
• County attorney
Endorsement: Fred Van Valkenburg, Democrat
Experience, experience, experience-Fred Van Valkenburg has seen it all, and despite his strong connections among the Democrats, there's no reason to think that he wouldn't be a just and righteous attorney in what amounts to be the fourth largest law firm in town.
• Constitutional amendments
There's no call for this amendment other than to hamstring a state government which has (arguably) as its best intention the citizenry's well being. Forcing voter approval of all taxes has been given the thumbs down by Gov. Marc Racicot, Mayor Mike Kadas and the Associated Students of the University of Montana President Barrett Kaiser. No taxation without representation was a tool to free us from a monarchy, but as long as we've got a say-so in whom we elect, it seems ridiculous to take the power to levy taxes away from them-especially here in Montana.
• Legislative referendum
6 mills levy, FOR
The future depends on the education of students in Montana. Currently up for reauthorization, the 6 mill levy would, beginning in the year 2000, provide up to $15 million dollars to a university system desperately in need, and increase the levy by 2 percent every year for the remaining nine years.
If passed, this law would amount to deregulating motor fuel prices in the state of Montana-and, as has been seen elsewhere, that could mean a lot of trouble in the long run. Given the opportunity to undercut prices, who's to say that the Big Ones such as Exxon and Conoco wouldn't drive everybody else out of business, and then slowly raise gas prices until nobody could afford to fill their tanks. The legislature had the right idea in 1991 when it placed a bottom limit on what fuel would cost, even if doesn't always seem that way.
No matter what its authors at the Montana Environmental Information Center say, we're pretty sure that the true intent of this initiative is to block the McDonald Gold Project from being built at the headwaters of the Blackfoot River. And that's not a bad thing. The risks inherent in the cyanide leach process stretch beyond the threat of cyanide in our rivers, because the amount of gold and silver in such deposits are minuscule in comparison with the amount of dirt that must be moved to get at the ore. We say mine Fort Knox and, until there's a way to safely get at the precious metals, leave 'em be. As for those who argue jobs would be lost, we ask: Do you think a 30-year boom should be counted as part of developing a sustainable economy?
• County referendums
No. 98-2, FOR
This referendum would help provide services for the elderly. There's no question that it's a worthwhile price to pay to make sure that old people are cared for. After all, we'll all be old one day.
No. 98-3, FOR
If Jim Parker, lefty agitator, and Charlie Brown, Mr. Common Sense himself, can agree that Parks for All is worth supporting, how could the soccer playing, softball cheering, frisbee tossing chumps here at the Independent argue otherwise. For mere pennies a year, we can take care of open space around town, at Fort Missoula and in the county at large no problem. Vote: yes!