Walking is about to get a whole lot tastier—and maybe even a bit more tasteful—in Missoula. April 23 kicks off BikeWalkBus Week 2005, and from then until April 30 not a day will go by that you can’t score a free cookie, free bagel or free apple crunch roll from local businesses for your anti-gas-guzzling efforts.

But not all walking takes place during business hours, and over at UM, the Associated Students of the University of Montana (ASUM) have been thinking about students’ nighttime ambulation, too. At their April 13 Senate meeting, the ASUM officers discussed the possibility of changing the name of the Student Escort Service, which is available to help walk students safely across campus to their destinations between about 9 p.m. and 1:30 a.m.

“The inappropriate connotation of ‘Escort Service’ has raised a few eyebrows,” says ASUM President Gale Price. And with plans to distribute Escort Service cards with the service’s phone number to students, Price says it seems like an appropriate time to change the name. One thought: Griz Guard.

Lieutenant Gary Taylor in the UM Office of Public Safety isn’t sure if or when the name change may occur but says that the cards will be distributed for advertising purposes, to get students to “take advantage of” the Escort Service.

Oh, get your mind out of the gutter and go eat a free donut.

•••

It’s a good thing Gov. Schweitzer signed that smoking ban last week (and plans to sign the open-container ban), because Montana is going to have to find new ways to cut back on its population of sick, injured or otherwise downtrodden, thanks to some proposed federal slashing of health and welfare budgets.

According to a report released earlier this month by the non-profit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, cuts proposed in the House could result in Montana losing up to $110 million over the next five years in programs like Medicaid, food stamps, child care, foster care, adoption assistance, child support enforcement, etc.

Sen. Conrad Burns voted in favor of a Senate measure to cut $14 billion over the next five years to Medicaid, but Democrats were able to muster enough votes, including Sen. Max Baucus’, to stop it, at least for now.

“If the House has its way on the issue of cuts to mandatory programs, Congress will likely end up with a budget that cuts health care, nutrition assistance, and other help for vulnerable families at the same time it confers large tax breaks on upper-income households,” said Sharon Parrott, the center’s director of welfare reform and income support and the report’s lead author.

There’s something pleasant to think about as you stroll around town. Oh, and whatever you do, don’t trip. There might not be anyone around to help you get back up again.

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