The Billings Gazette publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are today's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Montana Medicaid keeps me working as a caregiver
I’ve been working in long-term care for 11 years, both in nursing homes and as a home healthcare aid.
As a caregiver, I feel honored to be welcomed into a client’s home and help care for them. Montana’s Medicaid expansion has ensured that even more of our loved ones can receive the care they need to stay at home and live and age with dignity.
I work very hard at my job, and unfortunately do not make enough to afford health care on my own. I’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It feels like I have the flu all the time and every muscle aches, and it never goes away. It makes it incredibly hard to do my job. I take a pill three times a day, and if I didn’t have Medicaid, I would have to pay $90 a month that I don’t have. I was in the ICU with hypokalemia, severe low potassium, three times last month. I was on an IV drip, for five days at a time. Thankfully, because I have Medicaid, I was able to get the treatment I needed and can continue to work.
Republicans and Democrats need to work together to care for our older generation and lift the sunset on Medicaid expansion to prevent any harmful changes that keep people like me from getting the help we need. My clients and families are counting on me, and we’re counting on them.
Don't buy Stusek's bull
Dan Stusek's guest column was deceitfully called, “Rally ignored that outdoors is bipartisan in Montana” (The Billings Gazette, Jan. 31). Stusek is the new hire for the carefully branded “Montana Outdoors Coalition.” Who does he think he's fooling?
One coalition board member, Terry Anderson, of the infamous PERC group out of Bozeman is another public trust privatizer. He's pushed for selling public lands for more than two decades, as well as private landowner hunting tags and doing away with Montana’s “most public friendly” stream access law. Then there's Keith Kubista of Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the modern day Robin Hoods, they steal from the public and give to themselves and outfitters, helped by Republicans.
Finally, there's Rob Arnaud, an outfitter who has leased up tens of thousands of acres of Montana to sell trophy bull elk hunts for as much as $17,000. All of these people are trying to bring these schemes to privatize our public lands, waters, wildlife and fish for personal profit.
No, Dan, you're just plain wrong. One party — Republicans, your party — is consistently working to take the outdoor heritage from the average Montanan so they can make money off the best public resources. In the last five legislative sessions, we’ve seen about 500 bad bills, all brought by Republicans, that would privatize public wildlife, remove our stream access and sell our public lands to the highest bidder, an official plank in your party’s state and national platforms.
We're not buying your bull, you and your group can take your phony coalition to other states that have followed that path.
What are lawmakers thinking?
I believe there’s no better job on earth than taking care of people you love!
And that is why I enjoy my position as a home care provider.
My actual work hours caring for my daughter are much longer than the 21 hours Medicaid allows, and my hourly compensation is much less than working for fast food. Also, my days include helping my elderly parents and friends who can’t drive or shop, or who have trouble managing household chores, which I do free of charge.
Other than the wonderful emotional gratitude I accrue, my job doesn’t include a hefty benefit package.
Lucky for me, Montana Medicaid covers my health care basics. I see a doctor once a year, a dentist twice yearly, and an eye doctor every two years. Thankfully, I don’t have any serious medical conditions, because I have access to doctors.
Recently I injured my foot, which was diagnosed as tendonitis. Without Medicaid expansion, I wouldn’t be able to pay for a doctor, X-rays, orthotics or physical therapy. If I can’t walk, I can’t take of my daughter and other people I love.
But my serenity is at risk because some legislators like Sen. Ed Buttrey consider Medicaid expansion too costly and want to increase insurance premiums another 3 percent.
Good grief, what are they thinking? Five percent of $13,000 is roughly $60 a month. Currently, my insurance premium is $26, and now he wants to triple that amount?
Please call your legislators in Helena; ask them to lift the sunset on Medicaid expansion.
Driving policies should be based on driving, nothing else
State law requires auto insurance, but not fair policy pricing. Companies evaluate personal lives, not just driving records. Using different factors, each chooses who pays more.
Safe drivers — no DUIs, accidents or tickets — who bike ride, pay $500 more annually for coverage lapses. That’s what I found through Progressive. DUIs increased payments $36 annually. Are people who lapse more dangerous than drivers under the influence? It’s not just cyclists; returning service members, people whose car broke down, and drivers who can’t afford payments also pay more.
Perfect drivers’ occupation and education level impact payments. Geico charges cashiers with high-school diplomas $300 per year more than investment bankers with bachelor’s degrees. Are there special driving classes for investment bankers? Teachers with bachelor’s pay less than cashiers, but more than bankers.
Some companies slap massive surcharges for not having excellent credit. Consumer Reports noted that average Montanans with clean driving records and “excellent” credit pay $903 per year but $1,157 if merely “good.” “Poor” credit costs $2,589 per year, with no difference in driving record.
By law, we need auto insurance. Our state’s lawmakers along with Montana’s insurance commissioner should insist policy prices are based on how we drive, not who companies think we are.
Get a band from this decade
When a new concert is announced for Billings, I get excited. This is usually where my excitement ends as the Metra seems to only book three types of concerts: old bands from the ‘80s, hard rock bands that haven't made new music in a while, or country. I know we are in Montana and country is big, but Billings is really missing out on a big opportunity. One of the top radio stations in town is Hot 101.9, yet when you see the concerts at the Metra none of the concerts are from artists that are featured on this station.
I feel the Metra would be greatly surprised by the response it would get if they actually booked a concert with an artist from this decade. Billings could become an alternative to Denver for concerts if only those that book for the Metra would listen.
HB302 puts the government in the exam room
As a woman, parent and Montanan, I believe that the relationship between a patient and their health care provider must be protected from government interference.
People turn to health care providers for expert care and advice that they can trust, often in times of great distress. So when I saw that House Bill 302 threatens to intrude upon those relationships — to put the government smack in the middle of the exam room deciding if the patient can seek a safe and legal abortion or even the birth control method of their choice — I was absolutely appalled. This bill is nothing but an attempt to undermine the kind of decision-making that should be left to a woman and her doctor. Our Legislature must protect a patient's right to make their own health care decisions with the advice of their providers, not politicians with an agenda. Legislators must vote No on HB 302.
How will people blame Trump?
The various scientific publications state that the magnetic North Pole is moving towards Russia at 55 kilometers per month. The problem now is how are the leftist Democrats and the national press is going to blame President Trump?
Patriots cheated (again)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s coaching had less to do with New England’s victory at Super Bowl LIII than the cheating being performed by Belichick’s pass-defenders.
If you study the replays from the game, the standard practice by the New England pass defenders is to crowd the opposing team’s receivers, hook their right arm under the receiver’s left arm and holding the receiver’s left arm against their chest or side. In effect, the receiver is left with only their right arm and hand to catch the ball. The technique was so blatant; I could not believe the officiating staff did not catch the illegal defense technique and call pass interference on the New England players. I believe pass interference was only called once on New England during the whole game. Yet, I observed this technique being used throughout the game by New England pass defenders.
The only passes the Los Angeles Rams completed happened when the Rams’ receivers were able to gain separation from the New England defenders. I don’t know if the officiating turned a blind eye to this defensive technique, are that naive or were on the take from New England. When teams are consistently unable to complete their passes when receivers are being crowded by the pass defenders, the catch sequence during the play needs to be reviewed by the officials for possible pass interference by the defending players. This should be a standard procedure for NFL games.
Trump restored honor to the presidency
I received a post card from “Senor” of Red Lodge.
One side had a picture of Putin and the other side with nonsense, foolish written language pertaining to our latest elected great president, Donald Trump, who is nothing less than a man of integrity, dignity and spirit for the American people, armed forces at home and abroad, and with absolutely no racism in his heart.
Trump’s shocking victory was a great event in history. On Jan. 20, 2017, we bid farewell to an administration of nothing less than a tragedy for the American people, Constitution and abroad, a policy of breaking laws, racism and hatred of our military. An administration that schemed to clear Hillary Clinton and framed our duly elected President Trump, Russian hoax or collusion, all outright lies.
This is the inescapable fact the previous administration was dishonest, unbalance and immoral, sending tax dollars to a country that demonstrates “Death to America.” Unbelievable.
The Obama era did endanger the civil peace and the social fabrics of the U.S.A., simply to satisfy his own appearance and to excite the worst inclinations of his core followers.
Obama, a phony con who did little for his own people — all talk and no action.
Obama’s top officials, the perpetrators, FBI, CIA, Hollywood hypocrites, fake news media and crooked politicians like the Clintons who enriched themselves at the expense of the American people. These swamp rats will be found guilty of their evil and criminal activities.
Let's give the deal maker a deal he can't pass up
Every time the news comes on and he appears, I often start yelling when I hear that loud yelping. If you are like me, you may be suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome or TDS.
It could be triggered by remembering again his 7,000 false statements since he took office, his excessive self-worship, his insults especially toward women and minorities, his attacks on our free press, his total and willful ignorance of even the most basic facts about our Constitution or his slavish adoration of Vlad Putin. He is what the Soviet leader V.I. Lenin called a "useful idiot."
Or perhaps you voted for the big guy and now you have buyer's remorse. I know you're out there. You know he is incompetent and corrupt, but hey, he gave us the Conservative judges he promised and sometimes he says the "best words" to hold me fast like, "Build the wall," or I will destroy the economy."
But wouldn't Mike Pence give the same things to you without all the aggravation? Pence is Conservative, experienced, minimally competent and apparently sane. I don't like Mike Pence. But I love our country more. Let's join together and urge the creation of a bipartisan Congressional coalition that will give him a super-good deal. Resign now, and we promise a full pardon. Just leave. It will be the one and only patriotic thing he will have ever done.
County commission failed to protect community
As citizens living in southwest Billings, we are disappointed in the result of the county commissioner hearing held on Jan. 29. At this meeting, many area residents voiced concerns regarding the proposed gravel pit to be placed at the corner of Wise Lane and Story Road (formerly known as Oscar’s Park).
Among our concerns, is the fact that this proposed mine would exist near the Yellowstone River on a floodplain. We are concerned with how this project might impact the Yellowstone River, and the quality of our water, as the mining could potentially contaminate and/or dry up our wells.
We also worry about road safety, as school bus stops exist in the area. The heavy equipment, associated with the operation of a gravel pit would be passing 150 times a day on Wise Lane, creating a hazard.
Our county commissioners failed us by not placing specific conditions on this potential mine. We understand that they do not have the power to stop the mine, but they do have the power to put conditions on it to protect the citizens of Billings and to preserve its landscape, and they failed to do so. We understand that gravel pits need to exist and operate, but they should not be allowed in existing residential and/or agricultural communities, or near schools or businesses that will suffer once they invade the area. Our health, safety and quality of life are being severely threatened, not to mention how our property values will greatly decrease.
Scott and Julie Prociv
Steve and Marilyn Owen
Rindo and Amy Sironi
We need a wall to protect children, public
We must finish building border barriers for the sake of the children.
Some cartels specialize in opioids. Three hundred Americans per week die because of opioids, 90 percent of which comes across our southern border.
Some cartels specialize in human trafficking, which has millions of child victims. Children are kidnapped from their villages in Central and South America, as well as in the U.S., to become sex slaves. We must build border barriers to keep the drugs out and to keep human-traffickers from abducting the children and turning them into sex slaves.
With border walls, drug traffickers and human traffickers would have to try their luck at the ports of entry, where well-trained, sharp-skilled officers, using high-tech monitoring equipment, are more likely to detect human trafficking.
Obviously, we must build the border barriers to avoid American deaths by criminals who were deported multiple times but sneak back into the U.S.
Some say border barriers are not effective. Border Patrol officers say border barriers are effective. Border patrol officers want border barriers. Border walls work in Israel and in locations in the U.S. where they are built. The effectiveness of border walls seem self-evident. Claims that they don’t work ring hollow.
Who doesn’t want border barriers? Drug cartels and also big employers who want cheap labor. This leads me to wonder if U.S. Senators and Representatives who oppose border barriers are being paid off by drug cartels and big employers.
Margaret S. Smetana
Dems support one wall, but not the other
There seems to be some double-standard thinking going on, mainly among liberal Democrats, when it comes to border walls. President Donald Trump's proposed wall is horrible, according to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and most of their fans. But where is their consternation when it comes to Israel's wall? Now there probably are a few liberal Dems somewhere who have criticized Israel's wall. In general, though, that border wall is fine with them. Let Israelis build a wall to keep out Arabs, but for America to build a wall to keep out Hispanics is just so horribly racist.
No great mystery here. Our liberal Democrats need Israel lobby votes and money more than Republicans do. If they start directing serious criticism toward Israel they can kiss such support goodbye and watch the GOP take over Washington for good.
I don't like either wall, but at least Trump's wall — entirely on the U.S. side of the border — would be legal. Back in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's wall was not.
APR disrespected neighbors
Thank you Brett French for your article about the American Prairie Reserve's conference in Lewistown. It is an important issue.
One point that is missing about this event is that APR chose to hold it at exactly the same time as the Montana Winter Fair. This Agricultural Fair has been a Montana tradition for 74 years and has been supported widely by our community and ag producers all over Montana.
To have APR deliberately dishonor that tradition, even after the Winter Fair asked them not to have it at the same time, is part of what erodes any trust I may have regarding the intentions of the APR.
I am willing to hear what APR has to say, but I am not willing to turn my back on my friends and neighbors in the process. APR says they want to be good neighbors. Good neighbors I know would honor a community tradition, not schedule their event at the same time. To put people in a position of having to choose between the APR conference and the Winter Fair event is a disgrace. I am disappointed in the community leaders and businesses who supported the APR conference when they knew it was in direct conflict with the Winter Fair.
If APR holds another conference, and is truly interested in "bringing us together," then I hope that they and the Lewistown community leaders and businesses who support them will look closely at the wedge that the timing of their event put between us.
Don't punish terminally ill patients or their doctors
Montanans place a high value on freedom from government interference in their lives and decisions. Sometimes, this value transcends traditional conservative or liberal points of view, as in the case of medical aid in dying.
Some refer to this inaccurately as "assisted suicide." There is a vast difference between the thoughtful decision a suffering, terminally ill person makes to determine the time and manner of their death, surrounded by family and friends, versus the heartbreaking choice made by suicidal people who end their lives, often violently and always tragically.
As a clinical psychologist and cancer survivor, I bring professional and personal experiences and insights to this discussion. People who are approaching the end of their lives due to terminal illness should be able to end their suffering in a thoughtful, carefully-planned act. Making sure that doctors who provide the option known as medical aid in dying are not punished for helping their dying patients achieve their end-of-life wishes is important.
When life draws to a close, not everyone will be interested in accessing medical aid in dying to end their suffering. But some Montanans will, and we should not deny them, or ultimately, ourselves, this very basic human right. House Bill 284 restricts options at the end of life, punishes doctors and is bad public policy for Montana.
Will Congress lessen the danger to democracy?
Treason is an ugly word. But it's being used, on occasion, in response to actions and comments from members of this administration.
Fresh out of the longest shutdown in history, the president is dangling the possibility of yet another if he doesn't get his way on a "wall." I think the Senate has had about enough and may decide to override if he refuses to sign whatever the bipartisan committee presents to him.
He ordered his treasury secretary to lift sanctions on a Russian oligarch, and the Senate lost the ability to stop him by just two votes.
Just a day after the annual intelligence briefing in the Senate — an event that was televised — he sat in the Oval Office telling bald-faced lies to reporters regarding the public testimony of his top intelligence chiefs. We all heard what they had to say regarding North Korea, Iran and Isis. Yet he insisted that he had "spoken to them, and they said their testimony was taken out of context and misreported and was ‘fake news!’” He insists that he is right (this from a man who can't pay attention long enough to sit through intelligence briefings) and they are wrong. This gaslighting is just the latest thing in this wannabe dictator's history of untrue statements and bad policy decisions.
As more of his cohorts are arrested and charged with lying about their interactions with Russia, maybe the pressure of worrying about what shoe is about to drop next — on either his family or himself — is getting to him. Even Fox News is beginning to show reluctance when it comes to airing some of his most outrageous claims. I don't know why he has allegiance to Russia, an enemy of long standing, but I fervently hope that our Congress — both houses — works to minimize the danger he poses to our democracy.
Before 2020, get the facts on health care
Forty-six percent of adults report they have not heard of a health policy proposal called "Medicare for All," according to researchers at the University of Chicago.
Forty percent say they’ve heard some talk about Medicare for All, and 13 percent say they have heard a lot about it. The idea has come to mean different things to different people. When politicians talk about Medicare for All, they don’t define the specific parameters of health policy they support. The policy is poorly understood, particularly about costs and funding, since there has been at least seven different bills introduced in Congress to expand Medicare coverage in the last three years. Consequently, “Medicare for All” is a term that means something different to everyone.
That’s why it’s hard for the public to understand how it would work. Two common questions are, “Who is eligible, and would it be optional or mandatory?” When asked about concerns, the two main questions were about out-of-pocket costs and what benefits are covered. Forty-nine percent of people believe it would reduce patient costs and 44 percent believe it would increase costs. Washington Rep. Pramela Jayapal, Chairperson of the Rules and Budget Committee in Congress, has been designated as the lead person advocating for HR-676, Expanded and improved Medicare for All policy legislatively. Since health care is one of the leading policy concerns for the upcoming 2020 election, it is imperative that American citizens become more familiar with, and more conversant about health care reform.
The ACA has proven to be good for millions of Americans, but not the best we can do in policy. Urgently, it is time now for Americans to put on their learning hats and upgrade their knowledge about this important socio-economic phenomenon called health policy.
Richard A. Damon, MD
Corporations are not people
Some legislators oppose a constitutional amendment that says, “Corporations are not people and money is not speech.” They claim it restricts freedom of speech. They are misinformed. That amendment preserves our right.
It restores speech, restores Wyoming’s democracy guaranteed by the Constitution (“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government”) and restores the Wyoming Constitution, “In their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal.”
That is pretty clear.
It goes further. “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state, and shall not be allowed. Corporations being creatures of the state, endowed for the public good with a portion of its sovereign powers, must be subject to its control.”
Some raise another objection. “Corporations are made up of people.”
No, corporations are made up of money, not people — some investment is from people — some from corporations, some from foreign sources.
The purpose of corporations, and their public value, is removing risk from investors. If corporations break the law or go bankrupt, their investors are not responsible. Consequently, no investor is morally or legally responsible for corporate actions.
That makes corporations amoral — no conscience, no loyalty, no feelings. They are not human beings and need outside regulation; must “be subject to (state) control” for the “public good.”
If your needs are ignored because of money’s political influence, tell your state representatives to support HJ8 — because money is not speech!
We're lucky to have Larry Mayer
The beautiful picture on the front page of today’s (Feb. 1) Gazette stimulated me to comment that The Gazette and its readers are blessed to have Larry Mayer on staff.
Edwin L. Stickney, MD
Boy Scout fine with girls in the ranks
Hi, everyone. I am a scout of Troop 23 in Billings, Montana. One of our many merit badges requires us to write to the editor of our local newspaper about a subject of our choice (preferably about Scouts). I chose to talk about the new rule allowing girls to join Boy Scouts. I personally am fine with girls joining Boy Scouts. However, I have many friends in scouting that are against it quite a bit.
A point that they bring up a lot is that it is called Boy Scouts, and that girls can just join Girl Scouts. Well “Boy Scouts” is just a name, in fact we have been told that we now should just call it Scouts and remove the boy part.
A good point I have been told supporting the change is that Boy Scouts have a prestigious rank called Eagle Scout. Once you turn 18 in Boy Scouts, you are still a scout as long as you have earned the rank Eagle Scout and you continue to be an Eagle Scout for the rest of your life. In Girl Scouts, there isn't really any rank to match up to the rank Eagle Scout. The only one requires you to make a global impact on the world, which is a lot harder to do than earning Eagle Scout, but it’s unfortunately less respected.
This is still a very controversial topic that a 12-year-old like me can't really grasp. Thanks for reading!
Lawmakers want to punish people for being poor
The mean, cruel, ill-begotten, judgmental stance to penalize our most needy Montanans by requiring drug testing and employment for people to get insurance should not be a part of much-needed health care coverage.
Sen. Scott Sales' chauvinistic statement, “get a good job and buy insurance” begs the question: Who is going to do the full-time jobs required to keep our communities running that do not pay enough? How can people get jobs paying $75,000 or more without a high level of education which many cannot afford? Repeating and supporting this arrogant, narrow-minded attitude is out of touch with reality. It is easy to be judgmental. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Montanans who suffer from PTSD or are physically handicapped and cannot work are among those who should not be punished as they seek medical care. People may be using medical marijuana to control their pain, but they will not be able to work or pass a drug test. People who have been injured and are trying to get back to work comprise another group which will be penalized by this irresponsible, punitive legislation.
Legislators are elected not to figure out who they can hurt, but who they can help be productive. Punitive legislation is a form of intolerance and hate.
Please encourage legislators to keep Medicaid requirements as they are.
Don't outlaw wildMontana bison forever
Montana House Bill 132 would redefine public, wild bison. In effect, this seemingly innocent bill would prevent Montana from re-establishing wild bison, forever confirming the extirpation of wild bison in our state.
HB132 adds that wild bison are animals that have never been in captivity. It applies to all public bison, including big game.
Currently, there are no wild bison in Montana. Brucellosis-infected bison seasonally leaving Yellowstone Park may not go beyond a small Montana area. Any restoration, such as on the Charles M. Russell federal refuge, will require obtaining Brucella-free animals from some source.
But HB132 would disqualify virtually all bison from being a source for restoring public, wild bison in Montana. Yellowstone bison would require captive-quarantine before captive-transport to a new site. Almost all other bison are now in captivity. A few sources would require expensive capture and captive-transport.
HB132 has no basis in biology. It has no purpose other than the permanent extirpation of public, wild bison in Montana.
Seventy percent of Montana voters support restoring wild bison on the CMR Refuge. We urge them to stand against HB132 — in the Montana Legislature or, if necessary, by requesting a veto from Governor Bullock.
Medicaid provides needed mental health care for Montanans
While walking my dog around my neighborhood, I heard a commotion of loud ranting and cursing in a house at the end of the block. The house was on the alley and as I went by, the hollering continued. I didn't know what to do, but I knew I couldn't ignore it. A man came out on the porch. I told him he sounded like he was in a lot of pain, and I asked him if I could be any help.
He was apologetic and admitted he was in pain and struggled with mental illness. With his permission, I phoned my nephew who works as a mental health counselor and I asked him who my neighbor could turn to for help. My nephew shared that in the short term, my neighbor can go to the hospital emergency department or the Community Crisis Center, but that's about it. There are very few options for individuals who struggle with mental illness if they do not have health coverage.
However, in the long run, if he is eligible for Medicaid, then he can get the services of a mental health professional. That's why I support Medicaid expansion in Montana. No one should be left alone and isolated to struggle through mental illness.
We figured out a solution in 2015 to help people get health care through the HELP Act. Our work should be focused on getting more people covered to improve the health of our neighbors and communities.
Revive Billings Commission on Energy and Conservation
You turn off your lights and shut off your water when they’re not in use. Why? You conserve, at least in part, because you have to pay for it. The same can be said for our city, Billings. They are doing their part to save energy costs like you. Let’s celebrate our city’s accomplishments.
Not too long ago, Billings created a Commission on Energy and Conservation. The commission strove toward a higher level of environmental responsibility to promote a healthier, more attractive community while helping the city save taxpayer dollars through energy efficiency. We are proud of these innovations.
Billings started capturing methane gas from the landfill and uses natural gas to power some city trucks. After joining the Energy Star Challenge to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent, School District 2 has saved $1 million yearly with energy upgrades. The city has more LEED certified buildings than anywhere in Montana, which consume a quarter less energy and 10 percent less water than an average building.
With millions of extra dollars saved after spending less on energy bills, Billings can continue to improve. Billings is better than it was, but it can be better still.
After a four-year stint, the Commission on Energy and Conservation was dissolved. Currently, there is not a team assisting city staff to mitigate energy waste. We can change that. Let’s save money and remain the best place to live in the country. Please support reviving the Billings Commission on Energy and Conservation.
Forest Service thankful for help
I would like to personally thank the USDA Forest Service Northern Region’s surrounding communities as well as our many partners for the outpouring of support shown during the recent partial government shutdown.
Because we live, work and play in the communities we serve, being unable to fully carry out our valuable mission of public land stewardship had a tremendous effect on our employees and their families. It also had a profound effect on many partners, volunteers, permittees and contractors. Not only was our mission affected, but several individuals and their families endured personal financial hardships as a result of being furloughed for over a month without pay. This is where our local communities shined in helping ease that burden.
From offers of loans and support from many local financial institutions to free or discounted meals, products and other services from hundreds of local businesses and schools, our communities demonstrated their compassion daily toward federal employees as fellow neighbors and citizens. Equally heartening was the understanding and support demonstrated by our many state and private partners, tribes, volunteers, permittees and contractors, whose unparalleled patience and understanding helped ease the frustration felt by all as a result of the disruptions in our operations.
A critical part of our agency’s mission is the shared stewardship of our public lands. It is truly an honor and privilege for us all to manage 25 million acres of national forest and grasslands throughout Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas on behalf of all of you. And we could not do it without our partners and communities.
Thank you for your continued support, trust and for selflessly being there for us during the shutdown. It is truly humbling.
Northern Region leader
USDA Forest Service
Thanks very mulch for recycling trees
A bright n’ beautiful thank you to all who participated in our Yellowstone County Christmas Tree recycling program. Special thanks to our generous partners, the City of Billings, the County of Yellowstone and the City of Laurel, for supporting our efforts.
Nearly 5,000 people went to the trouble of donating trees at convenient drop-off locations provided by ZooMontana, Rocky Mountain Compost, Schnitzer’s Steel, Hanser’s Automotive, Magnum Development, Lockwood School, Shepherd High and Huntley United Methodist Church.
The City of Billings Solid Waste Division, Republic Services Inc., and Rocky Mountain Compost hauled those thousands of trees through January snows to Rocky Mountain Compost for grinding into rich, pine mulch. It will be used by ZooMontana, Montana Audubon Center, Yellowstone River Parks Association and other nonprofits to help our birds and animals, freshen trails, and beautify our surroundings.
Are you a nonprofit who could use a load of Bright n’ Beautiful mulch for a project? Email us at email@example.com. Happy New Year to all and thank you very "mulch!"
Death penalty debate
In regards to the myths about the death penalty: With each counter made why the death penalty should be abolished, a counter-argument can be made. The Feb. 12 guest opinion did not mention one important thing about life sentences: Our friends, sons, daughters, husbands, wives and other people we hold dear have to guard them. It isn't as easy as just throw away the key. Someone has to guard them, care for them and provide for them. There are many people who put their lives on the line daily to keep these monsters incarcerated.
Easy to say if you’re not guarding them.
Let's keep daylight time
OK. Let’s keep Daylight Saving Time all year long. We will be able to watch our grandchildren play soccer games and talk to our friends after the games! We also are able to go for nice, long walks. Extra sun gives time to do various fun things.
Roger D. Johnston
Thanks for removing Russian olives
Our Montana and the Yellowstone River Parks Association give thanks to all the volunteers who helped clear, cut down and burn the Russian olives from the new fishing access site and park at the Blue Creek Bridge. Members of the National Smokejumper Association, Audubon Society, Friday Night Floaters, Magic City Fly Fishers, Our Montana and the Yellowstone River Parks Association helped make this a truly cooperative project with the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and the Montana Department of Justice. This work will help make the new boat launch available by floating season this summer.
Sheridan VA does great job
Over the past few years many ailments have plagued me, and while I have received treatment from a variety of physicians and hospitals, both here and around the country, most treatments afforded me by various doctors and hospitals have never equaled or come close comparatively to what I have received in our local area, specifically Sheridan, Wyoming, and Billings. Having never doctored in Casper, Wyoming, I cannot offer an opinion on what is offered there.
Almost all of the treatment I have received of late has been directly associated with our local Sheridan VA. Even praise like “above and beyond” hardly gives adequate justice to the attention, caring and downright concern displayed by every person (volunteer or professional) I have encountered there. We should count ourselves extremely fortunate, indeed, to have the caliber of this facility and its caregivers so close. Not only is everyone courteous and helpful, they seemingly go out of their way for explanations, scheduling timely appointments, but also reminding me of upcoming ones (a courtesy not lost on a forgetful old man).
There is an old saying that essentially says, “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” Maybe any who complain about treatment they receive at our VA need to take a closer look at the treatment they themselves are handing out. Respect and/or courtesy given is usually rewarded by respect/courtesy in return.
Political lessons from a tricycle
Life is like a tricycle, you can’t get to where you want to go without expending some effort.
Whether you’ve got the time or not, sooner or later, you’re going to have lubricate your bearings; do something nice for yourself!
If your tires are wearing unevenly, you can’t rotate your wheels; you’ve got to learn to work with what you’ve got!
If your left rear wheel falls off, it’s going to be a drag, but if you lean as far as you can to the right ,you can keep going. However, if you lean too far to the right, you will find yourself hating people who don’t go to your church!
Vice versa, if your right wheel falls off, you can lean far to the left. Albeit, if you lean too far to the left, you will find yourself hugging trees instead of people!
If you have three good tires, well-lubricated wheels that don’t wobble, you still need a left and right pedal to move forward!
Lynn Leroy Arney
HB323 wouldn't do what Gazette editorial claimed
The Gazette editorial of Feb. 9, 2019, entitled “Union membership bill would make unions prove worth to their members” missed the mark by a long shot. It also failed describe what the law would have actually done. The editorial says laws like House Bill 323 promote choice, which it doesn’t. It actually codifies the rules on public sector workplaces put in place by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus case.
If the bill had been written to do what The Gazette said, it still wouldn’t have been about choice. Or at least not how it was described in the paper. Here’s an accurate description of the “choice,” but applied to The Gazette instead of working people: The Gazette would be forced to give away subscriptions and ad space for free, so the paper can prove its worth to readers and advertisers. That’s the choice we’re talking about — the choice to get something without paying for it. How would that work for The Gazette? The paper’s capacity to provide news would diminish, and that gets to the real point of your support for so-called “choice” when it comes to paying union dues. You think working people make too much money, so you want to diminish our ability to negotiate for pay and benefits. Our government shouldn’t mess with The Gazette, and it shouldn’t interfere with organizations of working people, either.
Gazette editorial wrong about unions
In your editorial on Feb. 9 in support of House Bill 323, you made some broad, baseless and ugly allegations against Montana’s organizations of working people. You call elected union leaders “paternalistic.” You say our organizations have “no problems bullying members into paying dues.” Of course, you offer no evidence to back up your allegations or characterizations, which seems more than a little paternalistic, and maybe a bit of a bullying tactic.
I’m a woman and a union member, and I am neither paternalistic nor a bully. I know that working people who stand united can win a fair share of the value we create, and we can make our workplaces safer, too. Anyway, here’s the truth: The American public wants better pay and benefits. The single best way to accomplish that is by using our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association to join together. Is that a freedom you defend? It doesn’t really matter, because workers in Montana have always valued our freedom to stand together in unions. Worker activism here and across America is on the rise, and we oppose the bullying and the disinformation from your editorial page.
Perfect school attendance
An article in the local section of the Feb. 9, Billings Gazette concerning McKinley Elementary and improving attendance gave me a warm memory. My daughter, Mari Livie, a devoted wife and a mother of two excellent students, did a remarkable thing. She attended elementary schools in Eatonville, Washington, and Nome, Alaska. Her junior and senior high school years were completed in Juneau, Alaska. She knew driving winds of snow and cold and pouring rains. Yet, she never missed one day of school all those 12 years. She was honored upon graduation with a special recognition for this accomplishment.
Montana should allow crossbows in archery season
I've written to all of the Fish and Wildlife commissioners to ask if they'd be willing to discuss either allowing crossbows for hunters that can't draw their bows anymore (due to things like worn out shoulders) or adding them to normal bow hunting equipment.
Fifteen states allow the use of crossbows to people who can't draw their bows anymore including Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Utah and Vermont. There are also 31 states that allow anyone to use crossbows including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Since hunting is such a huge part of Montana's history and Montanans’ lifestyle, I think it’s time that Montana caught up to the rest of the country and allowed crossbows during archery season. Maybe it has to be passed by the Montana Legislature and the commissioners have no authority over that, but I'm sure they could put a bug in the legislators’ ears to get the ball rolling. To this point, I haven't heard a word from the commissioners. I'm hoping more of you out there will contact the commissioners and your legislators to hopefully get this done.
Park wolves deserve protections
Montana’s Senate Committee on Fish and Game could send a valentine to hundreds of wolf watchers who recently mourned the loss of yet another famous Yellowstone wolf to trophy hunting. It should act favorably on the bill SB185 to protect wolves that wander out of Yellowstone National Park. If passed by the Legislature, the law would be great news for Montanans and tourists from around the world who travel to Yellowstone to see and enjoy wolves.
Montana’s not a wolf-hating state but it's getting a reputation as such. The general public abhors Yellowstone wolf hunting to a point that people are boycotting towns near the park, if not the entire state. The sacrifice of cherished wolves like Spitfire, O6 and others for trophy harvest has become a public relations nightmare. That has guides and businesses that depend on wildlife tourism worried.
If the liberal harvest of wolves across Montana is debatable in terms of meaningful outcomes, the slaying of park wolves is not. Wolf hunting near Yellowstone has nothing to do with controlling the state’s wolf population, affording hunters the opportunity to take wolves or protecting elk herds. The number of wolves removed is simply too small and localized for that. Likewise, park wolves are seldom removed due to conflicts with people or livestock.
Current Montana law blocks creation of safety areas for wolves near the park. Senate Bill 185 would help change that by prohibiting wolf hunting and trapping in two small management units where park wolves are most often killed. If passed, the bill would send a signal that Montana leaders understand and are willing to accommodate wolf watchers and welcome their business.
3 notable events concerning coal
Three separate but related events occurred recently that Montanans should take note of.
First, The Gazette reported the cost of cleanup at Colstrip would be $700 million, an estimate the Montana Environmental Information Center said would be closer to $1 billion (Jan. 31, 2019). Besides affecting climate, cleanup after the fact is one of the costly downsides of burning coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels.
The second, from the Colorado State of the Rockies Poll conducted across eight western states in January 2019 by a team of Republican and Democratic pollsters, revealed 70 percent of Montanans said climate change was a very or extremely serious issue. In 2016, only 54 percent were so concerned. Across all eight states, including Montana, the number of concerned Republicans rose from 37 percent in 2016 to 45 percent in 2019. Democrats were at 81 percent in 2016 and 93 percent in 2019. Interestingly, the poll found 53 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Democrats favored increased local taxes for conservation programs. Conservation rather than resource extraction was favored in all the surveyed states.
The third event occurred on Jan. 31 following the State of the State Address, when Sen. Scott Sales gave the Republican rebuttal. After calling for more exploitation of the state’s natural resources, the senator enthusiastically added that more coal mining was especially needed. At that all the Republican legislators stood and cheered like their team had just scored the winning goal. While they were cheering, several glanced at one another as if looking for reassurance. Understandable, considering the polls and costs involved.
The left needs to unify
I will now tell you how to destroy a leftist movement.
Bring a billionaire or a Democratic politician on the stage with you. If you are sponsored by somebody like Soros you have poisoned your movement. I love Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but as long as you keep that “D” behind your name, you are propping up a corrupt corporate party. We don't want you on our stage.
Beware of political organizations that endorsed Clinton in 2016. They either did not listen to their members or they are part of the neo-liberal Clinton machine. On the subject of unions: Why do you prop up the Democratic Party? Alongside the Republicans, they have crippled the union movement. If you want to play politics with the members’ union dues, why don't you start a Labor Party? If you still want to throw money at Democrats, why don't the members just build new labor movements that put the workers first?
Finally, the reason leftist movements die is because we cannot get along with each other. There are too many factions on the left. Small differences in ideology or strategy turn us against each other. I am guilty of this. Every time I meet with liberal Democrats or so-called progressives, I feel the need to eviscerate them. I believe that we all agree that the current system is untenable and we need to build new systems and profits should not be put before people. The left needs to unify.
CSKT water compact
The term “projection” means assigning one’s own actions onto someone else or accusing someone else of doing what you yourself did.
The full page advertisement by Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM) published in The Gazette and newspapers across the state is a classic example of projection because it assigns the problems of the CSKT Compact onto its alternative, the People’s Compact. Truly, everything FARM accuses the People’s Compact of in its ad is instead what the CSKT Compact does!
So, thanks to FARM for finally describing the CSKT Compact for all to see!
Find the real solution here: www.thepeoplescompact.wordpress.com.