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.
Pass the Carbon Dividend Act
I am a member of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, an international congregation of more than 2,500 Catholic Sisters in 30 countries. We are encouraged to act on behalf of the climate and its environmental impact on Earth and people. I am writing in support of HR 763.
This bill, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, was introduced in 2018 to Congress. This bill is good for the climate because it will reduce carbon emissions. It is good for the economy because by placing a fee on carbon, it provides a market-driven solution and will create 2.1 million new jobs. It is good for people because every household receives a per capita dividend from the collected fees. It is good for government because it is bipartisan and revenue neutral.
I urge Rep. Greg Gianforte to co-sponsor HR 763, and Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Steve Daines to co-sponsor it when it reaches the Senate, because this solution will benefit all Montanans.
Sister Ann Schoch
Students see that Earth is on fire
At the World Economic Forum last month, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg told the assembled business elites that our house, planet earth, is on fire, and said, “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we have less than 12 years to avert the consequences of catastrophic climate change, yet we adults continue to ignore this warning. Over half of all industrial carbon emissions have occurred since 1988, the year the IPCC was created and it became widely known that carbon emissions are causing climate change.
Fortunately, kids get it. Thunberg has inspired thousands of students around the world to strike against school to force action on climate change. In the U.S., kids are suing to force reductions in atmospheric CO2, claiming the government violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to prevent climate change.
Young people now bring us the Green New Deal, a massive wartime-level plan that finally matches the scale of the threat of climate change. Supporting this plan is our best hope to preserve the stable climate human civilization has depended on for millennia, while creating an equitable future for all.
The GND isn’t perfect, but we need to start now and we’ll have time to improve it as we go. Our house is on fire. Let’s act like it. Listen to the kids and support the GND.
Daines fights for rural broadband
More than 40 percent of rural Montanans lack access to broadband internet. This phenomenon, known as the digital divide, holds rural America back by not allowing millions of people to take advantage of the basic online opportunities that exist in other communities.
Thankfully, Sen. Steve Daines is fighting to bring broadband internet to rural Montana. Instead of sitting idly by, he recently sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission asking for the regulatory barriers holding TV white spaces back to be removed.
TV white spaces refers to a technology that wirelessly delivers broadband connectivity to underserved communities by using vacant spectrum between broadcast television stations. Unfortunately, despite the fact this technology is working right here in Big Sky Country, regulatory barriers set in place by the FCC are hindering its widespread deployment and keeping rural Americans offline.
I am glad to have a senator in Washington who is taking action to bridge the digital divide, and I hope the FCC will consider the modest proposals raised in his letter.
chairman, Yellowstone County GOP
Ehrlick column an insult to Rep. Anderson
I've been embarrassed many times by your blatantly unfounded editorials, but I must respond to your latest idiotic editorial regarding Dr. Fred Anderson in the Feb. 17, 2019, Billings Gazette. I have done everything possible to get your fake news editor Darrell Ehlick hired as a "real" fake news correspondent with the Washington Post, the New York Times; or maybe, with CNN and Jim Acosta. Unfortunately, they are all failing to the point they can't afford Ehrlick in their fake news Washington, D.C., beltway where he belongs. Factually, I have never read anything even remotely truthful from Ehrlick. He is nothing but a partisan, progressive Democrat hack that does not belong in Montana and is not in the league of our responsible conservative beliefs. He somehow perceives Montana to appreciate the lying, fake, irresponsible reporting like CNN and the New York Times.
I have known Dr. Fred Anderson for over 60 years. We graduated from school together. Fred continued his education to receive a doctorate’s degree in education and worked in that capacity for over 30 years. Unfortunately, he worked for the Custer County School District during Doc Jensen's employ. He is also a member of the Montana Legislature. Fred Anderson is a good Republican and you know what that means, if you are a Democrat progressive liberal drive-by hack. Enter Ehrlick, who unfairly attacks any Republican within range, i.e. Trump, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton and others. An insult to my friends or president is a direct insult on me.
District Court overrules COPP on Regents' comments
What a profound disappointment to read a district judge had overruled our Commissioner of Political Practices' determination that higher education regents such as Martha Sheehy could not use taxpayer time or resources to support a ballot issue. Basic ethics dictates that appointed officials are just as responsible as paid public employees in making sure the public's time, money and resources aren't spend on politicking, despite the good intentions of those involved.
Even a third-grader could read the Montana Annotated Code 2-2-121(3), "A public officer or public employee may not use public time, personnel or funds to solicit support for or opposition against passage of a ballot issue."
How does a district court judge conveniently forego the words "public official" written plainly in the law? If Sheehy were really so worried about being able to represent personal clients, why take an appointment to oversee millions in public funds and resources?
I'm not sure there is much hope for Montana when basic things like reading and ethics are so alien a concept to those running our state government.
Editor's note: Tim Adams filed the complaint with the COPP, alleging that discussion at a Board of Regents meeting amounted to improperly using public resources to promote renewal of the 6-mill-levy that benefits Montana higher education on the Nov. 6, 2018, ballot.
Trump's 'emergency' undermines government
No matter for whom any Montanan has voted to represent us in the U.S. House or Senate, we all were voting for a person we believed when they said they would represent us. We were not voting for someone who would avoid their obligation to work diligently in the system of checks and balances our founders established. That balance was established to keep us from sliding or being led from democracy into fascism, oligarchy or a totalitarian state. If Texas or another border state had a declared state of emergency, as Virginia did did after the Charlottesville marches, our representatives would bear no direct responsibility to act. But in this latest attempt to undermine our three branches of government with the declaration of a national state of emergency, every Montanan should be able to rely on all three of our elected representatives to Washington, D.C., to stand up, protect the protections established in our Constitution, and act to forbid this type of action. Each of them will stand for re-election and every Montanan needs to hold them accountable for their actions in this situation.
Tell Tester to support immigrants
Sen. Jon Tester was on the committee to negotiate border security funding before Feb. 15 to avoid another shutdown. We must urge Sen. Tester to oppose any additional funding for wall construction or immigration detention. Trump admitted border crossings are down.
The wall is unnecessary and expensive. Even if Congress were to give Trump money for the wall, it’s unclear how much we'd spend in court. Our government would have to fight citizens to steal land on which Trump would build his wall. Sovereign native nations, like the Tohono O'odham Nation, own much of the property.
The better solution to prevent unauthorized border crossings is to add more staff to process asylum applications and worker visas. We need more immigration judges to address the backlog of cases. We should also remove the barriers placed on closing cases imposed by former Attorney General Sessions.
There are less expensive and more humane ways to assure asylum seekers appear in court. Detention is cruel and costly. Montana taxpayers shouldn’t be lining the pockets of the private prison industry.
Immigrant rights groups are asking for a three-year extension to DACA and TPS while we figure out more long-term solutions for them and their families.
Montanans take care of our people, including our immigrant friends, family and neighbors. If you work and live here, we care about you. We should all invite Sen. Jon Tester to support the immigrant community in Montana and across the nation.
on behalf of Montanans for Immigrant Justice
Stop predatory lenders from axing consumer protection rule
States burdened by predatory payday lending are reeling from announcements that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to gut its 2017 Payday Lending rule. Montana, along with 15 states and Washington, D.C., offer strong safeguards against predatory payday lending. In fact, Montanans save $37 million annually because we recognized the danger of the debt trap, and voted in a 36 percent usury cap on annual interest rates for payday loans.
Proposing to gut the payday rule, reveals that CFPB leadership is once again in pockets of predatory lenders. In states without debt-trap protections, payday and car-title lenders ensnare people in 300-percent to 400-percent-interest loans, leading to significant financial distress.
These lenders have a long history of exploiting and creating loopholes when they can. State usury caps were the only prevention against this exploitation.
The CFPB — not legally authorized to cap interest rates — created the 2017 rule to require lenders to make affordable loans. Loans that borrowers can repay without taking out another loan to cover living expenses. This ability-to-repay standard would reduce the harms of predatory lending across the nation by disrupting the predatory lending business model dependent on trapping borrowers in cycles of unaffordable debt.
The ability-to-repay provision is now under attack, as the CFPB moves to undo protections built on five years of research, data collection, field hearings, and public comments; even though no evidence supporting repealing the rule has come to light.
We’re disappointed to see the CFPB — an organization that helped a Billings family out of an illegal payday loan, years after our law was in place — undermine its own safeguards for people in states without strong protections like ours.
We strongly support ongoing efforts in states around the country and attempts at the federal level to defend the CFPB’s payday and car-title in its original form, as written in 2017. We need strong national protections that will eliminate the scourge of predatory payday and car-title lending for everyone. Montana lawmakers must stand by our airtight protections, and seek to protect our neighbors from these debt-trap products.
Erin R. Tate, MA, MSW
What was funny now deemed derogatory
What is all this crazy complaining about people dressing up as being a member of some other race? The flap seems to be over a white person dressing up as a dark-skinned person. I can't understand why I should be mad if some person with dark skin would, by the same token want to dress as if he had a white face and white hands. If I decided for whatever reason I want to dress up as a Native American, would they be insulted by it? Why? When I was a child we took turns playing who would be the cowboys and who would be the Indians and we surely were not trying to insult anybody, is that an insult this day and age?
For years I have thought the following statement was true: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. When did that change? I really would appreciate anyone that could tell me what is so politically incorrect about what we used to think was fine or even funny. We never thought that it was derogatory.
Defend our rights in Helena
Freedom of speech and assembly are some of our most basic constitutional rights, but a new law headed for Helena would put those rights in jeopardy. The legislation has been proposed in 31 other states and is being pushed by D.C. lobbyists.
In short, the bill would criminalize legal protests and allow police to use any means necessary to stop people from exercising their First Amendment rights. That’s garbage! Montana legislators shouldn’t give mega-corporations and political think tanks more of a voice in our state than residents who’ve lived here their whole lives.
It shouldn’t be a crime to speak up in defense of your home or community, particularly when it comes to decisions about the future of our state and the places we love. This legislation is designed to intimidate Montanans from speaking up about proposals that affect our lives and our homes. It’s a cookie-cutter industry bill that’s being proposed across the West by people who’ve never even set foot here.
Wyoming’s Republican governor sent the idea packing last year. Our Legislature should do the same.
Thanks for reporting on dyslexia
Thank you, Billings Gazette, for shedding light on dyslexia. I have hope that someday the general population will have a better understanding of this condition. As your coverage has noted, dyslexic people don't "see things backwards." Dyslexia occurs independently of intelligence and affects one in five people. Most importantly, with the right intervention, dyslexia can be a simple bump in the road, not a boulder obstructing one's path.
I would like to emphasize that warning signs may appear long before a child sets foot in school. Children with delayed speech or speech problems are at a higher risk for dyslexia, as are those who suffer from frequent ear infections or are late to establish a hand dominance. Dyslexia often appears in conjunction with other conditions. Seventy percent of dyslexics also demonstrate dysgraphia (difficulty with handwriting and other fine motor skills). Furthermore, dyslexia has a comorbidity rate with ADHD of about 40 percent and with Irlen Syndrome (a light sensitivity condition treated by using color overlays to read or using tinted lenses) of about 46 percent of the time. Informative media coverage plays an important role in disseminating this information. Bravo, Billings Gazette.
Randak Dyslexia Services
Auto insurance prices don't reflect driving records
Montana law requires auto insurance. With hefty penalties for non-compliance: A person without insurance could face $250-$500 in fines or 10 days in jail. Caught uninsured three or more times? $500 fine and/or prison for up to six months. Penalties are applied evenly, regardless of a person’s address or credit score. The same cannot be said for policy prices.
Working Montana families bear the brunt of an industry allowed to base prices on financial circumstances, Zip Code, job, education and credit. Consumer Reports stated that new Montana drivers with clean records and poor credit pay nearly $1,700 more annually than one with excellent credit. Almost $1,200 more than excellent credit and a DUI. Premiums should be based on driving record, not credit.
Coverage lapses can increase policy prices. Some companies cannot even underwrite policies if someone’s coverage has ever lapsed. There are many situations that cause insurance lapses. Being priced out of the market, becoming incarcerated, deploying service members, relocating military personnel and veterans, as well as anyone using public transit or biking. Montana lawmakers must create an auto insurance market that provides equivalent drivers with equivalent rates and doesn’t penalize people for reasonable lapses in coverage.
Protect rights of dying Montana patients
There is once again a bill (HB284) that proposes to reverse the Montana Supreme Court ruling that authorizes doctors to prescribe aid in dying medication for their terminally ill patients.
If this bill passes, Montana citizens would lose a right to privacy and the freedom to choose end-of-life health care options that align with our values, priorities and beliefs. We would lose an end-of-life liberty, and for some, a freedom of religion.
Why is our state government wanting to interfere in our lives and take away our independence to have agency over our own bodies when we’re dying? And imprisoning doctors for their compassion? I don’t like government controlling my life or my death.
I had a close and dear friend who had ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. The death from ALS is torturous. You suffocate or drown. Once my friend had his prescription, he also had peace of mind which allowed him to live a full and happy life for a few months, until he began to lose his ability to breathe and swallow. He knew then it was time. I was with my friend when he died and he had the gift of very peaceful and gentle passing.
Keep the government out of our personal business at the end of life. Ask your representatives to vote no on HB284. Protect the Baxter decision and the freedoms it affords.
Joan S. Perry
Corrupt politicians exploit our differences
Long ago, I observed how deeply flawed our adversarial system is. A system that attempts to achieve just and reasonable outcomes by pitting deeply opposed objectives against each other with advocates for each flawed "solution," rarely achieves a good result.
The labor vs. management struggle is a prime example. Unions have been demonized because they are forced to take extreme positions in order to attempt to achieve economic justice for labor. The anti-choice movement has become completely corrupt and dishonest, spreading lies and disinformation. The justice system is contemptible — attorneys ignoring evidence and truth to achieve a victory without regard to true justice, innocent men in prison, and guilty men walking free. Project innocence as one result, and "project guilt," using DNA evidence to solve long-forgotten cases.
Our political system is a disaster as a result of the adversarial system. Virtually all of us want more or less the same things, but skilled politicians work hard to create and maintain an imaginary divide based on non-issues, and total unreason. America has become a dysfunctional society, where corrupt dishonest demagogues rise to the top by exploiting division.
We need to rethink how we work together, and acknowledge that we are not enemies, and stop vilifying each other and name calling so we can move forward into the future together and united. We need to focus on what we have in common, not on our differences, which are largely trivial. Divisive leadership is the enemy of all Americans.
In a just society, the only losers are those that are opposed to true justice.
Border security requires more than a wall
The Feb. 8 Gazette opinion attempted to further the Democrat and media story that someone, somewhere is promoting building a southern border wall as the sole method of border security. People that pay attention to issues at all know that this couldn't be further from the truth. People that drive through Billings with their eyes open also notice many security fences. Why? Because they work.
When I drive in on 27th Street from the interstate, I see a big, beautiful fence around the state women's prison. Apparently the Department of Corrections feels it is effective. Is that their only means of securing their perimeter? Of course not, they employ technology and human personnel as well. They know it's important to stop escapes, not just keep track of who's leaving.
The editors went on to explain this booming economy needs more workers, perhaps we do. More importantly we need to know who's coming and going and when they're doing it. It was also asserted that we need a steady flow of low-wage workers to do the jobs others won't. Maybe we need less low-wage workers so wages will be more attractive.
The Democratic Party seems to need a steady stream of oppressed people to keep in a permanent underclass that they can promise free things to. The only thing they don't promise is upward mobility and opportunity to prosper, the real ticket to freedom.
Hopefully going forward, the editors will choose to have a serious discussion on border security.
Fighting 'soft totalitarianism' in Billings
I introduced Senate Bill 179 in an effort to protect the citizens of Montana from having an un-elected body make rules that carry the force of law. My bill simply requires boards, should they think a new rule is necessary, to first get the approval of a local, elected body before that rule is enforceable. The job of enforcing these rules stays with local health departments. These health departments, however, have never been given the authority to make rules in regard to the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act.
Allowing an un-elected body to make laws and issue fines is a form of soft totalitarianism. Montanans elect their fellow citizens to represent them. These elected officials are accountable to the people they represent and can be removed from office should the people deem necessary. We elect officials so that the people of Montana can have a voice in the laws that govern their state, cities and towns. If we change that process and allow un-elected boards to make rules and give those rules the power of law, we take away the voice of the people.
Senate District 22
Trump is biggest con man ever
Our president is the biggest con man ever in U.S. history. He gave big corporations the largest tax break at the expense of the middle working class. He bullied his first two years in office and now wants to compromise because he lost the House. The United States of America has lost the respect of world leaders under Trump's dictatorship. Our national debt is the highest In U.S history under his watch. When are the American people, our Congress and Senate going to say enough is enough?
Darryl S. Wilson
Trails enhance community life
I recently overheard a spirited lunch discussion about trails and future trail development in our community. The party against trails focused solely on cost and the party for trails focused solely on exercise and the health benefits they provide. I’m an introvert so I decided not to partake in the discussion and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. You see, trails are so much more than a health benefit and the cost of creating the trails to make the connections around the city is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Hear me out.
Trails provide massive economic, cultural/lifestyle and aesthetic benefits for communities. Trails increase nearby property values considerably. They are proven to lead to increased spending at local businesses along trails. Trails revitalize forgettable/ugly/dilapidated areas by breathing new life through movement. Trails are alternative transportation route options that save people gas money. Trails make communities way more attractive and vibrant.
Do you remember Butte when its interstate corridor was an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site? Butte now has a gorgeous trail corridor that flanks the interstate and is extremely inviting to passers-by. Trails are a low/no-cost recreational facility for active families. As the pro-trail person previously mentioned stated, trails encourage exercise and increased awareness about healthy outdoor activities. Trails provide a social setting that builds community. Trails are essentially an identity element for vibrant communities. And ultimately, trails become one of the major measuring sticks that stand out when comparing communities due to their popularity/priority.
We’ve all been spoiled up to this point. Seven years ago, the Community Transportation Enhancement Program was eliminated. Since then, there has been an 82 percent reduction in federal grant funding for trails so progress on our trail system has been stalled big time. My hope is that we as a community realize the importance of trails for our future so we come together to get the progress back on track with some positive momentum. Trails are an investment in our future, in our kids, in our neighborhoods, in our growth, in our community. Trails provide enhancement and an elevated potential and they are so worth it.
Billings should boost energy conservation efforts
Over the past year, I’ve met with city and community leaders across Montana to learn about energy conservation plans. I believe that Billings is ready to join these cities in saving both money and energy by re-establishing the Commission on Energy and Conservation.
Each of these communities conducted a baseline inventory of greenhouse gas emissions to provide a starting point for plan development.
Bozeman conducted a baseline study in 2008 and again in 2016. Despite a 27 percent growth in population from 2008-2016, Bozeman is on track to achieve a 10 percent reduction in GHG levels from its 2008 baseline.
The Missoula City Council unanimously adopted a program, Zero by Fifty, which aims to reduce city waste 90 percent by 2050.
Whitefish created a "Roadmap to Resilience” which aims to help its residents work with the city to reduce greenhouse emissions 26 percent by 2025.
In October, the Red Lodge City Council unanimously passed a resolution approving a conservation plan promoting environmental stewardship while seeking to reduce electricity costs by over $200,000 a year.
Billings has also initiated many energy conservation projects. These include powering garbage trucks with natural gas and capturing methane at the dump, new energy-saving turbo blowers at wastewater treatment plants, and retrofitting Park 2’s lighting with LED motion sensors. These projects save money while responsibly conserving energy.
Re-establishing the Commission on Energy and Conservation will allow Billings residents to work within the existing city infrastructure to generate new ideas and provide common sense solutions that benefit our growing city.
Joe Stockburger, co-chair
YVCC Sustainability Committee
Trump lacks dignity, integrity
Wow! In my 77 years, I thought I had seen or heard most everything. I never thought I would ever read Donald Trump described as a man of “integrity, dignity, and the spirit of America” (“Trump restored honor to the presidency,” Feb. 11 letter I was shocked. When Trump paid a porn star and a Playboy centerfold to keep the stories about their trysts quiet, and when Trump describes how to assault women and get away with it, the writer didn’t get it. To me, this describes an adulterer, not a man of dignity or integrity.
When Trump said he is smarter than the generals and the rest of government, it must have made the writer feel safe. I fear that Trump, who seems to believe Putin and Kim Jong-Un over our intelligence services, will start a war. Trump also ignores climate change. This isn’t my idea of a great leader.
The news outlets say Trump has lied over 8,000 times in two years, yet Trump’s followers call this fake news. For years, he maintained that Obama wasn’t an American, even after Obama produced his birth certificate. Trump also called Mexicans rapists and criminals and tried to ban all Muslim immigrants. Our president separated babies and young children from their parents and put them into cages. Finally, Trump said some white supremacists are good people. How can Trump be described as the man who is not a racist and who has restored honesty to the presidency?
The undocumented are abused
Some proud and respectable Americans have benefited, for many decades, from the labor of undocumented aliens. Without proper papers, people have no rights, and employers often exploit and abuse this fact; they don't have to limit the number of hours worked per day or week; nor do they need to pay minimum wages, taxes, Social Security, medical insurance, workers’ compensation, sick leave, etc. Not many citizens, surprisingly, apply here.
Having lived in rural communities I witnessed in years past, dozen of peons labor from sunup to sundown, six and seven days a week with the promise of a meager salary at the end of the month — maybe of the season. Surprisingly, just before payday, employers happen to hear that the men, women and children who had been hoeing their fields, watering their cattle, cleaning houses, cooking and washing dishes, are illegal!
Being honorable citizens, they dutifully report them to Immigration. Late that night, uniformed officers holding guns in their hands raid specific huts producing panic and mental damages in young and old. They are jailed, then extradited. Wages? What Wages? There are no records of illegal aliens ever having worked here.
These memories and letter were provoked by the minute item in The Billings Gazette, Sunday, Jan. 26 edition, which states that a bunch of undocumented workers were just fired from the Trump National Golf Club in New York, after many years of service. The article states that the documentation (or lack of) was known by the employers for years. This type of slavery is very convenient and easy to hide.