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.
I-186 wrong way to make mining rules
I am a licensed professional mineral engineer in the state of Montana, and I have worked in the mining industry for ten years. Mine permitting and reclamation plans need to be worked out among the engineering professionals at the DNRC, the DEQ, and the mining companies under the existing regulations — not dictated by a so-called citizen’s initiative crafted by a number of anti-mining organizations.
I-186 will simply provide a platform for lawsuits against mining companies seeking to permit projects and do reclamation work, and will prevent additional responsible mining investment in the state. We either produce minerals in Montana and the U.S. or we purchase them from other countries. At best, we are dealing with Canada, Australia and Mexico. At worst, we’re buying from Russia, China, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, all countries with dismal environmental and human rights records. I-186 is a definite no.
Pierce the right choice for judge
I moved to Billings in the fall of 2016 to start my work as a law clerk for the Honorable Michael G. Moses. In him, I found one of the kindest and greatest mentors I have ever known. As a young woman in the legal profession, I also wanted a strong, female mentor. This role was quickly filled by Juli Pierce. During my clerkship, I had the great privilege of watching Pierce in her position as chief deputy at the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office. I observed her in court and was in awe of not only her legal prowess, but the way she treated people. To me, she was the perfect balance of compassion and grit. This is a rare quality in a profession that pits people against one another.
I decided to reach out to her to see if she would mentor me. She could not have been more receptive and I am a better attorney for it. I can unequivocally say that Juli Pierce is the right choice for District Court Judge in Department 8. Pierce not only possesses the ability to be fair, unprejudiced, and level-headed on the bench, but she embodies many more essential characteristics that are not often discussed during campaigns: gentleness, humility, empathy, wit and unmatched fortitude are but a few. I have yet to meet someone who cares about this community more. Who is as involved. Who gives so much of themselves to make Yellowstone County a better place.
Tester shows up for 'common' Montanans
Last year 19 of us from Montana visited Washington, D.C. We made appointments with Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines. We had a terrific visit with Sen. Tester who gave us his full attention to discuss issues with him. We felt he heard our voices. Then we went to Sen. Daines’ office for our appointment scheduled some weeks in advance, and found that he was suddenly nowhere to be found. We traveled a long way from Lewistown, and around Montana, spent a fair amount of money on travel, meals and hotels (about $1,000 each) and Sen. Daines broke our appointment without any advance notice or apology.
Sen. Jon Tester showed his true Montana roots by meeting with us, “the common people.” Sen. Daines stood us up. We will be voting for Sen. Tester, as he is the kind of Montanan that we want representing us.
Montana children's doctors support I-185
As a pediatrician here in Billings, I’m upset about the campaign of misinformation that’s being carried out over our television stations and airwaves. You should know that this is all funded by Big Tobacco. The tobacco companies don’t care for kids in Montana. I do. And I want to urge all my friends, neighbors, and patients to vote YES on I-185.
I-185 will be a big step forward for our state. If we can’t come together to pass this, I worry about my teenage patients and the aggressive marketing of vaping and e-cigarettes. We know almost 50 percent of our high school kids have tried these, and that increasing the price of these products is the most effective tool we have to keep kids from starting. And we know that the majority of people who are daily smokers today started when they were under 18 years of age.
If I-185 doesn’t pass, I worry about the 100,000 Montanans who will lose their health insurance. Health insurance makes the difference for our hardworking families, allowing them to live their lives without the fear of what might happen if someone gets sick. Make no mistake, I-185 fully funds this health insurance – despite the fuzzy math Big Tobacco is using that omits more than $30 million in savings because of federal contributions to Medicaid.
Join me and the 116 other Montana pediatricians in the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics – vote YES.
Teresa Blaskovich, MD
Harada will be excellent judge
My experiences working with Ashley Harada while she has been in private practice have been nothing but positive. We have had some disagreements, as is commensurate with the nature of adversarial proceedings, but she has always been civil and thoughtful in her interactions both with myself and clientele. She is bright, dedicated and hardworking. She has demonstrated to me that she has a passion for helping make this community a safer and better place. She spends endless hours helping her clients and I have no doubt she will continue to demonstrate that effort and dedication while she is on the bench as our next judge.
Harada’s courtroom demeanor is excellent and her experience working for the federal courts truly makes her the most qualified candidate because she has experience in all areas of the law. Yellowstone County would be well-served to have such an amazingly qualified judge who consistently shows compassion, ethics, and experience.
These accolades are common place written by anyone in support of a particular client. Early on her campaign I asked the question, “Why should I vote for you?” Her answer has remained with me during the campaign, that being, “I believe that everyone is entitled to civility and to be treated as though they matter, especially when in the courtroom setting.” Court can be absolutely terrifying to the uninitiated, and the citizens of Yellowstone County deserve to have a judge who can “hit the ground running.” When you cast your ballot early next month, consider Harada.
Vote for GOP values this election
If the Democrats gain control of Congress, there will be open borders, unrestricted illegal immigration and more sanctuary cities. There will be unrestricted abortion of babies. Our taxes will go up again. That will lead to higher unemployment rates, which are historically low now. American companies that have moved back to the U.S., might leave to go overseas again. Our government would move toward socialism.
Some Democrats want free college education and free health care for everyone. That would really make taxes skyrocket, and the deficit go even higher. At some point our country might have to declare bankruptcy, like Greece. Look at Venezuela — they are starving to death and don't even have enough toilet paper.
I am voting for the Republican values — lower taxes, restricted abortion, restricted immigration, and government for the people and by the people, not by the government.
Cult of Trump will vote GOP
This should be an easy election when choosing who to vote for. Your choice includes voting for yes-men who will rubber stamp President Trump’s agenda of chronic lying to the people, promoting hate and racism, defending sexism, supporting sexual predators, denying people health care, destroying the environment, selling off public lands, and alienating U.S. allies while defending murdering autocrats; or voting for people who think for themselves. The angry cult-like mob of Trump supporters will vote an all-Republican ticket that has promised to support Trump’s vile agenda. The rest of us will think for ourselves and choose a candidate we believe best represents our interests and those of the State of Montana.
Please vote in November. Never before have the choices been as clear or the stakes as high.
6-mill levy helps students
Once a decade, Montanans vote on whether or not to continue their support for the six-mill levy. The levy, a legislative referendum that has been in place since 1948, keeps higher education affordable in Montana by providing 10 percent of all state funding.
The six-mill levy is not a new tax nor tax increase, and the funds directly support student education. As more positions are requiring a bachelor’s degree to be a competitive candidate for the job, it is more important now than ever before that we help the next generation of Montana students be competitive in today’s world. The six-mill levy is a 70-year-old commitment to do just that. However, if the six-mill levy is not passed this November, college students will see an 18 percent increase in tuition; this can put higher education out of reach for many Montanans.
Voting to support the six-mill levy means voting to support the future of Montana. This Nov. 6, follow the Montana tradition of supporting higher education by voting “yes” on the six-mill levy.
This is a sad election
It sickens me to even imagine the amount of money that has been spent on this election. You can't turn on the television, pick up the newspaper or your mail without a barrage of dirty politicking. Can you imagine the difference that could be made if those dollars had been directed to helping homeless, stocking food banks, providing necessary health care, etc., etc., etc.?
Washington must believe that we are totally incapable of making our own decisions. They won't live with the results of this election, but we will, so we must make sure we are informed and not persuaded by out-of-state visitors that have cost our cities in Montana thousands more dollars to cover their visits.
Finally, I could care less who the NRA supports and gives a passing or failing grade to. They do not run this country. This is a sad election and certainly not one that will convince our young adults of the privilege of our voting rights.
Watch what Tester does in D.C.
It’s not what Sen. Jon Tester does for us in Montana that matters. It’s what he do to us in D.C. that counts. Think about that.
Stand up to Big Tobacco, vote yes on I-185
Stand up to Big Tobacco. Vote yes on I-185.
Out-of-state tobacco corporations have spent $17.5 million dollars (shattering the record for out-of-state spending on a citizens’ initiative) on lobbying politicians and deceptive ads to defeat tobacco taxes in Montana, and they are up to their old tricks with I-185.
In 2004, Montanans passed a citizens’ initiative to raise the tax on tobacco and dedicate the new revenue in the same way that I-185 proposes: to health services, veterans’ care and the general fund. A state district court upheld that initiative, which was passed by more than 64 percent of voters. Here’s the truth: I-185 raises the state tax on tobacco products, including currently untaxed electronic smoking devices. These are the same candy-flavored products showing up in our schools and homes, and are becoming increasingly harder to detect because of their deceptive, kid-friendly designs.
The roughly $72 million in new money raised through the tobacco tax will provide all the funding that is needed to keep health coverage for 100,000 Montanans, and boost services for Montana veterans, seniors and individuals with disabilities. Taxpayers who don’t use tobacco, don’t pay a dime. Without I-185, one in 10 Montanans stand to lose their Medicaid coverage in 2019. This includes thousands of families, veterans and seniors who are not yet eligible for Medicare. Join me in clearing the smoke around I-185 by voting yes for Stillwater County kids and families.
Dave Ryerse, CEO
Stillwater Billings Clinic
Maybe NRA's 'F' stands for fearless
What does it take for those who have been hunters and sportspersons and members of such associations all their lives to get a “D” or an “F” from the NRA? Not to be in the NRA’s pocket and beholden to them for big campaign contributions? To be against oversized magazines for those of us who were taught if we couldn’t kill a deer with a single shot, we shouldn’t be allowed to hunt? Or is it being against a bump stock that’s only good for butchering meat instead of hunting? Or is being for universal background checks enough?
Our D- and F-rated candidates are not talking about banning guns. Banning bump stocks and ghost guns is not taking away our Second Amendment rights any more than banning machine guns or bazookas or nuclear missiles. (Remember the arms race and I don’t feel safe without one in my backyard as my right to defend myself?)
When the majority of citizens and even NRA members want gun control, who’s the boss? Even Trump says he has a ban in the works against bump stocks. Maybe the “F” stands for fearless to stand up against the NRA, or free from being owned by the NRA, or fearful for student lives.
It’s time for hunters in Congress to stand up and represent the majority, even if they have to forego those big campaign contributions from the NRA.
P.S. How does Gianforte hunt with those big snowmobile gloves anyway?
Vote to preserve public lands
I made the move to Montana in search of wide, open spaces. I found these spaces in the abundance of wilderness areas that this state is fortunate enough to have. These spaces left me inspired to explore, and to this day, if I need a break from the fast pace of modern life, I look to the public lands to find a little peace and serenity.
I am not alone in this feeling. Outdoor recreation is a huge economic generator for the state of Montana, and privatization of our public lands would only chokehold this part of our economy. Forest Service and BLM lands make up much of the western part of the state, and the opportunities for outdoor recreation are in abundance, as they should be.
Let’s keep them that way for future generations to enjoy them as we have ourselves. If you care about public lands, it is critical that you vote in the upcoming election. Protecting these lands and ensuring that they remain public depends on our elected officials knowing that conservationists vote in large numbers.
No unfunded mandate in I-185
I served as the Montana state Medicaid director for over eight years. In that capacity. I heard regularly from fellow Montanans that needed health care but didn't receive it because they had no insurance and couldn't qualify for Medicaid. That changed with the passage of Medicaid expansion that allowed 100,000 of our neighbors to get health care.
Like you, I've been barraged by commercials and mailers from I-185 opponents. None of these address what happens to 100,000 people if they lose health care coverage. From my experience, I can tell you what will happen. People die because they can't get transplants. They go bankrupt after a car accident. They don't get treated for preventable illnesses. Eighty percent of Montanans covered by Medicaid expansion are already working but couldn't afford insurance or didn't have employer paid coverage.
Other points the opponents make are simply not true. Veterans benefit from new suicide prevention initiatives plus 9,500 veterans/veterans’ families continue to have health care coverage through Medicaid. Seniors and disabled Montanans receive additional funds to help them stay in their homes. Medicaid funding is complicated but because the federal match is 93 cents for every $1 spent on the expansion population and we were able to refinance some programs already in existence, I-185 pays for itself. There is no unfunded mandate.
Don't be taken in by the over $17 million Big Tobacco has spent to defeat I-185. Join me in voting yes to continue Medicaid expansion. If you don't smoke, you don't pay.