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Golden Pen AwardMSU-B cabin blights Beartooth wildernessThe beautiful wilderness area which contains the Crippen cabin is familiar to me. My wife, dog and I had an interesting grizzly bear encounter on that trail just last summer. I remember coming upon the cabin many years ago, and my immediate reaction was: What in the world is this cabin doing here? It was then, and is today, akin to a big weed in the middle of a beautiful garden.

The educational potential of this structure, insofar as promoting ecological and environmental understanding, is not only insignificant, it is detrimental. To substantiate my feelings in this regard, I personally visited with individuals associated with Montana State University-Billings and life science education. Within this knowledgeable group of educators, I found no positive feelings for the acquisition of the Crippen cabin. On the contrary, all thought that the wrong message would be sent if MSU-B, historically known for its strong environmental education programs, were to become identified with this blight in the midst of a wilderness area.

As one who has been involved in environmental education as both student and teacher for over three decades, I wholeheartedly oppose the acquisition of the Crippen cabin under the pretense that it would aid environmental education. It is time for this weed in the garden to be pulled.

Dave Klarich, Billings

City Council can save money, improve health Yes, fluoridation of public drinking water is safe as well as inexpensive. Nearly two-thirds of the U.S. residents who receive water from public water systems now receive fluoridated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (February, 2002). As Billings residents, we need to join the 162 million Americans who have fluoridated drinking water and give our children an opportunity to reduce dental decay.

Stabilization of the existing levels of fluoride in our drinking water will pay big dividends - recent CDC estimates indicate water fluoridation "reduces tooth decay among children by 18 to 40 percent." In addition to improving oral health, it will reflect lower dental bills, and with a serious shortage of dentist in Montana, lowering tooth decay will afford dentists an opportunity to care for more people. At the most, it will cost 50 cents per person per year to fluoridate the water - the cost per person for a whole lifetime is less than the cost of a single cavity!

Although there have been remarkable improvements in oral health, those who suffer the worst oral health include citizens who are uninsured and low-income - primarily children, people with disabilities and the elderly. In many cases, those with oral health problems have additional health problems stemming from tooth decay. The national health expenditures for dental services alone exceeded $60 billion in 2000.

The scientific information promoting therapeutic fluoride levels in our drinking water confirms the benefits of fluoridation. I respect the right of individuals in our community to voice their opposing opinions, but as the health officer for Yellowstone County, I am charged with the duty to weigh what is best for the public health. After thorough research of this issue, there is no question that water fluoridation protects the health of the public.

We at the Yellowstone City-County Health Department join CDC, the American Dental Association, the U.S. surgeon general and local dentists in endorsing therapeutic water fluoridation. Please contact Billings City Council members to request their support in our efforts to bring water fluoridation to Billings. A positive vote by the council will save $25,000, as this is the cost to place the issue before the voters. It is time for the "silent" majority who believe in prevention and public health to make our wishes known.

Lil Anderson, CEO/Health Officer - Yellowstone Health Dept., BillingsSound science backs up benefits of fluoride Fluoride has become a hot topic in Billings. Over the years, attempts to legislate adding fluoride to the Billings city drinking water have been fiercely debated. Opponents of fluoridation have warned the public of dire consequences related to the consumption of "more" fluoride. Some have even indicated that fluoride is a "plot" by dentists or a "plot" by Communists. As John Stossel of CBS's "60 Minutes" would say, "Give me a break!"

The arguments against fluoride stabilization are trivial and are not scientifically based. The opinion in the United States by educated, thoughtful scientists, physicians and dentists is that controlling the level of fluoride in public drinking water is beneficial to the health of Americans. In the United States, we have a long history of preventative health measures. Milk is pasteurized and Vitamin D is added to most milk products - Vitamin D prevents the disease called rickets. Chlorine is added to public drinking water supplies to prevent bacterial contamination of water. Iodine is added to salt to prevent the enlargement of the thyroid gland called goiter. Why is it such a big deal to control the level of fluoride in drinking water to prevent dental decay? The answer is that some people love to inflame the public with fear and watch the ensuing furor. Logically, opponents of fluoride would also oppose chlorine, iodine and Vitamin D additives. Yet, these additives are never discussed. One only hears the rhetoric about fluoride.

More than two thirds of communities in the United States have fluoride programs. Why does Billings lag behind the curve? Fear of change. It is time for the City Council to enact fluoride stabilization and quit listening to the illogical arguments of the fluoride opponents. Listen instead to your physician or your dentist.

Steven A. Butler, M.D., FACS

Brian T. Pelczar, M.D.

Cynthia A. Kennedy, M.D.Billings Catholic hierarchy strays from truth As C. K. Chesterton remarked, "When it comes to beating the Catholic Church, any stick will do." Unfortunately the church hierarchy in the United States could have avoided this current public whipping if they would have competently administered their duties as shepherds of the flock. Their acquiescence toward the devastating crisis of truth sweeping through the church, attacking faith, morality and its very mission, is now bearing its rotten fruit.

For the last 40 years the Vatican Council II documents have been touted about as an excuse for every bit of nonsense under the sun. The splendid architecture which once graced our parish churches has been stripped, the glorious Liturgy of the Mass subjected to adolescent innovation, parochial schools systematically closed, and colleges allowed to join the charge of dissent under the guise of "intellectual freedom," yet permitted to maintain their "Catholic" identity.

Unsuspecting parents send their children to "Catholic" seminaries, schools and religious education programs, frequently staffed by modernist theologians, priests and nuns, only to be heartbroken over their children's loss of faith. How do the bishops respond when the laity sound the alarm about religious instruction void of content from sacred Scripture, tradition, the true liturgy, and the teaching authority of the Church? Largely with the same inaction and indifference that the pedophilia scandal has been dealt with. The marginalization of devout Catholics, the impugnation of piety, is common.

St. Francis de Sales stated it best though some 400 years ago, "Those who commit these types of scandals are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder," destroying other people's faith in God by their terrible example. But then he warned his listeners, "… those who allow scandals to destroy their faith are guilty of spiritual suicide, if they cut themselves off from the life of Christ, abandoning the source of life in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist."

Annette Osen, BozemanAdoptive family appreciates prayers The families of Gary and Mary Jane Hogan thank all of the people that helped to bring them home from Vietnam. Mary Jane and her mom, Jean Duncan, left Dec. 7 to fly to Hanoi to adopt a baby boy. Due to the American Immigration and Naturalization Service, our family and seven other families and nine children were held in Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam, for 8-1/2 weeks, waiting to receive visas for their adopted children. Our family arrived back in Billings on Feb. 2, due to the assistance of many people with prayers, letters, signing petitions, news media, senators and friends. So we would like to thank KTVQ-2, Julie Koerber, Becky Shay of The Billings Gazette, Sen. Baucus and his office, Sen. Burns and Congressman Rehberg and City Councilman Mark Kennedy, the residents of Mission Ridge and all the people all over the U.S. and the world who signed the petition and all the thoughts and prayers. Mom and baby and Grandma Jean and all our families are doing well now.

Wayne and Roxanne Hogan, BillingsVoters can choose to protect public access Montana's sportsmen and sportswomen are well aware of the serious threats to the public's access to and enjoyment of Montana's land, water and wildlife. And, as you decide which of the political candidates to support in the June 4 primary election, I hope you will consider their stands on these issues.

There are several proposals being pushed by different groups, none of them Democrats, which I feel will have a negative impact on fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation:

A court challenge by the Mountain States Legal Foundation to our stream access law that would prohibit public use on all but Montana's largest streams.

A court challenge by large landowners around the White Sulphur Springs area that would prevent the Fish, Wildlife and Parks from controlling recreational river use by any landowner with land touching any river bank. Use on the Bighorn River is already 80 percent nonresident. Guess who will be buying subdivision lots on the river banks?

A proposal by the Montana Stockgrowers that would allow large ranch owners to sell 75 percent of the tags for public wildlife to be harvested on their property or the land that they control. (Is a grazing permit on public land evidence of "control"?)

On the federal level, six Republican senators have introduced legislation (SB 978 ) that would give outfitters a vested interest and exclusive commercial use of large areas of public land.

These are very real, not idle threats to the continuation of Montana's outdoor heritage and resources.

As a life-long sportswoman and Democrat, I know firsthand that the Democratic Party believes that these resources should remain in public hands, and our children and grandchildren should have the opportunity to enjoy the tradition and heritage that is rightfully theirs.

As election time approaches, think about the future of Montana's public land and water and wildlife.

Carol Gibson, BillingsBillings library doesn't meet building standards In response to Michael Kennedy's letter on the city's grand plans and tax hike and the changing of our name from the "Magic City" to "The Tragic City."

I have no idea where Kennedy is getting his information, but he is misinformed. I don't know if Kennedy has really taken a look at the present building housing the library.

The local architects association in Billings strongly opposed the 1969 renovation of the warehouse into a library, warning that it would not be a cost-effective long-term solution to providing a usable library, and they were right.

Recent architectural and engineering studies have recommended replacement of the building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, electrical systems, elevators, exterior treatments and windows, roof, entrances, carpeting, redesign of interior walls and traffic patterns, Americans with Disabilities Act and other code compliance updates; in other words, pretty much completely stripping the building down to its structure and building a completely new building around it.

The renovation of the current building would cost about $10 million and building a new library would cost about $ 12 million. It makes sense to me to spend about the same on a new library, which would be a beautiful site for downtown.

Ken Olsen, BillingsWealthier Americans pay bulk of all taxes There has been a great deal of comment in the Voice of the reader section regarding the fairness of our income tax system and whether the more affluent in society are paying their fair share. It may be enlightening to examine the amount earned by various income groups and the actual income tax paid.

Based on a report from Congress's Joint Economic Committee using IRS generated data, the top 5 percent of all earners earn 34 percent of all Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) reported to the IRS and pay 55.5 percent of all federal personal income taxes.

The top 25 percent of earners earn 44.9 percent of AGI and pay 83.5 percent of income taxes. To be in the top 25 percent of earners, you need only earn $52,965 annually. The top 50 percent of taxpayers earn 86.8 percent of AGI and pay 96 percent of income taxes.

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IRS data shows the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers earn 13.2 percent of AGI but pay only 4 percent of personal income taxes. In the case of the bottom 25 percent of taxpayers, they pay virtually no federal income tax. Social Security and Medicare payments, so called "payroll taxes," are the only government payroll obligations they have.Some of your readers considered these payroll obligations an onerous burden on the lower 25 percent of taxpayers. What they fail to mention is that the majority of these taxpayers qualify for government payments known as the Earned Income Tax Credit, which offsets a significant portion of their payroll obligation.

To characterize Social Security and Medicare as a regressive payroll tax is simply not correct. The bottom 50 percent of taxpayers, on average, will receive retirement and medical care benefits worth far more than the amount they paid into each program over their working career.

Gary Nelson, BillingsMontanans don't need lapdogs in Helena I find it interesting that Kim Gillan's opponent, Denis Pitman, (April 20 Voice of the Reader) is only now talking about House Bill 403. It must not have mattered to him that the majority of the Republican House (where Kim is doing an excellent job for all Montanans) as well as in the Senate voted for that bill and passed it. Guess what?

Pitman forgot the House and the Senate are controlled by his Republican friends. So according to Pitman, the majority of Republicans in the House and Senate not only sent the same message that he accused Kim of but wanted to make the idea a law.

So what's the deal? The economic problems of this administration and Republican-controlled House and Senate are not as important to Pitman as the rest of us who are trying to make ends meet? What we don't need in Montana are lapdogs.

Dick Skewis, BillingsContemplating lifelong values While sitting at the gate at the Rod and Gun Club the other day, the thought struck me, about the time you can afford a life-time membership, much of the benefit is gone.

Rob Cline, BillingsDrug question doesn't make sense The latest salvo in the anti-drug war was fired in 1998 when Mark Souder, R-Ind., placed an obscure paragraph in the Higher Education Act, which was not debated. It provided that any student ever convicted of a drug offense - no matter how minimal or how long ago - would never receive financial aid.

Students who were savvy merely didn't answer the question on the form and didn't have any problems until President Bush, who won't ever discuss his early "drug indiscretions," closed the loophole such that anyone who didn't put an answer in the form regarding drug convictions was considered guilty.

Murderers, robbers and rapists are not affected by this provision, only offenders who committed this nonviolent crime are affected.

It is time that this insane, obscene, hypocritical and psychotic drug prohibition (we came to our senses on alcohol prohibition) is seen for what it is before it destroys the fabric of our society.

Edwin L. Stickney M.D., BillingsVote on June 4 for Cultural Partners In the spring of 1984 the company employing me told me that I would be relocating to Billings. I was somewhat dismayed by this. As an avid outdoorsman I was well aware of the hunting, fishing, camping and other activities Montana offers and was excited for that reason. On the other hand, I also enjoyed the cultural side of life - arts and theater that I was accustomed to in larger cities. I was not aware and had not heard any mention of this when discussing Montana. To my surprise, and delight, I moved to Billings and discovered a rich and varied arts culture. I left that company in 1993 so I could stay in Billings, the place I had fallen in love with.

Throughout my 18 years here I have witnessed and played a small role in maintenance and expansion of arts and theater. Now, 14 of these groups have formed the Billings Cultural Partners in promoting and expanding the attendance of these organizations. Their goal of one million attendees by 2010 is very attainable. The economic impact throughout Yellowstone Valley is immense. On June 4, the people of Yellowstone County will be asked to vote for a 3.35 mill levy to support all the arts and culture. This amounts to approximately $8 per year on a house with a market value of $100,000. The passing of this mill levy will have a huge and lasting impact on everyone. I cannot imagine why anyone would not want to support something that touches so many. Our children, elderly, disabled and underprivileged will all benefit from this, to say nothing of the economic impact.

Billings has rapidly become the choice for conventions and meetings and our cultural activities are a leading factor. When I look at the list of the Cultural Partners, I must believe that these groups touch 80 percent to 90 percent of all Yellowstone residents in one way or another. For little more than 2 cents per day, we are saying how much we care. I encourage everyone to vote yes on June 4.

Lynn Fox, BillingsLiberal whining keeps state in economic cellar Ms. Hurdle recently stated in a letter to the editor that she hopes that tax committees appointed by the governor are "balanced by race, gender, income level and party."

Um, hello? How about let's have this: tax committees with intelligent, knowledgeable citizens who have a financial background and who are interested in formulating a statewide tax system that deals fairly with and benefits short- and long-term interests of all Montanans? When the issue is as important as revamping Montana's backward tax structure, who cares what gender or race the committee member is?

It's that dorky, politically correct whining liberal stuff that's kept Montana and all its citizens at the bottom of the national economic heap for an awfully long time. How about let's try a modern, intelligent and fresh approach and stop all this whining nonsense?

Chon Robertson, Billings

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