As a landowner and registered voter in Ravalli County for the past 37 years, I want it on record that I am immensely proud of our current County Commissioners. I want to thank J.R., Greg, Matt, Ron and Suzy for tackling the important issue of the County Airport. It was about time the commissioners dealt with possible plans for our airport in a responsible way. The former commissioners failed to do so, and the airport issue stalled for too many years.
All too often the “Sour Grapes Circus” whines about how any improvements to the county airport would only serve a few rich airport users. Not true! Improvements to the airport will benefit every citizen and business in the Bitterroot Valley! Makes me wonder if they would rather drive a severely burned child to a Shriner’s Hospital or have them flown from the Hamilton Airport! Do you suppose they would prefer U.S. Forest Service tankers take off from their base at the Hamilton Airport and fly to Missoula to fill up a load of fire retardant before protecting their home? I wonder….
I have complete confidence now that the new board of commissioners will responsibly do what is best for all of us. Thank you, Ravalli County Commissioners!
Commissioners need to practice what they preach
Everyone’s on a tight budget these days – you, me, plus all levels of government. This includes our county government. Ravalli County commissioners are wrestling with the budget right now. Our Public Health Department is hurting too. They provide crucial services on a sliding scale. My wife is grateful for their exemplary services. Sadly they’re $11,000 short this year.
I’m one who strongly believes that government has a useful role in healthcare, whether funding our county health department or providing critical insurance like Medicare, Medicaid, or health insurance to government workers.
Of course there are many who believe government should stay out of healthcare and health insurance. While running for county office our three new commissioners made it abundantly clear government should stay out of social issues like healthcare. This was (and still is) a mantra for the libertarian tea party folks who despise Obama’s prudent healthcare reforms.
I may strongly disagree with the commissioners’ political philosophy, priorities, and government’s role in healthcare but I would respect them if they practiced what they preached. That’s called personal integrity. So I have a simple question for Kanenwisher, Foss, and Stoltz: Will you turn down the government health insurance that you don’t believe in?
In these hard times every dollar counts. The commissioners’ health insurance is substantial and costly to taxpayers. We expect you three to step up, do the right thing, and refuse your government insurance (or the optional stipend!). Maybe the savings could support the underfunded Public Health Department where it’ll be greatly appreciated by many.
In turning down the government health insurance you three despise, you’ll earn the public’s respect and save money for important programs that people need and believe in. Otherwise you’ll be seen as hypocrites. You decide.
Van P. Keele
Everytime I drive by the “landscaped” median strips on Hwy 93 entering Stevensville and Florence I do some serious venting to myself or whoever happens to be in the car with me.
To my understanding, an engineer from Helena designed the medians (to the tune of who knows how much!) and I’m sure a fortune was spent on planting the shrubbery and trees.
Well, guess what, folks? Take a look at how our tax money was spent! Most of the trees are dead, sticking up like little bare sticks peeking over the knee-high bed of weeds.
I have written to several of our representatives but have never received a reply from any of them! (oh yes, your representatives want to hear from you…yeah, sure)
In my opinion nothing was taken into consideration on how these plants would get water or how the weeds were to be kept down. Wouldn’t it have been better and probably less expensive to use only drought resistant shrubs such as juniper with a weed barrier down and maybe crushed rock on top?
Take a look, folks. Is this the welcoming sight we want coming into our nice little Bitterroot towns? Just one more example of a waste of our money.
Response to Kimball
I’d respond to a couple-three accusations Glenn Kimball leveled at me and Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance in his letter-to-the-editor last week.
Mr. Kimball, you accused us of being “hateful”. That’s a pretty strong adjective coming from someone who claims Celebrating Conservatism was “a local organization founded upon high ideals.” To what high ideals were you referring exactly? County Supremacy? Conspiracies-for-breakfast? Giving billions in tax cuts to the already obscenely-wealthy while threatening everyone else who gets sick with the modern version of debtor’s prison (the used car they and their family sleep in when they lose their house)? Celebrating Conservatism started out with those ideals and all you “mainstream Bitterroot Valley conservatives” were strangely silent about it, even though that’s also where they—and now our commission—still reside. So where exactly, in your opinion, did Celebrating Conservatism head even further south to warrant “losing support of mainstream Bitterroot Valley conservatives, including our County Commissioners”? And why was your, and our commissioners’ and county attorney’s silence so deafening when this southbound extremism occurred?
Mr. Kimball, we didn’t hear from you or our now-elected officials back then while “mainstream Bitterroot Valley conservatives” were using the extreme divisiveness generated by “infamous loonies like Red Beckman and Shaeffer Cox” and the other local pieces of work at Celebrating Conservatism to make the valley safe for developers, and in fact we have an “unfringed” flag and an unhinged government right now as a result of your silence. Why was that?
It’s funny to be accused of “scraping the bottom of the barrel” by “naming infamous loonies like Red Beckman and Shaeffer Cox as being associates of our County Commissioners.” But fair enough. I agree. They were at the bottom of the barrel. But “destructive activists” who adopt “textbook Socialist-Progressive methodology employed by the Democratic Party today” like BHRA (jeez!) didn’t bring them here and elevate them to the status of “patriots”, to the applause of hundreds of the same neighbors we saw in the anti-zoning, anti-streamside-setback conspiracy-laced groups and gatherings, including our now-commissioners and county attorney. What exactly were those “infamous loonies” doing in the Bitterroot, drawing hundreds of like-minded folks to our fairgrounds, and what were our commissioners doing consorting and currying favor with the group and individuals who brought them here?
Are we hearing some splintering now amidst the local Conservative-Right coalition that brought us the death of planning and zoning, Beckman and Cox and now, through our new commissioners (who just passed authoritarian-laced public involvement policies that would make Hitler smile, Flatiron and a sweet taxpayer-funded deal with the Far-Right county-supremacist front group American Stewards of Liberty)? Buyer’s remorse?
Some conservatives really do think and have hearts. But no apologies yet from the Conservative-Right coalition that brought us this mess, or changes in their patterns of blame. Where was your voice of disapproval, Mr. Kimball, when Beckman and Cox came to town? Where was Kanenwisher’s? Stoltz’s? Fulbright’s? Foss’s (who signed a C.C. declaration claiming she’d be OK with abolishing the government if it didn’t fall more in line with C.C.’s paranoid libertarian fantasy world)? Why did they have tables at these Celebrating Conservatism meetings if this was a group doomed to “implode into nothingness”? Did you and Foss and Kanenwisher and Stoltz and Fulbright know something you weren’t telling us during their “Freedom Is The Issue” campaign? Did you keepers of the “patriot” flame not trust us commoners with the ugly truth?
Good questions, we think. Better than the empty denials we’re now hearing from you, Mr. Kimball, and our public officials. If you’re on speaking terms with them, can you please ask them to give us some real reason to believe in their contriteness, like booting American Stewards of Liberty out on its jeans and paying back the $200 for the “unfringed” flag from their own pockets and actually apologizing, and actually acting like they’re getting paid (well) to represent all the people in this valley instead of just a few belligerent neighbors of ours?
As far as “adopting textbook Socialist-Progressive methodology employed by the Democratic Party today” and a “Marxist-Socialist manual for influencing public opinion, promoting public discontent and inciting rebellion,” I’d like to say that maybe if you, Mr. Kimball, defined what the h— you’re talking about with this kind of coded verbiage with no visible means of support, we could possibly have a productive discussion.
Notwithstanding floating ideological barbs, I can address valley demographics with proper anchor points. Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance (BHRA) has been in the forefront of three major initiatives benefiting working folks in the last six years: raising the minimum wage (I-151), Healthy Montana Kids (I-155) and capping payday lending rates (I-164). All were approved by approximately 70% of Montana voters, including wide majorities in every one of the current commissioners’ districts. All three initiatives were necessary because of the conservative-Right coalition’s opposition in the state legislature to actually provide functional government to working people. BHRA actually advocates for people, instead of distracting them while they loot the public treasury like some entities we could surely name. If you want to call that “oxymoronic” or “socialistic”, go right ahead. We have the people—if not the money–behind us every time, and those people, Mr. Kimball, like BHRA, are as American as rhubarb pie.
The words I used in my letter came out of our commissioners’ mouths or pens. The associations I described still stand until our officials thoroughly rebuke them and the horses they rode in on. Not just blanket-denying the likes of Cox and Beckman who were central figures in the ugly buildup to last November’s elections. Actions, like real apologies from “mainstream Bitterroot Valley conservatives” is what we want now.
None yet, Mr. Kimball? How ‘bout you for starters? No? Oh, well…
Am I mad? You bet I am! The patterns of Conservative-Right blaming still remain the same from “mainstream Bitterroot Valley conservatives.” No apologies or actions to actually fix the mess they made. Just a “Hey, don’t look over here. Look over there! At those people! A socialist! A tree hugger! A wolf! A—!?”
So, thank you, I guess, for proving out all my main points without actually addressing any of them. Barring an actual apology from you or yours, your words speak louder than your actions.
Bill LaCroix, Coordinator
Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance
Montana’s construction-less recovery
When is economic growth in the wake of a painful recession not good news? The answer is: when it is less growth than people expect. Even though the Montana economy at year’s midpoint is shaping up about as we predicted in December when we prepared our annual forecast, the restrained pace of growth has not been fast enough to ease the apprehension shared by many that the recession is truly over.
That is especially so because one of the most visible signs of economic vitality – the sight of bulldozers and the sound of hammers building houses – remains markedly absent in most Montana communities this summer, as the construction slump that began in 2008 remains with us.
But the Montana economy as a whole has clearly swung to growth. That fact is most apparent from state tax receipts – general fund revenues for the first 11 months of the 2011 fiscal year were up 10 percent from the same period a year earlier. While job growth remains disappointing, labor income is growing visibly across the entire spectrum of private sector industries, even in the hardest hit communities.
Three years into its real estate slump, Montana’s housing markets do not yet show definitive signs of improvement. The symptoms of the real estate malaise differ in their severity across the state, but they are depressingly familiar to all: soft or declining prices for new and existing homes, increased time on the market for homes offered for sale and continued low levels of new home construction. Even as the rest of the state economy swings to growth, the data clearly portray 2010 as another year of adjustment and correction in Montana’s housing markets, with 2011’s performance still unfolding.
Declines in new home construction continued even in markets like Yellowstone and Cascade counties, which have seen smaller declines in prices. Housing starts in these two communities were down by 45.5 percent and 51.3 percent in 2010 from their 2007 levels, respectively.
But the construction declines have been the most severe in the counties that saw the highest construction levels prior to the housing bust – Flathead and Gallatin. Gallatin’s decline decelerated slightly in 2010, with 12.1 percent fewer housing starts than the previous year. Flathead County suffered the steepest home building drop of any major market in the state, with just 165 units built in 2010, a 48.1 percent drop from 2009, and an 82.9 percent decline from construction levels in 2007. Missoula’s housing starts were down by 64 percent from their 2007 level.
Construction, in particular new home construction, has been high-octane fuel for economic growth across Montana for the past 20 years. It’s a labor-intensive process that draws a high proportion of its materials from the surrounding area. And its skilled work force makes good money. So when construction is hot, it can have a powerful ripple effect on the entire economy. And when it’s not? Well, just look around us.
So the question of when, or whether, Montana will resume faster growth overall is starting to boil down to when, or whether, the housing slump will end. As we address that question around the state during our midyear economic outlook update presentations, we do see some signs of relief ahead, beginning with housing prices. We expect prices to start firming as demand pressures build against the backdrop of low building rates of the past several years.
That much we’re sure of. Getting the timing right has proven to be a forecaster’s nightmare. For the sake of our economic peace of mind, we hope it is this year.
Patrick Barkey, Director
UM Bureau for Business and Economic Research
Calling DFS to task
After the tragic death of two-year-old October Perez in Great Falls, it is ever so apparent that we, the citizens of Montana, need to demand changes within the Department of Family Services (DFS). The horrific abuse of this little girl (which was done by her mother’s boyfriend) was reported to DFS on numerous occasions, and this agency simply refused to do anything to protect this child. DFS personnel just replied by stating, “This case has been closed, due to unsubstantiated claims.”
This ineffectiveness of DFS, and their refusal to protect our most precious resource, our children, is not isolated to Great Falls. Since little October’s Memorial Service and Rally Against Child Abuse which was held on July 3rd, there have been e-mails and phone calls concerning DFS every day, from all four comers of Montana.
Ironically, the mission statement of DFS is: “Keeping Children Safe and Families Strong,” and their purpose statement is: “To protect children who have been or at substantial risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment.” I have a very difficult time believing this agency really believes in these statements or even wants to carry out these goals when they consistently refused to do anything when reports and photos were presented to them showing that both arms had been broken (report made by hospital personnel), chunks of hair had been pulled out of the girl’s head, teeth had been knocked out, and numerous bruises throughout her body, as well as a letter from an attorney 20 days before October’s death stating that if DFS chose to do nothing, the little girl would die!
Does DFS simply lack the ability to see blatant child abuse or do they consciously choose to turn a blind eye to the very children they are entrusted to protect? We, as moral citizens, have the responsibility to protect these children who have no voice within the bureaucracy, but they are victims to horrific crimes of abuse on a regular basis.
All of us must take action now! We must hold hearings throughout Montana so all of us citizens have an opportunity to voice our concerns about DFS’s inability to adequately protect our children. We must demand that an oversight board be established so citizens can file complaints about DFS when they refuse to be responsive after numerous reports of blatant child abuse. If this board would have been in place, as recommended (in writing) to DFS last fall, our two-year-old October Perez may be alive today. However, since her death, our grassroots organization called “Montanans Against Child Abuse” has been formed. Currently, I am receiving e-mails and phone calls telling me about about horrific child abuse occurring every day in Montana – and all of these instances have been reported to DFS, to no avail.
I sincerely urge all citizens of Montana to support reform efforts in making Montana a safer place for our children. You can do this by signing the “Support Our Children” petition that is currently circulating throughout Montana. To review or sign this petition, please e-mail [email protected] and one will be e-mailed to you. If you have any questions or comments on your dealings with DFS, please e-mail them as well. Improvements to this system can only be made by gathering data as to what is and is not working with DFS now. Time is of the essence. Please take action for our children now!