The Helena Independent Record publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are this week's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Continue improving Affordable Care Act
Please don’t say “whoa.” A patriarch in my family had a saying: “Don’t say whoa in a tight spot.” By that he meant that stopping, turning around or giving up wasn’t the way to handle a situation.
We’re in such a situation with the United States’ health care system right now. Even though we’ve made progress with the Affordable Care Act, giving affordable coverage to millions of more Americans, some people want to say “whoa” and replace it with a partisan plan like privatizing services, or a single-payer system.
Today I am asking our leaders not to say “whoa.” What we need to do is keep building on the ACA and the good that it has done for patients and families in Montana and the U.S. The health and well-being of so many people depend on it.
Mary Jo Engle
School district needs Siobhan Hathhorn
We are proud to support Siobhan Hathhorn as the write-in candidate for school board trustee. Ms. S. Hathhorn was an excellent teacher at Broadwater, one of our son's favorites. She displays every asset our district needs currently — comprehensive understanding of issues and the ability to make sound decisions within tough parameters. We have every expectation she will lead our school district to further success. Please write-in "S. Hathhorn" on your ballot and mail to the elections office so that it arrives before May 7.
Jim and Jennifer Tucker
Serve Montana citizens, not corporations
I am disturbed by the Republican Party and proposed legislation. Formerly, the party had many examples of prudent, thoughtful legislation, based on fact and focused on common good.
Much of what is being proposed is out of the mainstream of values and not based on facts/evidence. This does not strengthen the state, but makes it look ignorant and repressive, and does not focus on common good.
Our legislators need to be informed, understanding consequences that are intended and unintended. To do less is incompetence. Beliefs do not equal facts or best evidence. Legislation proposed to prevent birth control, eliminate requiring education, making it easier to avoid vaccinations, stating we will never cooperate in eliminating CO2 — all seem like an effort to put Montana into the Dark Ages. Legislation targeted at the fringe culture is not in the interest of the many.
Democracy is fragile and is best served by good governance based on outcomes that enhance the common good and are evidence based. Legislators' obligation is to serve the citizens, not your personal beliefs or the needs of corporations.
Sign up for free smoke alarm installation
Every day, local families rely on the support of neighbors who volunteer with the Montana Red Cross. These community heroes give comfort and hope in times of crisis — most often, when a fire burns a family’s home.
Home fires account for most of the more than 260 disasters that we respond to annually in Montana. Sadly, these emergencies also take seven lives each day in the U.S. — most often, in homes without working smoke alarms.
But as a community, we can prevent needless fire tragedies. That’s why we’re working with the Helena Fire Department and local volunteers to install free smoke alarms in Helena homes on May 3-4 and teach families about fire safety.
To request free alarms be installed in your home, visit www.montanaredcross.org or call 800-272-6668. If May 3-4 doesn’t work with your schedule, plans can be arranged to install the alarms at another time.
Together we can keep families safe from home fires.
Susan L. Hawthorne
Co-chair Disaster Action Team
Lewis and Clark County
Opposition to Medicaid expansion isn't really about money
Pretending that opposition to continuing Montana’s “Medicaid expansion” had anything to do with the federal budget deficit is a joke almost as funny as the proposal by State Sen. Sales earlier this Montana Legislative Session to “contribute” additional millions of Montana taxpayers’ dollars to building a higher wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Seriously? The current national debt is more than $21 trillion and the current fiscal year 2020 federal deficit is $1.103 trillion (per “thebalance.com” website).
Montana’s Medicaid “expansion” program will utilize a tiny fraction of the federal budget, less than a “drop in the bucket” for federal spending. In Montana the program will save lives and net the state many millions in health care cost savings.
If you in the Montana Legislature who voted against expansion were truly serious about controlling the federal budget deficit, consider supporting a federal balanced budget resolution. Perhaps you’d like to also return all of Montana’s share of federal highway dollars? In fiscal year 2018, that totaled $380 million spent (per the Montana Legislative Fiscal Division). Don’t like that idea? Then your opposition to Medicaid Expansion wasn’t really about the money, was it?
Write in Ella Currier for Helena School Board
Please write in Ella Currier on your Helena School Board ballot. This smart, tenacious, homegrown young leader graduated from the Helena School District and is excited at the prospect of partnering with students, parents, educators and administrators of her home district as your school board trustee.
Currier’s parents are educators. Her sister and brother attend Helena schools. Currier believes schools are the center of a strong, vibrant, thriving community. She’ll bring fresh perspective and dogged determination to solve a shrinking budget, protect student safety, fix crumbling buildings and tackle other pressing concerns.
Actively involved in the Helena community, Ella Currier has worked hard on lots of campaigns, including mine, for people and issues she believes in. She spent countless hours to help pass the 2017 Helena school bond. She rallied volunteers, made phone calls and knocked doors – all to make sure Helena students get the best quality public education possible.
Knowing Currier, she’ll work even harder and smarter on the Helena School Board. I encourage you to write in Ella Currier for Helena School Board.
Mary Ann Dunwell
McEwen a clear choice for school board
We need school board members that have analytical skills and it is helpful to have good managerial experience which John McEwen acquired in his career in the public sector. John has kept up on school issues by attending numerous school board meetings. He also helped by being a working member of the committee to successfully pass the school building bond in 2017.
As a retired Helena banker I understand how important it is for our community to have a strong, healthy school system. John McEwen can provide the necessary leadership for my nine grandchildren to experience the same quality school system that was provided to my children in Helena. Please join me in supporting John McEwen for school board.
Families need lawmen to look into CFS
We have a problem, not just in Montana, but nationwide, with this wildly out-of-control entity of government no longer serving the people: Child and Family Services.
It began with the Mondale Act of 1974, and again under Bill Clinton's Adoption and Safe Families Act in the '90s, at which time this entire nightmare began with incentivized removals; the longer the removal, the more funding for the department. The children's relationship with the natural parents is severed, with little regard for the trauma and disturbance in that familial bond, and the horrific outcomes of removals, alongside a failed foster care system that churns out yet more lost souls, with due respect to those very decent people whose hearts are sincere — you are the exception, and not the rule, unfortunately.
This is big business! Families who struggle and parents confused by this punitive system running amok are desperate for lawmen to look at this. We can do better as a society, because we must. We have constitutional rights, human rights and fundamental rights and responsibilities to families, and not just a massive overreach into private lives, playing God.
This massive overreach into the privacy of family is unconscionable, and hidden behind the "child savers" predators.
Write-in S. Hathhorn for school board
Siobhan Hathhorn has been a strong advocate for educating every child to their highest potential for the 28 years that I have known her. I met Siobhan in 1991 when we worked together and after over a decade working in private industry, she decided to pursue a degree in education. She went on to serve 18 years as a public school educator as both a classroom teacher and an elementary school principal. During her years as an educator, she has passionately advocated for the children she taught.
Siobhan has an incredible capacity to listen, she is pragmatic and fiscally prudent. She understands school budgets and will work to improve our already strong educational system. She is committed to policies that support high-quality instruction including professional development for teachers and access to sufficient classroom facilities and teaching materials.
Please fill in the oval and write-in S. Hathhorn.
Tester missing the point on border fortifications
Consistent with stands taken during his 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Jon Tester cast critical votes against mass amnesties for illegal aliens during his first term. Those defeats of amnesty bills in 2007 and 2010 didn’t remedy the huge problem presented by illegal immigration, but they kept it from rapidly worsening.
However, since 2010, Tester’s performance on this subject has ranged from unhelpful to abysmal. For example, in 2015 and 2018, he opposed measures that would have discouraged cities and counties from declaring themselves "sanctuaries" for illegal aliens. And in 2013 he supported the “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill that would also have doubled legal immigration rates. (Fortunately, that Senate-passed monstrosity died in the House.)
So is it significant that Senator Tester has returned to the subject with his April 5 Independent Record column, “What I saw at the southern border." Perhaps, but his emphasis on border fortifications showed that he’s largely missing the point.
In fact, the current crisis is mostly the consequence of our outdated asylum laws -- which are easily gamed by Central America’s poverty legions -- and of the related failure to keep illegal aliens from taking American jobs.
For make no mistake, very few among those crashing our southwest border are legitimate refugees. As departing Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen noted last November, “Historically, less than 10% of those who claim asylum from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador are found eligible by a federal judge. 90% are not eligible. Most of these migrants are seeking jobs or to join family who are already in the U.S. They have all refused multiple opportunities to seek protection in Mexico or with … the UN Refugee Agency. Seeking employment or family reunification are not grounds for asylum under our laws, or any international obligation.”
What about people who claim to be fleeing gang violence, as Senator Tester mentioned? That’s not grounds for asylum either, since the actual concept is “political asylum,” which is defined in the 1980 Refugee Act to apply to people who are persecuted by their own government due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or membership in a particular social group. There’s nothing in the definition about criminal gangs or domestic violence — nor, for that matter: mudslides, earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanoes.
The current chaos at the border mostly involves adults who show up with minors in tow, knowing that the current federal rules arising from the “Flores” settlement forbid detaining children more than 20 days. They tell their typically fraudulent stories to the Border Patrol and, within days, are released into the U.S. interior, carrying paperwork to start the asylum-application process. But since they have minimal chance of being granted asylum, most don’t submit applications. Instead, they simply vanish into our country’s woodwork, intent on benefiting from our welfare programs and modern infrastructure, great improvements over their Third World homes.
Such people are merely the latest surge of illegal aliens. They’ll keep coming — and stressing our schools, hospitals, housing, and welfare programs — until we change the incentives that encourage their influx.
So the real crisis is Congress’s refusal to legislate for the broad national interest. What’s needed is a change in the refugee law to allow prompt deportation of people —including people with accompanying children — who are obvious non-candidates for asylum. Further, we need to ensure that illegal aliens can’t get jobs, so it’s time — in fact, far past time — to make electronic verification of eligibility for employment (E-Verify) universally mandatory in hiring.
Thus if he’s once again serious about this subject, there’s plenty for Senator Tester to do.
Paul Nachman, a retired physicist, volunteers in a research group at Montana State University-Bozeman and is a founding member of Montanans for Immigration Law Enforcement.
Supporting Currier for school board
I have known Ella Currier for many years and she has inspired me since the day we met. She is a passionate, brilliant and dedicated member of the Helena community and when I heard she was running for the Helena School District 1 Board of Trustees, I knew I had to throw all of my support behind her.
Ella is deeply devoted to this community. Her strong communication skills, incredible work ethic and leadership ability enable her to solve any problem creatively and effectively. She has been recognized as one of Forward Montana’s 25 Under 25 awardees, cementing her as a Montanan who carries out Pat and Carol Williams’ legacy of “challenging the status quo, taking risks, and breaking new ground in Montana."
Ella will bring a fresh perspective to help the school board address the challenges our district is facing- namely, the high school budget crisis. As a graduate of the Helena School District she understands the needs of its schools and students. Helena must continue to maintain the highest standard of education, and Ella is uniquely qualified to make that happen.
Please support Helena’s schools and write-in Ella Currier for the HSD1 Board of Trustees on May 7.
Legislators leaving poor legacy
It seems the majority of legislators want to leave a legacy to the next generation and the generations that follow — that your health and your history do not matter. We do not care enough about you or our fellow citizens to protect you from ignorance and greed. That is not a legacy I wish to leave for my children. Do the right thing!
Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs
Letter challenged pastors to remain neutral
I am responding to Kristin Jacobson’s (4/12) letter in Reader’s Alley.
Kristin, I am not criticizing Pastor Wilson, who has said he wants to help people get along with one another. When anyone states that they wish to help people learn to communicate peacefully about politics, they must themselves remain neutral in order to present their ideas, or one side will object, and it will defeat their purpose. This was what I was pointing out. When they tip their hand by criticizing one side’s politics, they lose their authority with the opposing side, and it limits their reach. They will alienate the other political side.
I think I made it very clear that I welcome their comments about getting along, which both pastors want to teach. I am not a “Trumper”, though the Bible teaches us to pray for those in authority, and I do. I am an independent, and I want to see fair play. Pastor Wilson stated that his purpose was to help people stop fighting about politics and stop letting politics divide us. I’m all for that. However, if he or Rev. Brehe side with either political party as they say they are trying to bring peace, I will speak up. It is not in keeping with their stated goal.
Arbiters for peace must remain neutral, Kristin. If, however, they wish to criticize one candidate or the other, they should not do it under the guise of being peacemakers. That is an entirely different subject, and they should expect pushback from those who disagree. That’s part of the price for making their views public in the newspaper. I simply remind them that “iron sharpens iron” (Proverbs 27:17), and if they listen to those comments, their writing will be more effective.
So, Kristin, please do not be offended. I am simply challenging both pastors to remain neutral and become true peacemakers in this area. I’m sure they have some good ideas on the subject.
Siobhan Hathhorn would be excellent on Helena School Board
Please join me in supporting Siobhan Hathhorn for the Helena School Board. This election is unique because it requires voters to write in a name for the third open seat on the Helena School Board.
Siobhan Hathhorn brings experience as an educator, parent, administrator and community leader, and would be an excellent addition to the Helena School Board.
This position requires dedication and hard work to make thoughtful decisions for our students, parents, community, and the future of our School District. Siobhan Hathhorn is the best candidate to write in on your school board ballot this month.