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.
Campus 'free speech' bill was Trojan horse
The combination of a Facebook ad and a recent IR letter (5/14) got me curious today. Both Americans for Progress (the Koch Brothers’ front group) and the letter writer (a xenophobe who organized an anti-immigrant march) argued in favor of overturning Gov. Bullock’s veto on the “campus free speech” bill. A little research showed that another right-wing corporate interest group, ALEC, was also in support of this bill. What an unlikely combination to support free speech!
It turns out that the true goal of this bill is actually to make it easier for organizations like AfP and ALEC to sue colleges and universities. By putting monetary penalties for alleged violations, they can, as the American Association of University Professors notes, "suppress rather than encourage speech by creating a litigious atmosphere that could cause administrators to suppress the voices of student and employee dissenters on campus out of fear of being sued." Note that the cost of these lawsuits would be borne by Montana taxpayers.
Gov. Bullock did the right thing by consulting with the university system rather than accepting a Trojan horse. Giving the bill a name with “free speech” in the title doesn’t make it so anymore than naming bovine excrement a “cow pie” makes it edible.
Politicians need to listen to young about climate change
There is increasing pressure to combat climate change, especially among young people, who will represent nearly 20 million potential new voters in the 2020 election. For example, many in the current class of high school graduates call themselves "The Class of Zero." Zero emissions, zero delays, zero excuses from politicians for not working to solve climate change.
A recent Times Magazine article notes that, on March 15, an estimated 1.6 million mostly young people in 133 countries participated in a student climate strike inspired by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden, who famously said this about climate change: "There is no point in going to school if there is no future ... why should we care about our future when no one else is doing that?"
Even though Thunberg is only 16, she is no lightweight. She has spoken with the pope, communicated with President Obama, addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland, billionaires at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the U.K. Houses of Parliament. She told Parliament and others that she knows whom to blame for climate change, saying: "You did not act in time."
Democratic candidate for president, Gov. Jay Inslee has a parallel message. He says: " We're the first generation impacted by climate change and the last that can stop it."
Let us hope, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, that this era of climate change "hoax" is over, and that politicians carefully consider the impact these 20 million new young, climate-minded voters will have on their 2020 election prospects.
NorthWestern Energy seeking to penalize rooftop solar
Anyone else notice the uptick in NorthWestern Energy corporate image advertising? Do you think it might be connected to that corporation’s efforts to snuff out the growth of individual family use of solar energy? I do.
Please email the Montana Public Service Commission at PSC_utilitycomment@mt.gov to point out that we must stop allowing corporate greed to further destroy the Earth.
In its image building ads, NorthWestern touts the fact that 60% of current energy generation comes from renewable sources. If, instead of corporate profits, NorthWestern had the well-being of its customers and our environment in mind, it would welcome individual family investments in solar. Not so. Rather, NorthWestern seeks to penalize anyone who invests in rooftop solar generation. Seeking a rate-based disincentive (is) designed to discourage individual family investment in solar.
Think about what might happen. If NorthWestern were to suddenly realize that its customers and the Earth are more important than profit, that 60% currently generated from renewal sources could go to 100% with all of the hardware investment coming from customer families.
Demand a different direction from our energy companies.
NorthWestern Energy trying to snuff out solar
Please email the Montana Public Service Commission. Tell them NorthWestern Energy's proposed charge is not “fair” (PSC_utilitycomment@mt.gov).
Sarah, an “average” NWE customer, uses 750 kilowatt-hours per month. She installs rooftop solar to produce 400 kWh per month. She will purchase 350 kilowatt-hours from NWE.
Sarah uses 150 kilowatt-hours while they are generated. They will not touch the NWE grid. The other 250 kilowatt-hours are exported temporarily to the grid for credit -- and later reclaimed when the family needs more than they are generating. This is net-metering.
Because of the punishing “demand charge” NWE proposes for net-metering customers, Sarah will pay $79 per month – more than the $75 paid by a customer without solar using 600 kilowatt-hours.
In effect Sarah pays full price for both the returned 250 kilowatt-hours she exported to the NWE grid, and the additional 350 kilowatt-hours she needs. She gets NO “credit” for the 250 kilowatt-hours she generated. She donates them to NWE. NWE sells these free kilowatt-hours for full price. This is not net-metering.
In a recent letter, NWE claims the charge is “fair.” It’s not. It is an effort to snuff out rooftop solar.
Where is the public service in PSC?
In 2015 I found a house in Helena that met all of my needs - located in a great neighborhood at a price I could afford. The last item on my list was to check that the house was well-suited for a rooftop solar system. That part was easy. A local business, Solar Montana, simply had to check the house on Goggle Earth and assured me the roof was in the right configuration and angle for great solar gain.
Using a portion of my limited retirement funds, I invested in this energy source both for its positive environmental effects and as a way to ensure I could afford to live independently as I aged. It made sense, I thought, that as my future household and health expenses increased, this investment would assure that my utility bill remained stable, a good way to invest wisely in my financial future.
In early May I learned that NorthWestern Energy has made a request to the Public Service Commission for a charge that would effectively cost me $50 to $70 per month if I did not generate enough electricity for my own household and needed even 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity from their generators. Citing a study commissioned and paid for by NWE, the utility company claims that it pays up to three times as much for electricity generated from rooftop solar system. I find this hard to believe. When I generate more power than I use NWE is given these extra kilowatt-hours as a gift when they zero out my meter every April.
What kind of math is used to figure the claim of the increased cost? Less than 0.5% of NWE’s customers have solar-connected systems. I fail to see how we are breaking the bank on shareholders returns. In addition, studies show repeatedly that distributed energy systems, such as rooftop solar, actually reduce the need to build additional and costly new power plants while reducing the polluting emissions to the atmosphere.
NWE’s website states their mission: “Working together to provide safe, reliable and innovative energy solutions that create value for customers, communities, employees, and investors.”
Distributed energy is safe, reliable and an innovation that creates value for all residents in Montana. I urge the PSC to vote NO on this absurd and damaging charge that would effectively cripple the state’s solar business and may result in financial hardships for people who, like me, live on a fixed income or invested in rooftop solar systems with the agreement of a reasonable payback. Solar businesses generate over $17 billion for America’s economy along with 242,000 jobs. We in Montana want a part of this business and to be engaged in climate change solutions. If the rate increase goes through we might as well just change the name of the Public Service Commission to “The Commission” because there will be no public service in their action.
Open letter to FWP and commission
Just a quick note on walleye fishing in Washington state on one body of water that I have been fishing on for the last six years. Just got back from a six-day trip fishing for walleye with another possession limit for myself and my wife and we had a average fish length of 17.5 inches for the fish. I have been measuring fish every year caught from this lake and have never had a possession limit average under 14.75 inches. One year the average was over 18.
The regulations on this lake are no fish under 12 inches and only one over 22 inches with a limit of eight daily and possession of 16. During the last six years I have fished Canyon Ferry Reservoir only twice. Once during a tournament in June and once about two years before that around July time frame. Guess what, (I) had a hard time finding fish 14 inches long with a majority of the fish under 14 inches. Simply stated, your regulations are not producing the type of fish the fishermen/women would like to see. You continue to over fish this body of water and as far as I can see, it will never recover to the glory days of the late '90s and early 2000s.
In a email dated Aug. 24, 2018, to you folks I attempted to get my point across, but I now can see that you have failed to come through for the walleye fishing people. Sad to say but I guess I will continue to spend my retirement money fishing in Washington. The lake/reservoir also has great crappie, blue gill, bass, perch and trout fishing.
Question: Why can't Montana supply a fishery like that if Washington can?
Don't let politics influence health care discussion
I am writing because the course of my life could depend on the decisions leaders make in Washington, D.C. In my 20 years I have battled chondrosarcoma, a rare type of cancer. I have undergone surgery to remove the cancer but will need long term monitoring to ensure it does not recur.
Complicating matters, I also suffer from ulcerative colitis and celiac disease. The management of my ulcerative colitis was difficult and included every available medication, but still resulted in surgical removal of my colon. I am thankful for the medical treatments helping me today, and I look forward to improvements on the horizon.
I am passionate about medical advancements. It would be wonderful if no one else experienced the struggles I have endured. With so much debate about the future of health care, I worry politics might interfere, and I could lose out on the potential cures to put these medical issues behind me for good.
Cures are possible in my lifetime and I’m asking that our congressional delegation do everything in their power to ensure the U.S. continues to foster innovation, research and pharmaceutical development, so people like me can continue to have hope for a disease-free future.
NorthWestern Energy's new charge unfair
My wife and I recently had rooftop solar panels installed. To ensure that our annual electrical needs would always be met, we installed slightly more panel capacity than was needed. Because of our extra production, we essentially “give” NorthWestern Energy free electricity, since NWE does not pay rooftop solar generators for any extra power produced. So far, we have given 784 kilowatt hours or about $90 worth of electricity to NWE.
Prior to installing our panels, we had NWE conduct an “Energy Audit” to help us reduce our energy needs. They said the purpose of these audits was to reduce the electricity used by NWE’s customers so they could postpone the need to expand their electrical production. We used the audit findings and reduced our energy use.
Now here’s the irony. Even though rooftop solar producers help NWE reduce their need for additional electrical generation and often give them free electricity, NWE is asking the Public Service Commission for a significant charge for new rooftop solar installations. This charge is blatantly unfair and would essentially make adding new rooftop solar panels uneconomical. Why does NWE want to penalize people for helping them achieve a clean energy future? Maybe because it’s mainly money that matters when you are a monopoly. I urge the PSC to deny this unjustified charge for the sake of fairness, clean energy and the small, locally-owned solar business that provide good jobs in Montana.
The abortion industry's extreme agenda
The legislative session was over in April and three pro-life bills made it to Governor Bullock's desk. House Bill 500 was a bill that would have stopped abortions at 20 weeks of gestation. It is legal to abort your baby in Montana through 40 weeks of gestation and HB 500 would have prevented this. The bill was vetoed by Bullock and probably because he is endorsed by Planned Parenthood.
The abortion industry will have you believe that these late-term abortions on viable babies are rare, when in fact there are over 15,000 late-term abortions in the U.S. every year. Only 2% of these late-term abortions are because of fetal anomalies, that is about 300. The rest of the 15,000 are because of failed relationships or not wanting to raise children on their own. That is right, a healthy baby is aborted because the woman broke up with her boyfriend and does not want to raise the baby.
I have lobbied in Montana for 17 years and have seen the extreme agenda the abortion industry wants, now with the latest Montana Supreme court ruling a nurse practitioner can perform an abortion to include a late-term one. It is insanity.
Airport should be named after Gary Cooper
Helena has a chance to do the right thing.
In a town where political posturing and compromise passes mediocre laws every two years, we forgot to do something 60 years ago.
It’s not too late to complete this long needed tribute to a Helena native: Name the Helena airport after Gary Cooper, native to our town. Similar to the Orange County Airport renaming itself after its own John Wayne in 1979, Helena needs to step up to give tribute to one of our own. It’s the right thing, it’s a cool thing that has nothing to do with left or right, but just plain cool.
Good job, St. Peter's Hospice
St. Pete's Hospice staff has rendered me professional and wonderful service for several months.
They were a great resource to help me get through difficult times. St. Pete's Health is a very important asset in our community.
Douglas C. Carpenter Jr.
Leave dogs home; firefighters in street create hazard
Today I experienced two things that I have experienced before. While I was in Lowe’s to pick up supplies there were dogs with their people. The problem is the people did not in any way shape or form control their dogs. In a snap of a finger one of the dogs started barking and pulling its person toward another dog with its person. Then dogs did what dogs do. It ended quickly but, why oh why did it happen at all?
The people who love their dogs, of which I am one with mine, need to leave the dog at home! I totally understand and support the use of trained and certified animal assistants, but a little furry ankle biter that is out of control is not only not trained, but not a certified dog.
My other experience will probably raise the ire of some even more than that of those who bring their dogs into stores: not liking firemen with boots in hand asking for donations from motorists on busy street intersections. No signage indicating their presence -- what a safety hazard! Do it somewhere else! People drive horribly enough why add that hazard to things?
City pay raises could have serious financial consequences
The Independent Record reported recently that City Manager Ana Cortez was directed by the Helena City Commission "to consider applying a percentage salary change to be negotiated by the Helena Police Protective Association to all city employees except directors and managers." That has some serious implications.
Let's say that HPPA can show that they are 8% behind the market, which during some bargaining years is not out of the realm of possibility. Let's say they arbitrate and prevail, which commonly can happen in Montana. Eight percent raises for all 325 or so employees of the city of Helena is a significant addition to overall personnel costs in Helena's budget (including costs to cover pensions and some payroll taxes which are tied to base wages). This increase would likely apply to other labor unions which typically have COLA adjustments tied to raises the commission gives to unrepresented employees. Those are some serious financial consequences. The commission needs to think that one through some more.
PSC should deny solar rate hike
As owners of a large home solar system, we strongly oppose NorthWestern Energy's proposed rate hikes. Our system produces more electricity than we use most of the year, and NorthWestern takes that excess energy and sells it to others. They argue that we don't pay our fair share for their infrastructure, even though we pay the same connection fee as everyone else, even in the months we don't buy their electricity. We have a sizable investment in our system, financed by MBAC, and make monthly payments on it. We feel that in the months that NorthWestern sells our electricity to others, they are using our infrastructure. Of course, they don't propose to pay us a fee for that, but they're happy to increase our fees when we use their infrastructure.
To increase fees on solar investors is contrary to the policy that provides tax incentives to combat the increasing threat of global climate change by encouraging us to invest in safe and pollution free energy. This policy shift would be especially egregious at a time when the need for alternatives to coal fired electricity generation is increasing daily. Please encourage the PSC to deny rate increases on solar investors.
Life in a petri dish is also a human being
In answer to Clare Kearns' May 23 Reader’s Alley letter, we are trying to protect the fertilized eggs in the petri dishes. But if we cannot convince you that the life in the mother’s womb that even looks like a human being is in fact a human being, how are we to convince you that the life in a petri dish is also a human being, as precious of a soul as is your soul. How tragic it is that these petri dish babies are safer than those in their mothers’ wombs.
Do you not realize that very little of this entire equation is made up of the rapist issue? Most abortions come from practicing sex outside of marriage. By your own argument, should we not therefore cut off the men and sew up the women? The answer is in saving sex for marriage.
Why is it not bigotry for you to lambaste the elderly, white, conservative Christian as you have done? Had you but substituted young for elderly, black for white, left-wing for conservative, and Muslim for Christian, you would have been blown out of the water! You have also insulted millions of mothers. If one statement could be chosen by the majority of these women who are doing the breadwinner thing, it would be this: “I want to be a stay-at-home mom.” We’ve all heard this cry time and time again.
The legal abortion clinics often leave women sterile, maimed or dead. And the guilt of having aborted their child is staggering. I do not wish this for any woman. And yet you are pushing abortion! Do you not care for women? The woman’s life that is in question is how she is going to live the rest of her life — whether it’s as a mom or not. The baby’s issue is whether or not he/she even gets to have the rest of his/her life. Which question is more important?
Voice support for veterans legislation
Earlier last week, the Wounded Warrior Project offered a great "Statement for the Record" to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. WWP's analysis focused on five different sections of "Senate Bill 785 — Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019."
NAMI Montana has been working on this legislation in honor of our dear friend, colleague and Helena Navy SEAL veteran, Commander John Scott Hannon. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sens. Jon Tester and Jerry Moran to improve veterans’ access to effective mental health care.
WWP's analysis focused on five critical pieces of the legislation:
Section 101 extends “VA health care eligibility to transitioning veterans for a full year after their separation or discharge from the Armed Services."
Section 201 creates “a new grant program aimed at organizations that provide and coordinate mental health services for veterans not receiving care at VA.”
Section 205 “would commission a study on the feasibility and advisability of providing certain complementary and integrative health treatments such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and chiropractic care, at all VA medical facilities, either in person or through telehealth when applicable. Section 205 would also permit VA to provide these treatments.”
Section 305 would expand the “Precision Medicine for Veterans Initiative at VA in order to identify and validate brain and mental health biomarkers."
Section 406 would establish a “Joint DoD/VA National Intrepid Center of Excellence Intrepid Spirit Center in a rural or highly rural area” that would “foster collaboration in treatment, research, and prevention initiatives.”
NAMI Montana fully agrees with WWP's analysis of this critical legislation. We think it marks a critical step forward in helping our nation’s heroes who bear the hidden wounds of war.
Please consider contacting Sen. Steve Daines and asking him to support "Senate Bill 785 — Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019" as part of your efforts to honor Memorial Day.
Thank you to those helping keep highways clean
Kudos to those individuals and groups who can be found on weekends and other days, picking up trash along our highways. These people are doing us a huge favor since no other entity seems to take the responsibility. It is hard to imagine what our roadways would look like if it weren't for these community-minded folks.
Again, thanks so much and I know I speak for everyone.
What is Trump trying to hide?
I would sure like to know what Donald Trump has to hide from the citizens he is supposed to be serving. He has refused to release copies of his tax returns and other financial information. He has refused to release detailed information about the Mueller report about Russian interference in our elections. He refuses to let anyone in his administration (past and present) talk about his actions to obstruct the Mueller investigation. If has done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide why is he working so hard to keep information from public view?
I would also like to know if our three Montana representatives in Congress have read the complete Mueller report. If they haven’t, why not? If they have, what is your opinion?
The more Trump invokes delaying tactics and hides information from Congressional inquiries the more worried I become.
Grateful for legislative pages
During the 66th legislative session, a number of Montana’s high school students participated in our Legislative Page Program, supervised this year in the House by Joan Krywaruchka.
Each session, the Montana Legislature offers a unique opportunity for young people to engage in the legislative process through the program. Page applicants are juniors and seniors in high school who are at least 16 years old. Pages perform a variety of duties, including assisting legislators and House and Senate staff by performing errands, delivering messages, and distributing bills, amendments and other official documents to elected officials.
Pages also have the rare opportunity to work on the floor of the House or Senate while legislation is being deliberated.
Pages typically serve for one week, working from 8 a.m. on Mondays to the close of Saturday’s session. During their time in service, they have the opportunity to meet the governor, secretary of state and other high-level officials.
This year, I had the privilege to nominate three young individuals from Helena’s House District 80. Lucas Kropp, Giselle Faber and Emilie Lenoir all performed their duties on the House floor with a great deal of professionalism and enthusiasm. We in Montana are proud of our youth and their capabilities.
On behalf of the House of Representatives, I’d like to offer my appreciation for their services and commitments to our state’s legislative process.
And to Lucas, Giselle and Emilie: It was a pleasure to work with you, and I look forward to getting updates. I miss your smiling faces!
Rep. Becky Beard, R-Elliston, represents House District 80 in the Montana Legislature.