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.
Time to ban panhandling in Helena
The recent panhandler attack in Maryland is one of many. While I empathize with those in need, I think there are sufficient social welfare programs available to fill that need without allowing open street corner panhandling in Helena. Having personally witnessed an individual driving panhandlers with signs around Helena much like images from Oliver Twist, I think it’s more than time to ban such activity before we have a tragedy here. We need a city ordinance banning panhandling.
Climate change is hurting Montana's outdoor way of life
When I moved to Montana 8 1/2 years ago, I experienced my first and harshest winter to date. Since then, I have witnessed dramatic variations in our winter months, and these variations are beginning to reflect upon our economy.
Montana’s most valuable source of income has been generated through our abundant outdoor recreation opportunities, producing $7.1 billion/year in consumer spending and creating more than 71,000 jobs. With climate change creeping upon and looming even larger in front of us, our state’s economy is inherently threatened by these fluctuations that we are witnessing before our own eyes.
The effects have been quite blatant this year already. This winter we have been experiencing abnormally high temperatures and abysmal snowpack levels, to the point where multiple wildfires arose near the Billings area on Dec. 19 due to strong winds and lack of snow. It’s predicted that Montana will see a temperature rise of 4-5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2055 if we do not mitigate the challenges ahead of us.
And it’s not only our winter recreation that will be affected. If this trend continues, it’s predicted snowpack could be decreased by 20-60 percent. This will have a significant impact on waterflows in our rivers and streams and will also magnify our wildfire seasons, making spring/summer recreation difficult.
If we want to protect Montana and our outdoor way of life, we need to act now on climate change.
Fatality markers are not memorials
The Dec. 27 IR had a photo of a woman decorating a fatality marker. Just what I don’t need to see!
The fatality markers are not memorials and are not to be treated as such. I know there are several decorated markers around the state, as some American Legion posts don’t participate in the program. Sadly, the post in the area of that fatality marker does not.
The markers may have to be removed if this continues.
For questions, people can go to the website www.mtlegion.org.
American Legion, Department of Montana
Fatality marker chair
Let's make the world a better place in 2019
Advice for the New Year: 2019 marks a new beginning, an opportunity for all humanity — including the world’s religious and political leaders — to be mindful of our actions; to place generosity over greed, compassion over anger, and wisdom over ignorance. Let’s work to make America kinder and gentler again, and the world a better place.
Trump has yet to shift out of campaign 'gear'
Having voted for 50 some years, I have endured quite a few campaign promises. I soon understood such promises were not meant to be kept, only to enhance electoral success.
Regrettably, our president hasn't shifted out of campaign "gear" into governing "gear."
He often says he knows more than anyone else about every subject under the sun.
Wise leaders surround themselves with bright, experienced, respected advisors, who offer counsel, with constructive options, providing wiggle room to enhance prospects of legislative agreement.
His continued "build the wall" chant has boxed him in. His "base" erroneously believes that a "wall" is border security, not merely a component.
This myopic obsession has led to "real" insecurity among thousands of workers and their families across our country due to his government shutdown.
I refer President Trump to words attributed to Henry Clay, an early American Statesman: "Politics is not about ideological purity or moral self-righteousness. It is about governing. If a politician can not compromise, he cannot govern effectively."
Respectfully, Mr. President, your constituency is not limited to those who voted for you; nor should your "kitchen cabinet" consist solely of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity.
Swallow your pride, reach across the aisle, achieve compromise and open the government. That is what real leadership is.
Courts are not sanctuaries for criminals
I just finished reading retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson’s column on courthouse ICE arrests.
It really surprised me that a judge would express concern over a violent criminal who may have committed a murder or other serious crime, being arrested inside a courthouse by ICE agents. Does judge Nelson think this courthouse is some kind of a sanctuary where criminals are just allowed to be in, without worrying about getting arrested? If he feels courthouses are for legitimate business, why not be able to arrest someone who broke the law, in that place of business?
Criminals should not be allowed to roam the courthouses, education institutions, schools, health care facilities, churches, funerals, weddings, public demonstrations, marches, rallies, and parades. These individuals who put our citizens at risk with their behavior, have lost all rights to be in a safe haven.
If judge Nelson wants our courts to function safely and efficiently, then he should consider who are in these courts. These people that he wants to protect are ones who do not respect the law, and think they can do what they please without fear of arrest. Judge nelson sounds like he wants the courts to be like sanctuary cities, where felons who break the law are just allowed to roam freely!
Wayne D. Smeaton
Retired law enforcement official
Politicians must work across the aisle
Compromise, the ability to work out a problem between groups with different points of view. It seems that our political leaders have abandoned any semblance of cooperation to overcome our problems, so that they can appeal to a rigid base. It seems that the days of give and take are a thing of the past.
I can recall when the Democrats and Republicans would come to an agreement on an issue before them, neither side getting everything they asked for, but in the end coming up with a solution to the problem. These days it seems that the “my way or the highway” answer is the only one in use. To expect to get everything you want is simply childish. I would hope that we all learn this lesson fairly early on, but that does not appear to be the case in our current environment.
It’s time to start acting like adults and not a spoiled 5-year-old. I feel that we can accomplish this if we truly put time and effort into at least an attempt to work across the aisle. We can’t afford the current stalemate that has dominated our politics as of late. There are no easy or simplistic answers, only hard work and cooperation can ever hope to move us forward in the future.
Thank you for rejecting tobacco tax hike
To the good people of Montana, thank you for rejecting the tobacco tax increase. I got up this morning and had a cigarette, then a bowl of gluten and another cigarette. To the smug, money-grubbing social engineers out there: Guess what? That is none of your business.
Gov. Bullock seems unwilling to let it go. Apparently, when it comes to smokers, he is a hater, and anxious to discriminate against us. If he succeeds, the question becomes: Who is next? Alcohol is the obvious target, but like tobacco, the tax on alcohol is already pretty high.
Possibly obesity is next on the list. All the reasoning behind the tobacco tax applies. Being obese has at least as many potential health consequences as smokers have. Application of a fat tax could be cheap, targeted and easy. A camera connected to a computer could calculate a customer’s BMI and add $2 tax to every happy meal for the overweight customer. Is this really how things are done in America?
Maybe, if there is an unfulfilled need, government could make the case in the public arena. Maybe government could determine how much money is required and come up with a tax plan to it that is fair and non-discriminatory. Then, just maybe, if it is something the people want, our representatives could vote on it and pass it or not. Maybe government could even eliminate something else that does not work well or is redundant and use that money for the new need.
Washington Post op-ed shows free press is useless
Though it’s difficult to take a newspaper seriously that features the comic strip Mallard Fillmore on its opinion page, it nevertheless defies belief that an op-ed denouncing writer Alice Walker and the New York Times has any relevance to Helena, Montana. (See "Times ignores appalling pedigree of anti-Semitism," Dec. 26). Yet it seems so, even if other critical stories are ignored, such as the criminalization of dissent by the Israel anti-boycott legislation sweeping the country which represents a direct full-frontal attack on American democracy. That any criticism of Israel can now be deemed anti-Semitic, even historically non-violent protest measures such as boycotts and disinvestment, spells doom for the First Amendment. And that a newspaper would knowingly choose a peripheral slur against a great American writer who, not surprisingly and unmentioned in the op-ed, is a vehement champion of Palestinian rights and courageously proclaims their slow genocide at the hands of the racist Israeli state, over vital information extremely relevant to the healthy functioning of our democracy, announces that the free press has indeed become compromised and what’s worse, useless.
How long will America tolerate Trump's lies?
Donald Trump told House and Senate leaders he would support a continuing resolution to keep the government open until February. He lied. He then said he would proudly wear the mantle of responsibility for the shutdown. He lied. Then he said he would not blame the Democrats for the shutdown. He lied. Then, after disrespecting our fallen warriors by not appearing at memorials in Europe and the United States, our president finally traveled to Iraq to see our troops. In doing so he showed total disrespect for the Iraqi government. While there, in yet another endless campaign rally, he again blamed Democrats for the lack of a border wall. The wall he promised Mexico would pay for, and which he failed to build despite majorities in both chambers. He lied again. And then he lied further when he told our troops they had not had a raise in 10 years. Our commander in chief lied on saying he secured our troops a 10 percent pay raise. It was 2.6 percent this year and Congress provided for it. How much more of this will the GOP of Honest Abe tolerate? How much more will America tolerate?
John R. Andrew
Immigration policies clearly need repair
This is a holiday season for many, when folks strive to set aside their differences and extol phrases that include wishes such as “good will to men.” For those who hold those hopes, as well as everyone else, I encourage them to study photographs of the hordes of immigrants marching toward America. If they do, they’ll see many pitiful men, women, young children and infants, many of whom are weak, tired, crippled or otherwise infirm, struggling with every step, striving for sanctuary. They certainly have made a torturous trek northward. None of us knows their names or backgrounds, or whether the caravan includes terrorists, drug dealers or hardened criminals. We can study a picture, but we can’t draw a reasonable inference from that alone. Personally, I think that a terrorist would take an easier route to this country.
Our immigration policies clearly need repair. However, if you study the images and read some of the personal stories of the hopefuls, consider whether shutting down the government is worth it, just to build an incredibly expensive, “impenetrable” wall (which most scholars view as folly) to stop these people at our border? Would it not be a little disingenuous to sing songs of peace and love while lobbing tear gas canisters into this crowd or taking children away from their parents?