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.
State should ban trapping of fishers
It is heartbreaking that Montana’s wildlife managers still allow Northern Rockies fishers to be trapped. Their dwindling population could be on the brink of extinction, but fisher were denied federal protections because authorities do not have an accurate count of these creatures.
If wildlife managers do not know how many fishers remain in our state, how can they continue to allow them to be killed via trapping? The small, isolated population straddling the Montana-Idaho border will not survive if the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission does not ban this cruel practice soon.
According to reports, 186 fishers were killed in traps set for other animals in Montana and Idaho between 2002 and 2016. If that many are being killed unintentionally, why would any state allow intentional trapping of this species known to be at risk? Idaho does not allow the intentional trapping of fishers, but sadly Montana does. We are falling behind our neighbor in using proven methods to preserve declining fisher populations.
The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to ban fisher trapping in the state. I support this petition. Without a ban, these important little predators may disappear from Montana forever.
How safe is your child at a gun owner's house?
You store your firearms securely with guns and ammo in separate locked storages because you are a contentious parent. But, when you take your children or grandchildren to play at other houses, how safe are they?
In Montana, our gun culture means that some households believe the myth that a readily available loaded firearm is essential for a safe home and that children can be educated to stay away from these dangerous tools intended for defense. Unfortunately too often these ideas prove to be false, as medical research and news stories have demonstrated. This month, near Seattle, a 4-year-old inadvertently shot his pregnant mother with a firearm kept for self-defense.
Children, especially boys, have intense interest in firearms. This media- and game-driven fascination means that firearms and children can be a deadly mix. Even in the remote possibility that a child in a home can self-regulate and avoid a dangerous weapon, visiting children may not.
It is a very difficult question to ask of our fiercely self-reliant Montana neighbors. However, when you consider sending your young ones to the homes of friends, be sure to ask about firearms and firearm storage habits. Is your child or grandchild playing near a loaded firearm?
Even a high school dropout knows raising minimum wage is a bad idea
Just where will it stop, or why do we really push without really thinking it through?
Mrs. Dunwell and backers of her bill would like to push minimum wage to $15 over a two-year period. What will be the long-term effects?
Not long ago I was speaking to a 20-plus fellow, a high school dropout, and this raise will affect him and those he works with. His take was: I am making around $12 now and many of the folks here make over $10. Yes, $15 sounds good, but I do not need it. If they raise it, one or more of the folks here will be laid off and I do not want to see that. One could be me, since I already have worked my way up. Besides, everything else will follow going up.
Now even a high school dropout can figure this out, and he has concern for others who will be laid off. Why can’t Mrs. Dunwell and gang figure it out?
From my point of view, I make around this new minimum wage, and in doing so I qualify for nothing, even as a single income couple. First, I cannot afford insurance for myself and my wife from my company, nor can I afford the Obama plan without a high deductible. When my wife went to St. Peter’s we did not qualify for either Medicare or Medicaid assistance. Some of this may be my own making, since I am of the age to retire. What I have saved paid St. Peter’s. The next visit I am paying from SSI that I receive each month. It is good I am still able to work.
Fifteen dollars per hour? I wonder why the state has not already gone to this if it will cost nothing to do? Or how many senators and House members that back this, why are they not already doing this? Why is it they have to be made to do it if it is such a great thing? Should they not do it on their own?
It may sound good, but is it really? I have not found it so, nor does my high school dropout believe it will be good.
Charlie P. Hull Jr.
US needs smarter border policy
Fact must be separated from fiction if we are to have better security along our southern border. Unwarranted fears, fanned by falsehoods and unfounded concerns, have contributed to the deadlock in which our nation is embroiled.
The Jan. 31 seizure of a record amount of fentanyl and 395 pounds of methamphetamine, concealed in an 18-wheeler, provides an excellent example of smart border protection. Border officers, aided by a detection dog, apprehended the produce truck and its deadly load of drugs. 1,500 trucks enter at this Nogales, Arizona, crossing daily. Huge quantities of drugs arrive in trucks and through airports and seaports, rather than across miles of remote stretches of unfenced desert. We need state-of-the-art technology and additional, better-trained officers at our border crossings and airports, and increased Coast Guard surveillance along our Gulf of Mexico and Pacific coastlines.
Studies in Texas contradict false claims, instead proving that the crime rate among illegal immigrants is a full 50 percent below that of others. Perpetrators in horrific murders in churches, schools, a synagogue, a newspaper office, a music festival and a bank were all American citizens, not illegal immigrants. Migrants seeking asylum here are not our national emergency.
Jeanne Welty Southwood
Concealed weapons not always a good idea
Once again, there is a bill, HB 325, in the Montana Legislature to expand where concealed weapons would be allowed. This bill, if passed, would prevent local governments from regulating the carrying of concealed weapons by revising prohibited places for concealed weapons.
It takes me back to yesteryears, the early 2000s, when, according to a newspaper article, a man, who had been drinking, was upset due to an incident at a local watering hole. Re-thinking his desire for revenge, he tucked his pistol back in his waistband, causing it to fire. The bullet took off his right testicle, burned his penis and went through his thigh.
Oops, mistakes happen. Most often when one is in a stressful situation, under the influence or not in control of one's emotions.
Why should the right to concealed carry supersede my right to know who the heck is "packing heat"?
Remember: "The testicle you lose, may be your own."
Montana should abolish the death penalty
Montana has no functioning death penalty. Since 2009, the lethal injection portion of the death penalty has been stopped because the drugs required by statute are not available. Even if these drugs somehow became available, a highly unlikely prospect, Montana’s capital punishment regime contains numerous additional elements that are at odds with U.S. Supreme Court decisions. In short, Montana’s death penalty system is broken beyond repair.
Capital punishment is off the table as an actual punishment, but because the legislature has not formally abolished it, the legal structure governing the crimes identified as capital offenses and the processes to deal with those crimes remain. That is a problem.
Once a county attorney decides to charge a person with a capital offense, safeguards and standards for capital offenses are triggered. These additional safeguards, designed to reduce the likelihood of the state executing an innocent person, make a capital case much more expensive than a case where the maximum penalty is life without parole. Over the past decade, there have been at least four individuals charged with a capital offense. The prosecution of these offenses has cost the taxpayers at least $5 million, although none of the defendants were convicted of a capital offense.
There is one solution — abolish the death penalty and replace it with a punishment of permanent imprisonment. This move would save tax dollars without undermining public safety.
Abolition of the death penalty will not adversely affect the prosecution of criminal defendants. Indeed, it will not change the landscape of the criminal law at all since for at least the past decade, the criminal justice system has functioned without an effective death penalty. Abolition would remove the ability of county prosecutors to threaten an accused of seeking the death penalty, and that would be a good thing. Such conduct has been challenged as being ethically questionable and given the reality of not having a functioning death penalty, any such threat advanced now would be minimized by any knowledgeable criminal defense counsel.
There is no question that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent. The death penalty does not deter homicide. Between 2010 and 2016 the murder rate was 23 percent lower in non-death penalty states compared to death penalty states.
Montana has paid the price of having capital offenses on the books without any ability to carry out a death sentence. When county attorneys charge individuals capitally and then have to back down, they have spent substantial public funds to provide the defense required because a capital offense was charged.
Life in prison without possibility of parole is the option the majority of citizens support in lieu of the death penalty. It is time that Montana should join close to half of the states in the union and abolish the death penalty. Our capital punishment system is broken. Montana has no functioning death penalty. The Legislature should act and remove from the books a broken set of laws currently incapable of being enforced.
Ron Waterman, Helena
Larry Epstein, Essex
Standing up for a free press
It is my opinion that without the fact-checking and truthful reporting of the New York Times and Washington Post our country would be less informed and less able to make good decisions about our country. Kudos to those organizations and other like minded news organizations and journalists for standing up for a free press and helping us to know what’s really happening in our world. And I absolutely loved the Washington Post Super Bowl ad. Democracy Dies in Darkness. SO TRUE!!
Great memories in Carroll College gym
Nice article in the Feb. 4, 2019, Independent Record about the Carroll gym becoming the stunning All Saints Chapel. The brief history stated in the article failed to note that the old Carroll College gym was also the home court for the Cathedral High School “Greenies” basketball teams from the 1930s until the late 1950s.
Student players would hoof it across town after classes from the high school at the corner of Ewing and 11th Avenue to Carroll for basketball practice and students and parents would pack the gym for the weekends of home games. Great memories for all Greenies.
Ed Jasmin '52
A wall alone cannot achieve border security
I recently received an email from Congressman Greg Gianforte with a one question survey: “Do you believe Congress should fund meaningful physical barriers, including a wall or steel slats, along the southern border?” Three answers were provided: yes, no, not sure. This question is analogous to “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Yes, no, not sure.
If Greg would ever hold a public meeting, I would answer the question this way: Yes, I support some meaningful barriers as long as other strategic measures for border security are employed, such as more patrols, technology, drones, etc. But, no, I don’t support a 1,900-mile wall along our southern border that will end up costing over $40 billion (that Mexico is NOT going to pay for), because there are those things called ladders and shovels.
A wall alone is not a cost effective means to achieve border security. Greg seems more interested in being Trump’s lackey than he is in truly representing the best interests of Montanans. Greg, I am an Independent. I don’t care what party you are with. But please, represent our best interests and stop insulting my intelligence.
Calling on Rep. DeVries to explain education bill
Thank you Ms. Kwasny for your letter about your concerns of our newly elected representative for HD 75. As a Jefferson County resident for many years, I am also watching our freshman representative. Rep. DeVries has introduced HB 303 which would eliminate compulsory enrollment and attendance requirements for public education, reduce several regulations for nonpublic schools and home schools and amend several sections of Montana's educational codes.
Rep. DeVries, please write an opinion article to this paper stating your reasons for introducing HB 303 which seems to undermine, not support, our state's excellent educational system. Please clarify your rationale. Answer this question: Why should children who attend non-public schools and home-schools have less regulation and protective oversight than children who attend public schools? Please convince me you are looking out for the best interests of all children, regardless where they go to school.
Thanks to road crews for clearing snow
I just wanted to say thank you to the road crews. You are doing a fabulous job of snow clearing. I really appreciate that, when you can, you turn the blade for the driveway and mailbox. Again, a big thank you. Job well done!
Truth and courage matter when it comes to leadership
Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte finally got permission from Donald Trump to vote to reopen the federal government after making hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of workers go without pay, some of which will never be recovered. Others will be paid even though they didn’t work. And others were forced to work even though they weren’t paid. What kind of business geniuses are these three?
And why did they make our neighbors and friends suffer: because Trump lied to us about a wall. Let’s be straight here, we were never supposed to pay for this wall. We all heard him say time after time, including his rally in Bozeman before last year’s election, that Mexico would pay for the wall.
Truth does matter, as does courage. Trump, Daines and Gianforte are lacking in both of these departments.
In 2020, we have the opportunity to replace all three with leaders with integrity, leaders that value the truth.
Travelers grateful for help from Placer Motors
On Jan. 16, my wife and I traveled to Helena. At the end of the day we started for home but our car was not running well. On the recommendation of a friend, we “limped” into Placer Motors.
Jeremy Nettleton, one of the service managers, gathered our information, had the car pulled into the shop and one of the technicians went to work. Shortly thereafter, he informed us what was wrong and laid out a course of correction. He gave us a brand new Subaru Outback to use. He called us the next morning with price information.
On Jan. 28, we returned to Helena to get our car. Not only did they ﬁx the exhaust system, they performed a bumper-to-bumper check of the car. The total price was actually under what Jeremy quoted us!
Everyone we dealt with at Placer Motors was pleasant, personable and professional. They truly put the SERVICE in Service Department. Many, many thanks.
Steve and Cheri Thompson
The Myrna Loy needs your support
We all know that The Myrna Loy is a great place to see an inspiring live performance or film, but did you know that it’s also a nonprofit organization with a mission?
The Myrna Loy’s mission is:
- To inspire Helena with culturally enriching arts experiences
- To support local and regional artists in their work
- To foster a lifelong love of the arts through educational projects and experiences
The Myrna Loy is one of the cultural forces that defines Helena as a community.
In order to fulfill our mission, The Myrna Loy needs support from folks like you, and you can have fun while you help by attending our fundraising event, Uncorked.This year, our theme is Speakeasy Hullabaloo, so don your best 1920s duds or come as you are. There’ll be live music, a photo booth, a wine tasting and live and silent auctions. New this year: a beer tasting and a free Charleston dance lesson. All proceeds benefit The Myrna Loy.
Please join us Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m. at the Helena Civic Center. Tickets are $65 in advance/$70 at the door. Available online at www.themyrnaloy.com/uncorked or at the box office of The Myrna Loy.
How did DeVries get elected?
I am curious about Jefferson County voters who supported Greg DeVries. Did they really intend to elect a representative who doesn’t believe in public schools, or did they simply vote straight party line for Republicans?
Jefferson County has some of the best schools in the state and nation. Most Jefferson County people are proud of that. Yet they voted for DeVries, someone who clearly stated that he doesn’t support public schools.
Rep. DeVries has already demonstrated his low opinion of our schools. He is one of three representatives, one of three out of 100, who voted AGAINST the bipartisan school funding bill that passed the house last week. That puts him in a tiny minority. He is sponsoring HB 303 to eliminate mandatory school enrollment and attendance. That is a radical proposal that most Montanans would oppose.
As a retired lobbyist who worked over 30 years to build support for schools, I worked with Republicans and Democrats. I believe educating our children is a bipartisan issue, the foundation of our democracy and one of the highest responsibilities of government. It saddens me that most Jefferson County voters voted for a candidate who doesn’t share that belief.