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Montana Editorial Roundup

December 26, 2018

Billings Gazette, Dec. 26, on the steel slats government shutdown:

The pointless, costly closure of the U.S. departments of Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Treasury, State, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security is a contrived crisis. There is no excuse for subjecting the people of the United States to this hardship and expense. These agencies should have been funded three months ago when the last annual budget expired.

On the eve of the partial government shutdown, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, the chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Governors Association, sent a letter to President Donald Trump and congressional leaders. Democrat Bullock and Republican Hogan reminded our national leaders what they must do to govern America.

“A federal shutdown is indicative of a government that is not working,” Bullock and Hogan wrote. “Governors compromise every day. We must work with partners in our legislatures and with stakeholders throughout our states. It is not a choice; it is a necessity to ensure the citizens we serve in our states — the same ones your represent at the national level — have access to the basic functions that allow them to lead good lives.”

The shutdown means that more than $314 billion in federal funds for vital government services will stop flowing to federal agencies and states and hundreds of thousands of federal employees will be furloughed, the governors said.

How many of us would have no problem paying our bills if our pay checks were suddenly delayed?

The strong economy that President Trump has given himself credit for many times is slowing. A government shutdown is another drag on the economy.

The ostensible reason for the shutdown is the White House demand for a $5.7 billion appropriation to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. While running for president, Trump promised to build a wall that Mexico would pay for. Since taking office, he has tried to make Americans pay for his wall. Last week he said that rather than a concrete wall that he has previously promoted, he wishes to build a “beautiful” wall of vertical steel slats.

Security decisions on a 2,000-mile border can’t be based on whims. Security must be based on strategies that will work to keep Americans safe, keep track of who enters and leaves our nation, interdict human traffickers and drug traffickers and welcome new immigrants under U.S. laws.

Congress has already appropriated $1.7 billion for a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico in the 2018 and 2017 budgets, yet the administration has spent only 6 percent of it. One border wall project that was expected to cost $445 million in the Rio Grande Valley is now going to cost taxpayers $787 because of cost overruns.

President Trump still has the opportunity to end 2018 by bringing the entire government back to work. He should sign a funding bill that doesn’t include wall money. He and congressional leaders should agree to start negotiations in January about border security and immigration.

“Governors believe in your ability to find a path out of this situation and ensure we have a federal government that works,” Bullock and Hogan wrote Friday. “We stand ready to help in any way we can.”

Listen to the governors, Mr. President. Let America’s public servants go back to work — and get paid for their work. Let them serve the people in farm and housing programs, federal courts, parks and airports all over this nation.

The solution is clear: Approve a budget that allows our government to function adequately; complete that task before the New Year arrives. Debate the steel slat wall later.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2EMUltd


Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Dec. 23, on Zinke’s tenure being a black eye for Montana:

In a letter of resignation submitted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, he blamed his fall on “meritless and false claims” along with “vicious and politically motivated attack” against him.

We beg to differ.

The Bozeman-born former Montana U.S. House representative’s indecorous departure from office comes on the heels of a lengthy litany of ethical lapses that have led to at least 17 government investigations into his behavior.

Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, here are just a few things that give us concern from Zinke’s two-year tenure:

- He used his office to threaten to pull support for projects in Alaska after Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted no on Obamacare repeal.

- He chartered a $12,000 flight to Montana, at taxpayer cost, after giving a speech to a hockey team owned by a campaign donor in Nevada.

- He allowed parking for a real estate development backed by the chairman of Halliburton, an energy services firm that does business with the Interior Department, on land donated to a foundation Zinke started for a park.

- He left questionable meetings with lobbyists and special interest groups off his public calendar.

- He replaced a department deputy inspector general with a Republican operative then reversed the decision after a public outcry.

- He spent $25,000 of taxpayer money to provide a security detail for he and his wife on a vacation to Turkey and Greece.

And the list goes on. The Interior Department’s inspector general is conducting internal investigations into Zinke’s behavior and has reportedly referred actions on Zinke’s part to the Department of Justice for possible criminal charges.

Those don’t seem like “meritless and false claims” or “vicious and politically motivated attacks.” At the least, they represent extremely poor judgment on Zinke’s part and his tainted term in office has done nothing but tarnish Montana’s reputation. For the state’s first-ever, cabinet-level appointee, we’d hoped for so much more.

Zinke’s political career is not likely over. He will most likely be back asking Montana voters for support for some other office. If that happens, voters should note that he has some explaining to do.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2ELa8sy


Missoulian, Dec. 25, on Missoula giving, receiving gift of community:

Around Missoula, Christmas truly is the happiest season of all. The stretch of weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas could easily be overwhelmingly dreary with their long, cold nights. Instead, they are a time when an outpouring of kindness and generosity wraps even the least fortunate among us in a blanket of care and compassion.

Every year, for instance, the Missoulian publishes a feature called We Care for the Holidays, a special extension of our regular We Care column in which local nonprofits share the specific needs of their clients, and readers never fail to respond to these simple, sometimes heartbreaking requests.

This year, those Christmas wishes included a request from a single mom of two children for brake parts for a 14-year-old vehicle, and from a single father who hoped for a washer and dryer. It included a request from a low-income woman, expecting a son in February, who needs a stroller and a car seat. It included a request from a man at risk of becoming homeless if he didn’t receive help making rent payments, a third-grader who needed snow boots and warm gloves, a disabled veteran who needed a gift card for laundry services and an elderly woman who wanted nothing but a pair of slippers.

Such small wishes. Such enormous response.

Remember, these are families and individuals actively working with local social service organizations to overcome whatever challenges they face and build a brighter future. What better way to offer encouragement and wish them a merry Christmas than by chinking the cracks with a small gift or two?

Heartwarming examples of recent acts of kindness and generosity abound. Consider the Santa Socks effort, now in its 10th year, organized by the United Veteran’s Council of Missoula and Ravalli counties. Some 750 local veterans will receive “stockings” stuffed with simple goodies thanks to dozens of volunteers and donors.

You may also have noticed teams of volunteers wrapping gifts at Southgate Mall this month as part of the Missoula Food Bank’s Holiday Food Drive. This year, the Food Bank hoped to raise its highest amount ever — $250,000 — in order to serve more families than ever. That’s a high bar, but not too high given that the nonprofit hoped to raise at least $225,000 last year — and received nearly $231,000.

And hundreds of people have donated to the effort to open an overnight warming shelter at the Salvation Army, through the United Way of Missoula County and through other means — such as the employees at the engineering firm DJ&A who pledged $5,000 from the company’s Christmas raffle and set up a GoFundMe page to help raise even more money for the shelter.

All this makes for a priceless gift that is both given and received by the entire community — and which makes Christmas in Missoula the most wonderful time of the year.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2LCXddm

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