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Montana Editorial Roundup

August 21, 2019

Billings Gazette, Aug. 18, on outreach for the 2020 Census:

Exactly how many people live in Montana?

That question must be answered next year. It’s important that all of us be counted in the constitutionally mandated decennial census of the United States. In past censuses, some folks have been hard to count nationwide — people living in rural areas, minorities and people who have post office boxes, but not street addresses. In the 2020 Census, having dependable internet and phone access will be more important than ever.

Census Day is April 1, 2020. In March, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail information to every household with a street address, instructing them how to participate in the census by answering a few questions online or by telephone. People who don’t have a physical address or whose address is a post office box won’t get that mailing.

Households that don’t respond by completing the census survey online or by phone are supposed to get a home visit from a Census Bureau worker. Those personal visits are more expensive for taxpayers, so the tightly budgeted 2020 Census aims to have as many people as possible use the online survey.

The personal visits don’t always succeed. For one thing, if rural residents don’t have a street address, the census taker may not be able to find them. If a stranger from the U.S. government knocks, not everyone will open the door.

Many Montana residents are hard to count. Native Americans living in rural reservation communities without internet access or street addresses are especially at risk of being missed. Western Native Voice has taken on the challenge of helping Native Americans statewide overcome obstacles to census participation.

Crow conversations

Lauri Kindness’ job is talking to her Crow Reservation neighbors about the 2020 Census. A community organizer for Western Native Voice, Kindness attends town meetings, visits farmers markets, does media interviews and has recorded radio public service announcements. She also offers information on voter registration.

“I think it’s my civic duty,” she said in an interview at the Western Native Voice office at First Congregational Church in downtown Billings. “People respond better to a community member,” said Kindness, who lives in Lodge Grass.

Western Native Voice has hired Community Organizers across Montana to work in their own communities and be a trusted resource for census information.

“Our organizers inspire countless people to vote and become engaged beyond the ballot box,” said Leah Berry, development manager of Western Native Voice. “Their boots on the ground efforts created record breaking turnout in the 2018 election and their Census work we will shape a positive future for the next 10 years and build long lasting power in Indian Country.”

State’s $2B stake

Undercounting causes long term consequences, said Ta’jin Perez, communications coordinator for Western Native Voice. Federal grant allocations are determined by the census, including Indian Health Service and Housing and Urban Development, he said.

An accurate census matters because:

— The state will receive $20,000 back in federal funds over the next decade for every person counted, accord to the Montana Complete County Committee.

— More than $675 billion in federal funds are awarded annually to states and localities based on census data. Montana currently receives more than $2 billion a year based on census data.

— Montana has a reasonable chance of gaining a second U.S. House seat if all Montanans are counted.

— Census data helps communities on and off reservations plan community services and infrastructure by providing demographic information about their population.

— Census data will be used to redraw boundaries for 150 state legislative districts to maintain equal representation.

— Cities, counties and school districts revise their representative district boundaries to reflect changes according to the decennial census.

“We’re trying to make this very locally driven,” said Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney, who chairs the Montana Complete County Committee. “We think people will respond if they know the people. People feel much more comfortable talking to people they know or they know are from their area.”

More than a dozen local Complete Count Committees have already formed across Montana. Cooney hopes that number will increase. Because the biggest challenges are tribal nations and rural Montana, Cooney appointed Leonard Smith, executive director of Native American Development Corp., and Kathie Bailey, executive director of Snow Mountain Development Corp. in Lewistown as co-chairs.

The local connection is vital. Cooney and Kindness encourage Montanans to apply for Census Bureau jobs. Being a census worker in your community will help ensure that everyone gets counted — and you’ll get paid. Check the box above for application information.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2MuXG4T


Montana Standard, Aug. 18, on Bureau of Land Management leadership:

We understand and often endorse the conservative theory of limited government. It’s a fact that a “nanny state” can’t solve all our problems, and while the public health and welfare must be protected, so must free enterprise.

That said, limiting government regulation is one thing. Attacking it with a meat-ax is another. And far beyond that on the outrage scale is putting people in charge of key government agencies who are sworn enemies of everything the agency is tasked with doing.

Putting William Perry Pendley in charge of the Bureau of Land Management is even worse than . than . putting a pair of energy-industry lobbyists in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior.

Pendley is, as The Washington Post recently noted, an “anti-government zealot.” Don’t take our word for that, or the Post’s. Read Mr. Pendley’s own writings. He has written books such as “War on the West: Government Tyranny on America’s Great Frontier.” He is an outspoken supporter of Cliven Bundy and his clan. If Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had named grazing-fee scofflaw Bundy himself to head the BLM, it would hardly be more outrageous than naming Pendley to the post.

This is a man who says he believes that the founding fathers intended that all federal land should be sold. “Westerners know that only getting title to much of the land in the West will bring real change,” he has written.

That noted environmentalist James Watt was forced to dismiss Pendley from the Reagan Administration over his handling of the infamous Powder River coal sale in Montana and Wyoming. Bidders were essentially notified in advance that the government would accept bids lower than announced for the rights, and the General Accounting Office subsequently found that the lease had been undervalued at sale by between $60 million and $100 million.

Now, in an appointment that temporarily sidestepped Congressional approval, Pendley is in charge of the management of some 247.3 million acres of federal lands.

This is a very local issue to southwest Montana. Pendley’s approach to the BLM puts some of the agency’s recent activity — like offering land in the Big Hole Valley for energy leasing — into sharp focus.

Congress must act on the job by Sept. 30. Given his record and his writings, we find it inconceivable that Pendley could win confirmation, even in the GOP-held Senate. But we urge both of Montana’s senators to speak out against this nomination. Sen. Jon Tester has already done so; Sen. Steve Daines has been silent.

Pendley brings new and disturbing meaning to the phrase “political hack.” He must not be allowed to hack up our public lands.

Editorial: http://bit.ly/2ZlN7Dj


Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Aug. 18, on Montana State University’s new research chief:

Montana State University has successfully completed a nationwide search for a new vice president for research and found a top-notch candidate. Next month it will be time for Jason Carter to take the reins of MSU research — a task critical to the university, Bozeman and the state.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this post. Arguably it is the second most important position at MSU behind the president. Not only will Carter oversee research, he will also be in charge of economic development and graduate education — both vital components to the MSU research mission.

MSU research is a $130-million-a-year enterprise — the largest of its kind in the state and a major player in the regional economy. Those research dollars filter through local businesses as researchers buy needed materials and spend salaries on housing, transportation and other necessities.

Even more importantly, the program has spun off hundreds of private-sector, high-tech businesses that are the real potential for long-term economic growth in Montana. MSU grad students have converted ideas spawned from MSU research into businesses that market new and highly beneficial products. Many of these businesses are small. But some are generating good-paying jobs. And MSU research is also producing a skilled labor force that helps attract out-of-state tech businesses.

In January, MSU regained its status as an institution of very high research activity as designated by the Carnegie Institute, one of just 130 schools to achieve such status out of more than 4,000 higher ed institutions nationwide. It’s vital MSU maintain that status in the interest of recruiting the very best faculty and students.

Carter will have the tools to do that. He brings with him a rich background in research and science from the Michigan Technological University where he was an associate vice president. He has a long career of research in kinesiology and exercise science. He will replace Renee Reijo Pera, who left the post to become vice president of research and economic development at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California. And he will become the latest in a line of research VPs who have chalked up big successes at MSU.

Carter is wished the best of luck in his new position. He is urged to use his talents to take MSU research to a new level.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2zhU1OZ

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