- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Montana Standard, April 3, on Rep. Wittich’s trial:

The conviction of State Rep. Art Wittich of Bozeman Friday on campaign-finance violations is a milestone in Montana political transparency.

Rep. Wittich claimed on the witness stand that he was being prosecuted “for what I believe,” but the jury didn’t buy it. Indeed, it’s not about what Wittich believes - it’s about how he conducted his campaign. The self-confessed “control freak” had to be well aware of the fact that his campaign was illegally coordinating with anonymously funded interest groups, and the fact that services he received were not reported as in-kind political contributions.

Even though fellow Republicans were the ones who initially reported a group of candidates in 2010 who were receiving back-door help from the National Right to Work Committee (Wittich was one of those receiving the help), Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl’s investigation and bringing of charges has been decried as a partisan hack job.

The jury didn’t buy that either.

Attorney Gene Jarussi of Billings, who prosecuted the case for the state, urged the jury to answer two questions: “Do we care enough in Montana to demand that politicians comply with their campaign laws? And if a politician does not comply, are we brave enough to hold them accountable?”

The jury answered both questions with a “yes,” and those answers will reverberate across the state for a long time, sending a message about the way Montana elections should be run.

Still to be determined by District Judge Ray Dayton is what penalty Wittich will face, and whether what happened falls under the rubric of corruption.

Wittich has shown no remorse for what he did, and blames the power of Motl’s office, not the conduct of his campaign, for his conviction.

We trust the judge will take that into account. We don’t need scofflaws in the Legislature.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1q5QVqt

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The Great Falls Tribune, April 5, on improving housing for Native Americans:

Having a roof over one’s head is a must.

That’s why it’s a serious concern when 40 percent of housing on Indian reservations in the United States was considered substandard in a 2013 report by the National American Indian Housing Council, compared with 6 percent of all U.S. housing.

Tribune reporter David Murray delved into the housing issue on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northern Montana in stories published Sunday. That some of the houses in Browning are boarded up and uninhabitable is apparent. The articles looked at what prompted the reservation’s housing problems and steps that should be taken to help get a handle on the problem.

For starters, boosting housing on an Indian reservation is not the same as doing so in Great Falls, which has city and federally subsidized housing, housing assistance through the nonprofit group NeighborWorks Great Falls, private developers and home builders and plenty of banks to provide loans. A reservation is a semi-autonomous entity in which jurisdiction can and often is debated and opportunities to own a house on privately owned property are less common than those available to people living off the reservation. It’s nearly impossible to obtain a loan to build a house without clear title to the land.

On the Blackfeet Reservation, 2,700 people rely on tribally owned housing. Put another way, one-fourth of all families on the reservation live in a house owned by the tribe. It’s a daunting task for the Blackfeet Housing Authority to try to meet the needs of individuals and families on the reservation. Glacier County, where the reservation is located, has the state’s highest rate of poverty, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Unemployment is high.

Half a century ago, the federal government began assisting Indian tribes by building housing, but later it switched from providing housing through the Department of Housing and Urban Development to a block-grant system directly to the tribes. Money for tribal housing has not kept up with HUD funding off the reservations.

“When HUD went away . most tribes lowered the rental payments and relaxed the rules on who could live there - which just compounded the problem,” said Montana Board of Housing member Bob Gauthier, a member of the Salish Tribe.

Murray’s piece explained one reason the tribe has difficulty maintaining and improving its housing. Because there is a severe housing shortage, tribal housing may contain several generations of family members living in a house with just a few bedrooms not built to house a dozen or more people. Wear and tear on overcrowded houses can be enormous.

More housing would ease this problem, but the housing authority instead must focus instead on repairs and renovations. There is also a problem with methamphetamine use in tribal housing, with cleanup costs of about $25,000 per house.

Meanwhile, to its credit, the Blackfeet Housing Authority has aggressively pursued a tax-credit funding program that enabled the authority to complete a new, $5.1 million housing addition; and it obtained a $1.1 million Indian Community Development Block Grant.

Congress needs to get more involved trying to reduce the amount of substandard housing on reservations. Federal dollars have dried up under the more flexible grant system to tribes. There is no doubt reservation housing is a significant need.

We’d like to see reservation residents, tribal governments, Montana’s congressional delegation and housing experts work together to improve this nagging problem.

Editorial: https://gftrib.com/1MRRPBv

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Billings Gazette, April 5, on Joseph Medicine Crow’s legacy:

When Joseph Medicine Crow wrote the important book, “From the Heart of The Crow Country: The Crow Indians’ Own Stories,” he lamented, “the traditional historians and storytellers are all gone now and I must work with their children and grandchildren, who have been exposed to their views and recitals of the old stories.”

He, of course, did not count himself among the traditional historians and storytellers then. But, he was, and now he’s gone.

Yet, because of his work - not just as possibly the last of the Plains Indians war chiefs - he preserved the stories and history of his tribe, the Crow way of life and helped communicate across cultures. Life has left his body, but his spirit will remain, as witnessed by his writing, words and the noble way he lived for 102 years.

We’ve recounted plenty of his deeds, including interrupting his doctoral studies to serve in World War II. While fighting in the war, he completed four heroic war deeds which allowed him to become a war chief in his tribe. And, then he began a life of peace and understanding as he diligently and strategically preserved oral histories, wrote about Crow culture and became a spokesperson for understanding. We continue to be proud that a Billings Heights Middle School will bear his name and become - in his words - “a house of learning.”

It’s right that we mourn the loss of Medicine Crow - a great leader of all people in this state, having been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But, it’s even more important that we focus on his legacy.

Medicine Crow demonstrated a unique ability to go between cultures while respecting both - something sorely needed in today’s world and its culture wars. As a Bureau of Indian Affairs appraiser, he understood one world and lived in another.

“After 5 o’clock, I’d turn into an Indian,” Medicine Crow said. “I live in two worlds and enjoy them.”

His tales of Apsaalooke culture helped students learn about the Crow Indians. He not only literally rewrote the book on The Battle of the Little Bighorn, but also was sure to include humor, stories of its warriors and religion.

Medicine Crow broke down barriers and walls that often divided cultures. His life was an example of living his beliefs. He attained the highest education, worked to preserve his culture and never forgot his place as a communicator and educator.

We are indeed saddened by the loss of life on one hand. On the other, we were the beneficiaries of 102 years of life and wisdom. When generations of Billings students pass through Joseph Medicine Crow Middle School, they will learn in a place named for a man who didn’t just embody book smarts but true wisdom. He had a love of learning because Medicine Crow knew that learning was the first step to wisdom.

We join in mourning with his family and friends. We pass along our condolences and our admiration for a man who earned his chief status in war, but instead led an even better example by his peaceful nature and wisdom.

Billings, as Medicine Crow once quipped, was getting older and better like him. However, we have continued to get older, but are at a loss because we no longer have him with us, in person.

But we have his words, his name and, most importantly, his deeds to help continue to make this place better. We must honor his spirit by becoming the kind of community he envisioned we could be.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/1PTsmlN

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