- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Oct. 31, on Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton:

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton has had a bad couple of weeks. He botched the voter information pamphlet, raised eyebrows when he awarded the contract to print the pamphlet correction to a party crony and raised the ire of fellow Republican and state Attorney General Tim Fox by hiring outside counsel to do legal work for his department at taxpayer expense instead of using lawyers on Fox’s payroll.

At best the string of events smacks of incompetence. At worst it looks like partisan politics is infecting the secretary of state’s office.

One of the primary functions of the Montana secretary of state post, and of major consequence, is managing our state elections. And putting out a reliable voter information pamphlet is a big part of that. Somehow hundreds of thousands of pamphlets went out with inaccurate information on how ballot initiatives would affect existing statutes.

When 471,000 mailers needed to be sent out with the corrections to the pamphlet, Stapleton directed state officials to award the $265,000 contract to a former state Republican Party executive director and former chief of staff for Republican Denny Rehberg’s failed 2012 U.S. Senate campaign.



Stapleton defended the decision saying the printing firm, Jake Easton’s Ultra Graphics LLC, was the only one that could do the job as swiftly as needed. That’s unlikely.

Then the secretary of state certified a suspect Green Party effort to get on the ballot for U.S. senator, clearly in the hopes a candidate from that party would steal votes from incumbent Democrat Jon Tester. And when the Democratic Party sued to overturn that certification, Stapleton hired a pricey private-sector lawyer to defend his decision - and lost the case. Fox didn’t like that move and said so publicly.

Let’s not be naïve: Stapleton hopes the secretary of state post will be a stepping stone to a more high-profile office. But if he doesn’t start showing a little more competence in the job he has now, it will be a stepping stone to nowhere.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2CUAsQ7

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Billings Gazette, Oct. 30, on not letting hatred tear us apart:

On Sunday, The Billings Gazette front page carried news of the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh and, coincidentally, a feature story about a Jewish family in Billings. The Barneas recently traveled to Europe to honor the memory of relatives who were imprisoned by Nazis, including some who were among the 80,000 Czech Jews murdered in Nazi gas chambers during World War II.

That terrible history is relevant today. The hatred of others, the scapegoating, the mindless following of dictators again threaten people all over our world, including America, including Montana and Wyoming.

Once again, people of goodwill must speak out. Twenty-five years ago, residents of Billings understood that silence in the face of hatred only emboldens the hateful. So we united. All those years ago, Billings people of many faiths displayed menorahs in solidarity with our Jewish neighbors at our homes, businesses and places of worship.

The hate-fueled vandalism abated then. Over the past quarter century, Billings has needed to revisit that call to unity many times. Now seems like the worst of times. The divisions in our nation and society are so deep, and people (foreign and domestic) who expect to benefit from those divisions keep amplifying the discord, praising violence and defending the proliferation of high-power, high-capacity firearms.

A week before contentious midterm elections and a week after a shocking series of hateful, violent and fatal attacks, ordinary Americans must unite. Everyone who cares about this country needs to vote - and make sure their vote is for a more just and civil United States.

On Friday, the day Wyoming murder victim Matthew Shepard’s ashes were interred at an Episcopal cathedral in Washington, D.C., staff at Trinity Episcopal Church in Lander, Wyoming, found homophobic graffiti spray-painted in black on the outside walls of their church. Shepard, a gay, 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, was brutally murdered 20 years ago this month. His death continues to focus attention on the rights of Americans who are LGBTQ and the consequences of society and government denying those rights.

“I personally abhor this act and pray that those responsible will be held accountable and have their hearts changed,” said the Right Rev. John S. Smylie, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming.

On Friday, after a man who had been living in a van plastered with pro-Trump stickers was arrested for mailing 14 pipe bombs to prominent critics of the president, Donald Trump spent just a few minutes solemnly thanking law enforcement agencies for their work on the case. But then the president was back to blaming the news media, and denying that he has any blame for the actions of a man who apparently was his follower.

President Trump takes no responsibility for his incendiary rhetoric, his false and defamatory statements that people who disagree with him or who merely report his words are “evil” and “enemies of the people.”

Trump political rallies still feature chants of “lock her up,” referring to Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 presidential race. Where was Trump’s proper outrage that Clinton was the target of a pipe bomb? Another package was sent to former President Barack Obama. But Trump voiced no qualms about a bomb being delivered to Obama. When Iraqis plotted to kill former President George H.W. Bush, then-president Bill Clinton went on television to strongly denounce the attempted attack on a former president. That’s what Trump should have done.

We believe there are Americans of goodwill and common decency who will stand against hate, against violence and discrimination. These good people are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and independents whose allegiance is to truth, justice and our nation first - before party or politicians.

Fellow Americans, don’t let violence and hatred tear us apart. Make sure your vote counts on Nov. 6. Let’s start changing hearts, as Bishop Smylie said.

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

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Montana Standard, Oct. 28, on Montana Tech Chancellor Donald Blackketter:

Don Blackketter has been a quiet force, a demonstrably effective leader for Montana Tech, and he will be missed by many in Butte and in the Oredigger community worldwide.

The contribution he has made was particularly evident Friday as he, ConocoPhillips CEO and Tech alum Ryan Lance, and Sen. Steve Daines toured the school’s new Student Success Center. During Blackketter’s tenure, his drive and vision have brought progress and positive change.

The Student Success Center and the Natural Resources Research Center and the University Relations Center are physical manifestations, and significant ones, but his success has also come with a steady hand on the tiller, day-to-day decision-making that has strengthened the school. A perfect example, in our view, is the way Blackketter handled the cheating incident two summers ago that threatened the school’s educational integrity. He was firm, thoughtful, and transparent in his handling of the situation, all of which considerably lessened its long-term effects.

Even as Montana Tech has evolved from a school of mines to a more diversified engineering school to a special-focus institution with a respected nursing school, Highlands College, and more, it has remained true to its roots and sense of place. Montana Tech has always been a beacon of opportunity for Butte, and Blackketter’s leadership has focused that beam all the more brightly on the community. The school’s current “Be the First” campaign is an excellent example - extending a hand to Butte students who have a chance to become their families’ first generation of college graduates. It is a program near to Blackketter’s heart, as he is the first in his family to get a college education.

His leadership has been a significant factor in encouraging transformational gifts from alumni like ConocoPhillips’s Lance, who donated $1 million to the Student Success Center, and Butte’s own Bob Morris, whose $1.5 million gift to fund new electrical engineering labs was announced Friday.

Blackketter and his wife Vicki, who has been active in community affairs, particularly fundraising for SafeSpace, will both be greatly missed, and we wish them well in their future endeavors.

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

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