- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Sept. 11, on improving the state economy:

Numbers touted in Gov. Steve Bullock’s Labor Day report were encouraging. But they should also serve as a signpost pointing in the direction state economic development efforts should take going forward.

Bullock said wage growth in Montana ranked fourth in the nation - this despite a $167 million decline in personal income in mining, utilities and agriculture. Those losses were more than made up for by personal income gains of $251 million in health care, with additional gains in financial services and leisure activities (read “tourism”). Add to those recent jobs created in the tech sector and it’s clear where the state’s economic future lies.

Certainly agriculture, utilities and responsible mining - along with other extractive industries like forest products and fossil fuel production - have important places in the state’s economy. But looking to the future, more promise lies in health care, financial services, tourism and high-tech for promising careers.

Despite personal income gains cited by Bullock, Montana still ranks low when compared to other states. Government policy can help spur economic growth by pitching the state’s amenities to out-of-state firms and prospective immigrants. Efforts to lure the right kinds of jobs to the state should focus on these sectors that have shown the most promise for increasing personal income.

For its part, education should devote more effort in these areas as well. If we want our children to stay in the state and earn a respectable living, we should encourage them to pursue skills in these most promising areas. Montana State University has a longstanding and highly reputable nursing program and has expanded the slots available in the multi-state medical school program in which it participates. These programs continue to churn out needed health care professionals.

And to its credit, MSU recently added a hospitality management major to prepare students for the tourism industry. The MSU College of Business is likewise encouraged to tailor its programs to the needs of Montanans so graduates can meet those demands.

With each passing year, the future for the state’s economy becomes more clear. We must heed the evidence and plan accordingly.

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


Billings Gazette, Sept. 10, on sending the bill for police protection and extra security to Washington:

When Vice President Mike Pence visited Billings earlier this year, local taxpayers were on the hook for extra security.

With no one to accept the bill for police protection and extra help, Billings taxpayers are still holding that bill.

When President Donald J. Trump visited Great Falls earlier this summer, taxpayers were also on the hook to cover additional police and protection.

And when it’s all totaled, the residents of Billings will likely be left holding the bill for the additional security provided by police, sheriff’s deputies and state highway patrol, many of whom were on overtime, to ensure the President Donald Trump’s safety while here.

For a city which often says it doesn’t have the funds to add extra officers or add more beds in jail or do more than respond to call after call for service, spending tens of thousands of unbudgeted money seems unfair, if not ridiculous.

We’re not saying this because it’s Trump, even though he has been a frequent and strident critic of the media. We just don’t think local taxpayers should be on the hook to provide extra services for the president when that is clearly the federal government’s job. Just because Trump wants to have a political rally shouldn’t mean that local taxpayers, already hemmed in by a very restrictive city budget, should have to give up police protection.

We are paying for a politician’s rally, not some essential speech.

We’ve heard so often about how Trump wants to make America safer, but by spending tens of thousands of dollars from the police and law enforcement budget, it actually makes Billings less safe. And that money could have been put to better use during the course of weeks, if not months. Instead, that money was spent in less than 24 hours.

We also believe that if Trump is coming to stump for another conservative politician, then Matt Rosendale or even Trump’s own re-election campaign should understand there’s nothing fiscally prudent about forcing local law enforcement to work a security detail rather than to go out and solve crime.

But that is the real trade off.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John has assured residents that the bill for the extra security would be sent to either D.C., or the Trump re-election campaign. Still no word for anyone if they’ll accept it or pay it.

That means that residents of Billings, Yellowstone County and the state could be left holding the bag for what was a political rally that had more to do with stroking the President’s ego than it did with electing Rosendale or saying anything meaningful about policy.

We appreciate that Trump visited Billings. And, we’re always grateful when a politician looks at Montana for anything more than a fly-over. However, folks like Trump and Rosendale should know that in places like Montana, we don’t have unlimited resources or a huge population that can tolerate the increase. If, as St. John predicts, the final bill will come to more than $20,000 — that’s real money and it will impact the city.

We believe the problem doesn’t lie solely with St. John. Instead, we also believe the mandate needs to come from our elected leaders who have to manage budgets. The Billings City Council and the Yellowstone County Commissioners should also put pressure on staff to ensure that the bills go to the Trump campaign or the Rosendale campaign and that they’re paid.

We don’t think taxpayers should have to bear the cost (because we already have through the federal government which is obliged to provide security). And, it’s up to our leaders to demand action and urge staff to make sure the bill finds the right campaigns and those campaigns pay up, especially when the visit is about a political rally for a specific candidate.

Welcoming Trump? Sure.

Giving him thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds?

Not so much.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2Mob2Lu


Montana Standard, Sept. 9, on getting to work following EPA administrator visit:

Butte and Anaconda were the center of the EPA’s focus Friday.

With Andrew Wheeler, the agency’s acting administrator, visiting both towns, it was heartening to listen to people in the communities who have cared about the cleanup speak so forcefully and eloquently to Wheeler. In Butte, that meant passionate, intelligent people making the case for why the agency, Atlantic Richfield, the state of Montana and Butte-Silver Bow all must redouble their efforts to make sure the cleanup we get is the cleanup we need and deserve.

First, thanks are in order. We are grateful to:

- Dr. John Ray, for speaking so thoughtfully about health concerns and environmental justice;

- Mick Ringsak, Sister Mary Jo McDonald, Fritz Daily, Northey Tretheway and Jocelyn Dodge, for their tireless advocacy for Butte, so well-expressed on Friday;

- State and local officials including Attorney General Tim Fox, Dave Palmer, Jon Sesso, Dan Villa, Karen Sullivan and Dan Olsen, for their various roles in making the Friday meetings as useful as possible (we are not sure, by the way, why other B-SB commissioners besides Olsen were not allowed to attend, as we need more engagement, not less, from that group on this issue);

- BP/Arco Vice President Patricia Gallery, Arco regional boss Loren Burmeister and MR’s Mark Thompson, for being gracious listeners Friday;

- Wheeler, Regional Administrator Doug Benevento and their staffs, along with Sen. Steve Daines and his, for making this meeting happen.

Niceties attended to, we must stress that Friday’s meeting could mean everything, or nothing. Very specific next steps are now necessary:

- Bring the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry back to Butte - as well as Anaconda - for substantive, wide-ranging and serious health studies. Butte cannot afford to sweep the dust under the rug - to assume there are no toxic exposure-related health concerns here just because it is most convenient - and in the short term, profitable - to do so. Facing this issue head-on is not “tearing down Butte” or “making us look bad” or “scaring people away.” It is the reverse. An honest and thoroughgoing examination of our health issues here and their potential connection to toxics exposure is the only way we can truly move forward. Let’s get this issue settled and dealt with, transparently and honestly. We must build on the recent health studies, not hide them, ignore them or dismiss them out of ignorance.

- As we study Butte’s health, do not use any bureaucratic rationale to omit the Flat from serious study and from any remediation needed. We don’t care for artificial bureaucratic boundaries. The entire city and county must be treated with equal respect and rigor.

- Any waiver of water-quality standards must be accompanied by a complete and robust system of monitoring and protection of the public health. A waiver is not a ticket to forget about water quality and about protecting people, for as long as the waiver and the pollution exists, from exposure.

- Get the first mile of the drainage right. Yes, the storm water, water availability, and logistical questions are complex and challenging. But as several speakers pointed out Friday, it will be impossible to declare success and have a delisting that really means something in this city unless this is tended to. And we believe the comparisons to Missoula, the removal of the Milltown Dam and the subsequent restoration there are absolutely fair and relevant. Why should Butte settle for less?

- No short-cuts, no decisions made for reasons of expedience. Make sure money is not an available excuse for doing a slipshod or incomplete cleanup and restoration.

- Make sure there also is money for operation and maintenance of the cleanup of the entire complex. Getting the initial work done in the next year or two will be exhilarating, just as it is exhilarating to see, finally, the excavation so sorely needed at the Parrot tailings site. But without money to treat water and maintain the entire system, the cleanup will never be all it can be.

- And no matter what else happens, keep the health of Butte in the forefront.

If we can get all of these points addressed, thoroughly, transparently and consistently, Butte, and our children and grandchildren, will have a real chance in the post-Superfund world.

Editorial: https://bit.ly/2D0dmJB

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