The Billings Outpost

Tongue River at risk

I recently read an opinion editorial by union representatives printed in several papers across the state. It is interesting that the focus of this opinion is that their jobs are more important than the agricultural jobs that now support many of the hardworking Montanans who live in the Tongue River and Otter Creek valleys.

The Tongue River is a pristine untouched valley. The agriculture production here is comparable to production in the San Joaquin Valley in California. That will all change with the development of Otter Creek Coal.

The Tongue River Railroad that must be built to transport the Otter Creek coal will devastate our valley. And, it (like all railroads) will cause fires. We have seen enough fires in Eastern Montana this year to last for several lifetimes. The railroad is proposed along the river where there is no road access. To be able to fight the inevitable fires, highways will need to be built.

These roads will be paid for by the hardworking taxpayers of Montana. When this railroad was first proposed, the coal it would haul was destined for upper Midwest markets. The coal is now going to Asia – mainly to China. I do not think it is in the public interest to use condemnation to build a railroad that will be used for Asia and China. The Otter Creek development is not about creating jobs, it is about securing more money for one of the richest corporations in America, Arch Coal (who has leased the Otter Creek coal and is also one of three owners of the Tongue River Railroad). Will we continue to step on the backs of the hardworking farmers and ranchers of Montana to bankroll the richest people in the world?

The railroad will transport the coal to ports near Seattle to ship to China. There are hundreds of railroad crossings across Montana, including in our cities and towns. Burlington Northern will not pay to upgrade these crossings if life, health, or safety issues make that necessary. It will be you and me - the taxpayers of Montana - who will be expected to pay for these upgrades.

The Otter Creek coal serves as an aquifer for water in the area where I live and ranch. That water will be pumped out of the ground to mine this coal and most likely discharged into the Tongue River. The Tongue River is already being harmed by coal bed methane discharges in Wyoming and discharges by the Decker mine that go into the Tongue River Reservoir. Our irrigation land is at risk.

Otter Creek development is not about jobs. It is about corporate greed, plain and simple.

Mark Fix

Miles City

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:48

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Vote Bullock’s values

Sometimes the important things get lost in a campaign. “Issues” are easily manipulated by the press or partisans.

For 41 years I was associated with the American Legion Montana Boys State program; for more than half of those years, I served either as the program’s chief counselor or as its director. The program offers high school junior boys - the “cream of the crop” – an opportunity to learn about citizenship and leadership and much, much more.

Steve Bullock was one of the best counselors Boys State ever had. For more than 15 years, Steve gave up a week of vacation, for no pay, to come to the University of Montana-Western in Dillon and help young men formulate the principles of their citizenship and leadership. (Steve is a former Boys State governor elected by conservative young men from every town and city in Montana who trusted him to lead and represent them.)

As a counselor, every day at 6:30 a.m., Steve led 400 young men in singing the Star-Spangled Banner and “God Bless America.” (Neither he nor they were trained singers.) Also, because he is a Boston Marathoner, I asked him to “warm up” the delegates to get a good start on the day.

Steve is a patriot. He taught love of God and country. He explored the meaning of freedom. He taught respect for the American flag – stars and stripes forever.

Steve was effective because he not only taught these values, he lived them. No young man who became acquainted with Steve at our program has forgotten or will forget him. He is a patriot in every sense of the word. I do not personally know every candidate, but I do know Steve. He continues to live those Boys State ideals.

While issues are important, they change daily. What is more important is knowing a candidate’s values. My vote will be for a proven and practicing patriot who lives that value every day.

K. Paul Stahl

Helena

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:47

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Health care charade

Some months ago we were treated to an example of government imposition of its will on religious rights and American women’s health decisions. In January 2012 I also feel my civil/health rights were ignored.

I attended a presentation by my Montana-owned Advantage plan provider. The insurance company representative told me that visits to Billings Clinic physicians were covered. I am very uncomfortable with traditional doctors who treat symptoms and do not involve the patient in the healing process.

I asked specifically about a naturopath and he repeated “services ... were covered.” Following my visit to the naturopath, the insurance company refused to pay, stating that “Medicare does not fund naturopaths.” They said that Billings Clinic’s policy is that it “always” warns Medicare patients that naturopaths are not covered. They did not warn me.

Eight months later I have finally received word that my appeal in the matter has been denied.

The government and New Northwest Insurance are determining for me who is acceptable and who is not. Worse, New Northwest did not stand by the word of its employee, while the government determines what is and is not valid treatment. This is not health care; it is a charade.

Mana Lesman Seward

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 23 August 2012 21:46

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Set medical funds aside

We hear about how everyone fears Obamacare. Yet I haven’t seen anything different in healthcare or the costs of both insurance as well as care. For example, insurance companies are still charging large premiums and/or requiring pre-approval for some surgery or some things just are not covered.

My wife had a job with benefits. She could keep the insurance for $600 or so a month. At $7,200 per year, that is a lot of preventive health care and doctor visits. But, even with insurance, we have community fund-raisers to help our friends and neighbors with their medical expenses.

Our government moves slow and most programs don’t help the people the programs were meant to help.

We need to set up a community medical fund at our banks and churches for emergency medical expenses. If everyone were to put in $15-$20 a month or more if they had a windfall, there would be a nice sum of money to help out others.

Who knows the day you may need help?

Lauris Byxbe

Pompeys Pillar

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 20:41

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Three years of waiting

In a letter published in the Missoulian back in May 2009, I wrote the following: It’s a crisis, people; act like it. Are we hypnotized, or are we robots, or maybe puppets? There is something wrong. How can we be so gullible, and so naive, as to let what is happening go on without the biggest and loudest outcry that this country has ever heard? What the hell is wrong with our thinking? With our knowledge of what is right?

Now, here we are three years later and in the same mess. Why? No, this isn’t an “I told you so letter.” My reason for writing letters, then and now, is simply my hope to inform. Most of us know that our government is in disastrous financial shape, which should be of great concern to all of us regarding our country’s future and the future of our children and grandchildren.

We have an economy with too little savings and production, and too much borrowing and consumption. We have vacant stores; banks not loaning enough to entrepreneurs to buy equipment; and we have too many tax-takers riding in the wagon, and not enough taxpayers pulling it. And yet we have Montana legislators today that say we must wait for the federal government to act before we can do anything. Yes, they say, “Wait for Washington to do something.”

I say, “BS”! We don’t need “do nothing” legislators. Montanans are eager to work. They would rather be “pulling” than “riding.” What we need is to elect legislators who will streamline the process so as to allow new businesses to begin and the existing ones to expand. Sure, we want regulations to protect the environment, but we don’t need power hungry bureaucrats that think they know more than the businessman. Vote for progress. Vote principle, not emotion.

Fred Carl

Missoula

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 20:40

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GOP cuts spending

It takes a lot of chutzpah to criticize the Republican Legislature for not spending enough and then turn around and brag about the great fiscal shape the state of Montana is in. But that’s Brian Schweitzer.

However, it is important for Montana voters to know that if it were up to the Democrats in the state Legislature, the state of Montana would be broke and in greater debt.

In amendments to House Bill 2 made on the floor of the Senate in 2011, our Democrat friends across the aisle proposed spending an additional $360 million. That does not include even more spending amendments made in the Finance Committee. And it does not include the $100 million in new spending and long-term debt that 100 percent of the Democrats supported in HB 439.

If the Democrats were in charge in the Montana Legislature, the state would be as broke and in debt as we are under the Democrats in Washington.

Montana needs to keep a Republican Legislature so that we don’t drive over the fiscal cliff.

I am happy that the state is running a surplus and I haven’t noticed that the wheels of government have ground to a halt. Excess funds should be returned to the taxpayer as proposed in Legislative Referendum 123 so people can spend it on their families, invest in their business or employees, or give it to their favorite charity.

Republicans will continue to keep a sharp eye on public spending.

Jeff Essmann

Montana Senate Majority Leader

Billings

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 20:39

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