Bitterroot Star Masthead
The Bitterroot Valley's only locally owned newspaper

Volume XIX, Number 26


Wednesday, January 21, 2004

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Reader Comment

Planning essential to good future

By David Anderson, Stevensville

Watching the first of the houses go up in the 200+ lot development east of Stevensville, our valley's growth and development challenges are brought to my mind. Our long-planned Growth Policy has run aground, with its ultimate implementation in question. Also, it has recently been reported that the Ravalli County Planning Board is swamped with subdivision requests. No doubt this is due to the robust health of our valley, but my cynical side wonders if the onslaught is also due to this window of opportunity, created by County Commission heel-dragging, to subdivide and develop before our growth plan is put into practice.

This rush to subdivide and build makes me a bit sad. I wonder, if these development plans are good ones, what's the rush?

There are two facts to consider regarding development like this. 1) What we build today will be with us permanently. We never decide to "un-develop." The pastures we build on today are gone forever. 2) As we grow closer together, how property owners use their land has a greater and greater impact on the rest of us. Questions of the public good become more and more important.

What I mean by a "good" plan is one that has carefully considered the quality of its permanent change to our valley, and that it contributes to the general benefit of our community. In other words, we ought to build beautiful houses that we will be proud of 100 years from now, built on lovely streets that foster a feeling of neighborhood, in a development well integrated with the town as a whole ­ its roads, infrastructure, parks and schools, architectural styles ­ that in every way fosters human values.

Ideally, land owners and developers considering a building project accept as their public duty to ensure what they are creating is good for the whole community. Of course they will design carefully, safeguard the water, soil and air, mitigate the traffic, contribute to the infrastructure, and build sound and beautiful buildings.

Development with a limited vision, concerned primarily with getting around interference, building cheap, fast and easy, making as much money as possible, and ignoring the surrounding community, materially damages our towns and quality of life. And there is no going back. Whether development is good or bad, we are stuck with it.

What about property rights? I agree we should avoid constraining land owners' use of their property as much as possible. However, this fundamental ethic is necessarily tempered by our growth and prosperity. Absolute property rights only make sense where there are a very few independent people spread over a great deal of land. Obviously, that is no longer the case in the Bitterroot Valley. The balance between private and public interests depends on each situation. Guidelines are preferable and generally sufficient. Regulation is only necessary insofar as individuals shirk their public duty for the common good.

So, I am encouraging us all to proceed with mindfulness and care, now while there is still opportunity to shape our valley into the best it can be, while we still have open pastures and visions of the future.

The Growth Policy is one way to go about it. It is a guide in the direction we want to go. It has been crafted by people who live here, and reflects our local values. We should insist on and join in its implementation.

At a more personal level, everyone thinking about building even a shed should consider how their development will affect their neighbors, and how to make that effect the most beneficial it can be. Many of us feel the Bitterroot is the best home on earth. What we do now will make it more or less so for years to come.

Letters to the Editor

Stevi PTA lacks support

Dear Editor,

To the community of Stevensville School District:

We regretfully announce that due to the lack of support and participation from the staff and parents of Stevensville School, the school year of 2003-2004 will be the last for the Stevensville PTA organization.

Since the inception of the Stevensville PTA over 10 years ago, the organization has been run by the officers and a very few volunteers. In the last five years, the number of volunteers has become even less.

Meetings are held every other month and the only people in attendance are the three officers and usually the elementary principal.

Our projects don't require a lot of time, but we have been unable to receive any help from the parents or the staff of the school.

We recently had a membership drive that was sent to the 466 elementary students and their teachers. We received less than 10 responses back. We usually have approximately 25 paid members, but we don't ever see them at our meetings after they pay their dues.

Our sole fund raisers are the Pie Social which is held at the annual Open House in September and the performances of the Missoula Children's Theater. We always have plenty of donations of pies which are very much appreciated. But when we ask for help for other projects, it is very difficult to get commitments.

We regret that it has come down to this, but this is the situation as it was five years ago. The previous officers had been doing everything by themselves and were fortunate to find new help. We have not been that lucky.

If there is anyone interested in becoming more involved and taking over then please contact one of the officers listed below. We will still be involved with the PTA, we can no longer run it by ourselves.

We want to thank all of those that have helped in the past. We couldn't have kept going this long without you.

Again we are sorry and we will also miss the PTA.

Rita Pfau, President; Cathi Cook, Treasurer; Mya Fadely, Secretary
Stevensville Parent-Teacher Association

Legislators trying to kill term limits

Dear Editor,

The career politicians in Helena may be too "inexperienced" to run our Legislature. But they are at least very well briefed on the common fallacies about term limits.

Reporting about a recent powwow between legislators and the Montana Chamber of Commerce offers the news flash that major legislators don't want to leave office as scheduled under Montana's term limits law.

Their so-called arguments were at the ready.

House Minority Leader Dave Wanzenried claims that lobbyists "benefit" from term limits. He sagely alerts us that term limits shift power from the Legislature "to the executive and the lobbyists on the outside."

In reality, lobbyists are the most avid opponents of term limits. If they had gained an alleged "benefit" from term limits, why then do they so vocally oppose term limits? Because, lobbyists find it a lot easier to secure a legislator's vote for a lifetime, instead of convincing a new legislator every eight years, of what their special interest wants you, the taxpayer, to fund. We continually hear how annoyed lobbyists are that they have to keep presenting their case anew to the new legislators.

Senate Minority Leader Jon Tester, who would not be in office if it were not for term limits, says eight years is too short a time to learn about the complex issues before the Legislature. It only takes four years to get a college degree! Jon, how long must you stay before you can accomplish the job your constituents sent you to do?

Senate President Bob Keenan falls back on this old line: "We already have term limits, they're called elections. Voters have the option of enforcing term limits on their own," Keenan tells us. We voters can "simply" vote out of office any legislator who overstays his welcome. Sounds good, but in most cases, serious qualified candidates almost never run against an incumbent. Would-be challengers wait until the incumbent retires or dies before bothering to throw their own hat in the ring.

An example of this built-in advantage for incumbents is that in 2002: of 76 incumbent members of the Montana House who sought reelection, 69 won. In the Senate, 6 out of the 7 incumbent senators who sought reelection won. A 90 percent and 85 percent reelection rate, respectively. Term limits is the only surefire way to break that stranglehold on a regular basis making our representative republic truly representative of the voters.

Many of Montana's lawmakers have made it clear that they're seeking to extend term limits this fall only because it's not yet politically feasible to ask voters to kill term limits outright. What the politicians really want is for term limits to die.

Voters beware: if you give the career politicians another four years to figure out how to finish killing term limits, that is exactly how they will spend that extra time.

Trevis M. Butcher

Standard of justice removed

Dear Editor,

"Wake Up America" by Ralph Bouma is a book you must read. I agree with Mr. Bouma that our standard of justice has been removed.

Mr. Bouma's experience with the courts in depriving both him and the Iversons of their property without a right to defend. Reminds me of how I was deprived of my farm without a right to defend.

Please believe me, Bouma's experience with the courts is not an isolated case, it is happening all the time.

I've had some people question the truth of what Ralph Bouma says in his book. This book is based upon fact, not opinion, and these facts are supported by quotes from sworn testimony either in affidavits or sworn testimony on the court records.

I urge you to read this book and you will be enlightened.

Arthur R. Huyghe

Pollard comments inflammatory

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the letter on the RML EIS submitted by Earl Pollard and printed in the January 14, 2004 Bitterroot Star.

There are many of us out in the general public who do have a mind of our own and can make our own decisions! Your off-the-wall diatribe seems to indicate otherwise. We are as entitled to our opinions as you are to yours. I will state here and now that yes, I am against the RML expansion for many reasons, all of which have been stated many times to many people.

Now Mr. Pollard, on to what I feel seems to be the actual basis for your remarks, a tirade against the Friends of the Bitterroot. Do you actually think that enough time has lapsed so that most people will have forgotten that you approached this very organization requesting possible assistance regarding your "plight," that being the airport expansion? Well, I haven't forgotten!

Why would you feel that you need the membership list of the Friends of the Bitterroot? Surely you can remember some of the individuals who were present during the times you attended three of the FOB meetings in regards to your problem.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on all matters. However, all facts should be brought to the table and this does not require the smoke screen attempted on your part, Mr. Pollard, to inflame the general public against hard working environmentally concerned individuals who dare to work toward a safer environment.

The age old adage, "He doth protest too loudly," certainly applies to your letter.

Nola Wood

Cattleman's group goofs up

Dear Editor,

The National Cattleman's Beef Association (NCBA) pushed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to require all cattle with more than 2 teeth to not be graded by USDA graders. Two teeth do not accurately identify the age of cattle, under 30 months.

Did your children all change teeth at the same age? No.

Does your horse accurately tell the age from 2 to 4, by his teeth? No.

NCBA controls your Beef Check Off Dollars and used its power on USDA to push through this rule.

This rule will take a huge amount of money out of every rancher's pocket, as now all cattle with more than 2 teeth will be sold as cows.

NCBA, you made a costly mistake!

Lloyd DeBruycker

Civil dialog and freedom of speech

Dear Editor,

My understanding of the role of facilitator is that the person in that role is to conduct meetings in a manner appropriate for the agenda, to maintain order and fairness to all participants and to encourage lively discussion.

John Schneeberger is connected to the Montana Human Rights Alliance and I have observed him as a facilitator for several public meetings over the past years. John always introduces himself and his role as the protector of the right to free speech, he sets down rules designed to honor all who wish to participate in civil dialog and he promises respect for all. One would assume that anyone who believes in human rights would live by that code.

The problem is that John has an agenda and he has crossed the line from promoting the right to free speech that is the foundation of human rights and has lost his ability to be objective with regards to that very right. How can John claim to be a proponent of free speech and yet be totally against the right for education to offer upper class high school students more than one theory of our origin? Until the word theory is replaced with absolutely proven it seems to me that all sides of the discussion on origin (or what came first, the chicken or the egg?) should be encouraged. At what point do we want our young adults to participate in debate and research into unknown or unproven theories? What if they start thinking for themselves or ask questions? How awful.

How is learning about the mysteries of our origin going to destroy our youth? How is it going to undermine our universe? It seems to me that we started that process when we started to deny our rights under the constitution. We certainly are not hearing John Schneeberger defend the right of families to school choice, the right to pray by free choice in school, the right to use the word God freely in public. John isn't defending all Bitterrooters, just liberals. Or Democrats. Or atheists. Some of the nastiest, most rude name calling letters I have ever read have come from the protector of human rights John Schneeberger when he doesn't agree with a Republican candidate or issues that come from the right. I have wanted to write out in protest so many times after reading one of his letters. How offensive you can be John, and how judgmental for a human rights proponent. What a sham!

It appears to me that the only human rights John Schneeberger wants to defend are the rights of those who agree with him and his agenda. When did what John believes or doesn't believe become more valuable or acceptable than what Curtis Brickley or I might believe?

Suzy Foss

Discovery Institute weighs in

Dear Editor,

Abraham Lincoln is often credited for the old maxim that "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." If this statement is true then matters do not sit well for a few of the more extreme Darwinists who have made some ill-informed and irresponsible claims about the proposed science policy at issue before the Darby School Board.

Fortunately, the word is getting out about what the policy actually says about teaching evolution. And the record is now being set straight: the Darby proposal is a modest compromise. It is perfectly constitutional for students to learn scientific critiques of scientific theories.

Contrary to some claims, the proposed policy before the Darby Board does not require students to learn about the theory of intelligent design. Nor does it remove any information about Darwinian evolution from students' curricula. Instead, the policy calls for students to learn even more about evolution. Students would learn about the scientific criticisms of Darwin's theory as well as its scientific merits.

Noting that scientific knowledge is subject to change in the light of new discoveries, the proposed policy restates key provisions from Montana's current science standards. It goes on to state, "Teachers in the Darby School District are encouraged to help students assess evidence for and against theories, to analyze the scientific strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories, including the Theory of Evolution, by giving examples of scientific innovation or discovery challenging commonly held perceptions."

Unfortunately, a few members on the Darwinist fringe have claimed, falsely, that it is somehow unconstitutional to adopt such a policy. US Supreme Court precedent, Congressional policy and recent experience in other states contradict them. It is perfectly constitutional for students to learn scientific critiques of existing scientific theories.

In the case of Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), the Supreme Court's seminal decision on the issue of origins science in public classrooms, the court was clear that critical thinking and academic freedom is to be protected. It stated: "We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught."

The Conference Committee Report of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 expresses the view of Congress concerning controversial scientific theories. The Report says that where controversial topics like biological evolution exist, students should be able to "understand the full range of scientific views that exist." In fact, Congress has been so serious in this regard that it will be conducting hearings upon the Report language and its implementation early next month in Washington D.C.

In 2002, after one year of careful study, the Ohio State Board of Education unanimously adopted the following benchmark as part of its science standards: "Students should know why scientists today continue to investigate and critically analyze aspects of evolutionary theory." The Ohio standard was adopted without any legal challenge, and Darby would by no means be breaking new ground in adopting the proposed policy. If this policy is good enough for students in other states and school districts, why would it not be good enough for students in Darby?

A few individuals opposing the proposed policy have hoped to divert the public's attention from the real issues by focusing on the motives of the policy supporters, instead of focusing on the evidence.

For instance, last month Mr. John Schneeberger wrote a letter to the editor that sounded more like a fundraising letter for his small local group. He ducked the scientific controversy and focused instead upon the perceived motives of the Discovery Institute and one of its donors. For the record, the Discovery Institute is a national public policy think-tank, and the nation's leading think-tank supporting research and scholarship critical of neo-Darwinian theory. His attacks upon Mr. Howard Ahmanson (a contributor to Discovery Institute) as a supposed supporter of theocracy are blatantly false and erroneous. Had Mr. Schneeberger bothered to research his claims rather than following a set of talking points from the Darwin lobby, he would realize that Mr. Ahmanson supports democracy and contributes to an assortment of human rights and relief organizations, and also that major newspapers in Ohio and Texas have acknowledged that such claims about Howard Ahmanson are completely baseless.

More to the point, attacks on personal motives are contrary to the scientific enterprise and irrelevant to the issue being considered in Montana. Such attacks are a last ditch, long-shot effort to distract citizens from a sound and careful policy that offers a middle-of-the-road compromise that will enhance students' science education.

Charles Darwin wrote that a fair result can only be obtained by balancing the facts and argument on both sides of each question. The proposed policy would allow for such a fair result in Darby's science classes.

Seth L. Cooper, J.D.
Discovery Institutešs Center for Science & Culture

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