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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Opinion & Editorial

Guest Comment

Star charged with egregious, exaggerated reporting

by Dallas D. Erickson, Stevensville

I don't think I have ever read or seen a "lawsuit" referred to as "charges" in the Star or any other newspaper. It is very apparent you used that word in your February 17 newspaper to make it look like it was very serious and even "criminal." It is common to use the word "charges" when there are criminal charges made but you always use "lawsuit" or "claims filed" to describe when a lawsuit is filed.

I think you were very unfair in this article and especially the headline and about the time the third person asked if we were "going to jail" I decided to respond. You are generally quite fair but this was egregious. In the past you have published and encouraged material to be written to hurt me. This is not new. You state in your article that the repeal of the county's ordinance to keep out large stores "passed by only about 50 votes" when the truth is the repeal passed by 417 votes. This illustrates your desire to exaggerate on this whole story and the percentage of exaggeration. This was the first "zoning law" overturned by Ravalli County voters and subsequent votes on throwing out the Growth Policy and support for the Right to Vote on any future proposed zoning shows just how popular it was overall.

First of all, let me explain that Jenny, as the registered Treasurer of Ravalli County Citizens for Free Enterprise, never handled the donations and paperwork because when I encouraged her to take the position on that ballot issue committee I promised her we would hire a bookkeeper. That was done because my wife already had (has) a full plate and we trusted the bookkeeper to take care of it. That was our only mistake as that bookkeeper did not apparently record the date of receipt of two checks, one for $10 and one for $20. (To say her mistake may have changed the outcome of the election is ridiculous).

The bookkeeper was also advised by our attorney that a donation to open the bank account, which was later refunded, was not a loan. That bookkeeper was a problem for one other political committee as her name was listed in relationship to the complaint filed against the other group.

Anyone who knows and has worked with Jenny knows she keeps impeccable records. I have to apologize to her for putting her in this situation and admit we trusted our bookkeeper and I did not keep close enough track of her records. I do not apologize for giving the people the right to vote on this issue, however, even if the powers that be in the media and in the state did not want the people to have that right.

Unsworth said about two weeks before he filed the lawsuit that the Governor's cutbacks on his department were going to require him to close his doors. He then turns around and files a lawsuit to collect $500 that would have cost the taxpayers at least $5000 to proceed with. Just the time alone for our attorney and for their attorneys to have a conference call was well over the $500 amount. I don't know what that is called but it is not smart for us or for the taxpayers. Even though the County Attorney would not file a suit after it was sent to him by Unsworth, for obvious reasons, Unsworth wanted to win on this so bad he would cost the taxpayers money. I feel assured, as do our attorneys, that we would have won this if we proceeded to court. The taxpayers would have had to pay our costs as well as theirs.

Just to save us and the taxpayers money we will settle this suit and avoid the extra costs for everyone. No, we won't go to "jail" and the "charges" the Star noted were nothing but claims and ridiculous claims at that, even in the eyes of the County Attorney.

A study of the Political Practices office over the years would show the office is very political. For example, in our effort to pass two laws in Yellowstone County concerning obscenity and sexually oriented businesses, a homosexual group published a full page ad of false statements about our proposed laws. They did not identify themselves and that ad had a huge effect on the vote. When I filed a complaint, Unsworth eventually found them in violation but did not pursue it any further.

Letters to the Editor

Wal-Mart, Orwell and the RCCFE

Dear Editor,

In a front page story in the Bitterroot Star dated February 17, 2010, RCCFE founder Dallas Erickson was quoted as saying, "We are not a Wal-Mart front" (group). Really? According to the story, over 99% of the funds raised by RCCFE ($115,000) came from Wal-Mart and only Wal-Mart. The name of this organization is "Ravalli County Citizens for Free Enterprise" but, essentially, all of the monies in its ample coffers arrived via just TWO enormous checks direct from Bentonville, Arkansas (Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters). And Mr. Erickson is going to attempt to defend this organization as NOT being a simple "front for Wal-Mart"? Only those well-schooled in Orwellian political tactics would have the nerve to create an organization with a name that purports to represent "Ravalli County Citizens" and then finance the entire operation with out-of-state monies from one of the largest corporations on the planet. A corporation that has led the way outsourcing huge swaths of the once-thriving U.S. manufacturing base to communist and dictatorial China.

Mr. Erickson doesn't stop with the simple Orwellian denial, though. He then goes on to attack Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth as a simple partisan saying, "The office is a political office. He's using headlines and silly lawsuits, like this one, to go after those who don't agree with him politically." As the seat-holder of a "political office", Mr. Unsworth apparently derives his compensation from my tax dollars and those of all Montana taxpayers and ultimately answers to us at that aforementioned political level. As the Star story explained, Mr. Unsworth was doing his appointed job responding to complaints filed by other (presumably) voting and tax-paying citizens of the County. Someone accepts $115,000 from an out-of-state mega-corporation attempting to overturn an Interim Zoning Ordinance passed by our elected representatives, then turns around and dismisses our Commissioner of Political Practices as being a simple partisan? I could not offer a better illustration for why we NEED such a Commissioner. Thank you, Mr. Unsworth, for your diligent work upholding the laws of Montana. If only the law had been written in a fashion to have not allowed the RCCFE to mostly escape your reach on technicalities. Looks like we need a bit of improvement in that law in the coming years.  

The reason we taxpayers will potentially have to spend much more in court costs to prosecute is because Mr. Erickson didn't have the humility and good judgment to pay the modest $500 fine when the law allows for fines "up to three times the amount of contributions received." I say don't "negotiate" any further with the RCCFE. Rather, prosecute them to the fullest extent possible and let's see if we can collect some of that carpet-bagger money pocketed by those who were the face of – and soldiers doing – Wal-Mart's dirty-work here in our valley. Put me on that jury. Please.  

The message to the global corporations and their hired political hacks should be clear: We, the ACTUAL Citizens of Ravalli County, will not let you pave over our pastures, pollute our night skies with your acres of parking lot lights and defeat our local businesses with your anti-competitive tactics. You have done this in countless communities across this nation for years and most of them now regret it. The so-called Big Box retailers have done nothing but decimate our domestic production capabilities and dismantle our once resilient local economies. Not too many years ago I could buy American made products that would last and give me my money's worth. Now all I can find is junk from China built to self-destruct just after the useless warranty expires, keeping me addicted to more disposable junk. The voters of Ravalli County who were misled by the name of this front organization and its bloated advertising budget will not be fooled so easily the next time. Shame on those who hide behind intentionally misleading names while personally profiting from outside forces. Outside forces with the primary goal and business model of destroying our locally owned businesses and outsourcing decent American jobs to China.

Rex Jordan

Confusion over the ‘M’ word

Dear Editor,

Our 2nd Amendment says in our Constitution, "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed." John Roland of the Constitution Society helps explain the word militia. It comes from the Latin word Miles translated as a military service, but also an activity that includes law enforcement and disaster response which is the duty of every citizen to perform these functions if called upon to do so. In the origin of militia as a duty, every society has individuals that come together for the mutual defense of their rights against anything that may threaten these rights, including other members of the society and it is a social contract. We as a society have a duty to exercise all those rights in defense of rights to speak, practice religion, assemble, petition, and bear arms not only for private happiness but also to defend one another. Those who defend the Constitution against others who would subvert it have a duty to apply the word militia and resist the overthrow of the Constitution and our civil liberties.

This militia is necessary to the security of a free state which the Founding Fathers guaranteed the right of the people to keep and bear arms as a check on the standing army. If the people have no arms then a standing army can rule. George Mason told the Virginia delegates in reference to the colonies’ experience with Britain, in which monarchs were trying to disarm everyone, that this is the most effectual way to enslave people. Tench Coxe, a friend of James Madison, said this amendment is the overriding goal and is a check upon the national government's standing army. If the government attempts to tyrannize and turn their power against their fellow citizens they have the right to their private arms. Thus, the militia is necessary for security of a free state they might have to fight against such as a standing army of this tyrannical government.

In The Federalist No. 29 papers by Alexander Hamilton wrote that the people's militia should have the ability to match that of the standing army. This militia would help insure domestic tranquility and provide for common defense.

As we can see, the militia are citizens of a community, that help in times of disaster and stand against a standing army that would threaten any of our liberties from a government that would take away those liberties.

In The Declaration of Independence, you will see the words Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them. From the book “The 5000 Year Leap,” we see that John Locke set forth the principle that carried over to the thinking of our Founding Fathers when he wrote that the law of Nature stands as an eternal rule for all men, legislators and others. This rule that was made for man's actions must conform to the law of Nature, that is the will of God and we are subject to the laws of our Creator. The will of our Creator is called the law of nature and is superior in obligation to any other. It is binding at all times and no human laws are of validity if they are contrary to this.

The Founding Fathers went on to say that these truths were held to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it and to institute new government laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

This brings us back to the 2nd Amendment that a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state. That is the right of the people to protect themselves against a government that would enslave them and take away their rights.

Militia is not a bad word to fear, but one that keeps you free from those who would try to take your freedom away as you know it.

Ignorant people have turned this word into something to fear and it is time we see that it is not the evil they perceive it to be, but a good to help and protect the society that we live in. Where would we be today as a nation if we did not have the militia back in 1776 that stood against the British? I say thank you Founding Fathers for putting the militia in our Constitution.

Dee Gibney

Let the biologists manage

Dear Editor,

Listening to some of the advocates of the wolf re-introduction program, you would think the Bitterroot and other western Montana drainages were at one time a wolf haven. According to the Lewis and Clark journals and the diaries of settlers, game was scarce. In fact, there is more game now then there ever was then. Wolves aren't stupid. Most were east of the mountains where the huge herds of buffalo and elk were and they stayed close to that abundant food source. It's not clear if this variety of wolves ever lived here. Certainly not in the numbers we have now. If they didn't live here to begin with, was it right to bring them in at all? The introduction of other non-native species is something that Fish and Wildlife highly discourages. In fact it’s against the law. However because enough folks, mostly from out of state, thought re-introduction of the wolf would be cool, the rest is history.

Now we hear elk and deer numbers are down, especially the cow to calf ratio. Not surprisingly these low numbers are coming from areas where wolf packs have located and established their territory. Remember, the elk and deer populations had been on the rise.

Originally we were told that the minimum number of breeding pairs it would take to sustain the population would have to be 30 for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Now it is estimated that there are anywhere from 35 to 50 breeding pairs in Montana alone and probably around 600 wolves in the state. As prolific as these wolves have proven to be, it’s a pretty good bet that they aren't in danger of dying off. Now it’s estimated their population in the three states is around 2000 and growing, and they've now made their way to Washington and possibly Colorado. When the pro-wolf groups are asked why that is still not enough wolves, they now have come up with a new catch phrase, “genetic diversity.” They evidently forgot about that one when the wolf numbers were first being discussed, but it seems like just another delay and litigation tactic while the wolf population increases.

Have they ever been truthful with us? I doubt the wolf hunt offset the number of last year’s pups, though that was not the intent, and that may be the last wolf hunt for a while. We will know soon. I've talked to biologists who have said that some of these packs have two bitches that are whelping. A sure sign of their abundant food sources.

So I ask the question, what is the magic number that wolf lovers will be happy with? Will they ever accept the management parameters of the biologists based on scientific data?

Elk and deer aren't the only ones on the wolves’ menu, just ask some of the ranchers how the "compensation thing” is going. Several of the large ranches in the Big Hole have closed their gates to state block management hunting in protest of the lack of cooperation and compensation from the feds. Also, in hopes that hunters will write their congressmen. So now more private ground is being lost to hunting and fewer big game tags are being issued. Hunting generates millions of dollars in a state that was poor before the recession, and no, wolf watching will never replace the revenue that hunting generates.

The state of Montana has one of the best track records in game management and game relocation. Their success is second to none in the U.S., as far as range expansion and bringing animal populations back to and even greater then they once were. I'm not saylng hunt the wolf back to zero. But let the Montana fish and game biologists get on with the task of finding a balance through management, without the politics, while the elk and deer herds are still sustainable.

Jay Rasmussen

Thanks from Boy Scout

Dear Editor,

Just a note to thank you for your February 10th article on the 100-year Anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, and for honoring my 72 years of continuous service as a Boy Scout. I am very fortunate to have been a member of this grand organization since 1932, when I first joined the Cub Scouts back in Irvington, NY, where I also became an Eagle Scout in 1941. I am deeply grateful to the many folks who supported me along the way, and who have made this memorable journey possible for me. Your wonderful article not only covered my personal history and achievements, but it also gave background information about the BSA itself, and its numerous areas of public services. Many people were unaware of the role Boy Scouts played in community affairs throughout the last 100 years of this country. Thank you for publishing this very important historical account.

Scouting prepared me for the numerous leadership positions I would hold throughout my career in public service. I learned the duties and responsibilities of good citizenship, the role of government, how communities function, the obligation of each citizen to maintain their mental and physical fitness, and the true meaning of ethics and morals. Through scouting, I was well prepared for my military assignment of weather forecasting in Alaska (before Alaska was even a state), and for the many elected and appointed positions I held over time. The life skills I gained from scouting aided me throughout my entire life.

Your article brought many new friends into my life, and I heard from many old ones. People have been stopping me on the street ever since. I continue to receive lots of phone calls and emails of congratulations. It has been quite amazing. I am still involved in local Troop 1962, and find much satisfaction in mentoring young scouts in their goal of achieving the revered title of "Eagle Scout." I am hoping that other local citizens will step up and help our youth in the next 100 years. Again, thank you for your coverage, and thanks to the Boy Scouts of America.

Bob Frost

Commissioners need to improve management skills

Dear Editor,

How can anyone live in our beautiful Ravalli County and seem to be so angry as reflected in The Star's "Letters to the Editor"?

We are fortunate to have the most unbiased reporting of the news from co-editor Michael Howell of our county's concerns and actions.

The past two weeks we have read of the controversial appointment of a committee member to serve on the Board of Health. This type of problem can be easily resolved if the County Commissioners operated on a system approach to management and planning. For any appointment a properly written resume of the applicants is required on a specified date. A couple of commissioners and appointed committee members could interview the applicants rather than one commissioner making a decision as had just been the case. The applicant would be selected as the most qualified by education, communication skills, and experience. Surely not selected on "warm fuzzy feelings" for a person who shares some of the same past tragic experiences.

As for the applicant who was not selected for the Board of Health, his education was completion of medical school and its lengthy requirements. He not only delivered babies in his practice but cared for patients with all types of medical problems. He served in Vietnam in M.A.S.H-type challenges of returning the injured warrior home. He later studied to become a pathologist, a specialist who has studied diseases and its manifestations, especially of the functional and structural changes caused by it. In his retirement he has been observed helping those who have debilitating senior-type disabilities, attends county meetings so important the decisions could affect all of us, and his leadership qualities are apparent.

Jean and Bob Thomas

Let’s clean it up!

Dear Editor,

We have a beautiful and picturesque town here in Stevensville with an absolutely amazing backdrop of gorgeous snow-capped mountains and pine forests. While walking downtown two days ago, I couldn’t help but notice that there are folks among us who disrespect our community and their neighbors by allowing their pets to use the sidewalks as a restroom without making any attempt to clean it up and there are others that believe our sidewalks are there to serve as ash trays for their cigarette butts. Enjoy walking your dogs, but please show some respect and courtesy by cleaning up after yourself and your pets. We should not have to walk through our town looking down to the sidewalks for a clear path.

Mel Walters

Fairgrounds Road SID preposterous

Dear Editor,

I am in total agreement with Dale Burkhart (Letter in 2/24/10 Bitterroot Star regarding the Fairground Road SID.) As one of the unfortunate 225 homeowners who will be included in this preposterous SID, I cannot believe the City of Hamilton would even consider making us foot the bill for the over 7000 vehicles PER DAY that use Fairgrounds Road! In addition to the $4000 to $6000 SID each of us will have to pay, there may also be a mill levy attached to property taxes to cover school taxes, and we will be paying these, too. The homeowners who live along Fairgrounds Road are not wealthy people. They are working class and middle class families and retirees who cannot afford to pay this unfair expense that will benefit the entire county, not just our neighborhoods.

How about including all families with school age children who will attend the High School in this SID? And don't forget to include all Fair goers, Performance Center attendees, Head Start families, Animal Shelter patrons, church goers, and patrons and employees of all the other businesses and government agencies off Fairgrounds Road? Also include everyone who uses Fairgrounds Road to go the The Canyons to work out or to take a tour of the Daly Mansion. We all use this road, and we all need to share the expense. 

How can residents of this county and especially the homeowners living along Fairgrounds Road oppose this unfair monetary burden? Write to Keith Smith, Director of Public Works, 202 S. Third Street, Hamilton, or email him at and let him know you oppose this SID. Let the City of Hamilton and Ravalli County find other means of funding this major road that connects two major highways that are used by everyone in Ravalli County.

D. Alice Pierson

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