Handful of huckleberries

Huckleberry-flavored lattes to the Missoula Police Department for offering regular Coffee with a Cop events to give the public a chance to get to know their local law enforcement officers and ask questions in person. The department has held two such events so far; the second one, which took place yesterday morning in the lobby of the Florence Building, was hosted by the ALPS Corporation. With the go-ahead from Police Chief Mike Brady, the department is hoping to organize a Coffee with a Cop event every other month. As Sgt. Travis Welsh, the department's public information officer, explained, the coffee klatches are a relaxed, informal way for officers to “open up another line of communication with the public.” Kudos to the department for taking this proactive, accessible approach to community outreach.

A delayed delivery of chokecherries for the U.S. Postal Service workers who intentionally held back more than 2 billion mailed items in order to skew official records. An Office of Inspector General investigation recently showed that some postal employees, including workers in Montana, reported that mail was sometimes delayed in order to keep other shift workers busy. A limited two-day audit of eight mail distribution centers revealed that less than 370,000 delays were reported – although more than 572,000 mail items were delayed. Such delays cost the Postal Service an estimated $85 million. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, are both members of the Senate committee that oversees the Postal Service. This week, Tester fired off a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General calling for those responsible to be fired. Speedy huckleberries to Tester for his decisive response.

A welcome basket of huckleberries to the Welcome Week activities arranged by Soft Landing Missoula. The various events, which kicked off last Saturday and continue through this Sunday, include a traditional coffee ceremony hosted by Eritrean refugees, a theatrical production by Congolese refugees, a Culture Quiz sponsored by SALAM (Standing Alongside America's Muslims), art exhibits, film screenings, food partnerships and more. Soft Landing is a nonprofit set up to assist the International Rescue Committee in settling refugees in the local community; so far, more than 100 individuals have arrived in Missoula. This week’s array of activities hint at the cultural diversity they have brought with them, and some of the many ways in which Missoula is enriched by their presence.

Cyber chokecherries to the ridiculously named “Dark Overlord” for threatening schools in the Flathead Valley. The group, which is most likely based somewhere overseas, apparently hacked into school computer systems in northwest Montana, sent messages to individuals using the contact information they found and then demanded a ransom to prevent the release of information, a threat that prompted officials to close 30 schools for three days and cancel school-related events over the weekend. While the decision to temporarily shut down the schools may have seemed excessive in response to a foreign cyber threat, officials should be commended for keeping the safety of their students first in mind, especially given the weird, unprecedented and nebulous nature of the threats.

Huckleberries to Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and the Montana Department of Justice upon the release of a new report summarizing substance use and abuse in the state. A few months ago Fox’s office launched a new initiative called Aid Montana: Addressing the Impact of Drugs, designed to fight the growing problem of substance abuse. As Fox noted, the rise in drug abuse has a ripple effect on health systems, legal resources, social agencies, communities and families – and costs the state dearly both in terms of lives lost and dollars spent. The report released this week outlines the scope of Montana’s problem and pulls together the various efforts working to address it. The next step is for the Justice Department to draft a strategic plan and make recommendations to the 2019 Legislature.

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