Huckleberry block prints to the nonprofit Zootown Arts Community Center for once again organizing local Festival of the Dead events, and to all those who participated in the festival procession last Thursday. The festival, now in its 25th year, has come under fire recently over concerns that it constitutes cultural appropriation of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. While those concerns are certainly justified, local festival organizers have actively tried to address them, working hard to deepen Missoula’s understanding of the festival’s traditional origins while expanding multicultural opportunities to discuss death and honor the deceased. It’s become an important way for Missoulians to express grief as individuals and as a community, and hopefully this year’s festival won’t be the last.
Locked-up chokecherries to the closure of Mineral County’s only jail due to a lack of sufficient staff. Relatively low pay and management issues were cited as the causes of the recent shortage of detention officers that left the jail four positions short of the six needed to fully staff the jail. Seven of the inmates were transferred to the state Department of Corrections, three were released and another five were moved to detention facilities in Missoula, Flathead or Sanders counties. Mineral County’s commissioners need to get busy immediately resolving the issues that led to this staffing shortage so they can re-open their jail. In the meantime, it will only cost the county more money to house inmates at other facilities.
Huckleberries to the Montana Supreme Court for voiding the troubled initiative known as Marsy’s Law. Constitutional Initiative 166 was approved by Montana voters last year, and while that vote sent a clear message about the need to do more to protect the rights of victims, it also resulted in a slew of poorly reasoned changes to the state Constitution. This week, the court determined that the initiative violated the separate-vote provision of the Constitution that requires voters to approve each change to the Constitution separately, rather than in a single measure. In the future, should the initiative’s supporters make another attempt at passing protections for victims via constitutional initiative, voters ought to have the ability to weigh each individual change thoroughly and on its own merits.
Unleaded chokecherries to the higher-than-recommended levels of lead found at some faucets and water fountains in Seeley-Swan High School recently. Two drinking fountains and a kitchen faucet tested at safe levels; however, the faucets in two bathrooms and the teacher’s lounge showed amounts of lead at levels that could be cause for concern. The school will now perform a complete study of all its drinking fountains and faucets, and until each one can be confirmed completely safe for daily human use, students and staff will drink bottled water.
Publicly accessible huckleberries to Lewis and Clark District Court Judge Mike Menahan for upholding Montana’s strong right-to-know laws. Menahan ordered the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education to turn over documents concerning the handling of a disciplinary case involving a University of Montana football player who was accused of rape and later acquitted in court. Investigative journalist and author Jon Krakauer sued the state of Montana for access to the documents, and this week, the court agreed with Krakauer, saying that the privacy rights of high-profile student athletes do not outweigh the public’s right to know how the state’s education officials handle serious disciplinary matters. The documents will be redacted by the commissioner’s office and then provided to the court prior to their release.