Handful of huckleberries
Saaster

Congratulatory huckleberries to the winners of the Nov. 7 municipal elections, and extra helpings of consolatory huckleberries to those whose campaigns were unsuccessful. It’s not easy to run for election, especially in a local contest where candidates often have personal ties with the people whose votes they are trying to earn. That is, however, exactly what makes our local government races so important: the people we elect to these positions live with the results of their daily decisions, hear directly from their neighbors, and offer Missoulians their strongest opportunity to influence government. Judging by the number of votes collected by nearly every candidate and the relatively close margins in some contested races, the majority of candidates this year ran tough, serious campaigns that presented voters with clear options. They all deserve a round of applause.

A smattering of chokecherries to Missoula’s low voter turnout. Local candidates did their part to try to get out the vote, but turnout for the mail ballot election was a dismal 43 percent. This was about on par with previous municipal elections, meaning that less than half of the 51,000 registered voters who could have voted in this week’s election actually bothered to exercise their right to do so. That’s an especially poor showing given the convenience of mail balloting – and in comparison to places like Yellowstone County, for example, where voter turnout topped 53 percent. Missoula can and should do better.

Two handfuls of huckleberries to Missoula’s City-County Relationship Violence Services: one handful for the important work they do with survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and another for earning a $450,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice. The three-year grant, announced this week, will allow RVS to continue its critical partnerships with the First Step Resource Center at St. Patrick Hospital, the Missoula Police Department and the YWCA on education, prevention and direct support for local victims of violence. According to the latest annual report from the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, more than 60 percent of the 175 violent crime cases processed through that office last year were felonies committed against a child, family member or domestic partner.

Chokecherry ashes to the fire that burned down the last lumber mill in Libby this past Sunday. The fire was reported in the early afternoon and gave 24 volunteer firefighters a battle for some 18 hours, but ultimately destroyed two main buildings. It was a heavy blow for SK Fingerjoint Inc. and its employees, and the loss of the last vestige of a once-thriving timber economy is being mourned throughout the entire Libby community.

Huckleberry steak sauce to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, for paving the way for a $300 million deal between Chinese buyers and Montana ranchers. Daines arranged a meeting with Chinese officials in early September, and by mid-October Chinese eCommerce company JD.com had signed a deal with the Montana Stockgrowers Association for Montana ranchers to supply $200 million worth of beef; another $100 million will go to fund the construction of a new slaughterhouse, with a groundbreaking expected next spring once a location is determined. The agreement, announced this week, will last through 2020 and hopefully lead to even more international demand for Montana-sourced products.

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