Uplifting huckleberries to those who helped set up a memorial encouraging passers-by to remind our military veterans that they are not alone this holiday season. The memorial, located at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Mullan Road, consists of 53 white crosses or Stars of David and 53 black tactical American flags in commemoration of the 53 Montana veterans who took their own lives in 2016. In Missoula County, 18 veterans died by suicide during the 26-month period from Jan. 1, 2014 to March 1, 2016, according to the 2017 Montana Strategic Suicide Prevention Plan. In fact, more veterans died by suicide in Missoula than any other county in Montana last year.
The holidays can be an especially hard time for those dealing with depression or struggling with suicidal thoughts. Kudos to clinical suicidologist and Rural Institute for Veterans Education and Research (RIVER) Executive Director Ed Lesofski and students at the institute for going the extra mile to ensure local veterans get the support they deserve.
A delivery of chokecherries, cancelled and then delivered again – no, make that cancelled again – to the University of Montana administrators responsible for sending out an email to more than two dozen lecturers last Friday informing them that their annual contracts would be terminated, only to rescind the notice a few hours later. The message marked the second time this year the university has sent termination notices to lecturers and then rescinded them due to faculty union concerns about possible collective bargaining agreement violations. The faculty union is now asking that the university’s interim administrators refrain from taking any additional actions until incoming President Seth Bodnar takes over next month.
Precisely calculated huckleberries to state’s Legislative Fiscal Division and the members of the Montana Legislature showing an interest in improving the way the state estimates tax revenues. This week, the division told the Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee that it is considering going from a year-to-date system to a monthly model that could result in better revenue predictions. The committee acknowledged that Montana’s overall tax structure needs a thorough review and discussed communicating with the Legislative Finance Committee on a potential tax study. Hopefully even more legislators will explore ways of improving the state’s fiscal analysis abilities before the next regular session of the Legislature convenes in 2019.
Smooshed chokecherries to the untenable situation at the Lake County jail, which was deemed inadequate 10 years ago and again this past week. A team from the National Institute of Corrections assessed the facility at the invitation of Lake County Sheriff Don Bell, and concluded that the county desperately needs a new jail. The detention center, constructed in 1932, can hold less than 50 inmates at a time, leaving more than 800 people on a waiting list to serve their sentences and another 1,600 with felony arrest warrants that deputies can’t serve because they have nowhere to put the people they would arrest. Further, the jail poses safety risks that urgently need to be addressed. County commissioners are understandably reluctant to ask residents to pay for a new detention center; however, public safety demands that they show some real leadership and begin working on a plan for a new jail right away.
A second round of huckleberries to Run Wild Missoula on the occasion of the Missoula Marathon being named the best marathon in the nation for a second time. Back in 2009, when the Missoula Marathon was only a couple of years old, Runner’s World magazine declared it the No. 1 race in the country. This week, the online marathon rating and review site BibRave also ranked the Missoula Marathon No. 1 on its list of the top 100 races — even ahead of such internationally known competitions as the Boston Marathon, which ranked third.
“The Missoula Marathon is a perfect blend of rural charm with big-city race management,” BibRave explains. “Community was consistently at the core of what runners love about the Missoula Marathon. Local runners wrote in about how this event has changed their community, inspiring thousands to become active and making all runners feel like champions.” So help yourself to a handful of huckleberries — or two — for supporting your local marathon, Missoula.