Education

All schools at risk of closure

My campaign for Missoula City Council recently distributed a political flyer regarding neighborhood schools and school board elections. On behalf of my campaign, I apologize for misleading anyone into believing that Lowell School is closed, currently considered for closure or proposed for closure. I also apologize for our error in not conferring with the other campaigns involved.

The material was intended to convey the message that all of Missoula's neighborhood schools - even ones not currently proposed for closure - are at risk of closure. Several neighborhood schools have closed in the recent past, in part because the school administration holds to a philosophy of consolidation. This philosophy, combined with declining enrollments and budgetary restrictions, has informed decisions to close schools.

I disagree profoundly with the administration's belief that declining enrollments point to the need for school closures. Declining numbers of school-age children stem from many factors, including a lack of affordable housing, a lack of living-wage jobs, and a lack of state-level support for higher education. When people cannot educate themselves in our university system to compete for jobs that pay well, they cannot afford the cost of living and raising families here.

Does that mean we should burden our communities further by closing more neighborhood schools? Absolutely not. We need to keep our neighborhood schools open, as classrooms and as community centers. We need strong leadership to keep neighborhood schools open and to address Missoula's problems holistically.

In retrospect, a question mark at the end of the word "closed" on the flyer's photograph would have clarified my intent: to suggest that Lowell is not safe from future consideration for closure. It would be a sad day in our community if Missoula's remaining elementary school north of the river were to close its doors. I want those doors to be open well into the next century.

Allison Handler,

710 Toole Ave., Missoula

Capital punishment

No justification for killing

I can think of no murderer who has earned the death penalty more than Timothy McVeigh, the man who planted a bomb aimed at the federal government and federal employees. Though he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in disgusting the country with his savagery, I cannot support his execution.

Capital punishment is a barbarous act that demeans us as a civilized nation. Our system of justice loses the moral high ground by resorting to the ultimate violence to impose its will. There is no other developed country that executes its citizens. Other countries with no capital punishment violate their own extradition treaties with this country because of our adherence to the death penalty. The United States is often cited by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations for committing the most heinous punishment.

In Timothy McVeigh's case, there was never any denial of guilt. He had adequate representation. He had full access to the judicial system. Most of those executed do not receive quality legal support. Very often the public defenders are ill-prepared for capital cases. Our society fails to provide basic fairness in its rush to execute. We should be ashamed of ourselves.

I find it ironic that President Bush, who as governor of Texas executed more people in his short term than any governor ever, will preside over the first federal execution since 1963.

Another aspect of this execution that concerns me is the potential for martyrdom. A man rotting in prison for the rest of his life does not have the emotional edge for the fringe right-wing zealots that an execution has. McVeigh chose April 19 because of Waco and Ruby Ridge. Who knows what mayhem some deranged anti-government wacko might design on the anniversary of McVeigh's execution.

Ian Root,

149 Autobahn Drive, Stevensville

Milltown Dam

The facts are in: Remove it

It's hard to believe the amount of misinformation that ARCO apologists are spreading about Missoula County's proposed Two Rivers Park. They want us to believe that removing Milltown Dam is an idea the county cooked up in a back room last month. That's nonsense. Dam and sediment removal were not the county's idea. The Environmental Protection Agency and ARCO have been studying it for years, mainly because it's the only way to permanently clean up the toxic mining wastes in the reservoir.

The county proposed the Two Rivers Park only after ARCO, which doesn't want to pay the cleanup bill, began claiming that dam and sediment removal would turn the Milltown area into an ugly moonscape. The county has proved ARCO wrong.

It's also hard to believe that some people are claiming that, after 18 years of analysis, Milltown still hasn't been studied enough. Get real! We know where the sediments could be put. EPA and ARCO are completing a 600-page feasibility study that identifies a number of potential sites. Most of these are accessible by slurry pipeline or railroad, eliminating the need for that killer fleet of trucks ARCO loves to crow about. And even the Army Corps of Engineers (not known for being a hotbed of tree-huggers) says that removing the sediments is environmentally and technically feasible.

In other words, the studies are in, and they're not saying what ARCO wants to hear. They tell us that Milltown can indeed be cleaned up - it's only a matter of money. Could this be why ARCO is attacking the county? You decide.

Erica R. Brown,

540 E. Pine St., Missoula

President Bush

U.S. may suffer Texas' fate

Remember during the presidential campaign last year when George W. Bush kept telling us that he wanted to do for the United States what he had done for Texas as governor? Well, so far I would say he has been faithful in trying to keep that promise. So now I believe it is time to take a look at what he really did for Texas as governor.

In 1997-99 Bush pushed through large property tax cuts, mainly to oil companies and other large businesses. This helped his planned candidacy for president, but has left Texas facing a potential $700 million shortfall in funds to operate state government. His last tax cut in 1999 was for $1.8 billion and has really put the state in a financial bind. Last month the Texas Senate passed a budget which includes $6 billion of unfunded items. These included making it easier for children to enroll in Medicaid, helping school districts with building bonds, finally getting mandatory kindergarten statewide and $1 billion of highway construction that has to be postponed. They are also unable to cover teachers' health insurance or a wage increase for state employees. Texas is also under court order to provide Medicaid for poor children.

When Bush ran for governor, he promised to raise the state share of school funding to 60 percent. It is now 44 percent. Bush also pushed charter school legislation through the legislature, which has turned out to be a disaster. Of the 192 charter schools, 163 have severe problems and one-fourth are rated unacceptable. In 1999 only 59 percent of the charter school students passed the Texas Academic Skills tests compared with 78.4 percent statewide. A state senator has proposed rolling back the 1999 property tax cut and Republican Sen. Chris Harris proposed a constitutional amendment to roll back the 1997 tax cut. The Texas Legislature is desperately trying to reverse the damage done by Gov. George Bush. If President Bush is successful with his current tax package, the nation will probably find itself in the same fix as Texas.

Doug Campbell,

3600 American Way, No. 217, Missoula

Fire season

Bureaucracy squanders money

In response to Emma Brown's commentary in the May 6 Missoulian, titled "Burned up" - you got that right! As I write, the government's blaze-battling machinery is spending millions just getting ready for this year's fires. Thousands and thousands of tax dollars are being spent by government people just standing around talking about it. I thought she described the present day firefighting quite well.

Let me tell you how we used to do it in the old days when the state was in charge of things. I helped fight the Wales Creek and Gold Creek fires; here is how it was done. The state officials came up on our logging job and made a deal with the man in charge to hire his bulldozers and operators. They also hired the sawyers and their chainsaws. The whole agreement was made in about five minutes. Two hours later we were battling the blaze. Occasionally someone brought us something to eat and sometimes they didn't. It was never too dry, too hot or too "something" to halt our efforts; we stayed right on the fire line until the fire was out. Then we loaded up our equipment and went back to our logging jobs.

You are right. The seasoned operator and his bulldozer have no particular value; not when you can get a hot shot crew out of New Mexico for around $40 million. Or what about the bunch of guys up in Canada - they all have hard hats. And I heard that one even has his own shovel; they are a real bargain at $35 million.

Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for everyone who risks his neck fighting the fires. What bothers me is the way we all stand around with our heads stuck in the sand. Will our tax dollars go up in smoke this year?

Larry Dillree,

P.O. Box 91, Ovando

Gov. Judy Martz

Three cheers for nothing

Bravo, Judy Martz. You are to be commended for suing Uncle Sam over his roadless plan. How dare he do what he wants with his own land. Montana is entitled to easements across anyone's land. Furthermore, Uncle Sam should be compelled to build roads along our easements for us. How else can industry get at the resources they want to cut, mine, or pump? Hit him hard Judy - industry is on your side.

I also congratulate you and the Republican leadership in the Montana Legislature for solving our energy crisis. Our boys in the Legislature made sure Montana Power Co. and PPL will get real healthy profits from all their power sales. Their stockholders on the East and West coasts need those dividends. So what if the average Montana Power household's power bill goes up by 50 to 100 percent or more? Most of our boys in the Legislature, such as Fred Thomas, aren't serviced by Montana Power anyway. Ordinary folks should pay extra so that the state can offer really cheap power to other industrial users.

Judy, your fans in California really appreciate your efforts to find more power for them by building their plants in Montana. Those plants would have been unsightly in California. We are sure glad even a garbage dump looks good to you. Keep up the good work!

Bill Derrick,

4240 Duncan Drive, Missoula

Letters policy: The Missoulian welcomes and encourages letters to the editor on topics of general interest. Letters should be about 300 words or fewer. The Missoulian reserves the right to reject or edit letters for content and length. The Missoulian prints as many letters as possible. Letters must contain the writer's name, address and telephone number (phone numbers are for verification, not publication).

Mail to: Missoulian Letters, P.O. Box 8029, Missoula, MT 59807. Fax: 406-523-5294. E-mail: opinion@missoulian.com.

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