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Montana government

Process of public participation is askew

Missoula is not the only Montana community where public officials have violated constitutional provisions designed to ensure public participation in government. In Florence, where local officials attempted to force an expensive, unnecessary sewer project upon local residents, we experienced the same sort of treatment.

In Florence, the public was excluded from the planning process as our local officials failed to follow Montana state laws. Public meetings were not properly noticed. Our officials denied us access to important public records. When we complained about the lack of access to documents, we were told we'd have to be more specific about documents we wanted to see. We now know that Missoula residents have encountered the same problems in trying to obtain public records. Montana state law is supposed to guarantee citizens the right to inspect public records during normal business hours.

The documents policies in Florence and Missoula appear to be similarly illegal as both policies deny citizens the right to inspect public records. Concerned Citizens Committee was forced to hire an attorney in order to obtain the paperwork we wanted. After reviewing the documents we were finally able to obtain, we noted false and misleading entries in the project engineering reports. We have not been able to obtain copies of all grant and loan applications for the Florence project. The cost ballooned from $5 million to over $7 million for no apparent reason.

We suspect we will discover false and misleading paperwork similar to that recently discovered in the case of the Mullan Road and Rattlesnake sewer projects. Large sums of money are involved in Montana wastewater projects. U.S. General Accounting Office report 03-628T describes "problems" in managing wastewater grant money. Without public involvement the problem could get worse.

Pat Coombs,

president, Concerned Citizens Committee,

P.O. Box 27, Florence

Gun book

Read about cribbage; it never killed anyone

The Missoulian recently gave Gary Marbut a front-page story announcing his new book about gun laws in Montana. Marbut was quoted as having trained well over 1,000 Montanans (mostly women) in the handling of firearms. I would like to pat Marbut on the back for a job well done, except for the fact that common sense indicates this approach to life and liberty are diametrically opposed to the facts. One gun death in three in this country is caused by marital strife. In the heat of an argument, a gun is pulled with tragic results. Training and arming our married couples, with the intent of saving their lives and property, will simply not do the job.

But, mainly, I would like the Missoulian to afford me the same privilege you gave Marbut in advertising his book, complete with price and mailing instructions. My book, "Play Winning Cribbage" (third edition), is available from Starr Studios, P.O. Box 5604, Missoula, MT 59806; $11.45 (postpaid). And, to date, not a single cribbage player has been murdered, or maimed for life using this book as a guide.

DeLynn Colvert,

P.O. Box 5604, Missoula

Cost of living

Corporate tax breaks don't benefit us

The last two administrations and legislatures have claimed credit for tax breaks and economic improvements. But actually with every tax break given to big, out-of-state businesses the average Montana citizen got a tax increase because our city, state and property taxes have more than doubled over the last 12 years. Also our health care cost, housing cost, utility cost have become outrageous. While these out-of-state corporations have received tax breaks they have put nothing into the Montana economy except a few low paying jobs, if that.

Our next generation's jobs will be health care, transportation, retail and information. Not because of environmental regulating, but because it is more cost-effective for the large businesses to get cheaper labor either out of country or by breaking up unions. The Medicare cuts and other cuts caused by their tax breaks have cost jobs by taking money away from our health care institutions and causing them a hardship so they cannot create the jobs needed in that area. Also our roads are a mess, as is our infrastructure - which also has cost us jobs in these areas. We have the last 12 years of leadership to thank for all these things. Thirteen years ago I moved here because it was inexpensive to live here, but our cost of living has grown at more than twice the rate of income.

We need new leadership. We need Brian Schweitzer and representatives and senators who will represent Montana people not out of state corporations.

Mary Borchard,

P.O. Box 116, Frenchtown

President Bush

Our leader should show compassion

When asked in a recent interview about the lack of stockpiles of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, our current president said it doesn't matter. The imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction to the United States was the reason the president gave when he launched his optional war on Iraq.

It may not matter to the good president that the weapons have not been found, but I suspect it mattered to the approximately 500 American soldiers who have been killed and the several thousand who have been maimed and crippled.

I wonder when the good president is going to honor the fallen soldiers by attending some of their funerals? Maybe that doesn't matter to him either.

Bruce May,

540 Country Way S., Kalispell

City Council

Charney's bribe worst part of meeting

Regarding the Missoulian's editorial of Jan. 15, "Timing isn't everything, but it's important," I was shocked that what you found most important to complain about in the Jan. 12 City Council meeting was that three councilpersons offered their own designs for the Briggs Street PNC that was voted down.

What about - for heaven's sake! - Myrt Charney's attempt to bribe Bob Lovegrove to change Lovegrove's vote for council president from Crowley to Childers (whom Charney wanted), or Charney would change his nay vote on the Briggs Street proposal to being for it instead?! Don't you find that sleazy and questionable?

And how do you think the city would have defended itself in a lawsuit based on that kind of voting for (or against) a subdivision?

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I know that for my part, I thought I'd suddenly been transported to a city council meeting in some really corrupt city somewhere else. (Or at least I hope such a corrupt city is somewhere else!)

William H. Clarke,

1330 Lower Lincoln Hills Drive, Missoula

Armed forces

Bigfork home to high-caliber soldiers

I barely knew 1st Lt. Matt Saltz, but I did recognize his face in the Missoulian article (Jan. 3). Our respective detachments competed against each other in the annual "Brown Jug" sporting events held between the Montana State Army and Air Force ROTC units. I did know several of cadet Saltz's AFROTC friends, though. I don't know the size of the graduating classes of Bigfork in the mid-90s, but it struck me then and even more so now, how a relatively small community could produce such a disproportionate number of cadets at one AFROTC detachment halfway across the state. Most of the Bigfork cadets were two years behind me, thus I had the opportunity to train, supervise and watch them perform. These Bigfork cadets formed the backbone of an excellent class of future Air Force officers.

From what I read in the Missoulian article, I am certain Lt. Saltz was just as high-caliber a person and an officer. To the Saltz family, I understand that no words will bring your son back, but I have no doubt he gave his life in an operation which has, and will, make the world a safer place. To the officers from Bigfork, who are no doubt scattered around the world, my best wishes for safe and successful careers. Finally, to the community of Bigfork, my admiration for turning out so many outstanding, patriotic young men willing to serve, protect and sacrifice for our great nation.

Ryan J. Thompson,

3 Greenbrier Court, Missoula

Every soldier deserves a thank you

I'm responding on a number of issues. The first is regarding a letter to the editor on Jan. 6 by Art Coles. It questions the reasoning and value for listing the dead from the war (Missoulian, Jan. 1). I'm not responding negatively to Coles' letter, just putting a different spin on it.

I read that list, every name. To put a name with the sacrifice gives everyone the opportunity to say thanks to those who gave all, however they deem. It also provides the realization to some that they are not just numbers, but are real people from in and around our communities. If you want a real humbling experience, log on to CNN's Web site where you can scroll through the faces of those soldiers, their hometowns, ages, etc. Being a soldier myself, I can say that those individuals don't want their names up in lights, but would maybe appreciate the remembrance of their name by other than just family and friends.

The other issue I'd like to address is the Jan. 6 Missoulian editorial and the term "weekend warrior." For anyone who has served any length of time in the National Guard or Reserves, the weekend warrior cliche can't be farther from the truth. I'm sure that is not how it was intended, but we are all soldiers 24/7, through our day-to-day professionalism, maintenance of physical fitness, or our continual readiness to serve.

On a closing note, I can't think of a better way to thank those that have served, are currently serving, or those who gave all, than by not taking the freedoms you have for granted.

Travis Eickman,

125 Log Cabin Lane, Stevensville

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