Proactive huckleberries to Rich and Julie Janssen, who are working to build a home for adults with autism, and responsive huckleberries to the anonymous donor who gave $150,000 to their cause after reading about it in the Missoulian on June 17. The Janssens, who have a 23-year-old son with severe autism and other medical issues, are working on raising roughly $500,000 to buy property and renovate or build an appropriate facility, and are looking at a variety of sources to finance the project. Their laudable efforts got a significant push from the anonymous donation made through the Montana Community Foundation, which also vetted the Janssens’ 501(c)(3) nonprofit, called the Proactive Living Facility.
Coal-dusted chokecherries to the dismaying report that shows a statewide economic impact of more than $5 billion over a 15-year period if the Colstrip Electric Generating Station shuts down by 2028. Two of the plant’s four units are expected to close in 2022. The report, conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana and paid for by the Montana Chamber of Commerce, estimates that a complete closure would lead to the loss of 3,300 jobs in the state. Some politicians immediately seized on these numbers as justification for their support for policies that would help prop up the coal industry, but rather than fight the unavoidable environmental and economic forces behind coal’s decline, it seems far wiser for Montana to do what it can mitigate this impact by helping coal workers retrain for jobs in other industries and encouraging energy diversification.
A slightly larger helping of huckleberries than last year to Montana’s slightly improved rankings in the latest Kids Count study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Although the state continues to hold one of the worst rankings in the nation for health, at 46th place, it managed to move up one place from last year, and did so by logging a lower number of child deaths. At the same time, Montana saw a 3 percent decrease in the percent of children living in poverty from 2015 to 2016, and has managed to improve its ranking for economic well-being from 27th place in 2010 to 18th in 2016. Overall, the state comes in 23rd place – better than more than half the states in the nation – and is slowly but steadily making progress toward further improvement.
Unaccounted chokecherries to Crow tribal leaders who are unable to explain how nearly $14.5 million in transportation funding was spent over a period of more than four years. An audit by the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General focused on a federal contract to build and repair highways, bridges and other facilities on the reservation in southeastern Montana; the tribe was unable provide receipts for payments made between Oct. 1, 2012 and March 31, 2017. This is the second time in two years the tribe has run into financial trouble with the federal government. In 2016 it had to return more than $2 million, again in transportation funding, after an audit determined the grant money was wrongly diverted into the tribe’s general fund.
Huckleberry antibiotics to the Division of Biological Sciences at the University of Montana and local startup Inimmune for landing a $5.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant will aid the research team, which includes members from Stanford and Ohio State universities, to work on a vaccine against bacterial infections, and in particular, a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as P. aeruginosa.