A generous surplus of huckleberries to the Blackfeet Tribe for donating about 1,000 extra COVID-19 vaccines to our northern neighbors in Alberta, Canada. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of First Nations members drove for hours to the border in hopes of receiving one of the doses. On the Blackfeet Reservation, an impressive 95% of eligible residents have been fully immunized. In the United States overall, the rate is about 30% of adults. In Canada, only about 3% of those eligible have been fully immunized.
Fully employed chokecherries to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s decision to end Montana’s participation in a federal unemployment program meant to help bridge the financial gaps for those who lost their job due to pandemic-related factors. At the same time, he announced a return-to-work bonus program that will use federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide one-time payments of $1,200 to individuals who “complete at least four paid weeks of work.” The bonus program may indeed be a good incentive for those on the fence about returning to work. It could help cover child care costs, for instance, or make up for uncertain hours as businesses slowly return to full services. However, taking away the federal support shorts a lot of Montanans who, through no fault of their own, are struggling to find a job that matches their skills and pays enough to support a family.
A continuation of huckleberries to the continuation of a major grant for the Missoula County Community Justice Department. The $700,000 boost from the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge extends funding from the original grant in 2018, and will be used to find ways to help reduce incarceration in the local jail. Missoula County launched several initiatives already to achieve that goal, and is also looking at ways to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system.
Booming huckleberries to new construction in Missoula in 2020, a time when many expected a slowdown in new developments due to coronavirus restrictions. Instead, city workers stayed plenty busy issuing a total 7,176 building permits, 554 of which were for residential housing. That’s an increase from 2019 and 2018, when 468 and 463 residential units were permitted, respectively. The total market value was also higher last year, hitting $243 million in 2020 — which was $14 million more than in 2019. However, the “sheer pace of development activity in Missoula has created ongoing capacity issues” in the Community Planning, Development and Innovation office, according to its director. Those issues will have to be resolved if Missoula hopes to better meet the still-rising demand for housing this year.
Congratulatory and socially distanced huckleberries to the graduates who set a shining example of responsible behavior at the University of Montana’s commencement ceremonies last Saturday. Graduates from both 2020 and 2021 were included this year, as last year’s events could not be held in person due to pandemic restrictions. Two commencement events were held over the course of the day in Washington-Grizzly Stadium, providing plenty of space for up to 725 graduates at a time, each of whom could invite up to eight friends and family members. The past school year has been a hard year for many students, and they deserve hearty congratulations for their accomplishments — and for donning face masks during the ceremonies to help protect their fellow graduates and loved ones.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Executive Editor Jim Van Nostrand and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.