A full plate of huckleberries to Matt Powers for shutting down the infamous Testicle Festival after 35 years of serving up thousands of Rocky Mountain oysters. Many devoted participants will undoubtedly remember the annual event in Clinton fondly; however, it was anticipated with dread by local emergency responders and will remain a source of sorrow for the families of those killed by drunken drivers. Just last year, two people were killed and seven other injured in a vehicular accident following the festival. To his credit, Powers, who owns the Rock Creek Lodge that hosted the festival, took pains to increase security and improve safety, even providing a bus shuttle service to cut down on drunken driving. Unfortunately, the nudity, rowdiness and general lack of restraint for which the festival was known far and wide continued even as attendance fell, and Powers recognized that it was time to declare the party over.
Chokecherry bandages to the painful Medicaid cuts that are not only costing services, but also costing jobs at local hospitals throughout the state. In Missoula, Community Medical Center confirmed last week that 16 positions would be eliminated due to reductions in Medicaid reimbursement rates. Community CEO Dr. Dean French said the facility saw more than $6 million in payment reductions. Similarly, Bozeman Health officials reported that they expected to weather a decrease of $2.6 million in revenue this year.
Proactive huckleberries to the University of Montana and the Big Sky Conference Student-Athlete Advisory Committee for bringing a rape prevention advocate from Oregon to the Missoula campus to share her story with student athletes. UM Athletics Director Kent Haslam and senior associate athletic director Jean Gee first heard Brenda Tracy talk at a conference last year about how college athletics can help stop sexual violence; on Monday, Tracy spent the entire day meeting with UM coaches and leadership, participating in response team luncheons and speaking to about 280 student athletes. She was only the latest visitor invited by the Athletics Department to discuss important issues surrounding sexual assault; plans to bring future presenters to UM are already in the works.
Bipartisan chokecherries to Senate Minority Leader Jon Sesso and House Minority Leader Jenny Eck for advising their fellow Democrats to boycott a committee that is looking into confidential settlements between the State of Montana and state employees. While their concerns about the apparent political bent of the committee — which has six Republican members and only four Democratic members, and which was formed without input from the Legislative Council and without first contacting the Democratic members to let them know they had been named as members — are certainly legitimate, so are the concerns about the sharp increase in the amount of state settlements in recent years and their overly secretive nature. Rather than relinquish their role in the committee, the Democratic members should be intensely involved and prepared to raise their voices any time their Republican counterparts stray from their mission for political purposes.