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Tobacco companies finally pay up
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Missoulian editorial

Tobacco companies finally pay up

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Twenty-two years’ worth of accumulated huckleberries to Montana’s recent settlement with major tobacco companies that will allow the state to recover more than $49 million in overdue payments. In fact, according to Attorney General Tim Fox, after adding up interest and penalties, the settlement value tops $100 million. It is money the tobacco companies should have been paying since 1998, and now will be put to good use funding smoking prevention efforts and broader public health programs. Additionally, the new settlement blocks the companies from marketing tobacco products to children and bars them from challenging their annual payments to Montana for the next 10 years. And it could help pave the way for other states who have not yet reached settlements.

Frosted chokecherries to the apparent electrical malfunction that forced Missoula Parks and Recreation to close the pedestrian bridge over South Reserve Street temporarily after heavy snow and cold temperatures left the deck too slippery to use. In fact, the bridge’s de-icing system hasn’t worked properly since it first opened in 2017, a massive disappointment given the initial $4.2 million cost. In September, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency put in a request for an additional $30,150 to fund the bridge fixes and further improvements, and noted that the agency is asking the contractor to reimburse about half that amount, $15,250.

A suitcase full of huckleberries for Chris Odlin to take with him to Arizona when he and his family move there at the end of the schoolyear. Odlin is retiring this month as a Missoula Police captain after 30 years in law enforcement, not including the time he spent growing up in a family with roots in law enforcement. Many of our local officers will long remember Odlin as the person who helped recruit and train them — and untold numbers of families will forever be grateful for Odlin’s work helping to close cold cases, even some as old as 50 years.

A securely stored bin of chokecherries to the relatively high number of bears sighted on the University of Montana campus this fall. According to the UM Police Department, there were at least seven reports of bears on campus over the span on one month, usually near food sources and after dark. Experts seemed to think the unwelcome wildlife were moving in from neighborhoods that had tightened their access to fruit trees, bird feeders and garbage — all common bear attractants. As Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks worked to trap and relocate the black bears from campus, UM alerted students and faculty and cautioned them to be extra careful to avoid an encounter. Further, UM and FWP are going to be working together on a bear management plan in case the bears decide to revisit campus in the spring.

Huckleberry reinforcements to the new statewide public health measures announced this week by Governor Bullock as the number of COVID-19 cases in Montana continues to soar. In fact, Montana ranked third worst in the nation — behind only North Dakota and South Dakota — for its number of coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents. The new restrictions limit bars, restaurants and casinos to 50% capacity and require them to close by 10 p.m. Public gatherings are limited to no more than 25 individuals, and face coverings are required in all counties, regardless of their case numbers. Now, it’s up to Montanans to embrace these measures and work together to reverse the rising caseload of coronavirus in our state.

This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Regional Editor David McCumber and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen. 

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