Billings Gazette, Nov. 1, on the death of Montana's first female governor:
A tall, fit, silver-haired woman who sported a turtle pin and carried a license-plate purse, Judy Martz was the governor that Montanans would have been pleased to have as a next-door neighbour, too.
She died Monday in Butte after three years of battling pancreatic cancer. Her death at age 74 prompted tributes from Montana's present governor and other top elected officials. They praised her as a trailblazer, Olympic speed skater, successful businesswoman, a faithful, persistent public servant with great love for Montana. Our first female governor and lieutenant governor was all that and more.
She knew from a young age the consequences of serious chronic illness, having donated a kidney to a sister years before she was elected lieutenant governor in Marc Racicot's second term as governor.
A Republican from the Democratic stronghold of Butte, Martz was governor when the Sept. 11 attacks shook the nation and while the subsequent recession took its toll on state revenues In 2003, Montana had its most expensive wildfire year to date, and it burned up the state's fire fund.
An unexpected windfall of $50 million in federal funds allowed Martz to replenish the biennial fire fund with $38.8 million, and to reverse some of the budget cuts made by through the Legislature earlier in 2003. Martz directed windfall dollars to education, low-income energy bill assistance, senior programs and legal representation for the state in the NorthWestern Energy bankruptcy case.
A tragic DUI crash cost Martz one of her key advisers early in her administration. But several of her department directors served with admirable distinction, notably replacing an unworkable revenue computer system and steering the Department of Public Health and Human Services through a fiscally challenging four years.
The income tax reform enacted during her administration was either a great accomplishment because Montana no longer had the highest marginal personal income tax rate, or a giveaway to the highest income taxpayers, depending on one's point of view.
In a Christmas Eve 2003 guest opinion published in The Billings Gazette, Martz reflected on Montana's blessings and challenges as she joyfully awaited the birth of her first grandchild:
"Some of you may have heard me say from time to time, 'It's fun to go shopping when you have money to spend, but not so much fun otherwise.' We have tried hard this year to bring some joy to those less fortunate, and I can only hope that as we work hard to improve our economy that more of our neighbours will find better opportunities for themselves and their families," she wrote, adding encouragement for Montanans to support local charities.
In closing, Martz wrote: "Our rural heritage and our sense of community make us who we are — resilient, resourceful and determined people. We are in this together — and as we start a new year I know in my heart that only together shall we succeed."
Whether or not Montanans agreed with her politics or her decisions in office, her sentiments were sincere.
We offer our condolences to the Martz family. Judy Martz secured a special place in our state's history.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Oct. 29, on proposed fees for national parks:
A proposal to more than double the entrance fee to Yellowstone National Park during the height of the tourist season is running into stiff resistance. And that's not surprising — especially given the size of the increase.
The entrance fee for a vehicle now is $30 and is good for seven days within the park. The proposal is to increase that fee to $70 with similar increases proposed for tour buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians entering the park. Similar increases are proposed for 17 national parks with the proceeds to be used to pay for a backlog of maintenance work within the park.
That's a big jump, and federal officials should lower it. But there is justification for raising entrance fees — if all the additional revenue stays within the park where it is collected. As it stands, only 80 per cent of fees collected remain within the park with the rest goes into the federal general fund so members of Congress can spend it on their pet projects. Along with any fee increase, Congress should return all revenue collected in the parks to the parks' budgets.
Even if increased, park entrance fees are a bargain by any measure. The entry fee for a vehicle with a family aboard is a small fraction of what that same family would pay to enter a major theme park like Disneyland. And a trip to Yellowstone far more educational and cultural benefits.
Certainly, the federal government and the taxpayers who fund it have some obligation to pay for a national park system we can all access. But the fact is only a minority of Americans will ever set foot inside Yellowstone in their lifetime. Others — including most of us who live in Southwest Montana — will visit the park many times. It makes sense that park visitors, especially frequent park visitors, shoulder more of the costs of maintaining the parks.
Congress is fond of neglecting the parks or cutting their budgets to compensate for other spending. And that has led to a history of deferred maintains on roads and in campgrounds. One need only take a drive through Yellowstone to see some of the infrastructure deterioration that has resulted from deferred maintenance.
Yes, raise entry fees, but do so modestly. And then return the resulting revenue — along with all fees collected in the parks — back to the parks so the backlog of maintenance work can be addressed.
Missoulian, Oct. 25, on University of Montana declining to host a controversial opinion columnist:
The First Amendment is the foundation of American journalism. It's no coincidence that public ignorance of the importance of this amendment — what is it and what it protects — is increasing at the same time as attacks against journalism.
As the nation's foremost institutions of higher learning, America's public universities and colleges should be at the forefront of teaching their students about the irreplaceable role of free speech in the functioning of our country. Schools of journalism should be leading the charge.
The School of Journalism at the University of Montana fell short of its responsibilities recently when it declined to host a controversial opinion columnist to deliver the next Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture in 2018. It was a missed opportunity to practice, not merely parrot, the principal tenets of journalism.
Journalism School Dean Larry Abramson explained that his decision was based on the fact that the invited lecturer, Mike Adams, does not have a background in journalism and has made offensive comments on a frequent basis.
True, Adams isn't a journalist, but he clearly has something to teach journalism students about the importance of free speech.
Some of his columns and statements are indeed offensive, and likely to provoke strong reactions. Indeed, he was the subject of an unsuccessful petition to terminate his employment as a professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, a petition based on inflammatory comments regarding a gay Muslim student. Adams has also made favourite targets of LGBT people, as well as liberals and feminists, in his columns.
Adams teaches sociology and criminology at UNC-W and writes columns for the conservative-leaning Townhall.com, but of most importance to journalism students is the First Amendment battle he won in 2014. He successfully argued that he exceeded the requirements for promotion but was denied based on the free expression of his personal views.
This winning argument was what persuaded Maria Cole, whose late husband was the Wall Street Journal reporter and Journalism School graduate Jeff Cole, to choose Adams to deliver the 10th annual Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture. Maria Cole has been a financial supporter for the Journalism School for many years, and the annual lecture is free and open to the public. Earlier this year, it brought aviation reporter Susan Carey of The Wall Street Journal to campus.
The next lecture is scheduled for Feb. 13, 2018, but with the UM School of Journalism's support, Cole is searching for a new venue. She has already entered into a contract with Adams.
Presumably, it is not too late for Dean Abramson to change his mind and extend an invitation on behalf of the Journalism School, providing a future class of journalists the chance to hear, discuss and challenge Adams' perspectives. It would doubtless prove a rich experience and good learning opportunity.
These kinds of opportunities are needed now more than ever, with polls showing support for First Amendment rights slipping among the public. The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania published the results of a recent survey that showed only about half of respondents could even name freedom of speech among the five rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Another 37 per cent couldn't name even one First Amendment right.
Perhaps this attitude is also why a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center concluded that 40 per cent of millennials agree that the government should stop people from making comments that may be construed as "offensive to minority groups."
Meanwhile, an online survey of 1,500 undergraduates by a Brookings senior fellow found that 44 per cent of respondents think "hate speech" is not protected by the First Amendment. More than 60 per cent think that on-campus groups are legally required to provide speakers with opposing viewpoints. And 19 per cent think it's OK to use violence to protest certain speakers.
The University of Montana has welcomed controversial speakers in the past and hopefully will continue to do so. Ideally, Abramson's concerns with Cole's selection of Adams would have led to a constructive discussion about what sort of journalism background would be ideal for future lecturers, and how best to respond when such speakers provoke a strong reaction among the student body.
Such a response should always include support for more free speech. The best way to fight bad ideas is with good ideas. The best way to overcome bad information is to share good information. And the best way to win back public trust in journalism is to seize every opportunity to earn that trust.