Letters to the Editor April 1 2010

Letters to the Editor


Dear Editor:

We want to strongly urge everyone to vote “yes” for the upcoming School District 2 mill levies.  Investing in our children’s education should be a top priority in our community.  Over the years, when we have recruited physicians to Billings, one of our strongest selling points has been the high quality of our school district.  Being able to assure doctors if they move to Billings their children will obtain a quality education helps us compete with large metropolitan areas for outstanding doctors.  Being able to attract superior doctors strengthens our medical community, which is a benefit to all of us.  Who among us wants mediocre medical care?  One way to ensure that Billings remains a provider of advanced medical care is to pass school mill levies.  Exceptional doctors can live anywhere in the country, and having quality educational opportunities for their children is top on their list of priorities; so, if having first-class medical care is important to you, please vote “yes” for the mill levies.  By doing so, you vote “yes” to improving the quality of life for everyone in our community.

Chris Dorr and John Dorr, MD 

2910 Palm Drive, Billings, MT



Dear Editor:

For the past 23 years, I have worked as an intermediary and consultant to assist business owners with the sale of their business and individuals with finding a business to buy. A good deal of the time, this involves relocation to a new community with a family. The number one question that comes up is “what are the schools like?” These are typically astute people who do their homework and check out the school system on the internet. They also have choices. This has not played out well for Billings schools because it appears that the residents do not support our schools with mill levies.

As the current mill levy came up, I thought back about my own family and decisions we made regarding our kid’s education. When my two sons were in first grade we lived in a resort town in Colorado and realized that the schools were not up to standard. We sold our business and moved back to Billings to educate our kids and have never been sorry. Although our sons have graduated and moved on, I am supporting our schools because of the past and the future.

John Halstvedt

3311 Horton Smith Lane

Billings, MT


An Open letter to Governor Schweitzer

(This letter is a rebuttal to a letter regarding the Two Rivers Detention Center in Hardin which appeared in other media in the state, but which have rejected running a response from Greg Smith the Executive Director of Two Rivers Authority. For more details go to www.tworiversauthority.org)

Governor Brian D.  Schweitzer

Office of the Governor

Montana State Capitol Building

P.O. Box 200801

Helena, Montana 59620-0801


Honorable Governor Schweitzer:

As Executive Director of Two Rivers Authority, I’m writing in response to the letter written by Mike Ferriter, Director of Montana’s Department of Corrections to Congressman Denny Rehberg dated May 12, 2009 and the story featured in the Guest Opinion in The Billings Gazette, and ran in several other Montana newspapers, dated May 19 2009 also written by Director Ferriter. Statements in italics are from the above noted letter.

“First, Two Rivers’ officials have repeatedly indicated an immediate need for a large number of inmates in order to open and operate their facility.  We do not have a large number of inmates to place there……Today, Montana’s corrections system is experiencing the slowest growth in its prison population in nearly 20 years, thanks in large part to a series of innovative and effective treatment programs and other services offering alternatives to prison.”  

Your continued quest to convince us, as well as the public that there is no incarceration need in the State is amazing, even in the face of your own consultant’s conclusion that a 1,800 bed, $371 million facility is needed in Billings.

“Secondly, the Hardin facility is a detention center – a jail – and not designed for long-term incarceration required of a prison”

The Two Rivers Facility is a state-of-the-art, secure, facility and will accommodate long-term incarceration, dependent upon the operational approach and requirements of the facility population. The Two Rivers Facility is constructed of the same materials and methods as a prison. This facility is designed and constructed to accommodate the complete range of minimum through maximum security inmates, based on the classification of the inmate and his location within the facility.

“The facility has no accommodations for industry programs and no outdoor recreation”

The Two Rivers facility is situated on approximately 40 acres.  The existing building, double-fenced area and perimeter road encompass roughly 13 of those 40 acres.  Recreation areas are currently designed within the walls of the existing building.  In the event industry programs and outdoor recreation are required by the inmate population, there is more than ample land available within the existing site to accommodate industry programs and outdoor recreation.

“The internationally recognized consultants who prepared the long-term corrections plan and are familiar with the Two Rivers design concluded extensive remodeling would be required to make the facility “minimally acceptable for a safe and secure correctional operation”

The design, materials and construction of the Two Rivers facility are well tested within the correctional community and are substantially more than acceptable for a safe and secure correctional operation.  Numerous facilities, such as city of San Luis, AZ has a 440 bed facility similar in design and construction that houses U.S. Marshal and San Diego County Inmates in medium custody. The IAH Public Facility Corporation, a nonprofit public corporation and instrumentality of Polk County, in Livingston, Texas has a 1054 bed medium security facility similar in design and construction. This facility was expanded to the current size it houses: immigration, U.S. Marshal, Federal Bureau of Prisons and Fort Bend and Polk county inmates.  Both facilities use the indirect model very successfully, and are equipped with secure close custody cells just like Hardin, that can be used when needed. These successful facilities as well as others are constructed and operated by the same team that built the Two Rivers Detention Facility and are currently being safely and securely operated throughout the United States.

In conclusion, we respectfully request that you, as a public official, stop your quest to have us fail and instead, engage in a program to help Two Rivers Authority and The City of Hardin be successful with this project. This is a state-of-art facility, with the possibility of being an asset to the City of Hardin and Big Horn County. At the same time it can be a great asset to our state. In a time of financial strains, we can help our state meet its growing need for more bed space. As outlined by your consultant, Carter/Goble/Lee at a substantial savings to the tax payer and our great state. Leaving more money for other needs… win/win situation.

Gregory E. Smith

Executive Director, Two Rivers Authority



Dear Editor - Zonta Club

Dear Editor

The 2009 Zonta Club of Billings Trivia Night Fundraiser was a great success due to the overwhelming support of local businesses and individuals. This year’s Trivia Night raised a record $12,000!

The Zonta Club of Billings is dedicated to the advancement of women through education, economic stability, legal and legislative equality, health and wellness. Funds raised by Trivia Night will be used to support local and international service projects; as well as travel funds. Thank you again, Billings, for your wonderful support of Trivia Night!

Kelly Christy, Fundraising Committee Chair

Nancy Rice, Fundraising Committee Co-Chair



Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor

Hold the hymn. The Wall Street Journal lauds Montana’s Governor Schweitzer for proposing a 5% budget cut. Sounds good.

His cuts, though, are glossy glazing on a cake, paper veneer on chipboard furniture. Schweitzer is no budget cutter. Since taking office in 2004, general fund spending has increased 49% at his urging. (2005: $1.321B, 2011: $1.969)

Few prisoners would cheer a sentence commutation of 49 to 44 years.

Praising Schweitzer for frugality is unapt.

Tom Burnett

Bozeman, Montana



Dear Mr. President: We'd Like To Hear You, Too

Dear President Obama,

I just heard that you're coming to Bozeman.  It's great that you're willing to get out of the D.C. echo chamber and come out to where us regular folks live.  And I think most Montanans will take pride in a Presidential visit regardless of political affiliations or policy differences.

It's been rumored that you might also hold a health care town hall while in Bozeman.  If so, may I make a suggestion?  Both political Parties have pretty much turned town halls into fawn-fests with packed audiences and planted questions that result in little more than preaching to the choir and sound bites for the 24 hour news cycle.  I'd like to offer you an alternative, and a way to reach the very people who I assume you'd like to convince that your health care reform proposals are worthwhile.  I mean, of course, those of us who do not think that your proposals would fix the current problems with health care, and that they would even create another whole set of problems that will have to be addressed down the road. 

As it turns out, our little nonpartisan think tank - the Montana Policy Institute - has been planning a Free Market Health Care Reform forum in Bozeman since June, and it happens to fall on the very day you'll be here.  We'll have national health care policy experts and statewide health and insurance industry leaders talking about what needs reforming, and how we can do it in a way that tackles what's wrong with health care without harming what's right with it.  And frankly, I think they'd like to hear from you as well.  We'd be more than happy to make room in our agenda if you want to drop by.

This is a serious forum with expert panels and policy discussions.  Participants are concerned that what's being proposed is nothing more than the nationalization of one-sixth of our economy and the removal of individual choice from one of the most important aspects of our lives.  You could tell us why we're wrong by addressing some pretty basic questions:

  -  You say that people can keep their own insurance if they like it, as the overwhelming majority of Americans do.  But why would people stick with their current plans if the public plan is cheaper, and what's the point of a public plan if it's not?  Isn't this really just a ruse to get people out of private insurance and into a government-run system?

  -  How will private insurers compete with a public option that gets taxpayer startup funding, doesn't have to show a profit, has the ability to literally print money, and can regulate competitors to increase their costs and decrease their profits?  Can you help us understand by providing another example of a taxpayer-owned enterprise that competes on a level playing field with private sector companies? 

  -  Nearly 85% of Americans are satisfied with their current coverage.  Do we really need to overhaul or nationalize one-sixth of our economy to address the 15% of Americans who are not satisfied?  Couldn't we just help the 15% and preserve everyone's ability to pick the coverage that's best for them by allowing more innovation in insurance products, or even by just providing a voucher for those who really can't afford insurance?

  -  The government already accounts for nearly 50% of all medical spending, as compared to about 25% in 1960.  Isn't it reasonable to argue that costs have gone up pretty much in proportion to the government's increased involvement already?

  -  Medicare waste, fraud and abuse are estimated to account for as much as 30% of its costs.  That was $700 billion dollars in 2007, or about $2,300 for every legal U.S. resident.  Can we expect that 30% figure to continue as government-run medical spending goes into trillions upon trillions of dollars?  If not, what will be the new incentive for bureaucrats whose salaries are tied to hours worked rather than customers satisfied to cut costs, innovate, and increase efficiency and customer satisfaction?

  -  The Congressional Budget Office says plans currently under consideration will increase the deficit by around $200-$300 billion over the first ten years and then really start picking up after that.  Who gets that bill, and how are they going to pay it?

This is just the beginning of what is a long list of our very serious concerns with the approach the Congress and you are taking in reforming our health care system. We'll have a convention center full of Montanans.   We may not agree with your plan, but we're prepared to listen.

Carl Graham


Montana Policy Institute

For more information on MPI's Health Care Forum visit http://www.mtpolicy.org  

Letter to the Editor - Cohn

Dear Editor,

I read with interest your recent article, “Billings Housing Market Update”.  I always enjoy getting more hard facts and educated viewpoints on the Billings housing market, especially since I am looking to buy there in the next year or two.

However I couldn’t help but notice a few problems with Mr. Sumner’s argument that Billings housing has returned almost 6% over the last 41 years, and that this return is better then what the stock market has provided over the same time period.   

Mr Sumner compared the price of the average house in 1968 with the price of the average house in 2009.  The problem with this is houses are a lot bigger these days then they were in the past.  If you’re going to compare the price of a house in 1968 with one now you need to take into account how much larger houses are today. 

Read more: Letter to the Editor - Cohn

Letter to the Editor – December 15 2009

Dear Editor,

I found your November 1 issue quite refreshing. The trade and or business in and outs of China and India. The innovative way we can clean up our business and progressive pollution. Then there is the, No, we are not going to get used to it, and stand idly by as business as usual or status quo continues.

As a person who has grown up questioning our government and business as to their responsibility the people, have you seen the light or is your ox being gored? I have seen the things our government and big business has done to the American family farmers. It is not so much the things they say they want to do FOR us, but TO us that makes me so skeptical or cynical.

Read more: Letter to the Editor – December 15 2009

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:

We thank the Alberta Bair Theater’s Wild West Soirée committee, the sponsors, donors, volunteers and dedicated ABT staff, as well as the nearly 8,000 attendees of the Western Street Fair, Cowboy Murder Mystery Dinner Theater and Western Street Dance, for making this first annual Wild West Soirée a resounding success.  In addition to enjoying a day and evening filled with friendship and family fun, the event helped to ensure a bright future of financial stability so the ABT may continue to bring the excitement of the performing arts to the Big Sky Country.

Since opening its doors in 1987, the ABT has become the performing arts heart of the northern plains and is the largest nonprofit performing arts presenter in Montana. The ABT’s professional venue attracts performing artists from around the globe, and serves as the musical home for the Billings Symphony, Rimrock Opera, as well as host to many other community performances. This historic theater is an important reason professionals choose to reside and work in Billings, and is the anchor for the arts in downtown Billings, for people of all ages to enjoy. 

For all of you who supported the ABT’s Wild West Soirée, we offer a standing ovation of appreciation and ask you to mark your calendars for June 26, 2010, when we look forward to seeing you at next year’s Wild West Soirée, bringing the flavor of the Old West, spiced with the ABT’s unique brand of panache, back to the streets of downtown Billings!

Shelley Van Atta & Chris Dorr

Wild West Soirée Co-Chairwomen



Dear Editor -Reno

Dear Editor:

Customer service is alive and well in Montana.  Recently, I had the need to relocate a cable television line in my home.  The Bresnan Communications service representative who took my work order was most helpful and provided me with the time/date that the technician would arrive.  He arrived on time with all the necessary parts and tools plus really knew his business.

Though the day was cold and I suggested he come back to complete the outside portion of the installation when it was warmer, he said that’s just part of the job and he enjoyed helping customers. 

Our television sets now work up to their capacity and I just wanted to share some positive news about a good area company.


James E. Reno, Member

Yellowstone County Commissioners



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