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Sidney Herald
Sidney , Montana
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June 9, 2019     Sidney Herald
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June 9, 2019
 

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SIDNEY HERALD, SUNDAYJUNE 9. 20I9 A5 OPINION Svihnrg 112mm SERVING THE MONDAK REGION SINCE 1908 Kelly Miller Publisher Redistricting Montana: Pivot 0m past. to filture process SUBMITTED BY DAN STUSEK AND JEFF ESSMANN Montana Supreme Court held a meeting on Tuesday, May 28, to select the chairman of the Districting Commission. This decision will have a decade—long effect on the Montana legislature and US. Congress. For the first time in 30 years Montana may gain a second congressional seat to represent us in DC After a history of partisan squabbling a n d p o 1 it i c a l gamesmanship led to much squandering of legislative time, the 1972 Constitutional Convention adopted. a D [simieting Commission made of five public members. Partisan legislative leadership select two Democrats and two Republicans. These four members in turn are to select an “impartial” c o m m i s s i o n chairperson to serve as a tie-breaker. At our initial meeting we Republican commissioners asked Montanans to suggest the names of ,people they felt could serve as an impartial tie- breaker. The Democrat Commissioners agreed. After just aiweek we received 21 applications. However, we failed to reach an agreement on a chairman and under the constitution the choice became that of a majority of the Montana Supreme Court. On Tuesday we Republicans asked the court to be patient, inform the public of who was on their short list and provide the public with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the process as required by Article II Section 8 of the Montana Constitution and the 14th Amendment of “lines the U.S. Constitution. The court did not heed . our request, but we continue to feel that a future, more rigorous public participation process would aid in the selection of an impartial chair who will be the voice of the public on the commission rather than the voice of the parties like we four political appointees. We now pivot to working with newly appointed Chair Sheila Stearns and the task of creating the rules for us to work by. She has a long record of leadership and public service to our state. We hope she will follow the good precedent established by Chairman Jim Regnier during the last cycle in seeking public input on the rules, that is, the line drawing criteria, that we will follow. Good districts are generally recognized to be representative of communities of interests and it is our belief that the best expression of those communities are our existing communities, whether they be our cities, counties, or reservations. These should be respected. A rigorous process, public involvement, and clear, uniform rules and criteria will guarantee an outcome that is fair and will be supported by the public. Partisans will likely be disappointed at times when the consistent application of the rules results in a less than favorable outcome to their party, but that is the result if the Chair serves as a neutral arbiter. We Republican commissioners look forward to the work ahead with our Democratic colleagues under the leadership of Chair Sheila Stearns. We.ask the public to please pay attention as our work begins and hold us all accountable. The Waves of Time CathaSh Away The EDITORIAL Policing the police hen it Comes to policing the police, things can get more than a little murky. The Sidney Herald has printed the “Police Beat” for many years now. Although it is not always viewed favorably, it is almost always viewed. The key to printing current arrest records, like anything, is total transparency and accuracy. This key point may be where the newspaper’s interests end and the police department interests begin. It has been brought to the table many times to varying degrees here at the Herald. Readers want to know why so— and-so was left out of the police beat? Why wasn’t this certain case written about, but this one was? Is the Sidne'y Police Department being honest about their public records? In most other newspapers, sheriff’s reports or city police reports are emailed to ‘the newspaper. For whatever reason, the Sidney Police Department (SPD) required a reporter to physically go to the police department every Thursday at 11 a.m., sit in a chair and take notes while being read the arrest report of the previous week. The reporter was not given any hard documentation. Such a process leaves too much room for questions, such as, “Why can’t we just see the report?” When asked why they can’t electronically send the Sidney Herald a copy of the original report, the answer from Capt. Mark Kraft was he didn’t know, this was “just the way we do it.” Essentially, he passed the buck to his leadership. So let’s ask Chief of Police Frank DiFonzo. His response? “That’s just the way we do i .” DiFonzo presented his monthly police report to Sidney City Council on Monday, June 3. In the document, 47 arrests were reported. For the month of May, the police department reported only 25 of those arrests to the Sidney Herald. When asked about the discrepancies, DiFonzo refused specifics and told the Herald, “That’s just the way things work.” But that’s not the way things work. There are open records laws for a reason. After discovering the police department was in violation of open records laws for the state of Montana, a written request was made for a complete hard copy of the arrest reports for the month of May. Approximately 20 hours after the request was made, Capt. Kraft called the Herald to request a quick meeting. Kraft escorted the editor into an interrogation room (instead of the normal meeting place: his office) to explain why discrepancies were occurring in the arrests reported to city council and arrests given as public record. He said historically, the department has always given the newspaper the people who were arrested and incarcerated, who they required to be bonded out of jail. Kraft said the state of Montana has altered the way they categorize arrests, meaning people who get a citation and a court date are technically counted as “arrests,” although there is no incarceration. Within the walls of the police department, it was decided to filter the information given to the newspaper instead of providing the full account of what the state considers “arrests.” Kraft said he didn’t feel it was the department’s responsibility to inform the Sidney Herald of those discrepancies. “I decided that. I decided this is what we’re going to give to the Sidney Herald,” he said in the interrogation room Wednesday. While there were shreds of truth to what he explained, his story didn’t quite match up to what House Bill 47 states, which covers criminal records laws. The changes within the bill will effect when a person is photographed and fingerprinted, but it absolutely does not alter what is considered to be public record. The bill has been signed by the governor, with an anticipated effective date of July 1 of this year. The Sidney Police Department wants to explain away their violation of public records laws with the notion that “this is the way it was always done” and finger- pointing at the state level reporting requirements. That doesn’t change the fact that they were knowingly not providing full arrest reports as requested on a weekly basis. This Thursday, during the standard meeting time for “Police Beat” information, Kraft opened the door to the law enforcement hallway, handed out a stack of papers and refused to answer any more questions. Apparently a new standard has indeed been set. Along with open records concerns, many other accusations of official misconduct have been brought to the Sidney Herald. DiFonzo has been asked about the stories. He denies any of them happened. With the questionable behavior surrounding their handling of other public records, a request has been made by the Herald to view internal investigation reports as well. It is pending review of the city attorney. The Sidney Herald believes a violation of public records laws is serious. We hope Sidney City Council agrees and takes a hard look at this. As a police department well knows, ignorance of the law is not an acceptable excuse for not following the law. It should be reasonable for citizens to expect more from their police department. The number of citizens suspicious of local law enforcement shouldn’t outnumber the force itself. Questions about discrepancies shouldn’t be met with contention or aggression. Answers are not difficult to provide when asked for them directly. A police department cannot operate in secrecy - at least not in the United States. They don’t get to decide what information the public is privy to. A city should be able to have a more respectful relationship with its protecting officers. Current police leadership is making sure that doesn’t happen. ~ Amy Venn Trump’s trade gamble Trump has opened up a second front in a trade war with two hostile foreign powers and many wonder if this is not a bridge too far. How many more expansionist era like many others in their long history, only this time their ambitions are global. Or perhaps always were, when you consider the ancient military metaphors can BY STEPHEN name for themselves. I squeeze out of this I BROWNE wonder? Because this is a funny kind of “war” where no shots are fired and nobody dies. Nonetheless China also describes it in warlike terms to their citizens, and has reportedly used old film footage of Chinese troops driving American forces back from the Yalu River in Korea to make their attitude clear. Trump is using import/ export duties against the Chinese who’ve been flagrantly violating American patents with no consequences to date. We have of course protested. Chinese response has been, “Yeah, so what are you going to do about it?” Since a huge part of what China buys is agricultural produce, Trump is compensating farmers so taxpayers are paying twice. I’ve actually had lunch with a Chinese delegation touring the heartland looking over the corn and soy crop. Very nice people though one could get the idea they were looking over their new foreign barbarian province. (Funny, ha-ha.) China is entering another Chung Kuo, means “The Middle Kingdom” i.e. the center of the world. As far back as the Clinton administration officers on the Chinese general staff openly talked about war with the US. as a when, not an if. . Maybe they’re bluffing. Now Trump has engaged with Mexico using the same tactics; higher tariffs and a promise they’ll go higher if they don’t do something/about the border jumpers. Why now? It’s not like this hasn’t been going on for a long time. Because it has become evident that what’s going on is a border rush. Mexico has long actively promoted illegal immigration by its own citizens with comic books and DVDs instructing them on how to cross the border and blend 1n. Now they are conducting caravans from their own southern border the length of Mexico, past nine consulates they are required to check in with first if they want to claim refugee status, and landing on the border where they surrender to the first authorities they can find. In the process seriously overloading the holding facilities. And oh, Mexican politicians have openly talked about the Reconquista of the southwest quarter of the US. which no American ever remembers was once the northern half of Mexico. (The half with the good roads as the Mexican joke goes.) But maybe it’s just an election slogan. Trade wars are not good for anybody’s economy. We’ve known that since Adam Smith, the father of classical "economics. A slogan of the nineteenth century free trade movement was, “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will.” But Smith himself pointed out economic efficiency was not the only consideration when crafting policy. He used the example of ships. It would have been cheaper for England to buy ships abroad, but as a Naval power it was essential to maintain the ability to build their own. And as for the free trade slogan, in 1939 Germany’s biggest trading partner, was France. Trump is taking a huge gamble with this, at a time when he’s hanging on because the economy is doing well. Perhaps he is doing this because while a trade was is bad for the economy, the alternative is worse. I wish I knew. '