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August 26, 2012     Sidney Herald
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IOA WEDNESDAY, AUG•29,2012 00rlEWPOINTS    -i t ¸ SIDNEY HERALD Editorial f Z Legislators should r00EM r00jusr look at planning process isten and one would find there's a huge disparity go- ing on between the devel- opers' side and the state side. The tension is obvious during public meetings, whether dur- ing city council or planning board by the head shakings and smirks of derision. For a while now, the two sides seem to blame each other. One says those involved in the developing like to cut corners to save time, while the other side says those in planning and who work for the county/state, are taking too long, requiring far too much paperwork than what's actually needed. From time to time, one can hear these sentiments mut- tered repeatedly, most likely out of frustration that plans aren't progressing as quickly as they thought• Every so of- ten, a developer will hint at the "challenging" process, perhaps pointing at having to jump through hoops. What can you say? Locals here peek over the border at North Dakota and marvel at what appears to be nonstop construction. What's taking so long here? Well, time and time again, we've got the side who says they're just following what the law requires. The law written and passed by state legislators. No more. No less. They also hint that those who are usher- ing developers through the planning process are skipping steps and defying the law. So there seems to be a divide, maybe a miscommunication or neither side will admit fault. Either way, something must be done. Housing and busi- ness developments are just too important to eastern Montana now to have this ongoing clash of the titans. It's time for local and re- gional legislators to take a look at this during this next ses- sion. Sure, they'll have enough chores to keep them occupied this go-around as they fight for off-impact funds for cities and schools, but this issue is criti- cal also. Legislators must look at what can be done. If the plan- ning process involves too much bureaucracy nonsense who better to look at that than the Republicans anyway. Over the last few years, several com- ments have been publicly made regarding the subdivision rules which are only fit for western Montana, and do not work for this part of the state. Lawmakers this session must find a way to make the review process smoother, if not easier, with less red tape. And while legislators are at it, the discrepancy between the two sides must be solved be- cause during routine hearings, at times, the air feels awk- wardly tense, and that's never profitable to get things done. Service by Amtrak needs to improve in U.S. Bullock did much to stop sexual predators Views of our readers very once in a while we*: :, ',, hear posffve,newsregard ..... ing Amtrak's service in Montana. Recently, Montana's two senators urged Amtrak to add another passenger car in order to meet the demands of more business because of the oil activity. We've also have heard discus- sion of establishing a route in the southern part of our state. Both of these plans have some good merit, but before Amtrak gets bigger, it needs to get better. For example, it recently been announced the train service has lost more than $800 million during the last decade on just its food and beverage services. Reasons include waste and employee theft. During a recent trip by my- self on Amtrak, I find it hard to believe how the railroad is run. My trip to Wisconsin was eight rive simply on the scheduled day. What was even more frustrating was the lack That's my of information provided. On stow the way there, the railroad's Bill Yonder Weelo website stated that we were to arrive much earlier than what was the true time. On the way back, work- ers were told any of multiple reasons why the train was late, hoping that customers would buy the latest suggestion. If our country wishes to continue to fund Amtrak's As law enforcement officials, we know there's nothing more im- portant than protecting kids and providing safe communities for Montana families. And the work that law enforcement across our state does to lock up sexual preda- tors should know no party label• Recently a top aide to Congress- man Hill's gubernatorial campaign was quoted in a newspaper article saying that "Steve Bullock is try- ing to reinvent history" when it comes to protecting kids, because "a legislative audit revealed that under Bullock's watch one out of every four offenders in the violent and sexual offender registry did not have a verified address•" Earlier, another aide said "Steve Bullock does not protect Montana fami- lies." Statements like that are not only unequivocally false, they are happyjusttoar- , anger0us:i. • Keeping our communitms safe is a responsibility shared by local, tribal, state and federal peace of- ricers; with limited resources, we work best when we work together. When it comes to the Sexual and Violent Offender Registry, we each have a role to play: the attorney gen- eral's office maintains the computer database and provides our local sheriff and police agencies with any updates or change of address information the offender submits• However, if the offender fails to register or provide updated contact information, it is local law enforce- ment's responsibility to track that offender down and ensure compli- ance. The Legislative Audit referenced did find that, during one period of time, one-fourth of the offenders had failed to, in a timely fashion, return a form confirming their current address• When they fail to do so, it is the arduous and time- consuming responsibility of our agencies - not the attorney general - to track down the location of those noncomplying offenders. It is a task we take seriously and are constant- ly working on and improving. Make no mistake: every time someone tries to inflame the fears of Montanans, they are directly criticizing every Montanan that wears a badge to work. In times of stretched budgets and increasing demands on law enforcement, it is irresponsible for political opera- tors - hiding behind their laptops and sitting in comfortable offices - to attack the work of their local sheriff's or police departments• Every Montana family should know that law enforcement in this state operations, changes must be made. Our citizens deserve bet- ter both as riders and taxpay- ers than the current system is working tirelessly to protect our communities• The truth is, as attorney general, Steve Bullock has done more than all of his predecessors in going after those who seek to harm our children - including putting more law enforcement on the street and prosecutors in the courtrooms in- vestigating, arresting, and convict- ing child sex predators. In his tenure as the head of the Department of Justice, Bullock has: • Prioritized resources to create, for the first time, a Sexual Preda- tor Enforcement Unit made up of criminal investigators, analysts, a prosecutor and a computer analysis team. The unit has initiated dozens of investigations into child preda- tors using the Internet to exploit children, built cases with our feder- al partners, secured convictions and locked-up dangerous individuals. • Improved Montana's Sexual and Violent Offender Registry by adding an online mapping feature to help family's better search for offenders, and created a compliance unit, with officers and analysts, to assist local law enforcement with the verifica- tion of addresses of both sexual and violent offenders. • Devoted resources to assist county attorneys with the prosecu- tion of non-compliant sexual or violent offenders. • Organized local teams of profes- sionals, all across the state, which can surround a child victim of crime or abuse to ensure the child is treated in a safe, non-victimizing way and that evidence is gathered to bring the child's assailant to justice. • Created a Child Abduction RespOnse Tea to provide an orga- nized, rapid, and planned response to an abducted child or other miss- ing child incident. Regardless of party affiliation, it is offensive when political opera- tives use the safety of our families to prey on the fears of parents and grandparents, all with the hope of scoring cheap political points. With so many real challenges facing our communities, we - and the citizens of our state - expect and demand better. We, and the thousands of law enforcement officers across this state, expect that you will be more responsible - and accurate - in the future. Jerry Will'mms, executive director, Montana Police Protective Associatia.; and the Mmdona Police Protedive Association board of diredors. hours late while the trip back was more than three hours late. It seems like other countries can run railroads on schedule to the minute, while the U.S. is provides. Bill Vander Weelo is editor of the Sidney Herald. He can be reached at 406-433-2403 or edilor@sidneyheraLd. Contact your governor's office v. Brian Schweer Office of the Governor, PO Box 200801, State Capitol, Helena, MT 59620-0801 • 406-444.3111 • governor@mt.gov It. v. John Ihlin8er Office: Room 207, PO Box 201091, State Capitol, Helena, MT 59620-1901 • 486-444-3111 • jbohlinger@mt.gov Write to us The Sidney Herald welcomes letters to the editor. Whether political, a problem in the city or neighborhood, or to pat someone on the back, let us know what's on your mind. All letters must include the writer's signature, address and daytime telephone number. We do not publish anonymous letters. Letters should be 300 words or less; all are subject to editing for spelling, clarity or length. Be sure of your facts. It is impossible for the newspa- per to verify information in every letter. We reserve the right to select which let- ters are published. One letter per month unless in response to another letter. The Herald will not publish letters critical of individuals or businesses unless such letters deal with issues involving taxpay- ers funds. Letters submitted to the Sidney Herald may be published or distributed in print or electronic forms. Write to: Letters to the Editor Sidney Herald 310 2nd Ave. N.E. Sidney, MT 89278 E-maih editosidneyherald.com Fax: 406-438-7802 SERVING THE MONDAK REGION SINCE 1908 Libby Berndt Publisher Bill Vander Weele Managing Editor Avoiding a 21st century Dust B0wl with climate change• Failure to accept this reality has enor- mous implications for farmers and consumers. Remember the Dust Bowl of the Agriculture 1930s? That was trade another era when the effects of severe drought were made Jim Harkness worse by short- sighted farm policy. We lacked conservation practices or contingency plans for the nation's food supply, which sparked disas- ters as unprotected soil blew away and food prices jumped. Instead of regular payouts when disasters strike, why not create a Farm Bill that builds resilience? Historically, government- and farmer-held buffer stocks of grain helped stabilize markets in times of excess or scarcity. In the 1990s, we sold off government-held buffer stocks of grain in the name of "efficient markets," leaving the cup- board bare when disasters strike. Even private stocks are a fraction of what they were during our last seri- ous drought in 1988• Wild fluctua- tions in supply and price are here to stay, yet no serious consideration of rebuilding grain reserves is crop- ping up in the debate over the Farm Bill. Have we still not learned that some things are too important to be left entirely to market forces? And how about increasing resil- ience at the farm level with incen- tives for environmentally friendly farming? Sustainable practices, like perennial crops that improve the soil and require less water, are enor- mously popular among farmers. (A recent poll found that 86 percent of farmers support funding such programs at current or increased levels.) Still, the House Agriculture Committee's draft of the Farm Bill would slash over $6 billion from conservation programs. This, in a year when rising prices and expir- ing conservation programs have led farmers to plant more acreage than in any year since 1937. A 21st-centu- ry Dust Bowl could be right around the bend. Unfortunately, there's no indica- tion that Congress will change course• There's no talk of rewriting 'Instead of regular payouts when disasters strike, why not create a Farm Bill that builds resilience?' Jim Harkness C01umaist the House's version of the Farm Bill - even though it calls for devas- tating cuts to conservation efforts and food stamps. The Senate's ver- sion of the Farm Bill is better, but it still would cut key programs and would be far from adequate to meet today's challenges in agriculture. We can build a farm policy ca- pable of withstanding shocks and balancing the interests of farmers, consumers, and the environment. We've done it before. Let's heed this summer's record drought as a not-so-gentle reminder of how far we've strayed from the wise path we charted after the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. It's a reality check we can't afford to ignore. Jim Harkness is the president of the Insti- lute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. other Nature found a cruel way to demonstrate the difference between politi- cal rhetoric and reality when this summer's record-breaking drought coincided with the writing of a new U.S. Farm Bill. The House Agriculture Commit- tee's draft 2012 Farm Bill will scrap costly farm subsidies in favor of a federal crop insurance expansion• The change will supposedly build a safety net for farmers in bad years while benefiting taxpayers by reduc- ing federal agriculture expendi- tures. The reality is entirely different. Right now, one-half of U.S. coun- ties have been declared federal disaster areas due to drought. More than 80 percent of corn and soybean crops are in drought-affected areas• Crop losses are likely to be cata- strophic; economists are predict- ing crop insurance payouts could top $40 billion. So much for saving money. Analysts expect sharp increases in food prices next year, particu- larly for meat and dairy products - a harsh blow for consumers still digging themselves out of the reces- sion's depths, especially the nearly 50 million Americans who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps)• There will be no relief for them in the Farm Bill. The House version would slash spending on nutrition assistance by $16 billion, and the benefits that do survive will buy less at the super- market as prices rise. This year's drought illustrates why the latest Farm Bill won't meet current or future challenges. Ex- treme weather events that disrupt farm production, such as last year's floods and this year's drought, are part of a new normal consistent