Letters to the editor June 27

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Commissioners explain library funding

Currently, the libraries in Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, and Kalispell all operate out of facilities provided by the cities, school districts, and building owners for minimal fees.

During this year’s budget process, the county commissioners decided to not include any future library building projects in the county’s capital improvement plan (CIP). The commissioners do not want to spend additional tax dollars on new library facilities in Bigfork, Columbia Falls, or Kalispell.

Library operations are not being defunded. The present library system will be funded as is, without any changes from previous years.

The commission supports the Library Foundation pursuing other sources of funding, such as grants and community donations, for its planned facility changes.

This year the library will receive just over $1,940,000 in tax dollars to support operations. The library receives more tax funding than many other county departments including: Agency on Aging, Eagle Transit, fairgrounds, parks and recreation, weeds, mosquito control, bridge, planning and zoning, health department, district court, juvenile detention, EMS, search and rescue, 4-H extension, Airport Authority, and Port Authority (FCEDA).

In addition to removing new library facilities from the CIP, the County Commissioners also removed funding for a community gym from the CIP in this year’s budget process. Funding previously planned to go toward a community gym will be reallocated for repairs and maintenance on trails the county is responsible for maintaining.

— Editor’s Note: This was sent as a press release from Flathead County Commissioners Randy Brodehl, Pamela Holmquist and Philip Mitchell

Strong libraries make strong communities

I am aghast to read the county commissions believe they can abdicate their responsibility to adequately fund Kalispell’s outstanding public library — Imagine IF. Libraries are the glue that holds communities together by providing free access to unbiased knowledge, regardless of economic status, ethnicity, or political point of view. By the very definition a “public” library is publicly funded. It appears that the commissioners think private funding can fill the gap for capital expenditures and operating expenses as the county’s growing population stretches the limited space, resources and programming of Imagine IF.

As the individual responsible for raising funds for Montana’s only nongovernment funded library, the West Shore Community Library located in Lakeside, I have a unique insight into how difficult it is to fund even a small community library:

— With no public funding, we rely 100% on volunteers. We cannot afford a paid staff, let alone people with the education and experience of Imagine IF’s librarians. In addition, without a paid, professional staff, we are not edible for many private foundation grants.

— With no public funding, we are not considered a “legal” library by the State of Montana. As a result, we are not eligible for any state funding.

— Even with the generosity of our donors, we cannot buy all the books requested by our patrons. We rely on the generosity of Imagine IF to augment our collection.

— Like all nonprofits, we are experiencing a drop in donations due to the recent changes in the tax code regarding deductibility of contributions to nonprofits.

— Our patrons/users rarely can afford to pay for the services we offer and are rarely our donors.

Even though Flathead County’s Commissioners are facing the reality that good libraries cost money, they shouldn’t forget that even in the darkest days of the Great Depression not one of America’s public libraries closed. How ironic that in today’s thriving economy, the commissioners believe they can abdicate their responsibilities to adequately fund Imagine IF.

Strong, vibrant libraries make for strong, vibrant communities.

— Lana Batts, Lakeside

Equality Act gives us a chance to change

In 1964, the U.S. passed the Civil Rights Act. Under the law, it was now illegal to discriminate against another person based on their race, religion, sex or nationality. Unfortunately, the LGBT community was excluded from these protections, and today is one of the most legally discriminated against minorities.

Despite the Marriage Equality Act of 2015, gay people in the US are still not afforded basic rights that are supposed to be given to everyone. A gay person can be denied a credit card, be evicted from their home, and refused the right to adopt a child. Homeless LGBT children are overrepresented in the foster system, but are twice as likely to receive poor treatment than their straight peers. Employers can fire or refuse to hire a potential employee because of their sexual orientation. Doctors and other health care providers can refuse treatment to an LGBT patient. If a company refused to hire someone because of their religion, they would be sued. If a child was treated poorly in a foster home because of their race, the foster home would be closed. Only the LGBT Community is discriminated against like this, and worst of all is it is legal. It is un-American and is unconstitutional. It violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Rights to Liberty and Privacy under the Due Process Clause.

The legal discrimination against the LGBT Community needs to stop. It violates the Constitution and hurts millions of Americans. Now, the Equality Act of 2019 gives us a chance to change. The Equality Act will give legal protection to the LGBT Community against discrimination, making them truly equal to everyone in the eyes of the law. Every other citizen is protected by their government, LGBT Citizens deserve nothing less.

—Sophie Tabor, Whitefish

Bison are wildlife

Over 20 Native American Tribes have signed onto the Medicine Line Northern Tribes Buffalo Treaty - a commitment to restore the ecological, cultural, and spiritual role of bison on tribal lands. When these bison then roam off of reservation lands and onto other state or private lands, their fate is slaughter? These movements will create dispute over ownership, jurisdiction, and management response. We need a free roam policy implemented - for the wellbeing of the herd and for the benefit of the people inhibiting these lands.

Bison are not “livestock”. Bison have always been wildlife. Restore a free-range bison herd in Montana.

—Lydia Strohl, Bozeman

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