Love it, but...
I always look forward to reading a Dan Brooks column. Almost always thought provoking, as well as being in my basket of non-deplorables. So I was cruising right along with both thumbs up and a smile on my face as Dan gnawed on the idiocy of Rep. Usher's so-called bike safety bill, also known as the "don't make us slow down to keep us from killing cyclists" bill ("A wheelie bad bill," Jan. 26).
So I was grooving on Dan's riff until I got to the second-to-last paragraph, where my brain did a locked front wheel fly-over. I quote: "We should not condemn drivers for their irrational anger at cyclists, because people aren't rational, especially behind the wheel." Wait, what? Well, yes, folks are often irrational behind the wheel. Just Google and enjoy the '50s Disney animation "Motor Mania," starring Goofy. But anyone who values life and rational thought should condemn (deplore, hold accountable) drivers who operate a machine with deadly potential while being in an irrational and even malicious frame of mind. If an irrational friend tells me she wants to put brothel-style wallpaper in her bathroom, I'd say "Hey, whatever." If she says anyone stupid enough to ride their bike on a rural Montana road deserves to get hit, I'd say "Whoa, that's messed up!"
But thank you, Dan, for an excellent closing paragraph to go with a very good overall column.
Training in short supply
I am a domestic violence survivor. I also had the misfortune of witnessing my next-door neighbor be assaulted by her boyfriend in broad daylight last June. I called the police immediately, but by the time they arrived, the man had fled. The police spoke with my neighbor but informed me there was nothing they could do if she denied he'd hit her. They informed me that they told her they knew she was lying. I understood that they were trying to get her to help them make the arrest, but as a survivor myself I also realized that they did not have adequate training in handling the situation. Victims of domestic violence often will not admit the truth because they fear for their ongoing safety and, often, for their lives.
Under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the STOP grant is one source of funding that police departments like Missoula's can apply for to provide their officers with adequate training in responding to domestic violence calls. According to a spreadsheet on their website, three officers out of Missoula's police force receive 28-30 hours of training for responding to violence against women. And although the full police force is trained in responding to sexual assault, the three-hour training is arguably insufficient, even paired with a few other brief trainings. If the Missoula police department wanted to offer comprehensive domestic violence response training to all of its police force, the department could apply for a STOP grant from VAWA. I urge them to consider it. However, given the likelihood that the U.S. Attorney General will be Jeff Sessions, it is probable that VAWA will be eliminated entirely. Jeff Sessions has a record of voting against bills and provisions that would help the most vulnerable and oppressed populations in the U.S., and this includes his repeated votes against VAWA. That Sen. Steve Daines supports Jeff Sessions' nomination for U.S. Attorney General speaks volumes about his lack of support for Montana women. Though I don't hold out any hope that Daines will reverse course on his support for Sessions, I do hope that with or without VAWA grant funding, the Missoula police force can find ways to provide comprehensive training to more officers responding to intimate partner violence.
Oppose Tom Price
On Tuesday, Jan. 24, I and a group of Missoula constituents were turned away from a scheduled meeting with Sen. Steve Daines' staff. What follows is the statement I would have given to the senator, had our scheduled meeting been honored:
As a mother and small business owner, I am deeply concerned about Sen. Steve Daines apparent opposition to expanded Medicaid and CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, which provides insurance for thousands of Montana children, including my daughter. On Jan. 12, 2017, Sen. Daines voted yes on a senate budget resolution that will cut federal funding for the CHIP program. Now the senator has another opportunity to stand up for Montana families by opposing the nomination of Tom Price for Director of Health and Human Services. In his senate hearings, Tom Price has refused to commit to ensuring that Montana families who depend on Medicaid for health care will not lose their coverage. However, Sen. Daines has stated that he plans to vote in favor of Price's nomination—a decision that will have grave consequences for Montana families like mine.
In addition to being parents of a 1.5-year-old daughter, my husband and I own Tandem Bakery in Missoula. We started our business four years ago as a stand at the Clark Fork Farmers market with $1,000 of our own money. We reinvested all of our profit back into the business and now we are a year-round wholesale bakery with five employees. We are entrepreneurs, building a business for ourselves, providing jobs and contributing to the local economy. But this is a new venture, and we are trying to grow without taking on debt, so we still pour all of our profit back into the bakery. This means that in addition to raising our daughter and running the business, my husband also works a day job—which does not offer health insurance. Medicaid and CHIP have allowed us to take the risk of starting a new business. Without these programs, my family would not be able to afford health insurance, and because we cannot allow our young daughter to go without coverage, we would have to close our business and fire our employees.
If Sen. Daines is truly pro-family and pro-small-business, he will support CHIP and expanded Medicaid, and he will vote no on Tom Price.