The Metric Wrench has moved to a new location and is adopting a new name.

Formerly located at 2424 Sixth Ave. North, the automotive business that specializes in servicing European vehicles, has moved to 470 Lake Elmo Drive and is also changing its name to Metric Plus.

Metric Plus, owned by Glenn Fournier, opened at the new location on January 2, offering an even broader range of services. The new shop is a highly technical and highly equipped facility, explained Fournier, which allows his team to expand and provide more services to all kinds of vehicles, from oil changes and basic maintenance, as well as major repairs.

Metric Plus’ new phone number will be 406 200-9400.

The business has been primarily known for their expertise in dealing with German-made vehicles, BMW’s, Mini- Cooper, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Land Rover and other European imports. Fourier has a highly experienced team of three employees who have extensive experience in servicing imports.

Fournier, who has owned Metric Wrench for the past three years, lamented the need to relocate, but said it was necessary because of the level of harassment his business was experiencing with homeless people and other indigents. Their presence was hurting customer retention, he said,  as well as posing a constant barrage of incidents of theft, vandalism, threats of assault and even one actual assault.

The situation of his former location made it impossible to do business, according to Fournier, who added that he is not without sympathy and concern about the indigents, but the environment was not conducive for business.

By Evelyn Pyburn

A plea for more fellowship in politics is nothing new. I have heard people calling for less “partisanship” for years and have understood part of it – or at least what I hope they mean – but there is another aspect I don’t think is wanted by some people. It is that, which seems more threatening, today, than it has for some decades.

Understanding and tolerating the views of fellow citizens is absolutely essential in a country in which freedom is promised to every individual citizen. So that — I not only “get,” but I would agree with it. But, when they seek “unity,” that could be far more difficult.

Asking for a compromise on a tax rate is doable, or the speed limit, or the boundaries of a precinct, but how do you compromise when the opposition is calling for your annihilation? Exactly how do the Jews of Israel compromise with Hamas demanding their total destruction? Does that mean agreeing to the killing of only half their population? Is that the kind of compromise expected of Israel? Just to get along?

It’s like being asked to compromise with someone who plans to shoot you. What kind of a compromise would you strike? About what kind of gun he should use?

That impossible compromise of two diametrically opposed positions is why there were early predictions that the fundamental principle of the US Constitution — declaring that all men are to be equal in a country that practiced slavery — would eventually lead to a civil war. The prognosticators understood that ideas are powerful and even a few words on a piece of paper hold great significance. Also, they understood that there was no way to compromise about how much of a slave’s life should be free. They are either free or they are not.  Our founders knew all this, and yet they wrote the Constitution as they did. Freedom for the individual was a principle they believed important enough to the future of civilization that they were willing to fight for it.

Just think about the injustice of compromising fundamental issues. When someone is simply defending themselves or their property and are asked to compromise with the aggressor, such an agreement is most assuredly to the benefit of the aggressor at a cost to the defender. The defender against aggression will always lose unless he stands strong.

It is a contradiction to justice and a violation of a citizen’s rights. It’s a fundamental over which compromise is not possible, and it is the conflict that usually lies at the basis of most political conflicts today.

The specifics of all our disagreements vary greatly, from how we get our medical care to what kind of stove we can use in our kitchens. Whether we must ride a bus or drive an electric vehicle. The pending conflicts at issue could fill a book, and basic to all of them is the threat of the use of FORCE.

Why ever should the issue of whether the planet is getting warmer be a political one? It is only political because of the threat of the use of FORCE. For the most part, those who disagree are not resisting the conclusion of those who believe it, they are resisting the use of FORCE, which is really the primary goal of the whole debate. Those claiming to believe the planet is warming want to FORCE their ideas and solutions on others.

So how does a society bring about change? There’s a magic little word – it’s called persuasion. Rather than FORCE, you persuade. Rather than addressing the opposition with a club, you address their mind. One is the tool of the caveman the other of civilized society.

Rather than coerce manufacturers to build electric vehicles and then FORCE citizens to buy them, you build the car and build a market – a FREE market – in which the product is refined and its benefit can be demonstrated and consumers are persuaded that it is a better product. The process happens a thousand times a day and it works – if indeed the product is valid. If it is not valid, then what is the point?

Ahh, but there is a point, power over others — brute FORCE. Although the desirability of it is inexplicable.

As a political issue – as an issue that pertains most often to governments – we should not be surprised that this conflict exists. After all, government is FORCE. Government by definition is the legalized use of force. Advocates for a civilized society concluded long ago that the only legitimate use of force is in self-defense or in the defense of others. The men who wrote the US Constitution believed that that principle is one upon which government should also function and they wrote laws meant to deliver that end in our relationships, one with the other, and most especially with how government interacts with citizens.

We should also not be surprised that there are people who do not agree – people who covet power and are more than willing to use it against fellow human beings, even if it is only about what light bulb they should use.

So, if you are among those who just want us all to get along, you should first understand that it is the threat of the use of FORCE that is dividing us, not the many nuances of debates. I might have an opinion about what kind of stove you should use in your kitchen, but we really have no conflict until I attempt to FORCE you to use a specific stove.

If harmonizing while holding hands and singing kumbaya is the goal, then decide what you really think about using FORCE against your neighbor. If one is truly sincere in striving for greater harmony among people, drop any advocacy that relies upon the government pointing a gun at innocent citizens and demanding their obedience. Getting along will not only be achievable, it can be guaranteed. And, who knows what amazing things might truly be achieved.

By Evelyn Pyburn

George Russell Pierce came to Montana in about 1910. He became a peddler, driving around the Butte area in a Model-T, selling Foley’s Honey & Tar Compound, an all- purpose medicine – a very common type of product of that era before medicines had to substantiate their claims. Foley’s Honey & Tar was produced in Chicago from 1895 to the mid-1960’s as a cough medicine, cure for the flu and “all Throat and Lung troubles.” It was comprised of 7% alcohol, pine tar and honey, terpin hydrate, sodium benzyl succinate and gum arabic.

Such was the early beginning of what became a leading entrepreneurial family in Billings, who this year is celebrating their 100th anniversary. The name Pierce is a very familiar one in Billings and it has been since George R. Piece began his own used car business in 1924. Today Pierce -owned companies dominate the RV and flooring businesses in Billings, with locations for both enterprises in several other Montana cities.

Today, Pierce companies are overseen by George’s great grandson and great, great grandson, Ron Pierce and Russell Pierce. Ron is sole owner of the company, and manages Pierce Flooring; while his son, Russell manages Pierce RV.

During the passing generations many changes have occurred since the days of Foley’s Honey & Tar Compound. Pierce RV Supercenter has two locations, Billings and Great Falls. Pierce Flooring – also under the names of the Carpet Barn and Carpet Mill Outlet – has numerous locations in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula, Great Falls and Butte.

The Pierce family is quite reverent about the efforts of previous generations of their family. The stories they have to tell are not only lessons in business but often amusing, reflecting bygone eras.

While the reason that George came to Montana has been lost to history, mining may have been the lure, since it was the era of gold rushes and George’s father, James Harrison Pierce, had participated in the California Gold Rush, in which he did quite well. James Harrison Pierce returned home to Georgia, only to join a bunch of other men from Georgia, leaving behind their homes and wives, to search for gold in Colorado, which was the launching of the Colorado Gold Rush. Leading that group was James Harrison Pierce’s cousin, Green Russell, who is considered the founder of Denver.

James Harrison Pierce and a few cohorts, including Dr. R. J. Russell, first came to Montana by riverboat, arriving in Ft. Benton. Gold mining was at a feverish pitch in southwestern Montana – Bannack, Virginia City, Ruby Valley and Last Chance Gulch. James and his friends freighted supplies to the gold miners. In doing so they discovered there were some camels in the area and soon learned that camels could serve as well as oxen, and even better because they were faster. One day, in which five camels were standing in a field with some oxen, a “tenderfoot” saw them and figured the camels were wild game and shot one – much to the angst of the freight haulers.

They told the “tinderfoot” that they would let him off lightly if he were able to dig a hole and bury the camel in one day – if he failed in that endeavor they threatened to bury him with the camel. The story is, the camel was buried somewhere in the vicinity of where the Capitol building was eventually built in Helena.

George was born in Colorado in 1894.

Before leaving Butte, George met and married Margaret Lee Morrison, who became his life-long partner and mother to their four children. Billings must have appeared as more promising than Butte, because in 1913 George moved his very young family to Billings and gained a job as a car salesman for various entities such as Huppmobile, Goan Motor Company and Rich Motor Company.

In 1924, George began his own business selling used cars – or as he preferred to call them “experienced cars.” George’s three sons, John, George and Frank joined the business after returning from serving in the army during World War II.

George was quite creative in his promotional efforts. He fabricated the existence of a dog named Gumshoe at his business and urged prospective customers to come in and buy a car so he could buy Gumshoe a bone.

George started his used car business by renting part of a building at 30th Street North and Montana Avenue and it grew to such an extent that he soon needed more space, and he purchased a lot at 5th Street West and St. Johns Avenue.

George is remembered as being a master organizer and salesman. He was also a knowledgeable mechanic and part of his business included rebuilding wrecked automobiles.

He built a “bus” to provide transportation between Billings and Miles City, relates Ron Pierce. Through his mechanical genius he put two cars together with an extended axle, and for some time it served as a public means of transportation between the two cities.

In 1939, George became a dealer for Willy’s Jeeps.  He also started selling Linoleum in half the building, which along with carpeting and other floor coverings, which eventually became a separate successful business.

George touted the Jeep as costing less than two cents a mile to operate and claimed they got 30 miles to a gallon of gas.

George held the dealership for the Jeep manufacturer, which was Kaiser Industry in Toledo, Ohio, until the 1960s, when they came out with a model that George didn’t like, so he dropped his dealership.

With the extra space they had at 5th and St. Johns, they added some travel trailers and mobile home displays on the lot. Amazingly this part of the business took off, out stripping used car sales, and it quickly grew into one of the largest RV, modular and mobile home businesses in the region, including leasing and parts and service business. It expanded to another location, a few blocks up the road, at Moore Lane and Laurel Road.

George R. Pierce died in 1958, and his sons took over the business interests.

Ten years later, John and George L. Pierce bought out the interests of Frank Pierce. John Pierce died in 1971 and George L. Pierce purchased  his share of the business, making him the sole owner of the Pierce businesses.

During this time Pierce was growing adding a flooring store in Bozeman and opening the “Carpet Barn”, a discount store, on Grand Avenue in Billings. In 1977 they added a flooring store in Missoula, and in 1984 they opened a store in Great Falls.

George L. Pierce died in 1993, and his sons, Ron and Bill took the leadership helm and became partners, until Bill’s death in 1998. Ron purchased Bill’s interest from his family and has continued as the owner of the businesses until today.

He and his wife, Linda, have two sons, Jake and Russell. Retaining its role as a family business, both sons have worked in various aspects of the business from a young age, and Ron’s cousin, John, for many years managed the RV Flooring side of the business.

In total the Pierce businesses employ about 225 people statewide.

The businesses have continued to grow with the addition of both flooring stores and RV centers in many cities in the state. 

In Billings, Pierce Flooring in 1998 opened the Pierce Home Center at 2950 King Avenue West which incorporated Rimrock Lighting, Appliance and Cabinet Center and Pierce Flooring.

In 2001, Pierce opened a modular and manufactured housing location in Great Falls.

In 2006, Pierce started a second location for RV’s in Kalispell

The RV business made a huge leap in Billings in 2001 at 3800 Pierce Parkway near Zoo Drive interchange with the building and opening of a brand new supercenter for Pierce Homes and RVs. At the same time they built a Pierce RV supercenter in Great Falls.

They started a subdivision in Williston, ND in 2012, for high-end modular homes.

And, in 2012 Pierce opened a homes and leasing business in Glendive.

Ron Pierce is optimistic about the future despite the headwinds for all businesses over the past few years. He notes that while there is more competition and the costs of doing business are higher consumers are more interested than ever in recreational vehicles, so much so that manufacturers cannot keep up – and the industry is projecting a slight increase in 2024.

And as long as other businesses keep building and people keep building homes the flooring business will remain strong.

Asked what he views as the key to success in business, Russell Pierce readily responded, “Doing what’s right for the customer and employees.” It is a challenge that consumes most of your focus every day, but it’s essential to gaining customer loyalty and in retaining the best employees.

He noted that product warranties are only as good as the business that offers it – being a local, family-owned enterprise, “You can come back to us,” he said.

By Evelyn Pyburn

The woman who headed the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Montana, since 2018, retired a couple weeks ago. Stacy Zinn really didn’t want to retire, but the agency required that at age 57, she do so. But Zinn has much more work to do – much more.

Zinn very much wants Montana citizens to know and understand what is happening in their communities, and retirement is not going to end her efforts to make more transparent the activities of DEA and other law enforcement. Citizens must know in order to bring about the changes that are needed, and to become engaged. Law enforcement are doing their very best to protect the community and they need the community’s support in the fight against the crime associated with illegal drugs, said Zinn. Almost all crime that happens in Billings has a link to illegal drugs.

But Zinn’s real passion is to educate kids. Kids as young as 12 and 13 are having to deal with the issue of drugs in the schools and among their peers, and they usually know nothing about the risks they face – and often, neither do their parents. Most parents are not aware of how dangerous the situation is.

In fact, the drug, LSD, is seeing a comeback among junior high school kids in Billings, reported Zinn last year.

Somehow, said Zinn, “we quit messaging our kids.” At one time there were anti-drug campaigns, seminars in schools and posters on every corner, explaining what drugs are, how to recognize them, how to deal with situations, and the life and death consequences drug use poses – but little of that is happening any more. Zinn is determined to change that. She is willing to go to any classroom, talk to groups of parents, or to individuals one-on-one to inform and educate.

“We can’t arrest ourselves out of this,” said Zinn, stressing that the youth is where it has to start.

Few people know more about the illegal drug trade than Zinn, who began her career with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) as an undercover agent in El Paso, Texas, dealing with leaders in the cartels. While “I saw first- hand the movement of cartels sneaking in,” and it was deadly serious, “it wasn’t quite the free-for-all it is now.”

Zinn learned how the cartels operated as they fought for control in areas of South America. Each cartel would establish different areas as their territory and anyone “operating” in that area had to pay a tax to whoever  had  control of the area, explained Zinn.

Zinn was plunged into the arena as an undercover agent in Peru. When the agency became aware that a cartel had put out a hit on Zinn’s life, she was relocated. In 2005, the DEA assigned her to FAST, or Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team. She spent three years in Afghanistan investigating the opium trade that financed the Taliban and Al Qaeda. During those years she escaped two more attempts on her life.

Being in South America and then in Afghanistan for all those years, Zinn said she was out of touch with what was happening in the US. It was something of a surprise to see how much the organized crime of drug trafficking had invaded the country.

In 2014, when she was assigned as a supervisor for the Tactical Diversion Squad in Montana, there was some expectation that Montana was removed from the heavy crime, and she was dismayed at the level of activity there was in Montana.  However, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota do remain as four of the least untouched states by illegal drug crime.

As the criminals fight for turf they are aware of the potential of these states and of Montana – and they are watching closely to “see how we handle it,” said Zinn.

“What they see in Montana is the dollars,” said Zinn. Drugs that cost a few pennies in Mexico increase in price as they move further north. By the time they reach Billings, depending on the drug, they can cost $40, and in Sidney the price could be $120.

“Montana is one of the last frontiers that hasn’t been saturated with drugs. That is why the prices are so high,” said Zinn.

The risk of fentanyl comes with the inexpensive high it provides. . When a person takes opioid pills over and over the effect of the drug diminishes – “you don’t get that euphoric feeling.” It’s called “chasing the dragon,” explained Zinn. The cartels found a less expensive addictive alternative. “If you mix fentanyl with heroin and you take that and you don’t overdose and die, you get that original euphoric feeling — every time,” explained Zinn.

The problem is users have no idea what dosage of fentanyl they are getting, and it takes but a very miniscule amount to make the difference between a high and death. More people are dying than ever. Part of the risk of fentanyl is that innocent bystanders who accidently come into contact with it can die immediately. It is facts like this that Zinn wants the public to know so they can be aware about the dangers of doing things as simple as picking up trash in the park or where they let their children play.

The status of drug trafficking in Montana has escalated since Zinn’s arrival in 2014. At that time, to intercept a half pound on the streets was “big time”, said Zinn, contrasting that to the fact that now law enforcement can confiscate 70 pounds in a month.

People come here from other areas of the country where they have been “kicked out of their street corners,” by competing dealers. They come to Montana from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The influx of cartels from Mexico to Montana or from the Fresno Bulldogs is not so much the transplanting of a whole gang, but of “runners” or a few individuals who then set up locals to distribute.

They may come and set up shop in a motel. And, unfortunately in Montana, they have especially targeted Native American communities as bases of operation. But no matter where they go, they start with individuals who are willing to actively participate. They give them free meth, and then when they return for more they ask for money, and then in order to get the money, the newly recruited are pressured into selling and distributing.  Zinn noted that the drug lords eagerly trade for is guns. There is a huge demand for guns in Mexico. That is why there are such high incidents of gun thefts from vehicles in Billings. It is why local police are urging people not to keep guns in vehicles.

Zinn addressed the most recent crime wave that seems to have hit Billings. Who is responsible?

Zinn calls them “wannabe gang bangers.”

Zinn explained that law enforcement is trying to gather information about those involved, which is very difficult and “always fluid.” It’s a tedious process of making connections with who suspects know, who they hang out with, and their past history. “Intel is flued and they have to keep building onto the facts,” said Zinn about the process.

Local law enforcement is putting together a picture of the perpetrators —youngsters of about 14 years and older, who are generally new to Billings.

A couple of them seem to be transplants from California where they had some affiliation with small gangs. They have brought that mentality here, and are now trying to establish their own gangs. Their numbers are unknown.

The question is “who is training and organizing these kids?” said Zinn. Someone older is encouraging them and giving them direction in regard to such things as what cars are easiest to break into, how to break down a gun, what crimes are less likely to be prosecuted.

Law enforcement is trying to identify the mentors. Are the kids having to “pay taxes to their highers?” is a question to be answered.

That there are cartel members in Billings or other more experienced criminals is not being ruled out. Zinn said that there has been some corroboration that members of a notorious gang known as the “Fresno Bulldogs” have a presence in Billings and that “the cartels are running amuck.” Whether that is true is not known, but there is no doubt, according to Zinn, that what is unfolding in Billings is being watched closely by others outside the area, waiting to see if this might be a good place to establish themselves. “How Billings handles the situation is important.”

The past few weeks of one shooting after another is an escalation of violence that indicates that the young gang members are “getting cocky”.  It’s likely that they are using illegal drugs – “at least marijuana.”

Chief of Police Rich St. Johns got it right, said Zinn, when he said that the most likely scenario is these are kids who do not know how to handle confrontation “and they go immediately to a gun.”

The wannabes are hanging out in parks, most especially in the vicinity of North Park around 17th, 18th and 19th streets, and on the south side of Billings. They are attracted to events – -“a large gathering that attracts kids.”

“It’s a tragedy to see kids so young throwing away their lives.” Zinn is talking about the kids taking the drugs and those peddling them. Kids like this often have little parental supervision or have parents with a criminal past themselves, noted Zinn.

Zinn believes that citizens in Billings must play a role in fighting against the crimes. The most important thing citizens can do is pay attention to what is happening in their neighborhoods, and “if you see something, say something.” Call the police’s non-emergency number and report the suspicious activity, “Billings police has indicated that they want that information,” she said.

Get to know your neighbors. Maybe the Neighborhood Watch program needs to be resurrected. Get your neighbors’ phone numbers so you can notify them if there is something they should know about.

And, most important make sure your children know about the dangers of drugs and how the drug dealers manipulate them. “We have to focus on kids. Plant the seeds that drugs are dangerous. If you give them the facts, kids are going to process it.” She further urged, “Give your kids information that generates more conversation at dinner tables. Open lines of communication so kids feel comfortable bringing information to adults. Educating parents and opening the lines of communication – kids are more apt to tell you things.”

“Regardless of what kids are thinking if they are committing crimes and getting away with it, they are leading the way,” said Zinn.

Because drugs can look like prescription medicine it’s important for everyone to understand not to buy pills or borrow pills. If you don’t get pills from a doctor, don’t take any at all.

Businesses, too, play an important role. Clean up graffiti as soon as it happens. “Leaving it only encourages more.” Zinn explained that often the graffiti proclaims “this is our area” to other gangs.

Install fencing and lighting and camera systems. “A good security systems can help law enforcement,” said Zinn.

“Businesses that have policies against confronting or arresting shop lifters, are creating a conducive environment for the criminals,” said Zinn, “They are encouraging crime.”

Landlords have to be responsible and know who they are renting to and make sure they know what is happening on their property.

And, amid all these efforts “we need to speed up the whole system” in adjudicating crime. “We have to have prosecutors and judges who can expedite the legal process,” said Zinn, adding “we don’t have enough defense attorneys.”

If ever you have seen a decal in the window of a local shop with the letters “NFIB” and wondered what it is all about, Bruce Rogers, the area representative for the National Federation of Business (NFIB), is eager to explain.

Rogers serves as liaison between NFIB and business owners in Montana and Wyoming.

Rogers will readily explain that no business organization commands as much attention and respect as NFIB because everyone knows —  legislators, Congressional representatives, and other public leadership —  that the perspectives and positions presented by NFIB comes directly from business owners on Main Street USA. One might say “when NFIB speaks everyone listens.”

NFIB is the largest, most influential business organization in the country, said Rogers. 

“We are also the only organization fighting exclusively for independent business owners at both state and the federal levels.” said Rogers.

 “NFIB works with the support of business owners in your area – in your hometown, to stop legislation that will severely hurt local business. We need their participation.”

NFIB is currently testifying on such issues as finding quality labor, inflation, taxes, regulation and health insurance.

NFIB has several thousand members in Montana and representing every kind and size of independent business.  “That is why when we testify before committees, your politicians know we speak for the entire small business community and not just a special interest group,” said Rogers. 

Member business owners get to vote ballots that come in their email inbox, or on the NFIB Engage app, several times a year, about state and federal issues that will affect business profits. 

“To impact the issues we take action by testifying and fighting before Congress, the state legislature, and the courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States,” explained Rogers, “We then report back to our members on how your elected officials voted on the same issues you voted on so you have a report card showing you who is actually standing up for your business and who is not.”

This process is so successful that major news media from both sides of the aisle have consistently rated NFIB as the most effective business organization in America. 

“While you’re busy running your business, we are working to protect it,” said Rogers.

Some of the more recent victories achieved by NFIB for business owners include:

* creating the 20% Small Business Deduction (Section 199A)

* NFIB v. OSHA, the U.S. Supreme Court issued stay of OSHA’s vaccine mandate following a successful SCOTUS challenge by NFIB.  NFIB’s Legal Center has a long list of victories.

* NFIB helped increase the business equipment tax exemption to $1 million and reduce income taxes in Montana.

 Other issues which are an important focus of NFIB is to support the protection of, and efforts to further secure, the right of individuals to work as independent contractors and for business owners to choose to lawfully classify workers as independent contractors.

Also, multiple proposals before Congress would mandate paid sick leave and paid family medical leave mandates on small businesses.  The Build Back Better Act contains an inflexible four-week federal paid family leave program that would pose challenges to small employers trying to manage and maintain their workforce.  Other proposals would mandate ten days of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave on all employers, similar to the temporary requirements from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) of 2020. 

Small business owners have been joining together for 5, 10, 20, even 75 years to level the playing field with big government and big business.

NFIB handles membership differently than is typical of most organizations. Rogers explained “It is important that everyone is able to be involved; therefore NFIB membership is based on what you feel you can invest, up to a maximum of $15,000, so no one individual can buy influence.  As a non-profit organization, we have a one-member, one-vote policy regardless of the amount you choose to invest.”

There is a recommended investment based on number of employees and membership is available annually, quarterly and monthly. 

Each NFIB member is urged to do two things – vote their ballot and display their membership plaque and decal which clearly make the statement that “you are doing your part to protect the American free enterprise system.”

For more information check it out at: www.nfib.com/ about-nfib/ what-is-nfib/ national-victories/

By Evelyn Pyburn

So reports are that migrants who have come to the US illegally are disappointed and want to return home. They are saying “the American dream is dead.”

As one Venezuelan illegal was quoted, “The American Dream doesn’t exist anymore. There’s nothing here for us… We just want to be home. If we’re going to be sleeping in the street here, we’d rather be sleeping in the streets over there.”

If they thought the “American dream” was handouts, freebees and socialized care from cradle to the grave, then double good riddance to them.

The “American dream” was never about those things – the American dream is, and will always be, about the freedom of individuals to work hard, to create and to generate wealth – the wealth that makes socialistic whims possible, for those who want to be kept citizens. But the socialistic whims only last until – as it has been said – we run out of other people’s money. “Other people”, of course, being those who are producing the wealth needed to sustain those who prefer not to work.

And, we should be doubly glad that they are gone because they are ILLEGAL! If they do not respect our country to the degree that their first act is to commit a crime with the crossing of our borders, then exactly when can we expect them to be law-abiding, trust worthy citizens, who truly respect this country and its laws?

The answer is never.

Never will they stand up and defend those principles or the people who live by them, when the chips are down – which is a most likely scenario with so many dishonest and disrespectful criminals abiding among us, who will vote for corrupt politicians. They vote for unethical politicians to wield the force that is necessary to aid them in their ideal of confiscating the property of the honest and productive citizens.

That there are many people crashing our borders because they want freedom there is no doubt. It is mind boggling that there are many in the US who apparently do not want freedom – people who apparently believe that powerful politicians, who will subjugate others, are their friends. It is indeed too bad that they have never studied history.

There was a reason for having a legal structure to enter the US – so immigrants would not have to sleep in the streets. Part of that process included immigrants having a sponsor – someone to help them get established so they would have a place to live, food and a job. And, US citizens across the board readily stepped up to be sponsors. Often they were church organizations, not unlike the one recently reported on in Billings that is assisting legal immigrants.

Democratic leaders in places like Chicago and New York are crying that they lack the resources to feed and house the thousands upon thousands of illegal immigrants who have descended upon their communities, and they blame President Biden for not giving them enough funding to do so. They say their states have provided millions in aid but the federal government has not matched it.

These politicians are little different than the illegal immigrants who thought the “American dream” was about freebees and handouts. They too do not understand the “American dream.” They apparently do not know that it isn’t their state or the federal government that has the wealth needed to support the illegal aliens. They do not seem to know that the aid they talk about comes from taxpayers – the citizens who work and produce and abide by the laws. They express no appreciation or recognition for the people from whom the funds must come. But given the role they play as legal plunderers, their indifference is not surprising.

This situation of encouraging illegal immigrants to enter the US, seeking a distorted perception of the American dream, has every potential of unraveling the fabric of the “American dream.”

The truly sad thing is the “American dream” is not something that has to be uniquely American. Any country can have it. Nothing – absolutely nothing – stands in the way of any country having the wealth and standard of living that Americans have – but it can’t be achieved through socialism or any kind of collectivism.  The people of a country – including the US —must rid themselves of the confiscators – the corrupt politicians – and they must believe in the justness of individual freedom, and abide by the ideals and principles of individual responsibility and system of laws, rather than the favors of power mongers.

While many illegal immigrants have come with a very incorrect idea about what the American dream is –they are not alone. Many Americans hold the same mistaken ideas, which is significant because it is the IDEA that matters. It is not a matter of borders. The American dream is built upon an IDEA . . . and it is that IDEA that is the focus of the desperate efforts of collectivists to censor communications, silence free speech and criminalize the exchange of ideas, so that people never understand the IDEA. It is the IDEA of the “American dream” that they fear. The American dream is the IDEA that each citizen should be free to live life as they choose.

By Evelyn Pyburn

It’s been my observation that there is no tax that doesn’t eventually filter down to the individual citizen, and if they are a consumer, they are a taxpayer.

This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it just is. Businesses do not pay any kind of tax. While they may seem to pay them, in the end they have to pass them on in the price of their product to the consumer. If they don’t, they vanish as a business – they go broke, quit business, and cease to be a part of the picture. 

Taxes are not really paid on “tax day,” they are paid when the consumer purchases a product.

Taxes are consequential for businesses, only when they are looking for best locations in which to do business. But even then they are most consequential to the consumers and workers in the community, who benefit from the products, services, innovations and jobs that businesses bring.

There is no magic tax that saves the consumer.  There is only one way to lower taxes and that is for the government to spend less. Even if rich people pay higher rates, those tax inputs eventually reach the lowest rung of consumers in the prices they pay. 

It is especially vile when politicians attempt to dupe voters into believing that businesses are their enemy – that the individual’s taxes are high because businesses don’t pay their “fair share.” That is a favorite political mantra by political entities who do not want people to fully understand that the ONLY way to lower taxes is to lower government spending – bearing in mind that government has NOTHING that it doesn’t have to first take away from the citizens.

There are undoubtedly shifts in markets depending on what kinds of taxes are imposed. High property taxes reduce the number of homeowners. Rents increase.  High gasoline taxes reduce the amount citizens travel, but they pay them when they purchase groceries or products freighted into their community. High income taxes may encourage people to leave a community to work in a different state, which is also a price paid by the community. There may be some variance in every day transactions, but in the end, citizens are always the losers when taxes are high.

“Balanced” does not mean “lower,” which is how some people interpret the call for balanced taxes, and what the advocates want people to believe, and perhaps even believe themselves. But, not all that many people are fooled it seems, given a recent poll in which a majority of Montanans oppose adopting a statewide sales tax.

A sales tax has long been unpopular in Montana, where the basic taxes are income and property taxes. One has to believe it is because most people fully realize that it is really a call for more taxation, not property tax reduction, as is commonly claimed.

If Montana citizens ever had any misconceptions, they were given a clear lesson in the early-90s, when the last push for a sales tax was being made by many politicians. We needed a “three legged stool” for balance, we were being told. A sales tax would reduce property taxes, they said. And, while they were willing to put a cap on how high a sales tax might be – they were seen scrambling into the woodwork when it was recommended that a cap also be placed on property taxes and income taxes.

Montanans had routinely seen in neighboring states, how quickly and easily sales taxes were raised, and they were highly suspicious that the same was in store for Montana. When caps – especially on property taxes – were totally rejected in the state legislature, it made the truth of the situation clear. And, it is that which most Montanans see as the underlying reason for a sales tax.

If balance is what is being sought, then bring forth the legislation that would place real caps on all three taxes.

Caps on all taxation is actually the policy under which government – at all levels — should always function, if one looks at the realities of growth, which is usually the excuse given for more taxes. When a community grows it increases demand for goods, prices increase, and the number of pay checks increase. There are increases in every economic regard which should generate increased tax revenues at exactly the pace —  the set cap — that government should grow to keep pace with community growth.

That would keep government growth in check – which would also keep in check the power that government is able to exert over innocent citizens.

If one is really desirous of growing business and encouraging entrepreneurship, the Tax Foundation suggests that taxes on business to business transactions be exempt. The Tax Foundation warns that taxing business inputs results in “tax pyramiding” – taxing tax payments.

Business growth and a strong economy is a win- win for every one – even government, if indeed it is growing at a justifiable pace. Why should government grow if business isn’t growing or if citizens can’t make a living?

Adhering to policies that restrain growth in government with that of the economy would have saved the country from having any general sales taxes at all. It was during the Great Depression when citizens were starving, forced to abandon their property, leave their homes, and suffered a horrible plunge in the standard of living, that state governments decided that they shouldn’t have to endure the same suffering, and 44 of them enacted a general sales tax which burdened their citizens even more.

Montanans apparently decided not to do that. And, the case can truly be made the state has benefited from that decision ever since. There have been many studies and analysis of economic performance that have shown that states lacking one of the “three legs of the stool,” do better economically than they would with a “balanced” tax system. Those studies, in fact, demonstrate many times over that it is lower taxes that generate strong economies and better standards of living.

So let’s not scratch our heads in pretense that Montanans don’t know what is good for them. Most Montanans know EXACTLY what is good for them.

By Evelyn Pyburn

While most people know about the Northern International Livestock Exposition, and realize it has to do with the showing and selling of livestock, and promotion of  agriculture, they may not know how much NILE is focused on young people and supporting them in their education as the future of agriculture.

On a Tuesday morning, there were 1700 kids – members of FFA and 4-H – at the NILE, to participate in horse judging and meat evaluation. They came from California, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and of course, Montana. The day before a similar number of youth participated in other judging contests including livestock evaluation, meat science, sales and service, etc.

They come because, not only is the program and competition good, explained Leah Clark, NILE General Manager, but it is the last event in which FFA members can hone their skills prior to the National FFA Convention, which will be held in Indiana in November. She noted that the ages of the participants begin at age 9, which is the age at which they can join 4-H.

 In addition to those competitions, 1,800 fourth graders, from all over southeastern Montana, attended NILE for a 2.5 hour ag education program and hands-on experience, which is held in six sessions over three days. In the program they attend stations on livestock, grains, seeds and soil, honey and other special aspects of agriculture. The program is a collaborative effort of the NILE, the Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Extension Service, with volunteers from such organizations as the Beef Council, Montana Cattle Women, etc.

The youngsters arrive at the NILE by bus or in cars loaded with family members, trucks hauling livestock, etc. Not only do the teachers and chaperones of the youngsters attend, but so do trainers and judges and some of the top livestock growers in the nation, as well as the administrators and sponsors of the NILE. The event garners lots of headlines across the nation, and puts Billings on the map as an epicenter for agriculture for the entire region, which gains much support from local business people, the Billings Chamber of Commerce, the Yellowstone County Commissioners, many of whom were volunteers in serving the kids’ breakfast early on Monday and Tuesday mornings at MetraPark.

NILE raises money for its “Agriculture Youth Program” to award scholarships to deserving youth, to providing internship experiences for college students, to help young cattlemen and women start their own herd.  One of the events through which funds are raised is the annual Stetsons & Stilettos. Over the past 20 years the NILE Foundation has contributed a million in scholarships.

“Supporting youth in agriculture is a key component of the NILE Foundation’s mission,” says Clark, explaining that NILE has fundraising events to fund scholarships for youth as they enter college. “It is critical that we continue to provide financial assistance to the next generation of agriculture leaders so that they may pursue higher education and reach their personal and professional goals.”

Starting them out early in life is what happens at the NILE. The opportunities get them involved and focused at a very young age, giving them a view of what is possible and a hand-up in getting them started.

Youngsters who are members of FFA or 4-H, between ages 12 to 16, may participate in the NILE Merit Heifer Program, which was developed to help them get a start in the beef cattle business. Selected recipients are awarded a heifer based on merit, future goals and ability to care for the animal. Each program participant will own their heifer jointly with NILE until the completion of the program, at which time NILE officials will sign off and the participant will take full ownership of the heifer. Participants are responsible for raising the heifer, arranging for her bred, and completing the record keeping procedure. They bring the animal back one year later as a bred replacement heifer for exhibit at the NILE Stock Show.

The purpose of the program is to help the participant start his or her own cattle herd.

The NILE partners with Bill Oliver Horsemanship for the NILE Colt Classic to teach training and horsemanship skills. It has a similar goal as the Merit Heifer Program of helping to launch youth into owning their first horse.

Among NILE programs is another that provides for internships through which 10 college students are selected to help in the production of the annual NILE Stock Show & Rodeo. Besides exposing them to the agriculture world it gives them hands-on experience in management, organization, media, marketing and communications.

By Evelyn Pyburn

A contingent of state legislators, Billings and other state leaders, in various capacities, will be making a trip to Rapid City, South Dakota to tour their detention facility, the Pennington County Jail, to find out how they operate and possibly learn new ideas about how to deal with some aspects of Yellowstone County’s crime issues.

The trip will serve a two-fold purpose, according to City Councilwoman Jennifer Owen.  Some of those going on the trip are members of the sub-committee appointed by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) to explore all aspects of the county’s justice system, including the possible expansion of the jail, and others will be focused on how they deal with their pre-arraignment process and diversion program.

Owen is part of the CJCC subcommittee, as is County Commissioner Mark Morse and state legislator, Barry Usher, who will also be going on the tour. There will be others going on the trip from city and county leadership, as well as a number of state legislators.

 About the subcommittee, Owen explained, “We are looking at every possible thing we can do to make it [the justice system] work better.”  A separate “overarching” project is to build a temporary holding facility. With that in mind, there will be some investigation by the tour group into a pre-arraignment facility.

The City is pushing for the temporary holding facility, hoping to get a contract with Yellowstone County to operate it, and that it will be operational in a matter of months – at least by the end of 2024. The City has included a half million dollars in its budget to pursue the project, and anticipate that there may be a need to appropriate more funds. By law, only the County can operate a jail or prison, which is why the City will negotiate a two or three year contract with the County to operate a facility to hold misdemeanor cases immediately after being arrested for up to 72 hours as they wait to see a judge.

In having to deal with an over-crowded jail, a scenario that currently occurs regularly, is that a law officer will charge someone who, for example, is drunk and disorderly, only to have to leave them “on the streets,” since they don’t have a place to hold them. Invariably they will encounter that same person again later in the same night perpetrating another crime. “They can end up having multiple outstanding warrants and multiple crimes in one evening,” said Owen. It is instances such as this that a temporary holding facility is expected to curb.

The idea is to fund short- term, temporary structures that are flexible, which will allow officials to evaluate, over a two or three year period, the holding facility’s impact on crime and whether the facility impacts the jail – the Yellowstone County Detention Facility — population. The data collected will be beneficial in knowing what is needed in expanding the jail. According to Owen there are a number of vendors that offer a variety of units that can be rented.

County Commissioner Morse commented that where the information they gather will lead is uncertain. It will help in determining whether a temporary holding facility is possible and how it might fit in with other strategies, as well as helping to clarify uncertainties about adding onto the jail.  No matter what they do, a temporary holding facility would have to be located in proximity to the jail in order to access support services such as medical care, kitchen, laundry, administration, etc.

Among other options that the subcommittee is looking at is information brought by Justice of the Peace David Carter regarding a management program that will unify the courts and improve the ability of the courts to get data out of the system, which means, for example, a judge will know if a defendant before him has other outstanding warrants, etc.

County Attorney Scott Twito, who heads the CJCC, is also overseeing the sub-committee, which is meeting on a weekly basis, and is comprised of city and county officials, law enforcement, judges, and a legislator.

By Evelyn Pyburn

While many aspects of updating and expanding the Billings airport have been completed, there are more to come. Most of them are essential to attracting and retaining airline companies in the Billings market, according to Jeff Roach, Airport Director at Logan International Field in Billings.

Roach was one of several speakers at a special event featuring the Billings Air Service Committee hosted by the Billings Chamber of Commerce. Also presenting was Trina Froehlch of Mead & Hunt, of Eugene, Oregon. She gave one reason for the question that is commonly asked by people in Billings, which is why does Bozeman have more and less expensive flights than Billings? She explained that following COVID, business travel did not bounce back the way leisure travel has, which has encouraged airlines to invest more in leisure travel than business travel. Given that Bozeman has far more leisure travelers while Billings has always had a stronger business community, Bozeman has been more attractive for airline investment.

She added, “Billings and Bozeman are very different markets.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for Billings to expand its service. One way is to use Billings’ air service, even if it is a bit more expensive, advised Billings Chamber CEO John Brewer. The more travelers there are using Billings’ service the more attractive it appears as a good market to the airline carriers. The difference in cost per ticket isn’t that great – currently on average 13 percent per ticket. While that can amount to a lot for a family, Brewer is just saying….

The number of potential passengers is paramount for airlines in making their decision about where to bring service. Increasingly, they are operating larger aircraft with more seating because operating smaller planes is too expensive. They need to fill seats – typically from 60-70 – in each airplane.

Froehlch identified four areas of costs that are plaguing airline companies – high fuel costs, labor shortages, a decline in demand, and a shortage of aircraft. But their Number 1 problem is a shortage of pilots.  “It is really acute.”

There are a number of things that Billings airport has to do in order to bring in new carriers and expand service – “things that weren’t priorities before.” Some $60 million in upgrades have been identified.

Airline companies do not want to unload passengers on the ground. Billings Airport is doubling their number of gates. They have completed four and planning to add four more by April 1. They have only one ground loading area.

This spring they will begin building access roads to business centers within Logan Field.

They are going to realign the road on the west end of the airport which will allow for the expansion of a ramp that allows for a fifth air cargo pad.

“Every year into the future we have projects planned,” said Roach. The projects are prioritized and set forth in a master plan, but Roach noted that their existing master plan is 12 years old and needs to be updated. They updating could take up to two years.

Developing a 20- year master plan will take “robust public involvement,” said Roach.

Parking is one of the critical issues. “Do we stay on the ground or do we go vertical?” questioned Roach. Security improvements is another issue. “Our baggage claim no longer meets security requirements,” he said. There are other security issues to be addressed. Changes are also necessary in the area of bag screening and ticket counters.

Roach hinted that another fixed based operator is coming to Billings, a business similar to Edwards Jet Center.

There has been expansion in Billings’ air service.

The City of Billings, in partnership with the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), the Billings Chamber of Commerce, and Big Sky Economic Development has been awarded a $1,000,000 Small Community Air Service Development Program (SCASD) grant by the United States Department of Transportation to recruit, initiate, and support new air service between Billings and one of two California hubs—San Francisco or Los Angeles.

Brewer pointed out that Southern California was identified as one of the top destinations in the country and Billings has no direct service to California. The Billings community must fulfill a match commitment to get the grant, which they are working on doing, according to Ashley Kavanagh, Senior Director of Recruitment and Community Development at Big Sky Economic Development. Local citizens and businesses were urged to contribute.

Another new “low-cost carrier”,  Sun Country Airlines, has been announced to begin service in Billings on June 19, 2024, with nonstop flights to Minneapolis-St. Paul. A seasonal service, the flights will be run every Wednesday and Saturday, until Aug. 24, 2024.

Billing has the second most flights, but is third in seat capacity.

Companies offering air service in Billings are Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, Frontier, Jet Blue and Southwest.