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Misplaced Priorities Of Montana, by Fred Thomas (April 2014)

Before the 2014 election, Fred Thomas have given his point of view about Montana’s political state to the Montana Daily Star. The account goes:

“When people ask me why I’m running for governor, I tell them that I want Montana to be like it was when I started my career here.

Back then, we set big goals, worked together and, most importantly, got things done.

Our state Legislature closed up shop last week, and like so many other years in recent memory, it got distracted from the issues that matter — protecting vulnerable children, improving our kids’ K-12 schools, and cleaning up the state Capitol — by focusing on ideological issues and Washington, D.C.-style partisan games.

The problems we face are bigger than all that, and fixing them requires leadership that puts problem-solving over playing politics.

Late last fall, when news broke that Child Protective Services put more than 6,500 allegations of child abuse and neglect into a “Do Not Open” drawer, we knew that years of under-resourcing caseworkers and preventative services had led us to a crisis moment.

Rather than acting on that crisis, our Legislators have left town without enough funding for the creation of the new family and child welfare agency, and only vague promises that it would come back later and actually set up the new agency — just don’t ask when.

And this year’s budget contained no additional funding for preventative services like childcare subsidies. These programs keep kids out of the CPS system in the first place, they save money, and help working parents afford quality child care while they’re at work. They’re one of the tools we have to rebuild Montana’s middle class.

At the same time, the neglect of our K-12 schools continued for another year. After years of undervaluing education and billions of dollars of cuts, we’re still asking our teachers to do more with less.

That kind of “cut first” education isn’t good enough for my kids, and I don’t think it’s good enough for yours either. We need to be making targeted reinvestments in K-12 education that prioritize early childhood education and all-day kindergarten, not diverting more money out of public education and lowering standards by eliminating Common Core.

Meanwhile, despite scandal after scandal, politicians are still getting free tickets to ball games and we’re still one of the only states in the country without an independent ethics commission.

These issues — child protection, education and good government — are all incredibly important, but what did we hear the most about this session? Legalizing discrimination, allowing guns in libraries and field trips to visit a foolish rancher in Nevada.

Montana’s falling behind in trade and education because, right now, our leaders lack a strategic vision for how to move Montana forward. And in the absence of a strategic vision, partisanship will take precedent over problem solving. We deserve better.

I’m running for governor to change all that.

The 21st century economy moves and changes too fast for Montana to be stuck in neutral. We’ve got to move forward by adequately resourcing a child welfare agency that works so that no child is ignored; and invest in early childhood education to give our kids a head start on the skills they need to get the jobs of the future.”

Thomas ended his account that so far the previous leaders have chosen not to do what he expected from them, and the voters had a chance to change that during the November election.

Presently, Thomas is still hoping that the state of Montana would be better than it had been from the previous years.