Havre City Council recently passed on a partisan 5-4 vote a resolution to become a part of Vibrant Futures, a group that will work to attract funds for programs assisting the Hi-Line.
The vote was troubling for several reasons, not the least of which was that it was along partisan — and apparently ideological — lines. After Election Day, partisan politics has rarely reared its head on City Council.
Vibrant Futures is the brainchild of Opportunity Link, a foundation-backed organization that has rightly won widespread respect from all sides of the political spectrum. It started the bus system that transports people to and from as far away as Fort Belknap and Great Falls.
Some of the opposition was based on arguments that we think are misguided and deserve response.
Other opposition points were whacky and deserve nothing but derision.
At the heart of the opposition was that Montana should brace itself for the time that federal funds will be cut, and we will have to cut the apron strings to Washington.
Indeed, no matter who wins the November elections, federal grants will be harder to come by. The federal government must balance its budget, and some of the cuts will be made on programs that have hurt communities like those along the Hi-Line.
All the more reason, we believe, why north-central Montana should fight hard for the cash we think our area richly deserves.
There seems to be a feeling that Montanans' rough, independent spirit is at odds with putting our hands out for money that will put our area on an even keel with other parts of the nation. Not so.
By any standards, the Hi-Line receives more money from Washington than it pays in federal taxes. Should we be ashamed of that? No way.
We feed New Yorkers and Chicagoans. We provide rest, solitude and natural beauty to folks from Phoenix and St. Louis. Hopefully, we will soon be providing them with quality biofuels.
Montana has more federally owned land and more national parks that attract people from around the nation. But preserving our environment is costly, and we think the state is right insisting that more money come to help us make ends meet.
The federal highway program provides more money to Montana than most other states. Guess what? Montana has a lot more miles of federal highways than Rhode Island. It's pretty hard to get from New York to Seattle by crossing Rhode Island.
The Hi-Line faces numerous problems that will be insurmountable without help from Helena and Washington. After all the Hi-Line has pumped into our nation's economy over the last century, we think we have earned some help.
Millions are needed to repair water irrigation system that provide a lifeline to the wheat and cattle farms of north-central Montana that have helped feed the country for a century since the Homestead days. Should we get some of our tax money back for these projects? You bet. Without federal funds, it will take an awful lot of bake sales to raise that kind of money.
A program to provide drinkable water to remote parts of the Hi-Line has made a real difference in the lives of many people. But it is only one-fifth finished.
Rocky Boy's and Fort Belknap Indian reservations are among the most poverty-stricken areas of the nation, largely because of a century-long mistreatment by the federal government. Do residents there deserve financial help so they can lift themselves up by their bootstraps? No question.
The list goes on. Every municipality in the area has vital needs that have to be met. In the fight for funding, larger cities and larger states have a big advantage in political power. We don't have the political sway that New York and Chicago have. North-central Montana will have to fight hard for every scrap it gets. No apologies from us for waging that fight.
If working together with other communities helps places like Havre, Harlem and Chinook get a tiny chunk of what our area deserves, great. If working together can help us better plan the future for our very special region, go for it.
Then comes the argument that the whole Vibrant Futures program is aligned with Agenda 21, a massive United Nations plot — that somehow Mayor Tim Solomon, Opportunity Link's Barb Stiffarm and other community leaders are in cahoots with foreign leaders to force green energy on us whether we want it or not.
Give us a break.
Those who have followed Councilman Rick Dow's column in this paper and elsewhere can hardly be surprised by his comments. But we don't recall any of the other Republicans campaigning on such goofy themes.