Airport lease may be best course

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The city of Kalispell has been between the proverbial rock and a hard spot for decades with its municipal airport. The airport is expensive to operate, and commercial and residential development has grown around it. It’s been a political hot potato for city leaders. Some would like to see the facility upgraded, but many Kalispell residents would simply like to see it gone.

The City Council seems to have found a way out of its predicament by turning over control to an independent group of users. An initial 20-year lease hands over the administrative power, financial liability and some $166,000 in the city’s airport enterprise fund.

The council will have the discretion to extend the lease for two 10-year periods, leaving the operational decisions and money matters out of the city’s hands until 2057. In turn, the user group — those who have a vested interest in maintaining the airport — is expected to make a number of improvements over the next two decades to keep the airport operating efficiently and safely. There will be a measure of trust to put in this independent group of users, to be sure, but this “pay to play” lease decision seems like a best-case scenario for the city.

Health care takes a hit

Health care is controversial in many ways, but it shouldn’t be a political football.

As a society we have opted to spend money on protecting the least fortunate among us. Providing health care is a key component of that.

Yet time after time, politicians and bureaucrats end up cutting or withholding health-care benefits to make a political point.

The recent special session of the Montana Legislature seems to have done just that with a series of budget cuts.

The Flathead City-County Health Department is concerned that at-risk children and families will be the victims, thanks to a 13 percent reduction in Targeted Case Management for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs funding. The program provides home visits for low-income and high-risk children and families to improve their access to health care and parenting services.

This may not be the final hit for heath services either. Federal budget changes could remove other essential parts of the safety net as well.

Balancing the budget is an important part of any legislator’s job, but we encourage those in power to also balance carefully the need for fiscal restraint against the needs of the truly needy.

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