| 03.17.2018

Empty seats — Locals gathered Thursday to speak about current events, how to prevent further damage

Three seats remained empty at a town hall meeting Thursday — the seats for Sen. Jim Risch, Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Raul Labrador.

Event coordinators handed out posters to locals with “agree” or “disagree.” Despite the absence of Idaho politicians, citizens were given a chance to speak about recent issues developing nationally and locally.

As the Idaho Legislature is in session, Moscow City Hall addressed one problem about education and Idaho’s representatives shrinking its federal funding.

Georgia Tolby, a Moscow instructor, said to remove federal funding from curriculums like the humanities and arts would devastate a student’s mental health and inspiration.

“I cannot tell you how many kids were really, really, genuinely saved by those programs in the schools that I taught,” Tolby said.

Jerry Leonard said a bill was introduced in Idaho proposing more funding for private and charter schools with no specific curriculum requirements.  He said Idahoans should be more focused on funding public schools to eventually become the best branch of education.

Washington State University science professor Von Walden said he is a product of public education and emphasized how the environment is another issue causing concern.

“I have been literally to the ends of the earth. I’ve worked all day in negative 40 degrees Fahrenheit, I’ve been in a plane wreck on the Antarctic plateau and I’ve fallen through sea ice in the Artic Ocean,” Walden said.

Walden said he is a climate scientist who has evaluated raw data in front of his eyes and climate change is not a problem to be ignored.

“I feel like I’m out there working hard to get the data,” Walden said. “I don’t feel like I’m making up my data. I don’t believe in (climate change). It’s just science.”

University of Idaho student Megan Miller said the presidential election has given people more opportunity to talk about politics — climate change in particular.

“Many of us work in environmental fields that not directly related to climate change, but we see the impacts every day,” Miller said. “Whether it’s fish, wildlife hydrology, timberland — everything, everything is impacted.”

Moscow health practitioner Eva Hallvick said destroying trees and contaminating water will ultimately affect our physical health.

“We need to really be concerned about our environment more than anything else right now,” Hallvick said.

Miller said Crapo is not willing to admit climate change exists because then more federal government interference would be needed, which he is unwilling to concede.

“How can you justify your politics on behalf of the planet?” Miller said.

Hallvick said people are scared about what has happened in the last several weeks with unknown plans in vital funding ahead.

WSU instructor Susan Kilmore said human rights extends to more than what the absent senators and representative believe in.

“Education is a human right. Healthcare is a human right,” Kilmore said. “Clean air, clean environment — they’re human rights. And that’s what we’re here for.”

Catherine Keenan can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter at Ckeeneye

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