Advanced Life Support District Needed to Help Ensure Top-Quality Services

Colton Cowger, a tenth-grader in Columbus, MT, wrote a letter to the editor of the Stillwater County News, advocating for creating an Advanced Life Support district to serve outlying rural communities. His letter set the wheels in motion for a ballot initiative that passed in May 2017. This letter represents effective public writing because it demonstrates the author’s clear understanding of community values (the importance of life-saving services and a commitment to reasonable taxes). Further, it effectively advocates that taxpayers deserve the opportunity to vote on establishing an Advanced Life Support district. Colton researched this issue and wrote the letter as part of a multi-week Making Civic Arguments project.

Advanced Life Support Article

Employs a Public Voice To advocate for establishing an Advanced Life Support district, this letter to the editor effectively connects to the fundamental interests of taxpayers and voters in Stillwater County through the stylistic choice to repeat the idea of life saving. (“They just saved your life.” “It might even save your life someday.”) The writing establishes the author’s credibility through concisely displaying detailed knowledge of the funding mechanisms (fees and federal grants) for the current ambulance service.

Advocates Civic Engagement or Action This letter effectively establishes the need for the Advanced Life Support district by pointing out the limitations of current funding sources. Further, it advocates a reasonable and feasible civic action—allowing taxpayers to vote on whether to establish and fund such a district. While the letter points out support for the idea from a survey, it also emphasizes that taxpayers need to make the decision.

Argues a Position Based on Reasoning and Evidence The letter reflects two values that the author brings to this issue—importance of public funding for life-saving services and of taxpayers voting for tax increases. The letter also offers thoughtful interpretation and synthesis of evidence about how ALS is currently funded and provided, interviews with paramedics, and a community survey.

Employs a Structure This letter to the editor effectively organizes the information in a problem / solution format. In addition, it includes a particularly strong opening and closing, designed to underscore the critical nature of public funding for an Advanced Life Support district.

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