Archive for April 1st, 2006

As spring trickles across the valleys of Montana and up the slopes of its mountains, its citizens debate light rail, the delisting of grizzly bear and wolves, and the encroachment of big box stores. A Wim Wenders movie set in Butte premiered there. Governor Brian Schweitzer asked wayward Montanans to return to the state – with wallets, please, while the state board of education passed an anti-bullying policy, despite state conservatives’ objection to an acknowledgement that victims of bullying might be targeted because of their “sexual orientation.”

Much speculation in the Montana blogosphere centered on the folding of the state’s sole Air American affiliate, KKNS in Missoula. Matt Singer was suspicious of the conservative background of the station’s new investment group; Touchstone thought it a mere casualty of corporate-era radio; and James Greer blames timid Missoula-based businesses. Air America’s biggest star, Al Franken, weighed in. New West interviewed the players responsible for the station fold: decide for yourself.

Two initiatives are hotly disputed: Montana’s “Stop Overspending” initiative, a state-spending tax cap, which is really a slate of stealth service cuts masterminded by an out-of-state cabal of anti-government extremists. The second is initiative 152, which would alter eminent domain laws to compensate land owners for property loss as a result of regulatory change. Most thought the initiative is anti-democratic, because it would protect large mining companies from local environmental regulation.

Montana’s filing deadline for state offices came and went. The only surprise was that there were no surprise Republican entrants for the Senate seat despite the swirling rumors that controversial Conrad Burns would drop out.

Speaking of Conrad Burns, it was a bad month of publicity for the embattled Senator. His name was dropped by Jack Abramoff in a recent Vanity Fair interview, he was the feature for an entertaining sidebar in Rolling Stone’s piece on Abramoff and a full-length story on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” There was also talk about Burns’ involvement in a local scandal involving missing federal funds and his too-close relationship with telecomm lobbyists. Undaunted by these reports and sinking poll numbers, Burns plowed on with his campaign by saying in response to accusations of taking money from Abramoff: “What’s the difference between one dollar and one thousand? Its all dollars.” He bragged about bringin’ home the bacon for Montana, just like a spendthrift liberal, and accused President Bush of having a “head of granite” while supporting the Dubai Port deal and Bush’s immigration plan likely in exchange for the president’s appearance at a fundraiser.

Democratic candidate for Senate and Internet darling, Jon Tester, called for Burns’ resignation. Watch it in this kick-*ss two-minute video he made. Oh yeah, Tester also guaranteed that women’s contraceptives would be covered by health insurance in Montana. Matt Singer sees a clear separation in the bill by Tester from his primary opponent, state auditor John Morrison. State senator Jeff Gallus disagreed in the comments to that post.

Meanwhile, John Morrison kicked off his campaign by promising affordable health care, protection of the state’s borders, and to support the development of alternative fuels.

While Montanans were split over politics, they were unified in their support of the University of Montana’s men’s basketball team, which upset Nevada in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Go Griz!

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