Archive for December, 2007

by Rebecca Schmitz

Bozeman’s Mayor Jeff Krauss wants us to win in Iraq. Conservatives on Missoula’s City Council feel it’s “wrong and disgusting” to discuss the war on Council’s time. With all the division in Bozeman and Missoula over our towns’ Iraq War resolutions, other American cities serve as a reminder that we’re not really all that radical. Take some of the citizens of Brattleboro, Vermont for example. In the words of Emeril Lagasse, they’re kickin’ it up a notch:

A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community.

The central argument of their opponents is the same as in our communities:

“I would not be supportive of it,” said Stephen Steidle, a member of the town’s Selectboard, which oversees its government. “It’s well outside of our ability. From my perspective, the Brattleboro Selectboard needs to focus on the town and the things that need to be done here.”

From my perspective, if we can’t get Congress or the Administration to listen to us, why shouldn’t we turn to our local politicians? Change has to start somewhere. However, as amusing as this petition is, I don’t think arresting Bush and Cheney will bring our nation together, let alone redirect our foreign policy. I doubt both men will ever find themselves in Brattleboro. Bush has yet to visit Vermont at all during his term in office. More importantly, our country is too dependent on fossil fuels to get our fingers out of the Middle East’s petroleum pie. For better or worse, we’ll be involved in their internal politics until all of us finally realize our national security depends on switching to other energy sources.

On the other hand, I won’t lie: it warms the cockles of my little black heart to imagine both of them handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car.

by Rebecca Schmitz

I’ve been accused of using hyperbole to make a point by a couple of our readers, so I’m not immune to criticism. I know Jay’s officially retired the “creep” category, so hopefully the level of discourse can remain above personal attacks. But sometimes a blogger can’t resist, because this, this is priceless:

Cook for a living and forget to put pickles on a gay persons hamburger, you’ll be thrown in jail and charged with a hate-crime (obviously you hate gays because you didn’t forget the pickles on the hetero’s burger).

I’ve heard a lot about the fabled Homosexual Agenda, but sweet Elton John’s feather boa, I had no idea it was so far-reaching as to include burger fixings. I’m sure your heart, like mine, quails at the thought of the blood that will run in Missoula’s streets when someone forgets to put the slice of pepper jack on Jamee’s cheeseburger.

by Pete Talbot

My very first piece here at 4&20 Blackbirds, almost seven months ago, was on Republican legislator Bill Nooney. He “represents” House District 100 on Missoula’s western edge. My post basically said that Nooney, who had painted himself as a moderate during his campaign, had voted lock step with the most right-wing element of the 2007 legislature.

It turns out that I’m not the only one following Nooney’s political career. One of his constituents, Bill Vaughn, has a blog site and Nooney is often the subject of his writings. Here’s the first paragraph from Vaughn’s latest piece on Rep. Nooney:

“Like the assassin who attends the funeral, far-right Republican politician Bill Nooney was among the 150 people crammed into Montana’s Lolo Community Center on Dec. 4. While most everyone else was there to ask questions about a heavy industrial scheme just outside town that will ruin their lives unless the government steps in to prevent it, Nooney—their representative to the Montana House and a fat cat who lives in a McMansion fifteen miles away—showed up for reasons we can only assume were perverse.”

You’ll have to go to Vaughn’s site to read the rest. It’s worth it. Once at the site, you’ll also have to scroll down a bit to find the piece. Vaughn’s site is called Dark Acres. As the name suggests, some of the writing can be a bit on the dark side. Vaughn is, however, a skilled writer. And his observations on Nooney are spot on.

by Pete Talbot

Missoula’s reputation as a haven for “liberal dope-smoking hippies” makes it hard to get candidates from the Garden City elected to statewide office. That’s according to Craig Wilson, a political science professor at MSU-Billings, in a story written by Chelsi Moy in last Sunday’s Missoulian.

“To the rest of the state, there is a perception that (Missoulians) view themselves at the center of the universe, and at the center of the state, for sure,” Wilson added. “They feel Missoula is out of step with the rest of the state.”

I have two points to make. First, we are the center of the universe. Second, if you want to be the Democratic nominee, you have to win Missoula.

This second point was overlooked in the Missoulian story. We (Democrats) actually have some power in who ends up on the general election ballot. That’s because we deliver more Democratic votes than any other county in the state. You want to be the Democratic nominee for, say, attorney general? You better work Missoula really hard before the primary election.

An example of Missoula’s clout is the Jon Tester/John Morrison primary race for U.S. Senate in 2006. Morrison had a lead in the polls going into the primary but because of a giant grassroots effort and big turnout for Tester in Missoula, Jon ended up being the Democratic nominee in the general election. Granted, there were a few other mitigating circumstances but Missoula did play a huge role.

There are some exceptions to this theory. The John Ellingson/Bill Kennedy 2006 secretary of state primary race is one. Although Ellingson, from Missoula, beat Kennedy, from Billings, rather handily in Missoula County, he didn’t get enough votes statewide to pull it off. I believe Kennedy really thrashed Ellingson in Kennedy’s home county (Yellowstone). I’m guessing that Kennedy also pulled some Republican votes. And Kennedy was quite popular in many of the state’s other counties, both urban and rural.

Ellingson being a trial lawyer probably didn’t help much. That title can raise money but not votes. Witness John Morrison and years earlier Jack Mudd, a Missoula attorney who got spanked by one Conrad Burns. So, maybe it’s the attorney tag and not the Missoula tag, that really hurts you.

That being said, though, in most cases Missoula holds the key to winning in the Democratic primary. And you can hold me accountable on June 4, the day after Montana’s primary election. I’m betting that the Democratic winners in Missoula County will be the Democratic candidates on the November ballot.

Another Missoulian article, this one in Wednesday’s paper and written by AP reporter Matt Gouras, talked about the Montana Republican Party’s new caucus system. It will allow the party faithful — from statewide office holders all the way down to precinct committeemen and women — to support a presidential candidate in the party’s Feb. 5 caucus.

This system has some appeal to me because everyone else in the state can’t weigh in until the June 3 primary. And by that time, it’s usually all over. (Some pundits are saying it will be over by Feb. 5, also known as Super Tuesday, when as many as 22 states could be holding primaries. Notice that this date also coincides with the Montana Republican caucus.)

Of course the downside is that only hand-picked Republican Party insiders will be voting on the outcome. The Democrats will rely on the number of votes cast in the primary to dictate how their delegates will vote in the national convention. It’s more democratic that way but again, it’s really late in the cycle — it could be down to one, maybe two Democratic candidates at that point.

There has been other commentary on the Montana Republican caucus, on blog sites both left and right. It has been noted that while the caucus system may not be the most democratic, it actually might draw some candidates to Montana, or at least get them to respond to some of our issues. It’s also a great way to build the party. For example, the AP article indicates that Ron Paul supporters are starting to line up for open precinct seats.

Should Montana Democrats adopt a caucus system? What think you, faithful reader?

Update: This is sort of a correction for the Missoula Parking Commission. Meter maids were just ticketing serial parking abusers on Christmas Eve day — those parking over two hours, in loading zones or leased parking slots that didn’t belong to them. The standard parking violator (expired meter) got a Christmas card from the commission.

I was also informed that there used to be a TWO week period before Christmas when vehicles weren’t ticketed downtown. That’s not the case anymore.

The Missoula Project

by Jay Stevens

This week’s feature story in the Missoula Independent profiles the “Missoula Project,” an effort to plant a church here to create a church community for believers and unbelievers alike. It’s an attractive idea, isn’t it?

Call me dubious. I wrote about them just over a year ago, when I stumbled on their “mission statement” for their church in our community:

Nestled in the heart of the mountains, Missoula, Montana, sits like a crown jewel in the Last Best Place. It is a beautiful city to live in, but it’s a barren wasteland spiritually. Nearly 70% of those who live here are completely unchurched. Many have rejected modern religiosity and are looking elsewhere for answers.Burned-out ex-hippies, liberal intellectuals, rugged individualists, and bulletproof college students – all are on a quest for meaning and fulfillment. These people hunger for something more, but they are not finding it. Very few have any real understanding how Christ and the Gospel can quench their thirst.

To be fair to the Missoula project, Christian Cryder admitted in the comments that the statement was written in part to convince church elders of the necessity for starting a church in Missoula, and apologized for the “barren wasteland” comment. He wasn’t interested in changing what Missoula is, just offering us a little more community.

And, indeed, throughout the article and on their blog, pastors Cryder and Sutherland emphasize that their church’s members’ relation to Christ is irrelevant, and that they’re not setting up this project solely as a means to prosthelityze.

Still, if Cryder and Sutherland were interested in creating a nondemoninational community of believers and non-believers alike here in Missoula, a good start would be to renounce their ties to the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA), with its hostile historical stance towards the Civil Rights and Vietnam peace movements, and its slightly disturbing current stance towards gays and prohibition against women pastors.

And if the Missoula Project really isn’t interested in prosthelityzing as its missionary goal, they’d rearrange their leadership to include non-believers and members from other denominations and religions. (There’s a very healthy Buddhist presence in Missoula!)

Otherwise, to me, the group is what it seems: a mission from the PCA with clever packaging. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

by jhwygirl

Daniel Nairn’s thoughts on “It” are worth the read.

by jhwygirl

I’m now paralyzed with writing because of your grammar wars or grammar watches or whatever you want to call them.

Just wanted to let you know.

by jhwygirl

Saw this in the paper today: County approves preliminary steps towards zoning.

Good for them.

Land Rich

by jhwygirl

I just finished watching Montana PBS’s Land Rich, a documentary on the state of ranching here in Montana.

The people are colorful – you just want to hug them all – the scenery is ethereal, and the message, predictably, melancholic.

It replays on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Set your TiVo or VCR or DVR or whatever other technological instrument that does those types of things. It’s well worth it.

I’ll offer some thoughts later, in hopes that others have some to offer too.

by Pete Talbot

… chickens. Well, not personally – too much responsibility. But thanks to a City Council vote Monday night, maybe one of my neighbors will share their homegrown, fresh huevos with me.

… a rewrite of Missoula’s zoning regulations (in progress). Planned Neighborhood Clusters, density bonuses, redrawn property lines – these issues, while good ideas, need a little tweaking. Let’s also add some design standards to the mix.

… comprehensive county-wide zoning. Since most of the growth in the Missoula area is occurring outside the city limits, it’s absurd not to have county zoning in place. Can you say gravel pits?

… Plum Creek lands given to Missoula County in the form of publicly-accessible conservation easements. This one follows on the heels of my previous wish. A planner told me that since Plum Creek is a major landholder in the county, it’s going to be darn hard to zone the county until we know what’s going to happen to those lands.

… help for the homeless and an end to the rage. Missoulian Clayton Salcido’s murder is unfathomable, and (allegedly) at the hands of a Hellgate High School student and his buddy. How could this happen in our community?

… the punk who threw a frozen pie in Santa’s face does some time. Not a lot of time, maybe a few days, enough for some introspection. I’d sort of forgotten about this incident then two things happened. First, I met the above-mentioned Santa. He didn’t want to talk about it – he’s probably sick and tired of people asking him about what happened – but he’s a regular guy just doing a job and didn’t deserve this. Second, the perpetrator wrote a letter to the Missoulian. No remorse or “I’ll never do it again;” just some lame justification that this is the kind of entertainment people want (he’s producing a DVD — for God’s sake don’t anybody buy one).

… a semi-auto, clip-fed shotgun, plus a 9mm. Luger and maybe some Nosler 130-grain partition bullets. Not really. I’m going to catch some crap over this one but Gerik, Moorcat and Wulfgar – fellow bloggers whom I often agree with politically – are asking Santa for new weapons. For some reason, for me anyway, the holiday season doesn’t suggest more firepower. But to each his own.

… a couple more Democratic seats in Montana’s House of Representatives. Our state is starting to move in a decent direction. This would help facilitate the move.

… a real energy policy. The CAFE standards that Congress passed and the Prez just signed into law are a start but otherwise it was a pretty insignificant bill. It looks like the oil and coal industry won another round.

… in the same vein, some U.S. leadership on the global warming/climate change issue. I was embarrassed by my country’s behavior at the recent Bali conference. We could be the hero but instead, in the eyes of most countries, we’re the villain.

… no more soldier and civilian war-related death in Iraq. We aren’t winning this war and never will. The recent death of Helena soldier Daren Smith, 19, drives this point home.

… peace on earth, goodwill towards men, women, kids and critters. I could also use a new pair of Sorels.

by Rebecca Schmitz

One hundred years ago your local pharmacist doubled as the owner of the town’s soda fountain, dispensing both lemon phosphates and cocaine to customers without fuss.  Nowadays, you might be able to pay for most of your purchases at the pharmacy counter in the back of CVS or Walgreens, but don’t expect a milkshake while you wait for your prescription to be filled.   And don’t expect to purchase birth control from the pharmacy at Larry’s IGA in Broadus.  That’s right.  John Lane, the 21st Century’s version of the soda jerk, has decided to stop filling birth control prescriptions in Broadus because of his personal religious convictions.  Since he’s the only pharmacist in town, Powder River County residents now have to either drive 80 miles to Miles City or receive their pills by mail.

Lane believes a little inconvenience shouldn’t outweigh his ability to work and provide for his family — he and his wife, Amy, have six children ranging in age from 5 months to 9 years — while living out the convictions of his faith.

Powder River County, and all of Montana, can do something about this.  We can insist Mr. Lane and others, like the owners of Snyder Drug in Great Falls, simply do their jobs.  Since no other licensed professions allow their members to practice without a basic belief in and understanding of the tenets of their chosen profession, (A teacher who doesn’t teach?  A hairstylist who can’t cut hair?  A doctor who doesn’t cure patients?) let’s make it easier for John Lane to “work and provide for his family”.  Let’s elect folks to the 2009 Legislature who will introduce and pass a law requiring pharmacists to fill all legal prescriptions and requiring the Montana Board of Pharmacy to revoke the licenses of those individuals who cannot perform their jobs.  That way, Mr. Lane can practice his faith by finding employment in a less-demanding field.  Like making banana splits at Baskin Robbins.

PSA

by 4&20 Staff

Please attend this important event:

In response to the stomping to death of homeless man Forrest Clayton Salcido, Missoulians are invited to Take Back the California Street Bridge on Thursday, December 20 at 5:30 p.m. Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger will speak at this candlelight vigil, which will be followed by a rally against violence at the Badlander starting at 6 p.m. The Badlander is located at the corner of Broadway and Ryman in downtown Missoula, and this is a free community event aimed at keeping Missoula’s streets safe for all people.

The Poverello Center is the main sponsor of this event, which is a part of ‘We Are Missoula,’ the group behind the community rally held on Nov. 26 against the two anti-gay beatings that happened near downtown.

(This message was forwarded to us from Caitlin Copple at the YWCA.)

Additional information just in from Ellie Hill at the Poverello:

Speakers Include :
Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger (who also heads the Governor’s Council on Homelessness)
Ellie Hill, Executive Director, Poverello Center, Inc.
Cindy Weese, Executive Director, YWCA
Amy Carter, University Congregational Church
John Lund, University of Montana’s Lutheran Campus Pastor
Amanda Salcido, Niece of Forest Clayton Salcido

December 21st is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. Since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless has sponsored National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day in order to bring attention to the tragedy of homelessness and to remember the homeless who have died from illness, neglect and violence during the year.

This past week, the community witnessed one of our own local homeless Vietnam veterans, Forest Clayton Salcido, senselessly and brutally murdered. More and more homeless people are dying from violence and unprovoked hate crimes in this country each year.

Missoula citizens and collaborating organizations are outraged over this crime and the continuing pervasiveness of violence motivated by hate in this community.

“WE ARE MISSOULA” is the partnership of thirty (30) collaborative private and non profit organizations unified to: Speak up and Stand out against Hate Crimes. The last WE ARE MISSOULA rally in November drew over 300 participants.

Those attending the candlelight vigil are asked to bring candles in glass containers to the bridge and join speakers, singers and others to remember our homeless and the others in this community who have been victims of hate. Immediately following the vigil, participants are encouraged to warm up in The Badlander for a rally against hate in Missoula.

With sponsoring organizations like Forward Montana, Montana Human Rights Network, The Poverello Center, Montana Pride Network, ACLU, University of Montana LAMBDA Alliance, YWCA and Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, this rally will provide a venue for showing broad community support for ending
hate crimes, homophobia and other forms of systemic violence.

The goals of the rally are to educate the community about the vulnerability of homelessness, hate crimes and how to report them to the Missoula police, as well as to encourage strength and solidarity within the community.

In addition the rally will serve as the kick off for a broader campaign of community education, skill building and political action.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

With the approval of the Rattlesnake’s Sonata subdivision last night, and today’s hearing before the Board of County Commissioners regarding JTL’s proposed gravel pit-across-the-street-from-another-gravel pit up near Lolo (the only thing that can stop that is zoning), I’ve been thinking for the last few days about how long it would be before we got county-wide zoning.

How many lawsuits will the county have to defend?

How much of Plum Creek Timberlands’ lands will be subdivided before we zone?

I spoke with a Ravalli County planner today. They are on-schedule for county-wide zoning by this time next year. Same with their streamside setback regulations.

County-wide zoning for Ravalli is the brainchild of a group of citizens who got sick and tired of unregulated growth and sprawl. They repeatedly went to the county commissioners requesting that zoning be undertaken, to no avail. Frustrated, they collected signatures to force a referendum vote, and last November a referendum was approved which enacted emergency interim zoning and required the county to adopt county-wide zoning.

The project is ambitious. I watch and follow with some amount of awe. Actual planning being done! How amazing!

The planner I spoke with is both excited and exhausted. I was told that they are all working feverishly on the plan – often working until 10 p.m. each night. “It’s not easy,” he/she said, “while a lot of the community is participating, there are, of course, a group of people that simply don’t want it. Period.”

I asked how the “takings” lecture went back about 2 weeks ago. He/she said that the meeting was extremely well-attended – more so than the zoning meetings which are also well-attended. The public was shocked, he/she said, at the information: that streamside setbacks are rarely found to be “takings”- that in order for a takings to occur, property has to be rendered unusable. Simply because you don’t get to do what you want to do isn’t a taking.

~~~~~~~~

It’s really hard to stop sprawl when you can go anywhere and ignore the comprehensive plan and subdivide to 1 acre lots. State law and legal precedent do NOT allow the comprehensive plan to be the sole and only reason for subdivision denial. (I wish that someone would have said that at last night’s Sonata hearing. It wasn’t city council’s fault. Without health, safety or welfare concerns that can’t be mitigated, they really had no legal standing to deny the request.)

Further, in some ways, we’ve got the city and the county working against each other. The city can – and is – working on a zoning rewrite. But without county-wide zoning, we are going to have development all over the place, sprawling traffic and increasing degradation to air quality. (Yeah, did you read that one this weekend?) If you can’t do what you want to in the city or out in the meager zoned county ‘donut’ – go out into the not-so-hinterlands, and go to one-acre lots. They’re hard-pressed to deny, really, in the end. And now probably even more so, considering Richards’ recent filing against the county.

~~~~~~~~

I stopped by our courthouse the other day to inquire what the process was to put a referendum on the ballot. I guess I’m not thinking that the county commissioners would put it there willingly.

A resolution would have to be prepared, presuming that the referendum would pass and the county commissioners would have to sign it. A petition would also have to be prepared. That resolution and petition would be reviewed and approved by the county elections officer and the county attorney. Once approved, roughly 12,000 signatures would have to be gathered in 90 days. The latest those signatures could be submitted would be early in August (so the elections office had time to verify that the signatures were valid.)

I took a poll around the office of both city and county residents – of course, everyone in the city said they would sign the petition. What surprised me was that every county resident, also, said they would sign it.

So I wonder – what do YOU think?

Is it time for county-wide zoning?

by Rebecca Schmitz

Here’s the latest from one of our key allies in the, as the Bush Administration now calls it, War on Islamofascism: the Saudi gang-rape victim has been pardoned by King Abdullah. Remember this poor soul? She and an ex-boyfriend were raped by seven men because they were sitting…oh, hell. Who cares why? There’s no reason for this rape that any rational mind can process. Nor can the mind wrap itself around the victim’s punishment for meeting a male other than her husband: 200 lashes (the other rape victim, the guy, got 90 lashes).

Okay, so His Majesty completely understood that her sentence was outrageously unjust, and, to put it plainly, barbaric?

Saudi Justice Minister, Abdullah bin Muhammed, told the newspaper that the pardon did not mean the king doubted the country’s judges, but instead acted in the “interests of the people.”

Oh well.  At least they’re our ally.  That’s all that matters, right? I mean, when our country is fighting a global war for freedom and human rights against those who, in the words of President Bush,

…aggressively fund the spread of radical, intolerant versions of Islam in unstable parts of the world. Under their rule, they have banned books….and brutalized women. They seek to end dissent in every form, and to control every aspect of life, and to rule the soul, itself…

it’s important to find allies who don’t do any of that stuff.  Because then using the catchphrase “Islamofascists” to describe our enemies would be meaningless, right?  

by Rebecca Schmitz

Yesterday morning I answered my phone at work like I always do: “This is Rebecca.  How can I help you?”  The woman on the other end of the line said, “Merry Christmas!  I have some questions.”  “Good morning,” I replied without thinking twice, “let’s get you some answers.”  There was a long pause on her end.  Then, in a voice hard enough to cut glass, she spat, “I. Said. Merry. Christmas.”

Ah, she was one of those people.   You know, bound and determined to be unpleasant in an effort to shove her wretched politics down my throat.  She was a believer, not in Santa Claus or the message of Jesus Christ, but in Bill O’Reilly and Fox News.  There’s nothing remotely sincere about wishing someone else a Merry Christmas if lurking behind it is the need to embarrass and vilify a complete stranger.  That’s the sad thing about O’Reilly’s fake “War”: the second those words are used as a bludgeon they’ve lost the essential meaning so cherished by those who also like to remind us Jesus is the reason for the season.  Remember?  A larger meaning about peace on Earth and good will to men, perhaps?  Although Bill O’Reilly declared he won his “War” last week when the House of Reprensentatives took the time to pass a bill “recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith” (I guess Congress doesn’t have enough to do, what with two wars, a massive national deficit and a domestic agenda in chaos), those of us who have to deal with his soliders know otherwise.  There are plenty of petty people out there willing to make a mockery of their own faith just to make a point. 

“Yes, I heard you,” I said to the woman in my most pleasant and professional tone. “Now, how may I help?” 

by Rebecca Schmitz

The Missoula City Council passed the urban chicken ordinance by a vote of eight to four last night. The usual suspects, Councilmen Reidy, Hendrickson, Wilkins and Nicholson, voted against it. Coincidentally, chicken supporter Mike Jakupcak penned an ode to our feathered friends based on…wait for it…‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

“The chickens were all huddled outside the city limits in pens / Awaiting the decision to stay put or gather speed, put on mittens and en masse descend,” he read.

I think his version is way better than mine.  Someone needs to get that guy a blog.

by jhwygirl

By a 3-2 vote, the Bozeman City Commission supported a resolution for a “orderly, rapidly and comprehensive” withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

More of Montana speaks.

by jhwygirl

Looks like Bozeman’s city council will consider a resolution calling for President Bush to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Bozeman Peace Seekers have been gathering signatures since November. The city council, in November before a packed meeting, voted 3-2 to consider the resolution.

Critics, like those in Missoula, say that city council has more pressing issues to attend to – like the new jail and fire station.

With today’s news of the Private Darren Smith’s death in Iraq, this former Bozeman resident believes nothing could be more appropriate.

by jhwygirl

Private Darren Smith, 19, of Helena, was killed in Iraq on Thursday of non-combat related injuries. The DoD has not released any additional information, but does say that his death is still under investigation.

Pvt. Smith is the 21st Montanan killed in Iraq (2 have also died in Afghanistan), and the 6th soldier from Helena.

Prayers and tears to Pvt. Darren Smith’s family and friends.

God Bless.

by Angela Goodhope

Robin Prosser was Montana’s leading medical marijuana patient-activist – until she took her own life last October. She also was a good friend of mine. I first got to know her when she went on a month-long hunger strike in 2002, to publicize her predicament, and I spent a lot of time with her over the years.

There are lots of reasons why I have been moved to focus my energies as a progressive political activist on the goal of ending the so-called “war on drugs.” Knowing Robin Prosser, knowing of her life and struggles, was one of these reasons – and I will forever be grateful for it.

Robin quite simply was oppressed to death by the government. The fact is that the “war on drugs” is really a war on people. It’s old-fashioned oppression of those among us that the government finds it convenient to dislike. It’s a war that’s meant to be waged, not won. Like the so-called “war on terror,” the “war on drugs” has functioned as an extraordinary financial boondoggle, spawning the prison-industrial complex and the world’s largest population of prisoners, most of whom permanently lose the right to vote, the right to college loans and government subsidized housing — even all veterans’ benefits. Our country imprisons more people for nonviolent use of drugs – mostly marijuana – than all of Europe, which contains more people, does for all crimes combined.

Robin Prosser suffered from systemic lupus for 22 years, a horrible medical condition in which her immune system literally attacked her own body’s organs, causing severe and almost constant pain. Meanwhile, she was allergic to most “traditional” drugs – and only certain strains of marijuana helped control her condition and make life bearable for her. That’s why Robin became an activist – she fought for the fundamental human right to be allowed to follow her doctor’s recommendation… without the added burden of having to fear arrest and prison.

Continue Reading »

by Matt Singer

If you haven’t yet, take five minutes and read Tristan Scott’s deeply moving story about the life and untimely death of Forrest Clayton Salcido, a homeless veteran in Missoula who was viciously murdered a week ago.

The death so far seems to have been the focus more of quiet conversations than of a unified community response. Why? My guess is that the story itself has put a lot of us locals in a state of mild shock. It’s breath-taking in its exposure of how truly evil people can be in their actions.

I can’t promise or reveal much yet, except to say that a bigger community response is now in the works — and that hopefully those of us involved in it can find a way to do justice to Forrest’s life and his tragic death.

In the meantime, the Poverello Center has launched an endowment to help homeless veterans like Forrest.

You can donate online — make sure you specify that your gift is for the endowment.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Forget reindeer, eight tiny chickens will be leading Santa’s sleigh just in time for the holidays thanks to Missoula’s City Council:

Missoula City Council’s Public Safety and Health committee Wednesday morning approved the urban chicken ordinance, including an amendment to require annual $15 permits, sending the contentious proposal to the Council floor for a final vote Monday evening.

Now, Nicholson! Now, Hendrickson! Now, Kendall and Wilkins! On Reidy! On Rye! On Ballas and Childers! To move on to zoning, to move on to sprawl!  Now vote away!  Vote away!  Vote away all! 

by jhwygirl

I will admit I didn’t fully read through the Missoulian’s article on the proposed Lolo gravel pit before I posted this the other day. Not only did I know exactly where DEQ was coming from (after I read the first few lines), but I also knew that the Missoula Board of County Commissioners knew of the previous state legislation regarding gravel pits, and have failed to act to prevent exactly that which is proposed in Lolo.

And that was over 2 years ago.

Plus the idea that the BCC would push for DEQ to hold public meetings, I saw, as a way of passing-the-buck….all things considered when you understand their knowledge concerning gravel pits and zoning. It made them look like they were trying to do something about it – placating the public – when, in fact, they’ve not done anything for over 2 years. Blame it on DEQ (yeah, that’s who’s fault it is!)

That’s the curmudgeon in me, I guess.

So I finally read through the Missoulian piece, and I see where land-use attorney and Lolo resident Myra Shults has asked the county commissioners to emergency zone the neighborhoods that sandwich the proposed JTL gravel pit site. Seems she’s gathered signatures too – although I don’t know how many. Given the large attendance at a Lolo community meeting last week, I’d say she’s probably got more than a few.

Ms. Shults has presented the county commissioners with two petitions – one to emergency zone, the other for permanent zoning.

County Attorney Mike Sehestedt, it appears, is concerned that the petitions might amount to “spot zoning” – he is, as the paper reports, looking into whether zoning a small portion of Lolo could be challenged as “spot zoning.”

Upon hearing that, I’d think that Ms. Shults has continued to gather more signatures.

But I can’t help but wonder – If zoning a small portion of Lolo is “spot zoning” – does that make all the Citizen-Initiated Zoning Districts that Missoula County “spot zoned?” I mean, how many of those were there? 44? 45? They’re everywhere. Are those “spot zoned,” those small areas all over the county?

Here’s a page from Missoula Office of Planning and Grants (remember, Google is your friend) with information on citizen-initiated zoning districts.

I wait with baited breath, Mr. Sehestedt’s opinion………

by jhwygirl

Ahhh, the serendipity of it all. The other day, when I posted A Case for County-Wide Zoning, a few hours later, in my inbox, came copy of papers filed by John Richards in Montana’s Fourth Judicial Court right here in Missoula.

Now, some of you might remember John Richards as the developer of what was first proposed as a 219 lot subdivision up near Clearwater Junction, then what later was proposed as a 59 lot subdivision. To mitigate wildlife concerns, the second time around, he proposed a 8 foot tall electrified fence.

Well, John’s gotten more than a little upset about the two denials of his proposals.

Did I mentioned he presented them, in part, as a way to provide affordable housing?

Are you surprised?

John is suing Missoula County and Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks for his denial, citing, in part, that the County “In conditioning its approval on density without objective scientific data, the County, in effect, illegally zoned the property. As a consequence, the County has unreasonably restricted Richard’s ability to develop his own land.”

The County conditioned approval of the project on a reduction of the lots from 59 to 20 lots – a 1 per 20 acre ratio. The Comprehensive Plan designation for the property is 1 per 40.

Richards defends his 8 foot tall electrified fence as a mitigative measure, saying that he “proposed constructing a wildlife fence around the perimeter of the subdivision to negate any wildlife/human interactions. FWP objected, claiming that such a fence would disrupt the natural migratory paths of wildlife, despite the acknowledgment that the area is not a wildlife corridor. FWP failed to present any specific scientific data to support its conclusions.”

Hmmm. Seems I remember something about there being 5 threatened or endangered species within a 5 mile radius of the project area. Guess that darn FWP is supposed to keep the wildlife in some sort of defined area for the sake of Mr. Richards.

There was, in fact, a whole hell of a lot of science that went into the projects review.

Maybe Richards should add Grizzly Bears to the list of named defendants.

Make no mistake – denials of subdivisions in unzoned area – rare as they are – will result in these types of actions. How much will they cost the taxpayer?

How much will unzoned land continue to impact the citizens of the county? Will we have to approve something – anything – just to avoid lawsuits of this sort? You can bet that the solution to this lawsuit will be similar to that of Ravalli’s 4 or 5 cases that it chose to settle rather than drag on in legal battles.

We’ll see some sort of subdivision approved for Mr. Richards – more than the 20 the county recommended, but probably a little less than the second attempt at 59.

That’s my prediction, at least.

I also believe we won’t be seeing any denials anytime soon.

The only thing saving us from open-season on high density development in unzoned lands would be the still-sinking real estate market (which Missoula, it appears, is still in a bit of denial).

by Pete Talbot

The topics above are too abbreviated to stand alone. So, instead of making separate posts, here’s my abridged take on some current events.

Governor Schweitzer has an electric, new message.

He was in Missoula last night for a fundraiser. I hadn’t seen him for a while so I went to hear what he had to say.

He still has it: that glad-handing, kissing babies, intimate sort of charisma.

But he has a new message, at least in Missoula. It’s not the clean coal mantra but electric. He spoke at length about electric cars, the energy to power these cars and the new, electric, alternative-energy economy, and he did it well.

Some would say it’s a pie-in-the-sky vision like coal gasification and carbon sequestration. I’ll take a clean-electric vision over a coal-powered vision any day of the week, though.

I would have liked to hear more about how this new, electric economy affects growth, transportation and sustainability in Western Montana, but it’s a start. And I’m sure we’ll hear more about it as the campaign progresses.

It will also be interesting to hear what his opponent, oilman Roy Brown, has to say on the subject of clean, alternative energy.

I’ve been disappointed on the coverage by the local media of Missoula’s most recent murder. This was a horrendous crime and deserves follow up.

I want to know more about the victim and his circumstances. How does a Missoula resident and veteran end up on the riverfront at night in the middle of winter?

I want to know more about the alleged murderers. What sort of rage prompts this kind of attack? Was there anything in these kids’ previous behavior that should have tipped somebody off?

Mainly, I want to know how this could have happened in my hometown. There probably aren’t any simple answers but I hope someone is doing some investigative reporting. Maybe if we can put a face on the victim and get some insight into the perpetrators, we can begin to understand this heinous attack, and maybe in the future we can avoid a repetition of such a sick act.

Congressman Rehberg surprised me.

As readers well know, I’m not a big fan of Denny’s. His consistent support of Bush’s policies, his total disregard for those less fortunate and his disdain for the environment are just a few of his failings, IMHO.

His statements last Friday to the Associated Press on the Republican presidential candidates, however, were a pleasant surprise and should be noted by Democratic candidates and consultants. Why is Denny plugging Rudy?

Both Jay and Matt over at Left in the West have a different take than I.

While I’m no big fan of Rudy Giuliani’s, either, I thought Rehberg had some interesting comments.

He held out no hope for John McCain’s candidacy. One would think that Rehberg would be more supportive of a fellow Westerner, and I certainly haven’t written off the Arizona Senator. What does Denny know that I don’t?

You also have to wonder why Rehberg isn’t promoting Mitt Romney, whose views seem to parallel our congressman’s. (Can you spell M-O-R-M-O-N?)

But the most surprising comments from Denny had to do with the “trust issue.”

According to Matt Gouras’ story, Rehberg said: “Montanans have a tendency to say, ‘You are more liberal than me so I don’t agree with your politics, but you are true to your philosophy, you articulate your philosophy, you don’t back off it,’ ” and voters in the state are willing to support such candidates.

Those whose positions shift, as Romney’s have, get lower marks, Rehberg said. Of the way Romney is perceived in Montana, Rehberg said, “So you look like you are changing your position to curry my vote.”

This has been a debate among political consultants for awhile: do voters prefer a candidate who stands by his beliefs and can articulate them or do they prefer a candidate who says the things that voters want to hear, whether those things change from time-to-time, depending on who the candidate is speaking to?

As the polls here in Montana start to come out, we’ll see if Rehberg is correct in his assumption of the “trust issue.”

by dharmagrrl

THIS JUST IN: In England, Brighton to be more specific, if you play music that promotes violence against gays or lesbians in your club or pub, you will be shut down, according to a licensing proposal announced today.

Now this is a fine example of how laws speak to the values of a society. Brighton cares about it’s gay and lesbian population. They are willing to enact a law that bans homophobic music because of their desire to see a community not tainted by discrimination and violence against any group of people. As reported in Pinknews.co.uk, Councillor Dee Simson, head of licensing, told The Argus: “In Brighton and Hove we have a good record on equalities and we felt is was important to include this licensing policy. We do not want music that incites racial or homophobic hatred.”

So what to do Missoula…what to do? What do we want our own policies and laws to reflect. It is essential that we as a community take a stand, that we speak up against violence in all it’s forms and that we begin to enact laws that reflect our “Missoula values” (to quote Mayor Engen from the speech he gave at the November 26 rally against recent anti-gay hate crimes).

Missoula is a great place to be gay, there are many wonderful straight allies here and yet, we are plagued by anti-gay violence of all kinds. Just last year over the holidays, there was a truck on the Northside that was spray painted with an anti-gay epithet. This is simply unacceptable, yet it has become the norm, not the exception.

Currently our laws exclude LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members from protections against employment discrimination, rights to adopt, the right to marry and the 1000’s of rights afforded to married heterosexual couples. How do we allow this to continue? Are we really going to allow the religious right and garden variety ignorance decide what is fair in our communities? Does Brittany Spears’ less than twenty-four-hour Las Vegas marriage several years ago really mean more in this country than my friends who have been in a committed relationship for 10 years? Is that where you want to live? Is that the community you want to raise your children in?

It is time. Give the LGBT community your ear this holiday season. And in the new year give them your votes as well. We are not a wedge issue, we are flesh and blood. And we are not going anywhere. We are Missoula. Speak up. Stand OUT.

by jhwygirl

DEQ officials are letting everyone know that only zoning can stop a gravel pit proposed by JTL up near Lolo.

No surprise there – legislation passed in the 2005 session made that true. It’s not like the county commissioners didn’t know it either – they did an emergency resolution related to that ’05 legislation back in October 2005.

The ’05 state legislation, BTW, was the result of a similar situation in Flathead County.

So who’s to blame – DEQ, JTL or the Missoula BCC?

And – believe it or not – I have another case for county-wide zoning just waiting to be written.




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