Archive for February 20th, 2008

by Pete Talbot

Last weekend, congressional candidate Jim Hunt stopped by a seminal meeting of the Progressive Democrats of Montana (PDM) to introduce himself. That in itself impressed me. (More on PDM in the near future.)

“My values are markedly different than Rehberg’s,” the Democratic candidate said.

It was an all-to-brief meeting with Hunt — to date, Denny’s only challenger — but everyone was pressed for time. Here’s some of the stuff he said:

“Nobody called me and asked me to run.”

That’s good to hear. The Republicans were making hay over the fact that the Democrats couldn’t recruit anyone. Jim decided to step up to the plate on his own.

He says he’ll be his own man: “I’m not beholdin’ to anyone.”

He’s flying by the seat of his pants: “I have a six week plan.” Let’s hope he gets some staff in place soon.

He also said, and I couldn’t agree more: “Montanans are closer to my values than Denny Rehberg’s.”

He’s retired military, a small business owner, an attorney — he has solid credentials. He opposes the Bush/Rehberg voting record on Iraq, the Patriot Act, FISA, the environment … the list goes on and on.

He’s not a party insider — which can cut both ways.

Which brings up funding. Denny has a fair war chest but now that he has a real challenger, he’ll actually have to start working and raise even more money. Let’s hope that Max and Brian help with money and expertise on Hunt’s campaign, as I don’t see the senior Senator or Good Gov. in very tight races. I hear that Sen. Tester has lent his support.

The Republicans are already smearing: they raised a bogus complaint when Hunt announced at Fort Harrison — something about him using federal property for political purposes. He actually stood outside the gate at a place assigned to him by the Fort’s staff.

Republicans say he’s a desperate, late entry into the race. He seemed pretty confident to me: “I wouldn’t have gotten into this race if I didn’t think I could win.”

They even attacked him for using blue and yellow as his campaign colors, which happen to be the same colors as Rehberg’s. Turns out blue and yellow are the colors of Chester High School, where Hunt went to school.

But worst of all: he’s a “trial lawyer.”

The Republicans are going negative because there aren’t that many positives for their man Rehberg.  Other than his consistent support of Bush, can you think of any issues where Denny has taken the lead? And he’s been in Congress how long now? Almost eight years?

Anyway, my initial impression is that Denny has a race on his hands.

by Jay Stevens

Keila Szpaller of the Missoulian related the recent meeting of the city’s Transportation Policy Coordinating committee, which mulled congestion on Highway 93, from Missoula to Florence.

The committee, which looks at transportation in a regional context, heard an update on a state study of U.S. Highway 93 from Florence to Missoula. The problem is congestion. Drivers run into traffic hiccups around Lolo, and they meet full-fledged jams north of Lolo and on the south side of Missoula, said an HKM Engineering consultant.

But consultant Darryl James said some of people’s favorite fixes, such as a train, cost the most money – and they don’t yield high results. Neither do some other options, such as a carpool lane.

Now I don’t commute daily on 93, so I probably haven’t seen the traffic at its worst, but I don’t see any advantage to a carpool lane. Since the added lanes were built, there hasn’t been much traffic slow-up.

The real problem, IMHO, is figuring out a way to get people out of their cars and into transit options. I think James is right that – right now – light rail may be too much expense for too little yield. But oil isn’t going to stay at $100 a barrel…it’s going to be more expensive. And you can bet your sweet *ss there will eventually be some sort of tax on carbon emissions, too. And the Bitterroot is growing – fast. We need to come up with a solution that will reliably and relatively inexpensively transport people from the Bitterroot to Missoula, now and into the future.

(Stacy Rye on discounting rail: “Cost comparisons were not available, but Rye said she did not want to just pay ‘lip service’ to rail. ‘I think it is a viable alternative,’ said Rye.”)

So…what say you, faithful b’birders? Rail, or not to rail?

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