Political doings #3

by Pete Talbot

It’s the water

For years, I’ve suspected there was something in Ravalli County water. Those wacky Bitterrooters have been voting down school bonds, opposing planning and zoning, and muttering death threats against those who believe ATV’s shouldn’t roam everywhere on God’s green earth.

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, Dennis Unsworth, confirms the funky water. He talked about the flurry of political complaints being filed at his office, half of them from Ravalli County:

“I don’t know if there’s something in the water here … ” he said, while visiting the county and adding that because of explosive growth in the valley, and the age-old Montana battle between private property rights and planning, complaints are flying.

The item on the ballot igniting this furor is the potential repeal of the county’s growth policy.

I thought that maybe they’d cleaned up the water after seeing a couple of sensible commissioners elected in the last go-around and then advancing a reasonable plan to mitigate growth. Guess I was wrong.

Undecideds

Are there really people out there who don’t know who they’re voting for, yet, for President? Maybe you’ve seen them interviewed on the TV news shows, and like me, shake your head in amazement.

Writer David Sedaris wonders about them, too, in this week’s New Yorker:

“I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”

The Gazette takes a stand

Jay over at LiTW has already noted the Billings Gazette editorial endorsing Obama. It got me wondering what the other newspapers in the state were doing, so I Googled them — except for Kalispell’s Daily Interlake, because I just don’t care. Helena did some statewide races. The Great Falls Tribune “went out on a limb” and endorsed Baucus and Rehberg. Otherwise, I can’t find a thing. I know the Missoulian quit doing endorsements nearly a decade ago and maybe the other papers are waiting until this Sunday or something.

The Missoula Independent will be endorsing in this Thursday’s edition but not the presidential race. Indy editor Skylar Browning explained that the paper likes to focus on statewide races, ballot initiatives, PSC, etc.

Any endorsements in the Montana press that you, faithful readers, are aware of? Please let me know. BTW, the Associated Press has a list, updated regularly, of what the national papers have been doing endorsement-wise.

(UPDATE: As of Tuesday, October 28, according to Editor and Publisher, 222 newspapers have endorsed Obama and 93 newspapers have endorsed McCain. Wow. No Ron Paul, Bob Barr or Ralph Nader endorsements that I could find.)

(UPDATE #2: Great Falls Tribune Managing Editor Gary Moseman called me back. He said the Trib won’t be endorsing in the presidential race but has been actively endorsing in statewide and local races. He said that the paper quit endorsing presidential candidates in 2000, mainly because it had little influence on how people voted but pissed off (I’m paraphrasing here) a lot of people. He added that the Trib only endorses in races where reporters and editors can interview the candidates.)

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  1. Matthew Koehler

    According to the article cited under the title “It’s the Water,” “The state’s most pressing investigation in Ravalli County concerns the Higher Ground Foundation, a nonprofit group that is urging voters to repeal the growth policy in an effort to prevent zoning and streamside setback regulations from being adopted later.”

    Folks should know that Higher Ground president, Terri Daniel, is married to Chris Daniel, board member of the Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense. (www.bigskycoalition.org)

    Chris Daniel is also owner of InFocus, a local consulting, public relations and marketing firm that put together anti-zoning/streamside setback Ads earlier this year that caused a stir in the Bitterroot Valley.

    Streamside Setback Committee Chairman Clay Dethlefesen told the Ravalli Republic on 5/21/08 that the InFocus’ Ad was inflammatory and misleading. “It’s clear InFocus has no regard for fair play and honest informing. It’s a scare tactic and in doing so, they are insulting the elderly and the handicapped. It’s outlandish and unfair to the general public.”

    According to a 10/8/08 article in the Bitterroot Star, another recent Ad against Streamside Setbacks was:

    “placed by the Higher Ground Foundation, a non-profit group headed up by Terri Daniel. Tom Robak, a staunch opponent of setbacks who has paid for advertisements against any regulations, said that he was spending a lot of money to run ads to get his input across and they seemed to be successful so far.”

    Mr. Robak is the founder of the Big Sky Coalition, Environmentalists with Common Sense. Mr. Robak has also been accused of illegally building his house in the floodway of the Bitterroot River.

    According to a 5/12/08 article in the Republic: “Ravalli County is alleging that one of the founders of the Big Sky Coalition built his house in the floodway of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. County officials believe that Tom Robak’s house sits in the actual floodway, not just the floodplain, and that “significant” amounts of fill have been placed. Placing fill and building in floodplains and floodways is strictly prohibited, and if the county is correct, it will require Robak to move the house.”

    Rumors are floating around the Bitterroot Valley that Mr. Robak is the “deep pockets” behind Higher Ground Foundation and that his situation is why they chose the name “higher ground.”

    So, when you look at the issue squarely, it appears that some of most vocal opponents of Ravalli County’s proposed streamside setbacks have allegedly violated current floodplain regulations and now these same folks are spending large sums of money on questionable ads designed to spread fear and opposition to streamside setbacks and reasonable zoning.

    Having been paying attention to the way things work in Ravalli County, that seems about right. Yep, it’s the water.

  2. It’s really too bad the Flathead doesn’t have a decent newspaper.

  3. goof houlihan

    I liked the repeal the growth policy signs, especially the one halfway down the cliff.

  4. goof houlihan

    btw, letter to the editor endorsing Nadir today.

    So, Nadir or Pall? I’m undecided.

  5. Matthew Koehler

    Folks may also be interested to know the following about Tom Robak, founder of the Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense and the rumored deep-pockets behind the under-investigation Higher Ground Foundation.

    Mr. Robak owns 5 or 6 properties in the Bitterroot all under slightly different names…for example Thomas Robak, Tomas Robak, Tommy Robak, etc. Does that strike anyone as particularly fishy? It it would certainly be interesting to know where they are (ie are they also river-front?).

    Mr. Robak came from San Luis Obispo, California, where it appears that he and his wife are still active members of the San Luis Yacht Club. According to the Yacht Club’s newsletter (here: http://www.slyc.org/Foghorn/Nov/Foghorn%2011%202007.pdf) on Page 6 it notes that last December 7th the Bar Hosts were Char and Tom Robak.

    In case you didn’t know, “Common Sense Environmentalists” usually have Yacht Club memberships. Maybe the Robak’s figure their Yacht Club membership will come in handy since they built their home right in the floodway of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.

    Or perhaps they will use their helicopter to escape the rising floodwaters. A copy of Robak’s registration record for his helicopter is here:
    http://montana.aircraftdata.net/record/8626F/robak-thomas-l.aspx

    Then again, perhaps they better stick to their Yacht Club membership, since it appears Mr. Robak’s helicopter crashed at the Coeur d’Alene airport. See:
    http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=142649

    The information above is available to anyone with a little research skills and a computer. You would think a full-time journalist would come with those skills. Unfortunately, none of this information made it into the multiple fawning Missoulian articles about Mr. Robak and his Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense.

    See:
    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/10/21/news/local/news03.txt and

    http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/11/05/news/local/news02.txt and

    http://missoulian.com/articles/2007/11/25/news/local/news02.txt

    No mention of the Robak’s allegedly illegally building their home in the floodway. No mention of the properties owned under slightly different names. Nothing about the Yacht Club membership back in San Luis Obispo or the helicopter. Nothing…just that the Robak’s are “Common Sense Environmentalists”…oh, and that environmental groups are responsible for all the wildfires.

  6. Matthew Koehler

    Folks may also be interested to know the following about Tom Robak, founder of the Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense and the rumored deep-pockets behind the under-investigation Higher Ground Foundation.

    Mr. Robak owns 5 or 6 properties in the Bitterroot all under slightly different names…for example Thomas Robak, Tomas Robak, Tommy Robak, etc. Does that strike anyone as particularly fishy? It it would certainly be interesting to know where they are (ie are they also river-front?).

    Mr. Robak came from San Luis Obispo, California, where it appears that he and his wife are still active members of the San Luis Yacht Club. According to the Yacht Club’s newsletter (here: http://www.slyc.org/Foghorn/Nov/Foghorn%2011%202007.pdf) on Page 6 it notes that last December 7th the Bar Hosts were Char and Tom Robak.

    In case you didn’t know, “Common Sense Environmentalists” usually have Yacht Club memberships. Maybe the Robak’s figure their Yacht Club membership will come in handy since they built their home right in the floodway of the West Fork of the Bitterroot River.

    Or perhaps they will use their helicopter to escape the rising floodwaters. A copy of Robak’s registration record for his helicopter is here:
    http://montana.aircraftdata.net/record/8626F/robak-thomas-l.aspx

    Then again, perhaps they better stick to their Yacht Club membership, since it appears Mr. Robak’s helicopter crashed at the Coeur d’Alene airport. See:
    http://www.spokesmanreview.com/local/story.asp?ID=142649

    The information above is available to anyone with a little research skills and a computer. You would think a full-time journalist would come with those skills. Unfortunately, none of this information made it into the multiple fawning Missoulian articles about Mr. Robak and his Big Sky Coalition: Environmentalists with Common Sense.

    See: http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/10/21/news/local/news03.txt and http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2007/11/05/news/local/news02.txt and http://missoulian.com/articles/2007/11/25/news/local/news02.txt

    No mention of the Robak’s allegedly illegally building their home in the floodway. No mention of the properties owned under slightly different names. Nothing about the Yacht Club membership back in San Luis Obispo or the helicopter. Nothing…just that the Robak’s are “Common Sense Environmentalists”…oh, and that environmental groups are responsible for all the wildfires.

  7. It never ceases to amaze me when people like Tom Robak accuse our side of being the elitists. I certainly haven’t invested thousands of dollars in a snowmobile, an ATV, a jet ski, etc, etc. I’m still cross country skiing on the same $99 set of skis my father bought me when I moved to Montana. I just bought a pair of snowshoes on eBay (unlike Sarah Palin, I actually do save money on eBay) for $70, including shipping. But no, since I’m a liberal and an environmentalist, I must be an elitist.

  8. goof houlihan

    “Does that strike anyone as particularly fishy?”

    It’s odd. But it wouldn’t keep a bankruptcy from getting them, or a lawsuit from finding them, so it’s hard to see the point.

    That part of the state, like the Gallatin, birthed the guys that stood off the federales outside of Jordan (i think it was actually the county to the west they were going to take over, but jordan happened to be the closest town).

    If you’ve ever read the behind the scenes on the Fremen, and I have, both in a book Wulfgar! recommended and in the book by the couple who infiltrated for the FBI, and dealt with the paper license plate and lien filing bad check writing group, you’d have to conclude that this new guy and his organizations, and even the “repeal the growth policy now” signs, represent a certain mellowing of the anti government movement.

    Karl Ohs riding his horse into that cabin and negotiating the surrender was one of the most inspiring public services, in a classic, western, Montana man way, in my lifetime. It just makes all those cynical man on horseback or with a gun ads on tv look that much more ridiculous.

  1. 1 How’s the chicken cooked? « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Pete, yesterday I ran into two of those mythical creatures: undecided voters. I know! I didn’t think they really existed either. How could anyone be that confused? […]




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