Archive for November, 2008

by jhwygirl


by jhwygirl

I can’t seem to vanquish this now untimely thought from my head, so consider this some blog-pimping self-therapy.

Last Monday’s city council voted 10-2 (Rye, Strohmaier voting nay) to approve a 90-day emergency ordinance that would allow the use of salt as deicer on Missoula’s roadways.

One would have thought something like that would have been dealt with handily and quickly, but the hearing lasted nearly an hour (maybe more) on the issue.

More than a decade ago, Missoula’s air quality rules were rewritten to prohibit the use of salt with the belief that the use of magnesium would help keep dust down and it would reduce the need for particulate-producing sand.

Now, I listened to the better part of the hearing, and I had read the pre-hearing Missoulian article on the matter, and one of the things that struck out to me is that there wasn’t any real cost analysis done on the issue.

Yep – unless I’m missing something – there was no real true cost analysis done on the matter.

During the hearing Jaffe asked about whether a cost study had been done, and staff basically reiterated what had been said in the Missoulian article. I’ll paraphrase: “Not really (in reference to the cost analysis), but what I can tell you is that the stuff (magnesium chloride) that I buy is diluted down to 30% strength. We’re basically paying for water. The salt we’d buy would be 95% salt. You do the math.”

Now – that isn’t a cost analysis.

Magnesium is $130/ton, salt is $110. Last year the city had $135,000 allocated, but spent $220,000.

Didn’t we have a big winter last year? I remember shoveling a bit more. Plus there were more than the usual ice storms.

What was the de-icing allocation the fiscal year before last year? Did the $135,000 represent a cut to the typical budget allocation?

Do some minor look-see into the issue and you’ll find that magnesium chloride is less caustic than salt. That’s pretty well known. You’ll also find that magnesium chloride is more effective at lower temperatures. That’s a plus, no?

Steve Robertson, of Missoula, points out in a Missoulian letter to the editor that “once salt is applied, more is needed to prevent liquid refreezing.”

So salt isn’t as effective as magnesium chloride at lower temperatures, and salt has to be reapplied once it melts the ice to keep from refreezing the road surface.

One thing that I couldn’t find, but you can see how the stuff works, is what is the cost-per-yard or cost-per-square mile of application? I’m talking just the product. I see the mag chloride being put down and it’s being dripped down on the roads. Salt – that stuff is tossed out at a much heavier ration that the dripping of liquid. So it appears to me – and I am admittedly no expert on the matter – that there is less mag chloride being used to cover the same area on a pound-per-pound basis. Remember – we’re buying both by the ton.

Beyond that, Missoula is going to have to retool equipment to spread salt. Now, maybe we’ve got the stuff in stash, I don’t know, but that is going to cost labor. Labor that might be better spent elsewhere. It’s a cost. Regardless.

Plus – the city doesn’t even have enough equipment to spread salt – it’ll have to phase in new equipment over the next few years to move to salt.

Further – did I mention salt is caustic? – is equipment going to break and have to be replaced at a higher rate with the use of salt?

Then I could ask what the salt is going to do to our fisheries, as opposed to magnesium. And if we’re using more salt that magnesium..well….

Regarding that – the Health Board had to make a change to its regulations for water quality to allow for the use of salt.

Read: Missoula just lowered its water quality standards so that we can use salt.

AND, the whole water quality thing’ll have to come back to the Health Board and the Missoula County Commissioners to allow for the use of salt.

Seriously? Am I reading that correctly?

Anyways…there it is. Had to get it out of my head.

by jhwygirl

The 61st Legislative session may not convene until Thursday, January 5th, but start-up tasks are being dispatched quickly, with committee assignment having been rolled out this past week.

With the state House split 50-50 and a Democratic governor, the Speaker of the House went to the Democratic party. Initially, Speaker Bob Bergren (Havre) said he was going to pick democrats for all committee assignments, but later relented, announcing that republicans would hold the chairs of 3 of 5 of the state house’s most powerful committees. Overall, committee chairs are split 50-50.

Locally, Missoulians have Rep. Michele Reinhardt (D) as vice-chair of the Business & Labor Committee; Robin Hamilton (D) as vice-chair of both the Education Committee and of Ethics; Dave McAlpin (D) as vice-chair of both Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Superior’s Gordon Hendrick (R) co-chairs this spot) and Legislative Administration; and Betsy Hands (D) vice-chair’s Local Government – and shares this seat with Victor’s Gary MacLaren (R).

Other notables with chairs are Mike Jopek (D – Whitefish) who is chairing Agriculture (where Julie French (D – Scobey) vice-chairs); Franke Wilmer (D – Bozeman) who chairs Ethics; Kendall Van Dyk (D – Billings) chairing Fish, Wildlife & Parks; JP Pomnichowski (D – Bozeman) vice-chairs Natural Resources; and Jill Cohenour (D – Helena) vice-chairs Taxation.

For a full list of committee assigns, check this link out.

In the Senate, there isn’t anything for Missoulians in terms of chair or vice-chair seats – the Senate’s 50 seats are controlled by 27 republicans – but committee assigns for local representation include Ron Erickson (D) on Taxation and Local Government and Energy & Telecommunications; Carolyn Squires (D) on State Administration and Business, Labor & Economic Affairs; Carol Williams (D) and Dave Wanzenried (D) on both Rules and Finance & Claims; Cliff Larsen (D) on Public Health, Welfare, and Safety and Judiciary and Agriculture, Livestock & Irrigation; and Wanzenried (again) on Natural Resources and Highways & Transportation.

Other notables to watch in the senate committees include Jonathan Windy Boy (D – Box Elder) in Business, Labor & Economic Affairs; Energy & Telecommunications includes Linda Moss (D – Billings) and Bob Hawks (D – Bozeman); Local Government includes Steve Gallus (D – Butte), Kim Gillan (D – Billings) and Jesse Laslovich (D – Anaconda); and Jim Keane (D – Butte) and Christine Kaufmann (D – Helena) on Natural Resources.

Another notable (as in WTH?! notable) is Rick Laible, who is chairing Education and Cultural Resources. Laible sponsored one education related bill in the 2007 session – SB 396 – in which he proposed to cut state funding support for schools by $84.5 million in FY 2008; $82.5 million in FY 2009; $80.7 million in FY 2010 and $79 million in FY 2011. It would have reduced general fund revenue by nearly $100 million in FY 2009 and FY 2010, while resulting in the need to hire two additional tax examiners for the Department of Revenue. It would have repealed county school transportation grants, quality educator payments and American Indian achievement gap payments.

A full listing of Senate committee assigns is here.

As an aside – The state Legislative Services Division is offering classes to the public to teach how to use the online Legislative Audit Workflow System (LAWS). While 2 sessions have already been held, there is one more being offered December 4th, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information on that, click here.

The 2009 LAWS is already up and running. I’ll be putting the link over on the right, under Citizen’s Info.


by problembear

“step right up…

everyone’s a winner…

bargains galore…”- tom waits from the album, small change

more bad news on the horizon nationally for mortgages due on commercial property accross the US. locally, is linens ‘n things leading the way to more empty storefronts in Missoula? some say that after the holidays many will close. is missoula vulnerable to a major depression?

would this potential loss of jobs, tax base and revenue signal that this might be a good time for city planners to slow down on massive 3rd and Russell rebuild?

who owns the underlying mortgages for all those buildings out on Reserve street? and what will happen if other chains decide to pull out of Missoula? will payment defaults and bankruptcy for developers occur?

 BIG LOTS and Corral West and Linens ‘n more…who is next?  this january after the holiday sales are over i predict quite a few more.

“goin’ out of business….don’t hesitate…don’t be caught with your drawers down…step right up…”


by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

Anyone sick of turkey yet?

Wanna track that $700 billion bailout? NY Times has a nifty interactive table showing where the money’s gone, where it’s going, who’s written off losses, who’s taking in investment, etc.

But what’s that tracking interactive without some specifics on AIG? While they promised no bonuses to top execs, they apparently see a difference in offering retention pay to those same top executives – including a $3 million “cash award” to retirement services chief Jay Wintrob.

What’s the harm in some “cash awards” when you’ve taken $60 billion in loans from the U.S. taxpayer? ($60 billion figure from the Bloomberg article)

Chrysler, like GM and Ford are doing, is offering buyouts to its employees, in an effort to reduce payroll by 25% by the end of the year. Unlike typical buyout offers, seniority isn’t even a prerequisite. This story refers to someone that’s only worked there 2 years taking a bailout.

Northwestern Energy has agreed to pay its 2005-2007 taxes. 98% of ’em, where they had proposed paying 79%. They’ve also agreed to pay their 2008 taxes without protest. The back taxes, which have been held in escrow, will be released to local governments and school districts. If my memory is serving me well, this will mean a significant amount of cash for middle and eastern counties here in Montana.

Looking for a good paying job? Odds are considerably better if your a Democrat.

Cops Researchers have found the worlds oldest stash of marijuana.

Didn’t I mention last week that marijuana helps stave off Alzheimber’s and helps keep memory sharp?


The Nation has a Sean Penn interview with both Chavez and Raul Castro. In it, Castro reveals that the U.S. and Cuba have been meeting monthly since 1995, as the result of mutual goals of seeing Guantanamo run without needless interference. A military-to-military hotline has been established and joint military exercises have been conducted also. It’s a fascinating read – 4 pages – and the whole thing will be published at, where Penn is a regular contributor.

by jhwygirl

Groundwater sampling by the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA), from Lolo to Darby, found acceptable levels for both human and aquatic standards of pesticides, along with unacceptable levels of nitrates in one monitoring well.

You all know what nitrates are, right?

Some of you might remember me writing about how filthy the Clark Fork is – so filthy that I won’t allow my dog to swim in it – and anyone who is hitting the Bitterroot in late summer can tell you that the release of this recent MDA test isn’t really new information. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that Montana’s streams and rivers and waterbodies are in trouble.

Oddly enough, a few days after writing the above post about the Clark Fork being too filthy for my dog, there were a notable number of calls to the County Health Department inquiring whether the Clark Fork was clean enough for caller’s pets. And regardless of what Peter Nielsen has to say, I’ll err on the safe side and keep it to Lolo Creek and the Blackfoot especially when it comes to late summer.

This recent revelation by the Ravalli Republic and MDA does have me wondering – How many groundwater monitoring wells do we have here in Missoula? Who is monitoring them? How often are they monitored? What are the recent results? I mean – when Peter Nielsen declared, in September (late summer, folks) that the Clark Fork was “safe” for pets – was he just referring to arsenic levels (which are – to remind you – at question, regardless of what DEQ, EPA and County officials are telling us)?

In other words – who is monitoring nitrate and pesticide and all that other “stuff” we’re hearing about that is in our water? Stuff like prescription drugs like anti-depressants and other mind-altering drugs?

This is where I wish I were a journalist, folks – because not only am I asking for these specific tests from DEQ, MDA EPA, etc., this is the kind of stuff that I’m looking at find some lab students at the university and/or some independent water lab to test some water samples to tell me how the data compares.

Water quality isn’t something we should be screwing around with or delaying or assuming is fine. Do remember, too, that in a recent audit, the EPA is questioning MT DEQ’s ability to protect water quality.

So – with THANKS to the Ravalli Republic for printing a story that was not to be found in any of the other state’s papers today – I ask: What is Montana Without Clean Water?

Someone, please, make me a bumpersticker!

by jhwygirl

Let’s hope they do the right thing.

From today’s Helena Independent:

Lawmakers are again poised to take on the ticklish issue of public access to state waters from county bridges — a problem they failed to resolve two years ago despite wide public support.

This time, lawmakers of both parties are sponsoring bills intended to resolve the long-simmering issue, but some of the demons that doomed previous attempts still seem to linger: The Montana Stockgrowers Association, one of the most powerful cattle groups in the state, is lukewarm to the idea. And, despite talking about necessary “bipartisan” efforts, Democrats and Republicans who are pushing nearly identical bills, say they haven’t spent much time talking to people across the aisle about their ideas.

Beyond the fact that we’ve got dueling identical legislative bills, which gives me a strong deja vu of 2005 all over again, it’s not surprising to see that once again the Montana Stockgrowers Association has interjected itself into the public access matter once again.

In 2007, the MSA argued against the public access, despite the inclusion of funding grants, via FWP, that would have paid for the modifications needed to fences that block public out.

A briefing of the problem: Numerous public access groups have been advocating for reasonable public access to Montana’s streams and rivers – which are more and more often inaccessible because of private property which has fenced of water frontage areas – by walking down to them via unused public right-of-way which is adjacent to county bridges. Most county road right-of-ways are 60 feet (some are actually larger), while bridges don’t use that much – so there is adjacent areas next to these bridges that would allow for public walk-in access.

The problem is that property owners often fence to the bridges, making difficult if not darn-near-impossible to access rivers. The area is steep, often without vegitation, and can be dangerous to attempt access over and through this fence obstruction.

Now to be fair – this access issue has been ongoing for many years, and there are locations where people have cut or damaged fences to get to the river or stream, which has rightfully infuriated the owners of these fences because often they’re there to keep stock from getting out.

All it takes are a few bad apples in any group…..and that applies to all kinds of groups…

There are areas in the eastern side of the case where sportspeople have held “bridge-in’s” (for lack of any better word) where people have gathered, en masse, to access at specific points. Affected property owners have argued that allowing for this type of public access would create traffic hazards by having traffic parked along roadways.

Jennifer McKee’s piece goes through the recent Madison County case and the ludicrous argument that private property owners attempted to make – that county roadway width was 60 feet, but narrowed to the width of the bridge. The judge rejected that argument, but still allowed fences to be attached to the bridge. I can’t remember the logic, but I’m thinking it was because the public still had the ability to work their way through it (?).

Both bills currently proposed do essentially the same thing – they allow public access through existing fences, but Sen. Mike Cooney’s (D-Helena) bill places the burden of reconstructing any fences that are obstructions on the fence owner, with the assistance of FWP funds. Rep. Ken Peterson’s (R-Billings) bill places the burden of reconstructing any obstructive fences on FWP.

Now – I’ll leave you all to debate the merits of a state agency getting involved in reconstructing what is essentially private property, and in the other the state is merely providing the funds. In both cases, the public already has the right to be there.

But let’s hope some gosh darn common sense public benefit gets done up there in Helena this upcoming legislative session, and let’s hope this gosh darn common sense goal of providing the public reasonable public access along existing public access can make it through the gauntlet of committee meetings and survive the votes necessary to bear it to fruition.

While we’re at it, let’s hope our legislators – Republican and Democratic – don’t forget that outdoor recreation is the largest growing financial sector of economic growth in Montana…and in the West.

Hell be damned to the whining of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

by Pete Talbot

Happy Thanksgiving

Indeed, we have so much to be thankful for — living in Montana, and hanging with family and friends — it’s a blessing. Problembear got it right but I have this Utopian dream that some day there won’t be any vets we have to thank. Peace.

On a lighter note, the first Grizzly playoff game is Saturday, and because it’s a holiday weekend and most of the students and many others are out of town, it’s a great opportunity to score tickets. Go Griz and beat those other Bobcats.

More Messina

I finally got around to reading last week’s New Yorker and there was an interesting piece on Barack Obama’s campaign strategy. Montana boy Jim Messina (Idaho and Colorado as well, but he came of age in Big Sky Country) was quoted often in the story. He was Montana Sen. Baucus’ chief of staff before being tapped as the Obama campaign’s chief of staff. Now he’s the deputy chief of staff at the White House (think Josh from West Wing).

On being in charge of Obama’s campaign budget Messina said, “I spend the money, so everything here’s gotta go through me to get spent, which is the best job ever. It’s like getting the keys to a fucking Ferrari.”

And there’s much more campaign analysis in the issue.

Yellowstone Club

Lots in the news lately about the the private ski area for the uber-rich that recently filed for Chapter 11. Here’s the latest from Bob Struckman over at NewWest.

Anyway, my ski buddies are all over this. One of them has an old, burned-out trailer he wants to haul up there. He figures since the club is having a hard time making payroll, security must be lax — just plop that trailer down in an empty lot and maybe get squatting rights.

I’m sure Yellowstone Club residents Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Dan Quayle, et al., won’t mind.

A new low

It’s a sad story for the Iowa-based newspaper corporation that owns daily papers in Missoula, Billings, Helena, Butte and Hamilton, and also a number of weeklies. Lee Enterprises stock fell to $1 on Wednesday (down 91 percent from a year ago). That puts it in the penny stock realm and this can’t be good for those of us who depend on the newspaper for our morning fix. A weak press serves no one. Newspapers are part of the ‘fourth estate’ which keeps an eye on government and reports on daily happenings. This does not bode well for the public.

I also feel sorry for those employees, retirees and other Montanans who banked on Lee stock as a nest egg. It’s almost as bad as those folks who depended on Montana Power stock as a safe haven for the future.


by problembear

thank a vet. it’s because of the dedication of these guys that we can freely argue our politics, win and lose elections and enjoy our freedoms.

by jhwygirl

Unless we’re both missing something…this is whack.

Then again, maybe free-lance journalism work is where it’s at….

by Pete Talbot

“The era of American global leadership … is over.”

So writes John Gray. First in the Observer of London and reprinted in December’s Harper’s Magazine.

The U.S. economic meltdown is but a symptom of what Gray terms “an historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably.”

The paradox in this shift is that the emerging powers, China and Russia for example, spurned the American model of free (or self-regulating) markets. In one of my favorite insights, Gray says, “China in particular was hectored relentlessly on the weakness of its banking system. But China’s success has been based on its consistent contempt for Western advice and it is not Chinese banks that are currently going bust. How symbolic yesterday (Sept. 27, 2008) that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the U.S. Treasury Secretary is on his knees begging for a bailout.”

And further, as American administrations lectured other countries on the necessity of sound finance (Indonesia, Thailand, Argentina, etc.) our country continued borrowing on a colossal scale to finance tax cuts and fund it’s overstretched military commitments.

Gray doesn’t blame one party over another for the financial collapse but “a free-for-all market that American Legislators created.” He continues:

“The irony of the post-Cold War period is that the fall of communism was followed by the rise of another utopian ideology. In American and Britain, and to a lesser extent other Western countries, a type of market fundamentalism became the guiding philosophy. The collapse of American power that is underway is the predictable upshot. Like the Soviet collapse, it will have large geopolitical repercussions. An enfeebled economy cannot support America’s over-extended military commitments for much longer. Retrenchment is inevitable and it is unlikely to be gradual or well planned.”

I’d like to offer some insights of my own:

There’s a little nationalist in all of us, so our initial reaction to the above story is disheartening — especially if you believe that American policy is a force for good around the world. America has done many positive things abroad: from fighting Nazi and Japanese Imperialism in World War II, to foreign aid to impoverished countries, to the Peace Corps. Lately, though, not so much, as evidenced by our loss of grace on the world stage.

So, I don’t believe isolationism (a la Ron Paul) is the answer but maybe it’s time for a little national introspection. Like, how we got where we are today, economically and imperially. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower coined the phrase “military-industrial complex.” We need to take a hard look at just what is driving our foreign policy.

I certainly don’t believe that Communism is the answer. As a matter of fact, to say that China is a Communist country is to do the term “Communism” a huge disservice. China continues to practice the worst aspects of Communism: a rejection of freedom — of religion, speech and the press — while embracing the worst aspects of capitalism: the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, the inability to form labor unions, a disregard for workplace safety and contempt for the environmental.

But the U.S. has lost its way. Maybe a break from number one superpower status isn’t such a bad thing until we can get our country back on the right path.


by problembear

keep rewarding bad behavior.


by problembear

a few weeks ago W told us that he would work tirelessly on rescuing the economy. let’s see what that little dickens has really been up to since then….hmmm- making sure that workers lose benefits and loosening safety rules should do it.  last minute executive orders to help big business interests seem to be taking up most of W’s time….

meanwhile, Obama’s team seems to be focused on the economy and creating jobs. which prompted senate majority leader Harry Reid to say, “we will soon have a leader…who recognizes the urgency..” Boy that is a slap in the face if i ever heard one. that’s gonna leave a permanent handprint…

reminds me of when congressional leaders asked W if he was going to do anything about the way FEMA responded during Hurricane Katrina….”was there something wrong?” he asked. it must be nice to be so oblivious to the suffering of people who depend on jobs for their survival…like 95% of all americans.

while this country slides into a depression W is still tending to the interests of the other 5%. W remains steadfastly oblivious to the economic disaster most of us recognize as looming dangerously close.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

This lucky senior citizen golden retriever was rescued after being found swimming about 1 mile offshore of North Carolina.

If you want to stave off memory loss, forget ginko biloba – marijuana apparently helps to ward off Alzheimer’s and assists with keeping memory sharp.


Montana’s unemployment rate rose from 4.6 to 4.8 percent in October. The national average was 6.5. For more statistics – if your so inclined – check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Check out Margaret & Helen’s blog. These ladies – friends for 60 years and counting – have started up a blog to stay in touch after one of ’em moved away. Yesterday they tackled breastfeeding, and a few days ago it was Money, Guns and Sex.

Hank Williams Jr. has announced he will be running for the Senate as a Republican in “the next primary” – that would mean 2010…and since I’m told he’s a Montana resident, I guess that means he’s going to move somewhere else?

…..Alright people – What say you?

Noah Ginnings Passes

by jhwygirl

Noah Ginnings’ body succumbed yesterday to the brain cancer that had ravaged his body – something that was discovered 8 years ago.

He had managed, along the way of his too short 26 year life to gain hundreds of friends and to inspire at least that many more.

Goodspeed to you, Noah Ginnings. What the world loses, heaven has gained.

by jhwygirl

Found in a comment buried in spam since this past Saturday, Pronghorn asks the question of whether crushed glass could be the answer to eliminating our need for gravel from open pit mines.

Not a bad question – and at the very least, isn’t it worth doing some cost analysis? While I realize that there will always be a need for gravel, how many new gravel pits could be eliminated by using crushed glass as a component of roads and roadbed construction?

Again – consider the closed industrial Stimson Mill, with the railroad that runs through it? Located right off of I-90? Isn’t railway transportation supposedly cheapest?

DEQ has its traveling crusher – and they’ve got this webpage with glass crushing information and other links, like one titled Market Development Work.

Imagine if that industrial wasteland and DEQ cleanup site could be turned into a regional recycling center, capitalizing on its location and optimum access to railway infrastructure?

Hell – I bet there’s even grants for stuff like that. Montana could probably use a regional recycling facility and processing plant. I mean, consider that Butte recently got a $10 million dollar (or some huge amount) silicone recycling plant, supported with some state economic grant, along with tax incentives.

Thanks Pronghorn.

by jhwygirl

That’s the question on Colstrip rancher Charles Kulver’s mind.

Mine too.

Charles has always been a bit wary of the multiple companies that are strip mining around Colstrip – and recently he came across an unauthorized dump on his property – part of what is apparently a ‘reclamation project’ of Western Energy.

When Kulver reported the 500 foot long, 20 foot wide, 12 foot deep mass of scrap wood, metal, plastics and reddish-brown soil – which also included a boiler and a barrel, from what could be seen, he was told by DEQ that, yes, the state does permit dumping of ‘inert’ ingredients into reclamations.

Lovely, right?

Unregulated, uninspected dumps of stuff.

Wasn’t it just the other day that I was pondering the cleanup sites that have yet to be found, and here we come, not even two weeks later with reports that reclamation sites go about, unregulated and uninspected, using ‘inert’ stuff as fill.

Let me make this clear – and a recent audit of DEQ exposes the inefficiencies – that not only is a lack of enforcement the problem, but the lack of staffing to do the enforcing.

So as this legislature begins to contemplate the next legislative session, perhaps a few of our elected officials – new or old – might consider that Montana’s citizen’s safety and Montana’s water quality and Montana’s citizen’s health depends upon having enough staffing to adequately inspect and oversee the permits which it issues for things like mines and reclamation projects?

Pretty please?

by jhwygirl

The Ravalli Republic published an article Thursday regarding Tom Robak’s fight with Ravalli County over his home which the county is saying is built within the floodway. This battle has been going on for more than a year now, and is well-known outside Ravalli County. The Ravalli Republic frames Robak’s self-imposed woes as something brought on by zoning regulations and recent land use planning activity:

Although its controversial growth policy was repealed at the ballot box two weeks ago, Ravalli County’s struggle over land-use planning continues to play out on a remote riverbank and in a city courtroom.

In 2000, Tom and Charlotte Robak bought three acres along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River and started mapping out their dream home, years before the county began crafting proposed streamside setbacks in mid-2007.

That’s when the Robaks started framing their 4,600-square-foot log mansion a few yards from the river’s banks about 15 miles southwest of Darby.

It’s also when Tom Robak, an ardent property rights activist, started speaking out at the county Streamside Setback Committee’s public meetings, which he considers a government intrusion on landowners’ rights.

In reading just that short bit of falsely-framed ink, the lead-in to the article, the impression is given that the county is going after Robak due to streamside regulations the county is working to enact.

Read through the entire article, and there is nary a mention that the laws that Robak is alleged to have violated are regulations and authority that the state have had in place for decades.

Montana’s floodplain regulations are in place to comply with FEMA requirements regarding development within areas that are subject to flooding. By enacting these regulations, Montana ensured that its citizens were able to purchase and participate in flood insurance coverage that is backed by the federal government. Without the ability to purchase flood insurance, and homeowner is pretty much left out in the cold. Or in deep water.

The idea behind these regulations – why there are floodplain regulations – is that structures that are located within the floodway can, when flooded, break away from foundations and float down the floodway and destroy city, county, state and federal infrastructure like bridges and roadways and utilities. Loose floating homes present other dangers to other properties downstream – not to mention lives.

In other words – there are darn good reasons why we have floodplain regulations.

Further – any county that fails to enforce these floodplain regulations can cause its citizens the loss to the right to participate in FEMA’s flood insurance program. That would be everyone’s ability to obtain or keep their floodplain policy.

But – you wouldn’t know that by reading the Ravalli Republic’s story on Tom Robak’s home which appears to be built in the floodway. In fact, reading all of the ink that has been written on Robak’s castle that he built mere feet from the Bitterroot River – not the tamest of rivers in terms of wanting to stay where it is, any Bitterrooter knows – you’d never know that his woes are associated with those regulations…you only get the sense that the county is trying to persecute this poor guy because he hates streamside setbacks. Because he’s the money and founder behind the Big Sky Coalition.

The Big Sky Coalition is one of several anti-zoning, anti-streamside setbacks, pro-uncontrolled growth groups in Ravalli County. According to the Ravalli Republic, though, the Big Sky Coalition is a “new breed of environmentalist” for Ravalli County.

Make you feel warm-n-fuzzy?

Kinda makes me wonder how much money Robak and his Big Sky Coalition is putting into advertising down there in Ravalli County’s only daily newspaper, doesn’t it?

Going further, in terms of reporting the specifics of Robak’s floodway-located home, and the potential that it may have to be removed, the newspaper makes no mention of another home that was recently moved and relocated after having been built within the floodway, nor another (as I hear it) that is under the same type of scrutiny.

No – it’s all about poor pityful Thomas Robak and the spiteful situation he faces with the ever repressive regulators.

It’s hard to eliminate bias – I’d be pot, kettle, black if I didn’t admit that – and on that note, no one is coming to read this blog expecting completely unbiased opinion, right? – but you’d think in somewhere in all the ink that the Ravalli Republic has given this story – more than once – that they’d take the time to educate its readers on exactly the regulations that are at play here – that the regulations at play, and the enforcement of the regulations, are something that affects probably 85% or more of Ravalli County residents (those that have to have flood insurance), and that the regulations that Robak is allegedly in violation of are regulations that are in place in every county in Montana.

Otherwise, they are willingly feeding anti-zoning and anti-land use planning sentiments/sediments, and playing the willful mouthpiece of those people – and not accurately reflecting the actual facts of the news they are reporting.


by problembear

rob natelson over at electric city provides some amusing sidebar to the election…

“come back here and fight, you coward.” the black knight yells at King Arthur.

you lost rob- get over it, or don’t. it’s all the same to us.


by problembear

senate banking committee shows pathetic, groveling CEO’s the door……..sorry boys! some other rich white guys in $5000.00 suits already got in line ahead of you. You’ll have to wait your turn.

“…have you seen the rich white piggies in their starched white shirts?…” the beatles, white album (40th anniversary)


now this man down at the used car lot tried to sell me four wheels and a trunk. i said “man, there is no engine!”, he said, “the engine’s just a bunch of junk. you don’t need no engine to go downhill and i could plainly see, that that’s the direction you’re headin’ in”, and he handed me the keys.

no deal; you can’t sell that stuff to me. no deal, i’m goin’ back to tennessee….

-Townes Van Zandt.



Alaskans give the heave ho to Senator Ted Stevens…..finally. heard a great song today on KYSS FM- “….why is the rich man dancin’ while the poor man pays the band?…”- Travis Tritt, from Lord Have Mercy On The Workin’ Man  

it’s already starting- after 8 years of torment, lies and deceit- Americans are finally putting their foot down on rewarding any more bad behavior.

by jhwygirl

Announced today, Governor Schweitzer appointed new directors to two state departments – the Department of Public Health and Human Services and Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

Anna Whiting-Sorrell assumes charge at DPHHS. She’s been serving as the Policy Advisor on Families to the Schweitzer Administration and will replace Joan Mills, who has held the position of director since being appointed by Governor Schweitzer in September 2005.

Anna is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootanai Tribes – and she had served as the Director of Native American Outreach to John Kerry’s Presidential Campaign.

Joe Maurier replaces Jeff Hagener at the helm of FWP. Maurer has been with FWP since February 2006, coming to Montana via Colorado State Parks system. Hagener is leaving FWP after having served for nearly 8 years, having been appointed by former Governor Judy Martz. I’m thinking that Hagener was the only “hold-over” of the Martz Administration.

by jhwygirl

A slew of legislative audit reports have been issued in October – 13 in all – including several that might be of interest.

Not much of any significant detail that I could find – all of the reports seem to indicate minor accounting problems when it comes to making timely deposits and accounting for vacation and sick leave.

Apparently DEQ and the DNRC share some woes when it comes to accounting statements with regards to the State Revolving Fund Loan Programs for Drinking Water and Water Pollution Control.

There’s some other stuff in there with the DNRC related to managing the school trusts – it apparently costs more to manage the trusts than state law allows. The auditors seem to acknowledge this, and it appears that changes are needed to state law (?)

An August report on the Department of Corrections has some interesting stuff in there with relation to medical costs and accounting – along with the lack of administrative rules with regards to monitoring of level 3 sex offenders.

The Department of Military Affairs looks like it’s got some accounting issues – both over utilization and underutilization – of Homeland Security funds.

All of the Big 5 get audited, too:
Board of Public Education
Department of Justice
State Auditor’s Office
Office of Secretary of State
and, last but not least –
Office of Governor and Lieutenant Governor

Anyways – peruse away. Your government – your tax dollar. For a summary document, hit this link and you’ll find a list of all the audits, by year, with a “summary” link over there on the right column.

by jhwygirl

Back just before the election, the Bush Administration announced it would be creating a 2nd interagency group for bison management. That happened on October 29th, and I have to say I was perplexed. The announcement was cryptic – it didn’t really explain whether it was related to the Yellowstone/Montana/Wyoming issues concerning brucellosis – and beyond that, to manage the genetic diversity of bison, the government – whether it be the State of Montana or the Federal Government – can’t be out there sanctioning widespread slaughter of bison under the current interagency bison management plan while another group is out there supposedly trying to preserve genetic diversity.

I wasn’t the only one confused.

In other developments…

Montana FWP has extended the comment period for its draft environmental assessment that would establish a 30-year grazing restriction and bison access agreement with the Royal Teton Ranch outside of Gardiner Montana. The agreement would allow grazing of bison on the ranch, at a cost of $300,000. Bison that leave the park, and often end up on the ranch, would be spared slaughter.

Because slaughtering bison, you know, to manage brucellosis, makes sense, don’t you know?

I mean – just the title of the interagency agreement – the Interagency Bison Management Plan – shows the ignorance in addressing the problem the agreement was initiated to address……

…but I digress….

Meanwhile, on the west side of the park, near West Yellowstone, an agreement is being hammered out that would allow bison to graze near what was the site of last years capture-n-take-’em-to-slaughter facility at Horse Butte. A series of meetings held between state and federal officials over the last few months is expected to result in a formal adoption of the plan next month in Helena. The result would be that bison should be able to roam in and out of the park without slaughter.

Horse Butte is pretty important for bison and preserving their genetic diversity

Still more….

Montana’s state veterinarian Marty Zaluski announced that the governor’s plan to establish a special management zone around the park, designed to restore Montana’s brucellosis-free status and reduce livestock testing costs state-wide, is garnering nationwide support.

Five American Indian groups are seeking to obtain a herd of about 40 bison that have been held in captivity since this past spring – bison that left the park boundaries. These bison have been repeatedly tested, but have not shown signs of brucellosis. The genetics of the Yellowstone bison – Bison bison – are considered superior, and the 5 groups want to use this herd to help bolster the genetics of their own herds who graze amongst domestic cattle. The tribes have until the end of November to submit plans.

Wyoming, which had a cow test positive for brucellosis this past June, has been spared losing its brucellosis- free status. All cattle and adjacent herds that had been tested have been clean.

Anyways..there it is folks – if you got more information, please add it to the comments. I’m cautiously optimistic that the lunacy massive slaughter that we saw of bison last winter may not have to occur this upcoming winter.

How these steps will affect ranchers – both in management and cost – I’ve yet to see much in terms of specifics. The idea of having that second management zone was to isolate costs. How that will translate to what it will mean – or won’t – to those ranchers is at question…and I’m betting I’m not the only one wondering.

Maybe the state can take the money it spent in snowmobiles and labor and gas and pre-mix and trucks and capture facilities and every other bit of the nonsense and put it onto funding the vaccination program that would be imminent.

not too bright…apparently


by problembear

caution:  do not stare at this photo: necromancers have been known to summon the dead…

when Hank Paulson begged for the bail-out and congress stampeded to give him 700 billion bucks some thought” it’s expensive but i guess we have to try something” didn’t we at least assume the guy would have some inkling just what the hell he was going to do with it? well. it’s official now. this bush appointee is living up to the usual degree of incompetence we have come to expect from the worst president in the history of the united states. he has no plan, apparently except to just hand it over to his buddies on wall street……meanwhile back at the economy where the rest of us live….


North Dakota farmer Bob Sinner can’t ship his soy products to asia because of a strange shortage caused by declining sales in home furnishings.

by jhwygirl

Nothing planned for today? Blacksmith Brewing, newly opened in Stevensville, is having a branding party, starting at 2. Bring your branding iron – you know you got one – and brand a table or a pole or something.

oh…and have a beer or two too.

A man is pregnant – for the second time.

The first female 4-star Army general was promoted yesterday.

MT FWP is seeking public comment on a stabilization project designed to try and save the world’s 3rd largest Ponderosa pine in the world. I heard of its woes during high water this year, and headed on out there to see the situation. Took this picture. It truly is impressive. Big Pine June 2008

Americans are apparently OK with a Democratic majority up in Washington D.C..

India’s 6000 Muslim clerics have declared a fatwa against terrorism. India is home to the 4th largest Muslim population in the world.

Palin has become a verb. Example: HR sent me another Palin for the marketing manager opening.

York City was punked on Wednesday morning by a group called The Yes Men, who put out a fake New York Times, dated July 4, 2009, with stories such as “Iraq War Ends,” “USA Patriot Act Repealed,” “Bush Indicted for Treason,” and “Freidman confesses.”

They even managed a fake website, too…..

More bail-out porn with a follow-up to my “No F*n Way” post the other day: “Top 10 Bailout Sponsored Junkets of 2008”

by jhwygirl

Someone tell GeeGuy.

Released today, a decision by the EPA regarding coal-fired plants effectively halts any new approval until plants address carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon dioxide is a pollutant – by law – and EPA’s previous refusal to apply “best available control technology” to its emissions is a violation.

With the City of Great Falls pushing forward, despite all of its legal problems regarding that coal-fired plant, and officials talking a pretty mean talk about “clean coal technology” even though currently there really isn’t “clean coal technology” makes this decision pretty important.

While Montana isn’t part of EPA’s Region 9, count me as one of at least two people that hopes this decision falls over to EPA’s Region 8.


by problembear

i wonder what the gipper would think if he could see his precious “free” market captains of industry and rulers of the universe begging taxpayers for a bail-out mulligan?

oh well, let’s get our minds off this coming economic debacle for awhile and wax nostalgic about our favorite dearly departed businesses here in missoula and accross montana. i will kick things off by listing a few of my old favorites from Missoula:

  1. Alley cat- best damn steaks in montana alas they grill no more.
  2. Freddy’s feed and read- best book store ever and great deli too, but books are closed.
  3. Skip’s orange street station- great place for quick service. ugliest bldg in missoula now.
  4. Mammyth Cafe- great vegetarian chili, rolls and salads cheap. much grieved.
  5. Blackfoot Tavern- if you knew Bennie & Elaine, ’nuff said.
  6. Bitterroot Grocery- best smelling grocery ever. real oak wood floors.
  7. Affinitive Angler- brief but memorable
  8. Champion wood products- great paychecks and picnics. lousy environmental ethics.
  9. Blacksheep sporting goods- some great deals for the poor sportspeople.
  10. 93 stop N’ go- the house sparrows at tremper’s ace sure miss the french fries.

please stroll down memory lane with us and tell us about your favorite long gone and recently deceased businesses in montana.

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