Archive for February, 2009


by problembear

“we expect the good citizens of philadelphia to take good care of and protect the liberty bell. shouldn’t montana do the same with our wild lands?”

one of the best parts of the early false spring days of february in missoula is the warming sun triggers thoughts of summer wilderness trails leading around boulders and subalpine fir to a hidden basin where a bear can find solace from the fray of political and societal issues and pressures. it is the memory of a tiny two inch wide spring which gurgles beneath a rock ledge. it is the daydream thoughts of a soft fluttering of wings above and the startling call of the robber jay as it steals greedily and boldly closer to my lunch. it is the soft rustle of grass as a round eared pika peaks furtively toward me with her small bundle of “hay”.

wilderness thoughts come every spring even though i visit less and less these days into that wild part of the world where i feel safest and most myself. it is interesting to feel those stirrings of passionate beliefs come welling out of me like a force fed spring from a snowfield in july. a post by Bill Schneider over at New West a few weeks ago triggered old feelings about those old wilderness battles with a vengeance. i became predictably problemish in the discussion and the entire discussion between commenters leaves me wondering where does montana go from here.

Bill is getting weary of the battle of the greens and i cannot blame him. my own personal history of working to save wilderness mostly occured in oregon (back then called the Oregon Wilderness Coalition) during the period of 1974 through 1984. in that time i do not recall the enmity between groups in oregon that seems to occur here in montana. for that reason (and because in 1985, when i moved here i did not feel qualified to speak about lands i knew little about) i kind of stepped back and played a more supportive role on the sidelines as i watched folks like Mike Bader, Bob Yetter, Howie Wolke and other men and women battle the wilderness war for a couple of decades here. i could see that the rivalry between the Alliance For The Wild Rockies and other more staid groups like the Montana Wilderness Association and the Sierra Club was reaching a fevered pitch which absolutely precluded any meaningful communication between them.

this is a shame. here we sit in montana – surrounded by so much wild land in what i consider the great crossroads of wilderness in the contiguous united states and nobody can seem to come to the table and agree about how much and what we should save. it seems absurd to me, but i refrained from bellyaching about it because i was a native oregon black bear who had made his home among grizzly bears it seems and sticking my head up just didn’t seem too smart. but now that i have lived here almost 24 years i guess i am feeling it is time for some straight talk about what i think needs to be done here.

The Montana Wilderness Association. MWA needs to get on the dime and start protecting some wild lands. it is an organization that has been around since 1958 and in it’s first twenty five years it was a primal force in saving wild lands in montana. now, however, MWA seems to be more interested in it’s own precious credibility among law-makers and the powerful rather than advocates for Wilderness. where is the zeal to save wild lands?

other Montana groups Sierra Club? Audobon? Wilderness Society? where the hell are you guys-women? i don’t see anything from any of you on protecting wilderness this year and i read a lot of stuff.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies AWR probably needs to come to the table with more respect for the MWA and it’s viewpoints in order to move it’s current bill in congress closer to enactment. simply throwing insults at each other will get no one anywhere. (i am guilty of this also but today i am trying to be objective in thinking exactly what is needed to protect our most precious montana legacies for future generations and to encourage a dialogue which is more respectful of each other’s viewpoints.)

there is another country wide omnibus multi wilderness bill currently trying to migrate it’s way through congress which very conspicuously contains no wilderness proposals from montana. as someone who has supported AWR from the sidelines all these years it just seems like montana’s wilderness groups are not doing enough to come to the table and talk. how can we expect reasonable lawmakers like tester and baucus and a predominately democratic congress and a supportive president to help us if we wilderness supporters can’t agree on anything?

it seems we are acting childish and stupid right when the winds of change are most receptive to protecting these lands.  this is not a plea from me so much as a plea from the lands themselves for all you humans to change your stupid ways and finally come together and talk so we can be the way there is a great resource for some information available on this from missoula’s own aldo leopold wilderness institute to help fuel your comments with specific details.

so please consider this post to be an open thread about how you would like montana to approach the unapproachable stalemate of wilderness. i realize there is a lot of emotion out there about this topic. (only gun control gets more comments) but i will try my best to restrain myself and other’s comments from straying past the bounds of a good rollicking, chair-throwing, honest debate here. but try to keep it on topic. of course, i realize the economy takes precedent in these days (people are hurting out there) but i just thought a little hike into the wilderness issue might be nice- get our minds off the societal day to day survival things and think a little about our legacy as westerners and as montanans.  i will sit back and let people talk without too much interference on this because my paws are tired from all this typing and i think i smell fresh cinnamon rolls wafting from a certain little rodents den…, take a hike…

Holy Moly

by jhwygirl

This, via Courtney Lowry at NewWest:

Rocky Mountain News to publish final edition tomorrow



by Ana J. Beard

Looking at the recent actions of the MCPS school board, it is clear to me that this upcoming election is going to be VERY important. Sure, I may be graduating in a few months, but I have a ten year-old sister, I have friends who are underclassmen, I know little siblings of friends and depending on this upcoming election, it could make their education a well-rounded, interesting one…

Or it could make it a cookie-cutter, text-book, snoresville, sheltered education.

Now, nothing has yet proved my theory, but there’s a name that keeps popping up in the community that I’d rather not see on the ballots, or being the puppet master to other candidates.

Tei Nash.

He is a Hellgate graduate (class of ’69 I believe), played basketball and football and from what I hear, was even in some sort of rock band. Pretty neat, huh?

It is. Until you hear about what that jock/musician grew up to be.

He shows up at the University of Montana when there are meetings dealing with same-sex housing and insurance issues (even going as far as taking it to Supreme Court for “improper” notification of upcoming meetings), he comes to school board meetings to put his-very loud, right-wing-two cents in. In 2003, he even addressed the Montana legislature on HB 294 and was quoted saying, “Gay men think they are doing children a favor by sodomizing them.”  HB 294 was a bill that would have removed same-sex contact from the same line as bestiality in the Montana Code.

He has also commented on a number of other proposed bills (such as HB 449 which deals with school districts’ harassment/intimidation/bullying policies, saying he was concerned with the mention of sexual orientation being included in the policy).

Nash was on the board of Head Start, a part of the governing body of Head Start Inc. that forms policies and helps families. He was even the head of the board at one point. Head Start is a low-income pre-school – a PRE-SCHOOL.

He also strongly opposed bringing Diversity Week into schools saying that it didn’t show both sides [of homosexuality]. Flagship coordinators took his complaints, in my opinion, very respectfully. Big Sky’s Diversity Week this year even had a speaker who identified herself as a lesbian until God saved her from homosexuality.

While this is something many people would say is complete bull, it’s still another perspective and it’s showing (as Nash puts it,) “the other side”.  To say the least, I’m sure her presentation was a very interesting one and it probably sparked some great discussions and I’m sad Hellgate didn’t have the chance to see her presentation.

Anyways, to get back on track, what if Nash sees this upcoming school board election and decides to run or to influence one of his cronies to run? If he puts his mind to it, what’s stopping him?

So this is my cry for help. Please, someone step up and run. If you care about your children’s and the community’s youths’ education, you won’t let someone like Nash take a seat on the school board.

by jhwygirl

At least go check out the online edition. Jesse Froehling has the feature this week with a profile of Lt. Governor John Bohlinger. It. Is. Fabulous. I may be not-so-secretly in love with the guy (Bohlinger), but really – it’s a great profile. Good insight into the Republican side of things, too. Must read.

Another must-read is George Ochenski’s mid-session review. He, too, isn’t very happy with the “offensive bills” running up the score against the environment. Ochenski, of course, discusses the issue much better than I ever could.

Do not miss either.

by jhwygirl

A friend thought to check with the school district today on the interim position that closed Wednesday afternoon at 4:30. This is what they sent:

I spoke with Leslie, the public information officer at the school district offices. She said that they had 10 applicants and that most of them came in late in the afternoon. I asked her if I could get a copy of the questions that the applicants had to answer, and she said that she could do that because it was public information, but that they needed time to go through them and make copies for each of the school board members. She said that they planned on interviewing the candidates next week, on Tuesday and Thursday. I asked her if these would be public interviews and she said “absolutely,” that “all of the interviews would be public meetings.”

I asked her when I could come and get copies of the questionnaires and she said that they were working very hard to organize everything, and she hoped they’d have a list of everyone and a news release on the website by the end of the day. So I asked her if maybe they could just put the questionnaires on the website. She paused at first, and then said that they would definitely be able to do that since making them into .pdf’s involved using the copier, and they needed to make a whole bunch of copies for the school board anyways.

Apparently, the goal is to have the new member chosen after the interviews next week and to have that person sworn in by the next March 10th meeting.

You should know that Leslie was very nice and seemed to be trying to give me as much information as possible. I did call pretty early. It was about 9:30 in the morning when I called. I’m sure she was pretty busy with that many applicants and having most of them come in late in the day.

I can only thank my supermissoulafriend here – they want no credit.

So there it is folks. I checked the website, and I can’t find anything – so it looks like the school district wasn’t able to get the list of candidates, the new releases, or the questionnaires up on the website yet. Let’s hope it’s up by Friday – after all, the public meetings are Tuesday. People do need more than a 24 hour notice to public interviews for a school board position. They should also have the information, too.


by problembear

there is no feeling which quite compares to picking up a musical instrument, pencil and paper, paintbrush, camera, hunk of clay or block of wood and creating a story of art which is uniquely yours. creative art students in this country are free to express themselves in song, words, images and objects of art. it is a precious freedom to celebrate.

this thursday february 26th at 6:45pm there will be a gathering of young poets, artists, writers and photographers from Big Sky High School who will sponsor a reading at the Missoula Museum Of Art. the public is invited and the event is free. each year the students of Big Sky High School produce a very unique literary work entitled Aerie International which showcases talent in all the arts and letters from high school students accross the world.

these are talented and creative individuals who just want to tell their story. they invite you to listen to their stories and poems and see their work.

news stories about their work here and here.

the S.O. says be there or be square….editor’s post script: although there is no charge, voluntary donations will be gladly accepted to continue this wonderful work. there will be a donation box and as always the staff and students who work so hard on this project wish to thank all the wonderful supporters of Aerie International.

by jhwygirl

Yeah. The things you hear on the radio.

Basically, what this bill does is it makes sure the protester isn’t harassed by the persons entering the clinic

After the 2nd newsbreak today, I had to pull over and write it down, so shocked I was at what he was saying, and wanting to make sure I got it exactly verbatim.

Who knew? People seeking health care are apparently harassing protesters. I never knew it was such a problem!

We blogged about SB497 with this week’s Part I….and the comments kicked this up, from thegreatlettera:

(This bill) not only guts the current 45-8-110, but it turns the protesters into a 16 foot diameter spherical “bubble” thing. Linking the bubbles would create an invisible fence with human posts where there’s a little zap for passing through as well, except it’s $100 instead of electrical. I think you’re right that this would be unconstitutional, it’s scary he thinks his ruse will work. It’s scarier that people would actually turn out to be “posts.”

Healthcare isn’t hard enough to get in this state – especially in rural areas – Sen. Shockley wants you to get arrested while seeking it.

Obviously I’m missing something here – because this one passed the Senate Judiciary committee yesterday, 12 – 0.

by jhwygirl

Two of these can’t wait, people….

Button Valley Bugle grabs up 3 more bad environmental bills: Rep. Llew Jones’ bill to “limit the scope of environmental review under the Montana Environmental Protection Act for certain energy development projects on state lands”, also known as HB529. 529 passed a 2nd reading, 78 to 22 today, after a lengthy, impassioned debate. A third reading is tomorrow. Do not go to sleep tonight without contacting your legislators and letting them know that stripping MEPA unnecessarily is a violation of your guaranteed right to a clean and healthful environment.

Jones also has HB483 – which, too, passed a 2nd reading (on a 71-28 vote) and heads to a 3rd reading tomorrow – will make appeals under MEPA, for energy development projects, more difficult. We mentioned this one the other day

More? There’s also Sen. Keith Bales’ bill that, like HB483, would make appeals under MEPA more difficult. SB387 passed 3rd reading in the Senate last week (27-23) and now is sitting with the House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee.

The BV Editor has more: Jones, still, with HB566, which would limit the remedy that could be required of a state agency found to violate MEPA. This bill is stalled with a 50-50 vote in the house, today. Given the environment up there in the legislature – as exhibited by the three bills above – it wouldn’t hurt to contact your legislator and tell them to make sure to keep that bill dead. Very dead.

In previous posts – yes, Virginia, there really is more – The Editor disses on SB425, which is bad, bad, bad for native fish and Montana fishing enthusiasts. Not only that – it’s bad, bad, bad for taxpayers, too.

You can also check out Will Fish for Work on SB425, or this previous post from Button Valley.

Need info on contacting your legislators? Start here, then head here.

by jhwygirl

School Board trustee Jenda Hemphill is resigning for health reasons and the school board will be appointing a replacement who would then run in the spring election. This is a very important seat–districtwide, representing both elementary and high school. This means the applicant can live in ANY MCPS elementary district.

This link provides additional information, along with a list of 10 questions and two other bits of information that must be completed.

Deadline is Wednesday, February 25th, 4:30 p.m.

This seat will go to election this upcoming May, along with 3 others, so this appointment is an interim appointment until the upcoming election. Deadline for filing is March 26th.

by jhwygirl

We’ve got bad environmental legislation this session. That’s nothing new – it happens every legislative session. Most probably think it comes from Republicans – but the truth is that good and bad comes from both sides of the aisles. There is no line drawn on environmental issues that makes good stuff comes from the Democratic side of the aisle, and the bad stuff come from the Republican.

Supermontana reporter John S. Adams, of the Great Falls Tribune, reported on some of the more egregious environmental legislation that’s passed various legislative processes in the last few days – bills which exempt MEPA review for stimulus projects (SB481); exempt water permitting regulations for coalbed methane (Didn’t Wyoming have a huge mess down there in Pinedale? Weren’t ranchers – who didn’t own subsurface rights – livid, for years, over that very issue?) (HB575); and add exemptions for air quality permits (SB440).

Wow. Sen. Keith Bales is a busy guy!

But let’s be fair here. While Bales (R) is the requestor for HB575, Rep. Bill McChesney (D) is the primary sponsor carrying the bill forward. Politics, Peaks, and Valleys has a scathing piece on this piece of you-know-what.

SB440 passed the Senate Natural Resources committee on Saturday, and now heads to the floor for a vote, likely on Tuesday or Wednesday. Write or call your Senator on this one, folks.

What else made it in the last few days? Sen. Jim Keane’s (D) bill which revises laws related to major facility siting. SB360 would exempt 10 miles or up to 10% of new right-of-way from the major facility siting act. It also defines sensitive areas as “government recognized” only. This bill passed 3rd reading and now heads to the House.

Pissed off yet?

Here’s more: Democratic Sen. Larry Jent is moving SB94, which revised closed basin water permitting bills, essentially exempting water appropriation permits which would be a huge help to all sorts of oil and hard minerals acquisition interests. This bill, also, would undo recent court rulings that were adverse to the state…because – get this – the state doesn’t appeal these rulings that they lose because they know they’re going to lose them and once they do, they’ve gotta comply with the ruling state-wide. Right now, that adverse ruling just affects the one Tongue River permit that the case scrutinized. This bill passed 3rd reading on Saturday, and now heads to the House.

Lovely, right?

Oh, wait: still more – SB387, from J.S. Adams’ piece, passed the Senate floor vote on Saturday, and moves to the House. That was on a 27-23 vote.

HB483, again from the J.S. Adams piece, cleared House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee and heads to a floor vote sometime this week.

SB237, also from the J.S. Adams piece, passed 3rd reading in the House and now heads to the Senate.

What else is there? Well, there’s HB379 which would exempt municipal systems from water appropriation permitting. It sits – for now – tabled in House Natural Resources in a 10-10 vote. If you’ve not written or called on this one yet, let’s put some extra insurance out there to protect our water and Montana’s senior water rights holders and make that call to House Natural Resources, or shoot an email to Shirley Chovanak the secretary –

What else? Well, Adams’ piece mentioned 3 bills that cleared House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee – and since the online edition only mentioned 1, I’ve only hit on that one. The accompanying chart, which I’m sure was very informative, though was only available in the pulp edition.

Dare I delve further? Not unless I want to get my blood pressure up, and besides that, I think I’ve had enough for now.

I’ll leave you with these two quotes, from Anne Hedges, of the Montana Environmental Information Center:

These bills violate the constitution, and they violate federal law. Many of these bills are going straight to court.

and this one:

We’ll find out how the governor really feels about environmental protection and citizens’ rights when these bills get to his desk.

by jhwygirl

I suppose, perhaps, we are going to see some serious executive action this week on the backlog of previous hearings? The list of hearings seems awfully short: Only 8 hearings scheduled for both the House and Senate for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Which means I’ll have to be looking into what’s been left hanging.

On Monday, Rep. Mary Caferro finally gets her hearing on HB401 in House Appropriations. HB401 deals with regulations concerning meth-contaminated properties and is geared toward providing protections for renters and homebuyers. I blogged about this just a few days ago – and in case you missed that piece, just go and check this list out, which not only lists meth-contaminated properties around the state, but allows you to see how long (too long) it takes from determination that a property is meth-contaminated to when the property owner gets notified – yet alone how long it takes to get to a point of actual remediation. There is contact information in the previous post.

Sen. David Wanzenried has SB463 before the Senate Public Health, Welfare & Safety committee. This bill would make changes to laws concerning employment of disabled persons – making educational materials available and allowed them to be employed by family members. Joan Linkenbach is the secretary – Make sure to mention the bill by number and to note, specifically, that you are submitting public comment for the committee members.

Also on Monday, Sen. Jim Schockley has SB497, which is a messy affair – to say the lease. It would make it a crime to obstructing a protest at a health care facility. What if you are protesting the protest? Who can come withing 8 feet of whom? Talk about making it a mess for police. Maybe Shockley would rather see everyone arrested? Or is it “I was here first?” Better to protect the ability to protest, and to make sure those protesters are a safe distance away from the health care facility – like 100 feet? He’s got 36 feet in there. Lord – what a mess. Say “NO” to this one folks: Contact the Senate Judiciary committee by emailing Pam Schindler and telling her you are submitting public comment, and request that it be given to all the committee members. Her email address is

On Tuesday Rep. Betsy Hands is ushering HB569 which would set up a revolving state fund for affordable housing. I said Affordable Housing people – and rather than belabor the point, search 4&20 for that term, over there on the left, and you’ll see how badly this bill is needed. This is in House Appropriations, Samuel Speerschneider the secretary:

Remember, if you can’t or aren’t able to send an email, go ahead and call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire committee. You can also leave individual messages for individual legislators. Up to 5 at a time. Make sure to have the bill number handy. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462. The Session Information Desk opens at 7:30 a.m., and closes at 5 p.m.

by Ana J. Beard

It isn’t hard to forget that our new Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) superintendent, Dr. Alex Apostle, has spent the last 7 years, before coming to Missoula, as a private real estate investor in Arizona when he says things like “my job [as superintendent] is very similar to remodeling a house.”

It’s even harder to forget that he has been retired from the education system since 2001 when he says “Honestly, this issue [the school board meeting on Feb. 10] should have been dealt with at a building level, but I wanted to sit back and see how this would be handled in Missoula,” when he addressed Hellgate High School faculty at a special, short-notice meeting on Feb. 17 that Apostle had called specifically to talk to the teachers about academic freedom. (He is going around, addressing every school about this as well.)

While Apostle’s intentions were pure during the meeting and as appreciative most people are that he owned up to his mistakes and didn’t place blame on anybody else with the turnout of the Big Sky censorship controversy, it was hard to ignore the snickers and whispers of the teachers around me.

Apostle kicked off the meeting by informing everybody that “academic freedom in this district will be supported.” The reaction was much like the one I see and hear in a room full of teenagers-people rolling their eyes, trying to hold back laughter, even a few whispers (my favorite one–“Bulls***”).

He told the group that he supported Kathleen Kennedy (the Big Sky teacher who, according to the school board, violated school board policy by showing her Wildlife Bio class “The Story of Stuff”) and that he had expressed his support in an e-mail to the school board.

To be completely honest, Dr. Apostle, an e-mail is NOT enough.

During the meeting, Apostle told the teachers about his proposal to create a committee that would be made up of a diverse group of staff, faculty and even students. They would go over school district policies and clarify and/or revise them. One person stood up and asked whether this plan would be carried out before or after the May 6 school board elections. Apostle said he wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible, so, before.

At one point in the meeting I asked about the urgency to his plan: Is this really a good idea if there are members of the school board that obviously don’t have what’s best for the students at heart? It seems that there are a few board members that would just like to push their beliefs into the education system, and that is definitely not a good sign for MCPS.

The group had the opportunity to ask questions. Many people expressed concern for Kennedy, for themselves (as educators) and their curricula. Science teachers referred to the evolution unit that a few of them are just about to start and asked whether that could be the next target. One teacher stated that a precedent had already been set by Feb. 10’s school board meeting. One teacher even stood up and talked about how her own teenage daughter had been told which positions to do in order to conceive a boy or a girl in her Prep For Life class, and watched Knocked Up in english class, with no relevance to the curriculum and without parent notification (if a teacher plans on showing a movie that is rated R, they are supposed to send a note home for parent approval).

Initially, I had planned on not bringing attention to myself. My principal knew I was coming, as did a few staff members but it was supposed to be a meeting for certified teachers.  I couldn’t help myself though.

Apostle kept saying “it is obvious the community has spoken,” saying that the community agreed with the school board decision. I raised my hand, stated my name and that I wasn’t a teacher, that I was a student. Then I asked how exactly the community had spoken if there had been little student input. He talked about the letters to the editors in the Missoulian and the people that were at the initial meeting regarding “The Story of Stuff” and Kennedy.

At one point a teacher asked about the repercussions to Kennedy from the school board’s decision. Apostle attempted to answer, saying that the meeting wasn’t to punish her – that it was to review the material presented and see if it violated policy 2313.

While “The Story of Stuff” was initially questioned under 2313, that was not what the school board’s decision dealt with. Maybe he got nervous, or it was a slip of the tongue, but he had his facts wrong. I spoke up, respectfully, and said that the Feb. 10 meeting dealt with whether “The Story of Stuff” violated policy 2330, which is about academic freedom and the handling of controversial issues. While the school board ruled 4-3 that the movie violated the policy, they decided not to issue any punishments to Kennedy. Apostle seemed thrown off by being corrected by a 17 year-old. The teachers around me, once again, repressed laughter and some gave me thumbs up or said “Nice job”.

A while later I raised my hand again, it didn’t take me (or the teachers around me) long to notice that he seemed to be avoiding calling on me. A former teacher of mine even turned around at one point and whispered “I think he’s scared of you, kiddo.” Finally when I was the only one raising a hand, he called on me. “Wasn’t academic freedom created to protect teachers and to prevent something like this from happening,” I asked?

I received a very hesitant “yes.”

I continued, “If there is an open discussion with the material, isn’t that balance?” (One of the points brought up against the presentation of the movie was that there was not a balance of views.)

Apostle said that he was not in a position to review the policy at the time.

I understand that Apostle had legal limitations with what he could say in the meeting, and he chose his words carefully and answered questions to the best of his ability but the general vibe of the meeting was a tad chilly towards him.

After the meeting I approached Apostle. A science teacher was expressing his concern with how Kennedy had been targeted and how it could be any of the teachers next. Apostle told him he would just have to have faith in the administration. The teacher mentioned how Kennedy didn’t even have a chance to defend herself. Once again, I spoke up and pointed out that Kennedy did, in fact, have the chance to defend herself but had been told she didn’t need to. Apostle cut me off and said, “We told her to not even come.”

Maybe, if she hadn’t gone, the attack wouldn’t have been straight to her face. Maybe the meeting would have been less emotional. But if Kennedy had not gone to the meeting, then what chance did she stand against the school board and Mark Zuber (the Big Sky parent who had the initial complaint and spent over 100 hours working on his presentation to the school board)? You can’t defend yourself if you’re not there.

I reiterated to Apostle that I really did not believe the community had spoken. The letters to the editors and the e-mails he was referring to when he talked about “the community”, were a misrepresentation. And obviously he didn’t read the letter to the editor signed by nearly 80 people, or hear about the screening and discussion of “The Story of Stuff” at the courthouse that the Missoula County Democrats Party set up.

Few students had the chance to speak, most didn’t know how.  He said something about how he should tell the principals to inform students on how to input. I asked about his committee, would it be open to student input? He replied with what I felt was a very sarcastic response: “Do YOU want to be on the committee?” He proceeded to tell me how he hoped to include student opinion–Hellgate’s student body president, Sentinel’s student body president, but not Big Sky’s because he doesn’t want the committee to be “bias”.

Excuse me, but isn’t excluding one of Missoula’s three public high schools bias in itself?

by Pete Talbot

Meet Tyler Gernant, potential Denny Rehberg opponent.

First he has to file (he has an exploratory committee now) then he has to win the primary, then he’d face Rehberg in November, 2010.

But hats off to anyone who gets out early, does the background work and then takes a shot at Denny.

Over coffee at Bernice’s, Tyler said he “has no illusions about the hurdles ahead.” He’d most likely be taking on Montana Democratic Party Chairman Dennis McDonald, among others, in the primary. Some of the big dogs, like Schweitzer and Baucus, have advanced McDonald’s candidacy all along, so Tyler would have a battle on his hands.

Gernant is 26 and a lawyer living in Missoula — potentially a lethal resume for a statewide candidate — but stranger things have happened. A political neophyte by the name of Brian Schweitzer almost took out three-term Senator Conrad Burns in 2000 (and that was before the Abramoff scandal).

And Tyler has roots in Eastern Montana; his grandfather homesteaded in Whitetail, which is about as far east (and north) as you can get and still be in Montana.

When asked why he didn’t start off with slightly smaller goals, like the state legislature or a Tier B statewide position, Gernant said this is a “perfect time” to run for congress and that federal issues are what pique his interest.

Gernant is politically savvy, having interned for Sen. Baucus and two congressmen, and worked on Sen. John Edwards’ presidential campaign.

He plays the young card well. He says he’ll “bring fresh ideas” and a “different way of doing politics.” He’ll tap into the “netroots … which is a natural consistency” (a strategy that has been effective in recent campaigns).

Although he counts progressives and populists among supporters, the issues he raises are more mainstream: tax reform, deficit reduction, rural revitalization and energy.

Rehberg (I know, I’ve said it before) should be vulnerable. He basically voted the Bush agenda for the last eight years; including the free trade, free market, deregulation, privatization and voodoo economics that helped get us into our current economic mess. But then he votes against the stimulus package. What a guy.

Can you name any important legislation that Rehberg has offered and has passed congress in the four terms he’s been in office? I didn’t think so.

It’s been awhile since Rehberg had a serious challenger. He deserves one this next time out.

Tyler says he’s going on a tour — “testing the waters” in Eastern Montana and cities like Great Falls, Helena and Billings. He also says he’s putting the final touches on a website and some position papers. We’ll keep you posted.

Please note, it’s too early to be making endorsements. I’m just glad folks are lining up against Rehberg.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread

I don’t have much. It’s been a tough week.

One thing I did pick up and that has been bouncing around in my head is this NPR interview with David Denby, author of Snark.

I’m not much of a fan of over-kill snark. I don’t see it as a way people can carry on an ongoing conversation in real life, therefore it seems pretty unrealistic to write the stuff. Real life isn’t TV. It isn’t Seinfield. Or whatever new TV show is doing it as an art form nowadays. I believe it does tend to shut down productive discussion.

Is all snark bad? Unproductive? Denby says “no,” and attempts to explain. There’s more in the comments there, too, that ya’all might want to read. Can or is snark in the minds and eyes, perhaps, of the beholder? Is the subject of snark more prone to think, automatically, that it is “bad” snark than, perhaps, the audience?

I’ve conversed on this subject a little this week, and honestly, I’d like to hear more feedback on it: Snark and me. In self-examination, I want to think that I don’t do much “bad” snark at all. Note that I’m not saying I don’t feel I do “bad” snark, just not a lot of it. I know I definitely go there at times. Is my self-examination through serious rose-colored lenses? What happens to your brain when I do go there?

Anyways, there it is – one of the half-dozen or so things banging around in my head this week. If you can help slow down that banging, I’d be mighty grateful. In any event, the cathartic nature of this post – of writing – may have helped in and of itself.

Perhaps later today I get to the fabulous posts of MontanaNetroots, Pogie, Wulfgar!, Singer and Jay, The Button Valley Bugle, Will Fish for Work, Politics, Peaks, and Valleys, and the Flathead Democrats, just to name a few.

If I don’t get to that later, I want to make sure I say this: I’m glad there are others out there kicking out stuff…it was getting pretty lonely out there for a while with the Montana lefty blogosphere and everyone seemingly on vacation. Now the great ones are back in action, and there are even some newbees up that are kicking out absolutely fabulous, quality stuff. Plus, there’s even some legislative stuff going on. I love it. I love seeing additional perspective.

If there’s other Montana blogs out there that I’m missing, please do put them in the comments. I don’t want to be missing any.


by jhwygirl

It’s possible, it happens, and Rep. Mary Caferro wants to make sure that doesn’t happen anymore.

I gotta tell ya’ – I heard the testimony at last Friday’s hearing in House Judiciary on HB401 and I was shocked. There are meth-contaminated properties out there – rented and sold – that are obligated to be cleaned up (they’re DEQ violations, for one), that renters and new property owners aren’t aware of. Imagine buying a home, only to find out 3 years later, with a DEQ notice, that the property is being placed on a list of contaminated properties that needs to be cleaned up to the tune of $20,000. That you’ve been living in it or your children have been living in it?

Whoa. Right?

There’s even a list out there, on the DEQ website, of contaminated properties – and I read through that list last Friday.

Now – it’s convenient, don’t you think, that the link to the list of contaminated properties – required to be posted by DEQ by 75-10-1300 MCA – isn’t there as I write this? That the list is missing at a time when people really should be aware that there are a whole hell of a lot of properties, around the state – including a whole bunch in Missoula and Great Falls – that are contaminated enough to be listed on a DEQ website?

UPDATE: Thanks to JC, from the comments, here is the link from DEQ that works: Meth Contaminated Properties List.

Get this – 3333 Brooks was on that list. That one stood out to me because Brooks Street isn’t exactly a residential area, so I hit google..and what was 3333 Brooks? The Brooks Street Motor Inn.


It’s unfortunate that you all can’t check that list out tonight – but perhaps someone will give a call to DEQ tomorrow and tell them to fix that link?

Meanwhile – HB401 is set for hearing tomorrow before House Appropriations, after having passed a 2nd reading on the floor. With bipartisan support, I might add.

Let’s hope that bipartisan support extends through the House Appropriations committee. In fact – let’s make sure of it.

Please contact the House Appropriations committee and tell them that HB401 is an important bill to support. That allowing contaminated properties to be utilized without enforcement and reporting mechanisms should not be allowed with the hazard to health that they present.

Jon Sesso(Chair)
Cynthia Hiner (Vice Chair)
Walter McNutt (Vice Chair)
Duane Ankney
Dennis Getz
William Glaser
Ray Hawk
Teresa Henry
Roy Hollandsworth
Galen Hollenbaugh
Llew Jones
Dave Kasten (you need to use the online form to contact him)
Bill McChesney
Robert Mehlhoff
Penny Morgan
Bill Nooney
Carolyn Pease-Lopez (you need to use the online form to contact her)
Don Roberts (you need to use the online form to contact him)
Cheryl Steenson
Dan Villa

This hearing starts at 10 a.m. Maybe DEQ can fix that link before then?

Note, Missoulians, that Rep. Bill Nooney is on that you might want to send him a separate email reminding him that there is quite a number of Missoula properties that are contaminated – including one that is a hotel room. Remind him, too, that allowing people to buy, sell, and rent contaminated properties is not something that you want to see him facilitate. Tell Nooney to say YES to funding HB401.

If you are not able to get an email out, you can call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire House Appropriations committee. You can also leave individual messages for individual legislators. Up to 5 at a time, I think. Make sure to mention the bill, by number (HB401). Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462. The Session Information Desk opens at 7:30 a.m., and closes at 5 p.m.

Callings easy, folks. Those legislative staffers are some of the most helpful pleasant state employees I’ve ever encountered. It doesn’t take more than 120 seconds to help make a difference.

by jhwygirl

In House Local Government committee tomorrow, Rep. Michele Reinhart’s HB455 will be heard at a hearing scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday.

With apologies to the late notice. It was something I had intended to get to sooner.

HB455 is titled The Big Sky Rivers Act, and would protect 9 major rivers and a portion of one, with buffers of streamside areas and protections to riparian habitat immediately adjacent. The bill does so by establishing minimal standards, while authorizing local regulations to be enacted, should local governing authorities choose. It also exempts areas that have sewer or onsite wastewater management facilities, existing structures, and agricultural uses.

The 10 major streams?
Bitterroot River
Blackfoot River
Clark Fork River
Flathead River
Gallatin River
Jefferson River
Madison River
Missouri River from its headwaters near Three Forks to the line between Cascade and Choteau Counties
Smith River, and
Yellowstone River from the Montana-Wyoming border to the line between Treasure and Rosebud Counties.

I want to remind everyone – things are moving at breakneck speed now. We’re darn near the halfway point – and bills need to be moving. Take this into consideration: Senate Republicans blocked funding for CHIP expansion – approved overwhelmingly by Montana voters this past election – after just slightly more than an approval in the House of HB157 (which, to note, had bipartisan support).

Apparently, voters didn’t know what they were doing.

But I digress….

Please take the time tonight to contact members of the House Local Government committee and them know that Montana is Nothing Without Its Rivers. Let them know that protecting our rivers means protecting the riparian areas adjacent. Protecting our rivers means protecting them from excessive nitrates and nutrient flow from septic intrusion into the water table. Now is the time….because, as I say: Time’s a’wastin’.

Elsie Arntzen (Chair of the House Local Government Committee)
Betsy Hands (D) (Vice Chair)
Gary MacLaren (Vice Chair)
Arlene Becker
Gerals Bennett
Tom Berry
Robyn Driscoll
Bob Ebinger
Wanda Grinde
Robin Hamilton
Pat Ingraham
Mike Menahan
Michael More
Scott Reichner
Michele Reinhart
Diane Sands
Wayne Stahl
Gordon Vance

You can also call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire legislative committee. Make sure to mention the bill, by number (HB455). Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462. The Session Information Desk opens at 7:30 a.m., and closes at 5 p.m.

For more on this important legislation, head on over to Button Valley.


couldn’t be helped (the distracted professor does have a remarkable likeness to comedian rick moranis) i know-i am a very…very….bad bear.

by problembear

award winning reporter conducts a class in journalism for confused professor.

by jhwygirl

You betcha.

On Saturday, Sen. Rick Liable withdrew his request for SB314. One day, notably, after his piss-poor interview with editor Perry Backus of the Ravalli Republic.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that I was beaten by a newbee to this – and I’m happy to say it, really. Keep it up. So a hat tip goes out to the Editor over there at The Button Valley Bugle.

Public comment does make a difference.


by problembear

ok, i’ll confess. i tried to find the most terrifying photo of a member of the undead, and this is the most terrifying one i could find. but it is kind of germaine since henry paulson is the architect of the original idea to bail out the zombie banks. let’s call him the zombie king…

perhaps the big O and little geithner should hold a little money back from the remainder of the bail-out for some of this. it might come in handy just in case.

but this post should have some real point to it right? well, try this. and when you are tired of reading listen to this.

and while you are waiting for the toxic assets to move their way through the bowels of the fetid economy this might be why we are in the shape we’re in.

i’ll tell ya what i think. i think as things get worse the mood of the middle class is gonna get real ugly and the politicians are jockeying for position to either shield themselves from the political damage or they are so cynical that they are trying to harness that anger to their side’s benefit. now, i am an independent and i am getting real sick of partisan politics. the republicans not only deregulated everything under the sun over the past 30 years (with some weak spined democratic help) thereby ruining our banks and our safe food along the way. now they are trying to obstruct attempts to make things better while their mouthpiece rush is hoping we fail. i am sick of it and i sense that americans are getting real sick of it.

obama’s little kid geithner is looking pretty bad so far. (someone has to check his scalp for a possibility that paulson may have eaten his brains and turned him into one of the undead too…) but i digress. some suggestions from the office of /bluecollar/honest/working/people/getting/real/angry

1. bring the troops all back from iraq and train them to be forensic accountants. maybe a platoon of book-keepers with camo fatigues and an M-16 will get the zombie executives attention. now let’s REALLY take a good look at those books, maggot!

2.get rid of every politician in washington and replace them with a true citizen congress in 2010. try it. run as an independent on the ticket and declare yourself as totally opposed to partisan politics. it is gold. trust me.

now i am outta here. been really causing a lot of trouble lately (been being a very very bad bear) even for a problembear, so this it an equal opportunity open thread to rail against the machine. rail away. i won’t interrupt. i promise. Lizard- et al. it is your stage….


by problembear

and he’s invited us over to his place for a one way ticket to hell….by the way it’s in (surprise) las vegas. have fun kids.

So, why is this so? Why is the payday loan industry growing at such a rapid rate? And why are a few of the most saavy financial minds entering this “loan shark” business segment? The answer, of course, is the TREMENDOUS PROFITS AVAILABLE! Depending on the state or province, payday loan consumers are paying $10 to $35 per $100 borrowed for a term averaging 8 days. These cash advance fees are equivalent to 480% to 1200% APR’s (Annual Percentage Rate). These returns are simply PHENOMINAL!

…welllll, isn’t that special?……….


by jhwygirl

I never thought about it until I heard.
But there was no way you were ever going to leave this world sitting on a couch or laying in a bed.

I love you. I hope you knew that.

Big Pine June 2008

Heaven has gained the absolute finest.


by problembear

let’s just make it a date for around may 2010, shall we?  

since it’s valentine’s day i want to be sure and let you know that we want to get close to your business with our signs and talk to a few folks….hope you won’t mind….i will try and stay upwind….so you get the full effect.

he’s stinky, he’s wide, he’s a problem….and he’s coming to a sidewalk near you….also a great big problembear shout out to all those montana legislators who voted in this legislative session to allow predatory payday and vehicle title loan businesses to continue to charge montana’s working poor 650% interest. we won’t forget you either. i promise…..we will visit your legislative districts to give a great big bear hug to all who join montana’s citizens; republicans, democrats, progressives and independents who demand regulation of this industry, and to stump for your more fair-minded opponents.

as of this writing there is still a slim chance that the republican members of the montana legislature will come to their senses and allow senate bill 397 to move forward but if not we would like to assure them that there will be a citizen based ballot initiative addressing this issue available for all of us to vote for payday/vehicle title regulation in 2010. watch for it…you can just smell it coming already can’t you?

by Pete Talbot

4&20 offers its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lt. Col. Garnet “Gary” Derby. He was from Whitehall but listed Missoula as his home. He was killed in Iraq on Monday, along with three other soldiers and an interpreter, in a roadside bombing.

Lt. Col. Derby is the 21st Montana serviceman to die in Iraq (ranking Montana fourth per capita in residents 18-54). Only Vermont, North Dakota and South Dakota lead Montana in number of deaths as a percentage of population.

He is the 4243rd American killed. There have been 31,035 injured. Estimates range from 90,670-98,992 in the number of Iraqis killed as a result of direct military or paramilitary action.

The war enters it’s sixth year next month. Sectarian violence continues. American deaths since George W. Bush proclaimed “mission accomplished”: 4105.

(Update — In the comments below, jhwygirl corrects the number of Montanans killed in Iraq: 29. My fault for working off an incomplete list.)

by Ana J. Beard 

After receiving a vague e-mail today from a reporter from the Independent, about the school board meeting I attended and spoke at on Feb. 10, I called him, as he had requested.

Call me naive but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that I was about to get interviewed.

First off, let me say that this reporter was nothing but polite and supportive. He told me that I did a good job at the meeting and that he thought I was doing the right thing. 

His questions, though, were what threw me off. After being complimented, I was asked about how I’d met with Forward Montana. Did they contact me, did I contact them, how did they contact me? Well, I contacted Matt Singer from Forward Montana. It only got more… accusatory? from there. Maybe accusatory isn’t the right word. It isn’t. It’s the only word that comes to mind though.

The whole conversation, all I could think about was the wording of his questions. As I said before, he was very respectful but it didn’t take me too long to realise what was so “off” about it all.

All of his questions had to do with: who had me do this, who told me to do that? Forward Montana helped me write me piece for the school board, right? What else am I doing about the school board? Who told me to do that?

It made me think of all of the letters to the editors I’ve seen in the Missoulian in the last few days and the comment threads online, written by people that agree with the school board’s decision with “The Story of Stuff”. Obviously even the Independent doubts teenagers’ abilities to think freely and self-motivate. The Independent questions today’s youths’ ability to think independently? Ironic…
Sad, actually. I’m sorry to disappoint whoever wanted to know–I wrote all of my own material, I attended the meeting on my own free will, and I am not a product of someone’s brainwashing ways. Yes, I had people who offered their support, there were people who wanted to teach me the different resources I had to “make noise” and there were people who answered my random little questions I had about addressing the school board (“Madam chair and members of the board…”) and how public comment at a meeting works.

Like I said before, I had no idea I was being interviewed until the end of the conversation when the reporter said “Well that’s all the questions I have for now…” Immediately I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I should have known it was an interview. His questions were too leading to be casual conversation, off the record, between two journalists. I felt a little sketched out being on the other side of the notebook.

I was at a loss for words, so I just thanked him when he, once again, offered his support and said to keep up the good work and to “keep pitching story ideas to the Indy” (I had previously asked to cover the school board story but it had already been assigned and it was a conflict of interests, which I completely understand. The Lance runs the same way).

I don’t know if it was the reporter, himself, who doubts teenagers, or if it was somebody else’s angle but why is it so hard to believe that we (well, most of us) have fully functional brains? We aren’t blank slates for our “liberal” teachers, “conservative” parents, or violent/overtly sexual media (or wherever the blame is being placed) to mark up.

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

Plenty of people getting into the legislative spirit this week. Great to see! There’s Wulfgar!’s takedown of Sen. Dan McGee’s SB46; there’s Roscoe, over at Left in the West giving some progressive “love” to SB318; and Supermontanareporter John S. Adams’ attempts to answer an interesting question from a reader regarding SB34 and the state senate’s vote to move the bill forward: Isn’t challenging the Constitution a violation of the oath of office?

Adams, btw, is soliciting questions that his readers have about the legislature. Got one? Send it to him.

The Montana Meth Project got quite a bit of attention this week – Pogie at Intelligent Discontent got this which questions the exorbitant $100,000+ salary of the projects executive director and this one which analyzes the money spent and the efficiency of the project’s successes. Bunk the West then went at the same topic, questing what Montanans are likely to see in the near future from the MMP.

I’m peeking in on The Button Valley Bugle a lot lately, and they’ve been obliging with a post nearly every day this week. My favorite? Bushed all over again, which includes an apology to our friends up north.

My second favorite? The legislative update for the upcoming week.

The Flathead Democrats are getting into the legislative watch too. LOVE IT!

All ya’all keep that legislative stuff coming!

Moving on, moving on…..

Time has a piece in this weeks past issue How to Save Your Newspaper.

On that note – The Flathead Memo lamented the financial situation of a number of larger papers…but he also mused over the shrinking Perspective section of the Daily Interlake. See February 12th’s post for that.

Helen, of Margaret and Helen, has been saving her friend Margaret (saving us all, really) from having to read Ann Coulter’s new book. She’s up to a total of 5 posts now…but really, head on over and just read ’em all yourself. Fabulous bloggers, those women.

Daily Kos’ feature writers start moving out of anonymity

Joanne Wilke, a Writer on the Range, has an exquisite piece of writing in this weeks The Missoula Independent.

I have to admit – I knew Elk Bull No. 6, and it sure was an ignoble way to go for such famous and fabulous animal. I had watched him battle countless times over the years – watched him charge vehicles and ignorant tourists. And I got bummed when game officials cut his antlers. Twice.

At least he got a “Breaking Headline” in the Montana Standard. Way to go, Gerry O’brien.

The Jackson Hole Daily only gave him a regular headline and story. But they did have the pic, though. Park spokesperson Al Nash said that they wouldn’t normally issue a news release on a dead elk, but Number 6 and his sparring partner, “Number 10,” have gained a reputation with the public throughout the years.

Even the Seattle Times got into the action

At least No. 6 is memorialized in video by the NPS.

This story has me remembering Boris the Bison, who I also knew.

Just wanted to let you all know – Big Ben played the Superbowl with 2 broken ribs

Superbowl fever never dies for Steeler fans.

by jhwygirl

Ana J. Beard has agreed to join us here at 4&20blackbirds, and I, for one, can’t be more thrilled.

Pete, you might recall, first introduced us to Ana with this post: A student’s response to censorship.

Ana’s voice is one of many of the next generation that will run this nation. Too often youth is discounted as not having enough experience, I’ll tell you – as I watch the Matt Singers and Jamee Greers and Molly Moodys of the world, I know that thinking that way couldn’t be more wrong.

Ana is a senior at Hellgate itching to graduate and move on to “the big bad world”. She’s the copy editor for the yearbook and editorials editor of the Lance, the Hellgate school newspaper. Ana finds extreme happiness in publishing articles dealing with controversial topics, with questionable headlines, and questionable photos to go along with said articles. She likes to ruffle feathers and she loves to see the reactions. Aside from practically living in the journalism room at Hellgate and working on the yearbook or Lance (or simply sleeping on the couch) she enjoys going to Walmart at 2 in the morning to buy random arts and crafts supplies. :)

Please join me in welcoming Ana J. Beard to 4&20blackbirds.

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