Archive for March 3rd, 2009

by jhwygirl

The opening line to sentence to Ravalli Republic’s John Cramer’s latest reads “Dennis Unsworth, Montana’s commissioner of political practices, knows the term “engaged citizenry” takes on a whole new meaning in Ravalli County.”

Boy – he couldn’t be more accurate. And he sure knows how to grab a reader.

Not that Bitterrooters have a reputation for being laid back. I know many that use the term crazy when they say “Bitterooters” – the two kinda go together, going back to Battle of the Big Hole days…

In an ongoing soap opera-like saga – a story that would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetically ironic, Dan Floyd, Treasurer for Higher Ground Foundation, an anti-zoning, anti-streamside setback corporation classified as “public benefit with members” (as it is registered with the Secretary of State’s office), is calling on a host of federal, state and local agencies to take action to save his two guest houses from falling into the Bitterroot River.

The Bell Crossing bridge, he claims, is the cause.

Seriously – don’t miss the comments in that one. The Ravalli Republic has some of the best comment strings of all papers around the state. Next to, maybe the Billings Gazette. It’s a tough pick, that contest, I tell ya.

So Dan Floyd, self-described property rights advocate is calling on the government to save his property. Now, to be fair, Floyd didn’t build his house and the two guest houses – he just bought it, where it sits, next to the Bitterroot River and the Bell Crossing bridge. This is sounding a lot like the guy down in the Big Hole who bought property and is now trying to claim a hardship in order to get a variance to build a bridge. In the Big Hole case, he’s been denied – twice now, once on appeal.

You got laugh at the audacity of a person that buys property without access, with laws in place concerning bridges and streamside setbacks (the Anaconda-Deerlodge consolidated planning area has not only had effect regulations in place for years – they have a commitment to them), and then claims hardship.

More on Higher Ground: Higher Ground has been under investigation by Montana’s Office of Political Practices for violating campaign laws. There are at least 9 complaints filed over campaign issues in Ravalli County – and at least two of them are against Higher Ground.

Recently, Unsworth subpoenaed the Ravalli Republic for copies of all ads placed by Higher Ground. Less recently, Unsworth ruled that Ravalli County Citizens for Free Enterprise violated campaign laws and would face prosecution if a settlement isn’t reached.

Citizens for Free Enterprise were found to be, effectively, a front for Wal-Mart, who was seeking to reverse zoning regs which prohibited big box stores. They were successful in overturning the regulations – yet eventually withdrew their plans.

The whole situation down there is very unfortunate – collectively, Higher Ground, along with the Bitterroot Building Association and Residents for Responsible Land Use quite arguably had an impact on voters who recalled the county-wide zoning referendum. This, after significant hours and $ costs to taxpayers – not to mention public involvement.

What worse, is that each of these organizations has multiple charges filed against them. Hell, maybe someone should file RICO charges against them all if they’re found in violation.

The ugly side of what the situation in Ravalli County shows is that big money can buy lots of influence – the repercussions will be long in coming for the perpetrators, yet the sufferings of the electorate will be instantaneous.

How do you get justice out of that?

Floyd (& friends – you can bet Tom Robak is one of ’em) are under investigation for violating laws associated with his campaign against streamside setbacks, yet he seeks justice for the very issues under that which he campaigned against.

How completely ironic is that?

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by jhwygirl

Of the many things I admire about our Senator Jon Tester is his outspoken advocacy of veteran’s issue, and is ongoing committment to securing funding to ensure that veterans receive the services they deserve – the services they’ve been promised as part of their service to our nation.

Valley Veterans Service Group is a small small nonprofit group which services Bitterroot Valley veterans. They operate on an annual budget of $39,000 a year. Of the 109,000 veterans in Montana, Ravalli County has 5,600. Without Valley Veterans Service Group, Ravalli residents have to drive to Missoula for services.

At a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing last Thursday – Tester has a seat on the committee – Sen. Tester reiterated his commitment to rural veterans and mental healthcare. Matthew Kunz testified before the committee at Tester’s behest. Kunz is the stepbrother of Chris Dana, the Helena soldier who committed suicide in March of 2007.

This week, Tester is expected to introduce legislation that will include funding for mental health in rural areas to help serve veterans.

Veterans issues are near and dear to me. Tester spoke extensively of veterans issues during his campaign for office. He’s maintained that commitment. Between him and Senator Baucus, Montana veterans can know that their talk means action – and real results.




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