Archive for May 31st, 2009

by jhwygirl

Monday night’s city council meeting brings the much talked about and much debated vote on banning the use of a cell phone when operating a motorized vehicle. The motion on the agenda (the results of this Wednesday’s Public Works Committee vote) is to deny the ordinance.

The issue was prompted by Ward 1’s Dave Strohmaier, who, if I recall correctly, was nearly tagged by a driver who was using their cell phone. The public has been pretty outspoken on this issue, and much like council, feelings run pretty passionate on both sides of the issue.

I go back and forth. Glad I don’t have to vote. On one hand, we got plenty of laws – plenty of them that go unenforced. If we’re going to have laws, they need to be pro-actively enforced. Or at least “primary” offenses.

Ever try and get the junk vehicle code enforced? It’s impossible – and I’d suggest, based on my experience, that the city/county health department spends more time trying to figure out how not to enforce the ordinance then enforcing the thing. Go ahead, give ’em a call on a vehicle that’s been sitting for years in your neighborhood and see what happens.

We’ve got laws, already, that make using the cell phone and driving illegal – it’s called distracted driving. But on the other hand, proponents will say that we’ve got laws against drunk driving. I suppose that is derived out of the need to educate the public to the specific danger. And I do buy that, for sure.

Some councilors say they may vote for the ban if it is a secondary offense – or if it exempts people on bikes. I can’t understand either of those exceptions. Going at it as a secondary offense doesn’t do crap and puts it at the level that it currently is as distracted driving…it other words, the only time it’d be an offense would be if the driver caused and accident and admitted to using the phone. Police are – I am told – to busy to pull call records on every driver involved in an accident.

Exempting people on bikes – are you kidding me? What about me, the driver, behind the wheel, who hits a person on a bike who is talking on their cell phone? The effects of car versus bike are likely to be much more deadly than car versus car. It’s a dingbat exception derived out of some overly-compensating need to make Missoula bike friendly, and has nothing to do with safety.

Which is where this all started, no?

So here is sit, having written, real Missoulian editorial-like and all, going back and forth on the issue. LOL. But in an effort to actually land on a position, here it is:

If you are going to ban cell phones while driving – and many cities and towns and counties and even a state or two has done it – ban ’em. Ban ’em for cars and motorcycles and bikes. Make it a primary offense, and tell the police to proactively get out there on enforcing this thing for a while to let people know that it will be enforced. Maybe hand out warnings for a month.

Anything less, fuggetabout it.

by Pete Talbot

First this

Mark your calendar, folks.  As part of a statewide and national campaign, there’ll be a rally at Sen. Baucus’ Missoula office at 280 E. Front St. on Friday, June 5 at noon.  

Here’s a note from Montanans for Single-Payer, the organizer of events across the state:

” … as part of national events held by Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) and Healthcare-NOW! rallies are planned to give Montanans an opportunity to show their support for single-payer universal health care and to continue to request that Sen. Baucus include single-payer representatives in the national debate on health care reform … ”

More information at and a contact for the Missoula event is Bill LaCroix at  

See you there.

Max gets hammered 

I overheard some Baucus staffers saying they were surprised by the overwhelming support here in Montana for single-payer. Sure, Missoula was bound to be feisty, but Anaconda? Glasgow? Pablo? I don’t know what Max was expecting with his “listening” tour but apparently his staff is getting an earful.  We’ll see if the message gets through to the senator.

I went to the session in Missoula.  The anger over our broken health care system was palpable.  A standing-room-only crowd responded with shouts and applause over any mention of single-payer.  “Bullshit,” said one audience member as a Baucus staffer tried to explain the complex issues the senate was facing.

In some ways, it was a surreal event.  It started out with a welcoming video from the senator himself, which due to technical difficulties, didn’t air.  Then a powerpoint presentation on the health care problem and Max’s role in the debate.  Then a panel discussion.  Then, fifty minutes into the program, an opportunity for the audience to speak (the program was scheduled to run an hour).  Staff did take questions after the hour was up but for how long I’m not sure.  I couldn’t stay for the whole thing.  For Christ’s sake, the session was scheduled for 10 a.m. on a weekday — kinda hard to get too much time off.

There were three gentlemen standing in front of me.  Dressed in khaki Dockers and polo shirts, they’d shake their heads at any mention of “Canadian style” health care or other single-payer systems.  Don’t know if they were health care industry reps or just conservative guys with really good, private health insurance plans.  
“You say something,” said one.  “No, you,” said another.  “Not me,” said the third, “the crowd’s against us here.”  And he was right.

Stupid is as stupid does  

Problembear beat me to the punch and Jay has some good comments over at Left in The West, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the Republicans’ really bad roll out of their anti-health care reform campaign.

“Our role right now is to stand up and say, ‘Let’s take a minute, let’s not rush to health care reform just for the sake of health care reform,'” said lead organizer Jake Eaton.

That has got to be the stupidest quote I’ve heard in a long time. We shouldn’t rush to health care reform just for the sake of health care reform?  Sure, let’s take our sweet-ass time, Jake.  Health care in America is hunky-dory — we all have nothing better to do than try to reform this great system of ours — we’re thrilled with the status quo.

Lee newspapers’ Mike Dennison has the story about this anti-reform group called Patients United Now and its shadowy front organization, Americans for Prosperity Foundation. 

But it gets better.  Does that name Jake Eaton ring a bell?  He was the guy who fled the state in disgrace after heading up the failed voter suppression drive for the Republican Party last summer.

Just when you thought the Republicans couldn’t do any worse …

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