Archive for July, 2009

by JC

— so says Paul Krugman as he describes Max Baucus’ drive to find some votes in the Senate Finance committee.

Krugman points to the fact that neighboring Senator Mike Enzi, R-WY, is the 8th most conservative member of the Senate:

Aside from the fact that Enzi, like Baucus, represents a mountainous state with very few people, it’s hard to see what possible common ground Baucus thinks he’ll find.

The central fact of the health care debate is that there is essentially no agreement on anything — values, philosophy, vision of how the world works — between the two sides. Progressives want universal coverage, and see an expanded government role as essential to getting there. Conservatives believe, in the face of all evidence, that free markets are the answer.

A fool’s errand if I ever did see one. And of course, Enzi is part of Baucus’ infamous Gang of Six.

But it points to the fundamental problem of “getting to yes,” in that there really is no point of compromise that can bridge the chasm between progressives and conservatives–even if you take single payer off the table so that the starting point for compromise is a public plan.

And the compromise position between a public plan and a private solution is not a coop framework. That would sort of be like saying that the result of mixing red with blue can be green, when everybody knows it is purple.

And I have a treat for you, if you click on the full article link below!
Continue Reading »

by JC

Rick Gold over at at Montana Legal Eagle reminds us today that the Montana Constitution also guarantees “the rights of pursuing life’s basic necessities” to all people in the state. His recent article, “Security vs Liberty in Missoula MT” gets right to the point:

So maybe, the real issue is this: Missoulians giving up more of our essential liberties on the pretext that our police don’t have enough laws at their disposal to deal with aggressive and/or intimidating behaviors, downtown (only during the summer, of course).

Well, in Missoula, we simply call this situation mere political bull pucky playing ….

Bull pucky indead! Add a Montana State Constitution violation to the list of travesties that the proposed ordinances are going to foist on Montanans. So not only is the sleeping in public ordinance an 8th Amendment violation, it most likely violates the state Constitution.

And welcome to the local blogosphere, Rick. I’ve seen your emails come across the intertubes over the years, but hadn’t seen your digs yet. For those who don’t know Rick, he’s been waging a personal battle here for quite a while:

“My purpose with this blog is to help flesh out the issues in equal protection in Montana’s Court system for low income people in protecting Montanan’s Civil Rights.”

And you can read all about it over at Montana Legal Eagle’s Blog.

And don’t forget that Aug. 12th is the next date for the City Council to take up its two new ordinances in Committee, I believe. Nothing up on the city website yet.

by Pete Talbot

I picked up Thursday’s Missoulian and the Missoula Independent at the same time yesterday. Both had lead stories on Sen. Baucus and health care reform.

The sub-head on the Indy piece reads: Is Sen. Max Baucus the sellout the left portrays or the savvy centrist poised to finally reform health care?

They teach folks in law school to never ask a question in the courtroom if they don’t know the answer. After reading Mike Dennison’s story in the Missoulian, I can safely say I know the answer to the Indy question. Baucus is a sellout.

Here’s how he sold us out this time: there will be no public option, there will be no requirement for businesses to provide health insurance and there will be no tax increase for the wealthiest Americans to help pay for expanded coverage.

And here’s another (probably) rhetorical question: can anyone beat Baucus in the Democratic primary in 2014? The pundits I spoke to say no way. Even though Baucus has failed his constituents, he just has too darned much campaign money.

This all makes me sad. Very sad.

by jhwygirl

Just read it.

This one too.

by jhwygirl

I read or skim across a whole lot of bad stuff about Senator Baucus, daily. Today, though, was filled with an inordinate bombardment of media concerning our Senator, and I have to say, with regards to bad Baucus news, it really was unavoidable. From the front page of the Missoula Independent

Indy Baucus Cover

…to the front page of the Missoulian with Baucus’ deal appears to shed Obama initiatives for health reform…and also the Helena Independent Record and The Montana Standard and the Billings Gazette.


Then, today too, there is the same newspapers reporting the planned protest for his Big Sky party this weekend. Hell – you can even read about the planned protest and how cheated democrats feel when it comes to our senior Senator down in Wyoming.

In fact, here’s another piece, published in the Billings Gazette, Health care debate ignoring the needs of farmers, ranchers. The author? A farmer from Wisconsin.

Today. Too.

I hope our senior senator reads that piece.

There’s mounting criticism from his colleagues. That, today, too.

Yesterday he was warned “with the gavel,” meaning that procedural steps could be implemented to rid him of his Chair at the Senate Finance Committee.

Liberal Dems are rounding up votes against the Blue Dog plan, and Sen. Grassley (Baucus’ Republican counterpart on Senate Finance) is promising his colleagues that he “won’t sell them out.”

Boy, nothing is easy, is it Senator Baucus?

Thing is, our Senator is on a quest for “bipartisanship” (enter rainbow ponies and tangerine trees and marmalade skies). It has become increasingly crystal – I mean CRYSTAL – clear there is no true intent towards “bipartisanship” on health care reform.

Republicans have spoken openly about the intent to “slow down” the Obama administration by administering a crippling blow to heath care. They believe it more politically advantageous to have Obama lose health care reform – because, you know, it’s all about Obama losing, not the American people dying and going broke – than it is to participate, meaningfully, in the health industry reform negotiations.

I must say, I find this vexing to say the least. This state’s newspapers are blanketed, damned near daily, with criticism rolling out to Sen. Baucus for his failure to fully consider all options – but now he is gutting the basic core of reform that 76% of all Americans were expecting, and I am having trouble imagining how a publicly elected official can run so far a muck of what his colleagues; of his party of his President – of his constituents here in Montana – want with regards to some of the basic tenants of health reform.

He’s one man. I’ve mentioned that before. This all doesn’t come down to what he votes for – there are a whole bunch of other people (mostly white men) that get a hack at that vote. BUT. But Montana’s senior senator has headed up and clearly is still heading up – or stalling, which is the general consensus at this time – health insurance reform.

And here in Montana, we’ve got barely any choice here in terms of coverage. Everyone knows lack of competition drives costs up. Hell – some might say that Montana’s got NO COMPETITION, because what do you call it when one company has 75% of the market share here in Montana? Can there even be competition with a remaining share of 25%?

Does Sen. Baucus know we have no competition here in Montana? Does Sen. Tester? Do they know that 90 people die each year here in Montana because they lack health care? The list of statistics, specific to Montana aren’t lost on these guys – A recent letter from Sen. Tester acknowledged that 154,000 Montanans are without health care.

Instead of seeking that which isn’t possible..that so-called rainbow pony “bipartisanship” perhaps all those Blue Dogs – our own Senator Baucus included – should start doing the work of the people. That includes our senior Senator’s friends, Sens. Olympia Snow and Susan Collins and Arlen Specter


In the end, does anyone want to sit back and say “We got the best we could under bipartisanship,” or do people want to sit back and say “We got the best we could for the American people.”

Senator Baucus, What Say You?

by problembear

Price list:

1. minimum of 2500.00 gets you a handshake and a watered down drink and a burnt up burger.

2. 10,000.00 gets you a five minute sit down with the king himself…

3. 4,000,000.00 gets you any kind of health bill you want.

update: max just got suckerpunched by the republicants on his committee today after he announced yesterday that they were close to agreement on the health care bill…..what a maroon!

delay, divert & derail- that is the republicants game. and thanks to our idiot senator max baucus, it’s working…..i am so mad i could just….well, none of your business!

by jhwygirl

There’s all kinds of crazy talk out there about impending disaster of health care industry reform. One of the more maddening ones is the-sky-is-falling “We don’t need socialized medicine.”

Socialists. Socialism…it’s all the righty-wing talk show craze. That and – apparently – the real conspiracy behind health care reform is an objective to massively kill of senior citizens and abort all babies.

I’m not kidding. Here’s the video:

“Talk Back” which is the Montana conservative talk show, broadcast here in Missoula on either AM1290 or 1340 in the mornings – the 4 or 5 calls I caught this morning were all about how the whole intent of health care reform was to kill off old people.

That’s so blatantly loony talk that I have trouble fathoming that people actually converse about things like that. Keep in mind, this wasn’t one call, it was 4 or 5 calls in a row, with the host in the background saying “yes, yes.” Not simply one person saying “Aww, their all socialists,” but full blown back and forth conversation.

On another local conservatalk show a while back, the topic was the rising tide of socialism and a woman caller phoned in to say that we didn’t need “no stinking education department – and same with that energy guy,” to which the talk show host cut in, agreeing with her (keeping in mind, she advocating for getting rid of the Department of Education) and then ranting on about the energy czar created I don’t know when and asking, sarcastically, how many solar plants and how many wind towers do we have out there.

This is the same guy who is all about drill-baby-drill, and making fun of energy efficiency enhancements and green energy initiatives whenever opportunity strikes.

Maybe I shouldn’t listen to that crap. I like to think it keeps me awake on long drives.

One that you hear – it’s actually pretty unavoidable – is that Canadians have socialized medicine. That we don’t need socialized medicine. It’s on the radio, the television…emails – it’s at the office water cooler.

Then there’s all kinds of myths that go along with that one – but saying that anything that’s been talked about by advocates, whether it be single-payer or a public option, is socialized medicine is a root myth…from there, many others sprout off. Think that woman from Canada, think “we’ll have government giving us aspirin instead of pain pills,” (which might not actually be too bad of a thing, but I digress) and, of course “Abortions for everyone!”

But using the word socialism implies that the government is going to somehow impossibly involved in day to day decisions concerning health care.

My question for conservatives – or people against reform: I guess it’s OK for the market to do that then? Because that’s what they do every day – they deny health care requests, tests, operations, etc., based on what is essentially (they are a corporation, afterall) a quest for both efficiency and profit.

Probably purely profit, but efficiency in the sense of denying as much as is efficiently possible.

Is the fear that you’ll be denied some test? Because that’s what it sounds like, yet the market is currently doing that on a daily basis?

Is it the free market that you love-to-hate? Or hate-to-love?

Having some sort of public entity – I mean, if the feds are so terrible at everything and the free market is so grand – can only serve to add to competition, thereby producing a better product. Isn’t that pretty basic free-marketeering? Basic capitalism? Competition is good, right?

That’s the kind of stuff out there, the basic tenant of their objections to reform, that get me. How are we at this point, where that kind of basic falsehood is being spread and repeated out there?

If having the government involved in health care is socialism – and keep in mind, we’ve already got health care for the military, Medicare and Medicaid – then what is the highway system? Schools?

There is a word, you know, for a government that props up corporations over the best interests of it citizens. Anyone know what that is called?

by JC

This little dandy happened by my email box today, from the Progressive Democrats of America’s Montana chapter:

Dear ****,

“Our” Senator, Max Baucus, is holding a big fund-raiser known as Camp Baucus ($5000 per PAC or $2500 per Individual) at Big Sky, Montana, from July 31 through August 2 for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical companies, the hospital association, bankers, and other fat cats to raise money for his “leadership” PAC.

He takes their money even while he is writing legislation that will affect health care! So Montanans for Single-Payer health care will be there, too. We’ll rally to show Max and his corporate friends we are very displeased with what they’re up to in Washington, D.C.

We’re asking single-payer supporters from across the state to join us at Big Sky this Friday, July 31st from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (and Thursday as well, if enough people are interested).

[Details below the fold]
Continue Reading »

by JC

Really??? And just how does the two new ordinances under consideration accomplish that?

“The working group aims to protect and improve quality of life in downtown Missoula for all people who use the area, including business owners, people who live and work downtown, shoppers and patrons of professional offices, and people who are without means and depend on social services,” said city communications director Ginny Merriam

When the Panhandling Work Group and its town crier resort to this sort of political, nonsensical happy speak, you know that they are worried about perceptions more than they are about reality. And Councilman Strohmaier aims to pick up the battle on August 12th, with a renewed attempt to move the ordinance.

Much better would be finding some more solutions for the homelessness we have in Missoula and Montana. Somehow, I don’t think the number of beds available in local shelters is anywhere near able to meet the numbers of homeless in Missoula, judging by what I’ve seen in encampments and car sleeping around town.

So I have a nice resource for those who want to combat these immoral ordinances:

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty has a a 12 page booklet entitled “Combating the Criminalization of Homelessness.” Here’s an excerpt:

What Are the Problems with Criminalization?

Besides the clear moral problem of punishing someone for carrying out life-sustaining activities in public when there are no other alternatives, there are also legal concerns. Criminalization may violate at least four Constitutional amendments.

For example, when a city creates a prohibition against panhandling but allows firefighters to solicit donations, First Amendment concerns are raised because the government is permitting one type of oral expression but not another.

The Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure of property, is implicated when a city decides to destroy homeless persons’ tents and personal possessions without giving either notice of its plans or a process for allowing the people to first claim their property.

The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. If a court punishes a homeless person for performing life-sustaining activities in public, like sleeping, there could be an Eighth Amendment violation if the homeless person had no where else to perform the activity (necessary for survival).

The Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause may be violated if police routinely only cite homeless people for sleeping in a public park but allow business people to nap in the park undisturbed.

These are only some of the constitutional concerns raised by criminalization ordinances.

Oh, and I would be remiss here if I didn’t provide a nice link to the ACLU’s press release where they won an 8th Amendment case against the city of LA’s criminalization of homelessness laws:

“The Eighth Amendment prohibits the City from punishing involuntary sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks that is an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter in the City of Los Angeles,” Judge Wardlaw wrote [for the 9th U.S. Circuit].

I hope someone at the Montana ACLU or Montana Human Rights Network is paying attention here. And a hat tip to Klemz for referring to this case!

by problembear

 the health insurance parasites are so grateful to max for taking care of their interests they made him a commercial….

by JC

CQ Politics reported today that:

The Blue Dog revolt against the House leadership’s health care overhaul took a new turn Tuesday morning, when a several members of the centrist faction made overtures to House Republicans about joining forces to slow… the bill.

Republican aides said there was great interest among GOP lawmakers in trying to work with dissidents in the 52-member Blue Dog Coalition to try to stop the legislation. “Blue Dogs will be the main event all week,” said one GOP aide, referring to efforts by Republicans to woo them.

When you hear the code word “slow” the process down, think “kill” health care reform.

So the whole health care reform debate seems to have devolved into one of Obama, Reid and Pelosi’s ability to hold the democratic party together, enough to be able to get legislation through to the conference committee, where a last minute, “Hail Mary” strong arm strategy will occur. If the dems lose enough Blue Dogs and “centrist” dems to the republicans, reform will fail, as the progressive wing of the party will not vote for a bill that does not include a public option, and we’ll never get to conference committee.

Obama had this to say on his strategy last week:

There will be a conference committee where the House and Senate bills will be reconciled, and that will be a tough, lengthy and serious negotiation process.

I am less interested in making sure there’s a litmus test of perfection on every committee than I am in going ahead and getting a bill off the floor of the House and off the floor of the Senate. Eighty percent of those two bills will overlap. There’s going to be 20 percent that will be different in terms of how it will be funded, its approach to the public plan, its pay-or-play provisions…

Conference is where these differences will get ironed out. And that’s where my bottom lines will remain: Does this bill cover all Americans? Does it drive down costs both in the public sector and the private sector over the long-term. Does it improve quality? Does it emphasize prevention and wellness? Does it have a serious package of insurance reforms so people aren’t losing health care over a preexisting condition? Does it have a serious public option in place? Those are the kind of benchmarks I’ll be using.

And if Blue Dog and Finance committee attempts to circumvent the “bottom lines” of Obama continue to play to the republicans, like Baucus’ plans (as discussed over at LitW) to deliver a bill without a public option, will the President have the cajones to veto it. Actually, does he have the moxy to tell Baucus and the Blue Dogs straight up what the shape of the final legislation needs to be before he is willing to put his signature on it?

by jhwygirl

Let me first say that this story can (and will) be applicable to any town, any place, any time in the future. It just happens to be being reported in Bozeman right now.

Bozeman School Board has about 500 employees, and is self-insured. The $62,000 increase in premiums is a back-up policy that they have to cover any employee that goes over $150,000 in claims in any given year.

That $62,000 increase is going to translate into some risk exposure for the School Board (increasing its threshold for the back-up policy to $175,00) and increase premium costs to its employees. From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

For employees choosing the medium plan and family coverage, their monthly share would increase from $175 to $211, while the school district pays $689 a month. For single employees choosing the least expensive, basic plan, their monthly cost would go from zero to $14, while the school district covers $420 a month.

That’s a 20% increase in cost to families, and I don’t even know what % increase something is when it goes from zero to something, for one year.

Now – if it were city council sitting around deciding to raise your taxes by $36 bucks a year, for, say, a “Everyone Loves Bozeman” media campaign, how do you think the residents of the City of Bozeman would respond?

Yet, PhRMA spent $6 million bucks lobbying against reform in the months of April, May and June of this year. They spent $6 million bucks lobbying senators and spending money on a media campaign geared towards telling us why we don’t need health care reform.

Pfizer spent $5.5 million. Amgen, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline spent about $3 million each.

That all evens out to about $3 million a week.

Sweet! Here’s a government, having to provide health care to its employees. For now, they’re willing to pass the cost to the employees and increase their own exposure risk. How long before the next increase in cost? How long before that cost is passed on to taxpayers?

How long before it’s city employees? City police? County? State?

Because it’s coming folks. Not one of you out there can say costs are going down. Not without reform – and current proposals that were recently reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office were seriously lacking in any significant cost-savings. In other words, what the industry has so far lobbied for – and what they’ve successfully been able to avoid – is real cost-saving reform.

In more irony – who is the back-up insurer for Bozeman’s policy? Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Why is that significant? Because Montana doesn’t have many choices…and lack of choices translates into higher costs because of the lack of competition. In fact, when one raises its costs, you can damned well bet the others are going to so also, proportionate to whatever it was that the other raised it by.

Business Week had an article about what competition means in the health care industry. Montana doesn’t rate very well – Blue Cross/Blue Shield has 75% market share

How much has Blue Cross/Blue Shield spent so far this year on lobbying? $5 million buckaroos.

So Bozeman School District employees are going to be paying $20 more out-of-pocket this coming year – and the school district itself is going to increase its risk by $25,000 for each employee – all because Blue Cross/Blue Shield had to spend $5 million bucks convincing Congress that it didn’t need to be reformed.

All because Blue Cross/Blue Shield had to spend $5 million for a media campaign telling everyone in Washington that would listen how great they are – its own “Everyone Loves Blue Cross/Blue Shield” campaign.

That is the free market. That is how it is operating. The health care industry can’t help itself – it is conglomeration of corporations. Corporations exists for one sole purpose. They will do whatever the law allows it to do as it seeks maximum profits.

It’s what corporations do.

It will not self-regulate. The only self-preservation that it knows is to stop reform. As I mentioned above, recent assessments by the Congressional Budge Office shows that whatever concessions they’ve given have been ineffective.

How can anyone say that is OK and that the U.S. doesn’t need heath care reform?

Have you written Sen. Tester, Sen. Baucus or Representative Rehberg lately? Let them know what you are thinking.

You know you need to – because the mere fact that I’ve provided that link means that Big Swede and all his friends are going to use it to diss on health care reform.

by jhwygirl

Just over a year ago Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks scrapped a plan to electrify several parks, including Salmon Lake, West Shore in Lake County, and Placid Lake campgrounds, due to public outcry against the project. The Indy’s George Ochenski, a matter of fact, mentioned the fiasco just a few short weeks ago.

Now, here we come barely 15 months later, and FWP is at it again. From the Great Falls Tribune (only story I could find):

The Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has renewed plans to electrify campsites at several state parks across Montana.

A similar set of proposals stalled last spring after the agency received dozens of public comments highlighting a rift between traditional camping enthusiasts, who prefer dark skies and natural landscapes while camping, and recreational vehicle users who want to use electrical appliances. Critics also slammed the agency for violating the state’s “Good Neighbor Policy” and competing with private businesses.

The agency is seeking public comment on the proposals to install electrical pedestals and other new developments to campgrounds at Beavertail Hill, Salmon Lake, Lewis and Clark Caverns, Black Sandy and Placid Lake state parks. The plans call for adding 102 electrical pedestals to the state park system, adding outdoor lights and paving roads at a combined cost of about $726,000. Campground fees will increase by $5 at electrified sites, from $15 per night to $20 per night.

Doesn’t the Governor have something called the 20-10 initiative? Something about conserving energy? Using less energy?

Awww…It was just another one of the Good Gov’s jokes!

I know – maybe the electricity FWP uses doesn’t count if it isn’t metered. Because you know these aren’t going to be metered – All You Can Use Electricity, 5 Bucks – Montana, Where a Kw Won’t Cost You What It Costs Us.

The Good Neighbor Policy also requires that the state take care of maintenance backlog before it spend money on development. We’ve got maintenance issues galore with FWP – Montanans could use improved fishing access sites – Montanans could use paving of parks that are near residential areas to reduce dust and air quality issues – Montanans could use more enforcement – Montanans could use some help with portages around the scores of obstructions that line our waterways – and FWP wants $726,000 to electrify 5 state parks? And then charge more to campers that use those sites?

I’m sorry – maybe FWP isn’t aware that 84% of the people who use our state parks are state residents.

Who are we electrifying these parks for? Out-of-state gas guzzling RV’s? That have fridges and microwaves and washers and dryers and televisions and satellite dishes? Those people?

Those people should be staying at a local motel if they need that much stuff – instead of loading up groceries at their local hometown and merely purchasing diesel fuel as they move through the state.

I doubt those campgrounds are sitting empty, either – I know Placid Lake and Salmon Lake campgrounds aren’t. In other words, Montana isn’t needing to electrify its campsites to get people to hang out in our campgrounds.

In a Great Falls Tribune article from last year’s attempt to electrify, former legislator and (then) outgoing Public Service Commissioner Bob Raney had lots to say:

Bob Raney sharply criticized FWP’s plans to electrify campsites at Salmon Lake, West Shore, Placid Lake and Lewis & Clark Caverns state parks in an interview last week. Raney, who fought in the Legislature throughout the 1990s to keep development of the parks at bay, said the proposals send the wrong message about energy conservation, would increase the state’s maintenance costs and electricity bills and eventually would lead to higher user fees.

“Not only are we literally giving electricity away to the people who come to the campgrounds, but we’re also promoting the use of vehicles that get three or four miles to the gallon,” Raney said. “We’ve got a governor who says he wants state agencies to cut 20 percent of their electricity use by 2010, yet his parks department is developing electricity products at campgrounds right in the face of his ‘let’s use less’ program.”

Same holds true today, no?

FWP is seeking public comment on the proposals – following is the list of scoping notices. You might want to copy your local legislator while you’re at it….and maybe even a letter to the editor if you have the time.

West Shore State Park, due August 26th.
Beavertail Hill State Park, due August 10th.
Salmon Lake State Park, due August 10th.
Placid Lake State Park, due August 10th.
Big Sandy State Park, due July 27th.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, due July 24th.

by jhwygirl

There is a K-12 trustee vacancy on the Missoula County School Board. This is the vacancy created by the resignation of Nancy Hirning. Applications to temporarily fill that post are due on Wednesday.

Hirning resigned last month, blaming it on the Missoulian’s coverage of Hirning in the whole “The Story of Stuff” controversy. (4&20 has a few pieces on the controversy – here and here, for a start.)

Anyways….application deadline is 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Missoula County Public School Board’s website has an information page with step-by-step instructions for making application.

School Boards wield a pretty wide swath of power – beginning with taxation. It’s an often overlooked position in the community until some controversy is stirred up, like, say – “The Story of Stuff.”

There were 10 applicants the last go-around, with the resignation of Jenda Hemphill back in March.Many I wouldn’t mind seeking to make another go at it.

So there’s 3 days to go, Missoulians…time to recruit that neighbor or jump into the river yourself. No time better than the present, right?

by JC

The Panhandling Working Group, of “Real Change, Not Spare Change” fame, is bringing its newest brainchildren, the “Missoula Aggressive Solicitation Act” and its companion “Pedestrian Interference Act” before City Council for a hearing this Monday night in Council chambers.

Not satisfied with the regular process, where approved ordinances become effective after 30 days, Councilman Strohmaier believes that because:

“the summer months are the time of year when aggressive panhandling has typically been identified as a problem in downtown Missoula–hence, the desire for the ordinance to take effect as soon as possible”

the ordinances should be emergencies demanding immediate implementation. Never mind the fact that there are serious constitutional questions about both ordinances, as they attempt to define speech and behavior in public and on the public rights-of-way.

While the PWG should be commended for its efforts to raise funds for nonprofits serving Missoula’s less fortunate, I fear these ordinances will have a backlash that may undo much of the goodwill that has been fostered.

Even though the ordinances have built-in disclaimers about constitutionality:

Severability. If… this ordinance is for any reason held to be invalid or unconstitutional, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance.

if Council is shown to have screwed up (and the law will surely be tested and challenged), they want to keep on enforcing as much of the ordinance as possible.  Looking at the next ordinance, it becomes clear that much of the entire Pedestrian Interference ordinance is suspect, also:

It is unlawful for any person to lay or sleep upon any street, sidewalk or other public right-of-way within the city limits.

So much for chillin’ at the park, or Farmer’s Market. How about freedom of speech?

“Soliciting” shall mean asking for money or objects of value, with the intention that the money or object be transferred at that time and at that place. Soliciting shall include using the spoken, written or printed word, bodily gestures, signs or other means for the purpose of urging, requesting, commanding or obtaining an immediate donation of money or other thing of value or soliciting the sale of goods or services.

The solicitation ordinance then goes on to prohibit soliciting in a long list of ways, including if the person engages in:

“Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person without that person’s consent in the course of soliciting;”

Like, putting out your hand to shake someone else’s before you ask them to throw a quarter in the “Real Change, not Spare Change” bucket. This is but one of a long line of ridiculous scenarios that can be raised that will become illegal in Missoula.

There is no emergency demanding that these ordinances be rushed through council, and implemented the next day. While the PWG may mean well, they should go back to the drawing boards on this one, and start over.

Ellie Hill had this to say about the ordinances over at Missoula Red Tape:

Pov director Ellie Hill said the nonprofit supports defining inappropriate behaviors and creating consequences for those actions. That’s as long as the rules in the ordinance apply as equally to the aggressive Girl Scout cookie seller as they do to a bellligerent old dude.

But Hill said the Pov isn’t going to get behind the ordinance that bans sleeping or snoozing on streets and sidewalks. She said one Pov supporter called her and wanted to remind her of the story of the Good Samaritan. That good guy was helping the person on the streets — not slapping him with a misdemeanor as the ordinance proposes.

“To me, that’s the very definition of criminalizing poverty,” Hill said. “It’s wrong. How can you provide criminal consequences for being poor? Or having nowhere else to sit? Or nowhere else to sleep at night?”

Right on Ellie!

Head on over to CC Chambers Monday night, or give your local councilors a call or email to let them know how you feel about Missoula’s newest foray into restricting basic human rights and freedom of speech!


The Missoulian ran an article about the issue today, in prep for tomorrow’s hearings. Here is what one person who may be affected by the ordinances had to say about the fines ($100) for breaking them:

“It’s pretty ridiculous to give tickets to guys like us when you know we can’t pay them”

Duh. So what does Missoula Police Department Chief Mark Muir have to say? That “he won’t consider the rules successful if police have to write a lot of tickets.”

So what’s the point of having an ordinance with a fine for tickets that the perps can’t pay, and the Police Chief deems unsuccessful if they have to write many? Think about that. It leads me to some pretty ugly outcomes.

by jhwygirl

Don’t know if any of you have noticed, but the Missoula Independent revamped its website – and I love it! – and it has also added a blog.

Love it love it love it love it!!

I believe many around town are also saying “Finally!” as there has been rumors of the revamp for months and months now.

While Skylar has done an introductory post, superlocalnowbloggerreporter Jesse Froehling, who did a damned fine cover story this week on Tester’s Wilderness Bill, has an accoutrement blog piece that adds some additional depth to the story. Alex Sakariassen gets after it, too, posting about the impending sale of downtown’s The Loft.

Anyways…and big welcome to the Indy to Missoula’s blogging world! I’m looking forward to more than just a weekly dose of most of the writers.

by jhwygirl

….been a while.

I think about health care reform a lot. I think about the cost – but not the cost of providing efficient and accessible health care for all, but the cost of not providing health care. What is that cost if we don’t do anything for ten years?

I want to see that analysis – a comparison of the cost of providing health care versus the cost to the economy of inaction.

I think that all of us have a different idea of cost. I’ve thought that for a while, mainly because of what I stated above, about what I want to know about cost. This article – Cost, by John Feerehy, goes through the many perspectives of cost.

Another thing I think about when I think of health care reform is how many myths continue out there – that Canadian health care is socialized medicine (it is not) and there would be rationing of health care (I’d suggest there already is rationing, what with “pre-authorizations” and “exclusions” already applicable, and many HMO’s regularly denying coverage daily.)

There are attack ads running this weekend against Baucus. Here in Montana – Billings, Bozeman, Helena. Missoula too, of course. The ads focus on Baucus’ heavy receipts from the pharmaceutical and medical industry. Now – while I agree that the kind of fundage that Baucus and his Glacier PAC is taking in does easily give rise to calling into question his and his staff’s connections to the industry – I question the tactic. Few in Montana are unaware of Max’s $$$ connection. In other words, the ads aren’t news. On the other hand, money spent in television and radio ads that educated people as to what, truly, a public option or single-payer system meant, or dispelled myths of rationing and socialization of medicine…now, that, to me, is what is sorely needed.

In other words – the prize is health care reform. Energy needs to be focused there – on health care reform. Can’t get lost in the forest and all that. Attention needs focused on basic issues as far as I can see – not on the distractions along the way.

Head of corporate communications for health care insurer CIGNA, Wendell Potter was on Bill Moyers Journal two Saturday’s ago. He talks about his own eye-opening experiences which occurred at some point in 2007 – first a “health care expedition” in the town of Wise, West Virginia:

I borrowed my dad’s car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn’t know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health– booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they’d erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases– and I’ve got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee– all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.

….ain’t America great?

Later, Potter, in his capacity as communications director, had to quash the horror stories that were beginning to surface surrounding rationed managed health care policies:

It was just the most difficult. We call them high profile cases, when you have a case like that — a family or a patient goes to the news media and complains about having some coverage denied that a doctor had recommended. In this case, Nataline Sarkisyan’s doctors at UCLA had recommended that she have a liver transplant. But when the coverage request was reviewed at Cigna, the decision was made to deny it.

It was around that time, also, that the family had gone to the media, had sought out help from the California Nurses Association and some others to really bring pressure to bear on Cigna. And they were very successful in getting a lot of media attention, and nothing like I had ever seen before.

Most damning, perhaps, is Potters inside take on the involvement of both the Democratic and Republican party special interests in marginalizing anyone who advocated for this so radical as single-payer or public option.

Wendell Potter was an insider, well compensated, who worked on the end of things where a portion of his job was dedicated to making-look-good bad health care stories that had seen the light of day. 15 years. His interview – here’s the transcript – is well worth the read.

Or….you could watch the video:

Anyways….those are my thoughts, and I’m sticking to them. Some of them, in fact, earlier were incorporated into emails to both Senator Baucus and Senator Tester. Have you emailed your Senators this week and told them what you think about health care reform?


by JC

ProPublica has a chart of all the stimulating transportation projects listed by state. You can see Montana’s projects here.

Road and bridge projects are expected to make up one of the biggest chunks of the jobs created by the stimulus package. We’ve put together a chart of more than 5,800 projects that have been approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Once given the green light, states can put the projects out to bid, contract them and begin construction work. So far, about 2,300 projects are under way. See the chart.

You might say that Missoula County is unique in the proportion of projects devoted to alternative transportation projects like bike/ped paths/lanes. Great falls get a bunch of sidewalks. Billings gets big roads.

On the bottom of my list of fun projects is the Scott Street bridge resurfacing. Something about the sound of 2 million dollars worth of concrete grinding and dust and jackhammers running all day and evening that just… grates on my nerves. Not to mention all the dust that is settling on everything outside my house, and creeping in during these hot summer days when it is mandatory to keep the house wide open whenever the inside is hotter than the outside.

In related news, the federal “Cash for Clunkers” program will let you trade in your old gas guzzler for a $4500 credit towards a new ride. That’d buy a lot of nice non polluting bikes, but alas, you have to go petro (or hybrid).

It’s all starting to make sense now. Spend money on new roads, give people money to buy new cars. Encourage people to get back to that good ole ‘Merican dream to see the USA in your new Chevrolet! The uniquely American way to avoid depression (personal or economic–take your pick). I guess if you can afford a loan for the price of a new car (minus $4500), or if you can qualify for said loan (not too many Montanans I know) then it might be a pretty good deal.

Let me know when there’s a program that’ll allow me to trade the junker sitting in my alley for a nice shiny new mountain bike, to ride on those new bike lanes, and I’ll know that trickle down really works!

“The Finance Committee keeps dragging their feet and dragging their feet and dragging their feet,” says Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.

“It is a really, really bad way to try and develop support and ideas,” says WV Senator Jay Rockefeller.
by JC

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid postponed a vote on health care in the Senate today, and Iowa Senator Tom Harkin laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of Baucus and the Finance Committe.

The process will be difficult since Finance, led by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., is seeking a bipartisan deal… Reid said the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bill that can win at least 60 votes in the Senate… Reid said he had listened to the requests from senior Republicans working with Baucus to allow more time for a compromise to emerge.

I guess it’s more important for Baucus to get to “Camp Baucus” and hob nob with his contributors–which most likely be heavily skewed towards health industry lobbyists–than it is to hew to the timeline Obama had laid out to get the Senate vote on the merged health bills before the Senate August break.

Senator Jay Rockefeller said on being shut out of Baucus’ process:

And in the Senate, Finance Committee members shut out of bipartisan talks warned Chairman Max Baucus that their votes could not be taken for granted as he works toward a deal with Republicans.

“Don’t think we are so desperate, we are not going to fall into line,” Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) said, describing the message Democrats delivered to Baucus. “I’m not allowed into the meetings, the real meetings they have, what they call the coalition of the willing. It is a really, really bad way to try and develop support and ideas.

Reid and Baucus’ caving in to republican and conservative democrats’ demands that the process be slowed is going to result in a really ugly month of disinformation and rightwing ideological flak being spewed out. This process is going to get so rancid, that hopes of holding on to a good bill with a strong public option have been greatly diminished “in hopes of getting it right.”

Well, if not now, then when? The Senate has had 15 years since Clinton’s health care reform bill went up in smoke. And republicans have repeatedly stated that their intent is the same this time around, to kill reform as a political victory against Obama.


by JC

Tipped off by Keila over at MIssoula Red Tape, we come to find that MT Conservation Voters just released its first Missoula City Conservation Scorecard. Prefaced by the usual round of platitudes, we come to find that Councilors Jason Wiener and Dave Strohmaier scored a perfect 100, needing a vote for backyard chickens to get there!

Missoula is a special place with vibrant neighborhoods, three great rivers, neighboring wilderness, and abundant recreational opportunities. It is the economic center of western Montana. Our city faces a gamut of troubles that threaten our quality of life.

Missoulians expect clean air, water and access to open space. City Council shapes policy affecting bike and pedestrian transportation, local food production, and the acquisition and management of parkland and open space. We need to promote renewable energy and reduce our fuel consumption for our families’ economic security. We need to plan for growth in town and on our urban fringe, adequately funding the planning effort. All these needs are reflected in the past votes of our current City Council.

The Scorecard covered 10 local issues and you can download a pdf of the report. I’m sure we’ll see all 10 issues come up in the runup to the election this fall.

by JC

I think this one is better seen than written about. The details are just too gory. Brought to you by WeWantThePublicOption.Com

Baucus also headlined a Washington Post article, “Industry Cash Flowed To Drafters of Reform” revealing the extent to which Baucus and other key lawmakers are using the runup to dropping the health reform bill to pander for big bucks:

As his committee has taken center stage in the battle over health-care reform, Chairman Baucus (D-Mont.) has emerged as a leading recipient of Senate campaign contributions from the hospitals, insurers and other medical interest groups hoping to shape the legislation to their advantage. Health-related companies and their employees gave Baucus’s political committees nearly $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, when he began holding hearings and making preparations for this year’s reform debate.

Top health executives and lobbyists have continued to flock to the senator’s often extravagant fundraising events in recent months. During a Senate break in late June, for example, Baucus held his 10th annual fly-fishing and golfing weekend in Big Sky, Mont., for a minimum donation of $2,500. Later this month comes “Camp Baucus,” a “trip for the whole family” that adds horseback riding and hiking to the list of activities.

Of course, we all believe the disclaimer, don’t we???

Does all this money influence Baucus’s decision-making? Of course not, says spokesman Tyler Matsdorf. Baucus “is only driven by one thing: what is right for Montana and the country.” That’s two things, but so be it.

If Max is truly driven by “what is right for Montana” then maybe Montanans should tell Max that him taking extravagant amounts of health care campaign dollars isn’t good for Montana. Of course if you could afford to pay for one of his “Camp Baucus” trips, you could tell him yourself. But maybe just $25 to help air the ads in Montana would be a start.

by jhwygirl

I got slammed by some a while back for calling a woman who could have looked the other way a hero – a woman who could have looked the other way as is the tendency these days – a woman who essentially handed police a murder suspect.

Well, looks like there are two more everyday heroes around town – or at least visiting. A kidnapping attempt of 3 children at the Crossroads store near the Wye was thwarted when two men came to the assistance of two women who were attempting to stop the man from taking the car the children were sitting in.

Again – these two men could have continued on whatever it was they were doing, but instead, they stopped the man, wrestled him to the ground and held him there until police arrived. Turned out he had a gun. Concealed.

Don’t worry, Gary Marbut – I won’t go further…

…and he was drunk.

Ooops, sorry Mr. Marbut…

The two men go unnamed…but to whomever they are, they deserve a community THANK YOU.

I’m starting here at 4&20’s community: Thanks guys, whoever you are.

UPDATE: The Missoulians superlawandjusticereporter Tristan Scott reports that David Larson, the would-be kidnapper, had a permit to carry the handgun.

by jhwygirl

Yesterdays very good Missoulian story from reporter Keila Spzaller contained lots of interesting quotes from political observers and lawyers and stuff like that. Good read, if you haven’t hit it already.

What I found funny was this quote from one of Ward 5’s Lawsuiters, Dick Haines (Ward 5’s other Lawsuiter is Renee Mitchell). Haines is, apparently, already feeling a need to reply to challenger Mike O’Herron:

I don’t want people to think that we take this lightly. I don’t want people to think that we’re suing our employer.

Why would he say that? Because at last weeks candidate forum, Mike O’Herron was asked, specifically, what he thought about about the current lawsuit filed by council members – two of ’em being from Ward 5. O’Herron first pledged not to sue the city for his first term (which drew laughter) and then went on to say that he couldn’t understand why someone would want to sue their employer.

So Haines has, obviously, gotten some feedback on that – and clearly, it’s on his mind.

Mike O’Herron is an Independent – something he reiterated a couple of times during Tuesday’s forum. He said that he’d be glad to get the endorsement of the County Dems – and noted that he’d be equally pleased to get the endorsement of the local Republicans, too.

Red Tape notes that O’Herron did get the endorsement.

Several organizations give out endorsements in the cities non-partisan races. Next up will be the Missoula Building Industry Association’s forum, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel.

Schedule is as follows (from their website):
3:30 – 4:00 Meet and greet
4:00 – 4:10 Overview of the importance of Business Development in Missoula and introduction of candidates with Dr. Patrick Barkey with the Bureau of Business and Economic Development – UM
4:10 – 5:00 Q&A to Present Their Goals for Business Development in Missoula
5:00 – 5:30 Networking with Candidates

Beer, Wine and Snacks provided
Cash Bar

There is no charge to attend!

by jhwygirl

(With a hat tip to Wil_M…)

I’ll be waiting for the outcry from the right.

Fox News “strategic analyst” Lt. Col. Ralph Peters was on Fox News today, spewing garbage about 23 year old Bowie Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho. I won’t go through all the crap he was spewing, but let’s just say that this guy is a jackass and a disgrace.

A cursory google shows this jackass to be a darling of the loonies – here and here….and if you really want to get disgusted, just take a breeze over this garbage.

I really need to add a “jackass” category

by JC

Governor Schweitzer was on C-SPAN this morning eviscerating Congressional attempts to reform health care. HuffPo’s Ben Stein reported on his remarks:

“The second problem we have is that one of the least effective programs in terms of health care, in the history of this country, is something called Medicaid… Now Medicaid is a system that isn’t working, almost everyone agrees. But what Congress intends to do is increase the number [of people] on Medicaid so they could do it for the cheap. It is not working for anybody.”

Not working for anybody? Really? How about all of the poor people who rely on Medicaid as their only avenue to get any form of comprehensive health care? Works for them just fine. How about all of them people that voted for SCHIP and Medicaid expansions last fall? They liked it just fine.

Now what is happening in Congress right now, things that disturb us as governors, is first they are looking at the rules and one of the proposals would be that the way we are going to pay for a portion of this health care is we will turn to the states and ask them to bond, to pay for some of the health care. They want to do some financial trickery, simply stated, we can’t afford what we are doing today so we will get the states to borrow some money. Well we are not going to do that, because it is going to hurt our bond rating. We as states, we have as prizes our bond rating and this would tend to decrease our bond rating. By the way, the federal government, if Congress wants to have a health care program, then they need to pay for it. They can’t dump it back on the states.”

“If Congress want to have a health care program”??? Doesn’t almost 3/4 of Americans want health care reform? And if Montana (and other states) had a real health care plan, Congress wouldn’t have to act.

So our prized bond rating is more important than bringing health care reform to Montana and its nearly 20% uninsured population? Maybe its time for Brian to start thinking about retirement and heading home to rope up some ponies.

Gotta better plan Brian? Or have you just turned into one of them naysayers. If ya got some cards, ya better lay em out on the table. A few years ago you were singing a different tune, as you proposed a Medicaid waiver to expand coverage to the poor (or was that just some “must get reelected” happyspeak?):

As Governor of the state of Montana, I am focused on ensuring affordable and accessible health care is a reality for all Montanans with special concern for our citizens that are the last and have the least… approximately 19% of Montanans are uninsured. This level is unacceptable to me.

And you didn’t raise any concerns about Medicaid when the Stimulus Act sent $60 million to the state to help out with Medicaid for the newly unemployed and/or uninsured. What gives?

Update: Schweitzer’s interview on C-SPAN has been posted. Another notable quote: “What we need Congress to do is cost control.” I guess the good guv is calling for price controls? To be fair to Brian, he comes out supporting a public option, and looks to Canada’s system favorably, saying that Montanans would trade our system for theirs in a heartbeat.

by jhwygirl

And so it appears that is exactly what the lawsuiters are thinking with this past Monday’s op-ed in the Missoulian, what with the first paragraph:

A June 18 guest column contains inadequacies we would like to address. None of the signors of the June 16 guest column ever said to scrap Title 20. In fact, at the June 17 Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, we publicly stated that fact. We all agree that Missoula needs an updated, more coherent document. Some of us who were on council and some of those who are no longer voted for a rewrite of the municipal code, not a rezoning of the entire city. Big difference.

Sounds a bit overly defensive to me….

It continues: “No one is arguing that Office of Planning and Grants staff held many meetings and tried to reach out to the citizens,” and “It is not our claim that the efforts to update the ordinance is illegal,” and “The fact that the city attorney wrote six legal opinions still does not get us there.”

They attempt to justify the lawsuit that they’ve filed:

Some council members asked for a second opinion to get clarification as to whether Title 20 was a rezoning of the city. We were refused and stonewalled. At the March 3 Planning Board meeting, some members also called for a second opinion so all their hard work would not end in a lawsuit. The Planning Board did approve its version of the rezone unanimously, with three members absent.

Seriously? Not only do they have Nugent’s 6 opinions, they’ve got the opinion of attorney Alan McCormick (who hasn’t exactly been friendly to some of city council’s decisions) and even the Missoula Building Industry Association’s attorney kicked in with some sort of an opinion, too, that the rewrite wasn’t a rezoning.

Methinks that cracks are appearing in some of the curmudgeon’s re-elections…which is why the “clarifying” op-ed appeared on Monday.

Hear the laughs? I do.

The Republican’s have Teabaggers, Missoulians have Lawsuiters.

Ward 6 councilor Ed Childers summed it up pretty well at this past Monday’s weekly public hearing (and I’m working off of memory here) – that the ones that have filed the lawsuit and the ones that have been critical of it simply don’t understand zoning – and that the very potentially unfortunate thing of it is that it may result in a scraping of Title 20 because the level of remediation it seeks. That contact to each and every landowner in the city informing them, specifically, of how the re-write will affect them, specifically – is an impracticable and extremely costly mitigation.

And somewhere in there Childers mentioned the consultant’s cost of (what I think was) $250,000.

(Title 19 is our current code, Title 20 being the re-write.)

Pretty spot on – I’ve watched Renee Mitchell, week after week after week after month calling for people to come to the meetings; saying it was an upzoning (accessory dwelling units, which currently exist all over – including the university district); and saying that it increased heights of buildings (patently false).

Mitchell has all the trepidation of a 98-year old woman navigating an unpaved parking lot with a walker. She’d rather not go there, and so she is attempting to find any way possible to do exactly that.

The source of her pleas and Wilkins’ and Hendrickson’s and Haines’ and Hellegaard’s – let’s be real here – is based on what they have all clearly been seeing: That the public was in support of the zoning rewrite. Renee (and others) don’t like that – and so, for them, it was easier to ignore that reality and instead act as if this whole rewrite process was going on in some sort of vacuum.

– and you know how ignorant Missoulians are to what is going on in zoning, right? /snark

Have any of these malcontents (Ward 2’s John Hendrickson, Ward 5’s Renee Mitchell and Dick Haines, and Ward 4’s Lyn Hellegaard and Jon Wilkins) bothered to check out that big ole’ 5 inch think zoning book that OPG’s planner Jen Gress carries with her to each Planning and Annexation Committee hearing each week? It’s right there across the table from them. Every week. That is the current zoning book that OPG has to work with – filled with interpretations, it is result of an outdated and poorly written Title 19. That 5 inch thick book represents the murkiness that is Missoula’s current zoning code. That 5 inch thick book represents uncertainty for neighborhoods and builders and businesses.

It’s unreal that these city councilors have taken us in this direction.

And let’s be clear, here – Hendrickson didn’t sign on to this thing because he’s running for re-election. Hendrickson had tried for months trying to round up support in his neighborhood against the zoning rewrite – he tried to get people to sign that anonymous petition – and he got no where.

It was politically expedient for Hendrickson to attempt to remove himself from the lawsuit, but people aren’t buying it. Which is clear by his signature this week on the first post-lawsuit-filing op-ed.

Haines, who’s also running for re-election, at least had the guts to stick to his convictions, miscalculated as they are.

Wilkins, I suspect, isn’t a lawsuit type of guy – but he has signed on to the recent editorial, along with the previous one to which they were seeking to clarify.

Wait – did these guys and gals just want to clarify that which they previously wrote? Rewrite their past inadequate column?


Hypocrites that are going to stagnate this city, perpetuating uncertainty for neighborhoods and business.

Hypocrites that are going to cost Missoulians over a year of lost OPG staff time, significant community investment in time and involvement – and a cool $250,000 in the process.

Not to mention the staff and attorney time it’s going to take to defend this thing. Hell, I bet the city’s insurance that kicks in to help defend these kinds of things is going to end up costing us more, too.

Pro-business fiscal conservatives my ass.

by jhwygirl

Thought I’d let everyone know. I don’t have HBO – maybe someone can give me the highlights.

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