Archive for July 25th, 2009

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?

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