Archive for December 15th, 2009

by jhwygirl

Smurfit-Stone closes. Saw it on the front page of the Montana Standard.

Not that it wasn’t elsewhere, or aptly covered locally – but it’s that big, that it’s front-page on the Butte paper.

417 families. 417 households. How many others that bought and sold into that mill?

Nothing to say that hasn’t been said. My deepest condolences. I know it. I’ve lived it. It’s a gut-punch, quite literally.

Then there’s Lee Newspapers, taking health care away from its retirees. Read it at the Indy’s blog.

People can preach the “pro-business” mantra all they want – and they can toss the “anti-business” epitaph all they want – but in the end – in the reality that is very apparent to Missoulians (and Missoulian retirees, for that matter) today – is that “business” will do with its workers what they please.

They’ll pay themselves $47 million bonuses, leave you out in the cold with 60-days pay.

Which is why workers should take no shame in wanting to extract 100% of their labor’s value from their employer.

by jhwygirl

Missoula County Commissioners were on the defense again today with an editorial in the Missoulian, titled “Voter accessibility will still be better than ever in Montana”.

In it, they lay out much what has been written or discussed openly: The cost savings of reducing the number of judges and the costly automark machines they are going to have to buy because of a lawsuit and the difficulty it getting judges, training judges and keeping judges. The proposals they’ve put forward will save taxpayers $19,000 per election.

So the number of election judges is the problem…or the major part of the problem, other than what even they admit is the one-time only cost – that can’t be avoided – of buying those automark machines (which I assume is going to be the burden of all other communities around the state too).

Wherein I begin to wonder ‘Aw, shucks, what does the law say?’

Which is where I first find that the county does have to set precincts 100 days before a primary and they can have as many as is convenient.

But what polling places?

What I find out there is that the county can set polling places 30 days before a primary.

Guess what else I found out?

The building must be furnished at no charge as long as no structural changes are required in order to use the building as a polling place.

So no savings there, per se, in shutting polling places.

What about those expensive judges? How can we reduce the number of judges? What triggers that?

What I find there is that judges are appointed 30 days before an election by the county governing boy who shall appoint three or more election judges for each precinct.

Judges are based on precincts? Not polling places? Get what I’m getting at?

So when the county commissioners say “Missoula County is proposing to consolidate 60 precincts (from 102 to 42) and 13 polling places (from 37 to 24). These changes would reduce the minimum staffing requirements by 186 election judges,” they are incorrect.

Consolidating precincts saves money. That reduces the number of judges required.

Consolidating precincts and polling places – which is what they are saying above – does NOT “reduce the minimum staffing requirements by 186 judges.” Polling places have nothing to do with reducing the staffing requirements of election judges.

There is nothing in what the county commissioners have said or put out there – or even County Clerk Vicki Zeier has said – yet alone what the law says – that provides any basis for suggesting that a cost savings of $19,000 per election.

Consolidate the precincts, I don’t think anyone is upset with that. As for polling stations? Clearly, many aren’t very happy. Many. That being said – there is absolutely no rush to set the polling places. The current proposal makes absolutely no sense in a few ways that I can see – and yes, goddamnit, I am sentimentally attached to having voting at the courthouse, and that sentimentality is attached to logic.

1) Having only one polling station in the Rattlesnake is nuts. Even nuttier is closing Prescott (at the bottom of the hill) and leaving the Rattlesnake School up the hill. Have everyone driving up the hill and back? From a transportation point of view it makes absolutely no sense. ALSO, though, let me say this – I worked the Rattlesnake School in ’06, for about 9 hours. That was the first big absentee mail-in ballot year. The lines there to vote on election day? Long. All day, practically – but they kept moving. Parking? Crazy. People were walking probably a 1/2 mile from where they parked to get to the school. Closing the lower polling place, which is denser with more voters, is nuts.

2) Closing the Franklin School makes no sense. That is in the middle of a dense single and multi-family zone that is heavily reliant upon using the bus lines. Franklin is right on the bus line. The proposal will close that and push those voters either across Reserve (again – bad bad transportation planning there) or across Russell (which is almost as bad.) Frankly – I don’t know how those precincts are drawn there, but I have to say that I live on the northern side of that neighborhood, yet I currently vote at Porter (which is probably 20 blocks from me where Franklin is about 4).

3) Continuing on #2 – and take a look at the map – they are proposing to whip out every polling place in the heart of the river road neighborhood (dense, multi-family) and Franklin-to-Fort. The are proposing to keep both the Senior Center and St. Josephs – and those two are just a few blocks, relatively speaking, away from each other.

Hell – the Senior Center, St. Josephs and Paxon are the the protected triumvirate there.

Finally (for me) Closing the UC makes no sense, especially when the excuse for closing it is to say that not enough kids are voting. How many kids are going to vote if you require them to go 1 mile down the road in early November when they’ve got no car?

The map really puts it out there pretty easy for anyone trying to make sense of it. And now that I know that the number of polling places has nothing to do with the number of election judges, which is the repeated and reiterated reason of why elections are costly, I got no support for closing polling stations.

Let me add – when conservatives and progressives are joining together in protest to the proposal, I’d say clearly this isn’t a bunch of people whining about nothing.

As for me, I’m already wondering who’s gonna run in those next elections that Ms. Zeier was elected to officiate.

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