Archive for January, 2010

by jhwygirl

I can’t even follow it all as it’s played out over the last year or so – hell, you’d need a multi-post series – but the number of questionable things in this Missoulian story leave me with little comfort that things are going to get better.

Earlier this month, the Chicks-n-Chap’s breast cancer fundraiser rodeo clinic pulled itself from the Western Montana Fair after county commissioners failed to act on two allegations that oft-controversial manager Scott Meader had groped two females at a fair convention in Great Falls.

Note that in the story linked to above, Scott Meader is said to have “immediately reported” to county’s chief administrative officer Dale Bickell. Bickell is then quoted as saying “We had a very long conversation about it, to the point where I’m certain that Scot won’t have an incident like that again. That was his reprimand at that point.”

Aww, how warm and cozy. And apparently, whether Bickell ever really brought the matter to the county commissioners appears to be in question.

Who could follow all the flurry going on..but last Wednesday, as if anybody really cared, Meader announced he would be resigning the next day. I mean – a pre-announcement? Who does he think he is? Rod Blagojevich?

So Thursday we get his resignation.

Only – what kind of friggin’ resignation is it? He’s under contract, he resigns, and yet he gets a full year’s salary?

We’ll get back to that.

Then, the very next day, the Missoulian has a story that the Board of County Commissioners is “pulling back” on its Thursday afternoon meeting with someone who had thrown their hat in as interim manager.

Good Goddess. The fairgrounds are a mess and they were interviewing an interim manager less than 24 hours after ushering Meader out the door? After ushering a guy out the door that they’ve stood behind for the last two years after accusation after controversy swirled? I mean, it doesn’t seem to show that anyone knows what they want down there. What did they get? Instant clarity?

But let’s get back to that resignation – that is now called “the buyout” in the “pulling back” story.

Just exactly what is this Meader/County Fairgrounds Affair going to cost taxpayers?
Meader had a 3-year contract worth $69,000 a year.
Did that figure include healthcare? Retirement?
While he “resigned” on the 29th, he’ll be getting paid as usual through March 6th.
After that, Meader gets the $63,000 remaining on his contract that runs through Feb. 7, 2011.

Now – that the county is going to have to absorb the cost of Meader’s “resignation” is one thing that people should be questioning. Someone is at fault on the county’s side if they’re making a payout on a contracted employee resigning. Will we be finding out or is this all getting swept under the rug?

There is something suspect, too, with the length of time that he will be “getting paid as usual” and the fact that he’s getting a payout on the remaining length of his contract, which runs 11 months – less than one year – from his official last day of work (March 6th).

Isn’t there some milestone in the county retirement system with salaries that last a period of 3 years?

While the figure being thrown around for Scott Meader’s “resignation” is $71,776, me thinks he’s costing us a bit more. Taxpayers might want a clearer picture of that.

~~~~~~
County chief administrative officer Dale Bickell got off pretty luck in this whole affair, it seems. Remember above that I note that the Great Falls incident was “immediately reported”? Well, in the “pulling back” article, county HR director Steve Johnson says “Bickell took care of the issue with a verbal reprimand when Meader brought it to his attention several months later.”

This is where I really wish Shakespeare still ventured to his satire every once in a while. Picture the Bickell/Meader “confession”:

Meader: Man – did I get wasted again in Great Falls! Those chicks were there from that breast cancer thing? You should have seen what they were wearing!

Bickell: Yeah? Was that chick there from Glasgow that was there at the Chicks-n-Chaps last year?

Meader: I don’t know – all I know is that those gals have some hard asses. And they get pretty uptight when you slap ’em.

Bickell: You slapped someone on the ass? Scott – you probably shouldn’t do that. Did they really get mad?

Meader: Ah…yeah – I probably should have told you. Two of ’em.

Bickell: Scott, my man – don’t be slapping chick’s in chaps in the ass, OK? (har,har,har)

Meader: OK. (har,har,har. wink-wink)

Bickell: Good – now – what was she wearing?

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by jhwygirl

I almost titled this On That Note…, considering my last post….

Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller has a post up at her blog Missoula Red Tape, noting an end to DUI defendants being able to (basically) pick a judge.

Judge Louden, many think (especially those in the city attorney’s office), is too lenient with DUI defendants.

So, when a defendant waived jury trial, they always ended up in Lax Louden’s court.

City Attorney Jim Nugent, though, is exercising his prosecutor’s right to call for a jury trial, and he’s done it with a blanket order – of which you can see if you head on over to Szpaller’s website.

Good for this city. Nugent and and others who brought this policy decision about should be thanked. Our town will be safer for it.

State Senator Greg Barkus and our own congressman Denny Rehberg (along with his staffers that like our local Iron Horse Pub) might want to take note.

Now is the time for the county attorney’s office to step up and do the same: Fred Van Valkenburg, what say you?

Just to note – Van Valkenburg is an elected official, folks. He may be interested in hearing your opinion on this.

by jhwygirl

The growing need for food assistance is busting the seams of the Missoula Food Bank over there on 3rd Street, near Bernie’s Bakery, and they are looking for some warehouse space. Inexpensive or no cost/donation. Perhaps an arrangement where the rental cost below market is a combination rent + donation?

The Missoula Food Bank serves the Missoula, Lolo and Potomac areas. It has gone from serving an average of 50 households per day to more than twice that amount. That number is going to grow. Make no mistake that Missoula’s economy is worsening folks – when Walmart is laying off 46 workers where they usually lay off less than 10 after the holidays, things aren’t getting better any time soon.

How badly do they need warehouse space? A few years ago, a reporter was standing in the warehouse when he asked a volunteer “Where is the warehouse?”

A decent size warehouse can help cut down on the number of deliveries, and save where some of the biggest cost suck comes in – fuel and transportation.

Maybe you know someone? Or you are that person? If so, give the Missoula Food Bank a call. That link provides their phone number.

by jhwygirl

I got an email today, titled as above. Won’t go into the details. What I will suggest is what came to mind as soon as I saw the subject on the email, and here it is:


Drink.

Please consider this an open thread.

by Pete Talbot

Montana’s Sen. Max Baucus isn’t all bad. He’s pro-choice, advanced good legislation on the Rocky Mountain Front and secured funding for the housing, education and medical needs of Montanans. He’s also been instrumental in helping many good Democrats get elected to office in our state.

So it is with some trepidation that I’ll be attending the Ax Max Campaign being presented in Missoula by Progressive Democrats of America. After all, “Ax Max” was the rallying cry of conservatives trying to unseat Max in his numerous, successful bids for the U.S. Senate. And compared to our Congressman Denny Rehberg, Max is a hardcore left-winger (but that isn’t setting the bar very high).

Now I’ve been a very vocal critic of our senior Senator. IMHO, he botched health care reform. He voted for W.’s tax cuts and an abysmal bankruptcy bill. He’s one of the top recipients of insurance, pharmaceutical and finance industry dollars. He … well, most of you readers know the list so I won’t repeat it here.

If he runs again in 2014, I’d love to see a strong primary opponent.

My friends on the left are going to say I’m being namby-pamby for failing to aggressively pursue the Ax Max Campaign. (I haven’t made up my mind, yet.)

My more centrist friends are going to accuse me of colluding with Republicans by giving them ammunition to attack the Senator.  After all, they’ll say, we could do worse than Max.

Be that as it may, here’s the info:

5-8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 28, Missoula City-County Library, 301 E. Main St.

by Pete Talbot

Since the Heritage Foundation isn’t conservative enough, Libertarians have established dozens of their own “think tanks.”

I discovered this after Googling the Independence Institute, Rob Natelson’s new home. The UM professor is leaving the law school, where he taught constitutional law, for this Libertarian think tank in Colorado.

Natelson ran for Montana Governor as a Republican twice. Although he had decent showings, he never made it past the primary. He’s also a contributor to the conservative blog, Electric City Weblog.

I met Natelson once when I crashed some Republican affair here in Missoula. He was a congenial fellow and we had a brief, non-political conversation. He obviously had no idea who I was.

His politics are very conservative although I didn’t think they were of the Ron Paul variety. I’ve never taken his law class (guess I’d have to pass the LSAT first) but from his writing I’ve gleaned that he leans more toward the Scalia/Alito/Roberts/Thomas philosophy than that of Stevens/Ginsberg/Beyer/Sotomayor.

But back to the Libertarian think tanks. There are at least two in Montana that I know of, both located in Bozeman. There’s PERC, “an environmental think tank seeking free market solutions to environmental problems” and the Montana Policy Institute. They’re joined at the hip and, along with the Independence Institute, Cato Institute and a bunch of other regional think tanks, they’re: anti-government, anti-health care reform, pro-deregulation, global warming skeptics and rabid about property rights.

It’s difficult to find out where the funding comes from for the Montana and other regional think tanks. I’ve tried. The Cato Institute in Washington, DC lists the Coors, Koch and Olin family foundations among its donors. To say that these foundations are conservative free-marketeers would be an understatement. Corporate donors include WalMart, R.J. Reynolds and the American Petroleum Institute. You can imagine the kind of policy that the funders of these organizations would like to see.

So good luck, Rob, in your new job of interpreting the U.S Constitution to meet the needs of the Libertarian think tanks.

by jhwygirl

Highlighting the value of top-notch legislators, this past legislative session saw the passage of HB678, which revised gravel pit/opencut mining laws in a way that is getting some pretty good reviews in this Great Falls Tribune story.

Under a new public notice requirement included in House Bill 678, which was approved in 2009, gravel and sand mine operators have to put up signs near proposed sites and send basic descriptions of their plans to county commissioners. Letters also must go out to property owners living within a half mile of a project.

The public notice requirement was one of several provisions included in the bill to improve accountability, oversight and efficiency in the state’s regulation of open-cut mine permits, which was found lacking by a legislative audit in 2008, and challenged in lawsuits.

Who sponsored this bill? Rep. JP Pomnichowski, of Bozeman.

Pomnichowski sponsored a number of bills this past session, seeing seven make it for final passage. A number of the bills that didn’t make it were absorbed into other bills.

That is no small feat.

I’m a fan of JP. She’s strong and consistent on natural resource issues. Water issues? She is one of the best. Pomichowski’s shown that she’s able to balance industry concerns, property rights and issues brought forth from citizens and communities. Gravel pits were a growing concern statewide since the 2007 session – and to the Bozeman area (in particular). Passage of HB678 was a significant accomplishment that has benefited people in communities throughout Montana. Not only that, it has helped move along the backlog of permits that the industry was not happy with.

Good legislators deserve good support. I want to note that Pomnichowski’s seat was won by just 230 votes in 2008. Bozeman can be a tough area for Democrats. This is not a seat that should be tossed. A $10 donation to her campaign just may help ensure that we have her around next legislative session.

by Pete Talbot

The letter below, sent by an alert reader who wishes to remain anonymous, has been making the rounds on the tubes.

It is in no way meant to make light of the suffering occurring in Haiti. The tragedy there is beyond our imagination. I post this to show the callousness of televangelist Pat Robertson’s comment that Haiti must have “made a pact with the devil” to incur such wrath. This guy gives Christians a bad name.

Jhwygirl provides us with some good links if you’d like to help in the relief effort.

Dear Pat Robertson,
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action.
But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle.
Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll.
You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.
Best,
Satan

by Pete Talbot

By giving corporations the same rights as citizens, the U.S. Supreme Court guarantees a less-than-level playing field in upcoming elections. A majority on the court (this would be mainly your Reagan/Bush/Bush appointees) overturned much of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act.

Here’s the story, and how each justice voted.

Of course, labor unions have also contributed vast sums to candidates and campaigns but weren’t happy with the ruling. SEIU denounced the court decision, saying it opened the door for corporations to outspend unions:

“I don’t think working people would ever have as much to spend as corporations. For us, being able to spend a few extra dollars isn’t worth allowing decisions to be made from boardrooms instead of the polling booth,” said union spokeswoman Lori Lodes.

In my inbox this morning was a timely request from David Sirota. He called the SCOTUS decision a “a radical ruling that threatens the most basic fundamentals of American democracy.” I agree. And Sirota offers up a petition to amend the Constitution to declare that corporations are NOT people. Please sign it.

by jhwygirl

If coal creates such awesome tax revenue and 1,000’s of high paying jobs and all that good stuff, why is there a severance tax that provides direct funding to communities directly affected by the impacts of coal mining and its industry-run-amok practices?

I mean, shouldn’t the jobs and increased tax revenues that come with all those high paying jobs and investments in infrastructure of said coal operations? Why does there have to be an extra tax that takes care of the basics – things like firetrucks and police cars and wastewater system improvements?

What other communities around the state get bonus tax dollars from their major industries?

By God, does the free market exist? You’d think on of the oldest industries here in the U.S. would be viable enough that it generated enough jobs and tax revenue for the communities it runs roughshod over?

I’m shocked.

Did the western states miss out on a timber severance tax? We should try and grab that up. I’m sure Libby and Thompson Falls and Dillon and Darby and Deer Lodge can all use a little extra cash for pothole repair or police cars.

by jhwygirl

I commiserate with Matt when he says “I needed some good news today” – which, incidentally, is a post about good news in an area overseen by one of the few on my very short list of bright lights in elected officials – Denise Juneau.

That would be elected officials. My list for bright lights amongst Democratic party elected officials makes that list even smaller. Ms. Juneau, obviously, makes both.

Healthcare? Finance reform? MASS failure?

I find myself wondering whether we are electing people to merely get re-elected, or are we electing people to go to Washington or Helena to get something done?

Domestic policy is tough to do – it’s why Republicans tend to try and avoid it as much as possible. War and outside distractions are always good to ensure a lopsided balance of focus, and that’s why we see that kind of stuff more frequently with certain parties. IMNSHO, of course.

People pay attention to domestic issues. Change is hard. It’s scary. Someone’s gonna get pissed off. Lobbyists and corporate interests prey on that kind of stuff. Legislative Paralysis, though, appears to be the norm. Failure to act because someone’s going to get mad is the “action” we appear to be getting.

Inaction has apparently become the option of choice.

I don’t care at what level of government you’re looking at – even Ravalli County officials are being called out on it’s reactionary decisions based on emotions more than fact.

Whatever happened to doing what’s right?

At the state level – and I’ve been working my way through the last state legislative Water Policy Committee meeting – Jim Rokosch (a Ravalli County Commissioner, incidentally) tells state legislators that (paraphrased) ‘you can not delay action (on exempt wells) merely because it’s complicated or controversial. You were elected to do a job and you need to protect property rights and public health and safety.’

Amen, Mr. Rokosch.

Mr. Rokosch was referring to the numerous times the legislature (and the state DNRC and DEQ) have attempting to address the myriad issues surrounding exempt wells, failing to do anything due to both the vocal outpouring by a minority like the Montana Building Industry Association and the complexity of the issue.

Then there’s Washington D.C. You’d have to have a full-time job lately to follow national stuff. Healthcare? Finance reform? Good Goddess, that stuff changes by the minute.

Montana election season is open. We got our lone congressional seat to get excited about (and I’m all about grassroots hardworking supersmart intelligent I-see-him-everywhere Tyler Gernant.) We have the state house legislative races – and not only will local races be important, plenty of seats statewide will deserve statewide support from progressives everywhere – along with a handful of state senate races that will deserve the same statewide attention.

I see Montana going into special session to address the budget situation. It doesn’t look like we’ll be gaining any jobs until sometime in 2011. Revenues are dropping, and there’s yet a complete analysis of the effects of the closing of Smurfit. Frankly, the repercussions on that have yet to begun, yet alone receive any fiscal analysis. When we go into that special session – in the middle of an election run – we’ll see where the real legislative workhorses are. Weeding out the slack should be easy with such a backdrop.

I’m not wishing on a special session…but ignoring the reality is, in some way, the product of the Legislative Paralysis that became the approved budget that has us here now. Keep in mind, that budget was knocked out by joint conference committee in the last days of the session. Some might view that as inexcusable, considering the only constitutionally mandated job that is required of the legislature is to get the budge approved within 90 days.

I’m going to try and get excited about election season..but Democrats? Elected Democrats? You gotta help me out.

~~~~~
I almost retitled this post Legislative Paralysis, but I see I’ve come full-circle, back to “Meh”….so “Meh” it is.

by Pete Talbot

Filing deadline isn’t until March 15 at 5 p.m. but there are already some interesting developments in Missoula area races.

First, a little flip-flop. Democratic Rep. Teresa Henry has filed for termed-out Democratic Sen. Carolyn Squires’ seat (SD 48). And Ms. Squires has filed for Ms. Henry’s house seat (HD 96). Teresa still had two years before she was termed out in her old house seat, so this is an unusual move. Adding to the mix is veteran Democratic legislator Tom Facey, who’s challenging Ms. Henry in the primary. No Republican has filed for SD 48 yet.

The only other senate seat up for grabs out of five in the Missoula area is SD 49. The incumbent Democrat, Sen. Dave Wanzenried, hasn’t filed, nor have any challengers.

Since they ran in 2008, SD 46’s Carol Williams, SD 47’s Ron Erickson and SD 50’s Cliff Larson — all Democrats — get a pass.

The Missoula area has ten Montana House districts, nine-out-of-ten are held by Democrats and they’re all on the 2010 ballot.

Democratic incumbent Tim Furey is the only one to file in HD 91. Same with Democratic incumbents Dick Barrett (HD 93), Diane Sands (HD 95), Michele Reinhart (HD 97) and Betsy Hands (HD 99).

There are some new faces on the landscape. Robin Hamilton, the incumbent in my district (HD 92) chose not to run again. Community organizer Bryce Bennett has filed and is actively campaigning. Another Democrat, Dean McGovern, head of UM’s Campus Compact, was vigorously exploring a run at this house seat earlier, but he hasn’t filed and I haven’t heard much from him lately. He does have a website up, though.

Then there’s Ellie Hill, a name synonymous with the Poverello Center and many other nonprofits. She’s the sole entry, and running as a Democrat, in HD 94. That’s Dave McAlpin’s old seat but he’s now the head of the state crime lab here in Missoula and he probably won’t get time off to run, or serve.

I’ve already mentioned Carolyn Squires in HD 96.

The only Republican to file in the Missoula area is Michael Sopuch in HD 98. This is incumbent Sue Malek’s seat but she hasn’t filed, yet. I couldn’t find a website for Sopuch. Indeed, the only reference I could find was testimony given by a Michael Sopuch of Cash King LTD, a title loan company. This was before the Montana Department of Administration about title loan company practices.

Finally, there’s HD 100. Democrat Willis Curdy has filed. He ran last time and lost to Incumbent Republican Bill Nooney by 79 votes. Nooney has yet to file but as Nooney’s arch-nemesis Bill Vaughn points out, Nooney has a lot on his plate these days (you’ll have to scroll down to the red sub-head that reads “Falling Down”).

By the way, here’s a map to show where these districts are. The primary election will be held Tuesday, June 8.

(I’m working on candidate website links.  Most are under construction or old, if I could find them at all.  Please contact me so I can update this and future posts with current website info.  Thanks.)

by jhwygirl

It’s election season, yes it is!

Ellie Hill, attorney, business owner, and Missoula’s most tireless advocate for the homeless is kicking up her level of community activism and throwing in for Dave McAlpin’s seat, who won’t be seeking re-election.

No one can dispute Ms. Hill’s tenacity and hard work. As executive director of the Poverello Center, Hill has done a superb job ensuring that necessary services are provided to our communities neediest – a large percentage of which are veterans. Her work has even been recognized in Washington D.C., where Sen. Jon Tester recently spoke at length in the Senate Veteran’s Affair Committee to the important services the Poverello Center is providing.

As a business owner, Hill has also been active in a number of community-oriented organizations, including terms on the City’s Neighborhood Community Forum and Historic Preservation Commission as well as the Sustainable Business Council Board of Directors.

On her campaign:

“I will work hard in this race but it will also be fun. I enjoy continuing to meet my neighbors in the district. They can count on me knocking on their doors and discovering what we can do together to make House District 94 even better. I am ready to take my experience and put it to work fighting for Missoula in Helena. I believe that government can do better.”

Ms. Hill isn’t in my House District, but I am thrilled to see another strong unwavering Progressive step up to run for office. The 2011 legislature will be a better place with her in it.

by jhwygirl

Boy, sure hope the Governor doesn’t read this Missoulian article, otherwise he’ll have to head to town to protest the expenditure.

Of course – Drudge hasn’t picked up on it yet. Neither has Fox News. So maybe we’re in the clear.

by jhwygirl


Bryce Bennett hasn’t officially announced his run for Montana House District 92 yet – that comes at 5:30 p.m. this Tuesday at the Worden House at 328 East Pine – yet he’s already received the endorsement of state Superintendent of Public Instruction (and currently 4&20 b’bird ranked #1 Democrat in the state) Denise Juneau:

“Bryce Bennett has dedicated his career to making Montana a better place for everyone. A more convincing demonstration of leadership would be hard to find, and it’s a type of leadership badly needed in the Montana legislature.”

I like Bryce for a number of reasons, and one of ’em is that he has experience working in Helena, already. Bryce saw the nuts-and-bolts of the place while working in the 2009 legislative session for the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks and Federal Relations, Energy and Telecommunications Committees. That’s pretty big for me – and it’s a great way to hit the ground running…..especially when you consider that many head to Helena having not even attending a legislative hearing, yet alone read a piece of legislation. With that alone, Bryce is ahead of the curve.

Bryce enters the race to pick up Robin Hamilton’s seat, who has announced he won’t be running.

I do like Bennett’s comments on Juneau’s endorsement. They sum up some of the reasons why he is running…why he is worthy of your vote and why Denise is awesome:

Denise is someone I admired during her campaign and even more since she took office last year. She and I both care deeply for our education system and know that we can invest in no greater resource than the future of Montana students. We also share a passion for protecting the environment for future generations and I applaud her recent vote against allowing new coal mining in our state at Otter Creek.

For more information on Bryce Bennett’s campaign, check out his website.

by jhwygirl

The Special Olympics Five Valley’s Winter Games will be held this month – January 26th and 27th – at Lost Trail Powder Mountain.

Volunteers are needed to staff a number of positions. This is a great way to get out, enjoy the sun, meet some great people, and help contribute towards a wonderful event for some very special Montanans.

More games are being held elsewhere, too – the Southwestern Area Games are being held February 8th at Discovery. The Big Sky Winter Games are being held in Bozeman and Moonlight basin on February 21 and 22nd, while the State Winter Games are being held at Whitefish Mountain Resort February 28 through March 2nd.

You can download a volunteer form, or give a call to the volunteer hotline. Call the state office at 406-216-5327 for more information.

Help Haiti

by jhwygirl

Google has an easy page with easy ways to donate to several organizations.

One of the easiest is text messaging. You can text message “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to Red Cross relief efforts
You can also text message “YELE” to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti’s Earthquake Relief efforts. You’ll see the charge on your phone bill.http://www.yonnedelot.org/

Another fine organization is Yonn Ede Lot.

As you all know – these are people who had very little to begin with. The destruction has taken even that. Monetary donations are critical. The logistics of this things makes food and water the main concerns. Remember – this is a country that had not enough food to begin with, and little clean water.

by jhwygirl

The importance of net neutrality can not be overstated – the ability to access anything from any provider is key to the free flow of information. Allowing corporate control over what can arguably be called one of the last truly free places where ideas are exchanged freely would be a tragedy for free speech.

Do you want your provider deciding what you can access on the internet?

The FCC’s public comment period for their proposed net neutrality rules ends this Thursday. There are several ways to comment – two sites, CREDO and Free Press have a place where you can submit public comment. You can also use the FCC’s website, although it is a bit cumbersome.

While you’re at it, you might also consider contacting the White House. They are, apparently, backing off of their initial support for the protections.

by jhwygirl

The joint interim Water Policy Committee meets this Wednesday and Thursday to discuss water issues. Day one is pretty much water permitting and exempt wells, while Thursday will encompass coalbed methane (CBM) and its water-related issues.

You can listen or watch the sessions live by streaming from links on the legislative main page or watching it on local cable (channel 67 here in Missoula).

Some of you may recall that Governor Schweitzer had the good sense, this past session, to veto HB575, which would have given free reign for CBM developers to drain the aquifer and be limited to a minimal amount of liability to the ranchers they affect.

All very interesting stuff…and most interesting will be the discussion regarding exempt wells. Just last month, 5 senior water rights holders (including the Clark Fork Coalition) filed a formal request to the DNRC for new rules regarding exempt wells. Their request centers on the belief that failure to provide any review of exempt wells is ignoring and endangering senior water rights.

I mean – come on…..this state is allowing exempt wells in closed basins. How, pray tell, will they shut off all those exempt wells should a senior water right holder call for water?

Imagine the public health and safety issues.

It’s not clear what is to become of that formal request. Per state law, the state has 60 days to respond and either initiate the requested rule-making or explain why they don’t feel it’s necessary. Some might view it as the water rights holders having served notice: Get it done or we’ll see what the courts have to say.

Button Valley, of course, does a nice rundown on exempt wells and some of the issues that the Water Policy Committee will be looking at.

Montanan’s are lucky to have two water quality superstar advocates on the committee – Missoula’s Senator David Wanzenried and Bozeman’s Representative J.P. Pomnichowski. Both have worked tirelessly on water quality and quantity issues – and it’s good to see their institutional knowledge being continued in such an important committee for such an important issue.

Both are up for re-election, too…just in case you’re wondering where to h$lp on on a worthy legislator’s re-election.

Remember: What is Montana without its water?

by jhwygirl

Since when did Renee Mitchell ever give a ^#&* whether a developer was going to be able to “stay afloat”?

Good lord, the false trolling that woman will go through trying to scare up a big green ugly monster on something like a $5,000,000 grant to a developer who is going to rehab blight (increase tax revenues for the city) and provide essential housing for working class folk here in Missoula.

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller has the rundown on the grant, which passed after as much wrenching around as most of council could muster…the vote coming down 7-3 on the side of bringing $5,000,000 influx of economic development into Missoula.

I’m sure Jon Wilkins is so proud he’s aligned himself with these bitter petty individuals.

by jhwygirl

Well, the City of Bozeman didn’t waste any time did they? Just last Friday newspapers across the state brought us the news that the City of Bozeman was going to take up consideration of extending protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to its employees.

Well, tonight, amid the showdown in Big Sky (played out, notably, even on Missoula KECI late evening news), Bozeman city commission took up the matter of extending benefits and protections to…well….fellow citizens. People. Brothers and sisters, neighbors. Friends. Sons, daughters.

City Attorney did up a report that details quite a bit of information, not only locally, but nationally on how gays and transgendered people lack equal protections and access to the same types of benefits and services granted to their heterosexual counterparts.

by jhwygirl

Deadline for application is Thursday, January 14th for the following county commissioner appointed board positions:

Three Consolidated Planning Board seats
One Lolo Community Council seat
One Big Sky Park Stewardship committee seat

Three Consolidated Planning Board seats and one Lolo Community Council seat? The Lolo Community Council seat is interim until it can be filled by a special election in 2010 – but it’s fair to note that these are important positions, and will impact development county-wide, as well as in Lolo.

If you live in the county and are concerned about land development and land use issues, certainly now is the time to consider stepping up to a planning board position.

You can find more information at the county’s website.

by jhwygirl

The Montana Medical Grower’s Association, in conjunction with Montana Botanical Analysis is presenting a series of lectures January 11 and 12th which will feature noted medical marijuana scientist Dr. Arno Hazekamp from the University of Leiden, The Netherlands.

Beginning at noon on Monday, the Montana Medical Grower’s Association will offer presentations of various topics of interest to medicinal cannabis patients, caregivers, and the general public including small business practices, tax issues, and legal updates. Additionally, there will be an exhibition area for vendors of products and services supporting the medical cannabis industry.

Monday evening, Dr. Hazekamp, a a world renowned expert in cannabinoid chemistry and analysis who has published widely on the subject of marijuana chemistry, will be giving a public lecture on the most recent research developments regarding medicinal cannabis and the treatment of specific medical conditions beginning at 6 pm at The Emerson Theatre, 111 South Grand Avenue, Bozeman. There will be a public question and answer session as well as a reception following the lecture.

On Tuesday, January 12th, Montana Botanical Analysis will sponsor a guest lecture featuring Dr. Hazekamp in the Chemistry & Biochemistry Department of Montana State University. Dr. Hazekamp will be speaking on the “Chemistry of Cannabinoids” in Byker Hall at 2 pm.

For further information, please contact the Montana Medical Grower’s Association at (800) 518-9113.

~~~~~~
Medical marijuana hasn’t been getting a whole lot of respect around Montana lately, it seems. Odd, considering it was legalized in the 2004 legislature. The Missoula Independent’s Matthew Frank recently did a story regarding the controversy surrounding a medical marijuana providers shop here in Missoula.

In the last few months, I’ve read stories in the Billings Gazette, Helena’s Independent Record, the Missoulian and the Flathead Beacon (off the top of my head) regarding medical marijuana. This IR story went into great detail how the Montana Cannibus nursery business is operating.

Zoning – or where these businesses go – is apparently a big issue. Whitefish recently enacted emergency zoning banning medical marijuana stores in response to a in increase in dispensaries – one which was proposed near local middle school.

I’m sorry – that provider appears to have been lacking some common sense.

All of that being said, it seems to me that Whitefish and the other cities “wrestling” with the issue of medical marijuana stores are overthinking the issue. Montana regulates the stuff as medical….so where do we allow pharmacies? What regs do we impose on pharmacies? I don’t see a medical marijuana storefront any much different than a pharmacy.

Frankly, it seems to me that by banning medical marijuana stores, Whitefish is circumventing the will of the legislature which legalized medical marijuana and made provisions for providers to operate….but hey, I’m no lawyer, right?

At the state level, there’s also some talk of regulating them as nurseries under the Department of Agriculture. That makes sense. It’s a cash crop. Determining its true economic impact starts there.

This past session there was a foolhardy (IMHO) rush to write laws related to carbon sequestration – and while I won’t lecture on why I felt that was inappropriate, I can’t help but wonder why Montana wouldn’t get ahead of the curve on what is clearly a trend towards legalization. The feds appear to be working on true legalization of marijuana.

Hell – it might be the only thing that’ll help California’s economy recovery. California has approved a ballot initiative for 2010.

What is they say? As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation?

by jhwygirl

I’ll be following this story.

They had to apprehend the husband.

I’ll also be be thinking about this previous post.

by jhwygirl

Missoula County Commissioners will be meeting Wednesday at 10:30 a.m, in room 201 at the County Courthouse to further discuss the revisions to the polling closure and precinct consolidation proposal.

As some may recall, the Missoula Board of County Commission met December 16th to a packed hearing of people concerned about the proposal to not only consolidate precincts, but to consolidate and close polling stations. Quite a number of state legislators attended, as I recall – Michele Reinhardt, Ron Erickson, Carol Squires, Dick Barrett (to name a few), voicing their concerns along with about 80 others.

48 hours later there was a new plan. The main page at the County’s Election webpage has both proposals, and is indicating that it will take comment through January 7.

In all fairness, it’s been posted (as indicated) since the Friday before Christmas, so I’m sorry I missed this (holidays and all).

Missoula County Democrats have submitted public comment to the county’s proposal, calling for a more thoughful analysis of what to close by looking at things like the demographics and public transportation and ADA accessibility.

Makes sense to me.

December 28, 2009

Commissioners Carey, Curtiss and Landquist and Clerk and Recorder Zeier,

Voting is a fundamental democratic right and you are the custodians of that right. The importance of accessible and open elections requires a higher level of scrutiny for decisions that change voting procedures than for other changes in county policy. We appreciate your recognition of this with the public hearing scheduled in December and the plan revised in response to public comment. We have some remaining questions, relevant to both the consolidations proposed this year and to any future moves toward all mail-in ballots for federal elections.

Any plan to close polling places should evaluate whose polling places are being closed. Closures prompted by the amount of floor space available or the quality of ADA facilities may—quite apart from whatever prompted them—disproportionally affect segments of the electorate already at a disadvantage. Specifically, we request mapping the poll closures against income and age data from the census as well as the Urban Fringe Development Area’s transportation suitability map. If data is available on the distribution of households headed by a single parent, this is another factor that should be mapped against proposed closures.

We need to be sure changes in election procedures don’t make voting more difficult for people who already have it rough and that we don’t push services into areas of the county where fewer people will be able to access them. The only way to do that is to be thorough in our analysis, incorporating available demographic data in service of informed and deliberate decision-making.

Because the decision to close polling places is really a series of decisions to close a number of polling places, an itemized list of savings by closure should also be part of molding the proposals into a plan. The initial proposal considered at the public hearing, and the revised proposal since released, each suggest an overall savings figure. We request a spreadsheet detailing the cost of keeping open each one of the polling places slated for closure, allocating the additional expenses between judges, ballot printing and other requirements. How much we save for the access we’re giving up ought to be clear.

Administering elections is not just any administrative task. We ask you to perform your duty by diligently considering those whose ability to give consent to be governed might be diminished by changing the way elections are conducted. Only then can we know whether the monetary savings expected are worth the potential costs.

Respectfully,

Missoula County Democrats Executive Board

by jhwygirl

I don’t write about affordable housing enough, although some of you might disagree. It can’t be overstated, though, and having affordable housing in any community is key to facilitating economic growth and development.

Missoula is going to continue to have a hell of a time attracting good paying sustainable jobs until such time that it has entry level ownership opportunities for entry-level professionals. This is all the more important with the closure of Smurfit.

I mention this because the Gallatin County Commissioners will be deciding on Tuesday whether to accept a $7 million grant that would go to the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) for a housing development that will service those making 50% of the median income.

Now, apparently, the teabaggers have gotten wind of this grant – the application of which was approved by this very same county commission this past May in a 2-1 vote – and there is pressure on one of the commissioners (one who, by chance, happens to be up for election) to vote “no” on accepting the grant.

Blame it on – seriously, I’m not joking – the irrepressible (and apparently irresponsible) Scott Sales (who is hinting that running for said county commission seat just might be in his future).

It’s amazing to me how shortsighted these teabagger-types can be. Turning this grant down is going to put greater pressure on an already overpriced housing market. Not only that, it is going to make finding employees for the large number of service-related jobs harder and harder.

Because – and I know this is a hard concept for teabaggers to understand since they don’t do much more than soundbites – Montana isn’t dropping in median housing costs like a whole hell of a lot of the rest of America. We’ve been lucky – just ask any realtor – in that the housing market here in Montana (and even less so in places like Missoula and Bozeman) hasn’t been greatly affected by the downturn.

It’s pretty basic: Businesses can’t run without employees. Affordable employees. Simple concept, really.

So why does Scott Sales and his teabagger friends hate small business?

Having decent housing for these service-related jobs – jobs a community can’t do without – ensure that the market housing maintains as much semblance of affordability as is possible. This grant is for those making less than 50% of the median income.

The median income for a household in Bozeman is $45,000…which makes 50% of median a full-time $10.00/job.

Thing is – few will say that housing in Bozeman is affordable, right?

Which is probably where Scott sales comes in. It’s sheer lunacy – Scott Sales-type lunacy – to turn this money down. It’ll go somewhere (and I bet Missoula or Helena or Great Falls would be glad to take it) – and with it will go a more stable pro-business economy to whatever community gets it.

There are people and businesses in Bozeman and Gallatin County that are counting on the county commission – at least the 2 that had the pro-business common sense to approve the application – to have the pro-business common sense again to accept the grant.

That is, of course, unless everyone wants to start having to pay more for all those sorts of things that employee $10/hour employees – banks and universities and restaurants and conveniece stores and box stores and local main street stores. Hell – I’m betting the county itself employs quite a number of people that make around $10/hour.

But don’t worry Scott Sales and Gallatin County teabaggers – when the county has to hire another roadworker or police officer or office assistant, and they cost more because the cost of a basic need (housing) just went up, they’ll just pass that bill onto you – the taxpayer.

by jhwygirl

Well. The state has a very nifty website on Montana’s stimulus funding. It’s very easy to see how much is being spent and where it’s being spent. $123,000,000, for example, being spent in Missoula County.

Quite helpful. Great website.




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