Montana… The Last Best Place… To Drink & Drive. Missoula Council Woman Arrested for DUI

by CarFreeStupidity

There has been a string of DUI arrests, drunk driving incidents/accidents and news of late.  But the latest is certainly unexpected.  The Missoulian is reporting that Missoula City Councilwoman Pamela J. Walzer was, “arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol early Wednesday morning and has pleaded not guilty.”  Given the timing of this incident and Dave Strohmaier’s push for making refusal of a breath test a an offense worthy of a $300 fine, Councilwoman Walzer should recuse herself from any discussion and voting on the issue regardless of her guilt.  Missoula wants to take a step forward… not stagger backwards.  Many commentators on the Missoulian story are even calling for her resignation immediately, but that should only happen if its found that she truly was drunk while driving, although I’m skeptical about a blood alcohol content number being published.

I know I’m tired of constantly reading about fatalities caused from drunk driving and the flood a DUIs that occur on a weekly basis.  Its about time Montana enters into the 21st century and actually do something about our state’s little, err…big, drinking problem.  One recent DUI offender even proudly stated he was, “contributing to the reason that this state is number one in the nation for drinking and driving.

Unfortunately our state’s culture won’t easily change, many of us can remember, probably even fondly, the days when an open container in a vehicle was legal.  Hell, I’ve been in a truck when a boss of mine was driving while he was driving a company vehicle.

Why doesn’t the state do something really drastic like a lifetime suspension for a license?  Force all these drunks to walk, bike, or take (often nonexistent) transit.  I don’t think there is anything to dissuade someone from drink like the possibility of hours spent on a Greyhound bus.  Drunk driving already costs the state of Montana $642 million a year and another $131 million in lost economic productivity.  In that case drunk driving is already having a major impact on our state, and its not the cost that is the worst, but the emotional and family tragedy that drunk driving that is the greatest cost.

Or we could all do nothing and just enjoy the fact that Billings is the third most drunkest city in America.  Why stop at the bronze… always go for gold.


  1. It’s just sad that an elected official makes choices like this–whether it’s a Kennedy or a small town councilwoman.

    Hopefully we find out the whole story soon, i.e. what her BA level was and whether or not she took the test.

    • JC

      Choice? Don’t make this into a moral issue. Alcoholics and drunks (and I’m not calling Pam either here) lose the ability to make appropriate choices.

      And it doesn’t matter who the person is who drives drunk–alcoholism runs amok equally across all social strata–the outcome is always the same: tragedy.

      Pam’s response to a field test is really of no consequence here. She was arrested for a reason, most likely with good cause. Making any case of DUI come down to figuring out technicalities just masks the real issue: how do we change community standards and attitudes surrounding what has been an acceptable practice?

      And carfreestupidity, all the punitive measures in the world will do little to change DUIs. One of the definitions of being an alcoholic is that they persist in their behavior in the face of negative consequences of their actions.

      Worsening the consequences does not change an alcoholic’s perception of them. The worst consequence of driving while drunk is that you will kill someone. All people are aware of that, and still drive while drunk. All other consequences are subservient to that, so stiffening them will not serve to be a greater deterrent.

      I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it. There are two things we need to get a handle on this problem: 1) a change of attitudes in our communities and families about the problem–parents teach your children (and model good behavior) that it is not acceptable to engage in risky behavior; 2) for those who don’t grow into responsible adults, we need to have an effective system of punishment and treatment for DUIs resulting from alcoholism and addiction.

      I’ll point to the success of the Montana WATCh and NEXUS programs for repeat offenders as a model of an effective system. These sorts of programs need to be available to people before their 4th (felony) DUI.

      We need treatment programs that are available to people before they get swept up as a last resort funneled in the criminal justice system. If Montanans weighed the almost $800 million in societal costs listed above against what the cost of diversion and treatment programs would cost, maybe they’d be more willing to invest in positive approaches to dealing with issue.

      One of the worst things to happen to Missoula regarding DUIs was St. Pat’s shutting down its inpatient treatment program a few years ago. And nothing has replaced it in our community as an accessible and affordable way for alcoholics and addicts to get help.

      All else is just window dressing.

      • Really? I’m shocked you would say that drinking and driving is not a moral issue.

        When you drink & drive you endanger lives. That’s most certainly moral territory. The way you frame it makes it seem like intoxicated people are above reproach because they lack SOME capacity to make sound decisions. You would never allow someone to use the defense of being drunk if they beat their spouse, so why here?

        As for her taking the test or not, that’s fair game. Her fellow councilors are attempting to make a new law concerning that very act. If she did not take one it would be a clear “I am above the law” statement. (The Missoulian update says she did indeed take the tests, so, kudos.)

        You don’t have to be a Republican on a boat to be held accountable for your stupid choices.

        • JC

          Being an alcoholic or an addict is not a moral issue. That does not in any way preclude having responsibility for your actions.

          Alcoholics have a disease. That disease robs them of the ability to make appropriate choices. Not that they can’t be held accountable or responsible for their actions.

          It is for exactly the reason that people think that alcoholism is a moral problem that it doesn’t allow them to see the problem from other viewpoints, and to limit the ways they see solutions to the problem.

          And this is why people who aren’t alcoholics have a hard time understanding alcoholic behavior. They think it is about choices, when it is not. It is about people who suffer from a disease.

          • problembear

            excellent point. and this country’s fixation on morals is one of the biggest reasons our government cannot even remotely get it’s head out of its ass regarding any vice.

            sweden has no such problems. they do not judge- they treat those who need to be treated and allow people to make their own choices. in the usa we judge, prosecute, incarcerate and dump them back out on the street thirstier and more addicted than ever.

            why? because we think we have morals?

            this country doesn’t have morals. it has codes that masquerade as morals.

          • Alcoholism isn’t a disease. Diabetes is a disease. You can decide to stop drinking and change your life. You cannot decide to start producing insulin.

            People with other issues (mental illness mostly) sometimes choose to drink as a means of coping with their issues. It’s tragic and sad, and I’ve been there myself. People like this deserve help, treatment, and support, but they are not “diseased.”

            I’ve worked with many addicts (I spent my college summers as a Psych Tech at MSH), and they all had issues that required therapy, and sometimes medication. And not once was someone designated as a mere “alcoholic.” Usually it was something like this: “Axis I- Bi-Polar; Axis II-Alcohol dependency.” On occasion a doctor would say, “His psychosis was brought on by alcohol,” but the original addiction would often be caused by something else–like childhood trauma.I never once saw someone who merely suffered from alcohol addiction.

            I do not blame alcoholics for becoming addicts, but I will not give their coping method the designation of “disease.” There illness is much worse, and far more tragic. That does not take away my empathy for them.

          • carfreestupidity

            Obviously… not everyone that gets a DUI or into an accident while drinking and driving is an aloholic.

          • JC

            Duganz, if you want to argue whether or not you believe the disease model of alcoholism, you might want to do some research on the topic.

            I have a BS in psych, and work with alcoholics and addicts on a daily basis. If you want to argue the point, at least find a factual basis on which to argue, and not just some absurd notion of alcoholism as just a “coping method”.

            You’ll find few professionals in the field whom agree with you.

          • Yes. Well luckily the field of psychology has never had wrong notions about mankind.

          • JC

            I’m glad you think your opinion is superior to the vast majority of professionals working in the field.

            I don’t see much difference in the sort of thinking between those who deny alcoholism is a disease, and that of global warming deniers.

  2. Pogo Possum

    Here is an excellent opportunity to use the unfortunate situation involving Pam Walzer to take a good hard look at your own behavior CarFreeStupidity such as when you said: “…It was late, I was a little drunk, and riding home from a friend’s house. . .” or “. . . I know I’ve pissed people off out there with my riding style”.

    Let’s just hope Ms. Walters does not use CFStupidity’s excuse for being intoxicated on the streets of Missoula with: “My only mistake was being out that late alone. I should have used better judgment and I placed myself in that situation, but what ultimately happened was not my fault.”

    Let’s also hope she doesn’t respond to the judges inquiries with, “I appreciate your feedback and will incorporate it in my future attempts to piss you off.”

    • carfreestupidity

      I’m not here to make friends, but express an opinion. And its my opinion that riding a bicycle after a few is nowhere comparable to drinking a few and getting into a few tons of metal. When was the last time you saw a headline that read, “Drunk UM student on bicycle injures three in accident”?

      And your taking my comments in a previous post out of context. I had just hrs before had a harrowing experience that involved drunks and a truck… I was pissed off and hadn’t gotten any sleep. The person I was responding to had called me a liar and that just aggravated my attitude at the time.

    • klemz

      Pogo, stop being a school marm. If the bobby pins holding your bun in place are poking you in the skull and making you irritable, then pull them out a bit.

      A bicycle is the safest available option for returning home from the bars when your destination is beyond walking distance. Cabs are prohibitively expensive for some and Missoula has no late night transit. Obviously, I’m not advocating shitfaced biking (at least not on roads), but biking buzzed is not the same as driving buzzed — you’re not going as fast, you generally have a dedicated lane of traffic to yourself and its much harder to doze off or get distracted. Most importantly, it does matter that it’s (mostly) a personalized risk, and to say otherwise is, in my mind, to trivialize drunk driving.

  3. Tobie

    You people crack me up. If she was one of the conservative members of council you’d be calling her a drunk, demanding her BAC, and her resignation.

    • JC

      No we wouldn’t have.

      If she had gotten in a wreck and injured some people, we would treat her just like any other person accused of negligence.

      If she had been drinking and driving with a staff person, and got in a wreck that injured the staff person, i’d be treating her just like we treat Barkus or Rehberg.

      Don’t accuse us of hypocrisy where none exists.

    • carfreestupidity

      They are over in the Missoulian comments section.

  4. Chuck

    No hypocrisy at all.
    Councilwoman Pam Walzer was arrested and booked on a misdemeanor charge of driving while drunk days after listening to the Police Chief plea for more help in curbing the deaths caused by drunk driving.
    Fair Manager Scott Meador was allegedly groping while drunk, no arrest, no harassment charges filed. Alleged. You ripped the fair manager on here and the county over the coverup.
    Maybe you cna do one of these on Councilwoman Walzer?

    Remember this?
    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?

  5. Big Swede

    About the Billings cheap shot.

    Is Billings the third best in DUI’s or is it that our police dept. is third best in arresting drunk drivers?

  6. Ryan Morton

    pam is not a drunk or alcoholic from my estimation and personal interactions. i’m thankful noone got hurt including her. whether a trend or a lapse of judgment, she’ll go through the system and hopefully never do it again. i don’t think we need a holier than thou attitude about this situation or call for her resignation. good luck, pam.

    • It’s important to make the distinction between someone like Pam Walzer (bad choice one night), and someone with four or five DUIs. I interviewed Ms. Walzer several times when I worked at the Indy and she was always polite and showed great courtesy. I wish her the best, as I think everyone else here does.

      • JC

        What distinction? No it is not important, there is no distinction. Look at the link that Chuck posts below. 60% of alcohol-related fatalities in Minnesota were the result of a first-time DUI.

        This notion that the first DUI is an oopsie is what leads to the level of fatalities and tragedy that we have in Montana and across the country.

        While I’m not trying to impune Ms. Walzer’s character–I have met her and find her to be a very nice person also (she’s my councilor, and I voted for her)–but it doesn’t matter what one’s character is when it comes to getting behind the wheel drunk. All it takes is for one bad choice on one night to kill a person. I’m grateful that there was no tragedy with Pam. And I hope she takes appropriate action to assure that it never happens again

        Read the personal stories in the article. You might start thinking differently about your cavalier attitude towards first time DUIs.

        • Of course tragedy can come from one person’s first bad choice. We learned that lesson just a month ago:

          But unlike that terrible event, the only person hurt by Pam Walzer, was Pam Walzer. And that is a clear distinction JC.

          • JC

            Well, no. The only person hurt by her actions were not her. She is my councilor, and represents me in the City Council. She has harmed her constituents.

            Case in point, she’ll have a tough time having any credibility with the upcoming debate on DUIs in Council, which renders her constituents voiceless.

            Your theory that because Walzer did not crash, and involve someone else directly in her DUI, that it was a victimless crime is naive.

            But that was not the original point you were trying to make, which was that a first-time DUI is of lesser importance than a 4th or 5th. And the data in the Minnesota article doesn’t bear that out. 60% of fatalities in DUI related crashes came from 1st DUI offenses.

            I don’t know what the drive to whitewash Walzer’s actions are, but it is indicative of why we have such the terrible DUI situation, and tragedies that we do.

    • Dan

      Well said Ryan. There’s way too many stones being cast. Like you, I’m glad nobody was hurt and I think Pam will emerge from this as a better person.

  7. carfreestupidity

    Can we all just admit that this is a very civil and enjoyable debate compared to the garbage over at the Missoulian site?

  8. The Higher Standard

    There’s no doubt in my mind that choosing to drive drunk is a moral issue for elected officials. There is, and should be, a higher standard for those who make and enforce the laws.

    Sure, back in the day double whiskey ditch go cups, trips to see the beer drinking pig in Toston, or to get insults from Bert at the Pony Bar, we did those things as callow youth. But that was not as a representative of law making, law enforcement, and the community as a whole.

    A firefighter or police officer for the city could lose his or her job over a DUI. In my opinion, the council should be held to an even higher standard than the employee.

  1. 1 Update: Councilwoman Pam Walzer Took Breathalyzer « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] 25, 2010 in Montana In an update to a previous post, according to @KPAX, Missoula City Councilwoman Pam Walzer did take the breathalyzer when she was […]

  2. 2 Media, Mayor, Booze–Happy New Year!!! | Reptile Dysfunction

    […] in this list is the ongoing cost of local politicians impairing their judgment with alcohol abuse. This old 4&20 post by CarFreeStupidity references Pam Walzer’s DUI arrest and links to the above study. More […]

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