by Pete Talbot

I was hoping the pundits and polls were wrong, but they weren’t. What is even more depressing is that Montana followed the national trend of moving to the right. In some cases, moving to the far right.

Let’s start with the PSC races. The Republicans now have a majority on the commission that regulates most of the utilities in our state. Expect looser reins on industry, fewer renewables, a greater emphasis on coal and a short-sighted energy policy. Consumer protection will take a hit, too.

Two veterans, Democratic PSC incumbent Ken Toole and former Democratic State Senator Don Ryan, lost their bids to Republican newcomers Bill Gallagher and Travis Kavulla, respectively. Toole ran a strong campaign — raised money, bought media, worked the district — but it wasn’t enough to overcome the “radical” tag that Gallagher hung on him. And you can also thank Flathead County voters for helping to take Toole down. May their utility rates increase tenfold.

In the other PSC race, let’s face it, Kavulla campaigned harder and raised more money than Ryan in what is basically a Hi-Line district. Even Great falls went for Kavulla.

Democrats lost big in the Montana legislature. Keep on eye on Billings’ Senate District 25, though, where Democrat Kendall Van Dyk is trailing Republican Roy Brown by one vote. Update from Billings Girl: “Last night when the votes were counted. Van Dyk was leading Brown by one vote, not trailing. And after some provisionals were added he is now up by 16. He has stayed ahead the entire time.” Kudos to Kendall.

My math may be a little off but I have the Montana House at 69 68 Republicans to 31 32 Democrats and the senate at 28 Republicans to 21 22 Democrats (the 50th seat to be decided by the Van Dyk/Brown race).

There were a few bright spots but more disappointments. On the upside, in my house district (92), Democrat Bryce Bennett won a close race against Republican Don Harbaugh, 2201-2072.

Two big letdowns. Democrat Willis Curdy losing House District 100 to Republican Champ Edmunds, 1858-1606. Curdy had a great profile and worked his ass off. I don’t know if we’ll ever pick up that seat, which is too bad, because otherwise Missoula County would be an all Democratic delegation.

It was also sad to see Bozeman’s JP Pomnichowski (D) lose to Tom Burnett (R) in HD 63 by 2682-2618.

Glad to see Beth Baker win the Montana Supreme Court race against Nels Swandal.

Finally, after all the “kick out the incumbent bums” election rhetoric, one of the biggest bums had an easy win: Denny Rehberg (around 60% of the vote) against Dennis McDonald (about 34% of the vote). Libertarian Mike Fellows got about 6%.

My take on the elections is that voters are frustrated by the party in power for not fixing things and that trickled down to the Montana races. But what a mess the Democrats were handed, and the voters must be smoking a lot of medical marijuana because their short term memory is shot.

It could also be a disgust with party politics in general as witnessed by the election of an Independent as sheriff (Carl Ibsen) here in Democratic Missoula County. It should also be noted that McDonald even lost Missoula County. It was only by 198 votes out of 34,892 but WTF?

I’ll try to get a post up later on the Montana ballot initiatives (I went 50-50 on those).

But I won’t even get into the national stuff, and I have no further pithy analysis or keen insights into this mid-term disaster, but here are some links to a few Montana folks who do:

  1. ayn rand

    I hope the enthusiasm continues so we can set our sights on the new party communists, W(h)iener, Walzer, Childers, and Rye, next fall. They are embarassments to Missoula and the state, and they have given us a lot of ammunition to work with.

  2. Billings Girl

    Just a correction. Last night when the votes were counted. Van Dyk was leading Brown by one vote, not trailing. And after some provisionals were added he is now up by 16. He has stayed ahead the entire time.

  3. Ingemar Johansson

    Are all the precincts in Pete?

    Do I need to send ya some money?

    • petetalbot

      Is that you, Swede? 99.87% of the precincts are in but we placed that bet so long ago (Rehberg v. McDonald) that I can’t even remember the percentages we wagered on. I’ll have to go into the archives. I’ll be in touch but thanks for checking in.

  4. Last night wasn’t as sad as Election 2000. Yeah, things will be tough, but that’s not a surprise.

  5. Pogo Possum

    Neither Brown or Van Dyk should start celebrating or conceeding just yet. This is going to take a while to sort out in a race that is divided by only 16 votes.

    I don’t know how Billings handles this but it is probably similar to Missoula County where there are still ballots to be counted. Missoula is going through all the provisional ballots today and won’t have “official final” results until late this afternoon or early Thursday morning. A recount is possible and while the numbers don’t change much, a 16 point spread can easily swing either way. It is going to be a long week for these folks.

  6. JC

    “What is even more depressing is that Montana followed the national trend of moving to the right. In some cases, moving to the far right.”

    Actually, there is no national trend of moving to the right. Though that is what the CW will tell you, and all the right wingers will tell you.

    Everything in this election can be explained by who turned out and who didn’t, compared to 2008. Young voters stayed home, more old voters went to the polls.

    Fluctuations in turnout due to a variety of demographic and electoral (like being an off year from the presidential election) factors does not a shift to the right make. The effect of such a turnout, of course, will result in policies being advanced that represent a rightward shift.

    But none of this means that the overall makeup of the electorate has shifted to the right. And given that the national mood has not shifted, attempts by the right to make this claim, and push their agenda, will result in pushback in the polls in 2012.

    Of course if the right manages to hamstring Obama enough that the economy is still in the pits in 2012 and he doesn’t get reelected, and the republicans take over, you can bet that 2014 will be like 2006/8, and the swings will continue.

    Sucky politics, but it will suffice until the people wake up. Or become permanent serfs to the corporate states of america.

    • petetalbot

      While I appreciate your analysis, JC, I’m still seeing a rightward drift. These weren’t just Republicans winning but many Tea Party favorites, too: Rubio, Rand, Haley, Bachman, et al. Some pretty far-to-the-right types here in Montana: Bill Gallagher’s PSC win over Toole, or Derek Skees win in the Flathead, come to mind. Can it get much further to the right than this?

      • JC

        When young progressive voters don’t turn out, yes far right candidates will win. But this doesn’t mean the national trend is to the right. It just means the right’s political decision to make politics as ugly as they could (read: tea party) worked to suppress the youth and minority vote and activate the elderly vote to get some candidates elected.

        I don’t view that as a drift to the right in the actual ideological makeup of the electorate. But in effect, it will result in a political drift for a least the next two years, or until the coalition that put Obama into office with a huge majority in COngress decides to come out of its slumber and do something about a political party and its hit man (reps and t-party) using economic sabotage to get and maintain political power.

        Beanie boy calls this “ratcheting to the right”. But the ratchet only gets locked into place if dems start acting like it really is what happened (the country slid rightward), instead of standing up for their principles. Judging by the whimpers out of the WH, and dem leadership, it seems like they’re going to get rolled and ratcheted with this one too.

        And now we know why youth voters get disillusioned and apathetic. They get taken for granted, and when they see their leaders roll over for rep and t-party pit bulls, they just go about their merry way do anything but pay attention to politics.

        And the right counts on this attitude and respondes by claiming “the country moved to the right.” And if enough dems repeat this meme, it becomes the CW, and the ratchet locks down another notch.

        • petetalbot

          A pretty damning indictment of young and progressive voters — they’re disillusioned because all their hope-and-change dreams didn’t come true, or they’re turned off by the “ugly” politics of the Tea Party and far right — so stay away from the polls in droves.

          Granted, Democratic leadership could always do more, and do it more forcefully. But do you think conservatives will quit going to the polls if the Dems just get mean and come up with a cool one-line phrase to offset the “less government, lower taxes” mantra of the conservatives? Is it that simple? There has got to be more to it.

          Christ, I’m sickened by the state of politics these days, too, but I did what I could: knocked some doors, made some calls … and should have done more.

          I guess my conclusion is that people are angry and scared, and took it out on the party in power: the Democrats. We’re not a patient nation and we have a short attention span and even shorter memory.

          • Just for the record, Harry Reid kept his seat by playing old school Democratic hardball. I agree with this analysis.

          • JC

            “But do you think conservatives will quit going to the polls if the Dems just get mean and come up with a cool one-line phrase…”

            That’s what happened in 2006/2008. Here’s a few of the phrases (take your pick):

            1) Bush sucks
            2) Iraq war
            3) Dick Cheney = Darth Vader

            Look at the chart I linked to above. The youth vote and the elderly vote turnouts flip-flopped on turnout between 2006/8 and 2010.

            If you want to build a coalition of young, ethnic, socially diverse and progressive voters, you need to keep them engaged throughout the electoral AND legislative cycles.

            For the last year I’ve been ranting “FEED YOUR BASE” to the Obama-ites and dems. It wasn’t just me. It was a lot of people saying this. And don’t just feed your base compromised and tainted hamburger, telling them it is filet mignon, either.

            Dems need to get a backbone and start learning that the republicans have their number. It’s like playing cards with a dealer who has a trick deck, and everybody except the dem player can see it is stacked. Yet he wants to keep betting that the dealer has good intentions.

            Moorcat mentions the far right fracturing off from the reps, and that leaving an opening for “centrist” and “moderate” dems and reps to form a new party.

            And just last week I talked about how Michael Bloomberg is exploring filling that void in 2012.

            Given the outcome of this election, I think that the chances of him doing so are going up, as he sees the chances of Obama’s being reelected going down (#1 republican goal in congress right now, according to Mitch McConnell, is making Obama a one termer).

            Expect to see more economic sabotage from the republicans as they ensure that Obama (and with him the country) fails. And that leaves it better than 50/50 that Bloomberg steps in.

    • JC, two things. If the young don’t turn out to vote, then they’re not really part of the electorate, are they? Having the franchise and not using it amounts to the same as not having it at all. I think it would be fairer to say that the mood of the polity hasn’t shifted. But if yesterday taught us anything, the mood of the electorate sure has. I realize that it may seem I’m quibbling over semantics, but if the net result is exactly what Pete describes, then really so are you.

      Second, you’re assuming a degree of reason that I just don’t see in evidence. Despite Pete’s assertion, the Tea Party really got their asses handed to them, yesterday. Republicans didn’t. Now which is which? We all agree that yesterday was a reactionary event; I would and do contend that it was spite against the DFH’s and that uppity guy in the White House. That would strongly suggest a rightward shift in the thinking of the polity, especially among ‘independants’. But your analysis fails to take into account that that guy in the White House is there because of an unprecedented youth vote, which didn’t take place in 2010. That’s not a swing. That’s a hiccup in a trend, and could well be responsible for the backlash we saw yesterday. Notice, both of those election events aren’t policy based but emotional. When making an action plan for the future, it’s a good idea to see things as reasonable. But yesterday wasn’t reasonable, and that makes it very problematic if one expects the opposition to offend irrational people.

      And thinking about it, there is a third thing:

      Or become permanent serfs to the corporate states of america.

      What makes you think we’re not already? ;-)

      • JC

        “If the young don’t turn out to vote, then they’re not really part of the electorate, are they?”

        Sure they are, if they’re registered to vote (even if they don’t “turn out”). Go back and look at that chart. It is comparing the percent of the electorate for various different demographics from 2008 – 2010.

        “Despite Pete’s assertion, the Tea Party really got their asses handed to them, yesterday. Republicans didn’t. Now which is which?”

        Those t-partiers that ran as republicans did much worse as a group than republicans as a whole, sure. That’s because they’re from the whacky side of the party, and don’t garner much mainstream support.

        I see a lot of similarities between how a lot of progressive groups splintered off from the dems in the 80’s and ran as dems, and lose big. The dems had a big foo-fa-raw about having all these lefty leaning candidates primary out the mainstream dems, and then loose in the general. That’s partially why the DLC came about, to prevent the leftward movement of primary candidates.

        “I would and do contend that it was spite against the DFH’s and that uppity guy in the White House. “

        Sure, that helped to spur a lot of elderly voters to get out, and keep mainstream republican interest alive. Then all the reps needed to do was say NO, and watch the dems scramble and alienate their base trying to please their corporate sponsors.

        “But your analysis fails to take into account that that guy in the White House is there because of an unprecedented youth vote,”

        Well, no, part of what I’m saying is exactly that–coupled with an extraordinary ethnic turnout. As I said above somewhere, if you’re going to use a wave of new voters to carry you to office, you need to keep them involved in the process. Obama failed miserably with that, as evidenced by his dismantling of OFA and telling the money bags to stay away from outfits like MoveOn after the election, and his press secretary’s feeding the DFH meme.

        As to serfdom, yeah, I feel that way a lot, lately. NeoSerfdom to go with the NeoFeudalist state we’ve become.

      • Obama didn’t dismantle the OFA. The just targeted the wrong voters.

        (Don’t get me wrong here. I still think Jane is just in a huge snit because Robert Gibbs didn’t give her the propers. But I do believe she’s correct in that targeting the youth vote from 2008 was a recipe for failure against the backlash of 2010. The OFA isn’t gone. It’s just ineffective right now.)

  7. Pete writes, “And you can also thank Flathead County voters for helping to take Toole down.”

    It makes just as much sense to say that we can thank Missoula County voters for not casting enough votes to counter Flathead County.

    • petetalbot

      Toole didn’t run in Missoula County, otherwise we would have countered. Let’s face it, Mr. Conner, Flathead County killed Toole’s chances.

  8. lizard19

    it should be obvious by now fear makes people irrational. and when they’re scared and irrational their gray matter becomes much more vulnerable to exploitation by external forces.

    the forces on the far right of our plutocracy were able to successfully re-brand Obama as a far-left liberal socialist, and with their media bludgeons and tea puppets they hammered away and with enough repetition the propaganda trumped reality.

    the folks on the left have been dumbfounded by the success of the propaganda coming from the right. and it turned out they weren’t capable of successfully countering the insane offensive from the tea insurgency because they were simultaneously reeling from the depressing fact the guy they put into office was turning out to be another warmongering corporate enabler.

    that’s the “enthusiasm gap” the MSM media coined and then peddled. of course that’s after they helped legitimize the tea party by obsessing over every racist protest sign and every retarded sneeze Rush and Beck emitted.

    these are strange days. people who need the social safety net have rallied behind the forces that want to destroy it. and they will get what they deserve.

    lost in all this self-obsessed American narcissism are the wars, both the escalating death tolls and price tag–remember we spend more than the rest of the world combined, and no one from either party is ever going to touch that unless there are people in the streets to force their hand.

    enough people have said the democrats are not worth supporting. the gullible ones have returned to their republican abusers. the disillusioned ones appear to have stayed home. and the critical ones just bum everyone out by obnoxiously paying attention to the immense disparity between Obama’s rhetoric and his actions.

    • The Polish Wolf

      Well Lizard, you and I both know I’m not comfortable with ‘people in the streets’ rhetoric.. But other than that I totally agree with your points. I think the bigger problem with the MSM is this – watch Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. Fox and MSNBC spend most of their time attacking each others positions so that anyone watching either network would be convinced the other one was not merely misinformed but in fact racist/communist, and probably evil. Admittedly good entertainment, but seriously is it a bigger deal if a particular candidate is a witch, or if a particular candidate literally cannot name a Supreme Court case? Why the hell bring up aquabuddha when the man in question is uncomfortable with the civil rights act? And is re-enacting Nazi battles the worst thing a candidate can do?

      Now look at CNN – they may not participate in the same divisive politics, but their coverage is either petty or negative. Either way, I never heard from the MSM that the economy was growing, unless I heard it from Democratic elected officials. And does it strike anyone else as being just a repeat of the last two elections – change at any cost? People are dissatisfied in general, that’s for sure. But it’s starting to look like anti-establishment negativity is more powerful than any actual issue.

  9. Chuck

    My liberal twenty five year old son started to build a fence around his yard last summer. Apparently the neighborhood dog pack had been ruining his lawn and the city won’t let him shoot the dogs and the dog catchers don’t have enough money to catch dogs. Shortly after beginning fence construction my son’s neighbors called the cops, who told the neighbors to call OPG , who must have sent out an inspector from the building department who told him he needed a permit for the fence, and since he had started it would cost double. My son , the former Obama volunteer, is basically a cynical private property rights , Tea Partier now.

    • lizard19

      so let me get this straight, chuck. your son is pissed off there isn’t enough money to fund a dog catcher, but then he’s pissed off he got busted building without a permit?

      yep, that certainly sounds like contradictory tea party thinking all right.

      • JC

        Not to mention he wasn’t happy the city wouldn’t let him shoot the dogs inside the city limits (my oh my, I can hear the stray bullet stories already…), yet he was cocky enough to build a fence without checking the zoning regs.

        The dude needs to build a bunker in the woods, if his worst problem in life is dog crap on his lawn, yet he thinks the only way to deal with it is turning to extreme radical right wing politics.

        And actually, dog catchers like catching dogs. It’s how they make their living. It’s a quota thing, you know tickets and all. Call up and report a loose dog, and they’re just like flies on sh…

        • petetalbot

          Hate to be a dittohead here but JC and Lizard nailed Chuck and his kid in their comments.

          • Ingemar Johansson

            No Pete, Chuck’s son gets it. Exit polls confirm that spending and health care (freedom, or the lack of it) were the main reasons for voters discontent.

            “Spending” as in defined in doubling the price of the fence.

            And “freedom” as in the loss of it with 16K pages of new regulations caused by Obamacare.

  10. mr benson

    You knew Rehberg had won the day his opponent showed up with a mop.

  11. It’s not all that complicated. It’s failure to lead. We wanted health care reform, got mush. We wanted financial reform, got mush. We wanted wars and Guantanamo and torture to end, we got more of the same.

    People turn away, but given only two choices, go the other way. Don’t read too much into it. Their choices were limited. One party, two right wings.

    As Mr. Kelly reminds us, it is the job ob Democrats to lower our expectations. Well done!

    • Actually, the commercial with the California lawyer wearing a too-big cowboy hat, throwing fence posts into a pickup is what sealed the fate of Dennis McDonald.

      Montanans can spot a phony.

      A man is what he is.

      If he would have worn a jacket, and a tie, and looked ‘lawyerly’ he would have had a chance.

  12. Chuck

    Wow, you guys are a whole bunch of fun. I think the gulf that may divide us , and again I am nowhere near a Tea Partier is that the far left liberals think it is perfectly normal to even need a permit to build a fence in one’s own yard.

    • lizard19

      the issue isn’t the fence, chuck. the issue is wanting services like a dog catcher or animal control to manage the canine population, while simultaneously bitching about the myriad of ways municipalities bring in money to fund those services.

      i don’t necessarily agree that every little home improvement needs a permit; i did fencing for a summer and my employer hardly ever got a permit. only when someone called to report us did he acquiesce to the local authorities.

  13. Chuck

    He didn’t expect the dog catcher to come. He took personal responsibility to keep the dogs out of his yard by spending his own money to build a fence. He was surprised that the city charged him to do it.

    • petetalbot

      Though we’re a little off thread here, a quick rejoinder to the Chuck and son dog/fence issue. This is not a liberal verse conservative debate.

      There are ordinances on the books about building various things: setbacks, height, materials, etc. These are what keep neighborhoods liveable and cities civil.

      A quick call to OPG would have avoided the hassle that Chuck’s son went through. And, actually, the info is online.

      Even I know enough to call the city if I’m going to embark on some sort of construction project.

      If the fence problem was enough to push this guy from Democrat to Republican, then he wasn’t very committed to the cause.

      • Pogo Possum

        I just came from meeting a buddy of mine at his favorite coffee shop in Missoula located in the Grizzly Hackle. The young lady informed us the new owners were going to have to close the coffee shop they had just purchased this summer. She said when the new owners were in the process of purchasing the coffee shop they had it inspected by the city, were told everything was in compliance and they felt comfortable in purchasing another coffee shop with no needed improvements that was in a good location.

        Recently, the city inspector came in and said that now, since it was new ownership, they had to replumb the shop and install grease traps plus some other add ons.

        They don’t cook anything. They serve coffee, pop, cookies some great scones and muffins. The only thing they heat up besides coffee and tea is an occasional scone the put in the microwave. They don’t generate grease. The only thing they put down the drain is dish water and old coffee.

        She said the new upgrades were going to cost in the $1,000’s and the new owners ultimatly decided to close the shop than poor in more money they hadn’t planned on spending.

        One of the young ladies said she will go to the owner’s other store location but some of the other people working there are out of jobs. The building owner is trying to figure out how to replace the lost rental income.

        • Sadly, that is a story being played out all over the country right now. Small businesses are failing at an alarming rate. While some people like to point at one single issue causing it, I would venture to say that it is actually a number of things all working in concert – less disposable income for most people, a tax structure the accountant’s can’t even keep track of or understand, business taxes continuously in flux and city/county governments trying to deal with the new reality of less income to accomplish what they feel they need to accomplish. I don’t know what the answer is (though I think a complete overhaul of our tax system is definitely overdue), but until the symptoms of the problem are addressed, I feel this will probably continue to be a common story.

          • Your point about complexity is a good one, and I don’t mean to nitpick too much, but this urban myth has got to die:

            a tax structure the accountant’s can’t even keep track of or understand,

            Funny that. Every single year I do my taxes with a software program that costs me about between 35 and 50 dollars, depending on rebate. I answer some questions, and voila, there’s a return. we’re talking the long form here, not an EZ. *And*, I’m insured against audit, I can check and recheck my return, and if there is any change, the software will generate an amended return, and I can then resubmit, even after well April 15th. You’re not seriously telling me that our tax code is so complex that accountants can’t understand it, but programmers can?

            It’s possible that I’m misreading you, but yet every single time, let me repeat, every single time the complexity of the tax code is raised, a flat tax lament is not far behind. You are a pragmatist, as I am I. So let’s get this clear right now: There will never be a flat tax. __See that thing there? It’s a period. First, Progressives/Liberals will never support a flat tax because it is regressive, and will hurt the lower middle class most of all. Second, large corporations will never support such a tax, and now that they’re purchasing our government, you will find few who support any tax reform. Ask yourself this. Why do many large corporations, the oil companies in particular, show massive profits overseas and list a net loss here at home? Rewriting the tax code, even to a flat tax, won’t stop that. Third, the libertarian/objectivist argument. Why should someone fail to avail themselves of government assistance when having a job means paying out taxes that one can’t afford? It disincentives the labor force. Fourth, disparity of reward. Every time the CBO has examined a flat tax, they have found that the government will lose revenue. But government is needed for business to run efficiently. Think rail. Think roads. Businesses often gain from government spending disproportionately to the tax they pay. Any kind of flat tax will exacerbate that problem, not solve it.

            Yes, we could probably use a simplification of the tax code. Get rid of the real estate interest deduction perhaps. How do you think voters will go for that? It’s simple. Right?

            There are two sides to the budget equation, not that the Tea Party or the Republicans have considered that. The first is spending. Everybody wants less spending, just not if that spending favors me. The double edge on that is precisely the business complaint. “Well gee whiz, why should I have to follow code? Somebody needs to cut regulation … on me!” What they are really talking about is cutting waste; waste being defined as something that doesn’t favor them.

            The flip side of budget is revenue. I’ll take the complaints about spending cuts even remotely seriously from those who want a repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. That’s a very simple tax reform that would have a real, quantifiable and lasting impact. If one doesn’t that, then they can talk to the hand. They’re obviously not very serious about deficit or tax reform.

            • While I have said before that I do favor a flat tax rate, as you have pointed out, it is not pragmatic. That said, a rework of the tax system, significantly simplifying it, is being discussed right now – for many of the same reasons you have already pointed out. You say that Republicans do not understand that the equation is two sided and I highly disagree with that. In my opinion, it is just as much understood by Republicans as it is by Democrats (which is to say – by neither party).

              One of the most significant ways we could INCREASE revenue is to rework the tax system (significantly simplifying it) so that more taxes actually reach the government without more taxes actually being paid by the majority of individuals. Not withstanding the disparity of rightoffs and loopholes for the top 5%, just collecting the taxes that already aren’t being paid under the current system would boost revenue significantly.

              Further, simplifying the tax code will result in more accurate tax collection and less room for tax evasion to even occur – thereby reducing the need for the size of the monstrosity that is the IRS.

              Everyone wants to ask “Where should we cut money” but no one wants to put forward that one of the areas we can cut is Federal EMPLOYMENT. Our government has been a jobs program for government employees for decades and it needs to stop.

              As far as the “myth”.. we will have to agree to disagree. The program you use will work fine in the limited use you put it to. It will not work fine for say… a home crafter. It won’t work fine for someone that has a significant amount of capital investments or trust income. For those situations, you need other programs (or other professional help). Just like lawyers, you can get specialized help but no one understands it all and it all combines to result in the revenue the government has to run on.

            • No, I don’t think we will just have to agree to disagree, because I think you’re just wrong. I work closely, every single day, with an accountant. He seems to get the tax code. Show me one who doesn’t. Even one.

              You keep talking about a rework of the tax code but have no suggestions, save flat tax which will not work or pass, as you admit. You say that “it” (tax reform) is being discussed right now, but offer nothing in the way of evidence or fact. What is being discussed, and by whom? What are the suggested reforms? Anyone? Bueller?

              The rest of your argument relies on the myth of tax reform, of which you’ve really said nothing. Kindly understand why I have nothing to say about a phantom.

        • petetalbot

          Don’t get me wrong, Pogo, I believe there needs to be flexibility and compassion when enforcing city ordinances. Thanks for sharing this story and I hope someone out there will take an interest in the coffee shop owners’ plight.

          I’ve personally had to jump through a lot of hoops with a building project my wife and I are involved in but, basically, I still believe in permit and ordinance code.

        • JC

          “She said when the new owners were in the process of purchasing the coffee shop they had it inspected by the city, were told everything was in compliance “

          If she has the inspection report, which truly read “in compliance” prior to purchase, then she had a legal contract with the city to that effect. And any further attempt by the city to backtrack would be better met with a lawyer than with an anecdotal sob story meant to denigrate a regulatory system put in place to serve the public health needs of the community.

          • mr benson

            Well, “flexibility and compassion” cannot be part of a city planning ordinance. It can be part of a city employee’s skill set. But it rarely is.

            You see, if you “go by the book” you might get into trouble by the public, but the book’s your shield against being stupid, picky, vindictive, selectively enforcing, etc. “Just going by the book” works.

            What need to happen is that every union and professional contract must read, number one, “employees must use good judgment”. Yep, you have to use judgment, just going by the book won’t protect you from getting your ass fired, and, two, it has to be good judgment.

            Now, fences; yes they should be regulated and yes you should have to pay a fee, whatever the review takes, ten minutes or so, to get one.

            Last, the “new ownership–update to new codes issue”. It’s just wrong, counterproductive and anti american.

            • JC

              Well, I have to agree that the blanket provision to update to new codes on transfer of ownership isn’t always a good thing (I used to be an electrician, and worked on many commercial jobs–kitchens included–and have seen this practice in action).

              But that should have been revealed to the new owner on her purchase inspection, and revealed in the inspection report. It’s things like this why we have closings and title insurance, lawyers, and the like to protect everybody’s interests. In this case, that of the new owner.

              But getting a license to run an establishment that deals in matters of health (food storage/prep/cooking, waste disposal, etc.) necessitates that the prospective owner do a little research into licensing issues otherwise they’re just another fly-by-night entrepreneur trying to make one over on the public.

              I feel their pain, but it was self inflicted and could have been avoided. There’s also the matter of seeking a variance that could have helped to prevent the issue up-front if the prospective owner still wanted to proceed, given the code update issue.

              • mr benson

                You’re right, JC. However, there are a lot of reasons why building inspectors are drumming up business. You do understand, buildings sitting vacant could sit and rot before somebody comes along who wants to dump more money than the building is worth into it?

                As long as urban decay and rot is okay, we can rigidly enforce the rules and keep people out of buildings of marginal utility…or we can find ways to put business in them and keep them occupied.

                Those really are the alternatives.

              • JC

                That’s why we have redevelopment agencies in Missoula. To help with those issues.

                And the MRA has been incredibly effective in helping people like the prospective coffee shop owner deal with “urban decay and rot”.

                I’m all for supporting the work of MRA and helping prospective business owners revitalize business districts. And given how places like downtown Missoula are full of vacant spaces, outfits like MRA can be a huge asset to moving our economy forward.

              • Pogo Possum

                “If she has the inspection report, which truly read “in compliance” prior to purchase, then she had a legal contract with the city to that effect. And any further attempt by the city to backtrack would be better met with a lawyer than with an anecdotal sob . . . .”

                I ran your comments past a few friends of mine who have been in the food business in Missoula for many years, JC. They got a good laugh out of them.

                One fellow said it is easy to tell someone to get a lawyer and go sue the city when you aren’t the one paying the legal bills. Even if you win, he said, you can still lose when you figure in legal fees. And, he said, you now have to deal with the same inspector in the future who suddenly isn’t as “nice” as he used to be.

                He said similar things happened to him in the past including new grease trap requirements that cost him over $15,000 that were not mentioned in the earlier inspection.

  1. 1 Missoula the morning after: How fast will the Tea Party fade? « Missoula Red Tape

    […] What else? There’s huge changes afoot for the Public Service Commission. And, of course, for consumers and companies in their hands. Here’s an analysis by one successful candidate himself, Travis Kavulla. Here’s another look at outcomes from 4&20. […]

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