Archive for February 19th, 2014

by jhwygirl

Lizard has had two posts now calling out local democrats – Thanks for Nothing, Democrats and Rape Culture, Missoula Democrats, and Criminalizing Poverty – on their lack of acting with principles most often associated with the Democratic Party.

Lizard points out in his first post that the overwhelmingly progressive city council (yeah, they run as nonpartisans but we all know they’re democrats) are working to criminalize homelessness. He points out that the Board of County Commissioners (all democrats) is suing the feds, saying they’ve no jurisdiction over our county attorney, the illustrious Fred Van Valkenburg, and then Liz points out that oVan Valkenburg – a democrat, himself – chose to not only ignore a county initiative that decriminalized marijuana, but that he actually notched up prosecutions of possession!

A comment from former Poverello Director and State Representative Ellie Hill (HD94 – Missoula) takes us to Lizard’s second post where he takes on former Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir’s recent editorial in support of Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s lawsuit against the feds. Now, admittedly Muir’s politics are unknown since he wasn’t an elected official – but he is standing not only in support of the very Tea Partyesque lawsuit, he’s also referring to the USDOJ as “ultra-liberal.” Liz then continues on to call out Ms. Hill’s apparent change in positions on her advocacy for the homeless, citing quotes by Hill in Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller’s blog, Missoula Red Tape.

For good measure, Lizard closes out his post with reference to former US Representative Pat Williams’ ‘knucklehead” comment about rapists at the University of Montana, finely documented by the truly lustrous architect of words, Patrick Duganz.

Yes, it’s hard to find what many might refer to as “true progressives” or “good democrats” here in Missoula these days. Wagons are circled, that’s for sure. That “speak no ill” rule certainly applies in state democrat politics.

A few days ago a friend pointed out to me that Ravalli County – a conservative Tea Party bastion – sure knows how to address incompetence, even when it involves what is an elected office. That person was right. With unproven allegations of malfeasance, Ravalli Board of County Commissioners had County Treasurer Valerie Stamey escorted from the building by the county sheriff. They then hired an outside audit firm, brought in a interim treasurer and also a retired judge to independently oversee the investigation. Stamey remains on paid leave as the investigation continues.

Compare that to Missoula County Board of County Commissioners. With serious allegations made by the USDOJ who have quite clearly said that County Attorney Van Valkenburg has “put women’s safety at risk,” Van Valkenenburg apparently still has access to his office! There are not only allegations of violations of state and federal law, there is significant documentation by the USDOJ that civil rights were violated – that’s the kind of stuff that exposes the county to millions of dollars in lawsuits.

Instead, the county steams forward not by addressing the allegations, but on the hope of a now disgraced county attorney who thinks that the feds don’t have jurisdiction over civil rights violations.

This situation is no longer about who has jurisdiction over who – it’s over who violated civil rights and who is going to continue to maintain the status quo.

With documented allegations of civil rights violations and the failure of the Board of County Commissioners to act, it’s not going to be just Fred Van Valkenburg and Missoula County’s name on the lawsuits that have an easy in to being filed. His enablers will also be on the hook, should they fail to act.

And – dare I suggest – that may include the State of Montana, since there are documented allegations of state law in that 20 page document also. I’ve only heard crickets out of Helena, so far.

Missoula was worried about the cost of implementing the USDOJ’s recommendations? They might start to think about those civil rights lawsuits. That stuff can be real real expensive.

Look – Van Valkenburg poked at the dragon. The dragon bit back in a big way. In doing so, the dragon shined a big light on civil rights violations. If anyone things things are going to get easier, they’re dreaming.

Not only that – Van Valkenburg can’t defend himself or the county from these allegations. Consider that. Van Valkenburg had to hire outside council to sue the feds…he and the county sure can’t defend themselves against the civil rights violations that are now on their way down the pike.

by lizard

Mark Muir, former Chief of the Missoula PD, has taken an interesting position regarding the DoJ’s interest in what’s been happening (or not happening) at the Missoula County Attorney’s Office:

With support from the County Commissioners, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg has courageously chosen a bold and wise strategy in suing the United States Department of Justice for its abuses of power.

The anticipated result is nothing more than forcing them to play by the rules and to abide by the constitutional division of governmental powers. Asking a federal judge to put a stop to the bullying tactics of the U.S. Attorney General, his pitbulls in the Special Litigation Section and even Montana’s United States Attorney is not only the right thing, it is overdue.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s team of ultra-liberal, Washington, D.C., legal staff already won two unfair matches at the expense of Missoula taxpayers; their big government staffing increases gives them the resources to bully nearly any local institution into submission, indifferent to lack of proof.

Ultra-liberal? As opposed to who, Fred Van Valkenburg?

There are clearly some confusing dynamics at play in Missoula right now. I made it pretty clear how frustrated I am with Missoula Democrats in a post that I knew would probably ruffle a few feathers. State Representative Ellie Hill had this to say in the comments:

I fail to see what partisan politics has to do with what is going on in the County Attorney’s Office or in regard to the panhandling ordinances. It seems to me that there are many “Missoula Democrats” working on opposing sides of both issues. The panhandling ordinance didn’t get sent back to committee because Will Deschamps was looking out for equal protection and civil rights.

Rep. Hill has a point—a Democrat-dominated city council vote sent the solicitation ordinances back to committee—but we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Adam Hertz (a conservative) hadn’t moved to reconsider the amendments to avoid a lawsuit, and Missoula wouldn’t be facing a lawsuit if progressive Caitlin Copple didn’t sponsor these amendments in the first place.

I find it particularly distasteful that Copple used the safety of women to justify criminalizing sitting on sidewalks. When these ordinances were first debated and passed, Ellie Hill was the director of the Poverello Center. This Missoula Red Tape post features Hill’s opinion of the original ordinances:

Pov director Ellie Hill said the nonprofit supports defining inappropriate behaviors and creating consequences for those actions. That’s as long as the rules in the ordinance* apply as equally to the aggressive Girl Scout cookie seller as they do to a belligerent old dude.

But Hill said the Pov isn’t going to get behind the ordinance* that bans sleeping or snoozing on streets and sidewalks. She said one Pov supporter called her and wanted to remind her of the story of the Good Samaritan. That good guy was helping the person on the streets — not slapping him with a misdemeanor as the ordinance proposes.

“To me, that’s the very definition of criminalizing poverty,” Hill said. “It’s wrong. How can you provide criminal consequences for being poor? Or having nowhere else to sit? Or nowhere else to sleep at night?”

I agree. But try telling that to a progressive LGBT advocate who describes a transient chasing a pregnant woman to her car as the reason to ban sitting on sidewalks downtown.

We are not going to make it safer for women in Missoula by targeting homeless people or getting rid of enablers of rape culture like Fred Van Valkenburg. Rape culture is insidious, and non-partisan.

As a reminder of that latter point, I strongly encourage everyone to read 4&20 contributor Patrick Duganz’s take on what Pat Williams said to the New York Times nearly 2 years ago regarding the University of Montana’s part in the rape scandal:

“I’m very sorrowful one of the premier universities in the Rockies has been scandalized by a few knuckleheaded students,” said Pat Williams, a former United States congressman and a member of Montana’s Board of Regents. “The football team has been terribly hurt by this.”

With friends like Fred and Pat, who needs Deschamps?

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