Archive for the ‘Ravalli County’ Category

by Pete Talbot

Abortion, birth control, women’s health care and religious freedom have all been in the news lately, often in the same story.

As a man, I’m not even sure I get to comment on this but since knotheaded dudes write letters to the editor all the time decrying a woman’s right to choose and a couple of Montana Catholic Bishops, neither whom are women, have made pronouncements, here goes.

Let’s start with Congressman Rehberg’s response to the Obama administration’s rule that birth control should be provided in insurance plans for Catholic schools and hospitals:

“This order is government intrusion into the private lives of Americans under the guise of health care reform and infringes on the religious liberty of women and men of faith in direct opposition to the religious freedom enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution,” says Rehberg.

So, some non-Catholic woman working in St. Patrick Hospital’s cafeteria will not have access to affordable birth control because of some archaic religious belief.  Talk about infringing on the “religious liberty of women” as “enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution,” right Denny?

To the uber-Catholic women who happen to work at St. Pats and are opposed to birth control: just don’t use it (you can always use the rhythm method.  That works, sometimes).

Closer to home, the Ravalli County Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, are accepting Title X family planning funding.  This would seem like a no-brainer — around $40K for birth control, annual exams, pregnancy and pap tests, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, nutrition education and counseling, on a sliding scale.

But of course these commissioners have issues that deal with a lack of parental notification for minors.  They’re willing to sacrifice low-cost women’s health programs for their narrow ideology.

Granted, I’d want my kids to talk to me about their sexual concerns.  I’d rather they have access to an STD or pregnancy test, birth control, or sexual education and counseling, if they choose not to confide in me .

Again, I’m always amazed by the less-government intrusion crowd dictating their moral imperatives to the rest of us, via government programs.  The overused but accurate “hypocrite” comes to mind.

All this news comes on the heels of the Susan G. Komen controversy.  If you believe that attacks by the right on women’s health care issues aren’t still in play, often under the misnomer of “religious freedom,” you’d be wrong.

by jhwygirl

John Cochran, of St. Regis had some pretty harsh words for Sen. Jim Shockley.

Both Cochran and Shockley served as Marines…and both are acquainted with each other through the American Legion.

Cochran went and did something that he’s never done before – and it was to honor another fellow Marine, Bob Baxter, the man who died while waiting for a court to clear the way for the death with dignity he so very much desired.

Cochran drove from St. Regis to Helena to testify before the Senate Judiciary committee on SB116, the bill from Rep. Greg Hinkle that would have prohibited physician-assisted suicide.

This bill was tabled in committee, and later died with a blast on the Senate floor.

Sen. Shockley is an attorney. Aren’t attorneys supposed to tell the truth? I guess that doesn’t apply when wearing a legislative hat. Must be written as some sort of exception to the Montana State Bar ethics code there. Same with the Marine “semper fidelis”/legislature thing.

Legislature trumps everything. That’s easier than Rock Paper Scissors.

Read John Cochran’s words for Sen. Shockley here.

by jhwygirl

Funny. New story up late last night on the free-gun-with-Dish Satellite guy who franchises a Radio Shack down in Hamilton Montana.

Seems he didn’t work things out with Radio Shack or Dish Network – neither sound too happy.

But free-gun-with-Dish Satellite guy is pushing on, saying he isn’t going to stop. He changed his Radio Shack sign, but he’s now added the name of the website he created to explain the offer: getagun dot net.

Not only that – he said that he was planning on using DirectTV satellite as the next offer, while a company spokesperson has said ‘No thanks.’

Even more? Free-gun-with-Dish Satellite guy is planning on lowering the qualifications for the free firearm.

What to say…what to say?

I’d really really love to hear why Radio Shack and Dish Network and DirectTV are wrong to tell him he has to stop. Any conservatives want to justify that one?

by jhwygirl

Where to begin?

Most offensive bill today I believe is HB309 which is effectively seeking to enable a situation where the public would be eliminated from public access to most waterways in the state. You know – that public access below the high water mark?

That is precisely what HB309 does.

Update: The Editor over at Button Valley Bugle hit this story – a subject at which BVB excels.

Last session, Sen. Rick Liable from down Ravalli County way did some high-stepping back-tracking when the public found out about his proposal to eliminate public access on the waterways, which essentially tried to undo the Mitchell Slough decision.

The Mitchell Slough is actually the St. Mary’s Fork of the Bitterroot River. Darned that I’m having issues providing you with a link to the original government land survey map from the late 1800’s.

Just because someone got in there with a bulldozer 75 years ago and built a new headgate and dragged 100 feet of new ditch into a braided portion of the Bitterroot does not a ditch make.

And more than a few judges said did a number of hydrologists.

23.30.202(2)c is the offending clause, exempting certain waterways – even those that are natural streams when there is a water diversion headgate on it.

The Mitchell Slough is the object of affection here for sponsor Rep. Jeffrey Welborn out of Dillon Montana – it has been cited as a stream that would be affected.

This bill is downright offensive – and Sen. Kendall Van Dyk pretty pissed. Media has picked up on this story too – I’ve seen it covered by NBC Montana and the superfantastic Marnee Banks of CBS Montana.

I’m gonna give a little ding here to the Billings Gazette for its headline here – the House did NOT pass the bill – it MAY do so with 3rd reading tomorrow.

(Didn’t I complain about that last session? Let me also say, in the Gazette’s defense, it has been done already this session – but this is at least the seconnd time it’s happened.)


This bill is a great example of the offensive nature that is reeking out of the session this year – this bill had Opponent after Opponent of citizen after citizen saying NO to this bill, yet the committee approved it on a 14-8 vote.

It wasn’t strict party line either – Democrat Frank Smith of Poplar voted Yes to this behemoth while Republican Brian Hoven of Great Falls had the goddess-given sense to vote No.

Take a look at the 55-44 vote and contact those legislators – this site or this site will help.

Focus on those 55 YES votes – those are the people voting against Montana’s interests and sporting and outdoor river heritage.

What is Montana without its streams and waterways.

by jhwygirl

“How’d we get here?”

Anyone paying any attention to what is going on in Helena has, no doubt, asked themselves that question. Myself, I’ve conversed on the subject lately with more than a few people.

So did I laugh today when I saw this story in the Missoulian? You betcha. Then I had to see what the Ravalli Republic had to say.

DO make sure to read the comments.

Hudson-Smith has worked in the clerk’s office for 16 years – sixteen years – and now she wants to hire an expert to help her learn her job?

She doesn’t have any friends who could teach her?

This woman ran a hate-filled anti-everything campaign, and the anti-everything I-hate-government crowd voted for her and now they’re mad that she doesn’t know how to run her government office? She did nothing but create havoc in that office for the last 9 months and wouldn’t accept any training, and now the small-government tea party princess wants to hire a high paid expert CPA to train her?

Ey yi yi.

Which – btw – Thank Goddess for Vickie Zeier, no? I was just saying this the other day, too.

Just imagine how those county and school elections are going to run.

Boy – if I were in Ravalli, I might jump on the recall train…so that someone can keep that very important office of records for all the citizens of Ravalli – democrats, republicans, indy’s and yes, even those tea-drinking fools – from going all to hell.

Seriously. Money is at stake here. Property. Private property. Taxes. Marriages, deaths, births. Some of this stuff you wouldn’t know or need to know for decades – imagine trying to fix some kind of bureaucratic error 20 years old?

That is not a good situation for anyone.

In the meantime, hopefully they’re not letting her anywhere near the electronic records.

by jhwygirl

The Missoula Independent took time to dig further into Ravalli County’s County Attorney candidate William Fulbright’s bankruptcy records.

This wasn’t some witch hunt – in the interest of full disclosure, William Fulbright had handed over his bankruptcy records to the Ravalli Republic a while back, as rumors swirled around his having filed bankruptcy to avoid payment of his student loan.

The Indy’s Alex Sakariassen took time to look at what was actually in Fulbright’s bankruptcy documents and found much more that should have Ravalli County residents questioning why he deserves their vote for County Attorney.

Good catch, Alex – that’s certainly news that’s fit to print, and news that voters have every right to know.


“We are the army out to free men!” – Sheriff Richard Mack

I just want to get back to building an army and preparing for a revolution.” – Schaeffer Cox

“While the State exists there can be no freedom; when there is freedom there will be no State. – Vladimir Lenin

That last quote by Lenin could have easily come from the mouth of your average American Libertarian.

This last weekend saw Ravalli County political group Celebrating Conservatism host the first ever Liberty Convention held at the Adams Center on The University of Montana campus.  While the Adams Center might have seemed a little hollow with so few people in attendance, that fact didn’t  seem to bother the convention organizers.  “This,” said Mona Docteur, the driving force behind much of Celebrating Conservatism’s activities, “was mainly a chance to network with like minded individuals.”  But while the numbers might have been small, the philosophical foundation from which the Liberty movement is building upon is not; it is bold, steeped Western anti-government sentiment and rugged individualism, and wants to radically change the relationship between the individual and the state.

The fact that Conservatism is in the name of the group is an insult to true Conservatives.  Conservatism as a political and social philosophy is one that respects traditional institutions that work to uphold the functioning of a society and rejects radical change.  Many of the people brought into speak at the Liberty Convention made a point to specifically call for a radical break from current political institutions and radically reshape American society.  On the surface of things, Celebrating Conservatism and many similar small groups around Montana and the West are pushing for many policies that many would associate with conservatism… gun rights,  states sovereignty, small government, and individual freedom.

Peel back the public veneer and what this movement wants is much more radical; a libertarian utopia devoid of any from of central government “tyranny,” and ultimate freedom for the individual.  When speaking about the “proper” role of government Gary Marbut – local Missoula gun rights advocate and author of the Firearms Freedom Act – questioned whether building highways was a legitimate use of government authority.  If a so called  “conservative” is questioning the building of roads you can imagine his opinion on the BLM, Forest Service, Social Security, DUI laws, etc.  To them, individuals should operate as they see fit without any regulation upon behavior… except for vigilante justice dispensed by local citizen militias and an armed populace.  I guess a clean gun is supposed to make for good neighbors.

Many of the speakers at the convention expressly stated such beliefs based not only upon political philosophy but also scripture.  2008 Constitution Party Presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin – whom spoke Friday night – in a May 19th 2010 article available on his website predicts the breakup of the United States and applauds the prospect of states succeeding from the union (in the same article he also claims that bringing women into the military is a globalist plot to make our military less efficient and weaken our national security to the point that wee can’t operate without UN support).

Red Beckman – perpetual tax protester and long time militia movement supporter – shared this same view that the tyrannical Federal Government will be brought down because we as a nation have forsaken God and that, just as the USSR was brought down by God, the Federal Government will disappear as part of God’s will.  He also stated that illegal immigration was God’s curse on this nation for the Roe v. Wade decision.  They don’t just see the fall of the American Empire… they actively want to push it over the edge.

This group sees themselves as being oppressed by a tyrannical and unjust government that time and again ignores the constitution and has usurped individual freedom.  How they propose to reshape the political landscape is truly nothing short of a revolution.  Red Beckman implored the audience to follow the example of Romanian soldiers whom in 1989 turned on and killed the dictator.

The one feature of language used throughout the convention that surprised me was the constant allusions to and mentioning of “building an army.”  Speakers referred to the audience as “foot soldiers” and Mona Docteur asked them to, “stand on the front lines.”  As much as they disparaged against socialism, communism, and specifically the Bolshevik Revolutionaries it seems that they share much in common with the Bolsheviks in their formative year.  The pattern of history the Liberty Movement sees themselves part of is awkwardly similar to how Marx and Lenin foretold the fall of the oppressive Tsarist regime.

Just as the Bolsheviks saw themselves as the awakened and enlightened vanguard that would lead Russia to a proletariat democratic utopia; the Liberty Movement’s professional revolutionaries  on display this last weekend talked of “leading the charge,” and “bringing enlightenment to the rest of America,” from this small base of people that can, “see the truth,” of how oppressive and tyrannical the government is.  Speaker Schaeffer Cox – Fairbanks, AK militia organizer – talked of, “being right on the edge of having to bloody our swords… revolutions are not instituted, they are provoked, and they are provoked by government.”  Sounds oddly like “a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation,” declared by Vladimir Lenin.

The normal person involved in these meetings and the movement are just that… normal people that are simply fed-up with the current political atmosphere and I’m sure they wouldn’t consider themselves revolutionary.  A lot of the allusions to revolution might be hyperbole… but it seems to me that these luminaries, the professional revolutionaries of the Liberty Movement, believe what they are saying.  They are in no why cynical and actually quite optimistic in their assessment of what they can and will accomplish and are attempting to build a larger coalition across the West.

Groups like these feed off of troubling and uncertain times and today is full a many challenges and uncertainties about the future.  Just as in the 1930s this country, saw a large uptick in communist and fascist party membership people today are looking for a fresh political movement that will provide a clear way forward and a promising future to those that currently see only despair.  While this movement is small today no group that openly talks of revolution should be ignored.  Rather they should be studied to understand the mechanisms by which they operate and grow so that their very legitimate concerns may be addressed within society at large.

Vladimir Lenin established his first revolutionary group in 1895, it wasn’t until 1917 that the revolution came to fruition… jolted violently to life by the collapse of the Russian economy after WWI.  The Liberty Movement is predicting such a collapse… hoping for such a collapse… and biding their time until such a collapse happens.


I counted 52 participants at the Liberty rally kicking off the Liberty Convention 2010 event this weekend.  I’m sorry to say that it was much less eventful than I thought it would be and the enthusiasm level of the people in the demonstration was poorly lacking in energy. No crazy signs appeared… the best signs were at the beginning of the first video and the one I tried to capture in the second short video. I think the Tea Party movement in general is starting to learn that the crazy signs were hurting the movement and a concerted effort is being made to keep that kind of thing out of the public eye.

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Consider this an open thread on the Liberty Convention, the Ravalli County group Celebrating Conservatism, and the Tea Party movement


Today sees the start of the Liberty Convention 2010 being held at the University of Montana and organized by Mona Doctour of Celebrating Conservatism.  It kicks off today with a rally down at Caras Park and parade to the university and runs for two days.

They are walking into the lions den of Montana Liberalism and want to make a big show and statement by holding their convention here in Missoula.  In an interview with Mona Doctour of Celebrating Conservatism available here, Mona wants conservatives from around the state to bring their big trucks and tractors to make a big show during their parade through Missoula.  Holding the convention in Missoula is, in my opinion, as much about symbolism as it is about finding a venue of the appropriate size.

If you don’t already know what some of the views espoused by some of the people speaking and organizing this event are, I’ll just run through a list very quickly and save the in depth analysis for another post.

  • Main stream Republicans aren’t conservative enough
  • Want to break down the line between religion and politics
  • Support deregulation of firearm laws and advocate for 2nd Amendment Rights and Open Carry Laws.
  • Oppose any form of central political authority such as the federal government and United Nations
  • Espouse return to citizen controlled Common Law System and are pushing petitions to establish Citizen Grand Juries to allow citizens to convene grand juries at the county level.
  • Oppose land use planning, building codes, and any other law/regulation that is a “taking” of private property

The event should be pretty interesting and I’ll be covering it all weekend with live updates, tweets, and video (i hope).

by Pete Talbot

Walls come and go. The sieve-like wall that separates Mexico from the U.S. is being fortified, and an additional “virtual fence” is in the works. The Berlin Wall is history. The Great Wall of China endures. Israelis are building walls to keep Palestinians out.

So how about a wall along the Missoula-Ravalli County line? I believe this would make folks on both sides of the wall happy. It would keep all the Communists and sexual deviates from corrupting Bitterroot youth. It would keep the right-wing nut jobs from stirring up trouble in Missoula. It’s a win-win.

I don’t have a lot of examples of Communist or sexual deviate infiltrators but I have plenty of right-wing nut job anecdotes.

Dallas Erickson. He keeps reminding Missoulians how morally bankrupt we are. He’s worried that perverts are lurking in our bathrooms. He’s also a big crusader for Wal-Mart.

Or this guy, Glenn Kimball of Corvallis. I’ll skip over his wacky Celebrating Conservatism street demonstrations and cut straight to this quote from a letter to the Missoulian:

Montana’s own Democratic U.S. Sen. Max Baucus is admittedly a socialist. He has served in Congress way too long, and his recent support of unconstitutional Obamacare unveiled his true colors.

Mr. Kimball might be right about Max serving “way too long,” but I missed Baucus admitting that he’s a socialist (must have been back in that tough 2008 race against Bob Kelleher). Christ, I wonder what that makes me?

And I didn’t realize that the watered-down health care bill, which, with the help of Max, is a minuscule change from the status quo, is also unconstitutional. Even Rob Natelson thinks the health care legislation is here to stay.

Then there are the kids packing (toy) heat and lining Highway 93 in support of the Second Amendment. I wasn’t aware it was in jeopardy, particularly in light of recent Supreme Court rulings.

The list goes on-and-on.

Of course, there’d be a toll booth in the wall. That way, both counties could garner some much needed revenue, but it would keep the general riffraff and obstructionists away — in both counties.

Now I know there are progressives in the Bitterroot, just like there are right-wingers in Missoula. Perhaps some sort of window sticker that would allow like-minded folks to travel between counties without being charged a toll; you know, Bitterroot progressives get free admission into Missoula and right-wing Missoulians get a free pass to Ravalli County.

Anyway, it’s a thought.

(Update: Here’s another reason to build that wall, courtesy of Jay over at LiTW.)

by jhwygirl

S.A.F.E. (Supporters of Abuse Free Environments), of Hamilton, recently scored a $483,148 grant provide safe, affordable transitional housing to domestic violence survivors and assist survivors with developing a plan to achieve self-sufficiency.

The money will be used to help provide housing for 6-24 months to families, along with follow-up care and support.

S.A.F.E. is the only agency in Ravalli County that provides this sort of support, and this grant will provide sorely needed safe housing, along with ensuring that it’s 24-hour support of domestic violence not only continues, but is able to meet the needs of the community. Previous budget cuts have made it a difficult road for this important organization.

A 2008 article from the Ravalli Republic details some of the extent of domestic violence in Ravalli County.

Congratulations. Not only will those funds go towards breaking the cycle of violence, they’ll help enable women, children and families towards productive lives – along with providing a nice economic boost to an ailing construction and development industry in the region.

by jhwygirl

Honestly, I am so busy lately that I barely have time for the news. That’s why I’m grateful for Twitter – at the least, I can grab headlines from sources I choose. KPAX reports that Sen. Jon Tester was in town this morning to meet with St. Patrick Hospital and Community Medical Center. There’s a nifty raw video of an interview with Tester, who talks about the real need for reform, the need for setting timelines and how he looks forward to having a bill hit the floor. He exudes confidence.

Thank you, Jon.

Meanwhile, Representative Denny Rehberg – who’s poll numbers are slipping, BTW – will be meeting with officials of Community Medical Center, St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center, and the Watson Children’s Center on Wednesday.

It’d be nice if he’d meet with us regular ole’ Missoulians…..

Rehberg’s been having his meetings around the state (he’s held 14), most recently in Hamilton last Friday.

None in Missoula on health care….

Rehberg’s meeting in Hamilton – like most health care insurance reform meetings anywhere – are ripe with people with strong opinions. That’s fine. People need to be civil.

Apparently, though, Rehberg did little to promote civility, the pinnacle of his lack of promoting control coming when calling out a wheelchair bound woman who was holding a sign saying 83 percent of Americans favor a public option. “Not according to the polls I’ve seen,” he shouted out…prompting some to heckle the woman.

Really? Our Montana Congressman calls out in disagreement – in a public meeting – to a woman holding a sign opposing his viewpoint?

Rehberg then stood and allowed the crowd to heckle.

“Not according to the polls I’ve seen,” he says? Well, soon-not-to-be Congressman Rehberg, what polls do you read? I mean – are you reading Cato Institute polls, or is your answer Palinesque, as in the faux “I’ve read ’em all” sort of read? Because shouting out “Not according to the polls I’ve seen,” in a smart-ass kind of way – and then standing there watching the crowd descend – isn’t really an answer.

Not only that, Rehberg used – for the upteenth time that day – the crowd to answer opposing viewpoints (i.e., pro-reform).

Read that? Rehberg never answered pro-reform questions. He allowed hecklers to do it for him.

Amazing tactic if it works.

Hamilton resident Denelle Pappier details her experience and analysis of Rep. Rehberg’s visit in a guest editorial.

Her editorial mentions the experience of a woman – a Missoula woman, actually – who asked Rep. Rehberg what it was – specifically – that he could support in a health care bill. When that woman posed that question to Rehberg, again a shout came from the audience, calling the woman a ‘nazi sympathizer’, and it wasn’t until loud boos came from the crowd that Rehberg held his hands up quieting the crowd.

Rehberg never answered her question.

Two things strike me about the Ravalli Republic article and Ms. Pappier’s editorial – one being that it’s a bit of a surprise that Rehberg would be met with any opposition in Ravalli County. Ravalli County’s changing – and elected and neighbors alike down there are going to have to start to deal. Hostile public meetings where elected stand by and allow (and promote) uncivil behavior needs to stop.

Secondly, the other thing was the first-hand report of Rehberg’s uncensored departure from the event. It wasn’t the use of a swear word that draws my attention, it was his personal acknowledgment of an event not gone fabulously and his utter contempt for criticism.

Must be a lot of criticism you’re getting there, Representative Rehberg.

Seems Billings health care professionals weren’t too keen on Rehberg’s point of view when he visited with them yesterday.


Call Rehberg and let him know what you think about health care reform. You can also email him too.

Maybe remind him, too, that here in Montana we expect our elected officials to not only promote civility, but to answer questions when asked.

by jhwygirl

Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners approved a measure that will put a one mill levy on the June 2010 ballot to fund the Valley Veterans Service Center.

The center has an annual budget of $39,000, while donations and grants to the non-profit total out at about $26,000. They’ve been struggling for some time, but not for lack of clients – many of whom are not able, or have tremendous difficulty making the trip to Missoula or Helena for services.

Ravalli County has 5,600 veterans. The entire state of Montana has 109,000. There are 23 centers here in Montana that provide services to veterans – two of them are in Missoula.

Ron Skinner, the center’s director, opened the place 3 years ago.

Wow. Think about that challenge. Think about budget – and using that term brings new meaning to the word “budget,” doesn’t it?

Senator Tester is working to bring real funding to the center.

A mill levy is pretty unique to fund a non-profit. That is not lost on some – check out the comments on the story. Should the government be providing the funding? Yep. The government entered into a contract with these service men and women, and they have an obligation to follow through. Does providing additional funding harm? Hell no…but reliance of this sort to provide services to veterans is the obligation of the federal government and all taxpayers.

From the sounds of the comments, and the quotes from the BCC, the one mill levy should have no problem. Hopefully the center can hold on for that long – even if approved, the funding won’t be available until June 2011. At some point, though, the federal government is going to have to realize that not all veterans live in cities and at some point they’re going to have to figure out how to get the services they promised to the people they promised them too.

by Pete Talbot

This picture says it all.  The online photo doesn’t do justice to the Missoulian’s print version, but you get the gist.  These guys put the word bitter in Bitterrooters.

It’s Teabagger II and it was held Monday in Missoula at the offices of Sens. Baucus and Tester.  It was attended by about 60 people from south of the Missoula-Ravalli County line. 

There’s an interesting mix of issues that’s making these folks cranky: bailout packages, stimulus spending, federal hate crime laws and health care reform — all of which lead to “authoritarian socialism.”

Now they don’t offer any solutions to our economic woes or failed health care system.  They imagine the economy will right itself — an undying belief in the free market that got us into this mess.

I’ll also bet that there are a few in that crowd on Medicare.  They just don’t want other folks to have public health care benefits.

And I don’t recall their anger when George W. was racking up huge deficits from the ill-fated Iraq War.

One of my favorite quotes comes from a Corvallisite: “As far as I know, Baucus has gone along with everything Obama wants.” That’s not entirely true but for the most part, Baucus has voted ‘yea’ on the Obama platform.  What’s he supposed to do?  Vote the Dick Cheney platform?  Max got something like an 80 percent margin in the last election.  I’m sure he believes he has a mandate.

Anyway, if Max and Jon won’t agree to go to Ravalli County and “answer our questions,” the teabaggers will start a recall petition. That should keep them busy for awhile.

by jhwygirl

Let me first say I really enjoy Perry Backus’ writing style. Very straightforward. Some readers of the Ravalli Republic don’t like it, which is exhibited sometimes in the comments – but because someone doesn’t like the facts doesn’t make him wrong for writing them. This piece doesn’t show that – wife-beaters rarely get people defending them, at least in public – but I read his other stuff (particularly zoning stuff) and boy do people hate the facts when they don’t like the facts.

Read the piece. The guy is – I’m going to be economic with my words here – an asshole. He’s been convicted SIX times for domestic abuse. He doesn’t pay his child support. He’s a drunk. He has a long criminal history.

On Wednesday, Judge Langton sentenced asshole Ronald G. Moore to 5 years with 2 suspended and then proceeded to lament about the shortness of the sentence, noting that state law maximum for the crime was 5 years.

Warning: I’m going to yell…


Now – the story mentions a plea bargain, and goes on to interview Ravalli County Prosecutor Bill Fulbright who, too, said he ‘wishes the county could have asked for more.’


Plea the case – no reason is noted in the story – to maximum sentence with 2 years suspended, and then complain about the sentence?


Now – clearly there is an issue with the sentencing maximums of 5 years for domestic abuse….but why in the hell would both the prosecutor and the judge – both of whom had a certain level of control over the sentencing – suspend the 2 years?

Judge Langton is not bound to take any plea agreement. It’s his courtroom. Hell – he could have not only sentenced the guy to 5 years, he could have chastised the county prosecutor for recommending that 2 of ’em be suspended.

The guy beat her. Bit her bad enough to draw blood, and then sliced up the mattress she was laying on with a knife. And he did something like it 5 times before. He’s only 33.

Yeah – just the type of guy you wanna get back out on the streets just a little bit sooner.

Langton does have a pretty good track record of light sentences, especially for repeat offenders, along with suspension of portions of those light sentences.

Hopefully Ravalli County residents remember that the next time Langton is on the ballot.

The Missoulian reprinted the story. Both the RR and the M have a decent number of comments. I’m noticing more comments on the Missoulian, which is nice.

by jhwygirl

The opening line to sentence to Ravalli Republic’s John Cramer’s latest reads “Dennis Unsworth, Montana’s commissioner of political practices, knows the term “engaged citizenry” takes on a whole new meaning in Ravalli County.”

Boy – he couldn’t be more accurate. And he sure knows how to grab a reader.

Not that Bitterrooters have a reputation for being laid back. I know many that use the term crazy when they say “Bitterooters” – the two kinda go together, going back to Battle of the Big Hole days…

In an ongoing soap opera-like saga – a story that would be amusing if it weren’t so pathetically ironic, Dan Floyd, Treasurer for Higher Ground Foundation, an anti-zoning, anti-streamside setback corporation classified as “public benefit with members” (as it is registered with the Secretary of State’s office), is calling on a host of federal, state and local agencies to take action to save his two guest houses from falling into the Bitterroot River.

The Bell Crossing bridge, he claims, is the cause.

Seriously – don’t miss the comments in that one. The Ravalli Republic has some of the best comment strings of all papers around the state. Next to, maybe the Billings Gazette. It’s a tough pick, that contest, I tell ya.

So Dan Floyd, self-described property rights advocate is calling on the government to save his property. Now, to be fair, Floyd didn’t build his house and the two guest houses – he just bought it, where it sits, next to the Bitterroot River and the Bell Crossing bridge. This is sounding a lot like the guy down in the Big Hole who bought property and is now trying to claim a hardship in order to get a variance to build a bridge. In the Big Hole case, he’s been denied – twice now, once on appeal.

You got laugh at the audacity of a person that buys property without access, with laws in place concerning bridges and streamside setbacks (the Anaconda-Deerlodge consolidated planning area has not only had effect regulations in place for years – they have a commitment to them), and then claims hardship.

More on Higher Ground: Higher Ground has been under investigation by Montana’s Office of Political Practices for violating campaign laws. There are at least 9 complaints filed over campaign issues in Ravalli County – and at least two of them are against Higher Ground.

Recently, Unsworth subpoenaed the Ravalli Republic for copies of all ads placed by Higher Ground. Less recently, Unsworth ruled that Ravalli County Citizens for Free Enterprise violated campaign laws and would face prosecution if a settlement isn’t reached.

Citizens for Free Enterprise were found to be, effectively, a front for Wal-Mart, who was seeking to reverse zoning regs which prohibited big box stores. They were successful in overturning the regulations – yet eventually withdrew their plans.

The whole situation down there is very unfortunate – collectively, Higher Ground, along with the Bitterroot Building Association and Residents for Responsible Land Use quite arguably had an impact on voters who recalled the county-wide zoning referendum. This, after significant hours and $ costs to taxpayers – not to mention public involvement.

What worse, is that each of these organizations has multiple charges filed against them. Hell, maybe someone should file RICO charges against them all if they’re found in violation.

The ugly side of what the situation in Ravalli County shows is that big money can buy lots of influence – the repercussions will be long in coming for the perpetrators, yet the sufferings of the electorate will be instantaneous.

How do you get justice out of that?

Floyd (& friends – you can bet Tom Robak is one of ’em) are under investigation for violating laws associated with his campaign against streamside setbacks, yet he seeks justice for the very issues under that which he campaigned against.

How completely ironic is that?

by jhwygirl

Otis, an adorable beagle mix – looking a little on the active senior-citizen side – got caught in two traps on Lost Horse Road last week. The traps were 30 feet from the road.

Lost Horse Road is located south of Hamilton, and heads eastward into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

His owner, fortunately, was able to free him, but not without panic and several hours in the cold. Considering the severely low temperatures we’ve been experiencing, Otis and his owner are tremendously lucky.

Imagine the torture of an animal – any animal – as it lay caught in one of these traps. Dying, freezing to death. I’m not an overly religious person, but I can not imagine that our Creator would be OK with his creatures treated this way in the name of sport. There was a time and a place and a necessity for trapping. But those days are long past.

Footloose Montana is a local organization that has taken up the cause of educating the public about the dangers of trapping. They are also working to seek legislative and regulatory changes – and recently saw some minor successes late this summer when the FWP Board of Commissioners made some regulatory concessions with regards to setbacks for traps and eliminating trapping from a few high public use areas.

Footloose is still looking for donations to keep a weekly ad running that lists locations of these traps so that pet-owning recreationists know where to be extra cautious. Consider a small donation, as it only takes $80 a week to keep the ad running.

Here is a map of known locations of traps. Some locations:

Gold Creek north of Milltown
The Harris Ranch hunting access site near Victor (really? These guys are so lazy that they just place traps at hunting access sites?)
Nine Mile Creek has seen numerous traps (with two black labs caught in some recently)
Bass Creek
Butler Loop area of Nine Mile

There are so many problems, as I see it, with trapping. One easily cited reason is the fact that these traps easily trap non-target species. They can be bald eagles, the elusive wolverine, or lynx. A trapper isn’t even obligated to report it. Three eagles (two bald, one golden) have been caught in illegal traps in the Clinton area in the last two years.

This past fall I came across a fawn who’s neck had been caught in a snare. The beautiful creature – still with its white spots – clearly had been lying there for more than a day. Death was very quick, but those snares are supposed to release larger animals. This one didn’t. It was set by a sheepherder (who I had passed on the way), to trap coyotes. His gun and three dogs – along with the corral he had his sheep in – apparently weren’t deterrent enough.

The snare was less than one mile from a dozen or more homes. Imagine walking your pet and hearing a yelp, and before you could get to him, he’s gone.

Be safe out there folks. Keep your loved ones close.

by jhwygirl

The Ravalli Republic published an article Thursday regarding Tom Robak’s fight with Ravalli County over his home which the county is saying is built within the floodway. This battle has been going on for more than a year now, and is well-known outside Ravalli County. The Ravalli Republic frames Robak’s self-imposed woes as something brought on by zoning regulations and recent land use planning activity:

Although its controversial growth policy was repealed at the ballot box two weeks ago, Ravalli County’s struggle over land-use planning continues to play out on a remote riverbank and in a city courtroom.

In 2000, Tom and Charlotte Robak bought three acres along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River and started mapping out their dream home, years before the county began crafting proposed streamside setbacks in mid-2007.

That’s when the Robaks started framing their 4,600-square-foot log mansion a few yards from the river’s banks about 15 miles southwest of Darby.

It’s also when Tom Robak, an ardent property rights activist, started speaking out at the county Streamside Setback Committee’s public meetings, which he considers a government intrusion on landowners’ rights.

In reading just that short bit of falsely-framed ink, the lead-in to the article, the impression is given that the county is going after Robak due to streamside regulations the county is working to enact.

Read through the entire article, and there is nary a mention that the laws that Robak is alleged to have violated are regulations and authority that the state have had in place for decades.

Montana’s floodplain regulations are in place to comply with FEMA requirements regarding development within areas that are subject to flooding. By enacting these regulations, Montana ensured that its citizens were able to purchase and participate in flood insurance coverage that is backed by the federal government. Without the ability to purchase flood insurance, and homeowner is pretty much left out in the cold. Or in deep water.

The idea behind these regulations – why there are floodplain regulations – is that structures that are located within the floodway can, when flooded, break away from foundations and float down the floodway and destroy city, county, state and federal infrastructure like bridges and roadways and utilities. Loose floating homes present other dangers to other properties downstream – not to mention lives.

In other words – there are darn good reasons why we have floodplain regulations.

Further – any county that fails to enforce these floodplain regulations can cause its citizens the loss to the right to participate in FEMA’s flood insurance program. That would be everyone’s ability to obtain or keep their floodplain policy.

But – you wouldn’t know that by reading the Ravalli Republic’s story on Tom Robak’s home which appears to be built in the floodway. In fact, reading all of the ink that has been written on Robak’s castle that he built mere feet from the Bitterroot River – not the tamest of rivers in terms of wanting to stay where it is, any Bitterrooter knows – you’d never know that his woes are associated with those regulations…you only get the sense that the county is trying to persecute this poor guy because he hates streamside setbacks. Because he’s the money and founder behind the Big Sky Coalition.

The Big Sky Coalition is one of several anti-zoning, anti-streamside setbacks, pro-uncontrolled growth groups in Ravalli County. According to the Ravalli Republic, though, the Big Sky Coalition is a “new breed of environmentalist” for Ravalli County.

Make you feel warm-n-fuzzy?

Kinda makes me wonder how much money Robak and his Big Sky Coalition is putting into advertising down there in Ravalli County’s only daily newspaper, doesn’t it?

Going further, in terms of reporting the specifics of Robak’s floodway-located home, and the potential that it may have to be removed, the newspaper makes no mention of another home that was recently moved and relocated after having been built within the floodway, nor another (as I hear it) that is under the same type of scrutiny.

No – it’s all about poor pityful Thomas Robak and the spiteful situation he faces with the ever repressive regulators.

It’s hard to eliminate bias – I’d be pot, kettle, black if I didn’t admit that – and on that note, no one is coming to read this blog expecting completely unbiased opinion, right? – but you’d think in somewhere in all the ink that the Ravalli Republic has given this story – more than once – that they’d take the time to educate its readers on exactly the regulations that are at play here – that the regulations at play, and the enforcement of the regulations, are something that affects probably 85% or more of Ravalli County residents (those that have to have flood insurance), and that the regulations that Robak is allegedly in violation of are regulations that are in place in every county in Montana.

Otherwise, they are willingly feeding anti-zoning and anti-land use planning sentiments/sediments, and playing the willful mouthpiece of those people – and not accurately reflecting the actual facts of the news they are reporting.

by Rebecca Schmitz

My mom, who lives in Stevensville, called me bright and early (a little too bright and early–I was celebrating downtown until the wee small hours) this morning. She was horrified by the election results in Ravalli County: Bitterrooters voted overwhelmingly for Elaine Sollie Herman, and against the school levy in Hamilton and Legislative Referendum 118, the 6 mill levy. What the hell? Doesn’t anyone value education up there?

Boy, sometimes the Bitterroot makes Gallatin County look almost sane.

by jhwygirl

Has anyone seen Missoula Children’s Theatre’s production of Jesus Chris Superstar?

Johnny Beers brings us the news that Stevensville’s Blacksmith Brewing has finally opened. I hope he comes back to tell us how it is.

The nation’s Capitol Christmas tree is being cut this morning down in the Bitterroot National Forest. It’s been quite an affair for the last several months – the scouting of it – there’s even a back-up, just in case – the preparation, etc….there is even a contingent that will travel with the tree to its final destination, with a couple of orchestrated stops along the way. The tree will make its way up the valley, with stops in Hamilton and Stevensville – and then in Missoula at the Wingate Inn, on November 4th, at 5 p.m….like I said, quite the affair.

On top of that, there are 50 trees also being cut, one for each state, to be displayed in Washington D.C., also.

New York State government has set up a wind energy ethics code, as the result of a special investigation into improper relationships between wind energy developers and state government officials.

Ralph Nadar is expecting his best showing out of his past 3 presidential runs. 3%.

Timothy Egan of the New York Times mulls over the $700 billion bailout, giving our own Senator Jon Tester and Montana some love along the way.

McCain is on Saturday Night Live tonight.

Exxon, Shell and Conoco all posted record profits, again, this past week. In Exxon’s case, it was a 58% increase.

by Pete Talbot

It’s the water

For years, I’ve suspected there was something in Ravalli County water. Those wacky Bitterrooters have been voting down school bonds, opposing planning and zoning, and muttering death threats against those who believe ATV’s shouldn’t roam everywhere on God’s green earth.

Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices, Dennis Unsworth, confirms the funky water. He talked about the flurry of political complaints being filed at his office, half of them from Ravalli County:

“I don’t know if there’s something in the water here … ” he said, while visiting the county and adding that because of explosive growth in the valley, and the age-old Montana battle between private property rights and planning, complaints are flying.

The item on the ballot igniting this furor is the potential repeal of the county’s growth policy.

I thought that maybe they’d cleaned up the water after seeing a couple of sensible commissioners elected in the last go-around and then advancing a reasonable plan to mitigate growth. Guess I was wrong.


Are there really people out there who don’t know who they’re voting for, yet, for President? Maybe you’ve seen them interviewed on the TV news shows, and like me, shake your head in amazement.

Writer David Sedaris wonders about them, too, in this week’s New Yorker:

“I look at these people and can’t quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention?

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”

The Gazette takes a stand

Jay over at LiTW has already noted the Billings Gazette editorial endorsing Obama. It got me wondering what the other newspapers in the state were doing, so I Googled them — except for Kalispell’s Daily Interlake, because I just don’t care. Helena did some statewide races. The Great Falls Tribune “went out on a limb” and endorsed Baucus and Rehberg. Otherwise, I can’t find a thing. I know the Missoulian quit doing endorsements nearly a decade ago and maybe the other papers are waiting until this Sunday or something.

The Missoula Independent will be endorsing in this Thursday’s edition but not the presidential race. Indy editor Skylar Browning explained that the paper likes to focus on statewide races, ballot initiatives, PSC, etc.

Any endorsements in the Montana press that you, faithful readers, are aware of? Please let me know. BTW, the Associated Press has a list, updated regularly, of what the national papers have been doing endorsement-wise.

(UPDATE: As of Tuesday, October 28, according to Editor and Publisher, 222 newspapers have endorsed Obama and 93 newspapers have endorsed McCain. Wow. No Ron Paul, Bob Barr or Ralph Nader endorsements that I could find.)

(UPDATE #2: Great Falls Tribune Managing Editor Gary Moseman called me back. He said the Trib won’t be endorsing in the presidential race but has been actively endorsing in statewide and local races. He said that the paper quit endorsing presidential candidates in 2000, mainly because it had little influence on how people voted but pissed off (I’m paraphrasing here) a lot of people. He added that the Trib only endorses in races where reporters and editors can interview the candidates.)

by jhwygirl

Blacksmith Brewing is coming to Stevensville, locating itself over on the east side of town near the Cenex.

From what I’m told, they hope to open by the end of the month.

Neighbors near and far – that would include me too – are very excited.

They’ve got some nice pics of their progress up on their website.

Put a menu up Blacksmith! We need to know more!

Maybe they can talk a local farmer down there into growing some hops, and Montana will have it’s first grown-brewed-and-served in Montana beer. Providing, of course, they use some Montana barley too.

by jhwygirl

Now we have to contend with the USFS approving ’em on the National Forest.


Oh, and a real sense of irony, it’s Ravalli County that’s gonna use it.

by Jay Stevens

Keila Szpaller of the Missoulian related the recent meeting of the city’s Transportation Policy Coordinating committee, which mulled congestion on Highway 93, from Missoula to Florence.

The committee, which looks at transportation in a regional context, heard an update on a state study of U.S. Highway 93 from Florence to Missoula. The problem is congestion. Drivers run into traffic hiccups around Lolo, and they meet full-fledged jams north of Lolo and on the south side of Missoula, said an HKM Engineering consultant.

But consultant Darryl James said some of people’s favorite fixes, such as a train, cost the most money – and they don’t yield high results. Neither do some other options, such as a carpool lane.

Now I don’t commute daily on 93, so I probably haven’t seen the traffic at its worst, but I don’t see any advantage to a carpool lane. Since the added lanes were built, there hasn’t been much traffic slow-up.

The real problem, IMHO, is figuring out a way to get people out of their cars and into transit options. I think James is right that – right now – light rail may be too much expense for too little yield. But oil isn’t going to stay at $100 a barrel…it’s going to be more expensive. And you can bet your sweet *ss there will eventually be some sort of tax on carbon emissions, too. And the Bitterroot is growing – fast. We need to come up with a solution that will reliably and relatively inexpensively transport people from the Bitterroot to Missoula, now and into the future.

(Stacy Rye on discounting rail: “Cost comparisons were not available, but Rye said she did not want to just pay ‘lip service’ to rail. ‘I think it is a viable alternative,’ said Rye.”)

So…what say you, faithful b’birders? Rail, or not to rail?

by Rebecca Schmitz

If you want to know why I will never vote for a Republican, or why I loathe the Religious Right, you don’t need to look any farther than this:

The Rev. Harris Himes, pastor of Big Sky Christian Center in Hamilton, said this election was an important one for Christians. Since Republicans support the sanctity of life and marriage and “recognizing that any Democrat is entirely against those principles, there’s no way any Christian can sit out this election,” Himes said. By not supporting Republicans in the election, “you will do something absolutely that God abhors,” he said.

Pardon my French, but how has this asshat been able to keep his tax-exempt status for so long? Does anyone want to start taking a drive down the Bitterroot on Sunday mornings with me to document Himes’ political activity within the walls of the Big Sky Christian Republican Center?

Maybe we could pick up some brioche and coffee from Le Petit on the way.  Lord knows I’ll need the calming influence of delicious pastry just to sit through the sermon.

by jhwygirl

A friend forwards me the nearly-daily updates from the Ravalli County Planning Department, headed up by Karen Hughes, a former planner with the Missoula County Office of Planning and Grants. They are seemingly (no, actually, as I hear it) working overtime to provide the public with as much information as possible with regards to the variety of projects they are working on down there….and not just information in the sense of seeking public involvement in the regulatory process, but education in the sense that they are bringing in experts in various fields – law, land use, water – to explain the underlying issues that the public brings up along the way.

Coming up tomorrow night, a Groundwater Forum is being held at 7 p.m. in the Hamilton City Hall. The form is free and open to the public. This link provides more information along with a list of speakers.

The issue of groundwater availability comes up repeatedly with subdivision development. To shed some light on the issue, the Ravalli Planning Department has arranged for several groundwater availability experts and agency representative to conduct presentations and answer questions.

Upcoming, the Bitterroot Water Forum is sponsoring a panel discussion on water quality data in the Bitterroot watershed on January 29th at 7 p.m. at the Victor High School multi-purpose room.

Since Missoula is also part of the Bitteroot watershed, I thought these might be of interest to some.

Back in December, in an effort to educate the public and dispel the cries of “takings” with regards to the impending streamside setbacks they, too, are working on, the Ravalli Planning Department held a forum with Michelle Bryan Mudd, director for the Land Use Clinic at the University of Montana School of Law.

That event was extremely well attended, and my friend down there (who supports both the county-wide zoning project and the streamside setback committee’s work) tells me that the public found the presentation very informing, and naysayers to streamside setbacks and zoning left with a sense of understanding the breadth of regulatory authority available to local authorities – and it went a long way in encouraging people to work with the process, rather than obstruct it.

When faced with a “Just say no” public, it appears that doing some background education can go a long way. Time will tell, ultimately, I guess.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Jhwygirl has written extensively and persuasively about the need for county-wide zoning in Montana. Yet another reason is emerging from the Fire Suppression Interim Committee meetings. The Committee, created by the 2007 Legislature, seems to have come to two conclusions already. First, Montana’s taxpayers, urban and rural, are forking over millions and millions of dollars for wildfire suppression. Pretty damn obvious, huh? Well, the second is a little more controversial. The bill for fighting wildfires will rise steadily every year unless something sensible and far-reaching is done now to curb the main reason for the rising costs: more and more homes being built in the wildland-urban interface. That something was mentioned just this past week in Billings. Committee members and the public actually said the dreaded “z” word.

Local governments have three ways of potentially guiding growth in wooded areas, according to documents submitted by Harold Blattie, executive director of the Montana Association of Counties. Regulations for subdivisions give some control over how growth occurs. Zoning is another option …Zoning is a “nonstarter,” said Mary Sexton, director of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which oversees state firefighting. In almost all counties, it’s very difficult for commissioners to impose county-wide zoning.

Despite Sexton’s pessimism, and the potential for immediate pain to property owners in these vulnerable areas, it seems like the Montana Association of Counties and those with experience managing our state’s wildlands think zoning is a good idea:

Blattie and his group proposed a law just for fire-prone areas that would be similar to the way governments control building in floodplains. His idea is to allow local governments to identify the “wildland-urban interface” and formulate rules for building in the area. Counties would be able to enforce the rules. State Forester Bob Harrington said he would like to see some kind of enforceable regulation, not just recommendations to homeowners.

Predictably, one group was there to make sure zoning would be, in Sexton’s words, a “nonstarter”. Yes, it was that guardian of sensible responsible controlled rampant development, the Montana Association of Realtors:

Glenn Oppel, government affairs director for the Montana Association of Realtors, said his group favored a plan in which the state wouldn’t enforce building practices, only make recommendations. Oppel also questioned whether homes were driving up firefighting costs.

Frankly, having a Realtor testify before a committee honestly investigating the rising costs of wildfire suppression is like a member of NAMBLA speaking before a conference on the international sex trafficking of children. Sure, technically you could say they’re one of the stakeholders in the discussion but, like Realtors, only so far as they’re interested in relaxing laws and regulations.

I’m sure as the Fire Suppression Interim Committee moves across the state picking up testimony from firefighters, elected officials, foresters, concerned members of the public, and those, like Glenn Oppel, who simply want to represent their industry’s own narrow interests in the process, they’ll gather a lot of interesting and creative solutions to our state’s growing problem with the costs and dangers of wildland firefighting.  Most likely the Committee, and the rest of us, can look forward to the Montana Association of Realtors’ solution. Perhaps it will be something similar to the Bitterroot Board of Realtors’ plan for dealing with streamside setbacks in Ravalli County: a bewildering “gift” of proposed wildland buffer zones that will inevitably force Montana’s taxpayers to pay the ever-increasing bill for both wildfire suppression and their industry’s profits.

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