Posts Tagged ‘Missoula’

by William Skink

Of all the characters—and they are to a great extent just that—in Krakauer’s recounting of rape and the justice system in Missoula, Kirsten Pabst is perhaps best positioned to set the tone for how Missoula can move forward. For now she’s the subject of Missoulian cluster reporting, some of it very generous. So she’s got that going for her. And the support of Griz Nation doesn’t hurt.

What will hurt, though, is refusing to genuinely account for well-documented mistakes, opting instead for a media counter-offensive.

One of the initial local reactions worth reading comes from Dan Brooks. Read his whole post here. I like this part:

The book focuses on a half dozen rape allegations in Missoula between 2009 and 2012. Krakauer presents these narratives from the victims’ perspectives, beginning with their own accounts of the alleged assaults. These in-person interviews with traumatized young women—many of whom feel ill-served by the criminal justice system—could easily reflect bias against local police and prosecutors. There is room to tell a misleading story there. But once these victims make contact with police and courts, Krakauer draws most of his narrative from official transcripts.

These transcripts make a lot of people look bad. Detectives keep asking women with rape complaints if they have boyfriends, observing that lots of times, women cheat on their boyfriends and then call it rape later. From a cop’s perspective, this is a statement of experience, a commiseration about how hard it is to do police work. Of course, to the victim—and to the reader—it sounds like an accusation.

The inappropriate questions from detectives, IMO, stems from the Missoula County Attorneys Office. The refusal to prosecute cases that appear to have enough evidence to make a case trickles down to the detectives. They are the ones gathering evidence, recommending prosecution, then, when MCAO doesn’t prosecute, it’s the detectives who have to inform the victims their case is closed and the rapist will walk free.

In the telling of these stories, one detective plays a very supportive role for one of the survivors: Detective Guy Baker. His advocacy is one of the bright spots in an otherwise bleak landscape. For the most part, Missoula detectives have been doing their jobs. It’s not their role to prosecute the cases they investigate.

If Pabst wants to move her office forward, she should pay close attention to chapter 10. It’s at this point Krakauer uses the “Boston expert” David Lisak to examine some data pointing to the impact of serial rapists:

It’s been estimated that approximately 85 percent of all rapes are in fact committed by assailants who are acquainted in some way with their victims, and that only a small percentage of these “non-stranger rapes” result in teh successful prosecution of the rapist. So Lisak devised a study that would provide insights into offenders who’d managed to avoid both punishment and scrutiny—a population that accounted for the overwhelming majority of rapists. Specifically, he designed his study to reveal whether these “undetected rapists,” like their incarcerated counterparts, showed a propensity to rape more than once and whether they were likely to commit other types of interpersonal violence. The study, titled “Repeat Rape and Multiple Offending Among Undetected Rapists,” co-authored by Paul M. Miller and published in 2002, added significantly to the understanding of men who rape.

Lisak and Miller examined a random sample of 1,882 men, all of whom were students at the University of Massachusetts Boston between 1991 and 1998. Their average age was twenty-four. Of theses 1,882 students, 120 individuals—6.4 percent of the sample—were identified as rapists, which wasn’t a surprising proportion. But 76 of the 120—63 percent of the undetected student rapists, amounting to 4 percent of the overall sample—turned out to be repeat offenders who were collectively responsible for at least 439 rapes, an average of nearly 6 assaults per rapist. A very small number of men in the population, in other words, had raped a great many women with utter impunity. Lisak’s study also revealed something equally disturbing: These same 76 individuals were also responsible for 49 sexual assaults that didn’t rise to the level of rape, 277 acts of sexual abuse against children, 66 acts of physical abuse against children, and 214 acts of battery against intimate partners. This relative handful of male students, as Lisak put it, “had each, on average, left 14 victims in their wake…And the number of assaults was almost certainly underreported.”

The college environment is like a playground for serial rapists, also known as sexual predators. The grooming of potential victims can happen easily, especially once the alcohol starts flowing. Instead of wondering, and then asking, if a rape victim has a boyfriend, detectives should wonder if an alleged rape, when it’s reported, is the act of a serial rapist.

And if you want a peek inside the disturbing mind of a serial rapist, Krakaur excerpts the following from Lisak’s work:

The segment, which I’ve abridged below, begins with “Frank” telling Lisak, “We have parties every weekend.” He goes on:

That’s what my fraternity was known for. We’d invite a bunch of girls, lay out a bunch of kegs or whatever we were drinking that night. And everyone would just get plastered….We’d be on the lookout for the good-looking girls, especially the freshmen, the really young ones. They were the easiest. It’s like they didn’t know the ropes,…like they were easy prey. And they wouldn’t know anything about drinking, or how much alcohol they could handle. SO, you know, they wouldn’t know anything about our techniques….

We’d invite them to the party,…make it seem like it was a real honor. Like we didn’t just invite any girl. Which, I guess, in a way is true….Then we’d get them drinking right away. We’d have all those kegs. But we always had some kind of punch, also….We’d make it with a real sweet juice and just pour in all kinds of alcohol….The girls wouldn’t know what hit them. They’d be guzzling it, you know, because they were freshmen, kind of nervous….The naive ones were the easiest. And they’d be the ones we’d target….

We’d all be scouting for targets during the week….We’d pick ’em out, and work ’em over during the week, and then get ’em all psyched up to come to one of our famous parties….You basically had to have an instinct for it….I had this girls staked out. I’d picked her out in one of my classes….I was watching for her,…and the minute she walked into the door of the party, I was on her….We started drinking together, and I could tell she was nervous…because she was drinking that stuff so fast….

It was some kind of punch we’d made. You know, the usual thing….She started to get plastered in just a few minutes….so I started making my moves on her. I kind of leaned in close,…got my arm around her, and then at the right moment I kissed her….The usual kind of stuff….And after a while I asked her if she wanted to go up to my room, you know, get away from the noise, and she came right away. Actually it wasn’t my room….We always had several rooms designated before the party…that were all prepped for this…

She was really woozy by this time. So I brought up another drink, you know, and sat her down on one of the beds, sat down next to her, and pretty soon I just made my move. I don’t remember exactly what I did first. I probably, you know, leaned her down on the bed, started working on her clothes, feeling her up….I started working her blouse off.

At some point she started saying things like….’I don’t want to do this right away,’ or something like that. I just kept working on her clothes,…and she started squirming. But that actually helped, because her blouse came off easier. And i kind of leaned on her, kept feeling her up to get her more into it. She tried to push me off, so I pushed her back down….

It pissed me off that she played along the whole way and then decided to squirm out of it like that at the end. I mean, she was so plastered that she probably didn’t know what was going on, anyway. I don’t know, maybe that’s why she started pushing on me. But, you know, I just kept leaning on her, pulling off her clothes, and at some point she stopped squirming. I don’t know, maybe she passed out. Her eyes were closed.

Lisak asked Frank, “What happened?”

“I fucked her,” Frank answered.

“Did you have to lean on her or hold her down when you did it?”

“Yeah, I had my arm across her chest like this, you know, that’s how I did it.” As he spoke, Frank demonstrated how he placed his forearm against the victim’s sternum, near the base of her neck, and leaned on it to hold her down.

“Was she squirming?” Lisak inquired.

“Yeah, she was squirming,” Frank said, “but not as much anymore.”

“What happened afterwards?”

“I got dressed and went back to the party.”

“What did she do?” Lisak asked.

“She left,” Frank answered.

Lisak’s interview with Frank was typical of the interviews he did with other rapists. In a part of the interview not included above, Lisak told me, Frank “actually described two other rapes he did, under almost exactly the same circumstances, except the two other victims were unconscious from alcohol at the time. And Frank had no idea that what he was describing to me were acts of rape.”

Frank is a predator, and the Franks on campuses across the nation will rape, over and over, with impunity, unless they are stopped.

by lizard

Community Medical Center had a 75 million dollar choice to make. Seeing as how this money came from the sale of a non-profit hospital, lots of people had lots of hope that this money could be used to positively impact our community. But instead of engaging the public, the CMC board has essentially spit in the face of Missoula by dumping 10 million on the UM foundation and taking the rest to create another non-profit, because that is what Missoula needs, another non-profit. Dave Woolhiser, a founding board member of the Missoula Community Foundation, wrote a letter about this decision and I’m going to repost it here because Dave says what needs to be said:

As an alumnus of the University of Montana who, through charitable giving and volunteerism, supports much within the Missoula community and across Montana, I am offended by the recent decision of the Community Medical Center’s board.

The board has reached an agreement with Billings Clinic and RegionalCare Hospital Partners to sell Community, a non-profit, community-focused hospital, to become a for-profit entity. No dissatisfaction there. I think they did their homework and can justify their decision intelligently.

My dissatisfaction lies with the board’s decision, after an inadequate and unsatisfactory amount of due diligence regarding the disposition of approximately $75 million of charitable assets from the sale — “our” money. The board has decided to give over $10 million to the University of Montana Foundation and use the remainder to create yet another nonprofit organization in Missoula. The process used by the board, lack of concern for the community’s benefit and ultimate decision are three areas of great concern.

To my knowledge, the board did not undergo any sort of rigorous review of existing organizations with which to partner, nor did they conduct any sort of meaningful public discussion regarding this matter. They did host a few meetings, yet those were not community engagement sessions. Community administration was unwilling to share any meaningful information about disposition of the funds with attendees of the sessions I attended. In fact, in one of them we were directly told the process would remain closed “out of respect to the CMC board”!

Transparency and community focus should have been paramount in this situation. It appears to me that the decision has been clouded by board members’ personal agendas rather than meeting the public good. This is evidenced by many members’ inability to check their personal interests, and in some cases employment relationships, at the door when making this decision. Those relationships weren’t disclosed in CMC’s conflict of interest documents.

In a letter from the attorney for Community to the Attorney General, he states that various partnership options were reviewed. I take great exception to this statement. Two highly qualified organizations were invited to make 30-minute presentations to the CMC board about partnership options. Thirty minutes for a $75 million decision – really? It is clear that the board was going through this step merely to check another box in hopes this would satisfy the AG. The organizations’ presentation times were then reduced to approximately 20 minutes each.

While UM is a solid education institution, depositing $10 million in its Foundation does not meet the cy pres requirement of providing funds that most closely serve the charitable purpose of Community. CMC was built through community support and community generosity. Funds from the CMC sale should be used for charitable purposes within the Missoula/western Montana community for the benefit of all its members. The future board tasked with making grants from the sale proceeds should be the entity making the decision as to which charities receive grants.

I am also disappointed that the CMC board voted to create another nonprofit organization. A new organizational structure creates yet more unnecessary administrative structures and cost centers which could be much more efficiently managed by partnering with an existing organization. Two organizations worthy of consideration are the Montana Healthcare Foundation and the Montana Community Foundation. They happen to be the two organizations the board gave 20 minutes each.

Finally, I have contributed to both UM and Community and a multitude of other charitable efforts in Missoula. When I gave to the hospital it was for health care. When I gave to UM it was for education. If I wanted my donation to the hospital to go to the university, I would have given to the university, and vice versa. That the board would not honor charitable intent is simply dishonorable.

As for the UM’s part in this deal, I feel they are absconding with funds that rightly belong to the poverty-stricken, the aged, the infirm, even the unborn of not just Missoula, but our entire region. UM’s acceptance of such a gift is unconscionable. To solicit and accept gifts from the willing rich is one thing, to take it from the unwitting and ignorant poor is quite another. Shame on you.

This money could have been a game changer. How about looking at the mental health issues and addiction issues we waste millions of dollars triaging in the ER and jail? Nope. I hope there will be some investigative journalism examining the process of how the CMC board produced this unfortunate outcome.

by lizard

In yesterday’s post, JC pulls back the lens on Ferguson to examine the implications of an unchecked police state. Excerpted in that post is a piece by John Whitehead, writing for the Rutherford Institute. I finally got a chance to read the whole article and one of the things that jumped out was the massive expenditure of resources to catch the cop killer in Pennsylvania:

Just a few weeks after the Ferguson showdown, law enforcement agencies took part in an $11 million manhunt in Pennsylvania for alleged cop killer Eric Frein. Without batting an eye, the news media switched from outraged “shock” over the military arsenal employed by police in Ferguson to respectful “awe” of the 48-day operation that cost taxpayers $1.4 million per week in order to carry out a round-the-clock dragnet search of an area with a 5-mile-radius.

The Frein operation brought together 1,000 officers from local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as SWAT teams and cutting edge military equipment (high-powered rifles, body armor, infrared sensors, armored trucks, helicopters and unmanned, silent surveillance blimps)—some of the very same weapons and tactics employed in Ferguson and, a year earlier, in Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing.

The manhunt was a well-timed, perfectly choreographed exercise in why Americans should welcome the police state: for our safety, of course, and to save the lives of police officers.

Opposed to any attempt to demilitarize America’s police forces, the Dept. of Homeland Security has been chanting this safety mantra in testimony before Congress: Remember 9/11. Remember Boston. Remember how unsafe the world was before police were equipped with automatic weapons, heavily armored trucks, night-vision goggles, and aircraft donated by the DHS.

Contrary to DHS rhetoric, however, militarized police—twitchy over perceived dangers, hyped up on their authority, and protected by their agencies, the legislatures and the courts—have actually made communities less safe at a time when violent crime is at an all-time low and lumberjacks, fishermen, airline pilots, roofers, construction workers, trash collectors, electricians and truck drivers all have a higher risk of on-the-job fatalities than police officers.

In the comments JC reminded our readers of what a militarized police response looks like in Missoula. If you didn’t watch it, you should:

It was the summer of 2000, the month I actually moved to Missoula with my fiancé. I remember wondering why there was such a heavy police presence in a college mountain town. Sure, the Hells Angels were visiting, but did that really warrant out-of-state police officers patrolling Missoula streets?

It seems to me, looking back, that the show of force by the Missoula Police Department antagonized enough people into demonstrating. If you watch the video, you will see what abuses of police authority look like.

And if you go to 18:33 in the video you will hear Pete Lawrence, Missoula’s Chief of police at the time, say something that should be disturbing to any citizen. In describing the decision to let crowds disperse Saturday night after the bars closed, Chief Lawrence states that “we backed off, pulled our troops out of the Front Street area…” (my emphasis)

Remember, this is 2000, a full year before the 9/11 attacks provided the perfect excuse to greatly expand the police state.

Getting back to Ferguson, JC was quick to point out the perversion of the grand jury process in this case. Chris Lehmann, writing for Al Jazeera America, also takes a crack at this angle in an article titled A deafening liberal silence on Ferguson. From the link:

It speaks volumes about the anorexic state of liberal moral reasoning in today’s America that it has met the failure of a grand jury to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the Aug. 9 killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown with little more than a procedural shrug. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the system has worked, liberals intone.

This should not come as any great surprise. Liberalism, in its current technocratic guise, doesn’t possess any strong moral vocabulary for describing — let alone condemning — procedural abuses, for the simple reason that its most ardent apostles don’t imagine them occurring. Hence our first African-American president — a classic managerial liberal whose bona fides were minted in the academy’s most hallowed cathedral of neoliberalism, the University of Chicago Law School — greeted the outrage of Wilson’s non-indictment with the bland assurance that our impersonal institutions of justice were all in fundamental working order.

“First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law,” President Barack Obama said in his address to the nation following the Nov. 24 grand jury decision. Never mind that the legal proceedings in question had forestalled the most basic protections that safeguard such rule — the opportunity to mount a public inquiry into a police officer’s grave trespass against a private citizen. Instead it produced something of a parody of due process, via a highly irregular grand-jury proceeding relying mainly on the contradictory and implausible testimony of the would-be defendant.

Nevertheless, the president pressed on with his alternate-universe version of events. “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he announced — even though no one protesting was challenging the panel’s formal authority, any more than abolitionists or civil-rights activists had denied that the Supreme Court’s rulings in Dred Scott v. Sanford or Plessy v. Ferguson were the law of the land. What was in question, rather, was the actions of the grand jury, after its members had been prodded by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch, a notoriously cop-friendly DA, to contort the basic purpose of a grand-jury hearing out of all recognition. Grand juries are not empowered to settle the momentous question of guilt or innocence, or finer-grained matters of motive, opportunity and state of mind. They’re only charged with establishing probably cause for a trial to proceed — to indict, rather than to exonerate or convict, a prospective criminal defendant.

This was the howling, first-order procedural abuse that permitted all the other, kindred trespasses of this inquiry to disfigure the routine operations of the legal system in the killing of Michael Brown. Since they’re formal path-clearing inquiries, grand juries typically don’t hear the testimony of more than a handful of witnesses. McCulloch, by contrast, called 60 witnesses, who testified for more than 70 hours. Wilson alone testified without cross-examination for four hours — an unheard-of span of time for a prospective defendant, even in a police murder inquiry. Likewise, grand-jury proceedings in any criminal case rarely go beyond a day or two — but McCulloch kept this body empaneled for more than 100 days.

The article goes on and is worth reading in full.

So where do we go from here? Considering there are differing opinions on what the core issues even are, that’s a difficult question to begin answering. Is institutional racism the main problem or is it the police state? Is reforming the system possible, and if so, by what means? Direct action? The ballot box?

Personally, I swing back and forth. I participate in the daily grind within the system, trying to make positive impacts wherever possible. And I have seen that there are possibilities. I know there are good members of law enforcement who do protect and serve our community. Change is slow and tedious, but it is possible.

But then there’s my cynical side, fueled by how politics distorts and destroys the potential for change.

Money in politics is one of those core issues that, if not addressed, will ensure the debilitating status quo is maintained. On that front, it was incredibly disappointing to read about Governor Bullock’s intention to chair the DGA:

Gov. Steve Bullock this week acknowledged his interest in serving in the top post at the Democratic Governors Association.

Politico reported Wednesday that Bullock, who in December 2013 was chosen to chair the group’s major donor program, is poised to succeed Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin in the organization’s top spot.

“Gov. Bullock is a Democratic governor who knows how to balance a budget, keep money in the bank for a rainy day and prioritize public schools,” Bullock’s spokesman, Dave Parker, said in a statement. “Folks have noticed what Gov. Bullock is doing out here and some of his colleagues have encouraged him to consider running. He’s doing that.”

The group convenes in Los Angeles on Dec. 8-9 for its annual meeting and holiday party, at which Bullock is expected to be picked as the next DGA chair.

If elected, Bullock would head an organization that primarily exists to elect Democratic governors, and does so by raising millions of dollars from corporate donors.

The DGA is a 527 tax-exempt political organization that can solicit corporate contributions in any amount.

In 2012, the DGA raised more than $50 million, much of that coming from unions, drug makers, insurance companies, energy companies and other corporate sources. That year, the DGA gave over $2.8 million to Montana Jobs, Education and Technology PAC, a political action committee that worked to get Bullock elected.

If Bullock is picked to be the next DGA chair, that will mean both our Governor and one of our Senators (Tester) will be dedicating a significant amount of their time in public office fundraising. Somehow I don’t think the interests of Montanans will be a top priority as Governor Bullock and Senator Tester involve themselves in corporate panhandling.

I guess that means it’s up to us. Unfortunately that notion reinforces my cynicism.

by lizard

I may be a critic of the police state mentality that keeps creeping into our domestic psyche, and wonder why small towns need armored vehicles with .50 caliber guns, but that doesn’t mean I think law enforcement is not a needed component of our social organization.

While most people get to take a break from their routine, police and other first responders are on the clock, responding to the messiness that can ensue when people are in forced proximity to family and intoxicants. For that, I am thankful.

But talk is cheap. Missoula’s population and infrastructure continue to grow, which means more people to police. As demands on local law enforcement increase, Missoulians need to be aware that we get the services we pay for. If we want well-trained officers with the skills to de-escalate situations and therefore be effective protectors of the peace, then we need to pay for it.

Instead of allocating more resources to law enforcement, Missoula wants to pay tens of millions of dollars for soft ball fields with no plan for how to pay for long-term maintenance. And while any voter had the ability to vote for the Parks and Trails Bond that passed earlier this month, it’s property owners that will be forking out the loot.

This recent letter to the editor makes the case for why the passing the Bond was a mistake:

It stinks that the Parks and Trails bond passed, not because money for parks and trails is bad, and not because money for softball and soccer fields is bad. It stinks because of how it was done and what it will do.

The rider (see dirty, underhanded congressional trick) titled Parks and Trails should have been a separate bond called the Fort Missoula Complex Bond. The audacity to call it something that many people would vote for without researching is backdoor political maneuvering that has no place in Missoula. Those responsible and the organizations involved should be embarrassed.

It stinks that every registered voter got to vote for it but only homeowners have to pay for it. That shouldn’t be legal. The folks that use those fields should have bake sales and car washes to pay for their hobbies; that’s what honest, hard-working people do. They don’t slap a fake label on to get someone else to pay for it.

What are we paying for: the renovation of a beautiful, natural feeling park; removal of four functional softball fields to be replaced by five, addition of ugly, costly concrete and cinderblock structures, re-arrangement of other fields, addition of a turf field, and a bunch of lights. I guess we trust the price to be good (though it’s an outdated bid) and the plan well-thought out and fiscally smart (even though it doesn’t include maintenance/operating costs). It certainly isn’t apparent when you walk the existing complex and see the design posted. The fields are also only usable only six months a year.

Parks and Trails was a deceiving $34 million bond to build a high maintenance complex for a portion of the community that will lure more tourists to a city with growing crime, traffic and housing epidemics.

Tim Zalinger,

Missoula gentrifies downtown then expects law enforcement to follow around alcoholics and ticket them for panhandling so that shoppers aren’t put off by the visibility of addiction, poverty and mental illness. We fill the jails then the jail gets sued when people die from alcohol withdrawal. Some businesses sell single cans of gut-rotting malt liquor then complain when police can’t make the resulting public intoxication disappear.

It’s easy to point fingers when police abuse their authority. We see disturbing instances all across the nation, increasingly caught on camera, of police doing terrible things, with too often lethal results. Unfortunately the need for policing isn’t just going to go away tomorrow. The hard work is moving beyond the blame game and working collaboratively to improve the conditions on the ground.

To all the amazing people doing this work without recognition, thank you.

by lizard

The Missoula County Detention Facility is a jail. It is not a psychiatric unit or a detox center. The staff are not nurses, nor are they mental health professionals.

It would be easy to just point the finger of blame at the detention center staff responsible (or at Sheriff Ibsen, for that matter) for not following protocol in the death of Heather Wasson, a 31 year old woman who died from a seizure brought on by alcohol withdrawal. As a civil matter, the court has done just that:

Missoula County must pay $565,500 in damages to the family of a woman who died of a seizure in the county jail in 2009.

The Missoulian reported ( ) Wednesday a district court jury ruled county officials were mostly responsible for the death of 31-year-old Heather Holly Wasson, who died of an alcohol withdrawal seizure about 36 hours after she was jailed.

Instead, this Missoulian follow-up article—No changes at Missoula County jail, despite inmate’s 2009 death—features a quote worth repeating from Barbara Rodderick, the Missoula jail’s assistant commander:

“The thing the jail was guilty of was being overworked and under-staffed,” Roderick said. “From a taxpayer standpoint, why can’t they look at the whole picture? These are great officers here, but … we are not a hospital. We need a detox center.”

“(Inmates) need to be completely detoxed before coming to the jail,” she added.

Your average Missoula taxpayer can’t see the whole picture because there are multiple system overloads that can’t be explicitly described. The crisis at the jail is just one of them. If you have friends or family who work at St. Pats ER, or Providence, or first responders of any kind, they will tell you about what alcohol and other forms of substance abuse are doing. Warms Springs, the state hospital, is busting at the seams.

I don’t know why there aren’t more stories about what’s going on in some of these places. I guess our local paper needs the space for stuff like this op-ed asking for a second police officer downtown:

Could it be that Missoula has at last made progress in its efforts to crack down on problems downtown?

If the figures shared at last week’s Downtown Business Improvement District’s board of directors meeting are any indication, yes. And now that Missoula has hit upon a response that gets results, we should commit more resources to strengthening it. In fact, we should double it – by adding a second patrol officer dedicated specifically to the downtown area.

The single officer doing this work right now, the Downtown BID learned last week, has issued nearly 700 citations and warnings this year, and made exactly 63 arrests through September. The offenses ranged from eight incidents of public urination to seven acts of aggressive panhandling.

Of course, any regular visitor to the downtown area can tell you that these kinds of problems haven’t been eliminated completely. However, it’s become clear that having an officer assigned just to downtown, in conjunction with other programs, has certainly helped.

Maybe the optics have improved downtown, but the crisis has not.

But hey, what about that 42 million dollar parks bond on the ballot? Yeah parks! And Missoula hasn’t quite found the right number of locally brewed beer flowing in taprooms, so throw in another one downtown. Yeah beer!

Going back to the Missoulian editorial, I found this part curious:

Missoula Police Chief Mike Brady told the board of directors of the Downtown BID that a lot of ongoing problems seem to be linked to the sale of tall cans of alcohol. In response, the board is looking at whether to partner with downtown businesses to restrict their sale.

That’s probably not an especially beneficial approach. We’re willing to bet that the vast majority of consumers who buy these tall cans are law-abiding, and not planning to consume their beverage downtown in any case. Restricting the sale of these particular items would probably just discourage consumers from shopping downtown while doing little to curb the problems caused by alcohol intoxication downtown.

Definitely important to protect the ability of people to buy 24 ounce cans of cheap malt liquor. Some of the stores that sell these fine products start as early as 8am.

I’m up late writing this post because I was awoken to screams and shouts outside my home tonight. I looked out my window and saw a street brawl brewing, at least 20 people in the street and more on sidewalks. I live on a quiet street that has been much less quiet since members of a certain football team moved in nearby.

I wonder how many people drove away drunk once the cops inevitably showed up. Hopefully no one gets killed tonight.

Or raped.

by lizard

The Missoulian has an article today about a state department program UM’s Mansfield Center has been awarded the past few years. Here’s the description:

Meier, with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has measured the University of Montana’s part in hosting the agency’s Professional Fellows Program, and he likes what he’s seen.

“We just awarded a new project next year for UM,” Meier said. “This particular project is focused on five Southeast Asian countries and is part of a broader initiative to boost U.S. engagement in Asia. We anticipate even greater numbers moving forward.”

The Mansfield Center at UM has been awarded the exchange program for each of the past several years. More than 75 professional fellows from five Asian nations have passed through Missoula to explore the state while growing their understanding of U.S. culture.

Whether their stay places them in the office of a local nonprofit, a government agency or a small business, the goal remains the same: to make them stronger leaders and improve the world through person-to-person contact.

“They get a chance to build the skills they can use at home, but also observe American practices and American daily life,” said Meier. “We want someone with a track record that has demonstrated initiative and leadership through the work they’ve done.”

So, the Mansfield Center is helping the Obama regime pivot to Asia by inviting “professional fellows” to absorb U.S. culture. What aspects of our culture will they explore first? Allow me, dear fellows, to make some suggestions.

Downtown Missoula is a wonderful place to drink alcohol to excess. Start downtown on a Friday night, but beware of a few things. Places like the Bodega and Stockman’s feature a subculture known by the slang term “bros“. Here is how the urban dictionary defines this subculture:

Obnoxious partying males who are often seen at college parties. When they aren’t making an ass of themselves they usually just stand around holding a red plastic cup waiting for something exciting to happen so they can scream something that demonstrates how much they enjoy partying. Nearly everyone in a fraternity is a bro but there are also many bros who are not in a fraternity. They often wear a rugby shirt and a baseball cap. It is not uncommon for them to have spiked hair with frosted tips.

If you are a female Asian fellow, it’s important to be aware that this subculture has aggressive mating rituals that relies on alcohol (and sometimes drugs) to prepare their victims mates for non-consensual sex, commonly referred to as “rape”. If you happen to become a target of one of these animals, your options for legal recourse may be lacking. Why? Because it’s your fault, as a woman, for doing things like wearing clothes that don’t totally obscure your female form, or making eye contact, or engaging in casual conversation. If you’ve had any alcohol to drink, then you definitely asked for it. So be careful, this is rape culture.

While you’re out and about trying to avoid getting raped by bros, another subculture may pique your interest: transients. Despite being an inaccurate term to describe chronically homeless individuals (don’t tell the Missoulian) these people are seen as threats to businesses downtown, even the bars who get bros drunk and rapey lament that their patrons are harassed by these societal outcasts. Instead of acknowledging the extreme lack of treatment options and the national joke that is our health care system, our city leaders passed (then reconsidered after threats of a lawsuit by the ACLU) ordinances banning sitting on sidewalks.

Creating criminals is something America is really good at. This is prison culture, and one area where America truly is exceptional:

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world—more even than China or Russia. In fact, more people are in prisons in the United States than in all other developed countries combined. Professor Daniel J. D’Amico explains that as of 2010 over 1.6 million people were serving jail sentences in America.

Let’s say you make it through a Friday night without getting raped and/or giving all your money to panhandling transients. If it’s late spring, summer, or early fall, then you can experience Missoula’s various markets, where all kinds of locally grown/harvested food and locally made crafts can be purchased. Breath in the mingling aromas and watch hipsters mingle with aging hippies while kids run around having a blast.

Food and drink are at the heart of any culture, so what better way to learn about America? But don’t be mistaken, the delicious local fare found at outdoor markets and stores like The Good Food Store are not inexpensive. If you’re poor in America, where austerity keeps nibbling away at programs like SNAP, you eat whatever you can get.

In America, when it comes to food, corporate culture seeks ever-increasing control of the food supply. Corporations like Monsanto have patented their genetically modified food products and spend millions to keep information about their products from making it onto labels so consumers know what they’re buying. Currently their efforts are focused on ballot measures in Colorado and Oregon.

In Missoula, the water we humans need to live is controlled by the Carlyle Group. The link is to wikipedia, so just surface level. What lurks beneath, though, is a rabbit hole of intrigue that segues into another subculture, conspiracy culture.

To wrap up this little foray into American subcultures, all you need to know about conspiracy culture is the people who entertain possibilities outside the mainstream herding of corporate media are easily marginalized through the use of the pejorative term, conspiracy theory. To avoid the mockery and ridicule that accompanies the deployment of the CT pejorative, simply avoid any topic that has been mentioned by Alex Jones.

Welcome to America!!!

by lizard

Rachel Maddow tonight reported on the bed capacity for Ebola treatment in America: nine. Of those nine beds, St. Pats in Missoula has one. Our bed count in Missoula could be increased to three, with more staff, reports Rachel Maddow.

I’m worried. The pressure to shutdown travel will increase, and shut down means accelerating the spread in Africa as people go to non-travel-banned countries to flee while slowing aid workers from going in. Because incredibly brave people are willing to do that and being reactionary now for midterm elections is absolutely reckless.

I’m also obviously worried that our national response puts Missoula at direct risk.

So what’s the plan here?

by lizard

Missoula is looking at the possibility of spending 12 million dollars to increase the holding capacity of our county jail.

Jason Kowalski, the Sheriff’s Captain who oversees the jail, and Fred Van Valkenburg, our worthless head of the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, have conflicting perceptions on the non-violent residents of the jail:

Sheriff’s Capt. Jason Kowalski explained that inmates with mental health and addiction issues are consistently placed in cells where they shouldn’t be housed, and maximum security is full all the time. He said one day in September, the jail was 15 women over the 45-bed limit.

“It’s stressing me out beyond belief,” Kowalski said.

In the past, Missoula County relied on other counties to house the overflow, but that’s not an option now. According to Kowalski and other jail officials, overcrowding conditions are the norm in every county in Montana, and at state facilities too. Montana’s jails are packed to the limit and simply too full to handle Missoula’s consistent overflow, they said.

But there’s also a question of nonviolent criminals getting jail time for minor crimes like a probation violation or driving on a suspended license. Kowalski said that’s a big problem, and both city and county courts are incarcerating petty criminals.

“Those cases are there where a transient has a $50 fine and can’t pay it,” Curtiss said.

Not so, said Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg.

“Ninety-eight percent of the people who are in jail are there because they need to be,” he said.

If people are going to jail for nonviolent, minor crimes, the city – not the county – is sending them there, he said.

While Jason is acknowledging the real scope of the problem, Fred the windbag is doing what he does best: avoiding any responsibility by pointing fingers. He is also acknowledging that 2% of the jail population doesn’t need to be there. I’m not sure where Fred gets his figures, but there are clearly people in jail who are there because they are poor, mentally ill, and/or addicts. And why are they there? Because of a failed approach of policing petty crimes called Broken Windows.

Broken Windows was first established in New York and received undue credit for a drop in crime rates. Broken Windows is also credited with creating the conditions possible for the gentrification of Times Square, and now Los Angeles wants a piece. In a Truth Out article titled Policing for Wealth, some familiar sounding aspirations are articulated by the business interests:

Downtown Los Angeles, once dilapidated and almost totally neglected by the city, has been gentrifying rapidly since the late 1990s, when the city passed an adaptive-reuse ordinance that encouraged developers to transform old buildings into lofts and boutique shops.

Developers are consciously following a precedent set by New York. “Right now, Downtown [Los Angeles] is like Brooklyn, but that’s going to change. This is going to be Manhattan,” said one prominent developer to GQ.

Leading the Manhattanization of Downtown is the area’s main business lobby, the Central City Association (CCA), which sees broken windows-style policing as an essential component of development – especially in “cleaning up” Skid Row, a gritty 50-square block area that is home to thousands of homeless people.

“Downtown’s continued revitalization requires consistent enforcement and prevention of low-level crimes that breed both negative perceptions and actual incidence of larger crimes,” reads a CCA manifesto called “Downtown 2020: Roadmap to LA’s Future.” It goes on to declare that the CCA will “lobby for . . . reinforcing the broken windows approach to policing.”

The Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) first full-scale implementation of broken windows policing happened in 2006, when Bill Bratton was serving as its police chief. That year, the CCA, in concert with another business lobby in the downtown area, the Central City East Association, successfully lobbied City Hall to send a 50-officer task force into Skid Row. According to reports, most apprehended under the campaign were taken in on drug charges and minor offenses like sitting on the sidewalk. The vast majority arrested were homeless people, many of whom suffered from drug addiction and mental illness.

While a subsequent lawsuit countered the overt police aggression, broken windows continued to guide the LAPD under Bratton until he left in 2009. The strategy’s ghost lives on under the reign of Bratton’s successor, current LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck.

Sound familiar Missoula?

So instead of funding treatment options, or looking at actual humane, cost-saving approaches, like housing first, some people want a bigger jail to absorb the costly consequences of broken windows policing. I say costly because the nightly rate to detain an individual is around $110 dollars.

So as some businesses downtown sell single cans of malt liquor to homeless people, then complain about public intoxication and aggressive panhandling, the cost of trying to insulate downtown from societal failures to address mental illness and addiction will continue ballooning.

Who is going to pay for all this?

by lizard

CNN poses a question: after the first Ebola diagnosis in the United States, should we worry?

An additional question for Missoulians could be added, considering St. Pats in Missoula is one of four places in the United States set up to handle a patient sickened by the Ebola virus:

There are four places in the United States set up to handle a patient sickened by the Ebola virus, and Missoula is one of those.

It has been since 2007, in fact.

St. Patrick Hospital administrators have no notice about when or if they will be asked to care for someone stricken with the disease that’s killed more than 3,000 people in Africa in 2014. But the hospital has a special wing of its intensive care unit with three rooms modified to safely handle infectious diseases like Ebola.

“We may never get a patient, but we may someday,” said Carol Bensen, St. Patrick’s senior director for critical care. “We want to help alleviate the rumor mill by making people aware of what we offer. We deal with tuberculosis patients fairly often and nobody expects a press release. We care for lots of different diseases here.”

The potential for panic in America is high, mostly because we are constantly fed fear-based reporting by our corporate media. Fear of ISIS is one explicit example of how our fears are manipulated and exploited.

Hundreds of thousands of people die every year from heart disease and diabetes, a direct result of the crap food peddled to us by the corporate food-industrial complex, but fear over those medical conditions aren’t stoked because there is money to be made.

I’m not afraid of Ebola. I’m afraid of how Ebola will be used. I’m also a bit worried by the fact Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years:

The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis. Creatures across land, rivers and the seas are being decimated as humans kill them for food in unsustainable numbers, while polluting or destroying their habitats, the research by scientists at WWF and the Zoological Society of London found.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live.” He said nature, which provides food and clean water and air, was essential for human wellbeing.

“We have lost one half of the animal population and knowing this is driven by human consumption, this is clearly a call to arms and we must act now,” said Mike Barratt, director of science and policy at WWF. He said more of the Earth must be protected from development and deforestation, while food and energy had to be produced sustainably.

Nope, not going to worry about that, right America? Instead the concern isn’t what we are doing to the planet, it’s about the Agenda 21 Communist plot lurking behind the measures necessary to keep our species from joining the ranks of the Dodo bird.

by lizard

I think reclaiming Missoula’s water system through condemnation proceedings is one of the more critical issues facing our fair town. I am in full support of Engen’s efforts to rectify a botched deal with that devious financial entity—the Carlyle Group—an entity no one should have trusted in the first place.

Shoulda/woulda/coulda won’t get us anywhere. Jason Wiener, for his vote of support for the initial deal, has apologized, which is never easy for a public official to do. Now, with the recent news Carlyle is doing what they previously argued they couldn’t/wouldn’t do—sell Mountain Water Co.—city officials have to navigate two fronts: the legal battle and the PR battle.

The noise on this issue seems squarely focused on Engen and the tyrannical municipality he presides over, not Carlyle’s deceitful behavior.

Carlyle, if readers haven’t noticed, appears to be simply fucking with Missoula. They possess such deep pockets they can probably bleed the legal process to send at least 2 1/2 kids through college for every lawyer involved.

Engen probably won’t survive this, politically speaking. Couple the untold cost of litigation with that story floating around about the Mayor getting a pay raise when he said he wouldn’t and it’s hard to see any larger political future on Engen’s horizon.

All that said, Missoula needs to own our water system. I don’t think I’m overstating the importance of this issue when I say our future depends on it.

by lizard

We, the public, invest our money in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s compulsory, like taxes, and sometimes it’s voluntary, like donations to a worthy cause.

Over 30 years ago Missoulians supported the creation of a not-for-profit hospital, Community Medical Center. Now that investment has garnered a serious return:

Community Medical Center in Missoula has reached an agreement to sell its assets to a partnership between Billings Clinic and a hospital management firm for $67.4 million.

The agreement, announced Tuesday, would transform Community Medical from a not-for-profit corporation to a for-profit hospital and must be approved by the attorney general’s office.

Under the Montana Non-Profit Corporation Act, the proceeds from the sale must be used for similar public benefit, hospital spokeswoman Mary Windecker said. The hospital is still working on the specifics, but Windecker said the money will be used on a long-term basis to benefit health care programs in western Montana. The AG’s office also must approve the way the hospital plans to use the proceeds.

That is a big chunk of change. For a little background on how this hospital was built, this article from last week’s Indy provides some context:

Margie Hendricks sits at a table in the Missoula Public Library and sifts through stacks of documents labeled with slender green, pink and blue sticky notes. Each note is dated in the 75-year-old Hendricks’ tidy cursive to mark milestones in Community Medical Center’s history.

“Don’t let it intimidate you. It’s just stuff,” Hendricks says, as she shuffles through the hospital’s 1976 articles of incorporation and letters from the 1950s detailing how Community acquired its 40-acre parcel at Fort Missoula by way of the county from the federal government.

In the months leading up to the impending sale of Missoula’s Community Medical Center, Hendricks, a soft-spoken mother of six, has spent days digging through the hospital’s founding and guiding documents. She’s trying to understand how a nonprofit entity built by local donations and taxpayer-supported bonds could be converted into a for-profit operation benefiting out-of-state investors. She’s especially troubled by the fact that Community has yet to invite any public discussion of the deal.

“Citizens have contributed to this nonprofit entity for years,” Hendricks says. “They didn’t even give us an opportunity to know.”

In March, Community Medical Center’s Board of Directors announced its intention to sell the local nonprofit hospital to Billings Clinic and the for-profit RegionalCare Hospital Partners of Brentwood, Tenn. RegionalCare is funded by global private equity firm Warburg Pincus. According to the firm’s website, it has invested $50 billion in 35 countries since 1966. Warburg Pincus employs former U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and has committed $300 million to RegionalCare, which owns eight hospitals nationwide.

No, the public didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the sale of this community asset. Hopefully that won’t be the case when it comes to deciding how that 67.4 million dollars can be used to benefit the community that worked so hard to build this valuable asset.

While the money-making side of our disastrous health care system continues looking for lucrative pools of resources to privatize and exploit, Missoula locals tried to raise a little money for Donny Morey, a bartender at Flippers recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. It’s pathetic the alleged richest country on earth refuses to provide universal health care coverage for its citizens. Despite the generosity of Flippers patrons, I seriously doubt they raised even a fraction of what it will cost Donnie to get the treatment he needs.

While medical costs and services evolve, public investment in the old saw mill district has some wondering why the private sector still won’t sit and order from the table we, the public, spent around 12 million dollars setting for them:

The city of Missoula has spent more than $12 million of public money in the Old Sawmill District, according to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.

So far, though, private construction on the former industrial property on the edge of downtown amounts to $0.

“Obviously, we had hoped that there would be private development coming out of the ground by now, and thus far, that hasn’t happened,” said Ellen Buchanan, director of the MRA.

Behind the scenes, however, an estimated $75 million in private development is in “some stage of discussion or letter of intent” for the 45 acres, according to developer Ed Wetherbee. He said the first condominium project, called Polley’s Square, already counts eight reservations.

As long as there is some low-income window-dressing thrown into the mix, this publicly-paved road to private development should work out just fine. Eventually this land will be developed and hopefully new streams of tax revenue will make this deal beneficial to its prime investors—you and me.

by problembear

i would like to know what in the hell is up with the US postal service lately? at least here in missoula. a very important piece of correspondence was mailed to my address last week on wednesday from seattle.

now usually, in the past (maybe even the dim past- since i have rarely corresponded using US mail for the past 5 years) first class letters mailed from seattle used to arrive at my house either the next day or one day later.

an equally important letter from the same party took 5 days to reach me back in march. and again it took 4 days to reach me this past july. i am not too worried that the piece is lost since 4-5 days seems normal and monday it will most likely arrive. but still…… if ever a service has convinced me to never use them again for important mail it is the USPS.

the poor mail snail delivers our mail and stuffs it with junk mail virtually every evening. all my other important stuff is handled online- bills, payments, etc. so i usually don’t care when he arrives. but i have noticed that he arrives randomly now from noon to eight thirty (that is in the pm!!!!!)

judging from this one bear’s experience with this agency i believe the wheels are definitely coming off of the USPS.  am i wrong? is this just an odd anomaly concerning our route or are others experiencing late night deliveries too?

am i crazy or is the USPS just falling apart?



by Pete Talbot

(Jhwygirl beat me to the draw, as usual, but here’s my perspective on some of her Various & Sundry observations, plus some other stuff.  Also, I changed my original Denny Rehberg headline (a strike through wouldn’t cut it) because it lacked class.  And while I have no respect for the man, I still have some for the office.)

Disingenuous Denny

I had forgotten that Rep. Denny Rehberg was going to be the speaker at Missoula’s City Club luncheon on Thursday.  I didn’t miss much, though, according to the Missoulian.  The same old: lower taxes, cut programs, reduce regulation.  Then there was this gem:

He also claimed that family planning services were losing billions of dollars by duplication between Medicaid and Title X services.

Missoula Planned Parenthood volunteer coordinator Tannis Hargrove, who asked about the family planning spending, disputed Rehberg’s duplication claim. She said Title X services were not available to Montanans eligible for Medicaid, and that Medicaid eligibility was too strict to allow that kind of double-dipping.

Rehberg also said it was the fault of the federal government that the housing market collapsed, leading to the Great Recession.  It had nothing to do with the credit default swaps of JPMorgan, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Goldman-Sachs, etc.  Thank God those markets aren’t better regulated.

And you can blame those pesky regulations for your $4-a-gallon gas.  That’s what’s keeping the petroleum industry from modernizing its gasoline infrastructure, which is keeping consumer gas prices high, says Denny.  I guess it’s hard to invest in new infrastructure when your first quarter profits are only $10.7 billion.

The rest of the Rehberg story is here.  Read it and weep.  KECI also has a story but I’m boycotting NBC because of that stupid Celebrity Apprentice show, which leads me to …

Rob Trump, Donald Natelson?

I like things easy and Rob Natelson makes finding a topic to post so easy.  This time, he’s picking up where The Donald left off. Couched in some historical nonsense about the English monarchy, Rob’s worried that a U.S. President could hand our country over to some foreign power.  I’m pretty sure he’s targeting Obama and the President’s penchant for all things Kenyan.  I’m surprised he didn’t raise this issue about Reagan’s Mexican proclivities.  He should also be worried about Gov. Schwarzenegger selling California to Austria.  There are just too many examples to cite. Be afraid, be very afraid.

“Extremely far-right extremists”

That’s a quote from former Sanders County Republican Chairman Mike Hashisaki.  But it looks like it’s the extremists who are running things now that state party chairman Will Deschamps says the new Sanders County Republican Central Committee will be certified at the Montana GOP convention in June.  How far to the right is the new committee?  Well, Denny Rehberg is a socialist.  According to the Missoulian:

The convention then chose Katy French of Paradise chairwoman. Her husband Mark, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg for the Republican nomination to Congress in 2010 – charging that Rehberg had backed “irresponsible, unconstitutional and socialist issues” – was elected state committeeman.

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.

I guess the 62nd Montana Legislature could have been worse, but not much.  One of the major disappointments for me — the failure to pass a bonding bill that would have paid for a new UM College of Technology building, among other buildings around the state.  It would have pumped $29 million into the Missoula economy, and would be an investment in Montana’s future by educating and training Montanans.  There was plenty of other bad stuff, too, some of it yet to reach the governor’s desk.  The Associated Press has a round-up.


In the current edition of the Missoula Independent the local paper takes aim at Missoula City Councilman Dave Strohmaier over his Social Host Ordinance  and many of the policy positions he has taken in his six years in office.  Three times in the article – once in the headline, once in a quote, and once in the second to last paragraph – the Indy emasculates and attempts to make Dave appear effete through his desire to clean up after an infantilized Missoula populace.  In my opinion, the use of such language turns a pretty solid article into a hack job.

I would expect such language from a right-wing rag but from an independent newspaper based out of Missoula?  There is a long history of Liberalism’s opponents painting liberals as soft, elitists, and effeminate.  I don’t understand why the Indy is playing into such lazy stereotypes other than to set the tone of how the paper will handle Strohmaier in any eventual run for Montana’s open Congressional House seat.

The Tea People now holding sway in Helena proposed plenty of legislation to clean up after messy voters including:

But in conducting a search of the Indy’s news stories I never once came across language labeling Tea Party policies or politicians as people espousing a nanny-state.

I can understand why the Social Host Ordinance is the definition of government overreach to some people; the sanctity of one’s home and personal privacy are issues that people care deeply about and the image of Dave poking his fedora clad head into your house to check IDs  probably isn’t a pleasant one.  But at the same time, bar tenders are held responsible for serving minors alcohol… maybe people throwing house parties should be held responsible as well.


I just wanted to say thank you to all the courteous Missoula drivers out on the road this winter. So often the only time people discuss roads or traffic is to complain about how bad drivers, rude behavior, or idiotic design.

Almost everyday this winter I have been out there cycling in the less than optimal road conditions among motorists that have been nothing but respectful and patient. Even when I’m forced into the middle of a travel lane to avoid chunks of ice that could easily send my flying out of the seat of my two wheeled contraption people have been understanding.

Winter might just be my favorite time to be out on the road cycling; there is nothing quite like the feeling of freshly fallen snow under the tires as the sun just starts to peak it’s morning rays past the top of Mt Sentinel. So again, thank you all for not ruining that sense of wonder with the sound of a blaring car horn.


In case you missed the short story over at the Indy, OPG staff and city attorney Jim Nugent have established a new zoning policy that restricts the establishment of medical marijuana businesses within a 1000 ft buffer of any schools. As stated in the article, the move is based on Montana State law 45-9-109. That statute makes the distribution of dangerous drugs within 1000 ft of a school a felony offense. The above map is the restricted areas around Missoula schools – I must say I find this map fairly amusing since OPG staff didn’t even feel the need to add a legend or explanation of the data being mapped, they felt it was sufficient to just place a giant marijuana leaf on the map and call it good.

Anyway… for your reading pleasure here is Mntana Code Annotated;

(1) A person commits the offense of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs on or near school property if the person violates 45-9-101 in, on, or within 1,000 feet of the real property comprising a public or private elementary or secondary school.
(2) Except as provided in 46-18-222, a person convicted of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs on or near school property:
(a) shall be imprisoned in the state prison for a term of not less than 3 years or more than life; and
(b) may be fined an amount of not more than $50,000.
(3) It is not a defense to prosecution under subsection (1) that the person did not know the distance involved.
(4) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution for a violation of this section that:
(a) the prohibited conduct took place entirely within a private residence; and
(b) no person 17 years of age or younger was present in the private residence at any time during the commission of the offense.

I understand the need to refine and better regulate an industry that has become ever more chaotic since it’s rapid growth started only a few years ago. But to me the application of a criminal statute to regulate zoning of a legal business is not the right measure to be taken, nor is it anywhere near a permanent fix to what many people see as an increasingly important problem that needs to be tackled. I wonder if such thinking would apply to the establishment of a pharmacy within 1000 ft of a school since a pharmacy distributes equally “dangerous” drugs if not used in a responsible manner?

The manner in which Missoula is beginning to regulate our burgeoning new industry is also of concern. While many other cities and counties are openly discussing what should be done about the medical marijuana business in their own communities within city council chambers and in local news paper op-ed sections there has been little open discussion in a public setting in Missoula. (please correct me if anyone knows if this has come up in any committee meetings). Maybe it’s just not a big deal here in Missoula that needs urgent action. We are after all fairly used to the marijuana business here – legal or otherwise – unlike more conservative Montana towns that see the marijuana as an unacceptable public nuisance even for legitimate medical purposes.


by problembear

during  the current economic collapse there will be a few winners, some survivors  and a passel of losers. who will survive? and why? what makes some businesses more successful than others?

if you get an extra good feeling about entering a grocery store in missoula chances are that store is Orange Street Food Farm. stand in line with your loaf of Le Petit Outre Champaigne bread and your gallon of 1% milk and a six pack of Moose Drool and chances are there are many people who know you. the conversation is flowing at every check stand while folks exchange greetings and catch up with each other. the employees are relaxed and friendly, the musak is usually upbeat motown or high energy oldies. the produce is fresh, the beer is well stocked, even the meat department has approached Rosauer like quality at much better prices in the past couple of years. it just feels good to shop there. what is your favorite business in your town and why do you think it will survive? or do you? if so, why? if not-why not?

update: just spoke with one of the organizers and it has been changed to the XXXXs on North Higgins. Mayor Engen will be present. The location was changed so it doesn’t appear that folks are upset with the City, which has been abundantly supportive of Missoula’s queer community.

by Jamee Greer

Saturday morning, cities across America will host actions in response to the passing of California’s Prop 8 which threw LGBT citizens back into the cruel world of “separate but equal” civil unions. Missoula’s takes place at 11:30 near the XXXXs on North Higgins Avenue.

Last Tuesday was a bittersweet night for members of the queer community: a painfully potent reminder of how important it is to keep hoping for, and working towards, a more just and equal society. It just happened to be juxtaposed with the election of the first African American president, an amazing victory.

I will be at Saturday’s rally, but not because of Prop 8. I’ll be there because it’s still legal to fire a gay Montanan because of who he is, or deny a lesbian Montanan housing because of who she loves. I will be there because it’s damn difficult for queer parents to adopt a child, and because if my partner ends up in the hospital and near death, I have no legal rights to even see him.

Missoula | Saturday, November 15th
11:30 am at the XXXXs on North Higgins

Billings | Saturday, November 15th
11:30 am in front of City Hall, 210 N 27th St

Bozeman | Saturday, November 15th
11:30 am in front of City Hall, 300 West Main St

by Jamee Greer

The Montana Kaimin’s talented new editor Bill Oram, along with reporter Jeff Osteen, write more about the puzzling efforts by administration officials to keep the media in the dark through web-only updates (the Kaimin has ended publishing for the year).

Both links are worth checking out!

Perspectives of many students have shifted in the wake of the administration’s actions to silence students who disagree with their policies, and it has become a statewide issue with friends in Bozeman and Billings offering their stances on the dangerous precedent set by university officials.

And the issue isn’t one to be broken down on basic party lines as Steve Dogiakos, a UM student and candidate for HD 93, offered his ideas on the situation here on 4and20blackbirds earlier this week:

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need for consequences to their actions, but isn’t the fact the University is already ALSO pressing criminal trespass charges overkill?

Is this the message that needs to be sent from the Administration? That, if you don’t agree with the way something is happening and you try to, peaceably, change it you are labeled a criminal and a criminal and academic miscreant.

by Jamee Greer

Excuse me, is your voter registration up to date? Have you moved at all since you last voted? It only takes a minute to fill out this card and we’ll turn it in for you.

The close of primary voter registration is this Monday, May 5th.

Between numerous non-profits, campaigns and upstanding citizens who carry clipboards around town — you’ve probably already been asked these questions more than once in the past months. And if you haven’t, you still have a couple days — and a couple options.

Tune your browser to Forward Montana’s online registration tool, You whip through the personal information, verify that it’s correct, print and post. Simple.

You can visit the Missoula County Court House, located downtown at 200 West Broadway. The Elections Office is on the second floor, behind a little window. They’ll get you the tools you need.

Or you can ask one of Forward Montana’s volunteers, diligently waiting with clipboards in tow at several Missoula area locations this week. Locations are listed below the fold.

Continue Reading »

by Jamee Greer

Candidate forum features Attorney General & Office of Public Instruction, talent show

MISSOULA – Following the success of last year’s City Council Candidates Gone Wild, which drew over 150 Missoulians together to hear candidate’s stances on everything from inclusionary zoning to urban fowl, Forward Montana presents the final installments of our primary season candidate forums.

Attorney General and State Superintendent of Public Instruction (OPI) battle it out on Thursday, May 1st at the Elk’s Lodge. The event will feature local theatre crew, Improvista! — and will be emceed by Missoula weatherman, Mark Heyka. The red carpet party, featuring KBGA’s DJ Mermaid, starts at 6:00. Biga Pizza will be on site!

Candidates start getting wild at 7:00.

Candidates Gone Wild, The Finale feat. candidates for Attorney General,
State Superintendent of Schools
Thursday, May 1st | Red Carpet at 6, wild candidates at 7
The Elk’s Lodge | Donations accepted

by Jamee Greer

Members of Students for Economic and Social Justice who participated in last Wednesday’s sit-in are being suspended, although it sounds like for varying lengths of time.

At this point, the longest suspension has been five days.

Meetings between the students who were charged with disorderly conduct and the UM Administration will continue through the week.

For background on what these students are working towards, visit, or see previous posts and a recent article in the Missoulian.

by Jamee Greer

Last weekend, several members of the student group Students for Economic and Social Justice received letters from University officials that they may be suspended for staging a sit-in in President George Dennison’s office on Wednesday, April 16th.

The group has been working with UM Administration for the last two years to make sure all GrizGear sold in the UM Bookstore is made with sweat-free labor. Both sides have had setbacks and breakthroughs, and have been at a stalemate since last Spring. In May, the Administration agreed to support the first of SESJ’s demands — alignment with the Worker Rights Consortium.

According to a press release from the group:

Several members of the group have pleaded guilty with the court. The remaining members have a May 6th deadline to enter a plea in front of Judge Louden. The University is stepping above these charges, however, in threatening to suspend the students. Initially the students received letters threatening disciplinary probation, but secondary letters followed informing students that recent evidence has elevated their possible punishment to year-long suspension.

On Tuesday, April 29, each of the students will meet with Dean Couture individually to discuss their academic punishment. One of the eight students is set to graduate in two weeks, while the others face one or more years at UM. Suspension would force some to transfer schools in order to stay on track earning their degrees.

One member of the group was recently awarded with the Outstanding Student of the Year scholarship by the University, covering an entire semester’s worth of tuition — and was awarded for a variety of reasons — including an extraordinarily high GPA, extracirricular involvements and leadership within the community.

I’m not sure the exact process of suspension at UM, but with just a week left of class, there might be the possibility that suspended students will have to repeat the semester — if their finals and end of semester projects can’t be turned in.

Ironic that a student honored by the U with a full-paid scholarship for academic and community leadership would be punished for using those skills to get more students involved.

by Jamee Greer

Walking back and forth across Higgins Bridge today, I watched the raising of the Wilma’s new sign – a retro throwback that looks great, but sort of reminded me of something. Joe Nickel points out exactly what that something is on his blog, nickellbag.

Customers waiting in line ahead of me at Posh Chocolat were pleased with the sign’s design, but not the scrolling electronic reader board that came with it!

Speaking of Posh Chocolat, look for changes soon as they expand their menu and remodel their space.

by Jamee Greer 

As if there wasn’t already enough on the internet to distract me from schoolwork, Missoula’s blogosphere is kinda stepping on the gas with fresh startups lately. It couldn’t be happening at a better time, as my friend Audra has helped structure my procrastination by introducing me to Google Reader, keeping each of my daily hits nice and organized.

Sean Morrison, a fellow member of Students for Economic and Social Justice and ASUM Senator, has begun posting regularly on student concerns at his own blog.

DJ Erol-E, who just spun for the inaugural after hours party at Missoula’s greatest barcomplex, is posting on the Missoula and Bozeman music scenes at Audio Blasphemy.

by Jamee Greer

A new arrival to the Westside, I’ll be showing up this Tuesday for the first NS/WS Neighborhood Meeting of ’08! Fellow neighbors from from the Northside and Westside, now’s your chance to get involved!

Of the twelve members of Missoula’s City Council, six were once involved with the Neighborhood Councils. It’s a great way to voice your concerns, learn (and listen!) to what your neighbors think about the neighborhood and get a bit of an introduction to city government. From the Neighborhood Liaison, LaNette Diaz:

Neighborhood meetings offer opportunities to meet your neighbors, learn more about you neighborhood and get involved in changing, improving or preserving the area in which you live.

The Northside/Westside Neighborhood meeting will be held February 19 at the Blackfoot Communications Building, Conference Room, 1221 N. Russell at 7pm.

Items to be discussed: White Pine Sash development area, Safe Routes to School, Vegetable and Native Gardens at the Westside Park, pedestrian bridge graffiti and recruitment of leaders for the neighborhood council.

For more information visit

by Jamee Greer

I have to say that I’m not surprised by two things on the front front page of today’s Montana Kaimin –

1.) That the Babs Building on 4th Street SW is possibly turning into condominiums, and

2.) That the Kaimin broke this story.

The staff at The University of Montana’s student paper have really earned their fee increase this year, covering (and breaking stories) on everything from queer rights at UM to student renters displaced by gentrification.

I’m not going to offer much commentary on the possible conversion, other than to say it’s too bad to see yet another affordable housing option disappear in a city with a ridiculous vacancy rate – at least for rentals. First there was the Wilma (with its 25 units), then the Montaigne-slash-“Historic Penwell” (with it’s, I believe, 47 units), and now (maybe) the Babs – coming in at an additional 14 units.

Update: I was mistaken in saying the Montana Kaimin has “earned their fee increase this year” – while I knew that students voted against the fee increase (the only increase to fail the student ballot in ’07) – I was under the impression that the Board of Regents went against student wishes and funded the paper anyway.

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