Mostly Missoula political potpourri

Damn the MT Supremes

The Missoula City Council thought that keeping guns out of the hands of felons, minors and the mentally unstable through expanded background checks at gun shows and for private sales would be a good idea. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox (also Republican candidate for governor, you know, from the party that professes to be in favor of local control) voided the ordinance. District Court Judge Robert “Dusty” Deschamps overruled Fox. Fox then appealed to the Montana Supreme Court.

The Supremes ruled 5-0 against the ordinance in what, I suppose, was a strict interpretation of Montana Codes Annotated. Still, I’m disappointed that more guns in the hands of more people, no matter who they are, seems to be the law of the land here in Montana. Here’s the Missoulian’s story.

Don Pogreba has additional info on the Republican attorney general candidates squabbling over who should get credit for this “victory.” There’s also some data on the their fundraising, eight paragraphs down.

Skanky Missoula mailers

Two weeks out from Missoula’s municipal election, postcards are showing up in mailboxes in the wards where “Team Liberty” candidates are running. Team Liberty is made up of candidates recruited by conservative council member Jesse Ramos. The cards are being paid for by a PAC with a treasurer and a bank out of Helena although the PAC is the cleverly named “Missoulians for Missoula.”

Team Liberty opponents are being targeted as pro-sales tax, pro-higher property taxes and pro-road diets (reducing lanes for bikeways, pedestrian routes, etc.). Higher property taxes is the most egregious charge because while some of the opposing candidates have supported a local option sales tax, the reason for that tax is to grab tourist dollars so property taxes could potentially be reduced.

Donations have come from a few business folks in Missoula associated with Bretz RV, Muralt’s Travel Plaza, Lambros Real Estate, Garden City Heating and Plumbing … and a lawyer, a periodontist and some names I don’t recognize. The biggest contribution, $7,840, came from Kiomi Burks, co-owner of Fuel Fitness gyms around the state.

They’re kind of amateur-hour cards: the same template for each race, with a candidate’s name misspelled in one and the name “Jane Doe” left on another card where a candidate’s name is supposed to go.

One thing Team Liberty is opposed to is tax-increment financing (subsides for projects which when completed should provide increased tax revenue). The irony here being that one of the contributors, Bretz RV, received $122,000 in TIF benefits when it expanded in 2015.

Here’s a link to the Missoulians for Missoula campaign finance report at the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices website, and here’s a Missoula Current story on the mailers.

Some other campaign reports

I mentioned that I’d be posting campaign finance data for some of the other statewide races, and Public Service Commission candidates, following a post on the governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House races.

As much as it pains me to do this, I’m linking to Greg Standberg’s Big Sky Words blog (Strandberg says he’s voting for Greg Gianforte for governor, for example). Still, I’m not above letting someone else do my legwork and he has the numbers for most of the Tier B races. Here’s one he didn’t report on, the attorney general’s race:

On the Democratic side, Gov. Steve Bullock’s chief legal counsel, Raph Graybill, raised $103,262, has $7,310 in expenditures and $95,951 left over. Missoula Legislator Kim Dudik raised $87,681 and spent $35,850 with $51,830 left in the bank.

Republican Jon Bennion, chief deputy attorney general, raised $97,743, spent $11,442 with $86,300 remaining. His primary opponent, chief legislative wacko Austin Knudsen, raised $63,915, has $3,459 in expenditures and $60,456 in the bank.

Strandberg’s also missing some of the data on an extremely important but often overlooked PSC race, so here you go:

District 4, which includes Missoula County but stretches from Lincoln County all the way down through Ravalli County, has five candidates, so far. Democrat Dan Carlino, a Sunrise Movement activist, raised $2,091, spent $1,351 and has $739 in the bank. Another Democrat who just entered the race, Missoula regulatory issues attorney Monica Tranel, has raised $1,690, spent $59 and has $1,630 in the bank. There’s also green building consultant Brett Rosenberg, who raised $1,670, spent $436 and has $1,233 left over.

On the Republican side, past Montana Republican Party Chairman Gaspard “Will” Deschamps has raised a total of $2,880, spent $1322 and has $1,556 remaining. Webb Brown, former head of the Montana Chamber of Commerce, raised $2,330, has spent $104 and has $2,225 in the bank.

Here’s where you can view the reports.

The salary of a commissioner is a little $100,000 a year. I have seen very little from the current commission to justify that amount.

More in the Irony Department

This final tidbit has nothing to do with Missoula and little to do with politics. But the fact that 110 Jamaicans are in arbitration with the Yellowstone Club, the resort for the uber-rich in the Gallatin Canyon, caught my attention.

The club, with members like Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, can’t find any locals who can afford to live in the Big Sky area or want to drive that treacherous canyon everyday, so they import Jamaicans, mon.

The Jamaicans are working for $12.00 an hour and say they aren’t getting the wages and tips other employees doing the same jobs receive, and the hiring service, Hospitality Staffing Solutions out of Georgia, has taken unfair deductions from their pay. They’re in arbitration here in the Garden City, so I guess there is a Missoula angle to this post after all. I wish the Jamaicans the best of luck.

Here’s the Associated Press story.




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About the author

Pete Talbot

'Papa’ Pete Talbot is first and foremost a grandfather to five wonderful grandchildren. Like many Montanans, he has held numerous jobs over the years: film and video producer, a partner in a marketing and advertising firm, a builder and a property manager. He’s served on local and statewide Democratic Party boards. Pete has also been blogging at various sites for over a decade. Ping-pong and skiing are his favorite diversions. He enjoys bourbon.


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  • No criticism of 16 million in TIF earmarked for Checota’s Drift? No criticism of the Mayor fast tracking this to avoid public scrutiny? No criticism of gentrification pricing out the poor and elderly on fixed income? This post is a great example of what’s wrong with Democrats in Missoula. You are more concerned with mailers and gun control than the negative impacts of intentional policies by elected leaders.

    • I’ll start with your last point. You and I have always been crosswise on guns. You believe gun control isn’t an important issue. I believe gun violence is a scourge on society. It appears the statistics on gun-related deaths in America would bear this out.
      As for the mailer, it was a skanky attempt to sway an election with misinformation, and paid for by some of your well-off business associates in Missoula. I’ll call out this sort of tactic every time, no matter what side of the aisle it comes from.
      And finally, we may not be in total disagreement on the TIF and gentrification issues. At least in Checota’s case, it isn’t a subsidy going to some giant corporate interest like the Marriot chain or some banking conglomerate. Checota’s feet need to be held to the fire, though, that construction is performed by union workers, that living wage jobs are provided after construction, and somewhere within this project, an affordable housing component is included.
      Some history: My wife was a small business owner downtown in the early 80’s. Southgate Mall had just been completed and the Missoula economy was only so-so. Downtown was turning into a ghost town. That’s when the MRA came into existence and it helped save the downtown. For that I am grateful. I sometimes think that now the MRA is overreaching — subsidizing corporate interests that should be self-funding and declaring every part of town that isn’t shiny and new a blighted area. Those “blighted” areas are usually the final resting place for affordable housing, light industry and small businesses that can’t afford the rents downtown or in new developments. Gentrification is a problem in Missoula. So are high property taxes. I wouldn’t mind some of the TIF money going into the general fund to reduce property taxes and perhaps funding more affordable housing projects. One of the reasons property taxes in urban Montana are so high, though, is because the state has consistently chipped away at its funding responsibilities, leaving the cities to make up the difference.
      As I’ve said, I’m thankful to the MRA for its work in the past on parks, trails, downtown infrastructure, some of its other redevelopment projects… It’s just time to slow down. Now that Missoula has become tragically hip, is there really a need to push growth just for the sake of growth?

    • Yeah, certainly the easy way out on research. I don’t think there are a lot of folks linking to it — too many numbers.

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