Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tempest In A Teapot

So here’s the deal in Ravalli County these days. It comes down to the inevitable collision between unreal ideology and real people, budgets and lawsuits. There are also a few corollaries I’d like to address and I’ll try to be coherent, but I want to have fun, too. So…begging your indulgence…here we go.
 Two nice round numbers to keep in mind when thinking about the Ravalli County budget is $50,000 and $250,000. Also keep in mind that Magic, at least in its application to current far-far (far-far) right ideological tenets, is real.
When our newly-elected commissioners presented their budget last August, their first move was to claim that the county was in “crisis”. In real-speak, this “crisis” was manufactured by applying their other-worldly ideology to real-world numbers. In other words, the previous commission had been advised by the very same budget director our new commissioners are now using, that a 3% reserve was normal and fine for a county like ours. After the election, the Ideological Ones (our new commissioners) proclaimed that 3% to be an odious number foisted upon an unsuspecting citizenry by socialists and Agenda 21 dupes who didn’t want them to know that We The People were as broke as three of the richest men in the world keep telling us that we are. For a fact check, remember that Rupert Murdoch is from Australia and the Koch brothers from the sheikdom of Texas. Anyways, our new commission now insisted—using the same budget director as the old commissioners--that the county reserve should have always been 15% and that that’s by god the round hole they’re going to pound it home into come hell or high water.

They then proclaimed that anyone who didn’t agree with them was…well….a socialist or an Agenda 21 dupe not worthy of being represented by them. This blanket dismissal of political rights included folks like myself who were used to vacuous dismissals by developers-in-power. But the blanket was now being thrown over middle-road Bitterrooters who weren’t as used to the treatment and are now scratching their heads wondering how they found themselves wrapped up in the same blanket as U.N. dupes and tree huggers. To any dispassionate observer, which now includes a lot of self-identified conservatives in our valley, this can only be described as Magic.
                          
It’s also revisionist history. We all remember Grover Norquist and Ronald Reagan bragging about shrinking government to the size of an unwed pregnant starlet they could drown in a bazillionaire’s Jacuzzi-spa. We all remember Tinkle-down economics, the Reagan tenet that if you give all your money to rich people they’ll tinkle down on you. Actually, Tinkle-down economics worked as advertised, but laissez-faire economics didn’t. Bathtub-sized government is not only proven B…S…, the striving for it has some really unfortunate side effects for grandkids who didn’t deserve the effects but end up having to pay for them. The Occupy Wall Street movement can be labeled our Exhibit A of really-pissed-off grandkids paying for the follies of their largely aging, predominantly white-middle-class tea-party grandparents, which we’ll label Exhibit B. It didn’t work, doesn’t work, deficits soared and will soar, and the blame for the debacle gets and will get shifted to communists, or in our case, wolves (Exhibit C). This is magic, and believe me. I’m in awe of it.

The amount our intrepid tepid tea ones decreed would save us from communist debtor’s prison (or a pack or two of wolves in our case) was placed at something looking like a quarter of a million dollars. I can’t say the exact number because I’m not sure anyone really knows, but that was roughly what they were going to “save” by firing 20+ county employees, the majority of whom were our lowest-paid salaried workers. The most vulnerable, in other words. Mostly women, in other words.

What a huge coincidence it seemed to all of us who recognized this figure as almost identically-matching the amount the commissioners almost simultaneously agreed to settle for with a disgruntled employee in a secret, improperly-noticed meeting over what turned out to be a bungled political-payback scheme!

Add to this coincidence the first lawsuit, filed by our two J.P.s, claiming that the commissioners were overstepping constitutional separation-of-powers boundaries by unilaterally firing court staff the judges claimed were critical to maintaining the kind of court required to provide justice to the people. By statute and by constitution, both state and federal, the executive branch, our commission in this case, can’t simply wage economic war with the judiciary branch by decree, which they were attempting to do.

Never mind, said the commissioners. They wanted to save the citizens that $42,500 by firing the two women so they took the county to court against itself. Ironically, the trial, conducted in Judge Langton’s court at undisclosed public expense, was argued for the commissioners by Howard Recht, a new hire in the county attorney’s office at $64,000/yr. The justices hired former county attorney George Corn, also at undisclosed public expense. George grilled Kanenwisher to a fine brown toast on the stand, and the county lost all the way around, fiscally-speaking. The commissioners in turn pulled out their magic Ideology Cosmoscope (I guess), inserted the court debacle into it which in turn shined an image against their wall that looked eerily similar to a Kanenwisher power-point presentation, and came up with The Revelation. Rather than lick their wounds and at least act like they believe their own rhetoric about “limited government”, they would throw even MORE supposedly-scarce county resources toward firing two relatively-low-paid women and take this freight train of a case all the way to the Montana Supreme Court. This could take years and cost the county far more than they are purporting to save”…………...........................................................................Sigh...

And there’s so much more. In another huge coincidence, the amount they claimed to be trying to “save” by spending more than the “savings could possibly be worth was almost immediately matched—by themselves   again! This time, it was the $48,000 paid out to political developer-benefactors Aldo and Nicki Sardot to upgrade their subdivision road. This deal is fraught with inconsistencies and downright hypocrisy, including another improperly-noticed Aug. 29th meeting that might as well have been secret when they gave their friends the money, in part because it appears they actually falsified the public record before anyone knew what was happening. We’ll see where that goes, but there's a lawsuit pending on this now, and We The Folks are hopeful that a decision will ensue that enforces accountability on these true believers in the Wicked Witch and socialist wolves.

O.K., speaking of $50,000, how about that Title X grant to fund our Family Planning Clinic that the commissioners bent over backwards trying not to take because it wasn’t right to ask the federal government to do anything for low-income women? Now Commissioner Foss is claiming it’s all our fault we didn’t look for the “alternative” funds that they actually voted to find themselves, even though if they ever found such funds they would try to do something illegal with them due to discrimination issues (see newsletter). She’s also magically saying that they were going to accept the funds all along, that all those official minutes she and her fellow commissioners approved were just a big misunderstanding for those who can't read between the lines and she hopes those mean ol’ pregnant teenagers don’t pester the broke federal government anymore to take care of them. However, inserted into their truly inestimable Ideology Cosmoscope, which shined an image against their wall eerily similar to a Kanenwisher power-point presentation, they had ANOTHER REVELATION. $40,000 in federal grant money revealed itself as a GOOD THING when such funds are applied to building a jetport-lite to facilitate the transportation of golf clubs for rich out-of-staters , and they have not only duly accepted those funds in the name of We The One Percent, but they have their hands out for more.

Now a word about the Civil War. Has it occurred to you yet, when reading about all the wolf horror stories brought forth by neighbors of ours who by their own account moved to our little corner of The Wild West for, well, the Wild West, and actually dress the part complete with guns, that these same folks are also adamantly admitting to being scared to go outside their houses to experience some of that wildness? Wolves can legitimately be seen as scary creatures, to be sure, but so can cars and semi-trucks on a slippery winter road. Does one need to state the obvious? That in choosing a frightening experience you’d think these cowboy-bedecked folks would choose a face-to-face meeting with a beautiful, scary animal in the wild than an un-beautiful semi’s grill on I-90?

Just for reference, I log at least as much time in the woods and hills as most wolf-o-phobes can match, and it speaks volumes to me that I’ve not yet seen a wolf face-to-face. Only their tracks, scat and howls. They go out of their way to avoid anyone who’s really out there, so what the hell? If you have an encounter, I’d say savor it, or at least be honest about it.

Just a postscript on “coordination”: We still have an outstanding Freedom of Information request from last January concerning our commissions’ collusion and possible conflict-of-interest in American Stewards of Liberty’s  for-profit “coordination workshop” put on here in Hamilton for $45/head with four out of five of our commissioners attending. The commission has never honored their statutory obligation to fork over the goods,  like who actually profited from the meeting, what other meetings have our commissioners had with ASL etc. and we feel this would amount to another open-meeting violation as well as a broader open-government violation (vis a vis FOIA). Hasn't happened yet.

Finally, our new Planning Office-Manager Terry Nelson is pulling in about $50,000 with his government plum job gifted to him by his political beneficiaries—our new commissioners. Neslon, as you might remember, is the current Ravalli County Republican Central Committee chair, owns Applebury Surveying, believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, and has no professional experience in planning other than circumventing subdivision regulations for himself and his clients. Kanenwisher and Stoltz actually had to change the job description and title to fit Nelson’s un-qualifications. You might also remember that when he accepted the position, he publicly promised not to take on any new business for Applebury Surveying in an effort to side-step citizens’ charges of conflict-of-interest. There’s now hard evidence sitting on the table, so to speak, that Nelson has broken that promise and has willfully created screaming conflict-of-interest and corruption issues for himself by doing Applebury Survey business on county time in spades. He has yet to be publicly called out for this behavior.

As far as real magic goes, I find myself wishing that our local Celebrating Conservative spawn would click their collective heels three times and go back to pre-Civil War Kansas or wherever it is these crazy notions they’re operating under still hold some water. Suffice it to say that from my perspective as a veteran, a 30+-year-Montana resident, a descendent of pilgrims and union soldiers, prairie wives and  cowboys, a little real-world perspective on the Big Bad Wolf and other related discussions going on in all of our lofty levels of government would be refreshing, and even welcome. Let’s have coffee sometime and talk about antique guns!

Next post promised will be on Hamilton School District

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