Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tip of the Hat to the Bitterroot Star

You have to love an old-fashioned independent paper that actually prints the news and views of its community. How quaint, and if you compare the likes of Tom Paine and Ben Franklin to the sorry hairball of product that passes for print journalism today, how necessary.

The following is an exchange I had with Ravalli County “patriot” Commissioner Suzie Foss on the editorial page of the Bitterroot Star http://www.bitterrootstar.com/ over the course of about three weeks. It started with the commissioners’ anti-government grandstanding (you know, like, don’t tread on me, man) over a water agreement between the Forest Service and the State of Montana. I responded to that crazy meeting http://billlacroix.blogspot.com/2013/02/water-for-guns-and-houses-inestimable.html, then Commissioner Suzie responded to my response, and it went downhill from there, which, as in skiing, was my intent. One loves to hear the wind whistling through one’s ears. We’re hard-wired for adventure, and that’s what I love about print media when done correctly. It actually encourages democratic discussion, unlike Lee Enterprises’ Missoulian, whose staff limits your words to about 300 and actually edits your stuff(!!), if they print it at all. Other than this blog, I’ll be using the Star exclusively from now on, because that’s where the authentic printed history of these weird times will reside if anyone in the future ever wants to know. 

Most of what we really know about the good, bad and ugly of our nation’s past comes from what was passed down to us from the early printers, pamphleteers and journalists who understood and freely experimented with the power of the printed word, which in my opinion is still the most powerful human invention to date. Yes, the mechanics have changed some, and we’re very smug about our new inventions as we upright monkeys always are when we surprise ourselves with our cleverness. But I recently finished reading William T. Sherman’s memoirs written in the 1880s and was struck, as I always am when I read old books, by how dependent—and in Sherman’s view how captive—the critical debates of those times were carried on in the newspapers. After the first lousy day at Shiloh, for instance, Sherman was found reading a newspaper by candlelight in the pouring rain. Try attaching that level of importance to the discussions going in in, say, U.S.A. Today. The Federalist Papers were basically pamphlets with substance, and they have survived with most of their original power to this day. Will Ann Coulter’s self-important waste of forest products wear as evenly? I don’t think so.

For all the warlike nattering we hear today from “patriots” about our sacred “founders”, there’s precious little real-time honor being paid to the pamphleteers who actually pioneered modern journalism and, in the process, made the American and French revolutions not only possible but inevitable. The lies of the rich were what the independent, portable presses of the time were meant to counter. We the People owe our modern voice to hemp, lead type and burnt linseed oil (ink, I think).

Not that I believe the Bitterroot Star is going to inspire us into messy revolutions, but as Sherman might have put it, I submit the following letters and articles in order to demonstrate the passions that existed at the time and in the hope that they speak for themselves:

My first editorial titledCrazy corruption” was printed Feb. 26, 2013 and was also posted previously on this blog here: http://billlacroix.blogspot.com/2013/02/water-for-guns-and-houses-inestimable.html

Commissioner Foss replied on March 5, 2013, which I edited here for the sake of brevity, can read in its entirety here: http://www.bitterrootstar.com/2013/03/05/response-to-lacroix-2/

“I usually ignore the rantings of Bill LaCroix as they are so over the top that I know the reasonable citizens of Ravalli County will see this poor man’s extremism for what it is. However, sometimes the man just goes too far and that is the case in his last ravings.
Titled “Crazy Corruption”, LaCroix accuses me of engineering an “ambush of hotheads and low-information malcontents,” referring to a meeting called by the commission for a representative of the DNRC to explain…(etc.)…Bitterroot National Forest supervisor Julie King stated that “yes, the reason the Forest Service is filing on the water is to control future…(etc.)…I swore to “defend the Constitutions” when I took office and my word is my bond…(OMG etc.)…the challenge we as a commission have is to weigh threats to our county…(Holy Cow! etc.)… the legislature violated our Constitutional rights…(etc. OMG OMG!)… we embrace our family and friends who are employed by the USFS, however, that does not mean we do not have the right or the obligation to …(etc.)…Mr. LaCroix failed to mention that he was in the very small minority of citizens during our public meeting. The majority there asked us to file an objection on their behalf.
I believe we all want what is best, that is the ultimate goal.”
Suzy FossRavalli County Commissioner

My response to Ms. Foss, printed March 15th, 2013:

I’d like to thank Commissioner Foss for coming up with a label I can finally live with. After decades of living and working in Montana, Idaho and Washington, working in the fishing industry, the logging industry, having my own nursery and restoration business, searching for my true identity, I’ve tripped over a lot of handles people have tried to hang on folks like me that just didn’t seem like quite the perfect fit. “Veteran”, “hippy”, “redneck”, “environmentalist”. All of them lacked that certain zing I craved in describing my peculiar path upon this planet.

Thanks to Ms. Foss, though, I can now lay that burden down by proudly accepting her labeling me as a “poor man’s extremist”. I never would have thought of it myself, and it’s got that zing, it fits my many moods and it also actually means something, unlike so many things people have called me—and the many, many folks like me in this neck of the woods—in the past.

Speaking of which, Suzie’s facts aren’t straight. The folks who showed up to that meeting objecting to this commission’s haranguing of state and federal employees just doing their jobs was far more than “a very small minority” and the Forest Service supervisor didn’t say what Suzie said she said. It’s unfortunate, to say the least, that a county commissioner would dismiss whole groups of county taxpayers in a published letter like that.

But never mind. I really just wanted to thank her for the “poor man’s extremist” label and I’d like to recommend that anyone else feeling slightly out of place in these tea-soaked times try it on. It feels just right, at least for me.

The Star’s article on Montana Dept. of Natural Resource’s (DNRC) refusing to entertain the commissioners’ frivolous objection, printed March 27th, 2013:

My response to that article, printed April 2nd, 2013
I hadn't realized until I read the Bitterroot Star last week that our commission was protesting the $25 filing fee to object to the Forest Service’s water right applications as a violation of citizens' rights to participate in government. To quote the Star: “The county claims that to charge a $25 fee to file an objection violates the Montana constitution’s guarantee of the right to know and participate in the actions of governmental agencies.”

Attention all Bitterroot voters: In early 2011, this commission set up and attended as a quorum a for-profit meeting with American Stewards of Liberty (ASL), the Far-Right, for profit outfit that promotes the Wise-Use/county-supremacy scheme they dub “coordination”. This for-profit meeting with ASL was on the commissioners’ agenda, and when members of the public showed up and demanded the right to attend, they were told that they could not do so unless they paid the $45 fee the organizer--Suzie Foss--demanded. The public was therefore explicitly denied access to a public meeting by the organizer—Suzie Foss—who unilaterally declared this public meeting a revenue-generating activity. Soon after, the same commission voted in a sweet, taxpayer-funded deal for ASL to the tune of thousands of dollars.

Bitterroot Human Rights Alliance has had a FOIA request on the table since May of 2011 requesting financial records of that event, and to date have not had the satisfaction of an adequate response. The only reason it has been sitting so long is the lack of formal litigation, which as we all know makes justice inaccessible in many important cases such as this.

Given the conflict-of-interest issues arising from current challenges facing this county, such as Legacy Ranch Subdivision, I believe the issue of charging citizens to attend public governmental meetings is still relevant and has standing on several levels, and we should demand the public's right to know about these conflicts of interest issues consistently emanating from this commission.        

Happily, now that this commission has come out in full support against fees for public process, and since the same players, such as Foss and Planning Office Manager Terry Nelson were intimately involved in the January 2011 ASL meeting as well as the Legacy proposal and the protesting of federal water rights, I'm sure the time is ripe for them to fully cooperate in handing over all relevant documents, including bank statements etc. from Ms. Foss' private account to assure the public that she did not profit from a PUBLIC meeting with ASL that the public was denied access to.

This commission consistently insists on picking frivolous, money-consuming fights with straw men of their own creation in order to display a frivolous ideology that, unsurprisingly, also has a more-earthy conflict-of-interest component. Given the seriousness of such official actions as taking on the Forest Service and approving a new, for-profit town euphemistically dubbed Legacy Ranch Subdivision, we the public have every right to be as informed as possible about these commissioners’ true relationships with Legacy Ranch’s Donald Morton and Territorial Landworks as well as the out-of-state, for-profit organization, American Stewards of Liberty.

                                                                                                Bill LaCroix

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Bill, I wish I could write, nay, THINK, as well as you do. We could use your perspective in Sanders County as well, to help keep sanity alive, and those who practice it from despair. You, you, you - poor man's extremist, you! Indeed. With a chuckle, and your apparent blessing, I believe I shall apply that moniker liberally, not only to myself, but to the rest of the waning collection of those who remember the times when we fought against real government threats, such as wars and drafts and such, not $25 filing fees. Thanks again for helping us keep perspective.