Reefer Madness 2022

Reefer Madness 2022

Lola Sheldon-Galloway, incumbent candidate for HD 22, is once again making wildly inaccurate claims. This time it’s about marijuana. Galloway is urging the County Commission to send recreational marijuana use to the ballot this November. Sheldon-Galloway made unsubstantiated claims that providers could drain the power grid and increase crime on the frontage road. Forgive me if I am suspicious that Lola knows anything about 1) growing weed 2) the power grid and 3) local crime data. Remember, this is the woman who claimed that a woman couldn’t get pregnant from rape, and also sponsored the 20 week abortion ban. She also believes the best approach for addiction is to put people in jail longer.
               Lola’s lies about marijuana are no surprise. These claims are nothing new. Many Great Falls conservatives continue to treat marijuana as a moral issue while ignoring current medical and scientific understanding. Marijuana-phobia (a term I just invented) is based on ideas that have been long disproven.  Whereas Sheldon-Galloway may want you to believe that a single reefer cigarette will ruin your life, that view doesn’t mesh with the current culture.
               We all know a ton of people that smoke weed. Your doctor. Your lawyer. Maybe not your dentist, but he probably should. Just like we know people who drink alcohol, or smoke cigarettes. If you don’t enjoy, then you can skip the circle. But as adults, we can choose our legal recreational activities, and we already did. 21,747 people voted YES and 17,986 people voted No. The “ayes” have it. Recreational marijuana is legal. We literally already voted for it.
               There is absolutely no reason to send the question of recreational marijuana back to the ballot. Lola being afraid that the poors will come too near her Sun Prairie mansion is not justification to ignore the will of the voters. We’ve already spoken. We’re already smoking.  Rather than waste tax dollars on this conservative temper tantrum, we should be asking our city why the hell they’re leaving a 3% option tax on the table.  The party of “fiscal responsibility” needs to update their thinking and quit wasting our money.

Judicial Candidate Grubich Violates Judicial Code

Judicial Candidate Grubich Violates Judicial Code

Judicial Candidate Grubich Violates Judicial Code

The Gianforte Administration regularly acts as if laws, ethics, and norms don’t apply to them. Gianforte has demonstrated his ethics (or lack thereof)  ranging from physical assault, stripping protection from public lands, to illegally hunting. It’s not surprising that his Lieutenant Governor, Kristen Juras, would flout norms too.  Enter Cascade County District Court Judge David Grubich. 

Judge Grubich is in a race to retain his seat following his interim appointment by Gianforte in 2021. This appointment itself was an astounding violation of non-partisanship.  The Republican-led Montana Legislature refused to confirm the appointment by Democratic Governor Bullock of Michele Levine to the Cascade County District Court. It was the first time in 50 years the Montana State Senate failed to confirm an interim judge.

In a clear violation of the Judicial Conduct Code, Juras hosted a fundraiser on behalf of Grubich on April 14th.

Cover image for Facebook event, page accessed on April 4th, 2022. 

Perhaps Judge Grubich doesn’t know the rules are different for judicial candidates versus legislative or executive branch officials? By accepting the Republican Lt. Governor’s partisan endorsement with a sponsored fundraiser, Judge Grubich is violating the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct. The Code specifically spells out the following: 

Rule 4.1 – Political and Campaign Activities of Judges and Judicial Candidates in General

A judge or judicial candidate shall not:

(7) seek, accept, or use endorsements from a political organization, or partisan or independent non-judicial office-holder or candidate.  

The accompanying General Considerations text for Rule 4.1 explains why judges are held to this higher standard of impartiality and independence.

“Rather than making decisions based upon the expressed views or preferences of the electorate, a judge makes decisions based upon the law and the facts of every case. Therefore, in furtherance of this interest, judges and judicial candidates must, to the greatest extent possible, be free and appear to be free from political influence and political pressure.”

Does Judge Grubich appear to be free from political influence by accepting the partisan endorsement of Lt. Governor Juras? No.

How can we trust that Judge Grubich will be impartial and independent as a judge, if he’s willing to welcome a partisan endorsement to raise money for his campaign? Judges are not above the law, and Grubich’s failure to follow the Code of Conduct is a grim beginning to a “nonpartisan” campaign. 

Whiney Republicans

Whiney Republicans

By K.T.

Is anyone else getting tired of whiney Republicans?  The most recent example is an editorial sent across the state by 57 Republican Legislators (including Great Falls Legislators Wendy McKamey, Scott Kerns, Jeremy Trebas, Steve Gist, Steven Gallloway and Ed Buttrey).  Their complaint is, once again, a screed against the judiciary.  Didn’t any of them take 8th grade civics classes?  What part of “checks and balances” don’t they understand? 

 This time around they are griping that a judge found several laws passed by the last legislature unconstitutional.   The laws in question make it more difficult for people to vote. Why make voting in Montana more difficult?  As usual, they trot out false arguments about voter fraud which have been proven repeatedly to be fake news.  This is part of an effort by the Republican Party to undermine our faith in elections because Donald Trump lost the last one. . . never mind that Montana Republicans won all the state-wide offices and picked up many legislative seats in the last election.  It’s ironic that so many Republican legislators think their own victory was rigged by Democrats.

Republicans in the last legislature repeatedly demanded confidential documents from the Montana Supreme court, which the court refused to provide.  So, the legislature enlisted Republican Attorney General, Austen Knudsen, to complain on their behalf, taking their case all the way to the US Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.  It was a complete waste of resources to assert the legislature’s inflated view of their own power.  

It’s bad enough that they waste time and money on these efforts to protect and preserve their power, but every time they lose, they revert to slinging insults like school yard bullies.  In this last editorial they say the judge they disagree with is an “activist judge who doesn’t like common sense.”  They go on to accuse the judge of being part of an imagined conspiracy, stating, “Judge Moses unilaterally blocked all these commonsense laws at the request of the Montana Democratic machine.”  Quite an accusation considering the Republicans are in complete control of state government.  

As a part of their continuing war with the judiciary, the Republican legislature eliminated the Judicial Nominating Commission so that Republican Governor Greg Gianforte could appoint whoever he pleases to judicial vacancies.  Once again, the Republicans complained about being treated unfairly by “activist judges.”  And, as a result, handed complete power to appoint judges to their Republican pal in the Governor’s office.

Many people think this is all just political posturing.  That’s true.  But the Republicans are preoccupied with creating smoke where there is no fire.  While they are pointing fingers at the liberal judiciary, they whine about the border wall, wolves stalking our mountains, gays, trans, antifa, and socialists behind every tree, they are ignoring real problems that affect the day to day lives of Montanans.  

Where is their concern about the fact that the Warm Springs State Hospital is failing the patients it is meant to take care of?  What are they doing for farmers and ranchers who face manipulated and unfair prices for their products?  What are they doing about the thousands of people who can’t find affordable housing?  What about replacing and maintaining our aging infrastructure?  These are serious issues, but Republicans don’t talk much about them.

Instead, Republicans are taking books out of local libraries, telling school boards what to teach in history class, arguing about masks, and promoting myths about election fraud.  At the end of the day, these things have little to do with the quality of life here in Montana.   The serious problems we face will not be addressed by the whining of overblown, self-important Republican legislators. 

Ken Toole is a former state senator and former vice Chair of the Montana Public Service Commission.  He is now retired and lives on an off-grid farm south of Great Falls.

Why the PSC is a BFD

Why the PSC is a BFD

The Most Important Office You’ve Never Heard Of

When it comes to politics, lots of folks are simply over it. They’re tired of the divisiveness, the rhetoric, and the smarmy out-of-staters posing in their $400 cowboy boots proving they’ve never once stepped in a cow pie. And what does it matter anyway? Every few years, we’re inundated with un-skippable commercials and hordes of flyers that go immediately from our mailbox to the trash. Somebody wins. Somebody loses. And nothing much seems to change as the average Montanan tries to navigate rising bills and stagnant wages.

Yet, one political position affects us year-round. Each month, as we hand over our hard-earned cash to pay our utility bills, we see the work of the Public Service Commission in action. Did your heating bill double this year? That’s more than an unfortunate change in prices. That’s the work, or lackthereof, of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

So, what is the PSC? And why should you care about it?  Their website summarizes the PSC as:

“[…] Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) strives to ensure that ratepayers have continued access to utility services that are affordable, reliable, and sustainable for the long-term. In pursuit of this goal, the PSC regulates the rates and service quality for investor owned electric, natural gas, water, waste-water, and legacy telecommunication companies”

Notably, the PSC is not a consumer advocacy group. The PSC website explains, “It’s the PSC’s job to balance the interests of ratepayers who are concerned about utility rate increases, with the need to maintain a financially sound utility that is capable of providing reliable service.”

However, with dramatic price increases during Montana’s coldest months, many are wondering exactly how the interests of us “ratepayers” are really being represented. Perhaps “affordable” means something different to our representative, Randy Pinocci, who currently pulls in about $108,000 per year in his role as PSC Commissioner for District 1 (which includes Cascade County).

While Pinocci’s salary continues to rise, so does the cost of natural gas heating for folks in Great Falls. In November 2021, the PSC noted a coming increase between “47% to 62%.” Link
Many of us have already felt the brunt of that steep increase when facing our 2022 heating bills. As election season gears up, we simply can’t afford to ignore the work of the Public Service Commission.
So, as I peruse my nearly $200 gas bill this month, I’m forced to wonder:
Is Randy Pinocci doing his job?

Information on State Employee pay can be found here: State Employee Pay
The Public Service Commission website can be found here: Public Service Commission

An Open Letter to Rick Tryon

An Open Letter to Rick Tryon

Dear Rick,

We read your rather curious demand for a correction from the Tribune regarding recent distribution of hate flyers in Great Falls. Specifically, your assertion that the error is:

“The attempt by the Tribune to invent a false flag, manufacture a bigoted anti-trans smear where none exists, and then try to falsely piggyback it on an actual, dangerous distribution of hate literature serves no one.”

Assuming there was a factual error in the Tribune’s coverage, we are curious to know what facts you have that the Tribune is part of a “false flag” conspiracy.  If you don’t have any basis to make the charge that the Tribune’s error was intentional (or even existed), maybe you should correct your article on E-City Beat. 

It’s a good thing that you recognize that “dangerous distribution of hate literature serves no one.” Unfortunately, you and E-City Beat seem selective about your editorial choices, most often parroting talking points from far-right media sources and accusing local officials of corruption and self-dealing. Not surprisingly, these articles are long on rhetoric and short on facts.

What E-City Beat and you decide to publish is up to you.  But, as a local elected official, we encourage you to be more accurate in your public comments and less vitriolic in your rhetoric about those you disagree with in the community.

WTF Staff