Disclaimer: Although I am the current Chair of the Cascade County Democrats, all opinions expressed in this post are my own, and I am not speaking on behalf of the Cascade County Democrats.
It’s been a couple weeks since the dust has settled from the 4th of July parade in Great Falls. And do I have a story to tell you…
If State Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway (R-Great Falls) and the other organizers of the City of Great Falls’ Fourth of July Parade had had their way, the Democrats would have been silenced. On the Tuesday before the parade, one of the officers of the Cascade County Democrats received this message from lead organizer Lola Sheldon-Galloway:
“Because of the Protesters that joined the entry last year, we are getting bad reviews and comments about the 4th of July Parade. We want to remind you that the parade is not the place for protesting or ‘pushing’ an alternate agenda. Protesting has its time and place and the 4th of July parade is not it. We will not allow protesting from anyone as a part of the parade this year. We would appreciate your help in making sure there won’t be an issue on Tuesday. If you have any questions please reach out.
Great Falls 4th of July parade committee”
That’s one hell of a position from an elected state representative whose campaign slogan is the sickeningly ironic “leave our liberties alone.”
What are they whining about?
With regards to the “protestors” of 2022, the Western Word blog wrote about the Cascade County Democrats participation in that year’s parade here. Emotions were extremely high after the fall of Roe v. Wade, and several pro-choice marchers walked in solidarity with the Democrats. Republicans and anti-choicers didn’t like that. And Lola and crew are apparently still holding a grudge.
What happened in the 2023 Parade?
After receiving Lola’s attempt at censorship, the Cascade County Democrats promptly disregarded it. As previously planned, the Democrats made sure to be in compliance with the parade participation rules on the application form and ensured there was no profanity or disturbing imagery on signs held in the parade. Political organizations, including Republican ones, often have signs of their organization’s platform. We are guaranteed a constitutional right to speech, and it would be quite the legally questionable decision if the City of Great Falls chose to enforce one set of standards upon Democrats while allowing all other entrants full and unabridged participation.
The parade went off without a hitch, with lots of energy from the Democratic participants. A video of the 2023 Democrats’ float and marchers can be seen here.
And that…made Lola big mad.
More Whining from Sheldon-Galloway
On July 5th, Lola complained to the City Commission during public comment that “there is an issue that’s coming up. This has been the second year it’s happened. We had protestors in our parade, and we feel, as a committee, that it’s the wrong place with the wrong message with wording that children should not be seeing on the parade route, and it spoils the day….I had asked in advance…that just not be a part of our parade.” (at the video here around minute 31).
How to talk to our children?
As a parent myself, what messages should children not be seeing?
- My body, my choice?
- Safe Abortions Save Lives?
- Bans off our Bodies?
Parents have the ability to talk to their children in an age-appropriate way. If I thought my children were too young to understand something, I would use my words and BE A PARENT. “It’s a medical procedure, and I’ll tell you more about it when you are older.” Furthermore, how is that more disturbing than the gruesome staged pro-life signs outside of Planned Parenthood that Lola regularly joins and bafflingly pushes an empty baby stroller?
Real Life Version of Wrong Place, Wrong Message
Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway can stay mad
She and her Republican party have politicized our bodies, our medical procedures, and who we are to score political points. We’ve reported repeatedly on Rep. Sheldon-Galloway’s legislative hate here and here and here. People all over Montana and our country are needlessly suffering and some are dying because of legislators like Lola. How is that for a family friendly life?
All of us can appreciate standing up for our rights on Independence Day.
We want to hear from you!
We have been hearing lots of allegations about the hiring practices at Sandra Merchant’s Clerk and Recorder’s office. Merchant is hiring individuals with preexisting political connections, specifically the election denial campaign before the last election, and, most recently, family members of Republican elected officials.
We think there’s a chance that Merchant’s employment practices constitute illegal employment discrimination. The problem is that the people who applied for the open positions and were not hired very likely do not know the law, or even who the successful applicants may be. We want to find and talk with folks who applied for these positions and did not get hired.
So, we are asking for your help. If you know anyone who has applied for work at the Clerk and Recorder’s office since Sandra Merchant was elected, or anyone who was discouraged from applying for a job in that office, please get in touch with us.
See our previous article on hiring in the Clerk and Recorder’s office.
Maybe we should start a Republican police blotter for Republican leadership. First up is Republican Senate President Jason Ellsworth (R-Hamilton). On May 2, Ellsworth’s girlfriend, Lindsey Murolo, was granted a temporary order of protection by a court in Helena. There will be a formal hearing on July 17. She alleges that Ellsworth abused and threatened her over the course of their six-year relationship. The Montana Free Press Reports:
“In her handwritten attestation, Murolo said that during that incident, Ellsworth went outside to grab his Glock pistol and ‘came in and loaded it, was waving it around then laid his 300 pound self on top of me trying to force me to shoot him. I was crying begging him to leave and my daughter was right above us upstairs in her room. She heard him yelling and was scared.’”
Senate President Jason Ellsworth accused of domestic abuse in request for protective order
This was not Ellsworth’s first encounter with police. In August of 2021, Ellsworth pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in Broadwater County following an incident when he was stopped for driving 88 MPH in a construction zone. After being stopped, Ellsworth allegedly tried to say he was exempt from the law, because he was hurrying to a legislative meeting the next day. The legislature was not in session at the time. Ellsworth then threatened the officer that he was going to call Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen to intervene.
In pleading guilty to obstruction of justice, Ellsworth was fined $350 and given a one year deferred sentence. If you are thinking that’s a pretty light sentence, we feel obligated to point out the Broadwater County Attorney at the time, Cory Swanson, is a long time Republican activist and served as Republican Candidate for Governor Rick Hill’s attorney in the 2012 campaign.
In other police news, Gov. Greg Gianforte appointee and Montana Labor Commissioner Laurie Esau resigned her position on July 9th after being arrested in Missoula on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. She was also charged with obstruction of justice. Esau was stopped after being involved in a hit and run accident. The Montana Free Press reports the arresting officer charged that Esau was uncooperative and exhibited a “blank, dull state, belligerent attitude, heavily slurred speech and significant odor of alcoholic beverage.” Esau was uncooperative, the officer also wrote, failing to follow directions, grasping a fence, and attempting to walk through a gate into her yard, causing the officer to place her in handcuffs.
Montana labor commissioner resigns following DUI arrest
Can’t make this stuff up.
And let’s not forget this:
The Great Falls LGBTQ+ Center has joined a lawsuit challenging House Bill 359, sponsored by Braxton Mitchel (R-HD3). Montana was the first in the nation to ban costumed performers reading to children. Despite widespread opposition and warnings that the bill would not hold up to judicial scrutiny, Governor Gianforte signed the bill into law. Now the poorly written ban is being challenged in court. Montana citizens and organizations assert the bill is a violation of their rights. Once again, Montana taxpayers will foot the bill as the state defends yet another blatantly unconstitutional law.
Read the full press release from Upper Seven Law below:
*Teachers, artists, and businesses bring suit to prevent censorship and protect Montanans’ First Amendment rights**
[HELENA, MONTANA] On Thursday, June 6, 2023, a group of individuals and organizations, including Billings Public School teacher Rachel Corcoran, trans advocate Adria Jawort, The Myrna Loy and the Montana Book Company in Helena, Imagine Nation Brewing in Missoula, and the Great Falls LGBTQ+ Center, among others, filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of a Montana law targeting drag performers.
In May 2023, Governor Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 359 (“HB 359”) into law, banning “drag story hours” and a plethora of other conduct seemingly related to dressing and performing in drag. The bill’s sponsors meant to stop drag queens from leading story hours in schools and libraries. But the bill goes much further. And the result is a law that is as stupid as it is sinister.
For example, HB 359 defines “drag queen” to include women and girls dressed as Disney princesses and “drag king” to include cowboys and male superheroes. HB 359 prohibits reading to children in a library or classroom in any costume with a discernible gender.
And that’s not all. Claiming a desire to protect children, the bill attacks all Montanans’ First Amendment rights. It defines “stripping” to include removing or pretending to remove clothing, even if nudity does not result; it criminalizes the display of critically acclaimed PG-13 and R-rated films in independent theaters, even to audiences who are over 18; and it treats natural cleavage differently than prosthetic cleavage, even a mastectomy survivor’s prosthetics.
“Drag has long been an important artistic and cultural expression,” said Chelsia Rice, co-owner of Montana Book Company, a Helena-based business challenging the law. “This law wrongly targets the constitutionally protected speech of performers, artists, authors, and other Montanans.”
“As a public educator, I wear costumes to get students engaged,” Rachel Corcoran, a Billings Public School teacher and plaintiff said. “The legislature was so worked up about the perceived threat of drag story hours that it didn’t consider the collateral damage. Now I can be prosecuted and lose my teaching certificate for showing creativity in the classroom.”
A copy of the complaint filed with the Court is attached to this press release. A file-stamped version will be available on request.
About Upper Seven Law:
Upper Seven Law is a Montana-based nonprofit law firm dedicated to holding the powerful accountable. Based on the belief that creativity and innovation in law are essential to advancing social justice and public interest objectives, Upper Seven takes smart risks and invests the time necessary to build foundations for long-term accountability work.
About the individual plaintiffs
Adria Jawort is a transgender woman, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, and a published author. She regularly speaks to libraries and other organizations across the State of Montana about Two-Spirit and transgender issues.
Rachel Corcoran is a teacher in Billings Public Schools. In her role as a teacher, she has dressed up as many different male and female characters to connect with students, enhance learning, and build community. By the terms of HB 359, she is a “drag queen” or “drag king” participating in “drag story hour” at such times. Thus, she faces criminal penalties, lawsuits, and revocation of her teaching certificate.
About the organizational plaintiffs
Imagine Nation Brewing Company is a brewery and community center located in Missoula, Montana. Imagine Nation has hosted and plans to again host drag shows and drag story hours on-premises.
The Center is Western Montana’s LGBTQ+ community center, which offers community events, health and public safety support, and space for LGBTQ+ individuals, groups, and communities to meet and provide programming. The Center recently produced Missoula Pride, an annual event that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community, and includes storytelling, dancing, a parade, and drag performances.
The Great Falls LGBTQ+ Center aims to enhance and sustain the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community through activities, programs, and services. It organizes events featuring drag performances for all audiences, including Pride.
BumbleBee Aerial Fitness is a fitness studio located in Helena, Montana. BumbleBee teaches aerial arts, choreography, and pole fitness to students.
The Imperial Sovereign Court of the State of Montana is a Montana-based nonprofit that educates and advocates for LGBTQ+ individuals and allies through the production of community-based drag performances that explore multiple gender expressions in an entertaining and educational atmosphere and create a safe and welcoming environment.
The Montana Book Company is an independent LGBTQ+-owned bookstore in Helena, Montana. The Montana Book Company aims to create an open and inclusive community space for marginalized populations in Montana. The Montana Book Company has hosted and plans to continue to host age-appropriate drag shows open to the public.
The Myrna Loy, Helena’s premiere arts and culture center, is an independent movie theater, performance space, source of city-wide arts education, and community arts instigator.
WTF406.com has written numerous posts about Republican Senator Jeremy Trebas’ commercial property on 1st Avenue North. A quick recap:
–Trebas bought property at 1300 1st Avenue North in May 0f 2022. The property was classified as a church when he bought it. Trebas’ continued to enjoy the property tax classification as a church even though he did not qualify for the exemption. His annual property tax bill was just under $550 per year.
–The building was also in violation of fire codes, because it did not have an adequate fire suppression system. Rather than complete the needed work, Trebas introduced a bill in the Montana Senate that would have exempted his property. The bill was vehemently opposed by Fire Marshals across the state and died in the legislative process.
–After the legislative session (and his failed attempt to change the law to favor his pocket book) Trebas put the building on the market for $475,000.
Despite the fact that WTF406 notified the Department of Revenue of concerns about the misclassification of Trebas’ building, it appeared that no adjustments were made by May. WTF406 wrote a formal letter to the Department of Revenue and local officials on June 1st asking that the property be reclassified and that Trebas’ property tax obligation be adjusted accordingly. In a follow-up phone call, the Department of Revenue informed WTF406 that the building had been reclassified, and that Trebas’ property tax obligation for the coming tax year would be $6,343.32. That’s quite a jump from the $535 he had been paying.
A quick review of current real estate listings in Great Falls on July 10 reveals that the building is still for sale. Right after the legislative session, Trebas was seeking $475,000. Real Estate Dot Com on July 10 lists the property for sale for $281,227. Of course we don’t have access to the details of his finances, but it seems Trebas is trying to unload an albatross around his neck. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!
What The Funk sent the following letter to the Department of Revenue on June 1, 2023.
June 1, 2023
Montana Dept of Revenue
Great Falls Office
300 Central Ave # 520
Great Falls, MT 59401
Re: Misclassification of Senator Jeremy Trebas’ Property
I am writing regarding the misclassification of property owned by Republican Senator Jeremy Trebas (through Rear View Mirror LLC) at 1300 1st Avenue North in Great Falls. We notified you months ago that the property does not appear to qualify for a religious exemption from property taxes and provided the following article which gives the relevant information and details.
As of May 28, 2023 we note that the property is still listed as exempt property on the Montana Cadastral Map, approximately a full year after Trebas purchased the property. He is currently paying $535.58 per year on a commercial property valued at $359,505. Far below what he should be paying.
We are surprised that the Department of Revenue has not adjusted his property tax classification. This is unfair to other taxpayers in the community and is depriving tax jurisdictions of revenue. Trebas also introduced a bill in the Senate attempting to exempt this property from needed repairs to bring it up to safety codes. Though the bill failed, it is quite apparent he is not above trying to play the system to his own advantage. https://wtf406.com/2023/01/jeremy-trebas-the-self-dealing-senator/
We request that you adjust his classification immediately and make sure he pays the difference for the year he has owned the property. If, for some reason, either the cadastral map or Webtax site are in error or you believe the property is properly classified as an exempt property, please let us know.
CC: Property Tax Division Administrator, MT Department of Revenue,
Cascade County Commission, Mayor of Great Falls
Below are links to our previous posts on this topic.
The Curious Case of Jeremy Trebas’ Property Taxes
Jeremy Trebas The Self-Dealing Senator
The Continuing Saga of Senator Trebas’ Dirty Real Estate Deal