Tryon has long championed the proposed safety levy, despite its astronomical price tag. When first presented with tier options for the levy, Tryon vocally supported the largest price tag, coming out to about a 191% property tax increase. Having angered Republicans and Democrats alike, Tryon tried to walk back his big-tax dreams, instead opting for the current version of the safety levy.
The proposed safety levy includes a massive tax increase for property owners. The City Commission settled on a whopping 65% property tax increase, and sent that proposal to the ballot. They also authorized spending $150,000 of OUR tax money to convince voters to support the levy.
Technically the city commission is non-partisan. Although that may be the structure of the race, it’s quite laughable to act as if the political affiliations of our commissioners aren’t already known. Tryon is a Republican-supposedly the party of “small government.” So how does Tryon’s attempt to raise our property taxes 65% align with the Republican party’s platform?
Combined with the state’s alarming new property tax valuations and the deepening housing crisis in Great Falls, residents are being priced out of their homes. Poverty and housing issues undoubtedly affect crime rates. Passing the safety levy could, in fact, worsen crime in Great Falls. As WTF406 has previously reported, research shows that increasing police budgets doesn’t decrease serious crime. Tryon expresses no understanding that the safety levy does nothing to combat addiction. If we want to decrease crime in Great Falls, folks need access to substance use treatment and mental health centers. The safety levy doesn’t provide those resources, or do anything to prevent crime. Instead of identifying and funding real solutions, the City Commission is asking voters to approve a huge tax increase in the moment we can least afford it.
As Tryon seeks re-election, will his high tax policies effect his popularity with Republicans? What’s happened to the “tighten-your-belts” narrative that Tryon and his party ascribe to?
Has Tryon and his tax increase finally become too extreme for Great Falls Republicans? The answer will likely determine if you can afford to pay your taxes next year.
Read our previous evaluation of the safety levy here: https://wtf406.com/2023/03/city-commission-seeks-65-property-tax-increase-slates-150k-to-convince-voters/
Last night the Great Falls Election Deniers hosted a large event with “Dr. Frank.” Frank is a well-known election denier who, along with his bff Mike Lindel (the My Pillow guy) is being sued for fraud. Frank continues to push the conspiracy theory that Trump won the 2020 election, a lie that has been disproven again and again in numerous court cases. Most recently, Rudy Giuliani lost two defamation cases for pushing lies about voter fraud.
Before Frank’s presentation, Sandra Merchant, Julie Bass, Jan WeNaas, Richard Wolke, and Mike Sheer met to discuss their plans for voting in Cascade County. They parroted Dr. Frank’s lies and expressed their intent to move to “Amish voting” which requires all paper ballots, no machinery whatsoever, and hand counting of said ballots within twenty-four hours. The idea that this group of conspiracy theorists could accurately tally tens of thousands of votes in a mere twenty-four hours would be laughable if the intent wasn’t so nefarious.
The event itself featured a “presentation” from Dr. Frank which was not only filled with falsehoods, but also encouraged violence. Throughout the presentation, Frank painted himself and the election deniers as righteous figures, using a “David and Goliath” analogy. Ironically, the Goliath they hope to overthrow is our Democracy. Amid calling for election deniers to “rise up” Frank gave a direct call to violence. One slide read “What to do when antifa comes top your town” and the next slide showed a semi-automatic weapon. Frank went on to urge attendants not to call 911 or the sheriff’s office, but rather to grab their guns when confronted by peaceful protestors.
As an organizer of peaceful demonstrations outside of the elections office, I have serious concerns about the Clerk and Recorder and her staff promoting an extremist who literally suggests that they shoot us. This is overt voter intimidation with a clear intent to infringe upon our First Amendment rights to peaceful assembly. Sandra Merchant, Dev Biddick, and Julie Bass were all in attendance at this meeting, and not a single one spoke against Frank’s call to shoot voters who oppose them.
Sandra Merchant and her followers, many of whom are members of the Republican Pachyderm club, are but one group of extremists that are making Great Falls less safe for all of us. As I wrote about last week, the NeoNazi group White Lives Matter has blanketed our downtown with nazi propaganda. They, too, encourage violence against anyone who opposes them. So, while many of us are locating and removing nazi stickers, our very own Clerk and Recorder is hosting gatherings calling for the murder of political opponents.
In a recent interview, Great Falls Senator Steve Fitzpatrick suggested that Democrats in Great Falls are simply too extreme. And yet it seems our Republican officials are the ones embracing violence.
So, tell me, voters, is this what you were hoping for when you elected Sandra Merchant?
If so, it’s time to update our welcome signs.
Welcome to Great Falls, where the Clerk and Recorder just might shoot you for trying to vote.
Around 100 people gathered to listen to election conspiracy lies.
Read about Giuliani’s recent loss here: https://www.npr.org/2023/08/30/1196875212/judge-finds-rudy-giuliani-liable-for-defamation-of-two-georgia-election-workers
Read a comprehensive overview of Frank’s presentation here: https://dailymontanan.com/2023/08/30/election-denier-douglas-frank-presents-conspiracies-in-great-falls-meets-with-elections-officer/
Read about the nazi vandalism here: https://wtf406.com/2023/08/neonazis-vandalize-downtown-great-falls/
Mere days after celebrating beautiful new murals in downtown Great Falls, residents and business owners awoke to find a very different addition to the scenery. Over the weekend, White Lives Matter plastered an estimated 200 stickers throughout town. Stop signs, traffic lights, and even art installments were vandalized with racist propaganda.
What is White Lives Matter?
White Lives Matter (WLM) is a neo-nazi organization of insecure, unsuccessful white men who hate anyone different than them. In typical nazi style, you’ll hear them denying the Holocaust, advocating for the eradication of Jewish and LGBTQ+ people, and claiming their skin color makes them superior to all other races. In reality, you’ll find these are mostly men who have prior domestic violence charges that have never gotten around to accomplishing anything positive in their lives. Instead, they spend their Saturday nights covering their faces and riding around on bicycles, defacing public property in an attempt to recruit other desperate losers.
We at WTF, along with many friends in the community, have spent the week locating and removing these stickers. However, White Lives Matter activity has only increased in the past few years, and it’s very likely that you, dear reader, will come across this sad propaganda as well. So today we bring you:
The WHAT THE FUNK Guide to Removing Nazi Propaganda
Step 1: Gather your supplies.
You’ll need: A Paint Scraper, Gloves, Goof Off Graffiti (available at Aces Hardware), A Step Stool, and a Trash Bag
Step 2: Grab a friend and go for a walk!
Nazis tend to post their stickers on locations like art installments, utility boxes, and the backs of street signs. Take a stroll through the neighborhood. Turn it into a game. Whoever finds the most propaganda gets a prize. Remember, it’s safest to do this during the day, and with a friend if possible. Nazis typically only come out at night- probably because they knew they’ll get their asses kicked otherwise.
Step 3: Document and Remove
When you find a sticker, note the location. Take a picture or throw the cross streets into your notes app. Then, spray that sad bullshit with the Goof Off Graffiti. Wait a few seconds, then presto-chango, you and that scraper just restored a Stop sign to its former non-racist glory. Here’s where your trash bag comes in. After you scrape off the sticker, throw it away. We don’t want to litter while fighting white supremacy. If you choose to post pictures of the stickers, be sure to obscure the QR code and the contact information for their message boards. They use these stickers to recruit new members. We don’t want to give them any more reach by sharing that info.
Step 4: Report that shit
The State of Montana chooses not to track these kinds of incidents. (Crazy, right?) But there is an organization that does! The Montana Human Rights Network has a report form. The link to that form is at the bottom of this article. While you’re there, check out their rapid response guide for great info on how we fight assholes like White Lives Matter.
And that’s it! You’ve cleaned up your neighborhood and you’ve helped stop the spread of nazi ideology. Congratulations- you’re antifa now!
Yesterday, City Commissioner Rick Tryon’s hate-blog “E City Beat ” published a letter from William Ross. Ross was previously featured on our blog after he protested the Great Falls Pridefest with a sign reading “Fags Deserve Oppression.” Ross yelled at families and attempted to start altercations as people walked by him. Ross even gave an interview to a local news station in which he lauded LGBTQ+ suicide. To the shock of no one, Commissioner Tryon has sided with this hateful bigot.
There are some misrepresentations in E City Beat’s article that need to be addressed. Firstly, I am not on the Board for the Great Falls LGBTQ+ Center and did not organize Pridefest. My term on the Board ended about 2 years ago. I continue to support and promote Center events, but my presence at Pridefest was solely as an attendee. Pridefest was amazing and a lot of folks put a ton of work into making it happen. It is unfortunate that William Ross tried to ruin the event with his hatred.
In his letter published by E City Beat, Ross claims that he was assaulted twice at the event. To be clear, Ross was armed with a gun and screaming at people. When Ross tried to start an altercation with a man using the crosswalk, I physically got in front of Ross, while a security volunteer pulled the other man away. Although Ross was the instigator, I did not want hundreds of families at Pride to witness any violence. The below photo was sent to me by a Pride attendee. It shows me and a security volunteer walking Ross away from the altercation. This incident, and Ross’s following verbal threat, was reported to the police.
Now Ross is claiming that his free speech was infringed after his employer, Culligan Water, terminated him. This claim shows a fundamental misunderstanding of our Constitutional right to free speech. Our speech is protected from government interference and punishment (with some caveats around hate speech which incite violence.) Freedom of speech is in no way freedom from consequences. Private sector businesses are indeed allowed to enforce codes of conduct. Businesses are concerned with their profits, and employee conduct that may lose them business is often a terminable offense. That’s Capitalism baby. Ross was absolutely allowed to use his freedom of speech and his freedom to protest. Now he’s suffering consequences for his choice to behave like a hateful unhinged bigot.
However, more concerning is the choice for Commissioner Rick Tryon and Phil Faccenda to give Mr. Ross a platform. In his letter, Ross argues that people should be allowed to voice their opinions. Mr. Ross was indeed allowed to do so. If your opinion is that a marginalized group of people deserve oppression we have a term for that- discrimination. How is it appropriate for an elected city commissioner to promote discrimination and normalize hate speech? If Mr. Ross had made racial, ethnic, or religious slurs, would Tryon still be giving him a venue for his hate?
As evidenced by the activity of the White Lives Matter movement in Great Falls, there are citizens who believe that Jewish people should be eliminated. There are people who believe that the White race is superior and that all other ethnicities deserve genocide. Are they free to make these statements? Yes, to a degree, inasmuch as they are not actively inciting violence. But should a city commissioner be giving them a platform to promote this hateful ideology? I, for one, think that Tryon’s actions here conflict with the Official Code of the City of Great Falls Code of Ethics 2.21.020(B) and 2.21.030 (B) (C) (D) which read:
B. The vitality and stability of representative democracy depends upon the public’s confidence in the integrity of its elected and appointed representatives
[…] Such ethical standards shall inspire and stimulate each officer and employee to […]
B. Affirm the dignity and worth of the services rendered by the government and maintain a constructive, creative, practical attitude toward urban affairs and a deep sense of social responsibility as a trusted public servant;
C. Be dedicated to the highest ideals of honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships so that each public servant may merit the respect and confidence of elected officials, of other officials and employees, and of the public; and
D. Recognize that the chief function of local government at all times is to serve the best interests of all of the people
And examining the Ethical Standards section:
A. No officer or employee of the City of Great Falls shall have an interest in a business organization or engage in any business, transaction, or professional activity which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her governmental duties
D. No officer or employee shall undertake any private employment or service which might prejudice his or her independent judgment in the exercise of his or her official duties.
City Commissioner Rick Tryon, through his blog E City Beat, has a significant history of attacking both public figures and private citizens alike. How is it appropriate for a city commissioner to continuously attack the citizens he is elected to represent? Perhaps Mr. Tryon needs reminding that he is duly obligated to represent the best interest of all citizens, even if they’re Queer.
The Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved yet another utility rate hike. The PSC is recommending a rate hike of over 9% for Montana Dakota Utilities, which means customers can expect their energy bills to go up just as summer starts to wind down. Facing wage stagnation and an expected 40% property tax increase, many Montanans may well be forced to choose between paying their energy bills or going cold this winter.
The entirely Republican PSC has consistently voted to allow NorthWestern energy to raise their rates as well. Recently, Northwestern Energy reached a settlement in a lawsuit against their “historic” requested rate increase of over 25%. This increase would primarily affect residential properties and small businesses, the two groups the PSC has repeatedly thrown under the bus. Homeowners who use Northwestern energy can expect their utility bills to increase another 28%.
Members of the PSC are elected, and the Great Falls region is represented by Randy Pinocci. When he’s not sleeping on the job, Pinocci has continuously voted to increase energy costs for Montanans. In fact, in 2021 Great Falls customers faced an increase of over 40% for their heating costs. Meanwhile, Pinocci is being paid over $100,000 a year of our tax money while voting to empty our wallets. There are seemingly other benefits of Pinocci’s position as well. Both Pinocci’s wife and daughter were recently hired by Sandra Merchant at the Clerk and Recorder’s office. While we cannot yet prove nepotism, it seems highly suspicious that both positions would go to family members of an elected Public Service Commissioner. As Randy Pinocci reminds us time and time again, political corruption is profitable business in Montana.
Read our previous pieces about Pinocci here:
Read about the new rate increase here:
Read about the Northwestern Energy lawsuit here: