This past November, the city of Great Falls voted on numerous elected positions as well as a public safety levy and public safety bond. Amid a property tax crisis, it was no surprise that the public safety levy failed. The proposed level would have required a massive property tax increase, a burden the levy’s biggest proponent, Commissioner Rick Tryon, continuously tried to downplay. Despite Tryon’s attempts to minimize the enormity of the ask, the public safety levy ultimately failed. 9,095 voters said “No” to the public safety levy. Only 5,620 voters said “yes” to the levy. Both the bond and levy failed.
Apparently Commissioner Tryon either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care how such levies work. Voters get to decide if they are willing to pay additional monies for these fundings requests. The voters resoundingly said “no.”
During the January 2, 2024 work session, Tryon suggested taking funds from the Great Falls Public Library and diverting that money to public safety. Such a suggestion entirely ignores the will of the voters. We already declined to provide even more money to public safety, and we did so just two months ago.
As with the public safety levy, the library itself relied on the voters to say “yes” or “no” to their levy. The voters spoke, and the library levy passed. Great Falls wants a fully funded library. Now Tryon is threatening to go back on a longstanding library management agreement, which provides seven mills for the library.
Tryon’s attacks on the library are undoubtedly politically motivated. In fact, Tryon was a key vote in ignoring the library’s recommendations for appointing a board member. Rather than rely on the expertise of the Board, Tryon decided to follow the party line. Despite not even attending interviews of the applicants, Tryon and Commissioner Joe McKenney both voted to appoint Noelle Johnson, an individual who was not recommended and who has significant extremist ties.
Perhaps Commissioner Tryon needs reminding that the voters have already responded to his request for public safety funding. They said “No.” Now its time to honor that response and explore real options that don’t involve stripping the library of necessary funding. Tryon may not value public libraries, but the people of Great Falls have already spoken, and we want our library funded.
The Nazi propaganda that has plagued Great Falls over the past year turned up in Bozeman earlier this week. Montana State University has confirmed that NeoNazi stickers were placed throughout the campus, but their response leaves a lot to be desired. MSU did not take any steps to notify students of the event and seemingly did not put any measures in place to provide safety for affected students, claiming that no safety risk was identified. I can’t help but wonder if Jewish students at MSU share this view.
You can read the full story about MSU here: https://dailymontanan.com/2024/01/05/montana-state-university-hit-with-white-supremacist-nationalist-stickers-and-posters/
The Big Sky Active Club has seemingly taken credit for the propaganda at MSU. This group is closely affiliated with White Lives Matter, with a handful of pathetic White dudes participating in both groups. White Lives Matter is the NeoNazi group that has been distributing similar materials in Great Falls.
Most recently, White Lives Matter shared a video of themselves placing White supremacist materials in Great Falls Public Library materials. Great Falls’ response to this event was far stronger, more supportive, and more effective than what we’re seeing from MSU. GFPL and the YWCA launched the “Hate Has No Home Here” campaign, making signs available at both locations. Although Great Falls is not out of the woods yet, there have been no reports of further propaganda since the campaign was launched.
Read more about the campaign here: https://www.montanarightnow.com/great-falls/local-library-launches-hate-has-no-home-here-campaign/article_71df091c-9577-11ee-9156-8f14c6a8c61f.html
While we remain hopeful that a strong community response will prevent further incidents, we also want folks to know what to do should they encounter these materials. Check out this article from last year to learn how to remove Nazi propaganda:
So remember, Great Falls friends, don’t be like MSU. If YOU see Nazi propaganda, don’t stay silent. Stand up for our neighbors and speak out against hate. We’re a better community when we look out for each other.
Cascade County has posted the job listing for the new Elections Administrator.
Check out the job posting here:
Among other qualifications, the County is seeking an individual with “a comprehensive knowledge of election laws and regulations.” That’s what we call a step in the right direction!
Here’s a snapshot of the job summary.
The recent decision by the Cascade County Commission to remove election administration from the Clerk and Recorder’s office has generated heated (often false) accusations and covered facts in smoke. To put it simply, the elected Clerk and Recorder was not performing the duties of the job. The Cascade County Commission should be commended for taking action.
In late 2022, a small group of election deniers submitted a petition to the County Commission demanding election “reforms” which included requiring all voters to re-register, eliminating mail- in ballots and banning all forms of electronic voting machines. The reforms requested were based on the disproved conspiracy theory that Trump won the 2020 election.
The November 2022 election was a Republican sweep in Cascade County. Election denier, Sandra Merchant, defeated 16-year incumbent Clerk and Recorder Rina Moore by less than 40 votes. After the election, Moore made numerous offers to work with Merchant to review the election office operations. But, in the end, Merchant agreed to only one brief meeting.
The first elections administered by Merchant were held in May 2023. The School Trustee election was plagued with problems. But School District officials did not pursue legal remedies because it was unclear whether the errors would change the outcome and the expense of running another election was significant. In September, the School District formally asked the County Commission to remove the election duties from Merchant’s office.
In May, there were also elections held for a local flood district and an irrigation district. Merchant’s office also made numerous errors in those elections. As a result, lawsuits were filed against the county. The outcome of these elections remains uncertain. They are currently winding their way through the court system.
An election on a proposed library mill levy was held in June. Numerous problems were found in Merchant’s handling of the library election materials. Early in the process, supporters of the library mill levy went to court requesting the appointment of an independent monitor to oversee the election because of these problems. In addition, materials opposing the levy were handed out by volunteers working in Merchant’s offices. The judge appointed a monitor to oversee the election and required regular reports be sent for her review.
Throughout this time, Merchant was hiring staff and election judges from the ranks of local election deniers, including many who had signed the 2022 petition to the County Commission demanding “reforms.” Two family members of Republican Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci (who was recently charged with felony witness tampering) were also given jobs in the Clerk and Recorder/Election office.
Throughout all of 2023, Merchant consistently refused to talk to the press and blamed problems in the elections office on former employees, other county employees, contractors and vendors. Merchant was also criticized for having a private meeting with Douglas Frank, a national figure in the election denier movement who is under investigation by the FBI for an alleged breach of voting machines in Colorado. When asked about the meeting, Merchant was quoted in the Daily Montanan saying it was “interesting hearing what he had to say” and was eager to hear more.
It was the November 2023 Municipal election that finally prompted the County Commission to remove the election duties from the Clerk and Recorder. Merchant again made numerous errors which included failing to provide 48-hour advance public notice of the canvass meeting for the Municipal election. After hours spent re-calculating data from the vote tabulator machine, Commissioners were unable to balance the canvas with the information Merchant provided.
Last month during a seven-hour public hearing where Cascade County Commissioners deliberated on whether to remove the election duties, and ultimately voted to do so. Commissioners Joe Briggs and Jim Larson were vilified by Merchant’s supporters both during this meeting and in the days since. The truth is both of these commissioners set politics aside and focused on ensuring free and fair elections are held in Cascade County. They did the right thing.
Jasmine Taylor is the Coordinator for The Election Protection Committee, a volunteer citizen’s group dedicated to free and fair elections in Cascade County
Trebas Spreads Anti-Semitic Lies
Earlier this week, Great Falls Senator Jeremy Trebas retweeted a horribly offensive Anti-Semitic tweet. We’ve included the tweet at the end of the article, but we ask that you don’t share it on your socials. (Why? Because we don’t want to further spread these harmful and inaccurate tropes about Jewish people. After discussion we decided it was important for folks to actually see what Trebas shared. People need to see that this ugliness really exists, and that Senator Trebas is actively contributing to it.)
If you aren’t familiar with the many forms of anti-semitism, that particular tweet is based on “blood libel.” Blood libel is the entirely FALSE allegation that Jewish people use the blood of children for ritual purposes. No, seriously. This disgusting lie has been used for centuries to persecute – and justify the MURDER of- Jewish people.
Trebas’s disgusting retweet resulted in him being called out by the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Jewish Project, and the Anti Defamation League You can read all of those responses here:
When the Montana Jewish Project voiced their concerns regarding Trebas’ retweet, his first response was to publicly argue with them. Apparently Trebas felt he was owed a personal phone call rather than a public call out. To be clear, he wasn’t owed this. No one should have to tell a state senator that it’s not okay to spread lies that Jewish people use the blood of children in rituals. I mean, even typing that sentence is wild, right? Regardless, Trebas’ first instinct was to act like he himself was the wronged party. Unfortunately for ol’ Jeremy, the Montana Jewish Project had attempted to contact him first. Seemingly, Trebas had not checked his messages from his legislative accounts. Although the Montana Jewish Project now reports they had a productive phone call with Trebas, an apology is still nowhere in sight.
Trebas’ History of Bigotry
Over the past year, Great Falls has been inundated with Neo Nazi activity. We’ve seen our Black, Jewish, and LGBTQ+ neighbors targeted by hate literature and our downtown littered with nazi propaganda. Some local Republicans have taken an actual stance, condemning this activity and even helping us clean it up. Then there’s Senator Trebas and his ilk. Rather than fighting this flurry of hate, Trebas instead contributes to it.
We’ve already written about Trebas’ extreme anti-lgbtq views, and his disgusting behavior towards Rep. Zooey Zephyr. You can read about that here: https://wtf406.com/2023/04/transphobic-trebas-hateful-twitter-rant-reported-by-nbc/
We even contacted the Great Falls Rescue Mission, where Trebas serves as Director of Operations. (Their lackluster response made it clear they aren’t taking any measures to protect the unhoused from Trebas’ bigotry.) So, here we are again. Senator Trebas is using his public platform to spread hate, and this time it’s towards the Jewish community.
Where’s The Apology?
Trebas did indeed remove his offensive retweet, which is a positive step. It’s also the bare minimum and doesn’t take any real accountability for the damage he’s already done. He didn’t say “Hey guys, sorry I spread horrible, harmful, completely libelous things about the entire Jewish community.” He didn’t acknowledge the impact this has on Great Falls, or the very real ways rhetoric like this results in violence. He didn’t even accept responsibility. Instead, he’s seemingly trying to sweep this bad behavior under the rug because he’s been called out by more than just the Left this time.
Forgive us if we don’t feel hitting “delete” rights the wrong he has done here. There’s no place for Anti-Semitism in Great Falls, and least of all from those who are elected to represent us.
So, we’ll go ahead and ask for it formally now.
Senator Trebas, when can Great Falls expect your public apology?