By Jackie (Mike) Brown blogger for the Western Word

Apparently, someone got under Great Falls City Commissioner Rick Tryon’s skin again. He penned a column that was posted on the E-City Beat blog:

Tryon says:

In light of some of the recent chatter around town I thought this would be a good time to offer my own opinion on the character of my hometown.
I grew up in Great Falls in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I raised my own two daughters here and helped to get a couple of my grandkids started right here in the Electric City, so I take strong exception to some of the disparaging, insulting, and divisive comments which have made it into the local news recently about the kind of community this is and people who live here.
Despite what some of the loudest most obnoxious local voices would have you believe, the overwhelming majority of folks in this community are not bigots, homophobes, racists or haters.

He does ask the question, “Are there jackasses in this town?” He answers his question with, “Sure, just like in any other town.”

I think I know one…

If you haven’t done so already, check out The Western Word blog

Petition To Repeal Election Office Change Flops

Petition To Repeal Election Office Change Flops

Cascade County’s far right was mad as hell when the County Commissioners removed election duties from Sandra Merchant’s control.  Nevermind that Marchant had fouled up virtually everything she touched since taking office in January of 2023.  

When the County Commission held a hearing on Ordinance 23-65, which removed election duties from Merchant’s Clerk and Recorder’s office to the County Commission office, the hearing lasted 7 hours.  Cascade County was treated to a cavalcade of baseless allegations, bible quotes and challenges to Commissioner’s motivation and patriotism.  It was quite a show.  But in the end, Commissioner’s Joe Briggs and Jim Larson stood for competent election administration and placed election administration under the Commission office.  Here’s a summary of that meeting:

In response, these folks organized a petition drive to place the issue on the ballot and give people the opportunity to express their opinion supporting their point of view.  But, alas, they failed.  Not only did the imagined vast majority of supporters not get to vote, signature gatherers couldn’t even get the required 15% of eligible voters to sign the petition to place the measure on the ballot. 

Read our prior coverage here:

In order to place the measure before voters the organizers had to get approximately 5,500 signatures from registered voters in Cascade County.  But after 90 days signature gatherers only managed to gather 1,242 verified signatures. Less than a quarter of the required number.  So much for a wave of public support for the Merchant/Grulkowski crowd of conspiracy theorists.

Note:  Since starting this blog we have learned that getting public information from Cascade County is incredibly difficult and frustrating.  We found the new election administrator, Terry Thompson, to be an exception.  Our request for information about the signature gathering effort was responded to in a timely manner with complete and accurate information.

Thank You to Jeni Dodd!

Thank You to Jeni Dodd!

Jeni Dodd, our favorite cosplay patriot, also seems to be one of our most devoted readers. If I make a typo or forget a comma, Jeni is sure to let me know. As What The Funk is a volunteer-based project, it’s great to have a volunteer-editor like Jeni to let me know when I mess up. Today, I want to thank Jeni for pointing out an error I made in a previous article, and the error was certainly bigger than a misspelling. I incorrectly identified Beth Cummings as the latest hire at the elections office. My mistake, and my apologies to Beth Cummings.

I should have identified Beth Cummings as one of the lead plaintiffs in a failed lawsuit attacking the library levy. I’ve updated the article to reflect the correction:

To understand important context, we have to back up to last year. The library mill levy was on the ballot. Sandra Merchant’s numerous mistakes resulted in the court appointing an election monitor to ensure the election ran smoothly and lawfully. As we previously reported, “volunteers” working in the elections office during the library mill levy were allegedly distributing anti-library materials while volunteering. 

Well, the library levy passed, despite the misinformation campaign propagated by the far-right. Shortly after its passing, a lawsuit was filed attempting to keep the library from implementing those mills. One of the lead plaintiffs in that lawsuit? Beth Cummings. 

Just this week, a judge threw that lawsuit out. Importantly, the judge explicitly states that it appears the plaintiffs (ie Cummings) had no actual legal dispute, were aware of such, and were simply angry about the results.

Read The Electric article here:

The articles states,

In her order, issued Feb. 27, Perry dismissed the case, writing, ‘although their  filings are detailed and generally well organized, every one of their  legal arguments is wrong. They are consistently mistaken about which  sections of law actually apply to the instant matter, misread and  misapply controlling precedent, and generally find fault where no fault  actually exists or any error was clearly harmless. It is difficult to  read their filings and come away with any impression other than that  this action is a thinly veiled attempt to undo an election result they  dislike rather than a truly justified complaint about a mishandled or  otherwise legally problematic election.”

Huge thank you to Jeni for bringing this mistake to my attention. 

As to Jeni’s other arguments in her piece, we anticipated E City Beat’s lame defense of their story about the library levy campaign. In fact, we addressed it in our own article. As to Jeni’s other assertions about the levy, these claims were already addressed in court, as mentioned above.

Call To Action! Support GF Public Library

Call To Action! Support GF Public Library

As we previously reported, Commissioner Rick Tryon has been relentlessly attacking the library.  Read about those attacks here:

Funding our library benefits the entire community.  Let’s help protect our library and its vital services by doing one or more of the following action items:


The city commissioners have decided to begin negotiations regarding the City/Library management agreement.  The library currently receives city funding through 17 voted mills (passed by voters last June) and 7 mills by agreement (through the management agreement started 31 years ago).  Some commissioners feel the 7 mills would be better utilized for safety funding and are seeking to modify the terms of the agreement to reduce city funding for the library.
Should the city require the library to give up the 7 mills, the library will be right back where it started regarding funding. 
Voters spoke up for increased library services.  The library is working hard to implement this plan.  Should the library lose 7 mills, your library and your community will suffer.
2. The members of the public attending the Great Falls Public Library Board of Trustee meetings have become exponentially negative-focused and intimidating to the board trustees (volunteers). While it is absolutely everyone’s right and duty to attend public meetings and express their concerns, the opinions expressed do not accurately represent the general population. Our public library and its trustees NEED OUR SUPPORT!
Please commit to at least one of the following regularly:
1. Attend a GFPL Board Meeting Make comments of support/celebration/feedback OR be a friendly face in the audience.  
2Email the GFPL Trustees:.Email Library Director Susie McIntyre,  [email protected]  with the subject line “FOR THE BOARD”
3. Email the Great Falls City Commission:
4. Encourage your friends and family to attend meetings or email feedback.
5. Attend City Commission meetings and express your desire that they honor the long-standing library funding agreement
Board of Trustee information, meeting times, agendas, minutes and video links:  
Upcoming GFPL Board of Trustee Meetings: 
Tuesday, March 26th, 4:30 pm
Tuesday, April 23rd, 4:30 pm
Tuesday, May 28th, 4:30 pm
Upcoming City Commission Meetings: 
Tuesday, March 5th, 7:00 pm
Tuesday, March 19th, 7:00 pm
ECB Hates…Philanthropy?

ECB Hates…Philanthropy?

Just last Wednesday was Valentines Day’s, but the ghouls over at E City Beat ✅ seem stuck in the first act of The Grinch. Great Falls faces a lot of problems right now, from a housing crisis to a police force without mental health services support. Yet, “ECB Staff” which is typically code for “Commissioner Rick Tryon” decided they needed to release a hard-hitting report on two local philanthropists.

Keeping people angry and ignorant is a key Republican tactic. So, although dystopian, it should be no surprise that Republicans have turned their ire towards libraries. Free information, community space, help with things like taxes and legal paperwork, all of these services infuriate the right. Frankly, the less you read, the more likely you are to vote down ticket Republican. So while libraries are, undoubtedly, a-political entities simply serving the public good, they are now the #1 target for idiots like the staff at E City Beat. 

Enter the “Vote Yes” campaign. This privately-funded initiative worked to promote the library levy which passed last summer. Not a single taxpayer dollar was used for this initiative. The library levy passed, and Commissioner Tryon has been going after the library ever since.  

Most recently, ECB decided to drudge up the records of who donated to the “Vote Yes” initiative. This information is indeed public record, but what confounds this author is that ECB would attempt to shame local citizens for their philanthropy. Charitable giving to institutions like libraries and schools (and the groups that support them) should be the subject of praise and appreciation. In another journalistic faceplant, ECB even revealed that the two families donated to the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation and the United Way  of Cascade County respectively. The horror! The shame! The selfless sharing of wealth!

ECB’s ire towards these donors is particularly funny considering their vocal support of the failed safety levy. The media campaign for that levy was NOT based on private donors. Instead, Tryon spent tens-of-thousands of OUR tax dollars to try to sway the voters. He failed. You still paid the price. 

However, if ECB really wants us to start getting into who is donating to causes, it seems fitting we look at the ANTI-library campaign. You know the one. They had several billboards all around town. They falsely claimed that the library promoted pornography and drag queens. They also used the “No” symbol twice, grammatically negating their claims and reminding us of the importance of literacy. 

The main funders of the anti-library campaign, the group “Liberty and Values MT,” were the Duncans. They donated a total of $3987.00.  The Duncans are also the owners of Happy Tails Lodge. If you either support libraries or simply don’t believe in misinformation and homophobia, then consider NOT boarding your pets at Happy Tails. If you’re pulling your pet from their services, be sure to let them know that E City Beat’s article is the reason you’re taking your business elsewhere.

Also of note, Lola Sheldon Galloway donated $200 to the group. Considering the Galloways are millionaires, it appears they weren’t wholly committed to this project. Perhaps they considered it a bad investment?  Importantly, Beth Cummings ALSO donated to the campaign. Cummings is one of the lead plaintiffs in a failed lawsuit against the library levy.

I anticipate ECB will now claim this information is all “publicly available” and perhaps try to claim their article had no ill-intent. That’s bullshit. ECB wanted to make these donors uncomfortable, and likely wanted to turn public opinion against them. We trust that Great Falls citizens are smart enough to realize that philanthropy towards groups like United Way, the Great Falls Public School Foundation, and the library is a GOOD thing. The only time such donations are shameful is when they’re supporting groups that trying to cause harm and spread hate- groups like Liberty and Values MT. 

Since we can’t count on our actual Commissioners to say this, we will instead.

THANK YOU to the generous donors that supported our library. We appreciate your use of private funds to support this great cause. You saved the city money. In stark contrast to the safety levy, you didn’t rely on taxpayer dollars for your initiative. Our city is better when the library is fully funded. Our city is better when those with the means support fantastic organizations like the United Way. We appreciate that you care enough about others to help support these wonderful institutions. There is NO shame in philanthropy, and we sincerely hope that you won’t be dissuaded from future donations because of ECB’s pathetic attempts to shame you. Great Falls is better when we take care of each other. We appreciate you being part of that. 

Read about our prior interactions with this confederacy of dunces here:

Read about Tryon and friend’s history of attacking the library here:

Here’s verification of the donors to the anti-library campaign. This, too, is public record.

These screenshots show the donations discussed above.  You can also see the records for yourself by searching Liberty and Values MT here: Campaign Electronic Reporting System (dashboard) (



UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated Beth Cummings was the latest hire at the elections office. This was inaccurate. Our eternal thanks to Jeni Dodd for bringing this mistake to our attention. We value her continued readership.



Tryon Ignores Voters, Threatens Library Funding

Tryon Ignores Voters, Threatens Library Funding

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.