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/
Proponents of censorship lost their fight opposing the library mill levy election, but they are not done trying to control what people can read or see at the library. The next battle coming will be for library board appointments. And they have Commissioners Joe McKenney and Rick Tryon in their hip pockets.
When current library board member, Anne Bulger, came before the City Commission for reappointment at its July 18 meeting, Commissioners Tryon and McKenney suddenly objected to the process the city has used for years to fill board appointments without advertising. In fact, McKenney and Tryon both voted to appoint two positions on the Business Improvement District Board just two weeks before without advertising, and neither one raised any concern about the process.
As a result of their objection, the Commission voted to delay the Library Board appointment until they had a chance to review the appointment process. On August 2, the Commission amended the appointment process to require advertising and posting of City Board vacancies.
Let’s not kid ourselves about what is going on here. The opponents of the library mill levy are still licking their wounds from their loss at the ballot box. They are not done trying to censure the library, and you can bet they will have their preferred candidates to fill vacant board positions. It is not coincidence that this all comes up when a library board member is up for reappointment. If the commissioners were primarily concerned about the “process,” they could have, and should have, adopted the changes between board appointments, instead of in the middle of filling a specific and controversial board position. Tryon’s and McKenney’s motivation is clear. They are pandering to the far right to garner votes in the coming city election. We’re a little perplexed by the fact that Commissioner Susan Wolff went along with them.
By almost all accounts, Anne Bulger has been a diligent and hard working member of the Library Board. Not much has been said about how she feels about having the process changed after she applied and before the decision was made. It’s a hell of a thing to treat a volunteer board member like this. But, of course, Tryon and McKenney have other things on their mind.
Note: Stay tuned for articles about the lawsuit filed by pro-censorship people challenging the library mill levy election.
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: 2.21.020 (B) 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:
2.21.050(A)(D) 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 library is once again the target of the right-wing here in Great Falls. This time it’s about filling a vacancy on the library board. At its July 18 meeting, the Great Falls City Commission chose not to fill an open position by reappointing an existing board member, which is the common practice when incumbent city board members wish to be reappointed. Instead, the commission voted (without Mayor Bob Kelly, who was absent) to delay until the appointment process could be “reviewed.” And that is where the hypocrisy comes in.
Commissioners McKenney and Tryon donned the mantle of transparent government and argued that, since the city appointments are not consistently advertised, the commission should review the process before filling the opening. The city does not advertise all available board openings. It probably should. The problem with McKenney and Tryon is they didn’t mean it. At the July 5th meeting, the commissioners appointed two members to the business improvement district without advertising and without a peep about the appointment process. Hmm what could the difference be?
Of course the difference is politics. Tryon and McKenney should just be honest about that and not use some smoke screen like “transparency” and “good government” to cloak their political agenda. Tryon comes directly out of the tin-foil-hat-conspiracy Republicans here in Great Falls, and McKenney has been pandering to the Pachyderm Club for votes in his bid for mayor. Not to be cynical or anything like that, but it sure appears that the decision to hold up a library board appointment is just one more chapter in the far right attack on our library. Stay tuned for the actual appointment to the library board. No doubt the right wingers will put forth a candidate who is committed to being a thorn in the library’s side. And it looks like they will have McKenney and Tryon in their back pockets.
End Note: The attack on local libraries is occurring nationally and here in Montana. Here are a couple of Montana examples.
Flathead County Library- https://flatheadbeacon.com/2022/07/23/in-wake-of-library-board-shake-up-book-removal-advocates-appear-emboldened%ef%bf%bc/
As E City Beats’ favorite recurring character, it’s not uncommon for my Saturday to be interrupted by a message regarding yet another article starring yours truly. Republican Extremists must be feeling particularly threatened as this week they’ve actually released two.
The goal of both articles is to misplace blame for Clerk and Recorder, Sandra Merchant’s, continued failures. E City Beat would prefer you pay no attention to the woman behind the curtain. Instead, they seek to villainize the people fighting for public transparency and election integrity.
So what is the Election Protection Committee?
The Election Protection Committee (EPC) was formed a few months ago in response to Merchant’s seeming inability to conduct the (then) upcoming School Board Election. Our Committee brought me into contact with several folks I’ve never worked with before. It’s easy to pretend all Democrats are a monolith, but the reality is that Montana Democrats are comprised of a spectrum of beliefs. However, the right to free and fair elections is one of those fundamentals that we can all agree on.
So, for several months the EPC has been monitoring the activity of Sandra Merchant, to assure that Cascade County voters rights are not being violated. This monitoring has uncovered many glaring irregularities in Merchant’s work, any one of which could potentially invalidate the May 2, 2023 elections.
Now Merchant’s supporters are desperately trying to shift the focus away from her failures. Indeed, they can’t even pretend these mistakes don’t exist. Instead, they’re targeting the Election Protection Committee and its members. I don’t disagree with their characterization of me as a “Democrat activist” and surely it is no surprise that I’d be involved in local activism efforts. Perhaps what they’re truly scared of is that the rest of the committee is wholly moderate. In fact, the EPC’s social media group includes a number of Republicans who stated they voted for Merchant and now don’t think she is competent.
The only deflection and distraction occurring here is coming from the Merchant camp and her friends at E City Beat. They can’t deny Merchant’s numerous mistakes, so instead they are attacking those of us monitoring and reporting those mistakes. The EPC has done a tremendous job these last few months. Without our monitoring, the public likely would not know the depth and breadth of Merchant’s errors. It makes perfect sense that Merchant’s supporters would try to silence us. We’re the ones informing the public, and they don’t want voters to know just how badly Merchant is failing.
These attacks will not deter our work. Sandra Merchant has violated the public trust. She and her supporters are doing everything they can to operate outside of the public view. Despite her campaign promises of transparency, Merchant hides behind Commissioner Rae Grukowlski and a group of “volunteers” who are neither elected officials nor county employees, and who have no business running the elections office.
The Election Protection Committee is committed to ensuring free and fair elections in Cascade County. Sandra Merchant is not up to that task. We will continue to monitor and inform the public of the numerous errors and irregularities Merchant is responsible for. E City Beat can write all the spurious attacks they want. Hating us won’t make Sandra Merchant competent.
If there’s one tax credit I can claim every year, it’s the one I get for living rent-free in Commissioner Rick Tryon’s head. Tryon, like many an aging Republican, has a long history of targeting women. Women in politics. Women in leadership. Hell, even women he’s never met outside of a Facebook comments section. That’s why I know that although I am the current object of Rick’s unblinking attention, I am but the latest in his long history of targeting women who are too loud for his liking. Most of this targeting happens on his right-wing blog, E City Beat.
ECBs prior targets include former City Commissioners, former Mayors, and former legislative candidates. Although they may write a one-off article about a man they disagree with, the recurring characters on the blog are all women. Accusations have ranged from serious to spurious, one of the more comical being an article where ECB accused a Representative of being a Satanist because they didn’t like her t-shirt.
At one point ECB created a fake author. The persona was a Queer woman who “wrote” articles for the blog under an achingly bad penname. The ruse was sad and short lived. Rick was quickly called out, owing to his use of a common stock photo in his creation of what ECB assumed a lesbian would look like. (Please note: it was a kind of goth, manic pixie dream girl vibe. I think he has a type.)
Most recently, Dear Old Rick has attempted to make me sound like a danger to society. Now, to be clear, this new post itself doesn’t list Rick as the author but rather uses the umbrella of “ECB Staff.” But when you’ve had a dude hate-crushing on you for several years, its easy to recognize the voice behind the piece. Further, Rick’s frenzied promotion of the piece on his own page indicates a significant degree of investment.
But to my point, this latest article makes me sound way cooler than I am. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I’m basically a Hobbit. I’m short, prefer being left alone, but given enough pipeweed can be persuaded to go on the occasional adventure. And if ECB had simply implied I was a menace, I wouldn’t dispense any emotional labor responding to this most recent fan fiction. But alas. Despite the compliment to my image, ECB made a fatal mistake. In this re-telling, they completely ruined my joke. Not just misrepresented it, but thoroughly ruined it.
Call me dangerous. Call me a terrorist. But you will not call me Un-Funny.
Once again, ECB will be foiled by the very technology they cling to so desperately for relevance. Sadly, that means I have to explain an interaction on Twitter. I will not call it a “Twitter beef.” I am a woman in my 30s who absolutely should not be using phrases like “Twitter beef.” Please bear with me. None of us are excited to be here.
Picture it. Twitter, 2022.
A self-described gay Republican is online. And he’s saying some bigoted shit.
For background: An activist posted a picture of Democratic Senator, Ellie Boldman, taking a selfie with Republican Representative, Braxton Mitchell. Mitchell has already introduced homophobic bills for the 2023 session. Additionally, his re-surfaced tweets include him calling people “faggot” repeatedly.
You with me?
So, activist posts this picture. Activist has in their bio “they/them” pronouns. Self-described gay Republican posts this transphobic comment.
I see self-described gay Republican’s tweets. First, the transphobic tweet. Then, this tweet where dude discusses the recent cost of his dental work. (Democrats want that to be free, btw.)
I point out to self-described gay Republican that saying bigoted things is dangerous. He could get hurt. And he has just said that he can’t afford dental work.
Got that timeline?
Dude: I cant afford dental work again.
Dude: Makes fun of a Queer person.
Me: It’s dangerous to be a bigot, and you can’t afford more dental work!
That timing? I mean, come on. *chef’s kiss*
ECB’s re-telling of this entire interaction really ruins the joke. There’s no regard for context or comedic timing. Thankfully, these screenshots explain the story a little better. As seen above, far from being the victim, this gentleman was engaging in bigoted speech. He has every right to do so. Just as fellow Twitter users have every right to remind him of the dangers inherit in such bold statements.
Rick Tryon siding with a transphobe is not surprising behavior. In fact, Tryon’s own past transphobic posts were previously brought up during a commission meeting. And just last summer, Tryon tried to assert a neo-nazi flyer distributed in Great Falls didn’t contain transphobic language, when it very much did. So Rick teaming up with a man making transphobic comments on Twitter? Yeah, that checks out.
More importantly, dear readers, ECB’s articles about me often seem like a concerted attempt to deflect attention away from Tryon’s own behavior. Does Rick really think I’m dangerous? I don’t think so. The more likely explanation is that Rick is angry about this article I wrote. Read it here, because Rick doesn’t want you to. It details his recent change of heart regarding a certain safety levy.