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 September, Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci said that Misssoula should be targeted for “brownouts”. In a speech calling for Republican elected officials to “flex their political muscle,” Pinocci requested that PSC staff figure out if reductions of power in the grid could be targeted to specific communities. Apparently, Pinocci was responding to citizen protests against NorthWestern Energy.
Last August, Pinocci issued a bogus blackout warning. Pinocci and one other Public Service Commissioner issued a statement which said, “the probable lack of energy leading to ‘rolling blackouts’ in eastern Montana this summer as well as frighteningly real possibilities of hugely inadequate shortages in Montana in winter.” Turned out the whole thing was bogus. The PSC staff was forced to point out that the full Public Service Commission did not support Pinocci’s statement.
In 2020, Pinocci went on the far-right Northwest Liberty News webcast and said he was concerned about fellow Public Service Commissioner Roger Koopman bringing a gun to the office. Koopman denied the allegation.
Also in 2020, Pinocci apparently hacked into a fellow PSC commissioner’s e-mail account and put together a story which he then shopped to media outlets. When The Billings Gazette refused to publish the story, Pinoccci went to Northwest Liberty News which published a story under the headline, “Terror in Helena! ‘I’m afraid that Roger Koopman will bring a gun to work and shoot me. . . .”
At a speech in Havre In March 2022, Pinocci called for regulation of social media to control “anti-conservative” bias. He went on to compare the supposed oppression of conservatives to the oppression of Black Americans under Jim Crow.
In 2016, when he was a legislator, Pinocci called for the jailing of journalists after the Fairfield Sun Times refused to publish an editorial he wrote on gun rights saying, “. . .maybe after we put a few of these idiots in jail we can get better reporting.” https://docs.google.com/document/d/1R1IpUvxSB7Ac08EtiYWSJKk2X-EUVk_j4Q20Je5HUQE/edit
Pinocci has quite a record of expressing extreme views, and there is a lot more than we have listed above. But perhaps the most disconcerting thing about Pinocci and the Cascade County Republicans is their corruption. It is worth noting that two of Pinocci’s family members were recently hired by the new Clerk and Recorder and election denier Sandra Merchant.
Other elected Republicans are also involved in suspect situations. Legislators Steven and Lola Galloway are leasing a big building they own to the state Motor Vehicle Division whose budget they oversee as legislators. (WTF406 filed an information request with the state asking for information on the bidding process for the lease more than two months ago). Speaking of the Galloways, many of Steven Galloway’s bills at the legislature promoted his business interests as a landlord in Great Falls. Then there is the whole saga of Senator Jeremy Trebas’ attempt to change state law to enrich his real estate deals. https://wtf406.com/2023/07/senator-trebas-tax-scam-turns-into-an-albatross-around-his-neck/
And let’s not forget Representative Steve Gist, and the fact that his primary residence and place of business appears to be in Flathead County not Cascade County, where he is supposed to be our representative. https://wtf406.com/2022/10/where-in-the-world-does-steve-gist-really-live/
On Wednesday,Sept 6th, Public Service Commissioner Randy Pinocci was arrested on a warrant for failing to appear in court to respond to a ticket for disorderly conduct he received in an incident on July 5.
Pinocci was issued the citation for “quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, namely by getting in (alleged victim’s) face and bumping chests during an argument and yelling.” In typical Pinocci style, he said he was unfairly accused and pointed out that he is too fat to bump chests with anyone, because his belly is too big. (Really! Can’t wait to see if he does a reenactment if he goes to trial.)
Not surprisingly, Pinocci says he did nothing wrong and the whole thing is a big mistake. His lawyer, Ben Reed of Helena, explained that Pinocci failed to appear in court, as requested twice, because he was at scheduled meetings with constituents. KT
For the full story: https://dailymontanan.com/2023/09/12/pinocci-arrested-released-on-misdemeanor-disputes-validity-of-court-warrant/
Randy would like us all to think that he was so busy doing his job that he couldn’t make a court appearance. WTF406.com is well acquainted with how hard Pinocci works. We published this photo of him “representing his constituents” in a hearing before the PSC back in April 2022.
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/
Donald Trump took some time between responding to four indictments containing ninety-one felonies to talk via zoom with State Freedom Caucus members, including some from Montana. Great Falls Republican Representative, Steven Galloway, took the opportunity to ask Trump to endorse Matt Rosendale for the Republican nomination for Jon Tester’s Senate seat. Rosendale has been playing coy boy and has not yet announced his intentions in that race. The lone Republican who has filed is Minnesota billionaire, Tim Sheehy, the handpicked candidate of Montana Senator Steve Daines and “establishment” Republicans (whatever that means these days).
Trump responded to Galloway saying that he really hadn’t looked at the Montana race yet but was sure Rosendale was waiting to get his endorsement to make his final decision. No big surprise that the man with the endless ego would put that spin on it. Galloway took the opportunity to take some shots at Tim Sheehy and the “RINOs” (Republicans In Name Only) supporting his bid for Senate touting Rosendale’s record as one of the most extreme members of Congress.
It may be an uphill push for Rosendale to get Trump’s endorsement. On the call, Trump questioned why Rosendale lost to Tester in 2018 and asked why this race would be any different. After all, Trump came to Montana numerous times supporting Rosendale to no avail and, in Trump world, if that doesn’t put you over the top, nothing can. It’s also worth noting that Rosendale snubbed Trump during the fight over electing Kevin McCarthy as house speaker, refusing to take Trump’s call (see image below). The final barrier for Rosendale is the rocky relationship between the hard right super PAC “Club for Growth” and Trump. The Club For Growth has been a major supporter of Rosendale in past elections.
Rosendale waves off Marjorie Taylor Green handing him her phone with Donald Trump waiting on the line.
Thank you to the Montana Free Press for reporting on this story.
In case you haven’t noticed, free and fair elections are under attack. Most recently the election denier crowd here in Cascade County is bringing another roadshow charlatan here to Great Falls. This guy’s name is Douglas Frank, a former high school math and science teacher from Ohio. And it appears he is a target of an FBI probe into voter fraud in numerous states.
In April, he appeared in six public meetings in Wyoming and held private meetings with legislators and the Wyoming Secretary of State. His actions prompted the Association of Clerk and Recorders to issue a letter to the Secretary of State, Chuck Gray, which said, “Throughout those meetings, we have concluded that Dr. Frank conveys claims of impropriety but provides no proof to support his allegations.” Malcolm Ervin, Platte County clerk and president of the clerks’ association, also wrote to Gray on March 29. “One would think that Dr. Frank would be eager to prove this capability but rather than proof, Dr. Frank offers an unverifiable story.”
Last spring the election deniers brought other so-called “experts” to town for another public meeting. In addition to Republican State Senator Theresa Manzella, the self appointed Queen of election deniers in Montana, they brought in a shady character named Mark Cook. Among other things, Cook was implicated in litigation and investigations in Colorado over illegal copying of voting records. (WTF406.com has written several articles, some examples here and here, on the election deniers here in Great Falls.)
It turns out that Douglas Frank is also a target in an FBI probe of voting fraud in Colorado arising from some of the same incidents Mark Cook had allegedly been involved in. In September, his cell phone was confiscated by the FBI. Mike Lindell’s (The My Pillow Guy and major supporter of election fraud conspiracy theories) phone was also taken in part of the same investigation. Documents that Lindell showed on his on-line program said investigators were seeking evidence of crimes committed by Lindell and several associates, including Frank. Lindell said that he had hired Frank for several projects but was not aware of all of his activities and denied any involvement in the incidents in Colorado.
As Donald Trump faces state and federal criminal indictment for his efforts to steal the 2020 election, here in Great Falls election conspiracists continue promoting their wacky theories and generally fouling up the Clerk and Recorder’s office. Since taking office in January, our new Clerk and Recorder, Sandra Merchant, has managed to screw up virtually everything she touches. The school election was completely fouled up, a court ordered a special monitor to oversee the library levy election to guarantee it was properly administered, there are currently three lawsuits filed against the county challenging Merchant’s administration of local elections.
Merchant is not just incompetent. She is also corrupt. Most recently Merchant and members of her staff went to a meeting held at the high-end Chico Hot Springs Resort at an estimated cost of more than $3,000 to the taxpayers. Virtually, every new hire in the Clerk and Recorder’s office has been filled by her cronies, including the wife and daughter of far-right Republican Public Service Commissioner, Randy Pinocci. Makes one wonder where the County Attorney and County Human Resources office is since political patronage hiring is clearly illegal under state law.
So, now Frank is bringing his roadshow to Great Falls. He will be appearing on August 29 at MSU College of Technology. It makes one wonder what kinds of shenanigans Sandra Merchant and her cronies are up to now that they control the local Clerk and Recorder’s office.
For more on Frank and the investigation in Colorado, check out these articles:
Photo of Douglas Frank from the Los Angeles Times