Great Falls Mayor Cory Reeves Refuses to Issue Pride Proclamation

Great Falls Mayor Cory Reeves Refuses to Issue Pride Proclamation

“As mayor, I have decided not to issue a proclamation for LGBTQ+ Month. While I firmly believe in equality for all individuals, I also believe that the government should not be involved in matters concerning personal and private relationships, whether they involve straight individuals or members of the LGBTQ+ community. My goal is to ensure that all citizens are treated with equal respect and dignity, without government interference in personal matters. The government should never condemn nor celebrate who should love who; those are personal life choices that the government should not interfere with.”

There’s a lot to unpack in Reeves’ refusal to issue a proclamation acknowledging Pride Month. Though he couched his statement in the language of equality, his statement reveals a deep prejudice against LGBTQ+ people and a denial of reality and history.

Let’s begin with the reason cities issue “proclamations” in the first place. Generally the goal of a proclamation is to honor, celebrate or create awareness of an event, special occasion, cause or significant issues. They do not require funding, and they do not have “force of law.”  They are a feel-good thing which brings people together around something they care about. Reeves’ action does just the opposite. His action has set off controversy while marginalizing a significant segment of the community. And his covering up by saying, “It’s none of our business” is simply lame. The same thing could be said of most proclamations cities make.

Discrimination and violence have been directed at the LGBTQ+ community for decades as part of an effort to keep this group out of the mainstream of society.  Unfortunately, this is a tradition with lots of precedent in American society.  Many groups which have been pushed out have organized to push back. One tool for doing that is celebrating their existence and refusing to remain silent in the margins. Another is forming civic groups and “fraternal” organizations.

As a result we have St. Patrick’s Day (Irish), Martin Luther King Day (African Americans), and so on. Civic and fraternal organizations were formed to organize and promote communities which have faced bigotry, rejection and discrimination in society.  The Sons of Norway, The Hibernians, and Knights of Columbus are just a few of the better known of these organizations.  

The LGBTQ+ community organizing Pride Parades and Pride Month and asking local governments to issue proclamations of support and celebration is a time honored tradition in America. Unfortunately, Cory Reeves’ refusal to issue a proclamation also finds its roots in tradition as well. The efforts of all of “out” groups to confront discriminatory treatment has always been resisted by those in power.  And just like Cory Reeves, those who seek to keep others “in their place”  cloak themselves with phony excuses which deny the fundamental bigotry of their actions.  

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the City of Great Falls has flubbed this issue. In the summer of 2020, the LGBTQ+ community asked the city to adopt an ordinance which prohibited discrimination against them as has been done in other major cities in Montana (Missoula, Helena, Butte, Bozeman). After taking public comment, the commission decided not to adopt an ordinance which specifically condemned discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.

The LGBTQ+ community has come a long way in the last 50 years.  But, as Reeves’ action demonstrates, there is still a long way to go. Change in issues like this is a long slow struggle which requires commitment and tenacity.  The LGBTQ+ community understands that and will continue to press for equal treatment.  This motto says it all:  “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”

 

Far Right Falls Hard

Far Right Falls Hard

Great Falls voted in the primary election, determining which candidates will go on to the general election in November, and it was a bad day for MAGA Republicans. As official results rolled in, far-right ringleaders  started falling like dominoes. For the past two legislative sessions, Republicans have held a strong majority. They’ve used this muscle to attack reproductive rights and raise our property taxes through the roof. Montana is worse for all they have done.

The tides have turned! Despite protests from folks who prefer business as usual, many Democrats crossed over and voted in the Republican primary. The strategy? Eliminate the far-right  leaders, and keep them off the ballot in November. Looking at the primary results, it pays to think outside of the box. 

Enjoy this list of far-right losers who will not be appearing on the ballot in November.

Rae Grulkowski
Grulkowski was the puppeteer behind the chaos and dysfunction that plagued the elections office last year. She’s been finishing out a partial term as County Commissioner. Lucky for us, Grulkowski WILL NOT BE ON THE BALLOT THIS NOVEMBER.

Lola Sheldon-Galloway
Sheldon-Galloway is a long-time legislator whose bad hats and even worse beliefs have plagued Montana for years. Nobody’s spent more time trying to control your uterus than Lola. Best known for claiming that you can’t get pregnant from rape, Lola hoped to jump from the House to the Senate. However, she had a big loss last night and WILL NOT BE ON THE BALLOT THIS NOVEMBER.

 

Steven Galloway
Steven served his first term in the House last session, and he used every minute of it to try and make himself richer. He focused on laws targeting renters and benefiting landlords. Slack-jawed Steven rode his wife’s coattails into one win, but this year he pissed off fellow Republican George Nikolakakos. According to local gossip, George then recruited his wife to run, and run she has. While we’ll be working hard to defeat her in November, right now we’re going to celebrate that Steven Galloway WILL NOT BE ON THE BALLOT IN NOVEMBER.

Randy Pinocci
When he’s not trying to fist-fight voters or engaging in (alleged) felony witness tampering, Pinocci is making over $100,000 per year as our Public Service Commissioner. This cycle, Pinocci was on the ticket with Tanner Smith running for Governor, and Pinocci as Lieutenant Governor. Not only did the Smith/Tanner ticket lose big, Pinocci couldn’t even win the election for local precinct person. Love that for him. After two big losses, Pinocci WILL NOT BE ON THE BALLOT IN NOVEMBER.

Sandra Merchant
It’s a really bad time to be Sandra Merchant. Late last year, the County Commision voted to remove all election duties from Merchant (the current Clerk and Recorder) due to her gross incompetence. Now, Merchant will be without her bodyguard, Grulkowski. In an embarrassing turn of events, Merchant was also unable to win her election for local precinct person. Admittedly, precinct races don’t have much weight, but it’s mighty fun to watch this particular fall. Let’s hope that with Grulkowski on her way out, Merchant will finally find the sense to resign. 

Now what?
Looking ahead to November, it’s clear that Democrats have a lot of work to do.  The worst Republicans have been ousted, but we don’t want to elect the ones remaining either. Despite the tantrums of Republicans bemoaning the crossover votes, what we’ve seen is that Democrats are finally ready to fight back. Now let’s go kick some ass.

Gianforte Raised Your Property Taxes

Gianforte Raised Your Property Taxes

By Ryan Busse

Greg Gianforte raised your property taxes. And he did it deliberately, in order to give the wealthy and corporations huge tax cuts. That’s a simple truth that our governor doesn’t want you to hear, but it’s important for all Montanans to understand as we decide whether Gianforte deserves a second term.

Just last year, Gianforte and his supermajority in the Montana Legislature faced an important choice: Should they follow the recommendation from Gianforte’s own Department of Revenue, which suggested lowering the residential property tax rate from 1.35% to .94%in order to keep property taxes neutral — as previous Republican and Democratic governors have done? Or should they ignore that suggestion and bow to the lobbyists of wealthy corporations who pleaded for millions in tax cuts to bolster their profits?

Gianforte, of course, chose Option Two, walloping Montana homeowners and renters with the highest tax hike in state history so corporations could get their tax cuts. It hit the rest of us hard. The Gianforte Tax Hike is pinching Montana families at a time when our state is already facing a housing crisis.

Under Gianforte’s watch, Montana is the most expensive it’s ever been. And then he made it worse.

Only one Montanan — our governor — is ultimately responsible for raising property taxes. But that’s not what Gianforte wants you to believe. “It’s the counties’ fault,” he falsely claims. Or “city governments spend too much money,” he says. Those are lies. Just ask the countless elected Republican county commissioners and municipal leaders across our state who are furious that Gianforte is blaming them, willfully bearing false witness against his own neighbors.
Speaking of his neighbors, Gianforte is faring pretty well through his own tax hike, and that raises even more serious questions about whether he deserves a second term.

Public records show Gianforte’s next-door neighbors in Bozeman got slapped with a tax increase of nearly 71% in 2023, bringing their annual property taxes to over $11,680. But Gianforte’s mansion only got a tax increase of 19%, totaling $7,088. And it gets much, much worse.

Gianforte owns another mansion in Helena. According to a blistering investigation by MTN News, property taxes on every one of the 75 homes surrounding his privately owned mansion in Helena shot up dramatically. One of his neighbors got hit with a 62% tax hike. But what happened to Gianforte’s own property taxes? You guessed it. Somehow the tax bill on his Helena mansion went down nearly 7%. He gave himself a tax cut.

All of this is incredible but none of it is conjecture. It’s all easily verifiable with a few clicks on publicly available tax databases. And the governor hasn’t denied any of this. He refuses to answer questions about it.

Perhaps he believes it’s just his right to make things easier for wealthy people and harder for ordinary families. Perhaps he is proud of giving himself and his wealthy friends millions that could fund our public schools or provide tax relief to working people across this state.

Perhaps we should just take him at his word. After all, he warned us what his approach would be when he proclaimed, “the fairest tax is the one you pay and the one I don’t.”

One thing is for sure. As Montana faces another historic budget surplus, Greg Gianforte cannot be given another opportunity to make things even worse for the rest of us. He’s promised to stack the deck for people like him. We should believe him.

Ryan Busse, a former firearms executive, is a Democratic candidate for Montana governor.

AG Knudsen- Montana’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer?

AG Knudsen- Montana’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer?

At a fundraising event on May 11, Attorney General Austin Knudsen told a crowd of potential contributors that campaign contribution limits are “ridiculous.”  He went on to tell the crowd that he had recruited a person to run against him in the Republican Primary. Current contribution limits in Montana law provide that a donor can contribute the maximum amount to a candidate in a contested primary race and again in a race in the general election. Candidates are also allowed to carry unspent funds in the primary over into the general election. This shell game allows a candidate to essentially double the amount of money that can be raised from one donor.

The Daily Montanan reported that Knudsen said,  “I do technically have a primary. However, he is a young man who I asked to run against me, because our campaign laws are ridiculous. So, he’s a young man from my part of the state. His name is Logan Olson. He’s not running. He filed to run against me simply because under our current campaign finance laws in Montana, it allows me to raise more money. So, he supports me and he’s going to vote for me [audience laughs].”

The Montana Free Press reported that the friend Knudsen recruited to “run” against him has not organized any campaign, other than filing for office. In and of itself this game Knudsen and his young friend, Logan Olson, are playing is likely illegal.  But then it turns out that Olson doesn’t even meet the legal requirements for running for Attorney General.  Specifically, the law requires that candidates running for Attorney General have  five years of legal practice in Montana under their belt in order to run. Olson was admitted to the Montana Bar in 2020.  

Montana law prohibits falsely filing for office or making a false oath or affidavit as required for candidates running for office. The law also prohibits one candidate from enticing or threatening other candidates not to run in an election. The Montana Democratic Party has filed two complaints with the Commissioner of Political Practices which have been accepted for investigation. This is just one more example of Knudsen doing as he pleases without regard for the law.  He is currently charged with 41 ethics violations filed by the State Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

 

We’ll miss you, Dona.

We’ll miss you, Dona.

Former Mayor and lifelong activist, Dona Stebbins, has passed away. We certainly cannot improve upon her beautifully written obituary, which we have included in its entirety below. We’ll miss you, Dona.

View the obituary posting here: Obituary for Dona Russelle Stebbins | Croxford Funeral Home

 

“Dona Russelle Stebbins left for the final curtain on April 26, 2024 after a short illness. Born in Billings Montana to Mary Jane Sage and Glenn Wynne, in her Wonder Bread years she was raised in Miles City by her mother and stepfather Dr. Andy Elting , a veterinarian who instilled her with a lifelong love and dedication to animals. Dona graduated from Custer County High School in Miles City in the class of 1965. It was during this time that she hosted the Spinners Sanctum on the radio in Miles City, the beginning of a creative life behind the scenes, on the stage, and on the microphone.

Early on, Dona recognized her talent for singing and performing and set out for California with fellow musician James Huatala, whom she married but ultimately divorced. They returned to Montana, performing in The Smile Band, Brightside, and Dona James and Jayme. In 1977, a skinny guitar player from Wyoming named Grant Stebbins auditioned for the band in Sommers, Montana, and Dona’s life was never the same. Traveling around the region as the Bitterroot Band, Dona and Grant married in 1981.

Grant and Dona’s daughter Kathryn was born in 1983, and they came in off the road to raise her. Dona tended bar for many local bars, most that are now lost to history. Dona then became an instructor with May Technical College. She later transitioned into media sales with Fisher Broadcasting, where she won the Manning Award numerous times. She would also work for Consumer Press and KFBB television. It was during this period that she met her friend of a lifetime, Susan Johnson.

Dona was highly active in community service and non-profit work in Great Falls, serving for years as a member of the executive committee and editor for Neighborhood Housing (Now Neighbor Works). She also began writing grants and acquired funding for Center Stage Community Theatre, including the grant that funded Center Stage Inc. to purchase and renovate the downtown location of the 111 Central building. She was know for being a fierce and fun director. Known for such elaborate productions including Oliver, Wizard of Oz, Cabaret, Man of La Mancha, and Camelot. She was active in the theater directing and acting in over 35 productions alongside Grant and Kate between 1989-2002. She also performed dinner theater at the Jack Club and Times Square for Phillip Peterson Productions during that time. Dona was a constant when it came to local boards, committees, advisory groups, fundraising and activism. She wanted to impact changes at a larger level, and ran unsuccessfully for State House in 1988. Her interest in political activism continued to grow through her work at Center Stage and Neighborhood Housing, leading Dona to run for Mayor of Great Falls. She served two consecutive terms as Mayor from 2006-2010, where she helped finalize the new U.S. district court house, and led the efforts for the Westbank rehabilitation and development to improve access to and open spaces for families and their pets. As mayor, she was a member of the League of Cities and Towns, traveling to Washington D.C. and Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada to represent the interests of Great Falls. She received the Dorothy Richardson award in 2007 for outstanding service for community development and served on the Blue Ribbon Committee to establish guidelines for Great Falls animal ordinances. As both Mayor and a citizen of the city, she believed strongly in shopping locally, and always supported downtown development. In the end, the list of her accomplishments and accolades cannot reasonably be recounted.

In 2010, Dona retired from active public service, spending her time with the ladies who lunch, the Divas, and her family. She raised a duo of corgis (Lulu & Lola), and traveled with Grant far and wide. For the whole of her life, she was a voracious reader, with a never ending list of books queued on her Kindle. She was dedicated to supporting local authors and local bookstores, so hardcopies also line the bookshelves at home. Ultimately, Dona’s impact is vast; she is remembered as a champion for the voiceless and the marginalized. She fought loudly for rights and protections of women from all walks of life, and was an ally and advocate for the LGTBQ+ community. She is remembered by those who knew her as a decent, classy, and brilliant woman. Who was loyal to a fault, and could be picked out of a crowd for her distinctive laugh, colorful embellishments of family history and her excellent penmanship. She could also never turn down someone in need and could never resist buying a new pair of oversized sunglasses where ever she traveled.

Dona is survived by her husband and partner in adventure, Grant; daughters Breann Lamborn (Dean) of Casper, Wyoming, and Kate Barrett (Matt) of Portland, Oregon; her grandchildren Lily Jane and Maximillian; sisters Debi Huatala (James) of Seaford, Delaware and Dian Bowers (Brock) of Elizabeth, Colorado; several nieces and nephews, dear friends, her corgis and two cats.

The family would like to thank everyone who has reached out with love and memories. Dona was dedicated to making real change, so in lieu of flowers, we request that you please make a donation to the organization of your choice in honor our fierce woman. To share your condolences with the family, please visit www.croxfordfuneralhome.com