Thursday, December 5, 2013

Current conditions.

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Yesterday’s paper had this gem from the principal of Bonner Elementary: “teachers check the temperature and wind chill levels before any recess or lunch break, and keep children inside if the wind chill is [lower] than 10 below zero.”

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Unfortunately I’ve been stuck in the office this week and unable to really enjoy this great weather, though I did manage to bike about 40 miles in the past four days.

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(Spot forecast for Lolo Peak.)

NWS Missoula said this would likely be the longest stretch of cold weather in 40 years. I’m not quite sure what that means, since low temperatures here aren’t even in the neighborhood of record values, though Mesonet did show this morning that apparently the entire state of Montana was below 0 – with some spots approaching -30.

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(The Clark Fork mostly frozen, with what’s not frozen freezing fast, this morning in light snow and -6.)

Rock on!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Suzy Foss should fire Jan Wisniewski.

Let me start this off by saying that Jan Wisniewski was never anything other than nice to me. He’s actually a funny guy. He drives around town in an endearingly small and battered pickup which is co-piloted by what is probably the nicest cow dog in all of Ravalli County. The first time I met him he told me a joke: “Why do all Polish last names end in ‘ski’? Because it’s easier to spell than ‘toboggan’.” Sometimes when he would talk to me he was so earnest I thought he was being ironic, but he wasn’t.

Unfortunately, Wisniewski is at the center of the latest in a long line of shitstorms to emerge from the Bitterroot. It’s easy to blame him, but it reality a lot of it is Suzy Foss’ fault.

I used to groan when Sepp Janotta would tell me that I “need to tell the backstory”, but here you go. Wisniewski has been on the county planning board for years; mostly he kept quiet, but occasionally would offer some gems, as he did once when he told me that he had seen black helicopters up to no good in the valley.

Suzy Foss first introduced herself to me as “a pissed off grandma” and seemed to fashion herself after Sarah Palin. She beat Carlotta Grandstaff in the 2010 commission race and became chairwoman in 2012. Despite being a Republican, Greg Chilcott is actually a great guy, but while he and J.R. Iman used to make up the right-wing of the commission, those two have now become the meager voices of reason in the county building’s third-floor chambers.

This fall Foss led the charge to deny federal funding that kept open a low-income health care center, saying she was “concerned about the staggering national debt” (she kept the fed's PILT money, though). She’s overseen the firing of Dave Ohnstad, the roads manager, who was a good man – and a Republican – and the departure of the planning director, who was replaced with a real estate agent. More recently, Foss has been at the helm while the county’s tax office has plunged into disarray, with employees saying the recently-hired treasurer is unable to perform even the most basic duties; the current treasurer was hired in lieu of a much more experienced junior officer, who then resigned after being forced to teach her new boss how to do the job. Foss’ current project is to bring in a consultant from Utah who specializes in organized fights to “take back” control of public lands from the federal government; she suggested the county pay $5,000 to become members of study group that thinks the counties should manage federal land.

So far Wisniewski has been known for goofy but mostly harmless stunts; most recently he ran for the state House District 87 seat – as a Democrat – and as a Democratic precinct chair. Obviously, he’s no Democrat – this was a brilliant/idiotic attempt to infiltrate the party. Earlier this year, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes – which is headquartered up in Lake County – filed an application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to transfer 58 acres the tribe owned in Ravalli County to BIA trust. In April, though, the county commission voted to oppose the application, noting it would lose $808 (!) annually in property taxes.

The parcel is known as Medicine Tree and is adjacent to U.S. 93 south of Darby, and in November five tribal members came to the commission to explain the site, which officials said pilgrims visit twice a year – Medicine Tree has roots in the tribe’s creation story. During public comment, Wisniewski, a Darby resident, approached the podium. As The Missoulian reported, “Wisniewski offered observations from a ‘fact-finding’ trip he took across the state. Wisniewski said he had a conversation with law enforcement officials in Havre who complained about their jails being filled with “drunken Indians” off the reservation.”

Well, let's wonder at the mysterious ways of the world for a moment. What does a jail in Havre have to do with a parcel in Ravalli County? Were those drunk Indians CSKT members? How many drunk white people are in the jail in Darby? Why does the county commission, which is always going on about protecting property rights, want to fart upon the tribe’s property rights? If the commission is truly concerned about the tribe opening a casino on this patch of rock, have they not noticed that casinos already line nearly the entirety of US 93?

CSKT members said they were “deeply offended” by Wisniewski’s comments, which went unremarked upon by the commission until a lot of county residents spoke up. Last week, the commission said they’d write a letter offering an apology to the tribe.

Blanket statements that stereotype Native Americans as “drunken Indians” are stupid, and extra stupid given the context of Montana. The Salish were forced out of the Bitterroot, and not that long ago. CSKT has been re-acquiring this lost land since the 1930s, and Medicine Tree is part of that effort. It’s ironic that those who scream the loudest about “property rights” should have an opinion about the tribe’s.

For her part, Foss later said she was offended by the Wisniewski’s statement, but that’s not much consolation. Wisniewski’s term on the planning board expires this month, and Foss would be wise to end it.

I’m betting she won’t.

Here’s a picture of two chili dogs:

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