Friday, November 24

Skate Park Covered with Graffiti

On this blustery day after Thanksgiving, I took a long bike ride instead of fighting shoppers. I know, I know, I am not doing much to help our consumer driven economy. However, I had much turkey that needed to be worked off.

During the workout, I rode by our municipal concussion generator. I was surprised to see that most of the park is covered with graffiti. Examples of all this spray-paint artistry are displayed on this post.

Now, the city is very quick to notify property owners that they only have 72 hours to remove graffiti on their property. If not, the city will remove it for the property owner at $200 per hour.

These paintings look like they have been up for a lot longer than three days. I would guess that the pumpkin display above has been up since before Halloween. Other paintings have been up for so long that they are beginning to fade.

I am assuming that the city just doesn't know about it; otherwise they would be following their own regulations, right? Right. And if you believe that, come see me about some beachfront property in Kansas. Unfortunately, the city is damned either way here. Either they are not following their own regs or they are not paying attention to their own facilities.

The city needs to clean up this mess.

Tuesday, November 21

Welcome to Chaim and Chavie!

Chabad is coming to the Big Sky State!

I just received an email from Rabbi Chaim Bruk. He and his wife, Chavie, are planning on moving to Bozeman this Spring! They will open the first Montana branch of the worldwide Chabad Lubavitch movement.

Organized Orthodox Judaism has existed in Montana before. At the turn of the last century, there was an Orthodox synagogue (and even a schochet) in Butte. However, almost all of present-day Montana Jewry is either affiliated with the Reform Judaism movement or is very liberal in its practice.

Personally, I am very excited to learn from Rabbi Bruk. May he and his wife have safe travels!

Twenty-Four Percent ?!?!?!?!

My company just received our annual Health Insurance renewal quote from Blue-Cross/Blue Shield. An across the board twenty-four percent increase. 24%. That is on top of double digit increases every year for the past ten years.

Who can pay this kind of rate? This year, the individual rate is as much as the family rate was when my daughter was born eight years ago.

Obscene and disgusting. Makes me want to throw up.

Monday, November 20

Say it Ain't So!

A short break from local Great Falls political ramblings ...

A news item just crossed my inbox. Apparently, New Line cinema has fired Peter Jackson from directing their upcoming Hobbit movie due to a contract dispute over the Lord of the Rings movies.

LOTR would never have been such a faithful interpretation of Professor Tolkein's vision if it were not for Peter Jackson. As a result of his actions, those of that have spent part of our lives living and breathing Tolkein were shown three very majestic and inspiring films. There and Back Again should be nothing less.

Bring back Jackson! New Line should be ashamed.

Channel 5 wants to hear what I have to say

I was just interviewed for News Channel 5. I think that the story will air tonight.

They are doing another story on local bloggers. They are following up after their story about greaterfalls.netcom, which was broadcast yesterday.

Beer Sales Issue Needs More Attention

As I have discussed before (here and here), there is a public vagrancy problem in Great Falls that need attention. However, I think I have been too hasty in supporting a proposed measure to ban convenience stores from selling single cans of beer.

The more I read and discuss about this issue, the more unworkable this ban seems to be. Most problematic is the definition of a single can of beer; is a 24 oz. bottle to be banned? It is very difficult to construct an ordinance that narrowly does what is necessary here without raising additional questions.

In addition, such an ordinance would also inappropriately affect merchants, like Vintage Sellers on the West side of town, that import high-end beer that is only available by the single bottle. I have no desire to impact that business in any way.

However, I think it a mistake to throw out the baby with the bath-water. We still have vagrancy, public drunkenness, and public nuisance problems in our downtown. Many of those problems could be solved by restricting access to single cans of been.

So how do we do it? How do we write an ordinance that works to clean up our downtown without painting with too broad a brush?

I suggest that the ordinance be amended, to state that the total transaction for any sale involving carry out alcohol must total at least $3. The effect is the same (it is still more difficult to panhandle that much) and one can still buy a can of Bud at the M&H. However, you will have to buy some chips and maybe a sandwich with your brew.

What do you think?

Friday, November 10

Neighborhood Council 7 Meeting Agenda

Monday, November 13, 2006
Heisey Memorial, 313 7th Street North
6:30 p.m.

Please note: This agenda format allows citizens to speak on each issue prior to Council discussion. We encourage your participation. In the interest that all parties can be heard, please limit your comments.


Great Falls Public Schools—Trustee Stuart Nicholson


Approval of October minutes
Weed and Seed application for the North side—Jayci Kolar
Whittier teacher parking

Longfellow School traffic problems
Neighborhood Concerns

City Commission meetings
Coordinator’s Report


Next Meeting – December 11, 2006 – Civic Center, Gibson Room, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 8

Benefis Deserves Hurrah

Also swept aside with the election was news that Benefis decided to drop their suit against the Clinic. Personally, I think that Benefis deserves some community hurrahs for taking the first step toward a d├ętente in the war among health care providers in our community.

Benefis could have continued their suit, and patient care in our community would have suffered. Yesterday, Benefis signaled that they were more interested in caring for their patients than they are in fighting.

Now is the time for the Clinic to make the next step. There is no reason that our hospital and our doctors can not work together.

Northside Schmucks should return Teacher's bike

Lost among the election news in today's paper is a blurb about a 3 Wheeled bike that was stolen from Mrs. Staiger, a handicapped HANDS teacher at Whittier elementary. Whoever stole this bike should be ashamed.

As a community, we can help right this wrong. I have priced a replacement bike; it will cost about $475 to purchase a new bike. The Whittier PTA will raise that money.

Want to help? Please send a check to the Whittier PTA, c/o Whittier Elementary, 305 8th Street North, Great Falls, MT 59401. Please mark on the subject line that the funds are to be used to replace Mrs. Staiger's bike.

Yesterday was a Good Day

When I started this blog, it was with the idea that I would highlight what I believe to be the "purple" majority in this country; people that are less Democrats or Republicans than they are Americans.

Yesterday was a very good day for that majority. Personally, I think that part of the reason that the GOP Congress did such a good job from 1995-2000 was that our country had a Democratic President.

The past six years have been something of an anomaly in our post-war history. Having one party hold undivided power is neither common nor is it good for our nation. I welcome the new Democratic majority in Congress, and hope that it provides a necessary check on our government.

Let the hearings begin!

Tuesday, November 7

If you haven't done so already, go and VOTE already!

The one thing that separates the great idea of democracy from other forms of government is the ability of a plurality of the people to determine who governs.

Today, options are before us regarding not only who will make our laws, but about what many of those laws should be. In the past several days, I have posted some of my opinions about those laws.

Whether or not you agree with me, I urge you to go to your polling place and VOTE.

Saturday, November 4

Vote Yes on Aquatics Bond Issue

Another issue that Electric City voters will have before them on Tuesday will be the aquatics bond issue. If passed, this initiative will spend $2.3 Million to fix up our neighborhood pools.

Specifically, about half the funds borrowed through this initiative will fix up the Jaycee and Water Tower pools so that they can be reopened. The other half will go to maintenance on the Mitchell Pool.

We need to keep our city aquatics facilities. Without this initiative, the Jaycee and Water Tower pools will have to be shuttered permanently.

Vote Yes on the Aquatics Bond Issue.

Vote No on I-151

This Tuesday, we have some decisions to make. One of those decisions will be whether or not to increase the minimum wage.

As I have argued before, a $1 increase really doesn't make too much difference in today's economy. The market has taken care of things; there is no real job (except service jobs primarily held by high school kids) that pays the "legal" minimum. In the business I run, the starting wage is now over $8; that is really the case anywhere in our State.

The real danger of I-151 is mandated annual increases in the minimum wage, based on the growth of the federal Consumer Price Index. The CPI is based on the average federal inflation rate.

Now, prices in New York or Los Angeles do not necessarily have any relation to prices in Great Falls, MT. To tie our minimum wage laws to the national economy is a recipe for disaster for many Montana small businesses.

Like I said, a $1 increase will not have much impact on either Montana workers or the (mostly) small businesses that employ them. However, annual increases will. If such a thing happens, one of two things will have to happen; either prices will have to go up or businesses will have to reduce growth and potentially shutter their doors.

There is only so much room a business has to raise prices. When they reach that ceiling, the next decision will have to be to, say, hire five people for a new venture instead of ten. Worse, the decision might be to not open a new business instead of be forced to pay more for a job than the position is really worth.

Vote no on I-151. It takes control of our economy out of our hands.