Bitterroot Politics

You get what you vote for…

Bitterroot Politics - You get what you vote for…

County legislators and Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch Brothers backed Super PAC released their scorecard for the 2015 Montana Legislature earlier this week.

They scored Montana’s legislators based on their votes on some of their key issues. Namely, voting down expansion of Medicaid, funding charter and private schools with public money, eliminating some campaign finance rules aimed at dark money, and lowering income taxes. There were a few other issues but they mostly fall into those categories.

Is it any surprise that all Ravalli County legislators except Pat Connell scored a perfect 100% on AFP’s scorecard? They all voted exactly as they were told by this out-of-state special interest group.

It’s a sad state when not one of these legislators could vote in the interests of their constituency on a couple of these issues. Ravalli County’s poverty level is pretty high and citizens in need of expanded Medicaid coverage got the shaft from their legislators. The county is the former home of Marcus Daly, a copper baron, and a reason why Montana has always had strict campaign finance rules. The valley schools are always struggling to make ends meet with the limited funding they have and these legislators all want to take money OUT of the school system to put it into charter and private schools?

The Koch brothers certainly got their money’s worth in Ravalli County. The Republican legislators are clearly bought and paid for and happy to vote how they’re told.

You can see the scorecard for yourself HERE.



Roads, roads, roads

It’s interesting to read through the correspondence of the county commissioners. It’s helpfully posted online. You can read it HERE.

One of the things you’ll notice if you peruse through all the standard correspondence from various government agencies is that people send a lot of letters complaining about the condition of the roads in the county. It’s probably the most popular topic overall.

The letters are consistent too. The roads are in rough shape and the current practice of filling in the holes with extra asphalt isn’t working. The hole is patched for a couple weeks then the patch falls apart and the hole is back, usually bigger than it was before.

It’s amazing that the commissioners are so tone deaf on this issue. In recent budget hearings there was no discussion of how to fund the road department in a way that would allow them to do more quality work on county roads. There was no discussion of whether the current funding levels would allow them to address the many, many, many roads that need serious work.

Instead, they acted like things were fine and kept the funding levels about the same meaning that county roads will continue to be in poor condition and many surfaces will continue to fail. You can be the commissioners get prompt service when they complain about the condition of their own roads… Too bad the rest of us can’t get that same level of service out of the road department. It’s even sadder that the commissioners are unconcerned about the condition of the roads.


Revisionist history

Nancy Ballance, along with her Tea Party compatriots (aka obstructionists) Art Wittich and Carl Glimm sent out a letter to Montana newspapers claiming to tell the “truth” about the failed infrastructure bill at the Legislature.

You’ll remember that SB 416 was the final, major infrastructure bill to be heard in the House. It had passed the Senate with an overwhelming 47-3 vote. Then it hit the Tea Party central House where it needed 67 votes to pass. On the initial “second reading” it collected the needed 67 votes, ¬†including a vote from Ballance. Then, before the third reading could happen, somebody got ahold of Ballance and reminded her that she’s an obstructionist. Of course none of the other Ravalli County legislators voted for it either. It’s not like Ravalli County roads are in great condition… or none of the towns need funding for water proects…

Now Ballance is saying the failure of the bill was all because of the Governor and his party. This is just blatantly false.

Her initial complaints are about how the bill was presented as an “all or nothing” proposal. This is just foolish. The governor’s bill was HB5, which the House split into several different bills. This bill (SB 416) was a compromise bill from the start, sponsored by a Republican (not a Democrat). It changed the funding mechanism from 100% bonding to a mix of cash and bonding. This was a smart, balanced approach.

Claiming that Republicans passed all the critical funding projects is just not true. If all the critical/high priority projects were funded, there never would have been a need for SB 416. And yet, a Senate Republican realized that these infrastructure projects were good for the state and badly needed in many communities. It’s a shame Ballance couldn’t see how badly those funds are needed at home. The Ravalli County Road Department is woefully underfunded and understaffed and with the threats to SRS and PILT funding, constantly worried about being able to afford projects in need. There are plenty of projects throughout the county that would have been eligible for funding had SB416 passed, but now they’ll have to wait at least 2 more years.

Then she goes on to say:

1. We wanted a prioritized list of projects representing additional critical needs only; 2. We wanted to fund local school maintenance needs across Montana that were eliminated; and 3. We wanted the governor to use the available cash to pay for it and not borrow when cash was available.

Here’s where she’s trying to rewrite history. Never were these concerns addressed on the floor. I listened to all of the debate on SB 416 and the Tea Party obstructionists never said one word about wanting to fund school maintenance projects. If that was so important to them, why was there not a separate bill just for that? Since they broke out the original infrastructure bill into a bunch of smaller bills, why not create one just for school maintenance? Their lack of action proves Ballance and her buddies are not being honest here.

Ballance claims that there was no willingness to compromise from the Dems on this bill, then goes on to argue that it was right for them to block the bill because Dems wouldn’t fund it 100% the way they wanted. The Governor’s original bill was 100% bonding. This bill was a compromise to mix bonding with cash. So they’d already compromised! You can’t criticize a group for not compromising when you’re not willing to compromise yourself.

Ballance and her comrades know they’ve hurt their constituents by foolishly blocking a good infrastructure bill that would have been really good for their communities. Now they’re trying to rewrite history more than a month after the legislature. Don’t let them.



Ravalli County, Montana is a beautiful and unique place to live. Local¬†politics are just as unique. The Bitterroot Valley is well known for it’s blue-ribbon fly fishing and occasionally for it’s crazy politics. In the past few years we’ve had a surge in Tea Party politics and a treasurer who took the county to the edge of bankruptcy. Local politics are decidedly conservative with pockets of progressivism.

Local media is strained due to limited resources and isn’t able to offer true commentary on local politics. This site aims to offer voters in the Bitterroot Valley an opportunity to keep track of what local politicians are up to as well as discuss current events as they relate to local governance.

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