Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
The question is: Which Republican candidate do you think can beat the Democratic nominee? (See right)
The poll will run until next Thursday to give you time to digest the results from Tuesday and change your vote if you wish.
Monday, January 28, 2008
In today's Tribune is an editorial decrying that the Tribune and Animal Foundation are "dirty". Evidently the writer thinks that the Animal Foundation has "undue influence on the Tribune as well as on the City". I don't know if this is true, but I do believe the writer is all for the Humane Society of Cascade County (HSCC) taking back control of the shelter.
Animal activists have been insistent that the HSCC be given back control of the shelter. According to this document that Susan Overfield scanned, the HSCC claimed in September 2007 that "because HSCC has been running the shelter for the past fifteen years, it has the experience to continue doing so and to do so effectively and efficiently".
* If they were doing such an effective and efficient job, why did they tell the commissioners on July 3, 2007 that it was a good idea for the city to take temporary control?
* If they were doing such an effective and efficient job, why did this independent animal welfare consultant find at least 120 deficiencies?
It seems many of the problems Ms. Staton observed had much to do with lack of training. I know of no business or organization that can be effective and efficient if it does not have trained staff. It's essential.
Let's take a look at some of the issues:
Lack of training - page 18:
"Current staff have had very limited training for the jobs they are required to perform. This results in costly mistakes, safety issues, frustration on the part of staff and the public, and a less professional organization. It also places staff in an unfair situation by expecting them to perform well in a job they have not been trained for. Further, it is difficult to hold staff accountable for errors that are made."
"I asked a number of staff what training they had received for their respective jobs and all of them indicated they learned from someone at the shelter. None had any formal training for the jobs they were doing".
This lack of training also led to other problems:
Animal care - page 16 - "While staff made a concerted effort to assess animals upon intake and record this information using an "Animal Health Check" form, no real training had been provided on how to properly evaluate an animal. For the most part, staff training consisted of "on the job" learning from previous employees whose training was also limited. Consequently, the legitimacy of any findings is questionable".
"Animal Care Standards" - page 17 - It was pointed out that the shelter was giving out "Animal Care Standards" to the public, but was not following the guidelines themselves.
Animal Vaccinations - page 9 - follow up vaccines were not being administered and different brands and types were being used.
Shelter Sanitation - page 19 - many "longstanding oversights" were referenced with lack of training and resources being given as the main reason for staff not following proper procedure.
Standard Operating Procedures - page 21 - "There is a glaring absence of written guidelines at the shelter. I was provided with some information on sanitation protocols, certain forms used at the shelter, and animal care guidelines provided to pet owners. Beyond that, I was not able to locate anything".
Is asking that the HSCC be back in control really a wise request?
1. More money to SME - We found out last week that the city just paid SME another $130,000+ for September and October "energy imbalances". We've discussed it here and here. The explanation given by City Manager John Lawton raised more questions than it answered. Nothing much new about that.
2. The City, SME and ECP - This relationship is just begging for an independent investigation. Gosh, the Trib. could maybe even win another Pulitzer Prize if it stepped up to the plate.
3. The City and water rights - I asked if anybody had a clue about this subject, and FireFly responded. Commissioner Jolley mentioned a report that was supplied by the city's water rights attorney that raised more questions.
4. City Commission Travel Fund - At the City Commission meeting last week, this issue was raised by Mary Jolley and prompted a response the next day from Assistant City Manager, Cheryl Patton. It's just another example of the city's caviler attitude toward our money.
5. Airport Authority - it seems everyday something new and exciting is happening with this organization. Just recently, they found out they couldn't keep information secret and now they want to get into the economic development business, but from the sounds of it, management is not qualified. What's really going on up there?
6. Fairgrounds mismanagement - After reading Commissioner Joe Briggs' comment here, my question is why this 'lack of fiscal control over spending" has not been addressed sooner? How responsible is local "management" for this apparent mismanagement?
7. The Animal Shelter - It would be nice if the Trib. would do an unbiased exposé of this entire story from ALL parties involved in animal welfare in Great Falls. As I've mentioned before, there are always two sides to every story and in this case, at least three or four.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Scroll down to see a photo from a recent attack that was captured on film..
Friday, January 25, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
We are seeking volunteers for our February 4th through the 7th commodities distribution. We need help unloading food from the semis, stacking pre-boxed food, and to help deliver the food to low-income seniors. The commodities will be held at the Family Living Center which is located at Expo Park. Some of the jobs that we need volunteers for are:
UNLOADERS: These folks will be unloading the semi that brings us the food for our clients. This is done on Monday from 9:00-10:00.
STACKERS: These folks help stack the boxes of food as they come off the packing line. This is done on Monday from 10:30-until finished. Lunch will be provided.
HAULERS: These folks are needed to help load the food in our client's vehicles. This is done on Tuesday-Thursday, 9:00am-6:30pm. You can pick the day and amount of time you wish to volunteer.
DRIVERS: These folks are needed to deliver the food to our clients who can't pick up their box of food. This is done on Tuesday-Thursday, 8:00am-6:30pm. You can pick the day and amount of time you wish to volunteer.
PARKDALE: We desperately need 4-6 volunteers on Monday between the hours of 3pm-6pm to help the Parkdale Distribution center deliver about 44 boxes of food. For more information contact Don Calkins at 727-1120 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We always look forward to recruiting new volunteers. So if you think you may be interested in volunteering, email or call me with the day, time and job that you would like to volunteer for. My email address is email@example.com or call me 454-6989 and we'll sign you up for an hour or a day, whatever time you can contribute will be greatly appreciated.
Russell H. McKinney
Then this. It's one thing to read about an unknown person doing things like this, but it makes a difference when you knew the person enough to have formed a positive opinion.
We just never know.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
* SME buys power from PPL and sells it to the city.
* During the course of the month, sometimes the demand for power is high, sometimes it is not. This imbalance is tracked by NorthWestern, the cost of which is market driven.
* It takes a few months for the actual imbalances to be calculated and the invoices sent to the city.
When the vote was taken on this item, Commissioner Jolley dissented.
So yes, Firefly, you do need to add $130,700 to your totals for 2007.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Total assets: $1,308,907
Fur Ball proceeds: 161,863
Proceeds from investments: 97,352
The Animal Foundation's website reports that they have raised $1,426,207. (I'm assuming this amount includes the proceeds from investments). According to the information published by the Trib., they have raised $1,405.210. That is a difference of $ 20,997.
Today, Susan Overfield posted her take on the numbers and comes up with a difference of $ 117,346.00.
So, which is it? $20,997 or $117,346? Either way, there's a problem.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Consent agenda: Note page 2 of the total expenditures (#7) under Electric:
Sept. energy imbalance adj. $54,752
Oct. energy imbalance adj. $75,948
Does anyone know what this is about?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Over at GreaterFalls, David has received several comments about the name change. Since the Recall Poll was successful with 62 of you participating, I thought I would try another one. This time about the name change. If you're new to it, it's real simple. Just click on your answer; no signing in. You can't vote more than once, but you can change your answer. (See right column).
Now, for my "expert" analysis:
When the poll first went up, I think the majority were placing the recall in the context of the animal shelter abuse allegations and did not think it would be a success. But, as time went on, I think folks began to realize this could be a good way to clean up city hall.
For sake of argument, let's say the signatures are gathered, the vote taken and the mayor and the two commissioners are recalled. Where does that leave us:
1. A city manager on the job for less than a year, maybe not even six months
2. Two commissioners on the job for less than a year
3. Two other commissioners and a mayor who would be brand new to the job
4. City department heads who are used to doing things under the "old guard"
I'm not convinced recall is the answer. Should it occur, I would feel more confident if there were experienced leaders at the helm. Granted, Bill Bronson and Mary Jolley have been involved in city politics, but they have never been commissioners before, sitting on the other side of the desk.
If the mayor and both commissioners are recalled, that means three brand new people on board. Who would they be? They could end up being the same or worse, which is very possible.
The city manager answers to the city commission so we would have a new city manager answering to new bosses.
Before attempting this recall, I'm in favor of giving the two new commissioners and the new city manager a chance before we start making drastic changes.
88 years ago, on January 16, 1920 at the stroke of midnight, prohibition commenced in America. It lasted until March of 1933.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
In today's Tribune, we learn that "proposed language for recall petitions at three city officials (Stebbins, Beecher and Rosenbaum) was submitted to the Cascade County Elections Office on Tuesday". A deputy Cascade County civil attorney has five days to examine the language.
According to Elections Supervisor, Debbie Mart, more research is needed to establish whether the others listed in the recall fit the definition of an appointed official; City Manager, John Lawton, Police Chief, Corky Grove and animal shelter director, Jamie Bennett.
Each petition will need 7,480 votes.
Monday, January 14, 2008
It starts at 3:00pm in the Trade and Industries Building at the fairgrounds.
This post is primarily about questions I have pertaining to a couple of the demands made by the Ric Valois and Susan Overfield group. Ric Valois' entire statement at the January 8 commission meeting can be found here.
Demand #2: "I am calling for the immediate transfer of care and responsibility of the existing shelter to be placed back in the domain of the Humane Society of Cascade County, with a full team of citizens oversight on board at the moment of transfer. All funding and financial resources approved by the City and County, at the level stated in the Staton report, to revert back to the HSCC as well".
In July 2007 I was in attendance at the commission meeting when the commission voted to give control of the shelter to the police department. The president of the HSCC and a member of the board each approached the podium and thanked the commission for their decision. This was 6 months ago. What has changed with HSCC? In fact, are they even a viable organization? They still have a website, with a couple of the links in "Adorable Adoptables"updated, but there is no link to a board of directors. And since I have mentioned their site, why do they have a list of animals available for adoption as well as a list of those that have been? This information is dated primarily November and December 2007. They are not in control so why the posting? For me, as an outsider, this is creating more confusion.
Has there been any discussion between HSCC and the city for HSCC to take back control? I have not heard of any. This makes me wonder if HSCC is in favor of taking back the shelter or if it's what Ric, Susan and their group want.
And who would be this "full team of citizens oversight?" Ric, Susan and their group or an impartial one?
Demand #3: I am calling for the HSCC to install people of proven capability and integrity, Amy Lowe and Jason Dern, to positions of authority in the care and function of the reacquired shelter.
Jason Dern resigned his position at the animal shelter in November. When I read the animal documentations that GeeGuy scanned, I was surprised not to see any correspondence from Mr. Dern telling his story. He had nothing to loose. He had already quit his job. If I recall those e-mails correctly, Ms. Lowe commented that she was fighting this all alone and needed help. Where was Mr. Dern?
In today's Tribune, there is a letter to the editor from K. Dale Schwanke, the personal representative of the Margaret Maclean estate. This is part of his comment: "I spent considerable time researching the possible ways I could fulfill her wishes. Although the Humane Society of Cascade County (HSCC) made a proposal, I did not find it satisfactory as the HSCC was advised". He went on to award $400,000 to the Animal Foundation.
Granted, we don't know the details, but there was something he did not like and an opportunity for an underfunded organization to receive $400,000 went out the window. One can't help but wonder why.
Finally, a couple of more concerns:
-the animosity these various pro animal groups have toward each other. How in the world can they expect trust from the public when they can't get along with themselves? And from what I continue to read, the relationship between these groups is not getting close to being warm and fuzzy.
-no plan about how HSCC will improve the situation from when they had control before. And we know there were problems; otherwise, why would two board members, one of whom was the president, have agreed that it was best for the city to take control?
Here is a comment from Ric Valois from the January 5 Tribune: http://www.gftribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080105/NEWS01/801050302/1002
"Valois said he favors an effort to recall city commissioners and the mayor for their actions on animal control and the shelter. He added that the Humane Society's only problem when it ran the shelter and animal control was a lack of funding from the city".
p.s. - the documents that GeeGuy scanned are no longer available at mediafire. It's been previously posted that you can get a copy at Licini's print shop.
Friday, January 11, 2008
45-7-401. Official misconduct. (1) A public servant commits the offense of official misconduct when in his official capacity he commits any of the following acts:
(a) purposely or negligently fails to perform any mandatory duty as required by law or by a court of competent jurisdiction;
(b) knowingly performs an act in his official capacity which he knows is forbidden by law;
(c) with the purpose to obtain advantage for himself or another, performs an act in excess of his lawful authority;
(d) solicits or knowingly accepts for the performance of any act a fee or reward which he knows is not authorized by law; or
(e) knowingly conducts a meeting of a public agency in violation of 2-3-203.
I'm not an attorney, but reading through it, I don't think recalling these officials is going to be as easy as some may think. Which is a good thing. If it were,I can only imagine how many officials would be chucked out of office and government would effectively cease to exist.
This is information received from Deb Mart, the Elections Supervisor of Cascade County. I'm paraphrasing what was said:
Before the recall process starts, those asking for the recall must submit proof of misconduct. When that documentation is received by the county, it is then given to their attorney who has one week to review the documentation to see if it meets the appropriate criteria. If so, the process can begin. If it does not, the recall group can appeal the decision to a judge.
If the recall gets the green light:
There must be a petition for EACH official
EACH official must receive a minimum of 7,480 signatures in order for their name to be placed on the special election ballot. (Even though six were asked to resign, they are treated independently of each other).
The recall group has three months to collect signatures
Not all officials have to be recalled for the others to be. It all depends on the number of signatures each receives. And, just because you may sign one petition, doesn't mean you have to sign the others.
Official 1 - receives 2,500 names
Official 2 - receives 5,000 names
Official 3 - receives 3,100 names
Official 4 - receives 7,500 names
Official 5 - receives 7,300 names
Official 6 - receives 2,450 names
Official 4 would be the only name on the special election ballot.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
From the Great Falls Tribune: Here is the list of the city manager candidates. They will be interviewed on Saturday at the Holiday Inn, Russell Room. The interviews are open to the public.
1. James H. Patrick, the city manager of Kalispell
2. Michael L. Ashcraft, deputy city manager in Olathe, Kans.
3. Gregory Thomas Doyon, city manager of Franklin, N.H.
4. Michael L. Stampfler, a consultant and former city manager of Casselberry, Fla., and Portage, Mich.
5. Mark A. Winson, vice president of Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minn., and former city of Duluth chief administrative officer
They will need 6 different petitions with a minimum of 7480 votes each in order for the recalls to make the ballot for a special election. They will have 3 months to do it.
So, do you think they can? At the top of the right column is a poll. It works pretty slick. Just click on your answer. You don't have to sign in so there's no excuse not to participate.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
I'm curious. There's a DEMAND that these people take back control, but, who are they?
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
The highlight of the evening were the animal activists. A few of their demands:
-the immediate resignation of Mayor Stebbins, Commissioners Beecher and Rosenbaum, Police Chief Grove, City Manager Lawton and the director of the animal shelter. If they don't turn in their resignations to Commissioners Bronson and Jolley by Wednesday, January 9, they will immediately start the recall process.
-that the shelter be immediately turned over to the Humane Society of Cascade County.
-opening of the city books for public inspection. If ignored, those asked to resign will have their personal finances investigated.
Susan Overfield was in attendance and made a few remarks that lasted much less than five minutes. Thank goodness.
Monday, January 7, 2008
According to the article in Sunday's paper, Ric Valois is loaded for bear. He encouraged everyone to block Animal Foundation fundraising, because I guess they're in cahoots with the city. He also said that the city commissioners, except for Jolley and Bronson, and the chief of police, better resign or he is going to start collecting signatures for a recall. When I brought up Sunday's article, Ms Overfield indicated that some had already volunteered to collect signatures. Her quote, "The removal of the current administration and all cronies is not about IF, it's now merely about WHEN".
The article mentioned that Mary Jolley asked several questions, but did not elaborate on what those were.
Mary, if you would like to e-mail me your questions and the answers, I will post them.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
I am wondering though why this wasn't done in the beginning. Maybe it has to do with some internal investigation process with which I am not familiar.
Friday, January 4, 2008
I don't have a problem with the article, but I do take issue with a quote from democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards:
"In the last 30 years, our country has systematically pursued policies to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the richest Americans while making the rest of us poorer, more insecure and more vulnerable."
I'll just bet John Edwards is more insecure and more vulnerable since his net worth is estimated by Money Magazine to be about only $55 million. Poor thing. I wonder just how much "poorer" he has become since these policies have been in place?
Thursday, January 3, 2008
I am working on a PDF project that I am hoping I can publish online. I've never done this before, but I'm always, for the most part, willing to take on a challenge. I found "instructions" about how to do this. I felt great when a message popped up telling me my file would be converted in approximately 10 hours. I was a little surprised at the length of time, but figured they must have a lot of jobs. An hour into it, I received a message that my job had timed out. Now what? No instructions telling me it was still queued, or to resubmit, nothing. So, I checked the FAQs and, you guessed it, nothing that answered my question. I hate to admit it, but I abandoned ship. It was a trial offer so at least I wasn't out anything, except my time.
I started to look for a plan B. I found another option and submitted my file, but when the process was complete, I couldn't find the file. No message telling me where to look, etc. so I assumed it probably didn't process. I went back and tried it again, but this time, I got a message telling me "the service is temporarily out of order while it is checking your sign on credentials". My only options were to go back or to cancel. I went back, but the same thing happened, so I canceled.
Well, lo and behold, this morning I received an e-mail from my very first submission; the one that timed out. It was ready for pick-up!! (10 hours took only 3+ days!). I "picked it up" and the good news is, it is my file. Tonight, when I have more time, I will see if it will do what I think it should.
Thomas Sowell has a good article in today's offline editorial page of the Trib. You can find it here.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
The Billings Gazette has an online section entitled "Strange News", which can sometimes be amusing. Today there is an article about a python in Australia that ate four golf balls thinking they were chicken eggs. According to the article about pythons, they use sight, smell and heat to ambush their prey. Evidently the owners of a chicken coop placed the balls inside the coop to encourage their hen to nest. The article didn't say if the plan worked, but I bet they don't try it again. The snake, after surgery, is recovering nicely.
As I mentioned here, I cannot understand how operating an animal shelter has disintegrated into such controversy. I am not personally acquainted with any of the players, but I just can't help think all parties involved are, to some degree or another, responsible for this total breakdown. There are just too many accusations being tossed about that are being refuted, a comment posted that needed to be retracted and who knows what else.
How can anyone trust anything that is said?
If the care of animals is really what is uppermost on the minds of these folks, then they need to stop the power struggle or whatever the hell it is and get on with the business of taking care of the animals.