Tuesday, April 29, 2008


The handwriting on the wall is very clear. If you cross SME, you're toast.

Maybe the city knows this and that's why they are still hell-bent on supporting this project in spite of all the setbacks and internal game-playing, which has done nothing but erode trust in city government.

After all, we don't even have an agreement, and remember, Tim Gregori said we don't need one. If SME did what they did to Yellowstone Valley who did have a contract, what do you suppose they can/will do to us?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Another Road Block For SME

According to Yellowstone Valley, they are removing themselves from the Highwood Generating Station project. In a letter to their members, they think the rising cost of the plant could increase the cost of power to the point that it will be cost prohibitive.

It's good to hear that somebody involved with this outfit has finally seen the light (no pun intended).

"SME CEO Tim Gregori said Yellowstone Valley requested that the cooperative be “insulated” from any further development costs related to building Highwood Station.The SME board of directors voted that, as of May 1, the cooperative will no longer responsible for further development costs. A separate legal entity was created, from an accounting standpoint, “to demonstrate the insulation,” Gregori said."

A couple of statements from Mr. Gregori cause concern:

1. "...a separate entity was created, from an accounting standpoint". (emphasis added)

I attended the ECP board meeting in April. Tim Gregori was the featured speaker and mentioned not one thing about a separate entity. When did this happen? Is the City of Great Falls a member of this entity? If so, when did the City agree to become a member?

2. "the four other rural cooperatives that make up the project and the utility arm of Great Falls remain firmly behind building the plant".

Real interesting, because Commissioner Jolley says, "Who says the city is firmly behind anything now. Nobody asked me."

I would like to hear from our city manager (not Coleen Balzarini) on this new development.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of 4/28/08

No meetings are scheduled this week.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Generation Y

This was e-mailed to me. I couldn't resist.

In its January 22, 2008 edition, the Quebec City newspaper, Le Soleil, had a topic about generations by age group. Generations are grouped as follows:

The Silent generation - people born before 1945
The Baby Boomers - people born between 1945 and 1961
Generation X - people born between 1962 and 1976
Generation Y - people born between 1977 and 1989

Why do we call the last one generation Y?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Third Reich Buildings Today

If you are interested in WWII history, I hope you find this video interesting. I did. The first image is of the building as it appears today and then how it looked during the war. The only thing missing are captions.

I'll Vote For This One

This is a good cause. These folks do much more than we think and get credit for less. They are volunteers, on call 24-7, use a lot of their own equipment and do not charge for their services.

And they do know how to manage a dollar.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thanks For Participating

Thanks to those of you who participated in my two polls.

The majority of you found that Ms. Balzarini did not behave appropriately when questioned by Commissioner Jolley. Whether somebody likes somebody or not or doesn't like the questions being asked, professionalism and civility must prevail.

The school levy poll took on a life of its own. In fact, the votes had changed so much it was thought on Tuesday that maybe somebody was tweaking the numbers.

Yesterday, I received an e-mail that indicated a former member of the school board sent an en masse e-mail telling everyone to vote in favor of the levy. And evidently they did. I also received at least 25 visits from Georgetown University during the past two days, which seems just a tad coincidental, considering they were only on the site for a second or two (just enough time to vote)? I might also add that almost all of these visits came from different IP addresses.

Even though this poll was about as unofficial as it gets, it showed that the levy is a hot topic and for some, generated a "grass roots effort" to show support for it.

Soccer Parking Problems

Tonight, Neighborhood Council 4 will be discussing the parking issues at the Siebel Soccer Park.

The chair of the council, Sandra Guynn, spoke with the president of the Soccer Foundation and he doesn't think there are problems, so if you disagree, this would be a good meeting to attend.

Where: Heritage Baptist Church - 900 52nd Street North - right across from the soccer fields
When: 6:30pm

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Accreditation Standards

I received a tip today about the source of the accreditation standards that Mr. Cahill refers to in his comments found here.

The standards are set by the State Board of Education whose members are, at least according to those biographies posted online, teachers.

Why wouldn't teachers be in favor of more administration positions given that those jobs are filled by teachers and of course, pay more than a teaching position?

It now makes perfect sense why the high schools have three associate principals and some positions that even a school board trustee doesn't totally understand.

Thanks, Tipster.

School Levy Information

Thank you to Jan Cahill, school board trustee, for answering questions concerning positions at the two traditional high schools. Here are his comments:
I apologize for this being posted rather late at night but I had work, family and school board obligations throughout the day into the evening. I do appreciate this opportunity.
Let me begin by pointing out that the State of Montana requires each of our two high schools have a total of four licensed school administrators (1 building principal & 3 associate principals) at each campus. (Montana Accreditation Standards 10-55-705) This standard is set by the State Board of Education whose members are appointed by the Governor.

Years ago the high schools had one building principal, one vice principal and two dean of students. The high schools no longer have deans. Each high school has a special education coordinator to assure appropriate special education services are being provided to the roughly 11% of high school students who qualify for special education. There are 14 special education teachers at CMR and 13 special education teachers at GFHS. In addition, there are 12 special education para-professionals at CMR and 12 at GFHS.

Each high school has had a finance person for many years. Those individuals are responsible for student funds such as yearbook, athletic fees/events, library fines, various clubs, etc. These are clerical positions.

Surprisingly, enrollment at both high schools has remained stable during the past ten years. Enrollment declines have been mostly found in the elementary grades and most recently at the middle school level. I can't explain why there has not been a corresponding decline at the high school level. One explanation might be that elementary age children that attend parochial schools may decide to attend either CMR or GFHS when they reach those grades.

If I have counted correctly, there are seven secretaries at CMR and six at GFHS. These individuals work in all areas of the high school including main office, attendance, scheduling, records, and counseling. I have been told these positions have been in place for quite a few years.

Keep in mind that our high school enrollment has remained stable. Example: CMR enrollment 2003-2004 - 1736 students; 2005-2006 - 1681 students; 2006-2007 - 1725 students and GFHS 2003-2004 - 1873 students; 2005-2006 - 1937 students; 2006-2007 - 1921 students.

The small learning community learning coordinator positions are at both high schools and are funded through a grant - no district funds are used to pay for these two positions. I will provide information on upward bound, golden triangle, and vision as I need to do more research on these areas.

Additional information: during the past ten years the district has eliminated the following central office administrative positions - Human Resource Supervisor, Purchasing Supervisor, Transportation Supervisor, Library Supervisor, and the Public Relations Director. With the closure of PGMS three years ago, two administrative positions were eliminated as well as various support staff positions. The closure resulted in the reduction of over $2 million dollars in expenses.

I will provide information on the three positions (upward bound, vision and golden triangle) tomorrow. It is important to understand that no final decision has been made about any reductions in the event the levy should not pass. School administration has compiled a list of proposed reductions across the board in all areas. These potential reductions were reviewed by a committee of individuals representing the community, school administration, teachers, and board members during the budgetary process.

Our district has the lowest cost per pupil of any of the seven large districts in the state. I believe this demonstrates our commitment to excellence in education while keeping the cost of education to the lowest acceptable level.

I (and fellow trustee Stu Nicholson) will be at Schulte's 38th Street Store between 9:30 and noon on THURSDAY, APRIL 25, to answer any questions anyone has about the levy. Please stop by and enjoy a cup of coffee (Stu and I will buy) and visit about the levy or anything about your schools.

THANKS! I hope this has been helpful. More to come.
April 23, 2008 1:41 AM

Monday, April 21, 2008

Special "Town Hall" Meeting

Aaron Weissman, the chair of Neighborhood Council 7 indicated they are having a special meeting on Wednesday, April 23 at Noon at the Community Rec. Center at 801 2nd Avenue North.

The discussion is going to be about violence and drug activity at 5th Avenue North and 5th Street. Aaron did mention this serious problem at last week's city commission meeting.

Even though you may not live in this neighborhood, this problem belongs to all of us. If you can, please try to attend this meeting.

Neighborhood Councils - Week of April 21, 2008

Have you ever gone to a Neighborhood Council meeting? If not, you should. It's a good way to learn about what is going on in your neighborhood as well as throughout the city. Everyone is invited to attend the meetings, whether you live in that neighborhood or not.

Starting today, I will post the meetings for the week along with a link to that council's web page. I will also include agenda highlights. (You can also find the schedules in the Great Falls Monday Tribune under Neighborhoods in the Montana section).
When: Monday, April 21 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls Clinic Specialty Center, 3000 15th Avenue South
Agenda: Public Works Director on water and street updates in the area; Search and Rescue levy request
When: Thursday, April 24 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church, 900 52nd Street South
Agenda: Search and Rescue Levy request; Parking problems at the Siebel Soccer Park

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Haven't Changed My Mind

So, did today's article in the Tribune about the $2.71 million school levy change your mind? It didn't mine.

I'm still waiting to hear what is being done at the administration/support level.

According to the article, the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools indicated that maybe one full-time staff position would be cut. Whoopee. But they are prepared to cut the summer learning camps, which last year taught 780 kids reading and math. I guess the reasoning behind this is because this program is not part of the regular school term. That's right. Cut programs that teach kids some of the basics. We sure wouldn't want literates running around now, would we?

The Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Schools didn't mention anything about cutting staff. According to the principals, there isn't anymore fat to trim, except for teachers.

Let's take a look at the administration/support of the two traditional high schools:

CMR - 1600 students

Associate Principals (3)
Special Education Coordinator (1)
Smaller Learning Community Coordinator (1)
Administrative Assistant (1)
Administration (1)
Secretaries (8)

Great Falls High - 1726 students


Associate Principals (3)
Special Education Coordinator (1)
Attendance (2)
Finance (1)
Records (1)
Scheduling (1)
Support Personnel (6)
Golden Triangle (1) *
Upward Bound (1) *
Vision (1) *

Maybe a member of the school board will explain:

1. * If these positions are unique to GFH or does this staff also work with CMR students? What exactly are these positions?
2. Why all of the administration/support positions at GFH and CMR are required and are not even being considered for cut if the levy should fail.

You've Got To Be Kidding

I see in today's Tribune that business editor, Jo Dee Black, told us about a grocery store opening in downtown Seattle. She managed to link this store's opening with the closing of Great Falls' downtown Albertsons.

I don't know about you, but boy am I glad to hear this. Makes me feel much better about the closing of a grocery that serviced local folks hard-pressed to shop anywhere else.

For those of you who can hardly wait, the 18,000 square foot Kress IGA is scheduled to open in June, just a couple of blocks off Pike Place Market.

Maybe the Great Falls Albertson downtown shoppers will car pool on over for the grand opening.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Two Polls

OK folks. I have two polls up; one pertains to the school levy and the other to the dustup from Tuesday night.

If you don't know by now what happened, click here too view a portion of the commission meeting.

And don't be afraid to vote. I have no idea who you are!!!

Four Hands Guitar

It wouldn't be Friday if we didn't have some entertainment, something other than the city matinees and night shows (-:

The Spin

After Tuesday night's dustup between Commissioner Jolley and Coleen Balzarini, Mayor Stebbins is quoted in today's Tribune as saying, "I think she (Jolley) needs to find the facts before she attacks".

Wake up Mayor. Jolley was trying to get to the facts.

There are some at city hall, the mayor obviously included, who think that asking questions to get information is "attacking". I guess I can sort of understand this mentality considering its been nearly forever since we have had a city commissioner who is actually interested in learning the facts and who does not let childish facial expressions and evasiveness stop her.

If staff would just do their jobs, answer questions and give the requested information without excuses, this would not have happened.

And why did Coleen get so upset? Something is not right when a person gets totally flustered and walks out inappropriately before the meeting is over, after they have been asked questions pertaining to their actions. If you are doing the right thing there are no problems. You should be content to answer questions until the cows come home.

As Mary Jolley was quoted as saying, "I ask questions. It's not surprising I ask questions, I don't think".

And I can safely say that Mary won't stop asking questions. It's what she was elected to do.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Relationship Between Commissioners And Staff

A commenter asked the following question: "Just out of curiosity, how do you define what things need Commission approval at a public meeting versus things that should just be handled by the City Manager?"

I gave the link to the city charter, but this document may help as well.

School Budget & Mill Levy Info.

School board member, Steve Erwin, has posted budgetary information at his weblog.

Thanks very much Mr. Erwin for that information. He can be contacted at 761-3300 or 899-3300.


I posted here about two associate principal positions that were open and wondered if they were replacing current positions or were they in addition to. Jan Cahill, school board member, contacted GeeGuy and said that these two positions are replacements for two current principals retiring.

Thank you Mr. Cahill for the clarification. To reach Jan, e-mail GeeGuy and he will give you his number.

Seems Too Cozy

At the City Commission meeting Tuesday night, after Stuart Lewin talked about the problems with the indemnification clause (15) included in the water rights consulting agreement, Coleen Balzarini said that the clause was included on the recommendation of the risk manager.

Risk manager? I don't know what the job description is of this position, but I thought maybe it was part of the legal department. It's not. According to the City of Great Falls Telephone Directory, our city's risk specialist works in the Fiscal Services department, which as we all know has as its director, Coleen Balzarini, who just so happens to be the person who presented this consulting agreement to the City Commission on Tuesday night. (I have a copy of the City Telephone Directory, but the link online is broken).

Did city attorney, Dave Gliko, see the agreement and not challenge the indemnification clause or was the commission meeting the first time he heard of it?

If he knew nothing of this, why not?

Bronson Denies Recommendation

Here I posted about Commissioner Bronson evidently reviewing and concurring with the agreement proposed between the City and Water Right Solutions: "based upon staff's recommendation and Commissioner Bronson's review and concurrence of the recommendation, the Commission is asked to approve this agreement and first amendment".

After Stuart Lewin discussed why he was not in favor of item #15 of the agreement, Indemnification, and after the city manager requested the motion to pass the agreement be withdrawn until further review of the agreement could be undertaken, Commissioner Bronson made it clear his recommendation had nothing to do with the agreement, but with an e-mail that was sent by staff to the commissioners at the end of February.

So, one of two things happened:

1. Coleen Balzarini misunderstood Bronson's concurring and recommending and thought it meant he concurred with the agreement, or

2. Bronson did concur and recommend the agreement, but once he found out that he may not have paid very close attention to certain wording, he denied his recommendation.

No matter what happened, it ain't good.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beecher And Open Government? NOT

Commissioner Beecher made a comment at last night's commission meeting that was just plain stupid, at least for him anyway-very telling for the rest of us.

When Commissioner Jolley was trying to find out from Coleen Balzarini what commission action occurred that reduced the historic Gibson water rights, she was rebuffed. She could not get an answer. Jolley indicated that memos, e-mails and work sessions do not constitute commission action. Commission action is done in public, where the public has a chance to comment.

Commissioner Beecher said he disagreed with Mary. In other words, he publicly admitted that he thinks it's fine to do government business behind closed doors. (If he's planning to run for re-election next year, I think he could have a teeny-weeny problem).

I understand Mr. Doyon has been visiting all of the department heads and reminding them of the citizens right to know and to follow Montana Code Annotated. If he hasn't already, I think at the next opportune moment, he may want to gently remind his superiors of that code as well.

Water Files Fiasco

What started the heated discussion last night between Commissioner Jolley and Fiscal Service Director, Coleen Balzarini, was the location of the water rights files. All along, folks have been told they have to set up a time to travel with a city employee to Helena to view the files.

Commissioner Jolley asked Coleen if the city had the files. Coleen said no. Jolley said she asked because she was told the city did have them. Coleen got quite defensive and said that the original documents are with the State because the State is the actual owner of the water.

Jolley was told files were in the office of Martha Cappis, a fiscal service department employee. Coleen denied it and wanted to know who told her that. It turns out that Martha Cappis said it.

At the Petitions and Communications portion of the meeting, a member of the audience mentioned that a consultant from Water Right Solutions told folks at a work session that the city has 30" of water files at the fiscal department. So, does this mean they have been moved?

Coleen got caught and I think the way she wanted to get around it was to pitch a fit about the location of the original files. I don't think it's a stretch to say that everybody understands the State would have the originals, but it's a huge stretch to think the City wouldn't have copies pertaining to its own water rights. But that is what Balzarini was claiming.

It's time to fork over the files.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So Far, I'm Impressed

At tonight's City Commission meeting, the city manager did three things that impressed me:

1. When discussion ensued over the agreement with WRS, Stuart Lewin brought to the commission his concerns with item #15, Indemnification. He felt it was not in the city's best interest to have this clause. In the process of his explanation, Mr. Doyon was speaking with Dave Gliko, the city attorney, and after some dialogue, Mr. Doyon asked the commission to withdraw their motion on the agreement and to table it until further review of the clause could be completed. The commission tabled it until further notice by the city manager.

2. Mr. Doyon asked that his performance goals be reviewed by the Commission at the next work session.

3. When Coleen Balzarini threw her temper tantrum and left commission chambers before the meeting was over, he did not ignore her behavior, but got up out of the meeting, followed her down the hall and spoke to her.

If you're not attending or watching these meetings on TV, you might want to reconsider. History appears to be in the making.

She Had A Meltdown

I can't say I didn't see it coming. Ever since John Lawton left, Coleen Balzarini has found herself more and more in the hot seat, answering questions and giving explanations about everything to do with SME, HGS and ECP. Each time she's gotten more defensive. Well tonight, she cracked.

Commissioner Jolley was asking her questions pertaining to the water rights files and other water right questions, when Ms. Balzarini started talking over Commissioner Jolley and in a less than professional manner. The mayor had to gavel order. After the exchange, Coleen sat down, but once the item was tabled, she got up and stomped out of commission chambers. Hot on her heels was her boss, Mr. Doyon. He came back without her, but he did not look like a happy camper.

I think Coleen found out tonight who's the boss.

No To School Levy

Unless I have missed it, I have not heard one word about what changes the school district is planning to make at the administration level if this levy fails.

Last month a citizen at a neighborhood council meeting asked Stu Nicholson (school board member) if the rumor that GF High was getting another associate principal was true. Mr. Nicholson didn't know. Yesterday I did a search and found TWO job openings for associate principals; one at GF High and the other at CMR. (The information now appears to have been pulled).

Are the current APs leaving their positions or is the district now hiring two additional ones?

Several years ago I worked for a company in the private sector that fell on very hard times. We did not have the luxury of holding out our hand to ask for help from the taxpayers. We had to figure out ways to keep the ship from sinking. Speaking from personal experience, it's amazing what can be accomplished when options are few and far between.

Quite often, most businesses do not operate as efficiently as they should be. Unless they find themselves in a serious bind, this usually goes unchecked; business as usual. People get very used to doing certain things in a certain way and actually believe there is only one way to do them. Not so. Being on the ropes forces one to reevaluate how work is being accomplished and if it is being accomplished in the most productive manner. Very often there is room for major improvement.

Yes, folks were laid off. Nobody wanted to see it happen, but very hard decisions had to start being made. No employee took a pay cut, but we didn't get raises either, cost of living or otherwise. And it was understood. Folks were just glad they still had a job. It's not even common sense to think that there should be pay raises when money is getting tighter by the day.

This company eventually went out of business, but the experience I gained from staying the course was invaluable. For those of who think the only way to gain an education is from a book, think again. NO advanced accounting textbook or otherwise prepares one for this kind of challenge. It's OJT, all the way.

Until the administration tells me how they plan to efficiently move the cheese at the top, I will be voting against this levy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Working Together?

At tomorrow's night City Commission meeting, the commissioners are going to vote on whether to approve or deny a consulting agreement with Water Right Solutions, Inc. out of Helena. This would not be the first agreement the City has had with this company.

I admit I'm confused by this whole water rights thing. I don't know if approving this agreement could cause problems down the road or not. Are there legitimate reasons for this agreement or is the City up to something? Maybe tomorrow night we will learn more.

What I find interesting is that "based upon staff's recommendation and Commissioner Bronson's review and concurrence of the recommendation, the Commission is asked to approve this agreement and first amendment".

Is it normal procedure for staff to consult with only one of the commissioners and based upon that commissioner's "concurrence" place something on the agenda? I know Commissioner Jolley was not aware of Bronson's involvement in this.

Isn't the City Commission supposed to be working together?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Voting After The Fact

City Commission Agenda, April 15, 2008

I hate to sound like a broken record, but the fact the City Commission votes on expenditures after the fact, really bothers me. This just does not seem right, much less legal.

Commissioner Jolley will vote against the Electric Fund expenditure of $57,202.60, because ECP is supposed to be self-sustaining. She's the only commissioner who thinks obeying the ordinance is important and has said numerous times she will not vote to break the law. (This expenditure is for additional power used in January).

But other than Ms. Jolley going on record as voting against the expenditure, the payment is a done deal. All of the payments are a done deal.

Unfortunately, voting on the expenditure report is nothing more than a formality. It should be more than that. It is after all, our money.

"Front Fell Off"

Enjoy your Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Yes He Should

According to the headlines, Mr. Doyon wants to know his role in the Highwood project. Should he be taking time away from the city to attend monthly meetings held in Billings?

I believe he should. After all, the number one criteria the City Commission required when headhunting for a new manager was that he support the project. Unfortunately, he has an incredibly steep learning curve, but it is the number one issue facing this city.

I think it would be a very good idea to have Mr. Doyon, as a newcomer, attend these meetings so he can ask questions and hear first hand what is being discussed. Perhaps only then will certain aspects about this project start coming to light. Coleen Balzarini has been involved with this mess since the beginning and is up to her derriere in alligators over it. I want the new manager to come to his own conclusions without relying on Ms. Balzarini to inform him about everything. After all, he's the one on the hot seat, not her.

It's a breath of fresh air to actually have a city manager ask for direction from the commission, rather than the other way around.

I hope they are up to the task.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"The British Are Not Stupid" either

We need to give the Brits their due too!!

Our Tax Dollars At Work

I'm not going to give the State the benefit of the doubt when they thought a software program they purchased could be used on multiple machines without purchasing separate licensing for each installation. There's no excuse for this oversight, if that's what it is.

Dick Clark, the chief information officer in the Department of Administration, says, "I don't know that there is blame. It's kind of a cumulative effect. Obviously it's a wake-up call for us to manage things in a lot more aggressive manner." The department is now "going to emphasize that software licensure is a "big issue".

Come on. Anybody who works in this field and is responsible for purchasing and/or installing the software better be well aware of the licensing regulations, especially at this level. The State installed the same software on more than 5,000 computers and they thought this would be OK?

Yes, Mr. Clark, software piracy is a big issue.

Now the State has to pay $921,000 in unlicensed software fees and $218,000 for upgrades and maintenance of the software.

I wonder how much it would have cost the State if they had done it right the first time?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"Early School Rules"

Now be honest. How many of you pulled these kinds of pranks when you were kids?

Early School Rules of etiquette from around 1900:

"Neither boys nor girls must wink at one another. Boys shall not carry any girls in their arms or on their backs unless heavy rains or mush ice have made the creeks and branches impossible to cross. No hugging, squeezing, or kissing shall take place while the girl is being transported across the water...Don't pretend to see ghosts in an effort to frighten younger pupils...You shall not go in swimming naked within 200 yards of the schoolhouse...You shall not bring to school any hawk's claw for use in pinching the ears and noses of others...Do not put any dead pigs, polecats or other dead animals in the schoolhouse loft to create a stink...You shall not argue hotly as to whether the earth is round or flat".
North Carolina Mountain Folklore (1972)

Monday, April 7, 2008

We Don't Need A Development Agreement

because Tim Gregori says so.

I attended this evening, for the first time, an ECP board meeting. The city manager was there as well as Cheryl Patton, Bill Bronson and Mary Jolley. No sign of the other three commissioners.

Tim Gregori from SME was the main agenda item. When his presentation was over, Stuart Lewin commented that he was confused about the relationship between SME and the City. Was it a partnership? Mr. Gregori indicated that the City of Great Falls is a member of the co-op, and as such, has one vote. There exists between the two a contractual relationship to buy and sell power.

When comment was made about the development agreement between the City and SME, Gregori indicated the agreement was not necessary since RUS decided against loaning money to SME. Because of this, the City no longer has to find separate financing. SME is now the "single financing entity", carrying all of the liability. An exception would occur if the bonding agency would require guarantees from all of the co-op members. Gregori did not think this would happen.


The city is still going to have a financial responsibility. What will it be?

Resolution 9537, which was adopted Dec. 5, 2005, says nothing about a development agreement being unnecessary if federal financing falls through. One commenter pointed out that only the City Commission can rescind a resolution, not Tim Gregori, not ECP and not the "city".

Maybe it's time the City Commission rescind resolution 9537 and adopt a new resolution taking into account the changes that have occurred since 2005.

Ode To Spellcheck

Eye halve a spelling chequer; it came with my pea sea.

It plainly marques, four my revue, miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word and weight for it two say

Weather eye am wrong oar write-it shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid, it nose bee fore two long.

And eye can put the error rite-its rarely ever wrong.

No misspellings found here!!

This Just In

Mary Jolley commented on FireFly's site that Tim Gregori is supposed to be giving an update on the Highwood Generating Station at tonight's ECP board meeting. Public comments are allowed with no time limit.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30pm TONIGHT at the Civic Center

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Animal Foundation Donation?

At last Friday's budget meeting, Commissioner Jolley indicated that Commissioner Rosenbaum said that "they agreed to donate the land and building of the present animal shelter to the Animal Foundation, in lieu of cash". Acting city manager Cheryl Patton indicated that the Animal Foundation would probably expect more.

When did "they" decide to do this? I did a check of the city website and I found no public hearing held on this issue or a vote taken to authorize this action.

Rosenbaum's statement should not be confused with the unanimous vote in favor of item #23 on the November 8, 2006 City Commission agenda:

In January of 2006, the Commission adopted an amended plat pursuant to the Memorandum of Understanding accepted by the City Commission on July 19, 2005 between the City of Great Falls, Robert Sletten, and the Animal Foundation of Great Falls. The agreement provided that the City deed approximately 55 feet of the west side of the aforementioned Lot 4 to Robert Sletten and Robert Sletten deed approximately 55 feet of land lying directly to the east of Lot 4 to the City or the Animal Foundation of Great Falls in order to make the property more usable for a new animal shelter facility. The amended plat adjusted the particular boundaries accordingly.

Is Rosenbaum confused or did a decision occur behind closed doors?

Saturday, April 5, 2008


which means having a love of letters. And what better way to celebrate letters than to talk about the history of Scrabble.

On April 4, 1993, the inventor of the board game Scrabble died. Alfred Mosher Butts was born in 1899 and "while unemployed during the depression, he surveyed the English language as found on the front page of the New York Times, determining the frequency with which letters were used. From this he gave each a value-the commonest being worth one point and the least common, Q and Z, worth ten-which was used for scoring. First dubbed Lexiko and later Criss Cross Words, his game was played beginning in 1938, but no manufacturer showed interest in mass-producing it. His wife, Nina, once amazed him by scoring 214 points with quixotic. Butts eventually put his game aside before selling it outright to entrepreneur James Brunot. In 1948 Brunot renamed it Scrabble, (from Dutch schrabben, to scrape or scratch) and set up a Scrabble factory in an abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut. Since then, over a hundred million sets have been sold, and more than a million are still sold each year".

Forgotten English

Thursday, April 3, 2008

"One Hell Of A Mess"

No kidding. The 2010 federal census is already approaching the $14 billion mark and that's after the census department scaled back plans to buy 500,000 hand-held computers to 151,000. It's going to cost more than 3 times that of the 2000 census, which came in at $4.5 billion.

Unpreparedness; lack of experience; cost overruns...sounds kind of familiar.

"Americans Are NOT Stupid"

I don't know if I should laugh, cry or be offended. Maybe all three.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Letters And Memos

Here is the letter from Montgomery Energy to the City of Great Falls, attention John Lawton:

When the city e-mailed this letter to the commissioners they also e-mailed this memo from John Lawton, dated June 6, 2007. Commissioner Jolley calls it the "memo from the grave".

Here is the city's response which was reported in the Tribune yesterday:

Commissioner Jolley wanted to know why the city responded to the letter before the commissioners had had an opportunity to read it.

At last night's City Commission meeting, Cheryl Patton called it a snafu that the commissioners didn't see the letter before she asked Coleen Balzarini to respond to it.

You Don't Say

Sometimes a comment is made that just "takes the cake". There was one made last night at the City Commission meeting by Commissioner Bronson.

There was amicable discussion about the additional $171,000 the city needs to cover animal shelter cost overruns. One party was convinced the city intends to stay in the animal shelter business for good.

Commissioner Beecher assured all of us that is NOT the case. Commissioner Bronson concurred and went on to say that "expenses would go down if irresponsible pet owners would quit [being irresponsible]".

It was nice to hear Commissioner Bronson make a comment, but I hope in the future his remarks contain a wee bit more substance.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Benefis And Their Banners

GeeGuy has been discussing today the very recent revelation that Benefis now has their city banned banners hanging at the airport.

I think I might know why this happened.

When I attended the Council of Councils meeting on March 19, a short discussion ensued about Neighborhood Councils using sandwich boards to advertise their meetings. Just about everybody said, including the mayor, that according to the sign code ordinance, only downtown businesses could use sandwich boards. Somebody else piped up and said that even though that's the case, Neighborhood Councils could use them too. The mayor said she knew exactly what department to talk to for a clarification as she had just gone through a similar thing with Benefis.

According to Mayor Stebbins, Benefis called her when the city told them they had to take their banners down. In very similar words, she told us, "I guess they thought I could wave my magic wand and fix it". She directed them to the variance department.

I guess they were told no.


Well, it finally happened! My identity was exposed by David at GreaterFalls.

I started off blogging on Mr. Lawton's site, but once I won the election, by a landslide I might add, we decided it best to go our separate ways. I'm happy to report that it was an amicable parting.

It just didn't seem right that as Mr. Lawton's supervisor, I would be sharing my inner most thoughts regarding the problems and shortcomings of city government on his blog.

Even though I've had to bring several "behind the scenes" situations to light, I hope we can still be friends.

Happy April Fools Day Everybody!