Friday, October 30, 2009

More Tribune Problems

So much for printing the backlog of city election letters to the editor. Today, there are seven letters to the editor and not a one of them has anything to do with the election.

On the opposite side of the editorial page, is a sample ballot along with the names of those running for Neighborhood Councils.

According to the NC list, these folks running for Neighborhood Councils are "write-in" candidates. No, they are not. These people went down and filed and their names actually appear on the ballot. There is only one "declared write-in" for any Neighborhood Council; me, Sandra Guynn, NC4. (Since I filed for mayor, I could not also file for NC). Declared write-in names do not appear on the ballot.

And what's with the November 6, 2007 date?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Letters To The Editor

In today's Tribune, the editors said they can no longer accept city election letters, because of a backlog.

If there's such a backlog, why not begin to print them? Ballots are due in less than a week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Good Bang For Their Buck"

That's outgoing City Commissioner Bill Beecher's take on the financial picture of the city.

In today's paper, his opinion concerning the "facts" was printed. (See below). As always, the city is in "good" financial shape, because the audits are always clean and the budget department always gets an annual award for their ability to prepare the budget according to the rules.

As my tax accountant told me, it is strictly a fluke to find evidence of wrongdoing in a normal, run of the mill audit.

By the way, according to Beecher, taxes have only gone up 3% annually in the past five years.

UPDATE: Do you think Beecher and his cronies could even begin to give coherent answers to the pop quiz? Me either.

South Arterial Study

Here you can find a copy of the latest South Arterial Alignment study.

Here is the city's planning department press release concerning this project.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of October 26, 2009

This week, there is only the Council of Council meeting.

When: Wednesday, October 28 at 7:00pm
Where: Gibson Room at the Civic Center

* Info. on the Leadership Great Falls visioning process
* Ongoing problems with RV's, trailers and other vehicles permanently parking on city streets
* How technology could involve youth in city issues
* How to increase awareness and involvement in Neighborhood Councils
* Updates from each Council

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Great One Has Spoken Once Again

According to Tim Gregori, there is "justifiable optimism" that he will obtain funding for his gas plant. He claims that financing is "nearly within reach". Does this admission mean he is finally through misrepresenting the financing he never had?

Honestly. What's it going to take? A majority of the coops and the City of Great Falls going bankrupt? How many times does Gregori have to be proven wrong before these knotheads wake up? By his own admission, he's finally had to admit that he was not telling the truth when he told everybody that financing was not a problem. And yet here they are, still hanging on every word he says, as though he walks on water.

This also seems to include the reporter from the Billings Gazette.

According to this article, a BBB bond rating is considered "medium-quality investment grade". Oh really? According to here and here, it's one step above junk and that basically, it would be a financing entity living in the twilight zone who would even consider bankrolling a project with this rating.

But...No worries. Be happy. The Great One has spoken and "financing is nearly within reach".

H/T: R.L.

Letter To The Editor

In today's paper is a letter to the editor by Greg Jergeson, the chair of the Public Service Commission, concerning his opinion on SME/ECP. Mr. Jergeson has endorsed Fred Burow and Donna Zook for City Commission:

Special City Commission Meeting

When: Today, Friday, Oct. 23 at noon
Where: Commission Chambers

Declare Bay Drive Force Main Repair Project an Emergency and Award Construction Contract

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not Happy. Not Surprised.

Evidently, incumbent John Rosenbaum and retired city police chief, Bob Jones, are not happy that the chair of the Public Service Commission, Greg Jergeson, has endorsed Fred Burow and Donna Zook in the city's commission race.

Rosenbaum went so far as to say the endorsement is "highly irregular" and Jones thinks it's "pretty inappropriate".

In my book, the fact that another elected official, which our elected and appointed (ECP) officials seem to forget that he is, has come to the defense of his constituents (since they won't), indicates just how "highly irregular" this boondoggle really is.

(I could not find the article I quoted from on the online version of the Tribune. See KRTV for a similar story).

Last Night's Forum

As a member (chair) of Neighborhood Council #4, I was pleased with last night's Commission Candidate forum. About 35 people attended, which was about the same number who attended the Tribune forum, which included the mayoral candidates. (Both mayoral candidates had scheduling conflicts which kept them from attending last night).

We deliberately set out to ensure that this forum could not be construed as biased in any way. Questions by Neighborhood Council members and members of the public were submitted in advance to our moderator, Aaron Weissman. He then gave those questions to the GF High Debate Team members, who decided which questions would be asked. Audience members were encouraged to submit questions as the forum progressed. I handed those off to the debate team members, who once again, determined which ones would be asked.

Each candidate was also allowed to ask a question of each of the other candidates. Rosenbaum didn't even ask a question. He made some comment about levies that made no sense. Aaron tried to get a question out of it, but to no avail. Fred Burow reiterated his take on the budget numbers and Jones didn't even want to discuss it. Donna Zook said she couldn't respond because she didn't understand what he said.

Travis was there for the entire event. See his posting of it here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spot Zoning Case Going To State Supreme Court

According to an article in today's Tribune, the landowners spot zoning case against Cascade County and SME is scheduled for a state Supreme Court hearing on November 18.

A year ago, District Judge Wayne Phillips ruled in favor of the county and SME when he ruled that rezoning the land for the HGS was not considered spot zoning. Opponents indicated they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bronson Elected To Board

Mayoral candidate and current City Commissioner, Bill Bronson, was elected as third vice-president of the Montana League of Cities and Towns at its annual convention held recently in Great Falls.

According to his press release, "Through service in the league's leadership, I'm better positioned to work for Great Falls, both through contacts with elected officials in other Montana communities, as well as in helping develop a legislative program that benefits our city as well as other Montana cities and towns".

(I couldn't find this story on today's online version of the Tribune).

Youth Council Meeting

The Youth Council is also meeting this week:

When: Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 7:00pm
Where: Community Rec Center

Membership applications
Upcoming poetry reading at Hastings
Additional space for Youth Council activities

Monday, October 19, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of October 19, 2009

For the third time in a month, the Tribune has not published notice of the Neighborhood Council meetings in their Monday papers.

It's not like they don't get notice of them. Emails are sent to 3 people at the Tribune, one being a managing editor, and they still can't get it done. Oh sure, they'll print them on Tuesday when they've been notified of their blunder, but that doesn't help the councils who meet on a Monday.

Come on Trib. This is grassroots involvement. Get it together.

When: Monday, Oct. 19 at 7:00pm
Where: GF Clinic Specialty Center, main floor conference room

Information on the Russell Park fundraising efforts for playground equipment
Committee Reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Oct. 22 at 6:30pm
Where: Heritage Baptist Church, 900 52nd Street North

County Planning Dept. -property code enforcement, Jim Schillinberg
Update on various problem properties
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Learn About Mountaintop Removal

A lot is going on this week. Another presentation is also on tap for Thursday, Oct. 22nd:

: Presentation on mountaintop removal in the Appalachians
When: Thursday, Oct. 22 from 7-8:30pm in Room B101 at MSU-COT

Word has it that a company from Canada is proposing to do mountaintop removal on a mountain North of Glacier Park.

Oct. 20, 2009 Work Session

When: Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 5:45pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center


1.Public/Private Partnership for Tennis Facilities –Marty Basta, Dave Crum, and Ben Rangel
2.Cascade County Conservation District Update – Toni Neslen

Local Government Roundtable

When: Thursday, Oct. 22 from 6-8:00pm
Where: McLaughlin Center, Providence Forum

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gas Plant Gets Air Permit

The DEQ has authorized an air permit for Gregori's proposed gas plant. It becomes effective November 1. Appeals will be taken until November 16.

Construction can commence on November 1, but Gregori would not comment on when he would get started. (Probably because he doesn't have the money he said he had and which doesn't look very probable he will get).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Great Falls Trivia

In celebration of Great Falls' 125th anniversary, the second volume of Great Falls Memories has just been released. This is a photo album depicting life and events in Great Falls from 1940-1980. (The first volume highlighted the city from 1884 thru 1939).

According to a picture description submitted for this latest volume, this structure in Great Falls was the tallest building in Montana in 1956. Can you name it? Hint: It still stands.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Commissioner Candidate Forum

Neighborhood Councils are sponsoring a Commissioner Candidate Forum on Wednesday, October 21 at 7:00pm in the Gibson Room at the Civic Center.

The rules for this forum are being written by the GF High School debate team.

Questions will be taken from Neighborhood Councils and the public. Candidates will also have the opportunity to ask a question directed to each of the other candidates.

For Immediate Release:
Great Falls’ Neighborhood Councils have combined to host a City Commission Candidate Forum on October 21, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. in the Gibson Room at the Civic Center.

Commissioner candidates Fred Burrow, Robert Jones, John Rosenbaum and Donna Zook will answer questions written by the Neighborhood Council members and by the public. There will also be an opportunity for candidates to ask and answer questions of each other.

The Great Falls High School Debate Team has written rules specifically for this forum. Those rules will be enacted by forum moderator and Neighborhood Council member Aaron Weissman.

The public and media are encouraged to attend.

For further information, call Neighborhood Council Coordinator Patty Cadwell at 455-8496.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Neighborhood Councils - Week of October 12, 2009

Four Councils are meeting this week:

When: Monday, Oct. 12 at 7:00pm
Where: NeighborWorks

Conditional Use Request for a Worship Facility -- River of Hope at 111 6th Street South
Agenda of upcoming Council of Councils meeting, 10/28
Notification regarding upcoming NC sponsored commission candidate forum, 10/21
Request to contact BNSF about the excessive number of nighttime train whistles
Neighborhood Concerns

Status regarding issues on 8th Street and 4th/5th Avenue North
Status on project to lower Speed Limits on Park Drive near Gibson Park
Status of Whittier & Longfellow speed petitions
Status of Gibson Park Lighting project
Problem Properties
Other Old Business

City Commission
Other Reports
Next meeting -- November 9, 2009, 7 p.m., at Great Falls Recreation Center

When: Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 7:00pm
Where: Meadowlark School library

Report on findings of the Swan Court petition
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 7:00pm
Where: West Elementary School cafeteria

Update on the proposed West Industrial Park
Levy Developments
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Oct. 15 at 6:30pm
Where: Women's Annex at the Pre Release Center

Student neighborhood project
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

Candidate Forum

The Tribune is sponsoring a candidate's forum on Wednesday, October 14, at 6:30pm at MSU-COT. As I understand it, the format will be similar to the one that was held Sept. 2.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Not A Hoot

Evidently, Mayor Stebbins wasn't able to come up any words of wisdom on how to "connect with constituents, so she took a potshot at one. Typical.

BBB Rating

According to a snippet in today's "The Edge", Standard & Poor's has assigned SME a BBB credit rating, which is the lowest investment bond rating. (Several months ago when members of the public asked what the rating was and who had rated SME, Gregori was not forthcoming).

From Standard & Poor's:
Issue: Southern Montana Electric Generation & Transmission Cooperative ICR
Maturity Date: Jan 01, 2099
Rating: BBB/Stable
Rating Date: May 07, 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Good News

Jan Cahill has been elected the new director of the Cascade County Humane Society. I know this because I spoke with him Tuesday night.

Hope is running very high that finally, CCHS and the Animal Foundation, who has a new director as well, will put aside past problems and start to work together to improve the situation of the animals.

I'll post more information as it becomes available.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What A Hoot

The Montana League of Cities and Towns is currently holding their 78th conference in Great Falls. Look who's on the agenda at 9:00am on Friday to talk about "Connecting With Constituents".


7:30 a.m.
Inspirational Breakfast
8:00 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.
City Attorneys Seminar
8:30 a.m.
MLCT Annual Business Meeting

9:00 a.m.
Mayor Larry Bonderud, Shelby
Mayor Pam Kennedy, Kalispell
Mayor Dona Stebbins, Great Falls

Not So Fast, Mr. Ecke

In yesterday's paper, Rich Ecke wrote a piece about the ECP board meeting held Monday night. In the article, he stated,

As the city's electric utility improves its stated bottom line, the audience for Electric City Power Board meetings appears to be shrinking. Only eight people showed up for Monday's meeting, including two city commissioners, the acting city attorney, a Tribune reporter and three members of the public.
There needs to be some clarification here. Since I have been attending these meetings, this board has never generated very much interest. And why should it? Very little of substance is ever discussed. When the dog and pony show comes up from Billings, attendance improves.

On the average, about 8-10 people from the public regularly attend. Of this number, 5 were missing Monday night; 3 of us had other commitments and 2 were out of town.

To surmise that all of sudden interest has dwindled because Coleen says the entity is improving its bottom line, is very much incorrect.

See here, here and here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Candidate Zook Meet And Greet

When: Wednesday, October 7 from 5:00pm-7:00pm
Where: Penny's Gourmet To Go at 815 Central Avenue
Donna is running because the issues facing our community are perplexing and will result sooner or later in additional taxes. The current city commission is responsible for the creation of huge debts, such as the coal plant, the animal shelter, etc., and they are continuing on the same path unless we stop them.

This can be done by electing Donna.

This is your chance to meet with the candidate before the ballots are in the mail.

2009-2020 County Budget

On Friday, beginning at 9:00am, the County Commission will finalize its 2009-2010 budget. The public can comment to the Commissioners up until that time.

Here is a summary of that budget. (Public safety is in the red by nearly $400,000). To see the complete copy, visit the Commissioner's Office, Room 111 in the Courthouse Annex or the Clerk and Recorder's Office at 121 4th Street North, Suite 1B-1.

Welcome To Our World, Travis

I was unable to attend the ECP meeting last night.

According to this report from first time meeting attendee Travis, I didn't miss anything. Same old you know what; Coleen making faces and rolling her eyes at attendees; Golie being rude; everybody else being blamed for their incompetence, etc.

Somebody else in attendance did say that the newest member of the board, Ole Stimac, spent alot of time whispering with Coleen about the packet. Perhaps he's the one Travis said clearly was not prepared.

Yup. Didn't miss a thing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

"Whitewash, the Need for "Clarity", and the election"

The following is a guest editorial from Larry Rezentes:

In the headline of its September 8 “Viewpoints” editorial, the Great Falls Tribune exhorts that “Its time for more clarity on Great Falls’ utility venture.” It goes on to say “At a Great Falls election forum last week, several candidates referred to the city’s supposed (emphasis mine) loss of “millions of dollars…” No, the Tribune may need clarity, but those who have been paying attention have had the results of the venture revealed to them with great clarity; but not by the Tribune. The editorial ignores the fact that losses reported in the Electric City Power financial statements prepared by the city itself do in fact show operating losses from inception through the end of calendar year 2008, of in excess of $1.8 Million. These losses, coupled with even a minor portion of the proposed write-down referenced in the third paragraph of the editorial, do in fact total millions of dollars. The Tribune’s editorial is in the interest of those incumbent candidates who have supported the city’s “utility venture”. The editorial serves that interest by suggesting that there are doubts as to the relative magnitude of the financial losses produced by operation of Electric City Power and by disparaging those candidates that had suggested otherwise.

The Tribune editorial also completely ignores the fact that Electric City Power has operated, and continues to operate illegally, in violation of its founding ordinance that requires it at all times to be self-sustaining. Instead it continues to operate at a monthly cash deficit from its operations, draining cash from the city through the funding of these losses by “loans” from other city funds. Also ignored is the issue of the $60,000 cost to the city, to be paid to Burns and McDonnell, the consulting firm engaged by the city to arrive at a determination of what to do, while ignoring the issue of accountability for what has been done.

The editorial continues with the assessment that “… the city needs to do a better job of making the case for being a power provider”. No, the city has done a very good job of misrepresenting the basis for such a case; with misleading statements; with withheld and unpublicized financial statements showing the continuing and cumulative history of losses produced; with unwillingness to produce a from-inception history of such losses until being repeatedly prodded into doing so.

No, the time is long past where the city should have convinced the citizens of the desirability of pursuing this venture, if there was any merit whatsoever in the city’s continuation of this misguided pursuit. And to do so without wasting further taxpayer money to have consultants from Burns and McDonnell make a decision for them and cover the tracks of an ill-conceived, illegal, and money-losing, business pursuit, that serves a handful of customers and with no benefit to the citizens of Great Falls.

The Tribune also emphasizes that city management, elected city officials, and, supposedly, we the citizens, are waiting with bated breath for the recommendation of the consultants from Burns and McDonnell as to what to do. I for one am not. The Burns and McDonnell consultants have been selected to unknowingly participate in a whitewash. The consultants indicated in their August 11 meeting with the public that their report will conclude nothing about the reasonableness of the city’s entry into this business in the first place, nor of the effectiveness of the city’s historical and ongoing management of the venture. Their charter, instead, is to recommend what to do, not to make a determination of the wisdom, competence, or legality of the actions already taken. They have in fact unwittingly allowed themselves to be used as a pawn in this whitewash of city elected officials and city management by not insisting that they be allowed to fully explore all the issues of interest to the citizens of Great Falls for inclusion in their report and by not insisting that they be given access to thousands of pages of “secret box” information being withheld. Further, the consultants are reporting to those elected officials of the city, the majority of whom have every reason to self-justify and provide a basis to support a decision to continue the venture, and their ongoing support.

Note also that their assessment of financial results being produced by the venture will be largely based on financial statements and forecasts that ignore the cash flow implications currently, and in the future, of continuation of Electric City Power. As I have pointed out in written materials provided to the consultants, the profit and loss statements and fiscal 2010 forecasts charge the cost of power at the “transitional rate”, whereas the city is still paying out-of-pocket the much higher “pass through rate”, with the difference being credited to a deposit account shown as an asset on Electric City Power’s balance sheet. This is why the city has resisted and has only now begun to prepare cash flow statements for Electric City Power on a monthly basis, showing the ongoing cash drain on the city; though it has not yet, to my knowledge, produced a cash forecast of this cash drain for the results to Electric City Power’s operations projected to occur in fiscal year 2010.

Finally, the Tribune, in the closing statements in its opinion piece, states “as with any investment, the city needs to continue to evaluate the risks and rewards of its ECP investment as circumstances continue to change.” That’s nice. Thanks for the advice. Quite similar to the Tribune’s downplay of the anticipated write-down of the City’s investment in the Highwood Generating Station program in its article on the subject, “City Plans to Writeoff some of its $2.3 Million in Losses”, where it said “Not everyone makes money on investments, as the City of Great Falls is discovering. Yes indeed, as the city has been experiencing month by month since the beginning of Electric City Power, but only belatedly, and under duress, reported these facts to the citizens of Great Falls, and to the Board of Directors of Electric City Power. It is unfortunate that the city did not take that advice several years ago before it squandered, yes, multiple millions of the taxpayer’s dollars.

Lawrence C. Rezentes, CPA

Electric City Power Board October Meeting

When: Monday, Oct. 5 at 5:30pm
Where: Gibson Room, Civic Center


1. Financial Reports
2. YVEC correspondonce, dated September 11, 2009
3. City of Great Falls, et al. vs. PSC/NWE (Cause No. CDV- 09-127)
NWE’s Response to Petitioners’ Motion to Reverse or Vacate Final Order and to Remand
PSC Brief in Opposition to Petitioners’ Motion to Reverse or Vacate Final Order and to Remand
Petitioners’ Motion for Extension of Time to File Reply Brief

1. Accept Board Meeting Minutes from August 31, 2009
2. Amend prior meeting minutes of December 1, 2008, January 5, 2009, February 2, 2009, March 2, 2009, April 6, 2009, May 4, 2009, June 1, 2009 and July 13, 2009, to correct meeting location
3. NWE Proposed Rates and Adjustments-October; two memorandums that reflect changes to Competitive Transition Costs (CTC)

1. Written Communication-Handout from Larry Rezentes at August 31, 2009, meeting
2. Billings Gazette article, re: Court reinstates emissions suit vs. utilities
3. Public Comment

November 2, 2009

Here is the link to tonight's packet information.

Neighborhood Councils - Week Of Oct. 5, 2009

Two councils are meeting this week:

When: Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7:00pm
Where: Sunnyside Elementary music room

Info. on area road and sidewalk projects
Mayoral and Commission candidates introduction
Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

When: Thursday, Oct. 8 at 7:00pm
Where: Great Falls High, Room 111, South campus

Committee reports
Neighborhood concerns

October Youth Council Meeting

The newly established Youth Council is holding a meeting this week. This council serves all of the city. Youth interested in participating are encouraged to attend.

When: Tuesday, October 6 at 7:00pm
Where: Community Rec Center, 801 2nd Avenue North

Planning and discussion for a Website
Recruitment of new members
Future planning

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oct. 6 Work Session

Finally. An update on the animal shelter.

October 6, 2009
5:45 PM - Gibson Room

1. FEMA Levee Certification; PAL Agreement, and Impact on Property Owners – Chad Parker and Kim McCleary
2. Animal Shelter Update – Greg Doyon
3. West Bank Properties, LLC (Talcott) Development Agreement – Coleen Balzarini