And She Does Word Math Too

What’s the difference between public speaking and public editorials?  Someone else can do your writing for you.  Dedicated staff indeed Elsie, indeed!  It’s far easier to read what Elsie has to say, or whoever does her writing for her has to say than it is to listen to her rambling Sarah Palin-isms.  So she took to the papers today to justify her unprecedented hiring of a high priced attorney out of Billings to handle her affairs on the Land Board.

You have to spend some time around elected officials to have an idea of what the term ‘personal staff’ really means.  In a nutshell, they are positions left for a newly elected official, such as the Governor, AG or in this case Superintendent of Public Instruction, to hand out to their former campaign staff, political operatives and hopefully people who'Meet the boss's son. The go-to guy whenever you need a piece of string or just a friendly wave.' truly understand how crucial operations work.  So in dear Elsie’s case, she has seven appointed positions.  What her editorial doesn’t say is that when she was elected she had no idea how many she could appoint and showed up in Helena for a transition meeting with an entourage and promises of cushy jobs to over twenty faithful followers across the state.  Word has it she was a bit taken aback to learn she had so few positions.  As to that fat $230,000 she plans to save: it’s called vacancy savings (insert hard working permanent staff work even harder to pick up the slack) and savings do to long term staff who flew the OPI coupe before Arntzen took office rather than work for her.

Back to that fancy smancy attorney.  As mentioned in a previous post, the Land Board members are staffed by people who understand the role of the people they work for.  And then there’s that state agency called the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation that employs a whole bunch of people who get this land stuff.  Two of the Land Board members are attorneys and the other three, umm, are, umm ahhh, Lamd Board members.  It’s understandable why Arntzen would blow the bankroll on someone who gets it no matter how ironic it might be that he’s a Billings attorney, you know, her home town.  In Elsie’s words ‘experience counts’, but it’s already there.  Such a shame that she can’t see that through the camouflage of her own justification.

Now about that dedicated staff.  Elsie, you really only mentioned your appointed cronies.  How about those two hundred or so dedicated workers who have put decades and careers into OPI?  Seems you missed the mark of who does the actual work there.  Or maybe you’re still trying to figure out why they come to work wearing life jackets as they ride out Hurricane Elsie and hope for the best in 2020.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

Dissecting An Apology

worst_apology_ever[1]If you’re reading this you’ve probably already read the PEOPLE’S VOICE post calling out MEIC Executive Director Jim Jensen after he smugly chided a Montana AFL-CIO staffer when SB 338 went down.  Old news, OK.  Hit the link and scroll past the post to the comments and check out Jensen’s apology.  Now, let’s have a closer look.

‘I apologize for a late night, off-hand, frustrated post.’  Stop.  Apology accomplished and complete.  ‘The end of the legislative session sees tempers flare, and mine is no exception.’  What’s that smell coming in?  Could it be the proverbial excuses are like assholes wafting through?  ‘SB 338 has been the subject of much controversy and misinformation.  MEIC and our allies (read Talen), including conservation groups in Montana and the Pacific Northwest strongly oppose the bill.’  Yeah Jim, we got that when Anne Hedges and MEIC stood shoulder to shoulder with The Company in opposition of this bill and the families of Colstrip, Montana.  Add to that the families of any other Montana resource industry town that would have benefited from this bill that many referred to as a historic marker.

This anonymous web site has repeatedly claimed that most conservation groups support the bill.  The opposition to this bill is broad, deep and bi-partisan.  It claims MEIC has lied about its position.  That is simply not true.  MEIC staff put our names to what we post.’   First Jim, it’s a blog, not a website.  Second, with a tiny bit of diligence you can figure out who you might talk to if you really want to air out your hurt feelings.  Third, what you are reading is an anonymous blog.  The Ghost of Tom Joad is not affiliated with any organization and its ‘allies’ are the very people MEIC sought to and has harmed through lawsuits to shut down the plants in Colstrip and now through your lovefest with Talen by killing SB 338.

But I went too far last night in a short online comment.’  Again, stop.  Point made.  ‘My frustration got the best of me and I apologize.’  Point made, stop!  ‘MEIC supports worker’s rights.’ Worker’s rights aren’t worth much when those workers lose their jobs and are left staring at the foreclosure notices taped to their windows.  ‘When I served in the Montana in the Montana House of Representatives, I earned a 100% positive voting record with labor.’  Funny, so did Kim Gillan and look at her now, 30 pieces of silver in her pocket and the blood of injured workers on her hands.  You’re in fine company Jim.  ‘I object to the statements being posted online saying MEIC is the lone opponent of SB 338 and MEIC is “in bed” with polluters or is being paid off.’  Me thinks Jim doth protest too much.  ‘That’s a bridge too far but it still doesn’t excuse my reaction.’  You’re right Jim, it doesn’t.  But you can’t seem to just say that.

However, I do hope we can all agree that now, more than ever, we all need to return to fact-based arguments.’  Can’t we all just get along?  ‘(Finally, I must apologize to my late English-major mother for making a grammatical error.)’   Read ‘Look, I’m cute and funny so everyone should like me now because I denigrated myself for all to see.’  Well sort of.  What Jim is really saying is that whoever mocked him is small-minded. Kind of odd as part of an apology.  Heck Jim, everyone makes a mistake.  It’s OK.  But then you went on to butcher your  own apology.


How about one small piece of advice Jim?  If you’re going to apologize then just say ‘I’m sorry, that was really unprofessional.’ and stop at that.  And Jim, you clearly missed the point.  If anyone is owed an apology it’s every man, woman and child in the town of Colstrip.  How about if you, Anne and all of your ‘allies’ head east and make that apology?  Let us know how that works out for you.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s’ a part of.’

$Up With El$ie’$ $taff?

Montana Cowgirl shocked us all this week with the news of El$ie’$ ridiculously paid attorney/advisor in support of her role on the Montana Land Board.  It might be easier just to say that after three and a half months of meetings,  Arnt$en has realized she has on idea what anyone is talking about regarding the board or what she’s supposed to do.  Never mind that the representatives to the land board have staffers who work the process and do the bulk of the work.

Now think back over her campaign and her tumultuous start as the head of OPI and it should occur to  you that she never did know what the office was about, isn’t figuring out now and, unfortunately, probably never will.  Once elected she made promises to multiple supporters that she’d be appointing them to cake jobs within OPI and without fc85f876ce35fbda6b594919091a802b[1]knowing she had a small number of positions that she could appoint.

But maybe she’s found a loophole for her cronies- hire them as contractors like Jim Kearns and CMS or maybe temps who can work short term and collect a fat check.  Could be worth looking into since El$ie seems to have abandoned those party values of ‘fiscal responsibility’.

One thing that is for sure, if El$ie is spending the OPI bankroll on her pals there won’t be anything left for the hard working staff who turn the cranks that make the wheels on the OPI bus go round and round.  They should be grateful, at least she’s implemented a dress code.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’



They Get The Gold Mine, You Get The Shaft

how-to-not-ask-for-a-salary-increaseThis morning House Appropriations, led by Representative Nancy Ballance, tabled the state employee pay plan.  With only two days to move an appropriations bill it looks like that token 1% pay raise is dead, then again, it was probably dead on arrival to begin with.  This decade of legislative sessions and state worker pay has brought those on the earning end no love from the people they elect and send to Helena.  Ironic huh?  Maybe that’s just a cause and effect of a voter who works for the State of Montana and casts a ballot with ideology in mind instead of their paycheck.

Maybe the real irony lies in the fact that on January 5th the very same committee voted 21 to 1 to pass House Bill 1 which contained a 14% increase for legislators.  Pile that on top of  their free government health care, payment into the retirement plan, a fancy new laptop and you have plenty of salt for the wounds of state workers.  Never mind the fact that the head for state employees, Governor Bullock, sent the bill back with some amendatory vetoes and then two weeks later just let it become law as presented.   And pay no attention to those union bosses who are mumbling ‘but we’ve always done it this way’.  They’re dazed and confused by yet another kick in the crotch from the legislative and executive branches.

Certainly there’s time for the likes of Villa, Cook and Jones to concoct a plan that slides the 11017119_10153146765842910_4069452162657497198_nnecessary funds somewhere to give the maximum wing guard at the Montana State Prison a $312 a year raise, and that’s a job that starts out at fifteen bucks an hour.  Or maybe it’s just too much to ask to move a pay raise of $192 a year for the cooks in Lewistown at the Home for the Aging as they feed the disabled their last meals.

So you state workers can sit a while longer and see what magic can get worked up there on the second floor over some whiskey in the dark of night.  But you may want to remember they got theirs on day 4 of this session.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’


State Fund Lives One More Day

Two days ago the workers compensation industry was all abuzz with the news that they may finally get a piece of the injured worker action from Montana State Fund as the ThrillVictoryAgonyDefeat_280x280[1]insurer of last resort.  Earlier this week bill drafts were floating around the Capitol that either eliminated State Fund completely by the middle of this summer or turned it into a mutual fund by early 2019.  Folks lined up quickly with Victory Insurance putting all of its eggs in Senator Moore’s basket on one side and State Fund landing on the soft side to oppose either bill but sort of, kind of, well maybe support a study bill related to becoming a mutual fund.  Injured workers just wanted to know who was going to take care of them.

Both bills made their way to a hearing, one right after the other and of course both with all of the same players in the room.  Just a shift of positions from one bill to the next.  Well, except for Victory Insurance who didn’t pivot from the take over stance.  Victory got their time at the podium by filling the room with paid staff and paid lobbyists like Kim Gillan who sat silently and Scott Reichner who couldn’t seem to remember what year he last served in the Legislature.  Reichner has always been on the wrong side of the tracks from injured workers.  Gillan clearly collected her 30 pieces of silver and held the company banner high.

And despite all of those Victory suits, all of that Victory money and the vast knowledge of two former legislators, Victory’s grab for the State Fund pot of gold has failed.  Both bills were tabled after taking the entire morning and confusing, as well as annoying the committee.  Any annoyance was more than justified given the timing and the fact that legislators believe they can vacate the building by Good Friday.  No time, no energy, no consensus and no path.  Lanny Hubbard and the Montana State Fund have dodged ayoure-fired-15-5[1] bullet today, make that two bullets.  Hubbard has been the target of some powerful legislators like Jim Keane for a while now.  Lanny and his board have two years to either prepare to be privatized or dump some baggage and clean up their image.  But there’s a lot of ego in that shiny building in down town Helena, so we’ll see if one person goes or 300.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

A Threesome: MEIC, Talon and PSE

Have you read the  blog posted over at Intelligent Discontent. The author argues in support of Senate Bill 338 which would obligate the utilities closing units 1 and 2 in Colstrip to help the workers and their families transition. The fact of the matter is that the mess in Colstrip is not the fault of workers, never has been. The responsibility belongs to massive out-of-state utilities who put more profit ahead of environmental standards and the interests of the people who labored to make them those huge profits.  A reasonable and responsible proposal.

Senate Bill 338 also seems like a pretty basic piece of legislation that should fly through the Montana Legislature. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.

So what’s the problem and who’s in the way?  MEIC, that’s who!  The Montana Environmental Information Center (MEIC) is lobbying hard to kill this legislation. MEIC is hoping to build a coalition of free market Republicans and corporate Democrats in order to destroy any hope for Colstrip workers. In the end and once again, workers are on the losing end of that relationship.

hedgesHow is MEIC doing this? They’re using a red herring. Anne Hedges, MEIC’s Lead Lobbyist writes, Senate Bill 338 “moves us in the direction of punishing businesses that have invested billions in the state and are ready to move to the new energy economy. The town of Colstrip needs help with transition, and that doesn’t include scaring away new business.”

MEIC’s argument is disingenuous at best and a corporate lie at worst.  And just plain confusing given its history of lawsuits.

The reason units 1 and 2 are closing is because of a successful lawsuit litigated by none other than  MEIC and the Sierra Club. It’s pretty rich that MEIC is now all of a sudden concerned about Montana’s business climate, particularly the resource extraction business. The fact of the matter is that corporate America uses these kind of scare tactics to keep their huge profits safe without taking any responsibility for their actions. It’s sad that MEIC is Talon’s mouthpiece and siding with corporations over people.

Additionally, the facts just don’t agree with the story MEIC is trying to sell. When Puget Sound Energy closed a coal plant in Washington state, they paid the community almost $50 million. Guess what? Puget Sound Energy is still operating in Washington and investing in Washington.

Don’t buy the lies and the corporate rhetoric. Senate Bill 338 is a simple bill that could be 5af3e46500b316f124a31c5889970162of tremendous help to the people of Colstrip. More than that, the community has earned the support of the utilities, even if the legislature has to be the one to hold Talon accountable.  It’s long past the time of leaving small town Montana high and dry when companies pull the shades on the head office and sneak out of town in the dark of night with groups like MEIC driving the getaway car.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

Injured Workers For Profit

There’s trouble brewing for injured workers and even the people who serve them. Victory Insurance has set its sights on the Montana State Fund this Legislative Session. Victory Insurance prides itself as being “Montanan’s only private workers’ compensation insurance carrier.”

The State Fund, which handles a significant amount of worker compensation claims for people hurt on the job and is the insurer of last resort, has many problems. Their 50ca1d61b977b.preview-620[1]incredibly well-paid executives often put financial incentives ahead of the needs of injured Montana workers, their families and in fact, their own employees. This blog has highlighted the State Funds problem of diverting profits to exorbitant salaries and benefits of its executives, in particular President and CEO Lanny Hubbard whose hourly wage is, are you ready? A cool $146.64 every hour Hubbard sits on the third floor in his  corner office. The State Fund has even worked behind the scenes to kill presumption of illness laws that would benefit fire fighters. Al Ekblad, Executive Secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO has described the State Fund as having “an active role in attacking workers, not honoring them.”

Things could get even worse. Victory Insurance wants to privatize (or “liquidate”) the Montana State Fund. Such a move would result in employees of the State Fund no longer being state employees, forfeiting union protections, and losing pensions.  According to a letter posted on Facebook by the MPEA, all jobs would be lost. Furthermore, the State Fund’s mission would become even more profit-driven, which means even more abysmal outcomes for injured workers.

It appears that Victory Insurance has come to this session ready to play hardball. They have four lobbyists working the session and they’ve recently brought on former State Senator and congressional candidate Kim Gillan as a lobbyist. They know that targeting Democrats will be key. Interestingly, Gillan is also lobbying for Talen Energy, which is hoping to either extract a big pay day from Montana taxpayers or squelch on their commitments to workers in Colstrip.

One last note on Gillan who served in the House from 1996-2004 and the 583e49eb0e951.image[1]Senate from 2004-2012.   When she termed out of both chambers she made an ill fated bid for Congress and handed the seat to Steve Daines.  The Democrat turned corporate lobbyist received endorsements from organized labor in every election cycle.  Ironically, labor has never failed to ask where a candidate stands on privatization.  The answer must be ‘opposed’ to receive an endorsement.  Like her fellow Senator Mary Caferro, Gillan only cared about her answers when she needed the boots and dollars of labor.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’



Al Capone’s Vault

unsolved_mysteries1There’s a frenzy in Helena today with the special Democratic Party Convention and then tomorrow for the Republicans.  Well, more or less anyway.  But with all this nomination business, Elsie Arntzen is hoping to catch a break since there’s no media focus on her.  Then again, what is there to focus on?  Wasn’t there some dustup about ACT reporting and then an investigation that wasn’t really an investigation?  Wasn’t that all supposed to end last week?

You would think that between the accusations made by Arntzen and her numerous missteps since that she would have wanted to release the information that CMS has uncovered to save face.  Or could it be they are still taping together shredded pieces of paper in hopes they’ll finally find that smoking gun.

Rumor has it she’s also retained the services of Geraldo Rivera after watching a rerun of img_6412his failed break in at Al Capone’s vault from 1986.  An email tip brought this picture of Rivera and a member of the CMS staff searching for evidence that will prove former OPI head Juneau falsified records.

Keep digging Elsie, but don’t keep us waiting too long.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul every’body’s a part of.’



$3000 Tax Payer Dollars

5360fcca83b0d-image1If you listen close you can hear Senator Dee Brown’s nails on a chalkboard voice cackling about the spending of tax payer dollars.  Well, except in this case since her fellow teacher, Elsie, is spending those dollars.  So just what does $3000 buy Arntzen anyway?

Last week the Lee papers ran a story about the cost of the ‘investigation’ with their usual repetition of details.  But it does raise a few questions. Why does Arntzen need to hire a human resources consultant to review policies and procedures if OPI already has a human resources manager on staff?  And, if the OPI has access to additional human resource support through the Department of Administration why is she paying an outside firm to do the same work she could get for free from DOA?  Questions that wouldn’t need to be asked in any other scenario since it would be logical to use the knowledge of in-house resources.

Jim Kerins’ and CMS have made a living off state government dating back some twenty years now and certainly far more than a measly $3000 dollars.  Having said that, it’s rather strange that CMS would take on this project.  It’s short term, cheap and in one sense, risky.  Kerins’ has managed to thread the political needle for quite some time by taking on projects with the state that don’t result in any kind of political agenda. Until now.  This time his work will either support the allegations of an OPI leader who clearly has a political agenda or find a few misfiled documents.  A failed witch hunt.

Arntzen ran for office on what she portrayed as the sins of past Democratic leadership.  Unfortunately, when she finally walked into the buildings that house OPI for the first time she found no smoking guns or dead rats.  Instead she discovered an underfunded facility and underpaid staff.  Bear in mind, she has some responsibility in that given her voting sam_spade1record and lack of support for both public education and government agencies, to include OPI.

So Kerins’ has taken on a $3000 project that’s set to end next week on the 28th.  We’re all on the edge of our seats wondering what his investigation/review will reveal.  And at this point, Kerins’ is going to have to find something to feed Elsie.  She’s made a spectacle herself and continued missteps are something $3000 won’t cover up.  One thing Kerins’ should remember when he hands Arntzen that smoking gun, his fingerprints will be on it too.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’


Go West Betsy DeVos, Go West

Yesterday Superintendent Elsie Arntzen  invited the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos to visit Montana.  Nothing surprising here and nothing new at all.  To Arntzen’s credit it’s something she should be doing.  It’s good for Elsie to take a step with the right foot for once given the past couple of weeks she’s had, even though she’s only been in office a few weeks.  So why would this rise to the level of yet another post?  Click the link, read it, read it twice.  It’ll take a couple of times to sift through the poor writing.

Of its several oddities is her reference to Montana as a ‘frontier’ state and having frontier-school‘frontier schools’.  Do you suppose she’s referencing some old map that shows the region as a frontier or is Elsie trying to lure DeVos out on a long train ride and then a stagecoach trip from Havre to Helena?  Perhaps DeVos will have the good fortune to shoot a few buffalo from the window of the train as it passes a grazing heard.  Or it could be that Arntzen is just trying to personify a mystique from days of old now that Montana has finally broken into the current century with indoor plumbing, electricity, cable TV, and grizzly bear free schools!

So really, Arntzen deserves a gold star for getting her letter out.  She wants to showcase her office and Montana’s ‘frontier’ schools.  Now comes the oddity from yet another email tip.


Tim Tharp, Interim Deputy Superintendent sent out an email to all staff at OPI letting them know he’d be visiting with them soon to understand how they ‘contribute’ to OPI.  Had the transition gone more smoothly over the last month this would seem like a reasonable gesture.  In reality the new administration has no clue about the day to day functions of OPI and now they need to find out just what they are doing.  Tharp intends to ask five simple questions and get to know each OPI employee in just five minutes; sort of like six minute abs.  One can only imagine the questions:  ‘What is your quest?’ ‘What is the wind velocity of an African Swallow?’ ‘If you were a tree, what kind of a tree would you be?’ ‘Hammer or nail?’ ‘X-ray vision or gills?’. How does Arntzen plan to bring Devos up to speed about education in Montana when she truly doesn’t know?  Perhaps that’s really a rhetorical question since it insinuates that DeVos knows something about education as well.  Maybe together using DeVos’ twitter pencil they can figure out the three “R’s” of education.

Fun Family Feud question:  What do Arntzen and DeVos have in common?  Survey says…A vote from Steve Daines!


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’