Great Falls Is Not Filled With Bigots

In light of some of the recent chatter around town I thought this would be a good time to offer my own opinion on the character of my hometown.

I grew up in Great Falls in the 1960’s and 1970’s. I raised my own two daughters here and helped to get a couple of my grandkids started right here in the Electric City, so I take strong exception to some of the disparaging, insulting, and divisive comments which have made it into the local news recently about the kind of community this is and people who live here.

Despite what some of the loudest most obnoxious local voices would have you believe, the overwhelming majority of folks in this community are not bigots, homophobes, racists or haters.

I’ve always known the people of Great Falls to be good, kindhearted, give-you-the-shirt-off-their-back kind of folks who couldn’t care less about who you love or the color of your skin.

In Great Falls you will always get a fair shake as long as you’re not a jerk and are willing to work hard and reciprocate that fair treatment with respect and honesty.

Are there jackasses in this town? Sure, just like in any other town. But when someone magnifies the exception and dishonestly and tries to convince others that it’s the rule for their own selfish reasons, we should call it what it is – horse excrement.

So don’t believe the lies, Great Falls. This is a good community filled with good people who believe in the principle of ‘live and let live’, but who also understand that ‘live and let live’ is a two-way street.

GOP Primary Candidate Profiles: HD20, Steven Galloway Vs Melissa Nikolakakos

Editors note: All of the local Great Falls/Cascade County legislative and county commission contests in the June 4 primary election are Republican. Here are the profiles submitted by the candidates in House District 20, Steven Galloway and Melissa Nikolakakos, unedited:

Steven Galloway

I am Representative Steven E Galloway currently serving my second term in HD24 and campaigning for HD20.

Appointed to Business and Labor , Local Government,  Vice Chair Energy and Technologies

I was selected and serve as a State Delegate to The Energy Council, PNWER, NCSL,ALEC and others. I attend as many conferences as possible to gain knowledge and insight from other legislators and experts on subjects from around the country and the world to better represent you. I have zoomed in with The Council on Foreign Relations, The White House Intergovernmental Affairs and other organizations. I have had weeklong zooms with international contributors on issues. I participate on think tanks dealing with licensure, energy, election integrity and workforces decreasing numbers. This is above and beyond my representative’s duties often requiring travel away from home, family and work.

Energy is a very complicated and diverse subject to be involved with and as Vice Chairman I have invested a great amount of time and gained a fair working knowledge of it. We will need to stream line processes to allow prompt development of production and transmission of power to sustain our growing needs. We were an exporter and we now import energy. I passed HB749 Providing for advanced conductor cost-effectiveness criteria to aid our energy needs.

I helped facilitate meetings with local officials prior to last session and continued dialog during session by zoom on Wednesdays at lunch time which benefitted our community.

Almost 50 years ago I started out scrubbing toilets and making beds in my parents motel, I contracted in the construction field for 12 years and we currently operate multiple family run locally owned businesses.

I was born and raised in Great Falls. I am a 3rd generation  Montanan and my grandkids 5th.I am married to my lovely wife of almost 43 years. We have 6 adult children with 15 grandchildren and 1 GREAT grandchild. They  are my motivation to serve, frankly you couldn’t pay me enough to do this job.

I have refereed and coached sports. Served on boards. Served at church as teacher, counselor, auditor, executive secretary, and currently as facilities rep  overseeing  10 church buildings.

I have introduced 43 bills and passed 18 of them into law, Including (2021) session HB-438 for VETERANS and  HB 298 which increased transparency on your property tax assessment.  I have introduced property tax legislation in both sessions that would have helped primary home owners and we will try again. We need to look at a total revision of the property tax code, focusing on the processes of the valuations and assessments.   See them all at leg.mt.gov. Proudly endorsed by Gun Owners of America, NRA, Montana Sports Shooters Association, Montana Family Foundation to name a few. I have also been recognized for my constitutional voting record by  CPAC  with a 94% score and 100% score withTheFreedomindex.org.

___________________________________________________________________________

Melissa Nikolakakos

Name: Melissa Nikolakakos
Office Sought: House District 20
Occupation: Teacher
Age: 41
Family: Husband (George) Daughters (Story, Reagan, Melody, Abigail)
Education: BA, University of Montana (Education)
Organizational affiliations: Girl Scouts (Unit Service Leader) Raising Readers (Board Member)

As an educator, 4th generation Montanan, mom of four, twenty-year military spouse, and involved community member I pride myself in serving others. I’m running for office to bring common-sense conservative solutions to Helena and create a better community for our kids and families. Born and raised in small-town Montana I want to ensure those time-tested values are at the front and center of our legislative process.

A quality education for our children with deep parental involvement is my passion. I’ve served as a pre-school president, led with the “Raising Readers” Program (since merged by First Lady Susan Gianforte with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library) serve as a Girl Scout Service Unit Leader, and have served countless times as a PTA president. I’m committed to giving back and serving our community and kids and will work tirelessly every day in Helena to that end. 

We face many challenges in today’s political climate. Property taxes, inflation, and out of control housing costs are driving families from their homes and real reform is needed now. Fiscal responsibility and low regulation are the centerpieces to a strong economy, the backbone of a healthy opportunity driven society. This next legislative session we must enact significant property tax reform that offers meaningful relief to primary residence home-owners, bolster career and technical education and the Teach Act, and return a significant portion of the budget surplus to taxpayers.  

There’s much more but the simple fact is that today both political parties are failing our people. It’s time to retire out of touch self-serving politicians and elect every-day Montanans who want to civilly solve problems rather than create constant conflict and chaos. I’m ready to bring real-world experience and Montana values to Helena to do just that. I look forward to visiting and hopefully earning your vote to serve our community to the best of my ability.

June 4 Local Primary Features All GOP Candidates, No Dems

All of the local Great Falls/Cascade County legislative and county commission candidates appearing on the upcoming June 4 primary election ballot will be Republicans.

Today E-City Beat sent an email to all of those candidates requesting a candidate profile and their reasons for seeking office. We will publish their responses without edits or editorial comment

Stay tuned for E-City Beat’s continuing coverage of all local elections, issues, and candidates.

Here is the list of primary election candidates:

HD19
Derren Auger
Hannah Trebas

HD20
Melissa Nikolakakos
Steven Galloway

HD21
Ed Buttrey
James Osterman

HD22
George Nikolakakos
James Whitaker

HD23
Pete Anderson
Joshua DeNully
Eric Tilleman
John Proud

SD13
Josh Kassmier
Lola Galloway

Cascade County Commission
Rae Grulkowski
Eric Hinebauch

Cascade County Libertarians Respond To Jasmine Taylor’s Attacks

Editors note: The following is a press release sent out by the Cascade County Libertarian Party. The press release doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of E-City Beat or any of our contributors and it is not a campaign endorsement for Tony Rosales.

Leatherbarrow Invites Taylor for an Honest Conversation about Local Family Business

GREAT FALLS, MT, April 24, 2024 – On April 23, 2024, Jasmine Taylor released a video claiming that Kevin Leatherbarrow, co-owner of Go & Grow Education Services, LLC, was using Tony Rosales’ campaign to funnel business from Great Falls Public Schools to Go & Grow. Taylor never reached out to Leatherbarrow or anyone else at Go & Grow to verify these accusations. It is shocking, and frankly sad, that anybody would attack a local family-owned business based on weak political attacks and motives. To Leatherbarrow’s knowledge, Taylor lacks any true understanding of the relationship between Go & Grow and GFPS.

Taylor’s accusations are defamatory in nature and assume that Go & Grow would use a political campaign to gain any advantage. In fact, Leatherbarrow has publicly stated during an Autism Task Force that he would work pro bono with students who were lacking services if asked. The Task Force was formed by Lola Galloway – a Republican representative – where Leatherbarrow – representing Go & Grow – was invited among other community leaders including GFPS administration and nonprofit employees.

Taylor is mistaken in her accusation that there is any intention to vilify GFPS or its employees. Leatherbarrow and Rosales are consistently transparent about their involvement as Libertarian candidates, and officers of the Cascade County Libertarian Party, which are protected expressions of speech under the first amendment. Both have a passionate interest in education and the fiscal responsibility and transparency of the Great Falls Public School District, the Board, and the administration, as they are both residents within the district. None of those have any relation to the operations of Go & Grow Education Services.

Leatherbarrow would like to invite Taylor to contact him if she would like more accurate information for her political reporting endeavors. Any other community members who may have questions are also invited to reach out to Leatherbarrow.

About the CCLP

The Libertarian Party is the people’s representative in American politics. It is the only political organization which respects people as unique and competent individuals.

The Cascade County and Montana Libertarian Parties are the real choice for less government, lower taxes, and a freer future. The CCLP believes in both economic and personal freedom. We believe people should be free to make their own choices, provided they don’t infringe on the equal right of others to do the same. Government’s role should be to protect an individual’s right to make their own choices in life, so they can reap the rewards of their successes and bear personal responsibility for their decisions.

Contact Us

For questions, please contact the CCLP Chair:
Anthony Rosales, PhD
trrosales@gmail.com

Uh-Oh, Another ‘New’ Casino In Great Falls?

“Oh no! Another new casino in Great Falls!”.

Sorry, but that complaint is kind of misleading, because gaming licenses are tied to liquor/alcohol licenses which are controlled by the state and apportioned to communities according to population.

Think Whack-a-Mole. One has to close before another pops up. We haven’t had any “new” additional casinos here for a long time.

I’ve said this before, but because of the misperception about how our local economy works I’ll say it again: The City Commission has no legal authority to prevent any business, including a casino, from opening as long as that business meets all of the safety, permitting, zoning and state licensing requirements.

It is a common misunderstanding that the City of Great Falls local government picks and chooses which kinds of businesses we allow to open and operate here. We do not.

How many times have you heard, “Why don’t they bring in (fill in the blank)?”

There is no “they”. This is a free market economy and the kinds of businesses that open and succeed or fail in Great Falls is determined by market forces, not the City Commission or City Manager etc.

Local government can help shape the regulatory, development, and tax environment to a certain degree, but beyond that it’s up to what the marketplace will support.

If you don’t like the kinds of businesses or developments “they” are “bringing in” to Great Falls and think “they” should “bring in” the kind of businesses or developments you would like to see here, then here’s a suggestion:

Put a business plan together, invest your own money, apply for a big ol’ loan, or get a group of investors together and open that business or build that housing subdivision.

Put some of your own skin in the game – then maybe you’ll understand what a huge risk it is and how hard it is to actually start and run a profitable enterprise.

Press Release: “Rosales Pushes for Proactive Leadership Within GFPS Board”

Editors note: The following press release was received by E-City Beat Monday morning. We are publishing it without edits or editorial comment. The press release doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of E-City Beat or any of our contributors and it is not a campaign endorsement for Tony Rosales.

Emphasizing Constructive Change While Acknowledging Good Faith Efforts of All Parties

GREAT FALLS, MT, April 8, 2024 – In recent weeks, Tony Rosales has engaged in critical discussions regarding an identified conflict of interest (link), speaking with both school administrators and members of the involved non-profit. A summary of findings are as follows:

·    Lance Boyd, the Executive Director for Student Achievement and Director of Student Services at GFPS, previously held positions on the board and as chair of the organization Peace Place

·    In February 2024, Boyd resigned from his role at Peace Place, indicating a key reason for his departure included scheduling conflicts between school board and non-profit board meetings

·    Peace Place receives funding from various sources including government grants, with the majority coming from grant application programs and a smaller portion from funding that follows students

·    Boyd’s role in any fund transfers or referrals of children and families to community resources have additional oversight mechanisms beyond the Director of Student Services’ purview

·    Peace Place’s aims to provide “respite with a purpose,” which is a unique community offering defined as support and supervision to provide temporary relief to a primary caregiver

·    Peace Place also provides educational services, albeit this is not their main mission

·   Both Superintendent Tom Moore and Executive Director Lance Boyd emphasized that administrators are highly encouraged to be involved in the community and to serve on non-profit boards that align with their passions

Acknowledging the Executive Director’s resignation, it is still evident there was a past conflict of interest with GFPS’ commitment to students. Holding dual roles that have substantially overlapping responsibilities posed substantial risk to GFPS. Any risk, known or unknown, associated with Peace Place was inextricably linked to GFPS, and had the potential to impose significant legal costs despite our current budget deficits. While we can advocate for community involvement of our administrators, it must come with School Board oversight rather than individual discretion.

The significant community response, including over 1,000 social media engagements and numerous private messages expressing concern, underscores the need for greater oversight and evaluation, especially for special education programs and external community resources.

This situation illustrates the critical need for more assertive leadership from the school board. To rebuild trust within the community, we urge the school board to take immediate and transparent action by:

·    Publicly addressing this conflict of interest, including the board’s prior knowledge and stance on such external appointments

·    Providing a comprehensive list of cabinet members’ involvement in other organizations, possible conflicts of interest within that list and GFPS, and clarifying if the board approves

·   Developing and implementing robust conflict of interest policies to better mitigate risk, including an approval procedure ensuring awareness of administrative engagements within the community

Contact Us

rosalescampaign@gmail.com

Feelings Over Facts — Great Falls Far Left Rhetoric From Jasmine Taylor & Jake Sorich

Editors note, the following is an opinion piece by Jeni Dodd.

Jasmine Taylor of the blog WTF 406 apparently has issues with the facts. Taylor opined that E-City Beat✓’s recent article, Library Director And Library Board Chair Spouses/Partners Donated $130,000 To Levy Campaign Committee, was an attack on philanthropy and that it showed ire against the donors to ‘Yes for Libraries’.

The E-City Beat✓ article correctly identified the two folks who together donated the bulk of ‘Yes for Libraries’ PAC funding and their relationships to the library director and library board chair. Hard to argue with the truth, so Taylor tries to reframe it with hyperbolic attacks on E-City Beat✓.

Philanthropy? Why didn’t those donors give $130,000 directly to the library instead? That would have more than covered the $120,000 projected budget shortfall for FY2024. The library had no problem accepting $300,000 last fall from an anonymous donor through the Great Falls Library Foundation to cover a budget shortfall when the library director failed to account for increases in electrical and personnel costs. Increases she claims took her by surprise but there is evidence that she would have known about those costs. But instead of taking that under consideration and planning for those increased costs, she continued spending money with her hiring spree for new library personnel.

Seems to me that if pointed out to them, many folks in Great Falls would note the distinction between pure philanthropy and money spent to support a political agenda. It happens far too often that the side with the most money wields the political influence and that’s what happened in this library levy election. The two donors mentioned funded a ballot issue POLITICAL Action Committee to a push the pro-levy narrative and win an election. So don’t be fooled by Taylor’s attacking E-City Beat✓ as being anti-philanthropic— it’s simply obfuscation.

‘Yes for Libraries’ TV ads used the cuteness factor of children. One ad featured a cute child exclaiming, “learn me to read”— definitely an appeal to emotion. False reporting by local legacy media that the library would close its doors if the levy wasn’t passed undoubtedly duped some voters. I noticed that the library director, the library board and ‘Yes for Libraries’ didn’t step up to correct that misnomer. Of course not, it was a huge gift in their favor.

In fact, what many Great Falls voters failed to grasp, due to the spin by ‘Yes for Libraries’ and local media, is that levy was meant to fund a huge EXPANSION of the library’s mission and services.

The director and board were determined to tread into social services waters when the Montana Code Annotated defines a public library’s purpose as the following — “to give the people of Montana the fullest opportunity to enrich and inform themselves through reading.” Seems a venture into providing social services would therefore be unlawful under the MCA. I would also opine, given the library’s usage and patron numbers, an expansion appeared unwarranted.

So no, dear readers, I’m not going to stop beating the drum on the fact that voters were misled by pro-levy proponents, including the media, about the library levy. It is something we should NEVER forget.

For some time now, I’ve also noticed that Taylor repeatedly attacks the ‘Liberty and Values MT’ organization for their billboards against the library levy, which included both the word “no” and the red strike-through symbol — messaging that no doubt could be perceived as a double negative. But keeping her proper English theme, it seems a bit hypocritical of Taylor to criticize that when she’s used “canvas” and “canvass” interchangeably throughout several of her blog entries about elections. I’ve included a screen shot of one of her headlines as an example. Perhaps she’ll just blame the autocorrect.

Taylor appears to do little to no research or fact checking. Her latest error — incorrectly identifying a new hire at the elections office as Beth Cummings and tying this person, who isn’t Cummings, to one of her Election Protection Committee conspiratorial narratives. In particular, the conspiracy where she equates library levy opposition to being anti-library. It seems Taylor doesn’t have the discernment to understand that those two concepts aren’t the same and can actually co-exist. But not being able to grasp something like that is true of much of the leftist rhetoric these days.

Then there’s Jake Sorich, who is one of the newer hires for the Great Falls Public Library. He’s their communications person and he also has a Substack account where he posts his musings.

His recent effort, ‘Powerful people will start to listen if you raise your voice enough’, is an uninformed piece about local politics. In it, he writes, “Locally, we have seen elected officials repeatedly try to overturn the will of the people for what THEY want. And yes, I’m talking about the local levies. Certain officials have expressed their desire to take the money granted for one organization in a levy the people voted to approve, and dump it into other public entities that had their levy fail. (Even if they disagree, that’s essentially what would have happened no matter what anyone wants you to believe otherwise.)”

Pretty obtuse to not name names. Wonder who and what he’s referring to in his piece.

Could it be Sorich is referring to Great Falls City Commissioner Tryon as the elected official, and his efforts to reexamine the 1993 agreement between the city and the library board which granted the library 7 mills? If so, he needs to do some research before spouting off.

Get a clue — “the people” never voted for that 7 mills; it was never on a ballot. It was voted on by the city commission and the library board. That’s why it is called “7 mills by agreement” in nearly every city and library reference. So much for Sorich’s “overturn of the will of the people.”

Yet regarding the actual overturn of the will of the people that occurred when two county commissioners took election duties away from the Clerk/Recorder AND ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATOR less than a year after the will of the people elected someone to that combined position — crickets from Sorich.

Library Director And Library Board Chair Spouses/Partners Donated $130,000 To Levy Campaign Committee

E-City Beat has confirmed that the two largest contributions to the ‘Vote YES for Libraries’ committee, which advocated in favor of the Great Falls Public Library levy in 2023, appear to have come in equal amounts from the spouses/partners of Susan McIntyre, the Library Director, and Whitney Olson, the Chair of the library board.

According to the publicly available Montana Office of Political Practices online campaign reporting site, Brandon Olds contributed $65,000 to the committee, here’s the screenshot:

Mr. Olds is referenced as a co-donor, which indicates either spouse or domestic partner, along with Library Director Susan McIntyre on page 31 of the Great Falls Public Schools Foundation web site donor list PDF, here’s the screenshot:

As Library Director Susan McIntyre is a paid employee of the City of Great Falls.

Douglas Little also contributed $65,000 to the committee, here’s the screenshot:

Mr. Little is referenced as a co-donor, which indicates either spouse or domestic partner, along with Whitney Olson on the United Way donor web page, here’s the screenshot:

As Chair of the library board Whitney Olson is not a paid employee of the City of Great Falls.

Let’s Talk Public Funding Facts, Great Falls

On January 16 at the Great Falls City Commission meeting I proposed an initiative to meet a process deadline which would have then given the City Commission, the library board, and the public three months time (90 days) to review and have a discussion about a 30-year-old agreement between the City and the Great Falls Public Library Board of Trustees. The agreement would have been discussed and reviewed in that three month period and could have been renewed as is, renewed with amendments, or terminated.

Some say the initiative was proposed too suddenly, that there wasn’t enough time given for the commission to vote on opening a 3-month window of opportunity to review the agreement. It seems to me the urgency of considering City budgets in light of the public safety funding for police, fire and courts was important enough to move quickly and open discussion on the library funding agreement.

There was an immediate deadline looming to open that discussion by Commission vote with no final decisions needed until the three month period of review concluded.

The 7 mills of funding in the agreement (current value of which is about $900,000) was not intended to provide taxpayer dollars for the library exclusively in perpetuity without any possibility for review or discussion.

The agreement is up for renewal each and every year and the funding is discretionary, as the library board, City finance personnel, and the city commission have all clearly understood every year during budget time.

My initiative was a request to publicly review that agreement before the FY25 budget is passed and before the automatic renewal of the agreement.

There is an argument that citizens were fully aware of the 7 mill funding agreement and its dollar amount and therefore this agreement should not be reviewed because it is ‘written in stone’ as only for library use, even though it has an annual renewal date and was never voted upon by the citizens of this community.

It follows that if citizens were fully aware and educated about the 7 mill funding agreement, then they also would be fully aware of its annual renewal and would therefore not have assumed it is 7 mills only for library expansion for ever and ever, amen.

The library currently receives 24 mills of City funding (15 more than they received prior to the levy vote in June of last year) 17 mills of which are voted mills, and 7 mills (those in the agreement) having never been voted on by Great Falls voters – they are general fund mills that can and should be used for ANY City priorities and which are not limited to library expansion projects.

Priorities can and do change, especially over a 30 year period.

I have been a regular GFPL patron, library card holder, frequent service user, and supporter of our library and its historical role in our community for many, many years. I value the role of our library and its staff and board.

My concerns are about funding priorities without regard to political or ideological considerations. Period.

I was reelected to the Great Falls City Commission a little over two months ago based on a clear, unambiguous, and repeated platform of public safety and public infrastructure being the top priorities for Great Falls. I will continue to hold those as my top priorities when considering budget issues going forward.

At the very least we should have a full, open and honest public discussion about this issue – and the sooner the better.

Israel-Hamas War Comes To Great Falls

Over the past few months I have received quite a few emails in my city commission mailbox from local constituents with the subject line, ‘Reaffirm your commitment to America’s closest ally, Israel.

The content of the email is the same but from many different local folks concerned about the ongoing war in Israel. You can read it in its entirety here.

Here is a paragraph from the email:

“Israel is under constant threat, both from terrorists such as Iran’s proxies Hamas and Hezbollah, and from those who undermine Israel’s right to exist. The attacks of October 7 destroyed any assumptions that Hamas’ had a pragmatic interest in governing Gaza – its sole goal is the elimination of Israel and the Jewish people. As such, calling for a ceasefire gives Hamas credit and authority it no longer deserves. Calls for a ceasefire are not reasonable or realistic, nor is it the only way to guarantee that Palestinian civilians will be protected. Existing efforts to allow for food, water, medicine, and other essential assistance to flow into Gaza and to the people who need them must be bolstered.”

I agree with the sentiments expressed here – especially the point that a ceasefire is not “reasonable or realistic” given the circumstances.

So yes, I reaffirm my personal commitment to Israel and to our Jewish community in Great Falls. But I also recognize the horror of war and its hellish impact on all of the civilians caught in the crossfire.

And certainly I recognize that there are others in Great Falls who hold a different viewpoint from my own concerning calls for a ceasefire. One of them is Eamon Ormseth, who was invited by the Great Falls Public Library to give a presentation on Palestine. You can view the entire one hour talk, given on January 4th, here.

Ormseth is an activist with a group called “Montanans for Palestine” and he organized a rally in Great Falls the day after his talk at the library. The rally was covered by Joe Taylor at the Fairfield Sun Times and here is an excerpt from that reporting:

“I have friends whose friends have been killed in the Israeli airstrike on the church, the orthodox church in Gaza. Another friends’ relatives are sheltering in the catholic church in which Israeli snipers killed two of them, two people in that church recently. And a friend of a friend was just murdered by the Israeli army very close to where I live. So, it’s very personal. I have friends in Palestine and I just don’t see how the United States continues to support such a brutal occupation,” said Ormseth. 

Around 8-10 people were at the rally at the Civic Center and chanted along side Ormseth, “Free Palestine” “Stop the Bombing” and “Cease Fire” were among the chants.

We live in a such a time that even far-flung controversies and wars can reach across the distance and touch us right here in Great Falls, Montana. Interesting times indeed.