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.

Great Falls Town Hall Meeting, Library Levy Passes, Child Hit By Car In GF, And More

Our weekly feature highlighting a few of the latest and most interesting local and national news items from various sources.

Public safety town hall meeting at the Civic Center Wednesday, June 14.
(2) It’s been more than 50… – City of Great Falls – Local Government | Facebook

Great Falls Public Library levy passes by 619 votes, from KRTV:

Child run over by car at Great Falls ballpark, from ABC Fox Montana:

Cascade County Jail mugshots, from KMON:

Sen. Daines Responds To ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ Hosted By MAFB

In a Tweet on Thursday afternoon Montana Senator Steve Daines responded to the resurfaced accounts of a ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ for kids hosted by Malmstrom Air Force Base during Pride Week in 2021, calling the event “infuriating” and “distracting from the mission at Malmstrom”.

The story was originally reported on by The Western Journal in July, 2021.

The event at Malmstrom took place during the same approximate time period, Pride Week 2021, that the Great Falls Public Library hosted and promoted a ‘Drag Queen Story Hour’ on their public YouTube Kids Place! channel.

Todays polls question is:

[poll id=”34″]

Police Identify Christian School Shooter As Transgender Woman

Several news sources have identified the deceased suspect in a mass shooting at a Nashville Christian private school as 28 year old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, a biological female.

A manifesto written by Hale has also been discovered. Three children and three adults were shot and killed by Hale on Monday morning.

Here are some of the links to national news organizations continuing coverage of this story:

Trick Or Treat: 15 Fentanyl Deaths In Great Falls In 2022

Heads up, Great Falls, Halloween is this coming Monday.

‘Candy’ that looks like Skittles or Sweet Tarts could actually contain fentanyl.

If you think this poison, or other harmful stuff, could never get into YOUR kids’ trick or treat candy you’re whistling past the graveyard.

At our 10/18/22 regular meeting the Great Falls City Commission received a report from the local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas task force that we have had 15 fatal fentanyl overdoses so far this year in Great Falls/Cascade County.

Be Smart. Be Safe.

  • Make sure a responsible adult accompanies your children when they go trick or treating.
  • Check and double check ALL treats before consuming.
  • Throw out any treats not in original, sealed packaging.

Halloween is supposed to be fun-scary, not real-scary. But we live in a world and a time when real evil exists – like people who make and export candy colored fentanyl into our neighborhoods.

So please, please be extra careful this Halloween.

Great Falls Shrine Circus Returns This Friday And Saturday 4/15, 16

The Shrine Circus is a long-standing Great Falls Tradition put on for over 50 years by the local Shrine Circus Bagpipe Band. This annual event helps raise money for the travel fund for helping families get to and from the Shrine Hospital.

The annual East West Shrine Game supports the hospital. That game will be celebrating their 75th Anniversary on June 18th.

We have had a two-year absence because of Covid and are very happy to be back April 15 & 16 at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana Expo Park.

Local businesses have paid for kids tickets which (in the past) had been distributed throughout all public schools in Great Falls and the surrounding communities. The private schools and community schools will be again giving out free kids tickets, however the Great Falls Public Schools are no longer able to do this so both Albertsons in Great Falls will be giving out free kids Circus Tickets.

Hope Good – Shrine Circus Volunteer
(406) 868-9649

Cascade County Sheriff Slaughter Switches Party From Dem To GOP

On Tuesday, June 15, Cascade County Sheriff Jesse Slaughter announced that he is switching political party affiliation from Democrat to Republican.

“It is my duty to serve all people of Cascade County to do this effectively I have to know I have the support of the party I have aligned myself with. So I am officially kicking off my reelection campaign to remain your Sheriff. I hope I can count on your support as I move my name to the Republican ticket“, Slaughter said in a video posted to his Facebook page.

In addition, Sheriff Slaughter explained in the video, “…From the very beginning I’ve made made it no secret that I’m a Constitutionalist. And that I believe in the Constitution and that I believe it’s concrete and not up to a progressive interpretation. Unfortunately, throughout my term so far I have repeatedly come under fire for my pro Constitution beliefs.

Twice in public meetings Democrat public officials have tried to censor my words and opinions because they did not agree with me. I’ve been chastised publicly and privately for standing up for peoples individual rights and your Second Amendment rights. In one instance I was completely ignored by the states Democrat leader when I sought help for our jail overcrowding issue.

You can watch the full approximately 5 minute video here.

Slaughter cited the following as one of his reasons for his decision to switch parties:

“Recently an outspoken former Democrat candidate shared a controversial post on her official campaign page. The post clearly aligned her and those that believe in her with the terrorist organization Antifa.

I’ve asked the Democrat Central Committee that the candidate had gone too far and would the party tell her to stop. As of this video I have received no response from the Democrat party and their leadership.”

E-City Beat published the post in question, which was posted by Jasmine Taylor, a week ago. You can read our blog commentary here.

In response to Sheriff Slaughter running for re-election as a Republican Cascade County Republican Central Committee Chair Cyndi Baker said in a press release:

As chair of the Cascade County Republican Central Committee I would like to welcome Sheriff Jesse Slaughter  to the party of common sense and American values.  He has the support of every republican legislator in Cascade County. 

As the most recent election showed, our county is now solidly red and there is no reason to think that this switch will do anything but enhance his future election prospects.

We share his concerns regarding lack of respect for the profession of law enforcement  by the Democratic party as well as the local candidates who have aligned themselves with radical and even terrorist organizations.

We laud Sheriff Slaughter’s desire to stand up for all the citizens in Cascade County and know he will continue to do an outstanding job no matter the party designation.

We are the “big tent” party and we welcome any other democrat office holder or constituent who feels  that their voice is not being heard or their concerns are not being addressed.

Fake News – Great Falls Tribune

From a front-page, AP story in the Tribune this morning on Trump’s budget: “The Trump administration’s budget plan for 2018 assumes that a mix of sharp spending and tax cuts can both shrink the deficit and fuel economic growth of 3 percent a year — a level it hasn’t achieved in more than a dozen years.” [Emphasis added]

“First, the budget isn’t being cut. Indeed, Trump is proposing that federal spending increase from $4.06 trillion this year to $5.71 trillion in 2027. Second, government spending will grow by an average of almost 3.5 percent per year over the next 10 years.” Dan Mitchell

Hmmm. Someone isn’t telling the truth.

City Attorney Weighs In On Conflicts of Interest

I have to admit that when I read Phil’s piece about City Commissioner, Tracy Houck and CDBG funding, I was a little lost. I struggled through it a few times, and really never knew what happened other than the Community Development Council (“CDC”), which allocates CDBG funding, originally voted to recommend to the City Commission that the Paris Gibson Square’s grant request not be funded.  Then, apparently there was some sort of inquiry by Commissioner Houck, the vote was changed, and now the CDC has recommended that PGS receive about $27,0000.00 in CDBG funds.

A March 14, 2017, letter from Commissioner Houck to Craig Raymond (the last two pages of this linked .pdf file), the City Planning and Community Development Director, sheds some light on this. In the letter, Houck says that the CDC Chairperson, Harmony Wolfe, was somehow affiliated with PGS (it’s hard to be sure because Houck says in her letter that Wolfe was both an employee and an independent contractor), but left that affiliation under less than amicable circumstances. Apparently Wolfe alleges sexual harassment against an unnamed PGS employee and intends to pursue it in litigation. Houck suggests that PGS and Great Falls Public School staff investigated these allegations, and determined them to be false. I do not believe they have been adjudicated by any independent finder of fact. Houck alleges a “vendetta” by Wolfe, and asserts she should recuse herself for such conflicts of interest.

This letter was on PGS letterhead and was written by Houck as the Executive Director of PGS.

A day earlier, though, Commissioner Houck had emailed Raymond, City Commissioner Bill Bronson, City Manager Greg Doyon, and another member of planning staff (This email can be found in Phil’s post). In this email, Houck complained of conflicts of interest by Mayor Bob Kelly and a NeighborWorks staff person. She makes only a vague reference to Wolfe, despite the fact that the following day she accuses her of a “vendetta.” This email was clearly written as a City Commissioner.

Then, apparently, based on Houck’s complaints of conflicts of interest, on March 16, Greg Doyon emailed Houck and said, in essence, she and Wolfe would have to recuse themselves, and there would be a re-vote to see if PGS would get its funding. It did. (GFDA was also funded, NeighborWorks apparently was not. See p. 68, here).

What helped to figure this out is City Attorney, Sara Sexe’s letter to Commissioner Houck from March 20, 2017 (pages 1 and 2), instructing Houck that she should “not vote or participate in any Commission action or discussion” related to the CDBG grant process.

So, roughly here is what I think we know: Wolfe apparently voted on grant allocations and according to Houck, down voted the PGS application. According to Houck, Wolfe had a conflict of interest in so voting. So Houck contacted the City, to complain about Wolfe’s participation, but was Houck doing so a conflict of interest?

As a result of Houck’s allegations, there was a revote with Wolfe not participating, and under the revote, the CDC awarded PGS its grant money. I can’t suggest that the PGS as an entity should have been unable to complain of a potential conflict simply because its Executive Director is a City Commissioner. Maybe a different PGS employee should have made the Complaint. But this whole thing leaves a number of questions.

First, in her March 13 email to City staff, Houck complains of a conflict of interest on the part of Mayor Kelly. Why was this question not raised earlier, or did she only care when PGS wasn’t funded? And then PGS gets its funding, and we don’t hear another word about that conflict. Does it seem as though Commissioner Houck had more interest in making sure her employer got funding than she did in protecting the public from a conflict of interest that she alleged? (I am certainly not alleging a conflict on the Mayor’s part–I don’t know the details of his relationship with GFDA.)

Second, Houck definitely participated in the discussions related to CDBG contrary to Sexe’s admonitions at the March 20, 2017, work session. Sexe’s letter was dated March 20 and was noted to have been hand delivered. Can we assume it was hand delivered before the meeting? If so, it seems Houck ignored the conflict of interest. I don’t know when she received the letter.

Third, the March 13, 2017, email is concerning. She wrote to City staff about her employer’s business as a City Commissioner. Who was she representing, the voters or Paris Gibson Square?

Here is the City’s Ethical Code. I guess you can be the judge.

Last Question: Where is the local media on this questions?