A friend texted me Friday morning asking if I’d seen the latest Great Falls Tribune article about the National Heritage Area. I admitted I had not. It is behind a paywall, but here’s the link.
After reading the article, I thought this might be a new low for the Tribune—publishing an anonymous hearsay bribery accusation spouted by a Great Falls city commissioner. Actually, it may also be a new low for a Great Falls city commissioner.
In the article, City Commissioner Tracy Houck, who is also a former board member of the Big Sky Country National Heritage Area corporation, states she was “previously approached by someone who said that they were against the Heritage Area and in their conversation that person told her they were being paid by the opposition.”
She adds, “All I would ask is that we have an open dialogue that we have both parties invited to represent.”
I’ve been on the forefront of this NHA opposition since early in 2019. I’ve offered no one money to oppose the NHA nor have I heard of anyone doing so. Of course, I can’t vouch for every individual who opposes this NHA.
Still, an accusation of bribery to smear the NHA opposition is highly suspicious to me.
Unlike the National Heritage Area corporation, the NHA opposition is not a single formal organization; it is a grassroots effort of individuals and organizations opposing the imposition of yet another layer of federal government bureaucracy and the will of a non-governmental organization upon local government entities and private land.
City Commissioner Houck is irresponsibly passing along an anonymous, secondhand accusation of bribery against an unnamed entity or private individual(s) and the Tribune is irresponsibly printing it—that’s unprofessional and unethical for both parties.
Regarding Houck’s comment on meetings, her former organization, BSCNHA Inc, failed to support any open dialogue in their three so-called “community conversations” where the community wasn’t allowed to ask questions or comment during the meetings.
BSCNHA Inc gave presentations to some groups and organizations in order to gain their support, but then listed groups and organizations as potential partners in their Draft Feasibility Study that never expressed support for the NHA, like the Montana Grain Growers.
I and many others don’t want more so-called “community conversations” held by the BSCNHA corporation where members of the public have no voice.
I also don’t want BSCNHA Inc’s idea of an open dialogue where “we have both parties invited to represent” their views. Invited—that’s merely BSCNHA Inc handpicking who represents NHA opposition in order for them to control the dialogue in some quasi-stakeholder meeting.
Any and all members of the public have the right to be heard in open public forums on this important issue.