Thursday, March 1, 2007

Eastern Montana -- random political notes

Oil Money grab, redux: A couple of weeks ago, Montana Headlines brought an article in the Sidney Herald to our readers' attention, in which we learned that a retired Univ. of Montana environmental studies professor -- Rep. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula, was attempting to lay his environmentally clean hands on dirty oil money in order to spend it in his own backyard (well, he proposed that the revenues be distributed according to population, which amounts to the same thing.)

In a follow-up article, we learn that the bill was tabled in committee, which means that it would now take 51 votes on the floor to "blast it out of committee," and that isn't at all likely to happen. Looks like Eastern Montana dodged a bullet there.

"A slap in the face of Eastern Montana": Speaking of dodging bullets, we yesterday briefly mentioned the attempt by Sen. Wanzenried, D-Missoula, to set up a deal whereby the state would buy Plum Creek land around Missoula -- and then sell off public land in Eastern Montana in exchange.

We watched these proceedings with interest on television, and the best line from Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel, in his spirited (and successful) opposition is the one given in the title of this segment (and quoted in the Gazette.) The Gazette continues with McGee's comments:

"Well, I guess if we want to make a park of everything west of the Continental Divide, this is the way to do it," McGee said.

He criticized the bill for targeting the land of one company "at the expense of the people east of the Continental Divide."

We note that Lane Larson, D-Billings, crossed party lines to vote with the good guys on this one, and that our loyal Eastern Montana guy -- Sam Kitzenberg -- voted with his new masters in Missoula and Helena instead of with his fellow Eastern Montanans.

Sen. Jon Tester tries to wow the provincials by phone: The Miles City Star reports on the conference call that our newly-minted Sen. Jon Tester had with Eastern Montana journalists a few days ago.

Tester is quoted as saying "We need affordable health care. That could suck all my energy." The story goes on to say that Tester is on the Senate Energy committee and so will assign a staffer to brief him periodically on health issues. With a straight journalistic face, the Star reports that Tester said he would "focus his attention on energy issues."

We're confused... wasn't health care going to suck all his energy? Or does he need to focus on energy because he won't have any energy left over? We are going to have to read John Halbert's pieces for the Star more closely in the future -- one wonders if Tester's staffers will pick up the apparently tongue-in-cheek treatment that the paper in one of our favorite towns gave him.

Tester waxes 9/11 as he answers questions about the St. Mary's Diversion project, saying that "it's not if but when a disaster strikes," and talking about what will happen "if it blows up." (Are terrorists targeting the project?) But he has a solution -- "start moving dirt."

And the direst warning of all is that it's not just a northern Montana thing: "if this project fails, it will affect the economy of the whole of Montana, and it will impact the whole Northwest." Tester forgot to add "the nation, the world, and beyond..."

It certainly isn't just something that would affect just a few people in the Milk River area, and it could be that a problem with the St. Mary's diversion would shake Seattle and Portland to the core, but we doubt it.

And for the pièce de résistance, there's this beauty about global warming: "We want to make sure the polar ice caps don't melt and Glacier Park doesn't have to change its name."

As we've said before, we sure did trade up when we elected Jon Tester.

And to think, he's the more intelligent and articulate of our two Senators.


Anonymous said...

McGee's a Republican, not a Democrat.

Montana Headlines said...

Of course he is -- it was a slip of the keyboard. Consider it fixed.

Or maybe I was just trying to be nice to the Dems by giving them one of our finest.