We always knew that Billings Mayor Ron Tussing's healthy sense of self-esteem was going to take him further into the political arena. The question was where, and now we know that his target -- for now, anyway -- is PSC District 2, which covers Billings and most of southeastern Montana.
Not that there isn't a bit of ego involved in all political activity -- including blogging (after all, isn't it a bit presumptuous to think that others might actually be interested in one's opinions?) -- but some exhibit a talent for being at the head of that particular class.
When the City of Billings came in on the losing end of a $1.3 million dollar lawsuit brought by a police officer, jurors interviewed by the Billings Gazette confirmed that the "smug and arrogant" attitude of Mayor Tussing and some other police department supervisors was a big reason that the City of Billings lost that case. Our own discreet inquiries confirmed that Ron Tussing was indeed the city's own worst enemy at that trial.
During the course of this PSC race, Montana Headlines will of course be reprising segments of "The House that Ron Tussing Built" -- our series of posts that dissected the Feuerstein lawsuit, one of the biggest financial disasters ever to befall the City of Billings. All courtesy of Ron Tussing's leadership, or rather lack thereof.
It is really amusing that when Tussing announced today that he is running as a Democrat for the District 2 PSC seat, he talked about the money that current Republican PSC Commissioner Brad Molnar had supposedly cost the consumer.
Never mind the fact that Molnar has consistently been someone who has fought for things to keep utility rates affordable. Never mind the fact that the only thing that Tussing could point to was Molnar's involvement in deregulation way back when he was a legislator. Never mind the fact that deregulation was a bipartisan project at the time.
But what exactly does Tussing have to lay at Molnar's feet in his performance as Commissioner? (Insert sound of e-crickets.) Certainly nothing on a par with the damage that Tussing has single-handedly done to the City of Billings, or the money he has cost the taxpayers of this city: the fat six-figure payoff that it took the city to get him to step down from his tumultuous tenure as police chief, and the $1.3 million dollar lawsuit (plus hefty legal costs.)
Deregulation of utilities may have been a mistake on the part of Republican and Democratic legislators alike. But if so, it was an honest mistake born of good intentions. By contrast, Tussing showed what can reasonably seen as personal dishonesty by taking a pay-off from the City of Billings and signing an agreement not to seek employment with the City (i.e. it was "get out of our hair" money that he voluntarily took) -- only to turn around and run for mayor.
We will ask the question we have asked repeatedly. If, while negotiating his buyout, Tussing had announced that he was planning to run for mayor, would the city have offered him such a sweet severance package? It is ridiculous even to ask the question -- but it needs to be answered: of course not.
We hope that Tussing loses the Democratic primary, but we are concerned about how fairly the race will be covered if he wins. Will the press has go easy on Tussing? Will reporters who cover the PSC treat Molnar fairly? We'll see.
This race may get ugly, but Montana Headlines can be counted on to have Molnar's back, now more than ever.