Community

Ballot Problems- Again

It’s not every day that Lincoln County makes the news outside of our state. Our recent primary election did just that due to an error in ballot size, resulting in a hand-count that delayed results.

Montana gained a new seat in the house of representatives- and the race to determine the republican nominee for that new seat was a tight one. Tight enough that Ryan Zinke and Al Olszewski had to wait until Lincoln County’s results were counted in order to know who had one (Zinke).

This isn’t exactly the first time we’ve had trouble with the ballots in Lincoln County, though admittedly the last time didn’t leave such widespread headlines. Last year Trego residents incorrectly received ballots for the Eureka Elementary School Board Election, which complicated the counting a bit. Before that, during the last presidential election, an entire box of ballots was left in north county and not counted until days later (County Clerk Robin Benson, running unopposed for reappointment this November, described this as impeccable). Of course, we have been replacing our election administrator, so the trend belongs to the county and not the person. Still, this doesn’t exactly inspire faith for November.

I’ve been complaining about the number of elections by acclamation in our county, but I think I have a new request. In addition to actually having an election, I’d like to have one where only the results made headlines. Hopefully November’s election runs more smoothly.

Community

Part-Time Social Studies Position Available at Trego School

Trego School is looking for a part-time social studies teacher.

Who Qualifies? Anyone licensed in the state of Montana to teach social studies for grades 5-8. That is, anyone with an elementary k-8 endorsement, or an appropriate secondary 5-12 license.

Part-time? Yes. Trego School is looking for someone (or several someones) to teach four hours of social studies one day a week for at least one thirteen week trimester. Fifty-two hours. With three trimesters, this position could be filled with as many as three teachers or as few as one.

Why Work Part-Time? There are plenty of reasons people choose to work part-time. Part-time employment is a good answer for anyone with a reason to stay home most of the time. It has the benefit of allowing time in the rest of the week for errands and appointments. And, for those that are unable to work full-time for health reasons, part-time employment can be an answer.

Additionally, working for a partial school year leaves more time for travel, or to not travel. Don’t want to drive in the worst of winter? Don’t work that trimester!

Would this still count for TRS? If you’ve already paid into Montana TRS, definitely! This would be an easy way to add some extra years (if not highly paid years, part-time being rather less income than full-time) to a retirement.

Four hour blocks? Core classes, such as social studies, will be taught in four hour blocks, meaning the teacher will only be expected on campus once a week.

Why teach on a block schedule? Having taught on both, I’ve personally found the block schedule to be superior. Transition times between classes present a major loss of instructional time. Additionally, short classes prevent students spending much time being deeply involved and engaged in activities. Longer classes allow for instruction and work-time both, which gives students the benefit of practice supported by their teacher.

One of the major perks of a block schedule is the potential for lengthy activities. In a science classroom, this is typically labs. In a history class, it might well be field trips. Ultimately, the classroom we must prepare children for is the world. Four hours is plenty of time to visit old buildings, to learn the local parts of Montana History through experience instead of through pictures.

What classes? A teacher could apply to teach each social studies class for the school year (three trimesters), or for only a single trimester (13 weeks). Montana divides its social studies standards into four categories: Civics and Government, Economics, Geography, and History. Classes could easily be fit into those categories (with care to include the relevant standards from other categories), but a Montana History Class could easily include elements of geography, civics and government as well as economics. The categories of social studies are highly interconnected, so there is considerable freedom for class design. In other words, teach the class you always wanted to teach. Share the topic you love.

Interested? Contact Shari Puryer (clerk@tregoschool.org) for more details and to pick up a copy of the District Application.

Community

Fewer Democrats than Hinsdale County

I’m looking at my primary ballots.  Montana has an extremely civilized method of conducting primary elections without forcing people to register with one questionable party or the other.  It’s nice – in South Dakota, the most fervent Democrat I knew had been registered as a Republican for 40 years, just so he could vote in the primaries.  Here, in the privacy of my own home, I can pick the party I want, send it in, and never have to publicly endorse either party.

My Democratic Party ballot includes the names of only three democrats – Monica Tranel, Tom Winter, and Cora Neumann.  They are democrats – Tranel lives in Missoula, Winter in Polson, and Neumann in Bozo.  In short, there are no Lincoln County democrats on the ballot in Lincoln County.  And I don’t have any particular preference for the other 3 – though wikipedia says Monica was an Olympic rower.  I’m not sure that overcomes the achievement of becoming an attorney.  I can think of a couple good reasons to keep attorneys out of the places where laws are made.  Similar arguments go for the clergy.

I’ve checked the telephone book, and found no evidence of Alferd Packer in Lincoln County – but if memory serves (and it does) the 1883 sentencing quote seems relevant: “Alferd Packer, stand up you son of a bitch.  There were seven democrats in Hinsdale County, and you, you voracious man-eating son of a bitch, you ate five of them.  I sentence you to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead.  You republican cannibal.  I would sentence you to hell itself but the statutes do not permit it.”  (You can check Alferd Packer out on line – I’m writing from memory because I’d rather print the legend – the actual sentence may have been a bit milder)  Here’s Alferd’s picture:

So I look at the empty democratic primary ballot, with the thought that it is difficult to have a two-party system if one party doesn’t show up.  What societal trends have occurred that the metaphysical ghost of Alferd Packer has his imprint on our ballots?  Heck – Alferd left 2 democrats in Hinsdale County – the closest democrat on our ballot is in Polson. 

The ballots show only a single choice in partisan candidates for local political offices.  If I want to make that choice, I can vote for either Brian Teske or Stuart Crismore to fill the blank spot as county commissioner from Libby.  Doubtless, both fine men.  Have to be.  It’s the only spot on the ballot where we actually have an election.  The other candidates will move unopposed into the offices in November.

We need to stop Alferd Packer’s ghost.  Encourage your local democrats to come out of the closet.  I can remember one brave democrat at the county fair, trying to sell me a raffle ticket, with the argument, “Your side has been in power and caused all these problems. You should at least kick a dollar into helping us.”  I asked “Who are the libertarians who have been in power?” and he left.  I’m thinking that I should have kicked a couple dollars in just to encourage the dems to come out into the open – that blank ballot does show the death of a two-party system . . . and history gives me plenty of examples of single party systems.

Let’s be kind to our local democrats, and see if we can stop the ghost of Alferd Packer from roving around Lincoln County.

Community

Why Can’t We Have An Election?

I just got my primary ballot and noticed the extreme lack of candidates. On both ballots there are plenty of positions with one candidate or no candidate at all. If you can only vote for one candidate, is it an election?

The following are running unopposed:

  • Michael Cuffe for State Senator
  • Niel A. Duram for State Representative
  • Jim Hammons for County Commissioner
  • Robin Benson for Clerk and Recorder/Auditor/Assessor/Surveyor
  • Darren Short for Sheriff
  • Steven Schnackenberg for Coroner
  • Marcia Boris for County Attorney
  • Taralee McFadden for County Superintendent of Schools
  • Sedaris Carlberg for County Treasurer
  • Mathew Cuffe for District Court Judge
  • Jay C Sheffield for Justice of the Peace

There is no candidate for public administrator. The only races with multiple candidates will be for United States Representative, for County Commissioner (district 1), for Supreme Court Justice #1, and for Supreme Court Justice #2.

In short, there were multiple candidates to vote for in only 25% of the races.

When was the last election?

It feels a bit odd to be asking “When was the last time there was an election?” about something local. As a kid, I sort of assumed that elections happened everywhere in our country, as scheduled, and it was only foreign countries that lacked elections. Unfortunately, it’s a question worth asking. About the Trego School Board, certainly. Last year, we were writing about vacant school board positions, and the need to get an application in to the school clerk, for an election to be held in May. That’s what should happen (every year). What actually happens (and not just on… Continue reading When was the last election?

Community

Lincoln County Facing More Elections by Acclamation

With the primary ballots available (due back by June 7th), it’s become evident that we can expect more candidates elected by acclamation, since 69% of the races are candidates running uncontested.

Some of our previous comments on local elections:

Be Nice to the Candidates

I can claim that I am an elected school trustee.  So can the school board members in Fortine and Eureka.  Yet I (and probably most of them) was elected by acclamation.  There may be a more politically correct way to describe it – but the reality is that I was elected without anyone voting for me.  A lot of school trustees share that reality – but I don’t believe it is a good situation. The challenge is that, on far too many local boards and commissions, we have the same situation.  When a candidate can be elected by acclamation, without…

Keep reading

Uncontested Elections

What do you call it when only one person runs for office? An uncontested election. It seems like this must be a bad thing, and also that it is increasing in frequency. Is it? It seems, given the explanation about removing term limits at the last Interbel Meeting, that the situation is at least increasing in the telephone cooperatives. Watching the local school board shows a similar trend. How common are they by state? The data’s a bit hard to find- but at least some of it is out there. According to ballotpedia.org in 2020, 100% of Wisconsin’s local elections…

Keep reading

Consolidated Polling Increases The Cost of Voting in Person

It’s only about four and a half miles from downtown Trego to the Volunteer Fire Department for Fortine, which is where we used to go to vote. Going into Eureka (as per that letter we all received from the county) will increase the distance by about thirteen miles (according to google maps). The distance I am supposed to travel to vote just got multiplied by a bit over 3. Of course, I live in downtown Trego, which means that my distance increased less than most. Looking at a map, it looks like the furthest up Fortine Creek Road are now…

Keep reading
Community

Time to Start Watching for Ticks

The weather is warming and the first ticks have been spotted. We’re fairly fortunate in the limited number of tick-borne illnesses common to our area, but they’re still worth watching for, and not just for us. Like humans, dogs can get a variety of tick-born illnesses:

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Lyme Disease
  • Canine Bartonellosis
  • Canine Ehrlichiosis
  • Canine Anaplasmosis
  • Canine Babesiosis
  • Canine Hepatozoonosis

Tick diseases in Montana

Spring has sprung, and our first ticks are out and about.When folks start talking about illnesses transmitted by ticks, the first to come up almost always seems to be Lyme Disease. While Lyme Disease is the most common tick-borne disease among Montanans, you don’t need to worry about picking it up around here – it… Continue reading Tick diseases in Montana

A Science for Everyone, Community, Demography

Thoughts on Inflation

I’ve been watching monetary inflation since 1976 when I voted for Jimmy Carter.  I still don’t give Jimmy full credit for that spate of inflation – Nixon made the call that the US dollar would no longer be backed by gold in August of 1971.

1968 had been an interesting election – I recall the unhappy observation “Nixon, Humphrey, Wallace – three strikes and you’re out.”  The picture below brought back memories of a happier time, when I would add a million dollar Zimbabwe bill to a retirement card, so that my retiring colleagues would be millionaires as they left the university.  Ten bucks bought all the Zim million dollar notes I needed for a slew of retirement receptions.

Now the thing about inflation is that it taxes savers, and can move into being a tax on investors.  If we look at the value of gold during the California Gold Rush – 1849 – it was $18.93 per ounce.  That same value held through the Virginia City days, and basically took Montana from wilderness to statehood.  In 1920, gold finally topped $20 per ounce.  When Franklin Roosevelt was elected President, gold was at $20.69 per ounce – the next year, 1933, it was $26.33.  In 1934, it went to $34.69.

A couple of old Winchester catalogs, from 1900 and 1916, suggest that my Grandfather paid about $19.50 or a little more for his 1894 32 special rifle.  A glance online suggests somewhere close to $1,200 dollars today.  As I write this, gold is going for $1890.35 – roughly 100 times higher than when the rifle was made in 1902 along with the new, more powerful 32 special.  The cost of the rifle hasn’t kept up with gold.  Inflation or not, it’s kind of nice to look off the front porch and see the spot where my grandmother got a four-point in 1922.

At that turn of the century, land here was still available for homesteading – land here in Trego had little value.  Thirty dollars per acre was still a norm for accessible land in the 1950’s.  It’s another basis for calculating inflation – and if memory serves, Lee Harvey Oswald was paid 85 cents per hour in 1963. 

Median family incomes were somewhere around $500 per year in 1900, and had risen to about $3,300 by 1950.  Still, that half century was a time of many new developments and a greatly improved living standard.  Part of the change was that people could buy more – much like during our more recent inflationary times – along with the inflation of the eighties came the personal computer, the compact discs, video players etc.  Technical advances reduced the impact of inflation.

There is a certain irony in Putin’s decision to tie the Russian ruble to the value of gold.  Since that decision the ruble has gone up 6% compared to the US dollar.  He’s kind of the anti-Nixon, creating a stronger currency instead of a weaker one.  I guess that inflation often boils down to a handful of government officials making the decision to print more money.  I have a hunch inflation helps the folks who get the new dollars a lot more than it helps those who are trying to hang on to the existing dollars.

Demography

My Neighborhood Doesn’t Reflect My Nation

One of the advantages of social media is that folks with different views post their different opinions.  One of the disadvantages is that those different opinions come from different – often very different – locations. 

Let’s take climate change opinions for a simple example – I live just a touch south of the 49th parallel and a little over 3,000 feet above sea level.  Simple facts are that raising the sea level by a couple hundred feet isn’t going to affect my place.  Getting another three weeks of growing season is a positive thing for my garden.  If I were living in Paramaribo, just a little north of the equator and about 6 feet above sea level, my perspective would be different.  My greatest risk is wildfire – in Paramaribo even the dry season is rainy.

One of the readily available measurements of population is the percentage of foreign-born residents in a community.  In San Francisco, 34.4% of the population were born outside the United States.  Statewide, 26.9% of California residents were born outside the US.  Here in Lincoln County, Montana 2.6% of our population are foreign born (and I suspect half of those are Canadian).  It makes for a different point of view.

Race?  I live in a state where most of the population is white, and the second largest group is American Indian (6.6%).  Contrast that with Washington DC, where the Black population is 46.4% (compared to Montana’s 0.6%).  West Virginia somehow has the lowest percentage of foreign born residents and the lowest percentage of American Indian population.  Maine (94.6%) is the whitest state.  I have a hunch that who your neighbors are might affect your viewpoint.

18.7% of Montana’s population is over 65 – and five states are even higher.  Just 11.1% of Utah’s population is over 65.  (29.5% of Utah is under 18).  Who you see around you affects your perspective. More information is available at indexmundi.com

Washington DC has the nation’s highest median household income – $92,266 . . . but it is skewed by race.  The median for Black households is $42,161, while the white median is $134,358.  Montana’s median household income was $65,712.  Mississippi came in last at $45,081.

West Virginia has the highest home ownership rate – 74.6%, while Montana’s rate is 69.7%.  Home ownership rate in Washington DC is around 42.5%.

Just a few spots where we can look at how our locality affects how we perceive the universe.

Community, Weird Words

Origins of the Word Rendezvous

One of the reasons that English is described as difficult to learn is the number of words- over 170,000! Of those, the majority are loan-words, words taken from other languages.

The word Rendezvous is one such word. It was appropriated from the French, around 1600 (during a brief period in which Britain and France were not at war- as a result of competition with Spain). The original usage appears to be a verb: rendez vous meaning present yourselves. This then becomes the noun describing the place of meeting we are accustomed to.

English has borrowed from different languages at different times. At the time Rendezvous joined the English vocabulary, a significant number of the new words were coming from French.

About two centuries after Rendezvous was appropriated from the French, William Ashley held the first trappers’ Rendezvous. These lasted for only fifteen years. Some of them were so large as to create temporary towns. Other gatherings in the same time period are occasionally given the same name.. Our local Rendezvous has outlasted the original.

Community, Meteorology

Stahl Peak Snow Pack Still Increasing

This graph, from 4-30-22 shows that the snowpack on Stahl is still increasing.  The upper line on the record suggests that there’s only a week or so left for it to increase.  Still, 127% of the long-term average is nice to see.

NOAA has this posted for May-June-July, suggesting we can expect the chances of warmer temperatures and less than normal precipitation coming up.