By Evelyn Pyburn

In reporting about the media misrepresentations, regarding Representative Kerri Seekins-Crowe’s experience in discussing the transgender issue of SB-99 during the state legislature, she said that after asking one reporter about why he wasn’t interested in her side of the story, he told her that while he didn’t want to lie, since the issue was “politics” he could basically “portray any truth he wants to.”

Although the statement is stunning, because he was so forthright it brought some enlightenment.

One of the most troublesome things in dealing with politics is the uncertainty one always faces in trying to decide the truth. No matter what side of the isle a politician comes from they are often masters at obfuscating the truth in self-serving ways. It’s almost a game to figure out what they aren’t saying or to untangle the words they do say.

Because of this, has media concluded that there are no rules when it comes to reporting political issues – that anything goes? A particularly troubling conclusion, since these issues are usually incredibly important.

The outspoken reporter helped to understand that maybe many in media have concluded that when dealing with politics there is no truth and its ok to report whatever feels good. Maybe this is how media has come to be so unreliable and so political itself. Rather than a source of enlightenment media has taken on the hue of politics, and one has to be wary about what to accept as solid facts—  or the greater likelihood to realize that many consequential facts are left out of the information put forth.

While life brings the lesson that for the most part everyone has their own “truth”, given that contradictions cannot exist, we must also know that not all of them are right. While I can have empathy with the wistful bromide that in life some things that aren’t true should be true, saying so doesn’t make it so.

Much of our success as individual human beings depends upon how accurately we identify truth – how well we understand reality. If it’s a reality we want to change, that’s fine, but one is not going to be successful in changing anything that is not clearly understood. 

Since there are so many different conclusions that people reach about truth, the ideal role of media is to bring as much information and ideas to the fore as possible, so each person can come to their own conclusions. To attempt to dictate truth, whether by media or anyone else, is the height of hubris – unless of course you are an individual who is never wrong.

When I am asked how to find objective information, my answer is that objective information is the responsibility of the inquiring individual. Get information from a broad range of sources. To sort through all kinds of conflicting data and distill it to what is real is the purpose of having a brain—of having the ability to reason. It is the defining characteristic of human beings. If one is counting on others to do this, good luck! That approach makes you vulnerable to serving the purpose of others—such as this reporter.

Gathering as much information as possible is our means of survival, which is why freedom of speech and access to information is so important. It is why censorship is such a despicable thing. Anyone who censors, twists or lies the information they present, is your enemy  . . they are attacking your very ability to survive.

By Evelyn Pyburn

The concept of non-partisan is nonsense.

It’s to say that a person doesn’t have an opinion. It’s to say they aren’t thinking. An employer I once worked for told me that they wouldn’t want someone working for them who didn’t have opinions because it meant they didn’t think.

While I am certain there are people in this world who don’t think, that’s not what “non-partisan” elections mean – it means the voter is to be denied knowledge about WHAT the candidate thinks.

The only thing a party affiliation might convey to a voter is where the candidates generally stand on issues. It’s a short-hand of sorts – which at its best is limited in the information it conveys to the voter but it could convey some information – certainly more than in not knowing. And, if a candidate doesn’t want to identify with either party they can say so. They can declare themselves an independent – and that also conveys information to the voters. Or better yet, they can be very specific with voters about what they do think.

What a voter wants to know is “How do you stand on issues? What can I expect from you in how you administrate?”

The answer to those questions may or may not reflect a specific political party, but there are lots of issues, some likely to be unanticipated, and knowing if a candidate likes one party or another could indicate a general philosophical position for voters —  that’s why parties have platforms. The issue isn’t about parties, it’s about ideas.

Why would anyone want to deny voters of as much information as possible? What’s the point in voting if you don’t know what you are voting for? There is an answer to this of course. Within the realm of political gamesmanship there are many times that a candidate doesn’t want the voters to know the truth of their positions, it doesn’t mean they don’t have them.  All the more reason a voter should know the ideas and policies a candidate holds.

Those who insist there are benefits to “non-partisanship” are quite obviously partisans.

What is baffling though is why do candidates go along with the program? I have encountered candidates who when campaigning in a “non-partisan election” say they avoid revealing their ideas in case it reflects a specific party. I found that incomprehensible. Just because someone declares it non-partisan doesn’t mean you have to play the game.

There is a sliver of understanding why people may want to see judges identified as non-partisan from the standpoint that that term for many people is interpreted to mean the candidate will be objective in their decisions. Again, utter nonsense.

They – maybe more than most – have ideas and opinions about issues— guaranteed. Declaring that judges should be non-partisan is to misunderstand the point of it all. The question we as voters should want answered is “Can you set your political views and biases aside and interpret the law even if it is contrary to your personal views?” That is real non-partisanship.

If they can interpret the law as written and not advocate for their political views then they can make a good judge – but as we have come to see over the past few decades, this is an increasingly rare ability. Calling for non-partisanship does nothing to identify judges who are smart enough or honest enough to interpret the law.

There are undoubtedly laws that are not good, but if they need to be changed that is the role of legislature – not the judicial branch. Unfortunately, that seems to be an understanding about our system that most judges have forgotten or failed to ever know.

The fact is if a bad law is accurately interpreted by a judge, such a decision could prompt a legislature to correct it – assuming of course that the legislature also sees it as a bad law – ahh, but there’s the rub – most judges who write law rather than interpret the law, do so in order to circumvent a legislature whose majority may very well not agree. Of course, such a judge has absolutely no business being a judge and is in fact unscrupulous in character.

So when you, as a voter, are asked to participate in a non-partisan election, know that partisan games are being played and that you are not being respected as a voter. Understand that the deck is being stacked against you, and dedicate yourself to not accepting such rules.

by Evelyn Pyburn

As someone coming from farm life, I fully know the urgency farmers face during harvest or planting season. Even 15 minutes of “daylight” is vital. Waiting days for some techy to arrive to fix a broken-down piece of equipment is simply not an option. Waiting even two or three days could mean crop failure to a degree that they might as well declare bankruptcy, right then and there. There is no negotiating with Mother Nature.

A break-down in the field was always an opportunity for my brothers or Dad to discover another amazing invention, which often involved the great versatility of bailing wire.

Then there was the time that the witchamajig  that tied one of the knots on bales of hay quit working  and I was sat in place to tie each knot as the bale inched out of the baler – it didn’t even take Dad fifteen minutes to come up with that solution! Be assured that tying hundreds of knots does pose some risk for  painful fingers. But, hey! It worked.

Well, farm machines don’t use witchamajigs any more – like cars they are designed with tons of computerized programs and technology that are as sophisticated as anything that flies airplanes or rocket ships. Baling wire just doesn’t work – but neither does sending out a repairman from Bozeman by mid-afternoon  — in all likelihood they aren’t available. Fixing things that go wrong with the today’s technology takes great expertise and knowledge – -and scheduling, which can very well stretch into two or three days – plenty of time for two or three thundershowers that halt field work until windrows dry or create mud holes that bogs down equipment.

With the new age technology, however, the manufactures of the computerized equipment do not want to share their trade secrets, which telling farmers how to fix it would likely do — an understandable dilemma. One could have seen this dilemma coming a mile away, when they first started announcing what the new age farm equipment was going to be like. Maybe technicians and company CEO’s – -generations off the farm – didn’t understand the importance of timely maintenance and repairs, but they surely do now as farmers – their customers – are demanding speedy repairs in the field.

The big question is: what does the state legislature have to do with it? 

This is a market problem and it should be ironed out between the manufacturing companies and their customers. If the companies fail to meet what their customers need and want they will lose out to competitors who will. Or, at the very least used farm equipment, without all the new technology will escalate in value as it is sought out by farmers who want to make sure they can get their crops planted and their harvest in, even if it is with old technology.

That is what happens in a free market.

Anything forthcoming from politicians tinkering with the situation will only cause other problems. Don’t know what it will be, but that it will be there is no doubt.

 This is a really big issue that will face many people in the market place as more and more technology is developed. It needs to be corrected the right way, right now…. and it’s unlikely politicians have the answer. 

This is actually just one market problem with which Montana legislators are wrangling –  problems that the market should be allowed to sort out – -unless of course it is a problem that previous political meddling has created. Then they need to untangle that past interference and then get out of the way. That’s essentially what all the bills removing red tape which the Governor has pushed forward is all about — undoing the tangled messes that were created by meddling with market issues. Again, it’s too bad more people don’t have confidence in markets. Markets work!

By Evelyn Pyburn

Billings representative, Katie Zolnikov has introduced House Bill 337, which would prohibit local governments from requiring minimum residential lot sizes. Zolnikov’s aim is to open the door to the development of more affordable housing.

Such legislation would be unnecessary if private property rights were adhered to by a power-crazed bureaucracy.

The fact is about half the legislation we see would be unnecessary if private property rights were adhered to by both governments and citizens. If only “leaders” would trust to the market when it comes to determining what consumers or homeowners want!

The decline in respect for private property is an ominous trend, since liberty depends upon individuals being able to own and use property. Government in the US was intended to own only a scant necessity of property as needed to facilitate what it was supposed to do, and infringing upon private property required compensation.

Property owners should be compensated because the USE of property is its value. When you purchase property you are really purchasing the right to determine how to use it. The more you can do with a parcel, the greater its demand and the greater its value. When you rent it the renter purchases a portion of the right to use it in a specific way for a specific time. When city hall, the county, state or federal government usurp part of your ability to use it, there is a takings (theft) and the owner should be compensated for the loss.

Of course, such a system would greatly diminish the eagerness of bureaucrats to dictate how private individuals may use their property.

Years ago as planners and czars were ratcheting up their power over how people could build homes, ostensibly for “health and safety”, there were those who warned that this day would come – the  day, when the market would not function and there would not be enough housing, and what there would be would be inordinately expensive.

Back then – in the ‘70s —  I was told that they needed  to control the size of residential lots because they had done studies on rats and determined that when rats lived in crowded conditions, rats died. They didn’t want us all dying like rats, they said. Really! this is true! It was what a somber, sober and ostensibly wise bureaucrat told me.

Of course that was the policy that created urban sprawl, which today the autocrats hate and are dedicated to eradicating with the implementation of a different set of coercive regulations telling people what to do with their property. The point is, of course, that while they assert that they have all the answers, even their own history says they do not.

There is nothing wrong within our economy regarding housing that a free market wouldn’t take care of so rapidly that market glitches would be corrected before we even noticed them. That the housing market is so crippled screams to the high heavens that housing is not functioning in a free market. Any time there are market distortions, look closely, it is always because of government controls.

Believe it or not there was a time when people built homes with no government oversight – many of those homes are the beautiful homes in historic districts that everyone now wants to save and  which usually hold premium prices even though they are a century old. How is that possible?

As far as guaranteeing the integrity of a building?  On my Grandfather’s ranch when they went to demolish the house that was built during the Homestead era, it proved to be so soundly and tightly built with hand hewn logs – with no guidance from “experts” —  that when they tried to remove it they could not pull it down with the farm tractors. They had to burn it down. Again, how is that possible without building codes and inspectors?

A property owner should be able to build whatever kind of house they want on property they own, so long as it poses no physical danger or damage to others. If it’s a poorly built house it will have no value to potential future buyers and banks won’t accept it as collateral. People have every incentive to build quality structures and the market will deal quite ruthlessly with those who don’t.

The color or size of a house isn’t anyone’s business but the property owner’s. It shouldn’t matter what space they have in front of the house or whether the garage is in front or back. The property owner should be able to place a basketball hoop where they want or put up whatever kind of fence they want. This is how property rights work.

If a prospective homeowner wants protection against what neighbors might do, they buy property in a development that has covenants restricting use and construction – which would be something they CHOOSE to accept.

While much attention is being given to lot sizes and prohibitions against multi-family units, there are also hundreds of regulations dictating how people should build, dictates that impose extraordinary costs while eliminating no risks. Some years ago, there was a report that concluded that unnecessary regulations imposed $40,000 on a typical new house in Montana. And – they said Montana was one of the worst states for imposing costly and overly restrictive regulations.

Some cities restrict colors one can paint a house, whether gardens are permissible, or how high the fence can be. Good grief, we had planners who were consternated about how wide a garage door should be or whether a property owner could build an apartment over their garage. In Billings, in order to appease someone else’s sense of esthetics, ordinances force property owners to place garages in the alley. What business is it of theirs, especially when you know the last thing you are going to see after a two-foot snowstorm is a city snow plow?

Regulations on property use have much broader impacts than just cost. Decades ago it was  common for people – especially the elderly – to rent out a room in their home – quite often to students – which was not only more affordable but helped older home owners to afford to stay in their homes. It also provided social interaction for older people, who otherwise might live very solitary lives, and it created a degree of security for both the landlords and tenants. This, too, was made illegal as municipalities policed the use of private property. But again, the “experts” in some communities have changed their views and are allowing “mother – in-law” apartments – not so much because of broader social and economic benefits but because it addresses their earlier mistakes in creating urban sprawl.

However, current policies still continue to create urban sprawl, as was revealed during community discussions last year by builders who said they don’t want to build within the city and many people don’t want to live within the city, because of violations of private property rights.  They “sprawl” into the country side.

One could go on and on explaining the ridiculousness of housing regulations and  the real things that happen, which not only impose costs on homebuilders but cripple housing availability.  Just strike up a conversation with a builder and they will readily tell you. If you listen to them you will be doing more than most municipal leaders.

Bear in mind the builders, engineers and architects tend to keep mum about building conflicts and ineffectual regulations, because as one architect pointed out to me some years ago, the building department and city hall control most aspects of their professions and if they want to stay in business they better keep their mouths shut and heads down.

So while House Bill 337 is certainly welcome, our right to own and use property already covers the violations it addresses, and while the bill may be of some help, housing will remain unaffordable and increasingly limited, until the housing market becomes free, and property owners can determine for themselves what they want. What we really need is the reinstitution of private property rights.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Having goals has long been understood as essential to achieve great things.

There’s no doubt that goals work! It hardly matters what the goal is or even if it is explicitly identified. That is why almost every organization establishes a mission statement.

One has to wonder, then, about the lure of investing in companies who loudly proclaim making money is not their primary goal.

Investing in ESG – greatly regaled by the media and pushed by government edicts – has become the politically correct thing to do. That in itself should present all kinds of warning flags – the very meaning of “politically correct” is essentially that of unthinking lemmings racing to the cliff’s edge.

So as people look at the businesses in which they want to invest, one has to wonder why they are so eager to invest in a business, that has declared to the world, its goal is not to make money, but to be obedient to government, surrender to environmental causes and to give what they have to others.  (ESG stands for Environment, Society and Government) Some wholly eschew the idea of making a profit as really being the evil that generations of school children have been taught.

If not making a profit is a company’s goal, be assured they won’t. And, neither will their investors. Ask any business owner— not making a profit is easy!

And yet it is, to be socially responsible, to accommodate for environmental issues, and most especially to abide by government edicts, requires that a business makes profits and lots of them.

With that being the case, what is the ESG crowd thinking? Unless it is nothing more than virtue signaling, one must assume that they are among the group that believe that business – especially “big business” – is inherently evil. Given the history of many businesses – most especially when partnered with the coercive powers of government – one can understand their concerns, because many companies are participating every day in corrupt and very evil things. All you have to do is listen to or read the daily news. But have you ever noticed that, most often, their corruption is in some way enabled by government – through laws that protect them from market forces, or suspend them from having to answer for criminal activity, or other policies of favoritism which sometimes include direct handouts funded by taxpayers?

It’s why one rarely sees “big business” espousing the beauty of Capitalism, which is nothing more than free markets – willing buyers and sellers voluntarily exchanging values with one another. The fact is there is a huge sector of the business world who hate free markets and fear them – – they survive because of their unholy alliances with politicians.

We don’t hear so much about the sound, ethical and, usually, politically unconnected businesses that function every day in our communities, working very hard to make a profit which in doing, they achieve, as a matter of course,  all the things that the ESG crowd say they want. Without businesses thriving in a community there is no community, and absolutely none of the ESG goals have a chance of being attained. That’s the way it has always been and how it will always be, because the reality is, business is where wealth is generated.

You cannot help the poor without the wealth generated in the business world. All social and civic efforts in any community come from businesses or the contributions of money and volunteer time of the people who work for them. 

Usually taking the actions required to protect the environment are costly and cannot be pursued without the wealth generated by businesses, which is one reason why the cleanest and most environmentally sensitive countries in the world are the wealthiest. People worried about where their next meal is coming from do not have the wherewithal to clean a polluted stream, and in fact their poverty is usually a contributing factor to the pollution. They most desperately need free markets – businesses making profits.

And, surely everyone understands that government generates absolutely ZERO wealth. Government has nothing and can accomplish nothing without the wealth it expropriates from the private sector – from its citizens and from businesses that make a profit in free markets.

Undoubtedly well-meaning people are making it a point to invest in ESG companies, believing that they will improve their communities and advance society, which are very strong American values. Of course, investors might be willing to accept less returns in exchange for better ESG performance, but according to sources like Harvard Business —  ESG companies don’t seem to deliver any better, and investments in ESG-touting companies are not doing well. While the ESG companies are undoubtedly achieving their non-profit goals, they are better in terms of complying with government rules, operating environmentally friendly, or contributing more to the needy.

It’s been found that the companies in the ESG portfolios had worse compliance records for both labor and environmental rules. Might that be because they lack the “profits” needed to comply? Government regulations on business have always been onerous, requiring greater investments – and companies need profits to pay employees more.

One reason for this, as pondered by the financial experts, is that perhaps companies not doing so well in the market, loudly proclaim an ESG status as a ploy to attract investors, who would otherwise be leery, just looking at their profit and loss statements.

So what are ESG proponents thinking? One has to conclude that either they are not, or their goal is not the success of business – of our economy – but instead they are seeking the destruction of the one thing that makes all others possible.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Some many years ago, a school board in the area had been meeting, since forever, in closed sessions with no media ever covering them. The first time a reporter showed up they were shocked – shocked that what they did, said and decided was something the public should know about. It took them awhile, but they got used to it.

It’s been decades ago now, when I attended my first meeting of the MetraPark Advisory Board and found that there, too, was very strong resistance to open meetings. Meetings were “posted” by tacking an agenda up across the hall from the manager’s office. No financial information was available. In order to keep from disclosing what was being talked about the agenda items were numbered on a sheet of paper which the manager then passed out only to board members. When the board voted on something it was identified only as Item No. 6 or whatever number it was.

I was once directly asked to leave. Another time the meeting was held as a barbecue in the backyard yard of one board member with no invitation to the media, specifically to avoid the media.

When the lack of transparency was brought up to the county commissioners at the time, I was told “We don’t micromanage.”

I heard a story about how another public board didn’t want a reporter present and they ended their meeting, with the intent of moving it to a restaurant, only to be followed by a Gazette reporter, who continued for the rest of the evening following them from location to location.

Then there was the time that the president of a public board, called for a break in the meeting, and one by one the board members stepped out in the hallway to confer about something they didn’t want to talk about openly.

A similar gambit now, with current technology, is to hold what essentially amounts to a meeting by contacting each board member individually. While that can be legal, so long as it is “noticed” and the text or email  data is made public, if it is done to avoid being public it is illegal under Montana law.

Still another public body decided they could side- step open meetings by creating a secondary “private” non-profit organization. Then they got a local attorney to declare that as such it was not required to abide by the state’s open meeting and public information laws. That legal opinion was called “hogwash” by a much better lawyer, who pointed out that Montana law says that if an entity takes so much as $1 of taxpayer funds they must abide by open meeting laws. And, of course, they were using taxpayer funds. Not letting the public know how they were spending the money was the whole point of it all.

More recently, the leader of a gathering of public officials speculating about solutions to a problem refused to tell the Yellowstone County News the details. Fortunately another member of the group was much more forthright and provided the information.

For all those who want to conduct business in the dark, there are, indeed, public servants of greater caliber who are forthright and want daylight shone upon their activities. So it is quite often that media is made aware of situations by those who understand and respect the public they are serving.

Among all the board members, years ago, at MetraPark, who should have known better and should have stood up for the law, there were a couple who were exemplary – and one poor guy brought the wrath of the group down upon himself by attempting to get his cohorts to comply with the law.  He is an individual to be admired.

In another case, I felt I had my own “deep throat” because of periodic phone calls I got from a woman who refused to identify herself.

There was only one incident, however, in which I witnessed a board member stand up and declare that he was leaving if they were going to close a meeting to discuss a subject that should have been public.

It is surprising to see how frequent, persistent and creative some citizen representatives are when trying to circumvent the public’s right to know. Why they do it is a baffling mystery.

While I used to get quite anxious about it, I don’t anymore because I learned that sooner or later, whatever they are trying to hide comes out  — at least if the media is playing its role – and however bad they thought it might be, when it finally does come out, it is ten times worse than if they had just dealt with it honestly.

If you serve on a public body or hold a public office, and you and others are trying to manipulate the minutia of law to hold a meeting so that the public or media are not in “the know” —  STOP! STOP! STOP!

Or maybe you are sending emails between meetings, or making phone calls, or passing notes under the table. Again, STOP IT! Stop and resign your position immediately, because if you are not there to serve the public – to be a liaison for those you are trying to deceive – then you have no business holding such a position.

There is nothing – absolutely nothing — that you should know about that should not be public knowledge (except the very, very limited provisions for personnel privacy allowed for by law and even that does not provide as much cover as many like to extend.)

The primary purpose of whatever role you serve in government is to provide honest and open government – one which every citizen can trust. It is an excruciatingly important role and to violate your pledge to do so is contemptable.

Government cannot be corrupt if the full light of day shines upon its actions and media reports it. Even if, at one moment in time, it seems a greater good would be served by keeping something secret that seldom if ever proves to be the case. If you can handle the truth, so can your neighbors. Trust to citizens to ultimately make the right decisions – they are who you serve – all of them, not some favored few.

Getting your way, “by hook or by crook,” is the method and mentality of tyrants and power mongers who never serve the greater good. A peaceful, civilized and free society withstands mistakes or poor decisions far, far better than they do the dictatorial powers of those who perceive themselves to be superior and invincible.

By Evelyn Pyburn

One of the first experiences of having launched a new business, 40 years ago, was a requirement to annually fill out a form for the county tax collector, listing all the equipment and furniture that was part of our business. The purpose was to pay “personal property taxes,” now commonly called “business equipment tax,” but originally,  most everyone had to pay a tax on their furnishings, whether they were in business or not.

Filling out the form was simple because we didn’t have much – a used desk, a couple chairs, and two new file cabinets.

Not having much capital to start a business, we were creative in making do with what we could find. Bear in mind that this was before computers, so layout and design was a matter of physically piecing things together. Ideally, a light table would have been nice, but we couldn’t afford that. Our solution for a large layout surface was to use an old flat door supported by the two cardboard boxes in which our new file cabinets came.

As a new business we couldn’t afford the equipment we needed but state and county governments expected us to pay taxes on everything we did have. And, no, we were not small enough to be exempt – no one was exempt.

Some time after submitting our tax form I got a call from the county tax office, a woman who wanted to go over our statement. She asked at one point if there was anything I hadn’t written down. I then mentioned our flat door and cardboard boxes, which perturbed her, and I don’t think she believed me. She became quite indignant, and said, “What about your printing press?”

I was dumbfounded and had to laugh. No small newspaper owned a printing press any more, I told her. They send their layouts to a central printing company, which — even today— prints most of the newspapers for a large region.

For her to have taken it upon herself to challenge a business about what equipment they had, one might have expected her to take it upon herself to become educated about what such a business did and what they might actually have for equipment.

But she was, and still is, not alone in not being educated about what it takes to start a business – the fact that the state has such a tax at all speaks to the fact that many people are equally as uneducated; but not knowing what they are doing has never given them pause.

A business equipment tax is directly aimed at killing the goose that lays the golden egg, and for a long, long time Montana has been beating that goose to death. While lessened to some extent, the tax still remains as a barrier to greater prosperity for Montana.

I recall hearing a comment at a manufacturers’ convention a number of years ago from a new manufacturer who had come to the state to manufacture pasta. He expressed deep disappointment that no one had told his company about the business equipment tax. He didn’t know about it, he said, until he opened the mail one day, which included an envelope with the form to be filled out. He then made the point that they would not have located in Montana had they known about the business equipment tax. He didn’t know about the tax because he had never heard of a state imposing such a tax.

Another speaker at another meeting, who was a national specialist at saving a struggling business from going bankrupt, also expressed astonishment at having discovered that Montana had such a tax. Having to pay the tax, whether making a profit or not, essentially spelled doom for any marginal business with lots of expensive equipment.

Business equipment taxes are hostile to economic development – to growing an economy – to creating new wealth. What kind of state does that?  Montana does that and it will probably continue even though there will undoubtedly be efforts to try to raise the exemption level during the next state legislature.

Over time, some improvement has been made in reducing the tax, but it has been an uphill battle.

Common sense says the tax should be completely eliminated, except for people who don’t know what they are doing. They are willing to “welcome” businesses who want to invest up to $300,000 in the state, but they most aggressively want to penalize anyone investing more. Is it any wonder that manufacturing enterprises that want to be close to the development of energy, almost always chose to locate on the eastern side of the state border at Williston?

How can anyone not know that business development and growth is the source of all taxes, most jobs and all new wealth? Every dollar left in a business will do much more for a community than any dollar transferred to government, no matter how it’s spent by government.

One of the things we all should have been able to see over the past couple of years in Montana is what happens to tax collections of all kinds when there are more businesses – businesses that are making a profit. Montana has a gargantuan surplus in tax revenues — the largest in history, because our economy– our businesses — are thriving. While there are other factors at play, none would make such a difference if it weren’t for thriving businesses in Montana. The past couple of years have clearly demonstrated for all to see what it takes to really generate the revenues that people want for government – strong, profitable businesses.

Gov. Gianforte announced that raising the $300,000 exemption level is one of his priorities for the next session of the state legislature. The news reports make sure that everyone knows that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who want to do that as though it is a terrible thing. It is quite amusing, since it seems to say that Democrats are opposed to business investment in the state. Opposed to having a strong economy. Opposed to generating new wealth. Opposed to having tax revenue surpluses. One would think there would be Democrats who would object – and maybe they are. Maybe that’s why the party had trouble fielding candidates in the coming election.

by Evelyn Pyburn

I can remember thinking, as a student, learning about the issue of public information and thinking that so obvious is its benefit, that in no way would any reasonable person ever oppose it. But then, that was a time when I also believed that most adults were reasonable. It was a time too, when I concluded that our freedom would always be secure, because who wouldn’t want freedom?

This is why you don’t put youngsters in charge of things — we are really quite ignorant about the world. We truly do trust that being grown-up means to be rational. What a trauma it is for a child to learn the truth of that! A great deal that troubles so many young people today is in trying to make sense of the adult world where they are told one thing and watch so many of their role models do quite the opposite.

I still don’t understand people who spurn freedom in favor of government control over our lives. What exactly do they see as a utopian society? What if they aren’t the dictator-in-charge, what kind of existence do they imagine for themselves and everyone else? No one has ever answered that question, so I remain puzzled and quite dubious about how reasonable many people are.

But for those who want freedom, be assured it isn’t possible without open, transparent government at every level. If you believe in being able to vote for those who represent you, how can you possibly imagine making an intelligent vote, if you do not KNOW? You have to KNOW all things – what the issues are; what the various points of view are about the issues; the history of those issues and how past decisions came about; the position of the candidate for whom you are considering voting; and how that candidate voted in the past. If you don’t know all those things, you cannot vote responsibly. If you have been denied that information, you have been denied your right to vote – and most importantly you are being denied freedom.

As a representative of the people – elected, appointed or hired — you have no right to know things any more so than do your constituents. You are not meant to be privileged in your knowledge, although it would not be surprising to learn that you are often urged not to divulge information by colleagues or attorneys or others seeking privilege. It is the way of power-mongering — those who control the flow of information, control.

The only reason a public official would want to deny the public information is because they know that what they are doing is not acceptable. It is to know that, if your constituents knew the whole truth about an issue they would object, push for change and undoubtedly find someone else to represent them.

That is what the Montana Constitution demands – full public disclosure. Montana is said to have one of the best and strongest public information laws in the country, but sadly when it comes to evaluations about which states have the best open, public information, Montana ranks very low. That is not the fault of our law, but the fault of those who have pledge to abide by our Constitution.

The only exception to information being public is when it involves personal issues –  an exception that is quite often abused by many public officials. Personal information is about what is “personal” to a public employee or perhaps even a citizen, such as health issues or marital status, or religious preferences, or where they are going on vacation. Public officials quite often, most erroneously extend that cover to things that are not really personal – such as job performance or criminal conduct.

There have been legal challenges regarding just how “personal” a public servant’s job performance really is, and not surprisingly the courts have concluded that employee performance is very important information to the employer – ie. the taxpayers – we have a right- to-KNOW. Job performance reviews, for example, often closed to the public, should be open to the public. Or, when a public official attempts to hide charges of wrong doing by an employee, they really have no authority to do that, because that employee is an employee of the public.

Much of what the government does often involves the gathering of information regarding businesses, in the process of regulating or licensing or controlling in one manner or another, which not surprisingly can often lead to abuse and reasons for the public to ask questions. But when a citizen asks for the information, they are usually put off with the claim that the government cannot release that information because it is a privacy concern of the citizen. Balderdash!

It may have been private information at one time, but the government violated that citizen’s rights in coercing the information. Once the government has the information, it becomes public information! Personal privacy has already been violated.  The government probably had no right to acquire it, and without it the government would not have been able to over-reach with regulations which undoubtedly continue to violate the citizen’s rights. That’s one of the things that happens when one right is violated; it almost always, inexorably, leads to another violation by the government – from one citizen’s right to privacy, to another’s right to know.

Our rights – and most especially our right- to -know – are amazingly dynamic in the protection they provide for citizens against the aggression of government. It is well worth everyone’s time and energy to make sure the right-to-know is adhered to from the lowest levels to the highest levels of government – it doesn’t matter your political leaning – unless of course you really don’t want freedom at all.

By Evelyn Pyburn

“It’s such a great expression of freedom,” said Sen. Steve Daines about the Freedom Convoy that remains in Washington DC in protest of government mandates. Sen. Daines made the remarks while visiting with a Montana trucker, Dennis Davies, who drove from Helena to Washington, D.C. as part of the convoy that organized to protest the mask and vaccine mandates, as well as other federal edicts that are impacting their industry.

It’s been about three weeks since the convoy arrived in Washington DC and while they have daily drove about the city, they have prompted little news coverage, very much in keeping with the promise of some media to maintain a news blackout about the protestors. 

While the truckers have engaged some Congressmen, the news blackout seems to have mitigated much public pressure on the President and other politicians. The truckers have also made little public outreach for contributions and are running out of money, according to one of the organizers of the convoy, who predicted they can’t last longer than another week.

The convoy comprised of thousands of truckers from across the country remains ensconced, going on three weeks, on the DC Beltway.

One commentator declared the protest stalled, admitting that as far as news coverage goes “… this protest barely moved the needle.” He suggested it was poor timing because the Russian invasion of Ukraine captured headlines 24/7, but the fact is there were statements from media, long before the convoy even hit the road, that they intended not to report on it since ignoring the protestors was how President Biden said he intended to deal with them.

The convoy is headquartered at Hagerstown Speedway. They have mostly traveled on the Beltway and Interstate 395, seldom venturing into the city, although some drivers do occasionally drive through neighborhoods.

Police have in some cases closed exits from the interstate “to keep traffic moving smoothly.”

In support of the truckers, Sen. Daines said, “It’s time we stand for freedom and put an end to big government mandates that are unnecessarily straining our truck drivers, jobs and the economy.” Davies showed Sen. Daines the hundreds of signatures on his trailer he gathered from folks who have had enough of overreaching federal government. 

Sen. Daines has not been the only Congressman who has paid a visit to the convoy, many others such as Senators Ted Cruz and Ron Johnson, mostly Republicans, have visited the truckers, sending pictures and interviews back home so their constituents know they are supportive. But only local media provides most of the news available about the convoy. Even in Washington DC the primary reporting has only to do with monitoring traffic to avoid congestion caused by the big trucks. Otherwise, they aren’t there.

One DC reporter described the truckers’ arrival as “separated intermittently by the usual congested traffic, waved flags and blew their horns as they drove.”

Other reports from the convoy claim that the DC demonstration is “the first leg” of their protest, a second phase will involve touring small communities across middle American to rally for freedom and demonstrate that its support is no “fringe group.”

Some reports seem to demonize and trivialize the people involved to make them appear as a fringe minority group, even though there were millions of people who cheered the convoy along almost every mile of their way across the country. And, there remains many more who come to visit them daily in Washington DC, according to a non-supportive college professor on a website called “Think.”

Terry Bouton, an associate professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, declared the “People’s Convoy” a “frightening” success because in his view the truckers, their families and all their supporters are “far-right white supremacist” with anti-government ideas, organizations and personalities.

He sees the gathering as a threat, and describes it as… “a carnival-like atmosphere that drew thousands of people from the surrounding region. Entire families turned out to see the trucks and walk around the giant Speedway parking lot. There was free food and drinks, DJs, a band, quality fireworks, a ceremony with headlights and giant flags. Drivers let kids pull their horns, rev their engines and sign trucks with Sharpies. There was even funnel cake.

“The convoy’s entire journey has had a similar festive feel, drawing large crowds across the heartland. People flocked to overpasses to hold signs and wave as the convoys passed. Homeschooling mothers brought their kids as part of civics lessons. Convoy stops were often mobbed with visitors and were inundated with food and drink donations.

“Meanwhile, membership in dozens of public and private Convoy Facebook groups and Telegram channels has exploded. Convoy drivers upload reports, sometimes with videos shot as their trucks pass cheering crowds. Supporters post pictures and video taken from overpasses and roadsides along the route. Most people just write messages of support and thanks.”

As chilling as that description may sound to Mr. Bouton, law enforcement in the DC area have said that except for heavier traffic and occasional traffic jams, the demonstrators have been peaceful and have caused no problems.

Another report at “The Truth About Cars,” says, “…the Americans have remained mobile to avoid getting cornered by authorities. Stationed out of Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland, truckers have established a base of operations where they can service vehicles whenever they’re not on the Beltway protesting. Drone shots from above have indicated that there are usually a few hundred trucks parked at the racetrack each morning, though videos from inside show evening returns including hundreds more supportive passenger vehicles. While journeys into the city do take place, they typically involve a handful of trucks designed to make some noise before quickly retreating to avoid being penned in.”

“The Independent” reported that the convoy has dis-banned.

Anyone trying to keep informed about what is happening is encouraged to follow the live streaming of many of the truck drivers.

One AP reporter said that he asked a couple with Montana license plates why they had come to protest, they just answered “Freedom.”

And, indeed, while the issue of forced vaccinations was the impetus for the convoy, it’s an issue that has largely diminished as many restraints have been lifted. But, most of the demonstrators, when asked, will cite a long list of infringements on liberties that they want lifted.

A commentary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch called the demonstrators …”rebels without a cause, driving laps around the Capital Beltway is a metaphor for a nation spinning its wheels.”

According to Brian Brase, one of the convoy’s organizers “We’re going to keep looping the beltway until we’re heard.”

By Evelyn Pyburn

No. No. No.

In passing—while talking about engaging a private company to manage MetraPark, Commissioner Don Jones briefly pondered that maybe they should hire an administrator for county government.

It was just a quick remark and how serious he was is unclear, but the idea is a very bad one. Appointing  an administrator is sort of like appointing a dictator. Be assured there is a world of difference in the decisions that are made by someone who has to face re-election and someone who does not.

The justification usually made for a manager or administrator is to improve efficiency of government. Let me be clear – government is not meant to be efficient. Government is messy and slow to make changes. While government is commonly compared to business in the private sector, and the points of difference are usually valid, it doesn’t mean that government should be run like a business.  If you want efficiency, then start a business. Businesses can in most cases do all the things that government thinks it should do. Businesses just don’t like the unfair competition of government.

As is commonly heard said, the most efficient kind of government is a dictatorship. Efficient government does not deliver justice or representative democracy.

The dilemma faced by MetraPark is a very good example that public and private are two different things and never the twain should meet.

Even though MetraPark is a county-owned facility, MetraPark is not a government. It is actually more of a business that must be considered a governmental entity because it is subsidized by the taxpayers. Government “enterprises” like MetraPark exist in an impossible realm, neither one nor the other.

Having heard for years the arguments about whether MetraPark should be run as a public service or to pay for itself – the debate on either side is about equally balanced. Getting agreement about how it should be managed will never happen.

There is a very good reason that government and the private sector were meant to be separate arenas in this country.

For a public entity to make a profit is extremely difficult. It will always face questionable practices in terms of violating laws that govern public entities, and having to obey those laws will always impose extraneous costs that make being efficient and profitable impossible.

One is an organization dedicated to process and the other is focused on goals. Process is never-ending and complicated and unruly, the worst thing possible for business. A business is only interested in consensus to the degree to which it can please customers, and it doesn’t even have to please all customers, just enough to turn a profit and stay in business. For a business, process is laden with costs – to minimize process is what is called efficiency — and by law, government is not supposed to minimize process. It exists to facilitate process – and the point of that process in the US is supposed to allow for as much freedom as possible for each individual citizen – an administrator’s nightmare.

A public –private partnership is an oxymoron, and they never function as they are commonly represented. They don’t improve the efficiency of an operation and they don’t serve the public in terms of providing a product or service any better than a business or non-profit organization could – if there is a market demand for it (which is usually the rub). Their popularity stems from business people seeking a government handout funded by taxpayers, and by politicians seeking the power to pick winners and losers and to gain political influence from the private sector.

If you want to minimize due process then indeed a public administrator can do that – it is the very purpose of a public administrator to cut through and to minimize process – to clean up the messiness. Representative government is greatly diminished when issues get funneled through an administrator who has control of the information and a paid staff to advocate for one side of any issue, who controls the time line, and stands as a buffer for the elected body.

The effectiveness of elected representation is hugely neutered when the government is run by an administrator. More than one city council person over the years told me that as soon as they were elected they were told that they should not interact with the citizens – they should not serve as a representative – they were immediately neutered, as much as possible. They were told they should direct all complaints and information to the administrator and their staff. After all, so many different voices and conflicting ideas are messy and not efficient at all – an administrator minimizes such impacts.

With a public administrator leading the way decision making is always skewed to make things easier for “staff” and the bureaucracy. What a citizen wants is an irritant.

Who knows, a public administrator might view imposing an illegal sales tax for ten years as a good idea. Since they will never have to answer to the public in an election, there is no downside even if it isn’t such a good idea.

No, no, no. For the county to hire a public administrator is not a good idea. Let’s keep our inefficient and messy democracy.