A carrot joke; Google bypasses Missoula

food coopQ. What do you call an elephant with a carrot in each ear?

A. Anything you want ’cause she can’t hear you.

A few weeks ago, the Missoula Community Food Co-op held a grand opening party in its grand new space, and co-coordinator Kate Keller said it was a smashing success.

One highlight? A member in a carrot suit who walked around telling carrot jokes. I couldn’t reach him, but I found you a carrot joke anyway. (Thank you, Google. By the way, I see you’re heading to Kansas City with that super ultrafast Google Fiber project. Have fun.)

Back to the Co-op, though, Keller said 20 new members signed up at the grand opening earlier this month, and the public shop was fantastic. Hundreds if not a thousand folks shopped.

Even if they don’t all become members, Keller said at least they have a good idea of what the Co-op is about and know it’s not some mysterious “kind of weirdo grocery store.”

The cafe area was open to the public, too: “It really expands people’s imagination about what can happen in this space since it’s all done.”

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula commissioners join bigrigs lawsuit

The Missoula County Commissioners are taking on the megaloads in District Court. And they sound pretty punchy about it.

Here’s Commissioner Michele Landquist, from the story:

“You don’t work for years and years to achieve what we’ve all achieved in the tourism and recreation dollars, the industry it’s become, just to sell it to any company that wants to destroy that travel corridor. “People will not come.”

And here’s Commissioner Jean Curtiss:

(She) said it’s the commissioners’ job to ensure public health, welfare and safety of Missoula County. That doesn’t square with the travel plan, which calls for all moves to take place after midnight and before 6 a.m.

“Normally high-and-wide special permits are given for daytime use only, because the goal is, we want you to be able to see as well as possible,” Curtiss said. “This one is just the absolute opposite. They’re the biggest things we’ve hauled through here, and yet it’s a night-time permit.”

And on the other side of Montana, at least one Yellowstone County Commissioner is fired up too. That’s Jim Reno, who had choice words for Curtiss and Missoula.

“I’m thinking if Missoula County wants to truly isolate the eastern part of the state, which is energy-producing, from the western part of the state, they’re doing a very, very good job of it,” Reno said Tuesday.

He told Curtiss she should apply for a job with the Montana Department of Transportation if she wants to make decisions on state highways, and he also recommended Missoula hop out of Montana.

“Could they do one more vote and maybe vote to join Idaho?” wondered Reno, who wrote a letter to the editor of the Missoulian registering his distaste after news of Missoula County’s pending lawsuit came out last weekend.

Ouch! Those sound like fighting words. Maybe a Missoula peace offering, like a hemp necklace with a peace sign pendant, would appease Reno.

Kidding, kidding. As for the city of Missoula, city attorney Jim Nugent said no one has talked with him about joining the lawsuit. The route has far more miles in the county, and he said it would be difficult for the city to argue environmental impacts, like the county can.

— Keila Szpaller

WORD fundraiser a whopping success!


wordLet’s catch up on some events that took place around Missoula the last few weeks. Finally, right?

First, the Many Faces of Women fundraiser for WORD, Women’s Opportunity Resource and Development, yielded money and fun. Executive director Stacy Rye noted the first count of gross at $23,500.

“I only have a rough idea of the net so far, but it looks like we made double over last year,” Rye said in an email.

And it was awesome.  It had a really good feeling to it, Bernie Kneefe was hilarious, the music by Lefty Lucy was rockin’ (I know everyone in that band, how did I not know that band??) and people drank some wine and spent some money.  I think people just really enjoyed themselves.  Lefty Lucy should be playing at clubs; they are that good.  I got up and told a story and made everyone cry, which I totally did not mean to do.  I meant to tell it as heartwarming; like this family was highly motivated and got the help they needed at the right time, but men were leaving the room wiping their eyes and the women were sitting at tables wiping their eyes.  The raise your paddle for sending 1 homeless kid to camp part of the program went really well.  We raised a lot of money in just that 15 minutes – which I think people really liked so they could get back to partying with their friends instead of listening to an auction that could go on for a while.

Other events coming up later? The Missoula Community Food Co-op celebration and house warming, and the Western Montana Community Center’s Black and White Ball.

— Keila Szpaller

Russell Street = smooth as baby’s butt

Have you driven, ridden, on Russell Street lately?

I did this weekend, and it almost seemed like you could drive with your eyes closed ’cause there were no potholes to weave around. At least not on the section I was on. Super smooove.

Um, so last week was a whirlwind. I talked with some folks concerned about the pending sale of Mountain Water’s parent company to the Carlyle Group, and that story is here. I’ve been interested in the work of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and more on that here. (First story here if you missed it.)

Did you get out in the sun last Wednesday? Saturday? It was marvelous.

Wednesday is supposed to be my “rest” day, but since it was sunny, I took a little jaunt.  I guess Wednesdays are Run Wild Missoula training days, and it seemed like everyone in Missoula was out and about.

Thanks, Run Wild and Lady Gaga, for the motivation.

— Keila Szpaller

“Mountain Water for Missoula, not the Carlyle Group”

That’s the name of a group that’s formed on FaceBook. Are any of your friends fans? You can see their updates on your page if you “like” them.

I mentioned “Mountain Water for Missoula, not the Carlyle Group” in this story about the way the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is helping some cities and towns write ordinances to assert power over corporations.

There’s plenty of bubbling from folks in Missoula who want the city to own its own water supply. People are writing letters to Mayor John Engen (a trickle, not a deluge, he said, but none opposed to municipal ownership), and in the story, he said he’d like to buy it but so far there isn’t a willing seller. He’s hoping for one in the future.

I’m going to follow up on that story and talk with someone who knows the law about the viability of the movement. It’s been more popular in conservative areas; some progressives prefer change happen within the existing legal framework.

But the FB group popped up here, and I’d like to know if some local ordinance can be used that puts the city of Missoula first in line to buy if the company goes on the market and the city offers a fair price. How would a lawyer craft something like that?

The horse has probably left the barn when it comes to the current deal, but it’s an interesting idea to explore.

— Keila Szpaller

Group calls for police chief to resign after anti-medical marijuana testimony

Montanans for Responsible Legislation called yesterday in a Missoula City Council committee meeting for Missoula police chief Mark Muir to resign.

“It is the apex of inappropriate behavior for Missoula chief of police Mark Muir to use Missoula money, Missoula city resources, and the uniform of the Missoula Police Department to oppose a concept our citizens have, time and time again, overwhelmingly voted to support,” said founder and president Doug Chyatte in a prepared statement he read to councilors.

After the meeting, I asked Chyatte if he actually expected the chief to step down. He said no, but he also noted the board of Montanans for Responsible Legislation voted unanimously to call for the resignation.

Yesterday while under fire, Muir stood by his earlier testimony in Helena in favor of repealing the Medical Marijuana Act — but Councilwoman Lyn Hellegaard said if anyone should be blamed, it’s Mayor John Engen.

After all, she said he’s the one who gave the chief the nod to go to Helena and support the repeal of the Medical Marijuana Act: “Our beef should be with the mayor, who authorized the police chief to go over there.”

Engen has said he should have sent Muir as an informational witness instead.

In other pot news, some person I’m alleging is a dingdong is accused of offering pot butter to a kid who made cookies for SCHOOL CHILDREN. Well, people in 8th grade.

Hey, toss ’em keys so they can take the bigrigs for a spin, too, right? Good grief. The teacher said the students looked “spaced out.”

But back to Montanans for Responsible Legislation: Here’s the full prepared statement made to the committee:

Continue reading

More on federal raids on medical marijuana

potoliveThanks for your comments, Adam. I’m re-posting your comment below.

Here’s Gwen Florio’s story today about Roger Dowty’s marijuana and olive oil caps. It sounds like he too believes the raids will, err, weed out the illegitimate operations.

“I loved it,” Dowty said of the warrants executed in search of evidence of involved in large-scale marijuana trafficking and tax evasion. Such actions, he said of the raids, will help cull illegally run operations and underscore the legitimacy of others.

The product sounds pretty intense: “One 10 mg caplet – which he sells for $1 – is the equivalent of about three joints, with an effect lasting up to nine hours, he said.”

My word.

Anyway, this from Adam Hertz, who made a bid this year for the Ward 2 city council seat Cynthia Wolken landed:

The reporting on the raids has been misleading, or at the very least deficient from almost all sources. Don’t forget how many hundreds of shops were not raided. It would appear that the Feds targeted medical marijuana providers who may not have been operating in compliance with Montana’s Medical Marijuana Act. It’s reasonable to believe that there are a few “caregivers” who may be tempted by the potential revenue from using their seemingly legitimate medical marijuana business as a smokescreen to illegally traffic drugs across state lines, sell to non cardholders, etc. The media has painted these raids as a Federal abuse of power inconsistent with the Fed’s past guidance. Based on the fact that the vast majority of medical marijuana businesses were not raided, it would appear as though the Feds are not cracking down on Montana’s right to implement the Medical Marijuana Act. Rather, it appears that they’re cracking down on those using the Act as a red herring to commit Federal offenses.

Unrelated to this story…When did it become the government’s responsibility to protect us from ourselves? If law abiding citizens want to partake in any activity or substance that doesn’t impose on someone else’s liberty and freedom, where does the Constitution give the government authority to say otherwise? Such a silly thing to waste billions of dollars on, when the government could be making billions in revenue were it legal and taxed. Not to mention the more than 22,000 deaths in the Mexican drug war over the past three years. I can always see both sides of any argument, but in the case of marijuana prohibition I must be missing something. What good has marijuana prohibition provided the US and how could it possibly outweigh the death, cartel and gang violence, loss of potential revenue, and waste of law enforcement resources that prohibition has inarguably caused?

Missoula police chief Mark Muir has quite a different opinion on marijuana, both medical and recreational.

“The idea of dispensaries in the state of Montana has got to be something we wash out of our minds,” Muir said Wednesday.

More from him in this story.

— Keila Szpaller

Feds raid medical marijuana shops in Montana

That news here.

Federal raids hit medical marijuana shops around Montana Monday morning, causing an uproar in a community already roiled by high-profile attempts to regulate it.

“The timing is impeccable,” said Chris Lindsey, a Missoula attorney who specializes in medical marijuana cases, about the fact that the raids unfolded as a state Senate committee deadlocked on a bill to repeal the 2004 voter initiative that legalized marijuana.

I’d like to know the cost of these raids. I’d also like to know if this means Jason Christ won’t be around here anymore.

Here’s a link to one of the search warrants, courtesy of Americans for Safe Access. In email updates, the organization estimated the number of Montana shops raided at 10 or 12.

The warrant makes it sound like it can be difficult to recover material taken in a raid. You ask for something back. Legally, though, instead of getting the thing back, you can get an explanation for why the feds are holding onto the thing. (It’s not clear if “because I said so” is an appropriate response.)

In one raid west of Helena, eight people ended up in cuffs, according to this Helena Independent Record story.

So Ryan Morton, the answer to your question is yes. Thanks.

— Keila Szpaller

Pothole gobbles Subaru, relinquishes child

Man, these potholes are costing people a lot of money. One of them as big as a desk chair? Shaking up a toddler? Here’s the story of people filing damage claims and getting turned down.

Some folks are having to buy four new tires when just one is busted, but Four Seasons seems to be thinking out of the box. Here’s a note from Missoulian assistant news editor Cory Walsh.

“I needed to replace one tire on my Subaru Outback after it may/may not have been slashed under the bridge at work. I had just bought a new set of tires about a year before the incident, but many tire outlets insisted that I buy four new ones. I finally went to Four Seasons, where they measured my tires, ordered a new one, and shaved it down to match the other three. It saved me several hundred dollars.”

Let’s hope pothole season is coming to a close and spring — and porch sitting! — are around the corner.

— Keila Szpaller