The Helena IR is not known for its editorial page excellence. After reading Pogie’s analysis of the IR’s city council endorsements here, I can’t resist adding a couple of points.
It’s hard to get information about city council races, which are “non-partisan.” So, there are probably are some people in town who don’t know that the two progressive candidates are Matt Elsaesser and Katherine Haque-Hausrath while the Chamber of Commerce choice is the other candidate, Lora Behlmer.
The IR knew it though. That’s why they presumably decided they would look after their own bottom line and split the baby down the middle–endorsing one of the two popular candidates and one right winger. The IR rightly endorsed Matt Elsaesser, who has served the community well and will certainly continue to do so. That’s where the logic ends.
What makes the endorsement of Chamber of Commerce fave Behlmer over Katherine so weak, you ask? It’s the IR’s own explanation of the pick. The IR could scarcely find justifiable reasons for endorsing Behlmer over Katherine Haque-Hausrath. Let’s look down at the bottom of the barrel to see what they were able to scrape up.
First, the IR states that it is
“impressed with Behlmer’s willingness to listen to constituents” and that she would be “more aggressive and ambitious in seeking input from all corners of the city.”
It is odd and unconvincing that Behlmer does constituent contact by
“polling customers who pass through her store’s doors, but also making use of online polls and actively seeking the voices of those who aren’t necessarily working through the system.”
Just as long as those voices belong to people who spend money at a specialty gourmet tea shop most average citizens have never even heard of, that is.
Katherine has been hearing from Helenans in a much more meaningful way — by walking up to their houses and knocking on their doors to ask them. Sitting behind the counter at your business and being nice to people as you pocket their money is not the same as going to their door on your own time and simply asking for their views, not their cash.
The IR goes on to tout the supposed diversity that Lora Behlmer would bring
“in the form of her role as a Downtown Walking Mall merchant and small retail business owner “
(There’s the Chamber of Commerce dog whistle). What’s really troubling though is that the IR apparently does not feel that Katherine would bring diversity as a young woman and mother. Surely, Katherine also represents a unique viewpoint that is lacking in the all-male commission.
Here’s something else weird about the endorsement piece. In the portion of the editorial about Katherine, the IR addresses Katherine’s views on a non-discrimination ordinance, low-income housing, and the cell-phone ban. Yet nowhere does the IR give us the other candidate’s position on these issues, which are sure to be the hottest issues to come before the commission in the coming year. The IR should have reported the other candidates’ views on these issues so that voters can compare.
Do yourself a favor and forget the IR. Go to the KXLH debate between the candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at the Lewis and Clark Library from 7 to 8 p.m.