A Commissioner’s Wrath

There’s an interesting article in today’s Helena IR about Helena City Commissioner Dan Ellison (the conservative on the commission).  Mr. Ellison used last night’s City Commission meeting to  publicly assail one of the IR‘s best reporters, Sanjay Talwani.

It looks like Mr. Ellison felt that the reporter mischaracterized him in an article last week.  The blurb stated that he “abstained” from a vote on the non-discrimination ordinance, which will help protect LGBT people from discrimination. In fact, he did not voice his support but also did not oppose (which one might call an abstention). Mr. Ellison took issue with that, because technically it was not a “vote” under procedural rules.

It seems Mr. Ellison complained directly to IR publisher Randy Rickman.  The IR then took what appears to me to be an unprecedented step.   Instead of issuing a correction, today’s IR reports,

The Independent Record ran a front-page story Saturday correcting the error and outlining Ellison’s concerns, as expressed Friday in a telephone interview.  In particular, [Mr. Ellison] asked whether a nondiscrimination ordinance should also apply to various other groups — he mentioned the bald and the left-handed, among others — that might also suffer discrimination.

I hadn’t realized that left-handed people can’t find a landlord who will rent to them.  But I’m glad Mr. Ellison was given front page real estate in the capital city’s newspaper to discuss this important problem.

Not satisfied with the whole extra article he got, he used the commission meeting not to work on expanding the Helena non-discrimination ordinance to the bald and left-handed, for whom he had previously voiced concern, but to lecture everyone else about the “injustice” that was done to him.


37 Comments on "A Commissioner’s Wrath"

  1. First, two questions. What planet is Dan Ellison on, and what’s the air like up there?

  2. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | July 24, 2012 7:02 AM at 7:02 AM |

    Words change. Gay used to mean happy, as in don we now our gay apparel, and conservative USED to mean protect our money, as in Barry Goldwater. Now it just means dumbass, as in Ellison!

  3. Here’s my theory on this. Ellison saw the writing on the wall, or realized that the ordinance was the right thing, or whatever, so he decides not to speak up. Consensus means a measure moves forward without a vote. Then the TEA Party, Tim Ravndal, Kristie Allen-Gailushas, Barbara Rusch et al read the first article with the word “abstained.”

    Ellison starts getting all kinds of teaparty hate email. THEN he calls the Helena IR publisher, who he knows is a big time conservative and gets a whole story to pontificate about how silly it is to protect the gays from discrimination, thereby mollifying the wingers.

  4. Was this the right thing to do? I don’t know, but you never see this kind of thing happening with the Gazette or the Tribune.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | July 24, 2012 8:49 AM at 8:49 AM |

      Oh BULLshit! The GF Spitoon is a piece of shit. It now has Strauss balls (like mouse balls only smaller) heading up the rag. There is really nothing of merit about the Spitoon any longer. It’s a joke paper. Hell, pick it up from yesterday or today. You’ll see what I mean. It’s all Kockh brothers all the time now. Heritage Foundation every day. Now, it’s simply a big Kockh and mouse balls! Helluva way to run a newspaper………and then, they wonder why it’s dying.

      • Dude, I’m not trying to say that the Great Falls Tribune is some great bastion of journalistic excellence. As you point out , it is not. It also has th most annoying paywall, which is probably indicative of waning circulation. As an industry executive recently informed me, he purpose of a paywall is not to generate new income for a paper, rather, it is to prevent print subscriptions from declining further. Supposedly, the theory goes, some people decide why subscribe when u can go online for free.

        Therefore I surmise that the worst pay walls follow the largest wave of cancellations.

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | July 24, 2012 8:09 PM at 8:09 PM |

          The Spitoon stood BY when good, decent, intelligent, highly educated, civic minded folks who opposed Lotten’s Folly, the coal plant, tried to testify at public meetings and were DRAGGED from public meetings and manhandled and abused by thuggish cops! And I’m not kidding! WHERE THE HELL WAS THE SPITOON?

          So now, we residents of GF all get to eat the SEVEN MILLION DOLLAR boondoggle that should never have happened! The Spitoon was complicit! Hell, they could have exposed the corruption, but they chose NOT to! Maybe the SPITOON should pony up the seven million for NOT doing their jobs! That would be a start!

          I mean, really, what they hell GOOD is a paper if it’s as corrupt as the criminals in city hall? Nothing I’d say.

          • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | July 24, 2012 8:16 PM at 8:16 PM |

            City council in action. Korky is our former bald headed chief of Keystone Cops. The guy attempting to testify is Ronald Gessman, engineer.

            • Incredible!

              • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | July 24, 2012 10:02 PM at 10:02 PM |

                Sorry, but I can’t find the really good video. Stuart Lewin, a local attorney and great guy, was addressing the council. He accused the city manager of “double talk”. The mayor, one donna stebbins, immediately sicced the keystone cops on Stuart and had him removed! If he had resisted, he was to be arrested! For speaking publicly! With TRUE accusations!

                Well, as it turns out, WE the taxpayers lost SEVEN MILLION FREAKIN’ DOLLARS down the shitter as a result of Lotten’s Folly, better known as the proposed coal fired plant. And now, we can’t afford CRAP since the city lost all our money! True story.

                Yet, mayor stebbins was offended, OFFENDED I tell ya, when Stuart suggested that they were engaged double talk!

                And we haven’t even TOUCHED upon the Susan Overfield case yet. That one cost the city nearly half a million dollars for illegal arrest!

                And where was the GF Spitoon during all of this? Head up ass, THAT’S where! These cowardly bastards never wrote one story dealing with the corruption involved with the city!

                Gregg Smith had to do all the heavy lifting for the Spitoon on his excellent blog electriccitywebblog.

  5. It’s unfortunate that intelligent debate on this ordinance gets smoke screened by foot stamping and pissing contests.
    But maybe that’s the tactic of its opponents….

    • I know right. It seems so obvious that there is no downside to decreasing discrimination. I can’t think of a single problem with this. Who doesn’t want to live in a better town! When do we know when this is officially passed?

  6. The Guy that wrote that piece was spot on. And I truly agree with it! The very reason Our little area of Montana does well is because of Union Workers or other organized labor and trade organizations. Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Caregivers, state and federal workers like teachers and police, are the very bread and butter of Beaverhead county’s economy.

    While we still have a very strong Family Farming and Livstock commodities, that part our Community is seasonally based, and I believe it could be still be improved greatly using technology and local organization.

  7. Drunks for Denny | July 24, 2012 3:53 PM at 3:53 PM |

    Thank Jesus for commissioners like Ellison. We drunks get a bad rap all the time, yet we don’t go around asking for ordinances to give us special treatment.

  8. Regarding the reference to discrimination against lefties by Elison. Back in the late Dark to early Middle Ages, people thought that the left hand was basically just for toilet paper. So it was considered rude to use it because of where it had been. So poor lefties were beaten and made to try to use the other. Post people couldn’t read or write anyway and didn’t live past 30. Perhaps by invoking this era in explaining his fears, Elison either thinks we are back there or wishes we were- or that he was. It’s a thought.

    • Netty…is that you? Ever read A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman? An excellent social history of the Middle Ages in Europe (476-1453 as I recall). Great book. I’ll have to to
      re- check it for references to ‘people of the left hand.’

      We live & learn. How about discrimination against convicted felons who have served their sentences & been discharged? That’s another possible group Comm Ellison mentioned…it wasn’t in the paper, needless to say. He’s on the Pre Release Center Board tho, so it’s an aspect to all this that he is familiar with.

    • Netty…is that you? Ever read A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman? An excellent social history of the Middle Ages in Europe (476-1453 as I recall). Great book. I’ll have to to
      re- check it for references to ‘people of the left hand.’

      We live & leGarn. How about discrimination against convicted felons who have served their sentences & been discharged? That’s another possible group Comm Ellison mentioned…it wasn’t in the paper, needless to say. He’s on the Pre Release Center Board tho, so it’s an aspect to all this that he is familiar with.

      • J Smith, I’m guessing you have the wrong guy as I’m not sure who Netty is, but thanks for your comment. It is indeed shocking that the IR didn’t report that Elison compared LGBT people to felons! Pretty bad! Jim

      • So the IR did another favor to Ellison by not reporting the worst of his remarks. Great. I guess this is what we get with two-for-one editorial oversight…

      • Thank you J smith. I started the Tuchman book, but the print was small, the content dense and the plague depressing. I may pick back up though on the grounds of being in a bi-handed marriage. Seriously, though, THANK YOU SO MUCH, for working through the LBGT Anti-discrimination ordinance. Though I initially thought the familial status was a good addition, I do believe that can be addressed in other ways. So like you, I’m for sticking to the core issue in the Ordinance, and will look forward to its passage..

  9. Wait, this dude wasn’t trying to compare being gay to being a convicted felon was he? Oh Jesus.

  10. In fairness to Mr. Ellison and his assertion that left-handed people, short people and bald people suffer discrimination, Ellison is mostly bald, and very short. I mean really, really, short. Practically like a “little person.” If it weren’t for the gray ring of hair, he might be mistaken for a child. It probably really bothered him throughout his career in the Navy. And then of course there’s the ritual homosexuality often perpetrated on young officers and cadets. Taken together, I can see why he may figure that short people in particular suffer discrimination, but that gays maybe get the upper hand, at least on an aircraft carrier crossing the equator. A whole career in the Navy being just “that short guy.” Gotta be tough.

    • You think your personal attack on this man’s appearance serves any purpose? If so, you should consider whether that purpose is not actually just reflecting poorly on your treatment of others.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | July 25, 2012 5:42 AM at 5:42 AM |

      Seriously? Ellison is aNOTHER retired military lifer Teatard?? Geez, as if these morons know NOTHING ’bout suckin’ off Unca Sugartit! Sorry, but you DON’T get to be a Teatard if you’ve SUCKED of the hated gubmint your entire life! And still are!

      And BTW, you nailed it. Ellison IS indeed a little person!

  11. In an era when every few weeks the national news shows the face of another gay or lesbian teen that took their lives because of homophobia, no elected official should be making a.) light of gay or lesbian humanity, including the comparisons of our lives to which hand we write with, or the amount of hair on our heads, and b.) comparisons of gays and lesbians to felons.

    Please think about the terrible and damning message you are sending gay and lesbian youth.

    Also, please consider the fact that in Montana it was an enforceable felony to be gay or lesbian until 1997. While that law is not enforceable today, the fact that Montana law still has language calling for gays and lesbians to be incarcerated and fined for the act of loving, the message it sends is destructive, damaging and hurtful to all in the LGBT community.

    In 1995, not even twenty years ago, the Montana Senate passed (32-18) an amendment to the sex offender registry laws codifying that gays register as sex criminals in this state.

    Please do not trivialize our existence. And please do not compare two adults who love each other, make a life together, and share their hopes and dreams together, to felons.

    • great points, i can’t believe that this city commissioner compared LGBT Montanans to convicted felons. that’s just like the Montana Republican Party bills and platform that called for making it illegal to be gay.

  12. As a member of the Helena City Commission, I was present at the meeting when the LBGT non-discrimination ordinance was discussed. The initial article in the IR did mischaracterize the discussion. The reporter was not present at the meeting, but relied on some second-hand source.

    Commissioner Ellison did oppose the ordinance asking why LGBT people were more deserving of protection than other groups. At these administrative meetings, we do not formally vote. We express our tentative views on how to proceed and staff proceeds as the majority of the commission wishes. In this case, the purpose was to give direction to the city attorney’s initial drafting of the ordinance.

    I replied to Commissioner Ellison’s question that there was a long history severe prejudice and persecution against LGBT folks that warrants special protection against discrimination. Commissioner Ellison mentioned other groups that have suffered discrimination. He mentioned ex-convicts and military veterans as examples in addition to the bald and left-handed. These more serious examples were not mentioned in the article. Indeed, Commissioner Hauque-Hausrath proposes to include single mothers in the ordinance. So I think Commissioner Ellison’s point deserves thought.

    It was I who first proposed anti-discrimination ordinance one or two years ago and I lean toward adopting such an ordinance and consider myself a liberal. But I am very offended by the derogatory comments about Commissioner Ellison that follow this article. Commissioner Ellison is highly intelligent, thoughtful, diligent, civil, and congenial, although of a more conservative bent than I. I have a great deal of admiration for him. On most less political matters, we agree.

    Dick Thweatt, Helena City Commissioner

    • I dont believe comparing gay people to convicted felons is morally defensible. Period.

    • Commissioner Thweatt, I suggest to you that matters of protection of the public should not be ‘more political’ in nature as you imply here. To those who have faced discrimination, violence and “severe prejudice” those matters are not political in nature but very personal and morally charged. These matters are ones of basic rights, and shouldn’t be open to political chicanery. Attempts to dismiss those concerns through false equivalence are precisely to be seen as the kind of immoral beast that ‘politics’ is now widely viewed as by those who need the very protections this ordinance would provide. So three things become evident.

      1) Mr. Ellison’s reaction is probably the very best evidence in support of the need of such non-discrimination ordinances. There is nothing “more deserving” about those who need protection. It is the job of elected officials to protect all who need it, not those who ‘deserve it’. By framing his questions as he has, Mr. Ellison forces a value choice where it is irresponsible for one to even take place. He is placing the group, segregating, in a position of being worthy for him to do his job. If that segregation isn’t proof that an ordinance banning such prejudice from those we all rely on to be fair is needed, then I don’t know what is.

      2) The “derogatory” reactions here to Commissioner Ellison’s remarks are well deserved. Yes, Mr. Ellison’s ‘concerns’ deserve thought; thought that should take about a second and half before the rational person realizes that he is arguing to perpetuate what you acknowledge as a very real problem by arguing through such false equivalence. Given that, I personally find that your “offense” at those comments rings awfully damned hollow to me.

      3) This is not a political issue, save as it impacts the re-election of the Helena City Commission. I’m mildly curious if that’s why you find this a ‘more political’ matter than others you do not disclose in which you agree with Commissioner Ellison. This is an issue of civil rights, protecting, defending, supporting and building the rights of all people in your political domain for the common good. That’s kind of your job. Boiling ‘the common good’ down to political wrangling is precisely the wrong direction to take, as is evidenced by voter’s lack of faith in even local politics. Some things are just the right damned thing to do. Passing the ordinance, yes. Defending Ellison because you might agree with the guy about things that aren’t so political as something that isn’t political at all, not so much. Acknowledge and move on.

  13. Drunks for Denny | July 26, 2012 3:05 PM at 3:05 PM |

    You tell ’em, Dick!

    Dick is way more liberal than I (heck, I’m a drunk who supports Denny Rehberg), but he is a class act in every way.

    Lets put it this way, liberals. Committing homosexual acts and committing felonies have this in common: they are purposeful acts that you have a choice in committing. You can commit them or not.

    Being born male, female, or a hermaphrodite; being born of dark-skin, being born without legs….these are all conditions that happen upon a person. This is different than being gay or criminal.

    Taking hormones and having a surgeon do things with your internal plumbing….these are more examples of elective options that you may or may not chose to commit.

    Comparing gay people to convicted felons is far more relevant than comparing gay people to black people.

  14. Dick, it’s honorable, I guess, for you defend the horribly ill-informed rantings of your right-wing colleague.

    However, you managed to get one of your statements TOTALLY AND DEMONSTRABLY WRONG, which does a disservice to both the IR and the community.

    You wrote: “He mentioned ex-convicts and military veterans as examples in addition to the bald and left-handed. These more serious examples were not mentioned in the article.”

    But, OOOPSIE! Sometimes facts get in the way of an apparently elegant bit of political posturing.

    If you had bothered to read all the stories referenced in this post, you might have noticed that the IR’s front-page grovel Saturday to Ellison included this statement:

    “Specifically, Ellison mentioned the bald, the left-handed, the obese, those who stutter, veterans and service members, single mothers and others who may have experienced some kind of discrimination in their lives.”

    So, it did leave out the bit about ex-cons, maybe to spare Mr. Ellison the embarrassment of making such a horribly offensive and bigoted comparison.

    You seem to be saying that an entire unprecedented front-page story highlighting one commissioner’s medieval viewpoint was somehow not good enough to make right with Ellison over a small error on a procedural matter.

    On the other hand, you might have missed this since it was carefully hidden ON THE FRONT PAGE and linked to in the post on which you took the trouble to comment. You’d think a city commissioner might want to keep up on the local news, even if he thinks its reporters are stupid.

    But let’s take a step back, Dick. Are you really defending his belittling of anti-gay discrimination, just because he also dragged military members in? (And, as an aside, where does Ellison get off whining about discrimination against the military, when the military itself for years openly discriminated against gays and lesbians? Maybe Ellison is unaware of anti-gay discrimination because in the military, all the gays have to stay in the closet to keep their careers and livelihoods?)

    Anyway Dick, let’s hope your false comment above was actually written by an imposter pretending to be you. You’re far too smart and decent to demean yourself in this way.

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