Racism and the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee Chair

olsenJennifer Olsen, a petroleum engineer who was unemployed for years while the oil and gas  industry was booming around her was recently honored in the Billings Gazette’s annual “40 under 40” segment.  The newspaper lists her many jobs, never mentioning that each employer was actually her father (Eric Olsen)  and the companies were often idle due to “government oppression” or some other excuse Jennifer and Eric Olsen used while soliciting donations to progress their political agenda.  During their long period of unemployment, Jennifer and her father founded Montana Shrugged, a “tea party” group that advocates selective federalism and operates in a divisive and dishonest manner.  Jennifer Olsen also holds the chairwoman position on the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee.  In her free time, she files frivolous and unfounded political practices complaints and apparently scours the internet searching for racist anti-Obama material.

My disdain for the Olsen family is obvious.  Posts like the one captured in the following screenshot from Jennifer Olsen’s Facebook page today are why.

olsen screenshot

Thanks to the first amendment, Americans are able to think whatever they would like as well as express those thoughts, but such expression does has consequences.  I discourage Yellowstone County Republican precinct chairs and legislators from turning a blind eye to this blatantly racist post.  If Ms Olsen is not held responsible for her actions, we send a message that this behavior is acceptable and perhaps these views are even condoned by the GOP.  The Republican Party was founded on abolishing slavery.  Why do we now tolerate our leaders advocating bigotry in a public forum? Bigotry is rooted in ignorance and the Republican Party should purge this cancer from the party.  Shame on you, Jennifer Olsen.  You are a disgrace to your party, to the central committee you chair,  to Montana, and to America.

UPDATE:  According to David Crisp of Billings Blog, in a question post by a Billings Outpost freelancer, Jennifer Olsen responded as follows:

“The blog posting this about me is all fabricated. This is not the first time they have made up stories about me as writer, nicole french, and I had a falling out a few years ago and since then she writes this nonsense.
“Liberals always try to take our focus away from real issues by doing things like this. It is absolutely not true.”


“Running on Empty” Speaker Jeff Essmann Runs From Constituents

Earlier this week, I received several invitations to the Billings stop of the “Running on Empty” bus tour by Americans for Prosperity.  Slated to speak at the event were Sen. Jeff Essmann (author of the infamous “black market” marijuana bill, SB423), Rep. Tom McGillvray (who at at an RLCC fundraiser stated that Montana was wasting its money on meth prevention as our real problem in Montana is medical marijuana) and Rep. Krayton Kerns, who pretends to be more constitutional and liberty-minded than he is in reality. The guest speakers were greeted by far more protesters than conservative supporters. Someone in the crowd called McGillvray a “commie”, Kerns was asked if he’d returned his federal farm subsidy welfare check and the cowardly star speaker, Jeff Essmann, couldn’t be bothered to attend. Prior to the event, representatives from the Ken Miller for Governor campaign were overheard calling to warn others of the opposition. Why are so many candidates for governor afraid of their constituents?  Opponents of McGillvray and Kerns outnumbered supporters at least 3 to 1 although some reports indicated that over 100 protesters attended while 20 or so were friendly.

Where’s Essmann?

Essmann may have been home analyzing the results of the recent solicitiation letters he sent to constituents as he explores a potential Gubernatorial bid.  Oddly enough, he omitted authoring SB423 in the lengthy resume’ he included in the letters.  He has repeatedly claimed that droves of his constituents begged and pleaded for a repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law, so it does seem strange that he didn’t mention let alone herald that particular accomplishment. Perhaps he was using medical marijuana. Oh yes, that’s right, he has never done such a thing…. or has he?    Perhaps Essmann was home proposing legislation for the biggest tax increases in Montanans’ lifetimes.  Oh, never mind.  He already did that! Maybe he was providing statements to police, hoping to ensure a newly unemployed cannabis caregiver would be charged with a violation of the dreaded “privacy in communications act”.  Yeah, he already did that too.  Perhaps Essmann was out looking for Rep. James Knox, word on the street is that he’d like him to be his lieutenant governor.  Unfortunately for Essmann, Knox is apparently planning to leave the state, presumably taking his $733/mo in health benefits, compliments of Montana taxpayers, with him.

Anyway, back to the Americans for Prosperity event.  I wasn’t in attendance, but reports of McGillvray and Kerns being loudly booed were consistent.  One Republican politician- who actually lobbied Essmann and company to abandon plans for repeal in favor of thoughtful legislation during the session- left early because he was uncomfortable with the number of union thugs shouting down the speakers.  He said that he was not there to support the speakers but to support the local effort to elect new leaders who understand the need to live within our means and recognize that over-regulating is not the conservative way. Josh Daniels, an outspoken advocate for patients’ rights as well as a member of Patients for Reform, Not Repeal , said  “Overall it was a sad showing for them.  As a libertarian I do agree with the general concept, but the MT Tea Party is working for a nanny state with the LDS church on cannabis regulation.”  Mr. Daniels held a sign that read “SB423, Welcome Back Blackmarket”.

The Bozeman and Helena stops on the bus tour Thursday afternoon were also attended by a sizable group of protesters.  Friday’s stops include Kalispell, as well as the liberal university city of Missoula.  Similar events in Florida last week drew smaller than expected crowds. Perhaps Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group funded by the libertarian Koch brothers, should do a little research on their prospective speakers. I’m pretty sure that a speech by Republican Representative Mike Miller wouldn’t have drawn such opposition.

Most of those in attendance cited the need for jobs in Montana.  Note:  McGillvray, Kerns and Essmann all voted to eliminate the thousands of jobs in Montana’s medical cannabis industry.  Times certainly have changed since the last conservative bus tour stop in Billings. When then-GOP chairman Michael Steele brought the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour to Billings prior to the 2010 elections, hundreds of smiling and cheering supporters attended the event and I don’t recall seeing even one protester.  If only we had known then what sort of fools we were electing to represent us.

Fairness…. your choice

2011 Legislative Session

The Oil/Gas Revenue Debate:
A Discussion of the Larger Issues Involved….

I received the following letter from the Montana Rural Education Association.  It was written by Gordon Hahn, Saco School District Superintendent and was sent to the 2011 Legislature.  Interesting take on the governor’s proposed budget which is structurally unbalanced, relying on one-time money transfers as well as robbing surpluses from fiscally responsible eastern Montana schools.

As a reference, I am the superintendent at Saco School District in Saco .  We subsidize our school budget significantly with oil and gas money and thought I would give a different perspective to mull over as it relates to the oil and gas revenue controversy.  My words reflect a view from the inside of this controversy.

Saco doesn’t take any GTB and we don’t run any mills for the school, including permissive ones. We do, however, pay the mandatory 95 state wide education mills.  We subsidize our GFB by about 60% with oil and gas revenues.  We also fund many of our other funds with oil and gas money so as to not burden our local and/or state taxpayers.  We don’t compete for other grants (except the Federal ones) or special OTO money so as to not take any funds from a district that might need it.

An argument I consistently hear is that “it isn’t fair” that our tax payers aren’t assessed any mills for the school when other districts are.  The position reminds me of the 6 year old that complains he didn’t get as big a toy at Christmas as his 12 year old brother did.  Parents, myself included, often tell their children that “life isn’t fair” because, frankly, it isn’t.  There are always two sides to every situation and this oil and gas one is no exception.

Is it “fair” that Saco ’s taxpayers don’t have any mills for our school?  Is it “fair” that Billings has a swim team and we don’t?  Is it “fair” that Helena can offer four years of French when I can’t even offer any foreign language?  Is it “fair” that Bozeman is surrounded by mountains when Saco isn’t?  Is it “fair” that I have to drive 6 hours for a meeting in Helena when Townsend only has to drive 30 minutes?  Is it “fair” that we have to go 2 ½ hours to shop at Wal-Mart when Billings has two of them?  The truth is this:   You can’t “equalize” everything across the state, including school funding, because no matter what you do, something “isn’t fair” to someone else.  Is it “fair” to tax us additional mills when we won’t even use it?  Is it “fair” to force us into needing tax mills so other districts can reduce theirs?  Is it “fair” for us to subsidize AP physics class in Missoula or Helena ’s tennis team by taking our money away when we don’t have the same “extra” programs?  Is it “fair” that the property values here are significantly lower than Kalispell’s?

We, here in the northeast, put up with the drilling, the trucks, the cost of living, and the impact of getting oil and gas revenues.  The “western” portions of the state won’t allow exploration of oil and gas because “heaven forbid” they cut down a tree to do it.  I’ve seen reports that there are more oil and gas reserves in the west than the east.  Why not push a bill that spreads oil and gas money to schools in counties where they allow oil and gas exploration?  That seems fair to me.  Perhaps then, the western portion of the state will begin to tap into the financial benefits of their own oil and gas reserves.

Allow me a simple anecdote:  I bought property north of Saco when I took my job here.  My land borders one of the irrigation canals that passes through the Saco flats.  We are assessed (about) $750 per year for irrigation rights even though I don’t irrigate any of my land and never will.  Is that “fair”?  I don’t use it, but I’m taxed on it anyway.

What’s the point?  The point is this:  “It is what it is”.  If I don’t like the irrigation tax, I can move to an area that doesn’t border the canal.  Saco has no school mills for its taxpayers.  If someone wishes they had “no mills”, they can move here.  It is what it is.  If I want a school with a swim team, I’ll move to an area that has one….I’m not going to complain because my current school doesn’t have a swim team.  If I want to live where there are mountains, I’ll move there.   Finally, if we intend to equalize things, I’d like the mosquito problem here to be eliminated so we have the same mosquito count as Billings J.  Wouldn’t that be “fair”? It is what it is.

It just doesn’t seem appropriate to take what is earned here and spread it around to those counties that won’t allow any drilling.  Are the people of Saco fortunate to have the oil and gas money?  Sure we are.  Are the people of Helena fortunate to have a school with four years of French and a speech and drama team?  Sure they are.  Is it right to make the people of Saco subsidize the cost of running the schools in Helena when we don’t have the same amenities?  No.  Saco doesn’t have near the peripheral opportunities large schools offer but these same schools want to take our money from us to support their programs.   Perhaps if the legislature could guarantee that Saco High School can have everything that Missoula high schools have, maybe then sharing oil and gas revenues would be “equitable”.

I know there aren’t any easy solutions to the state’s funding of schools.  We are in this hole because of the mismanagement of the funding two years ago and now, it appears, the State wants to take money from schools that have management their resources well.  I suggest that instead of taking from us to “equalize” us with other schools, why not look at ways to give more to schools so as to equalize them with us?  How?  Allowing state-wide drilling.  That’s how.

Until all taxes are “equalized” throughout the state, it isn’t right to take from a selected few and give to all.  If this is done, then ALL tax revenues (property, utilities, natural resources, etc.) need to be shared equally.

I’m tired of hearing the “fair card” played and that we need to “equalize” out school funding in this debate.  You can’t make everything “fair”.  We’ve been telling our children this for years.

Gordon P. Hahn, superintendent

Saco Schools.