Tim Fox Fails His First Test

Image

One of the first tests for statewide elected officials in Montana is the decision on their top staff appointments. On Friday, Tim Fox failed the test.

Fox announced 4 straight, white men as leadership in his office, and announced a female executive assistant (not pictured). The most notable of his selections is Jon Bennion, the former lobbyist for the Montana Chamber of Commerce. (I’ll have more to say on this appointment in a later post.)

These appointments make it painfully clear that diversity is not a priority for him.

Now, diversity for the sake of diversity isn’t inherently valuable. But when you seek a diverse staff so that you have a broad range of experiences, histories and viewpoints you can make your organization–in this instance the Department of Justice–a stronger entity.

The Department of Justice plays such a huge role in the lives of Montanans that this diversity of experience would improve our state. For example, the DoJ oversees all the law enforcement in the state, and we all know that there has been a history of real and perceived racial profiling by law enforcement in tribal communities. By selecting these men as his senior staff, Fox doesn’t have someone providing him with a first-hand understanding of this issue, so Fox is incapable of making an informed decision to do something about it.

It’s important to understand that building a diverse team isn’t something that happens by itself. It’s something that takes work and a concerted effort to make it a priority. Governor Schweitzer is the model on this.

Anyone who has followed Schweitzer’s time in office knows that he has more Native Americans in his staff and cabinet than all previous Montana governors combined. This emphasis on diversity in his staff has paid off, as Schweitzer has enjoyed a close relationship with Montana’s tribal communities to solve some of the problems these communities have faced.

Schweitzer has also put women and members of the LGBT community into senior staff and advisory positions.

Hopefully Fox will take a page out of Governor Schweitzer’s book, and for the sake of Montana, add a little bit of diversity to his staff.

In other appointment news, I’m closely following Governor-elect Bullock’s appointments. We all know that Bullock stumbled during the campaign when it comes to LGBT issues. Hopefully, he’ll follow our advice and appoint some LGBT people to his staff or cabinet. We have several current and former LGBT legislators that would be fantastic choices.

The Joke (on us) Has (at least for now) Ended.

Yes, folks, the circus that was the 62nd Legislature of the State of Montana has been officially closed.

It was one of the most contentious sessions in memory- and one of the most publicized. Sadly, for Republicans, it was mostly at their expense. Republican lawmakers introduced the most ridiculed and bigoted legislation in Montana history- giving the state its fair share of national media attention. Only some of it good.

Mostly it was about third-rate candidates such as Billy Bob Wagner, who introduced legislation to reinstate the gold standard, and was laughed at nationally on Anderson Cooper 360 for his ridiculous “birther” bill (but mostly for his stupidity). Then there was Kris Hansen, a “secret lesbian” who introduced one of the most pro-discrimination legislative actions to ever hit the aisles of the Capitol. Mary Cheney, anyone? And the Montana GOP, for no good reason other than to perpetuate hate and shame, voted to keep The Gays illegal- and we heard some of the most disgusting testimony to ever foul a Capitol microphone.

And don’t forget (as if I could) Janna Taylor’s ridiculous, ignorant and dangerous comments about HIV in the Montana prison system. In my opinion, the defining moment of the session. And that is a short list of all the craziness perpetuated at the time and expense of the people of Montana-a better list is here.

But I want to take a minute to thank the legislators who spent a great deal of their time and energy standing up for the rights of Montanans. Diane Sands, Carol Williams, Christine Kaufmann and Bryce Bennett all spent a lot of time defending equality and testifying against discrimination, bigotry and homophobia in this session. If you see any of them, thank them. Buy them a drink.

Hell, give them a kidney if they need one.

It is folks such as these- and all who testified, protested, blogged and wrote letters-, who keep our freedoms alive- and who stand in the face of political bigotry and chicanery.  And let’s not forget Jamee Greer, Mike Wessler, Niki Zupanic and all the representatives of groups who lobbied for human equality- they get all the abuse, ridicule and sleepless nights, but not enough recognition. Drinks and kidneys for them, too.

Let’s give Carol Williams the last word (for now):

“I’m proud of our work.

With that, Mr. Chairman, I will wish you luck in the next session probably trying to fix a lot of the things we broke this time.”

Schweitzer Rope-A-Dope

Love him or hate him, you can’t deny that Montana’s Governor is a shrewd player.

Brian Schweitzer’s letter to Attorney General Steve Bullock asking for preparation for a state government shutdown is pure poetry- if you like the “twistin’ in the wind” metaphor….

Republican lawmakers have spent the session wasting time (and our money) on ridiculous issues instead of intelligently addressing budget issues (not non-existent “crises”).

Will the people of Montana see through the shenanigans? Will the budget surplus be maintained? Will Schweitzer come out (again) smelling like a (freshly veto-branded) rose?

Read the letter here.