A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

27 June 2017 — 1439 mdt

Flathead briefs

School District 5 needs to do a better job of vetting applicants for principal. Yesterday we learned that John Blackman won’t be the new principal at Flathead High School because he was exposed as a plagiarist. In an email introducing himself to FHS’s faculty and staff, reports the Missoulian, he ripped off the words of an educator at Strawberry Elementary in Santa Rosa, CA. That’s brazen as hell, and I suspect it may not be the first time he’s claimed another person’s words as his own.

Now the district is back to square one. An interim principal will administer FHS during the 2017–2018 school year while the district conducts another search for a new principal. The trustees should appoint a committee, or hire an outside investigator, or do both, to determine why the search committee got snookered by Blackman.

Municipal judges can lower the boom, but they can’t lower taxes

Updated 10 July (below). Tom Tornow is one of three attorneys running for the office of municipal judge in Whitefish, and the only one who’s running hard. He has a fully developed campaign website, and impressive endorsements. His opponents, Whitefish’s deputy city attorney Kristi Curtis and private attorney William Hileman, Jr., are still in summer vacation mode, but Tornow already is campaigning.

He’s also saying things that raised my eyebrows. Here are a few examples from his recent letter to local newspapers:

I am running for Whitefish Municipal Court judge for one reason: to make the court and our community the best it can be.

My initial goal is to reduce your taxes. I will make the judge position part-time, with a corresponding reduction in salary, to save your tax bill.

I will do more with less of your tax dollars. You are being taxed for a new high school and the Haskill Basin conservation easement. Soon you will be asked to pay for a new middle school and a new county jail. As I said, I will reduce the court’s budget, beginning with the judge’s salary.

I will protect our community from drunk drivers and those without insurance or licenses. These are not victimless crimes. I will impose maximum penalties, including treatment and interlock devices, to protect each of your families and our community.

And from Heidi Desch’s story in the Whitefish Pilot:

Tornow served as substitute judge from 2003-2005 while still running his private practice and says he plans to do the same, if elected.

To me, those are red flags:

  • “The best it can be” phrase reminds me of the “Be all that you can be” recruiting slogan used by the U.S. Army a quarter century ago. It’s a wonderfully generic phrase with which everyone can agree because it means whatever the listener wants it to mean.

  • A municipal judge can cut expenses, but he does not have the power to lower taxes — and the elected officials who do have that power might decide to reallocate the money the judge saves instead of cutting taxes.

  • Promising to impose maximum sentences is an abdication of a judge’s duty to arrive at the most just decision. This is the “I’ll hang ‘em higher than my opponents” promise that pollutes almost every judicial election. If he’s elected, and if he makes good on this threat, Judge Tornow may be nicknamed Maximum Tom.

  • Just as a President should not run his private casinos while he occupies the White House, a judge should not practice private law during his term on the bench.

Hileman has a Facebook page for his candidacy, but at this time it’s a placeholder. Curtis may have an internet presence for her campaign, but I couldn’t find it.

Update, 10 July. On his campaign’s Facebook page, Turnow has published a response to this post.