© 2014 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
Lake County Commissioners met yesterday for a “WATER COMPACT DISCUSSION”. In a packed room, overflowing into the secondary office and hallways, mainly consisting of compact “opponents”, the commissioner chair, Ann Brower told the public they would not be allowed to “DISCUSS THE CSKT WATER COMPACT”, but rather we would only be “allowed” to tell the commission whether they wanted commissioners to remain on the fence or to publicly state their support or opposition to the proposed compact. In this stunning turn of events, she quickly had the public begging them to stay “neutral”, while the few compact proponents in the room stated their clear desire for them to endorse it.
It is important to note that this meeting was not noticed properly either in timing nor in the title of the discussion. We found out about this meeting quite by accident. While an ‘after the fact’ notice was published, we note that the same players were there hoping to have a private audience with the Lake County Commissioners; instead almost 100 opponents of the Compact showed up to voice their opinion against the Commissioners taking any position on the Compact.
Of no surprise was Gale Decker, our newest commissioner, who quickly came out in support of the compact. Mr. Decker has never given compact opponents the time of day or even the courtesy of attending any of the three commission meetings requested by compact opponents. At the meeting he was reminded by his constituents that he has never attended any of the dozens of public meetings held on this subject just in Lake County alone. This should tell you all you need to know about this closed minded and opinionated man. He “took offense” when his constituents rightly called the commissioners on their lack of study of the Compact and on the fact that studies have not been done that would allow anyone to make an informed decision about the compact. Bill Barron quickly followed suit, calling himself a “man of God”, and saying that this was guiding him to “support the compact”. When he was reminded that “men of God” should remember the Ten Commandments particularly ‘THOU SHALT NOT STEAL”, he backed away from his opinion at least until he was no longer looking the 100 compact opponents attending the meeting in the eye. Ann Brower does what she always does, displaying neutrality, and not providing an opinion.
The first time we went to the commissioners concerning the compact, we asked them for leadership. They claimed then that they had no authority to deal with ‘political’ issues.
Certainly there was no leadership on display in that room yesterday. What we saw instead was a public display of the contempt our elected commissioners have for the people they represent, and disregard for their private property rights. You have to ask will they finally “get it” after property values have declined so much that the tax dollars are no longer rolling in for them to run the county government that they seem to hold in higher regard that they do their constituents.
Remember, the irrigator water use agreement, referenced in the compact, has been ruled an unconstitutional taking without compensation by former district court Judge CB McNeil, specifically because it forces the relinquishment of all project water rights to the CSKT. We wonder if there is something about the possibility of a unconstitutional taking of private property that these commissioners do not understand. It is almost unfathomable that they would not want to error on the side of caution with respect to the property rights of their constituents. We will report to you what the commissioners ultimately decide to do on this issue.
For the record, here is what is posted on the Lake County Website for the meeting:
THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION
So let’s ask a very simple question. Yesterday Mr. Decker indicated that Lake County has a “very good relationship” with the tribe that they do not want to jeopardize.
Is it possible that these commissioners are looking out into 2015 when the tribe takes over Kerr Dam? Are they kowtowing to this compact because of the threat of losing $1.2 million in tax revenue related to the purchase of Kerr Dam? Is this possibly a glimpse into the future, and is it the first of a series of such capitulations by our county commissioners?
Keep in mind the tribe has promised to “look into” some kind of annual payment in lieu of taxes to the schools and local government. Unfortunately the tribes have left this possible payment up to the annual whims of tribal council politics.
Does the commissioner’s stated desire to get off the fence concerning the compact give us a glimpse into the groveling our commissioners will be expected to do in order to keep the tribal council happy in order to receive their PAYMENT IN LIEU OF TAXES?
Here is a link to the commissioner’s LETTER OF SUPPORT for the compact. This letter was likely drafted before they went through the charade of pretending to want to know what people thought.