From Livingston, Montana, on the banks of the Yellowstone River, a group of seasoned political progressives gather at SoundColor Studios to cook up factual, informative, and thoughtful conversations with politicians, those who hope to be politicians, historians, artists and other interesting people. The main ingredient is politics, but occasionally a splash of Montana flavored culture and history is on the menu.
Editor’s note: When this interview was recorded on 03/12/20 Montana had just reported our first case of Covid-19. Since then we’ve entered a strange new world of school and business closures, social distancing, stay at home orders, hundreds of cases of Covid-19 and sadly, deaths. Please take care of yourselves and others by following Covid-19 public safety protocols and please stay informed.
Montana Conservation Voters (MCV) has been the leading guardian of environmental and conservation values in Montana for over 20 years. Over 70% of Montanans - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - identify as conservationists who care about public lands, clean water and clean air, and MCV serves as their political voice and advocates on their behalf. We sat down with Executive Director, Aaron Murphy, and Deputy Director, Whitney Tawney, for a lively conversation about the work MCV is doing through their various branches. The MCV Education Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focuses on involving citizens in the democratic process by educating voters about critical conservation and environmental issues, promoting non-partisan civic engagement, and holding elected officials accountable at every level of government from the courthouse to Congress. Their PAC’s, MCV Action Fund and MCV Federal Action Fund work to elect, support, and hold accountable candidates running for and holding elected positions who support protecting the environment and our public lands heritage. We talk about how voters can use their MCV Legislative Score Card to see how their elected officials follow through on their commitment to protecting public lands and the environment before casting their votes. We also discuss the Land and Water Conservation Fund which collects revenue from offshore oil and gas developments and funnels those critical funds into public lands through the Interior Department. While Montana’s federal congressional delegation all refer to themselves as champions of public lands, Senator Tester has worked to insist Congress allocates full funding, while Senator Daines and Congressman Gianforte have failed to stand up for Montana’s public lands. We also discuss MCV’s Montana Engagement Project which beginning in spring of 2020 will be conducting a field program, “The Keystone Canvass”, a boots on the ground operation in Eastern Montana which will focus on the impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline on communities along the route and will work directly with voters to address their concerns and build a conservation voter movement. A Podcast Runs Through It is proud to say we fully endorse Montana Conservation Voters and encourage our listeners to join their organization in the fight to protect Montana’s clean water, clean air, and public lands.
Link to MCV’s Top 10 Projects of 2019- 2020: https://youtu.be/zcguZ3TmCpM
Montana candidate for governor, Whitney Williams sat down with us to talk about why she decided to enter the arena. She talks about her experience as founder and CEO of williamsworks, a strategy and management consultancy where the motto is “We believe anything is possible. And that we can improve countless lives by partnering with extraordinary people to help realize their most ambitious visions.” She says her business experience gives her a unique perspective in management and problem solving. By bringing everyone to the table, including unlikely allies, and asking the right questions while listening to all concerns to find common ground, she says she has what it takes to solve the problems challenging our state. She talks about growing up in a household with a rich history of political service. Her father, former Congressman Pat Williams, was Montana’s longest serving member of congress. And her mother, Carol Williams, was the first female Minority and Majority Leader in the Montana Senate. Whitney says her politically influenced background, her business experience, and her determined commitment to find solutions to the problems Montanans are facing give her a unique perspective to take on these challenges. We discuss several issues including healthcare, transparency in drug pricing, education, moving to a clean energy future, universal pre-K, pathways to better paying jobs, protecting public lands and promoting Montana’s outdoor industry, affordable housing, and money in politics.
Tom Winter, incumbent Montana District 96 House member, and candidate for U.S. House of Representatives (whose campaign is the first in Montana history to unionize), talks about what motivated him to jump into politics. After watching a family member with a chronic illness struggle to manage day to day life, and then hearing his local state rep refer to people on Medicaid Expansion as “freeloaders”, he decided to run for office. What followed was a life changing and successful campaign in a Republican district followed by his first legislative session in which he introduced 24 bills and passed 4 of them. He describes his experience in politics as and the hardest thing he’s ever done, yet he finds it truly fulfilling. On his philosophy of public service, he says, “Government can be a force for good, and we don’t need to apologize for that.” In this very personal interview we cover a broad range of issues including a deep dive into health care, the question of why should it be so difficult to pass the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Act (MMIW), the real economy and jobs, and a need to change the way we do things in politics. “Government done well expresses the will of the people and the will of the community, and the will of the community and the will of the people should be their own wellbeing.”
Raph Graybill, Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Steve Bullock and candidate for Attorney General, talks about his experience going from a kid growing up in Great Falls to patrolling the streets of New York City as a volunteer auxiliary police officer while attending Columbia University. On the role of Attorney General, he views it as enforcement focused and a counterbalance to power and says he will protect Montanan’s privacy rights and work to lower prescription drug prices. On the issue of money in politics, dark money, he says, “I think it’s sort of a bottleneck issue that if we don’t figure out, we’re not going to get meaningful change on anything else.” He talks about how in 2013 he helped write the Trace Act which later became the Disclose Act. He also discusses his role in the Espinoza -vs- The Montana Department of Revenue case which recently came before the U.S. Supreme Court. He talks about writing Governor Bullock’s executive order protecting net neutrality in Montana which became a template that other states have used, and his role in helping to pass Montana’s first-in-the-nation statewide ban on foreign influence in elections. On the importance of protecting Montana’s public lands, he talks about winning a recent Montana Supreme Court case to protect “Habitat Montana”, a 30-year-old open space program that benefits landowners, sportsmen, and outdoor recreation through conservation easements on hundreds of thousands of acres throughout the state.
We sat down with Lieutenant Governor, Mike Cooney, to talk about his candidacy for Governor and the issues that are important to him. He shares his views about healthcare, prescription drug costs, improving public education including a pre-K program, protecting Montana’s aging population, and addressing climate change. On protecting Montana’s public lands and outdoor heritage he says, “I want the same thing for all Montanans that I want for my kids and grandkids, to be able to be given a better Montana than what I was given, and pass it on to the next generation in even better shape.” We also discuss his long history of public service in Montana beginning in 1976 when he was elected to the Montana House where he served two terms, followed by several years working for U.S. Senator Max Baucus at the state level and in Washington, D.C., then on to three terms as Montana Secretary of State, followed by his work for the nonprofit Healthy Mothers where he helped Montanans gain access to the CHIP program, then two terms in the Montana Senate where he was elected president, followed by several positions in the Montana Department of Labor. In 2014 he was tapped by Governor Steve Bullock to be Lieutenant Governor. It’s his broad experience in both elected positions and state agencies that he feels make him uniquely qualified as governor, “I know how to push government to make it work, and I know how to make sure people’s voices are heard.”
In the age of Citizens United, dark money can influence political races at every level from U. S. President to county clerk. Data mining is being used to strategically target and manipulate unsuspecting voters. Candidates need to raise record breaking amounts of money just to compete. Long held ethical political practices continue to collapse. The 2020 election cycle is in full swing and the rules are already in place, but we want to start a conversation about what we can do going forward to stop this situation from continuing in the future. How do we bring real campaign finance reform into the political conversation?
Earlier this month as we were preparing to post our candidate interview episode featuring Montana Governor candidate Reilly Neill, she contacted us to let us know she was withdrawing from the race. Since campaign financing was one of the reasons she withdrew, we asked her to sit down with us and talk about her campaign experience and her ideas about how candidates and voters can navigate the system as it is now, and work together to change it going forward.
We also asked our local House Dist. 60 Representative Laurie Bishop to join us and talk about her views on the issue from a legislative perspective. She further defines the issue, talks about her own experiences, and offers some great advice to voters on how they can deal with the conflicting information overload they’re getting.
We sat down with current Montana State Senator and Minority Whip, Shane Morigeau to talk about his candidacy for State Auditor, also known as the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance. Quite possibly the least understood agency in Montana Government, Shane explains what the office does, and how he plans to improve the agency to better protect the citizens of Montana from insurance and financial fraud. The first step, he says, is educating the public, “How do you know how to get help from a state agency if you don’t know what they have to offer?” He also talks about the importance of having a seat on the Land Board and his commitment to protecting public lands.
Bryce Bennett, four term Representative in the Montana House and current member of the Montana Senate, talks about his legislative experience and how always being in the minority has taught him the importance of forming working bi-partisan coalitions. He talks about his decision to run for MT Secretary of State, not as a steppingstone for his personal political future, but as an authentic commitment to improve the lives of everyday Montanans. On voting, he discusses expanding voter rights, increasing election security by partnering with the National Guard to prevent hacking into the Montana voting system, developing automatic voter registration, and improving the mail ballot system. On Montana’s business services he talks about making the registration process more user friendly and accessible and giving small businesses a voice at the table. On the Land Board he talks about the importance of protecting Montana’s public land accessibility and allowing for more public easements that Montana private landowners are asking for.
We dedicate this special episode of A Podcast Runs Through It to the City of Livingston, and to all who live in the city and surrounding area. We all share a common bond, our gratitude to be able to live in such a beautiful and unique community. We all share a love for the beautiful outdoor spaces that surround us. We enjoy the rich cultural opportunities available to us through the many art galleries, theatres, coffee houses, businesses, bars, and restaurants that make up our eclectic downtown area. The Park County Museum holds the history of our past. Our many schools prepare the promise of our future. Our houses of worship feed our souls. The historic architecture throughout our community, including our cherished Carnegie Library and our beautiful Post Office Building (listed in the National Register of Historic Places), stand today as a reminder of the vision of those who lived here before us. Finally, and ultimately, it’s the spirit and diversity of the people who love and care for this community that make it the special place that it is.
We recorded this episode live from SoundColor Studios, located in the Lincoln School Foundation Building, during their annual Holiday Sale and Open House. We began with a series of short interviews with some of Livingston’s youngest citizens to get their thoughts on the upcoming Christmas Holiday.
The interviewees in order: Alice (12) and Annie (10), Charley (13) and Ben (11), Emery (9), Weston (11), Ole (10), and Chloe and Sophia (both 9).
Next, we have our interview with Livingston City Manager Michael Kardoes. We open this interesting and broad ranging interview by asking Mike to explain how our local system, a non-partisan commission management system of government, works and its advantages. We go on to cover a broad range of issues including taxes, planning, zoning, the impacts of the climate emergency, the 5th Street Crossing, the proverbial under/overpass, development, and growth. Throughout the interview you can see how his uniquely integrated, intuitive, and 50 to 100 year perspective approach to problem solving has resulted in significant results for the city. Some examples would be the new Water Treatment Plant, the positions of an Early Childhood Coordinator and an Energy Intern. We also discuss the Livingston Strategic Plan, the need for a new growth policy, and what the city has done with its website to upgrade full public disclosure and encourage public participation. We also talk about how our community is unique in that the citizens of our community are very much involved in local issues, and how the city values and encourages their input. For those who care about our local governance, there’s a lot of information in this interview and it’s well worth taking the time to unpack it.
We sat down with Montana House Minority Leader and Democratic candidate for Governor, Casey Schreiner, who, in spite of being in the minority, managed to lead a bi-partisan effort to achieve some major legislative accomplishments in the 2019 session including protecting Medicare expansion, passing the Firefighters Health and Safety Bill, and major funding for infrastructure projects. His personal belief that having an honest, informed, and practical approach to problem solving follows the manner in which most Montanan’s expect their government to work. He talks about how his own experiences with inadequate healthcare, being a parent of a special-needs child, personal job loss, and carrying student loan debt help inform him about the needs of everyday Montanans. He feels his personal experience, combined with his legislative and administrative experience make him uniquely qualified to be Governor. Other issues we cover include the need for public Pre-K education, reducing the cost of prescription drugs, creating good jobs with good wages, and getting money out of politics. On the climate emergency, he talks about how critical a healthy environment is to Montana’s economy and quality of life, and says he’ll form a Climate Cabinet that will include professors and climate experts to come up with policies to seriously address the issue. On the Land Board he stresses the importance of preserving and protecting Montana’s public lands and offers a warning about how the state could lose it’s outdoor heritage, and other gains the Democrats have fought for, if the Governor’s seat would be won by a Republican, thus creating one party control in the state. He finishes by stating that the 2020 general elections, particularly the Montana Governor election, will be pivotal in deciding the direction our state, and our country will go in the future.
“You can do a lot of good work with the law. The natural world is here to help us if we let it.” That’s what John Meyer, executive Director of Cottonwood Environmental Law Center said when asked about what inspired him to use the legal system to protect Montana’s public lands and outdoor heritage. In this broad-ranging interview he talks about how the non-profit center got its start, how they choose which cases to pursue, how the process works, his successes and failures, and what lies ahead.
Melissa Romano explains the role of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and how she is dedicated to insuring a strong public education system throughout Montana. An educator for 15 years, she is the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s “Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching” and the 2018 Teacher of the Year. Her passion for providing a quality education for all Montanans is evident as she discusses the many issues facing Montana’s education system.
Kimberly Dudik, candidate for Montana Attorney General, talks about how her experience as a mom, a nurse, an attorney, and an 8-year member of the Montana House of Representatives informs her integrated approach to finding solutions for complex problems. While discussing a broad range of issues her impressive knowledge and attention to detail show why she’s ready and more than qualified to take on the role of Montana Attorney General.
On October 24, 2019 our team headed down to the Elk’s Lodge in Livingston, Montana, to attend the “World Famous Park County Democrats Annual Lasagna Dinner.” The theme for the dinner was “Montana Must Do Better on Climate Change.” The lively crowd of approximately 120 attendees cheered on emcee Quenby Iandiorio as she introduced speakers from the MSU College Dems, the Gallatin Valley Sunshine Movement, Park County High School’s Green Initiative, MT House Rep. Laurie Bishop, and keynote speaker MT House Rep. and Public Service Commission Dist. 3 candidate Tom Woods.
Note: Hear Tom Woods on Episode 3
We were there to find some voters to talk to about their views on climate change, voter enthusiasm, and other issues on their minds. The interviewee’s in order are: Cameron Kroetz, Sara Blessing, Mike Bunker, Rick Vanaken, Alexis Van Pernis, Tom Woods, Dan Vermillion, Rita Rosier, and Martha Adkins.
And the lasagna was delicious.
On October 11, 2019, Livingston and Park County residents packed the Dulcie Theatre in the Shane Lalani Center for the Arts in downtown Livingston to attend a town hall with Montana Senator Jon Tester. The standing room only crowd, estimated around 165, showed up at 10:00 AM on a frigid, Friday, October morning – a fact that impressed Senator Tester. The range of questions was broad and sometimes challenging for the Senator, as the current political situation in the United States is complicated and contentious, yet he answered all the questions without exception.
Note: There were some audio issues with the theatre equipment which we cleaned up as best we could. We feel the opportunity to hear one of our Senators interact in person, spontaneously, with constituents is one that most Montanans will never get, so we decided to include the lively and informative town hall in its entirety without interruption. We apologize in advance for the sound quality.
We reached out to the five candidates running for the two seats on the Livingston City Commission to sit down with us for an interview. Three of them, Melissa Nootz (incumbent), Patricia Grabow, and Mel Freidman (incumbent) showed up and shared their views on some of the challenges facing our community, and their vision for the future.
John Mues, candidate for U.S. Senate, talks about the challenge of growing up in a low-income single parent household. He stresses the importance and encouragement of mentors and teachers who enabled him to enter the U. S. Naval Academy and begin a distinguished career of military service. After the military, a broad range of private sector experiences (technology, teaching, entrepreneur) gave him "a unique skill set". However, he emphasizes that it is not his skill set alone, but his empathy and compassion that makes him the best candidate to represent the people of Montana, and a formidable opponent to incumbent Steve Daines.
From Livingston, Montana, on the banks of the Yellowstone River, a group of seasoned political progressives gather at Soundcolor Studios to cook up factual, informative, and thoughtful conversations with politicians, those who hope to be politicians, historians, artists and other interesting people. The main ingredient is politics, but occasionally a splash of Montana flavored culture and history is on the menu.