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The Roundup: Highlights from three months of BSCH!
Welcome to Big Sky Chat House— a newsletter exploring the state of Montana with the artists, activists, politicians, and movers and shakers that call it home. You can earn yourself some Instant Karma by subscribing below!
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Alright, alright. I know I said that there wouldn’t be a newsletter this week, but then I looked at the calendar and was pleasantly surprised to discover that Big Sky Chat House has already been up and running for three months!
We’ve covered a lot of ground in that short time. You’ve heard from leaders in both political parties about the 2023 Legislative session and beyond. Issue-driven advocates have weighed in on some of the most pressing and compelling questions that Montana faces. We’ve also heard from artists and the ways their work intersects with the current moment, and Montana’s past.
To highlight conversations you may have missed, I’ve pulled together this roundup of the first three months of BSCH. Bon appetit.
Democratic Minority Leader Kim Abbott (D-Helena) defended her party’s performance in the 2022 elections, and pushed for moderation in government.
“I'm not sure that partisan politics and legislative work is the way that you achieve transformational change. I think that those structures are built for compromise and moderation, by their very nature.”
Montana Senate President Pro Tem Ken Bogner (R-Miles City) highlighted his bill to block some facial recognition tech in Montana, and pitched the idea of holding more frequent legislative sessions.
“[The complication is] finding the fine line between using facial recognition technology for its benefits rather than how it can be abused.”
Representative David Bedey (R-Hamilton) decried what he view as a lack of room for disagreement within the state Republican Party.
“…the term “conservatism” has been, in my way of thinking, captured by a further right-wing faction of the Republican Party. And if you don't espouse their particular points of view, then you're not considered a conservative, and you're an outlier. I am an outlier.”
Photographer, rancher, environmental advocate and writer Alexis Bonogofsky celebrated the beauty of eastern Montana, and highlighted the ways she sees it changing.
“There are absentee landowners coming in and buying up family farms and ranches and turning them into their private hunting grounds; all these things that I think most of us see and it almost feels like you can't do anything to stop it. I think there's grief associated with that.”
Missoula City Council member Daniel Carlino defended his progressive record.
“I'm still gonna probably put up a fight over everything that seems like a big deal. Which, you know, sometimes feels like a waste of time or performative, but it just feels like it would just be a real injustice to people that voted for me to not put up a fight or just go with the flow.”
Kendall Cotton, President and CEO of the Frontier Institute, offered potential solutions to help Montana alleviate its housing crisis.
“There’s this NIMBYism rising in our communities; the idea that Montana's full, that no one else can come here and enjoy what we have. And I don't think that's true at all.”
David Herbst, State Director for Americans for Prosperity-Montana, championed psychedelic drug reform.
“If it could be used in a medical setting to help people deal with the trauma of war, how could we as a society say no? That's preposterous.”
State senator Greg Hertz (R-Polson) pitched a sales tax as a solution to high property taxes, argued that Montana elections are “very secure” and offered his perspective on the national Freedom Caucus.
“I've talked to Matt Rosendale, he's a good friend, and what Matt and some of his other colleagues were trying to do is to get Washington to work more like state legislative bodies, where we have single topic bills. In the US Congress you can put a lot of things in bills that don't even belong in there.”
The young first-term state rep Jonathan Karlen (D-Missoula) made a case for centrism and explained the role that his age played in both his campaign and the session.
“I do think that we need young people on both sides of the aisle who are gonna be pragmatic and who see issues differently [than older lawmakers].”
The painter Cassie Loretta described her process and the realities of making a living as an artist.
“Doing this as a job, I've realized how much I feel like I have to hone in on what I know will sell. It’s awesome that people are interested in what I do, and there are so many perks. But it’s also the thing that people warn you about: when you're doing what you love as your job it can also take away from the original desire.”
Keegan Medrano, Director of Policy and Advocacy at ACLU of Montana, shared their strategy to push back on the GOP supermajority during the 2023 session.
“Our organization and our partners will need to be, I believe, bulls in the china shop just causing mayhem [with certain bills].”
The painter and muralist Stella Nall explained how her fraught relationship with her Crow heritage manifests in her work.
“[Enrollment] determines a lot of different things outside of tribal citizenship. I've been really interested in placing work in Native-led institutions. But [some] places that I really look up to require enrollment for you to participate or present work to be acquired to their permanent collections.”
I hope you enjoyed this BSCH Greatest Hits collection! Onwards and upwards to the next three months. We’ll see you next week with a fresh new interview!
In the meantime, you can always reach me via email, the comment section below, or on the Elon Machine, @SavageLevenson.