Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Blog no more

It's been three weeks since I started a long-needed break from this blog. I didn't really mean for it to last this long, but I kept stretching the break because of an early insight: The best thing about blogging is that it feels so good to quit.

I won't apologize for the break but will explain it a bit:

1. With two college classes to teach, and tutoring and the endless Outpost slog, something just had to give. So long, blog.

2. My foot has been hurting for a couple of months now. Presumably the gout, but still not officially diagnosed. I keep telling myself that it's my foot that hurts, not my brain, but it's remarkable how a little pain in the lower extremities goes straight to the head. No energy, no enthusiasm, just a ration of self-pity and suffering. Besides, I used to console myself during these attacks by thinking that at least I'm not one of those people you see limping around permanently (amazing how many there are, once you start to notice). Now after gimping around for two months, that consolation is pretty much gone.

3. We're getting serious about this newspaper business. We're just finishing the most profitable first quarter in Outpost history. It's about time. The future may be on the web, but the present is very much in print. We've got to stick to our knitting, dance with the one who brung us, and stop fouling our own nest (or a cliche to that effect).

4. Nothing to say. Zippo. I never was one for small talk, and blogging increasingly seems like the smallest talk of which humans are capable. One less voice makes the blogging world a better place.

5. Don Mellon.

I still think blogging makes sense as a long-term business strategy for a weekly newspaper like ours. But I'm sick of long-term thinking. I just want to make a couple of bucks and head for the house at a decent hour. Before long, it will be too late.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Burns the liberal

I thought Conrad Burns' last radio ad was pretty bad, but the new one seems worse. It starts by bragging about the health of Montana's economy, then gives the reason: the $2 billion in federal funds that Burns has brought to Montana. It concludes: "With his experience and seniority — no one is doing more to create a future of opportunities than Senator Conrad Burns."

Funny thing is, I could swear I heard him say almost exactly the opposite on "Home Ground" a few weeks ago: You can't rely on government to create wealth; private enterprise does that. That was the classic conservative mantra; now he seems to have gone all liberal.

Next thing you know, he'll be drinking with Ted Kennedy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Government blues

I not much of one to complain about the burdens of government regulation on small businesses. It ain't that bad, at least not for this one. But this bugged me:

On Friday I got a notice from the Montana Department of Revenue assessing The Outpost a "penalty/fee" of $60 on withholding taxes for the Dec. 31, 2004, filing period. Why? No idea. The department offers no explanation, and my own records show that the payment was made on time, and the government cashed the check.

So now I have to fill out a "Request for Informal Review" stating "factual reasoning for your dissatisfaction." But since I don't know why the fee has been assessed, factual reasoning will be a challenge. The good news is that if the department finds against me, which is likely, I can file an "APLS102F with the Office of Dispute Resolution."

Or I could just pay the $60, which is likely to be cheaper. Damn it.

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Roger Clawson's column this week on sexually oriented businesses is drawing some pretty funny responses.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Superintendent revisited

Just got off the phone with Kathy Kelker, the chairman of the School District 2 board. Our failure to connect between last week's deadline and this week's deadline, by the way, was my fault, not hers. I was planning to get back to her in time to write a story yesterday, but I realized that the Outpost Home Improvement section would eat up all the newshole, so I put the story off for a week. Hope it's worth the wait.

Here's a quick overview of what she had to say. She cited most of the reasons we've heard for the decision not to renew Mr. Svee's contract: concern about the budget format, a tendency to overdelegate, failure to mesh with the board's strategic plan and vision. She said that he would claim that the failure to mesh was the board's fault, and she said he might be right, but that doesn't get the problem resolved.

She also agreed, generally, with his assessment that the district was running well and gave him credit for helping get the district past the strike. She said he was a steady, calming influence and didn't let things rattle him.

She said the board could not have adopted Mr. Svee's suggestion that he be given a one-year contract with the understanding that he could be let go without a further evaluation if philosophical differences could not be worked out in that time. State law requires an evaluation, she said.

As for whether there was any orchestration of the decision against renewing his contract, she said it could have appeared that way because the board seemed to reach consensus before the meeting that no one favored another three-year contract. But she said that she went into the meeting without knowing how the vote would turn out.

She also denied speculation that has surfaced on this blog and elsewhere that she had designs on the superintendent's job. "I'm a tenured college professor," she said. "Why would I want to do that?"

She predicted that Mr. Svee's departure would not have any long-term impact on the district's ability to pass bond issues and mill levies, primarily because those are difficult to pass in any case.

The board will meet next week to begin discussing the hiring of an interim superintendent, probably someone from outside the district, she said.