Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Photos from Tuesday night's Lil Wayne show at the Adams Center

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 3:13 PM

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UM buyouts a 'win-win-win?' Not so fast.

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 11:09 AM

Any buyouts offered to University of Montana faculty and staff will likely be limited to those whose academic programs or departments are targeted for downsizing, the Montana University System’s human resources director says.

Such an approach could put senior and junior faculty at odds, and may strain a process that faculty union leaders hoped could offer an alternative to mass layoffs as UM prepares to cut its budget by millions over the next two years.

“It gets more sensitive the more specific the buyout becomes,” says University Faculty Association spokesperson Lee Banville. “How do you not turn this into, ‘Senior faculty retire now or junior faculty lose their jobs,’ which could be a very destructive conversation to have.”

UM President Sheila Stearns and Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian began discussing buyout options just weeks after Stearns took over as interim president in December, as the Indy first reported. The proposal gained momentum last week when university system officials made a deal with the governor’s office and lawmakers to earmark $2 million from 9-1-1 dispatch funds to cover “faculty termination costs” at UM.

MUS spokesperson Kevin McRae described the proposal, which cleared the Senate, as a potential “win-win-win,” the Missoulian reported.

It could just as easily become a lose-lose.

McRae tells the Indy that for early retirement incentives to be effective, they must align closely with the university’s downsizing goals, which Stearns has signaled will target specific academic offerings and services. Otherwise, he says, “you lose the whole point of what this is about.”
PHOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
That means only faculty in certain academic programs and support staff in certain sectors would receive buyout offers.

“That’s indeed a question for the university and I don’t think they’ve gotten there yet, but to me, I think it has to be department by department,” McRae says.

McRae is part of a group of MUS and UM administrators who are hammering out legal and logistical questions related to the proposal, dubbed the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program, or VERIP. (A separate UM working group administered an anonymous survey to faculty and staff last month.) He says the commissioner’s office and Stearns’ staff are working as “one big team” on the project. UM Communications Director Paula Short says the team’s discussions are still in "very early stages."

Administrators have not yet approached the University Faculty Association about details of a proposal. But a highly “strategic” incentive package is a far cry from the typical, broad-based approach that faculty union officials assumed would take place, in which buyouts are offered to any faculty or staff members who meet age or employment criteria. Contacted last week, UFA President Paul Haber told the Indy his sense is that offers would not target specific areas on campus.

If they did, “We would certainly look at it very hard,” Haber wrote in an email.
A timeline announced by Stearns this spring calls for program “prioritization” over the summer, with cuts to be recommended in September. McRae says no buyout offers would be made until that analysis is complete.

Even if the buyout proposal proves unworkable, or finds few takers, UM would still be able to use the $2 million legislative earmark to help pay costs associated with layoffs. State employees are entitled to a sick leave payout upon termination, which McRae says can cost more than $25,000 for a veteran faculty member.

The state allocation could pay costs associated with eliminating approximately 80 positions, but McRae says the $2 million figure was reached without a particular layoff target in mind. And, in fact, the amount may not be enough.

“It will help substantially. Whether it will cover it all, we don’t know,” McRae says.
Montana universities are poised to absorb a $4.7 million cut for each of the next two years. They will also not receive millions in inflationary adjustments. Legislators, however, have been more willing to ante up state funds that they know will be used to reduce costs at UM, McRae says.

“They expect to see action,” he says. “Legislators see this will go toward action.”

But on Wednesday, even that was uncertain. The bill containing the legislative earmark, Senate Bill 294, appeared to be taken hostage during negotiations between Gov. Bullock and Republicans over infrastructure funding and was not yet scheduled for a House vote in the Legislature’s waning moments.

If the bill dies, the university system—or its tuition-paying students—will be covering the full cost of layoffs.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Photos from Tuesday night's Of Montreal show at the Top Hat

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 3:23 PM

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Monday, April 17, 2017

Indy sign (inevitably) vandalized

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 10:53 AM

The Missoula Independent's street-facing sign was turned into a punchline over the weekend.

Making a joke that Indy staffers have heard repeatedly since the paper was acquired by Lee Enterprises last Thursday, someone spray painted over the first two letters of the newspaper's name so it reads as "dependent."
The Missoula "dependent," get it? - PHOTO BY DEREK BROUWER
  • Photo by Derek Brouwer
  • The Missoula "dependent," get it?

Publisher Matt Gibson noticed the damage when he arrived at the office Monday morning and filed a police report.

"I can't believe it took this long for our sign to get vandalized," he says. The red-and-white sign is a decade old.

The Independent was independently owned since its founding in 1991. The paper is now under the same corporate umbrella as the Missoulian.

Read the newsroom's initial response to the sale here, and keep an eye out this Thursday for full coverage.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Photos from Friday night's Mastodon show at the Wilma Theatre

Posted By on Sat, Apr 15, 2017 at 6:01 PM



Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds, far left, joined Eagles of Death Metal for their opening song while front man Jesse Hughes, far right, wasted no time amping up the crowd. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW ROBERTS
  • photo by Matthew Roberts
  • Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds, far left, joined Eagles of Death Metal for their opening song while front man Jesse Hughes, far right, wasted no time amping up the crowd.

“You’ve got the only two things that really get me,” Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes confessed to a fan in the front row after she tossed a bra, presumably hers, into his arms about 10 minutes into the band's set. That’s about when the show really started.

EODM is currently on a lengthy American and European tour opening for metal giants Mastodon, who headlined the sold-out 17th Blaze Birthday Bash at the Wilma on Friday, April 14 along with a second opener, Chicago's Russian Circles. The show was Mastodon’s kickoff gig for the tour.
Mastodon began their set amidst a modestly embellished stage, but over the course of the first few songs it slowly burgeoned into an  extravagant scene, complete with video screens and light show. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW ROBERTS
  • photo by Matthew Roberts
  • Mastodon began their set amidst a modestly embellished stage, but over the course of the first few songs it slowly burgeoned into an extravagant scene, complete with video screens and light show.

Russian Circles played a roughly 30-minute set of relentless instrumental doom metal that, while heavy and delicious, was nothing compared to the sexually charged flamboyant rock of EODM. The California-based lovechild of longtime friends Hughes and Josh Homme (of Queens of the Stone Age) danced and thrusted through an exhilarating set that included a great cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and an energetic extended version of their own “Speaking in Tongues.”

Once the stage crew wiped up after EODM, Mastodon played, leading with “Sultan’s Curse,” the opening track on their new album, Emperor of Sand.
Brent Hinds lends his voice, rapid guitar chops and slight air of chaos to Mastodon’s performance at the Wilma. - PHOTO BY MATTHEW ROBERTS
  • photo by Matthew Roberts
  • Brent Hinds lends his voice, rapid guitar chops and slight air of chaos to Mastodon’s performance at the Wilma.

Mastodon’s music is hard to pull off live. Much of its sound derives from unstable harmonies, sludgy tones and the complicated and one-of-a-kind interplay between guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher. And a lot of that is simply lost in a live setting. Luckily, underneath all the brutal nuance lies an unshakeable foundation. Mastodon delivered a powerful performance sampling its entire career including some of their most beloved early tracks like “Megalodon” and “March of the Fire Ants.”
Brent Hinds (left), Troy Sanders (middle), Bill Kelliher (right) and Brann Dailor (not pictured) of Mastodon kicked off their set with “Sultan’s Curse,” the first track on their new album, Emperor of Sand. - PHOTO BY MATHEW ROBERTS
  • photo by Mathew Roberts
  • Brent Hinds (left), Troy Sanders (middle), Bill Kelliher (right) and Brann Dailor (not pictured) of Mastodon kicked off their set with “Sultan’s Curse,” the first track on their new album, Emperor of Sand.
The show closed with drummer Brann Dailor, whose recent bout of the flu had a slightly negative impact on his vocals (everyone in Mastodon lends their voice to the sound in one way or another), wishing everyone a pleasant evening and a goodnight as he raced off to his bunk and a shot of Nyquil.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

So, about that sale...

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 1:36 PM

If you're reading this, you've probably already heard the news: Lee Enterprises, owner of the Missoulian, has purchased the Missoula Independent, effective today.

This is not a delayed April Fools joke, and it is not a cut-and-paste error from News of the Weird. The Independent, at least in terms of ownership, is no longer independent.

The paper's staff learned of the sale this morning at a 9 a.m. meeting at the Independent office with Independent publisher Matt Gibson, Missoulian Publisher Mike Gulledge and HR reps from Lee Enterprises.
The last independently owned Independent.
  • The last independently owned Independent.

We were not expecting the news. And frankly we have not come anywhere near fully processing it yet.

Here's what was presented to us: Gibson will stay on as publisher of the Independent. We will stay in our current offices at 317 S. Orange Street. All staff are being retained at their current salaries. Our benefits just got a bit better.

We are led to understand that the Independent will retain full editorial independence.

Are we skeptical? Damn right we're skeptical. Skepticism is kind of what we do.

And reporting.

We'll be reporting this story in the days and weeks to come, online and most prominently in next week's paper, the scheduled stories of which we've just scrapped in order to start over with blanket coverage of the sale: how we got to here, what it means for advertisers and for journalism in Montana, reactions from readers and prominent figures in Indy history, and what you can expect from us going forward.

The short answer to that last question is this: more of the same. We're taking Lee's assurance of editorial independence at face value until we hear otherwise. If we hear otherwise, you'll hear that from us. Right before we hand over the reins to whomever wants that job.

We don't have all the answers yet, but we're working hard to track them down, and we'll let you know what we know when we know it. We appreciate you sticking with us while we find our way forward.



Friday, April 7, 2017

Photos of Mandolin Orange playing to a packed crowd at the Top Hat Thursday night

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 2:55 PM

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Thursday, April 6, 2017

We're teaming up with Forward Montana and Last Best News to deliver Facebook Live town halls with the candidates for Montana's congressional seat. Got a question for the candidates? Let us have it!

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 3:02 PM

Perhaps you've heard: Democrat Rob Quist, Republican Greg Gianforte and Libertarian Mark Wicks are seeking Montana's lone congressional seat, the one left vacant when President Trump called Ryan Zinke to Washington to head the Department of the Interior. The special election that will send one of these men to Congress will be held May 25.

Across the country, voters sit elections out because they lack access to reliable information about the candidates and issues, and Forward Montana, along with the Missoula Independent and Last Best News, aims to change that. We'll be jointly hosting Facebook Live town halls with the candidates so you can get to know them and what their positions mean to you. Forward Montana has hosted candidate forums for local and statewide elections for over five years.

“By offering the town halls online, we’re hoping to reach young people across Montana”, said Rachel Huff-Doria, Forward Montana’s Executive Director. “The town halls will provide accessible, fun and informative opportunities for voters to engage with candidates about the issues that matter most to Montanans.”

Each congressional candidate will be featured independently in hour-long town halls shown live on Facebook during the first week of May. Both Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate, and Mark Wicks, the Libertarian candidate, have confirmed their participation. Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate, has been invited, but has not yet responded.

“We hope that Greg Gianforte will participate in the town hall”, said Huff-Doria. “It’s important that young Montanans have information about all of the candidates on the ballot.”

To make sure you get the information you want and need, Forward Montana, the Missoula Independent, and Last Best News invite Montanans from anywhere in the state to submit questions for the town halls. Questions can be submitted online at forwardmontana.org/questionsforcongress by April 20.

Got a question? Let us have it.



Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday's avalanche advisory: Moderate danger

Posted By on Sat, Apr 1, 2017 at 7:29 AM

From the West Central Montana Avalanche Center: The current avalanche danger is MODERATE for the West Central Montana backcountry. Human triggered avalanches are possible in specific terrain. Evaluate the snow and terrain carefully to identify features of concern.
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Good morning, this is Logan King with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory for April 1, 2017. This danger rating does not apply to operating ski areas, expires at midnight tonight and is the sole responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service.

For the full advisory, including photos and video, visit the West Central Montana Avalanche Center's website.

Here's what the National Weather Service's backcountry forecast has to say for the rest of the weekend:

A few scattered showers under westerly flow will be expected today and tonight, though snow amounts will remain fairly light. By Sunday into Monday, additional scattered snow showers and cooler temperatures will be likely across the area. Drier and warmer weather will move over Tuesday and Wednesday under developing high pressure. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Thursday's avalanche advisory: Moderate danger

Posted By on Thu, Mar 30, 2017 at 7:11 AM

From the West Central Montana Avalanche Center: The current avalanche danger is MODERATE for the West Central Montana backcountry. Human triggered avalanches are possible in specific terrain. Evaluate the snow and terrain carefully to to identify features of concern.
moderate-450.png

Good morning, this is Logan King with the West Central Montana Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory for March 30, 2017. This danger rating does not apply to operating ski areas, expires at midnight tonight and is the sole responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service.

For the full advisory, visit the West Central Montana Avalanche Center's website.

Here's what the National Weather Service's backcountry forecast has to say heading into the weekend:
Snow accumulations of 6 to 12 inches above 5500 feet are expected today across southern Clearwater/Bitterroot, Flint Creek and Anaconda Ranges. Considering the relatively warm temperatures during the main snow event, a lot of compaction is anticipated. Some transport of snow by wind is possible toward northeast facing slopes, but realistically confined to above 7500 feet.

Another shot of minor accumulations across the Northern Rockies is possible on Sunday and Monday. Otherwise, temperatures will continue to warm above freezing each afternoon for most elevations for the next week.

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