Thursday, October 31, 2013

Helena and America's Mayor Jim Smith featured on C-SPAN 2 & 3 this Saturday and Sunday!

"C-SPAN’s Helena Weekend is here! Highlighted below is the Helena programming that will air throughout this weekend. Mayor Smith’s segment will kickoff Helena Weekend this Friday, Nov. 1—airing on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal between 5am MT/7am ET-8am MT/10am ET.

In addition to having the below pieces sprinkled in throughout the weekend on the respective networks, both AHTV and BOOK TV will have a block of programming where ALL of the respective Helena pieces for their networks will air. C-SPAN2’s Book TV – SATURDAY, November 2 at 10am MT/12pm ET and C-SPAN3’s American History TV (AHTV) – SUNDAY, November 3 at 3pm MT/5pm ET.

We have created a special “Helena” city web page at You can also visit The website will be LIVE late Friday afternoon, giving you an opportunity to view the segments before they air! We have posted your web links there as well. If there are web links you would like for us to post on that site, please let me know and we will make sure they are highlighted. In addition, all video segments will be available indefinitely on our C-SPAN Video Library site at after they air this weekend."

CSPAN has been promoting on-air “Helena Weekend” programming across all three networks for the last two weeks. We have sent out the “tune-in” release to the media and special email alerts to our viewers. In addition, we will be utilizing all of our social media outlets – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We will be using the Twitter handles @cspan, @BookTV, @cspanhistory and @cspancities. Also, the Helena Weekend “Tune-In” ad will appear in the Independent Record, Friday,
November 1.

Featured on C-SPAN2’s Book TV and C-SPAN3’s American History TV
November 2-3, 2013

Hosted by our Charter cable partners, our Local Content Vehicles staff visited numerous locations to explore the history and literary culture of Montana’s capital city.

In addition to having the below pieces sprinkled in throughout the weekend on the respective networks, both AHTV and BOOK TV will have a block of programming where ALL of the respective Helena pieces for their networks will air.

BOOK TV HELENA BLOCK: SATURDAY, November 2 at 12pm ET (Charter channel 17)
AHTV HELENA BLOCK: SUNDAY, November 3 at 5pm ET (Charter channel 113)


·         The Montana State Capitol building to hear about how Helena was selected to be the capital of the state.  Historic Interpreter Julia Porter guides a tour through the building which was completed in 1902, and was the first state capitol building in the country to be built with steam-radiator heat, electricity and indoor plumbing.  Hear the story of Senator Mike Mansfield, who is the country’s longest-serving Senate Majority Leader, and see the piece of art by Montana’s famous Western artist Charles Russell commissioned to hang over the state’s House Chamber.

·          Montana’s Old Prison, Montana Territory’s first federal facility, with local author and historian Ellen Baumler.  Established in 1870, this penitentiary was built mostly by prison laborers under the direction of its long serving warden Frank Conley.  This prison experienced a violent history including the infamous riot in 1959.
·         Montana’s Original Governor’s Mansion. Built in 1888 as a private residence for William Chessman, a Helena speculator and developer, the three story Queen Anne style mansion became the state’s Governor’s Mansion in 1913.  Hear the stories of nine Governors’ and the families who lived there as well as what happened during the economic collapse of 1893.
·         Governor Steve Bullock (D) talk about Montana state politics and the economy.

·         The Charles M. Russell exhibit at the Montana State Historical Society featuring the iconic artwork that tells the story of the Old American West.  Kirby Lambert, Program Manager for Outreach and Interpretation, highlights the exhibit which includes one of Russell’s earliest depictions of ranching in Montana, as well as his work titled, ”When the Land Belonged to God,” considered to be a Russell masterpiece.

·         The Congressional papers of the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress, Jeannette Rankin. She was a lifelong pacifist elected in Montana in 1916 and then again in 1940.  See some of the constituent letters from supporters, as well as the newspapers that criticized her after her vote against participation in World War I.  During her second term, Rankin stood alone in voting against America’s entry into the World War II.

·         The rare films and archival photos of Montana’s Democratic Senator Lee Metcalfthe longest-serving Senate Majority LeaderThe Montana Historical Society is currently processing hundreds of photos and video of Metcalf before and during his time in office.  Learn about the lawyer, judge and politician, who is considered to be a pioneer in the conservation movement

Hear about
·         The Discovery of Gold in Helena from Ellen Baumler, Interpretive Historian at the Montana Historical Society. Visit the site where gold was discovered, and see the oldest surviving home in the state, a log cabin used during the city’s gold rush. 


·         The Montana Territory’s first federal facility with local author and historian Ellen Baumler “Dark Spaces: Montana’s Historic Penitentiary at Deer Lodge.  Established in 1870, the penitentiary was built mostly by prison laborers under the direction of its long serving warden Frank Conley.  This prison experienced a violent history including the infamous riot in 1959.

·         U.S. Army Veteran David Abrams recall his experience in Iraq as a military journalist.  In 2005, Abrams—author of “Fobbit”— was deployed to Baghdad for 10 months at the Forward Operating Base writing articles and answering calls from the media. 

·         Author Jim Robbins talk about “The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet”. Listen to the story of David Milarch, a man who – for the past 20 years – has made a mission of trying to clone the oldest trees on the planet.

Learn about
·         The evolution of farming from Richard Manning, author of “Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization”.  In it, Manning explains the beginning stages of agriculture and the effects it has had on society,

·         Lewis and Clark’s journey through Montana and some of the misconceptions about their travels from author Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs “The Lewis and Clark Companion”

·         The history of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana and their struggle to become a federally recognized tribe from historian Nicholas Vrooman  author of “The Whole Country Was…One Robe: The Little Shell Tribes of America”

For more information on the C-SPAN Cities Tour of U.S. cities, go to"

 Content Courtesy of:

Melissa Shannon | Area Director | Government Affairs
314 N Last Chance Gulch, Suite 104-A
Helena, MT 59601

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Continued Recycling Update: Email to fellow Commissioners in Preparation for Discussion at Today's Administration Meeting (Sent Friday)

Update: At last Wednesday's administrative meeting, The Commission unanimously supported a hold on major capital improvements at the Transfer Station pending the results of the study and additional plans for improved recycling!

Mayor, Commissioners,

This past Wednesday, I attended a meeting of the Scratch Gravel Solid Waste District.

In partnership with the City of Helena, the district are commissioning a $50,000 to $60,000 study looking for efficiencies at the Landfill, Transfer Station, Collections, Recycling, and Integration of Operations.  The study would begin as soon as early November and be completed in as little as sixty days, early in the new year.

This coming Wednesday, I will ask that we request capital projects at the Transfer Station be on hold until the study is complete, we have a plan for additional recycling at the facility, and the City Commission formally decides to resume the projects.

We have a great opportunity for improvements to waste collection and recycling at this public facility. It would be a shame to expend over a million public dollars, only to find that efficiencies could have been gained that will better serve our community.

Thank you for considering this in preparation for our important discussion Wednesday. Feel free to contact me with any questions and your thoughts on this matter.

Have a great weekend!


Matt E

Matt Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA

[Click here for a more detailed statement on Recycling in Helena for Commissioner Elsaesser!]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Helena designated as one of 17 IMBA Ride Centers Internationally!

The International Mountain Bicycling Association has designated Helena as a Bronze-Level IMBA Ride Center:

"For the third time in recent weeks, Helena is garnering national recognition.......The International Mountain Bicycling Association on Thursday awarded Helena a bronze-level designation as a ride center."

Helena Independent Record, October 26, 2013

Helena is the only ride center in Montana and of only 17 locations designated internationally. The following screen shot accessed October 29, 2013 lists the other sixteen areas, Sun Valley and Park City being the closest:

This should help efforts to realize a Rails to Trails project from Helena to Great Falls (presentation here, pdf summary here), as well as other recreation opportunities such as trails along Prickly Pear Creek with clean up of the Asarco properties in East Helena!

Press Release from Helena Tourism Alliance/Bike Helena:



OCTOBER 25th 2013****


** **

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) has given the
mountain bike trails in Helena, Montana and the surrounding area their
highest trail rating by designating Helena a Ride Center.  Helena now joins
16 other communities around the world that share the same designation.****

** **

The IMBA Ride CenterĊ½ designation represents IMBA's Model Trail
recognition of large-scale mountain bike destinations that offer a wide
range of great trails for every riding style.  Ride Centers not only invite
you to plan a multi-day trip with your full quiver of mountain bikes and
the whole family, they take care of you both on and off the trail by being
places where mountain bikers are welcomed.  From backcountry adventures to
shuttle-served gravity trails, and from expert-only to family-friendly,
you’ll encounter the best the sport has to offer.  IMBA staff selects
candidates for Ride Center recognition on an invitation-only basis.****

** **

This designation for Helena came as the result of cooperative work within
the biking community and is supported by many organizations and businesses
in Helena, including: The City of Helena, Lewis and Clark County, Prickly
Pear Land Trust, the Helena Tourism Alliance, the Montana Mountain Bike
Alliance, Downtown Helena, Inc., Helena Non-Motorized Travel Advisory
Council, Bike Walk Montana, Helena CVB, The Helena Citizens Council,
Montana State Parks, and local bike shops, bike clubs, downtown business
owners and all 19 Helena-area hotels.****

** **

Official IMBA Press Release: ****

** **

Contact: Pat Doyle, Community Outreach Director, Helena Tourism
Alliance/Bike Helena pdoyle (at) 406-449-2107****

Website: ****


Thursday, October 24, 2013

The City of Helena is seeking interested citizens to serve on the ADA Compliance Committee, Board of Adjustment, Downtown BID/Helena Parking Commission, and the Benton Avenue Cemetery Association. Apply by November 7!

DATE:  October 24, 2013
        CONTACT: Debbie Havens, Clerk of the Commission, (406) 447-8410  

The City of Helena is seeking interested citizens to serve on the following boards:

ADA Compliance Committee

One citizen representing the disabled community to serve on the ADA Compliance Committee.  Term will begin upon appointment and expire September 1, 2016. 
The ADA Compliance Committee will act as an advisory committee to assist in determination of reasonable accommodations.  The Committee may review requests for reconsideration of complaints forwarded by the ADA Coordinator, may make determinations as to the validity of complaints, and my provide descriptions of the resolution of those grievances that have been appealed.  The Committee may recommend priorities for making structural changes to public facilities, offer suggestions on how to achieve program accessibility, and review and make recommendations on employment practices and accommodations for compliance.

Board of Adjustment

One citizen to serve on the Board of Adjustment and one citizen to serve as the alternate member on the Board of Adjustment.  The board member’s term will begin upon appointment and expire October 1, 2016 and the alternative member’s term will begin upon appointment and expire October 1, 2015.
The five-member board acts on applications for variances in the zoning ordinance.   

Business Improvement District/Helena Parking Commission

Two citizens to serve on the Business Improvement District/Helena Parking Commission.    Applicants must be the owner of property within the BID District or be the owner’s personal representative, agent or guardian. The unexpired term will begin upon appointment and expire on October 31, 2014; the full term will begin upon appointment and expire on October 31, 2017. 

Zoning Commission

One citizen, residing in the city limits, to serve on the City of Helena Zoning Commission and one citizen, residing in the city limits, to serve as the alternate member on the City of Helena Zoning Commission.  The board member’s term will begin upon appointment and expire September 30, 2016 and the alternate member’s term will begin upon appointment and expire September 30, 2015.  
This board shall perform zoning functions for the city and shall be the sole Zoning Commission for the City of Helena.

Benton Avenue Cemetery Association

The Benton Avenue Cemetery Association is looking for interested persons to serve on the Board of Directors.  For further information, please contact Tom Pearson
Applications are available at /commission/boards or by calling 447-8410 and can be submitted to the City Clerk’s Office, 316 N. Park Avenue, Room 323, Helena, MT 59623 or to dhavens (at)

The deadline for applications is 4:00 p.m., Thursday, November 7, 2013.

Distracted Driving in Helena: Tickets Issued Since January 2011

Following this article about Missoula's enforcement of their distracted driving ordinance (cell phone bans), I have been asked about Helena's enforcement of the ordinance we passed in December of 2011. Here are the numbers as of yesterday, October 23, 2013, courtesy of Helena's Assistant Police Chief via Commissioner Ellison:

January 1, 2012 - present
981 citations = Fines of $45,874

January 1, 2013 - present
610 citations = Fines of $31,420

 It is my understanding that there were a couple hundred warning issued when the law first went into effect that are not reflected in total above. 

- Matt E

Matt Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Recycling Update for Helena from Commissioner Matthew Elsaesser

Dear Friends,

I would like to bring you up to speed on my efforts as your City Commissioner to improve recycling services offered by the City of Helena. As you know, I have long been committed to expand recycling in Helena. As a college student, I established what is now known as the S.A.V.E. Foundation, widely known as the nonprofit that organizes the community plastic drives every two months.  Given this background, it should not be surprising that one of my principal goals as Commissioner has been to expand the City's recycling program to include plastics.

During my tenure as a commissioner, the City of Helena has made strides toward enhancing recycling by adding additional drop-off sites around town, providing options to recycle electronic waste and clothing at the Transfer Station, maintaining glass recycling, and investing in the blue bag curbside program. The City contracted with a consulting firm to prepare the Residential Recycling Program Enhancement Study for the City of Helena in 2009, which provided a framework for how to proceed. 

The City Commission is now considering a proposal that would expand recycling even more, to include a permanent place to recycle plastics, improved residential curbside recycling pickup, and expanding items collected at the transfer stations. This proposal  reflects the effort, stakeholder input, and expectations of the Helena Community. The City now needs your engagement in this public process, and I will be asking for your support and involvement.

Beyond this proposal, we should focus on collection of reusable construction materials, provide household hazardous waste collection events, and any other items that can be diverted from land-fills. Public support to initially build the Transfer Station envisioned as a premier recycling center. With the bonds for this public facility now paid for, it is long past time to realize that goal.

This August, the City Commission approved a 2% rate increase, directing an additional $70,000 for residential solid waste for improved curbside recycling. Capital improvements to transfer station will be over one million dollars this year. We need to make sure that money is directed to the right places, including a sheltered collection area that accepts your plastics.  I am confident that our community and our elected city and county officials, support recycling.  There is no reason why the Capitol City shouldn’t have the best recycling program in the State of Montana.

I presented the adjacent [click image to view] memo during our budget process in early June. While the details may change with implementation, it provides a good overview of what we should expect to see. At that time and in a subsequent meeting regarding investments at the Transfer Station, it was determined that the Commission would review the memo in more detail following the budget process. I am pleased that we had a very productive meeting yesterday morning and the City is again moving forward discussing these proposals.

It is an honor to serve in this role. Thank you very much for your continued support!

Please contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns. 


Matt E

Matthew A Elsaesser, Commissioner
City of Helena, Montana, USA
MElsaesser at HelenaMT.Gov
406 4 three 1 zero 815

p.s. The following example of household hazardous waste collection was included with the above memo. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Helena, Montana receives Best for Geocaching title from Rand McNally’s Best of the Road and

Helena, Montana receives Best for Geocaching title from 
Rand McNally’s Best of the Road and

October 8, 2013 - Helena, Montana has received Rand McNally’s Best of the Road, Best for Geocaching title.  Since mid-summer the contest has been in full swing with Helena recruiting online votes  In September, Best of the Road named five geocaching finalists and Helena was invited to submit a video and essay.  The winners of the six categories, which also includes Most Beautiful and Best for Food, were announced Tuesday morning.  Helena took the title Best for Geocaching.
One of the judges commented on Helena’s submission: “I was convinced by the words taken directly from the geocaching community: this is an authentically engaging place to geocache. You can feel the historical connection to the gold treasure hunters from long ago while using today's satellites and smartphone apps. The gorgeous scenery just adds to the adventure!”
Helena is no novice when it comes to treasure hunts. In July of 1864, four miners, down on their luck, gave it one “Last Chance” and struck it rich in Helena. The region, named Last Chance Gulch, grew almost overnight, producing an estimated (in today’s dollars) $3.6 billion in gold over a twenty-year period.
Nearly one hundred and fifty years later, Helena’s main street is still called Last Chance Gulch, but GPS units have replaced sluice boxes. In lieu of a gold vein, caches are hidden. Helena is booming with modern-day prospectors, geocachers.  Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt where cachers use GPS coordinates to locate hidden caches.  Geocaching is a free, interactive adventure.  More details on geocaching can be found at
Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, half-way between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, Montana’s capital city of 30,000 residents has evolved into the region’s geocaching leader. The core of this reputation is the GeoTour, part of Groundspeak’s GeoTour program and created through a collaborative partnership between the Helena Tourism Alliance and the Capital City Cachers.  The entire community including Downtown Helena, Inc., The Clay Arts Guild, State of Montana, Montana Historical Society, Helena National Forest, City of Helena Parks Department, Montana Heritage Commission, Montana State Parks, AAA MountainWest, Tizer Gardens and EDGE Marketing have played a part in Helena’s geocaching success.

Highlighting the best of Helena, the GeoTour brings cachers to thirty-eight destinations including Two Camps Vista, where both Lewis & Clark camped along the Missouri River during different parts of their journey West. Others bring cachers to places like the historic and charming Last Chance Gulch Walking Mall, scenic Mount Helena and the Elkhorn Ghost Town.
As winners of the Best for Geocaching title, Helena and will receive a feature in the 2015 Rand McNally Road Atlas and a free custom iPhone app and online travel guide promoting the community as a top destination. Helena will also receive a FREE GeoTour, courtesy of
The Helena Tourism Alliance has played a large part in promoting geocaching in Helena and financed the GeoTour program.  The Helena Tourism Alliance is funded by Helena’s Tourism Business Improvement District, a self-assessed tax on the hotels for Helena promotion.  More information on the Helena Tourism Alliance and the GeoTour can be found at  This project would not have been possible without the dedication and enthusiasm of the Capital City Cachers, Helena’s geocaching club. 
To view Helena’s submission video visit: . 
 [Photos & Press Release Oct 8, 2013 by Heidi O’Brien, Helena Tourism Alliance]

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

City of Helena Employee Newsletter - On The Gulch - October 2013

This issue discusses the City of Helena Charitable Giving Campaigns, Vigilante Bike Park Taking Shape, Curbside Recycling Options, and more!

Over 50,000 Montanans Registered for Statewide Earthquake Drill

Over 50,000 Montanans Registered for Statewide Earthquake Drill

Contact: Katie Gallagher (406) 444-1718
For Immediate Release
October 2, 2013

Media Advisory
Over 50,000 Montanans Registered for 2013 Rocky Mountain ShakeOut

HELENA, MT- On October 23, 2013 at 10:23AM Montanans across the state will dropcover, and hold on as part of the 2013 Rocky Mountain ShakeOut, Montana’s first statewide earthquake drill. Montana is a seismically active state, which means that an earthquake could happen at any time. The purpose of the ShakeOut is to educate all Montanans on the appropriate actions to take to ensure safety when the ground starts to shake.

Over 50,000 Montanans have already signed-up to participate in the drill, joining over 21 million people across the globe. Registrants come from Ekalaka to Eureka, and include individuals in public and private K-12 schools, private businesses, state agencies, and more. A growing list of Montana participants can be found at

The 2013 Rocky Mountain ShakeOut is organized by the State of Montana Disaster and Emergency Services, Governor’s Office of Community Service, American Red Cross of Montana, the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, and local partners across the state. The drill is supported by the Earthquake Country Alliance, whose members include the U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the American Red Cross.
The following are experts in earthquake preparedness/mitigation in Montana and are available for interview:
Michael Stickney, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (Butte)
Michael Stickney grew up in Missoula and received a B.A. in 1978 and a M.A. in 1980, both in geology from the University of Montana. He received an honorary PhD from Montana State University in 2004.  In 1982, Mike was appointed Director of the Earthquake Studies Office and promoted to senior research geologist in 2002. He is a member of Seismological Society of America, Western States Seismic Policy Council, and currently serves as president of the Tobacco Root Geologic Society. Mike has written extensively on seismic related topics including tectonics, seismic hazard, and historic earthquakes of the northern Rocky Mountains.

Paul Spengler, Lewis and Clark County Disaster and Emergency Services(Helena)
Paul Spengler is the Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator for Lewis and Clark County. He has been conducting community earthquake drills in the Helena area for over thirty years, making Lewis and Clark County a leader in the state for earthquake awareness and preparedness. He has successfully engaged schools, private businesses, and city and county facilities.

Kent Atwood, State of Montana Disaster and Emergency Services(Helena)
Kent Atwood is the State Hazard Mitigation Officer at the State of Montana Disaster and Emergency Services. He is has knowledge of past and current seismic retrofit projects in Montana and is an expert is earthquake hazard mitigation.  

For questions or additional information, contact Katie Gallagher, Governor’s Office of Community Service, at 444-1718 or via email       
Katie Gallagher
Grant Coordinator
Governor’s Office of Community Service