Do We Really Need More Passive Acquiescence?
After 12 years as Flathead County Commissioner, Pam Holmquist is seeking re-election to yet another 6-year term to the Flathead Board of County Commissioners, which would make Holmquist’s total tenure on the board about 18 years should she win re-election. Ronalee Skees, a member of the Flathead County Health Board, is seerking election to House District 11. These two women are seemingly joined at the hip and their tenures on the Flathead County Health Board have been those of passive acquiescence —neither consistently standing for or against critically important issues.
As long-standing politicians, Holmquist and Skees have no businesses in danger of being shut down, partially or fully, and no school-aged children who suffered during, and as a consequence of, COVID response measures like school closures and forced masking. When one has no “skin in the game,” passively acquiescing to tyranny is a rather easy thing to do.
By contrast, Dr. Annie Bukacek, like her or not, has always stood by her principles during her service on the health board. Many occasions found Dr. Bukacek as the sole vote against policy that was in egregious violation of the health and liberties of Flathead County citizens. Skin in the game or not, Dr. Bukacek was consistent in her principles. She took her role as a health board member very seriously and was always prepared with the copies of her extensive research, much of which she had already shared with the board and community members prior to the meetings. Her thorough research has done nothing but vindicate her positions, time and again.
A couple of votes in the fall of 2020 saw Pam and Ronalee vote on the side of liberty, including when the motions were especially tyrannical. I gave credit where credit was due and praised them publicly for their votes and thanked them for standing for liberty.
Unfortunately, these were exceptions rather than the norm for these two health board members, who, for the most part, both vote in sync with board member Ardis Larsen.
Pam Holmquist and Ronalee Skees made no effort to reign in our rogue Public Health Officer, Joe Russell, who repeatedly overstepped his authority in communicating discriminatory isolation and quarantine protocols against unvaccinated and unmasked children, without school board or health board approval.
In January, Russell distributed a memorandum to Flathead County Superintendents for distribution to parents regarding COVID-19 quarantine and isolating protocols. The memo violated HB-702, Montana’s vaccine non-discrimination law passed in 2021, telling parents that unvaccinated children needed to “stay at home” and quarantine while “quarantine is not necessary” for vaccinated children.
“How quarantine will be implemented will be based on vaccination status and previous COVID-19 illness… anyone not vaccinated shall be advised to stay at home (quarantine) for five days since their last exposure,” For those fully vaccinated and boosted, Russell shared that they should “forgo the stay at home quarantine” citing “CDC guidance.”
The health officer’s letters to parents were his own quarantine recommendations, made outside of the jurisdiction or approval of the health board and in violation of MCA 50-2-118, Powers and Duties of Local Health Officers which allows Russell to create quarantine and isolation measures only “as adopted by the local board of health.” Russell also made exceptions for students who “correctly and consistently [wore] a well-fitting mask,” in an August 2021 isolation and quarantine protocol letter to parents.
Concerned citizens, parents, and health board member Dr. Bukacek all provided copies of Russell’s letters and shared notifications of Montana code violations with the health board, but no action was taken except to defend Russell’s actions. Holmquist, who holds, by far, the most responsibility as a county commissioner, treated Russell like a naughty child, but never did or said anything to admonish the health officer for going over the board’s authority.
Licking your finger and sticking it in the air or treating your position like an eighth grade popularity contest by rubber stamping whatever is popular and not standing consistently on principle is not what the citizens of Flathead County and District 11 need. We need truly principled people who are willing to risk something to stand up for us, like Dr. Bukacek has done repeatedly. Dr. Bukacek has risked much, including her livelihood after undergoing doxxing by national media. Yet Dr. Bukacek has prevailed and could easily defend saying that she has stood on principle as a member of the Flathead County Board of Health.
The citizens of Flathead County and District 11 are tired of business as usual. We need people in positions of authority who take their roles seriously and who will actually support and vote for liberty; not entrenched politicians who pat each other on the back and vote in lockstep for their next step up the political ladder, throwing citizens under the bus in the process.