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New West Daily Roundup for Dec. 9, 2016

Today in New West news: Helena reconsidering gender restrictions in certain public accommodations, lone snow goose has Montana officials optimistic, South African gold company buys Colorado platinum miner, and SBA opens new Wyoming office in Casper.

According to the Helena Independent Record, City Commissioner Rob Farris-Olsen, along with commissioners Andres Haladay and Ed Noonan, are looking to strike a provision from the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance regarding public accommodations where people “ordinarily appear in the nude.” The original clause states that, in such spaces, users must use “the facilities designated for their anatomical sex.” In seeking to have that provision stricken from the ordinance, the trio of commissioners is arguing, in effect, that it is discriminatory. From the Record:

The three commissioners wanted the proposed change in the ordinance’s language to be on the commission’s Dec. 19 agenda for initial consideration. A public hearing could occur in January that would precede a final vote on adoption of the change.

The ordinance was unanimously approved roughly four years ago before an overflow crowd in the city commission chambers.

According to the Independent Record story from Dec. 17, 2012, eight of the 14 people speaking against the measure mentioned what some called the “bathroom” or “locker room” issue — the concern voyeurs or pedophiles would exploit the protections for transgender people to gain access to women’s restrooms or similar areas demanding privacy, or that transgender people themselves would cause alarm in such situations.

An amendment by then-Commissioner Dick Thweatt passed by the commission Dec. 4, 2012, addressed that concern by mandating that in any place where people “ordinarily appear in the nude,” users may be required to use the facilities designated for their anatomical sex, regardless of their gender identity.

Removal of the language would remove the only exception to the ordinance, City Attorney Thomas Jodoin said.

If the change is enacted, the ordinance would read “It shall be unlawful for a place of public accommodation to deny, directly or indirectly, any person full and equal access or enjoyment of the goods, services, activities, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations for a discriminatory reason.”

Farris-Olsen said he heard complaints and that prompted him to propose changing the ordinance.

Keeping with Montana, earlier this week, we reported that thousands of migrating snow geese had died since landing in the Berkeley Pit (an old mine brimming with water “as acidic as vinegar” and chock-full of toxic metals, designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency) near Butte. According to Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Matt Vincent, speaking to the Helena Independent Record, over 3,000 birds have likely perished. Area hunters have been warned not to eat any snow geese hunted after November 28.

Since the incident, nine geese have been found in southwest Montana—most of which were either dead or dying. One goose, however, captured in Dillon, has wildlife officials hopeful that it (and others) can make a full recovery from their sojourn on the acid pit. From the Record:

The bird is reported as “healthy.” It’s eating, drinking and is “incredibly active,” said Butte-Silver Bow community enrichment director Ed Randall.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Ryan Moehring called its release “finding the light in the darkness.” Federal officials wouldn’t release the bird unless they’re “very confident this bird is fine,” he said.

“We wouldn’t release it if we thought there was a chance it would die later,” Moehring said.

Fish and Wildlife want to place a band on the bird so whenever it dies, if its carcass is found, it would be turned into agency officials.

But Moehring, in a telephone interview from his Denver office, said the agency cannot find a leg band “within a reasonable distance” from Butte that fits the goose. And remaining in captivity puts increased stress on the bird, said Moehring.

Moehring added they plan to release the bird today, with or without a band. Some officials are concerned that the Dillon goose will face steep challenges getting out of the state, since snow geese flock together. Weather could also pose a problem.

If you see any snow geese in the area, please call Butte-Silver Bow animal control at 406-497-6527. If you find geese after hours, please call Montana Resources at 406-496-3233.

Down in Colorado, according to the Wall Street Journal, South Africa-based Sibanye Gold Ltd. has announced it is buying Littleton-based palladium and platinum miner Stillwater Mining Co. for $2.2 billion—the company’s first foray out of Southern Africa and a sharp move away from its gold-mining background:

The purchase is Sibanye’s third platinum acquisition since late 2015 and would make the company, which until last year was solely a gold miner, the world’s third largest platinum producer. The move is a vote of confidence in platinum in addition to a strategic diversification away from the often difficult operating environment in South Africa.

Sibanye has a long and storied history in the mining industry. It was spun off in 2013 from three aging South African mines held by Gold Fields Ltd., a company founded by colonial pioneer Cecil John Rhodes.

In a press release Friday, Stillwater, of Littleton, Colo., which has two mines in Montana and Colorado, said its board approved the deal. The $18-a-share bid represents a 23% premium to Stillwater’s closing price on Dec. 8. The two largest shareholders of Johannesburg’s Sibanye have confirmed their support of the deal.

Finally, over in Wyoming, according to the Casper Star Tribune, the state’s Small Business Administration office has moved into a new facility in Casper—a decision officials are hoping will make the organization more accessible:

SBA, which provides training and loans to small businesses, moved from the fourth floor of the Dick Cheney Federal Building in downtown Casper to an office across from the post office on the first floor of that building.

District Director Amy Lea said that the agency reduced its square footage by 44 percent though the move. The new office is shared with another federal agency, Housing and Urban Development, and Lea said the pooled resources will make some of SBA’s statewide work easier.

The two agencies will now share modern training and webinar conference rooms.

“We serve the entire state from Casper,” Lea said. “(Now) we’ll have some increased ability to do distance training that we haven’t had in the past.”

SBA provides loan guarantees for private lenders to provide funding for small businesses and partners with groups like the Wyoming Business Council to offer training and advice for individuals looking to start or already operating a business in the state.

Last year, the Wyoming office increased its lending by 11.5 percent to 126 loan guarantees worth $45.7 million.

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