City Council Barely Votes for Resolution

by Pete Talbot

Missoula City Council voted 6-6 and Mayor John Engen cast the deciding vote to put an Iraq War troop withdrawal resolution on the November ballot.

But that’s the short story. It was a thoughtful, emotional and mostly civil evening. Twenty-six people spoke in favor of the resolution and 17 spoke against. It was some of the better discourse that the council has had recently and the discussion said a lot about Missoula.

“Our decision makers in D.C. have failed us,” said one of the resolution’s supporters. “Give the voters here a chance.”

“You embolden our enemy against us,” said an opponent. “It won’t end until we defeat them or they defeat us.”

“Democracy” was the key word of the evening. The definitions ranged from spreading democracy in the Middle East to allowing democracy at the polls here in Missoula. It came up often.

“More resolutions, more democracy,” said a supporter.

However, those advancing the resolution were said by opponents to be “unfaithful to democracy” and were guilty of “grandstanding and preening.” Resolution proponents were also accused of political motivation, manipulating the public and conspiracy.

Ward Two’s John Hendrickson called the resolution “wrong and disgusting” and certain members of council were “manipulating us for voter turnout.”

Much of the debate centered around the city’s role in non-municipal affairs.

“You’re good at filling pot holes,” said one man, “but don’t do this.”

“Mind your own business” and don’t waste time and resources on matters outside your jurisdiction, said another.

But the wife of a soldier in Iraq said of the resolution, “I really want this vote and I want it bad.”

Here’s the abbreviated version of the “non-binding statement of policy by the citizens of Missoula on the occupation of Iraq by the military of the United States of America. The intent of this referendum is to influence the United States Congress.” It will appear, in more detail, on the Nov. 7 ballot, but the basic gist is:

“The citizens of Missoula, Montana, hereby urge the Congress of the United States of America to authorize and fund an immediate and orderly withdrawal of the United States military from Iraq in a manner that is fully protective of U.S. soldiers.”

The vote followed ward boundaries. In Ward One, Dave Strohmaier and Heidi Kendall voted for the resolution; in Ward Two, John Hendrickson and Don Nicholson voted against it. Ward Three’s Stacy Rye and Bob Jaffe voted for it while Ward Four (Jon Wilkins and Jerry Ballas) voted against the resolution. Ward Five (Dick Haines and Jack Reidy) voted “no” while Ward Six’s Ed Childers and Marilyn Marler voted “yes.” All twelve council members defended their votes during council comments.

“This is the one way we can allow people to weigh in” on such a contentious issue, Councilwoman Rye said.

Public comment started around 9:30 p.m. and council voted on the resolution a little before midnight. The public stayed unusually courteous and attentive throughout. The mayor ran a clean and efficient meeting.

“You all did Missoula proud,” Mayor Engen said of the process.

Some members of council and the public said the resolution would reinforce Missoula’s image as a liberal college town, and give the city a ”black eye.” But considering that the Butte-Silver Bow Commissioners passed their own resolution 8-4 and Helena’s City Commission voted unanimously to put a similar referendum on the ballot, it was an awfully close vote.

  1. Give the city a “black eye” by promoting the city’s image as a liberal college town? What are these people thinking of? It’s Missoula’s reputation as a “liberal college town” that makes it so attractive to live here!

  2. Pete, is there some place we can find either video or a transcript of the meeting? I’m especially interested in the council members’ statements.

  3. jhwygirl

    MCAT will make a video for you, I think it would only be the cost of a tape…

  1. 1 Reality Check « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Jeff Krauss wants us to win in Iraq. Conservatives on Missoula’s City Council feel it’s “wrong and disgusting” to discuss the war on Council’s time. With all the division in Bozeman and Missoula over our […]

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