Missoula Councilman Hendrickson Doesn’t Just Quash Public Comment – He Ignores It

by jhwygirl

Ward 2 Councilman John Hendrickson bit back at tonight city council meeting, attacking critics of his amendment (at July 2nd’s city council meeting) which removed the West Broadway corridor from the Northside/Westside Neighborhood Plan Update.

The neighborhood plan, which underwent years of comment and input from community and public leaders, has cost Missoula taxpayers $15,000 in study fees and additional funding of an enormous amount of staff time.

Hendrickson, who campaigned in 2005 on an anti-Broadway road diet theme, made the amendment to remove West Broadway from the plan in an effort to eliminate any input that the neighborhood plan would have with any future decisions facing the city on efforts within the West Broadway corridor.

Neighborhood Plans, much like Comprehensive Plans, provide an informal guide to city staff, board members and elected officials when making decisions in any given area. They do not, on their own, provide the same legal standing as a zoning ordinance, but Missoula has utilized them as tools to reinforce a long term ‘vision’ for the city, helping to keep the city focused on greater goals over the long term.

Tonight, in defending himself from critics in city council, local government, and the public, Hendrickson said that “as far as spending $15,000 on the update, there are no guarantees that when we do impact plans or studies that we will get our desired results. And it wouldn’t be the first time that we spent $ unwisely.”

Note to John Hendrickson: When one does a study, one doesn’t presuppose an outcome to said studies. Studies are expected to analyze a situation without prejudice.

Hendrickson went yet further in his own defense, calling for the 4-lane on West Broadway to be revised to “eliminate parking, bikes lanes or both so that the 4-lane could become a reality. And that the 4-lane could be implemented sooner than the 11 to 20 years as called for in the charette vision plan.”

Nice. No parking OR bike lanes. Now that’s community transportation planning at its best!

At July 2nd’s council meeting, Hendrickson clung mightily to his petition from West Broadway businesses (he claims to have 25 signatures), defending those businesses for not having participated in the Northside/Westside Plan Update meetings by subtly accusing the Office of Planning & Grants (OPG) of not sending out neighborhood notices to the businesses for any of the 4 public meetings that were held. He further questioned the sign-in sheets for the meetings, saying they were “questionable – OPG explained it and I take them at their word – but – it still raises a question.”

Mike Barton, with OPG, questioned Hendrickson on the mucky-muck that he was proposing – to remove the business corridor from the plan – by asking him if St. Patrick’s was included, as “St. Patrick’s is clearly a commercial enterprise and literally houses dozens of businesses.”

Hendricks plowed forward – saying that he didn’t see a problem with going forward with his amendment – indicating at first, when asked by Mayor Engen if he would consider removing (from the plan) just the businesses that signed his petition, that he “didn’t think that was smart,” saying he wanted to include the complete corridor. When pressed further, and asked pointedly whether St. Patrick’s had signed the petition, he reluctantly said “no.”

Calling for public comment, Jason Weiner, candidate for Ward 1, criticized the motion saying “When there is a public process you don’t get to object in the end if you don’t participate in it. It’s like someone saying ‘I didn’t vote in the last municipal election, I’m not going to obey your ordinances.’ We have a collective project here and a lot of work that went into it and people don’t get to except themselves from it after-the-fact.”

Question to all: Is it not a shame that Mr. Weiner even had to make that statement?

Pam Walzer, who lives in the Westside neighborhood and is a candidate for Ward 2, also criticized the removal and noted that the previous Northside/Westside Plan was used throughout the charettes that were held for the update, and removing it is clearly problematic. She too was critical of the business owners who did not participate – and asked how they could not participate when they weren’t happy with the first plan. “These things were noticed. It wasn’t done in private. They had the opportunity.” She asked about the 25 signatures. “How many businesses are involved,” she asked, “Are you going to ignore the rest of the businesses? Do you have all of the private business?

Walzer went further and explained that the Northside/Westside plan celebrates the diversity within the neighborhood. That it is not just residential – it is a mix of commercial, industrial and residences. Further criticizing the businesses that didn’t participate in either the plan update charettes and the West Broadway corridor charettes, she said, plainly, “You need to be a part of the solution. A part of the planning – to make things work for yourself.”

There were no public comments in favor of Councilman John Hendrickson’s motion to remove the West Broadway corridor.

Clearly, though, public comment is not an issue for Councilman Hendrickson. He doesn’t need it.

In the end, while Mayor Engen tried to get the whole update to return, intact, to the Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee, the vote came down – with Hendrickson followed by Dick Haynes, Jon Wilkins, Pete Reedy, and Don Nicholson standing their ground and voting for the amendment. Jerry Ballas – in a weasel move because he is up for election in Ward 4 – at first abstained, but with the vote tied – Strohmaier was absent – Ballas changed his vote to support Hendrickson’s amendment.

Following the amendment, the rest of the plan, now a mess, was returned to committee.

This week’s Plat, Annexation & Zoning Committee meeting is Wednesday, July 11th, at 10 a.m (until noon.) It’s unclear whether they will be discussing the update this week.

Gotta love those afternoon meetings.

If you want to contact your city council, go here for more information.

P.S. In a final twist of irony, champion of the public and neighborhood councils everywhere Councilman Jon Wilkins took the opportunity during final comments at tonight’s (July 9th) council meeting to “remind people that if you want to get involved in what’s going on in your neighborhood, join your neighborhood councils – they’re great.”

Thanks Jon – I’ll keep that in mind.

  1. Ugh! No public comments in support of the amendment — and it passed??

    Does anyone know who these 25 businesses are?

  2. I’m guessing he has maybe a half-dozen or so businesses, with signatures from not only owners, but every employee who works there.

    He’s been pressed on this before, but has yet to reveal his ‘list’.

    I’m wonder how many of those businesses have been open for 3 years or more. All new businesses struggle. Someone that’s barely been around in that area would have little to blame the Diet on, IMHO.

  3. This sound errily familiar to the antics seen every meeting with the Dillon City Council. You have my heartfelt sympathy and I hope things work out better next time.

    It is also REALLY nice to see other bloggers taking a closer look at thier local city governments


  4. I’ve admired your stuff for a while now Moorcat.

  5. Ayn Rand

    love fest

  6. Word up, AR! You know, you could have your own blog, too, instead of trolling the comment section of liberal blogs. It might be interesting to actually hear some constructive and individual opinions from you, instead of withstanding your attempts to drag us down into mediocrity.

  1. 1 The Best of Ward 2 Incumbent John Hendrickson « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] So in an effort to save what may be some newer locals (hopefully they are registered voters in Ward 2), I thought I’d recap some of the best of Councilperson John Hendrickson over the last couple years: Missoula Councilman Hendrickson Doesn’t Just Quash Public Comment, He Ignores It […]

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