Archive for September, 2007

Heaven has gained an Angel

by jhwygirl

Barry Simon took the trip yesterday.

God bless.

by jhwygirl

We have the Bush administration that is basically pissing on the Constitution and doesn’t seem to know what habeas corpus means, and people are in an uproar about this?

Geez.

Maybe we should put some prickly bushes and a fence around the Constitution.

(For those of you who’d rather do video, Keith Olberman had a pretty good visual I remember from a while back. Click on the video on this link.)

by jhwygirl

It’s not like we didn’t notice him there in the GOP annual picnic photos Missoulapolis linked to in this post, back on September 12th.

Seems like they’ve taken that photo out, though.

Wonder how long it will be before his name is removed from her post – which, for posterity, currently says:

We had perfect weather, great turnout, interesting talk. Special guests included Congressman Denny Rehberg, Secretary of State Brad Johnson, Public Service Commissioner Doug Mood, City Councilmen Dick Haines and John Hendrickson, County Commissioner Larry Anderson, and Ward 6 candidate Lewie Schneller.

Funny.

But wait! Google to the rescue!

ward-6-lewie-schneller-at-missoula-gop-2007-picnic.jpg

by Rebecca Schmitz

There really isn’t much going on this weekend in Missoula. I’ve heard vague rumors about some concert on the UM campus tonight, and a small, unorganized parade tomorrow morning followed by some sort of sporting event in the afternoon. Just in case none of those sketchy events tickle your fancy, there are a couple of fun things to do over the next two days. Both involve two of my favorite things, alcohol and food.

The Moon-Randolph Homestead, snugly tucked away in the North Hills, is celebrating the seventh annual Homestead Fall Gathering on Saturday. The century-old homestead and its apple orchard are normally open to the public every Saturday from May to October. But beginning with the cider pressing at 3pm tomorrow afternoon, it’s the setting for a community celebration of burgers, beer and neighborhoods. The homestead is a charming backdrop to an all-ages potluck and fundraiser for the North Missoula Community Development Corporation. The admission is a suggested donation of $5 to $10 and a salad or dessert to share with everyone. The NMCDC will provide the beverages, soup and burgers. The Gathering is a great cause that’s surpassed only by the good conversation around the bonfire at the end of the evening and the fresh apple cider flowing out of the cider press.

Before the Fall Gathering, and continuing on Sunday, take a short but beautiful drive up the Rattlesnake to Ten Spoon Winery because it’s time for their annual grape harvest. Connie Poten and Andy Sponseller are asking the community to help them bring in the grapes. According to their website, if you bring your own clippers, they’ll provide the really necessary tools. You know, like:

Delicious lunch, beer, wine, soda, music, quirky vine conversations.

I’m hoping “wine” means I can drink their marvelous Flathead Cherry Dry to my heart’s content. Ten Spoon’s harvest will be all day Saturday and Sunday until 5pm. So even if you happen to go to one of those other rumored events mentioned earlier, and find yourself a bit under the weather thanks to four or five too many tailgate parties, you can recover in their vineyard under the autumn sunshine on Sunday afternoon.

by Pete Talbot

Ward Three’s Bob Jaffe and his MissoulaGov website make my job a whole lot easier. Here’s his report from Missoula’s Public Safety Committee hearing this week:

“Mr. Wilkins made a motion to kill the (chicken) ordinance right out of the gate. Committee Chair Don Nicholson refused to accept the motion since there had yet to be any discussion or questions. We started by discussing licensing. Mr. Ballas (present but not a member of the committee) and Mr. Hendrickson indicated that annual licensing were a requirement for them. Dave made the motion to approve the ordinance with a one time license. I amended it for annual licensing since that was important to some of the members. The vote failed 4-4. Then we had Jon’s motion to kill it. That failed 4-4. Then we had a motion to forward it to council with no recommendation. That failed 4-4. So now what. Our rules are not exactly clear regarding what forwards to council. Sometimes when things fail in committee that is the end of them. Other times they fail and still go to the council with a recommendation to deny.

Our attorney Jim Nugent appears to be suggesting that it does not go on to council in this case. There is also some question as to whether any two members can request that something be placed on the council agenda under new business. That rule is also not very well written.

So I’m not sure what the status of the chicken ordinance is right now. It may be dead. We’ll find out on Monday night most likely.”

For the record: Don Nicholson, John Hendrickson, Jon Wilkins and Dick Haines voted against the chickens; Bob Jaffe, Stacy Rye, Heidi Kendall and Dave Strohmaier voted for the chickens.

 

by Pete Talbot

If I seem to be obsessed with the recent Senate votes on the Iraq War, who can blame me? After all, the Pentagon just asked Congress for another $190 billion in war funding.

I wrote about earlier votes a couple days ago. Here are the latest:

The Biden (D-DE ) Amendment is one of those non-binding things. Its statement of purpose: “to express the sense of Congress on federalism in Iraq.” In other words, to give the thumbs up to dividing Iraq into three separate states: Shiite, Sunni and Kurd.

It passed 75-23 with Baucus and Tester voting with the majority. The amendment was another small step in trying to figure a way out of this catastrophe — this time by divvying up a sovereign nation. Jon and Max did the right thing, though, along with a lot of Republicans from across the aisle.  They, too, are saying this war is screwed up … and they’re trying to figure out what to do.

On the Kyl (R-AZ) Amendment, Baucus voted “yea” and Tester “nay.” The amendment was to “express the sense of the Senate regarding Iran.” In other words — saber rattling. It passed 76-22 with Tester voting in the minority. Jon’s vote reaffirms why progressives worked so hard to get him elected. Max … well, what can I say.

Afghanistan, Iraq and now, Iran. Some of our senators have short memories.

by Rebecca Schmitz 

Bob Keenan is back in Washington today, getting advice from one of the most corrupt members of the Senate, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell.

Keenan has plans to meet with Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and John Ensign, R-Nev., about a challenge to Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana next year. McConnell is the Senate Republican leader and Ensign is in charge of GOP campaign efforts. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

I’m sure Bob can pick up a lot of handy campaign and donation tips from McConnell.

Senator McConnell’s ethics issues stem from earmarks he has inserted into legislation for clients of his former chief of staff, lobbyist Gordon Hunter Bates, in exchange for campaign contributions…

A .pdf file containing all of McConnell’s ethics violations is available on the above link. Before you settle in with a cup of coffee to read all 188 pages of the report, you might take the time to ponder this: most politicians have the courtesy to at least wait a few months before they start flirting with ethical problems. Why is Bob Keenan embracing corruption before the campaign even starts?

by jhwygirl

Ward 2 incumbent Don Nicholson, towards the end of yesterday’s council meeting, asked all council members to take a good look at the work that Ward 3’s Bob Jaffe has done on amending the deferral resolution for the proposed Hillview SID.

Jaffe has proposed changes that are aimed at reducing the possibility of the SID fees creating a situation where larger undeveloped tracts would succumb to the pressure of development.

Some owners of larger undeveloped tracts – the Craigheads come to mind – said that they would be faced with a choice of either paying what they felt were extraordinary fees or selling the property (resulting in likely development.)

Jaffe’s proposed changes include the addition of common area lots 10 acres or more in size to the criteria for eligibility.

It eliminates the requirement of the payment of the deferral when the buyer accepts the deferral upon signature. Previously, the deferral was not transferrable – if a property owner had obtained a deferral, upon sale payment was due.

It also allows for reconstruction of an exisiting structure for owners that have a deferral. So in the event of a fire, for example, the home could be reconstructed without having to pay the SID.

Further, Jaffee’s proposal also has an accommodation for minor changes to property boundaries, keeping, again, the deferral intact.

Bob Jaffe has been a good problem-solver on council – his questions exhibit his desire to understand the issues.

Don Nicholson has shown himself, also, on occasion willing to compromise and seek solutions rather than to “just say no” to every possible proposal. Yesterday’s comments illustrate that.

I say good for both of them. Missoula needs more of exactly this type of ‘get ‘er done’ attitutude.

by jhwygirl

The City is proposing changes to its impact fees by adding a transportation impact fee and reducing other ones. The parks impact fee, for example, is proposed to be cut by 55%.

The newly proposed transportation impact fee, on the other hand, is half of what the economic consultants determined the rate should be.

Half. So that half that isn’t getting paid for by development will be paid for by you.

Ward 1 candidate Jason Weiner pointed this out to council Monday night, telling council that government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing development.

Kudos to Jason Weiner.

Meanwhile, Chamber of Commerce representative Gary Bakke called for Council to do a study on the impact that the fees will have upon business.

Maybe the Chamber should do its own study? It seems that they not only want the taxpayers to subsidize businesses impact on the transportation infrastructure, but they want the taxpayers to subsidize a study to determine the impacts of the impact fee on them. Lovely.

And besides that, aren’t impact fees instituted to alleviate the impact that the fee payer (in this case business) has on the assigned infrastructure (in this case transportation)? Hell – if that’s the case, I want the City to do a study on the impact the impact fee is going to have on my bank account.

Comparatively speaking, the Missoula’s proposed fees are lower than most other communities in the ‘hood. For example – a 20,000 square foot office buidling’s impact fees here would be $43,600, whereas that same building’s fee in Bozeman would be $82,562 – or in Belgrade $63,482.

In another example, a commercial building of 20,000 square feet, Missoula’s fee would be $79,160, while in Bozeman the fee is $138,727 and in Belegrade its $163,808.

A single-family 1,700 square foot home would pay a fee of $3,038, where in Bozeman it would be $7,160. In Billings the fee $3,222. The current impact fee in Missoula for a 1,700 square foot home is $2,226.

I spent some time in Bozeman back in July. New construction and business itself seemed to be boomin’ to me. I saw plenty of new subdivision crops popping up from Belgrade on through to Bozeman (admittedly, I didn’t go beyond, having turned south – so I ponder what lied to the east)….and town was filled with sparkling new businesses and commercial structures-in-process.

And if my memory serves me correctly, the roads were in pretty darn good shape as I drove through the old neighborhood.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Impact fees and SIDs are technically different things, but their purpose is the same: to help fund the necessary infrastructure that specific neighborhoods and the city as a whole requires. You know, like sidewalks, bike lanes, road construction and repair, and the widening (or narrowing) of the same. Either you, as a potential property owner, will pay upfront as part of the purchase price when costs are lower and the work can be easily completed, or you’ll pay far more years down the line, when streets and private property–yours now–has to be torn up to get the job done. Who’s against impact fees? No surprise there, the Missoula Chamber of Commerce:

Opponents say the proposed cost is exorbitant and unfair, though they don’t dispute the need to find ways to pay for roads. “It’s a complex problem and we are happy to work with the city to look at alternatives,” said Gary Bakke, with the Missoula Chamber of Commerce.

And who thinks the Chamber should play a role in city planning? Ward Two City Council incumbent Don Nicholson.

Ward 2’s Nicholson said Missoula is not friendly as a whole to business. Involving the Chamber of Commerce in planning would help, and paying attention to zoning could as well.

Let’s ignore for the moment the tired old argument that Missoula isn’t “friendly to business”. Really, if you look out your window you can practically see the city moving by the nanosecond towards Frenchtown in one direction and Clinton in the other. If Missoula didn’t like business, somebody then needs to explain why the entire city is debating the direction of sprawl, infill and growth. Like suburbia or not, those are the three best indicators of a healthy economy. No, let’s think about a City Council candidate who thinks the input of a specific special interest group is more important than average citizens–the same citizens who will have to pay the eventual SID taxes just a few years from now, when Missoula moves past their neighborhood on the march towards the future.

Whether or not the final Hillview Way assessment is correct, I’m sure Dr. Linda Frey can tell you all about the consequences of shortsighted planning. Depending on the size of their property, Ward Two voters need to ask themselves if the Chamber and Don Nicholson will be there to help them pay that possible SID tax of up to $65,000 when it’s their turn to write a check for road reconstruction.

by Pete Talbot

You need a scorecard to keep track of all the votes on the Iraq War taking place in the U.S. Senate these days. Our Montana Senators have been on the losing end, most times. They also cast a couple of bad votes.

On the Webb (D-VA) Amendment to allow more time for our troops to stay home during rotations, both Sens. Baucus and Tester voted “yea.” The yeas had 56 and the nays had 44 but the amendment needed 60 votes to pass. Thank you anyway, Max and Jon.

The Feingold (D-WI)-Reid (D-NV) Amendment went down 70-28. It would have redeployed the troops out of Iraq by June 30, 2008 (nine months). Both Baucus and Tester voted “nay.” I was disappointed in Jon’s vote but expected as much from Max.

The Levin (D-MI) Amendment tied at 47-47, so it didn’t make it. The amendment would “provide for a reduction and transition of United States forces in Iraq.” Both our senators voted for it, thankfully.

Then there was the wacky Cornyn (R-TX) Amendment which basically blasted MoveOn.org – the progressive, activist, grassroots organization. MoveOn had taken out some high profile newspaper ads criticizing Gen. Petraeus. The amendment read, in part, that (the Senate) “strongly condemn(s) personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus” and it passed 72-25. Baucus and Tester voted for it. Let’s keep our eye on the ball, guys. What a colossal waste of time.

The Democrats haven’t won on any of these votes, yet, but they’re being persistent and I appreciate that. They need to hang together even tighter on the votes that matter. More-and-more Republicans are coming around. It’s time to change course.

by jhwygirl

Seems the County Commissioner’s unanimously denied a secondly attempted subdivision near Clearwater Junction in the Blanchard Creek area.

The first attempt was 119 lots on 202 acres – this most recent 59 lots on the same.

Now, a ‘kudos’ has to go out to the fairly new Rural Initiatives division of Office of Planning & Grants. With the addition of wildlife biologist Vickie Edwards, the review of natural resource impacts and wildlife issues stands on much firmer ground with the input of someone with training and expertise. And the affects are seen with this denial.

The proposed development – the applicant is still contemplating another try – has 5 threatened or endangered species within a 5-mile radius of its location.

The developer’s solution to this was to build an 8-foot electrified wall around the development.

Nice. Welcome to the neighborhood, I guess.

Now, aside from that and other issues (like that which this summer’s Jocko Lake fire brings to mind, density so far from services, and that little thing called “fire protection”), I began to ponder this today: There are those (see here and here for some discussion in that regards) who slam any mention of inclusionary housing as a solution to the affordable housing problem facing people making up to and slightly beyond the median income here in Missoula (and other parts of this state). They defending the developer’s right to make any darn amount of profit that they may – regardless of how much.

I believe, on the other hand, that:

(#1) Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing development through reduced permitting fees for subdivision.

(#2) Affordable housing provides economic stability which benefits the whole community.

(#3) That accepting the concept that taxpayers should subsidize development while decrying the idea that developers should be required to sell a small percentage of their homes at prices that are affordable to people who make 80 – 100% of the median income is absurd.

And finally, (#4) Location, Location, Location: Missoula isn’t going to see anything more than a small “pop” in the housing market bubble. Real small. That is a fact (you can google that for yourself), same as has been exhibited in other places like Aspen, Vail, Whitefish, Jackson Hole. The natural amenities, combined with unnatural amenities (like airports, highways, localized infrastructure and shopping and entertainment) will continue to be driving forces in the housing market far more than any economic downturns in the housing industry.

So while others seem to want to ignore the problem at hand (or at least cover their ears and sing “la, la, la, la, la”) and champion the right-to-profit of the almighty developer, I have to question how much profit is enough profit.

Especially when a developer can first propose 119 lots. Then 59 lots. And then contemplate even another submittal, with presumably even less lots.

And I seriously doubt that the lot prices more than doubled. Market is what market it – his lot prices were undoubtedly based on size of the lots, not cost-profit margins.

Pink Bunnies At Work

by jhwygirl

No amount of asking, pleading, cajoling, lecturing, begging or attempts at embarrassment over the last 2 years were successful at getting a coworker to vote. Lord knows I tried.

But today she called me into her office to announce proudly that she was registering to vote. I looked over and asked her how she was doing it – what website she was coming from – when she announced “Pink Bunnies!”

Good Job Forward Montana!

Plus, I think Matt looks good in pink!

by jhwygirl

Via Left in the West, Papa 4&20 Jay Stevens highlights the fact that our Senator Max doesn’t quite seem to be assessing the situation in Iraq with eyes wide open:

“I and others repeatedly made it clear to the leadership that they’ve got to do a lot more than they are doing now,” said Baucus, who is on his first visit to Iraq. “They need a bigger nudge. They could stand a greater dose of reality to move them.”

A bigger nudge? A greater dose of reality to move them?

The death toll of American troops is 3788 (September 18th 7:57 p.m., MST.) Montana has lost 22 sons, with 2 in the past month.

49 American troops since September 1st.

Nearly THREE U.S. soldiers have died every day since September 1st.

$453,000,000,000 total.

$200,000,000 per day

How many more Max? How much more?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When in college I had the opportunity to meet Senator John Heinz III – one wonderful Republican. By the time I had met him, he had been elected 3 times. He was, needless to say, well-admired. There were many who felt (as I recall) that he was well on his way to the Whitehouse.

That meeting is still with me. The Senator seemed to genuinely want to meet me and hear what I had to say. Me? I was too star-struck, and besides that, there simply wasn’t anything I had to say other than the fact that I was “extremely honored” to meet him. Plus, he was pretty darn good-looking. I did ask him one question though – I wanted to know how much he was influenced by people who wrote him.

In a very sincere way he told me that calls and letters he got from citizens were very important to him and that he looked at each letter as representing the viewpoint of about 2,000 people. I don’t know how he came up with that number – but I took him at his word.

Now that was back in the 80’s – in a state that obviously has a much larger population than our own Montana – but that one statement has influenced me to write my representatives since that day.

Email Max tonight – here.

Call Max tomorrow – 202-224-2651.

And then write him a letter. A letter speaks a 1000 words. I know it’s true – John told me so.

The Honorable Max Baucus
511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2602

by Pete Talbot

Some of the progressive folks I chat with refer to Montana’s lone congressman as George W. Rehberg. That’s because Denny votes lockstep with the president on so many issues: Iraq, the environment, taxes, health care, etc., etc…

So I was surprised to see a letter in today’s Missoulian from Rep. Rehberg criticizing Bush’s support of Mexican truckers plying our nation’s highways.

Could it be that Denny is trying to distance himself from Dubya? You can’t blame him. In the latest CBS poll, Bush has an approval rating of 29 percent (64 percent disapprove, 7 percent unsure). If I were Denny, I’d be jumping off those Bush coattails too.

Mexican truckers aren’t the most important issue facing America these days. It’s not even on the top ten list. But it’s still a rare day in Montana when Denny disses the Prez. Like so many other Republicans running in 2008 are doing (if they even mention the president at all) they are criticizing one or more of his policies. Denny seems to be taking the hint.

Let us not forget, though, that until just recently, Rehberg has been one of Bush’s biggest boosters.

(Personally, I thought that Denny’s letter had some merit, which is a scary thought. However, if Mexican truckers are allowed to use our highways, let’s hope it’s a level playing field: the same safety requirements for Mexican truckers and access for American truckers to Mexican markets. I’d also hope that Mexican truckers’ pay scales approach those of American truckers — which is something that Denny didn’t mention in his letter.

One other thing he did write [and I found amusing] was his adamant demand that Mexican truckers traveling our roads have a decent command of the English language. While this is probably not a bad idea, he didn’t say that American truckers in Mexico need to know Spanish. No quid pro quo there.)

The Learning Curve

by Rebecca Schmitz

It looks like Sweet Baby James is coming to Missoula next month. Thankfully, the Adams Center has learned its lesson from the Elton John debacle (Dare I say Ticketgate? No, too obvious.) According to the Missoulian’s Jamie Kelly,

The wristband strategy is out, having been an utter disaster for Missoula’s upcoming Elton John concert. The Adams Center will have 800 tickets, available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The other three ticket outlets – Worden’s Market, Southgate Mall and the Source in the University Center – will share 750 tickets. Those 1,550 tickets are guaranteed to be sold at the venues, said Marlene Hendrickson, adviser for UM Productions, which is producing the concert.

Great! It’s what they should have been doing all along, but it’s nice to see the folks at Adams Center got it right just in time for the next big act. Now they’ll be all ready for Eric Clapton or David Bowie if either happen to stop in Montana next year.

GoodTourists

by Rebecca Schmitz

I get to travel around the state as part of my job, and because of that I’m in Bozeman tonight. Earlier this evening, I had dinner at a wonderful restaurant, Ferraro’s Fine Italian on North 7th.* Right next to me sat a table of tourists, two elderly couples well into their 70s. The women wore matching sweater sets and pearls, the men dress slacks and patterned button-down shirts: fly rods, trout, reels. The shirts must have been purchased specifically for roughing it in Montana. Why else would you wear a cliché? My eavesdropping met the volume of their voices halfway, because even though they talked about their homes in Florida, their accents and noisy enthusiasm betrayed an origin farther north. Conversation moved easily from mutual friends back in the Sunshine State to favorite cruise lines, the best selections on the wine list, Connie Francis and Frankie Avalon. I was distracted by my luscious penne ai quattro formaggi, so I missed how and when the topic of conversation turned, but shortly I overheard the men discussing a certain ice cream parlor on 61st that used to be a “front”, time spent in Sicily, and their close friend Lucky Luciano. Whoa. Suddenly, I was sitting next to a whole other type of cliché. The wives moved the discussion away from Mr. Luciano’s legal troubles with the U.S. Government to a movie the couples had recently seen, 3:10 to Yuma. Both men agreed the original, with Glenn Ford, was much better. Why? Because, as the older and louder of the two angrily proclaimed, “They shoot the guns, and you don’t just see the gun fire. No, you see the damage caused by the bullets. You see the blood. The movies these days, they’re so gory!”

*I’m not sure why anyone would bother with Johnny Crapino’s when this restaurant is in their town. Missoula should be so lucky.

by jhwygirl

Benson’s Farm, located at the corner of 7th and Reserve, right here in the Garden City.

One of the many highlights of Misdemeanor Meadows (Ward 6) is Benson’s Farm and their luscious collection of oh-so-very-fresh vegetables that they’re practically picking them and placing them directly in your hands.

Benson’s is open daily until 6 – even on Sundays. And I either walk down or stop by on my way home from work. Many in the neighborhood do the same – there’s a certain charm to seeing your neighbor walking down the street swinging a zucchini in one hand while holding his 4 year old son’s hand with the other.

Their sweet corn is legendary – and they constantly refilling the bins as you are there selecting your perfect ear.

The selection of fresh peppers and zucchini and cucumbers and tomatoes is absolutely gorgeous. Heirloom tomatoes….and something I’ve never seen before – purple green peppers. Purple outside, green inside. Fresh broccoli, and other veggies I don’t even know the name.

Those purple peppers are in the oven now roasting with some onions and zucchini and balsamic vinegar, to be tossed with some pasta when sufficiently browned. Yum.

They’ve got $10 monstrous mum pots…but probably not for long now that I’ve mentioned them. What a deal.

But I’ve got mine – better get yours, while they last. ;-)

by jhwygirl

In a recent post on affordable housing – a rising crisis we face here in Missoula – Vice-Chair of the Missoula GOP and former candidate for House District 97 (I remember those lovely blue signs around the neighborhood – the ones that didn’t mention her party affiliation) offers her solution to a 30-year old public school teacher who can’t afford the rent in the city where she works.

Clue: Get a husband with a job, then have the kids, and live somewhere other than The City.

Nice. Now there are about 10 different things wrong with that solution, but I’ll only snipe at one: I don’t know that it is really in the best interests of the community and its children to have their teachers commuting in from other communities. I know I want my schoolteachers living in my neighborhood.

Now Missoulapolis has also come down firmly against (no surprises there) inclusionary housing. She comments in her solution-to-affordable-housing post:

I have a cousin who is an ESL teacher there and she make it only because she’s in an old rent-controlled unit and she hangs on for dear life. But the control mechanism distorts the market beyond all manageability so it’s no wonder a teacher can’t get her own place there now. The more the govt tries to manipulate the problem the worse it gets.

What conservatives don’t seem to get is that the market is already screwed. Filled with speculators – she’s even acknowledged this in another previous post – that artificially manipulate the market.

But I guess it’s OK for the private market sector to artificially manipulate the market.

Further – inclusionary housing isn’t meant to manipulate the market – it’s meant to provide economic stability and certainty to the community. The market is already screwed. And in places where it’s done, the market has been screwed for a long, long time, with no signs of reversal. It is not a knee-jerk reaction or a quick solution to a recent problem.

Mark Tokarski, a fellow curmudgeon and contributor to Montana Netroots and frequent blog commentor places this comment at an unrelated (but excellent) post of Shane Mason’s on healthcare. Just substitute the principle of healthcare for affordable housing, and Mark precisely says what I’m trying to say:

Market-based solutions are a joke, since it is the market that got us into this mess. (The market by its very definition has to avoid sick people.)

Mark and I, BTW, rarely agree.

Areas that have done it, such as Vail, Aspen and Jackson Hole – and areas that are considering it – like Whitefish – are doing it to ensure that there are enough employees around to keep business and government up and running with warm bodies. And also to help avoid having to pay policemen and teachers $100,000 a year and dishwashers $25.00 an hour. You don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out what $100,000/year teachers will do to your taxes or what $25.00/hour dishwashers will do to your restaurant bill.

Missoulapolis is also against sprawl and infill – or maybe not….her blog is filled with pieces (lately, it seems) on housing, affordable housing, real estate (boom or bust?), new subdivisions, etc. In one piece she laments the “gash on the mountain above Farviews” but in another posts she seemingly champions the $59,000 – .29 acre lots adjacent to her self-proclaimed Casa del Minjares, (as an example, perhaps, of the wealth of affordable housing opportunities available in Missoula?)

What I do see is someone who offers no solution and no insight to an issue that is very real here in Missoula.

There are many ways to get about to dealing with the problems of affordable housing – inclusionary housing, infill, and yes, in some areas willing to accept traffic and poor air quality and higher taxes – sprawl. The solution, hopefully, should be something the community should come together with…and the longer it waits, the more drastic the solution.

Missoulapolis, oddly enough, self-describes herself as a blogger with “social-con tendencies.” Shouldn’t that come with some omnipotent solution? A solution of all solutions?

And I ponder how we – people like Missoulapolis and I – can come together with the beginnings of a solution to the problem. Myself, I’d rather avoid the drastic solution – but sitting around badmouthing every possible ‘tool’ while offering nothing of substance isn’t the way to do it.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Salon.com has an interesting article today about the Bush Administration blaming the Minneapolis bridge collapse on…wait for it…bike paths.  Yes, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters claims that money wasted on bike paths nationwide, as well as other projects, could have saved those poor commuters’ lives last month.

“There are museums that are being built with that money, bike paths, trails, repairing lighthouses. Those are some of the kind of things that that money is being spent on, as opposed to our infrastructure,” she said. The secretary added that projects like bike paths and trails “are really not transportation.”

I think it’s relevant in light of the ongoing debate in Missoula about bike paths, sharing the road, traffic congestion, the Broadway Diet, and the battles in Ward Two over moving that stretch of Broadway in and out of the larger neighborhood plan created by the local residents. Most of the City Council candidates specifically addressed transportation concerns in the questionnaires published in the Missoulian. Our town has to keep traffic flowing smoothly if we want to be a regional hub with a thriving economy. However, can government officials and private citizens seriously argue that spending money on bike paths endangers commuter safety? This is my favorite quote from the Salon article:

“The guy in his Humvee taking his videos back to the video store isn’t any more legitimate a trip than the guy on the Raleigh taking his videos back,” says Andy Thornley, program director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Editing comments

by jhwygirl

Call it what you will, but as promised, I have and will continue to edit comments that use personal attacks such as name-calling. They add nothing and beget further name calling.

I let one go the other day – bothered me – and it occurred again tonight, by someone else.

Neither added substance. Both comments are edited.

Flame away as you desire – at me. I’ve even given everyone an easy place to do it.

by jhwygirl

Chief Justice John Roberts will be speaking at UM tomorrow, 2 p.m., as part of its School of Law lecture series. The lecture is free and open to the public.

In anticipation of an overflow audience, UM will also open the Music Recital Hall.

Both Montana Public Radio and Yellowstone Public Radio will broadcast live. They are also doing a rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

Both stations do web broadcasting as well – good news for those who have to work.

It’s a shame the Missoulian doesn’t have this story up on its website like both the Billings Gazette and the Great Falls Tribune do.  But I’m sure they will add it after reading this.

Support public radio. Donate to MPR. Donate to YPR.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Our man, Denver Henderson, may have gone down to defeat in the City Council primary last night, but there is an upside to these election results and it’s all in the numbers.

Ward 4

Jerry Ballas 748

Lyn Hellegaard 584

Denver Henderson 479

Alan Ault 403

Joseph Gorsh 128

Whether you voted for Denver, Lyn, Alan or Joseph, that’s 1,594 votes against Jerry Ballas. Clearly there’s some dissatisfaction with Councilman Ballas in Ward Four. Come November, how many voters who chose one of the four will vote for Lyn? How many will hold their noses and vote for Ballas? And how many will just write in Denver Henderson on the ballot?

by Jay Stevens

The results are in:

Ward 1: Jason Wiener: 63%; Justin Armintrout: 34%
Ward 2: Don Nicholson*: 48%; Pam Walzer: 37%; Dave Huerta: 15%
Ward 3: Stacy Rye*: 55%; Doug Harrison: 45%
Ward 4: Jerry Ballas*: 32%; Lyn Hellegaard: 25%; Denver Henderson: 20%; Alan Ault: 17%; Joe Gorsh: 6%
Ward 5: Renee Mitchell: 57%; Christine Prescott: 42%
Ward 6: Ed Childers*: 44%; Lewie Shcneller: 31%; Martin Guthrie: 24%
* Incumbent

Unfortunately Denver Henderson missed the cut by a hundred votes or so in the Ward 4 primary, leaving Ward 4 with Hellegaard and Ballas for the general election. Don’t blame me, folks. I supported Denver.

by Rebecca Schmitz
There are two different stories out there about the special improvement district tax, or SID, proposed for Hillview Way as reported in the Missoulian. Keila Szpaller has one version:

“I’m going to probably have to sell my house,” said Linda Frey, who has lived in the neighborhood more than 30 years and owns roughly 10 acres she never planned to develop. The Missoula City Council is considering a special improvement district, or tax, that would affect some 1,000 properties in the area. If the tax is approved, Frey said she would be hit with a $65,000 assessment. And that would price her out of a neighborhood where she planned to retire.

Personally, I know I would have a meltdown if I saw that figure on a tax bill, a credit card bill, or any kind of bill, really. The article continues:

As proposed, the tax is estimated to run property owners anywhere from $10 to $27 a month. Most principal assessments range from $1,000 to $5,000, so Frey’s cost is higher than most. Frey, however, said the assessment is calculated as though she planned to develop her acreage. One idea aired to soften the blow is a tax deferment, but Frey doesn’t believe that would help. Accruing interest would only increase the bottom line. And she said like many people, her home is her only asset.

When I first read this, I was angry for Frey. Who’s walking or biking up Hillview Way on a regular basis? $65,000? Are they kidding me? What are people on limited incomes supposed to do? But then the latest edition of Ward Three Councilman Bob Jaffe’s Missoulagov Digest appeared in my e-mail inbox. Councilman Jaffe has another version of the Hillview Way SID.

Linda Frey’s situation is exactly what we were concerned about when we created the deferment program for this project. If she has no plans to develop her property she will never pay a dime towards this SID. She owns ten acres up on the hill. If she does plan to develop in the future the sale of a single 5400 square foot lot will pay off her obligation along with any interest accrued. The statement that she never plans to build but isn’t interested in the deferment because it accrues interest does not make sense to me. The interest is only of consequence if she develops. But at that time there would be an awful lot of money on the table and this would be only one of a number of significant infrastructure investments she would have to make. I would guess developing ten acres of hillside property to city standards would come with at least a million dollars of infrastructure improvements (at least at the rates the City pays for everything). The $65,000 towards Hillview way needs to be kept in perspective.

The article really could have used a more balanced presentation of the deferment program. The council is very concerned about the SID driving the conversion of open space property. I believe we have come up with a fair solution.

Another thing that came out in committee was that the bike lanes do not come at any extra cost since that space is needed for a breakdown lane anyway. Its just an extra stripe of paint. Also keep in mind that there is a school at the top of this hill. There is no reason kids can’t walk to school when they live close by just because there is a four or five percent grade. Hell, its only up hill one way.

The article reads as if the author’s intent is to foment a sense that the city is out to ruin people. Right up there with police and fire is the city’s obligation to build and maintain infrastructure. None of these essential services come cheap.

Bob Jaffe

Many years ago, I received a degree in history from the University of Montana. Linda Frey, as in Professor Linda Frey, Ph.D. of the history department, is a brilliant teacher. I never took any classes from her–her field is early modern Europe and mine was the American West–but I have a few close friends and fellow history grads who consider her one of their mentors. I can’t imagine Dr. Frey got her facts wrong. I’m sure Councilman Jaffe knows what he’s talking about. That leaves one corporate newspaper responsible for not getting both sides of this story.

by Pete Talbot

That’s what some of the conservative bloggers say could happen with Missoula’s new mail-in ballots.

So I thought I’d check with Vickie Zeier, Missoula County’s Clerk and Recorder/Treasurer, to see what the county was doing to stop these nefarious ballot fraudsters.

First, the election judges down at the courthouse check the signature on the every ballot’s return envelope against the signature on the voter’s registration card. If there are any discrepancies, the ballot goes to a supervisor. If the supervisor still has concerns, the signatures are compared by a handwriting expert. If that expert can’t verify the signatures’ authenticity, the voter is called to find out what’s going on.

And the biggest fraud so far for those few ballots that the experts couldn’t verify? Usually a wife submitting a ballot for an out-of-town husband, or vice-versa. Those ballots are voided and the errant spouse must then go down to the elections office if they want to vote.

Other conservative concerns were the large number of ballots that were returned because the registered voter no longer lived at that address. I’m not sure I follow the logic here. You’d think that would be good news — that ballots weren’t being delivered or forwarded to folks that don’t live at that specific residence anymore.

And as Zeier points out, this is a university town, where 10-15,000 people move in any given year.

Finally, only twenty judges are needed to handle the new mail-in ballot system. Compare that to the 600 judges that are needed for the old system (in other words, polling places all over the city). Which do you think has a greater chance for error?

I don’t know what it is about the Republican’s penchant for making it more difficult for people to vote. Known as the Brad Johnson syndrome, things like same-day voter registration and mail-in ballots seem to trigger the knee-jerk response: “fraud!” I guess these folks just don’t like the people’s participation in elections. For some background on voter fraud accusations by the Republicans, go to these stories at Left in the West.

I’d like to link readers to one of the conservative blog sites, Scoop Montana, that is espousing the fraud mantra but it recently went to “invite only” status. Now this could be just a mistake or some administration problem (Lord knows, these things happen). Or it could be the conservative aversion to informed comment and debate (that certainly happens, too). So you can try linking and I’ll keep trying to access the site, and I’ll gladly post a correction if Scoop Montana becomes available to everyone again.

‘Scoop’ also said that the mail-in ballots probably wouldn’t increase turnout. As of today, about 20 percent of registered voters had mailed in ballots. The county elections department is hoping for a 30 percent turnout by the end of election day. That’s pitifully low but way better than the eight percent (or less) that usually vote in these types of elections.

Last but not least, a PSA. There are five drop-off sites for your ballots around town that will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Tuesday. They are: Cold Springs School, Paxson School, Russell School, Rattlesnake School and Hellgate Elementary School. You have to take your ballot there, they won’t have ballots for you.

You can also drop off your ballot at the elections department at the county courthouse, and if you’re registered to vote but can’t find your ballot, you can pick one up there. You can also register to vote, and vote! The elections department is in the courthouse annex (best accessed via Pine St.) and is also open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. DON’T FORGET YOUR ID IF YOU’RE PICKING UP A BALLOT OR REGISTERING.

UPDATE: Scoop Montana is back. Here’s the explanation for the “invite only” status at the site yesterday:

“The Scoop apologies for taking what I will only explain as an unexpected hiatus.  For the last 24 hours, I converted the site to allow registered visitor only.  Welcome back. No registration needed.”

Then, in the comment section, he wrote this:

“I’ve taken the day off to think about the ethics of blogging. No joke. Some day I’ll write more about it…”

I’m looking forward to that day, seriously. We all need a little introspection from time-to-time.

But here’s the main post (from Scoop Montana) that I used to springboard into my piece above.

Just a reminder folks to get your ballots to the County Courthouse by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. In order for your vote to count, you must have your ballot at the courthouse by 8 – that means that if you haven’t gotten it into the mail yet, the best bet at getting your vote counted is to hand-deliver it there.

Take time to ask your friends if they have voted – as long as the ballot envelope is sealed, you can deliver their ballot also.

It’s an important primary – Wards 2 & 6 are three-way races and Ward 4 is a four-way in which one of the candidates is going to have to go.

Ward 2 candidates are Pam Walzer, Dave Huerta and Don Nicholson.

In Ward 4, the candidates are Denver Henderson, Lyn Hellegaard, Jerry Ballas and Alan C. Ault

Finally, in Ward 6 candidates are Ed Childers, Marty Guthrie and Lewis Schneller.

Let’s make sure we have two good candidates to choose from – don’t let this primary go by and risk loosing the best candidate because you forgot to get your vote out for Ed Childers, Denver Henderson or Pam Walzer.




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