Archive for October 11th, 2007

by Rebecca Schmitz

It’s been a long time since the words “packed house” and “Huey Lewis” have appeared in the same article, but that’s just what happened Wednesday. The state’s Supreme Court heard the arguments in the infamous case that pitches Montana sportsmen against local landowners. They hinged on the definition of “natural”.

Lawyers for those who want public access to the slough, which flows through private farmland south of Stevensville, said Wednesday that just because a river or stream has been manipulated by man does not exempt it the state’s stream access law. If so, many waterways and major rivers would be exempt. “There is no such thing as natural in the Bitterroot Valley anymore,” said lawyer Jack Tuholske. Lawyers for the landowners countered that the slough is really like an irrigation ditch, displaying sketches, photographs and aerial views of the slough as evidence. “Recreationalists get to recreate on natural waterways, that’s the deal,” said lawyer John Warren.

I think we can all agree that the floor of the Bitterroot Valley is one of Montana’s most heavily manipulated and developed landscapes. Beginning with the Big Ditch and the apple orchard boom of the 1900s and 1910s up to today’s healthy crop of McMansions, the Bitteroot has long since ceased to be completely “natural”. The right lawyer could argue almost any body of water in this area isn’t natural. A decision in the landowners’ favor would open the door to other waters being placed off-limits to the public. Then we all lose. If Lewis wins his case, Montana’s fishermen might just have to start singing another song, like, “I Want a New Court”.

by Jay Stevens

So the Missoula city council has agreed to ban the use of email during meetings, except when publicly announced and for council business – sending links to pertinent documents, etc. Apologies were made, jokes exchanged, a chicken dance performed to ease tensions.

Okay, they didn’t do a chicken dance.

Personally I think this “agreement” is an abomination. For starters, I want my city council members to send email! The more abusive, the better! IMHO, the emails add a little spice to otherwise dreary hours of zoning debate. Here’s my advice: keep the emails going, but don’t keep them secret! Each council member should have a monitor – viewable by the public – displaying the contents of each and every email they send and receive during council debates. After the meeting, members could be judged on the wit and originality of content, and prizes could be given out.

And what about the other forms of communication? Dick Haines, for one, has vowed to keep whispering and passing notes to other council members during meetings – even if they ignore him! Jerry Ballas is obviously tapping out Morse code messages with his fingers during meetings, and what about Don Nicholson’s paranormal communications? These things must be monitored, or stopped.

If we put our minds together, we could come up with other stunts that could make our city council more entertaining. For example, the council always seems to be gridlocked: why not break ties with team hot-dog eating contests? Perhaps public spoken comments should be replaced by miming. That way it’ll be easier for some of the council members to ignore the public and greatly aid Nicholson’s efforts to communicate paranormally.

*Sigh* I’ll miss these halcyon days of email and vitriol….

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