Archive for October 22nd, 2007

by Jay Stevens

Jason Wiener: Philosopher, journalist, editor, former investment banker, and friend.

I should start off by acknowledging that Jason Wiener is a friend. We shared an office when I was in the University’s writing program and he was in the philosophy department, and are still pretty close. Well…as close as you can be when you’ve got three-year-old twins.

That said, Jason is an excellent candidate for the city council. I don’t say that because of any ideological or partisan allegiance: while Jason won the endorsement of the Missoula County Democrats and endorsements from folks like John Engen and Heidi Kendall and Dave Strohmeier and Robin Hamilton and Ron Erickson, etc & co, Jason is utterly and completely his own man with his own, unique view of the world. He started out as a New Hampshire libertarian – and oh man! did we have some fun conversations in our cramped little office – but he’s since adopted some progressive ideas and policies. Still, he’s hardly what I would call a typical progressive candidate. If anything, I’d call him practical, in that he’s wickedly informed on city policies and issues and will make decisions on what works for Missoula, not necessarily what subscribes to his pet ideology.

In short, you won’t find a smarter, more competent choice for the Missoula city council anywhere.

As for his opponent, Justin Armintrout, I admit I know considerably less. Still, like Jason, he’s an advocate of smart growth and affordable housing, and a Democrat — who failed to win the Missoula County Democrats’ endorsement largely because he missed the candidates’ forum (and the subsequent special meeting held for him failed to achieve a quorum). And that’s despite the kiss of death levied on him by Missoula Republicans, an endorsement by their county central committee.

But like Pete, I’m troubled by Justin’s opposition to impact fees and his claim that the city department that oversees zoning, etc, is overfunded – that, combined with his background as a realtor, makes me worried that he’d be too closely allied with Missoula developers in a city where we need smarter planning to control how growth occurs. (Else we’ll end up – not like Berkeley or Portland, as Missoula righties fear – but like LA or Vegas or Phoenix with suburbs and box stores spread out over the valley floor.)

And, while I certainly find Armintrout’s fears that Jason’s relationship with the Missoula Independent might compromise its endorsement for the Ward 1 race, his walkout during his interview suggests that he’s not ready to step into the contention and divisiveness of the current city council, where qualities of civility and diplomacy are perhaps more called for. Justin had a chance to win over the Independent and sabotaged it.

That, and Jason’s been the harder working and more organized candidate during the election season, and I’ve got no doubt that that energy and dedication will continue into his job as Ward 1’s city council representative.

Here are the relevant links:

Foward Montana’s voter guide for Ward 1.

New West’s interviews with Jason Wiener and Justin Armintrout.

The Missoulian profiles Jason Wiener (plus video) and Justin Armintrout (plus video).

The Missoula Independent on Ward 1: “After paring away the extraneous relationships with each candidate, the Indy confidently offers a strong endorsement of Wiener. For a newcomer to city politics, he’s unusually well informed, with a solid understanding of the fundamental issues. But we especially appreciate his thoughtful perspective on a councilman’s role as a leader who must translate community values into specific policy. For Wiener, the function of council is to listen and lead, as opposed to thrust and parry.”

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