Archive for October 26th, 2007

For the war?

by Pete Talbot

I saw the small display ad only once this week on Page B2 of Tuesday’s Missoulian. It’s asking folks to vote against municipal ballot Referendum 2007-01 (otherwise known as the Out-of-Iraq Referendum).

To me, this is the quintessential Missoula ballot issue and says a lot about what this town is all about.

So the ad caught my eye. It was paid for by “Missoula Supports U.” The ad also names the councilmen and women who voted to put the referendum on the ballot. It reads:

Referendum 2007-01 supported by Childers, Jaffe, Kendall, Marler, Rye, and Strohmaier demands the immediate and orderly withdrawal of 138,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. The immediate withdrawal of a force this large will not be orderly. It will be chaotic. Passage of this referendum will endanger our soldiers’ lives. Vote against the referendum. Protect our troops through a gradual withdrawal.”

The ad raises a number of questions. The first being that the language in the ad is very similar to the language in the referendum:

“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 only difference between the two versions is semantics: immediate v. gradual. Both sides want the troops out in a safe and orderly manner. The ad just doesn’t say when.

Another question would be: why would you name the members of council who helped put the referendum on the ballot? Is this ad targeting the referendum, or some councilmen and women who are up for re-election, or both? What’s the real issue?

My final question is: who paid for the ad? The small type on the bottom of the ad lists “Missoula Supports U.” These folks don’t have a treasurer but named Dennis Gordon is the contact person.

So I gave Mr. Gordon a call. We had a very civil conversation and this is what I learned. It seems like his biggest concern is the referendum’s language; that having both an “immediate” and “orderly” withdrawal is an oxymoron, he said. He believes that there are “strong indications that large sections of the country are being pacified” and that the Iraq Army could begin taking over responsibilities.

We agreed to disagree on the success of the surge, and the reasons to leave now or later. Our common ground was the safety of U.S. troops.

He said that “several other folks — a like minded group” were behind the campaign. He admits that by naming council members who supported the referendum made it “a political ad,” but then “it’s a political issue.”

“Missoula Supports U” isn’t registered with Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practice. Now, I’m all for freedom of speech, but if more than a couple people are going negative on a referendum and certain council members, they need to register as a PAC [MCA 13-1-101 (18)]. Folks like me might want to know who’s paying for the advertising, but I’m not going to nitpick over campaign laws.

I respect Mr. Gordon’s position and I believe we want the same thing. I just want it sooner than later.  I can’t follow his thought process that leaving the troops there longer is in their best interests.

Opponents to the referendum have done a decent job of sprinkling goofy dust on the notion of a city weighing in on the war. The main argument being that it isn’t the city’s business to get involved in worldly affairs. Council should just take care of filling potholes in the summer and plowing the streets in the winter.

But this is a moral town, despite what the far right says. Citizens should take every opportunity to give their opinion on the Iraq War. I sincerely hope that Missoula voters add their voice to the growing number of cities and towns that want the troops out, pronto.

If you haven’t sent in your ballot yet, you can still…

Help end the war. Please vote ‘yes’ on Referendum 2007-01.

(Postscript: Helena is running a similar referendum and my sources there say it looks like it will pass. Even the Helena Independent-Record, not known for having a particularly progressive editorial stance, endorsed the referendum. Missoula’s Independent endorsed it here but not a peep from the Missoulian.)

by jhwygirl

1 – City Council has been so divisive for what seems forever. Why do you still want to be on City Council?

My service on the City Council has been interesting and challenging. I’ve had the good fortune to be on the prevailing side on most issues most of the time I’ve been on the Council, and I’ve seen the city grow and prosper.

Looking back, compromise has been the hallmark of everything that’s been accomplished, and there’s been a lot. The civic stadium, new policy toward maintenance of conservation land, accommodating a second judge and expanded court facilities, new Council Chambers and MRA offices, aquatics, continued provision of good services to Missoulians as costs rise, the West Broadway safety issue, new Tax Increment districts, the St. Pat’s/Safeway deal, new and replacement fire stations, everything that’s been accomplished has been the result of discussion and compromise. A portion of the Council, let’s say about 1/3, often stakes out positions from which compromise doesn’t seem to be possible; that’s unfortunate, because constructive participation in the process is way better than the alternative.

2 – How much time a week do you spend on City Council business?

I don’t keep track of that. I go to lots of meetings, do lots of reading, looking at project proposals, trying to solve people’s problems and answer their questions. Thankfully there’s e-mail and digital documents. I can imagine trying to hold down a full-time job, or two and trying to do Council work. I don’t think I could do nearly as much Council work as I do now.

3 – If you could have your druthers – and knew that everyone on council would want to compromise and come up with a solution where at least 3/4 of them would agree – what three issues would you tackle first? And in what order?

The Chamber of Commerce, asked a similar question, which was, if money was no object, what would you make Broadway look like. I gave them a great pie-in-the-sky answer which they apparently disliked. It’s too bad, because it was a great answer.

Which brings me to this question. I’d like to be able to answer it, but I just can’t, because so much of what needs to be done in Missoula depends on outside funding, action by the state legislature, whether the economy stays strong, and so forth. I would like to have more emphasis on things that need to be done, such as a public safety building and a new city/county library and Russell-Third and a good look at what the west-of-Reserve-Street area will look like and more traffic calming and such; and less emphasis on who e-mailed what to whom.

4 – What candidates are you endorsing and why?

Stacy Rye, Christine Prescott.

Stacy’s been a forward-looking proponent and supporter of most policies and projects that have proved beneficial to Missoula. She’s smart and dedicated.

Christine says she will be thoughtful and objective and positive, and do things that are in the best interest of Missoula in the long run. Her training and background indicate that she’ll follow through.

5 – Ward 6 is greatly lacking in infrastructure – poor roads, few sidewalks or bike lanes – while having some pretty major traffic routes – 3rd Street, Russell, Johnson, Mount – what can the city do to help ease the financial burden to homeowners, especially when infrastructure improvements on these major traffic routes will benefit citizens throughout the City of Missoula?

Funding is going to continue to be largely a do-it-yourself thing, unless the City puts new funding mechanisms in place.

By “do-it-yourself,” I mean sidewalks and curbs will continue to be paid for by adjacent property owners, same as always; major local street and alley improvements such as paving unpaved streets and alleys will be paid for through SIDs. Members of the Franklin to the Fort Neighborhood Council are actively pursuing installation of sidewalks on some main internal streets so at least kids can have sidewalks to use on their way to and from Franklin School and to the Good Food Store. They’ve polled residents and applied for CDBG funds to assist lower-income residents. Arterials such as Russell and Third qualify for other funding; we have a very limited supply of “Urban Funds” that gets allocated through the Transportation Infrastructure Plan. That Plan is under review right now.

6 – You supported the war referendum resolution. Can you talk about why you think that supporting it was the right thing to do?

Stacy & Bob carried the referendum, and they asked for my support. I thought, this thing can’t possibly be viewed negatively, all it says is, authorize and fund a safe withdrawal. It doesn’t even say Get Out!, just “authorize and fund a safe withdrawal.” How could there be opposition to that? After all, the Iraqis had done nothing to us before we invaded and occupied their country, and the US had supplied Saddam with a huge supply of weapons to use in his war against Iran.

I didn’t realize when we voted to let Missoulians vote on the referendum that 2 out of 5 Americans are still convinced that Saddam attacked the United States in 2001.

I didn’t realize that a referendum to authorize etc. was going to stoke fires that were kindled during the Vietnam era. I came close to losing some good friends over my vote, and may in fact have lost one that I continue to respect.

If I’d anticipated that, would I still have voted for the referendum? Maybe. Maybe not.

As I said in the beginning, the referendum doesn’t do much. It gives our Congressional folk something to think about when they vote, maybe that’s good, but other than that, it has no legal authority, it has no binding effect, is it really worth it? Don’t know.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Before George W. Bush moves on to his next war, his countrymen should have a chance to send a message about the direction of the the current one. Missoula has that opportunity this election with the Iraq War referendum. Opponents of the referendum dismiss it as a waste of the city’s time, and tell us that foreign policy issues are best handled by our Congressional delegation. I disagree. Change needs to start somewhere. Why shouldn’t it begin at the local level? If we don’t stand up and say “NO” to our President how can we honestly expect the same of anyone else at any level of government? Free speech is never a waste of time, especially when lives are on the line.

Mark Tokarski at Piece of Mind wrote an insightful post last week about our government’s plans for Iraq:

The U.S., Halliburton and KBR have been busy these past four years constructing fourteen bases, five of which are superbases that can house as many as 100,000 permanent troops…Congress, of course, passed a resolution forbidding permanent bases in Iraq, and in true Orwellian fashion, mere statement of noble intent covers up a whole lot of ignoble plundering. Of course the bases are temporary. They are only meant to last thirty or forty years – long enough to extract the oil wealth out of the country.

These bunker-cities are big business. War profiteering has become rampant in Iraq. Among the worst offenders is the former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (now known officially as KBR). The November issue of Vanity Fair magazine has an expose of KBR’s activities:

KBR’s current military-support contract is known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or logcap. This is the contract’s third incarnation, and, like its predecessors, logcap 3 is a “cost-plus” contract: whatever KBR spends, the government agrees to reimburse, with the addition of a fee of about 3 percent. The more the company spends, the more it makes, so it pays to be profligate. All the former employees I spoke to told of KBR’s over-ordering equipment such as computers, generators, and vehicles on an epic scale. Millions of dollars’ worth of equipment was left to rot in yards in the desert.

Frankly, it’s disheartening to read such things. It’s hard to believe one small city in a largely rural state unblessed by the fruits of the Electoral College can make a difference. Who cares what Montana thinks? That’s what the opponents of the Iraq War referendum would have you believe. Maybe I’m a hopeless idealist, but I think Missoula’s opinion does matter. Small towns and cities across the nation are taking a stand against George W. Bush’s bleak vision of America’s future: a series of metropolis-bunkers spanning the globe providing endless profit for the well-connected few. Unfortunately, few elected representatives can find the courage to stand up to the war profiteers and their supporters in the Bush Administration and Congress. Therefore, it’s time we did. Maybe only then will they finally listen to us.

Vote YES on Missoula’s Iraq War Referendum.

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