Archive for October 28th, 2007

by jhwygirl

I can’t help but to consider my vote with some trepidation. I, and many, are weary of the infighting and mud slinging that has been the norm on council for more than 5 years. There are important issues that Missoula faces, and the ongoing battles draw energy away from finding answers to those problems.

Problems like traffic and congestion, alternative transportation, growth, development, affordable housing.

Instead we’re resurfacing discussions on roundabouts where city funds have been dedicated years ago.

We can’t adjust simple every-day fees, as the city is required to do annually, because it continues to be sent back to committee.

Why must everything be sent back to committee? Can we not just vote on it, and move on?

There were golden years to council – a time when General Comments from Council Members was used to wish a councilperson Happy Birthday or to announce an upcoming non-profit fundraiser, but now it regularly degrades to personal attacks and snipes on other council members regarding past votes.

Missoulians can wait no longer. Growth. Affordable Housing. Transportation. Sprawl. These are all topics that virtually all of us agree need to be discussed in a search for solutions.

With each election, it seems we end up flip-flopping the elected alderperson – trading one camp in one ward for another camp in another ward.

It’s time that we, the voters, decide that enough is enough – that we want a council that will work together – a council that is willing to listen and discuss and search for answers. We need to look a the bigger picture, together.

We can’t do that merely by casting our vote. In the search for democracy and representation, voters have gotten lazy – at all levels, from local on up through the federal level. We can not expect to cast our vote and walk away from the process.

Today’s government is easily accessible – there is email and regular mail, there is the phone. We – YOU – have a voice. You can not expect, with the complexity of issues at hand, to cast your vote and expect to be happy with the results.

Our leaders need our help. They need our input. Democracy is diluted when only a few choose to participate.

It’s time to quit laying blame with the politician.

When you choose your vote for councilperson, consider all of the above – and look for the candidate that recognizes the issues and shows a desire to address them. A candidate that offers solutions instead of complaining about the past. Someone with a vision for a better Missoula. Someone who offers substance instead of snipes.

And after you’ve done that, keep their email handy, follow the issues, and let them know what you expect them to do for you. Whether you’ve voted for them or not, they represent you – and you need to remind them of that.

Without casting your well-thought vote and following-through after the election, you are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

by jhwygirl

Note: Pam’s opponent is councilman Don “Just say NO” Nicholson”

1. City council has been divisive for what seems forever. Why do you want the job?

Sometimes I wonder myself. In the end, I hope to help change the environment on Council. Many (about half) of the current members are willing to listen, learn, and compromise. Some, and my opponent is one of them, appear to believe what they believe and there is no changing their minds (except during campaign time). I plan to be a part of the solution, to end the extremism and work towards coming to understandings. I anticipate arriving at many solutions with a different answer than my initial opinion. Maybe I’m watching too much football, but I hope to approach Council as a team. We each have ideas, knowledge, and skill sets that are different from each other. Rather than being combative, we have the opportunity to use each other as resources. Idealistic? Yes – but if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to run, let alone serve.

2. What is the most important issue you’d want to deal with it – and can you offer some specific ideas on how to tackle that issue?

There are several very important issues facing Missoula that I would like to deal with once elected, mostly coming under the umbrella of managing our growth. One of the problems under that big umbrella I can offer some specific ideas on is traffic. The entire City has had traffic issues for a very long time. It seems everyone has to get to the other side of the river. But just because Missoula has always had issues with traffic and confusing streets and intersections, doesn’t mean that is the way it should remain.

Ward 2 has probably more than its fair share of traffic issues, namely North Reserve and West Broadway. The traffic issue is complex and involves understanding why cars are on any given road and what has caused the numbers to increase and become unmanageable. Is it because an enormous housing development grew within the last 5 years off of Flynn Lane and the residents need to travel on North Reserve and/or West Broadway to get to work? Is it because housing is too expensive within city limits, forcing people to commute from the south or west to work in Missoula? Or is it simply that the traffic lights need to have their timing adjusted to accommodate a change in traffic flow?

A problem I would like to address is how to get people out of their cars. As a person who travels around Missoula primarily via a single occupancy vehicle, I have done a lot of soul searching for some answers. The first and easiest would be to continue to improve our bike/pedestrian transportation system. Each car, or car trip, that is replaced by a bike is one less at the traffic signal.

The next is to improve our bus system. Mountain Line is a good start for a city of our size, but not good enough for a city of our needs. We need to move towards “premier” service. The bus needs to reach most neighborhoods and business destinations and be much more timely. I have heard many people say that they would only take the bus if the timing were better. When I attended UM, it was faster to ride the bus than try to drive to school and find a parking space. But to return in the afternoon, it was faster for me to walk the 45 minutes home than to wait for the bus. I would like to be able to take the bus to the different schools I substitute in, but again, the timing is off – I would have to arrive very early and wait quite a while for a return.

We also need more park and ride options for neighborhoods where it is not appropriate for the bus to travel, such as Grant Creek. Once we have improved our internal system, we can then work on reducing the commuter vehicular traffic, whether it is light rail from the Bitterroot or extending commuter bus service to Lolo and Frenchtown. After all, it is unreasonable to expect commuters to use some sort of mass transit to get to Missoula and not offer them a means of efficiently moving throughout the city?

All of this is nice, but many people have asked how could we fund the increased service, knowing that ridership fares do not pay the entire cost of service. I believe that if we did a true cost analysis, (cost of roads not built and less maintenance for those in existence, lower personal automotive expenses, less accidents, less traffic enforcement, less air pollution, etc.) we would find that a quality public transportation system is affordable.

A much more complex tool for reducing traffic is to plan growth in a way that reduces traffic. That means denser future development with all ranges of housing options available within the development and with multiuse designed within, whether it is for services or employment. The goal would be to reduce the need for people to get into their cars to drive across the city for work, school, shopping, or recreation.

3. You’ve mentioned that you’d like to lobby the legislature for growth management tools – What tools for growth management would you like to see from the State legislature?

One tool we desperately need is alternative funding sources. As a city, we are very limited on how we obtain funding. Other than State and Federal grants, our only sources of income are from property taxes, mil levies, SIDs and BIDs, assorted fees, and a small amount of gas tax revenue. Essentially, all we can do is tax ourselves.

Although I have heard/read many nasty comments about tollbooths, etc. from those opposed to the above, I continue to feel we need to find some way to get those who visit our city to pay for some of the services they use. Just look at the traffic on the roads coming into and going out of Missoula during morning and evening commuting times and you will appreciate how many people work in the City of Missoula who live outside of City limits and thus pay no property taxes for the maintenance of the City. These commuters increase the wear and tear on City streets and utilize City services, such as police and fire (whether they appreciate it or not), not to mention significantly increase the overall traffic count and air pollution.

In addition, we are the economic hub of much of Western Montana. Missoula businesses profit greatly from those who come to Missoula to shop, be entertained, obtain professional services. You name it, Missoula is where it’s at and people love to visit here, which is terrific…BUT — all of this visiting and spending of money does not put money into City Hall coffers to fund City infrastructure impacted by all of the visiting.

I would lobby for alternative sources of funding, such as local option sales taxes and increased local gas tax. I would be interested in any innovative funding solutions to the problem of being so popular while having to foot the bill for the party.

4. Which sitting councilperson do you admire the most? And why?

This question is the easiest, Bob Jaffe. He asks probing questions on Council and tries to understand the complexity of issues. He tries to be as thoroughly informed as possible on topics so that he can make an informed vote. He also reaches out, providing a web blog so there can be community discussions about a wide variety of issues facing the city. I appreciate him providing short summaries of City Council Committee meetings to the blog, often with background information, so that one doesn’t need to be a devoted Council meeting follower to get the basics of most of the issues before Council. I appreciate and respect Bob’s efforts to increase communication with and between Missoula’s citizens.

by jhwygirl

The Missoula County Board of Trustee is on a search for a new Superintendent…and are seeking public input on the qualities and skills that are important to you.

They’ve posted a questionnaire, which you can either fill out online, or print and mail.

Public input is being sought through December 14th.

Click Here to complete the questionnaire online.

Click Here to print it out and submit it by mail.

You can also call 728-2400, ext. 1024 to request that it be mailed to you – which might be good for lower income families that don’t have internet access, or those with elderly parents who aren’t internet savvy. So pass that information on to anyone you know.

It’s your taxdollars – don’t let this important job which helps guide the future of Missoula’s most precious resource – our children – go without input from the community.

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