Archive for November 11th, 2007

Bookworms Rejoice

by Rebecca Schmitz

Earlier this week, Jay posted about the news that warmed the hearts of bookworms like myself all over Missoula: the sale of Fact & Fiction to the UM Bookstore. Fact & Fiction is one of three fantastic bookstores here. The other two are the Book Exchange and Shakespeare & Co., of course. (Unfortunately, I think I only have ten cents left in credit at the former. I need to trade in more books.) That’s why I’m very pleased to learn the folks at Shakespeare & Co. began their own blog last month. I read many of the posts earlier today. Thanks to them I discovered one of my favorite authors, Michael Chabon, has a new book on the shelves. I’m adding their site to our rather large blogroll there on the left because they also write about local neighborhood news. If you enjoy reading either books or blogs as much as I do, it’s well worth a visit.

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by jhwygirl

Titled Envision Missoula, the Missoula Office of Planning & Grants Transportation Division is conducting meetings to help the community voice its desire for how transportation decisions will shape our community.

Three workshops will be held this week at the University Center, Ballroom North – Tuesday and Wednesday night, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. and Thursday from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. (to accomodate those who utilize public transportation.)

Dear Missoula Resident:
I am writing to personally invite you to take part in the Envision Missoula Long Range Transportation Plan workshops sponsored by the City of Missoula and Missoula County. Through Envision Missoula we will decide how hundreds of millions of dollars for new roads, transit, and trails over the coming decades could be spent wisely and how these investments might encourage the types of places that we want in Missoula. The workshop will be a fun interactive process in which you will brainstorm ideas on a map in a small group. With the participation of citizens, we will know what ideas people would like to see explored. The results of the workshops will culminate in a set of “What If” scenarios, pictures of what Missoula might be like. In February, citizen reaction to these scenarios will help us understand which transportation and development ideas are most supported.

Please RSVP for one workshop with Mirtha Becerra at the Missoula County Office of Planning and Grants. She may be reached at (406) 258-4989 or at mbecerra@co.missoula.mt.us. We need the RSVPs to plan the workshop materials and light refreshments. We need your voice as we begin to think about the future of our county, and hope that you will plan on attending one of these events. For more information visit: http://www.co.missoula.mt.us/Transportation

Don’t miss these meeting folks. Transportation has a symbiotic relationship with our quality of life. The actions and plans we take now with regards to transportation will drive (no pun intended) the community we have in the future.

Contact Mirtha Becerra at 258-4989 and let her know you will be attending.

by jhwygirl

Are Special Improvement Districts dead in Missoula? That’s the talk, at least this week, in city hall.

In a foreboding statement during Tuesday night’s planning board meeting, board member Wayne Chamberlain made the prediction during a philosophical discussion on SID’s during the hearing for the Clark Fork Terrace #2 subdivision.

The discussion centered on some members discontent with the city’s requirement of an SID waiver on the plat – and the fairness of requiring the waiver, when certain developers were required to make improvements, and how the last developer in line benefits from the infrastructure of others.

Then on Wednesday, during the Public Works committee hearing and lengthy discussions on the Hillview Way SID and the proposed deferral program, Jon Wilkins made a motion to deny the city’s 542nd SID. Surprisingly, after what Ward 2 councilman Bob Jaffe described as a “challenging discussion”, the SID was denied, 7-1, with Ward 6’s Ed Childers being the lone “nay” for denial.

There’s lots to be said about SID’s, their future, the pros, the cons – and you can read this interesting discussion at Jaffe’s MissoulaGov listserv.

One of the things that have been pondered – one of the first things I thought of – was this: What about all the previous SID’s? Do we refund that money? How does the city move towards a new funding system?

I wonder how we will prioritize these SID’s? Roadway and transportation improvements are slow in coming to begin with – now do we have to deal with politics when it comes to what neighborhood sees improvement first? He/She who yells loudest?

IF city SID’s are dead – and this would be a pretty unusual move as SID’s are a tool used by communities all over the state – Missoula is going to have to place greater pressure on local and federal legislatures for state and federal funding $. They’ll have to institute some sort of gas tax (yep, a new tax folks) , and utilize more of our already stretched general funds to get projects done.

Anyone want to believe that anyone on council is going to want to vote for a new tax? Hell, Engen suggested a nominal sales tax 2 years ago and that idea went over well. Like a rock falling in one. {plop}

I found one exchange particularly interesting during the Public Works committee hearing. Public Works Director Steve King was asked to explain how a 100 unit senior living unit could be taxed the same as Mrs. X’s undeveloped property. He explained that the SID is assessed based on the development potential of the property – so Mrs. X’s property was large enough to support the same level of development as that of the senior living unit.

He went on to explain further – that SID’s had to be that way, as there had to be some way of evenly assessing for the needed improvements.

City Administrator Bruce Bender stepped in at some point, as King was being barraged by questions by Dick Haines.

Bender: (paraphrased) “This is the way it has been done. This method has been used all over the state, and it is legally defensible. It is fair…..What you are suggesting, I think, amounts to the City playing banker for developers – and I don’t think you want to get into that.”

Haines quickly replied to Bender’s “I don’t think you want to get into that” with this: “I’m not sure that I agree with you.”

So what was Haines saying? That the city should be playing banker and subsidizing development? Development – residential in this case – is in such dire shape in this community that taxpayer dollars are needed to help out?

More importantly, is Haines saying that instead of developers paying for the infrastructure burden that it places on the community, new home buyers should directly pay for it by picking up the tab along with the new mortgage that they take on upon purchase?

Nice.

Look for an interesting discussion tomorrow night. City Council meetings are on MCAT – and this might be one you won’t want to miss. I’d like to think, before they kill SID’s all together that they at least take an honest attempt at lining up and assessing funding sources and the potential amounts of cash that’ll be available.

And how much they’ll need to add in new taxes, community wide.

by Rebecca Schmitz

While you’re taking a few moments today to commemorate Veterans’ Day (and let’s hope it’s not merely at the sale in the shoe department at Macy’s), think about some of the sacrifices–on our part–that could be made to prevent future wars of choice from happening. Some Montana veterans did just that this past week when they wrote a letter to the House of Representatives. In the name of patriotism, they urged our Congressmen to pass a law that would force the American auto industry to improve fuel efficiency.

“Our continued dependence on oil constitutes an immediate threat to our national security – economically, militarily and diplomatically,” the 26 veterans said in their letter to members of Congress. “Increasing fuel efficiency for cars and trucks is the most effective and efficient manner to decrease that dependence.”

The technology to do this is already here. Other countries’ cars already meet and exceed the standard proposed in the bill before Congress: 35 mph. And they do it right now, not at some future date like 2020. Detroit knows full well it can meet this pitiful thirteen-year deadline, too. For instance, we’ve been hearing about the Chevy Volt, its own hybrid concept car, for nearly a year now. As these Montana veterans know, fuel efficiency should be the cornerstone of America’s foreign policy. Wars of choice, like Iraq, will only multiply as our fossil fuel-dependent nation struggles to globally control a finite resource. That’s just what our future holds until, at the very least, we start making and driving cars that conserve oil and gas. It’s time we demanded our government-subsidized private industries, like the Big Three, do something now that helps our energy independence in years to come. It’s the patriotic thing to do.

More violence in Missoula

by jhwygirl

These attacks are so vile, I am ashamed for my community.

Two attacks last weekend, one on a 29-year old woman, another on a 22-year old male, were both accompanied by anti-gay epitaphs and slurs.

These violent attacks have been occurring for years. Yet little pro-active outreach seems to being done. A liason officer was created to reach out to the gay community.

Maybe that outreach is misguided. Maybe education need to be outreached through the university and our high schools? To people who obviously aren’t being raised correctly by their parents and other significant adults?

The City police have said that these attacks aren’t increasing.

Another violent attack on two men, near the Hip Strip left two men with serious injuries – one with injuries likely to deform his face permanently.

Not all of these violent attacks have been anti-gay motivate – in September of 2005, Iraqi war veteran, Marine corporal Travis Barstad was nearly killed in a violent attack just off of Higgins Avenue, downtown. His friend, Seth Whitfield, an Army Ranger and decorated Iraqi war veteran was also assaulted.

Yet another Iraqi war veteran – who also served in Kosovo – was violently assaulted also, downtown.

Last weeks second attack, on the 22-year old guy, only came to light during an interview by Tristan Scott, of the Missoulian, of the female attack victim.

Makes you wonder what you don’t hear about.

by jhwygirl

Why would a community that already has a lack of affordable housing for its median wage households ($54,500/year for a household of 4) welcome a resort that will make few rich and increase the demand for minimum wage workers? Seasonally?

What will that do to the small businesses in the valley that rely on minimum wage employees?

I guess we need to all resign ourselves to inclusionary housing regulations – ‘cause that’s what happened in Vail and Aspen, and Jackson Hole.

Whitefish and Kalispell are working on the same. Bozeman too, as I hear it.

Yep, let’s sit on by and watch the high-paying wages of Stimson go bye-bye, and instead let’s have the Missoula Area Economic Development Corporation (MAEDC) help fund slanted economic studies to tell us what we already know – that we’ll get lots of expensive homes and 1000’s of seasonal minimum wage jobs.

To be fair – that study was privately funded too – and my guess is that the better part of the $ for that study came from hopeful developer Tom Maclay himself.

More misguided economic development. Lovely.




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