Archive for February 24th, 2008

by jhwygirl

Tomorrow night, City Council will take the steps towards moving forward with very early plans for a new regional park at Fort Missoula. The consideration for tomorrow night is approval of $90,000 for design development which would provide cost estimation and a phasing plan for 25 acres of what may eventually be an 82 acre park. The plans would include a sports complex, picnic area, historic interpretations, trails, native and formal gardens and numerous other amenities. Many of this is outlined in the 2002 Fort Missoula site plan adopted by City Council.

With Missoula’s exploding growth, a regional destination park at Fort Missoula is an excellent idea. Soccer and baseball fields are crowded – and analysis shows that of all major Montana cities, Missoula has the least number of athletic fields per capita. Missoula provides less than half of the recommended athletic fields per capita as recommended.

I have friends who bring their children here for soccer games and soccer tournaments from all over Montana – fields are crowded, parking and traffic flow is poor. Last summer, her daughter’s team bus was struck by a vehicle in a crowded exit of the fields up the Rattlesnake. Any parent could tell you that could be traumatic – especially when your child is 120 miles from home.

Our parks generate revenue for this area – families come and stay in hotel rooms, they eat dinner in our restaurants, and then there is the obligatory shopping spree at the mall or Costco or wherever…all businesses that employ Missoulians.

What is clear is that to plan something like this, it is going to take some cash. We’ve done the master plan, and now Parks & Rec is asking for some cash to plan and project costs. A properly done regional destination park can’t be simply thrown together. You all know the saying – you’ve got to spend money to make money.

A park at Fort Missoula is a great idea. Let’s hope that council can come together on this an realize that it is a summary of many things – quality of life, investment in the community that is lacking what so many other communities have across the state, and investment in economic viability. It’s a good thing for many – not just the kids, but local businesses.

I’ll go further here and suggest that instead of bemoaning the fact that the historic buildings at the County Fairgrounds need saved, move them down there with Fort Missoula. There’s 92 acres – and the county even owns land down there too. The fairgrounds used to be way out of town – but they are now surrounded by commercial development. There’s little room for parking when the fair is actually in town – and the real estate would serve a far more valuable service as affordable housing if paired and planned as a housing trust.

And let’s not forget that not just people making 80% and less than the median need affordable housing. The working people – police, fire, nurses, small business – everyone – needs affordable housing. Frankly, I’m tired of all this focus on providing grant monies to those at 80% and less….there’s a hell of a lot of people out there struggling.

I see I’ve digressed to rant.

With that being said, I’ll add one more: Why is the bond that is being considered only for city residents? With a regional park, it seems to me that there are going to be people from all over the county using it. Kids from (at the very least) Frenchtown, Lolo and Clinton would be playing soccer on those fields. Rugby, baseball, and football players from all over. Little Griz….

If there’s going to be a bond, I suggest that the whole county chip in. Not only does that spread out the costs – it probably gets it done faster.


by Pete Talbot

Missoulian reporter Michael Moore writes in a Sunday column about some of the changes taking place in the modern newspaper newsroom.

Not only are reporters writing stories, they’re shooting video (and recording audio), and then editing and posting that video and audio. And they’re blogging, too.

I once had a client ask me if I could also shoot still photos while I was doing a video shoot in the jungles of Borneo. I said, “sure, I can give you mediocre stills or mediocre video … actually it will all be kind of mediocre.”

I mean, I’m only a demigod. Show me someone who can write, record video and audio, edit and polish a piece, and do it well, and I’ll show you a god.

I know there’s a lot of pressure on the old print media to compete with television and the Internet. You Tube alone has revolutionized news gathering.

So has the print reporter gone the way of the cooper? I hope not. One of the reasons I rarely watch local television news is that I want more than a cliché-ridden, two-minute version of the news, sprinkled with a few ten-second sound bites.

Here’s another consideration. Will newspaper content be driven by how cool a video can be produced out of that day’s news events?

“Let’s see,” says the newsroom assignment editor, “should we cover the dancing dogs at the park or the county-wide zoning hearing at the courthouse?”

I know television news stories are often assigned on their visual potential: “If it bleeds, it leads.”

I read newspapers, and even occasionally online versions of newspapers, for detail and depth. I want background, research and lengthy quotes.

I just can’t imagine Carl Bernstein or Bob Woodward lugging around a digital video cam and shotgun mic. So, call me old fashioned, but I’m worried about the direction reporting is taking.

I certainly don’t begrudge newspaper reporters branching out and trying something different. The Billings Gazette’s Ed Kemmick does a fine job of both reporting and blogging.

But are there enough resources at your average daily to support all the extra duties being assigned beat reporters? Are more reporters and editors and photographers being hired? Is the training and mentoring in place to help reporters transition into this brave, new world? Something has got to give and news mediocrity will be the rule, not the exception, if reporters are asked to do more-and-more stuff with the same level of staff and preparation.

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