Archive for March, 2008

by Jay Stevens

Montana expatriate, Pat Malach, found a link to SlateVideo’s nomination for “America’s Stupidest Bike Lane.”

Honestly, about the only thing going for it is its length. Which is short.

What’s the stupidest bike lane in Missoula? My vote is the bike lane going southbound over the Orange Street Bridge, which ends when the road narrows suddenly after the bridge. It’s just as short as the LA bike lane depicted here, plus it’s deadly.

Any other nominations?

by Jay Stevens

Recently I wrote about Kim’s grandfather, Fred Geyzer, and his remarkable story. I just discovered today that the complete interview I quoted from in that post is online, complete with historical documents relating to the Tetiev Pogrom. It’s definitely worth a read…

by jhwygirl

A pleasantly surprising thing to wake up to on a Sunday morning, the Washington Post’s politics blog, The Fix, has listed 4&20 blackbirds as one of Montana’s entries into the Best of the State Politics Blog.

Chris Clizza has been writing The Fix since October 2005. Before that, he was with Roll Call, D.C.’s publication covering Capitol Hill.

What I’m wondering now is whether Left in the West is too far up in the stratosphere to be seen? Certainly Montana’s blogfather belongs on that list too!


It’s a honor Chris – and we b’birders will continue to work hard churning out the writing that has earned placement on the Washington Post’s Best of State Politics blogroll.


by Pete Talbot

Which does a better job of serving democracy: the (dying) newspaper industry or the (surging) Internet and its related blogs?

“… it is impossible not to wonder what will become of not just news but democracy itself, in a world in which we can no longer depend on newspapers to invest their unmatched resources and professional pride in helping the rest of us to learn, however imperfectly, what we need to know.”

That excerpt is taken from this week’s New Yorker magazine and a fine, analytical article by Eric Alterman.

Your daily newspaper is on the ropes. I’ve written about this before. It’s trying to make the digital transition but hasn’t really succeeded. I’ll read a blog site from a specific reporter but do I read the Missoulian’s catch-all blog, Western Montana 360? Do I visit the paper’s video inserts on its website? Hardly ever. This isn’t what I look for in journalism and it also seems so far behind the curve. Reporters are already overtaxed, don’t make them shoot and edit video, and blog.

But Alterman’s piece isn’t solely a defense of the old “dead tree” medium:

“The Web provides a powerful platform that enables the creation of communities; distribution is frictionless, swift, and cheap. The old democratic model was a nation of New England towns filled with well-meaning, well-informed yeoman farmers. Thanks to the Web, we can all join in a Deweyan (as in John Dewey, an advocate for democratic education) debate on Presidents, policies, and proposals. All that’s necessary is a decent Internet connection.”

Blogs are currently niche driven. I blog, obviously, but I’m also a bit of a dinosaur. Reading the newspaper each morning is as ritual for me as salat (prayer) for a Muslim. It connects me to the rest of the masses, albeit diminishing, who read the newspaper — and not only current news events but sports, features, editorials and letters. I also find out what Dilbert’s up to, if Lindsay is still in rehab and whether the cross-dressing husband in Dear Abby really needs counseling. Reading the newspaper keeps me part of a well-rounded, informed community.

What troubles me about blogging and the Internet is it’s potential for narrowing the discourse. If all I read is Daily Kos or, how can I understand other’s perspectives?

Alterman sums it up:

“And so we are about to enter a fractured, chaotic world of news, characterized by superior community conversation but a decidedly diminished level of first-rate journalism. The transformation of newspapers from enterprises devoted to objective reporting to a cluster of communities, each engaged in its own kind of “news”––and each with its own set of “truths” upon which to base debate and discussion––will mean the loss of a single national narrative and agreed-upon set of “facts” by which to conduct our politics.”

It’s a conundrum. I’m hoping for the best — a melding of the objective, professional journalistic standards and resources of the print medium with the accessibility, speed and democracy of the Internet. I fear the worst — the lack of resources of the blogosphere to, for example, set up a bureau in Baghdad or do a five-part series on Darfur; and all we have left is the narrow bantering of self-anointed elites who have no stake in consensus, or understanding of the world around them.

by jhwygirl

At least locally, it seems. I got this yesterday:

This week the mortgage insurance companies changed their critria on the loans they would insure. They will no longer insure 100% loans-and the 80/20 (100%) are also no longer available. The only 100% financing available is for VA loans (if you are a veteran) or Rural Development Loans (home outside the city limits and must meet maximum income requirements).If you or someone you know was planning on 100% financing, please visit with your lender and see what other options you might have. This may eliminate some buyers from the market place-so sellers have to be aware of that when looking at offers or helping with buyers costs.

I found this reference to those new rules, in the Toledo Blade:

In the past several months, mortgage lenders and insurers have drastically tightened their lending requirements for home loans, especially in more than 9,600 ZIP codes across 34 states that are experiencing the worst economic problems.

The Missoula area must be one of those 9,600 ZIP codes.

Anyone who’s following this stuff believes that the housing sector is going to get worse before it gets better. This is certainly evidence of it.

Someone tell me – how long does it take on a typical loan/house purchase to get into equity? It’s that gap, it appears, that the insurance companies aren’t willing to hedge their bets on anymore. Prices are dropping, and will continue to drop significantly. That is what these “new rules” are saying to me. Maybe I’ve got that wrong?

On another note – I find the whole Rural Development Loan thing interesting. Financed by the Federal government, aren’t they just a government-sanctioned endorsement of taxpayer pocketbook draining sprawl?

Shouldn’t it be just the opposite? Shouldn’t the federal government want to assist on loans that would ensure efficient use of state and federally funded transportation systems? Utility infrastructure?

Again, maybe I’m wrong.

by jhwygirl

I read Doug regularly. Don’t always agree, but I certainly don’t always disagree.

Scary stuff.

I’m talking about his post.

by jhwygirl

It should be quite an affair at the Milltown bluff, high over the confluence of the Clark Fork and the Blackfoot rivers. I bet there will even be a few champagne corks popped.

For the first time in a little over 100 years (I recall a 1903 news clipping being sent a while back on the construction of the dam), the river will flow freely. It will send sediment downstream and cause temporary damage to the fishery.  River levels are estimated to rise up to 4 feet.

The breach is scheduled for approximately 11:30. It could take hours, it could happen fairly quickly. A bulldozer will bust through a bypass channel that has been created to divert water into the north side of the Clark Fork, where the north abutment and powerhouse once stood. The river will remain in this channel until the remainder of the dam, including the spillway radial gate and divider block are removed later this year.

Everyone is invited. Here is a link to directions to the overlook: map-to-milltown-bluff-overlook.pdf

Below is a picture of the powerhouse’s removal. The concrete rubble to the left is from the dam’s north abutment.


Tomorrow, the river runs freely.

Dianna Hammer of EPA’s Region 8 (Montana) office has headed this project up for quite some time. She’s given birth and seen that same child head off to his first day of kindergarten. I believe she is pregnant with another.

To her and all the others that have worked long and hard on this: Thank you

by Pete Talbot

Our little city and big state made the news again. This time it’s about our influence on the presidential Democratic primary race.

Chris Cillizza, whose political column, The Fix, appears on, wrote about the battleground state of Montana. (A tip o’ the hat to the anonymous, alert reader who forwarded the link to me.)

It’s an insightful piece about which Democratic candidate is going to come out on top in our June primary. It mentions Sen. Tester, the Good Gov. and the Honorable John Engen, Mayor of Missoula, among others. Take a look.

by Jamee Greer

Walking back and forth across Higgins Bridge today, I watched the raising of the Wilma’s new sign – a retro throwback that looks great, but sort of reminded me of something. Joe Nickel points out exactly what that something is on his blog, nickellbag.

Customers waiting in line ahead of me at Posh Chocolat were pleased with the sign’s design, but not the scrolling electronic reader board that came with it!

Speaking of Posh Chocolat, look for changes soon as they expand their menu and remodel their space.

by Pete Talbot

You can’t blame Missoula Republicans for bringing in a big name speaker to help raise funds for the party. Democrats do it, too. I can’t think of worse choice than Karl Rove, though.

Remember Valerie Plame? She was the CIA operative who was outed by the Bush administration in an attempt to bolster the lies that led to this never-ending Iraq War. Rove White House associate Lewis “Scooter” Libby took the fall (and Bush promptly commuted his 30-month jail sentence). Rove must have had knowledge of this treason. He was, after all, Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Rove also chaired the White House Iraq Group, a secret internal White House committee to advance the lies of WMD’s and al-Qaida links to Saddam Hussein.

Missoula Republicans should be embarrassed for bringing this sleazeball to Missoula. His Wikipedia profile reads like a how-to of dirty tricks, leaked information and character assassination. (Rove is believed to be behind the 2000 North Carolina primary push poll question: “Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?”)

Rove is beneath contempt. How do you think he ended up with the nickname Turd Blossom?

by Jay Stevens

Worden’s has halvah.

Halvah’s a Middle Eastern and South European candy made of sesame pasted sweetened with sugar. It’s crumbly and rich and goes well with coffee. I usually get some when I see it – it’s not my favorite sweet, it tends to stick to my teeth, and it’s so rich that I’m usually satisfied before I finish a portion – but it’s rare, and it reminds of me of Kim’s grandfather, Fred Geyzer.

When Fred turned 90, my birthday present was a stick of halvah I found in a San Francisco Middle Eastern sandwich shop in North Beach. I’m proud to say his eyes lit up when I pressed the halvah in his hand, and he had with his tea after dinner. I still argue it was his favorite present that year.

You see, when I first met Fred that first Christmas I spent with Kim’s family – after driving to Spokane in the famous ’96 Christmas Eve blizzard – he told me about his childhood in the Ukraine, and how his favorite food above all was halvah.

Fred was born in the Jewish ghetto in Tetiev, not far from Kiev. Here’s some excerpts of his early memories from an oral history Kim’s mother, Gail, made:

Well I have to tell you, when I was born, we were very poor. I remember, we didn’t have adequate blankets to cover ourselves at night. It was cold. In Russia, it’s cold.

Was there enough food?

Only after my father became more prosperous, but before we had very little food. I would say until I was about five.

But then afterwards, my father prospered, and we moved into a better house. He was the only one in the city that put in an electric bulb. The switch was a porcelain switch. It’s screwed into the wall and you turn. It makes a big click. They put it high enough so I couldn’t reach it….

We had a well. We had about four rooms. I remember that they were all whitewashed, always nice. I don’t remember whether we had a toilet. I think we had an outhouse….

We had an oven, an oven which used wood. In Russia the ovens were clay ovens, but the top doesn’t go all the way up like a chimney…And it’s very good on cold nights; you sleep on top of the oven…

The town itself, was a ghetto. All the Jews lived inside and they had the businesses. Around us lived the gentile farmers. They had the farms. They used to come in and buy stuff. The reasons Jews weren’t farmers was because under the Czar’s laws, no Jews could own any land. So this is how we were.

After the Russian Revolution, Tetiev was swept up by the civil war. It was occupied, in turns, by both the Bolsheviks and the White Army. The Bolsheviks were more sympathetic to the Jews; the Whites weren’t. They would initiate pogroms whenever they arrived. During one such pogrom, Fred’s father was killed by a Cossack, his head split open by a saber. Fred was eight.

I remember when they buried him. It was in a wooden casket. And then I said after the Rabbi what you’re supposed to say, Yisgadal ve’yiscadash sh’mey…” And then they chanted El Moleh Rachamim. It means God of power, have passion for the orphans. It was very sad. And then they buried him.

We were in a great state of grief. I remember when they brought out the coffin, and I said Kaddish. The thing I couldn’t understand is that I wasn’t crying. I should have been crying. I guess I was too stunned.

The worst was yet to come. On March 26, 1920 – 88 years ago tomorrow – came the final pogrom:

That’s the day when they assembled all the Jews and put them in the synagogue and set the synagogue on fire, and all the houses were on fire, and my mother and the four children, we all ran. It was in the middle of the night. I remember my mother telling us to just leave everything and run, and as I turned back, I saw the whole town was in flames….

There was snow on the ground….We were running ahead of the fire. My mother was running first carrying Irving. I was next carrying Frances, and Jossel was running by himself.

In all this terrible confusion…we passed a farm house and there came out all of a sudden a big pack of dogs. We were attacked by these dogs and we all dispersed. And when we came back together again, Jossel wasn’t there and we never found him.

Fred and his family’s survivors made their way to a small town, and from there worked their way into Romania with help from Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

They lived in Romania for awhile, Fred attended a Yeshiva for awhile, lived in a camp of gypsies, and worked in a restaurant. And then he and his family received visas to the United States. (Fred’s aunt lived in the United States and arranged for a visa and tickets to New York.) His mother had a nervous breakdown – she was still hoping Jossel would show up – and she was institutionalized in an asylum in Kishinev.

…the next time I saw her is when we were leaving for the States because the visa came and the tickets came. So we all got together, and we went to the hospital, and I didn’t tell her that we were leaving for good. I just said good-by, and then I never saw her again.

The rest of the story you probably know. Fred and his siblings eked out a living in New York during the Great Depression, and through hard work ended up successful business people and professionals. And his children had their children, and I met Kim, and then Fred.

So now whenever I see halvah, I buy it. And when I eat it, and taste the sweetness on my tongue, I think of Fred, his escape from Tetiev, and, in contrast, all the good things in my life.

Fred Geyzer died early Monday morning. He was 97.

Oseh shalom bim’romav hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yis’ra’eil v’im’ru.


by jhwygirl

Via Newwest, Courtney Lowery reports that the Hillary campaign has announced a stop in Missoula next Sunday, April 6th – the day after the state Democrat’s Mansfield-Metcalf dinner in Butte.

It took Obama a couple of days to commit to the M-M dinner, which he did after Hillary announced she was coming – but given that the clock is ticking (and rumors have MT’s superdelegate Ed Tinsley reserving the Adams Center for that weekend), perhaps his announcement comes shortly?

by Rebecca Schmitz

Do you remember those Mayan priests who needed to cleanse a sacred temple of the bad spirits created by Bush’s presence?

Should we pool our money and hire those guys to purify the Doubletree after Karl Rove leaves Wednesday night?

by Rebecca Schmitz

Poof! Another Missoula restaurant has vanished. According to New West, 515 closed its doors earlier this week. I realize I’m behind the curve on this news; other Missoulians noticed before I did. I only happened to find out because I was perusing New West during a quiet moment at work yesterday afternoon. Fifteen minutes and a few phone calls later–I had dinner reservations there last night for a belated birthday party and no one from 515 notified us of their closure–we scored a table at Red Bird. Their Tuscan grain salad, mushroom mille-feuille, and fig and apricot soufflé went a long way towards soothing my annoyance.

A few weeks ago in the Independent, Skylar Browning wondered aloud if Missoula can support a variety of upscale bars. I have to wonder the same of upscale restaurants. Did anyone else get a chance eat at the here today, gone tomorrow Epicurean Bistro, the great little Mediterranean-cum-Indian restaurant stranded among the used car lots, casinos and payday loan predators of central Missoula? I know the high rate of failure in the restaurant industry is a myth, but it sure seems like this is the one game in town with a constantly changing roster of players. Hell, even Krispy Kreme didn’t make it for long.

Any thoughts why some restaurants succeed here, and others don’t?

by jhwygirl

I have been putting off for weeks a good thorough move-the-furniture, wash the blankets, shake the rugs and get together at least 3 bags of stuff for the Salvation Army cleaning of the place.

Since the weather service is promising a 50+ degree for tomorrow, I’m thinking I better get after it today or feel guilty, again, for another week.  Gotta have at least a little bit of fun, right?

Besides, I got a feeling next weekend is going to be busy, busy, busy.


Got any observations or musings that you want to share?  Or just plain something you been wanting to say?  Have at it.

by Rebecca Schmitz

What’s the good of writing for a local blog if you can’t use it to crow about your close friends’ accomplishments?  That’s why I’m tickled pink to post a link to my friend Molly Murphy’s interview with Skylar Browning in the Indy this week about her show at the Missoula Art Museum, Reservations Required. Since my art criticism skills are rather rusty, I’ll just quote from Browning’s article:

Local artist Molly Murphy, a descendant of the Oglala, Lakota tribe, chose beadwork as her primary medium, making her an anomaly in the contemporary art scene. “I’m not a full-blood, I’m not a traditionalist, I’m not obsessed with authentic materials or reproducing something,” she says. “In the end, I had to find a more authentic way to tell my story.”

The exhibition of her gorgeous beadwork with a contemporary message runs through May 24th on the third floor of the MAM.

by jhwygirl

Roy Brown, Republican candidate for Governor (along with is buddy Steve Daines) offered up this decisive position on Rick Jore’s constitutional initiative which seeks to give rights to human embryos:

Brown says he is undecided about a proposed constitutional initiative that would define a person as “a human being at all stages of human development or life, including the state of fertilization.” Brown says he is against abortion but wants to make sure that initiative would really help.

Boy, that’s taking a position.

Jore announced his initiative back in mid-November 2007.

Brown must really reading up on Montana issues.

Brown also took a strong stance on healthcare for Montana’s children:

Brown also says he is undecided on a proposed ballot measure to extend health coverage to uninsured children. He says he would prefer to let the free market solve the insurance problem.

Wow. Undecided. And, yep, that free market sure shows signs of helping solve the issue.

I know – maybe Roy Brown doesn’t know how to read.

Don Pogreba, Democratic candidate for the same office, took a position on the issues and how a Governor should behave:

Governors lead, Senator Brown. They don’t pander or hesitate.For the record, I absolutely oppose the former, and enthusiastically support the latter.

See how easy that is?

How’s that for decision?


On second thought – maybe Roy Brown does know how to read, and he’s just waiting on his campaign’s opinion polls to be delivered.

by jhwygirl

The Federal Highway Administration is seeking comments on its FEIS for its Preferred Alternative for road improvements for Miller Creek.

After years of meetings and engineering studies and statistics, the Preferred Alternative is what is there now -with some widened lanes. How many millions did they spend to come to that conclusion?

There’s all kinds of things to sort through that link above – even a nice map that shows 3 other alternatives, all three of which included a bridge over the Bitterroot which would provide an alternative route connection to Highway 93.

There’s also a 2-page document summary explaining why the Fed’s Preferred Alternative was selected. It really is just maintenance of the current situation – that being one entrance into and out of one of the fastest growing areas in Missoula County:

The Miller Creek area is situated in one of the fastest growing areas in Missoula County. Population growth is expected to continue into the future, and current development plans would result in approximately 3,000 dwelling units by 2025, thereby affecting the capacity, mobility, and safety of project area roads, including US 93 and Miller Creek Road. The existing primary roadway access to and from the project area is at capacity and traffic volumes are expected to increase over the next 20 years with expected full buildout of the Miller Creek area.

20 years? They expect to maintain safe access with all of the projected growth with one access point? Growth of which, to note, all people far and wide have grossly underestimated here in Montana. I mean – talk to any old timer and see if they thought Missoula would be booming out in Frenchtown and Lolo and whether Ravalli County would be what it is. Or Belgrade or Kalispell.

Wasn’t that the same story Missoulian’s heard with the new construction of Reserve Street? That it would last for 20 years?

And wasn’t Reserve Street from Mullan to Brooks outdated almost immediately after construction? Unable to handle the traffic loads? It can take 40 minutes to get from 3rd & Reserve to Mullan & Reserve nowadays. What is that? 2 miles?

Normally I’m not an advocate for bigger roads – but the situation that is there already there and coming (with preliminary approvals already in place) can’t be mitigated away.

I see this as a disaster waiting to happen. There is a huge amount of development up Miller Creek already – and significantly more to come. One way in, one way out. Backed up to huge amounts of timbered land. One fire station. How can the Feds choose the one alternative as Preferred that leaves the greatest risk out there for such a huge number of people?

Comments are being taken until April 14th. Comments should be mailed to:
Mr. Craig Genzlinger, P.E., Federal Highway Administration, 585 Shepard Way, Helena, MT 59601

You can also email Mr. Genzlinger at

by Pete Talbot

I’m pissed

Anybody else out there NOT get tickets to Clinton and Obama in Butte? I went online at 9 a.m. this morning with two laptops and never did get through. I had better luck scoring tickets to the Rolling Stones when they played Missoula.

I missed my chance to get tickets to the Mansfield-Metcalf dinner when I learned last month that the event had already sold out. (Note to Democratic Party headquarters in Helena: the one “save-the-date” email I received in January isn’t the best way to market an event to folks like me.)

So I was left with the only other option available — go online and try to get bleacher tickets. They were sold out by 9:30 9:04 9:40 9:15 a.m. I have to wonder if tickets are going to start showing up on eBay, and for how much.

I’ve only missed one Mansfield-Metcalf dinner in the last decade. Back when the Democrats were in the minority in both the state house and senate, and we had a Republican governor, attendance at this yearly Democratic event could be pretty paltry. I know “it’s a new day” in Montana but please don’t forget regular folks who supported the party during the lean times. Give us a better than average shot at the big-time gigs when they come around.

Now I know how rank-and-file Republicans must have felt when they were excluded from the caucuses last month.

It appears that a few other bloggers had similar online experiences. Maybe I should take Shane’s advice, though, and not blog when I’m angry.

Max gets jobs for Montanans Virginians

I’ll probably never work in this town again, at least in political TV production, but I can’t keep quiet any longer.

Sen. Baucus rolled out his first radio and TV spots last week, spending some of his $9 million war chest. According to Lee State Bureau’s Chuck Johnson:

“The television spots, produced by GMMB Creative, a Virginia firm, will run for several weeks.”

I saw one of the spots and it wasn’t bad. The sort of cookie-cutter commercials that DC beltway consulting firms are known for, with a standard feel good message and high production values.

Thing is, I know at least four producer/directors in Montana that could have done the same quality commercial, and for less money.

And one has to wonder who purchased the TV time for the spots, another Virginia media firm? The commissions generated for that firm would have kept a Montana advertising agency afloat for at least a year.

(Note to Gov. Schweitzer: I received a fund raising call for your campaign from a telemarketer in California. Surely there’s a firm in Montana that can do that.)

And I’m going to stay on top of this. The next candidate who says they’re for jobs for Montanans and then spends their money on out-of-state production companies, ad agencies, printers, pollsters, etc., will receive some special attention.

Happy Birthday, Congressman

On a more upbeat note, Pat Williams’ 70th birthday bash on Sunday was quite the gala affair. One might consider it a warm up to next month’s Mansfield-Metcalf dinner in Butte. Granted, Barack and Hillary weren’t there, but they should have been because every almost every Democratic leader in Missoula was in attendance, and a lot of out-of-town Democrats, too. (Note to presidential campaign coordinators: there are more registered Democrats in Missoula County than any other county in the state.)

Here are just some of the folks I spotted there: Mike McGrath, candidate for Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court; Jim Hunt, who’s challenging Congressman Denny Rehberg; and Democrat candidates for Montana Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction and Secretary of State.

Pat served for 18 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first 14 years as Montana’s Western District Congressman and the last four years At Large (the entire state), and he served honorably. Unlike some of our other elected representatives and senators, he didn’t stay in D.C. and become a lobbyist upon retiring. He returned to Western Montana where he continues to work on policy for Rocky Mountain states. His wife, Carol, is majority leader in the Montana Senate.

Pasties were served to about 300 people and around $20,000 was raised for Democratic legislative candidates.

by jhwygirl

The release says temporarily – up to 12 months. Yeah, right.

It gets nastier – KPAX is reporting that Jeff Weber, Stimson’s Vice-President of Manufacturing, said that “a shortage of raw logs and a slumping U.S. housing market are to blame for the closing of the mill.”

A shortage of raw logs? He’s still going to slip that lie in on his way out the door? A slumping housing market isn’t enough?

Always serving the corporate interests first. Thank you Ma Stimson.


DEQ should start looking, now, into the state’s next EPA cleanup site before Stimson breaks ground and runs. Decades of chemicals stored and soaked onto timbers in those yards out there – God knows why Scott Cooney wants the land.

Talk to any old timer and they’ll tell you stories of barrels of crap sprayed and poured on timbers and logs out there for supplying the mining and railroads.

Perhaps Cooney and Stimson have a plan for hiding all the crap there in the ground?

On the other hand, Cooney is already raising the rents on the homes in Bonner.

Wasn’t he championing his development plans as those that will provide affordable housing for Missoula’s workforce? I’m too disgusted to go looking for the story – I remember Missoulapolis also championing Cooney’s “affordable housing” plans.

100 more Missoula workers are out of a job tonight, folks.

My heart goes out to those families.

Other 4&20 posts on Stimson:
Why Stimson Lumber Mill Matters
The Mysteries of Stimson
Stimson Needs a Bigger Yard?
On Regurgitating Stimson Lies, False Economic Development and Affordable Housing
A Short Thought on the Bitteroot Resort

by jhwygirl

Ann Mary Dussault, County Administrator and former County Commissioner, was asked by Missoulian reporter Keilla Szpaller, for a story covering the numerous bonds and levy requests coming before the voters in the November election, about the regional 911 center:

“It’s way too early for us to be telling the public what the project is and how much it will cost,” Dussault said.

Really? Are you that unorganized for a multi-million dollar request for a multi-million dollar building? What, did the architects have free reign?

She said the project was in the hands of architects. When asked about a timeline, Dussault said she would no longer share timelines with the Missoulian because the county only gets “s–” for it. She then refused to answer further questions and said information must come from commissioners instead.

Did she just say SHIT?

Tsk, tsk, tsk, Ms. Dussault. That really is no way to treat neither the press nor the public that reads it.

You’d think she’d know better, no?

On the other hand, Ms. Dussault isn’t exactly known for her tact.

Gotta give Keilla Spzaller credit here – reporting on all the news that’s fit to print – and apparently more, as it were. The public deserves to know the full story.

It does paint a more accurate picture of Missoula County’s approach to public involvement.

Of course, I’ve blogged about the county’s approach on public involvement before. This post contains two tales (two for one bonus, readers!)

In Ann Mary’s defense, though, she probably doesn’t want to torpedo the proposal by having too much get out about it ahead of its time.

It might get too ripe.

That’s because my friends inside the courthouse tell me that Ann Mary’s plan is to move all departments- Licensing, Titles, Elections, Clerk & Recorder, Surveyor’s – even the Board of County Commissioner’s Office (did I get them all?) – all to the new 911 center proposed for a location off of North Reserve.

Yep, that’s right – move the seat of the county, the heart of the city, to North Reserve.

Missoula is one of Montana’s original 5 counties. From the Canadian border to Dillon, from the Idaho border to Georgetown lake, Missoula County was it all in 1864. And since that time (and even before, really), the heart of it all has been down in what is currently the heart of the city.

Dussault, apparently believes that the new heart of the county is out somewhere on Reserve Street.

A real visionary, huh?

All of this 911 center talk was kicked off by the need for the courtrooms and judge’s offices to expand. Also in the mix is the lack of parking for county employees. Some are upset that they have to walk the block and half from the lot over near St. Patrick’s Hospital.

Yep – those county employees can’t stand to hoof it 600 feet. And those judges need to have the entire courthouse, apparently. But even in the discussion that has been had, they won’t be needing all of it immediately – but sometimes in the next 40 years or so.

Business owners downtown, too, have heard the rumblings. Trouble is, Dussault has yet to accept an invite to a meeting of the Missoula Downtown Association to discuss the issue.

Maybe it’s time to get some input from the citizens that have to use the county adminstrative offices? Isn’t that, like, everyone?

by jhwygirl

He said it. Very well, I might add.

Don Pogreba has declared his candidacy for Governor.

by jhwygirl

We all hear about it – many pooh-pooh it. There are plenty of reasons to hate it – the nasty ways it can promote a lie; the subtle ways it can influence an election; the self-promoting protections it affords its own corporate interests.

Here’s a local story.

G. George Ostrom was terminated by KOFI Radio on Monday after Ostrom “disagreed with management over editorial policy.”The dispute arose Monday morning after Ostrom read a report concerning Kent Etchison, a resident of Kalispell who was arraigned in federal court Feb. 28 on mail fraud charges. Etchison, who pleaded innocent, was a former office manager at KOFI Radio and is accused of ordering about $972,000 in supplies from 2001 to June 2006 for the station — far in excess of what it would ever need, according to court records. The bulk of those purchases — $925,000 — were made from March 2003 through June 2006, federal prosecutors maintain.

Editorial policy?

What happened?

According to Ostrom, he read an Associated Press story about Etchison on the air in the Monday (March 3) 6 a.m. news report.Then Dave Rae, KOFI co-owner and general manager came in later that morning and told Ostrom to not read the story, Ostrom said.

Ostrom said he told Rae he already had. Rae, in short, insisted that Ostrom squash the story, Ostrom claimed.

Ostrom refused and walked out.

He read an AP news story.

Ostrom, a longtime Flathead Valley newscaster had been associated with KOFI-AM for 53 years, who had bought KOFI back in the 1980’s with a group of investors and helped usher its expansion to FM. He’s written three books on Glacier Park, and was the recipient of the University of Montana’s 2006 Distinguished Alumni Award. Ostrom also won first place from the National Newspaper Association in 1996 for his column “Trailwatcher” and has been inducted into the Montana Broadcaster’s Association’s Hall of Fame. He served in the U.S. Army and was also a member of the Missoula Smokejumpers, one of the original USFS smokejumping crews.

In the 1960’s, Ostrom was a staffer for Senator Lee Metcalf, and helped write the groundbreaking wilderness legislation – the very legislation that eventually created the late Senator’s namesaked Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area.

What reason did Dave Rae and KOFI have to want the story quashed? I’m sure any of you could come up with a number of reasons, but ultimately they all lead to one reason: the serving of their own interests over that of their audience’s right to know the truth.

The was a day, once, long ago, where purveyors of news were self-tasked with the responsibility to inform the public of news based on facts and without bias to its best capabilities. Are those days’ gone?

Ostrom, commenting on his departure:

Ignoring that story, in my opinion, would be making me compromise my journalistic integrity, my credibility.

Amen, George Ostrom.

by jhwygirl

A long-term free fall of the Missoula housing market along with all the foreclosures, collapse of the mortgage and banking industry and recession that goes along with it.

Long term.

She says “Missoulapolis continues to see the glass as half-full, portending free-market affordable housing in Missoula in five years. Yes, it can happen here.”

Yeah, that’s a candidate I can get behind!

I wonder if she’s going to wheel out those blue Minjares HD 97 signs she used last-time around, with that tiny tiny barely visible little elephant?

Minjares also offered this solution to affordable housing last September.

Folks, this is your local GOP in action. Carol Minjares is Vice-Chair of the Missoula County Repubicans and Secretary of the Five Valleys Pachyderm.

by jhwygirl

Changes, yes we have changes…..

Our categories were getting quite lengthy, and so was our blogroll too – the result is this test of a new configuration to a 3-column presentation.

The bestest thing I wanted to add was a recent comment list and a search engine. That should make it easy for people to follow-up on posts, and to search for specific things that they might want to search for.

Please let me know your thoughts, grips, suggestions, and hollas on the set-up. The goal is to make the house more user-friendly.

by jhwygirl

The Mayor’s Community Discussion of Housing meeting was held this past Thursday. City Council chambers were packed with a wide variety of members of the community with varying views – from Councilman Dick Haines and University curmudgeon Lee Clemensen to Andrea Davis of the Missoula Housing Authority and local developer Perry Ashby.

It would have been nice to see a County Commissioner there (I didn’t notice any of them) – but Dennis Daneke, candidate for Larry Andersons seat (appointed after Barbara Evans retired), which is up for this next election, was there. Also present was State Representative Ron Erickson, of House District 97.

For whatever reason, the Missoulian failed to cover it.

The format was pretty free-form – the Mayor first showed a 20 minute documentary outlining the issue and then introduced four people from his housing initiative panel – Chad Nicholson, a firefighter for the City of Missoula; Rachael Bemis, a mortgage loan officer with Missoula Federal Credit Union; Perry Ashby, local developer of several subdivisions and sometimes business-partner with Westmont Builders; and Nancy Harte, Missoula Office of Planning & Grants administrator for the city’s HUD funding – and then went on to hand the microphone around the standing-room only (with overflow out into the hall) for the next 2+ hours.

There were opinions and thoughts and questions from all ends of the issue. Here are a few:

Dennis Danequeth, president of the local carpenter’s union posed this question (apologies if I’ve gotten the spelling wrong): I admit don’t know much about economics. If there is so much of a demand, how come the market isn’t supplying it? We should first let the market address the issue. Perhaps there are some obstacles in the way. Perhaps we should look at the regulations and give the market a chance.

Councilman Jon Wilkins: Perhaps my biggest disappointment was to find that our program with FHA could only fund one homebuyer with the federal money we got. We can fight this fabulous war that we are fighting but we can’t fight this war at home. I think it’s important that we keep the character of the neighborhoods. I have 2 kids – one is going to be a Doctor, and he probably won’t be coming back to Missoula…the other is probably going to be a social worker and she probably won’t be able to afford a home in Missoula. I might be able to give her my home or something, I don’t know. I don’t know what we are going to do, but more help is going to be important.

Steve Loken, of Loken Builders, who has received awards for his remodels that use recycle-and-reuse methods and newer energy saving technologies: We can build affordable housing, but we can’t find affordable land. We have to pay for good help – there are a whole bunch of factors involved. The city requires all kinds of things – setbacks, roads, sewer, building code. I remodel a whole lot of homes that were built by people who lived in them. Very few of us do that today. Builders like me have to look for qualified builders. We have to pay $12 – $14 – $17 – $18 per hour and if we don’t pay them that much, they’ll go elsewhere. Builders are caught between needing qualified builders and having to pay them a living wage. Land is the problem. I have a new formula – people need to participate in the building of their home. Cooperative Housing is a tool – clustering, changing zoning for infill – we have to be dense and we have to grow vertically. We can do this with good design. Operate efficiently. Limit the amount of equity in a housing cooperative. All over the mid-west, NYC, cooperatives are becoming the way. With these kinds of projects we can have affordable housing.

Doug Grimm (apologies, again, if I’ve gotten the spelling wrong), who identified himself as having lived in Montana “practically all his life” told a story of having lived in Greenwich Village paying $200/month for rent and sharing the place with 2 other guys. He had neighbors that paid $25/month for rent and he couldn’t believe it. Doug went on to explain how NYC had enacted rent control and what a horrible mistake it was. “The market should work it out,” he said. “If I came to Missoula,” he said, “and I was looking for a place to live, my next choice would be to go to Deerlodge. Deerlodge is pretty cheap. It could be the next Missoula. If we sent enough people to Deerlodge it could be come fabulous as Deerlodge. Do you realize that you can move to Jamestown New York and buy a nice house for $18,000 -$30,000? You could also move to Erie Pennsylvania and buy a home and work at Burger King!”

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