Missoula City Council 5 Hour Marathon Meeting Ends with Something

by lizard

The last Missoula City Council meeting of 2013 was a 5 hour marathon that, were I carrying a gun, I may have been tempted to shoot myself in the head to end the misery.

What happened? Well, some very important things, like the passage of an urgency ordinance regarding sandwich board signs.

Businesses, for a trial period of 90 days, will be allowed to have 2 sandwich board signs instead of one, and the poor, non-Higgins located businesses will finally be able to entice shoppers to their stores by placing sandwich board signs in a location not directly in front of their stores, which is currently prohibited by this unfair regulation.

What else? A conditional use permit was passed for an exciting new micro-distillery on Main and Pattee. I know what you’re thinking. Downtown Missoula doesn’t have enough places that sells booze, so this will be a welcome addition to the diverse composition of downtown.

Next, or maybe first (I’m writing this directly after, so am a bit loopy) the people who want to spend their own money to light up our bridges are back with a new proposal. Apparently their first proposal was bonkers, with dancing lights (according to Jon Wilkins) or some other kind of light-associated action, like color themes for Griz games. From what I gathered, they wanted the bridges to do this:

Voicing his opposition to any escalation of light, good old Ross Best made an impassioned appeal about rivers and moons and being able to gaze at the scenic majesty of our fair town. In looking at my totally not-crazed notes, I see Dick Haines said something about a dark, snowy night. It was pure poetry, but those damn light pollutionists are going to screw it up with their bridge light bullshit! I think the Missoulian is breaking this news as I write this.

At some point there were also reports about bike ambassadors biking around talking about biking to anyone who would listen, and some budget stuff flubbed by the staff person giving the report, because her first comment was a correction of a miscalculation, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

But really the main reason our city council chambers was packed tonight was a chance to comment on the Russell bridge project. This has been an issue, according to the public comments, that’s been going on for something like 14 years. Alternative transportation folks were, of course, well represented, and a lot of concern about the scope and speed of the project was communicated. The comments dragged on and on.

I think it was at that point I scribbled fucking fucky fuck in my notepad.

The last item of business before council adjourned for the year (and a new council takes its place) was a vote on enhancements to the language of the aggressive solicitation ordinance and the pedestrian interference ordinance. When these ordinances were first being proposed in 2009, JC wrote posts like this one taking a critical look at the potential impacts.

I guess four years of these ordinances on the books haven’t produced the outcomes downtown businesses were hoping for, so the changes aim to streamline the footage distances for AGGRESSIVE SOLICITATION and PEDESTRIAN INTERFERENCE to a uniform 20 feet. Also, no sitting, sleeping, or lying down on sidewalks, alleys, tunnels or walking bridges between the hours of 6am-11pm.

Unless it’s a parade, or some other legitimate reason for non-homeless people to engage in the behavior specifically prohibited.

Public comment was mostly supportive of amending the language of these ordinances. There was one comment from an employee of a downtown business that drastically deviated from the fear-mongering, so thank you Tom for sharing your perspective about growing up in Chicago where fear about behavior is just a little more justified than the horrors of downtown Missoula.

Oh, and he also called out City Council for being privileged white people, which made the torture of the previous 5 hours almost worth it.

In responding to the privileged white people comment, Caitlin Copple took the opportunity to point out people without penises experience the fear factor differently, which is a fair point. Dick Haines also talked a lot about the fear of his female constituents in his supportive comments for these amendments.

I wonder what Dick thinks about the equality ordinance, and the role of fear that was expressed during that fun fight for equality?

Back on topic, I appreciate the perspective of Anna Conley from Montana’s ACLU. She explained why falling back on the “Seattle-did-it” justification from our city attorney—that comparable ordinances upheld in other states will insulate these Missoula ordinance enhancements from court challenges—is NOT as solid as supporters of these enhancements would have you believe.

I also appreciate Jason Wiener stating that silence from key social service providers does not equal consent.

Speaking of consent, here is how the vote broke down:

Strohmaier: Yes
Wilkins: Yes
Childers: Yes
Marler: Yes
Jaffe: No
Hertz: Yes
Taft: No
Copple: Yes
Haines: Yes
Wiener: No

I don’t think anyone had an easy time deciding how to vote. Looking on the bright side, the difficulty of this vote could mean better things down the road.

Tonight, downtown businesses, you got more sandwich board signs and less homeless people. Please remember that when the need doesn’t go away and people on the front lines explain what must happen next, in terms of services.

Near the end of this marathon, before the final vote, councilors expressed their discomfort. One of ’em, I can’t recall who, acknowledged they didn’t know what to do, but they had to do something, and this was something.

And so it passed.


  1. So was there an intermission? Did they play some kind of chamber music while everyone went out to the lobby for hors d’oeuvres and glad-handing?

    Lots of good recap here, right, so I don’t have to go. If your not on the city council, what’s the point of going? Are minds swayed by the stunning testimony given by those walking in off the street?

  2. Buzz Feedback

    Pedestrian interference by guy sitting on curb: bad

    Pedestrian interference by sandwich board: good.

    Meeting adjourned.

  1. 1 What Makes a Vibrant Atmosphere in Downtown Missoula? | Reptile Dysfunction

    […] without threat of a court battle, so when that enhancement was passed in December of 2013 (which I wrote about at 4&20) the City Council had to scramble to avoid getting […]




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