Archive for the ‘Dick Haines’ Category

by Pete Talbot

(Consider this an open thread.)

Lots of folks bandying around that nasty “s” word these days.

For example, according to Ward 5 Councilman Dick Haines, an updated historic preservation ordinance ” … has the unmistakable stench of socialism to me.”

Jay writes over at LiTW that the current RNC motto, written by someone who skipped Marketing 101, is: “Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, they just couldn’t use the “s” word enough:

“The hope and change the Democrats had in mind was nothing more than a retread of the failed and discredited socialist policies that have been the enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world,” Senator Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, said.

Let’s take a look at some of those failed and discredited policies. Germany, which is a democracy and part of the world last time I checked, has universal health care, a unionized work force, a strong social safety net … it must really be in trouble (courtesy Harper’s):

For here’s a strange fact: since 2003, it’s not China but Germany, that colossus of European socialism, that has either led the world in export sales or at least been tied for first. Even as we in the United States fall more deeply into the clutches of our foreign creditors—China foremost among them—Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all.

And claims that America’s business sector is being taken over by government are a bit exaggerated, as this dandy graph illustrates (courtesy Atlantic Monthly magazine):

socialism chart.png

But I haven’t answered the headline’s question. Even the “experts” disagree — just what is socialism: planning and zoning, Social Security, Medicare, public education? Should we scrap these?

I have a feeling that the right is confusing socialism and communism, and using that confusion to scare the bejeezus out of the masses. It’s not saying that we might become another Germany (or France or Sweden). It’s saying that we’re becoming another Cuba or North Korea.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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by jhwygirl

Since when did Renee Mitchell ever give a ^#&* whether a developer was going to be able to “stay afloat”?

Good lord, the false trolling that woman will go through trying to scare up a big green ugly monster on something like a $5,000,000 grant to a developer who is going to rehab blight (increase tax revenues for the city) and provide essential housing for working class folk here in Missoula.

The Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller has the rundown on the grant, which passed after as much wrenching around as most of council could muster…the vote coming down 7-3 on the side of bringing $5,000,000 influx of economic development into Missoula.

I’m sure Jon Wilkins is so proud he’s aligned himself with these bitter petty individuals.

by Pete Talbot

Congratulations to Roy Houseman, who defeated incumbent John Hendrickson by 162 votes in the Ward 2 race. Condolences to Mike O’Herron, who almost took out incumbent Dick Haines in Ward 5: 1,398 – 1,328.

And with all the other Missoula Democratic Party-endorsed incumbents winning their seats, it looks like President Barack Obama has the support of all America — at least if you follow the thinking of the mainstream media.

You see, this off-year election was supposed to be an indicator of support for Obama, the Democrats, and their policies.

According to the AP, two GOP gubernatorial victories (New Jersey and Virginia) are “a troubling sign for the president and his party heading into an important midterm election year.”

Bull-ony.

Apply this reasoning to our city council races and the country overwhelming supports Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. It’s a litmus test confirming the national mood: a referendum on health care legislation, and the handling of the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and is a precursor to the 2010 elections … yeah, right.

First, the fact that a Democrat took the vacant GOP seat in New York’s 23rd Congressional District and a Democrat won a special election for a congressional seat in California are strong indicators that Democrats are holding their own — certainly as strong as looking at any gubernatorial races. People don’t vote for governors the same way they vote for U.S. Senators and Representatives.

Second, on the governor races, New Jersey is awash with corruption scandals (Really? New Jersey you say? What a surprise!). So, the voters are going to throw the bums out, doesn’t matter what party is at the helm. And Virginia has always been a conservative, southern state. I was surprised it had a Democrat as the incumbent. No big shocker there.

Seems that the mainstream media and the political pundits are reaching a bit so they can make interesting banter and exciting headlines.


by jhwygirl

I expect negative stuff from this crew during an election, but John Hendrickson has sunk to new lows with a radio spot done in such a way that most listeners would be left to believe Mayor John Engen has endorsed the guy. The Missoula Independent’s Skylar Browning was first on the story, in its must-read-daily blog.

Hendrickson has been so ineffective in his last 4 years on council that he can not find anyone or anything to say something positive about himself that he had to plagiarize Mayor John Engen’s endorsement of his opponent Roy Houseman?

How amazing low is that? Really?

And you know he was thinking he was being oh-so-smart…

As for trying to claim Engen’s endorsement? Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Roy Houseman 2009

See that paragraph up there on the top of the page? Now listen to that radio spot again. Unbelievable.

Ineffective has been my favorite word for both Hendrickson and Haines lately. Both of these guys are campaigning, essentially, on the same issues they campaigned on 4 years ago. Haines on his $50,000,000 bridge over the Bitterroot and Hendrickson with his not-quite-as-costly (unless you consider the rise in pedestrian and biker related deaths) recall of the W. Broadway diet.

I mean – even if you are on board with both or either of these issues, Hendrickson and Haines clearly aren’t your guys. Think about that. Not if you want to get something done.

Both of these guys claim to be fiscally conservative, yet both of their pet issues are costly costly changes to and issues that have been decided because of other factors beyond their control. Hell-be-damned, they want what they want regardless of what it’s going to cost – and in the meantime, neither one of them will work towards other solutions in the interim.

I can give Haines credit for at least admitting his involvement in suing the City – Hendrickson, on the other hand, didn’t have the guts to admit his involvement, even after Haines had ‘let ‘er slip.’

Haines compounds on his false claims to fiscal conservatism by deceptively suggesting that “(O’Herron) has said city council members should not sue their employers. Will he go along to get along?

First off – Haines has been chasing O’Herron since the start of this election on this “suing his employer” statement of O’Herron’s. I find that funny.

Secondly – and you gotta love darthvadardemocrat* Lee Clemenson’s word choice – “Will he go along to get along?” ??? What? Will O’Herron work together to make sure something gets done? Will O’Herron (the horror) cooperate? Is that a bad thing?

On the other end of that ridiculous (think Jaws music in the background) suggestion that O’Herron will “go along to get along” as if it is something absolutely sinister, Haines did go along to get along on the vote to fund the separate analysis of the MDOT draft EIS for Russell Street. That cost the city some $85,000 I believe – feel free, anyone to correct me – and Haines went along and provided a crucial vote to move that alternative study forward all because he eventually wanted the same votes in return when and if his bridge-over-the-Bitterroot ever surfaced again.

So when, exactly, Ms. Clemenson, Mr. Haines, is it OK to go along to get along? Apparently it’s OK some of the time.

Ahh…the drama that is these Haines and Hendrickson. Vote the bums out. Houseman and O’Herron will get things done.

For his part, Engen has now recorded his own radio spot endorsing Houseman. Funny. It uses the same words.

Missoula County Democrats have filed a complaint against Hendrickson with the Office of Political Practices. As Keila points out – don’t hold your breath, anyone….the players in this could be long on social security before OPP ever gets to it. Ward 6 Councilperson Ed Childers is still waiting out on his complaint against Lewie Schneller from the 2007 elections.

Which is another problem all unto itself now, isn’t it?

*With a wink to klemz on that one…

by jhwygirl

Good Fantastic news this afternoon for pro zoning reform in the City of Missoula. Judge Sherlock has released his 9 page opinion which denies Lawsuiters Dick Haines & Renee Mitchell (Councilpersons for Ward 5) and Ward 4’s Lyn Hellegaard their Writ of Mandate, seeking the city to comply with public noticing requirements.

At the heart of their complaint was the idea that the city should send an individualized notice to each and every property owner in the city telling them precisely how they would be affected by the zoning rewrite.

The scores of public meetings, of stakeholder meetings, of public notices, of public information put on on the cities website, the public hearings themselves – and even the scores of stories written by Missoulian reporters was not enough for these Lawsuiters…..but apparently, was enough for Judge Sherlock.

If you see any of these people this weekend? Thank them for wasting taxpayer time and money (in the form of City Attorney and his staff Jim Nugent, along with the Office of Planning & Grant’s staff time…plus the reams of paper generated).

Now let’s see what they do. The core of their complaint – as they state it – is the lack of public involvement. Since that legal question has been asked and answered – by a judge – let’s see how they vote now that the issue has all been cleared up for them.

by jhwygirl

Yesterdays very good Missoulian story from reporter Keila Spzaller contained lots of interesting quotes from political observers and lawyers and stuff like that. Good read, if you haven’t hit it already.

What I found funny was this quote from one of Ward 5’s Lawsuiters, Dick Haines (Ward 5’s other Lawsuiter is Renee Mitchell). Haines is, apparently, already feeling a need to reply to challenger Mike O’Herron:

I don’t want people to think that we take this lightly. I don’t want people to think that we’re suing our employer.

Why would he say that? Because at last weeks candidate forum, Mike O’Herron was asked, specifically, what he thought about about the current lawsuit filed by council members – two of ’em being from Ward 5. O’Herron first pledged not to sue the city for his first term (which drew laughter) and then went on to say that he couldn’t understand why someone would want to sue their employer.

So Haines has, obviously, gotten some feedback on that – and clearly, it’s on his mind.

~~~~~
Mike O’Herron is an Independent – something he reiterated a couple of times during Tuesday’s forum. He said that he’d be glad to get the endorsement of the County Dems – and noted that he’d be equally pleased to get the endorsement of the local Republicans, too.

Red Tape notes that O’Herron did get the endorsement.

Several organizations give out endorsements in the cities non-partisan races. Next up will be the Missoula Building Industry Association’s forum, Tuesday, 3:30 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel.

Schedule is as follows (from their website):
3:30 – 4:00 Meet and greet
4:00 – 4:10 Overview of the importance of Business Development in Missoula and introduction of candidates with Dr. Patrick Barkey with the Bureau of Business and Economic Development – UM
4:10 – 5:00 Q&A to Present Their Goals for Business Development in Missoula
5:00 – 5:30 Networking with Candidates

Beer, Wine and Snacks provided
Cash Bar

There is no charge to attend!

by jhwygirl

And so it appears that is exactly what the lawsuiters are thinking with this past Monday’s op-ed in the Missoulian, what with the first paragraph:

A June 18 guest column contains inadequacies we would like to address. None of the signors of the June 16 guest column ever said to scrap Title 20. In fact, at the June 17 Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, we publicly stated that fact. We all agree that Missoula needs an updated, more coherent document. Some of us who were on council and some of those who are no longer voted for a rewrite of the municipal code, not a rezoning of the entire city. Big difference.

Sounds a bit overly defensive to me….

It continues: “No one is arguing that Office of Planning and Grants staff held many meetings and tried to reach out to the citizens,” and “It is not our claim that the efforts to update the ordinance is illegal,” and “The fact that the city attorney wrote six legal opinions still does not get us there.”

They attempt to justify the lawsuit that they’ve filed:

Some council members asked for a second opinion to get clarification as to whether Title 20 was a rezoning of the city. We were refused and stonewalled. At the March 3 Planning Board meeting, some members also called for a second opinion so all their hard work would not end in a lawsuit. The Planning Board did approve its version of the rezone unanimously, with three members absent.

Seriously? Not only do they have Nugent’s 6 opinions, they’ve got the opinion of attorney Alan McCormick (who hasn’t exactly been friendly to some of city council’s decisions) and even the Missoula Building Industry Association’s attorney kicked in with some sort of an opinion, too, that the rewrite wasn’t a rezoning.

Methinks that cracks are appearing in some of the curmudgeon’s re-elections…which is why the “clarifying” op-ed appeared on Monday.

Hear the laughs? I do.

The Republican’s have Teabaggers, Missoulians have Lawsuiters.

Ward 6 councilor Ed Childers summed it up pretty well at this past Monday’s weekly public hearing (and I’m working off of memory here) – that the ones that have filed the lawsuit and the ones that have been critical of it simply don’t understand zoning – and that the very potentially unfortunate thing of it is that it may result in a scraping of Title 20 because the level of remediation it seeks. That contact to each and every landowner in the city informing them, specifically, of how the re-write will affect them, specifically – is an impracticable and extremely costly mitigation.

And somewhere in there Childers mentioned the consultant’s cost of (what I think was) $250,000.

(Title 19 is our current code, Title 20 being the re-write.)

Pretty spot on – I’ve watched Renee Mitchell, week after week after week after month calling for people to come to the meetings; saying it was an upzoning (accessory dwelling units, which currently exist all over – including the university district); and saying that it increased heights of buildings (patently false).

Mitchell has all the trepidation of a 98-year old woman navigating an unpaved parking lot with a walker. She’d rather not go there, and so she is attempting to find any way possible to do exactly that.

The source of her pleas and Wilkins’ and Hendrickson’s and Haines’ and Hellegaard’s – let’s be real here – is based on what they have all clearly been seeing: That the public was in support of the zoning rewrite. Renee (and others) don’t like that – and so, for them, it was easier to ignore that reality and instead act as if this whole rewrite process was going on in some sort of vacuum.

– and you know how ignorant Missoulians are to what is going on in zoning, right? /snark

Have any of these malcontents (Ward 2’s John Hendrickson, Ward 5’s Renee Mitchell and Dick Haines, and Ward 4’s Lyn Hellegaard and Jon Wilkins) bothered to check out that big ole’ 5 inch think zoning book that OPG’s planner Jen Gress carries with her to each Planning and Annexation Committee hearing each week? It’s right there across the table from them. Every week. That is the current zoning book that OPG has to work with – filled with interpretations, it is result of an outdated and poorly written Title 19. That 5 inch thick book represents the murkiness that is Missoula’s current zoning code. That 5 inch thick book represents uncertainty for neighborhoods and builders and businesses.

It’s unreal that these city councilors have taken us in this direction.

And let’s be clear, here – Hendrickson didn’t sign on to this thing because he’s running for re-election. Hendrickson had tried for months trying to round up support in his neighborhood against the zoning rewrite – he tried to get people to sign that anonymous petition – and he got no where.

It was politically expedient for Hendrickson to attempt to remove himself from the lawsuit, but people aren’t buying it. Which is clear by his signature this week on the first post-lawsuit-filing op-ed.

Haines, who’s also running for re-election, at least had the guts to stick to his convictions, miscalculated as they are.

Wilkins, I suspect, isn’t a lawsuit type of guy – but he has signed on to the recent editorial, along with the previous one to which they were seeking to clarify.

Wait – did these guys and gals just want to clarify that which they previously wrote? Rewrite their past inadequate column?

Hypocrites.

Hypocrites that are going to stagnate this city, perpetuating uncertainty for neighborhoods and business.

Hypocrites that are going to cost Missoulians over a year of lost OPG staff time, significant community investment in time and involvement – and a cool $250,000 in the process.

Not to mention the staff and attorney time it’s going to take to defend this thing. Hell, I bet the city’s insurance that kicks in to help defend these kinds of things is going to end up costing us more, too.

Pro-business fiscal conservatives my ass.

by jhwygirl

Roy Houseman, Jr., 28, filed for Ward 2’s City Council seat today. He is challenging sitting councilman John Hendrickson. Ward 2 is a 3-way race, with Cynthia Wolken also having filed

The name should be familiar to most – Houseman is President of United Steelworkers Local 885, the union shop for Smurfit-Stone. He’s a Great Falls native who moved to Missoula in 1999, attended and graduated from UM in 2003 with a degree in English Literature and Psychology.

Houseman is just the type of person we need on council: Young and energetic – full of ideas, and willing to work hard. I mean – how many 20-somethings do you know that would run for president of their union local? How many 20-somethings would run for council? Houseman certainly is no slacker – and I certainly look forward to someone with a vision towards a better future for Missoula.

Why is Houseman running?

“I love Missoula. It’s a great community that has given me a wonderful life. I met my wife here. We bought a house in October and the community has afforded me opportunities I would never have thought imaginable. If I can give back to a growing and changing city by assisting in the administration and oversight of Missoula, well I see no reason not to run.”

Sounds about right by me…

~~~~~
The other races?

In Ward 1, incumbent Dave Strohmaier is being challenged by Ryan Mortan, government affairs director for the Missoula Building Industry Association.

In Ward 3, incumbent Bob Jaffe is being challenged by John Quandt.

In Ward 4, Councilman Jon Wilkins goes unchallenged. That doesn’t surprise me much…even the great curmudgeon (me) has come to kinda like the guy. Not all the time, mind you – but clearly, Wilkins isn’t operating on his own personal agenda 100% of the time or even 50% of the time – and that is a good thing.

In Ward 5, incumbent Dick Haines is being challenged by Mike O’Herron.

In Ward 6, incumbent Marilyn Marler is being challenged by Kathy Greathouse.

by jhwygirl

Thought it might be fair to let everyone know exactly what were the sensible budget cuts that John Hendrickson and the “City Council conservatives” proposed – the ones that Missoulapolis spoke about today.

Here it is, folks.

As for the highlights, the “City Council conservatives” wanted to:
>>Gut Parks & Rec by 13 employees (14 if you include the Bike-Ped coordinator) AND eliminate the entire Parks maintenance staff;
>>Charge city employees $60-$100/month for healthcare (but only non-union employees – and I’m pretty sure charging non-union employees and not charging union employees is really illegal);
>>Cut $300,000 in back-up funding for said health insurance (you know, that funding that is needed for them to actually be self-insured);
>>Eliminate the Missoula Urban Transportation District’s (MUTD) Senior bus line; and
>>”Skim” 20% off of OPG (Yeah, that’s how it’s done: Skim ’em.)

Call me crazy – I’m sure some of you actually do – but aren’t the parks we have around town considered infrastructure? Same with those costly pools? Don’t they, umm, need to be maintained?

Now, in all fairness, Hendrickson & Co. suggested we replace the maintenance staff with juvenile delinquents community service volunteers. But ask yourself: Would using juvenile delinquents community service volunteers for park maintenace throughout the city actually be a good idea?

Yeah – cool! Chain gangs in downtown Missoula. What color would they wear? Green? Perhaps purple, so they match the already invading spotted knapweed that is everywhere due to the maintenance budget having been raided for the last 2 or 3 years. Yes. Purple it is!

So, ahh, if you are going to remember names for 2009, perhaps you should remember the names of the persons who wanted to eliminate Parks & Rec, cut transportation options for senior citizens, and risk lawsuits by charging some employees for health insurance and by taking away the funds they need to be self-insured.

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!”

Continue Reading »

by Jay Stevens

The quote of the day:

“Your brain quits absorbing knowledge when your rear end starts to hurt,” said Councilman Dick Haines.

Slow news day, eh?

by jhwygirl

Monday night’s pragmatic city council meeting brought us not only the vote which canned any discussion towards putting a $9 million tax levy on the next ballot – which, after I heard the discussion, I found myself in agreement – but also the unveiling of a mini-documentary on affordable housing by Mayor John Engen.

I find myself writing the rest of this from memory as I didn’t TiVo the meeting like I sometimes do. Sure as hell wish I did now. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. So if I say anything inaccurate below, blame it on old age. Or the alcohol.

Produced by MCAT, along with Planning Director Rogar Millar and OPG’s Mike Barton, it profiled the face of affordable housing – which is your neighbors and fireman and policemen and clerks and nurses and engineers and working professionals and service people. It oulined the problems that many businesses face in recruiting employees. It interviewed people like developer Collin Bangs, WGM head and every subdivision developer’s favorite Nick Kaufman, and a young couple that had to buy in Stevensville to find something affordable.

That couple now drives Hwy 93 daily to work here in Missoula, along with, literally, 1000’s of other Ravalli County residents. Can’t blame that on Ravalli – hell, they’re supporting our workforce, our economy!

Ravalli has been our affordable housing – but that is changing quickly, isn’t it?

While it didn’t include a lot of statistics or facts and figures (a small failure, IMO) – it is certain to be brought out in future discussion. It did include an interview with a mortgage lender who told how a household making $54,000/year could only afford a home that costs no more than $156,000. That $54,000 figure happens to be the median income of a family of 4.

There aren’t a lot of homes on the market for $156,000. Decent quality homes that don’t need tons of work and new water heaters and furnaces and foundation work, etc. The market simply doesn’t address the enormous need that is there.

First time home buyers, depending on their loan, have to purchase a home that passes that first time homebuyers inspection. Most don’t.

The mini-documentary also articulated the economic impact that the lack of affordable housing has on the valley – with one interviewee asking “Is Missoula missing out on economic growth?”

The production was revealing even to Dick Haines, who said it gave him something to think about.

Haines, incidentally, announced his candidacy for Mayor on Monday night also. More on that, eventually….but remember you heard that here first, about 2 weeks ago.

Engen announced the first community meeting of the housing discussion for March 13th – again, if my memory is off, hopefully he or Ed or any one of our other wonderful councilpeople will kick in here.

We’ve written pretty damned frequently on affordable housing here at 4and20blackbirds, and if you want to review some of our thoughts, please hit the “affordable housing” tag over to the left, under Categories.

With all that being said, when people start dissing on the discussion (which has yet to be had!) and start pointing to the recession as a solution to an essential workforce affordable housing issue that has hovered over this valley for at least 10 years now – ask them why they find it so hard to work through the discussion – to wait and hear the community speak. Ask them why they are embracing a recession as a solution. And then ask them to participate.

That’s about all my brain cells stored that can be at least semi-accurately reported. John Engen and the rest of the community that worked on that production deserve a huge big THANKS for starting that discussion.

Personally, I can’t thank them enough.

by jhwygirl

Boy I screwed this one up – I had scheduled this post to be done on the Thursday before the meetings, but I put it in March instead of February. So this is a late notice, and I apologize….

Envision Missoula will be holding meetings tomorrow and Thursday to bring Missoula its results of the long-range transportation workshops it held back in November.

Tomorrow’s (Wednesday’s) meeting is from 6 p.m to 8 p.m., and Thursday’s is from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Both meetings are at the 3rd floor Ballroom South of the University Center at UM.

If you need more information, you can contact the Office of Planning & Grants Transportation planners at 258-4989.

Don’t miss these meetings folks – transportation is on the tops of everyone’s mind these days, it seems – Councilman Dick Haines seems to be all about transportation planning these days – I’m sure he’ll be very involved in these meetings, given the deep interest he’s shown at the last two week’s city council meetings. Mayor Engen spent a significant amount of time addressing and updating council and the public on transportation issues last night also.

For some good primer reading on Missoula’s transportation issues, I highly recommend Daniel Nairn’s Discovering Urbanism and Jordan Hess’s Discovering Transit in Missoula websites. The are both chock full with musings and theories on transportation issues, and must-read websites for anyone following civic matters in Missoula.

by jhwygirl

Buried in the financial folly of the Performing Arts Center and the Hillview SID vote this past Monday – of which only ONE city councilperson was consistent in their fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers – Ward 3’s Stacy Rye – was a vote on the final authorization for construction and funding of the Hill/Higgins/Beckwith roundabout.

Now, this roundabout moved forward after a lengthy debate that was held for several meetings back in 2005. There have been several interim votes since then, all related to authorizing finance related matters – contracts, federal funding paperwork, etc.

All sitting councilmembers have voted on this project at one time or another.

Failing to approve final authorization of construction and the $55,000 in funding for the Hill/Higgins/Beckwith roundabout would have resulted in the city loosing $180,000 in previously spent engineering fees along with a delay of 20 years to obtain state funding to improve a poorly designed (thanks to feuding developers from back in the late 1800’s) intersections.

Let me repeat that – failing to approve final authorization of construction of the Hill/Higgins/Beckwith roundabout would have resulted in the city loosing $180,000 in previously spend taxpayer funds and a delay of 20 years in fixing a dangerous intersection.

There was only one “nay” vote Monday night – Ward 2’s Don Nicholson.

At least he was fiscally consistent – he voted against the Hillview SID too.

Notably, though, there were 4 councilmen who abstained. Yep. Abstained.

Now, the 4 that abstained – Ballas, Reidy, Wilkins and Hendrickson – have all voted on this project before. Consistently voted “nay” whenever anything vote related to the Hill/Higgins/Beckwith roundabout came up – but hell, at least they voted, right? (or wrong, as it were, right?)

Abstaining from this vote was childish. They can’t stick to their guns? They can’t show a little backbone?

At least they were semi-consistent with their consistency related to their lack of fiscal responsibility to the citizens – these same “Fab 4” voted against the Hillview SID.

Maybe they knew that voting against the funding would show them to be irresponsible with taxpayer money?

Sorry “Fab 4” – bowing out of the vote all together, especially when you have all voted on this thing before, makes you weasels. And fiscally irresponsible.

So nestled in the Engen-inspired chaos of Monday night was a third issue that helps illustrate how fiscally responsible a councilperson is to the citizens.

Above, when I mentioned that only Ward 3’s Stacy Rye was fiscally consistent with her vote to deny any extension to the Performing Arts Committee and to approve the Hillview SID (she voted ‘nay’ to the motion to deny the SID), I was wrong.

I should have added that Ward 3’s Stacy Rye was the only one consistent on all 3 votes.

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 jhwygirl

Big HUGE congratulations go out to Ward 1’s winner Jason Weiner. Jason takes a decisive win over Justin Armintrout, with over 64% of the vote! Jason will be a big supporter of the issues that are important to voters in Ward 1 – transportation and affordable housing. Welcome aboard Jason!

In Ward 2 – an important race due to incumbent Don “Just say No all the time” Nicholson – Pam Walzer campaigned a nearly 52% win out of what was a very tight race. A progressive having picking up that seat will be key in breaking up the clogged up council of the soon-to-be past. Way to go Pam!

Ward 3 – which holds what I believe some of the best large blocks of lands suitable for what can bring us real solutions to Missoula’s affordable housing problem – brings Missoula a very decisive victory with incumbent Stacy Rye beating out Doug Harrison, a former councilperson himself. Stacy took over 57% of the votes in Ward 3. Her experience and understanding of the economic impacts of affordable housing will be key, I believe, in bringing forward and keeping moving solutions for that important issue. (No pressure there, huh?) Big kudos to Stacy and the voters of Ward 3 in making the forward choice for Ward 3 and the City of Missoula.

Incumbent Ed Childers also brought Missoula progressives a win in Ward 6. That was – surprising to me and many others here in the ‘hood – the tightest race, with Ed taking it by 40 votes. Only 1,767 voters voted in Ward 6…Shame. Shame. Shame. Congrats to you too Mr. Childers! Ed coined the word “Regressives” (at least as I know it), and if only for that, I have lot’s of love for him. Plus that cute little Cooper he drives just makes him look “Oh So Cool!”

Disappointing, of course, was Christine Prescott’s loss in Ward 5. A lawyer and a minister, Christine would have done a lot to bring back civility and reasonableness to city council. Council doesn’t seem to get much help from Nugent, either, when it comes to ensuring that new ordinances and regulations are easily enforced and understood – and Christine would have helped immensely with that. Christine deserves a huge THANK YOU, though, for having run. It’s not easy – and demonstrates a dedication to community that not all of us are willing to do at such a level. Thank You Christine Prescott!

Also disappointing was Jerry Ballas’ loss in Ward 4. I don’t expect Lyn Hellegaard – who is apparently aligned with Jon Wilkins, John Hendrickson, and Dick Haines – to provide us anything more different than that which we are getting currently from that group of regressives. Jerry will be missed, as he has served this community well.

~~~~

Now clean up those election signs – get some rest – do your homework – and get ready to bring Missoula some PROGRESS!

Yippee!!

by jhwygirl

No surprises here – Jerry Ballas is once again attempting to throw a wrench into the already-approved-back-in-2005 Hill/Beckwith/Higgins traffic circle – so discussion will once again move two steps backwards regarding final authorization for construction of the traffic circle.

Ballas voted against it the first time around (back in 2005), and even attempted, after being in the minority, to call back the approval through a bitter childish attempt at twisting Council rules. A battle he lost. The guy just can not let things go. Note this little tidbit from the August 1, 2005 City Council Agenda:

Review rule and Heidi Kendall’s decision to rule out of order, the referral to “Reconsider roundabout at Higgins/Hill/Beckwith.”—Regular Agenda (Jerry Ballas)

That attempt was after nearly 6 months of public hearings and meetings in 2005 – in city hall and in the neighborhoods…discussions and agreements with property owners – one being a whole church’s congregation – and review of numerous traffic studies regarding safety of traffic circles and impacts on air quality.

So his actions last week at the Public Works committee are yet another example of how he clusters up City Council with bitter personal agenda maneuvers without regard to the safety of Missoula citizens, the cost to Missoula’s taxpayers, and the waste in time of City employees (even more taxpayer $ down the drain.)

For whatever reason, Ballas, along with his cohorts in wrench-throwing Hendrickson, Wilkins, Haines and Nicholson, don’t seem to like traffic circles. Or at least they don’t like them there at Hill/Beckwith/Higgins – because for some reason they were OK with the traffic circle at Miller Creek.

Now, Hill/Beckwith/Higgins is problematic area. Paxson School is nearby, and a child from that school was killed there last year. It is a intersection bringing traffic into and out of the University. And with Grizzly Grocery and its other businesses nearby, a difficult area to manage for both pedestrian and vehicular and business concerns.

Approvals for this project – the proper term is roundabout – were set in motion in June 2005. More than 2 years ago, City Council made the decision to contract with Morrison-Mierle for design of a roundabout. Commitments were made, citizen tax dollars were spent.

Now that work is done, and the city has the final steps of authorizing construction. The city has a few options in how to do it – they can do it by themselves (i.e., no state or federal funding) for about $500,000. They can do it with state and federal funding – in that scenario, the cost for the project will total out at $1,000,000 BUT the city’s share would only be approximately $50,000. I’m not missing a zero there, folks. The already-3/4-of-the-way-down-the-pike project would cost the city $50,000. (Missoulapolis, it seems, is missing part of the story.)

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