Archive for the ‘John Engen’ Category

by jhwygirl

Had a coworker say to me this morning as work begun “What’s with Jon Krakauer? Why does he hate UM?” Tone and history told me where they were on the University of Montana – City of Missoula – Mayor John Engen – President Engstrom rape “thing”: The “It’s over!” “Why bring this up again?” “Jordan Johnson was innocent!” “No one ever proved anything!” crowd.

Whatever. I’ll continue to call bs on the matter if anyone discusses to any great degree – and it’s likely they do so just to get a rise out of me. I’m OK with it. I have a decent memory, and I deal with facts. Google is easily accessible. The #truth was revealed in the Department of Justice report; the statutes of limitations haven’t expired; Montana’s current Attorney General Tim Fox has stated he feels the matter has been resolved; both the previous Governor Brian Schweitzer and the current Governor Steve Bullock have done nothing, either, to press for justice; and – the real kicker here that everyone seems to forget – the rapists walk free. Those are facts, but apparently there are many here that feel comfortable to ignore the reality.

It’s not like this isn’t free and open information – the Missoulian did fine reporting on the matter, and I still thank Gwen Florio for her fearless journalism, along with the editor and publisher that stood behind reporting on the matter while there was some huge advertising and Griz Nation backlash.

I wonder how the vicitims feel? I think of them. Do you think Freddie Van Valkenburg does? Or the ever-so-efficient, John Engen-endorsed Missoula County Attorney Kirsten B. Pabst? I doubt it.

Does Montana Attorney General Tim Fox – who was hot on the campaign pulpit on the issue of sexual predators – think about the gang rape that happened? That President Engstrom’s own “independent” investigator – a former Montana Supreme Court Justice – also found and placed in her report?

Does Fox think about the other sexual assaults? The 5 year old victim? I do.

Krakauer may be facing an unfriendly welcome here in Missoula when (and if) he comes to sign books. Or speak. But it sure isn’t going to be from me. I’m glad he took the rape issue on. I’m glad it’s the rape issue here. I hope he continues to push for the University papers. I hope he finds the alleged connections that are there between the former Governor’s office and his cronies and friends that came to the Board of Regents, and the weave of politics behind the whole sordid mess.

But getting back to my cowoker…..

I said that I wouldn’t be so sure that he hates the University of Montana – that maybe Krakauer loves Montana and just looks for any excuse to come here to write. (I was in a jolly mood this morning – and as I mentioned above, all parties know where I stand on the rape matter. Plus I added my own little sprinkle of sarcasm.)

The reply was that “Well, he hates the Two Cups of Tea guy too.”

And I love pink ponies and rainbows.

Addendum: One of my favorite posts from the University of Montana rape scandal is this from Patrick Duganz, as it epitomizes the head-in-the-sand Good-Ole-Boy’s Club and seemingly socially acceptable rape and sexual assault is (or was, depending on who you ask) here in Missoula: Rape is not “knuckleheaded,” Rape is a felony.

by jhwygirl

Missoula Mayor John Engen apologized today in an email to all city employees…only, as Lizard points out, it was more likely born out of being caught than truly giving a shit about impinging on free speech.

And for evidence of that, I point to the last two paragraphs of Sunday’s Missoulian piece. It’s pretty clear that up until darn near press time, Engen was still justifying his position of trying to silence Officer Geoff Curtis:

On Friday, Engen termed Curtis “pretty passionate about his university. It was just one of those situations where it probably was not the most appropriate choice, given what his career choice is.”

While Engen said “there was an offer (to apologize) during a particular meeting. I don’t think we need to do it today.”

Later, he texted the Missoulian to say that “Curtis is a really good young officer and his was a minor mistake born of good intentions.”

Yeah. So he apologized. Only after what was probably a hundred phone calls and him trying to figure out how he could sit through the city council public meeting tonight.

A thanks to councilperson Adam Hertz for first bringing that letter to our attention. Mr. Hertz posted the entire contents of Mayor Engen’s comments here in this comment.

And once again I offer a super huge THANKS to reporter Gwen Florio and the Missoulian for the continued investigation into this sexual assault and rape scandal enveloping the City of Missoula, County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg’s office and the University of Montana. And extra thanks to her for those last two paragraphs above. That’s attention to detail – and makes a difference even today, imo.

by jhwygirl

The disgusting underbelly of the good old boy’s club – ‘you cover our ass, we’ll cover yours’ mentality – has been pretty much laid bare over this weekend in a series of articles from the Missoulian’s Gwen Florio.

On Saturday we got Emails show UM, city accounts differ on Saudi rape suspect and UM dean implicated 4 football players in gang rape, emails reveal – a lowlight hightlight of that being U. Montana Vice President and thug Jim Foley’s great offense to the term “gang rape” and that the university’s own legal council David Aronofsky had been advised by the National Association of College and University Attorneys that hiding a felon behind the student code of conduct may violate state laws.

Geez – you have to go to law school to know that? Because that’s what many of us have been complaining about for months.

And just to repeat a salient point here – when you deny someone justice, you have violated their civil rights.

Just in case anyone is wondering why the U.S. Justice Department civil rights division is in town.

I also tend to think that Coach Pflugrad won’t be showing up to that office he still has over there at U. Montana.

This morning we get even nastier news that thug Foley sought to use the so-called Student Code of Conduct against the rape victim who had been speaking publicly about the handling of the rape and sexual assault cases at the U.

AT WHAT POINT IS FOLEY GONE? FOR THE SAKE OF THE UNIVERSITY AND ALL STUDENTS ON CAMPUS, I DON’T CARE WHAT IT COST – GET THIS THUG OUT OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM. PERIOD.

The fact that his questions were even friggin’ tolerated among university administration who were part of his emails on this tactic – the story naming then-Dean of Students Charles Coutur, chief council David Aranofsky, and UM’s director of equal opportunity and affirmative action Lucy France – is beyond comprehension.

At this point, if every parent in this state – if every parent of every out of state child – and if every alumni from everywhere hasn’t contacted the Montana Board of Regents to direct them to take a comprehensive investigation and correction of this malfeasance, then they should be now.

Even more disgusting for Missoulians, the every-so-pleasant Mayor John Engen was right in there with U Montana’s Vice President Tim Foley and President Royce Engstrom. Working feverishly to protect the University of Montana image (and those that had violated the rights of sexual assault victims), even after Engstrom & Co. had facilitated the escape of the Saudi rapist – while violating the civil rights of Missoula City Police officer Geoff Curtis.

Progressive Mayor Engen? Calling a cop out on the carpet and sending him to apologize to UM President Royce Engstrom for an email he send while off duty and from his private email account?

And just to repeat a salient point here – the First Amendment which protects free speech is a civil right.

How does an elected official send a police officer – who is charged with enforcing the law and protecting the rights of others – off to apologize for exercising his right to free speech? The pornographic assault on the constitution with just this one incident is simply astounding.

And sure – there will still be those out there defending our illustrious Mayor Engen, because after all, he’s a nice fun guy. Tells lots of great jokes at parties.

Katie J. M. Baker at Jezebel picked up an important piece of information (imo) in her weekend in the U.S.’s new Rape Capitol – and those of you still wishing to give the oh-so-nice Mayor John Engen a pass would do wise to take notice. Because things aren’t going to change here until all of the problem players are held in check.

Ms. Baker refers to Engen’s interview with CNN’s with Erin Burnett, which I had caught live. I was caught off guard with Burnett quizzing Engen on reports that the police were hading out pamphlets on false reporting penalties to rape and assault victims. Engen’s interview had left me upset not only for his inability – even with the justice department in town looking into civil rights violations – to grasp the seriousness of situation, but also his convoluted excuse-making for Chief Muir’s handing out of pamphlets.

Engen also falsely puts forth that Muir didn’t believe in the literature he was handing out. Now – anyone that pays attention here in Missoula knows that Muir did put forth that most rape reports were false until he was corrected by council woman Cynthia Wolken.

Ms. Baker went a digging on that one and spoke with the woman who had brought forth that allegation.

The next few weeks were even more frustrating for Kerry. The detective assigned to her case canceled meetings, failed to call her back, and told Kerry “not to expect much.” After interviewing a tearful Gabe, the detective concluded he was so distraught that he was possibly suicidal. “I was like, great, I’m glad you’re so concerned about his well-being,” Kerry said. When she asked Police Chief Muir why it mattered if she had a boyfriend, he told her that most rape reports are false. After she argued that, in fact, generally accepted data suggests only about six percent are indeed false, Muir emailed her a dubious 2009 report from The Forensic Examiner supporting his claims. “I guess I just didn’t want you to think I was just pulling stuff out of thin air,” he wrote.

Engen defending Police Chief Muir without having the full picture was just a glimpse into his draw-the-wagon’s-up-boys mentality…and it’s even uglier now to look at now that we know the exchange between him and Engstrom…and that he sent a police officer over to apologize for criticizing the university.

Jezebel took a beating in the comments on her post a little – Missoulians and/or UMontana connected people attaching her for coming into “my town” and “my university.” I read Jezebel with too irregularity (I admit) but I do know they don’t give a shit about being criticized. Goddess bless ’em, because this story needs all the attention it can garner.

Even today, in the comments of the Missoulian – with emails of Engen and Engstrom and Foley exposed – there are those that continue to defend the entire group of sycophantic administrators complicit in Missoula and the university’s rape and sexual assault problem.

I know that isn’t what Missoula is about. Goddess help us if it is.

by jhwygirl

University of Montana President Engstrom attended a forum this afternoon on the recent assaults at the university and continued to defend his actions, stating that the university “did everything right.”

You can read a re-hashing (along with links) of his malfeasance here.

This guy has had a couple of nights to sleep on it, and yet he’s still out there defending his actions, which led to the assailant’s escape back to his home country.

Unreal. Has he talked to the victim’s parents? What do they have to say about Engstrom’s self-perceived success?

Extremely annoying to me is that he’s continuing to whine about the media – like he did on Friday – regarding their 7-day lag time to notify the students of the assault. And to be clear here, there are many legitimate criticisms regarding whether they went far enough notifying students.

In tonight’s Montana Kaimin article, Engstrom more specifically defends this position by stating that the first assault wasn’t reported as a sexual assault (though the victim has stated to the paper that “the man grabbed her and forced her to kiss him after she was made to drink something which made her sick and caused her to have trouble moving.”) That he didn’t find out about the second assault until the 17th – that one being reported as rape.

Now, let’s state a few seemingly obvious things:
Assault is assault. Apparently Engstrom didn’t find anything too distressing about a woman reporting that someone held her against her will and poured alcohol down her throat, after which she threw up.

Second: Rohypnol anyone? Does that first “assault” not reek of rohypnol? Please.

Third: UMontana had the assailants name from date of the incident, albeit about 12 hours later, on February 10th. They had the assailants name.

Forth: Again, assault is assault. This is where, I think, Engstrom is trying to split hairs, justifying his 7-day delay in doing anything at all (except facilitate the rapist’s escape.) It doesn’t fly for me…

Which is where I come back to the headline: Engstrom? If the “media” has it wrong – if the Missoulian has it wrong, if the Kaimin has it wrong – call for a retraction. Because your lame excuses aren’t working.

Not only that – he’s gotten caught in his web of lies with his timeline during today’s press conference, someone having pointed out to him that President’s day was on the 20th, not the 13th (which is part of his excuse – that 3-day weekend – to the delay in getting news out of the assaults.)

His reply? That he’s going to have to “reexamine the timeline.”

Boy – you’d think he’d of had his story straight by now.

~~~~~
Wednesday brings another press conference, this one jointly held, at Missoula City Hall, with President Engstrom, ASUM President Gursky and Missoula Mayor John Engen. It begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday at City Hall and will speak to issues regarding campus and city responsibilities in sexual assault cases.

by jhwygirl

25 American mayors around the U.S. signed a letter off to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlining their concerns over the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport Canadian Tar Sands oil.

I’m pretty sure our council has a resolution out regarding the transport of the big rigs for the nasty dirty Tar Sands…and I’m pretty sure it does, in part, refer to the overall impacts of the extraction. Seems Missoula should be continuing to represent its opinion in these matters.

In other news, the state department recently announced that it would be doing a supplemental EIS on the pipeline.

Let’s hope Missoula provides official public input.

One fact they’ll have to look at?

The firms involved have asked the U.S. State Department to approve this project, even as they’ve told Canadian government officials how the pipeline can be used to add at least $4 billion to the U.S. fuel bill.

U.S. farmers, who spent $12.4 billion on fuel in 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, could see expenses rise to $15 billion or higher in 2012 or 2013 if the pipeline goes through.

At least $500 million of the added expense would come from the Canadian market manipulation.”>

Let’s hope our Senator Jon Tester is looking out for Montana’s agricultural community on this one – and saying “NO” to this pipeline.

by jhwygirl

Boy – couldn’t have better weather for a fly-fishing competition and evening fundraiser, could you?

Missoula’s very hard-working homeless shelter, The Poverello’s Center will be hosting its 5th annual Double Haul Fly Fishing Fundraiser Saturday, with Kettlehouse Brewing providing adult beverages and Two Sisters of Montana helping out with the food.

Who’s doing the stand-up? Of course, Mayor John Engen…

There’s also Bob Wire – who not only does some mean stand-up, he is multi-talented with both voice and gee-tar.

So don’t miss it people. Even if you don’t do the fly-fishing part, the evening fundraiser starts at 5 p.m. downtown in the Governor’s Ballroom of the Florence Building.

P.S. – Hey Kettlehouse! Fix that webpage!

by jhwygirl

With Social Security celebrating its 75th anniversary, people here in Missoula have the opportunity to participate in a community forum designed to bring a myriad of state and community leaders – and the general public – together to discuss the issues facing Social Security.

On Monday, at 10:30 a.m. in city council chambers, located at 140 W. Pine Street, Mayor John Engen will join with former U.S. Senator John Melcher and U.S. Representative Pat Williams to lead a panel discussion on Social Security, along with a list of numerous community leaders, including:

State Senator Dave Wanzenried
Mike Mayer, Summit Independent Living
Paul Meyer, Western Montana Rehabilitation
Jack Chambers, Opportunity Resources
Susan Kohler, Missoula Aging Services
Mark Anderlik, Missoula Central Labor Council and
Cris Volinkaty, Child Development Center

The format will be a panel discussion with plenty of opportunity afterwards for a question and answer period to the panel participants.

I’m hoping to be able to make it, but my schedule is pretty tight – but the attendees on the tentative list are impressive and I know that organizers have been working to bring in those with conservative viewpoints.

Dave Budge, are you reading?

Because I doubt I’ll be able to make it, I really hope MCAT is able to cover it. It’s an important issue and as the Obama Administration begins the discussion to look for solutions, it’s important for communities around the U.S. to be involved in offering their viewpoints and suggestions.

For a primer on what Social Security means for Montana, read this report, titled Social Security Works for Montana.

by jhwygirl

Governor Schweitzer will be in town tomorrow, 11 a.m to 1 p.m. at the University Theater to discuss the impact of the Smurfit-Stone plant closure.

They like to get a count before hand, so try and RSVP to Debbie Evans at debbie@maedc.org.

This was announced pretty late, I have to say – a 6 p.m. announcement on Bob Jaffe’s liserve, which was a few hours after Mayor Engen organized a conference call – which included White House representatives and our Senator’s aides – to discuss where to go next for the displaced workers, and where to go next for Missoula.

I mean – when other elected officials are saying stuff like this: “I don’t think any of us really has any particulars on how it’s going to play out, but I’d be darned surprised if it didn’t have a pretty major impact on this county,” on the morning of the closure, it sure makes me glad we got people like Engen thinking that we better do something sooner than later. Pick up the phone. Make some calls. Get leaders involved. Like now. ASAP.

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

Via Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller’s Twitter – looks like Mayor Engen did a partial veto, allowing calls and hands-free, but keeping texting illegal.

Council has a week to consider.

UPDATE: Engen calls for texting to be a primary offense. I’ll link to the letter when it becomes available.

by Pete Talbot

After a pitcher of Badlander IPA, the mayor and the planners relaxed, and then gave a concise and passionate argument for the Missoula Zoning Rewrite.

The title of the event sucked me in: “Everybody Must Get Zoned.” But it turned out to be a straight-forward look at the zoning process and policy, and what Missoula could be in the future.

Missoula’s zoning laws, except for some tweaking here-and-there, are 30-to-50-years-old — based on an Ozzie and Harriet family model. The demographics in Missoula, however, have changed.  Now, 22 percent are single family, and then there’s the rest of us (mixed families, singles, empty-nesters, students, retired) but we’re still zoned like it’s the 1950’s.

OPG Director Roger Millar and senior planner Mike Barton were with the mayor at the invitation of Forward Montana. It was informal, about 35 people at the Badlander: politicos, seniors, organizers, students and folks like me.

Mayor Engen reminded everyone that it’s been a two-year, open-to-the-public, process. All points of view are in play and there are no deal breakers. Millar spoke to the history of zoning — laws that basically said ‘no’ to how we develop instead of ‘yes’ to what we’d like to see. Barton talked about specifics and how the rewrites would make laws clearer.

All three speakers have been around the block, understand Missoula, and have a vision for what’s going to sustain and enhance our community.

To hear the critics, the proposed zoning changes would have a radical impact on our neighborhoods. What I heard seemed pretty mild to me: minor changes in lot size and density calculations and height allowance, etc.; maybe some B&B’s, and accessory dwelling units here-and-there. The kind of things forward-looking cities have been doing for awhile.

I didn’t take my notebook, again, so I’m paraphrasing at best. I needed to get out of the house, have a beverage and catch up on local stuff, so this was a good diversion on a late March, wintry evening. I’m glad I went and was encouraged by what I heard.

Please folks, get involved. Here’s the info, and if you can’t make it to a planning meeting or talk to your ward representative or go to a PAZ committee meeting, at least you can comment. This is an opportunity to shape the future of Missoula.

by Pete Talbot

Over at Missoula Red Tape, Keila Szpaller hints that Missoula Councilman John Hendickson might make a run for mayor.

Please, please let it be true. We’ve posted on Ward Two’s Councilor a few times here, here and here, for starters.

I can’t think of a more divisive, thoughtless, regressive and downright mean-spirited member on city council. This would be a cakewalk for sitting Mayor Engen.

Szpaller notes that Hendrickson did refile for his old ward seat and may actually be happy in that position. So if he’s not running for mayor, I’m praying someone will take him on in Ward Two. They’d be doing that ward and the city a huge favor.

The municipal primary election is Tuesday, Sept. 8 and the general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3. It may seem early to talk about local elections but before you know it, they’re upon us.

by Pete Talbot

Since it’s the holidays and all, I thought I should play nice. But then, silly me, I surfed some conservative blog sites. They’re coming to the defense of poor Jane “let’s throw a wrench in the works” Rectenwald.

Ms. Rectenwald has been in the news lately, alleging that the Missoula Office of Planning and Grants Director Roger Millar, “upended democracy and threatened to throw her out of meetings.”

This came on the heels of a prepared speech she gave at a planning workshop – a workshop that wasn’t supposed to be a venue for prepared speeches. You can read her complaint and her speech here. The speech is so full of inaccuracies and venom that it boggles the mind.

I don’t know Mr. Millar but I’ve heard he’s an agreeable fellow who’s open to input from the community. To quote Mayor Engen, “Roger Millar is the last person I can think of who would try to stifle public comment, democracy or participation.”

I don’t know Rectenwald that well, either, although I did observe her a couple of times at City-Government Review Board meetings, where she served on the board. It seemed like she was doing her best to derail what was supposed to be a consensus-driven process.

Anyway, Rob Natelson over at Electric City Blog has a post entitled, “Petty Tyranny in Missoula” (subtle, huh?). He has this to say:

“… the citizens present were divided up into “teams.” They were told to confer among themselves and then have a team representative tell everyone else ”two good things and two bad things” about the proposed re-zoning plan. The idea, apparently, was to force people to say something good about the plan, so that could be reported later as a show of public support.”

Hey, Rob – I guess this would “force people” to say something bad about the plan, too.

Then he continues with U.S. Supreme Court/Bill of Rights rhetoric, adding, “it flatly violates the First Amendment for any government official to force a citizen to state views the citizen doesn’t believe.”

So, Rob, were they water boarding the citizens? Electrodes on their privates?

Rob goes on to state that, “a city official told her (Rectenwald) never to attend a Missoula public hearing again!” which is just plain untrue.

And Rob teaches law at UM. Scary.

Carol over at Missoulapolis picked up the beat:

“This is what is so nauseating. Instead of having straightup meetings with each comer allowed his or her say – as in the Miller Creek EIS process, for example – they have to do these “workshops” to foster the illusion of public participation and consensus. It’s a game, and you could say that Jane does not play well with others. And that’s why we like her so much here at Missoulapolis.”

Let’s see … “illusion of public participation,” “it’s a game,” “nauseating.” Tell us how you really feel, Carol. Perhaps let’s not have any public participation and just ram zoning rewrites through the council. Then let’s watch the right-wingers come unglued. They’re never happy

Rectenwald is a spokeswoman for what I call the “dumb growthers.” You know, the folks that favor sprawl and are against infill and affordable housing. They get the most fired up when those pesky university students try to find places to live close to the university.

Rectenwald is not helping the process of revisiting Missoula’s zoning ordinances — and it’s an important process. Nor is she helping her own cause. Way to go, Jane.

by Jason Wiener

Bob Oaks of the North-Missoula Community Development Corporation (NMCDC) asked me to pass along this good news about NMCDC’s latest perpetually affordable home ownership project, Burns Street Commons, and Wednesday’s visit by Senator Baucus to celebrate the project’s completion.

*****

This coming Wednesday, at 3:00 p.m., Missoula Mayor John Engen will join Senator Max Baucus to celebrate the completion of Burns Street Commons. The Commons is a 17-unit housing component of Burns Street Square, the largest publicly funded community revitalization project ever undertaken in this low-income Missoula neighborhood. The ribbon cutting ceremony will begin at 3:00 p.m. and will be followed by an open house of the Burns Street Commons’ homes. Refreshments will be served at both events. The Commons is located at 1400 Burns Street (between Cooley and Turner Streets). Burns Street Square is a project of the North-Missoula Community Development Corporation (NMCDC).

Since 2001, the NMCDC’s community land trust has provided 47 new homes for income qualified, first-time, buyers in Missoula.  Bob Oaks, Executive Director of the NMCDC says, “In terms of home ownership, over the last seven years, the NMCDC has built more homes in the old North and Westside neighborhoods than any other developer, including the for-profit sector that has concentrated more on multi-family rental projects.”

Oaks goes on to say, “Community land trusts are fast becoming the workforce housing strategy of choice in high cost communities. In Montana, these include the newly formed Whitefish Area Land Trust (WALT) and fledgling groups in Kalispell and Great Falls. Just last month, the Montana Board of Housing awarded the NMCDC a “Certificate of Excellence” for its pioneering work in establishing a community land trust in Missoula.”

Currently, the NMCDC has 17 new townhouse and condominium units for sale. The Burns Street Square development expands the community land trust model to include a commercially oriented community center building. That community center will focus on nutrition and will attempt to democratize fresh, local and whole foods to a wider variety of Missoulians.  The fledgling Missoula Community Market is already in the old freight building. The NMCDC plans to remodel it to add a cafe and commercial kitchen. Also last month, a federal appropriations subcommittee recommended that the NMCDC receive $1,000,000 to help with the building’s remodeling expenses.

For additional information on Burns Street Square contact the North-Missoula Community Development Corporation at (406) 829-0873 or visit www.nmcdc.org.

by jhwygirl

This.

by Pete Talbot

(Here are some tidbits gleaned from weekend newspapers, a magazine, some websites and emails. This post’s headline is to be sung to the tune of Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” as performed by Johnny Cash.)

First, a little humor from Sunday’s Pearls Before Swine comic strip. It’s for all of us bloggers who sometimes take ourselves a little too seriously.

Both Jay at LiTW and jhwygirl here at 4&20 are promoting an ActBlue site via this link. Your donations in these critical Montana House races can make all the difference. For example, I received this email from a progressive friend in Miles City (yes, there are progressives in Miles City): “We need to raise more money for Bill McChesney…his opponent is a wealthy ranch/real estater with ambitions akin to Taylor Brown.” This race in HD 40 pits incumbent Democrat McChesney against Republican Jeff Harding.

Missoula County Democrats are holding their summer picnic. Here’s the skinny: “Tuesday, July 15, 6:00 p.m. in Bonner Park in Missoula and all are invited. This is great opportunity to get together with your fellow Democrats over a burger and a beverage, hear some short political speeches and generally have a good time. Local and statewide candidates will all be taking part in the festivities. The Democrats are providing the main course of grilled meat or vegi. Wayne Fairchild of Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures (www.trailadventures.com) is providing the equipment and his guides will be doing the grilling. We are asking attendees to bring a side dish if their last name starts A – K. A salad if name starts with L – R and a desert for those whose names start with S – Z. We will be providing the rest. If you don’t have time to bring a dish to pass, come on anyway. We’ll have plenty of food. This is not a fundraiser although a donation of 5 – 10 dollars would be appreciated to cover the costs of food and beverages.”

Right below the pop-up food ad on the Missoulian’s website, there’s a story about Mayor John Engen, headlined: “Svelte mayor kisses 102 pounds goodbye.” I’m not sure if “svelte” is the word but congratulations, Mr. Mayor. Keep up the good work.

Harper’s magazine has a superb article called “The Wrecking Crew” with the subtitle “How a gang of right-wing con men destroyed Washington and made a killing.” It stars our old friend Jack Abramhoff and is a litany of malfeasance and corruption. Unfortunately, you’ll have to go to the library or buy a copy of Harper’s because you can’t read the story online, but it’s well worth the effort. Or, here’s a link if you want a subscription.

Sadly, there’s this news out of Afghanistan. The op-eds, letters and pundits say we’re winning the war in Iraq — that remains to be seen. For now, we’re losing ground in Afghanistan, which was our first mission. We have international support in Afghanistan yet there’s no solution in sight. The sooner we can disentangle from this mess, and let the locals decide their fate, the better. Our heartfelt condolences to the families of those who have given their all.

by jhwygirl

Ever the consummate politician, Governor Schweitzer jumped at the opportunity to generate support for his coal-to-gasification and Otter Creek tract dreams when asked by Mayor Engen to help with affordable housing.

“Put your brains to affordable housing with me,” Engen asked, while touring Brian around town, within sight of the Intermountain Lumber site.

Schweitzer obliged, according to The Missoulian, and and turned to a staffer and asked how the coal tax fund could help.

~~~~~

In another part of the visit, Engen asked the Governor to help stump for some reform with Director Lynch, of the Montana Department of Transportation. Something was mentioned about “red tape”.

Council members have complained about MDOT’s heavy-handed review and approval authority over city projects (dare I say Hill-Beckwith?) and funding methodology. Heavily populated and shopping destination Missoula generates a whole bunch of gas tax revenue, yet doesn’t receive funding proportional to its generation of funds. Engen, surely, was looking for a more equitable solution.

As for cutting through that red tape, I say keep that push on, John – the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

by Pete Talbot

Odds-on favorite Dennis Daneke lost to political neophyte Michele Landquist in the race for Missoula County Commissioner. Albeit by only 42 votes, but that’s all it takes.

Daneke ran a strong campaign with direct mail, voter ID, fund raisers, phone banks, etc. I didn’t see much out of the Landquist camp.

So, armchair analysis abounds. Some say it was Landquist’s staunch opposition to the proposed gravel pit just north of Lolo. Daneke was lukewarm in his opposition and that cost him votes in that area of the county.

Others say it was all the newly registered voters who came out to vote for Obama but had no idea who the players were in the commissioner race, and casting a vote for Michele Landquist because the name had a nice ring to it.

A few folks said that having Mayor John Engen as treasurer and advisor to the Daneke campaign could have cost some votes. While Engen is popular in many Missoula circles, outside the city limits the last thing the majority of voters want is the progressive (I use that word loosely) politics that they seem to think rule the city of Missoula.

I’m guessing it was a combination of all three of the above scenarios.

Finally, there was a conversation overheard by two Republican voters on election night at an unnamed watering hole. They were saying that they crossed over to the Democratic ballot to vote against Daneke because they felt he would be the strongest candidate to go against incumbent Republican candidate Larry Anderson in the general election.

This last reason (cross over voting) is a little hard to prove. One could go to a strong Republican precinct and see if there were an abnormally high number of Democratic ballots cast but since Republicans stayed away from the polls in droves this primary, it’s hard to tell.

I also have to wonder if Larry Anderson supporters were really that well organized to swing an election. And if so, why not cross over for the other Democratic primary candidate, Jeff Patterson? That way, they’d have a win-win situation going into the November election.

Patterson, the third candidate for the commission in the primary, came in, well, third. Thank God. After reading his guest column in the Missoulian about his distaste for “Smart Growth,” I am eternally grateful.

In Patterson’s column, he quotes often from the Montana Policy Institute – a Libertarian “think tank” out of Bozeman. Funding for the institute comes from big bucks ‘free marketeers,” the far, far right and their ilk.

Now it’s time to learn about Michele Landquist, her isssues and campaign. You’ll definitely be reading more about her here at 4&20.

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 washingtonpost.com, 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 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 jhwygirl

Mayor John Engen’s essential workforce affordable housing initiative, titled Housing in Missoula: A Community Conversation, will debut in a public meeting to be held this Thursday at City Council Chambers at 140 Pine Street, at 7 p.m.

Notice of the initiative was first discussed at the February 25th city council hearing when the Mayor unveiled a 20 minute video, produced by MCAT.

The video is intended to initiate a community-wide conversation on the housing – the rising cost and the impacts it is having on community character, local business, the local economy and, as the video suggested, economic growth.

A packet containing local housing data will be available at the meeting.

Just in time for this conversation, oddly, the Missoula Organization of Realtors removed its market data and trend information from its website.

To be fair, that may have more to do with them trying to maintain the high prices on Missoula housing (that they’ve played a part in) through the Bush-influenced, banking-industry-run-amok recession that we are currently experiencing than any denial of the shortage of essential workforce housing here in Missoula.

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 Pete Talbot

Some local and regional tidbits that I found interesting. Three of the four items below were gleaned from the daily Missoulian (Tuesday, August 28).

Governor Schweitzer has called a special session to deal with the extraordinary fire costs from the summer of 2007 (and it ain’t over yet). This seems like an inefficient way to deal with the state’s firefighting budget. Can’t this be done by emails or phone calls or even snail mail? Or maybe give the governor the power to shift money around in budgetary emergencies like this? (It’s not like the money isn’t there; there was $180 million left over from the last session.) Think of the wasted time and money, and the inconvenience, of getting 100 house members and 50 senators back to Helena for a day. There has to be a better way.

Urban chickens are going back to committee for some detailing. City council heard from the public last night but didn’t vote on the new ordinance to allow six hens (no roosters) within the city limits. It sounded like the pro-chicken advocates outnumbered the anti-chicken forces at Monday night’s hearing.

The Bozeman City Commission said “no” to buying any power from Electric City Power, following similar decisions from Helena and Missoula. The sticking point, again, was the proposed Highwood coal-fired generating plant. Apparently, the commission refused to even put the matter on any future agendas. (A tip o’ the hat to Noodly Appendage for bringing this to my attention.)

Finally, a small item at the bottom of a display ad for the Missoula Osprey baseball team, and I quote: “FREE Mayor John Engen Bobblehead Doll to the 1st 750 fans through the gates. Sure to be a collectible!” I had no idea these were available. If I can’t make the game, can someone tell me where I can pick one of these up? A bobblehead would sure look sweet in the back window of my car.

by jhwygirl

In what might be described as an atypical city council meeting for the Garden City, Missoulians from both sides of the Iraqi war discussion filled city council chambers and waited patiently to let their voices be heard on one of the most contentious issues facing all Americans everywhere – continuation of the war in Iraq.

I watched from afar (gotta love MCAT), fearing that the whole meeting would deride into chaos, but my ingrained cynicism got the best of me last night. I was wrong. All speakers, including the council members, were civil, articulate, thoughtful, respectful and attentive. No boos or hisses, no one walking out of the meeting, no one getting assaulted in the hallway. Pretty amazing considering not only the history of regular Monday night council meetings, but the topic at hand.

I have to add here, to stand out on its own, that I was given new hope in the youth of today. I too often am dismissive of today’s MTV generation (or whatever they are called), and last night proved me wrong. I was mesmerized by the 20-somethings (and probably a few 18 and 19 year olds) that spoke eloquently about their right to be heard and the validity of a referendum and Councilman Bob Jaffe’s resolution. (Sven, I think I am in love.)

I believe the referendum gives Missoulians the opportunity to be heard in a more intimate manner – vote by vote.

More importantly, it opens up a forum for discussion on the Iraqi war itself – the validity, the value, the purpose, the cost. I think the coming discussion will make all Missoulians more aware of the war in an every day, every hour, every minute manner – something that is missing in all of the ‘war’ talk.

Americans go on their merry ways, while soldiers are shipped daily to a war built on a lie, and bolstered still by even more lies. American soldiers die daily, yet at home, Americans head down to the Walmart to buy their stuff. Soldiers are maimed and brought home without limbs while we fill our tanks with the very stuff that is the real reason why we are over there fighting people who have done us no harm. Saddam is gone, hanged, and yet there is absolutely no end in sight. His own Sunni supporters are in positions of power.

The Iraq war is not the Afghanistan war. It is not a war against the terrorists that attacked us on September 11, 2001. A separation needs to be drawn – loud and clear – between Iraq and Afghanistan. Too many blur that line, including the Bush administration. Even today, with all that is know, that line is still blurred. It has to end.

I look forward to the discussion to come. War is unpleasant – and people need to be reminded of it every day. We will be living with reminders of the Iraqi war’s unpleasantness for decades to come, as its soldiers return to live the lives they so richly deserve. We can not and should not waive off any discussion of so important a ‘divisive issue’. It brings shame to the heroes who serve this country so proudly.

The soldiers and their families who have sacrificed and are sacrificing so much deserve this conversation. All of America should be so lucky.

by jhwygirl

Tucked into Monday nights city council meeting, new Office of Planning & Grants Director Rogar Millar reminded City of Missoula residents that his department would be initiating and update of the city zoning and subdivision regulations with a meeting – including refreshments – at the Broadway Building conference room at St. Patrick’s Hospital on West Broadway.

The Town Hall-type meeting starts at 6 p.m., Wednesday, June 27th. The Office of Planning and Grants has this link up for more information. You can also call 258-4657.

As Mayor Engen said “This is an important meeting, folks” – and while zoning and subdivision regulation talk might seem dreary and boring, it is the meat-and-bone of how this city is run. It affects your daily life, your quality of life, whether you realize it or not.

Participating in this discussion and providing meaningful input into regulations that, once they are in place are usually pretty difficult to change, is a worthy project. Elected officials (and department officials, also) are usually reticent to open up approved regulations for fear of not only opening up a much larger discussion that that of which might be intended, but because it could start a whole train of regulation changes.

And besides – just take a guess who is going to be trying to make sure their interests are being covered and protected under the new regulations? Developers and big business.

by jhwygirl

Ward 3’s councilman Bob Jaffe has criticized the city’s budget process in both an email and in an article in the Missoulian. Councilmen Haines, Hendrickson, Wilkins and Ballas have chimed in also in agreement, an odd alliance, really.

The gist of Jaffe’s complaint is that the budget is essentially ‘set’ when it gets to them – that the time with which the council has to review and approve it does not allow enough time to exert any influence. “There is no money for lots of stuff I think should get done, but plenty of stuff that seems like it could wait or is a bit extravagant. The standards for belt-tightening is no applied evenly,” Jaffe said.

The current budget process is driven by the Mayor and the City Administrator. Department heads meet with the Mayor and City Administrator, beginning as early as April (if not sooner), and they have ongoing discussions with their budget, and then it is essentially handed up to Council for approval. There are lots of meetings.

Missoula’s 2006 general fund budget was $36 million.

Haines has said that he believes the budget really should reflect the opinions of councilmembers. He’d like to see 10 new pistols budgeted for, in response to a police department request. They currently aren’t there. He’d also like to see a drug diversion officer.

Jaffe would like to see more cash for bike lanes and affordable housing. “Unless we are going to raise some kind of mutiny, we just tweak a couple thousand here and there. Otherwise, it is pretty much all worked out and the department heads are just parading it before us out of courtesy. I’m not sure exactly why, but I find the whole thing frustrating.”

I think I understand why, Bob.

I didn’t work to help elect Bob Jaffee only to have him cut out of the budget process except to the level of review as a courtesy. I’m sure people didn’t do the same for their candidate (whether it be Haines, Hendrickson, Wilkins, or any of the 6 council member.)

Maybe the solution is to involve the Committee of the Whole starting sometime in mid-May? Would that be asking too much?




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