Archive for the ‘Jon Wilkins’ Category

by jhwygirl

Tucked in last week’s story on councilman and Democratic congressional candidate Dave Strohmaier and his fellow councilman Jon Wilkins bringing back the cell phone ordinance for more discussion “based on successful work in other communities,” was a little sentence or two that made me wonder just how aggressive city cops were willing to go to enforce Missoula’s texting-while-driving law

You know – the story where Jon Wilkins was quoted as saying “I think the cellphone usage is out of control in Missoula,” and that it was “just going to get worse”?

Tucked in that story were these two paragraphs, with my emphasis added:

There have been a significant number of changes around the country and the state of Montana since Missoula has undertaken to pass our no-texting-while-driving ordinance,” said Muir, who noted that April happens to be National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

It’s hard to tell if someone is texting or dialing, and police have issued just 12 citations since the law took effect, Muir said. A motorcycle cop wrote half of those because from his vantage point on the bike, it was easier to look down at a driver and see that the motorist was, in fact, texting.

Goddess bless Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller, btw. She gets those details – and most of the time probably wonders why no one ever notices.

Of 12 citations written, one cop has written half of those citations because from his vantage point it was easier to look down on the driver and see that the motorist was texting?

Really? Is he doing this while riding his bike? Or while he is stopped at a light or sign next to or behind the driver?

I don’t want to sound theatrical or unreasonable, but what ever happened to reasonable cause? The right to…awww, let’s just go right to the U.S. Constitution, Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I recognize that police have a dangerous job. I consider myself pretty well-informed of the risks they take every day when the put on that uniform and go to work. But that being said, I can’t not for the life of me imagine how one cop has managed to rack up 50% of the tickets for texting-while-driving on reasonable cause suspicions that led to him looking into the laps of drivers.

It also makes me wonder what other tickets he’s given out and under what circumstances.

Wilkins thinks cell phone use is “out of control”? I’m thinking we’ve got the cops using that cell phone ordinance for more that what it was intended.

And one cop who might be a little “out of control.”

4th Amendment be damned, Missoula! We might have someone texting-while-driving! Even while stopped at a light!

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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

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 Pete Talbot

As reported by the Missoulian’s Keila Szpaller, city council conservatives are all aflutter over a recent post on the list serve called MissoulaGov. The first thing to note is this is not an organ of Missoula’s city government but a private list serve created by Ward 3’s Bob Jaffe to keep citizens informed on Missoula City Council issues.

Ward 1’s Jason Weiner Wiener wrote the most recent post as Jaffe was out of town. Wiener revealed how committees would be run if the conservatives were in the majority (which they happened to be on the Public Safety and Health Committee because a bunch of committee members were out of town for work, vacations, etc.). From Wiener’s report:

“With the self-style conservative minority firmly in control of the votes, I’d venture to guess we got a taste of their governing style.”

That style included questioning contracts without good reason and also some vote changing that went so fast a minute-taker couldn’t keep track, plus the meeting cut into the following Plat, Annexation and Zoning Committee because of the PS&H Committee’s “pile-up.”

Well, John Hendrickson (Ward 2) and Jon Wilkins (Ward 4) got their panties in a knot over Wiener’s report. Sometimes the truth can hurt.

So, John and Jon, you don’t like Jaffe’s list serve? Start your own.

by jhwygirl

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

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

For whatever reason, the Missoulian failed to cover it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

In the latest MissoulaGov listserv Ward 3 Councilman Bob Jaffe reports that Ward 4 Councilman Jon Wilkins spoke about sprawl and his theories behind it. Bob wrote:

During the discussion (in today’s committee meetings) there were some comments about encouraging sprawl. Jon Wilkins said something to the effect that we shouldn’t be complaining about sprawl because those of us that have supported infill have done more to create sprawl than anything else that has happened. This infill has caused people to flee the neighborhoods and build in the outskirts of town.

Bob went on to muse:

Personally I think this argument is bunk. But I have heard it repeated a lot. Does anyone know if there is any data that supports or refutes this position?

I don’t know about data Bob, but my thought is that Missoula’s sprawl can be directly attributed to people trying to get away from Councilman Jon Wilkins.

But that’s just my NSHO.

by Rebecca Schmitz

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own personal narrative of local politics, we forget to look past the obvious. For instance, in any discussion, liberal or conservative, certain members of City Council who vote together are seen as a solid entity. This is true whether it’s the “liberal-progressive” wing of the Council or the old war horses napping–literally–on the other side of the aisle. That’s why this is initially surprising:

I support her 100%. I believe she’ll be a great addition to the Council, and someone we can all work with.

That’s Councilman Jon Wilkins on Ward Four candidate Lyn Hellegaard. It’s on her latest campaign flyer, which arrived in my mailbox yesterday along with my voting ballot. Yes, it’s Ward Four’s Jon Wilkins–who’s usually mentioned in the same breath with his ward’s incumbent, Councilman Jerry Ballas, in any discussion of the voting patterns of the conservatives on Missoula’s City Council. Many see these two as part of the same voting block as Councilmen John Hendrickson, Dick Haines, Don Nicholson and (every now and again) Jack Reidy. I guess that block crumbles as easily as the bricks made from local clay in Missoula’s historic downtown buildings.

Jhwygirl asked, in her last post, if we know what we’re getting with Lyn. Thanks to this endorsement, I think we do.

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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