Archive for the ‘Pam Walzer’ Category

by Pete Talbot

In case you missed the guest column in today’s Missoulian, here’s the link.  I also reprinted it below the fold.

It’s a Valentine’s Day message asking “Where’s the love?” in the 2011 Montana Legislature. It’s written by Missoula City Councilwoman Pam Walzer and five other Montana women. I hope it ran in other newspapers around the state.

There’s not much to add. Well, there are a number of other lousy bills they could have pointed to but there’s only so much space in a newspaper.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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by CarFreeStupidity

There has been a string of DUI arrests, drunk driving incidents/accidents and news of late.  But the latest is certainly unexpected.  The Missoulian is reporting that Missoula City Councilwoman Pamela J. Walzer was, “arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol early Wednesday morning and has pleaded not guilty.”  Given the timing of this incident and Dave Strohmaier’s push for making refusal of a breath test a an offense worthy of a $300 fine, Councilwoman Walzer should recuse herself from any discussion and voting on the issue regardless of her guilt.  Missoula wants to take a step forward… not stagger backwards.  Many commentators on the Missoulian story are even calling for her resignation immediately, but that should only happen if its found that she truly was drunk while driving, although I’m skeptical about a blood alcohol content number being published.

I know I’m tired of constantly reading about fatalities caused from drunk driving and the flood a DUIs that occur on a weekly basis.  Its about time Montana enters into the 21st century and actually do something about our state’s little, err…big, drinking problem.  One recent DUI offender even proudly stated he was, “contributing to the reason that this state is number one in the nation for drinking and driving.

Unfortunately our state’s culture won’t easily change, many of us can remember, probably even fondly, the days when an open container in a vehicle was legal.  Hell, I’ve been in a truck when a boss of mine was driving while he was driving a company vehicle.

Why doesn’t the state do something really drastic like a lifetime suspension for a license?  Force all these drunks to walk, bike, or take (often nonexistent) transit.  I don’t think there is anything to dissuade someone from drink like the possibility of hours spent on a Greyhound bus.  Drunk driving already costs the state of Montana $642 million a year and another $131 million in lost economic productivity.  In that case drunk driving is already having a major impact on our state, and its not the cost that is the worst, but the emotional and family tragedy that drunk driving that is the greatest cost.

Or we could all do nothing and just enjoy the fact that Billings is the third most drunkest city in America.  Why stop at the bronze… always go for gold.

by jhwygirl

First the Ward 3’s Vote for Bob Jaffe video, which comes to 4&20, not by Bob Jaffee, but via Skylar Browning’s Indy Blog post:

Browning’s brief remarks are funny, and I agree. I also think that Badenoch was funny, saying “I think Bob Jaffe represents a lot of things I support. He’s progressive…but at the same time (my emphasis), he’s reasonable. I can tell that thinks about issues very seriously. He’s not a knee-jerk kind of guy. He’s thoughtful and I appreciate that.”

Council goddess Rye is hilarious, and so is Bob Clark, Missoula citizen.

Oh – and credit definitely has to go to “Bob Jaffe fan” Paul Wheaton – at minimum, he has a future in campaign election videos, for sure.

On the other topic…

Some HOW TO VOTE information…

Deadline is past for voter’s (pre)registration. If you want to vote now and haven’t registered, you have to head down to the fairgrounds, where the County Election’s Office has set up (due to high turnout in previous elections, and limited facilities/crowded halls).

This move has few, happy (maybe the county elections staff). Even Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller lamented the move in a tweet.

Even the results. {sigh}

Can we maintain no tradition?

City elections are mail-in only. No polling stations will be open.

Mail-in ballots are coming out in a few days. There’s Mayor (unchallenged), the Municipal Judge (unchallenged), then your councilperson vote (of which Ward 4 is unchallenged too). It looks like if you live in Seeley Lake, there’s an election there, and another in the Evaro/Finley/O’Keefe area to form a community council – at least what I can see of the sample ballot.

So when you get that ballot, fill it in ENGEN LOUDEN and, depending on which ward, STROHMAEIR or HOUSEMAN or JAFFE or WILKINS or O’HERRON or MARLER and get it back in the mail.

Voting early helps all the candidates, no matter who they are. Their effort will be to get you to vote – if you get it done early, you allow your candidate the potential to round themselves up even more votes.

by jhwygirl

I’m actually going to pull this directly out of comments on my recent post titled Self-Insured Employee Health Care is a Disaster-in-Waiting. Ward 2’s Pam Walzer – who sits on a city/employee committee that regularly discusses health care insurance policy issues – has written a clarification to my previous post. I want to make sure that everyone gets to see it.

Reposted directly from Pam’s comment:

It’s taken me time to get back to this topic as I left town shortly after this was blogged and did not have the time to write an detailed response. There are several errors in the blog that I would like to correct about the City’s self-insurance plan.

1.) The city’s plan is a qualified health plan, administrated by Allegiance, that meets all requirements for “credible coverage.” When an employee or covered family member leaves the plan, they are provided with a letter indicating that they have had continuous credible coverage. In addition, the city offers COBRA for participants exiting the program.

2.) The total contribution from the city ($670) and employee ($10) of current $680/month, to be reduced to $580/month, for individual coverage is for more than health insurance. It also provides for life insurance and a wellness plan that many call to as to why the claims have been so low and the fund balance has been growing. Employees are encouraged to exercise, eat right, deal with stress, lose weight, have annual blood screenings, etc.

3.) You have said that by being self-insured, that the city is setting itself up to serious financial peril in the event of a catastrophic illness or injury. That is a valid concern and that is why the city also purchases “stop-loss insurance.” In the event a covered member has over $130,000 in expenses per year, the costs are picked up by a separated insurer. If a covered person has a $1,000,000 year, the city’s plan only pays the first $130,000 (after deductible, etc). The cost of this stop-loss insurance is included in “The Plan’s” costs.

4.) Why not join a larger group to get better rates?The city has the option to join the health insurance benefit plans through the Montana Municipal Insurance Authority (MMIA), which covers several other cities throughout the state. If we did, we would see an INCREASE in our rates as we are the big fish in the pond. As bad as our health care costs are in Missoula, they are less than those around the state. In fact one city (I can’t remember now if was Bozeman, Helena, or Kalispell) just dropped their self-insurance option and joined the MMIA with an increase of around 17% in cost. If we joined the MMIA pool, the other cities woudl see a decrease in their rates and we would see an increase in ours.

5.) I think that it is worth while to see if the city and county can join plans. I will be working on seeing what would be the up/downsides of this idea. We do have different plans and cost breakdowns, different contribution levels for single, partner, child, family options. My first look kind of pencils out to be about equivalent – but it is worth checking into and I will.

6.) You’ve said that you think that the current costs, whether $680/ month or $580/month are excessive and that employees would do better on the open market. That might be true for young, health men, but not so much so for the entire work force. My sister works for an insurance services company in Baltimore County that provides insurance products for small companies and individuals. She has the resources to find the very best rates and plans and for her 4 person family has to pay $1400/month! That does not include life insurance or a wellness advocacy program. She thinks that $680 is a steal! Of course, I misplaced the costs that city employees pay to cover spouse/domestic partner and children, but I believe that is much less than $100/month.

7.) And maybe one of the best reasons to be self-insured is that the city is in a better position to show compassion. Those who have fought with insurance companies can vouch for the battle to resolve issues. News articles have “blown the cover” on insurance companies who pay staff bonuses to find loopholes to NOT approve benefits. The city has its own conflict resolution process to allow for benefits/bills to be covered/paid when private, for profit, insurance companies would just continue to say no.

Hope this clears up the misconceptions and misinformation about the city’s health plan.

by Rebecca Schmitz

I would like to offer my congratulations to all the winners of yesterday’s City Council election. (The Iraq War referendum outcome? The maraschino cherry atop this sundae of progressive values.) J-school students at UM have tallied the results on their blog:

Ward 1
X Jason Wiener: 1,676, 64%
Justin Armintrout: 887, 34%
Ward 2
X Pam Walzer: 998, 52%
Don Nicholson (incumbent) : 906, 47%
Ward 3
X Stacy Rye (incumbent) : 1,504, 57%
Doug Harrison: 1,089, 42%
Ward 4
X Lyn Hellegaard: 1,506, 53%
Jerry Ballas (incumbent) : 1,282, 45%
Ward 5
X Renee Mitchell: 1,220, 54%
Christine Prescott: 1,026, 45%
Ward 6
X Ed Childers (incumbent) : 892, 50.48%
Lewie Schneller: 852, 48.22%

The big winners here, of course, are the voters themselves. Forty-six percent of them returned their ballots to the Election Office. Not an ideal 100% in a perfect world to be sure, but still proof that the new mail-in ballots and successful local voter drives can work for the betterment of our city’s political system. The Missoulian summed up the election nicely in today’s editorial:

More than Flag Day or Independence Day or any other show of devotion to this nation, Election Day – and the day after – are the true test of our commitment to democracy.

That’s so true. The simple act of voting itself–whether it’s at the dining room table or in a curtained booth–is more patriotic than all the hollow chest-thumping displays of the same, from enforced recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to plastering “In God We Trust” across school classrooms.  Young voters, same-day voting and fictitious liberal “machines” are not a menace to Missoula.  Apathy is.  Everyone who voted and everyone who ran, whether they won or not, deserves to be called a patriot.

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 Rebecca Schmitz

It’s election day here in Missoula, so if you haven’t returned your ballot yet be sure to head down to the Elections Office in the county courthouse by 5pm 8pm (thanks, Jason!) today. Ward Two candidate Pam Walzer helpfully provided this voting advice for everyone in a comment on this site last week:

If you’re not able to get your ballot in the mail in time, not to worry – you can drop it off at the Elections Office any time during normal business hours and until 8 pm on Tuesday, Nov. 6th. OR – only on “Election Day,” Nov. 6th (7am-8pm)- you can drop your ballot off at any of the following 5 schools: Cold Springs, Hellgate Elementary, Paxson, Rattlesnake, or Russell.

In other words, it’s not over yet people! You still have time to make your voice heard, no matter which City Council candidate you support. We have our favorites, as you know, and we have a definite opinion on the Iraq War referendum.

Speaking of that pesky little misadventure in Iraq, Dennis Kucinich says he’s introducing a resolution in the House of Representatives today to force the introduction of Articles of Impeachment against one of its architects, Vice President Dick Cheney. He was supposed to have a nationwide discussion about his resolution last night, but apparently there was a glitch in the phone lines:

The Kucinich campaign apologized for the snafu, explaining that staff had significantly underestimated the number of call-ins, and public interest in the issue exceeded technological capacity. The call will be re-scheduled within the next few days.

I expect the resolution to fail miserably, not because it’s the wrong thing to do, but because Kucinich’s fellow Democrats can barely take a stand against torture, let alone remove one of the worst public officials in American history from office.

You could dismiss Representative Kucinich’s resolution as merely an election season publicity stunt, but at least he’s not trying to keep anyone off the ballot, like some Democratic party officials in South Carolina. In case you hadn’t heard, comedian Stephen Colbert wanted to run for President–in his home state alone. However, his bid was thwarted last week.

The South Carolina Democratic Party Executive Council voted last week 13-3 to block Colbert’s bid for the Democratic primary.

According to the Seattle Times this morning, his campaign is over. That’s a shame. If the Republicans can let that theocrat-in-Libertarian-clothing Ron Paul play in their sandbox, why won’t we do the same for one of the best and smartest entertainers in America today?

by jhwygirl

I rarely get over that ways nowadays, but had occasion to stop over a friends house.

I really love that area too – it has a real ‘neighborhood’ feel, with sidewalks and boulevards. Lots of Missoula individuality – plenty of unique gardening to those boulevards over there!

I also saw a really nice Planned Neighborhood Cluster (PNC) going up. The homes are on the market for $280,000.

Not very affordable.

Perhaps it was the route I took, but there were sure a lot of Pam Walzer signs around.

What struck me – and I almost went home to get a camera just so I could post the picture here – was one house that had its garage door open. Now, keep in mind that it is election time, and as I said, there were plenty of sky blue Pam Walzer signs all abound – but this house, with its garage door open had 3 or 4 Don Nicholson signs.

Only, the Don Nicholson signs weren’t in the yard – they were in the garage, next to the garbage cans.

by jhwygirl

Note: Pam’s opponent is councilman Don “Just say NO” Nicholson”

1. City council has been divisive for what seems forever. Why do you want the job?

Sometimes I wonder myself. In the end, I hope to help change the environment on Council. Many (about half) of the current members are willing to listen, learn, and compromise. Some, and my opponent is one of them, appear to believe what they believe and there is no changing their minds (except during campaign time). I plan to be a part of the solution, to end the extremism and work towards coming to understandings. I anticipate arriving at many solutions with a different answer than my initial opinion. Maybe I’m watching too much football, but I hope to approach Council as a team. We each have ideas, knowledge, and skill sets that are different from each other. Rather than being combative, we have the opportunity to use each other as resources. Idealistic? Yes – but if I weren’t, I wouldn’t be able to run, let alone serve.

2. What is the most important issue you’d want to deal with it – and can you offer some specific ideas on how to tackle that issue?

There are several very important issues facing Missoula that I would like to deal with once elected, mostly coming under the umbrella of managing our growth. One of the problems under that big umbrella I can offer some specific ideas on is traffic. The entire City has had traffic issues for a very long time. It seems everyone has to get to the other side of the river. But just because Missoula has always had issues with traffic and confusing streets and intersections, doesn’t mean that is the way it should remain.

Ward 2 has probably more than its fair share of traffic issues, namely North Reserve and West Broadway. The traffic issue is complex and involves understanding why cars are on any given road and what has caused the numbers to increase and become unmanageable. Is it because an enormous housing development grew within the last 5 years off of Flynn Lane and the residents need to travel on North Reserve and/or West Broadway to get to work? Is it because housing is too expensive within city limits, forcing people to commute from the south or west to work in Missoula? Or is it simply that the traffic lights need to have their timing adjusted to accommodate a change in traffic flow?

A problem I would like to address is how to get people out of their cars. As a person who travels around Missoula primarily via a single occupancy vehicle, I have done a lot of soul searching for some answers. The first and easiest would be to continue to improve our bike/pedestrian transportation system. Each car, or car trip, that is replaced by a bike is one less at the traffic signal.

The next is to improve our bus system. Mountain Line is a good start for a city of our size, but not good enough for a city of our needs. We need to move towards “premier” service. The bus needs to reach most neighborhoods and business destinations and be much more timely. I have heard many people say that they would only take the bus if the timing were better. When I attended UM, it was faster to ride the bus than try to drive to school and find a parking space. But to return in the afternoon, it was faster for me to walk the 45 minutes home than to wait for the bus. I would like to be able to take the bus to the different schools I substitute in, but again, the timing is off – I would have to arrive very early and wait quite a while for a return.

We also need more park and ride options for neighborhoods where it is not appropriate for the bus to travel, such as Grant Creek. Once we have improved our internal system, we can then work on reducing the commuter vehicular traffic, whether it is light rail from the Bitterroot or extending commuter bus service to Lolo and Frenchtown. After all, it is unreasonable to expect commuters to use some sort of mass transit to get to Missoula and not offer them a means of efficiently moving throughout the city?

All of this is nice, but many people have asked how could we fund the increased service, knowing that ridership fares do not pay the entire cost of service. I believe that if we did a true cost analysis, (cost of roads not built and less maintenance for those in existence, lower personal automotive expenses, less accidents, less traffic enforcement, less air pollution, etc.) we would find that a quality public transportation system is affordable.

A much more complex tool for reducing traffic is to plan growth in a way that reduces traffic. That means denser future development with all ranges of housing options available within the development and with multiuse designed within, whether it is for services or employment. The goal would be to reduce the need for people to get into their cars to drive across the city for work, school, shopping, or recreation.

3. You’ve mentioned that you’d like to lobby the legislature for growth management tools – What tools for growth management would you like to see from the State legislature?

One tool we desperately need is alternative funding sources. As a city, we are very limited on how we obtain funding. Other than State and Federal grants, our only sources of income are from property taxes, mil levies, SIDs and BIDs, assorted fees, and a small amount of gas tax revenue. Essentially, all we can do is tax ourselves.

Although I have heard/read many nasty comments about tollbooths, etc. from those opposed to the above, I continue to feel we need to find some way to get those who visit our city to pay for some of the services they use. Just look at the traffic on the roads coming into and going out of Missoula during morning and evening commuting times and you will appreciate how many people work in the City of Missoula who live outside of City limits and thus pay no property taxes for the maintenance of the City. These commuters increase the wear and tear on City streets and utilize City services, such as police and fire (whether they appreciate it or not), not to mention significantly increase the overall traffic count and air pollution.

In addition, we are the economic hub of much of Western Montana. Missoula businesses profit greatly from those who come to Missoula to shop, be entertained, obtain professional services. You name it, Missoula is where it’s at and people love to visit here, which is terrific…BUT — all of this visiting and spending of money does not put money into City Hall coffers to fund City infrastructure impacted by all of the visiting.

I would lobby for alternative sources of funding, such as local option sales taxes and increased local gas tax. I would be interested in any innovative funding solutions to the problem of being so popular while having to foot the bill for the party.

4. Which sitting councilperson do you admire the most? And why?

This question is the easiest, Bob Jaffe. He asks probing questions on Council and tries to understand the complexity of issues. He tries to be as thoroughly informed as possible on topics so that he can make an informed vote. He also reaches out, providing a web blog so there can be community discussions about a wide variety of issues facing the city. I appreciate him providing short summaries of City Council Committee meetings to the blog, often with background information, so that one doesn’t need to be a devoted Council meeting follower to get the basics of most of the issues before Council. I appreciate and respect Bob’s efforts to increase communication with and between Missoula’s citizens.




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