It’s a race in Ward 6

Remember how Ryan Morton teased the other day about another candidate filing for office? Well, it’s Kathy Greathouse in Ward 6. Morton just reported her intentions — and he knows ’cause he’s her campaign manager.

Morton is the spokesman for the MBIA and Greathouse is the organization’s government affairs chair. He said she wants to bring jobs to Missoula, doesn’t want gentrification through planning, and wants to balance people’s wants with their ability to pay.

She’s taking on Councilwoman Marilyn Marler. Morton expects Greathouse to file next Friday when she’s back in town. I’ll be showing up at the Courthouse or calling Phylllis Sauter in the Elections Office for the latest.

— Keila Szpaller

P.S. Time for “Charles” to pony up!

Roosters on bikes

Well, roosters AND bikes. Happy Friday.

On birds, the Indy* has this story*, a good argument for why Missoula doesn’t allow roosters. It also introduces readers to someone who keeps a log of the number of times a neighbor’s rooster crows: “… on July 4 last year, the roosters crowed 38 times between 4:35 a.m. and 4:41 a.m., and 33 times between 4:47 and 4:58 a.m. And then about 100 more times throughout the day.”

That’s some meticulous note-taking. Maybe Sen. Max Baucus could hire that person to track comments on health care reform. He got the latest earful here* and it seems a single-payer system is kind of popular.

As for bikes, New West* offers up more info for cyclists*: “Additional new bike lanes might appear on Orange Street from the Orange Street bridge north, according to (Councilman Bob) Jaffe. “That’s still being talked about.”

— Keila Szpaller

Mac-and-cheese for brains

A ton of comments have piled up under a story* I wrote about dogs downtown. The accusations of “yuppy puppies” and “mac-and-cheese for brains” are all there. What they lack in civility I guess they make up for in color. On the more eloquent side, though, are a couple of the comments people submitted under the question about characteristics* people want to see in their council folks.

I’ll paste some below. First, Phyllis Sauter in the Elections Office said this morning no one else has filed to run, and there’s five weeks left for folks to do so. Everyone who’s expressed interest publicly is official. I think Councilman John Hendrickson was the only candidate whose filing form I hadn’t seen, but it was there in the binder Wednesday. So he’s official and everyone else is too.

Now the sampling of what people want from all these guys and a thanks for the lovely comments.

“I want them to be knowledgeable, civil, humble and fair.”

“I want councilors who are committed to conservation. The City can do a lot to conserve resources, and protect what makes our little city so special. City Councilors should be committed to reducing the City’s contribution to global warming, supporting smart growth principles and energy conservation and efficiency. The City can also continue to aquire and manage our highly valued open space lands. City council should continue to place high priority on protecting water quality. I will support candidates that prioritize these issues.”

“I want a candidate who is truly a public servant. My ideal for a perfect council member is someone who takes their role as a public servant to heart. They serve the people in a respectful manner. Meaning they don’t whisper vulgarities when the public speaks, or roll their eyes when they disagree with the public or their fellow council members. I would hope this candidate knows their role and when they don’t know an answer or policy that they seek out the truth not just from ‘staff’ but from other sources also. That they truly dig for all the information before they make a decision. I’d also like to see this council member have compassion for the citizens and try to find the best solution for all parties involved. Most importantly, following the motto, ‘It’s not about you…it’s about the people!'”

— Keila Szpaller

Cops and docs

“We believe that things are in good shape.”

Those are the words of Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir to the Missoula City Council Public Safety and Health Committee about his department. He was responding to the news* about one detective’s allegations of sexual harassment against another detective. Muir identified the problem as being “turmoil as a result of the publicity.”

The city hasn’t released a report on the case, and Councilman Ed Childers — who said he hasn’t seen that document — asked if the department had addressed findings. Muir said the issues that arose in the report already had been addressed before it was released. He described the review as “positive” and “introspective.”

Really? And it’s so glowing that even the crime reporter’s* FOIA request hasn’t unearthed it yet. Looking forward to the read.

— Keila Szpaller

Zzzzoning awakes

It’s a “cruel joke” — but that’s just “hollow rhetoric.”

The zoning rewrite brought expected fireworks Wednesday to Council Chambers, with minority members of the council begging for another legal opinion on the city’s authority to overhaul its regulations. In other words, an opinion that isn’t city attorney Jim Nugent’s, though dissenting councilors said he’s mighty respected.

“I am urging and I am demanding that we have another opinion to represent the people who believe that this process has been skewed and is becoming almost a cruel joke on the people of this town,” said Councilwoman Renee Mitchell.

Nugent, though, has said the city isn’t overstepping its reach. He described the attacks as “hollow rhetoric” and said detractors need to bring forward specific concerns.

Minority members were unconvinced — though it wasn’t clear if they want to find a lawyer who disagrees with the city attorney or simply pose the question to other counsel. Lawyer Alan McCormick, for instance, has said he has no qualms with the process. He’s no apologist for the city, either, having gone to bat against it in court.

Either way, Councilman Ed Childers looks to be blocking the minority attempt. Still, more lawyer opinions are coming up, courtesy of the MBIA’s Ryan Morton. He said he’d ask an organization staff attorney for an opinion and get back to the group. He expected the word in a couple weeks and not at a great cost.

“I can get that for free,” Morton said.

In the meantime, the motion to set a public hearing on the draft update passed 6-5 and is scheduled for June 22. Councilors John Hendrickson, Jon Wilkins, Lyn Hellegaard, Dick Haines and Mitchell voted no. The Historic Preservation Commission also is up for discussion.

Some minority folks questioned the process and some majority members tried to steer the discussion to the merits of the document. Councilwoman Stacy Rye said councilors with concerns should air them and she said she’d listen. Councilwoman Marilyn Marler started listing off the remaining sticky wickets — until OPG director Roger Millar said he already had a list.

The minority take on the zoning rewrite seems to be that the new ordinance oversteps by making “substantive” changes. The $250,000 contract, though, never was about copy editing.

This from a story I wrote earlier: The contract’s scope of work refers to meaty revisions. “This report will focus on the ‘big ideas’ for substantive … changes,” reads the document. Also, the scope of work charges consultants with “explaining … any major changes from existing practice.” (Sorry, but I can’t find a copy of the contract on the new city Web site.)

As you know, the Planning Board adopted the rewrite unanimously. Chairman Don MacArthur earlier said the board veered away from some changes that felt like they went beyond the scope of a rewrite. At the same time, he said some members of the community still felt some changes approved by the board went too far.

The fighting dragged Childers into the fray. Wednesday, minority members pushed Council President Childers to stop holding up their referral on the second opinion. He hasn’t taken up their idea in committee yet and admitted he wasn’t going to do so. He said they admitted it didn’t have legs, so he thinks it’d be a “frivolous” way to spend council’s time. Also, in an election year, he doesn’t want such a vote to turn up in campaign materials. The move was divisive — not that this topic isn’t already — and minority members called on Childers to stop blocking their referral.

“I find that abhorrent,” said Councilman Dick Haines.

In a Wednesday e-mail, Councilman Jason Wiener responded to the minority’s charge: “… We again heard members of City Council allege that the proposed new zoning ordinance is a different work product than what Council asked for in the zoning rewrite because it considers substantive issues (like, presumably, the elimination of Planned Neighborhood Clusters). … The record flatly contradicts this.”

He points to the minutes of a Feb. 27, 2007, discussion on the scope of the zoning rewrite: “By asking a consultant to make a list of what worked and what did not work in the current zoning ordinance, we would receive responses related to process and to policy. ‘You can not open up Pandora’s Box part-way.’ The consultant will provide a list and ask what the City wanted to do. He (Millar) felt that the City needed to do a substantive rewrite of the ordinance; it could be done but it would take longer. …Councilman Childers requested Mr. Millar make a referral to PAZ for expanding the focus of the zoning ordinance rewrite before selecting a consultant.“

Writes Wiener: “Following that referral, Council voted 11-0 for the scope of work that has brought us to the point we are today. Allegations that Council did not know what it was voting to initiate or did not vote to initiate the ordinance we are considering right now are simply not credible and never will be, no matter how many times they are repeated.”

Agree or disagree, the metaphors were vivid. Mitchell likened the rewrite to a snack that morphed into a full entree. A kid after school asks for a snack, and his mom says yes. He usually has a PB&J sandwich and a glass of milk. This time, though, he starts thawing out the London broil.

If it’s a London broil, it’ll be cooked beyond well done before the fall.

— Keila Szpaller

P.S. I want to link to the packet OPG handed out … and will do so when I have it electronically. Meantime, I’m pretty sure much of the stuff is pulled directly from the documents tab at zoningmissoula.com.

Hang up and eat your burrito

Eating burritos is legal behind the wheel. That’s one reason Councilman Dave Strohmaier figures the Missoula City Council Public Safety and Health Committee voted down the ban against using cell phones while driving. But the idea isn’t dead since the full council still will consider it, and Strohmaier said compromise remains an option.

In committee, councilors talked about making an exception for cyclists, but that idea didn’t make it too far. Rocky Sehnert said he doesn’t live in the city but he does a lot of business here. And he believes bikers already are occupied, with “a Blackberry in one hand and a coffee in the other.” So he wants them accountable to the rules of the road, as apparently did most of the rest of council.

What do you think? Scroll down and weigh in at the green box on the right.

— Keila Szpaller

Click to vote or add a new answer!

Love your meter maid

If a town’s meter maids rock, you know the town itself does. New West* gives kudos to Missoula’s favorite meter maid, Cyndie Winchell, in this story.* It’s an international award, too, by the way. Winchell keeps flowers in her … coach? buggy? Scooter! That’s what they call them. She keeps cheery flowers in her scooter and offers a smile with any ticket or warning.

We at the Missoulian wrote about her here* — and how she used to rack up the parking tickets. So she went from Downtown Employee of the Year last summer to International Parking Queen, or something like that. Anyway, seconding the kudos here.

— Keila Szpaller

Good news for cyclists

Bike lanes are coming to the Higgins Avenue leg from Broadway to the bridge, reports Councilman Bob Jaffe here.* He writes that a Tuesday meeting included representatives from council, Public Works, MDT, MRA, MDA — and everyone agreed that painting bike lanes along that stretch was a good idea. He noted the measurements: Five and a half feet for bikes, seven and a half feet for parked cars, and 10 f00t lanes for driving cars.

He says this in his e-mail: “The DOT guys said they generally prefer bigger lanes but they are OK with ten feet. The district administrator, Doug Moeller, said that (from) now on they would always make a point of considering the bike infrastructure up front on every project they do in Missoula. This was great news.”

And a great tidbit to come back to from a long Memorial weekend. Will I not need to worry about getting door-ed on Higgins anymore? And will I no longer need to worry about door-ing anyone else by accident?

— Keila Szpaller

Good and bad news …

… in liability and workers’ comp for the city. The story is online.* I’ll link to the data below, but first a comment from Mayor John Engen about improving workers’ comp.

“This is not all about the bottom line. These are human lives at play,” Engen said. “We want folks to be healthy and safe.”

Below is data from Human Resources on reported injuries on the job by department since January:

Fire Department: 8
Parks and Rec: 2
Police: 2
Public Works, Streets: 1
Public Works, Waste water: 2

And these: City liability*; county liability*; and city workers’ comp.*

— Keila Szpaller

Zoning once again

No surprise the granny suites or renter pads are still a sticking point in the zoning rewrite. Planning Board Chairman Don MacArthur says the accessory dwelling unit, or ADU, is included but requires a rezone.

“That’s one of the things that everybody gets lost in. ‘Well, gosh, we’re creating this new tool. Someone is going to use it.’ Well, that’s true. Someone probably will use it. But it is not going to be used willy-nilly as soon as this is passed. It still requires another contentious, no doubt, process,” MacArthur says.

He said individual neighborhoods would have to decide if it’s appropriate and ask for a rezone, which means going through the usual Planning Board review and council review. He said there will be the same protest provisions there are for any rezoning, too.

Why the hoops? MacArthur says the Planning Board generally viewed mapping ADUs as a significant enough change to be outside the purview of the update. He said some members of the public felt other changes fall into that category, too. The lawyers weighed in. The Planning Board reached consensus, a place where they perceived the majority of the community was being served.

The amount of authority a zoning officer — or OPG director — has remains controversial. Heights in the R1 zone do, too. The old document puts the limit at 30 feet, but there’s an exception that allows people to build 20 percent above that height. So that puts the limi at 36 feet. The new ordinance sets the absolute height at 30 feet for a flat roof and 35 feet for a roof pitched within a certain angle. So the 35 footer is higher than the limit noted in the R1 portion — and lower than the exception granted. Some folks on both the tall and short side of the equation weren’t totally happy, so MacArthur figures the Planning Board compromise nailed it. (A couple feet in either direction may not seem to matter until it’s your new dining room you can’t build. I’m going to paste a comment from Janet Sullivan below.)

What else? Oh, I called attorney Alan McCormick to find out if he was following the zoning rewrite. He didn’t have it under a microscope, but he was paying attention. McCormick said the current regulations are “ridiculously outdated,” which costs an inordinate amount of resources and effort.

I was curious how he viewed the question about whether the changes are a rezone or a general text update of the regs.

“Here’s the thing. Why does it matter?” McCormick says.

He said the legal standards in statute are the same: “Whether you’re changing the boundaries or changing the regulation that applies within that boundary, it still requires a public hearing process. So I don’t understand why the debate is focused on those sorts of things.”

He said the process has been wide open and people have had ample opportunity to join the conversation. (“They’ve had how many frickin’ Planning Board meetings?”) But he guessed some people may have a different reading of protest provisions. He also said the city’s own ordinance may have a requirement that he’s unaware of. But that raises another point.

“Of course, the reason we’re changing them is ’cause nobody can understand them,” McCormick says.

The step Councilman Jon Wilkins has wanted is a letter sent to each property owner explaining changes as they apply specifically to their property.

OK. I’m zoning out now.

— Keila Szpaller