Mayor Engen supports Houseman

Mayor John Engen gave $160 to Missoula City Council candidate Roy Houseman and endorsed him with these words.*

He isn’t donating one red cent to incumbent Councilman John Hendrickson, who took in $800 from the local GOP. But Hendrickson aired an ad that made it sound like the mayor backs the incumbent.

And he’s in trouble for it. According to this news release*, the Missoula County Democrats are filing a complaint** with the Office of Political Practices. They sent over Houseman’s flier above and the radio spot* as well.

This from the release: “I fell out of my chair when I heard John Hendrickson’s ad,” says Missoula County Democrats chairman and Ward 1 councilman Jason Wiener. “I work with both the mayor and Councilman Hendrickson, and nothing could be more misleading about their working relationship than the ad John Hendrickson is paying to run. Trying to grab the coattails of someone Hendrickson antagonizes shows real desperation.”

Hendrickson opposed the mayor’s budget this year and last year. He’s hammered the administration on various fronts, including its work on Malfunction Junction.

Hendrickson declined Thursday to offer much information about the ad until he sees the complaint.

“I took that off (the air)” Hendrickson said. “That only ran one day that I know of.”

He wouldn’t say why he stopped running it, and wouldn’t say whether he knew he was misrepresenting the mayor’s endorsement.

“I’m not going to talk about it,” he said.

Perhaps he’ll be more comfortable Monday with his microphone in front of him. But if he knew, that wouldn’t be good. And if he can’t tell it sounds misleading, well, that’s not good news either, is it?

The complaint isn’t likely to be settled anytime soon, though. Councilman Ed Childers filed one two years ago against his opponent, and it has yet to be resolved by the commissioner of political practices, who faces a backlog.

— Keila Szpaller

** Amended to link to the email version of the complaint.

Yay Ward 4!

And poor Ward 4. They have no one to choose on their ballot — only unopposed races there.

So that kind of takes the option out of the voting, and as Chelsi Moy says, “Voting is fun.”

Apparently, it’s fun for Ward Fourites anyway, who are putting up signs for Jon Wilkins even though he doesn’t need their help.

The Elections Office has gotten 1,436 ballots back from those guys, and almost as many as from Ward 5, in the lead with 1,670 ballots back.

Here’s all those numbers* coming at your from Debbe Merseal in the Elections Office.

— Keila Szpaller

Mail bags are heavy

And election ballots are rolling in. At the Missoula County Elections Office, Debbe Merseal said 1,812 voted ballots were in as of yesterday.

A big pile got dropped off today, too, and more will be on their way next week.

“I expect we’ll get a pretty large influx of ballots back probably Monday and Tuesday, after the weekend,” Merseal said.

Some 3,010 have come back as undeliverable, and Merseal said she hadn’t seen them but figured many would be in the University of Montana area.

By the end of the day, voter turnout will likely be at roughly 10 percent already.

— Keila Szpaller

Other nominees?

So I was happy to read that the Missoula City Council will get a say on the whole name change idea for part of Campus Drive. Chelsi Moy’s story here* on honoring beloved coach Don Read.

I’m looking forward to hearing council folks’ thoughts on the matter, and seeing the costs, too. It’s probably not a lot money, but it’ll be nice to know anyway.

I’d also like to know how people get nominated. Is it possible someone else could put the names of academic stars up for consideration? Or, say, Nobel Laureates? Maybe that’d be the wrong part of Campus Drive, and then if every small stretch has a different name, things get confusing. Poor Google maps.

But maybe the road could also be named after a sentiment. Stonewall Boulevard? Well, that’s another story.* Happy Saturday. Go Griz.

— Keila Szpaller

Voting for Pie

So Councilman Bob Jaffe has a YouTube campaign video* up, with cartoon pictures of blueberry pie and compliments from Ward mate Stacy Rye.

“He actually has social skills now,” says Councilwoman Rye.

Jaffe, trying to hang onto his seat in Ward 3, also uses the video to remind people to vote and not take a win for granted. Perhaps the all-mail election can usher in “The Other Guy” more easily than a poll election. “The Other Guy,” by the way, is John Quandt*, and I don’t know what his dessert of choice is.

In the video, you’ll see Ward Three’ers and other councilors cheering on Jaffe. No clip from Councilman John Hendrickson, though, who sometimes uses his microphone to battle comments on Jaffe’s listserv.

— Keila Szpaller

Happy Birthday to the Pov

And it looks to be an extra happy one, according to Poverello Center tweets.

1. “Pearl Jam… freaking PEARL JAM!!!!… just named the Poverello Center one of their 2009 WORLD TOUR beneficiaries (chosen by Jeff Ament.)”

2. “The band picked 7 non profits in the world. We may be freaking out… just a little.”

This week, the Pov announced a birthday bash coming up on Nov. 4. And if you’re inclined to give money to the soup kitchen and shelter, prepare to open your wallet in November.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Town Pump Charitable Giving Foundation, ‘Be a Friend in Deed, Helping Those In Need’ promotion, every dollar donated to the Poverello Center through the end of November will be matched, dollar for dollar, thereby doubling your giving, and helping the Pov to meet the unprecedented demand on their services.”

That such services seem to be needed more than ever isn’t something to celebrate, but the generosity of Missoulians is, as are Ament’s ties to Missoula and Montana. (High ticket prices for the tour? Well … alright.)

— Keila Szpaller

“Homeless Missoulians:”

That’s the heading on a protest of sorts posted around Missoula. The signs are printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper. One is pasted under the Higgins Avenue bridge, another on the lid of a trash can along the river trail.

The poster decries the 12-foot no-sleeping zone around building entrances, a measure adopted by the Missoula City Council. But it seems whoever created the signs may have the wrong targets.

The faces of councilors who voted in favor of the ban are printed on the poster, and so are their home phone numbers. The message encourages “homeless Missoulians” to go to the council folks’ homes and ask for money, food and a place to rest.

“Make them put their money where their mouths are,” it reads.

But the council people whose pictures are on the sign — plus Councilman Dave Strohmaier, whose picture wasn’t included — actually voted in favor of a rule that  limits the ban to within 12 feet of doorways. Councilman Jon Wilkins voted yes on the rule, too, but wanted a complete prohibition, as did the council folks whose pictures aren’t on the poster. They were responding to a protection requested by business owners.

The record cold is probably driving most of the seasonal downtown visitors away from Missoula, and away from store fronts. Regardless, the anonymous message on the sign is clear. Missoula still doesn’t have enough places for people to sleep if they’ve had “a beer” (or several), or if they come with a family.

— Keila Szpaller

Choo choo

Here’s an argument* in favor of rail that showed up in my inbox.

Councilman Dave Strohmaier has been advocating for passenger rail, and candidate John Quandt favors light rail, too.

This piece advocates for rail on the basis of cost, but I can say the people watching on trains is stupendous as well.

— Keila Szpaller

Lowe and behold

Remember the Lowe case? Some people who haven’t been keen on the zoning rewrite brandished it, its criteria, as evidence the city was doing this rewrite upside down and backwards?

Well, the judge’s order said it isn’t even clear whether the Lowe criteria apply here. And it says the city considered those things, such as public safety and appropriate use of land, at a June meeting anyway.

So where did that piece of legal advice come from originally? Not sure. Not sure about funding, either. In earlier conversations, the plaintiffs haven’t said who was paying for the lawsuit.

Last week, city attorney Jim Nugent said the court hearing in Helena drew a small crowd in addition to the plaintiffs: Councilman John Hendrickson, former Councilman Don Nicholson, Jane Rectenwald, Lee Clemmensen, Brian Walters, and Larry Anderson.

“That’s just who was trying to support it all,” Nugent said.

And Councilman Jon Wilkins? He’s sure one for suspense. It’s Monday, and I called him on another matter. He still isn’t saying how he’s going to vote on the zoning rewrite. I’m going to bet it’s a yes. I can’t think of anything I’ve heard him mention lately that he wants in or out of the rewrite.

Last week, Councilwoman Marilyn Marler said she’d heard electronic signs weren’t coming up again, but one amendment about minimum lot sizes might arise this evening. Marler thought it was more of a cleanup, and not a controversial one.

But you never can tell.

— Keila Szpaller, in suspense