Old news is sometimes delicious

I was going to add an exclamation point to the headline, but I’m way beyond the annual quota, and it isn’t even May.

Sorry for being tardy on this one — I got a request for details on precisely what Councilman Dick Haines wanted to do with the illegal discrimination ordinance.

For starters, City Attorney Jim Nugent said Monday was the last chance for council folks to ask for any reconsideration. Which as you know, the council decided against. So that’s settled.

As for Haines, he generally said he wanted to strengthen the ordinance language so it would withstand future fights in court. That concern might be something the ACLU lawyer who drafted the ordinance had on her mind, too. Anyway, a couple specifics to satiate you, and then I’ll tell you something new. Well, kinda new. News to me, anyway, albeit small.

First, the Haines draft moved a portion on housing discrimination from one section to another. It changed the term “disabled” to “otherwise qualified,” too. Also, it struck the following sentence from the “discrimination” definition: “Discrimination based on physical or mental disability includes the failure to make reasonable accommodations that are required by an otherwise qualified person who has a physical or mental disability.”

OK. There’s your examples. The kinda new thing, which Police Chief Mark Muir will visit with me about on Tuesday for a story later in the week? (I know, should be “about which,” but this is a blog, not an ordinance.)

I asked him if police have started doing their extra downtown patrol this season, the first spring and summer with new pedestrian interference and aggressive panhandling laws in place. You may have seen a few more folks swarming the sidewalks and benches … ?

The answer: Not yet. When will they start? I don’t know — ’cause I haven’t asked him yet! Ooh. There’s that exclamation point.

Downtown last week, one belligerent man on foot was screaming for cigarettes and racing toward me in my car. I don’t smoke, and I hope he got his nicotine. Lucky for me, the light turned green, and lucky for him, I like my car.

I hope it likes me ’cause I need it to go all the way to Oregon tomorrow. See you Tuesday, and maybe reporter Chelsi Moy will deliver you some more delicious morsels here before then.

— Keila Szpaller

Growth with a short IQ

Was it a quote a couple years ago that put Smart Growth America hot on the tail of Office of Planning and Grants director Roger Millar?

Millar moves onto a national job with Smart Growth America on June 14, but he remains based in Missoula: “I’m looking forward to a new role and being able to stay in a community I love.”

At a meeting two years ago about planning in Bonner, some folks questioned a grant application for smart growth. Millar commented.

“It commits people to good planning,” Millar said at the time. “I mean, who’s for dumb growth?”

Of course, no one was touting dumb growth — just arguing that smart growth principles lead to unaffordable housing.

On that topic, Mayor John Engen said affordable housing issues likely will remain a priority for whoever takes the helm at OPG after Millar.

“Clearly, housing remains a huge issue for us, and we’ve got several pieces of the puzzle coming together in terms of surveys and new relationships with the Organization of Realtors. We need to keep plugging away at that,” Engen said.

— Keila Szpaller

A lifetime with felons

Last week, the city of Missoula released a report that talks about problems people face in fair housing.

Did you know that felons have trouble finding places to live? More on that one after I’m done bawling my eyes out.

One of the themes in the report is that Missoula neighborhoods still are segregated when it comes to class. And so what, right? You live in the neighborhood you can afford, yes?

(Or do you live in the home your “Lord and Savior Yahushua” gives you? That’s what Jackiya Ford said she was doing, but Yahusha apparently changed his mind and gave Ford a new home in jail while she deals with felony charges.)

Well, Office of Planning and Grants director Roger Millar shared more insights about why mixing it up is a healthy thing to do. He did not mention Yahusha at all.

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Brevity is not his forte

Here’s the letter from city attorney Jim Nugent to clerk and recorder Vickie Zeier outlining the reasons  Tei Nash’s sample petition should be “rejected and denied.”

It’s nearly eight pages long, but it sounds like it could have been longer:

“There could be other legal problems, legal defects, etc., that I did not yet notice in the very limited time I have had to review the materials that you sent me. Thus, I must reserve the right to identify any other problems that are discovered in the future if another petition effort is engaged in.”

— Keila Szpaller

Friday … Booyah!

Missoula County came through with the names of candidates … Booyah again. I had a hunch things would go this way.

County officials have stressed the broad scope of responsibilities the fair director holds, and it seems the variety of experiences the finalists have speaks to the wide role of that manager.

Human Resources director Steve Johnson sent over the questions the final and ferocious five answered to rise to the top. (I don’t know if they’re ferocious, but if they are fierce about horse racing that’d sure make some folks sing.)

The questions:

1.      Fairs across the country are suffering from an identity crisis and the Western Montana Fair is no exception. How would you involve the community in making changes to the fair event so that it appeals to a broader spectrum of the public while retaining its cultural and agricultural heritage?

2.      Please describe fund-raising and other revenue-generating ideas you might have to help the Missoula County Fairgrounds become financially sustainable?

3.      In your experience, what is the best formal structure to provide oversight, accountability, and public participation in a typical fair environment?

4.      We are enclosing photographs of the current fairgrounds, as well as the preferred alternative recommended by our project consultants, Crandall Arambula, P.C.  What is your overall initial reaction to this site design?  What strengths and opportunities does it present?  Do you see any potential drawbacks?

5.      The annual salary range listed for the fairgrounds director position is $55,000-$70,000, depending on qualifications.  Is this range adequate to meet your salary needs?

That’s all for now. I’m heading out to meet some loggers.

— Keila Szpaller

Uh-oh. Aghast editor.

So we had a wee bit of trouble — to be cleared up today I expect — trying to find out who made the final cut for the fair director job.

There’s five folks still vying for the position — one that pays as much as $70,000. They’re up for interviews with Missoula County early next week, but who are they? Editor Sherry Devlin was none too pleased the names stayed a secret yesterday:

I’m aghast, frankly. And here at the Missoulian, we will continue to insist that the names and resumes of these finalists be released to the public. So the taxpayers who will be the new fair manager’s employers have a chance to consider these folks and their qualifications. So the newspaper can provide that information to the public.

Voicemails and calls made this morning. Let’s figure a qualified candidate eager to hold such a public job won’t balk at a public process. This too from the boss:

A month or so ago, on this same blog, we feted Sunshine Week and the need for access to and transparency in government. Here’s an excellent example, right in our community.

— Keila Szpaller

Sample petition: Not as tasty as a Mediterranean sample platter

Here’s a copy of the sample petition City Attorney Jim Nugent said his letter will recommend rejecting.

Nugent said he found a litany of problems with the document. Among the ones he noted are lack of the ordinance title on the petition and no statement about what petitioners are trying to achieve, such as a “repeal” of the law.

“They’ve got to specify some kind of outcome and they haven’t done that,” Nugent said.

Also, he said the affidavit has folks swearing signers are “Montana electors,” but valid signatures would come from Missoula city voters.

In an email Tuesday, Nugent said he hopes to have the letter finalized and issued Wednesday.

Looks like that’ll be take one.

— Keila Szpaller

P.S. Do you like the Tweet button? Is it helpful? Superfluous?

P.P.S. I spelled Mediterranean correctly on the first try.

Going berserk counting too much

First, if you want to volunteer to count folks on bikes and skateboards and on foot, you should sign up ASAP. That note of encouragement from 4&20 here. A reminder of how much fun it is to count here.

Then, more on numbers if you’re following the folks who are trying to get a petition off the ground to repeal the equality ordinance. Originally, city and county officials had said petitioners need some 7,391 valid signatures.

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Run for your life!


Here’s a cheery and teasing letter to the editor about running. It’s from Tom Halverson, and he lauds Missoulians for taking to the trail. Another thing that’s cool about this sport is the only piece of gear you really need is a pair of shoes. From the letter:

Some other motivations for those lucky enough to be able to put one foot in front of the other are that running and walking allow one to see the awesome scenery of the place we live in, are great ways to socialize, and they pry you away from “the media,” computer screens and all the contentious politics of the time long enough to let you breath.

He thanks Missoula’s doctors and nurses for keeping people healthy and moving. Here’s a shout out to those physical therapists, too, who can help you fix a knee in just a couple sessions.

Some more random things.

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What a week, what a cupcake!

A council meeting that lasts until nearly 2 a.m. to bring in an historic law — and the owners of Bernice’s Bakery on the Price is RIGHT.

Almost makes you want a camel spit cupcake, doesn’t it? It does for me, those tasty chocolate and salty caramel morsels of cake at Bernice’s … Back in five.

So many people, maybe more than ever, attended the council meeting, and a lot of them told personal stories. It’s something you don’t hear often in chambers, where our elected folks work on budgets and figure out how tall buildings should go and take on drinking and driving.

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