Missoula CAO calls lost protests “disappointing”

Below is the final count of protests against the “special districts,” which remain in place. Hope these numbers are the final final count, and not some kind of preliminary final.

Chief administrative officer Bruce Bender said Thursday a better way to count is in the works, and he’s not thrilled with the mistakes.

“It is disappointing. It’s embarrassing,” Bender said. “But from the other side of it, it also makes you aware that the way we managed it historically is not adequate when you have this large volume.”

Final Tally with missing protests:

Valid                            1,474   8.37%

Not Valid                     338      1.85%

Total Protests           1,812   10.22%

Previous final tally before missing protests as of 09/07:

Valid                            1,217   6.77%

Not Valid                     301      1.83%

Total Protests           1,518   8.60%

Missing Protest Added

Added to Valid             257      1.60%

Added to Not Valid      37        0.02%

Tally as of 1st Deadline (08/25)

Valid                            581      2.91%

Not Valid                     146      0.97%

Total Protests           727      3.88%

Protests added from 1st deadline to final tally with missing

Valid                            903      5.46%

Not Valid                     192      0.88%

Total Added               1,095   6.34%

Here’s Bender’s e-mail to council about the issue:

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Tent available for rent close to UM?

rental tent Here’s a link from craigslist and an excerpt from the ad:

“You will be allowed use of the house cooking and bathroom facilities. There is also a computer in the house you can use if it is available.

No bringing over members of the opposite sex to the tent, no drinking, no parties, and no loud music – otherwise you will be asked to vacate
and you will forfeit your deposit and last month’s rent.”

A statement on some folks’ attitudes toward renters in this town? I don’t know. We’ll see if the person who put up the ad response to my email. Assistant news editor Cory Walsh sent over the link, and I hope to identify the jokester.

Other news on affordable homes, kinds that don’t get crunched into stuff sacks? Here’s the Indy on one development tool in the works in Missoula City Council Chambers.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula mumbles more on special districts

John Weber tells “special” complainers in this letter to the editor to “quit whining” about a measly $20 — especially if they don’t live here.

Since Gerald Christensen (letter, Sept. 23) doesn’t live in Missoula, but out at Huson, why does it matter to him if we have to pay upwards of another $20 a year to improve our roads and maintain our parks?

Weber said he doesn’t earn a lot of money, only some $10,000, but he’s still willing to pay. Guess who else is?

Wilma Spence, who said she’d write a check to the city to cover a “small amount.” But in this letter to the editor, she said she doesn’t want to pay a “blank-check tax,” and especially one that came about with “steamroller tactics.”

You know, I thought we were done with these “special” letters for a time. Another small round of them will probably emerge next fall during city election season, but temporary quiet time should be just around the bend.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula Building Industry Association extends raffle

MBIAWith too few tickets sold, the Missoula Building Industry Association has extended its raffle of a new house, one valued at $340,000.

Tickets cost $100 and the deadline to buy is Jan. 2. Originally, the drawing was slated for Sept. 26.

This extension must be good news for folks who don’t have tickets and are feeling lucky. If you already bought, take some patience pills ’cause you’ll have to wait a while longer.

The house, at 2604 Roderick Way, has earned some awards, but it isn’t the only prize. Also up for grabs? A car, a boat or recreational vehicle, and a home entertainment center.

Some 2,400 tickets have been sold, but it’s not enough. That too few people have been able to part with $100 for a chance to win $340,000 must be a sign of the times. A minimum of 3,500 tickets must sell before the grand prize drawing; no more than 5,000 tickets will be sold, according to the MBIA.

For details and where to buy, see the box with this story. For more information and contest rules, visit www.buildmissoula.com or www.missoulastudentbuilthouse.org.

Your gamble is a donation, too. Money goes toward the Building Futures Program, which gives students a chance to check out the building industry. It’s a community partnership with MBIA, the University of Montana College of Technology Carpentry Program, and The Flagship Program.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula City Council sends stuff back to committee

The Missoula City Council kicked a couple items back to committee — but not without an attempt from Councilman Bob Jaffe to handle at least one matter on the floor.

Councilwoman Renee Mitchell, who raised concerns about protecting established neighborhoods, asked to send the plan for density bonuses back for more work.

Jaffe needed eight votes to suspend the rules and keep the item on the floor, but his attempt to handle things Monday fell short. Councilors Roy Houseman, Jon Wilkins, Lyn Hellegaard, Renee Mitchell, Dick Haines and Ed Childers voted against the rule suspension.

Will any real work get accomplished in committee? This summer, when the special districts got sent back, there was a lot of hot air, but not much action.

Sometimes, sending stuff back to committee means working out nitty-gritty details. Other times, sending stuff back to committee just means delay.

In this case, a delay wouldn’t hurt anything, said Councilman Childers.

The rule in question would offer breaks to developers who provide permanently affordable homes. The breaks come on a sliding scale in the form of density bonuses, the ability to build on smaller lots, and flexibility with building standards. (See Section C of the link.)

Councilman Dave Strohmaier said he didn’t see any point in returning the item because the divide on affordable housing is philosophical and can’t be resolved in committee.

“What we’re hearing tonight is simply residual arguments that we’ve heard time and time again in this chamber,” Strohmaier said.

Folks from the Missoula Housing Authority and homeWORD voiced support for the rule, but the acting director in the Office of Planning and Grants said it’s expected to be used in only limited cases.

— Keila Szpaller

The Missoula City Council adopts the budget

On a series of 8-4 votes, the Missoula City Council approved the 2011 budget and the special districts as well.

There’s nothing like a new tax to draw people to Council Chambers. The last couple years, the number of people commenting on the budget were maybe two.

This year, quite a few more showed up to share their pleasure and displeasure. The voting didn’t yield any surprises.

One of the things some people certainly didn’t like about the districts is they weren’t bringing in any new things for parks or streets.

Enter Councilman Dave Strohmaier, though. Strohmaier pushed to set aside some $10,000 for new trees, $30,000 for taking care of the ones already here, and $60,000 for help with sidewalk and curb payments. His full proposal is here in gray highlights, and the sidewalk money can be used to help with maintenance, too.

Strohmaier is one of the most active local legislators, and he was busy as ever this budget season. He floated a number of different ideas, not ’cause he was married to all of them, but ’cause he partly wanted to get the juices flowing in different ways when it came to budget talks.

His hard work prompted one person who looked to be trained on MCAT to send out this tweet: “When is strohmaier going to announce his candidacy for mayor?” That was @lgpguin. Or perhaps Strohmaier wants to head to Helena down the road?

Well, that’s just about it for now. Take a breather from all things money for a while, and refresh yourself really well. Next year, it’ll probably be another rough budget — plus a city election year.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula: Fashion design capital of Montana?

sewing machineThe Garden City seems an unlikely place for a fashion foot to take hold.

Fashion in Missoula? We’ve got turtlenecks and jeans-under-skirts and those (406) hoodies and the ugly but comfortable Keen. I really want one of those (406) hoodies, but not ’cause I think they’re the latest and greatest in style. More like they’re cozy and make outsiders curious. But actual fashion here? You bet your Havaianas.

By the way, I have no idea what fashion has to do with local government, the ostensible subject of this blog. I always like seeing city attorney Jim Nugent in his shamrock tie for St. Patrick’s Day, but that wouldn’t catch the eye of a Glamour editor.

Guess what did? A dress from Julia LaTray’s DonkeyGirl. LaTray is a clothing designer in Missoula, and she isn’t the only one. Surprised?

In May, the Missoulian ran this story about Nici Holt Cline, who designs clothing for children. Cute stuff, and that’s her sewing machine pictured in her home studio.

In June, we ran this story about MilkBaby Bikini, whose tiny and bright swimsuits made editors at Sports Illustrated practically swoon. Look for babes in possible Missoula bikinis in an upcoming swimsuit edition. (Yes, I’m sure you won’t need to be told twice.)

Now, Glamour.com’s Glamour Magazine’s contributing style editor Tracey Lomrantz is apparently hot for a saucy blue dress she ordered in Missoula from DonkeyGirl.

I’d visited with Julia and Chris LaTray about house designs. Today, an email from Chris LaTray arrived with news about clothing design.

The Glamour.com editor got her DonkeyGirl dress in the mail, loves it, and plans to wear for a Sept. 28 segment on the Today Show. LaTray sent over this scan of the note from “Tracey.”

What she was doing in Missoula is a mystery to me. But Missoula fashionistas? Huzzah.

And if you designers want someone to test out any wild designs for neckties, Jim Nugent’s office is upstairs in City Hall.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula County takes up budget; Snohomish County handles indecent exposure

The Missoula Office of Planning and Grants looks like it’s going to officially shrink. That’s one piece of news in this story about the Missoula County budget.

The size of the Planning office has been the bane of some Missoulians, so a party is probably in order in some corners of town. Five positions that already are dark are going to disappear from the books, according to the story.

At least none of the people who left are flaming out with a charge for indecent exposure, like this former Planning office director Craig Ladiser in Snohomish County.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula councilors: Last day to protest

In this guest editorial, three Missoula City Council members remind people who oppose the new special districts that 5 p.m. today is the last day to file a protest with the City Clerk.

Councilors Lyn Hellegaard, Renee Mitchell and Dick Haines also point to other alternatives for finding $500,000. In other words, these minority folks offer ways to keep services without the “special districts.”

If $500,000 were a legitimate need, there are a number of alternatives to fund this “shortfall” without the establishment of two new taxing mechanisms. The refusal of the mayor to take advantage of other funds makes it clear the real purpose of creating these two special districts is to allow for future tax increases that cannot be challenged.

Tax increases? Hey, bring them on ’cause those mean quality of life increases, said John Torma in this letter to the editor. Torma, a former Missoula councilor,views taxes not as a bad word but as an investment in community, and one that’s been managed well.

Missoula is an extremely livable city in innumerable ways, and this is not a result of happenstance. It is a result of years of wise use of public funds (i.e. taxes) to establish the infrastructure (i.e. parks, open space, trails, library, schools, streets, sanitation system, downtown, public art, public safety, urban forest, public health facilities, etc.) that allows us to enjoy the enviable quality of life that we have here in Missoula.

By the way, some folks have used the word “shortfall” in talks about the city budget, and that word seems to imply there’s not enough money for the things in the budget. As the guest editorial points out, there’s the “business as usual” way to pay for the entire budget without the “special districts.” The council can vote to levy the entire amount.

The districts aren’t “business as usual,” in part ’cause they aren’t limited to growing at roughly half the rate of inflation. So that’s good or bad, depending on how well or poorly you think your taxes are spent, and how flush or pinched you are.

City Clerk Marty Rehbein just said protests have been pouring in the door all day long. There were too many too fast to get an up-to-date count, but tabulation is in the works.

“It’s been really busy today,” Rehbein said.

— Keila Szpaller