Missoula city firefighter throws down against top-ranked rural firefighter

andy_trisha Super runners!

That’s Andy Drobeck and Trisha Miller. They run fast.

A couple weeks ago at a Missoula City Council meeting, Councilwoman Marilyn Marler gave them a shout out for their quick running and fundraising for burn victims.

Then, this week, Caballo Blanco’s talk at the Wilma Theatre pulled in big bucks for the Raramuri runners in Mexico. Another set of generous Garden City runners sponsored that gig. That’s Rick Wishcamper, Kevin Twidwell, Kiefer Hahn and Dean McGovern.

Here’s a story with the details on dollars.

Marler sent over the photo above, and it sure won’t be the last you see of Drobeck, a Missoula Fire Department firefighter. Firefighters from this neck of the woods are hotter than jalapenos at the annual Scott Firefighter Stairclimb in Seattle.

Last year, they nabbed three of the top four places among 1,555 competitors. That event is a fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Missoula Rural Fire District’s Kory Burgess locked in first place in 2009 as he did the year before. He also holds the record for getting to the 73rd floor of Seattle’s tallest building.

But heavy competition is brewing. Drobeck, who earned second place in the 2009 stairclimb, aims to knock Burgess from his No. 1 post this year and claim it for himself. Woot! Let the climbing begin.

— Keila Szpaller

Does Missoula need “Citizen Pruners” for trees?

tree pruneTrees in Missoula need some TLC. A couple Missoula City Council members want folks to share the love.

After that story ran, an interesting idea landed in my email box: Community tree pruners!

Here’s how the NYU Livewire piece begins:

A few years back, an arborist noticed the branch of a linden tree protruding over a Manhattan street. She decided to amputate on the spot. But the owner of a nearby restaurant was watching, and threatened to call the police. That’s when the arborist pulled out a laminated badge that read ‘CITIZEN PRUNER.

Badges rock. Missoula City Councilor Stacy Rye suggested naming an urban forest committee the “Tree Hugger Committee.”

I can see those badges now: “CITIZEN TREE HUGGER.”

— Keila Szpaller

State budget director mum on “entitlement” dollars

Some Montana cities and counties want to warn the state away from siphoning off dollars guaranteed to local governments.

I wrote that story here a couple weeks ago, and before it ran, I hadn’t heard back from Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s budget director David Ewer.

I wanted to ask him if the administration supported a change in the “entitlement” program. The story was plenty long, and it didn’t require a response from Ewer, so I didn’t include a “couldn’t be reached” line.

But the question was still hanging out there. Today, I was tossing out notes, and saw the ones from this story, so I tried Ewer once more for the Schweitzer administration’s position.

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Missoula mandala celebrates Dia de los Muertos

mandalaHonor your ancestors and community art on Tuesday, Nov. 2, for a Day of the Dead event in Caras Park.

All day long starting at 8 a.m., Missoula Mandala Project founders Janaina Vieira-Marques and Pedro Marques will be leading the creation of a 10,000-square-foot biodegradable painting of colored sawdust.

“Because the piece is temporary, it invites those who participate to be fully present in the spirit of the Day of the Dead holiday and the energy of collective creativity,” reads the news release.

The founders brought the project from their native Brazil. Vieira-Marques grew up creating similar sawdust pieces in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

“People are also invited to bring a flower to add to the Mandala in memory of the life of someone they have lost, in the tradition of the holiday.”

In 2010, Vieira-Marques was selected to represent the University of Montana Art Department at the National Conference of Undergraduate Research with this project, in its third year.

The public also is invited to bring a rake and sweep away the mandala starting at noon Nov. 3. To see the artists creating an earlier mandala, go to this YouTube video.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula court knocks down Notmybathroom.com lawsuit

Missoula County District Judge Douglas Harkin is not going to take another look at the Notmybathroom.com lawsuit.

Here’s the order from court denying a request for reconsideration. The subject, of course, is the anti-discrimination ordinance the Missoula City Council adopted in April.

Tei Nash said he and other plaintiffs haven’t decided whether to try another legal challenge or whether to write another petition.

So moving on, I fell behind on Red Tape last week. I know that. I’m owning up. I’m gonna make it up to you today. Big time.

— Keila Szpaller

“Flatulence” flapping stinks up Council Chambers

The special districts were on the agenda again Monday in Council Chambers, and a couple council folks who opposed them got more scathing in their rebukes of the mayor and administration.

Other stuff first, though.

Councilman Roy Houseman, having spent the last week pretty much sick in bed, reminded people to get their flu shots. If you missed his report on the Montana League of Cities and Towns meeting, here’s a link from MATR, Montana Associated Technology Roundtables.

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U.S. Senator punctual; reporter floored

testerA Missoula meeting yesterday with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester was supposed to start at 1:30 p.m.  He was hearing about transportation at the Old Sawmill District.

I showed up at the Missoula Redevelopment Agency downtown around 1:15 p.m. in case for some reason the senator had some morning meeting fall apart and he arrived early.

But really, I figured I’d be waiting until at least 1:45 p.m. I guessed the meeting would start around 2 p.m.

I don’t often cover those Washington, D.C., folks, but I’ve definitely had to wait around for them on occasion. I don’t mind, not being the most punctual person myself, but I’ve noticed.

So Wednesday, when Tester and his team of people walked through MRA’s doors at 1:30 p.m., I thought something had gone wrong. The meeting started, and by the time I remembered to look at my watch, it was 1:32 p.m.

That’s, like, totally on time. Completely on time. I said something to Tester about this on the way to the sawmill site, and he joked about finally getting his staff in line.

On the sawmill tour, though, his state operations manager said punctuality isn’t a joke with Tester. That’s Dayna Swanson, who said she’s been with the Montana Democrat since he’s been in office, and he’s an on time dude.

Well, she didn’t say “dude,” but she did say she could probably count on one hand the times they have been late. So they get to places when they’re supposed to.

“He demands that of us,” Swanson said.

And unless lousy traffic gets in the way, which it has in the past, she said they deliver.

Yesterday at the sawmill site, Tester, the MRA director, and a property owner chatted on the boat ramp. Soon enough, in went Missoula field director Tracy Stone-Manning to collect him.

“Speaking of being on time … ,” Stone-Manning said.

And away went the senator, presumably on time to his next appointment.

— Keila Szpaller

Photo/Kurt Wilson: Tester in Missoula area in 2008

First contested race for Missoula County Clerk and Recorder

The Missoula race to be the county clerk and recorder won’t be a one-woman show this year.

Judy McKinney, finance and human resource director for homeWORD, is taking on Vickie Zeier, who has held the job for 17 years. (McKinney does not have a campaign website.)

Neither candidate wants to make the race partisan, but Zeier is on the Democratic ticket and McKinney is on the Republican one.

In 2007, Zeier led Missoula through its first all mail ballot election. Historically, city elections with no mayor’s race saw turnouts of 8 to 15 percent. That year, turnout boomed at 46 percent.

This year, though, with election judges in short supply and budgets tight, Zeier oversaw the closure of eight out of 37 polling places.

She took some heat, and it’s an area her opponent, a Missoula native, wants to review.

“McKinney said she would ‘revisit the places the polls were closed and just really scrutinize that closely, to see if ward changes could be made to make it more efficient and yet accessible to folks that really need accessibility.'”

Zeier has been appointed to various election advisory boards, such as the Federal Election Assistance Commission Standards Board, but running elections isn’t the only part of the job. The officer also serves as the motor vehicle supervisor, among other roles, as one county employee notes in this letter to the editor in support of the incumbent.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula transit manager will earn $85,000

tree mugMichael Tree, hired to take the wheel at Mountain Line, starts his job on Nov. 15. If you missed the story on Tree, here’s a link.

If you missed his secrets to getting folks on the bus in the Palm Springs area, hold onto your socks: complimentary jelly doughnuts with hot cocoa. No kidding. The Missoula version might be bran muffins and chas.

I’d asked about the general manager’s salary but didn’t get an answer until after the story ran. According to Mountain Line, the job pays $85,000.

I asked Tree if he saw doughnuts in Missoula’s future, and he laughed. But what he said was that the idea came from a lot of talks with drivers and supervisors, and he plans to have similar talks with folks here.

“I think that will be something that I’ll want to continue at Mountain Line is trying to figure out ways we can make transit commonplace in more and more people’s lives,” Tree said.

I asked Tree for a mug shot, and he sent over the one above. In an e-mail, he said it’s one he uses as city manager of Twentynine Palms, Calif., and “a little stuffy.” In other words? Don’t hold him to the tie and jacket.

— Keila Szpaller

Biker Bob goes guerilla

Biker Bob and some pals went guerilla on rocky spots for bicycles. They painted their own cycle symbols along the Hip Strip, and in a fall motif, too.

But don’t call it “civil disobedience,” said Bob Giordano, bicycle activist and director of the Missoula Institute for Sustainable Transportation. Rather, call it “positive citizen action.”

Or call it downright dangerous, “extreme, very risky behavior,” said Bruce Bender, city chief administrative officer and regular bike commuter.

Giordano has clashed with city officials in the past, but this time, he’s landed in court and may seek a jury trial. Would a jury applaud his acts or see the paint job as a nuisance?

In other painting news, the Northside pedestrian bridge is getting scrubbed. It’s also getting some new features, like lots of lights.

I tried to find out the number of folks who use the bridge, and couldn’t put my finger on it. Got close, though, with some data from Ann Cundy, senior transportation planner in the Office of Planning and Grants.

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