Missoula’s new parking garage gets “zip”



That’s kind of like “hip” and “zest” all rolled into one. Anyway, this week the Missoula City Council signed off on contracts related to the new parking garage going up at Pattee and Front Streets.

“The particular agenda items related to the parking structure are a big deal for downtown Missoula and a significant component of implementing the Downtown Master Plan,” said Councilman Dave Strohmaier. “I don’t want us to lose sight of that.”

MMW Architects is doing the design, and partner Don MacArthur talked about all the yummy possibilities. They’re pricey, too, so they may not pan out, but dreaming big is an alright way to begin.

I wanted to get an idea of what a “progressive” and “vibrant” parking garage might look like, and I found this set of pictures on TheCoolist.com, a design website.

Here’s The Coolist on the colorful building pictured above:

The Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Garage is the world’s first LEED-certified garage, and one of the world’s most visually progressive.  Its stunning facade is lit with an offset array of colored light, in blue, green and red.  Photovoltaic panels and laminations provide much of the buildings power needs, while natural ventilation takes care of climate control.  The materials for this building include many recycled sources and low-impact treatments, constructed with sustainable development practices.  Beyond its green heartbeat, the beauty of this garage makes it memorable, one of the highlights of Santa Monica’s architectural identity.

A garage with identity. Whoddathunkit? A strong identity requires a strong name, though, and MMW’s MacArthur said he wouldn’t mind suggestions for the Pattee and Front garage.

Probably, a good idea only will show up after there’s a preliminary design. But if you have names, send them along.

— Keila Szpaller

Voting made sexy in Spain

That news and spicy video here on “Hot Topic,” a blog of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Americans don’t vote at the level of Europeans. Maybe it’s the advertising. Consider this get-out-the-vote commercial from the Socialist party in Spain’s Catalan region, picked up by collegehumor.com.

Maybe Budweiser got it right after all. I can see the bikini-clad voters getting carried from the hot tub to the polls on handsome Clydesdale horses.

— Keila Szpaller

Roundabouts: Not just for the birds anymore

birdsRoundabouts are popping up in Missoula and everywhere else.

The New York Times has the “everywhere else” story here, courtesy of Gwen Florio on the crime beat. (Yes, sometimes she must fee like it’s the Jason Christ beat.)

On the roundabout beat, here’s the deal. At first, some folks think the things are for the birds (See above. Unrelated story about a lot of birds at the Lee Metcalf Refuge here.) Then, they become apathetic. Then — hold onto your turn signal — public opinion tips in favor of the roundabout.

“Three years ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a study titled “Long-Term Trends in Public Opinion Following Construction of Roundabouts.” After interviewing 1,802 drivers in six communities, the researchers reported that, on average, only 34 percent had supported roundabouts in their communities before construction. But shortly after the roundabouts were in place, the number rose to 57 percent. After a year or more, the number increased to 69 percent.”

So Missoula isn’t the only place that suffers an occasional bout of xenophobia.

The latest roundabout built in Missoula is on Miller Creek. That’s in Ward 5, and Councilwoman Renee Mitchell said it seems to be working alright.

“I personally think that it’s going to be fine,” Mitchell said.

She said some folks have complained about the trees to Public Works, but she didn’t have the details at her fingertips. She herself wishes the road had been chipped and sealed this season, but that’s on the schedule for spring.

The construction involved acquiring easements in some sticky negotiations. Mitchell said she’s glad the disputes are settled and grateful to city engineer Kevin Slovarp and his colleagues for their brainstorming.

“I think his (Slovarp’s) mind worked overtime in figuring out how to lessen the damages to the properties,” Mitchell said.

(This addendum from @RunningMaggie: “A big shout-out to LS Jensen’s crew and WGM Group on the roundabout too!!”)

Mitchell views the roundabout as a good way to improve the road since a study ruled out a bridge to the area. (But Mitchell said don’t mistake her as having any affection to traffic circles. “I don’t have warm fuzzies for the traffic calmers, necessarily.”) The roundabout?

“As far as the functionality of it, I think it’s better than what was there. Personally, I’m finally glad that we’ve reached this point,” Mitchell said.

Me personally, I’m glad we’ve finally reached this point in the week. It’s Friday, thank goodness. IFTG.

— Keila Szpaller

MT Gov. Brian Schweitzer confirmed on ParkerSpitzer

guvMontana Gov. Brian Schweitzer appears at 6 p.m. today on the ParkerSpitzer show, according to the CNN website.

“Schweitzer, a Democrat, will … explain how his state has been able to balance its checkbook five years in a row with no tax increases, no cuts to education or other essential services and $327 million left in the bank.”

Indeed, folks in higher education are singing happy songs since the governor announced a boost for education in his budget proposal.

This week, the guv spoke to a University of Montana class on leadership taught by Mayor John Engen. Schweitzer told the students he didn’t groom himself to be a politician, he came to the job as an outsider.

“Hell, I think I could do a better job than those jokers,” Schweitzer said.

He’s termed out and said he’ll miss some parts of the job. Tussling with Monte? It puts him in the center of attention, so bets that’s on the miss list.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula cyclist logs 3,000 miles since January

ethelmacdonald.jpbAvid Missoula bicyclist Ethel MacDonald filled up her gas tank this month for the first time since Jan. 23.

That news in this story about why MacDonald rides by bike.

She’s logged nearly 3,000 bike miles since then, including 1,200 commuting miles in Missoula.

“I really see energy conservation being linked to my peace activities and I find it ironic that people who are linked to peace and to sustainability issues don’t practice energy conservation,” MacDonald said in the story. “It’s part of my overall ethic to not use oil. We go to war for oil and kill each other for oil. I try to use as little oil as possible.”

So where did she log the other 1,800 miles? Riding from Paris to Amsterdam. If that sounds like a blast to you, you’re not alone.

Adventure Cycling is seeing evidence more folks are seeking adventures by bike. This season the Missoula organization and cycling Mecca counted a record number of riders on its tours.

Here’s more from the nonprofit:

Bicycle travel is becoming an increasingly visible part of the adventure travel market, which, according to a recent study issued by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, generates $89 billion annually.

If you can’t take a trip afar, though, take a cue from MacDonald, who sees her rides in town as mini adventures.

“I relax, I notice the trees turning. I take different routes to wherever I’m going, and I explore the city,” she said. “I notice all the beauty around me, and when I see friends, it’s so easy to stop and visit with them and then be on my way. Even errands become recreation – doing errands on a bike isn’t a chore.”

— Keila Szpaller

Montana Gov. Schweitzer on ParkerSpitzer?

Today I went to the University of Montana for a story about Mayor John Engen in a very different role. Engen is teaching a political science class on leadership.

Guess who the guest speaker was today? Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who was full of tales for the students about his rise in politics, not your typical ascension. He also let out his secret for negotiating in the 2011 Legislature.

“I’m just going to have to use what little charm I have,” Schweitzer said.

If you want more from him, and you know you do given recent rumors about his future plans, it sounds like he’s going to be on the ParkerSpitzer show. He said Spitzer asked him about the national debt.

I can’t tell when this is going to happen. Schweitzer isn’t listed in “Tonight’s line-up,” but he is in the old pages Google pulls up. Odd.

The correct information is probably sitting in my e-mail, but we’ve had technical difficulties today. I can’t open it, and now, I’m going home. ‘Night night.

— Keila Szpaller

Montana guv dips into local coffers

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s proposed budget hangs onto a wee bit of money once planned for local piggy banks. And on a permanent basis.

That’s the “entitlement” program. In 2001, lawmakers untangled some complicated local and state accounting transactions, and one outcome was lump sum payments to local coffers.

The problem is cities, towns and counties don’t sound as “entitled” to those dollars as the name of the program suggests. The payments include growth, and the budget proposes 0.76 percent more instead of 4 percent more.

Montana League of Cities and Towns executive director Alec Hansen said Wednesday that portion of the governor’s budget proposal isn’t going to fly with the League.

“Obviously, we can’t support what the governor’s recommending,” Hansen said.

Continue reading

Trannys and Cell Phones

Here’s more reading and listening and watching for everyone. These are links related to two stories running Sunday. See Missoulian.com.

No. 1

I did a Q&A with Erin Armstrong, a prolific YouTube video creator of Rolling Stone fame*, for a piece about the Missoula Transgender Day of Recognition. She’ll be visiting from San Francisco, and that’s her in the video here.

If you want more data on the subject of violence against trans folks, you can look here on the Transgender Day of Remembrance site.

You can also go to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs site.

No. 2

I wrote a story about the texting and driving ban in Missoula. My nutshell: It’s not working. Ahead: Councilman Dave Strohmaier plans fixes.

I think there must be some money out there to study cell phone use and driving ’cause there’s tons of reports. Here’s some info I cite in the story: Continue reading

But who audits the auditor?

“Audits of city finances often cover up serious problems.”

That’s the headline from this story in the L.A. Times about trouble in California:

Accountants gave Bell clean reports, ignoring red flags that pointed to excessive salaries, illegal taxes and failure to follow reporting requirements. A Times review finds Bell is far from being alone.

Links to Missoula’s audits are here, but I don’t have an audit of the audits.

Um, happy Friday?

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula councilman salutes veterans — with socks

veterans dayA warm pair of socks is one of the best ways to thank veterans.

If you want to know why, just ask Jon Wilkins, a Vietnam veteran and Missoula City Councilman. On Veterans Day, Wilkins dropped off 84 pairs of socks for the residents of Valor House.

“If it helps Valor House and makes people more aware of it, that’s a good thing,” Wilkins said of the delivery.

Valor House opened in 2005 as a residence for veterans, and it has 17 units. Today, it also has at least 84 new pairs of socks, like the ones Wilkins himself used to get when he served in the U.S. Army.

“I was an infantry guy, so wherever I went, my feet took me,” Wilkins said. “It was in the jungle, and generally, everything is sopping wet.”

Once in a while, though, packages would come to the soldiers in the field.

“They were clean socks. Nice, clean dry socks, and it kind of made our day,” Wilkins said.

So during a recent Council meeting, Wilkins asked the community for socks, and he got them.

It’s his way to help veterans, and he knows there’s folks in Missoula who need it.

A while back, the Ward 4 alderman was leaving Council chambers and saw an ambulance near a man sprawled on the street.

He saw the man wore a badge with a four-leaf clover, and the design looked familiar: Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division wear it.

“He was in the same outfit I was in. So that struck a chord with me. Here’s this poor guy laying in the street. Who knows what got him there?”

But someone should help, Wilkins said: “And Valor House does that.”

— Keila Szpaller

Photo credit: Kathleen Kimble, copy editor, word zapper, or the high-falutin’ assistant news editor