And here’s the Missoula budget!

Here’s a story about it.

Here’s a link to direct documents including Mayor John Engen’s budget introduction.

Here’s my favorite part, which came in a handout yesterday of departmental new requests. You can see exactly what it costs to outfit a new Missoula Police Department officer for the job.

Wages: $51,121

Fringe: $33,758

Overtime: $2,000

Overtime fringe: $147

Uniform: $3,500

Handgun: $700 (Remember that scene in La Femme Nikita? Nikita is presented with a huge selection of firearms and told she can only pick two. Probably the cops don’t get to pick.)

Ammunition: $600

Radio: $3,200 (Spendy suckers. My cell phone plays the radio. Just kidding.)

MLEA Basic Training: $1,200 (This must be Montana Law Enforcement Academy)

Annual training and recertification: $600

Pre-employment exams: $850 (No idea … Drug tests? Driving while cell phone talking tests? Hee.)

Misc. Office supplies: $300

Ticket printing: $320

Cell phone service: $252 (Looks like for the year. Sweet deal if that’s the case.)

Misc. operating supplies: $500

The city is splitting the cost with “downtown partners.”

More to come on budget stuff later I’m sure.

— Keila Szpaller

Around and around goes the Missoula council …

on the social host ordinance.

I think the dark skies deal might have taken longer, but man, this one has been a hard one to get off the ground.

The Missoula City Council may have another go next week.

Councilman Dave Strohmaier was quite adamant about stiff penalties. He said he set “harsh” ones on purpose to dissuade repeat offenders.

Here’s a story about one punishment removed from the ordinance. At least for now.

But enough on that one. Here’s a couple other notices from councilors from this week’s meeting.

Councilwoman Stacy Rye said one of her favorite hiking loops, one on Waterworks, was rerouted. Rye said she understands the reasons Parks and Rec decided on the closure, but she wants a bit more of a heads up.

“We need to, I think, do a little bit better job of sometimes letting folks know what’s going on,” Rye said.

Councilor Renee Mitchell, on the other hand, bid adieu to Walter Breuning, Montana’s famous oldest resident who recently died at 114. Mitchell has a way of bringing everything back around to golf, and this time she also mentioned Easter.

“I hope our Easter bonnets on Sunday don’t look more like ski hats,” Mitchell said.

Then, Councilwoman Marilyn Marler cheered on her Missoula friends who ran the Boston Marathon. You have to be speedy to even be allowed at the starting line in that race, and then there’s no guarantee you’ll get a spot, either.

Marler said Tim Brooker, a Runner’s Edge co-owner, came in something like sixth in his age group.

“So stop in at the Runner’s Edge and say congratulations to Timmy,” Marler said.

More congratulations were in order for drivers of the “i ride Vanpool,” said Councilwoman Lyn Hellegaard. For the second year in a row, they won the Montana Transportation Safety Award.

Some numbers for you: That means zero accidents in some 250,000 miles. And according to Missoula in Motion, you can ride the “i ride Vanpool” for 11 cents a mile. Ride on!

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula mayor supports “social host” ordinance

After the public hearing on the “social host” ordinance, it was obvious the Missoula City Council wasn’t of one mind on this deal.

So while checking with the mayor on another matter, I asked him how he’d break a tie. He said he’d support it.

The final vote looks like it will happen tonight.

Here’s a note Councilor Dave Strohmaier, the ordinance sponsor, sent out about the meeting and proposal.

“My proposed social host ordinance is up for a final vote before the Missoula City Council on Monday night (4/17) at 7 p.m. I began drafting this ordinance last fall, and it has been under consideration before the council since December. This is intended to be one component of a multi-pronged effort to address DUI and underage drinking in Missoula.

For more information, contact me at 529-5580.


— Keila Szpaller

Squirtie keeps truckin’


Here’s a belated entry to the holiday pet parade: It’s Squirtie, blasting through the woods.

This is city communications director Ginny Merriam’s dog. Squirtie hikes with his pals at Quick Paws, mentioned in this story about “doggie bomb” pickups.

“Here’s an example of a dog whose poop is picked up every day of his life,” Merriam told me.

I had called her to find out what in the world was up with the city budget. The 2012 budget was going to be released early this year.

First, it was coming out three weeks ago, then last week. But the deadlines kept flying by and still no budget.

Of course, it’s still pretty darn early in the budget cycle. Merriam said a release party for the budget is “tentatively” scheduled for next Wednesday. Increases in special districts? Other taxes? Mum’s the word for now.

OK, I said release “party.” She didn’t. And it might be more like a food fight. But she said Mayor John Engen doesn’t want folks talking about the details ’til the budget is officially out.

So we’ll wait at the edges of our seats. Careful there …

— Keila Szpaller

Drink beer for books at the Kettlehouse!

What a cause!

You have a pint of yummy sumpin’ sumpin’ at the K-Hole — K-Hole gives 50 cents to the Missoula Public Library Foundation!

On the Northside.

Disclosure: My guy works there. (Ah, the benefits.)

The watering hole supports nonprofits like this each Wednesday. I just had to make note of the library’s turn.

Seen the library blog? That’s here too.

Read, read, read.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula equality law, laws of the loos, and Gay Amy

On April 13, in the wee hours, the anti-discrimination ordinance of Missoula has it’s one year anniversary. That’s when the vote happened a year ago, anyway. The meeting started April 12.

A couple more things on that note.

First, a fun fact, a quirky turn. I’m a fan of an Oregon pinot noir made by Bethel Heights Vineyard. (Try it when you have a special occasion. Sapore sells it by the glass. CVS and the Good Food Store sell it too.) Turns out Missoula agency Six Pony Hitch did their website and other materials. How’d it happen? Six Pony Hitch did the site for Missoula triathlete Linsey Corbin, and SPH owner Spider McKnight said the wine people saw the Corbin site, liked it and found SPH. Neat.

Also, if you thought the mayhem-in-the-bathroom argument was dead, it just moved to Helena. City attorney Jim Nugent has been sending letters to the Capitol like this one explaining the laws of the loos.

“There are no state laws regulating who uses what bathroom in Montana society,” Nugent wrote.

Also, here’s his letter on killing House Bill 516, another on the same, one more, and this one.

Lastly, well lastly for now, check out the “Who’s Your Neighbor?” parade Saturday to celebrate Diversity Day 2011. More information here on the National Coalition Building Institute’s website.

OK, that wasn’t last. If you missed it, we ran portions of Amy Capolupo’s testimony from last year with the anniversary story. I’m going to paste it below.

“I’m gay. I’ve always been gay, my whole life, I’ve been gay. I mean, I’ve always known I was gay. I’ve been gay since I was 8. I’m just gay. I’m like, the gayest person I know. I mean, I’m really serious about this … I don’t mean to make you laugh. I’m totally serious. And you know, when I came out to my parents, they didn’t take it very well. They took it terribly, in fact. And … my father finally came to me and said … I was afraid that you’d get beat up, that you wouldn’t be able to be all these things in life that I wanted you to be. And today, you guys have the opportunity (to protect someone who is younger than me) … who is just gay, I mean, totally gay, OK. I mean, God made me gay, and whoever … does not think that God made me gay for five seconds, I assure you I was in Israel two years ago and they all know that God made me gay. … You do not have to table this. … If you take it back, everyone is going to come here and do the same thing again … and you’re going to hear how gay I am again, so please, thank you. I’d love to spare you from this again so thank you so much. Have a great night or a good morning. Finnegan’s is open probably. Thank you. Good night.”

— Keila Szpaller

MT Public Radio wants to raise $555,000

In this story, reporter Joe Nickell writes about Montana Public Radio’s successes and challenges this pledge week.

Success: New phone technology that means headsets for all. No more incessant pencil sharpening. (But can they play, softly, the old fashioned telephone rings in the background? Just for nostalgia’s sake?)

Challenge: Raising $555,000 during pledge week, April 9 to 17.

The story brings up a question I’ve been thinking about lately. There’s so many good causes out there, and these days, everyone seems to need even more help.

Public Radio’s needs are greater, the Western Montana Community Center wants to ramp up and do more this year, and the new Girls Way opened its doors. The Missoula Food Bank and Poverello Center continue to take care of the basics for more and more folks. And that’s just around here. There’s also, say, people and pet rescue shelters in Japan.

There seems to be more need, and fewer dollars to go ’round. Who does the best job of stretching a dollar? How do you decide where to give? Heart? Head? Do you leave it up to United Way to decide?

— Keila Szpaller

Legislators don’t live in their districts in MT

Many of them don’t, especially in urban areas, and here’s a story about why that is. It partly goes all the way back to Montana’s new Constitution.

Rep. Ellie Hill shared the curious turns representation takes in Helena as a result:

“I currently reside in House District 99. My condo is four blocks from the edge of my legislative district, which is House District 94. Therefore, Rep. Betsy Hands represents me in the legislature. That said, I represent Rep. Dick Barrett in the legislature, who lives in HD94, and Dick represents neighboring House District 93 in the legislature.”

And there’s a lot of shoe leather getting worn out in the districts, too,  Sen. Ron Erickson said in an email.

“I live in my district and (have) done so in every session (6) that I have served. There are Missoula legislators who do not, but each and every one of the Democrats has spent a great deal of time walking their districts, getting acquainted with their constituents, and doing their best to represent them.”

Think you want to run for the Montana Legislature? Best read Rep. Sue Malek’s note about the job first. I’m going to paste it here:

I live in the Rattlesnake (1400 Prairie Way) and represent from Burton north of the river west and from Orange south of the river and mostly north of third to the west, House District 98.  I had interviewed with the Democratic Party to replace Kevin Furey when he vacated his seat.  However, someone else was appointed.  So, when an opening came up in District 98, the Democratic Party approached me to see if I wanted to run.  They were interested in me because I had expressed interest and because I had served as chair of the 2004 Missoula City Government Study Commission, served on the planning board years ago, was president of my son’s PTA at Roosevelt School, and am a volunteer writing coach at Hellgate School.  So I had demonstrated experience and interest in community affairs.

As you know, some of the legislative districts in Missoula County stretch from one community to another and cover everything in between. The law allows anyone who resides in the county to serve, just as any qualified Montanan can run for the Montana Supreme Court, allowing Montanans to select the best individuals from the entire state or county, not just from one area.  The legislature pays $10.33 an hour for eight hours a day, no overtime, no vacation, no sick leave.  We work Monday through Saturday, often 10 to 12 hours a day.  We have no staff.  We are bombarded with information, threatened, and accused of ignorance, and we have to remain calm and try to make the rationale for our decisions as clear and persuasive as possible. We go on the doors after work from March through the election.  We raise money, design brochures, interview with organizations and the press. We run one year and serve the next. It is not an easy job. Not a lot of working people can take four months off from their job every other year to serve. I am lucky I can, but believe me it is not easy for my fellow employees and doesn’t make me the most popular person at work.

I am a working person. I’ve worked at least part-time since I was 14.  I am married, own a home, have a mortgage, have a son, started with a small home and worked with my husband to buy nicer and nicer places. I’m just like the people in my district, working to stay healthy, taking care of my family and worrying about how to make retirement work.

Representing a diverse constituency and dealing with the complex issues in the legislature demands experience. I’m afraid many of the new representatives who have joined us in the legislature this session are proud of their lack of experience.  Consequently we see bills amended in a legislative committee three and more times because the representative has not talked to the interested parties before presentation.  I think whether a person lives in their district is the least of our worries.

Slogging through a session doesn’t sound easy, but there’s one great benefit to being a lawmaker, and that’s health benefits. See Mike Dennison’s story if you missed it.

None of this information is directly related to city stuff, though, and this year is a city election year. I just read quite the nasty gram about the upcoming election, and I wasn’t ready for such a testy letter. Brace yourself for the months ahead.

— Keila Szpaller