The great cocoa divestment

trufflesDid you read this story? About how Rockin Rudy’s can’t sell those truffles anymore without some sink the owner would have to pay $30,000 for?

That’s a lot of truffles.

Who shut down the chocolate? The Missoula City-County Health Department.

People talk about creating a business friendly environment here, but whose job is it to take care of these littler things? I don’t think something like this sink rule is big enough for the Missoula Economic Partnership to take on.

Here’s Rudy’s owner Bruce Micklus on the cocoa freeze:

The truffles previously sold for $2.25, and Trenkle said she may drop the price to move them quickly. The store sold about 2,000 truffles in August, and Micklus said an average month would likely top $1,500.

“It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s hard out there right now,” he said. “The idea of getting rid of something that sells sort of irritates me. Especially when it’s just ridiculous.”

You’d think the Missoula City Council or Board of County Commissioners could do something. Some of those rules aren’t locally created, but there’s always work-arounds, and members of both those bodies sit on the Health Department board.

OK, next subject. Ross Best dropped his ballpark lawsuit. But it’s partly ’cause he has other priorities, and I’ll be keeping tabs on whether any of them intersect with city government.

Here’s his full email about withdrawing the case: Continue reading

Best saves some “magic” in his back pocket

That’s Ross Best, who doesn’t want public money going toward the baseball stadium.

He filed a lawsuit to try to stop that deal. Here’s the story, and here’s the lawsuit.

The petition doesn’t deal with the “magic quorum” issue Best has talked with the Missoula City Council about. He said he found the current angle to make a stronger case in this lawsuit.

I take that to mean Best can still come back around and use the “magic quorum” question in some future legal challenge.

Oh, man. I need some calls back. Ring, telephone. OK. I’ve alerted the universe. What else? Couple more things.

Cathy Deschamps, who wants a lower speed limit on Brooks Street between Dore Lane and Miller Creek, said she’s getting lots of calls for support since the story ran today.

Deschamps is going to bring up the issue at the next neighborhood meeting, on Wednesday, and then the following community forum, on Thursday.

Another thing: The Montana Kaimin has a story about a forum held this week for council candidate.

Councilman Jason Wiener said in the story it was a shame how few people showed up. In this letter to the editor, this student thinks another candidate’s comments about students are a shame.

Phone rang!

— Keila Szpaller

Thoughts on a memorial for Hausauer

The notes keep coming for bicycle and pedestrian advocate Jim Hausauer, who died earlier this month after a bike wreck.

Here’s one from fellow Franklin to the Fort resident John Wolverton. Wolverton talks about coming up with a memorial for Hausauer and his many, many initiatives:

I was out-of-town until last night and am quite saddened to hear of Jim’s untimely departure. He was tireless at his dogged determination

in advocating and planning for a better neighborhood.  I admit that he certainly wore me down on a few occasions.

Continue reading

Look out, Missoula, here’s Mallino!

That’s Margaret Mallino, a former mayor and town council member in University Park, Md.

Mallino retired from her council post because she moved to Missoula, according to this Gazette story reporter Kim Briggeman sent me.

“As a municipal employee and as an elected official I learned the importance of understanding that all cities and towns share common interests and concerns. Now as a new resident, I look forward to sharing my hands-on experience with my neighbors here in Missoula,” Mallino said.

Welcome to Missoula, Ms. Mallino, and I suspect we’ll see you around City Hall soon.

— Keila Szpaller

Councilor Cynthia Wolken votes with the neighborhood

It was a curious meeting last night.

A lot of neighborhood folks pleaded with the Missoula City Council to deny a rezone request. It was under protest, so it required a super majority.

Councilwoman Cynthia Wolken voted with Councilors Jon Wilkins, Lyn Hellegaard, Renee Mitchell and Dick Haines to deny the rezone request. Councilman Ed Childers abstained.

Wolken paused a long time before she voted. I was on the edge of my seat, rare because councilors’ votes aren’t usually a surprise.

In the back row, during Wolken’s pause, a neighbor quietly chanted “No. No. No.” And then, the Ward 2 councilor voted no.

I think it might stick, too, since other councilors also said they were split on the matter. But I wonder if this one of those times when other more senior councilors wag their fingers at her and she changes her mind.

Bets that happened to her predecessor, Councilman Roy Houseman. He voted in committee for Councilwoman Lyn Hellegaard to get on the local transportation board, but his mind changed when the final vote came around.

Wolken seems like she might have a stubborn streak. Plus, she was appointed, so I don’t think anyone one can tell her she owes them for knocking doors or making contributions.

Some neighbors believe they won a battle last night against “commercial creep.” I think the property owners Jim and Julie Betty were left wondering what was so wrong with having, say, a neighborhood sandwich shop on their side of the street.

Did someone stir up fear in the neighborhood unnecessarily? Julie Betty said it sure sounded like it.

Linda Frey, though, said the 39th Street neighborhood isn’t like the Rattlesnake, away from a lot of businesses. Just across the street from 1500 39th Street, there’s plenty of coffee shops, a bank, a nail saloon. Keep the “creep” away, Frey argued.

The council did, and it’s all over for now.

— Keila Szpaller

Westsider questions Pov process

povpicLast night, 120 people attended a meeting about the future of the Poverello Center. Reporter Chelsi Moy covered the event.

Earlier in the day, Jed Little, who served on the working group, offered his thoughts on the process.

Little said he’s thankful to the mayor and the Poverello for the opportunity to be involved. But the Westside neighbor also questioned whether the short process was just a token.

“I worry about that. Because I put so much time and energy into it, I try not to thnk about it too much. But that’s definitely a concern that we all have is that the outcome was set from the beginning, which would be personally very frustrating,” Little said.

He believes in public processes and he said working group members put a lot of time and brainpower into their evaluation. At the same time, Little said the process was limited by a dearth of sites and short deadlines . He cut short a vacation to attend one of the meetings.

“It’s hard to do things right, I think, when you do them so quickly,” Little said.

He said the Poverello narrowed down the number of recommended sites to tour from 30 to five, and three of those were in the economically stressed Westside neighborhood. Many of the sites were eliminated because they weren’t for sale, according to the city communications director.

But Little also said he’s optimistic that one recommendation is for the Poverello to expand at its current location, where it’s operated for decades.

Little emailed his comments, and I’m pasting them below in full.

The decision on a location lies in the hands of the Pov board, which has been moving to secure a site by the end of October to hold onto a $500,000 grant; an extension also is possible.

Continue reading

Councilman: Hausauer a pain, essential

Councilman Ed Childers shared these thoughts about Jim Hausauer in a note to some neighbors and Franklin to the Fort folks who knew him:

Jim was an idea man. He was a passionate advocate for what he believed should be done.
I met him when work on Johnson Street from the South Avenue intersection to the North Avenue area was planned. Curbside sidewalks were planned. Jim made a good case for boulevard sidewalks. I agreed with him. We have boulevard sidewalks from South Ave. to North Ave. because of Jim.
As mentioned in the Missoulian, the school zone speed limit change on Reserve Street at C.S. Porter School is largely because of Jim.
Fire hydrants in F2F: Jim kept after them until they were installed.
Not every idea got implemented. He had a fine suggestion to put a back road from 14th south near the RR tracks, behind the Noon’s casino that’s there now. It made some sense, but owners didn’t buy into it.

As I told Jim, he was a pain in the ***.  As I also told him, more than once, people like him are essential to our system. People like Jim are like grains of sand that irritate oysters and result in pearls. Jim’s gone. His pearls remain.

Thanks also to the folks who called the newsroom yesterday to share their thoughts on Jim Hausauer.

— Keila Szpaller

RIP, Jim Hausauer

James “Jim” Hausauer is the man who died this weekend riding his bicycle, according to the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

Hausauer often turned up at local government meetings, and he cared about walkers, bikers and the Franklin to the Fort neighborhood. He was on the neighborhood council for a while.

Every once in a while, he would call the newsroom and complain about how we hadn’t run the government committees schedule in print. I’d tell him to look online, but he relied on the ink edition.

I hope the crash was just unavoidable. Hausauer advocated for bicycle safety, and it’d be a shame to think some of the safety features he wanted could have saved him.

The community is lucky he lived here and gave of his time so willingly.

— Keila Szpaller

Does PDX have money to burn?

Do you really need eight to 10 people and half a million bucks to make sure you’re hiring people fairly? PDX might.

Portland proposes an Office of Equity, and that’s here in this Oregonian blog post.

In Montana, the largest state agency returns $28 million to the treasury. Is the Department of Health and Human Services being efficient? Or wasteful? I mean, don’t some kids around here still need help with dentist appointments and doctor checkups? Food?

It’s Friday, so there’s no sense being crabby: Here’s some cute caracal kittens for you at the Oregon Zoo.

— Keila Szpaller

Yesterday, I was a ping pong ball

The week before the Labor Day weekend is hectic, isn’t it?

Yesterday, I felt like a ping pong ball. I was on the phone at 8:30 a.m. with the Water Rights Bureau. Then at 9 a.m., at Adventure Cycling. At 11 a.m., a sidewalks meeting in Council Chambers. Then, sending off a letter to council candidates about election coverage. Then, back to sidewalks.

There’s more, but I just had to get that off my chest before the whirlwind today. You can vent in the comments too, if you want.

If you didn’t already, read this story about paying for sidewalks. Councilwoman Marilyn Marler said any change in the way the city does this piece of business will require a public hearing, but it’s better for the committee working on the deal to hear from folks earlier rather than later.

Tell your friends. It’s important because one option is that everyone pays a bit more a year for sidewalks so one person doesn’t shoulder a stifling amount just because they live on a corner lot.

Here’s Marler’s email address: mmarler@ci.missoula.mt.us. Don’t be showing up at some meeting at the last minute and ranting about how someone should have let you know sooner.

I’m glad it’s early on in the discussion. That $1 million total committee members talked about pulling in is the maximum amount of sidewalk work Public Works has done in a year. I wonder why they have to start there, but it’s super early in the game.

So in the turmoil Wednesday, I’m reporting two bright spots. One, the coconut macaroons at Bernice’s Bakery are delicious.

Two, council candidate Peggy Miller returned ALL her material on the very same day I requested it. I asked them to send me Q&As, mugs, etc., next Friday and the Friday after that. In previous years, a lot of candidates have needed herding, so this year is looking up.

That’s all for now. Off to the races.

— Keila Szpaller