Alleged, irrational sidewalk “fixation”

This week, the Missoula City Council approved a new way of paying for the sidewalks it wants installed.

Wanna know what Councilman Adam Hertz calls it? The council’s “irrational sidewalk fixation.” (Tee-hee.)

Hertz was the only elected official to vote against the new program, and he said we can expect an upcoming referral from him about sidewalk priorities. He doesn’t want to vote against every project in the future ’cause that’s “sour grapes,” but he does want to see a good plan in place.

“Moving forward, I think we really need to sit down and map out where we see the need for sidewalks, where people are allegedly asking for sidewalks, and come up with an efficient sidewalk plan,” Hertz said.

He doesn’t want to see the city replace sidewalks that aren’t really in bad shape,and he prefers adding, not replacing.

In an email, Hertz explained his rationale for opposing the new program:

I totally get that the sidewalk funding issue came up because of how hard it is to order in sidewalks and stick the adjacent property owner with the bill, but there’s an easier way to fix that: Don’t order in sidewalks unless they’re asked for by the adjacent property owners and figure out a cheaper way to build them!

He shared his take on his Facebook page, too:

The Missoula City Council has now created two classes of property owners. There’s the group who has paid and continues to pay for 100 percent of the cost of sidewalks adjacent to their property – the people who bought property with sidewalks already installed, those building new homes, and people drawing building permits for remodels or additions that require sidewalk installation or replacement. Then there’s the subsidized group who bought property that they KNEW didn’t have sidewalks or had broken sidewalks in a city with an irrational sidewalk fixation and no consideration for keeping the cost of building sidewalks reasonable. The first group gets to pay for 100 percent of their sidewalks and the subsidy of other peoples’ sidewalks, and to Missoula’s “progressive” crowd this action is lauded as “fair.” The old sidewalk funding model may have been painful, but it was certainly much more fair.

Councilors can see things so differently, right? Today, Councilors Dave Strohmaier and Jason Wiener celebrated the sidewalks on Lolo Street.

Here’s Strohmaier in a news release about the ribbon cutting:

Whether you’re pushing a baby stroller, walking your kids to school, commuting to work on foot, or just getting some exercise, sidewalks knit our community together and are essential components of pedestrian safety. It’s been a long haul, but after years of work and planning, we finally have curbs and sidewalks along the full length of Lolo Street — the major east-west connection in the Rattlesnake. I’m proud to have been a part of this effort, and I thank everyone who has made this day a reality.

“Whether you’re pushing a baby stroller, walking your kids to school, commuting to work on foot,
or just getting some exercise, sidewalks knit our community together and are essential components
of pedestrian safety,” Strohmaier said. “It’s been a long haul, but after years of work and planning,
we finally have curbs and sidewalks along the full length of Lolo Street–the major east-west
connection in the Rattlesnake. I’m proud to have been a part of this effort, and I thank everyone

who has made this day a reality.”

When I’m walking my dog in the dark, I avoid sidewalks and take the street.

Me, I use the street when I’m walking in the dark in my neighborhood. I figure if a bad person is hiding in the bushes and ready to jump out and clobber me, I’ll get a head start on ’em. I know you might think that’s irrational.

In the winter when it’s snowy, the best path for me is the one car tires already cleared, and the street is less slippery than a lot of the sidewalks. I don’t recommend walking in the street, and for the record, I’d be afraid of getting run over in the middle of Lolo Street. I’m just saying there’s different takes on safety out there.

More takes? We’ll be hearing from Hertz and a couple other councilors on sidewalk priorities soon enough.

– Keila Szpaller

Oodles of wonderful things

chicken21. The chicken man came back last night for the sidewalks discussion — and he was NOT happy and threatening the descent of a flock of ZOMBIE chickens! (I embellish. He didn’t say flock. He threatened just ONE. Sorry about that.)

I don’t see a way to embed the video from the meeting, but if you go here and go to 2:09:15, you’ll get his talk. I still have a letter he sent us during the great urban chicken debate. It’s on my desk, and I took a picture of it so you could enjoy the blast from the past as well.

It’s a little blurry here, isn’t it? If you can’t read it, it says this: “Publish my letter regarding the great chicken debate or your goose (insert chicken) will be cooked! Or you won’t have a leg to stand on! Or don’t chicken out! Or I’ll cry fowl ball! Or simply thigh will be done!” It came with tiny little rubber chickens taped to it, and one chicken on a key ring that’s still there. If you squeeze the chicken, it looks like it’s laying an egg.

Doggy Drinking at Hit the Tap2. OK, maybe not “oodles” of fun things, but one more for now. Did you see that there’s a couple new water fountains in Missoula? And do you remember they have bowls for dogs, too?

Well, check this out: Rebecca Morley, Eat Smart Coordinator for the Missoula City-County Health Department, sent a picture of an actual dog using the fountain. It’s Rebecca Wade’s dog, and here’s part of Wade’s note:

His name is Roogo & he’s a water loving dog! He’d already lapped up an entire bowl full when I realized I should take a picture. By the time I got my camera out, he was done drinking and refused to have any more. Thankfully he did stand there with his head next to the bowl and model for me.

Thankfully indeed! Red Tape <3s dogs.

Wade is working on mapping the fountains for an app. (I think she’s doing it as part of a graduate project at the University of Montana.)

In an email, Morley said the story and first fountains “hopefully will be incentive for a ‘wave of fountains’across Missoula’s parks, trails and public gathering places.”

3. One more, since we’re on fountains: Geoff Badenoch, who was head of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for a long time and knows what’s happening about town, shared a little piece of history on water fountains:

Back when Bob Lovegrove was Mayor, MRA built the ticket booth/storeroom/restroom at Caras Park.  As part of that project, we installed the most vandal-resistant handicapped accessible drinking fountain we could. I think it cost around $7,600 or something (all costs included). Still, it suffered from vandalism and the Parks Department’s frustration with the maintenance it demanded.  Finally after going to the MRA Board for more money to maintain one too many times, they relented and didn’t object when the Parks Department removed it.  Part of their rationale was ‘public drinking fountains are gross and, besides, everyone is carrying their own bottled water so the drinking fountains aren’t as important an amenity they once were.’

See?  If you stick around long enough, everything goes full circle. …

On the other hand, I think providing a place to get a drink of fresh water is what civilized communities do.  Thanks, Mountain Water!

– Keila Szpaller

People eating people

Happy Friday!

Guess what’s on tap today?

Films about people eating people. Why? Because of this fantastically written Tweet from @thedailybeast:

Chef says he slow-cooked his wife’s body, but that he’s not guilty of murder

Yuck! Ick! Fascinating!

It doesn’t sound like anyone actually ate anyone else in that instance, but it does bring up the morbid subject. So here’s a couple movie suggestions:

1. Eating Raoul, courtesy of the Missoulian’s Leland Buck.

2. Delicatessen, courtesy of yours truly (bon appetit!).

3. Fried Green Tomatoes, another one of mine, ’cause you’ve gotta love Kathy Bates.

4. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, from reporter Martin Kidston.

5. Alive, true cannibalism, from reporter Gwen Florio.

The closest possible case of cannibalism around here was when Great Falls investigators accused Nathaniel Bar-Jonah of killing a young boy and serving him up to neighbors.

Prosecutors had to drop the murder charge because the mom planned to testify her son was still alive. Bar-Jonah died in prison in 2008 while serving a sentence for crimes against another boy.

Boy. How’d we get on this track, anyway? Thanks, @thedailybeast. Thanks a lot.

– Keila Szpaller


Missoula debates cellphone ban

Councilman Dave Strohmaier brought it up again: A proposal to make it illegal for people to talk on a cellphone behind the wheel.

Or behind a bicycle.

Or “quadricycle.”

(I wonder how many ordinances have the word “quadricycle” in them. What about tricycles and unicycles, if we’re getting all über-cycle here? Why not just pedal-cycles or pedal-mobiles?)

Well, that hot link up there takes you to the story about yesterday’s meeting, which takes you to the ordinance itself. It’s a draft.

Here’s another take on the idea, too, from Councilman Bob Jaffe and his government listserv:

Back when we discussed this before, all the reasoning and studies for the ban indicated that the issue was distracted driving related to the conversation with a person not present in the vehicle. A person’s ability to hold a phone while driving has nothing to do with it. So in some ways this is a really dumb law. The only justification is that some percentage of the population either can’t afford or can’t get around to buying a blue tooth setup for their car. So at least they will be driving safer. In the end I imagine I will support this but my appetite for these types of regulations has certainly waned over the last few years.

The discussion will continue next week. A public hearing will take place later, too, possibly on Oct. 22.

– Keila Szpaller

The cell phone ban is “baaaa-ah-aaack”

So says @lgpguin on Twitter. If you don’t follow her, you should.

I just got back from the Missoula City Council committee meeting on the new proposed ordinance to ban the use of cell phones for drivers and bikers – with some exceptions such as one for folks using hands-free devices.

Councilor Dave Strohmaier pitched it, and he sent this link to the ordinance and other documents.

Just one person offered public comment, and you can bet that more will do so at the formal public hearing. But I have to share one thing she said at the meeting.

Judith Holly Beaudet opposed the ordinance and said there are many other distractions for drivers. Like feeding their babies or having sex.

I wasn’t sure I heard her right. Sex? I’ve heard shaving, eating lunch, putting on lipstick, but never sex. So I double-checked with her after the meeting.

Yes, Beaudet confirmed: “You think it doesn’t happen?” Especially with drivers in semi-trucks, she said. I said maybe that should be banned. She said maybe not ’cause it keeps ’em awake.

Be still. My beating. Heart.

You never know what you’ll hear at those meetings.

Councilor Jon Wilkins, who chairs the committee, wants to discuss the proposed ordinance again next week and then schedule a public hearing, possibly on Oct. 22.

Wilkins wants to be sure people know this topic is on the front burner, and he wants the Missoulian to let people know. So yes, Councilman Wilkins, the Missoulian will have a story on and in Thursday’s print edition. And the Missoulian will have another story before the public hearing.

– Keila Szpaller

Allegiant parties in Missoula

Go to this party today if you want a chance to win free Allegiant tickets.

I want Allegiant to be so thrilled they came to Missoula, they stay here forever, and they eventually have hops to Rome and Rio de Janeiro.

Just kidding, but aren’t those $82 tickets to the Bay Area phenomenal? At this shindig, people can get a $21.60 coupon, which I guess covers taxes.

Since some tickets already are so cheap, this coupon represents almost 20 percent off. In one place, it sounds like everyone who registers gets a ticket, and in another place, it sounds like just the first 100 people do, so FYI on the conflicting information.

More partying: Did you see the stories about granny suites?

I hope you didn’t miss ’em: Here’s Sally Brown, who wants to build one of her own home and live in it. Here’s Martina and Jim Rolando, who don’t want backyard cottages because of the abuses they already endure from student renters. And here’s Lori Parr, who lives in one and loves it.

The Missoula Office of Planning and Grants is going to do outreach in October, and then you can probably figure a public hearing will be scheduled sometime in December. Stay tuned.

– Keila Szpaller