Missoula water isn’t cheap, and you should see SunDog!

sundogA couple people sent me this rate study, and you can see Missoula residents pay plenty for their water.

Not as much as Browning pays, though. Sheesh. Would rates go down if the city of Missoula bought Mountain Water?

I doubt it, and eventually, Mayor John Engen said they would definitely go up. In his memo about the ordinance that would authorize him to negotiate with the Carlyle Group to buy the water system, he offers a Q&A.

One question is, “What will it mean to customers?” Here’s his answer:

Our analysis suggests that in the near term, customers would notice very little change. Over the long term, the city would encourage conservation, accelerate systems repairs and maintenance and make plans to ensure the sustainability of the system. Our analysis suggests that we can purchase the system through revenue bonds and manage the debt without an immediate rate increase. I want to emphasize that the city will eventually raise rates, but those decisions are made by the City Council, subject to public hearings. Further, those rates don’t support profits to private investors, rather, they are reinvested in the system.

Also important is the pup in this photo: It’s SunDog! He’s about 85 pounds, he belongs to photographer Arthur Mouratidis, and he visited the newsroom yesterday. In our newsroom, a dog visit is like a birthday! FYI if you ever visit.

One more thing? Mountain Line has a new app. I’ve downloaded it, although I haven’t used it a lot yet. If you search in your app store for “MountainLine,” it’ll come up, and you’ll recognize the photo of the buses.

It has a “bus tracker” feature that I want to figure out. If you’re waiting for Route 6, say, I think it’s supposed to tell you when the next 6 will arrive at your stop.

Cool, right? If you check it out, let me know what you think at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com.

— Keila Szpaller


Missoula named “HOT SPOT” in Kiplinger Letter

noodleI got a note in my email box that Missoula was identified as a “hot spot” for tech start-ups. Go Missoula!


Move over, Silicon Valley … Several midsize cities around the country are luring new ventures in fields ranging from software and biotech to pharmaceutical research. Low living expenses, cheap office space and friendly climates are proving powerful magnets for new firms.

Among the new hot spots: Sioux Falls, S.D. Missoula, Mt. And Cheyenne, Wy. All offer ample space for manufacturing facilities and access to high-speed Internet, supercomputing facilities or data centers …

Read more here. The Kiplinger brief doesn’t mention great markets, but those are here and “extra hot,” too. I saw this container filled with spaghetti noodles at the Market on Front. If you can’t read the note, it says, “Pasta stir sticks save a tree. Careful with extra hot drinks. Don’t cook your noodle.

— Keila Szpaller

Roger Seewald mounts write-in campaign in Ward 2

dowtownpicBut first things first: You can register to vote all over Missoula on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Details here in this letter.

More here about registering Tuesday at the Missoula County Courthouse.

Now about the election: Roger Seewald wants to be elected to represent the Missoula City Council in Ward 2.

His name won’t appear on the ballot since he didn’t file in time, but he’s hoping to best Jordan Hess. Hess did file by the deadline, and his name will be the only one on the ballot for Ward 2.

Seewald is a military veteran and consultant for fire and law enforcement. His top issue is “excessive taxes on business and property owners,” according to a campaign brochure of his that landed in my inbox.

Hess wants to hear from constituents about “boulevard trees and economic development, potholes and the welfare of your children, snow removal and affordable housing.”

— Keila Szpaller

Photo credit: KS, Instagram

McLaverty wins in unscientific poll; Bentley rakes in the $$$

If you want to be impressed with serious fundraising by a Missoula City Council candidate, check out Emily Bentley’s first campaign finance report.

Running in Ward 3, Bentley has raised nearly $6,000, more money than three mayoral candidates combined. Opponent Paul Bohan doesn’t anticipate raising or spending more than $500.

In Ward 3, Marilyn Rollin officially withdrew from the race for personal reasons, but she plans to run in the future.

Basically, that means three uncontested races out of six. (In Ward 1, Patrick Maddison’s name will appear on the ballot ’cause it was too late to remove it, but he’s backing Bryan Von Lossberg.)

Ward 1: Bryan Von Lossberg

Ward 2: Jordan Hess

Ward 3: Emily Bentley v. Paul Bohan

Ward 4: Jon Wilkins, incumbent

Ward 5: Annelise Hedahl v. David “Doc” Moore

Ward 6: Marilyn Marler, incumbent, v. Ernest Szechenyi

All for now. Oh, not true! I remembered something … did you see the super unofficial, unscientific poll we did on our website about judge candidates?

If the election was held today, Mark McLaverty would win — and by a lot. Kathleen Jenks would come in second, and Leta Womack would be not far behind.

Happy Friday!

— Keila Szpaller

Vote for Bryan Von Lossberg in Ward 1

At least if you want a Missoula City Council member who still wants the job.

The other candidate, Patrick Maddison, is bowing out of the race.

Maddison’s name still will appear on the ballot because it’s too late to officially withdraw, but he no longer plans to campaign.

Maddison said he’s “absolutely” giving his support to Von Lossberg, and he’s not running himself because he’s busy at work.

“It’s mainly a time constraint due to some growth at work,” Maddison said. “I’m just not going to be able to dedicate the time to office that I would obviously want to dedicate.”

Kudos on him for respecting the amount of work it takes to be a committed council member.

— Keila Szpaller


Missoula mayor John Engen rakes in campaign funds

Yep, Mayor John Engen is raking in the campaign dollars, but it isn’t necessarily a race.

The three other candidates aren’t bringing in a lot of dough, but for different reasons.

Dean McCollom doesn’t intend to fundraise because he wants to compete in the “idea arena.”

Peggy Cain wants a little more money, but she doesn’t like asking, and she also doesn’t want the mayoral election to be something you need a lot of money to win.

Michael Hyde is satisfied with the amount of money he has, even though it’s quite a lot less than the funds in the incumbent’s account.

Yesterday, I talked with the Commissioner of Political Practices about trends in fundraising. Commissioner Jonathan Motl said in local elections across Montana this year, more than 680 people are running for office, and only 65 of them are raising more than $500 and must file campaign finance reports.

“Your races (in Missoula) are pretty vigorously contested, and therefore your candidates generally are filing campaign finance reports,” Motl said.

On the other hand, he said some successful candidates don’t fundraise at all.

“We’re still small enough, rural enough and local enough in Montana that you don’t need to create a huge campaign to get your position out to the community and get elected,” Motl said.

I can’t remember a local candidate in Missoula that has won without raising money, but it’s probably happened somewhere along the way. Motl said sometimes, it takes an “Atticus Finch” kind of candidate known for a lifetime of integrity and drive.

The commissioner also said money may help misconstrue information rather than get a message across: “Sometimes, money is not an indication of a campaign, of a real campaign, as much as it indicates a false campaign. You build a false image using money. So I don’t think you can necessarily look at money as a definite indicator of whether someone is serious about public service.”

— Keila Szpaller