Happy Halloween! And something actually scary.


It’s Halloween. Someone called me at work this morning and asked what time trick-or-treating started in Missoula.

I thought it was a prank. Don’t you start when you’re off work and you and your little people are in costume?

The call wasn’t a joke, and the newsroom’s Tandy Khameneh said the question comes up every year.

Call us in December and we’ll tell you when you can open your present from Santa.

Anyway, happy Halloween. If you missed it, here’s an actual scary situation: Some people in Missoula are getting wrong ballots in the mail.

The Missoula County Elections Office is triple-checking information and correcting the errors as people bring them up.

— Keila Szpaller


Did you get your ballot in the mail?

smoresI did!

You can still register to vote if you haven’t yet. On the ballot, choose the mayor, municipal judge, a council rep, and vote on the levy request from Mountain Line.

To register, head to the fairgrounds, Missoula County Elections Office headquarters, anytime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Elections Office also holds two sessions of extended hours, one that was just added:

— On Tues., Oct. 29, it’s open until 6:30 p.m.

— On Sat., Nov. 2, it’s open from 10 a.m. to noon.

Want more info? Missoulavotes.com.

And the photo? Yes, my colleagues roasted marshmallows for s’mores at our Tuesday meeting. We vote for chocolate.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula Mayor Engen wins unofficial poll

We asked this question on our website: “If the election were today, who would you pick for Missoula’s mayor?”

Here are the results:

Unofficial poll results for Missoula mayor 2013 Many Eyes

Peggy Cain: 90

John Engen: 283

Michael Hyde: 99

Dean McCollom: 32

Undecided: 121

Lyn Hellegaard, a one-term member of the Missoula City Council, also is mounting a write-in campaign. When reached Friday morning, Hellegaard confirmed she is in the race, but she said she did not have time to discuss her candidacy. She has not returned subsequent voicemails.

However, Jeanette Zentgraf, of Lolo, contacted the Missoulian about Hellegaard’s campaign. Zentgraf said a group of political activists had hoped to support Peggy Cain for mayor. However, after considering Cain, she and others determined the job of mayor would be “a terrific burden for (Cain), a novice in politics.”

“It sounds very noble, but not only would she not be very effective, she would be very disappointing,” said Zentgraf, with Advocates for Our Republic.

Cain, a retired nurse, did not return calls for comment. However, in earlier interviews, Cain acknowledged she was a political newcomer but said she knows how to surround herself with capable people and has a history of doing so. She also said she is a quick study and has been in other situations where she had to learn the ropes on the job, such as overseas trips to help people in Honduras.

According to Zentgraf, Hellegaard is viable and strong, and Zentgraf is pleased to have helped persuade the director of Missoula Ravalli Transit Management Association to take on two-term incumbent Mayor Engen.

Zentgraf lives outside Missoula, but she said even taxpayers in Lolo have a vested interest in the race. If the city of Missoula purchases Mountain Water as Engen hopes to do, it won’t be contributing to the tax base, and others will have to make up for it, she said.

She said Hellegaard is the candidate who can steer the city in a different direction: “Lyn is a good woman … she’s done a lot of research. She is not a novice,” Zentgraf said. “And I hoped to support Peggy, and then upon more or less vetting her, I really feel she’d be at a terrific disadvantage, as nice a person as she is. It would be very unkind. It wouldn’t be productive.”

Since the filing deadline has passed, Hellegaard’s name will not appear on the ballot.

— Keila Szpaller

Mountain Line adds riders and other Monday tidbits


Good Monday morning!

Mayoral candidate Michael Hyde posted the audio of the dispatch call from his family’s social worker when his son died. That’s here.

I spotted “Bessie,” The Vespiary’s VW bus, at the Montana Humanities Festival of the Book. That’s her on the left.

Mayor John Engen addressed the Missoula Police Department and some of its pitfalls in recent years as the agency prepares for a changing of the guard.

And Mountain Line ridership is trending up as you can see in the chart. I pulled the numbers from the 2012 Urban Fringe Development Area report. Click through to see details.

Mountain Line Rides Many Eyes

All for now.

— Keila Szpaller

Photo credit: KS, Instagram

Judge candidate forum: Boy, howdy, Missoula!


Here’s my story about the judge candidate forum for Missoula Municipal Court.

The Missoula County Democrats hosted it. I just got word the Five Valleys Pachyderm Club is putting on a forum Friday for mayoral candidates. More on that here.

At the judge forum, I found it interesting that Mark McLaverty didn’t mention his own experience with DUIs when the question came up. I would think you’d want to let people know you have some direct experience on the other side of the gavel. Maybe it’s a bad strategy to say so, but it seems like an odd tactic to omit the information.

At any rate, the format was good because everyone had a limited amount to speak to a question, and the moderator moved things along. No filibustering.

Today, photographer Tom Bauer and I took a break from all things campaign and went looking at scarecrows in Stevensville. Above is an Instagram photo from the Scarecrow Festival.

— Keila Szpaller

Missoula Municipal Judge Candidates Joust Tonight

nugentYep, 7 p.m. in Council Chambers, 140 W. Pine St.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve been to a judge debate before. It’ll be fun!

The photo isn’t of any of these candidates. It’s city attorney Jim Nugent, and I didn’t want you to miss it if you didn’t see it on Twitter.

Back to the judge race, I checked campaign finance reports from Sept. 30, the latest. Basically, Mark McLaverty is still outraising Kathleen Jenks, and Leta Womack is trailing. As I reported earlier.

Here’s a quick summary of the most recent figures:

Jenks: She had $9,076.55 in the beginning, brought it $955 this round, and has $6,736.36.

McLaverty: He had $4,674.74, brought in $1,200, and had $3,158.88 left.

Womack: She had $743.17 to start with, brought in $390, and had $754.33 left.

All for now.

— Keila Szpaller