Good for Mayor John Engen. Last month, the mayor temporarily handed over the City Hall reins to Marilyn Marler, Missoula City Council president.
Engen is back at work today, with an explanation that he’d checked into treatment for alcohol addiction.
I always appreciate the insight of Jim Lopach, retired political science professor from the University Montana, on city and county matters. Lopach offered local government reporter Peter Friesen his take on the mayor’s letter to the public.
“It’s important for him (Engen) – it’s important for his political future – that he appears to have acted quickly and forthrightly,” Lopach said.
City editor Gwen Florio said she missed Missoula Red Tape, and frankly, there’s been quite a bit of fodder lately, so here we are. We’ll give it another go.
On the University of Montana front, you might have seen this story about UM with comments from the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.
President Royce Engstrom had this to say in response to the story in a Thanksgiving memo to the campus:
I am compelled to address an article that appeared in this morning’s Missoulian. The University of Montana submitted a budget to the Regents this year based on the hard and painful work we did last year to adjust our personnel base. Our tuition revenue is running significantly ahead of that budget projection and the implication that jobs are threatened is some immediate sense is simply wrong. As does every institution of higher education, we will continue to align our personnel base in accordance with our enrollment and we will continue to reallocate our precious resources in the most educationally sound and cost-effective manner. We will, of course, do this through all appropriate legal and ethical channels.
Commissioner Clayton Christian had comments as well.
From: “Commissioner Clayton T. Christian” hePresident@umontana.edu<mailto:ThePresident@umontana.edu
Date: November 25, 2016 at 9:04:49 AM MST
Subject: Message from Commissioner Christian
TO: UM Campus Community
FROM: Clayton T. Christian, Commissioner of Higher Education
A news story in the November 23 issue of the Missoulian understandably generated a lot of concern among UM faculty, staff, professional, and administrative employees. The article addressed a number of issues, including the university’s budget, staffing levels, and program prioritization efforts.
Included in the article were statements by a member of my staff in which he offered opinions about faculty and staffing levels at UM. It is understandable for people to be concerned about what they read.
Neither the Board of Regents nor its Commissioner have mandated any staffing reductions. Staffing is a university-level decision to be included in the annual operating budgets that the Board of Regents reviews to ensure revenues and expenditures are in line. The faculty, staff, professional and administrative team at UM have worked hard through past budget alignments to place the university on strong forward footing. At the same time, the collaborative program prioritization efforts and improved student recruiting methods are key to maintaining strong sustainability into the future.
The Board of Regents does not micromanage to the level of particular numbers of employees. The Board does monitor big-picture elements, or so-called “dashboard” indicators, such as institutional student to faculty or staff ratios. The Board relies upon university-level collaboration to develop and propose program-level ratios, address necessary nuances, and manage the resources and impacts to meet the needs of students.
Despite comments reported in the article, I assure you there is no intent to lay blame on faculty, the Missoulian, or any stakeholders in the University of Montana for the challenges ahead. We will rely on the expertise of participating faculty, staff, administrators and an informed public in transparently making this great university even stronger.
I’m probably rusty, so thanks for bearing with Red Tape.