Ruth Swaney takes a Missoula City Council post; advice for the stressed

Beagles

See those beagles? Well, they’re pretty cute. The S.O. saw them at the Missoula Fresh Market and sent a picture.

The picture was his gift to me, and now, my gift to you.

Also, eat ice cream if you’re stressed, or you’re just in the mood for deliciousness. The Big Dipper is open, and I recommend one scoop of El Salvador coffee and one of coconut.

OK, now that you’ve decompressed, the important stuff:

Here’s reporter Peter Friesen’s story about Ruth Swaney, the first Native American woman to take a council seat in Missoula. She takes the seat of Harlan Wells, who took a job working in Helena.

President Donald Trump has inspired a lot of people to protest against him. Climate activists at the University of Montana. Missoulians demonstrating against his travel ban targeting Muslims. Women from Helena to Washington, D.C., demanding human rights for all.

For the time being, anyway, the Nazi/white nationalist/white supremacist beat has been quiet in Montana, and that’s a relief.

One more thing? A request for help. I’m slowly getting to work on some coverage of college affordability. I’ll share tidbits here, and if you have good information or contacts, I’d love to hear fro you: 523 5262 or keila.szpaller@missoulian.com.

Today, Tyler Trevor, from the Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, testified to legislators that the state’s flagships have increased tuition 31 percent in a decade, compared to the 65 percent to 85 percent increases among peers in the West.

“We are at the top for holding down the price of tuition,” Trevor said.

All for now.

  • Keila Szpaller

 

Trump (maybe) picks Zinke. Goat pic south of Missoula. Silver and maroon.

goat

President-elect Donald Trump apparently wants Ryan Zinke. That story here.

A fellow reporter at another outlet said it makes perfect sense to choose a Navy SEAL to oversee Montana wetlands. That’s a very bad joke.

Regardless, we all get to vote again, and that’s cool.

What I’m reading today? How U.S. journalists normalized the rise of Hitler and Mussolini.

In news related to the University of Montana, the consultants hired to recruit a new president and Commissioner of Higher Education held listening sessions yesterday.

Deputy commissioner of communications Kevin McRae provided the contract with AGB Search, and I’m posting it here: agb-search. It is costing $72,500 for the recruitment.

McRae said that’s the only contract signed or sought to date related to transition at UM. In January, the Montana Board of Regents will take up a contract for the interim president, he said.

agb-tie

See the pic? It’s dark, but that’s AGB’s Jim McCormick on the right. I asked him about his silver and maroon tie.

“Are these the right colors?” McCormick joked.

He said his colleague, Janice Fitzgerald, made sure he was sporting the right look for Tuesday’s meetings. I was curious if he was actually an alum. Nope, but when AGB recruits, he said, they take the personalities of campuses seriously, and he pointed to a Grizzlies ball cap he had with his gear, too.

The goat has nothing to do with anything except we are in Montana, and you guys like dogs, and this animal sort of resembles a dog. Please feel free to send your pup pics, cat snaps, anything but snakes, and I’ll make them famous by posting them here.

– Keila Szpaller

P.S. Guys, I’ve got to make an admission. I’m a little worried reporter Peter Friesen won’t be able to manage posting here, that he might go rogue or something. Please let me know if anything goes awry with him.

Happy Friday; happy snacks; happy reading in … Missoula

chips

  1. Happy Friday. We have some digital news people now, a team around Montana, and we received an excellent non-digital tip from the person in charge. Jake Ellison said if you mix normal potato chips with barbecue flavored ones, it’s a dynamite combo. I tried it yesterday, and he’s right. There’s your Friday sodium consumption recommendation from the newsroom, complete with visual aid. And apropos of health-free food and my weekend, here’s a recipe for Martha Stewart’s perfect mac and cheese.
  2. Reporter Peter Friesen gets into the nitty-gritty here on buying Mountain Water Co.
  3. The Indy looks at how the University of Montana is doing an about-face on program prioritization.
  4. The Commissioner of Higher Education takes questions from the Faculty Senate. I wondered what the tenor of the meeting might be, and it was mostly a civil plea to keep faculty in the loop and give real consideration to faculty and student perspectives.

Back on the love-and-hate beat today. Here we go.

  • Keila Szpaller

 

 

Promise pup pics, deliver pups; SEO means I should say Missoula here

bataille

Animal rights activists aren’t keen on the University of Montana doing research on pigs. That story here. Kevin Boileau’s dog, Bataille, is pictured here. Bataille came by for the interview.

UM is going to be recruiting just as high school graduate levels stagnate and drop, according to this report released Tuesday. It’s called “Knocking at the College Door” and published by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

Angela McLean said this on Twitter about recruiting:
@KeilaSzpaller In addition to seeking HS grads, we need to attract the thousands of Montanans who have some credits but no degree. #mtedu

Reporter Peter Friesen gets the phrase “fungal funk” in a story here.

But reporter Chelsea Davis writes about sex ed in the schools, so there.

It was freezing this morning. As I waited for the bus, a big pickup truck pulled up to me, and the driver dangled something out the window. “Just got off my shift.” He handed over a pair of toasty hand warmers. They worked well for the rest of my wait, and I’m sitting on them right now. Thank you, working man.

handwarmers

– Keila Szpaller

University of Montana president is on his way out

engstrom

Here’s my story on University of Montana President Royce Engstrom’s departure, which was requested Thursday by the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education.

Here’s reporter Chelsea Davis’ story about Sheila Stearns, who will serve as interim president. Stearns was mostly retired, and she’s willing to serve UM as needed. A lot of people think she’s a rock star and the right choice for this transition. Said Stearns about taking the helm temporarily:

I’m still a little bit taken aback myself. It feels very recent. I’m only maybe 24 or 36 hours ahead of everybody else. If I didn’t know the University of Montana so well, I certainly wouldn’t have been prepared to – even though this is a real shock to me – I wouldn’t have been prepared to say yes so fast to a major decision.

Maybe we’ll talk more about leadership another time. President Engstrom certainly righted UM from the rape crisis, and he also hired a vice president for enrollment who looks to be kicking some booty. VP Tom Crady has been candid with the campus and public about UM’s need to move quickly, and people are inspired by him.

Faculty Senate Chair John DeBoer agreed Crady was offering a new dose of energy on campus.

I really enjoy working with Tom Crady. He speaks clearly. He’s forward looking. And he does give me hope and a source of stability on campus.

*Addition: I just saw these kind words DeBoer had about Engstrom and his wife, Mary Engstrom, and wanted to include them here as well. This paragraph came from a letter DeBoer sent to faculty leadership that also landed in my inbox:

Finally, ECOS (Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate) thanks President Royce Engstrom and Mary Engstrom for their service to the University of Montana. On a personal level, both have been an influential part of my time here and I will miss their support and collegiality. If you have the time and inclination, please reach out and wish them well.

Today, a longtime communications director from Montana offered props to another Missoula leader, Mayor John Engen. I’d noticed Engen’s absence shortly after the election because it felt like an uncertain time, a time when the community would normally hear from him. He’s one guy I wanted to hear from about those racist pamphlets landing on people’s doorsteps, for one. (They’re still appearing around town, BTW.)

Engen shared the reason he had been absent, and communications director Matt McKenna had this to say in part about the mayor’s actions:

I am certain this journey has made John a better person and a better mayor, someone I’m more proud than ever to call my friend. Missoulians would be lucky to keep calling John Engen their mayor as long as he’s willing to serve. I’d follow him into a fire, and if I lived in Missoula, bet your Griz tickets I’d vote for him.

All for now. TGIF.

  • Keila Szpaller

 

A dog on a bus, a spouse in a UM car, and “granola” people

dog-on-bus

When news editor Ashley Scully heard Red Tape was maaaaybe going to revive, at least for the next few weeks, she asked for dog pics. Well, here’s “Dog on a Bus” because I ride Mountain Line a lot in the wintertime.

Also, this week I requested and received a copy of the University of Montana president’s offer letter and some other docs. The offer letter has a couple interesting tidbits in it.

“You will be provided memberships at one or more Missoula-area country clubs.” President Royce Engstrom strikes me as a person who prefers a library or lab over a country club, but he probably has to hobnob some as head of UM.

Are any memberships current? Question is in. But back to transportation, the offer letter also has “spouse perquisites.”

“The right to ride with the president in the provided vehicle.”

Gotta wonder how that provision came about.

If you’re following the possible new Costco development, here’s word from Carolyn Diddel, a coffee shop owner out there:

“Missoula gets a little granola,” she said. “You’re going to find, at least in this neighborhood, they’re anti-everything.”

Well, they might be against coffee shop owners who don’t like them.

All for now.

  • Keila Szpaller

Mayor is direct about absence; Engstrom, OCHE, comment on UM

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

To: CampusCommunications@umontana.edu<mailto:CampusCommunications@umontana.edu

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.

 

Thank you.

I’m probably rusty, so thanks for bearing with Red Tape.

  • Keila Szpaller

Algonquin, public schools, UM’s tiny share of land trust $$

foiaI’m not just saying this: The Missoulian has had some great stories lately.

Also, if you need a warm fuzzy, read this sweet letter to the editor about dads in Missoula.

The advice at left is from our new white board. It’s from one of my colleagues, and an excellent tip.

Newsy stories not to miss?

Someone spilled the beans on the amount of money The Carlyle Group wants for Mountain Water Co. Read all about it in this story by reporter Martin Kidston.

It’s $200 million!. Algonquin CEO Ian Robertson shared the “confidential information” on an investor call, according to the story. Why? Maybe because his investors are wondering if the three companies Algonquin is trying to buy, including Mountain, are really worth $327 million.

They’re roughly the same size as each other, and one just got appraised at $45.5 million. Huh. Hmm. Is someone bluffing on value? Are the parties using vastly different methods of calculating worth?

And who leaked the confidential number to Robertson?

One more? Missoula County Public Schools are making an unprecedented ask for money this fall, some $158 million in all. The ducks appear to be flapping about instead of lined up in a row.

A location for Cold Springs is up in the air, flap flap, per this story from reporter Dillon Kato.

Missoula County Public Schools will not have a location selected for a new Cold Springs Elementary School before voters are asked whether to pass an $88 million elementary bond that includes replacing the school.

And the schools aren’t scoring many points by recommending an architectural firm out of Great Falls for the bid. Seven out of the nine firms that applied are based in Missoula.

Here’s Kent Means, a partner at MMW Architects, in the story, also by Kato:

I was surprised that they chose an out-of-town firm with no local architecture representative.

The administrators recommended the firm in Great Falls, and the trustees will take up the decision tonight. Should be an interesting conversation.

Lastly? Decisions made more than 100 years ago mean the University of Montana is getting the shaft when it comes to income from land held in trust for education.

Example? UM didn’t even get a 10th of the income from renewables compared to MSU, some $264,000 in income for Missoula compared to $3 million for Bozeman.

That’s my story here. UM President Royce Engstrom is looking into whether change is possible. But it doesn’t seem likely.

– Keila Szpaller

 

Warning sign? Or hate speech? Sign raises alarm at UM.

prey

I saw this sign posted Thursday on a kiosk outside Main Hall at the University of Montana.

It definitely caught my eye, and I sent a picture out on Twitter.

Soon after, vice president of integrated communications Peggy Kuhr called and said the sign had been removed because it could fall into the category of hate speech.

She also said the Title IX office had been alerted and campus police would be as well.

Kuhr said she did not want the sign posted on Twitter: “The key here is that we take special care not to disseminate hateful speech.”

She also said UM was going to look for similar signs on campus and take any others down.

“It’s distressing, and it’s taken seriously,” Kuhr said.

I don’t know if it’s hate speech, or of it’s a campaign warning women. I hypothesized that a woman who had been attacked in the past posted the sign, but I don’t know the source.

UM had, in the past, a rape problem. Missoulian reporter Gwen Florio brought the problem to light several years ago, Jon Krakauer wrote a book about it this year, and he said the problem was prevalent on campuses across the country.

By many accounts, UM has gone to great lengths to raise awareness about sexual violence and even take measures to create a culture that protects women.

I think the sign shows the issue is still fresh for some people on campus. Regardless, it was an interesting thing to run across, and so I shared it.

I’ve shared pictures of farmers market veggies on campus, and the tasty lunch from the taco truck at the oval, and no doubt, I’ll be sending out some pictures that are maddening to officials.

I hope it all gives people a window into the Missoula campus. It’s a cool place, sign or no sign.

– Keila Szpaller

*A roundup of recent words on Krakauer’s “Missoula”

1.  This week (actually last week*), the Montana Kaimin calls for transparency from University of Montana officials:

The Montana Kaimin Editorial board asks the University of Montana to release the files regarding the Student Conduct Code hearing of former Montana Grizzlies quarterback Jordan Johnson.

2.  Doubleday plans to release no advanced reading copies. Barbara Theroux at Fact and Fiction said if Jon Krakauer wants a reading, she’ll suggest a community forum.

Theroux also said interest in Krakauer’s book about campus rape is “not on the high level.”

“When a new book is announced by James Lee Burke, we sell books all across the world, and we have lots of, ‘How much is it?’ ‘I need a signed copy,'” she said.

“That’s not what’s going on with this one.”

3. The list of people saying the bestselling author didn’t contact them prior to writing the book is pretty long. It includes UM President Royce Engstrom, Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst and former County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, Mayor John Engen, police chief Mike Brady, and former police chief Mark Muir.

In an email, a Doubleday spokesperson did not confirm the author didn’t reach out to those people.

When I reached him by email, Muir was not pleased about being left out. I quoted his email in this story, but here are his full remarks:

No, Krakauer never reached out to me or anyone I know personally.  Unfortunately, I suspect that much like the DOJ investigative findings, his work will be crafted as mostly one-sided.  The DOJ, as you may know, never interviewed even a single MPD officer or detective about any single specific sex crime reported to the MPD.
If Krakauer has taken the same approach,  then once again the community (and the nation) will only hear one side of these difficult cases that arise in virtually every community in the nation.  If that’s so, this community get short-changed twice over.
DOJ singled out Missoula as the first campus community on the sex assault issue and will then use the outcome here to force the hand with other cities and universities.
While I don’t disagree with the capacity for improvement across the country, I still take issue with the unethical bullying tactics DOJ has used under AG Holder.  Hopefully, the new AG can realign the compass and get onto a calmer, clearer path.

4. An editorial talking about reform at UM. 

5. My story talking with marketers who believe “Missoula” will give Missoula a blemish.

6. The latest in Krakauer’s lawsuit trying to release records.

All for now. I’m off on a road trip for the day with reporter @kathrynhaake and photographer Tom Bauer.

– Keila Szpaller

*Reposted. This post from Feb. 25 was lost in a transfer from one server to another. I’m posting the recovered file here.