The Cheerful Tribune

chicken picI recently told some friends I was going to start my own newspaper with good news only. It would be called The Cheerful Tribune.

This came about because of all the awful news out there, important information, but sometimes draining to consume, like the hell in Ferguson, the people in Detroit who can’t get water, the other stories that sound like they’re from a third world country.

The Cheerful Tribune would be the antidote. Good news only! Weekly feature of what you like best about your dog! Stories of neighbors who alert neighbors to miscreants in their yard! People who know how to play the cello really well!

Alright. Are you sick to your stomach yet? I am, a little, but here at the Missoulian, we’re actually delving into a corner of Missoula that truly is turning out to have a lot of good news. Photographer Tom Bauer and I have been following the Youth Harvest crew of Garden City Harvest, and we’ve been running profiles of the crew members each week.

That’s Katelyn Cox in the photo with a runaway chicken who didn’t run fast enough. Here’s her profile, from last week.

You can meet Nate Charles here, and you can read about others, too. I just watched the video Tom Bauer produced of Charles, and I’m going to paste that right here, too. It’s a good one.

That’s all for now.

Really.

We’ll do cynical another time.

- Keila Szpaller

Missoula’s sewer rates lowest in the state

Story about public v. private utility rates here, with numbers from a 2014 survey by AE2S, an engineering firm based in North Dakota.

The survey also shows Mountain Water Co.’s rates are relatively high in Montana, according to cities that reported numbers this year. The survey doesn’t account for the different ways utilities handle capital costs.

Other news? The Missoula Independent has a story about Forward Montana’s upcoming 10-year anniversary and some of the successes it has claimed along the way.

Happy summer in Montana!

- Keila Szpaller

A cool exhibit downtown Missoula, and more

firstfriday

If you didn’t make it to First Friday but have an interest in the shows, check out “Urban Pop” at Glacier Sotheby’s International Realty, the Maddux Group.

In other news, a decision is delayed on the cleanup plan for the White Pine Sash site. That story here.

The North Missoula Community Development Corporation has retained a lawyer, and it has opened a legal defense fund to raise money for attorney’s fees. See the Crowdrise page here.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality’s Scott Graham talked with me about the agency’s decision-making process. It’s hard to understand how the DEQ comes to its final cleanup orders.

A ton of people have offered public comment. 

“We absolutely appreciate the input,” Graham said.

He stressed that point, and I tried to understand how the input would be taken into account. It’s not a popularity contest, but community acceptance is part of the equation.

Would comments from the neighborhood actually effect any change? Graham said he’s glad everyone is involved, and I told him people would be mad if they put so much energy into comment and were, in the end, ignored.

“We wouldn’t not do what they want without really good reason,” Graham said.

I asked him if one option might be the DEQ order the vacant portion of the property cleaned to residential standards – and the rest cleaned to commercial and industrial standards. A compromise, of sorts.

“To me, it seems like it might be reasonable. I don’t know. Again, we have to take a look at what’s the difference in the cost, which is part of it,” Graham said.

He also said technically, such a plan would be doable. However, acceptance by the parties involved is another matter.

That’s because other parts of the property – including a portion that belongs to the city of Missoula and is in use – aren’t cleaned to residential standards. So is there an equity issue if the DEQ demands different cleanup standards for different parts of the site?

I don’t think they actually talk about standards; they do reference future anticipated uses.

More on White Pine Sash? Check out this blog, where someone did an analysis of the public comments.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

A post for Councilman Ed Childers

Councilman Childers wants more posts.

Here’s one.

I check in with Governing.com once in a while, and here’s a story about the way S&P and Moody’s give cities credit ratings. The story suggests cities should get a Moody’s rating to be sure their scores aren’t inflated, and to people who aren’t Ed, Missoula uses both S&P and Moody’s. (Ed already knows this, and more, as a veteran council member and former longtime money man for the city of Missoula. Treasurer, maybe.)

Also, if you missed it, here’s my story about a smell that’s making some neighbors on the Northside and Westside feel nauseous. I’d like to find out more about what it means to deem a smell a “public nuisance.”

Now, a question: Do you know anyone who needs a dog? A one-eyed black lab named Thor needs a home. More here.

The dog reminds me: The other day, I walked up Waterworks with a friend, and we saw a bunch of cigarette butts under one of the trees. We used my friend’s Mutt Mitt to pick up the cigarette butts, and I fantasized propaganda headlines as a way to diffuse my anger.

“Council adopts ordinance banning smoking in parks and trails everywhere, instates strict penalties; public shows broad support for new rule as beneficial for lungs, environment.”

The butts were annoying, but they also reminded me of running through the Orange Street underpass soon after someone smoked a cigarette in it and inhaling a bunch of second hand smoke. OK, enough on that. Enough.

But one last thing: If you’re on Instagram, follow @missoulian because there’s wonderful photos posted.

I’ll do another post for the councilman later about transportation, and it’ll be great.

Happy Friday.

- Keila Szpaller

Happy reads

Have you been loving summer in Missoula?

I’m back in the office after being out a week plus, and lots of awful things have happened around the world.

So I decided I’m on the good news beat for a while. Happy things only, at least here.

First, a thank you note to a redhead cyclist. If you know her, pass it along!

Also, I love this invite and offer from Howard Horton to play pinochle at the Missoula Senior Center. If you can’t afford the $1 entry, he’ll spring for you, apparently no questions asked.

- Keila Szpaller

Nekkid riders bike Missoula in “Bare as you Dare”

rainbowA nekkid bike ride will take place in Missoula on Sunday, August 17.

More here.

Will you be riding? It’s called “Bare as you Dare” because you don’t have to go completely bare.

Other news:

- Fox Hotel developers are late showing their plan for the site on Orange and Front Streets.

- In the Justice of the Peace race, here’s an update on candidate Matthew Lowy and his campaign.

- Also in the JP race, an update on the lawsuit filed by candidate Marie Andersen.

The picture is from a couple Fridays ago. Rainbow Friday.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

Missoula and Carlyle; jury duty; happy hikers

The fight between the city of Missoula and the Carlyle Group is ramping up. Here’s the latest.

Also, Tuesday evening, the Missoula County Democrats select the person who will be on the ballot as Clerk and Recorder. Vickie Zeier was the only person who filed to run, and since then, she got promoted to chief administrative officer for Missoula County.

You can see names and application materials of people interested in the job here on the Dems’ website.

No one from the GOP filed to run in that race.

Another matter: Did you see the way this judge in Sanders County isn’t letting people skate for jury duty?

I’ve been on the list for jury duty in Missoula County, and I showed up once in Municipal Court and once in District Court, but I got sent away both times. The most recent request from District Court coincided with my departure flight out of the country.

Guess what happened? I sent the Clerk of Court a letter with copies of my itinerary, and I got a voicemail from someone in the Courthouse not only excusing me but wishing me a great trip. How about that?

sheepsign

And in other news, the sheep are on Mount Jumbo, and I love the way this sign wishes people a great hike.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

Missoula taxes, parking, advocacy!

parkplace

Our new parking “garage” won an award. Congrats! Here’s the story about Park Place and the reason parking professionals think it’s cool. It’s waaaay more than a garage. Photo by Michael Gallacher.

Also, reporter Martin Kidston did an analysis of taxes the major cities in Montana levy. In Missoula, we’re getting a bargain, according to the figures in this story. Kidston said in order to do an apples to apples comparison, the review doesn’t include programs voters approve on the ballot, such as open space bonds. It’s a look at the ones levied by elected officials and out of our direct control.

And speaking of taxes, if you’re protesting the proposed safety and justice district, your deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, June 20 in one week, June 22. (Thank you city clerk Marty Rehbein for the correction.) More on that in an upcoming story. And here it is!

Do you remember the nondiscrimination ordinance Missoula adopted back in 2010? Long meetings, many comments, lots of debate? Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network led the organizing, and after launching his social justice career in his home state of the Big Sky, he leaves Montana for Oregon. Here’s a conversation with Greer about his work and the way it’s changed.

– Keila Szpaller

 

Catch up on Mountain Water, Carlyle stories

I was away from the newsroom for a couple weeks, and my colleague Dave Erickson covered the Mountain Water Company and eminent domain case while I was out.

I’ve thought that I should post more stories here that are related to local government in case you missed them, and I’m going to go ahead and take that step now with links to Dave’s excellent work.

1. “Group of Mountain Water employees file motion to intervene in condemnation lawsuit.

2. “Carlyle says it isn’t owner of Mountain Water, can’t be sued.”

3. “Carlyle director gives contradictory statements to PSC, court, on Mountain Water sale.”

For your reading pleasure.

- Keila Szpaller