Missoula councilman discusses imaginary tiger

Really. It’s a great speech, too.

Councilman Bryan Von Lossberg talks about the role of imagination in education, and the way the PEAS Farm cultivates it.

Photographer Tom Bauer and I went back up to the farm yesterday after the Missoula County Public Schools board approved a lease of 40 years with the city of Missoula.

I say we went “back” to the farm because we spent quite a bit of time up there this year. If you missed the series about the Youth Harvest Project, here’s a link.

Also, the Poverello Center holds tours tomorrow of its new digs on West Broadway. We’ll be there.

More? I sat through an interesting presentation yesterday by Morgan Valliant, the city of Missoula’s conservation lands manager. Story here.

- Keila Szpaller

Happy Veterans Day, and a huckleberry nomination

Happy Veterans Day, Dick Haines, to you and other vets – and to Diane Sands on the left whether you’re a veteran or not (I don’t know).

That’s me on the other side. The photo is from the fairgrounds last night, where the Missoula County Elections Office was counting accepted provisional ballots.

Sands came out ahead in that district, SD-49, but Haines can still call for a recount if he puts up the money. He was thinking on it last night.

I bet his people will push him to do a recount, but the outcome won’t change if he does. I hope he decides soon, one way or the other.

As you can see, Democrat Sands and Republican Haines ran a friendly race. I wish federal races could take a lesson from these guys and leave out the nasty TV commercials.

Yesterday, I learned a few things as we waited for the final count. Here they are, in no particular order:

- Missoula County wants a huckleberry. Just one little huckleberry! Here’s why: On Election Day, the elections center registered 785 people to vote and served more than 1,000. Hooray! Anne Hughes, PIO, told me no one waited for more than 35 minutes.

That’s a big improvement from 2012, when some people waited more than 3 1/2 hours. The best part this year? A food vendor was on site. You won’t wait to register if you’re hungry, right? I promised I’d submit a nomination. On Fridays, our editorial board doles out huckleberries and chokecherries, if you’re wondering what this huckleberry request is about. I’m also posting a recipe for huckleberry crumble cake pictured above. Yum! (Photo credit: Kurt Wilson.)

- Ann Mary Dussault, Sands’ S.O., will spend some time in Mexico while Sands is in Helena, assuming she keeps the win. Dussault has seen manta rays fly out of the sea and whales calving.

- If Haines calls for a recount and ends up ahead, his sweetheart, Bunny Haines, would go with him to Helena. She said it’s the wives who hold it all together there. I asked if she would include husbands of legislators, too, but she said not so much.

- Democrat Kimberly Dudik won, and Independent Gary Marbut was not at the fairgrounds. The race for HD-94 was tight, but it wasn’t ever listed as a possible recount, so maybe that’s why Marbut wasn’t present. I couldn’t help but imagine him busy at the shooting range, though he probably has other skills we don’t even know about, like growing award winning tomatoes.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

Zingers from Zinke’s fellow GOP’ers headed to the U.S. House

Story here of the new and “diverse” makeup of the incoming GOP members of the U.S. House.

  • In Wisconsin, a longtime and low-key Republican, Tom Petri, is being replaced by firebrand state lawmaker Glenn Grothman, who referred to protesters at the state Capitol in Madison as “a bunch of slobs” and has opposed equal-pay legislation because “you could argue that money is more important for men.” (Pictured here in AP photo by Doug Raflik.)
  • In Georgia, Jody Hice, a Baptist minister and conservative talk show host, has said that being gay is a lifestyle that “enslaves” people and that he doesn’t have a problem with a woman being in politics as long as she’s “within the authority of her husband.”
  • Ryan Zinke, a former Navy SEAL elected in Montana, has gotten attention for calling Hillary Rodham Clinton “the antichrist.” ”Do I really believe that she is the antichrist? That answer would be ‘no,’” Zinke said in an interview. “But I do get a little emotional about Benghazi, and I like the rest of America want answers.”

George Ochenski responds to the GOP sweep in this column about Montana candidates – and he calls for cleaning house in the Democratic Party:

The Demos sold out their base, their base stayed home, and Republicans swept the elections in a red tide nationwide.

On the local front, the Missoula County Elections Office is counting the accepted provisional ballots starting at 3 p.m. today. Elections administrator Rebecca Connors estimates it will take 30 to 60 minutes.

Then, we should have a good idea of whether we’ll have any recounts in legislative races, pending the canvass.

- Keila Szpaller

GOP makes a dent, even in Missoula; Otter, pandas


Here’s my story about the way the surge of support for the GOP affected even races in Missoula. Said Bowen Greenwood, head of the Montana Republican Party:

“I think there’s no question that the Republican message of more jobs and less government resonated with the voters last night.”


Also, this week, the public urged Mayor John Engen and the Missoula City Council to continue the fight to control Mountain Water Co. The call took place at a council meeting, and it was one of those refreshing hearings where you hear from a lot of everyday people.

Also, city editor Justin Grigg passed this story my way about homelessness. It says that Medicine Hat, Alberta, is on track to end chronic homelessness by 2015.

Also this: Baby otter; pandas. Now you can’t say I haven’t ever done anything for you.

- Keila Szpaller



Stories about water, eminent domain in Missoula, Carlyle


I’m linking to some stories related to the city of Missoula’s eminent domain case against Mountain Water Co. and The Carlyle Group.

1. Apple Valley Ranchos, part of Western Water Holdings along with Mountain Water Co. and Park Water Co., got word it can afford its own water.

2. The city of Missoula can bond up to $102.63 million for a water company, according to Barclays. Mayor John Engen said he isn’t interested in paying that much. The city offered $65 million for Mountain Water.

3. Mooresville, Indiana, drops its quest to condemn the local water company because it can’t afford the price set by a jury.

4. Carlyle dips in the third quarter of 2014 compared to 2013. Some mind boggling numbers here.

All for now. Monday, the Missoula City Council holds a public hearing on an ordinance that gives the administration authority to spend money in acquiring Mountain Water. The council had approved a similar ordinance a year ago, but before the city went to court.

- Keila Szpaller

Good reading on commissioner candidates, water

1. Here are Q&A’s with candidates for the Missoula Board of County Commissioner. Vicky Gordon, Republican. Nicole Rowley, Democrat. 

2.Here’s a report called “Navigating to New Shores: Seizing the Future for Sustainable and Resilient U.S. Freshwater Resources.” It landed in my email box yesterday, and I’ve only skimmed it. I keep wondering how the city of Missoula will make its case that municipal ownership of Mountain Water Co. is “more necessary” than private ownership. Maybe this report offers a hint.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller

Water stories from Detroit to Montecito, California, to Missoula

I have water stories for you.

1. This one from National Geographic, a great read about the abysmal, and some say “hopeful,” situation in Detroit, Michigan.

2. This one from The Telegraph about rich people paying boatloads of money for water in California. I wish I could h/t this one but I don’t remember where I saw it. Twitter, probably. Here’s a quote from one rich man in the story:

“It doesn’t matter how much money you have, if you run out of water you’re screwed. It’s a great leveller.

3. Finally, a story from the meeting here yesterday on eminent domain. The city’s lawyers from Boone Karlberg gave the Missoula City Council an update on the case and their findings. I should have said in the story that Mountain’s president was there, but didn’t comment, and didn’t return a VM after the meeting, and also that I wasn’t able to connect with the Montana PSC’s lawyer via email yesterday. We’ll see if they want to weigh in on things today.

- Keila Szpaller

Vote absentee in Missoula; I can’t believe it’s election season

Can people still get excited about an election with no president and no mayor on the ballot? At least there aren’t as many nasty TV ads this year.

The Missoula County Elections Office and MCAT put the video together. Show your friends. “Like” Missoula Votes on Facebook and follow @missoulavotes on Twitter.

Also, the Missoulian is sending questions out to candidates for Missoula County Commissioner. Please send question suggestions to keila.szpaller@missoulian.com.

As a refresher, here’s what we asked in the primary:

What do you think the role of a Missoula County commissioner is and should be?


What are your top priorities for Missoula County? How would you work with other elected officials and county staff to implement that vision?


If you could change three things about Missoula County government, what would they be?


What should the county budget emphasize? Please name a specific item you would cut or add.


What is the most important thing a commissioner should do for rural Missoula?


What is the top thing a commissioner should do for urban Missoula?


Does Missoula County need a charter? Why or why not?


Missoula County has come under scrutiny of late for “picking on” constituents in the areas of planning and zoning. How would you balance the county’s regulatory responsibility with the need to work with citizens to find solutions to problems?


Would you make any changes or improvements to provide the public with more specific advance notice of public meetings or issues that will be addressed in commissioner meetings? If so, how, and on what platforms? Twitter, Facebook, print paper, legal ads, news releases, your county website? Other?


How would you balance the county’s needs to float general obligation bonds on the ballot against the needs of the city and schools to ensure fairness for all projects?

33,277, Swan Lake, downtown, a judgment levy in Missoula

Swan Lake

That’s the number of bicycles Mountain Line carried in 2013.

I saw the figure in a new magazine Mountain Line puts out called “Bolt Missoula.” Topher Williams gave me a copy at the event to celebrate the new “Green Stop” at Russell and 39th Streets.

If you didn’t know, the buses are going to be free starting in 2015, and the bus people estimate ridership is going to grow even faster than it already has.

Other news items of interest?

The city of Missoula is using a new judgment levy this year to pay for a lost lawsuit. It’ll probably use one again to pay for a similar lost suit in a South Avenue property takings case.

Also, the Forest Service Region 1 headquarters is moving out of downtown. This is a hit of some 230 people to the city center.

All for now.

- Keila Szpaller