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?

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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!

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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

Elections administrator on tap

lintonHead to a public hearing 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, in room B14 of the County Administration Building, 199 W. Pine St. to comment on the proposal to create an elections administrator.

More in the story about the move, which is already drawing some controversy. The proposal would create a staff position whose responsibilities would oversee elections; it would remove those duties from the elected Clerk and Recorder.

Also, here’s a link to some stories about water overuse on www.nature.com that came through on Missoula Community News.

Photo? That’s Jesse Linton, crew leader for the Youth Harvest Project at the PEAS Farm. Photographer Tom Bauer and I are spending some time up there this year for a story.

- Keila Szpaller

*P.S. Bauer didn’t take that photo. He takes GREAT photos. That’s one of my iPhone snaps.

Epic walkabout, and happy Monday

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I walked all over downtown on Friday. Have you seen the prayer flags at Caras Park? The green flag says this:

Missoula Avalanche Prayer Flags, honoring loss and celebrating community. Made by hundreds of hands and hearts to bless the countryside and the people after the February 28, 2014, Mount Jumbo avalanche. Thank you, Missoula.

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The day started out at a preliminary budget hearing with the Board of County Commissioners and CFO Andrew Czorny. It’s a tight budget this year.

The county develops its budget in a different way than the city. In the city, the mayor creates the budget, and the Missoula City Council adopts it, with or without amendments.

In the county, department heads present their budget proposals to commissioners for approval, and at last week’s meeting, the CFO was basically telling them the budget parameters, i.e., the county is not going to be awash in lots of extra money this year, so don’t get wild with requests.

Department heads may ask for onetime funds, and they may ask for ongoing enhancements, but this year, Czorny said ongoing enhancements probably aren’t going to get traction since they’ll mean a tax increase.

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Czorny, above, answered a couple other questions in his office after the meeting, like the size of the general fund. It’s projected to be roughly $18 million; by comparison, the city’s general fund is at some $29 million.

The funny thing about Czorny’s office? Well, I’m sure he has a calculator in there somewhere, but I saw seats, those blue ones below. I inquired. They’re from the Yankee Stadium, an anniversary from his sweetie pie. Neat. His grandfather stoked the baseball flame.

“When I was 6, he took me to my first baseball game, which was a Yankees game, and I’ve been a Yankees fan ever since,” Czorny said.

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Next stop? The Missoula Art Museum to hear about the urban art park. That story here. There’s a meeting about it Wednesday if you want to learn more or offer input. *(P.S. Tuesday morning, I caught up on Friday’s Entertainer. Catch Cory Walsh’s story about the art installation below, “DoubleColumn,” here. AND see some GOOD photos.)

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Then, my favorite: On my way back to the newsroom, I saw this pup named Rogue on Higgins Avenue. She was adopted from Missoula County Animal Control, and I like her spots. (Adoptable pets here!)

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Finally, I ran into Tom Catmull at Bridge Pizza. He was getting ready to play at BrewFest, and that’s over, but he’s got a full schedule this summer, and you can read it here.

We’re lucky to have him. And the museum. And Animal Control. Alright, enough for now.

I hope this post isn’t all garbled because of the photos, but in any case, happy Monday!

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- Keila Szpaller

Condemnation could cost more $$$

waterworksHere’s my story about a big bill the city of Missoula did not anticipate paying in its bid to condemn and own Mountain Water Co.

The Montana Department of Revenue is going to determine ASAP if the city does indeed have to pay. As of early Thursday afternoon, the DOR had not yet responded.

According to Missoula County Financial Services, Mountain Water is the fifth top taxpayer in the city and the county. Thanks to CFO Andrew Czorny for this sheet with the top 10 payers. Thanks to tech guru Anne Cruikshank for help posting it.

I’ve been wondering whether the city of Missoula had served court papers to the defendants. Tuesday, city communications director Ginny Merriam said no. She said the city is working on amending the complaint.

A man told me today that I should write Mountain Water stories that aren’t only about what happens at Missoula City Council meetings.

I’m not going to editorialize. I just had to share it.

The photo is from last night at the top of Waterworks. It was warm and beautiful and quiet there, and I hope you were outside, too.

All for now.

– Keila Szpaller

Commissioner Bill Carey defends privacy

Here’s the story I wrote about Commissioner Bill Carey’s extended and unexplained absence. Come to find out, there’s no limit on the amount of time a commissioner can be on paid leave.

I’d like to learn more about that topic. Is the same thing true for the Missoula County Attorney? Missoula County Sheriff?

A political scientist said if Missoula County had a charter, it could include guidelines for absences, recalls and removals. I’m wondering if the county has the authority to instate such policies outside the framework of a charter.

Here’s Carey’s letter to the editor about the reason he was gone. In the piece, he asks where the line is drawn for publicly elected officials on personal matters.

In a brief phone conversation today, Carey said the column speaks for itself.The piece doesn’t address whether he sought treatment or if he has moderated his drinking or quit altogether.

“I don’t have any comment on that, and I am busy now,” Carey said.

In my story linked above, public affairs scholars talked about privacy. In brief, if someone wants to live a completely private life, maybe that person shouldn’t be in public office.

Sometimes, I wonder whom elected people lean on for advice in difficult matters, and this situation is one of those times.

Say an elected official doesn’t feel an obligation to constituents to announce a long leave. Does a trusted adviser encourage it?

All for now. Photo editor Kurt Wilson took the picture.

– Keila Szpaller