You can read the previous reports I wrote, Crazy Continues at the Missoula City Council and The Missoula City Council Continues to Burn Money.
I’d like to start off by saying that my efforts here are futile. The council listens to comments, but they don’t do much. The payments for the water lawsuit continue, and your tax dollars continue to flow out of the community.
That said, I enjoy going down there and giving them a piece of my mind. I feel that they don’t like this, and that’s good – many come up and thank them, but few come up and chastise them.
There were 11 of councilors to chastise tonight, as well as Mayor John Engen and City Attorney Jim Nugent. The complete May 4 Missoula City Council agenda is on their website if you’d care to look.
Things got started with our usual talk about the dangers of communism to American history. The woman just reads from what she calls an “ongoing saga” and it sure is ‘interesting.’ I’d actually call it a little boring, but that’s just me. Speaking from the hip about issues you care about might be a better strategy.
I was particularly pleased by the audience size tonight, which was a tad larger than usual, about 31 people. I was also a bit ‘startled’ to see several big and burly-looking men in the back row. They looked like Hell’s Angels, and had jean jackets with cutoff sleeves and handlebar mustaches.
Following the woman that talked about communism, there was a man that talked about putting up lights in the Rattlesnake near the railroad crossing.
After that I got up and said some things. I never write what I’m going to say down, and instead speak off the cuff. This is about what I said:
I urge you to stop wasting so much money on the water company lawsuit. Last week there was about $260,000 approved for the water lawsuit, and that’s just money going down the drain. I said that we could be using this money for any number of things that I’ve discussed on this website before, such as:
- The Police Evidence Room;
- South Avenue Property Owners;
- The Smell on the Northside;
- Our City Streets.
I mentioned all of those things, and I mentioned that the same people that pay city, school, county, state, and federal taxes are hurting bad and we continually take money from their pocket to pay for these things.
After that we continued one, and the real meeting could begin. Remember, what the public says at city council meetings isn’t really important, or discussed, or anything else. It’s nodded at, that’s about it.
After that we talked about the 25th anniversary of the carousel. Because of this momentous occasion, the month of May was simultaneously proclaimed Carousel Month.
After that we moved on to issues surrounding golf courts. This issue pertains to the ban on golf carts being used in the city. Right now they’re talking about giving permits so someone can use a golf cart in the city. This pertains to Montana Code Annotated 61-8-391. Everyone voted for it and then we moved on.
By this time it was 7:20, so we’d spent about 20 minutes doing public comments and special months and golf carts.
After that it was a new floodplain ordinance. This entailed a presentation called the 2015 City of Missoula Floodplain Ordinance, Title 18, given by Gregg Wood of Development Services.
Development Services is one of the branches of local government, perhaps part of the City of Missoula Parks and Recreation Department. I don’t know – it’s very hard to tell at first glance, mainly because local government is so big.
The issue involved is new Floodplain Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM). These maps are required by the Federal Emergency Management Association regulations that go into effect on July 1.
Imagine someone that works in an office coming to a bar at night and talking about their work, complete with PowerPoint presentations. Now take out the alcohol and music and that’s about what the Monday night Missoula City Council meetings are like. Lots of people are staring off into space or else playing on their phones. I’ve mentioned before how most of the city council members have laptops, and most of the time they’re playing on those. Well, you probably shouldn’t say ‘playing’ so much as ‘doing stuff.’
City Attorney Jim Nugent always looks bored at these meetings. I mean he gives a new meaning to ‘looking bored.’ Today he had a sizeable stack of legal tomes and bindery-clipped sheaves of paper. Perhaps he was taking a lot of his work home this evening, though I can’t imagine what that work might be.
Perhaps the people going through the greatest level of agony at the meetings are the office support staff. I looked over at one moment and one poor woman looked like she was going to fall out of her chair dead.
So that’s the Missoula City Council – a group of people that’d rather be anywhere else trying to explain things to a group of people that’d rather be anywhere else.
Something that was rather interesting is that Missoula’s Kiwanis Park falls within the new floodplain map, and that’s pretty close to houses and the library. Imagine if that thing flooded – hoo boy!
Really, though…what are the chances of a huge flood coming through again like happened about 100 years ago? I mean, that’s 100-year event stuff there.
The main problem for homeowners on this is that they’d have to get “federally backed mortgages that require floodplain insurance.” How much extra that will cost property owners each month or so, I have no idea.
One man came up and commented on this, and he quoted from a FEMA website about climate change and flooding, which directs federal agencies to take actions to reduce federal investments in floodplain standards. The president started a flood risk management plan, and that’s why we’re dealing with this ordinance in the Missoula City Council today.
The man talked about that and he brought up the idea of flood insurance, and he particularly talked about the idea that these are coastal areas and large river basin area. So we’re not talking about places in Missoula, so maybe we don’t need to have this floodplain ordinance enacted.
Here’s a man that’s concerned his monthly budget will go down because he has to pay more for insurance that he, in effect, does not need. I think that’s a viable concern, and the councilors listened to him…a little bit. He was an older man and he was reading from a prepared statement, but he did say that “middle income owners might be burdened” by this new insurance, and it might have an adverse affect on future homebuyers who can’t take that added insurance cost.
Again, these are viable concerns, but the comment period ends May 6 and the website taking public comments is out of service.
Another man came up and gave a comment after that, and he asked if these concerns would stretch out into the county. At this point no, but you know if the city does it, the county will have the precedent to follow.
After that we had someone from Lolo, I believe, get up and give some comments. He said that the Army Corps of Engineers approved the levee that’s currently in place, and they did so back in the early 2000s before they stopped checking those things out. He said it would be prudent to do the map ordinance to take care of these issues.
There was very little discussion on this issue by the council, and by 7:45 it was over. I never felt the increase in insurance costs was dealt with. Homeowners are going to get something in the mail that says they have to pay more money, and the reason may be some flood plans passed in Washington in between Obama’s golf games. What the hell does he know about Missoula? Who knows, but because we talked about climate change our local area had to study it and they determined that homeowners need to pay the insurance companies more.
How much money are we talking about here? What if it’s $100 a month? That’s an extra $1,200 a year that homeowners have to come up with. Even if it’s half of that, $600 a year could sure hurt some homeowner that may already be underwater in their mortgage, behind in payments, or just having a helluva time that makes even the slightest increase in out of pocket expense damn hard to bear.
But most of the Missoula City Council doesn’t think about this. We didn’t talk about the fact that there’s less and less snow each year in the mountains, and less runoff. That means it’s less likely that the river will flood. Of course, the insurance companies will still get all that extra money each year. Isn’t that nice?
Later on we got to the Moon Randolph Homestead Strategic Plan. We had someone from the Missoula Parks and Recreation get up and give a presentation on this.
These were homesteaders in 1889, the year Montana became a state. The Moons owned it then the Randolph’s and then the city. The city has had it since 1997. The farm was key for produce before refrigeration came up, putting the Randolph’s out of business. There’s a book called Butterflies and Railroad Ties that talks about the homestead. In 2009 the Legislature through HB 265 funded a lot of restoration on the homestead.
The issue was about preserving the area and its agricultural history. Perhaps we could even make the place workable again for our local community and its food bank, instead of just preserving it as an old relic to a time when we actually worked the land.
Since 2007 there’s been a local government program to administer this ranch, together with the North Missoula Community Development Corporation. Anyone can visit the area, and some unpaid caretakers live there year-round. The Orange Street/I-90 trail connects to it. They get about 60 visitors a week there. On Saturday, May 16 there will be a tour of the homestead in honor of a History Month event of some sort.
The Moon Randolph Homestead is great for students and the university and the Rocky Mountain Photography School. They’ve raised $300,000 in private funds, mainly through grants. In 2012 they got $3,000 through the Missoula Neighborhood Grants Program. But they still need more money.
I love the idea of spending money on things like this because the community likes them. Unfortunately, as our budget gets more and more tight due to wastage with the water lawsuit, we lose money that we could use to pay for this. The City of Missoula spends money on things it doesn’t need at the expense of things like this homestead, that many love and want to see funded.
Right now they want $8,000 FY 2016. The reason they want this is for basic maintenance of the site. They also want money so they can put people to grant writing to get more federal dollars to get this site working better. Like we’ve talked about before, the city really tries to pull in as many of those printed-up federal dollars, the ones your grandkids or great-grandkids will be paying off for the entirety of their lives.
I couldn’t resist after that man got up, and I gave another public comment. I said that we should fund that $8,000 for this, and we should do that by not spending the $20,000 that we’re about to waste on the one-way street study that we’re about to have. I also mentioned that while we’re at it we should give those two caretakers a stipend of some sort. Even $100 a month each would go a long way in saying ‘thanks’ for all the work they do up there. Remember, our school kids head up there for fieldtrips so they can see what farm animals look like and learn a bit about what history looked like.
So I feel that we shouldn’t even debate smart choices like this, we should really be spending money on this, not dumb things like one-way street studies and water lawsuits.
A lot of other people got up and talked about the Moon Randolph Homestead. One teacher got up and talked about students walking all the way from Lowell School to the site, which is pretty cool. After that we had a first grade teacher get up and talk about a field trip they took. So again, we’re seeing how this is a huge educational resource, and at just $667 a month! And remember, we should really put more money into this. It’s a lot better than one-way streets.
After we finished up talking about the homestead at 8:30 or so we moved on to sidewalk cafes. One of the main issues here involves serving alcohol outside and how Montana Department of Revenue defines that. For instance, only Plonk and Flathead Brewing currently have permits to serve alcohol on the sidewalk, though Sean Kelly’s (now the Meagher Bar) has been grandfathered in.
The city person in charge of this issue talked quite a bit, pretty much just reading from his prepared PowerPoint. The main problem here seems to be how much space pedestrians have. When I lived in China there were sidewalk cafes everywhere, and these were really restaurants that had no room for anything but cooking, so put all the chairs and tables outside. It was hell to walk past. When the police got a burr up their ass – or just a good scolding from some higher-ups somewhere – they’d go out in force and bust up all the sidewalk cafes. Imagine flies scattering from a big pile of shit and then going back real fast – that’s what that was.
They need to have 5 feet of sidewalk space here in Missoula for this to be a viable option, and they also want to leave furniture outside at night. So now we not only have shit blocking people’s way during business hours, but in effect 24/7 as well.
After that we went back to hang-ups that we have over alcohol. Remember, it’s not so much keeping booze out of minors’ hands – that’s impossible – it’s about getting that state as much of that booze money as it can. The state has always made a lot off of liquor and the licenses that go with it, and they’re hooked on it. Yep, the damn degenerates can’t do without it and if you’re a business owner, you pay the price. I mean, they even talk about having a fence set up to keep the alcohol drinkers separate from the pedestrians.
By the time the guy was halfway through his presentation it was 8:45 and about 12 people remained in the meeting. Everyone looked bored to hell, and I decided to get out of there. I was afraid if I didn’t I’d lose my mind.
The final assessment tonight is that the Missoula City Council wasted a lot more of your money than your time, but it was close.