I got there around 6:55 and there were 32 people.
By 7:00 when things started this had bumped up to around 35, and by the time it got over around 8:30 there were perhaps 45 people in attendance.
Things got started off with the mayoral candidates.
We have the following mayoral candidates:
- John Engen
- Lisa Triepke
- Madison Schroeder
Only one showed up – Mayor Engen.
I was deeply disappointed that Lisa Triepke did not show up.
Hey, I bet she’s not going to get the Dem endorsement, but this is a great opportunity to polish your message and practice your speaking.
Hell, that’s why I went – I’m not expecting the Dem endorsement either.
Anyways, Engen talked for about 5 minutes, saying he doesn’t want to spend his time “looking in the rearview mirror” when it comes to the city.
When it came to his accomplishments, Engen listed off his recent housing director hire, his work on the homeless problem, and his desire to create a data set to understand taxes and their impact better.
He also mentioned that the city fixed 800 potholes last year, which you’ll remember from an earlier report cost $330,000.
After his comments he answered questions for 30 minutes.
There was one on ADUs, development and citizens’ access to it, as well as a lot on his desire to have a local option sales tax.
On the latter he really thinks the upcoming Riverfront Triangle convention center development will be a big boost for revenue, all coming from those out-of-staters paying that sales tax.
Engen now views Missoula as a resort town just like Red Lodge, West Yellowstone and Whitefish. He desperately wants that new revenue source.
This at a time when he’s already raised taxes by 95% over the past twelve years.
Engen mentioned that the implementation of new zoning regulations years ago necessitated the creation of a special city agency to handle zoning documents and issues.
He wants a “growing inward” policy to avoid sprawl and when asked, “Can we afford Missoula?” he answered resoundingly, “Yes.”
That’s easy to say for a man that’s seen his salary and benefits package go from around $70,000 twelve years ago to over $106,000 today.
After this we got to the City Council candidates.
We know that absentee ballots go out on October 17 so that means we have about 3 months to convince people to vote for us.
Most of those down there tonight were trying to convince local Democrats to support them.
I was not one of them.
Here’s what it looks like for the wards:
- Bryan von Lossberg (Ward 1, incumbent)
- Jamelet Laursen (Ward 1)
- Jordan Hess (Ward 2, incumbent)
- Ruth Ann Swaney (Ward 2, appointed)
- Jack Metcalf (Ward 2)
- Heather Harp (Ward 3):
- Thomas Winter (Ward 3)
- Jon Van Dyke (Ward 3)
- Jon Wilkins (Ward 4, incumbent)
- Greg Strandberg (Ward 4)
- Chris Badgley (Ward 4)
- Jesse Ramos (Ward 4)
- Stacie Anderson (Ward 5)
- Cathy Deschamps (Ward 5)
- Julie Merritt (Ward 6)
All in all, 7 of those 15 candidates showed up for the forum while 2 more submitted their questionnaire but didn’t show up.
Three of the candidates had notes while the others just winged-it, I being one.
Let’s get into the wards a bit more.
This race seems like a joke, much like Ward 6, which we won’t talk about at all.
I say this because two-term incumbent and continual tax-and-spend Democrat, Bryan von Lossberg, stands no chance of losing.
At least not to a recent high school grad who’s just starting UM in the fall.
That’s Jamelet Laursen. Perhaps we’ll here her name again, though I doubt it’ll be in January when swearing-in comes around.
Neither of these two showed up.
Ward 2 is an interesting one as we have two incumbents. Swaney was appointment in January and I guess she has to prove her mettle now.
That’ll be a tough nut to crack against longtime city councilor Jordan Hess.
Thankfully Hess is unopposed and it’s Ruth Ann Swaney that has to worry about Jack Metcalf.
Neither showed so we only heard Hess.
And no, I don’t suspect Hess’s continual voting for tax increases and bonds up the wazoo is going to hurt him at all.
Remember, Dems support that nonsense. They support Jordan.
Jack Metcalf is also running. He’s a bartender, and he’s hoping to get some of the conservative Hertz/Wells voters.
I wish him luck, but don’t see him pulling it off.
Just Winter and Van Dyke showed up for this one.
The other person is Heather Harp, an insurance agent.
Thomas Winter is a senior care company manager and Jon Van Dyke is a radio station manager.
There is no incumbent in this race so it’s anyone’s ballgame, though I suspect the local Dems made up their mind a long time ago about who’d be winning.
Yeah, people vote…but they also jump to what the Dems say. Remember, 70% of Missoulians typically don’t give a shit. Turnout for municipal elections is around 30%.
I wasn’t impressed by Van Dyke’s speaking ability, and I figure this is probably a reason Triepke didn’t show up as well.
Folks, if you want to be in politics you have to talk to yourself.
When you’re alone at home, talk about the issues, develop arguments, and make your points.
That’s how you get good, not all stumbling-over-your-words.
I’d like to add that Winter seems like a ‘yes-man’ Democrat that’ll say and do just about anything to get support.
All he had to say in his introduction was that he lived in the U district, had 2 dogs, “and that’s about it.”
I can see him going far, with the machine’s help, of course.
This is of course the ward I’m running in, against 3-time incumbent Jon Wilkins.
Two other are challenging Wilkins: construction company owner Chris Badgley and financial advisor Jesse Ramos.
I was particularly interested in what Ramos has to say, but he didn’t show.
As a financial advisor, I was sure he’d gone into that 372-page City of Missoula 2017 Budget to find lots of examples of waste.
Or maybe he hadn’t, and had no stats at hand.
I guess we’ll never know.
When it came to Badgley I saw another that wasn’t quite prepared, could do more practice speaking, and didn’t have any firm numbers on hand.
His dad was a bookkeeper at UM, so he has Missoula roots. Willis Curdy was even his history teacher.
Currently he’s a single dad raising an 8-year-old that goes to Lewis & Clark Elementary. He’s a self-employed builder.
He mainly supported whatever it was the few dozen hardcore Dems in the room wanted to hear, in my opinion.
Both candidates for this one showed up.
Stacie Anderson is an executive director at Carol’s List, a big abortion rights group.
She also spent time in Seattle working to help reelect the governor and spent time working to help elect Adam Smith for Washington State’s 9th District.
I see someone that will go far, again, with the Democratic machine’s help. An added benefit with Anderson is that she’s a strong woman, and anyone who speaks against her or her ideas can be branded as sexist.
Standard Hillary-Dem playbook procedure these days, post-2016.
You know she has the Democratic endorsement locked-up.
Her opponent has the misfortune of having the name ‘Deschamps’ here in the liberal stronghold of Missoula. That with a family background that goes back to the 1870s, and the 1700s in Canada.
Despite Cathy’s experience as a surgery inventory specialist for St. Pat’s, she’ll automatically be overlooked.
I thought she spoke well and had good ideas, but Dems don’t care about that as much as nurturing another clone copy to carry their fading torch.
We had 5 questions posed to us candidates, the last one being a closing statement as well.
Question 1 was about sexual assault cases.
Most answers were similar and I feel I was the only one to say the truth – our beer and circus atmosphere in this town and at UM is really to blame.
It’ll take years to get over that mess.
Many of the others echoed my response, though in a less direct, in-your-face kind of way.
Question 2 was whether candidates supported a $15 living wage.
As someone making $8.35 from one job, $8.50 from another, $9 from a third, and commission work for a fourth that adds up to about $10 an your, I said, ‘Yes, I support a living wage.’
Question 3 was about affordable housing, and I mentioned that we’re still building the same amount as we were in 2007 despite an increase in population.
Question 4 was about LGBTQ, and I said I don’t plan on focusing on minority issues, just issues that the majority of people in my ward care about.
Of course the room didn’t like that, but so what?
Everyone else said we need more civility and inclusiveness and such.
Gosh, gay marriage is legal and we did the non-discrimination ordinance…what else do you want?
Mostly, many of these folks are worried the atmosphere 'that’s come about' under Trump.
Again, people in my ward do not care. They care about the money in their pocket.
I said as much and carried that on to Question 5, do you want the Dem endorsement and are you a Democrat.
I questioned whether I was or not, mentioned I don’t really care about the endorsement, and then chided the Dems in the room.
“I’m asked on the doors most often if I’m a Republican. I say I’m a conservative Democrat. They don’t want to hear that anymore than you here do, and it’s because you want it one way or another. But I don’t think people care. As to me being a Democrat, well…my great-grandpa came to Montana to mine coal in 1892, my grandpa was a union carpenter in shipyards and he was a Democrat, and my other grandpa was a rancher elected to the legislature in the late-80s from Havre and he was a Democrat.
I ran as a Democrat in 2014 and 2016 and I still call myself one. I haven’t given up, despite the Party hating Bernie supports and loving Hillary and corporate money. And people are sick of that.
I came in here the night after the 2014 election losses and told you that your message wasn’t working, and here today I see nothing has changed. Quist only took 20,000 more votes in the recent special election than Gianforte, and this in 71,000-strong liberal stronghold Missoula. It’s because your message isn’t working and no one cares about it. So no, I’m not that concerned about your support. I’ll knock on doors and go to voters directly, I think this is the year for it.”
And that was it.
The forum was over, and Dems got down to voting on who to endorse.
I didn’t wait around to see the results.
I was just happy I got to go down, say my message, sharpen my delivery, and let people know that some of us are taking this very seriously.
Thanks for your interest in local government.