Harlan Wells was going to speak his mind.
Hot shit – I decided to get down there!
‘There’ of course is the Missoula City Council. It’s been awhile since my last report from that room of tomfoolery, and I decided Wells’ announcement would get me down there.
The story was called Missoula City to Vote on More Mountain Water Costs, ‘Over Ten Million’ Total Says Councilman.
Wow, $10 million…are you kidding me?
“The city council is being asked to approve another $184,688.72 in legal expenses tonight,” the article says, “but Wells said that the costs voted on by city council are only a fraction of the actual amount.”
“The fees that we keep seeing are only half of the battle,” Wells said in the article, and then says that the city has spent $5.4 million so far.
“Some of that may not pass through, but a lot of that will,” he says, “so, now we’re looking at a $10 million legal bill, 12 times greater than what the mayor thought it would cost.
Oh, boy – there’d be a showdown tonight.
That’s why I headed downtown.
I arrived downtown just as the Missoula County Courthouses bells were tolling 7 o’clock.
Inside, our usual rabble-rouser and hell-raiser, the woman that reads from the book about economics, was going strong. She was just finishing up as I got there in fact.
It was a full 12-member City Council tonight, and that includes all the new members that were elected in November and which I haven’t had the privilege of seeing in action.
After that we had a man in his 30s or 40s got up to talk about Soft Landing Missoula and the 100-person protest at the courthouse.
He discussed the security concerns that these protesters are raising.
“Like Moms Demand Action,” he said, “these groups have failed to think this issue through.”
The man was reading from a statement and calling ISIS its European name, Daesh.
He talked about the 4.4 million Syrian refugees and the 10,000 that America would accept.
He then suggested that we think about 1% of them coming to live among us.
At that point the mayor let it be known that the man had been speaking for 3.5 minutes and that he hoped the point was coming up soon.
After that the man asked if the mayor would like him to come back next week.
The mayor said yes.
The man sat down.
Another man got up, a much older man in his 60s it looked to me.
He got up and discussed the massive money grabs that the city is taking from taxpayers in the form of taxes to pay for a “bag of goodies.”
He estimated it’d cost $43 million that the taxpayers were going to give to the owners of the mall when that expansion was all said and done.
After that he got to the water lawsuit issue.
He was holding up a copy of the Independent that has the full, two-page ad that was run by the water company recently.
He requested that the City Council issue a report, similar to the mountain water advertisement, telling the people “what is true.”
He said he's reading that this will cost us “$50 million.”
The mayor then said that he’d been talking for 3 minutes.
The man sat down.
Another man got up and went ahead to continue the comment about ISIS/Daesh that the previous man had talked about.
He discussed his worries about ISIS attack issues as well, and even mentioned that he’s not worried too much about Syrian refugees so much as the potential for an attack.
We had a comment from one of the councilors later on saying that Soft Landing Missoula is working to open a refugee resettlement office in Missoula.
Refugees come from all around the world. Most came from Butaan, Iraq, and Cuba. It’s for refugees, not just Syrians.
After that it was right to the agenda.
Items on the agenda today were $343,229.42 for checks dated February 16 dealing with…stuff (I saw nothing to describe what these expenditures were).
An additional $314,506.47 was to be spent for the water company lawsuit.
Besides that we had $184,688.72 for some kind of construction contract on the Kim Williams Trail east.
The earlier woman that’d read from the economics book got up and chastised the Council over the mall expansion and general money expenditures of the Council.
After that we went right to a roll-call vote on the first huge payout on the agenda, the $343,229.42 for “claims.”
Every single person voted for that.
After that it was the vote on the water lawsuit money, all $314,506.74. Everyone but Wells voted for it.
So those were the fireworks.
Yeah, I know – I was kind of hoping for a speech or something.
All Wells did was look down in defeat, or perhaps he was just picking his fingers or checking his phone.
I was disappointed. I thought we’d see some rebuke of the mayor’s water lawsuit crusade from someone on the Council.
We got none.
I figured I’d take off but we had an additional massive amount of money coming up on the agenda as well.
This pertains to the Parks and Trails Bond.
The total for the 9 playground projects comes to $1,023,214.94.
So that’s over $1 million to buy new playground equipment…and at a time when we’re going through a $50 million lawsuit.
I’m sorry, but has the city lost its mind?
Alright, alright…we did approve this $42 million in bonding back in November 2014.
It’s not like we had an idea of how much the water company lawsuit would cost.
Well…we did. We knew it could cost millions.
Like the childish Montana city and county that we are, however, we went ahead and let that measure get onto the ballot, putting us another $42 million into debt so we could…buy new playground equipment to replace the existing playground equipment we already have.
Again, have we lost our minds?
I go to the Missoula parks each summer with my son. He’s nearly 5-years old now and we’ve been going since he was 2.
The playground equipment is perfectly fine. It works.
Sure, maybe some needs to be upgraded and replaced…but all of it?
I guess you can argue that we’re only spending $1 million of that $42 million here in town on those parks.
Personally, I think we should have put that money into a city-sized piggybank to save it up for the more important infrastructure, the water company.
We chose not to.
The companies that are benefiting from this city spending are:
- Dakota Fence;
- PlaySpace Designs;
- Northwest Playground Equipment, Inc.;
- Advantage Recreation;
- PlayCo Park Builders, Inc.;
- Duraplay, Inc.
The big ones are PlaySpace Designs getting $401,149.89 for “Kompan, Goric and IDS Sculptures.”
Another one is PlayCo Park Builders getting $242,540.01 for nine playground installations.
According to the woman that gave the presentation, this equipment will only last for 20 years.
One councilwoman mentioned how this could finally get her to exercise more.
Wells at least came through for me and asked about how this was being paid for.
The answer was of course the $42 million bond. Additionally, $200,000 was taken in permit fees.
I went ahead and gave a public comment when the opportunity presented itself.
I suggested that the city take that money and put it into an account and save it up.
The reason for this is so we can have the money for the lawsuit.
I went ahead and looked Harlan Wells right in the eye and chastised him for not speaking up as he implied he would on KGVO.
What a coward he is.
I continued to suggest the city not waste money, to direct all they can to the water lawsuit.
I went ahead and told them they were stupid, incompetent, misguided, and pretty much deranged (not in those exact words).
I guess I got carried away because there was a call of order, so I went ahead and sat down.
After that we had some additional comments about the playground issue.
The vote was taken after that and everyone voted for it.
After that the meeting was over. Just about 1 hour tonight.
That’s your city government in action, folks.
As I began to walk out I was informed by one of the councilwomen that moving the $1 million playground money, any of it, would be illegal.
The reason for this is that voters approved that.
I walked out but realized I’d forgotten to take some photos. So I went back in.
Wells called out to me and I walked up and had a chat with him.
He informed me that he’d spoken to KGVO but had not said anything about making a comment.
I went back and looked and he’s right – he said nothing about raising his concerns where they might matter, the City Council.
So I was wrong on that and apologize.
I still said he should have said something.
Despite that, I also told him it didn’t much matter – he’s powerless anyways.
“You’re just like Adam Hertz, sitting here the lone conservative and surrounded by idiots,” I said while he was still sitting at his desk.
“And just like Hertz, you’ll get angry and frustrated and quit. Maybe you can run for the legislature, but since your daddy’s not in there you might have a harder time of it.”
Wells didn’t look to happy to hear that while John DiBari informed me he was not an idiot.
So we have that going for us.
I told Wells flat out, and anyone else listening, that they need to take every penny they have and put it to the water lawsuit.
I then said we can’t even do that – it’s illegal, after all!
Overall, I was frustrated, frustrated by how poorly our City Council is doing.
I don’t expect that to change at all, either my frustration or their poor job.