Vol. 20, No. 12 • March 19–March 26, 2009
Western Montana’s Weekly Journal of People, Politics and Culture
Seventy percent of the nation’s farm-raised trout come from just south of Missoula. Do these fish solve a sustainability problem, or create one? by Tara Morgan
Scope: Marie Watt takes a trip down memory lane with Heirlooms Briefs: City saves precious dough on cheaper dog poop bags Up Front: Missed opportunities mar mixed-use development
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Page 2 March 19â€“March 26, 2009
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nside Cover Story Aquaculture, or the commercial cultivation of ocean and freshwater fish, is a slippery issue. On one side, it can be seen as a sustainable solution to curtail destruction caused by commercial fishing. On the other, concerns have been raised about water polluCover photo by Chad Harder tion, wild-caught fish used to feed farm-raised fish and health risks posed by use of antibiotics and chemical dyes. The answer may lie about six hours south of Missoula, in Magic Valley, Idaho, where millions of rainbow trout splash around in human-made concrete raceways . . . . . . . .14
Friday 3/20 • 9pm
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Letters Sacred land, methane and home schooling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 The Week in Review Unemployment rises again . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Briefs Dog poop bags, used bikes and Internet ambushes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Etc. Let’s talk about sex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Up Front Pared down Garden District finally breaks ground . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Up Front Cell phone ban for drivers faces possible bumpy road . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Ochenski Change and hope were fun while they lasted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Writers on the Range Dire times may require a return to our roots. . . . . . . . . 11 Agenda Attend a Victory Gardens class . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Arts & Entertainment
Flash in the Pan Warming up to winter salads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 8 Days a Week Mmmmmm, trout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Mountain High Snowbowl’s “Best of the Bowl” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Scope Marie Watt sparks nostalgia with Heirlooms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Noise March of the Black Queen, Joan Baez, Mason Jennings and Zoroaster . 29 Books Parzybok delivers an epic journey of this world . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Film Not much to like in I Love You, Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Movie Shorts Independent takes on current films . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
THE GROWERS FUNKY FRESH MUSIC FROM BELLINGHAM, WA. Thursday 3/26 • 9pm
JOHN FLORIDIS FREE SHOW
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Exclusives Street Talk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 In Other News . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Independent Personals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 The Advice Goddess . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Free Will Astrolog y. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Classifieds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Crossword Puzzle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 This Modern World. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
Fat Tire Pub Trivia
Open Mic Night with Mike Avery!
Doors @ 9pm, Cover $10 at the door, 18+, ($2 surcharge under 21)
TO NIG HT
Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons PUBLISHER Matt Gibson GENERAL MANAGER Lynne Foland EDITOR Skylar Browning ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Peter Kearns PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Joe Weston CIRCULATION & BUSINESS MANAGER Adrian Vatoussis ARTS EDITOR Erika Fredrickson PHOTO EDITOR Chad Harder CALENDAR EDITOR Jonas Ehudin STAFF REPORTERS Jesse Froehling, Matthew Frank, Alex Sakariassen PHOTO INTERN Ashley Sears COPY EDITORS Samantha Dwyer, David Merrill ART DIRECTOR Kou Moua PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Jenn Stewart, Jonathan Marquis ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVES Carolyn Bartlett, Steven Kirst, Chris Melton, Hannah Smith, Scott Woodall CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING MANAGER Miriam Mick CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING REPRESENTATIVE Tami Johnson FRONT DESK Lorie Rustvold CONTRIBUTORS Ari LeVaux, George Ochenski, Nick Davis, Andy Smetanka, Jay Stevens, Jennifer Savage, Caitlin Copple, Chris LaTray, Ednor Therriault, Jessie McQuillan, Brad Tyer, Katie Kane
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DJ's Spinnin' Latin Rhythms All Night Long!! • Free Salsa Lessons Start at 8:30pm SUNDAY 3/22 Mailing address: P.O. Box 8275 Missoula, MT 59807 Street address: 317 S. Orange St. Missoula, MT 59801 Phone number: 406-543-6609
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Dr. Manhattan with March of the Black Queen, Fiancee, & The Evergreen THURSDAY 3/26 Doors @ 9pm, Cover $10 advance, $12 day of show, 18+, ($2 surcharge under 21)
Trampled By Turtles with Lucy Michelle & The Velvet Lapelles myspace.com/trampledbyturtles, myspace.com/lucymichelle Tickets Available @ Ear Candy Music, Rockin' Rudy's & Online @ WWW.MYSPACE.COM/MARIGNYPRODUCTIONS
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Page 3 March 19–March 26, 2009
Inside Letters Briefs Up Front Ochenski Range Agenda News Quirks by Ashley Sears
Asked Monday afternoon at Southgate Mall.
This week the Indy reports on the Missoula City Council’s possible proposal to ban drivers from using cell phones. How would such a law impact your daily routine? Follow-up: How many things can you safely do at once?
Rikki Elliott: Not at all. I get around on my own two feet and when I am in a car my cell phone is off. But I know that my friends who drive would be a lot happier if it passed. Bring it on: It depends. In a hazardous workspace, I can do about five different things at once, and I think talking on the phone while driving counts as a hazardous workspace. In a casual situation I don’t have a limit on what I can do at once.
Chris Mayeur: I don’t think I’d be driving any more, because I can’t live without my phone. Trifecta: I can talk, text and work all at the same time. All the things you need to do to be successful in life.
Mad about methane The Montana Legislature is once again considering a bill to change Montana water rights law to benefit the coal bed methane industry. Senate Bill 505, sponsored by Sen. Keith Bales out of Otter, makes the industry last in time, but first in right for water rights. They claim they only want to change the law to benefit thirsty ranchers. Give me a break! Less than one percent of this water will ever go to thirsty ranchers, and the methane companies get the water right. Ever since the methane industry started dewatering precious aquifers to access the methane, groups like Northern Plains Resource Council have tried to get them to re-inject or treat that water. But the methane industry doesn’t want to deal with the real problem—they are stealing groundwater from senior water rights holders. And that’s the whole reason behind their attempt to change Montana’s water rights law. By changing the law, the methane companies can absolve themselves of the responsibility for drying up an aquifer. SB 505 will affect everyone who has a water right throughout Montana, not just in eastern Montana. Legislators shouldn’t go along with this. They shouldn’t be bamboozled into upending 140 years of water rights law—a system that protects landowners across the state—just to benefit one short-term industry. Call your legislator and tell them to vote “no” on SB 505. Janet McMillan Greenough
Sacred land Kenai Greywolf: I think they should pass it. They’ve proven that it’s the equivalent to drinking and driving and it makes people idiots on the road. It’s even worse when it comes to truck drivers on the highway. They’ve got an 18,000-pound killing machine under them and they don’t pay attention. If you’re not going to pay attention then get off the road! Chat it up: I can talk on the phone while reading, and I can keep up with my kid. And I can have multiple conversations with several people all at one time.
Delores Birdsong: It probably wouldn’t affect me much, because I’m a pull-over-and-usethe-cell-phone person. Shut up and drive: A lot. I can chew gum and change the radio at the same time. But I think that if you are going to be driving, then you should just drive.
Page 4 March 19–March 26, 2009
Looking southward from Red Crow Mountain in today’s Glacier National Park, one is blessed with a view of the pristine landscape of the Badger-Two Medicine, which is nestled between the Continental Divide and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. All Montanans can agree that the wild character of this area is inviting. But the eye does not capture the depth of its cultural significance. I am Ma-tak´-soo-woo, a grandson of Chief Red Crow. I feel a solemn duty to share with Montanans the traditional cultural regard that unifies our Blackfeet people with this landscape. This regard stems from the ancient parables that articulate that this area is Blackfeet Holy Ground. This regard is also reaffirmed in the reference and practice of today’s traditional Blackfeet. We refer to the Rockies as the “Backbone of the World,” and embrace this backbone as both a source and a channel for the varied expressions of the “Great Mystery,” including the characters Thunder, Coldmaker, Windmaker and Medicine Elk. The land between the Badger and Two Medicine Rivers is also where Old Man
Napi, in the long ago time, organized the first men to go northward to look for wives. The quintessential religious ceremony for our Blackfeet is the O´-kan, (Medicine Lodge or Sun Dance). The Badger-Two Medicine cradles four peaks honoring the central figures in the O´-kan’s origin story. Those mountains are Morning Star, Feather Woman, Scarface, and Poia. In the traditional naming of something, a name imparts the essence of its meaning upon that which is named. This is Holy Ground. The Badger-Two Medicine is also
The land “between the Badger and Two Medicine rivers is also where Old Man Napi, in the long ago time, organized the first men to go northward to look for
home to both Wolf and Grizzly who, in the long ago time, aided both a Blackfeet man and a woman in their respective odysseys to escape misfortune and return home. The epilogues of both parables have our morally considerate brothers traveling westward into the sunset of the Badger-Two Medicine watershed. Finally this landscape, in an undesecrated state, insures an accessible sanctuary for the continued practice of the vision quest, which is at the heart of traditional American Indian spirituality. My late father mentored and impressed upon me that, while the vision quest is rooted in identity, it ultimately becomes a path for establishing conscious contact with a power greater than self. This Power is that which both weaves and binds the universe. Recently, over 90 percent of commenting Montanans supported a nonmotorized conservation-based management alternative for the Rocky Mountain Front, the majestic northern third of which is the Badger-Two Medicine. Formerly “alternative 5,” the newly released Badger-Two Medicine Travel Plan is the option most respectful of and harmonious with the reverence developed and held by my
Blackfeet People. Two tribal councils and the Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Office have concurred. The Forest Travel Plan also strengthens the environment for local and statebased outfitters by its emphasis on horse and foot travel. From Judeo-Christian tradition, I was raised with an important story involving the Sinai wilderness, a vision quest, and the revelation of Commandments. In that story, Moses is instructed by God to remove his sandals because he is standing upon sacred ground. The principle here is timeless: Respect sanctity by minimizing impact. Please join our Blackfeet People in support of the Forest Service travel plan restricting motorized travel inside the Badger-Two Medicine. This too is sacred ground. Jack Gladstone East Glacier
Three stories, one letter If people won’t police themselves, then the Missoula City Council will do it for them. I’m writing to thank the members who voted for telling dog owners to use a leash (see “Council collars dogs,” Feb. 26, 2009). And I guess I could say thanks for the laugh at the other council members who thought voice commands could control pets where their owners are hiking in the great beyond outside of town. I wrote before on this subject when one of your reporters complained about not being able to walk the streets with Fido off the leash (see “Etc., May 29, 2008). I related going to a picnic where other attendees brought both potato salad and their dogs—unleashed. It took about seven minutes before a fight ensued and the van doors opened to end the melee. Am I guessing that this same reporter wrote this time about what he views as parental ignorance in home schooling? (See “Etc., Feb. 26, 2009.) He could have checked the records of what some home schooled students have achieved. Yes, there are gaps in home schooling, but you could drive a truck through what some parents have seen in public education. I’m sure some of your readers could give him some examples of the latter question in a much less rude essay. I did only a two-year stint home schooling our three kids with superior instructions, lesson plans and materials from the state of Alaska. Every teacher at home was given day-by-day plans on every subject. The students’ work was graded by teachers in Juneau. Those two years benefited both my children and myself. There’s always another side to every question and that’s what reading your newspaper and my reply amounts to. Clare Hafferman Kalispell
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Page 5 March 19â€“March 26, 2009
WEEK IN REVIEW • Wednesday, March 11
News Quirks by Chad Harder
The Montana Department of Labor announces 6.6 percent unemployment for January, an increase from 5.5 percent in December. Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly assures out of work Montanans that “things will begin turning around once the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act hits the ground.”
• Thursday, March 12 Plum Creek Timber Co. cuts its final log at its Fortine sawmill, located in northwestern Montana about 20 miles from the British Columbia border. The mill will be disassembled in April after 53 years of operation, leaving 72 employees out of work.
• Friday, March 13 Days before he was scheduled to stand trial for the murder of a homeless Missoula man, Dustin Strahan pleads guilty to accountability for deliberate homicide. He’s sentenced to 30 years in Montana State Prison, with 25 years suspended. Last week co-defendant Anthony St. Dennis received a 100-year prison sentence for the murder.
• Saturday, March 14 Stanford-bound senior center Joslyn Tinkle scores 18 points to lead Big Sky past Butte, 56-46, for the state’s AA girls’ basketball championship. Tinkle receives the tournament’s most valuable player award for helping the Eagles win their secondstraight state championship.
• Sunday, March 15 The International Culture and Food Festival brings the sweet smells of fresh eats to the University of Montana’s University Center. More than 30 countries are represented during the five-hour event, with everything from traditional Middle Eastern dishes to Australian didgeridoo music.
• Monday, March 16 The U.S. Forest Service announces a ban on motorized travel on 186 miles of interior access trails in the Badger-Two Medicine area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest. The announcement is followed by a 45-day appeals period. Dave Cunningham with the Forest Service says he expects motor vehicle enthusiasts to protest the decision.
• Tuesday, March 17 A 53-year-old woman is killed on U.S. Highway 93 near Arlee when she loses control of her car during bad weather. According to highway patrol dispatch, the vehicle rolled twice in the ditch and ejected the driver. She is pronounced dead at St. Patrick Hospital.
Remnants of a forest dot the floodplain known for the past century as Milltown Reservoir. Crews have removed more than 2 million tons of contaminated sediment from the valley bottom, and hope to return the Clark Fork River to its natural channel the week of March 23. Crews will then move upstream in hopes of removing an additional 100,000 tons of contaminated muck before spring runoff.
City skimps on Mutt Mitts The state of the economy isn’t just thinning budgets—it’s now causing a significant change in Missoula’s ubiquitous dog poop picker-upper bags, otherwise known as Mutt Mitts. “Due to budget cuts, I’ve gone to a singleply bag versus a double-ply bag,” says Scott Van Ommeran, Missoula’s park maintenance manager. Van Ommeran recently replaced the signature white plastic Mutt Mitts—equivalent to the thickness of about five plastic grocery bags— with thinner green bags. He believes the switch will save the city thousands of dollars. In fiscal year 2008, dog owners pulled about 192,000 bags from the 103 Mutt Mitt dispensers dotting Missoula parks, according to Van Ommeran. If the poop output of Missoula’s roughly 7,000 registered dogs remains steady, the green bags—which cost the city 2.9 cents each compared to 7 cents for the white—will save the city nearly $8,000. “I haven’t had a chance to have them out there long enough to weigh the financial benefit
of it all. I could use twice as many bags, but I have no idea at this point,” Van Ommeran says. “I’m heavily monitoring the use.” The bag thinning represents just one example of how the city is reevaluating its budgets to cope with dwindling revenue. Last year Mayor John Engen asked all departments to cut costs by 3.7 percent. The $8,000 is a good chunk of the $125,000 Parks and Rec is straining to pinch in 2009. Missoula isn’t the only city struggling to find cuts, according to Rod Lukey, operations manager at Mutt Mitt. “We’ve had a lot of people who are finding, with budget constraints and whatnot, they need some clever ideas for how they can maintain their program,” says Lukey. The Kentucky-based company, which sells tens of millions of bags around the country each year, has one of its five employees devoted solely to working with customers cutting back, Lukey says. To keep those customers, Mutt Mitt encourages them to do what only Sacramento, Calif., has done: Imprint poop bags with advertisements. “People need to understand, what does a
budget cut look like?” says city communications officer Ginny Merriam. “It looks like a flimsier Mutt Mitt. And we may end up with something that is actually better for the environment, and works just as well, and is cheaper, and we could have been doing it all along.” Matthew Frank
Dropping the cover charge Before Rep. George Groesbeck Jr. died in December, the Butte legislator had made a point of standing up for Montana’s artists. Now a bill he inspired is set to carry on that part of his legacy. Currently, musicians are required to obtain a Workers’ Compensation Act exemption by paying $125 and applying at the Montana Department of Labor. If they don’t sign up for the exemption, they—as well as the venue that books them— could be fined $1,000. Groesbeck wanted to eliminate the requirement by enacting a permanent exemption for entertainers who garner less than 50 percent of their income from performances. He never had a chance to introduce the bill, but his friend, Rep.
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Page 6 March 19–March 26, 2009
what I would do if I could do all I can? ~ Sun Tzu
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Pat Noonan, D-Ramsay, sponsored HB 598 with Groesbeck in mind. On March 11, the House Business and Labor Committee heard testimony about Noonan’s bill. Not surprisingly, the hearing drew support from artists and venue owners, but the business and labor community fought back. “The DJs that work for me are extremely poor,” says Whitney Fisher, owner of Missoula’s L.I.V Entertainment, noting that most of her DJ’s are college students. “And for them, coming up with the $125 exemption certificate, they’re like, ‘Well, I don’t have the money so I just won’t do it.’” The committee also heard from labor lobbyists who argued that if artists receive an exemption, it’s unclear who’s liable if they get injured during a performance. The lobbyists also wondered how the state would verify a performer’s income, an easily exploited loophole. But Gary Kelly, a club owner in Florence, told the committee that if the exemption doesn’t pass, many of the live musicians who play in Florence—and currently slip under the Department of Labor’s radar—will simply stop playing. “Most of the [performers at my venue] are working guys,” he said. “They work during the day and they play music for the love of it. I’ve talked to them and most of them have said that if they have to do something like that, they’ll just quit playing music. That might be something you want to think about.” The committee has not yet voted on the bill. Jesse Froehling
Recycled bicycles Wrench monkeys Dave Hartman and Kevin Downey left managerial positions at Missoula Bicycle Works to secure a quasi-monopoly in the local bicycle market. Not a month in, business at Hellgate Cyclery, Missoula’s only used bike shop, is booming. The two haven’t even had time to plan a grand opening. Hartman says Hellgate Cyclery is filling a void in the community. An 11-year veteran of Missoula bike shops, he’s noted a steady increase in the biking population. A used bike shop seemed the logical response.
“Just always something I’ve seen the need for,” Hartman says. “I’m just surprised no one’s done it already.” When a back-alley storefront opened up behind Moose Creek Merchantile, Hartman and Downey put months of lofty talk into action. Now the cramped brick space houses a workbench and a wall of bikes and used parts. Hartman’s poodle, Grover, lounges near stacks of new fenders. For Jim Sayer, executive director of the
Adventure Cycling Association, Hellgate Cyclery serves as a terrific example of how the cycling community continues to grow. He says along with the new Big Sky Cyclery shop near the University of Montana campus, a used bike and repair shop downtown will offer more options for people looking to get out of their cars and onto bikes. “You’re in the middle of a down economy and you’re seeing a flourishing of the bike community,” Sayer says. Hartman wasn’t the only one to notice a void in the local bike market that needed filling. Reed Sonsalla, shop manager at Missoula Bicycle Works, has fielded many requests for used bikes over the years. “A lot of times we’d tell people to go to Craigslist, but there you’re not always guaranteed on quality,” Sonsalla says. Sonsalla says losing Hartman and Downey was a bit disappointing. Combined, they boast over 25 years of mechanic experience. Still, Sonsalla sees a need for a place like Hellgate Cyclery.
“It’s better than just getting something off the Internet,” he says. Alex Sakariassen
BY THE NUMBERS
Snowmobiles U.S. Forest Service officials issued citations to seven snowmobilers riding through a nonmotorized area near the Montana-Idaho border on March 4. According to multiple sources familiar with the incident, the bust was made possible by monitoring a regional snowmobile discussion forum on the Internet. “Our law enforcement folks had information [that two snowmobilers] would be going in there to retrieve two broken down sleds on a specific day,” says Lolo National Forest public affairs officer Boyd Hartwig, who did not specify where the information originated. “They had a date and a location of when they expected these guys to be back in there.” Two snowmobilers rode up the Fish Creek drainage through a motorized-use corridor that passes through the proposed Great Burn wilderness area to Idaho, says Hartwig. But they left the corridor and entered the non-motorized-use Irish Basin to find the broken down snowmobiles. Law enforcement officers issued the men citations, which bring a $150 fine plus a $25 administration fee. Meanwhile, an assisting Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) helicopter spotted another five snowmobilers in the area and watched them ride into Idaho and stop at Kid Lake, Hartwig says. The helicopter landed and FWP officials issued three citations to riders who did not possess Montana registrations. Hartwig says the helicopter then recorded GPS data of the five snowmobilers’ route, found they also passed through a non-motorized area, and sent them citations through the mail. Law enforcement officer Clint McGuffey, one of the two officers who issued the citations, says the Lolo National Forest typically writes no more than 15 snowmobile-related tickets a year. “These seven tickets have been more contentious than any I’ve written lately,” McGuffey says. “[The cited snowmobilers] called me some pretty ugly names, but I guess wearing a green shirt makes you have a pretty thick skin, huh?” Matthew Frank
etc. Let’s talk about sex. Or, more precisely, let’s talk about why certain members of the University of Montana faculty would prefer to talk about anything but sex. Last week, UM’s student newspaper, the Kaimin, reported that assistant law professor Kristen Juras was going to the mattress over the paper’s “Bess Sex Column,” a weekly opinion piece penned by senior J-school student turned amateur sexologist Bess Davis. Under the guise of free speech not really being free or absolute, Juras argues that Davis’ columns “portray a hook-up culture that has unhealthy physical, psychological and emotional effects on students.” She also thinks, as the student paper of a state-funded institution, editor Bill Oram and his staff should be held to a certain journalistic standard—one that doesn’t include, say, advice about oral sex, as Davis’ most recent column did. In an interview with the Indy, Juras further articulated her concerns. She respects a student publication’s right to free speech, but feels written guidelines should be put into place to uphold the publication’s educational mandate. She proudly limits her own students’ free speech by prohibiting profanity in her classroom. She says she’s open to the Kaimin printing a sex column, but that it must be “appropriate.” She questions Davis’ expertise on the issue. With all due respect, Juras comes across badly on this issue. Who defines the appropriateness of the column? How exactly does the whole “I support free speech, but…” argument end? How much experience is expected at a student newspaper? In fact, we have yet to hear any lawyer convincingly defend Juras’ reasoning. (Sorry, Juras’ colleague, controversial UM law professor Rob Natelson, doesn’t count.) That’s because Juras doesn’t have a legal beef— she has an ideological one. She serves as the faculty advisor to the Christian Legal Society (CLS). The organization, among other things, requires its members and officers to adhere to a “Statement of Faith.” The CLS website includes a resolution outlining the specific sins of premarital sex, adultery and “homosexual conduct.” The resolution goes on to encourage CLS members to engage those involved in “sexual immorality” and lead them to repentance. Assuming Juras gets off on the CLS code of conduct, it’s easy to see her seductive First Amendment tease as a flimsy cover for asking everyone to repent. We respect Juras’ religious views as much as we respect Davis’ commentary on college sex. Both have their place—in a newspaper, on the opinion and lifestyle pages.
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Late bloomer Pared down Garden District finally breaks ground by Matthew Frank
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A half-dozen excavators and bulldozers started to dig up dirt and asphalt at the former Intermountain Lumber site on Russell Street March 6, marking the long-awaited start of the Missoula Housing Authority’s (MHA) latest affordable housing project. But the current project pales in comparison to what MHA envisioned years ago. Developers balked, affordable housing funding came late and reconstruction of Russell Street remains in limbo. Local officials now believe the struggles to get the so-called Garden
A number of other Missoula developments face similar delays and downsizing. Ambitious plans conceived during Missoula’s economic heyday remain unbuilt, from the Old Sawmill District on the former Champion mill site to the Riverfront Triangle on the southwest corner of Orange and Front streets. Regardless of the myriad reasons for each project’s specific delays, they’re now mired in a market where prudence reigns and progress slows. The MHA searched for private developers to build the market-rate por-
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District off the ground cast doubt on the viability of urban, mixed-use development in Missoula. “It was the kind of development everybody wishes we would do in Missoula, but nobody is able to do,” says Geoff Badenoch, formerly of the MHA. MHA bought the property in 2003 and planned to partner with a private developer to transform the 12-acre industrial blight into a community hub. The proposal included 270 residential units (72 considered affordable housing) mixed with commercial and retail space, a one-acre park and underground parking. MHA imagined the project as an anchor for the redevelopment of Russell Street, a key northsouth artery through town. Six years later, MHA has subdivided the site and scaled back to 37 affordable housing units in three buildings. Two empty lots fronting Russell Street await commercial buyers. MHA holds an option on a third lot and may build additional affordable housing in the future. “It’s too bad, in a way, that such an opportunity to do something that comprehensively has slipped past us, because there are no other sites like that around,” says Chris Behan of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.
tion of the Intermountain Lumber site but never found a partner. Three expressed interest, including a Minnesota-based firm with vast experience building mixed-use developments. “And then this thing called the housing market started to tank in 2007, and the handwriting was on the wall,” says Badenoch. The developer pulled out by the end of the year. “It became clear we weren’t going to be able to create the original vision,” says Lori Davidson, MHA’s interim director. Russell Street itself complicated negotiations. Planners thought reconstruction of the notoriously congested street could occur in conjunction with the Intermountain Lumber site redevelopment. But the environmental review process drags on and reconstruction of Russell Street won’t begin until summer 2012 at the earliest, says Missoula Public Works Director Steve King. The work will cost upwards of $40 million and continue into the 2020s. “The uncertainty about the Russell Street development certainly, we think, has affected our ability to sell those street-front properties,” Davidson says, “because it’s difficult for a retail buyer not knowing if they’re going to have to put in sidewalks and everything.” On top of the Russell Street issues, MHA and homeWORD competed for
the same Montana Board of Housing tax credits in 2007. HomeWORD won out, which is why its affordable housing project on the corner of Broadway and Russell is near completion. MHA was awarded credits in 2008 and broke ground just two weeks ago. They expect to begin leasing units in November. “While it was a perfect storm in terms of delaying things, it came together in the end,” Davidson says, “and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out.” Missoula architects MacArthur, M e a n s & We l l s d r e w u p b o t h the 2003 and current plans for the Intermountain Lumber site. Don MacArthur says the development “harkens back to neighborhoods where we really understood what it was like to have a street that you’d want to both drive down and walk down.” But by the MHA putting the two adjacent commercial lots up for sale— listing for about $1.3 million and $850,000 by Properties 2000—it potentially jeopardizes that concept. “We have lost that ability to do it in a consistent manner if we sell it to other folks who have a different vision of what to do,” MacArthur says. “That’s where the loss has been.” That loss points to how Missoula has failed to build the type of mixeduse, transportation-oriented development architects and planners advocate. Missoula’s barriers, MacArthur says, include relatively low wages and high construction costs, high urban land costs, and the necessity of owning a car and having a place to park it. It adds up to a “fairly high risk proposition for the developer,” he says. “Since relatively few mixed-use projects are available in Missoula, the comps aren’t there to use in evaluating the risk and most of the projects are fairly large so the dollars involved are big.” What pencils out for developers, then, may not be what architects are drawing. “We are tending to do a lot of ‘prescribing’ for potential developers in how we plan for sites, before they even look at a site,” says Larry Swanson, an economist with the Center for the Rocky Mountain West. “Some of this is good, but too much and we may simply drive them away…I think that Missoula will learn sometime in the near future that we need to let private developers look at property and, based upon their experience, figure out what kind of development might work well.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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Strong signals Cell phone ban for drivers faces possible bumpy road by Jesse Froehling
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A delivery truck almost killed Ward 1 have happened if I were not distracted ment would have no way to distinguish Councilmember Dave Strohmaier as he by the phone. So I imagine I will come between someone singing to their car stereo and calling home. A representawas walking home following the coun- around.” Not enough legislators came around tive from the local amateur radio club cil’s March 11 committee meetings. “I won’t name the company,” says to save the bill introduced by Rep. Bob attended the committee meeting to ask Strohmaier, “but the driver blows right Lake, R-Hamilton, earlier this session. that his constituents receive an exempon through the intersection while talking Lake, like Strohmaier, pointed to an tion from any ban. Similar exemptions abundance of data from the National were discussed for emergency personon his phone.” The near miss couldn’t have been Safety Council (NSC) to support his bill. nel and police officers. Other committee members wonmore prescient. Earlier that morning, Statistics show cell phone use conStrohmaier introduced a ban on tributes to an estimated 6 percent of dered how the city would educate the Missoula drivers using cell phones. It’s crashes yearly, which equates to 636,000 public about the law. Missoula Police something he hoped wouldn’t be necessary, but after three different cell phone bills died in Helena this legislative session, Strohmaier decided to take matters into his own hands. The city’s Public Safety and Health Committee discussed the topic at length, but took no action. A public hearing has not been set. The fate of the recent legislative bills and the committee’s debate over the proposed ban speak to the hangups of restricting personal cell phone use. While national statistics overwhelmingly show the dangers of talking Photo by Chad Harder and driving, only six states and Washington, D.C., have While national statistics overwhelmingly show the dangers of talking and driving, passed cell phone bans for only six states and Washington, D.C., have restricted the use of cell phones. drivers. Critics argue any law would infringe on personal freedoms— crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious Chief Mark Muir noted the ban could an argument that strikes a chord in injuries and 2,600 deaths per year. NSC potentially surpass speeding as the city’s also estimates the chance of crashing top traffic offense. He said police already Montana. Ward 5 Councilmember Dick Haines increases by a factor of four when a dri- have plenty of opportunities to stop told the committee that although he ver’s talking on the phone. Despite the motorists and don’t necessarily need would support such legislation, he numbers, Lake’s bill died in the House another one. Another detail that caught the comunderstands why a law restricting cell Transportation Committee under the phone use has never passed in weight of legislators waving the civil lib- mittee’s attention was the ban’s inclusion of bicyclists. While some members Montana—or, for that matter, nation- erties’ flag. “There’s a group that is saying that joked that it was physically impossible wide. People in eastern Montana will fight “tooth and nail” to keep personal personal freedoms would be hindered if to hold a phone to your ear, grip a hanfreedoms, he said. Ward 3 we start telling people what they can do dlebar and maintain balance, Councilmember Bob Jaffe agreed, won- when they’re driving,” says Lake. “It fell Strohmaier argued that was exactly why dering where City Council should draw into the same group as the primary seat- it was important to add bicyclists to the belt group. They felt like mandating ordinance. the line. “There’s a lot of things you can do in these things steps a little too far into per“I think operating a bike while talking a car that will distract your driving,” Jaffe sonal freedoms.” on a cell phone is every bit as dangerous It was that camp, Lake says, that as operating a motor vehicle,” Strohmaier said. “But talking to friends, eating—it all caused his bill to be tabled indefinitely. regulates how we drive.” says. “Bikes are considered vehicles. “There was not a lot of opposition,” Therefore the ordinance ought to apply Jaffe also touched on the proposal’s other major hurdle—a majority of he says. “It was just the committee itself to both bikes and motor vehicles.” Americans have made a habit of talking that got tangled up in it.” The Public Safety and Health Strohmaier’s proposal has the Committee plans to hammer out the on their cell phone while driving, and chance to get similarly tied up in details before opening the debate to will be reluctant to change. “As a frequent user of my cell phone Missoula. Although most committee public comment. Until then, Strohmaier, while driving, I am hesitant to get behind members voiced support for the gener- who walks to and from city council meetthis one,” he wrote on his listserv fol- al idea, the details proved tricky. ings, will keep to the sidewalk and watch lowing the committee meeting. “But on Strohmaier suggested extending the out for drivers on cell phones. the other hand, I know I have made ban to hands-free devices like bonehead driving moves that would not Bluetooth headsets, but law email@example.com
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