[MissoulaGov] committee update 3-23-11

Bob Jaffe BJaffe at ci.missoula.mt.us
Wed Mar 23 22:47:50 MDT 2011

Greetings everyone,
In case you were confused by the repeat of last week’s message that went out this morning, that was some weird email glitch. When I originally posted the message it never went out. After some testing I determined that my use of a minor curse word appeared to be blocking the message from getting through the city politeness filter. I’m not sure why it coughed up the original this morning. Anyhow… on to this week.

In Conservation we approved a $10,000 contract for Able tree service to cut down the trees along the river bank on the levee down town. The army corps of engineers built the levees and they require that all trees with a width greater than four inches be removed. This is to protect the levee in case a flood rips the trees out. If they are big enough they will damage the structure of the levee when they are uprooted. We learned that the Seattle division of the Corps, who built our levee, is the only one that even allows any vegetation to grow on the levees. Elsewhere in the country they don’t have trees at all.
The last time this happened about seven years ago people got pretty upset about all the trees being taken out. The discussion turned to how we could maybe plant something else on the bank that would be attractive and wouldn’t grow so big that it had to be removed. Most of the trees on the bank are non-native and it would be nice to replace them with a more appropriate native species. We thought this would make for a great volunteer community effort. If you are interested, or know of organizations that may be interested in this sort of thing, please contact Marilyn Marler at MMarler at ci.missoula.mt.us<mailto:MMarler at ci.missoula.mt.us>.

In PAZ we had a pre-public hearing on a rezone request on Raymond street in the Rattlesnake up against the mountain. It is a complex combination of boundary line adjustments, zoning changes, split zoned lots, and parcels being granted to the city as conservation land. One of the lots is being zoned to RM2.7, which isn’t really the right zone for the area. So much of the lot is on the hillside, this is the only way to make it buildable for a unit.
We also discussed a bunch of updates to the sign ordinance that were intended to be forwarded on to the planning board. I had to leave for another meeting at that point so I’m not sure how it turned out.

In the afternoon session things heated up a bit. In public works we started on my parking referral<http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=5666>. We are looking at making a change in the parking fine structure so that the rate will be graduated or tiered. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that this is a good idea. People who come downtown to shop and rarely get tickets will pay small fines. People who work downtown and park in the retail spots on the street will eventually pay large fines and in theory change their behavior and stop taking up the retail spots.
The disagreement comes from what the numbers should be. Some want us to start at zero for the first ticket. This is referred to as an “oops ticket.” Some want the tier to go $5, $10, $15, $20. Some want $2, $4, $6, $8. The reset period could be six months, nine months, or a year.
The parking commission is very concerned about losing revenue. Scott Sproul, owner of Hide and Sole argued that the more aggressive fine option will catch customers and discourage them from coming downtown. Matt Ellis, owner of the Uptown Diner argued the less aggressive option encourages people to abuse the rules, leaving fewer spots for customers.
Anne Guest, the parking commissioner, told us that Iowa City, a similar sized community to Missoula, just switched to a tiered structure with an oops ticket and their fine revenue dropped 26%. This is of great interest to us since we have been speculating on what kinds of change in behavior we can expect. I’m hoping they will be able to provide us details. This discussion will continue in a couple of weeks.

We finished the day with COW. For those of you who find the political tensions on council entertaining I recommend watching this episode on MCAT. Jason requested that we take a position opposing HB 180. HB 180 will close voter registration the Friday before the election, getting rid of our same day registration law. Renee provided the argument that people who can’t figure out how to properly register in advance aren’t smart enough or informed enough to vote anyway. Some 2800 people have taken advantage of same day registration in Missoula County. The majority of the council voted not to disenfranchise those people and to oppose HB 180.
Jason also requested that we take a position on SB 306 which would overturn the voter initiatives that ban cyanide leach mining. Dick argued that when the cyanide is used in this process, it ceases to be cyanide. He conceded that there are lots of reasons to be against open pit mines but cyanide wasn’t one of them. The majority also voted to oppose this bill.
We also decided to watch a bill that would require municipalities, when paying people, to pay with silver or gold upon request. Is this the goofiest thing you have ever heard? Not surprisingly with this legislature, it sailed through committee and will actually be voted on.
Jon Wilkins brought up one that he doesn’t like. It would forbid the state from providing a preference to non-profits in providing corrections contracts. The council also backed his request.

Thanks for your interest,

Bob Jaffe
Missoula City Council Ward 3
1225 South 2nd West
Missoula, MT 59801
(406) 880-2052

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