[MissoulaGov] 2-5-14

Jason Wiener JWiener at ci.missoula.mt.us
Wed Feb 5 22:45:55 CST 2014

Good evening.

We had four meetings today, three from 9 am to noon and then another from 4 to 6pm. That kind of split is one of the reasons Marilyn took a poll of Council members to determine whether we should consolidate meetings in the morning or afternoon when it is an option. After hearing back from the 12 members, 5 people preferred afternoon meetings, 1 preferred mornings and 6 were neutral so when there are three or fewer hours of committee in a day, it looks like they'll be in the afternoon all things equal.

In Parks, we spent most of our time with a pre-public hearing item on the Parks Asset Management Plan --


The short story is that our Parks are replete with assets that we invested in over decades, mostly decades ago. As the children who played in these parks aged and adopted revenue caps, we deferred maintenance. Now, we have a lot of deferred maintenance, close to $5 million in capital expenses over the next five years if we want to catch up bad enough (see the outlays on page 1-3). In addition, the plan's Executive Summary outlines the ways in which our systematic maintenance is also deficient in close to $350,000 per year as we've done more with less. That's the bottom line, anyway. The plan also lays out policy suggestions that don't have direct prices attached like allowing informal procurement per state statute instead of our lower limits (up $80,000 instead of $10,000 without going through Council) that would take up less staff time with administration instead of getting work done. I think we might be able to get there if there's more care taken during budget time to outline projects that will not come back later for contract approval. The administration was presented the plan, as well, and agreed it represents a quality and comprehensive review of these assets. We weren't told what to anticipate would be recommended in the budget so that will be the question on everyone's mind at the public hearing we set for Feb. 24.

A&F changed the composition of the committee that awards neighborhood funds to replace the Neighborhood Network, which was a position Jim Meagher manned until he passed away recently. The Network isn't really around any more, something I speculatively attribute to the rise of Community Forum, so we added another position from Community Forum instead. It seems like a good thing when we can bring civic organizations into the fold as we have done with neighborhood councils and community forum, which are open, comprehensive (in that everyone has one) and public alternatives to neighborhood associations and coalitions of associations, which don't have to be any of those things. A&F also set a public hearing on the mid-year budget amendment, which generally just allows accounting for grants received and such though it did include mention of some new police offices at 400 Ryman; that lease will come next week so we'll review it before the budget amendment comes up for a vote.

Finally, A&F talked about the 2014 vote on establishing a Local Government Study Commision. I attended a bunch of the meetings of the last one, thinking that it was really progressive that a body would convene to examine the structures of government rather than any particular issue but the experience didn't live up to the hype in the 2004-6 go-around and no substantive recommendations were adopted. The 1994 commission wrote the city charter, including creating the neighborhood councils and, I think, doing away with an elected treasurer. We're mandated to put a question on the 2014 primary ballot to ask if voters want another commission, specifying how many members and a budget for the operation. The question will be close to the following: "FOR/AGAINST the establishment of a City Local Government Study Commission consisting of five (5) members to study the existing structure and powers of city government and procedures for delivery of city government services, compare them with other forms available under the laws of the state, submit recommendations on the government to voters for their consideration and to be funded with up to $90,000 of additionally levied taxes." Caitlin mentioned wanting the word "size" listed in the question because she is interested in vote on reducing the size of the Council but I thought Emily made a good point about how we aren't in a position to mandate what or what not the commission decides to study and shouldn't be that specific. There may be some discussion on that on Monday and, I'm sure, more discussion on the virtues of the commission itself in the coming months.

Public Works considered realigning the existing ancient Mullan military road some right-of-way on East Broadway to line it up with the road as it now is. There is currently a tangle of ROW and easment that clouds the title on all properties from MonTEC to the Thunderbird as well as getting under the railroad ROW since the Mullan Road precedes even the Northern Pacific so this realignment is a way to get all the properties and the railroads squared once the city does some encroachment permits to the properties that now encroach on the road ROW but that's apparently more satisfactory to them than the current situation. It's complicated, no lie, but seems like a way to slice this knot open. Public Works also heard from MRA on some impending infrastructure projects, including humanizing the landscape on Brooks Street to bring down speeds and make it more human scale; it sounds like MDT is again insisting on 12+ foot lanes despite the fact that city policy is for something narrower and the wider lanes only encourage the persistence of the conditions in which fatalities are occurring but we'll work it out and, either way, the improvements are substantial. There was also a brief discussion of trying to figure out a grade-separated crossing to get the Bitterroot Trail across Reserve Street and the Front-Main two-way conversion study going on downtown. Jon asked a question about the redevelopment of the old Cenex that's caught some press. Ellen's answer was good and didn't generate follow-up (56:30 at http://missoula.siretechnologies.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=815&doctype=AGENDA). It's interesting that the name Starbucks caught the media attention; in addition to funding millions of dollars each year in public improvements, MRA partners with lots of developers -- and extracts better design from them in the process -- but this project isn't out of line with current practice or what I expect MRA to do. The idea that MRA should turn away anyone who wants to invest in town simply because they aren't from town doesn't resonate with me. MRA is about using small amounts of money to generate outsized improvements when private investment happens; it can't all be pedestrian bridges and free sidewalks even though plenty of it is.

We closed out the day with a workshop including the broadband consultants, basically an effort to involve a broader array of local government officials in the discussion. It was fruitful and I think the consultants got a sense of our limits cognizing the problems as well as tolerance for risk in getting out in front of them. Solid policy recommendations and improved service to the schools, especially, will come from the study. I think the most aggressive we will get is a network that reduces the cost of service to public institutions that we could then open as an wholesaler to ISPs wanting to handle the customer connections. More details will come in a report to be released in the next couple of months.

Thanks for your interest.


Jason Wiener, Alderman, Ward One
1122 Jackson St.
Missoula, MT 59802
(406) 542-3232[X]
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