For the most part, last week's Independent enthusiastically endorsed the candidates for Missoula's City Council who have the strong community values and foresight to make sure Missoula remains a wonderful place to live, work, play and eat (see "Off to the races," Oct. 22, 2009). Thanks for covering many important issues.
I was disappointed, however, to read the Indy's lukewarm support for Dave Strohmaier, the incumbent in Ward 1. The article did not mention Dave's 100 percent Montana Conservation Voter rating. Instead, it praised his opponent, Ryan Morton, for "ideas to clarify subdivision regulations for builders and local agricultural producers," which presumably would help conserve farmland.
Over the past two years, I have listened to Morton deliver his own "clarification" to Missoula's City Council and County Commissioners: local government has no legal authority to prevent a developer from permanently converting entire working farms and ranches into residential subdivisions—even as we, tax-payers, subsidize this sprawl. (Morton's legal interpretation, of course, is dead wrong. Montana's State Law clearly directs local governments to 1. consider a subdivision's impacts to agriculture, and 2. require the developer to avoid or mitigate those impacts, or deny the development altogether.) Morton has even gone one step further, arguing that farmland is unnecessary, because Missoula could grow its food hydroponically.
His opponent aside, Strohmaier deserves more than a tepid endorsement. Dave has proven himself as a champion for pragmatic conservation, local food and agriculture, sustainable transportation, and a safe and vibrant downtown. Missoula is a better place, thanks to Dave's leadership and service. More than anything, he deserves Ward 1's vote. Please cast those ballots for Dave Strohmaier and other candidates who will defend the community fabric of Missoula.