Thanks, Dan. It helps when cyclists and motorists BOTH obey the traffic laws. The chief law, though, has to be to operate with safety. And, yes, motorists, when you have the right of way, please do us all a favor and take it--safely.
Most Montana municipalities own their water systems because they developed them from the beginning. That was not Missoula's experience. Missoula's system was developed, for its first half century or so, by a company with shirt-tail relations to the Anaconda Copper Company. When that company wanted to get out of the water business, it tried to sell it to Missoula in the '70's, but the City couldn't/wouldn't pay the price, so Sam Wheeler and Park Water Company got it. It is very clear why Missoula's water system situation is different than other Montana cities, but that doesn't make it abnormal or wrong on its face.
In the mid-80's, the City tried to acquire it through eminent domain and lost that effort at the Montana Supreme Court. Sam Wheeler had major heartburn, it seems, over the City's attempt and vowed to never sell to the City. After Carlyle got it and the City subsequently decided to try to acquire it again, it would have been helpful if it were clear how circumstances of necessity and the law of eminent domain had changed such that a reasonable person would expect an outcome from an appeal different from the Supreme Court's ruling in the mid '80's. Surely it was more than different judges hearing the case.
How many times did the City testify before the Public Service Commission (the regulator of private utilities like Mountain Water in Montana) about Mountain Water's alleged neglect of the system? It would have been a timely way to protect the interests of the people of Missoula if there were a problem, and that would have been an excellent venue for making the City's argument for necessity, and would have established a record of fact-finding that would have helped make the City's case for condemnation. Yes, it seems looking backwards, the cost of litigating this issue is way higher than was estimated, but the opportunity to appear before the Public Service Commission has been there all along. And it wouldn't have cost $6 million.
Caras Park in the form we know it today was built in 1985. I think of all the people who have visited it, created memories with their families there, or simply had a good time over the past 30 years and it just makes me smile. Are there fancier parks? Yes. Are there more glamorous parks? No doubt. But Caras Park is Missoula's "rec room." It's where we go to hear a concert, hold a rally, host a wedding or class reunion--whatever--it's OURs. It's the BEST.
A woman like Ellie Hill as the leader of the Revolution? Go for it!
I still haven't made up my mind about this issue. Like Dan Brooks and others, I would like a little more certainty as to the cost--both to get the deal done and the costs that go along with acquisition. Is there a high number at which it makes no sense to acquire the system? In spite of that being a hard number to zero in on, I think that's a fair question.
The second thing I would like to see more evidence of is the City's internal thinking about this initiative. Who at the City played the Devil's advocate in planning to do this? Who in a position of authority at the City said, "this is a crazy--convince me this is a good idea!" Did anyone seriously push back against the idea? What arguments did they offer contrary to the need for acquisition? Or, was there some form of 'group think' that shrouded critical thinking?
Finally, I think we need to be clearer about the role of the PSC. Jason says "Private interests will charge more for our water and put it to any use they can." On its face that is a gross, misleading oversimplification. A regulated utility is not like a grocery store that can raise the price of items it sells as it pleases. A regulated, privately held utility like Mountain Water has to justify its rates in an adversarial rate case before the PSC acting as a quasi-judicial body. It's adversarial because the Montana Office of the Consumer Counsel with its independent lawyers and experts are contesting the utility's requested rate increases. How many of Mountain Water's alleged system short-comings did the City point out to the PSC in past rate cases? How often did the City of Missoula intervene on behalf of its citizens and rate-payers in past rate cases? That would be good information to put before the public to make this argument. It would go a ways to help me make up my mind.
LR-126 is a solution in search of a problem. Same day voter registration does not create insurmountable or inexcusable problems. Turning people who can otherwise vote away on Election Day does.
I attended the Montana Supreme Court Justice candidates' forum at the UM School of Law recently because I felt I knew very little about the candidates--certainly not enough to make an informed selection on my ballot. After hearing all the candidates presentations, I came away convinced that Lawrence Van Dyke is simply wrong for the Montana Supreme Court.
Mike Wheat's background does include public service in the Montana Legislature as a Democrat and he served as a local prosecuting attorney as a Democrat. Although partisanship is not a desired quality in justices who are to rule with impartiality, it is not uncommon for someone with a partisan background to end up on the high court (indeed, William Howard Taft, a Republican president, became the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court).
We all have some political background, great or small. The voters need to decide whether the record earned while serving in a political role helps or hinders a candidate in a judicial role. In Justice Mike Wheat's case, it has, and he deserves your vote returning him to another term on Montana's Supreme Court.
I don't know Justice Mike Wheat nor am I a political activist--I am a citizen who was born and raised in Montana. This letter was prompted by the mailing from the Republican State Leadership Committee--Judicial Fairness Initiative Montana PAC. I found this mailing offensive, misleading and I simply could not receive it in the mail without attempting in some way to counteract its nefarious intent.
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