Breakdown at Malfunction Junction 

Three weeks ago, the Missoula City Council faced what it expected to be a routine vote—the approval of a contract related to reconfiguring Malfunction Junction. But from the mundane, Ward 4 Councilman Myrt Charney pulled a near coup.

Charney assumed he would be in the minority in opposing the junction’s reconfiguration (past votes have been lopsidedly in favor), but when the motion came to the floor this time he found five allies, including the formerly stalwart Lois Herbig, Anne Kazmierczak, Jerry Ballas and Clayton Floyd. With six Council members opposed to moving forward and six in favor, Mayor Mike Kadas had to break the tie to keep the project alive.

“I was amazed at what happened,” says Charney. “I thought that it’d just be me and [Ward 5 Councilman] Jack [Reidy] opposing the project as always, but then people kept stepping forward on our side.”

While Charney wasn’t victorious, he has identified two more opportunities to stop the project. There will be future votes to allocate more money to the project and to accept project bids—both of which will come after the new Council is ushered in. While Kadas doesn’t believe the votes will need to come before Council, Charney insists that the new Council will be able to stop the project.

All four newcomers say they are watching the issue closely. Incoming Councilwomen Heidi Kendall (Ward 1) and Stacy Rye (Ward 3) say they need more information, but based on what they know, oppose the Charney camp. The new Councilmen, Don Nicholson (Ward 2) and Bob Lovegrove (Ward 5), appear to be in the Charney camp—although both say they also would need more information before a vote.

“Malfunction Junction is not a major traffic hold up,” says Nicholson. “I’ve been timing it, and I rarely stay two minutes in my queue. I don’t call that a major deal.”

If all four incoming Councilmembers follow their initial inclinations, the Council will be tipped 7-5 in favor of Charney’s position, leaving Kadas scrambling to find support for the nearly decade-old project.

“It all depends on the new Council.” Says Charney. “I didn’t think we’d have this much support…I’m glad, because I think the community feels the same as the Council about this. It’s equally divided.”

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