In the 1996 general election, voter turnout was the worst in this nation’s history, with approximately 100 million eligible voters refusing to exercise their most basic constitutional right and responsibility. One can only speculate what voter turnout might be this November, when there are no national, statewide or even countywide races to draw out the vote.
Which makes every vote—and voter—crucial. On Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. in Missoula City Council chambers, candidates for City Council will sound off at a citywide forum, sponsored by the Missoula Independent and the Center for Environmental Politics. What follows is a snapshot of the contenders to help you make an informed decision. (Additional candidate information provided by the Missoula League of Women Voters.) Remember, only you can prevent voter apathy.
Lois Herbig (incumbent) Occupation: City Councilmember Endorsements: “Close to 100.” Missoula County Democratic Party Public service: 1980-87 City Council, 1996-2000 City Council Civic membership: Downtown Lions Club, League of Women Voters, Senior Citizens Center Estimated cost of campaign: “Raised about $3,000, and probably should raise another couple thousand.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Neighborhood concerns, along with economic development. It’s a matter of balancing them. You can’t please everyone all the time. You can’t even please one person all the time. Growth management. The living wage is a big issue, and I’d like to see campaign finance reform. It’s ridiculous having to go out and raise all kinds of money. And affordable housing. I’d like to see livability standards go along with it.” Last book read: Iberia by James Michener. Why should voters choose you?: “I have the experience, and they know I’m accountable. ... I’ve also been a Democrat for 50-plus years. I’m a dedicated person to the Democratic Party. I know that this is a nonpartisan election, but partisanship comes out after a person gets on the council.”
Kevin Head Occupation: Owner of The Rhinoceros bar Official endorsements: “None as yet.” Public service: None Civic membership: Missoula Downtown Association, Missoula Chamber of Commerce, Missoula County Tavern Owners Association, Playball Missoula Fundraising Committee Estimated cost of campaign: “Can’t say.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Good paying jobs that pay a living wage, and affordable housing. We have to bring decent businesses into town that can pay well. And I’m not talking about extractive, environmentally harmful businesses. I’m talking about businesses that can add to the community. ...Affordable housing is really important because there just isn’t that much land within the urban area, and for affordable housing there must be a partnership between public and private.” Last book read: “Can’t recall.” Why should voters choose you?: “I can see things from both sides. I have a way of reaching consensus and bringing both sides together. I’m against the polarization that occurs within the City Council. Instead of blowing up the bridges between the two factions, we have to start building them again, because we’re all in this together.”
Richard C. Johnson Occupation: Self-employed counselor Endorsements: None Public service: Western Mental Health, President-Board of Advisors for Missoula RSVP Program, Advisory Board Member Civic membership: Disabled American Veterans Organization, Military Order of the Purple Heart Organization Estimated cost of campaign: About $350 Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Even though I’m running for Ward One, I’ll be one of 12 people representing and working for the entire city. City Council desperately needs to find more balance, and find a way to work together better than they have in the past. We have a lot of challenges because of growth, and infrastructure needs, and they need to be taken care of in the least intrusive and most economical way.” Last book read: books on psychology Why should voters choose you?: “The opposition herself [Herbig] has suggested that we need more balance on City Council itself, and I agree with her. I would represent that balance.”
Jim McGrath (incumbent) Occupation: City Councilmember; Community Garden Director, Garden City Harvest Endorsements: Missoula Democratic Party, Missoula New Party, Northside Neighborhood Association Public service: City Council Vice President, Chairman-Administration and Finance Committee, Budget Committee; Economic Development Subcommittee, Program Income Subcommittee; representatives to Missoula Measures Oversight Committee; Missoula Housing Corporation Board; formerly Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Board; Vision 2020 Steering Committee; Missoula Solid Waste Task Force Civic membership: None Estimated cost of campaign: No reply. Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Growth and development issues are going to continue to be important. We need to be able to grow as neighborhoods. Affordable housing is a key issue and I think the economic livelihood of citizens is real important, like the living wage.” Last book read: “The Southwest Missoula Annexation Study” Why should voters choose you?: “I’ve been doing the job for four years. We’ve come a long way but we still have some work to do ... We’ve made great strides in revitalization and housing, and we’re beginning to talk about economic development. I’ve got the experience and the know-how to do it.”
Kandi Matthew-Jenkins Occupation: Small business owner, Montana Craft Connection Official endorsements: “None that I know of.” Public service: 1997 campaign volunteer for Councilmember Jamie Carpenter Civic membership: None Estimated cost of campaign: “We’re real low-budget. No big donations.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “It’s a real diverse ward. One of the things I would be addressing is high-density and infill issues, and how the people in this ward feel about that.” Last book read: Textbook for a paralegal course Why should voters choose you?: “I don’t represent any given group, so I am not bound to agendas. I’m more bound to what the taxpaying public would like to voice. So I don’t have any other agendas behind me aside from representing the taxpayers’ will.”
Tammy Zimmerman Occupation: Business owner, CFO for Turek Trucking Co., and UM student Official endorsements: None Public service: None Civic membership: None Estimated cost of campaign: “$1,500 so far. It could be that much or more from here out.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “In my immediate neighborhood you have the ballfield. You have several different neighborhood plans going on that impact those different neighborhoods. And, of course you have the living wage, which impacts all the neighborhoods. ... I think the neighborhood plans in general will accommodate for any other issues in individual neighborhoods.” Last book read: Common Sense by Thomas Paine. Why should voters choose you?: “I feel that I am an open-minded candidate. I don’t have a political agenda.”
Chuck Gibson Occupation: Retired Endorsements: Chris Gingerelli, Vivian Brook, Mike Craig, Lou Ann Crowley, George Sherman, Jack Patterson Public service: 39 years with the Missoula City Fire Department, seven years as Assistant Fire Chief, 11 years, nine months as Fire Chief Civic membership: past member Missoula Exchange Club; Missoula County Fire Protection Association; President of West Side Lions Club; Vice Chair, the Emergency Planning Committee; University Area Homeowners Association Estimated cost of campaign: “Almost $3,500 so far.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “The main issues are the city’s strategic plan, livability in the community, safety and security of the community, and having Missoula be a good place to live where neighbors trust neighbors and we help each other. ... The one common to all the neighborhood is the overcrowding of the small residential homes with too many tenants.” Last book read: Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean Why should voters choose you?: “I have a lot of experience. I have three priorities: promote and enhance the livability of our neighborhoods, support growth management, and maintain the level and quality of all emergency services throughout the city. ... I have the experience with neighborhoods that people feel they need. ”
John Torma Occupation: Facilities manager, Missoula Children’s Theatre Official endorsements: Missoula Democratic Party, Missoula New Party, Dan Kemmis, Mayor Mike Kadas, Bruce Micklus, Peter Shober, Bill Carey, Fern Hart, Tom King, Annette Walker Public service: Neighborhood Council Planning Committee Co-Chair 1996- 97; Habitat for Humanity Construction Supervisor, 1993-95; School Board Member, Superior School District, 1980-83; Leadership Team Member, Neighborhood Council of the University Area, 1998-present. Estimated cost of campaign: “A little over $4,000” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Improving how we talk to and deal with each other, especially around controversial issues. Building a relationship of cooperation trust and respect between the various groups and interests in the ward. ... The cost of housing, especially as it relates to the level of income in Missoula. ... Developing policies that help renters become homeowners, as opposed to developing polices that stop renters. ... Supporting the diversity and vitality that exists in our urban neighborhoods that make them such an attractive place to live.” Last book read: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver Why should voters choose you?: “My broad range of experience, both in the public and private sector. ... My education and experience in planning, as well as in housing are going to help me deal effectively and creatively within the issues of housing and land use. I bring a proven ability to work and communicate effectively with a broad spectrum of people across issues.”
Jerry Ballas (uncontested) Occupation: Architect Official endorsements: Missoula Chamber of Commerce Public service: Montana Architectural Registration Board 1982-91 Civic membership: Missoula Southside Lions Club; Habitat for Humanity, University Area Homeowners Association; Montana Vietnam and Korean War Memorial Committees; Knights of Columbus Estimated cost of campaign: “Raised about $140, probably spend at least that much.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Trying to maintain the single-family residences of the ward and maintain the livability of the ward.” Last book read: “I haven’t read a book for so long that I couldn’t tell you.”
Scott Morgan (incumbent, uncontested) Occupation: City Councilmember; investment manager; organizational consultant Endorsements: Missoula Democratic Party Public service: Missoula City Council; School Board, Heron, Mont.; Democratic precinct person, Heron, Mont. Civic membership: None Estimated cost of campaign: $0 Most pressing issue in your ward?: “The SID [Special Improvement District] for the South Hills Drainage Plan. It’s a question of getting the costs distributed in the fairest possible way. There’s going to be a lot of public comment coming, and I’ll be listening to what people consider fair and work to get it.” Last book read: To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams.
Edward Childers Occupation: Retired Official endorsements: None Public service: Deputy City Treasurer for 8 years; elected Missoula City Treasurer for 12 years. Precinct Committee man for Missoula Democratic Party Civic membership: none Estimated cost of campaign: “It’ll be in the thousands of dollars.” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “People who don’t have too much money who are living in house trailers jammed together on the west side of Missoula. I don’t know how to address the issue other than to try to keep them as well serviced by the city as we can.” Last book read: Can’t recall. Why should voters choose you?: “I think if voters want an experienced and effective representative on city council, they should choose someone who has a history of that, which would be me as opposed to my opponent.”
Naomi DeMarinis Occupation: Community volunteer/activist Official endorsements: Missoula Democratic Party; Missoula New Party; Hotel Employees/Restaurant Employees Union Public service: Co-chair of the Leadership team for Franklin to the Fort Neighborhood Council (elected); Vice President of Franklin PTA; Justice and Witness Committee at University Congregational Church, Board of Directors of the Children’s Center; Playground Enhancement Project Coordinator at Franklin School. Civic involvement: Girl Scouts of America; University Congregational Church, Franklin PTA Estimated cost of campaign: “About $2,700” Most pressing issue in your ward?: “Our future as a neighborhood, and what kind of city we are going to give to our children. What I’m hearing from knocking on doors is that ...people want to increase the number of homeowners in Missoula. We want to make sure that our neighborhoods have strong, stable neighborhood schools and safe, well-lit streets. It’s a whole package of issues.”
Last book read: Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn Why should voters choose you?: “I have a sense of community vision. The main difference between myself and him [Childers] is that I have this vision of working in partnership with my community and planning our collective vision, and I have a lot of people here who want to work with me on it.”