Now here’s some news that may come as a shock to many of you. Did you know that Missoula has a Public Art Committee? Yes, really. What, did you think those XXXs at the north end of Higgins Avenue were scrap metal left over from the glory days of the Burlington Northern? Or that squashed cat outside the Missoula Parking Commission on Main Street was the remnant of an unfortunate cement mixer mishap, or a casual reminder from the Missoula Humane Society that you should spay or neuter your pet? Guess again, Philistines. In fact, the Missoula Public Art Committee has coordinated the creation and installation of seven art projects around town, including the aforementioned “Crossings” (1987) by Taag Peterson and “Cattin’ Around” (1993) by Mike Hollern, as well as last year’s “Studebaker,” a mural on the east wall of the historic Studebaker Building.

The newest installment commissioned by the Public Art Committee will be a located at the Mountain Line Downtown Transfer Center at 200 West Pine and will feature the work of Missoula sculptor Tom Rippon. Rippon’s work, a bronze sculpture entitled “Proper Shoppers,” will depict a woman with her daughter dressed up for a day of consumer spending in downtown Missoula.

Now, we don’t mean to get snippy about this, especially considering Professor Rippon’s impressive credentials: Twice awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, his work is on permanent display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of Art, etc. But isn’t there something a tad sexist about depicting mother and daughter as “proper shoppers?” Nitpicking? Perhaps, but coming as it does with a $27,500 price tag, we just

Sit! Or I’ll Shoot! The winter closures on Mount Jumbo take effect on Saturday, Dec. 1. Enacted several years ago to protect the resident elk herd that winters on Jumbo’s slopes, the closures cover all but three sections of the mountain: the trail to the L, the road on the south side that parallels I-90, and a chunk of land above the Lincoln Hills area. Although the rules keep both two-and four-legged critters confined to specific trails, their primary target are dogs, specifically, those off-leash and running amok.

And it appears the protectors of elk are bringing out the big guns this winter, as they’ve posted signs on Jumbo’s trailheads stressing a stricter enforcement of the winter leash laws, including a caveat: “If you witness a closure violation, whether unleashed dogs or people in closed areas, call 9-1-1.”

Now, we’re all for minimizing the stress level of our cloven-hoofed neighbors, and we all know that dogs who won’t answer a voice command even if it’s barked in their ear through a bullhorn are a royal pain in the ass. But lumping unleashed dogs in with murders and heart attacks as events worth burdening 9-1-1 dispatchers seems a bit excessive. Several of the authorities involved with the “Elk Guardian Program” assure us that citations will be issued only in instances of flagrant violations, and that the primary purpose of the policy is to educate the public about the importance of the closures. Still, we’re leery of any program that encourages citizens to narc on one other, short of life-threatening offenses. Sharp teeth are dangerous, whether they’re in the mouths of elk-chasing hounds or anti-canine busybodys.

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