A collective sigh of relief rippled across the Big Sky when Republican Gov. Judy Martz left office in January. Plagued by ineptitude, a relentless refusal to delineate church from state, and a penchant for blurting out whatever bubbled into her brain, Montana’s first woman governor proved largely to be an embarrassment to her own political party, if not to her gender. In the end, her disapproval ratings—ranging from extraordinary to shocking—prompted a merciful stint of wisdom leading her to not seek re-election. Post-governor’s office, Martz said she hoped to go on the national circuit as a motivational speaker. Apparently that didn’t pan out. Now she’s been hired by Republican Secretary of State Brad Johnson to help sell changes to state and federal voting laws. In the 2003 Legislature, majority Republicans, over the fervent objections of Democrats and tribal leaders, jammed through House Bill 190, which put even more restrictions on voting than the federal Help America Vote Act. Martz signed that bill. Now Democrats, who control the Legislature and the governor’s office, are working to undo it, and it will be Martz’s job, in part, to sell those changes, too. Gee, it’s bad enough that Martz—whose administration can take the blame for the current surfeit of Democrats in Helena—has to work in that lion’s den. But that she’ll have to eat crow on her own legislation, well…that’s almost too delicious to be true. ••• Other than a few wrinkles, some liver spots and a bald spot, Missoula looks good for her age: 122 as of Tuesday, March 8. “Happy birthday to us!” said City Clerk Marty Rehbein. City government celebrated Monday night by decorating Council chambers with two bouquets of blue helium balloons and a birthday banner. But that wasn’t all. “I understand there’s cake as well,” Mayor Mike Kadas said. “But nobody gets any until we adjourn the meeting.” “The mayor is meeean,” said Ward 1’s John Engen. Hungrily. “There’s lots of different ways to move these meetings along,” Kadas replied. Missoula may be older, but we’re still suffering growing pains. Council’s agenda Monday night included a resolution to eliminate density bonuses, a tool originally developed to make room for more homes in the valley. The resolution passed 9–3. Ward 1’s Heidi Kendall, Ward 3’s Stacy Rye and Engen voted against killing the density bonuses, arguing that the tool helps build much-needed “average houses for average folks.” And rest assured that Missoula remains an average kind of town in at least one respect: After the meeting adjourned, folks ate not chiffon this or marzipan that, but white Costco cake with strawberry filling. Ward 5’s Jack Reidy registered the festivity’s only (facetious) complaint: He wished the balloons were green instead of blue, so they could be saved and reused for St. Patrick’s Day next week. All in all, Rehbein said, “it was a pretty low-key celebration.”
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