So Missoula wants to take a stand against bias crimes and, in true Missoula fashion, it’s rolling out a campaign to do it (see “City helps victims speak,” page 6).

Now we know a lot of you out there might be feeling that warm, progressive fuzziness upon reading this, but don’t call your old gay roommate from Berkeley just yet. As it turns out the message aims not to curb the tide of violence against homosexuals in Missoula, but rather to convince victims that it’s safe to report incidents.

Apparently many gays and lesbians currently won’t because they’re more afraid of the authorities, or because they don’t want to be “outed” in police reports.

Yet, as a few Indy staffers walked by the County Clerk’s office—where they issue marriage licenses—we thought, “Wouldn’t it be better if a legally definable term existed to actually protect gays from that kind of violence?” It could sound like bias crime, but even more forceful and would carry legislation promising augmented penalties. The law could even hold police accountable for ignoring their duties because of bias.

We might be dreaming, because it looks like the city doesn’t feel quite that way about it—at least publicly. No doubt, expanding hate crime protections to gays would prove as popular in Montana as Sarah Palin in a room full of feminist bloggers.

Somebody remind us for the 6,000th time how many people reside in her old mayoral stomping grounds of Wasilla, Alas. 60,000? 600,000? Seriously, help us out.

Speaking of unpopular, the public comment period on the Russell-Third Street expansion project opened up this week. Of course, if your feedback sounds something like, “We want a two- or three-lane Russell,” go ahead, but the feds seem to have a fairly concrete idea in mind of what deserves highway funding. Namely, they want something big enough to accommodate expected traffic demands.

After cries to keep Russell diminutive failed to make headway, concerned neighbors came back in late August with a three-? … four-? ... five-lane? street plan that uses the existing right-of-way. The Independent reviewed the proposal and it kind of looks like an anaconda that just swallowed Janet Reno—with the projected thoroughfare widening and narrowing bizarrely between Broadway and Mount.

What’s more important to note than logistics is the neighbors’ point: if Russell must expand, then try to do it without exercising eminent domain. Frankly, the realization of demolishing homes so somebody’s McDonald’s order doesn’t get cold should make project planners think longer and harder.

But maybe that’s just anti-automotive liberal propaganda.
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