Safeway’s swing vote 

After two and half years of debate and protest, the decision to expand the Broadway Safeway came down to one vote. City Council needed a supermajority—two-thirds of its 12 members—to OK the plans for a new store near St. Pat’s. At the Council’s Monday, Sept. 22, meeting, expansion proponents got the supermajority they needed with a vote of 8-4.

Many expansion opponents thought their victory (or failure) hinged on Ward 5 council member Scott Morgan.

“We lobbied heavy on Scott Morgan,” says Westside-Northside Neighborhood Council member John Couch. “There were e-mails, there were telephone conversations. We had a lot of individuals from the neighborhood really trying to persuade him.”

Both Couch and Jim Parker of Citizen Advocates for a Livable Missoula say that opponents of the expansion knew for months which way most council members were leaning, but Morgan was an exception.

Morgan says that he knew he was the swing vote. He could tell by the unprecedented ear-bending. Morgan flip-flopped several times, and his indecisiveness continued as Safeway began to make compromises on the plan .

“It seemed to me touch-and-go throughout whether the Safeway would be made compliant with the Westside-Northside neighborhood plan,” says Morgan. “I tried as best I could from the position I was in to get every little crumb I could to make the store more compliant with the plan.”

Morgan refers to convincing the store to go from six gas pumps to four, to add housing options to the site and windows to the store.

From Couch’s perspective, Morgan didn’t hold out for enough, and his vote is doubly disappointing because Morgan clearly understood what was at stake.

“That one ‘no’ vote was from a person who probably knew more than anyone on Council,” says Couch. “Scott was one of the few people on the Council who literally read the [Westside-Northside] neighborhood plan word for word and approved it.”

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