I have practiced law in San Francisco for the last 36 years; I have many close friends in Missoula and come there to visit and to fish at least three times per year. I truly love Missoula and follow the goings-on through this newspaper. Based on my legal experience and my life in a congested urban area, two decisions recently made by Missoula officials give me immense concern.
1. Assuming that all of County Counsel Fred Van Valkenburg’s contentions regarding the sanctity of his office are true, I think that the decision to appropriate $50,000 to attack federal jurisdiction in a federal court to be decided by a federal judge, in light of allegations that constitutional rights are being violated, is unwise; the County is never immune from federal intervention if those allegations have merit, and the time to deal with them is before firing the first shot. Acting with righteous indignation – especially at taxpayer expense – will always be trumped by conciliatory efforts. Instead of consensus being reached across the table, were this litigation to continue, it will more likely be settled by federal consent decree. I have represented public entities who have been saddled with federal consent decrees, and it has the effect of putting unnecessary federal control inside county offices on a continuing basis at the county’s expense. Compliance and reporting are tedious and expensive, often requiring the need for outside counsel. I would suggest, for the sake of both the taxpayers and the county as an independent sovereign, that both sides put their guns down NOW and sort this thing out with the use of a competent mediator.
2. My other issue is the need for a $125,000 study to determine the continuing need for one-way streets in Missoula. Was there a study done when they adopted one-way streets? If they aren’t working, why can’t they be replaced on an as-needed basis on the advice of the city’s public works and public safety people? That’s why they’re there. If they don’t know whether or not there is a problem, why have a $125,000 study to find one?
I remain a loyal Missoulian without portfolio.
San Francisco, Calif.