Editor¹s note: Today, the Missoulian continues its previews of this fall¹s races for Missoula City Council with a look at Ward 2. Our series continues through Friday, one ward per day.
Missoula¹s new, slimmer West Broadway is a mess, says John Hendrickson. One of his first priorities if elected: Drive to Helena with the other Ward 2 council representative, Don Nicholson, and pressure the state to reconsider the design of that east-west roadway.
Traffic is one of Missoula¹s top complaints, says Hendrickson, and is thus one of his top concerns, too.
The vast majority of residents more than 90 percent drive cars, he said. Routing cars efficiently and properly makes sense, said Hendrickson, running for the Ward 2 City Council seat vacated by Anne Kazmierczak.
Bicycle and pedestrian paths are important, but not at the expense of streets and roads for the primary transportation of so many residents, said the candidate.
³Walking and biking is not going to make sense in Grant Creek or in Lolo,² he said. ³Forcing people out of their cars is not going to solve Missoula¹s traffic problems.²
To help traffic in Missoula¹s core, Hendrickson suggested a few easy-to-try steps, including offering free bus rides, more park-and-ride locations, and tax breaks or subsidies for downtown businesses that encourage workers not to drive to work.
Hendrickson¹s preference on West Broadway is to keep the original four lanes of traffic and install pedestrian-activated crosswalks at suitable locations.
Careful, long-range, comprehensive planning for traffic and roads is what greater Missoula needs, and is the cornerstone of his campaign, he said.
³Mullan and Reserve isn¹t even a gleam in the eye in Public Works,² Hendrickson said. ³Yet it¹s the worst intersection in Montana. We need to start talking and planning right now to fix that. If Malfunction Junction took years to plan and fix, then we¹d better get started right now on Mullan and Reserve.²
A crosstown bypass to take traffic from south Missoula to north Missoula from Lolo to Interstate 90, for instance makes sense west of Reserve Street, he said.
³Not everybody comes to Missoula to shop. Truckers, motorists, some of them just need to get on the interstate to Spokane or to Kalispell.² Giving them a bypass would reduce traffic through the active and growing North Reserve Street corridor and downtown, he said.
³We need to start thinking about that, buying property for that, now,² he said. ³We can¹t afford to wait until everything is all built up.²
Listening and working for business is also a priority, he said. He¹s made a point to talk to businesses along Broadway, as the scaled-down traffic plan went into effect; they¹re already suffering, which isn¹t right, he said.
Hendrickson also said his opponent is on the wrong side of the St. Patrick Hospital and Safeway debate. Letting the hospital grow and change is critical to western Montana, and the Northside-Westside neighborhoods need an anchor gas-and-grocery store, which a new, larger, updated Safeway would be, he said.
Safeway¹s downtown store will close when it isn¹t profitable any more, and it can¹t remain profitable without drawing customers, something a new store would do, Hendrickson said.
³Both (St. Patrick and Safeway) bring in more jobs,² he said. ³They are willing to invest in the community. My opponent is representing a small core of people, not the majority of residents.²
Neighborhood plans are important, Hendrickson said, but they are guides, not dictates. The City Council approved the St. Patrick-Safeway project because it made sense for the future of Missoula and for the neighborhoods, he said.
Hendrickson also is concerned about traffic along River Road. New homes and subdivisions there have increased the number of cars; a traffic light at River Road and Reserve Street would help for the short run.
³I come in with ideas,² he said. ³But I¹ll also listen. I¹ll be an advocate for people.²
³The City Council has some tough fiscal decisions to make in the next few years,² he said. ³An open-space bond? Can Missoula afford another one? I don¹t think so.²
³I believe I represent mainstream Missoulians, mainstream thinking from both sides of the aisle,² he said. ³Mr. Couch is a progressive Democrat. That is not mainstream.²
Lived in ward:
Profession: Self-employed collectibles dealer of rare coins and sports memorabilia, especially Mickey Mantle memorabilia.
Experience, community service: Little League coach and administrator, Neighborhood Council member, Neighborhood Council Leadership Team, member of homeowners associations.
Family: He and his wife, Marlene, have two children, ages 21 and 19.
Hobbies: Watching and playing sports; working with youth in sports; reading nonfiction and history; collecting, relating to his work.
Endorsing for mayor: Would not say.
On the issues
John Couch: Supports land-trust housing projects, in which nonprofits develop and sell housing but own land underneath; would require mixed-use plans for new developments, especially in undeveloped urban areas; would require some projects to include affordable housing as a percentage of development. ³I know the Champion mill site is private property, but the City Council has to guide this development for our community,² not only for private gain.
John Hendrickson: Work to raise wages in Missoula; approve infill in neighborhoods zoned for such density; require mixed-use, mixed-income-level construction in undeveloped urban areas, such as the White Pine Sash property and Champion mill site; supports city partnership with nonprofits to create new loan/subsidy programs or fixer-upper programs for low-income homeownership.
Couch: ³We have leash laws; they just need to be enforced. I don¹t like it when I go jogging and there¹s a big dog waiting there … but this is not an issue that¹s on my radar (as a major, unsolvable problem).²
Hendrickson: Blitz enforcement efforts periodically to ramp up compliance with leash laws; make fines high enough to hurt; don¹t give out warnings.
Business and economic development
Couch: ³Protect the assets of the community open space, schools, neighborhoods, the University of Montana, public safety, hospitals, the viewshed, the airshed, water quality, air quality and businesses will want to be here. We flourish when people want to bring their families here, not just their businesses here.²
Hendrickson: City should play role in attracting and keeping business; is not opposed to tax incentives and breaks, if wages are high enough and business is viable and not short-lived; supports programs to help existing small businesses expand.
Couch: Had favorable experiences with public-owned electric cooperative. ³I haven¹t heard anything yet that makes me think it is a terrible idea for Missoula. A private corporation¹s priorities are probably going to be with shareholders. If we can do it, and do it so that it works, we should.²
Hendrickson: Does not support current proposal that involves Missoula, Great Falls, Helena, Bozeman and Butte; one worry is how to replace the millions in tax dollars paid by the existing company, NorthWestern Energy. ³I remained neutral until Monday night¹s meeting (on Oct. 24). There are just too many unanswered questions.²
Sewer and annexation
Couch: ³Annexation is a logical step to growth. I¹m not crazy about sewer driving growth, like it is at the Wye. I wish we had better plans in place so that we¹d already identified communities we would (annex).²
Hendrickson: ³I¹m pro-sewer. We all drink out of the same well. I do have an open mind; if it can be proven, scientifically, that sewers aren¹t needed (in some places in town) I¹d listen. But Missoula is going to grow, and sewers lessen the chance that something will go wrong.² Also willing to consider a consolidated city-county government in future, as city grows.
Couch: ³Traffic would get better if we take it down to a personal level: ŒWhat can I do combine trips, depend more on alternative transportation to make a difference?¹ ² Supports pedestrian/bike-friendly development; likes the Broadway diet plan, with some modifications, because it focuses on pedestrian safety and slowing traffic through downtown. Prefers ³grid² systems rather than cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets because they encourage walking and biking.
Hendrickson: Does not support Broadway diet and would lobby state highway officials to change plans for the road, keeping four lanes and installing one or two traffic lights; would push for traffic-mitigation designs for Mullan Road and Reserve Street; supports designing and buying land in west Missoula for a bypass from south Missoula to Interstate 90 on north. Supports limited bike-pedestrian projects, especially in urban Missoula, but proportionate to users (versus drivers) because ³93 percent of Missoulians drive cars.²
Safeway/St. Pat¹s expansions
Couch: Both the hospital and supermarket can achieve what they want and still follow the neighborhood plan, hammered out by residents over several years. A big-box Safeway with large parking lot does not fit with the Westside/Northside/Downtown character or plan. ³I am not against Safeway or St. Pat¹s. They¹re both vital (to the neighborhood) and I want them to stay open.² Believes vacated city shops, located on Broadway where new Safeway would be located, are historically interesting and important, and should be saved for a new use.
Hendrickson: Supports Safeway¹s wishes to relocate and build a bigger store with gas pumps on Broadway; supports St. Patrick Hospital¹s wish to expand onto existing Safeway land; does not consider brick city shops (where Safeway wants to move) historically valuable or worth saving.
One priority in Ward 2
Couch: ³The White Pine Sash property. It needs to be cleaned up to residential standards, so that we aren¹t pushing that problem off on future generations.²
Hendrickson: Fix traffic problems along Broadway, at Mullan-Reserve intersection, and on River Road. Supports installing a traffic light at River Road and Reserve Street to help vehicles get on and off the road.