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’Tis the season for state-of-the-[insert your preferred governmental organization here] speeches, and Missoula was no exception Jan. 16, when Barbara Evans, chairwoman of Missoula County’s Board of Commissioners, and Missoula Mayor John Engen delivered twin State of Missoula addresses to nearly 400 people over lunch at the Doubletree Hotel.

It was an opportunity for relishing the many achievements—new aquatics centers, airport expansion, Milltown Dam removal, open space bond—that both governments helped advance over the last year, as well as a time to set new goals.

Both officials spoke to the challenges that growth continues to bring to town in the form of traffic, zoning and subdivisions.

Evans evoked the good ol’ days when Missoula had only NIMBYs who protested projects when they showed up in their neighborhood.

“But now they’re BANANAs: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything,” Evans said, drawing roars of laughter.

Engen promised to convene in February a Mayor’s Council on Climate Change and Sustainability that will start by maximizing the efficiency of the city’s vehicle fleet.

Both Evans and Engen made clear that planning for a new public safety building is a priority for 2007, as is carving into the $10 million open space bond voters approved in November.

The overall message was that Missoula is strong and life is good, and the contentedly listening diners seemed to agree, judging by the conspicuous lack of tough questions during the Q&A period.

As messages go, peace and prosperity always seem to play well, perhaps especially so this week, given other, not so rosy, pronouncements expected in the State of the Union speech that President George W. Bush will deliver Tuesday, Jan. 23.

But war and its sacrifices did make an appearance—after the speeches about local affairs—when Major General Alan Bell spoke to offer his gratitude to the families and employers of Montanans serving in the National Guard and Reserve. Montana generates the highest per capita number of veterans in the nation, and local citizens should be proud of the support they extend to service members, he said, leading up to an awards ceremony that honored several local employers, including the city of Missoula.

In the wake of the war talk, Missoula’s worries and accomplishments on issues like zoning, new swimming pools and expanding airports may have seemed a bit trifling. But then again, next week’s speeches will be here next week, and a bit of good news on the local front in the meantime was wholly welcome.

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