When Missoula’s new City Council failed after multiple votes to come to agreement on a new Council president on Monday, Jan. 5, it was tempting to chalk up the deadlock to freshman jitters. But now that the Jan. 12 meeting has come and gone with nary a budge from entrenched councilpersons, it’s starting to look like a Maginot line has been drawn in Council’s sandbox.
Ward 3’s Lou Ann Crowley is squared off against Ward 6’s Ed Childers in a battle for the position that has split not only the Council, but individual wards as well.
“In the end it’s going to be deadlocked and [holdover president] Jack Reidy will be president again,” Ward 3 Councilmember Stacy Rye predicted.
According to Council bylaws, if the Council can’t work through the deadlock by its Jan. 26 meeting, then new nominations will come forward.
“We’re trying to get to a place where we can work together,” Rye said. “But, we’re stubborn people.”
Rye asserts that the public’s welfare is not being affected by the in-house bickering.
“We’re still going about our business. We do have a president and we take our work seriously,” Rye said.
But Reidy, of Ward 5, said that he doesn’t want the position again.
“I think they’ll go another round and then maybe nominate someone else that everybody can agree on,” Reidy said. “It would be better if someone new did it. I don’t really want it. If someone nominates me I’d rather not accept, but it depends on who else is nominated.”
Reidy said the two sides have been divided over matters of positioning and “inner-circle politics.”
“It’s just positioning. People do trades and have for years. I won’t say if I’m for them or against them,” Reidy said.
In referring to the trades, Reidy is talking about Council members throwing their support behind particular candidates in return for the promise of committee positions later.
Bob Lovegrove, of Ward 6, agrees that the divisions are over one primary issue: leadership. But he feels he has an ethical reason for his support of Crowley.
“Some of us feel that we want stronger leadership than Ed (Childers) can offer. The Council can accomplish more with someone tied less closely to the mayor,” Lovegrove said. “In ways, the Council has let the mayor have his way too much of the time.”
As far as the influence-trading goes, Lovegrove explains it away as “an attempt to find a compromise.”
The larger question is, after the blood has dried, will the Council be able to reconcile on future, more important issues? Rye says yes.
“These divisions aren’t camp-based. It’s issue-based. I think we’ll realign issue to issue,” she said.