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Normally, we wouldn’t bother with the minutiae of Missoula’s City Council meetings, but we figure it’s time to address the recent yellowbellied rants of Ward 2 Councilmember John Hendrickson. We’d call Hendrickson chicken or say he’s flown the coop, but we’ve moved beyond those issues. Instead, we’ll just point out that he’s acting like a ninny.

Twice in the last three weeks Hendrickson has decided to dump on the Independent during council’s comment period. First, he took exception with our April 24 story that quoted his colleague, Dick Haines, as saying the two of them were part of an anonymous zoning petition making its rounds through the city. Hendrickson has so far refused to talk with us about the petition. Haines, however, was very specific, mentioning twice that Hendrickson was involved, then specifying that additional council members—beyond he and Hendrickson—“didn’t want to be identified at this point.” Haines stood by his account, so it would appear Hendrickson’s issue lies with Haines, not us. But he nevertheless pilloried the Indy during a public meeting on the people’s time.

Hendrickson reviled the Indy again at the council’s May 16 meeting, objecting to an article exploring how wedge issues—including zoning—might play in the next election. We identified city spending as another one of those issues, since Hendrickson himself made it a point of contention during last year’s belt tightening. During Monday’s public hearing, Hendrickson called the story “inaccurate” because, best we can tell, we used the words “proposed budget cuts” instead of his preferred “budget talking points.” Then he simply asked that we “stop making things up.” Not to gloss over the issue, but if we wanted to start making up stories, don’t you think we’d choose something a little sexier than budget fights? Anyway, Hendrickson never asked for a correction, or even bothered to contact us, and we stand by the story.

We can only assume—since Hendrickson has studiously avoided earnest dialogue with us—that he’s trying to discredit our reporting for exactly the reasons we wrote about them in the first place: He’s keen on exploiting budget challenges and zoning as wedge issues in his reelection campaign. Bashing the paper is easier than, say, hashing out the finer points of either debate.

While we’re thrilled Hendrickson’s given us a little grist, we have trouble respecting someone who won’t look us in the eye when he calls us liars. When and if he decides to direct his petty sideshow our way, we’re all ears.


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