Ward One: Lois Herbig
It would be difficult for the Independent to find a candidate more qualified to represent the people of Ward One, and the city as a whole, than Lois Herbig. In the dozen years that she has served on City Council—from 1980 to ’87 and again from 1996 to the present—Herbig has continually demonstrated her effectiveness as an informed, astute and politically savvy public servant. When Herbig decides an issue, she does her homework first, asks intelligent questions with a fair and open mind, and then casts her vote based on what her common sense and conscience tell her. Herbig’s depth of experience provides the council with a rare perspective on where Missoula has been and where it’s going, without falling victim to stodgy or sanctimonious preaching. And while Herbig proudly proclaims that she has been a loyal Democrat for more than 50 years, partisan politics is not her modus operandi. Herbig is proof-positive that we need not always equate incumbency with inertia, that being a vibrant and energetic member of the community does not necessarily diminish with the passage of years, and that the cause of progressive politics is not the exclusive domain of the young or the idealistic.
While we acknowledge that Kevin Head is a strong, intelligent and articulate candidate who would offer fresh and new perspectives to City Council, Herbig clearly has more experience and know-how to effectively serve her ward for another four years.
Ward Two: Jim McGrath
Without a doubt the most ideological and aggressively opinionated member on City Council, Jim McGrath is also one of the most well-informed. Regardless of whether you love or hate his politics, few would dispute that McGrath is one of the most tireless and dedicated advocates for the working people of this city. Even a cursory glance at McGrath’s extensive resume of committees, subcommittees and advisory boards is more than sufficient to place him head and shoulders above his opponents on virtually every criterion that matters. Few public servants in Missoula have a wider range of expertise and depth of understanding than does McGrath on such issues as growth management, economic development, and the bureaucratic process. His service as council vice president and chairman of the Administration and Finance Committee has provided Missoula with a vigilant fiscal watchdog, especially on the divisive issue of the proposed minor league ballpark. Moreover, representing a ward that has the city’s lowest rate of home ownership, the highest rate of children living in poverty and the highest rate of student turnover in its neighborhood schools, McGrath has proven to be a staunch and unwavering social advocate for the living wage, affordable housing, neighborhood schools, open spaces, alternative transportation, and livable and vibrant communities.
We also respect a public servant who not only talks the talk, but walks the walk. McGrath serves as community garden director at Garden City Harvest and rides his bicycle virtually everywhere he travels. For his practical experience, his expertise, his dedication to the cause of social and economic justice and his slavish attention to the democratic process, we choose Jim McGrath.
Ward Three: John Torma
If every political race offered voters a choice between two such uniquely qualified candidates as the race in Ward Three, voter turnout would likely be much higher than it has been. Chuck Gibson, a long-time Missoula resident, former fire chief and lifetime public servant with the Missoula Fire Department, long ago proved his dedication, integrity and strength of character, and we have no doubt that his knowledge of the bureaucratic process and his expertise in the realm of public safety would be strong assets to this council.
That said, however, we feel that John Torma is the stronger and more versatile of the two candidates, and would bring to the office a level of education, employment and community involvement that is unsurpassed. Torma’s training and experience in city planning are ideally suited to the nature of the work that City Council routinely deals with, and his experience in the private sector, in both for-profit and non-profit ventures, is a testament to his strengths at reaching consensus and building coalitions among diverse groups of people. As with Gibson, Torma has demonstrated that his character is beyond reproach, and his commitment to improving the livability of his ward is unimpeachable. Where Torma excels beyond his opponent is in his ability to convey a more well-rounded and comprehensive vision for the future of Missoula. Torma can speak easily and intelligently on an impressive array of issues with the poise and judiciousness of a candidate destined for higher office, and we believe that he is the better choice for voters of Ward Three. It’s a race between two respectable candidates, and an enjoyable campaign worth watching.
Ward Four: Jerry Ballas
Although this is an uncontested race, we like Ballas for the seat being vacated by Larry Anderson. Ballas’ most recent foray into politics was an unsuccessful bid for county commissioner, but he has worked hard to establish himself as a respected public figure in Missoula politics. Although we disagree with Ballas’ assessment of the Living Wage Initiative, we liked his comments during the recent candidates’ forum about maintaining the city’s support of neighborhood councils. Ballas appears to be a thoughtful and intelligent candidate who will bring to the council a sense of balance, and we suspect that he will provided the same style of solid representation for Ward Four as his predecessor has done.
Ward Five: Scott Morgan
Though also uncontested, Scott Morgan deserves our recognition and endorsement as a thoughtful and level-headed City Councilmember. On an elected body that over the years has been accused of divisiveness and petty partisanship, Morgan has shown himself to be a fair, thoughtful and even-handed representative. He brings to the office a reasoned and balanced common sense, while maintaining a sharp eye for the fiscal implications and bureaucratic burdens that are imposed by the council’s decisions. Morgan’s low-key style and “less is more” approach to rules and regulations provides a valuable counter-balance to some of the more proactive members on the council. Although his stance on many issues is often at odds with the more progressive values touted by this publication, Morgan is unambiguous about his philosophy on the proper role and function of government. Whether you agree or disagree with Morgan’s politics, voters know exactly what they’re getting with him. Ward Five and Missoula have been well-served by Morgan, and we endorse his re-election for another four years.
Ward Six: Naomi DeMarinis
The Ward Six election may be one of the most symbolic of all the 1999 city races. With 29-year-old DeMarinis squaring off against 52-year-old Edward Childers, this contest is a veritable battle of the generations for the first City Council of the new millennium. Although the retired Childers boasts 20 years of experience as deputy city treasurer and treasurer for Missoula, we found his answers at the recent candidates’ forum to be vague, ill-prepared and uninformed. Moreover, his inability or unwillingness to even sit up straight and speak into the microphone when addressing the audience conveyed to us not only an arrogance and flippancy, but a questionable commitment to the forum and his entire candidacy.
In contrast, DeMarinis seems far more in touch with the voters of her ward, and would bring to the office a youthful, ambitious and realistic vision. While this is DeMarinis’ first foray into the elected political sphere, hers is a textbook example of how our city’s neighborhood councils are proving to be effective incubators for discovering and growing the next generation of grassroots civic leaders. In a city whose median age is creeping ever higher, DeMarinis could infuse City Council with a youthful vitality, building on her demonstrated commitment to neighborhood schools, safe streets and livable communities. We feel proud to add our wholehearted endorsement to this inspired, young community leader, and look forward to following what will undoubtedly be a very promising career.