City Club Missoula an idea worth watching

Newcomers to Bozeman are often taken aback by the level of discord that occurs here. On purely civic matters — land-use planning, traffic management, city services — disagreement is the norm rather than the exception.


(Many thanks to Kerry Schaefer of the Montana Chamber of Commerce for forwarding this.- If your community would like to learn more about City Club: Russ)

It’s symptomatic of the level of ownership Bozemanites feel for their community. They want the city — as well as the county and their own immediate neighborhood — to be the best place it can be.

The downside of all that, though, is that almost no proposal meets smooth sailing as it wends its way through the city permitting and approval process. No matter how attractive or beneficial a development plan or city service proposal seems to be, it’s going to hit a snag of opposition somewhere, and that’s likely to stall it limbo for months, sometimes for years, sometimes forever.

There’s an idea taking root in Missoula that may prove helpful toward smoothing out some of those snags. It’s called the City Club Missoula. It’s just in the formative stages, but it’s been conceived with the idea of creating of forum for civil discourse outside of the formal and frequently contentious arena of governmental hearings.

The club’s first couple of meetings have attracted sizable crowds, and that bodes well for the potential of this organization to have a positive impact on the public discourse in that city.

City clubs have a long and colorful history. The City Club of New York, the nation’s oldest, was formed near the end of the 19th century to look at some particularly bothersome sanitation problems. Closer to home, the city clubs in Portland and Eugene in Oregon are providing templates for the Missoula organization.

The city clubs aim to provide less-contentious vehicles for citizen involvement in public affairs. Organizers in Missoula envision several public luncheons a month to foster discourse on the issues of the day.

It may a bit early, but civic leaders in Bozeman would do well to keep an eye on how things shake out in Missoula. A city club here in Bozeman might be just the ticket for sorting out some of our notorious differences before they collide in City Hall and bring more beneficial ideas to a grinding halt.

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