House Bill 14 could provide funding to build the Missoula College over the current site of the university golf course. However, Missoula area representative David Moore said last week he would be proposing an amendment to HB 14 to remove that funding.

This week, the Associated Students of The University of Montana (ASUM) claimed that Moore had not responded to their emailed protests against the proposed amendment.

Moore said he has seen the emails and that although he did not attempt to block them, the spam filter on his server could be rejecting them..

"They're all the same," Moore said. "In fact I have one email with the heading that's addressed to somebody that says, 'now be sure and cut this off and send it off as a new email.' So if you go back and look at my email file every one of those emails has the same content in the body."

David Moore:

ASUM president Zach Brown says Moore needs to answer an important question.

"I would ask representative Moore why he wants to strip funding from a project that stands to benefit the Missoula economy in such a significant way," Brown said. "The Missoula chamber of commerce is fully behind this building project and HB 14. I would ask him why he disagrees with the Missoula business community in terms of the importance of this project and this facility."

Zach Brown:

Moore says the problem isn't the building, but the university's inability to work out the problems with the community. Moore described the UM's outreach as a "P.R. campaign," rather than a community discussion.

"This debate isn't about a building, it's about a community," said Moore. "This issue isn't just about what's best for today, but what's best for Missoula 50 to 100 years from now. I can guarantee you that if they go forward with those plans, that the community will be poorer, culturally, in 50 to 100 years."

House bill 14 was sent back to committee today, March 26, after a flurry of attempts to amend the bill. Because of this, Moore says he will likely present his amendment to remove funding for the Missoula college sometime next week.

Moore emailed the statement he had planned on presenting in favor of his amendment to KGVO News. It is printed below.

I am asking your support today for my amendment which effectively removes the Missoula College project from HB 14. This is not something I take lightly- I stand before you today presenting this amendment after a great deal of thought and discussion with the citizens I represent.

Over the last year I have heard from many, many Missoula residents who strongly oppose the Missoula College on the planned golf course location. To be clear, the people I have heard from aren’t limited to golfers or university area residents. These citizens express a number of concerns with the designated location and UM’s unwillingness to consider site alternatives more acceptable to the community.

Some are upset about the loss of such a unique and valuable open space located, as it is, at the base of Mount Sentinel, which has served a variety of recreational uses for generations of Missoulians over the better part of a century; golfers, yes, but also hang-gliders and bird watchers and families with sleds and toboggans and cross- country runners and skiers and people who just want to take a walk on a summer evening after finishing a day’s work.

Some are upset about the blatant disregard for the history of the proposed site- that a legacy left with a very specific and clearly stated intent could be re-purposed to fit the desires of the administration without the least concern for what was agreed to when it was gifted to the University in the first place. This does, in spite of the administrations assertions to the contrary, creates not just the possibility but the certainty of lawsuits on this matter. Perhaps worse, it brings into question UM’s ability to keep its word to donors and uphold its agreements. Others question the wisdom of investing in a major project of this type during a period of declining enrollment.

What virtually ALL of the people I have spoken to with concerns about this project have in common is that they are citizens and taxpayers who feel the only “input” they have been allowed on this issue so far is the “input” of their tax money to finance what they consider a questionable project.

The Missoulians I have talked to- and I have talked to many- all express a frustration with feeling that public sentiment is all but ignored by the UM administration until it’s time to write a check for the next UM project.

There is a world of difference between sincerely seeking input from the Missoula community- the community that sustains UM over the long haul- and launching a PR campaign. The University has, on this issue at least, chosen to invest heavily in the latter- all the while claiming profound interest in community input.

If you look at their statement in last Saturday’s Missoulian, for example, you’d think that the bond issue is a done deal and we don’t EVEN need a floor vote on this (read headline) – It’s decided and they might- to read this- already out there with their shovels breaking ground.

That is a small taste of what many, many Missoula residents who have contacted me feel they have gotten from the University on this issue. It’s a done deal; you have no say, just shut up and show us the money.

It is my hope that of you have gotten to know a little about me over the course of this session. I have not wasted your time with irrelevant or extreme issues, nor have I hesitated to stand up for what I truly believe is right. So I hope you will believe me when I tell you that I think that the University of Montana does a lot right, but there are some very, very serious problems with the proposed Missoula College project. These issues are not going to go away- people are tired of how they are being treated. So I request your support in removing the Montana College project from HB 14 and allow the University of Montana the time needed to work with the citizens of Missoula to create a project on a site that the community can agree on that is worthy of its name. This debate isn't about a building. It's about a community.

This issue isn't just about what's best for today, but about what's best for Missoula 50 and 100 years from now.