New City Councilor Gets Little Help To Introduce Referendum on Mountain Water Sale
Ward Two's Harlan Wells' attempt to present a resolution to the city council's 'committee of the whole' fell flat, when it was brought to his attention that he had not attached the specific ballot language to his referendum.
"I guess it was a procedural error on my part, it was my first referral," Wells said. "l guess this is how you learn. I was told you could ask the city staff to write the referendum if it made it through committee. I even asked, 'Can I just say that now that I want staff to do something, and of course, the city attorney (James Nugent) chimed in and said, 'Oh no, you can't do that.' So, other city council members, the mayor, the city attorney, the city clerk could have given me a heads-up, and they all just kept quiet."
Wellls was also upset, and apologized while on KGVO Radio's Montana Morning program on Thursday, to people he invited to testify on the initiative before the council, because they were not given the usual time of three minutes each.
"I want to apologize to all those folks who showed up who were not allowed to speak," he said. "I'm not sure that was legal, but they used some procedural things to not only delay my referendum, but to keep people from speaking on the subject. To me, it seems like a little bit of political sandbagging."
Wells said the opinions by other council members at Wednesday's meeting were almost unanimous, questioning the reason for the ballot initiative that calls for a public vote on whether to continue the effort to obtain the water system, since the costs have skyrocketed over recent months.
"That's the sum-cost fallacy," Wells said. "How many times do you think the council in Flint, Michigan said 'Well, we can't stop now, we've spent all this money,' and then the next thing you know they've got lead-poisoned water. There's a point at which you say it doesn't matter how much we've spent, it's a mistake, so we'll lick our wounds and move on."
Wells says he plans to sit down with some former city council members for advice on how to properly introduce the referendum.
"I'll ask, what did I do wrong, can you help me with some language so that next week they don't say 'well, you wrote the referendum wrong, we can't vote on it again. and that can't kick the can down the road another week."
Here are the financial numbers in attempted acquisition costs as of the end of February.
Mountain Water and Carlyle Group's total legal fees: $6,865,222.00
The City of Missoula’s bills: $5,381,733.24
Plus, Mountain Water is asking for statutory interest. Those bills total over $16 million.