Engen died yesterday so all the townies are gushing. I wanted to copy here my contribution to the current weepy social media conversation happening on FB.
I didn't know John Engen very well at all but I liked him because he was a comedian who had to become very serious while also maintaining a modicum of humor and gregariousness. The growing of a town is not a clean or easy process (I learned this from a documentary I saw once called "Gangs of New York"), and I appreciate the perspicacious needle-threading that John Engen was able to survive without getting knifed by a person made homeless by another stupid fucking condo. Thank fuck in his pre-mayor days he wasn't a real estate developer or a construction magnate or heaven forbid a lawyer, instead of the comedic journalist he was.
Missoula when I was a kid was still a clapped out lumber mill town full of desperate weirdos, shitty air, and riverbanks from end to end strewn with burned out washing machines and shot up TVs, abandoned cars, etc. Twas a lot fun at the time (I was like 6 and loved monster trucks and Guns'N'Roses), but I'm pretty sure the clean river banks are more enjoyable now, and I can somewhat attribute John Engen to having helped in that. I'm sure he'll rest in peace and be remembered for all the hilarious shit he said over the years. And most definitely an enormous statue should be erected in his visage for the retaking of control of our water system from the Carlyle Group (Saudi/Bush MFers).
Whoever is the next mayor, my 2 cents for amplifying the best parts of John Engen's legacy, boiled down to one specific recommendation.... please please please make it your personal priority to implement as public infrastructure the principles outlined in the book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands by Brad Lancaster, especially with regard to stormwater. Sending the street runoff straight into the river though storm drains is nasty AF. It's bad for the fish and it drys out the landscape. Anyone who wants to grow food in their front yard could use that runoff to irrigate the green strip on both sides of every street, replenishing the urban forest with a new generation of tree crops to ensure 100% food security for Missoula's people for decades to come. It is as simple as digging out the boulevard/greenstrip on either side of the street so that the runoff can soak into the surrounding soil, which makes it a helluva lot easier to establish the food crop trees that can sustain Missoula's population for the next 100+ years. Missoula's urban forest is dying and socio-economic shit is getting real, real fast, and if it keeps going that way whoever is mayor next is really gonna have to work to ensure this valley doesn't become a desertifed hungerscape crisscrossed by a used-to-be-nice riverbed lined with burned out RVs.