SISU inspects the public record

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On Friday, the students met at the Missoula County Courthouse to learn about the various public records kept here. Most of the records are open to inspection by the public, including journalists. We examined records of property ownership, which are in kept a massive database. We looked up Professor Swibold’s house, which was built is 1950.

We also looked at voting records. We could see who voted but not how they voted, which is a secret. Such information helps officials and the public ensure that elections are fair. We also examined ballots and learned of new trends in voting, such as voting by mail. All Americans over the age of 18 can vote in local or national elections, provided they have registered. Here’s a link to Montana voting statistics kept by the Montana’s Secretary of State in Helena.

Finally, we examined property tax records. Property taxes are the leading source of money for local governments like school districts, the city and the county. They also help fund state activities such as the Montana University System. The amount of taxes someone pays depends in part on the value of the property, which is constantly changing. The records are public to allow residents to examine the system regularly for accuracy and fairness. Property is revalued for tax purposes every three years.

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Happy Birthdays in Montana

SISU interviews Missoula’s mayor

Missoula Mayor John Engen answers students' questions during an exclusive interview with the class. Clem Work photo.

Missoula Mayor John Engen answers students’ questions during an exclusive interview with the class. Clem Work photo.

Better jobs, solutions to homelessness are Missoula mayor’s top goals

Developing more and better paying jobs and solving the problem of homelessness are two of Missoula’s biggest challenges, the city’s mayor told journalism students from China Monday.

John Engen, Missoula’s three-term mayor and a former journalist, answered questions asked by visiting students from Shanghai International Studies University and by Han Meng, a visiting photojournalist from The Beijing News.

Mayor Engen said Missoula’s economy is recovering from the latest recession, but homelessness and underemployment continue to pose problems. He also talked about his administration efforts to be transparent with journalists and public.

Helping the homeless Continue reading