Why Are We Getting Point Of Ordered For Making Public Comment?

by Travis Mateer

With my comment typed up and printed out, I walked up to the podium to make the FIRST comment of the night, since it wasn’t specific to any particular agenda item. I’ll include the full comment below, but before I do I’d like to examine why myself and another citizen got got point-of-ordered.

I thought things were going pretty good at first. I read through my prepared statement swiftly, but not TOO fast. I wanted to be heard, but was trying to remain conscious of my voice and its loudness. I ended up not doing a very good job of that, unfortunately.

Here is how my commentary began:

I think I finally determined the problem some of you elected officials have with the public: we are not the abstractions you see through the data of your surveys and listening sessions, rendered sterile and manageable through the analysis of your experts. We are real, actual humans, and your job is to represent ALL the people in your respective wards, whether you agree with them or not.

Increasingly what we disagree about are the core claims coming from the bubbles you exist in regarding the benefits of your policy decisions. Is the local bus system a better service after going free? Is Tax Increment Financing a generally good tool improving the lives of average Missoulians? Are victims of sexual assault being better served by the criminal justice system ten years after Jon Krakauer’s book? And don’t get me started on snow removal.

Your answers arrive with the stink of a pandering public relations damage control campaign mixed with fancy consultant-speak to impress Jane and Joe Smith into staying home and shutting up about what they plainly see happening on their streets and in their neighborhoods. 

I’m here as an independent journalist investigating local corruption to let you know you are damn lucky the public isn’t paying closer attention, because if they were they’d see how you supposedly cash-strapped officials are doling out the funds left and right if it forwards your agenda. 

Obviously I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there to make points, but when I got into calling out specific businesses and specific government institutions for specific actions, well, I think that’s where it started going downhill. Here’s the rest of my comment:

It’s easy, so I understand why you use public funds to flex for what you think is the right thing to do, but outside your bubbles people like me see businesses like the Radius Gallery getting TIF handouts to benefit their bottom line, while one of the owners of that business makes life difficult for people who don’t toe the political line in this supposedly liberal town.

I see how a litigant against the University, who is also a landlord, ended the lease of a Council member she didn’t agree with politically. I talk to reporters—not Martin “Gomer” Kidston—but the ones who have left the state after getting too close to your public/private schemes. I am more than willing to talk to reporters who are still here, working, about what I know, and have with a few, but recently the Missoulian simply lumped me in as one of Scott Billadeau’s ILK. Is this unprofessional language being used out of professional laziness, or is something else going on with John Talbot’s Missoulian?

I bet having to deal with the public, in person, make you nostalgic for the pandemic days when you got loads of emergency money, which you shoveled out in NO BID fashion, with little to no accountability, and you even got to buy a nasty motel for a pretty big price tag, and the dirty hordes just had to stay home and take it. 

Well, if the resounding NO of the crisis mill levy is any indication, the public in Missoula is no longer keen on just taking it, and they made it known. Maybe you think that’s a flash in the pan. I think it’s just the beginning, and when the dam of narrative control finally breaks, maybe the public will finally see the humans you’ve helped disappear, humans like Sean Stevenson, a black man who was euthanized inside a private hospital by the supposedly public Missoula County Sheriff’s Office on January 5th, 2020. Once they see, they will have to act. If you’re not prepared for that, my suggestion is simple: get ready. Thank you for your time.

By the time I got to the actions of euthanasia at the hands of the Sheriff’s Office, Stacie Anderson was shutting me down. I walked back to my seat to grab my belongings so that I could exit, half-listening to Anderson tell her fellow Council members why she was point-of-ordering me. I stopped by the microphone on my way out for one final unscripted moment with my elected officials before leaving.

Once outside I had both a police officer and security guard come out to check on me. I asked the young officer if we needed to talk. “No, you’re ok, Travis,” he said. I remembered this officer as being the one who found my phone after the 2am Mayoral selection last fall.

I found out later that the person making public comment after me ALSO got a point-of-order for pointing out his observation that some Council members were rolling their eyes at him. This limitation of a public comment came directly from our placeholder Mayor, Jordan Hess, the multi-modal radical who must have been eager to get to the Higgins Corridor lane-reduction plan.

My assumption that the crowd was there for the Higgins plan changed after seeing most of them get up and leave after the conversation on a potential ban of single-use plastic bags was done (I watched online after leaving). When the Higgins plan came up on the agenda, there weren’t many people left. That surprised me.

Public comments were allowed first, and there was some criticism, and one supporter, but it was quite subdued compared to the earlier excitement. Aaron Wilson, the city engineer who spoke Wednesday, got up after the comments were done and did a small Q & A for Council.

While Mike Nugent made some comments that gave the impression he was considering a no vote, the final result was a predictable 10-2 vote, with John Contos and Sandra Vasecka voting no. And the plan moves forward.

The image above is from the Engage Missoula website where I was hoping to find comments about this plan, but no luck. Earlier in the day I stopped at several local businesses along Higgins for some on-the-ground perspective and one person who was NOT for this plan mentioned how someone taking their time parking would block the ONLY lane. She also wondered about where the snow berms would go.

When this plan is officially adopted, and it WILL BE adopted, the naysayers will just have to wait and see how things turn out. Will MORE people come downtown because their multi-modes of transportation are better protected, or will traffic congestion get worse, keeping more people AWAY from the hassle of coming downtown to shop? Only time will tell.

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Who Is Handing Out Free Coats At An Empty Taco Johns In Missoula And Why?

by Travis Mateer

Before my former employer gets the idea I’m sneaking around their facility on West Broadway, I’m publicly offering to give the Executive Director the full story that put me inside the emergency shelter I used to work at for just a few minutes on Friday afternoon. I’m actually pretty annoyed myself, since I had simply been asked to help drop off a donation as a favor, and planned on spending as little time as possible to achieve that simple task.

Since the universe, or synchronicities, or God all appear to enjoy fucking with me on a near-constant basis, a woman entered the building to drop off a flyer, which the staff member happily put up without question. Because why not? Free coats in the winter time are very important, especially considering meanies like me and the Flathead County Commissioners want to punish the houseless by denying them the proliferation of enablers who don’t understand the larger forces at play.

Anyway, I should have known a well-timed run-in was brewing, since the owner of this empty Taco Johns recently took the stand in the murder trial I covered to discuss helping out Detective Guy Baker with security footage, showing Lee Nelson before he was beat to death outside her business. Back then it was an actual business, but now it’s empty and has been for awhile. Why? That’s what I asked Kari as she was getting into her Cadillac Escalade after she told the homeless shelter staff about free coats being handed out starting at 10am on February 4th.

I told her I would be there to write about it as a journalist, so she gave me her business card.

That’s right, Kari Anderson works for Dr. Khanna’s Returning Youth Initiative, a bizarre outfit I wrote about last June after I started seeing flyers pop up around town. The claim is this organization has stuff going on in all 50 states helping people get back on their feet after incarceration. How is this accomplished? By finding people to open businesses so Dr. Khanna can get a percentage.

In Hamilton, where Montana’s Khanna operation is based, businesses like Marvel Vision were opened. Looks pretty nice, right?

From one source I spoke with, this storefront didn’t last long. Why not? It sounded like a good idea when the Ravalli Republic reported on it:

A new Hamilton eye care center affiliated with a national program focused on people who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law aims to offer just that. 

Returning Youth Initiative is a vision that can have a positive impact on the lives of those who have served their time.

The official title of the effort is Post Incarceration Juvenile Justice Reformation Act Initiative, an undertaking of Voice of the Kids, Inc., a national non-profit by Surajit Khanna, Ph. D. The entrepreneurship initiative helps post-incarcerated people own their own business, provides training, job opportunities after young adults serve their time in prison.

“We are helping post-incarcerated young adults get back to work and get integrated back into society,” Susan Hau Uc Dickinson said.

I emailed someone from the main office about the closing of Marvel Vision, but as of this writing I have not had a response.

Back to the free coats.

I showed up on Saturday at 10am and sure enough there was free stuff, including pastries and coffee. And coats. I spoke with two of the three people on site and got a better idea about why Taco Johns is still empty. Kari had told me it was because of problems with the building, but on Saturday I was told the Bistro being planned fell through because the person they were going to partner with backed out. That sounds more like it.

While the reason for the business not opening seems more legit, the claim of this outfit being a non-profit does not, as this result at the Secretary of State’s business search clearly indicates. From the link:

Does any of this matter? Probably not. We’re the wild west, dontchya know, and you have to get pretty exploitive with enough people for something minimal to happen, like the scrutiny that sent Jason Stevens scurrying away from his Glacier Hope Homes scam.

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Week In Review: Jan 30-Feb 3

by Travis Mateer

How did this episode get finished? I don’t really know. Jesus was involved, I am told. I had given up and taken a nap at that point, but not before constructively texting my buddy that ProTools can go fuck itself. It shouldn’t take nearly 5 hours to figure out how to fix the audio on a 90 minute recording.

I’m very happy a divine intervention occurred to bring you this week’s review of Zoom Chron articles. Do we discuss the Chinese spy balloon? Yes, we do, along with ALL the week’s activity on the blog.

This coming week the Higgins corridor lane reduction scheme will get a more PRIMETIME public hearing on Monday, and I plan on being prepared with some prepared remarks that will be LESS than 3 minutes and delivered in a tone-appropriate voice (hopefully).

Will the main opposition to this plan, Scott Billadeau, read his 11 points of concern faster than Wednesday? He probably should, because I don’t feel like Council has much patience right now for public criticism.

As I promised in this week’s episode, here are 11 points of concern:

1.)    While the proponents of the downtown road diet claim broad engagement, the reality on the ground is that very few business owners, employees, and residents of the downtown area knew about the project until very recently.  Many are still not aware of the project.  According to the road diet proponents, the current number of survey respondents reflect less than ½ of 1% of Missoula County residents.  We suspect that those initial survey respondents are directly or indirectly connected with the project and/or the proponents of the project.    

2.)   The ‘downtown road diet’ is being heralded as a solution to an enduring safety problem.  The real agenda appears to be the goal of forcing more people to bus, bike, or walk downtown.  We have no issue with nudging more people to bus, bike, or walk, but it should be a choice they make.  For most Missoulians and out-of-towners, it is simply not an option to bike, bus, or walk in order to get downtown.  Further, there are on average only 5 (five) reported biking or walking accidents in downtown Missoula, of which the majority do not include injuries.  Given the fact that there are several million mobilizations annually, a .000001 incident rate, does not represent a problem that needs solved.  If anything, that’s a safety success story.  It is simply not possible for millions of mobilizations and zero accidents.

3.)   There does not appear to have been safety studies that take into account the safety ramifications of implementing a road diet.  For example, what would happen when fewer people respect yellow and red lights when forced congestion occurs?  What would happen when cars are backed up across several blocks during rush-hour traffic?  What would happen if people felt inclined to drive faster in order to not get stuck on the same block after several turns of a stop light?  What would occur if substantially more traffic is forced onto the Orange Street or Madison Street bridges?

4.)   The road diet would ensure longer travel times in and out of downtown, which would cause more inefficiency and more idling automobiles along with the exhaust thereof.  Besides causing more CO2 in the atmosphere, it would cause more air pollution in a city that is constantly plagued with air quality issues.

5.)   Downtown Missoula has been fighting a negative perception problem for decades, and the road diet would only add to that negative viewpoint.  While a large number of city officials, the Missoula Parking Commission, and the Missoula Downtown Association would like to think there is not a negative perception of downtown Missoula, the reality is that many Missoulians view the hassle and cost of parking downtown, as well as the ongoing and increasing problem of homelessness as major deterrents to coming downtown. 

6.)   The authors of the study analysis with respect to downtown Missoula concluded that Missoula is has already been successful in its effort to create multi-modal transportation downtown:

Higgins Avenue is a critical spine of Missoula’s downtown core, providing mobility to the city’s center as well as forming a “postcard street” as described in Missoula’s Downtown Master Plan. The corridor is already a multi-modal thoroughfare, with pedestrian and bicycle activity happening alongside auto, truck, bus traffic,plus ample ride-share traffic…

7.)   The new Beartracks Bridge was designed with extra wide sidewalks and biking areas for the purpose of making it easier and safer to bike and walk downtown.  Why would Missoula now go against that initial design and a $17 million dollar expenditure?

8.)   There are dozens of additional businesses downtown and hundreds of additional hotel rooms without ANYadditional parking spaces.  The idea that a road diet and removing parking spaces would somehow benefit downtown Missoula goes against all notions of common sense.  The supposed studies that claim economic benefit have dubious study design.  Further, the comparison to other largescale cities like Portland, San Francisco, and Denver do not reflect a similar scenario as Missoula.  Further yet, the economic benefit claims have been double and triple counted (using San Francisco three times, and Denver twice).  Large cities have multiple ‘main streets’ and substantial thoroughfares for getting in and out of the their downtown areas.  Missoula has one: Higgins Avenue.  

The downtown Missoula businesses that experienced the current road diet on Higgins Ave (North of Broadway) unequivocally state that it caused economic hardship and at least in one case, closed their business because of it.  

9.)   Higgins Avenue is also Highway 12.  Many drivers are simply driving from I-90 over to Highway 93 and down the Bitterroot or vice versa.    

10.) Downtown Missoula has construction fatigue.  Even if the downtown road diet was a good idea and it solved an actual problem, people are tired of what feels like never-ending construction.   

11.) As anyone can see from the city government presentations about the road diet proposal, a tremendous amount of time, energy, money, and resources was (and continues to be), invested into the project.  Imagine if the same time, energy, money, and resources were invested into an actual problem, such as homelessness, or downtown parking.

Yes, Monday’s City Council meeting should be a fun way to begin the week, so stay tuned, and drop me a donation at my about page if you find value in this content.

Thanks for reading/listening!

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A Chinese Spy Balloon/Eliza Bleu Friday Bonus Post

by Travis Mateer

I’m squeezing these two topics into one bonus post because I find it annoying to even write about this bullshit, but since the viral nature of the topics have thrust them in my face, I’m going to add my two cents because I do have some thoughts to share.

Above is an image of the Chinese balloon first spotted over Billings, Montana. For any readers NOT familiar with the Big Sky State, it’s currently being led by a tech-billionaire Governor who recently banned TikTok from state devices. Also, we’ve become quite the bunker-state for wealthy people to flee to. Could a Chinese “spy” balloon have any national interest in mapping where the wealthy are hiding out in Montana?

This story is also a convenient thing to focus attention on while MORE footage from that creepy Pfizer guy is making the rounds thanks to Project Veritas. Why worry about irregular menstrual cycles when you can worry about CHINA spying on you?

Moving on to Eliza Bleu, here’s an excerpt from a Daily Beast article to catch you up, since you’re probably wondering WHO THE HELL IS ELIZA BLEU? From the link:

With striking lilac hair and a pugnacious attitude, the anti-sex trafficking activist known as Eliza Bleu has broken into some of the top tiers of right-wing media in just a few years, growing her audience through interviews with popular figures like Ben Shapiro, Tim Pool, and Dr. Drew Pinsky.

But in late 2022, Bleu found an even more powerful ally: new Twitter owner Elon Musk.

Bleu, who refers to herself as “a survivor of human trafficking,” has lent the billionaire an unusual form of credibility by insisting that pre-Musk Twitter was overrun with child pornography. Only Musk, Bleu says, has been willing to stamp out the abusive material on Twitter “at scale.” In another tweet, she declared, “The war against Elon Musk is actually a war over your mind.” Musk responded with a bullseye emoji.

Bleu’s praise for Musk comes even as the billionaire has slashed much of Twitter’s staff, including huge numbers of workers responsible for content moderation. For his part, Musk has boosted Bleu’s profile on the site with replies and retweets, helping her earn more than 100,000 new followers in December alone.

“You have a direct line to me on this issue,” Musk told Bleu in a Twitter Space live chat in December.

The controversy that has emerged is mostly surrounding skepticism over Eliza Bleu’s authenticity, and the de-platforming currently underway against those who are trying to do that “trust but verify” thing which you SHOULD BE doing when it comes to a fraught topic like human trafficking.

Something struck me about this subject, considering I just received this book in the mail a few days ago. Could it be the same person?

Since “Eliza Bleu” has used different variations of her name, I sent the publisher an email inquiry. Here is the reply I got back:

Since this is NOT the same person as Eliza Bleu, could one possible outcome of a grifter falsely claiming to be some kind of victim of human trafficking be to bury the search results of a REAL victim of abuse and her book? Could that be a feature of this controversy and not a bug?

I’ll leave it there, for now. It looks like there will be LOTS of things to discuss for this Sunday’s WEEK in REVIEW. So stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

For an added bonus, enjoy this VERY appropriate song from the 80’s.

Have a GREAT weekend!

UPDATE: moronic “local” politician (New York transplant) tweets joyful acceptance of his Chinese overlords:

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Why Do Narrative Controllers Have So Much Disdain For The Public?

by Travis Mateer

It wasn’t easy sitting in the City Council chambers during the Public Works Committee discussion on Wednesday. Why? Because our elected leaders can’t hide their disdain for the public when the public shows up to criticize things, like the lane-reduction scheme that has already been effectively decided. And it shows.

One of the main, and confusing, points of contention is HOW LONG this plan has been known, and to whom. Has it been cooking for years in different committees, or is it a more recent push by the multi-modal zealots (MMZ) at the city-level? This matters to skeptical members of the public who have the impression the MMZs pulled a fast one on the Montana Department of Transportation, the entity responsible for the design and build of the FOUR lane Beartracks Bridge.

Leading the opposition to this lane reduction scheme is Scott Billadeau, co-owner of Liquid Planet and Pangea, a restaurant located on Higgins, north of the bridge. Here is how the Missoulian framed his opposition while lumping in people like ME, who also provided public comment. From the link (emphasis mine):

Scott Billadeau, co-owner of Pangea and Liquid Planet, said the Higgins conversion could potentially create “one of the worst mistakes in the entire history of Missoula.”

Billadeau and his ilk railed against the public engagement process, the congestion the conversion could engender, the parking reduction and other issues with the proposal. City staff noted they have received more feedback than usual on this particular project.

Did the reporter, Bret Anne Serbin, attempt to speak with me about my opposition, or use any direct quote from my public comment? Nope, because I’m apparently just a part of Billadeau’s ILK and not worthy of further engagement.

The point I started with (before the volume of my voice made some on Council uncomfortable) was that I sympathized with the defensiveness toward the framing of this local conflict as CAR vs. BIKE, so I offered an alternative framing to better describe where the tension seems to exist: PEOPLE vs. INFRASTRUCTURE/RULE-ENFORCEMENT

The smart, highly educated traffic engineers–who some on Council felt the need to prop up as if their hearts had been broken by the criticism–don’t seem to understand why the public skepticism is so deep-seated, so my hope was to explain that PEOPLE don’t always use infrastructure as intended, and the systemic problems with the criminal justice system means enforcement of ANY rule is pretty much a joke these days.

I got frustrated and had to cut my unscripted comment short, so I wasn’t able to connect the “messy human” problem to the recent local drama of chaos taking hold thanks to municipal snow-removal requirements. I think pre-writing my next public comment might help clarify some points I was trying to make. Not for Council, since it’s clear what the majority of THEM feel about public criticism of their plans, but for the public, who DO suffer from a lack of quality, critical local news coverage.

And why is that? Why did the Missoula Independent get shuttered on September 11th, 2018?

This harsh move against an effective platform of critical journalism was enabled by Matt Gibson. What’s Matt up to these days? I don’t know, I’m more interested in what his partner is up to, since she’s a BIG part of Missoula County getting more INTENTIONAL on using city-inspired financing schemes to drive development in the County. From the link (emphasis mine)

As economic activity grows in several development districts created by Missoula County in recent years, it’s now streamlining the authority board that oversees them.

On Tuesday, commissioners delegated wider oversight to the Development Authority, setting it up to serve in an advisory role to the county and its tax increment financing districts. The county has established several such districts to further economic development, including the Bonner West Log Yard and the Missoula Development Park near the airport.

Emily Brock, the county’s director of lands and economic development, said that while the Development Authority will now oversee each of the county’s TEDDs, its powers remain the same in other areas.

“We only addressed the tax increment piece,” she said. “We left all the existing powers of the port authority the same. It doesn’t take away the port authority’s existing powers. We want to explore those powers and see what we can do with them.”

While exploring power is definitely interesting–and something I share with Emily BROCK–I’m not sure we’re talking about the same powers here. Tracking the power I’m interested in, in a town the size of Missoula, means being aware of every possible angle of influence. I’ve been forced to think this way after sustaining nasty attacks behind the scenes, and seeing others get the same treatment.

Since the public is apparently incapable of fathoming the immense brain-work done by traffic engineers as they produce inspired traffic-calming road features, it really is unfortunate (and a touch ironic) that Matt Gibson helped Lee Enterprises kill the Indy.

Now it’s up to locals like me to attend and report on the transportation infrastructure being created because Council members like Heidi West used to get scared biking to work with her young kids in a bike trailer down Higgins. No wonder I’m having 2013 flashbacks of justifying the sitting on sidewalks ban because of stuff like this:

Copple also said Councilwoman Wolken, who went home before the vote to care for her newborn, wanted to let people know she had been chased by a drunk person outside the Oxford when she was seven months pregnant. Wolken worried about what might have happened if her partner hadn’t been waiting nearby with his car.

“I just am not OK with having our downtown be a scary place for a lot of the people who are working down there, who want to use it, who are visiting our town,” Copple said.

The public comments I made at the COUNTY COMMISSIONER meeting yesterday were not nearly as tonally antagonistic, even though the situation being presented to the public was similar. What do I mean? I mean the $750,000 dollars being made available for housing assistance has ALREADY been earmarked for programming. I am deducing this from how many times Josh Slotnick excitedly claimed details would be forthcoming.

My comments about the housing fund were about the general need to gain public trust by vetting recipients of any assistance doled out, and to be aware of housing policies that fuel revolving doors of need, like the Missoula Housing Authority imposing limits on overnight stays for guests, something that I know often leads to people losing housing when they can’t, or won’t, kick out a guest who has overstayed their welcome, for whatever reason.

Maybe that’s why narrative controllers disdain the public: not all of us are the reactionary yokels who make it easy for our elected braintrust to dismiss, and sometimes we even have valid points!

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