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.
If you appreciate this content, please consider making a donation at my about page.
Thanks for reading!