Missoula Elitism

by William Skink

In a comment from the last post about Hillary and the media Pete Talbot must have thought it was already April Fools day because obviously this comment isn’t meant to be taken literally:

I’ve reversed my stand on guns. Everyone should pack heat all the time, everywhere. And drink more alcohol. It’s time to thin the herd.

Of course Big Swede jumped on this comment to point out that “they” are already being “thinned” in Chicago. In response Pete had this to say:

They’re being “thinned” everywhere in the good ol’ USA, Swede.
Re: my most recent comment — must be the week I’m spending in the Magic City that brought out my less-than-sensitive side.

I find this comment to be fascinating. What started off as sarcasm turned into an interesting false dichotomy where Missoula is sensitive and Billings is not. Not only is Billings not sensitive, but Pete ascribes his insensitive comment about gun violence to time spent in the Magic City.

Talbot’s comment is indicative of a Missoula elitism that does us no favors every two years in Helena. This Missoula elitism also doesn’t do the socio-economically challenged members of our community any good either.

For the last five years housing affordability has moved farther and farther beyond what a median income can afford according to the most recent housing data:

Missoula has a serious housing affordability problem and it’s a seller’s market right now, according to the Missoula Organization of Realtors’ 2016 Housing Report released Thursday.

The Housing Affordability Index, which measures how hard it is for a person or family earning median income to purchase a median-priced home, declined across the board in 2015, as it has since 2010.

That’s mainly because the median sales price of homes in Missoula reached an all-time high of $238,700 in 2015 – a jump of 6.1 percent over 2014 – according to Brint Wahlberg of Windermere Real Estate, who chaired MOR’s housing report group. Five years ago, the median sales price was barely more than $200,000.

“Due to the rise in median price, affordability has taken a hit,” he said. “Potential buyers are losing out on opportunities for houses and there is not enough supply to meet demand.”

Median family incomes in Missoula range from $43,560 for a single person to $62,220 for four people, but it would take an income of more than $80,000 to afford a median-priced home with a 4 percent down payment, according to the report.

When you pass bond after bond because property owners are seen as nothing but piggy banks to be raided for amenities, housing becomes more and more unaffordable. And yet there is still so much demand, housing is being built all over the valley.

Growth in the valley and gentrification downtown continues, despite a lack of critical infrastructure. Apparently Missoula County is so strapped for funds to maintain transportation infrastructure that a gas tax is being considered:

Members of the Missoula Metropolitan Planning Organization have met with the city’s Public Works Committee to discuss the possibility of implementing a gas tax in Missoula County.

The MPO says a possible two-cent per gallon gas tax could generate between $600,000 and $1.1 million in new revenue if it’s approved, but the road to garnering that approval is a long one.

While sensitive Missoula makes it more and more unaffordable for people who don’t make 80,000 bucks a year to own a piece of the American Dream, efforts to transform downtown continue.

Seven years ago, when I started working at Missoula’s downtown homeless shelter, the dirtier aspects of downtown were already being upscaled, as reported by the Missoulian in this article:

When ballet point shoes first trek across a floor once sticky with alcohol, the transformation of the La Flesch Building will be complete.

In early May, in the former Jay’s Downstairs bar, the Downtown Dance Collective will open its doors to reveal more than 2,600 square feet of dance and performance space. And they’ll also reveal further evidence that downtown Missoula is becoming more upscale, more refined in its tastes.

“Downtown’s going to be changing a lot in the next 20 years, like all Rocky Mountain towns,” said Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Missoula Downtown Association. “People are discovering how important good quality of life is.”

Quality of life for who? Transplanted east coasters and fleeing Californians?

Today a piece of this downtown gentrification will be open to the public. The building I used to work at that housed over a hundred people in deplorable conditions will now be known as the Royal Apartments and will house much fewer people:

The downtown building that used to house the Poverello Center has gone from run-down to partly rented – as the Royal Apartments.

From 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, owners Nancy and David Tyrell are inviting the public to tour the $1 million renovation project that gutted the dilapidated interior of 535 Ryman St. and replaced it with 14 units including studio apartments and one- and two-bedroom rentals.

“If nothing else, it will convince you that it is possible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear!” the Tyrells said in an invitation.

Since 2008, when the economy blew up, growth in Missoula has returned with a vengeance. But the economic recovery for most Americans hasn’t materialized. For Pete Talbot and other Missoula elitists, I suggest reading an insightful conversation between Chris Hedges and my favorite economist, Michael Hudson, titled The Lies of Neoliberal Economists. Or just keep talking shit on Billings as Missoula becomes completely unaffordable for the peasants.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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15 Responses to Missoula Elitism

  1. steve kelly says:

    There must first be land where poor residents can live. Favelas in Brazil face similar problems, but at least there is a place to squat. Missoula doesn’t seem to accept any place where poor people are not run around in circles. A designated area for a tent city would be better than the current situation IMO. Bozeman is probably worse for poor folks needing shelter.

  2. I loved Talbot’s remark a few weeks ago when I brought up the numerous potholes in Missoula.

    “They give the town charm” he said, or some such. Bringing up the South Avenue residents that were never paid, even when the court ordered it, is another one that Talbot and others like him have a hard time reconciling with their beliefs in the high and mighty “leadership” we currently have.

    It’s important to remember that when these jokers see their policies fail miserably and are run out with tar and feathers, people like you and I can step in. We’ve documented the problems for some time now, pointing out what others wanted us to ignore.

    Our time will come, as will theirs.

  3. In defense of Billings, where I lived until 2001, there were over 2,000 votes cast for Ralph Nader in 2000. There is a vibrant underground there that could be mined if Democrats were interested in progression issues.

    Then again, they might have thought they were voting for Rob Natelson.

  4. petetalbot says:

    My sarcastic comment had little to do with being in Billings and more to do with the circumstances that brought me here, which are personal and none of your business. Perhaps my comment lacked clarity, which happens to me from time-to-time, but it was late.
    You may have noticed, but probably not, the kudos I gave a group of protesters in Downtown Billings in a recent post:
    “I’m in town on other business but was impressed when I stumbled across the rally downtown in what can only be described as really unpleasant weather.”
    But I’ll cop to being a “Missoula elitist.” I love my town, warts and all. I have a great fondness for the rest of Montana, too. Having spent most of yesterday driving around looking at used handicapped scooters in Shepherd, Huntley and Molt. I reveled at the rimrocks, coulees and big sky. I particularly enjoyed talking with the ranchers, truckers and housewives I met — the salt of the Earth.
    By the way, Billings is becoming unaffordable for many, too, perhaps for different reasons. As the jumping off point for the coal and oil fields of Eastern Montana, and a retail and medical center serving a 300-square-mile area, housing prices are up and supply is down. Maybe this will abate as the boom turns to bust.
    Anyway, glad Don and I continue to provide fodder for your site. And while you relentlessly trash everything Democratic (as in Party), it is my belief that trying to keep the likes of Gianforte, Zinke, Daines and Trump/Cruz out of office are worth writing about. You may call it triangulation. I call it triage. I figure you go after the real evil first and tackle the lesser evil later. You have a great capacity for alienating potential allies, Skink. I’ve thought about linking to your well-written posts on homelessness and mental illness, even advancing your agenda when I have the opportunity. After all your caustic posts on Don, me and Intelligent Discontent, though, I’m disinclined to do so.
    Finally, in response to Strandberg’s comment: “It’s important to remember that when these jokers see their policies fail miserably and are run out with tar and feathers, people like you and I can step in.” I’m looking forward to the day when you and Greg get those potholes fixed.

    • If you look hard and long enough at the city’s budget, those potholes can get fixed. We have the money, we just need to use it wisely.

      And yes, that might mean some city workers lose their jobs as we cut positions that aren’t really needed and combine jobs. This is basic business when the alternative is raising prices, or in this case taxes. I don’t feel continual tax increases are sustainable.

      I bet if we comb that budget we could find other ways, however. A few million for a one-way street study, for instance? That’s just not necessary at this time. When things are working, let’s leave them and go to the things that are not.

      I’d encourage anyone interested in getting started with the city budget to look at some of the work I put together last year:


    • this is the double standard people get sick of. there’s plenty of “caustic” shit thrown toward your political opponents at your site (which is why I will keep writing in response to it), but for some reason it’s just not ok for someone like me to bring it from a different angle against a Dem party apparatus that is no longer responsive to the impending economic collapse it has helped facilitate.

      did you read the Hudson/Hedges piece? if not, you should.

      I’ve thought about linking to your well-written posts on homelessness and mental illness, even advancing your agenda when I have the opportunity. After all your caustic posts on Don, me and Intelligent Discontent, though, I’m disinclined to do so.

      this part of your comment is really low. if you think suppressing my posts about other issues I’ve written about will change my refusal to be shut up by petty authoritarians like Don, think again. since that comment was earlier in the day I’ll hold you more accountable for it.

      good luck with that lesser-evil-later approach, and good luck in November. while you advance your political agenda of gun control and saving Syrian refugees, the actual first responders doing the triage you just talk about are drowning in systemic failure.

      • petetalbot says:

        You cast a wide net, Skink: ” … a Dem party apparatus that is no longer responsive to the impending economic collapse it has helped facilitate.” Does that include Denise Juneau, all of Missoula’s legislative delegation, our PSC candidates? How about Bernie Sanders? (A candidate you’ve disparaged in a number of posts — he is running as a Democrat, you know.) Are there no Democrats worth supporting?
        I’ve never done any “suppressing” of your posts, I just don’t advance your site anymore because so many of your posts are, to borrow your term, “petty.” If Don Pogreba is one of the great evils in this world, well, your perspective is pretty screwed up.
        And again the false dichotomy: my concerns over guns and refugees aren’t worthwhile so we can’t tackle them because only Skink issues are of any importance. How arrogant.
        As to your quote, the “caustic shit thrown toward your political opponents at your site” — let’s see how accepting of your issues the far-right Gianfortes, Zinkes, Daines and Trumps of this world are, if they get elected.
        I think you fit this Pogo Possum (the cartoon character, not the conservative commenter) quote perfectly, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

        • the actual post you are commenting on is about more than just your comments and ID, it’s about gentrification and affordable housing and the lies of neoliberal economics. you also didn’t answer my question about whether your read the piece at the last link, so I’ll assume you didn’t, but really you should.

          then there’s the issue of you putting words in my mouth, something Matt had to ask you not to do. referencing lesser-evilism isn’t calling specific people evil, but you know that.

          as for Montana Democrats, we have the state Democratic leadership–Tester and Bullock–raising money for other Democrats. Bullock through his role in the Democratic Governors Association and Tester by chairing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. down-ticket I’m sure there’s decent people running, but the system isn’t made for decent people–it’s made for sociopaths.

          anyway, thanks for commenting. both you and Don are welcome to continue commenting on the content of my posts, or to put words in my mouth, if that is all you got, which seems mostly to be the case these days.

  5. Big Swede says:

    Missoula is a microcosm of San Francisco.

  6. larry kurtz says:

    Anyone who believes Republicans will fix Missoula is delusional.

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