New Lows In Missoula’s Mayoral Race

by William Skink

Here in the most special of places—Missoula—our specialness is under threat. But first, how special is Missoula? Well, take this quote from MP blogger Nathan Kosted:

Missoula is a great place for many reasons, one of those is that it is a singularly unique community. It is the only town in America that abuts a wilderness area (The Rattlesnake). The University of Montana is the only university in America that has a mountain that abuts it (Mount Sentinel). These are mere geographic features because the truly unique part of Missoula is its wonderful people, culture, welcoming nature, and prosperous community.

So, what is threatening our fair, welcoming, prosperous community? A dumb-sounding, welfare-snatching Palinesque woman who has the temerity to try and dethrone King Engen.

Regarding welfare-snatching, that part of Lisa Triepke’s narrative was recently told by the Missoulian. The title, of course, is primed to get clicks: Mayoral Candidate Bought Two Houses While Receiving Public Assistance. Say what?

I find this article troubling on a number of fronts. I get the deliciousness of this gotchya depiction of a conservative candidate on the dole trying to unseat an alleged “progressive” Mayor, but public shaming a woman going through a divorce for the faults of the public benefits system is a tad disgusting. Also, the Missoulian is actually helping to perpetuate the false impression that social supports like SNAP are not accountable to changes in a recipient’s economic status. Those of us who work in social services know that is not the case.

Another thing that bothers me about this story digging into personal details of Triepke’s divorce is the Missoulian’s lack of coverage of our current Mayor’s personal struggles. Not until the Mayor himself chose to use those struggles (after an intervention) to launch his reelection campaign did the Missoulian cover what many already knew—that John Engen is an alcoholic.

I think Engen’s alcoholism should be a part of this electoral conversation, especially now with the Missoulian doing this hit piece on Triepke. So, did Engen show up to work while drunk? Drive while drunk? Encourage the expansion of the convention center project while drunk? And what about Engen’s divorce? Or rumors of a fight on a plane? Or any number of other potential problems with an alcoholic in the position of power Engen has enjoyed for 3 terms?

Missoula’s progressive clique has enabled our Mayor for a long time. If I showed up to work under the influence of alcohol I would no longer have a job. That would be most people’s experience with an employer. I guess Engen is different and feels entitled to continue implementing his vision for Missoula–a vision of endless growth despite multiple systemic problems with health, housing, higher education and the criminal justice system

Now Missoula’s corporate rag is ragging on a single mom’s use of public assistance. Is this an acceptable media story for Missoula progressives? Maybe it’s ok because Triepke has not shown enough sympathy for the struggles of low-income Missoulians. Maybe it’s ok because she sounds stupid in interviews and lacks the experience Engen has booze-schmoozing with developers. As Triepke gets bashed for things like comparing Missoula to Bozeman, remember, it was Engen who actually connived with Bozeman developers to raze the Merc to the ground for a hotel.

Like last year’s election cycle, I see this race as being between two people I don’t want to support. I wish Engen was facing better opposition than what Triepke’s clique has been able to muster. With another Engen term Missoula is going to get more unsustainable development, more systemic decline in critical services and more empty lip service about fixing serious problems.

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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3 Responses to New Lows In Missoula’s Mayoral Race

  1. Derek says:

    Engen used eminent domain to take over Mountain Water and make it a public utility. Can you find another mayor in the US who is willing to do that? I’m not saying he’s worth worshiping, and I agree he’s too cozy with developers, but have some perspective.

  2. Pingback: Will Mayor Engen Win A Fifth Term? | Reptile Dysfunction

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