My Sensitivity Training Won’t Cost Missoula A Dime

by William Skink

I think Tom Bensen and the organization he directs, Arts Missoula, need their own sensitivity training after asking (and then receiving) over $30,000 dollars for a global and cultural affairs director. From the link:

Arts Missoula will hire a director of global and cultural affairs to help the city become more welcoming to refugees who resettle here.

In a 9-2 vote Monday night, City Council members amended the city’s fiscal 2018 budget to provide $34,424 for the immediate hire. In fiscal 2019, the full-year budget implication will be $79,000.

As described by Arts Missoula executive director Tom Bensen, the new global and cultural affairs director will develop programs in sensitivity training for local schools, city and county employees, and other public or private groups.

Maybe Bensen doesn’t know that the budget cuts are just now starting to be felt by thousands of vulnerable Montanans.  Maybe he doesn’t know Missoula County’s plan in the face of these cuts is to raise property taxes.

Maybe Bensen doesn’t know 40 families have vouchers for housing, but no willing landlords/property management companies willing to rent to them.

Maybe he doesn’t know that there is only one person working as a housing navigator to assist hundreds of homeless people trying to find housing, and that one person only works half time.

Maybe he doesn’t know dozens of people face imminent eviction from Skyview Trailer park.

If he doesn’t know, I’d be more than willing to help develop a sensitivity training program to help raise awareness. Hell, I’d even do it for free.

One particularly galling factor of this budget ask is that it’s apparently not even the appropriate time of year to be making new budget requests, a little fact I’m glad Councilperson Michelle Cares pointed out:

Two council members objected to the amendment on procedural grounds, saying the city should not add a position mid-stream, thereby setting up an expectation for the next budget cycle.

Debate over the merits of a new position should come in the context of all the other requests that come before City Council during its budget hearings, said Councilwoman Michelle Cares.

“I don’t think we should add staff outside of the normal budget process,” she said. “Every year, we make many difficult decisions during that process – and this request should be one of those we consider.”

If Tom Bensen was sensitive to the dire need that exists under the utopian facade of Missoula–a need made more desperate by the cruel budget cuts–and if he realized that lots of agencies would like more funding to make critical hires for their programs, maybe he would understand that this request is more than a little tone deaf.

I think there is a growing non-racist, non-xenophobic frustration in the social service sector about Missoula’s priorities. At least it seems that way to me from the conversations I’m having.

City Council voted 9-2 to amend the budget for this request, just like that. While jail diversion programs go unfunded and state cuts shift the cost of services onto property owners (who will pass them down to everyone else), it appears that if you say you’re helping refugees, you’ll get money, no problem.

Without my Sensitivity Program for Privileged White People (SPFPWP), I’m afraid privileged white people will keep doing things that will provide financially insecure Montanans further evidence that bringing refugees to Missoula is more important than mitigating the suffering of the poor and vulnerable already here.

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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5 Responses to My Sensitivity Training Won’t Cost Missoula A Dime

  1. Eric says:

    I’m missing something here – as I don’t understand what role the city has in people being evicted.

    Or how many rental units are available.

    I have a house I rent, and I had to buy it. The city has no part of it here.

    Isn’t this a landlord / tenant thing? What am I missing?

  2. *Eric says:

    I assume you have the same homeless problems we have, which is mainly people with mental issues, or have problems with alcohol or modern chemistry, and whose families have given up on them.

    But why blame the city?

    If they started arresting vagrants or busing them to So Cal they would be criticized even worse, wouldn’t they?

    • clearly this blog has failed you. you must not know that Missoula has spent tens of thousands of dollars studying things like homelessness and affordable housing and jail overcrowding. you also must not realize that Missoula is 5 years into a 10 year plan to end homelessness, or that budget cuts have forced municipalities into figuring out how to absorb the impacts on its residents. what makes this even more maddening is that there are solutions to these problems. what we lack is the funding and political will to make it happen.

    • JC says:

      So, if I understand you Eric, you don’t have a problem with folks with “mental issues, or have problems with alcohol or modern chemistry, and whose families have given up on them” being homeless?

      What ever happened to the notion of compassionate conservatism? Has Trumpism driven evil that far into the psyches of once communitarian minded republicans that they no longer care about people suffering around them?

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