Missoula Rises And Julie Merritt Get Called Out For Conspiring Against Local Business Woman

by William Skink

UPDATE: Julie Merritt referred to a different contractor as a POS, not Dee Saale. Thank you to the reporter who pointed out my mistake.

An interesting spat has emerged from a closed conversation not intended for public scrutiny. Just the fact this conversation was happening on a closed Facebook group is a bit ironic, considering the group is Missoula Rises. I guess there are limits to being inclusive.

If you’re not familiar with Missoula Rises, check out their vision statement:

Missoula Rises is a community-led, local group committed to the protection of the rights of our community members. Our group serves Missoula, the Bitterroot Valley and surrounding areas. We seek to effectuate local change with the intent that our local work will eventually have an impact on a larger scale. We are non-partisan and inclusive. Diversity is key. We seek input from all people and understand the success of our message depends on the diversity of voices. Missoula Rises will further the protection of human rights through: education, dialogue, vigilance, accountability and activism.

Is free speech a right Missoula Rises supports? Are they actually inclusive of people with different opinions, or who do things they don’t approve of, like criticize the government of Missoula? The recent spat would indicate that on both accounts the answer is no.

So what’s the big controversy? Apparently a woman who has a construction business and does business with the city of Missoula has been critical of taxes and government spending.  Nothing specific is mentioned that would get a woman like Roseanne fired or a woman like New York Times editor Sarah Jeong hired, so I don’t know what has this Facebook group “founded in love” all riled up, but I do know things got much more interesting when Julie Merritt entered the fray, calling the business woman in question a piece of shit (she used the more civil acronym POS) before offering to look into how to financially retaliate from her official city council position.

Here is how NBC reported it:

It’s a busy season for concrete company owner Deanne Saale. She’ll tell you she has a lot invested in Missoula and is outspoken about city taxes and spending on social media.

“I voice my opinion a lot about taxes and the freedoms we’ve lost in this city,” Saale said.

Saale didn’t think it could jeopardize her company until she says an acquaintance sent her a screenshot from a Missoula Facebook group. It’s called Missoula Rises. It’s described as a closed group with roughly 3,500 members. We joined it to confirm the comments for ourselves.

Here’s what we found in the comments.

One member calls Saale cruel and asks if the city can “be encouraged” to not hire her or another contractor. She writes Saale spews “hatred”.

Missoula City Council Member Julie Merritt responds. She calls the other contractor a “POS” and then writes she’ll look into an approach to limit their contracts.

So, this is how a pro-diversity group that spews idealistic rhetoric about inclusion responds to someone they don’t agree with? They act like mean girls behind her back, calling her names, then attempt to find a way to financially penalize her? Wow.

I wonder what other methods Missoula Rises can think up to combat “hate”, how about an ideological purity test for anyone contracting with the city of Missoula in order to exclude any business that doesn’t adhere to the values of diversity and inclusion?

As absurdly contradictory as that sentence sounds, isn’t that what Missoula Rises is advocating for?

After being called out for her willingness to punish an ideological foe by withholding city business contracts, Julie Merritt had the audacity to first criticize the sharing of her comments from a closed group, then referenced her right to free speech:

We asked Merritt to tell us her side of the story. She won’t go on camera but wrote us in an email that sharing the screen grabs violated the spirit of the Missoula Rises group. Then she writes she’s found out it doesn’t matter what an owner of employee says about the city, its staff or elected officials, the contract goes to the “responsive low bidder.”

She ends her email by writing it’s free speech and people, including her, can say what they want.

What a load of crap. Julie Merritt was willing to explore how to use her elected position to financially punish someone for criticizing city government. That is absolutely not respecting someone else’s right to free speech. To then use free speech to defend herself is offensively hypocritical.

I wonder if any of the 3,500 members of this closed Facebook group appreciates what Merritt was trying to do. I would love to hear someone explain to me how Merritt’s intent is any different than the baker who refuses to do business with people who are gay because they don’t agree gay people should be able to get married.

Missoula Rises is Associated with the Montana Human Rights Network, so I sent MHRN an email requesting this group receive a tutorial on free speech and representative government. I truly hope they get the help they need.

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 Missoula Rises And Julie Merritt Get Called Out For Conspiring Against Local Business Woman

  1. Dee Saale says:

    Thanks William for your commentary. It makes sense to me, but I feel the other political side has totally lost its brains.

  2. Dennis Flagen says:

    Isn’t this exactly the same thing that MSNBC and CNN spend 24 hours a day with breaking news railing against. How evil and non- inclusive the Trump administration is. Well I guess there is a little bit evil in all sides after all

  3. Pingback: My Fond Farewell To Bryan Von Rocket Scientist, Julie WGM Merritt, Heather Harp and Jesse Ramos | Zoom Chron Blog

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