by William Skink
Political retaliation happens. I know this from personal experience. Thanks to a comment Pete Talbot made late last night (after I don’t know how many bourbons) I was reminded of what I experienced last year at my place of work.
Last November, when the City’s effort to force property owners to pay thousands of dollars for new sidewalks became a PR problem for Council and the Mayor’s office, I wrote and submitted a poem to the Missoulian. I did this as a private citizen, but the retaliation I experienced came from an angry City Council person, and it came while I was working.
Because this Council person is also a board member, her decision to yell and curse at me about my poem, and her subsequent inquiry if I was going to write about this incident on my blog, put my employer in a very difficult position.
You see, there is something called the 1st amendment, and that allows me to express political speech as a private citizen. If I choose to exercise that right, I shouldn’t then face retaliation at work by an elected official who used her position as board member to get access to me and to try and intimidate me.
Her attempt to intimidate me didn’t work, and through a conflict resolution process I received a written apology, which I keep safely locked up with other important documents. I was also asked to sign something stating I wouldn’t discuss this incident. I adamantly refused to sign anything limiting my ability to discuss what happened to me, explaining in a subsequent written statement that I had done nothing wrong and that I had other avenues I would pursue if the conflict resolution process failed.
I’m writing about this now because Pete Talbot is trying to engage in some low-level retaliation against me for writing about Melissa Romano’s political scandal, which emerged when the cover-up of her husband’s drug bust last August finally made the pages of local media. Attacking the messenger is a tactic of last resort, pulled out when nothing else can be used to distract from a scandal.
The Council person who came after me didn’t have to endure a public scandal because I haven’t spoken explicitly about the incident, even as she was running for reelection this year. But nothing prevents me from discussing the incident.
Before the year is over I will receive in the mail copies of my new book of poems, titled MONEY TRUMP MISSOULA. This collection will include the poem that sparked the incident at my workplace, along with my poetic response in a poem titled SIDEWALK POEM PART II: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
In promotion of my poetry I may want to talk about the reaction a poem I wrote caused. Maybe Aaron Flint would like to have me on his radio show to discuss my creative work and my political advocacy. Sounds like fun.
So, if you’re a political creature out there who doesn’t like transparency and being held accountable for your actions, and you think a little nobody blogger like myself is going to be easily intimidated, think again. My pencil is freshly sharpened and my moleskin journal is at the ready.
Note: this post was mistakenly titled “Political Retribution” when first published.