by William Skink
Once again, the time-honored tradition of trying to solve systemic societal problems with more tax-funded studies and programs is being deployed in Missoula.
A lack of social equity, you say? Then how about a $100,000 dollar “seed” investment for the LEARN program. From the link:
The city of Missoula will consider investing $100,000 in seed funding to kick start a program intended to rid the community of what several City Council members described on Wednesday as system racism and discrimination.
The city has already stated its commitment to address racial and social equity in its three-year strategic plan. To get there, it will appoint a team that’s largely comprised of BIPOC community members to identify disparities and solutions to advance social, economic and racial justice.
In my opinion, there is absolutely NO NEED to identify disparities in Missoula. Why? Because they are very well known.
For example, incarceration rates for Native Americans in states like Montana stand in stark contrast to their relative population size.
This factual disparity means more Native Americans will have criminal records, and that fact means they have a greater chance of being DENIED HOUSING because of it.
Again, this is all very well known, as anyone who has worked in social services can tell you.
Which is why it’s so damn frustrating to see a former director of the Poverello Center, and current lead on creating the city’s housing policies, unload this two-phase bullshit PR plan that is apparently just getting started (’cause “seed” money implies more money to come).
Are you ready for this?
“…we’ll honor our commitment to work with community partners to define disparities in our community and to identify the most promising solutions toward advancing social, economic and racial justice,” she said. “We’ll also conduct an internal policy analysis and equity audit to ensure operations, policy creation and decision making reflect the city of Missoula’s goals to advance racial and social equity.”
“…the city will develop a pro-equity policy agenda to advance the city’s goals.”
“We will work within the city of Missoula to create an equity and social justice strategic plan that will serve as that blueprint for integrating and implementing pro equity practices in all our major functions of government,” Pehan said.
“This investment is essential and will serve as a necessary building block and catalyst for meeting our community based goals to advance social and racial justice as stated in our strategic plan.”
My recommendation to any BIPOC person considering participating in this is simple: don’t.
The city always wins these little skirmishes by attrition because maintaining pressure is tedious and monotonous and takes more time during conventional business hours than most impacted people can afford to give.
The city moves like water, slowly eroding any barriers before it. They have endless methods of “engagement” that ultimately function to sap people’s energy while creating the illusion that decision makers are actually listening to their constituents who aren’t developers or political funders (is there a difference?).
Take it from someone who has seen how this works up close. These methods are used over and over again because they work.
One of the things I have found that works to counter their schemes is increasing public awareness.
I can even point to this article where I believe my blogging efforts had a direct impact. The story behind this part of the article (my emphasis):
Vanderheiden said the department experienced several failed recruitments this fiscal year and currently has nine vacancies. They include the department’s top director, five planner positions, two inspectors and a transportation engineer.
The city thought it had the director’s position filled when it named and promoted the hiring of Josh Martin in January. However, Martin withdrew from the position before he even started.
Should be understood in the context of posts like this one.
So, before anyone jumps at the opportunity to provide the city of Missoula cover for the social disparities their policies help exacerbate, consider how the methods they offer you lures you into engaging on their terms, and then pay attention to the actual actions they take while they phase you into a neutralized non-threat to their development schemes.