by Travis Mateer
After last week’s clearing of the homeless encampment on the West Broadway Island, outgoing Poverello director, Amy Allison Thompson, issued a statement critical of the police action via a press release.
Why did Thompson choose a public press release to convey her criticism? This action is even MORE curious when you consider the Poverello Center has a police officer on its governing board:
When I first read Thompson’s statement last week I was confused because I figured having a cop on your board meant having a direct communication channel to law enforcement. Was Thompson’s statement just theatrics to create the IMPRESSION of criticism in order to gain some street-cred from its clientele, I wondered?
Another interpretation I’m developing is that Thompson has realized that a cozy relationship with law enforcement has more cost than benefit. This interpretation comes from a direct conversation I had with Amy about the death of Sean Stevenson. I told her some of my concerns about what happened and her response to me was that the police had told the Poverello NOTHING about the investigation and that they ONLY knew what was being reported in the media.
One potential cost of this seemingly (but not really) cozy relationship with police is that the Poverello Center may have damaged its reputation with its clients by being seen as too closely aligned with law enforcement. This could impact the difficult work of building trusting relationships with shelter-resistant individuals who are already reluctant to stay inside an emergency shelter.
If this cop criticism was just theatrics from an outgoing director to build some street-cred then I doubt Mayor Engen would have dressed down Amy Allison Thompson by making the following statement to the Missoula Current about her criticism:
Engen said he understands Thompson’s frustrations but said they should be “expressed in a collaborative way, not through a short press release.”
He said the city and its partners, including the Poverello, would continue to seek solutions to a challenge faced by cities across the country – one exacerbated by the pandemic.
“The City of Missoula, Missoula County and our partners take very seriously the plight of our residents without stable housing, but have to balance those interests with public safety, including the safety of the unhoused,” Engen said.
Clearly our Mayor for life is sensitive to this criticism, ESPECIALLY during an election year. Maybe Thompson didn’t realize she was dealing with a political narcissist, or maybe she realized a golden parachute job offering wasn’t going to materialize the way it did for Eran Pehan.
Regardless of the motivation, I’m glad Thompson is taking a more critical position against the city during her final days at the shelter. It’s amazing the freedom of expression one can experience when maintaining your job and keeping the PR lid on for your city funders is no longer a main consideration.
I’ll be talking about this and the implosion of Jacob Elder’s campaign for Mayor in this week’s episode of Zoom Town so stay tuned.
And thanks for reading.
The Current mentions that Engen “told the Missoula Current” all the various things they quoted of him. But those quotes sound like the telling was in the form of a press release — nicely crafted politic-speak.
I guess Engen just expects his critics to express their criticism of him in a collaborative way, but he doesn’t have to use the collaborative process to criticize his “partners.” Fucking hypocrite.
You once again have hit a bull’s eye. I will now exploit this Comment feature to publish something I wrote this morning:
THE TIF RAILROAD, A TALE OF ENGENTOWN.
If you draw a “TIF Railroad” (pulled by Engine No. “Functional Zero”), you will have a graphic depiction in which one of the merging tracks originates in the police sweeps of houseless fellow residents and ends at the tent city of TSOSopolis. That line was established by the “no loiter, no sleep, no lie” ordinance drafted by City Attorney Jim Nugent (Engen’s Rudy Giuliani and father of Ward 4 City Council candidate Mike Nugent, who is a vice president of billionaire Warren Buffet’s Berkshire-Hathaway Home Services, the dominant real estate mega-firm in Missoula (Engentown) specializing in very high-priced houses and properties). That criminal ordinance would be unconstitutional but for the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space (TSOS). Some very good people of tremendous commitment (uncompensated for their tireless hours) under Engen’s Housing Office appointees manage the Coordinated Entry System with 24-hour outreach to the campers at TSOSopolis. Engen’s objective in this process is to keep Missoulians’ (Engentown’s) bodies moving along this TIF Railroad. That objective — “Functional Zero” — is a “state of equilibrium at which the number of newly houseless Missoulians is equal to the number of swept-up houseless Missoulians who attain housing.”
The TIF Railroad has spurs that travel through Checotaville, Stockmanbanktown, WGMburg, Ravara City, and other stops. At each stop, bags of money from the MRA slush fund (or from issuance of revenue bonds) are unloaded and collected by the oligarchs.
The workers for the TIF Railroad are unpaid. They are volunteers whose motives are not to distribute public funds to wealthy firms and individuals, but to relieve the plight of the houseless persons rounded up by the gendarme and put on the TIF Railway’s feeder line to TSOSopolis. They are unable to stop that feeder line, stop the roundups, and stop the houselessness leading to the roundups, because Engentown’s populace has not yet apprehended that the TIF Railway is a slave train operated by corrupt and unscrupulous capitalists, who maintain status quo through a purely volunteerist and charity model of direct assistance, a bureaucracy of Engen appointees serving at his pleasure, nepotism, and an Official Line that Engentown lacks legal power to address the housing emergency — which is a convenient MYTH.
If the people realized that for a fraction of the (largely borrowed) public money fueling the TIF Railroad, Engentown’s competent and hungry labor force could be HIRED to build truly affordable houses on the banked land purchased by Engentown, instead of selling most of that land at huge losses to multi-state development consortia who devour our money and regurgitate up a few boli of purportedly affordable housing; if such a Public Housing Brigade worked alongside Habitat for Humanity, we could realize hundreds of truly affordable units in a matter of months!
So, STOP THE SWEEPS, DERAIL THE TIF RAILWAY and ESTABLISH THE PUBLIC HOUSING BRIGADE!
So where did the homeless population go?
Did they build another settlement farther up or down the River?
Or start lining the alleys with cardboard boxes?