by Travis Mateer
A few weeks ago I was downtown talking to a former homeless client when our conversation was interrupted by private security.
The female private security officer was nice enough in telling the group I was speaking to that their peer lying prone on the grass had to be NOT doing that, but it certainly wasn’t the kind of action that fostered conversation.
Enter Emily Brock to the rescue!
I hadn’t realized it at the time, but there was a problem I was experiencing, and it was a problem of culture. That’s where Brock comes in, apparently.
Emily Brock, director of the Missoula County Fairgrounds, participated in a team charged with transforming the courthouse lawn into a more welcoming place, one that goes beyond court proceedings and homeless gatherings.
Brock said many ideas are still taking shape.
Yes, now that a tropical home for bugs has broken ground, this advocate of rational development has visions of food trucks and long tables where civil dialogue will occur. Why? Because County Commissioner Josh Slotnick wants to look out his window and see more than ONE cultural “flavor”.
“We have this large chunk of public space in the middle of a very vibrant downtown that’s unused because it only has one cultural flavor to it,” he said. “What we’re hoping to do is add uses without displacing any uses to this space to make it more broadly appealing to the public.”
Yep, that nicely exposed public space that once featured large trees and nice shade is up for some directed cultural change from our enlightened braintrust. This should be entertaining.
So what’s the plan, Brock?
“Food trucks are not allowed on the street because they compete with brick and mortar businesses that have invested in downtown,” Brock said. “This whole program will be on the lawn on county property.”
Programming will also be part of the equation, including “The Longest Table” event on Thursdays. That event looks to bring “civil discourse” to the courthouse lawn.
Brock said the county has lined up some interested partners, but the details are still taking shape. It could see the public interact with the homeless individuals that often spend their days napping on the lawn.
I mean WOW. There are bodies showing up in rivers and on the lawns of businesses, and a homeless man was beaten to death in broad daylight last winter a few blocks from the Courthouse, but all that serious stuff is just a bummer when you have time to dream and other people’s money to spend.
Here’s more of Brock’s vision (and the unfunded nature of this absurdity):
“It’s a place for civil discourse to help people recognize the humanity in their adversaries,” Brock said of The Longest Table. “We want to host a lunch on Thursday with people who hold opposing views on different issues. There’s no speeches or program in that way, but what we do have are volunteers acting as hosts. It’s not a political prompt. It’s about their lives and families.”
Other programs or additions could happen in the future. The county admitted the first year would be a work in progress. It has yet to allocate the funding needed to host the events but hopes to kick the program off this year.
“We want to change the culture,” Brock said. “If we decide to do it moving forward, we can absorb it into our operations indefinitely. We’re going to learn a lot and the program is going to evolve.”
Is it possible to recall an ENTIRE local political establishment? Because this shit just seems to get more absurd by the day.