by Travis Mateer
Earlier this month, in a local news article about housing frustrations, Missoula City Council candidate Danny Carlino disclosed how his own housing insecurity could remove him from eligibility to run in Ward 3 against Dori Gilels:
“We just got a notice to leave from our landlord, without a reason, just kind of unexpected,” said Daniel Carlino who is running for Missoula City Council in Ward 3.
“You have to live in the ward to run,” he said and if Carlino can’t find a new place in his Ward, he might have to withdraw.
“Either run in another city council ward, and restart, or I might just have to postpone the campaign for a later time,” Carlino told MTN News.
Hmmm, I remembered thinking, I wonder what the story is here? Then, last Friday, I realized this might be the sort of thing a citizen journalist could look into, so I did.
It didn’t take much work to figure out Carlino’s Ward 3 residence is owned by an entity called Koostra Rentals, which is the unimaginative name of Barbara Koostra’s business entity created in order to extract rent from tenants.
And who is Barbara Koostra?
According to the search engines, Barbara Koostra was once the director of the Montana Museum of Art, a position she left in 2019. Here is online journalist and “fine” artist Martin Kidston using his platform to champion this very important supporter of the arts:
Before returning to Missoula, Koostra spent 17 years performing at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. After earning her MBA from the University of Montana, she stepped in as director of the Missoula Cultural Council before serving the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, D.C.
But in January 2005, Koostra was named director of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture in Missoula. During her interview for the job, she got her first deep look at the museum’s treasured collection.
“I was shown the primary storage area for the collection, and pieces were pulled out for me to look at,” she said. “I was stunned at the beauty, the richness, and I wanted to help that collection. I wanted to serve what it represented – a lot of Montana history, world history, and a lot of fabulous artists and donors.”
How could this helper of treasured art collections who served fabulous donors and artists be so callous as to give Carlino the boot (totally her right if it’s a month-to-month lease) during his still nascent political campaign?
I wanted to ask Barbara Koostra this question directly, but finding contact info with just my fingers wasn’t working, so I used my feet and visited a few locations downtown that sell art. I explained to EVERYONE I talked to that I was a local citizen journalist investigating why Landlord Koostra was evicting Candidate Carlino, but, alas, no one could assist me in getting contact info.
Maybe I could get some insight into this situation from Carlino’s political opponent, I thought to myself, so I gave Dori Gilels a call. And she answered.
I identified myself as a local journalist, then cut to the chase and asked her if she knew Barbara Koostra. Gilels, who was completely unprepared for my question, seemed genuinely unaware of who Barbara Koostra was, so I explained to Dori that Barbara is the landlord potentially removing her political opponent from eligibility.
After that awkward conversation, where Gilels adamantly denied any awareness about her opponent’s housing situation, I did a little more research and discovered Barbara Koostra has given some modest political donations ($40 bucks here and there) to local Democrats, like our current County Commissioner, Dave Strohmaier.
Since it’s fallacious to claim correlation equals causation, I can’t say a few political donations and the curious timing of the eviction are proof of anything, but then I get this comment on a teaser I put out on FB:
To answer Bornstein’s question: no, I did not consider that doing this investigative work, which started with comments made to the media by Candidate Carlino himself, would make it harder for him to find a place to live.
Because why would that be?
Is there some kind of entrenched political establishment with operatives in the housing market capable of using their residential gatekeeper powers to deny this young candidate the stability of housing just because he has the temerity to challenge them?
Is that what you’re saying Maggie Bornstein?
Also, in the spirit of asking things politely, I’ll humbly request that you, Maggie Bornstein, please refrain from making public accusations in letters-to-the-editor about militia-backed funders giving money to the Elder campaign based on information you claimed in a phone conversation with me to have gleaned from you internships at the Montana Human Rights Network.
Because that kind of shit makes ME very uncomfortable, especially when that same organization has remained silent about what happened to Sean Stevenson.
When Sean Stevenson needed a warm place to stay on a cold Missoula night in January of 2020, the place our community built to alleviate the discomfort of homelessness became the structure that hid the violence of his death.
Despite this tragedy in Missoula’s own backyard, the more comfortable political strategy to play is a name-changing, race-shaming one because that wins you more donations for the non-profit and less enemies at the cocktail party, I guess.
And while we play these games with words through the mediated reality of screens, the story on the street last week is that another person consumed by addiction lost his battle in a motel bathtub.
I guess he didn’t have the same treatment options as our Mayor did.
Barbara Koostra’s husband, David Morgenroth, is a wealth management adviser at Stockman Bank downtown. I guess criticizing TIF publicly has it’s political and personal ramifications for Carlino.
And now you know the rest of the story.
Holy shit!! THAT needs to be reported on.
Imagine you were the poor soul that died in a bathtub (or one of the many that have been murdered because you were homeless.
Imagine if you had a substance abuse problem for years but you were important and your clique ensured you were never held accountable.
Imagine if Law Enforcement tried to hold you accountable many times but couldnt because “important” people prevented that.
Imagine that despite your wishes that those “important” persons forced you to go to rehab against your will (while completely paid by others)
Imagine while you were gone to rehab that the important people made sure that a larger public did not know what was going on.
Imagine when you returned that a narrative had been formulated (and promulgated throughout the local media despite the truth).
Imagine upon your return you were celebrated and feted by the “important” people for your courage to endeavor yourself despite being forced to endeavor yourself.
And finally, imagine that through all that you maintained your job, your house, your retirement,etc because the “important” people allowed it.
If you can imagine all that you cannot imagine how a man gets murdered at the POV, how a man gets murdered in broad daylight while in a wheel chair, how two women “accidentally” die in our river or how someone dies alone in a bathtub.
Imagine if all those unfortunate had tge benefit of the “important” people. Perhaps they would get to be voted “favorites” by our local paper Missoulian.
Imagine that you also, while under the influence, became disorderly on an aircraft full of government people (members of your clique) who were scared because you were out of control, and that it was that episode that finally forced them to get you into rehab immediately. Imagine that you had been driving a government vehicle while loaded and that you were drunk on the job. Imagine that you claimed reimbursement for mileage in amounts that were equivalent to driving from Missoula to Wibaux every three days, for months, and that your loyal sycophants approved the payments. After all, they’re divided by thousands of taxpayers. Imagine no one caring and that you are sailing toward renewal of your $95,000/yr job for another four years, after 16 years with that record. Who would believe such a thing?
Maggie Bornstein is not really relevant here, and a citizen journalist must be thicked-skinned given the nature of that endeavor. My initial reaction to reading of her message to you was “so what?” I know she and Daniel are close, but again, so what? (Your reported prior experience with Ms. Bornstein suggests that she hasn’t yet mastered the art of communicative discretion, establishing ground rules when speaking to press, refraining from publicly alleging malevolent support for someone and, when asked for evidence, attributing the information to an employer who denies it… and so on. When I was 21, I was a prominent activist in Missoula and I, too, made naive and embarrassing mistakes along the way. Such lessons usually last a lifetime. I hope that this latest kerfuffle with you has served that purpose, as no one will remember it in a day or two). ANYWAY, I don’t recall ever seeing a press release from Daniel announcing his eviction, so perhaps NBC MT got a tip elsewhere. Knowing Daniel, he may well have put the news out there in order to be transparent. In the stories I saw, he did not raise any allegations of political chicanery.
It didn’t take much to Google Barbara Koostra and find out that she doubled the University museum’s inventory of valuable paintings before being abruptly fired after several years. She was replaced by an Art Dept. guy who was paid $!0K less than the $95K Koostra was making. This happened when the doofus from General Electric was named UM President and he went on a hack-job budget-cutting spree.
To answer your rhetorical question posed to Ms. Bornstein in a word: “Yes.” I wonder how many rental properties properties Koostra’s firm owns or manages. It would be a good investigative journalistic move, to find out. In any event, it is quite evident that the campaigns of Daniel Carlino and I are putting fear into the Establishment/oligarchy. As another reader pointed out, Ms. Koostra is wife of a Stockman Bank Wealth Management exec with an office in the $30M SB bldg. toward which the city gave $1.4M in TIF subsidy; not having that much in reserves, the city borrowed it FROM Stockman Bank and now you and I are paying part of the 4% interest on the revenue bonds the city sold to Stockman Bank in order to borrow the $1.4M it the gave to Stockman Bank. That is so bizarre as to have attracted national media attention. It wreaks of dead fish. Oh, did I mention that the bldg. is full of probably over a million dollars of valuable art, including original Charlie Russells? A mere coincidence, I’m sure. As you are aware, I have been a huge critic of that foul-smelling TIF scandal, and other citizen journalists before you have railed about it, as well.
Ward 3 Candidate Carlino is allied with me in denouncing these TIF giveaways to big corporations, banks, multistate development consortiums, etc. by which millions of taxpayer dollars are being put through a strainer of grift under the guise of producing “affordable housing,” which in a number of cases does not pass the laugh test. I have no doubt that if I were a renter right now, and Koostra, or any one of numerous members of the Missoula Organization of Realtors (which unpublished its online membership directory a few months ago), or big property management firms, were my landlord, I’d have been out on my ass on a 30-day no-cause eviction notice, too, more than a year ago.
Take a look at the latest filer for the Ward 1 City Council seat I’m seeking: a 1994 transplant, ex-Engen bureaucrat, who once lived on the North Side and then moved to the West Rattlesnake (my territory), named Sheena Comer-Winterer (except for logo, she uses only her first name on her campaign website). Her “platform” is vacuous, marketing-tested buzzwords, but the key thing to take way is that her Treasurer is ROBIN CHECOTA, wife of Wisconsin transplanted multimillionaire NICK CHECOTA. The couple were once-recipients of $16.5M in Missoula TIF subsidy toward “The Drift” a $100M behemoth music venue, high-rise luxury hotel, restaurant complex and condos, to serve as the anchor of development of the entire waterfront. Checota’s history with such public-money-supported things is not good (research his Washington, D.C. project). As you know, I was the one who discovered Engen’s attempt to quash all public input on the sweetheart deal he cut in secret with Checota (which included Nick and Robin having a 75-year monopoly on ticketing and booking), by abruptly accelerating the public hearing from a regular Monday night Council meeting to a 2:15 pm hearing five days earlier when it was hoped no one would show up. I showed up and railed against the subsidy, predicting that when the economy took a downturn it would cause a municipal fiscal crisis. That downturn happened sooner than expected due the pandemic. Checota brags that his easy access to politicians got him compensated for $700K he lost when the pandemic killed The Drift
If the Quixotic campaigns of Hunt and Carlino weren’t scaring the Koostras, Engens, Checotas and the power structure consolidated behind Engen over a 16-year period, there would not be such a coordinated strategy (involving much more than I’ve used your space to describe) to crush the reform movement in Missoula and place blatantly obvious Establishment/oligarchy shills in Council seats in November. Without doubt, they read your blog! They loathe what each of us stands for — transparency and clean government.
So, I relish your muckraking, and I leave you these words of the original muckraker, H.L. Mencken, who said the mission of an honest journalist is to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Good words to remember when annoyed by a mosquito texting you at 5 a.m.
Oh, as Columbo would say…”one more thing…” To putatively disqualify him, there doesn’t have to be a monolithic conspiratorial ban on Ward 3 rentals to Daniel Carlino; as you’re quite aware, Missoula has a less than 1% rental vacancy rate. I predict there would be quite a surprise, however, were the county clerk to move to disqualify Daniel in the event he did not secure housing in Ward 3 by election day (I believe he will); I believe that a court would vacate such a decision and restore Daniel to eligibility, based upon recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court.
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