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.