by Travis Mateer
What does it take to be an agent of change?
Does a change in skin color and age represent enough change for a Mayoral candidate like Jacob Elder to credibly make the claim that he is this kind of agent? Here’s a portion of that declaration from Jacob Elder’s website:
I am an agent of change. My mission is to demolish established walls of partisan impasse and machine politics. The current administration has lost sight of the best interest of our community, blinded by a fog of 20th century ideology and 21st century newspeak. Smear campaigns are part of their DNA. But thankfully those dark days are almost over. It’s time for a new paradigm in our great city. It’s time for the politics of unity. With your help, together, we will soon walk in the brilliant light of a brand-new day.
Jacob Elder’s POLITICS OF UNITY comes with a simple formulation: either unify under this skilled taker of selfies, or else get labeled as a divider.
Since we’re just a few weeks away from ballots being mailed out for this election cycle’s Mayoral primary, lets take a closer look at the policy positions from this candidate who is leading the pack in terms of money raised and selfies taken.
The two biggest, interrelated issues that local political candidates will be getting questions about is housing and homelessness.
The way the Elder campaign has handled these issues up to this point has been to emphasize Jacob Elder’s life experience as a homeless refugee, but a candidate’s personal narrative is no substitute for policy positions.
If a curious Missoula citizen goes beyond the personal narrative and handsome selfies of the Elder campaign to try and find out what this candidate will actually do if elected, they will come across content like this:
Missoula’s housing affordability results in part from regulatory policies that inhibit growth and restricts housing supply. Across the country, we know that areas with the highest homelessness rates are the places where it is most challenging to build, rents are high, and vacancy rates are low. To change this, we will minimize building restrictions such as minimum lot size, parking requirements, accessory dwelling units (ADU), and low-cost housing options.
I wonder if Elder understands that regulatory policies evolve out of NIMBY opposition to unrestricted growth, so simply trying to “minimize building restrictions” will be met with SIGNIFICANT opposition from citizens, especially if you’re trying to build an apartment building near the University District.
Another problem with this poorly-defined policy position is that I don’t see how it’s any different from Engen’s stated desire to “streamline” the city’s planning and permitting processes. It sounds to me like BOTH Elder and Engen want to reduce barriers to build new housing while advocating for packing people in greater density through allowing structures, like ADUs, to be built.
If Jacob Elder wants to be an AGENT OF CHANGE, this is an odd way of doing it.
On homelessness, Elder recently stoked some controversy on Facebook when he posted this:
Yes, Elder is apparently supportive of what we service providers sometimes call “case management by bus”; a desperate and stupid policy idea that assumes bussing problematic humans to other communities means they’ll never come back.
Well, I have some news for Jacob Elder: this policy won’t work. How do I know this? Because I’ve seen the same homeless client in Missoula bussed to Seattle MULTIPLE TIMES, and he just kept coming back to do shit like this:
A man is in jail after he allegedly followed a stranger to her home and kicked her door down.
Rodney Lawrence Rinkes faced a judge in Missoula County Justice Court Monday.
Prosecutors say last Friday Rinkes followed a woman to her house. She shut the door, but he allegedly kicked it off the hinges, and entered her home without permission.
After repeatedly demanding Rinkes get out, prosecutors said he left. Officers arrested him at nearby bar.
Maybe Jacob Elder’s FB suggestion of bussing homeless people to California was NOT a serious policy suggestion. Let’s give this young, formerly homeless refugee the benefit of the doubt and consult his website for a more formal policy position regarding homelessness:
We know that people experiencing homelessness live in perilous conditions across our city, including under roadways, in residential areas, near our City Hall, and other places. Community members have voiced their concerns about their health and safety due to homeless encampments. As you might expect, homeless reduction is a complex, human issue. I believe in all human’s fundamental dignity and trust in their ability to take care of themselves and their innate desire to do so when given a hand-up. To impact homelessness in our community, we will encourage community partners and non-profit service providers to collaborate to maximize partnerships that will result in a strategic data-driven response, both fiscally and socially.
The part I put in bold seems like it WANTS to be a policy position, but really it’s just a bunch of words strung together to create the IMPRESSION of a policy position, because when you start breaking it down, what the fuck is Elder even talking about? Here are some questions I’d ask about this word-salad policy LARP:
How does Elder plan to “encourage” community partners to collaborate?
What does “maximize partnerships” mean and how will doing that result in a “strategic data-driven response”?
And, lastly, what did Elder learn about homelessness in Missoula when he went to the Reserve Street homeless camps for a selfie photo shoot?
I had a lot of hope for this candidate before the election cycle started heating up. That hope is now gone.
After interviewing Jacob Elder back in March, giving him an opportunity to address any issues his campaign would face in a tough election, I have seen plenty of social media engagement, but none of it has been very substantive.
While this could change, I don’t think it will. I suspect Jacob Elder has looked at the numbers from past elections, and he is making a strategic decision to be mostly vacuous with boilerplate platitudes taking the place of actual policy positions.
And selfies. LOTS of selfies.
Thanks for reading.