Using My First Amendment Rights

by Travis Mateer

On December 9th, 2018, the Missoulian published a poem I submitted as a letter to the editor. The editor of the op-ed section added the title “Missoula not wonderful for everyone”.

The impetus for the poem was a city sidewalk program that would have forced property owners to foot a hefty portion of the bill for new sidewalks. My poem was a cynical take on this program, claiming in verse that the city wanted more sidewalks for homeless people to die on. I was thinking specifically of Tim Lloyd, a man the Missoulian inaccurately called a transient after he died of exposure the previous spring DESPITE having finally received a subsidized housing voucher.

Gwen Jones–a lawyer, city councilperson, and board member of Missoula Aging Services at the time–was so incensed by my poem, she momentarily forgot about my first amendment rights and used her influence to pull me away from my paid work duties so she could verbally berate me in an Aging Services conference room.

I sometimes wonder what my career trajectory would have been like if I had had the good sense to play my cards right. What heights could I have achieved if I had the stomach to protect the influencers, like Eran Pehan did in 2011 when Ellie Hill, the ED of the Poverello Center, was clearly not fit to continue leading the organization?

Eran was the quiet one behind the scenes, helping Ellie glide away from the shit-show she had been stirring for over 5 years. Because of the damage control Eran enacted behind the scenes, Ellie was able to do her best martyr impression for the newspaper while people like me were doing the ACTUAL WORK of tending to the chaos of addiction and mental illness.

Here’s one of Ellie’s most disgusting, self-serving quotes from the Missoulian at the time:

“It felt that for 5 1/2 years, I stood alone with a lightning rod in one hand and a sword in the other,” Hill said. “I was sometimes the face and often the voice for the homeless.”

When you play your cards right you get to move up the ladder, as exemplified by the career trajectory of Eran Pehan. Last year this became starkly obvious to close observers like me when the ENTIRE CITY was realigned around a new job title for Pehan. From the link:

In an effort to break down silos and improve efficiency, the city of Missoula on Wednesday realigned several departments to streamline everything from land use and planning to transportation.

In doing so, it established a new singular department dubbed Community Planning, Development and Innovation, and appointed Eran Pehan to serve as its new director.

“She’s demonstrated remarkable skills as a leader, a manager and a mentor,” Missoula Mayor John Engen said. “I believe that in this role, she’ll be able to help us put our rules and regulations in place to better align with our goals for increasing housing stock for everyone in our community.”

Looking back, it WAS remarkable how well people like Eran Pehan and Susan Hay Patrick, the ED at United Way, played their damage control cards in order to protect Ellie Hill (now Ellie Boldman) from any bad publicity leaking out about WHY she was moving on from the Poverello Center.

Here is the narrative control from Susan in the same article where Ellie brashly claimed her hands were full of lightning rods and swords:

“She has a true passion for the political process,” said Missoula United Way Director Susan Patrick, who partnered frequently with Hill on community projects. “But trying to do both – serve in the Legislature and run the Pov – it would just require superhuman efforts. Each of those is a superhuman job.”

The next paragraph is even more interesting, because it shows how Ellie came to land at the Poverello Center from the town she was fleeing, Boise, Idaho.

Hill worked as an assistant district attorney in Boise, Idaho, before moving to Missoula in 2005. While Hill was interviewing for a job with Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg, Patrick approached her about the Poverello’s directorship.

“She felt my background as an attorney would be very helpful,” Hill said. “She asked if I was interested in taking advocacy to another level.”

There is SO MUCH fascinating context to decipher in these quotes, but instead of attempting any more decoding for the day, how about a poem?

And remember, lawyers, I have something called a FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT to write and share my poetry and if you don’t like what I write, I humbly invite you to KISS MY ASS!

Roger that, United Way
secure the lure of Susan Hey
be it public or private hands
set to vibrate on night stands

Mayor players with toxic Gin
identify as having fins
swimming through the golf course scheme
lost is winning, know what I mean?

or don't you blame-train from a spot
where homeless shields take the shot
from angry peasants with sharpened forks
listening for your popping corks

it's ok, we're almost done
and we don't ride into the sun
that's the myth you sold the east--
your noble lie; your catch/release

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Using My First Amendment Rights

  1. Out in the woods says:

    Side question…isn’t Mr.Conservative Adam Hertz against TIF money? My question is how can we be that way and still work for Lambros Real Estate out of Missoula? I got some questions for him about some real estate he’s selling out my way and I thought see if I had my facts right before going any further ahead.

    • I would say Hertz is against TIF abuses, but, generally speaking, Republicans have shown they have no appetite to do anything at the state level to address how those abuses are being justified by municipalities like Missoula.

  2. I don’t see any anti-attorney animus in what you posted. I’m glad that you’ve set forth Gwen Jones’ outrageous misconduct here, as you did at a City Council meeting when Heather Harp was deposed as Chair of the Finance Committee and the position was handed to Jones, to much community dismay.

  3. Pingback: Provoking Public Anger Then Claiming To Be Victims Of That Anger Is The Real Trend, Gwen | Zoom Chron Blog

Leave a Reply