by Travis Mateer
With today’s news of Missoula Mayor, John Engen, having passed away from pancreatic cancer, the title of today’s post might seem insensitive. I’ll risk that accusation in order to ask WHY the Missoula Current, just 17 days ago, had this headline with one of Engen’s main enablers looking on:
From the link:
City officials on Friday said Missoula Mayor John Engen continues to monitor the workings of Missoula city government while continuing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer.
Communications director Ginny Merriam said that while the regiment has been difficult at times, Engen continues to look forward.
Maybe it’s just me, but if I was facing the inevitable reality of a lethal cancer diagnosis, my looking forward would be bucket-list oriented, not pretending like there was a chance in hell I was going to make it my full term.
It’s possible that concealing reality has just become second nature to people like Ginny Merriam, people who knew for years that John’s drinking was a problem. When did intervention happen? When it got so bad that it couldn’t be concealed anymore.
I’m going to take some time to process this before saying more about Engen’s enablers. I will mention that I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Eran Pehan is suddenly being quoted in the Missoulian about homeless camp sweeps by masked revolutionaries.
January 3rd is the day John Engen first assumed office in 2006. January 3rd is also the day, in 2020, that Sean Stevenson was assaulted at the Poverello Center AND the day I put in my notice to leave Missoula Aging Services and the Non-Profit sector.
Since that day I’ve felt the three of us–Sean, John, and myself–have an interesting connection, and now this is how I see it: three alcoholics who didn’t see something important to us make it 20 years.
For Sean, he didn’t get to see his daughter turn 20 because his time utilizing homeless services in Missoula killed him.
For John, he didn’t see 20 years in office because his role as a puppet for power killed him.
And for me, I won’t see 20 years of marriage because finding meaning in the sea of trauma I swam in for a decade, without the emotional skills to handle all the pressures, made me a shitty partner.
I’m not sure what period of time is appropriate to mourn John Engen’s passing, but once summer is done and the kids are back in school, I think it’s fair game to look at the vacant leadership and ask hard questions about the reality of a 12% tax increase, and a $19 million dollar general obligation bond for fairground bullshit, and a $4.4 million dollar payout to Sheriff Deputies, and a $5 million dollar mill levy for homeless services, and increases in energy, cost of living, etc, etc, etc.
Summer is almost over. Life is finite. And it’s also a gift, so do something meaningful in the limited time you have.