Reporting On The Reporter Who Sucks At Reporting

by Travis Mateer

Longtime readers of my local reporting will see the title of this post and know EXACTLY who I’m talking about, and that’s “reporter” Martin “Gomer” Kidston.

While I’m sure it’s somewhat entertaining to have my take on Gomer’s propagandist/watercolor-with-words style, I think it’s more significant to highlight what a City Council person has to say about Martin’s “reporting”, so here’s Kristen Jordan calling out Gomer on Facebook:

The “article” Kristen Jordan is frustrated with can be read here and features this misleading headline:

This title is supposed to describe what happened on Monday night at City Council, but I’m struggling to understand how the amendments proposed by Daniel Carlino would have added expenses. I called the Missoula Current’s publisher, Lisa Vachio, to ask if she could clarify what this headline is referring to, but I never heard back.

One of the more confusing parts of the article is the two paragraphs below. What is being accomplished by awkwardly inserting the tax increase after referring the Trust Fund?

I think by squishing these two topics together in this manner, Gomer is hoping the stink of the tax increase will somehow waft onto the Carlino/Jordan effort to divert money to the affordable housing trust fund. Will it work? If anyone actually read the Missoula Current, it might, but I don’t think people with functioning brains rush to Martin’s publication for accurate reporting.

I also took a look at how the Missoulian reported on Monday night’s budget wrangling. Here’s an excerpt (emphasis mine):

Carlino, with the backing of Ward 6 council member Kristen Jordan, sought repeatedly to boost the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the Mobile Support Team first responders and to cut funding for Rogers International security services, but he met concerns about appropriating funds already designated to help Missoula’s houseless population through other programs.

“When we talk about a housing crisis as a council, as a government, our budget should match up with what we’re saying,” Carlino insisted. “If it’s a crisis then we should put funding to help the crisis and that’s what I’m trying to do with this amendment.”

That particular amendment referred to an attempt to use $600,000 in surplus ARPA funds for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

But Ward 1 council member Heidi West said, “I think it’s disingenuous to frame the contribution to the Housing Trust Fund as a totality of what we do as a council, or as a city, or as a community overall in the realm of affordable housing. I think that the current funding decision is prudent based on the unknowns.”

What is Heidi West referring to when she references “unknowns”? I think West, along with other Councilors, are concerned that the $5 million dollar crisis service levy will be killed by voters who don’t like the idea of fiscal self-immolation.

The wrangling that lasted into the wee hours Monday night only touched on a minuscule portion of the $267 million dollar budget, less than a million dollars. The money being discussed would have helped out those less fortunate than, say, the tourists our elected leaders our banking our economic vitality on.

To exemplify this, the Missoulian has an article today about OVER A MILLION in ARPA funds going to Caras Park to make this image into a reality:

From the link:

You won’t have to pick your way down a steep, boulder-strewn, ad-hoc dirt path to get to the river at Caras Park in downtown Missoula much longer, thanks to a massive federal grant award for significant accessibility improvements.

On Tuesday, the administration of President Joe Biden announced that $1.2 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act has been awarded to the city of Missoula to support a river access construction project.

Caras Park will get a new viewing platform, retaining walls, an Americans with Disabilities Act-approved path to the river and new steps. The project is meant to create greater access to the park and river and to support local tourism. The federal grant will be matched by $305,076 in local funds and is expected to create 21 jobs, according to a city estimate.

If the last few days haven’t made clear what our Council prioritizes, and what they just give lip-service to, that’s because local reporting, like Kidston’s Missoula Current, is misleading by design.

Thanks for reading!

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
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2 Responses to Reporting On The Reporter Who Sucks At Reporting

  1. You’ve absolutely NAILED it! Both Kidston and The Missoulian gave spun versions, but The Missoulian at least used accurate direct quotes and didn’t print anything that was false. (BTW, I’m curious about your Comment to the Council Monday that the Mobile Crisis Response Unit is under the Police Dept, not the Fire Dept. It’s under the Fire Dept. It was moved there quite some time ago. My memory might be warped due to sleep deprivation, but I thought you said that you learned it was under the Police Dept. from Martin Kidston. Or was it something else you said you learned from him? Like you and Kristin, I don’t trust Kidston to get it right. I wouldn’t trust him to accurately report that the Sun rose this morning).

    Here is how I reported the events…as noted, it’s to be further edited to highlight some other citizen comments (I WILL DEFINITELY BE ADDING THE IRONY OF THE CARAS PARK ALTERATIONS THAT USED A MILLION IN ARPA MONEY). Note that I featured your Comments:

    [Updated 8/25/2022] MSLA CITY COUNCIL LIBERAL MAJORITY, AIDED BY LIBERTARIANS, TORPEDOES DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST ATTEMPTS TO DEFUND FOR-PROFIT PARAMILITARY POLICE FORCE; SHOOTS DOWN REVENUE-NEUTRAL BUDGET AMENDMENTS TO SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING TRUST FUND, MOBILE CRISIS RESPONSE UNIT; REJECTS FULL CLIMATE CHANGE MITIGATION FUNDING AS “NOT URGENT.”

    by J. Kevin Hunt

    [Note: this story responding to requests for a report, has been updated since the first, incomplete version posted 8/23/2022. A final update is forthcoming that will recount the eloquent, educated and cogent advocacy by several citizens not yet mentioned, many of them members of Western MT DSA and/or the Msla Tenants Union and/or local housing coop movement. Readers are cautioned that I’ve not yet completed review of the transcript, and consequently some omissions and minor errors are inevitable until that’s done.]

    IN A MARATHON MISSOULA CITY COUNCIL MEETING THAT STRETCHED FROM 6 PM TO AFTER 1 AM, the Council Monday night (8/22/2022) conducted a public hearing on its proposed Executive Budget, which it approved after rejecting numerous amendments advanced by Democratic Socialist Councilors Daniel Carlino and Kristin Jordan.

    The citizenry present included homeowners oppressed by skyrocketing property taxes, but consisted primarily of residents demanding contract rescission or immediate defunding of Rogers International (“R.I.”), the no-bid private security firm paid $670,000 plus $30/hr per employee to provide “security” for the authorized camping space, winter indoor emergency shelter, and a large sector of central Msla. This, in the wake of news media publication of photos of R.I. employees clad in military battle dress, obscuring their faces with bandanas, and displaying firearms (all contract violations) during their inspection of the 10 campsites at the Authorized Camping Space (“ACS”) August 10, in which some campers were evicted and/or had their campsites destroyed.

    Since that episode, reports emerged of R.I. random harassment of people walking with and without bicycles in the sector of the City patrolled by R.I., and of people arrested for alleged offenses after being accosted by R.I. rent-a-cops, alleging through legal counsel, that the charges on which they were arrested were fabricated to cover up R.I. offenses and misconduct against them.

    The in-person and virtual citizen attendees likewise strongly advocated for the Carlino/Jordan Budget Amendments (“CJBAs”). Several Microsoft Teams and phone virtual meeting attendees were thwarted in attempts to Comment, by glitches plaguing those platforms.

    The substance, sponsor and vote tallies on proposed budget amendments follow these selected highlights from public comments.

    The first citizen comment — prior to the budget agenda item — was by this writer, who said he was moved by the speech of Sen. Tester at last Saturday’s stadium celebration of life honoring recently deceased late Mayor John Engen, in which Sen. Tester described Mr. Engen as someone who would “meet and treat a homeless person the same way he would a U.S. Senator.” This writer then said it occurred to him that upon entering the stadium, Sen. Tester was “not greeted like this,” whereupon this writer held up an enlarged copy of a photo from The Missoulian showing seven militarized R.I. employees at the Aug. 10 ACS incident. This writer called upon Acting Mayor Gwen Jones to unequivocally and firmly denounce the behavior of R.I. employees and for the Council to terminate R.I.’s contract, extension of which was a $630K line item in the FY 2023 budget. A parade of other Msla residents likewise demanded rescission of the contract with R.I.

    During the public hearing on the FY ’23 budget, Democratic Socialist Ward 3 Councilor Daniel Carlino advanced several revenue-neutral amendments supported by Democratic Socialist colleague Councilwoman Kristin Jordan (who likewise proposed such an amendment) — and rarely, by libertarian Councilperson Sandra Vasecka, and/or liberal Councilor Mike Nugent (and, in one instance, liberal Councilor Jordan Hess) — that, using surplus (unspent) American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, funds sequestered for revenue losses, or cuts in Police subbudget categories previously used for such things as seminars by an organization teaching “Killology,” would bring to full staff-requested amounts, or otherwise prolong funding for, the highly successful and money-saving Mobile Crisis Response Unit (“MCRU”), and infuse the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (“AHTF”) with additional funds, as well as subbudgets for Parks & Recreation, Climate Change mitigation and other subbudgets, without requiring additional revenue.

    Although supported by every citizen who spoke, nearly all of the CJBAs went down to resounding defeat.

    Most of the Carlino-Jordan proposed budget amendments proposed using funding from the $970,000 in unused (surplus) federal funds awarded to Missoula under the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA). The liberal Council majoritarians — who insisted that the budget reflected best practices — roundly criticized Carlino’s proposed amendments as examples of “creative budgeting” not reflecting best practices and potentially jeopardizing the City’s bond rating.

    City budgeteer Dale Bickel, responding to councilors’ questions, said that the uses of surplus ARPA funds proposed by Carlino and Jordan were permissible, further stating in response to follow-up questions that too much reduction of that surplus could jeopardize the City’s bond rating (endangering its ability to borrow money), but did not provide an opinion as to how much of the surplus could be drawn upon without that specter arising.

    Property tax-oppressed homeowners (and tenants onto whom property tax increases have been have passed), progressives and democratic socialist community members have frequently criticized as “uncreative” the liberal Council majority’s reliance on property taxes and insistence that they cannot take measures they insist would require new revenue streams on which the Legislature has “tied” their “hands.”
    At the August 15 Council meeting, and again at Monday’s meeting, liberal Councilman Jordan Hess said that the minority’s characterization of the budget and of the majority’s support for the 12.5% tax increase and for the County’s 20-mil property tax levy as “uncreative,” was a disingenuous “euphemism for cutting services.”

    On Aug. 15, Hess also insisted that the proposed budget was already creative. The liberals conceded Monday night, however, that the oppressive property taxes — threatening with loss of housing fixed-income homeowners and renters paying passed-on property tax hikes in the form of higher rents — were highly regressive.

    This writer, — who gave his address as “a recently tax-liened home I own in Ward 1,” said in one of his many trips to the microphone that he was not a liberal but was “of the Left,” and that the Left, as promoters of improvement of the collective good via progressive revenue mechanisms and community acquisition of land for affordable housing coops, took very seriously its attendant unique obligation to eliminate wasteful, inefficient and counterproductive spending, along with misuse of public funds for enrichment of multistate development consortiums in money-losing land sale schemes benefitting those capitalist opportunists in exchange for a handful of purportedly affordable housing units that aren’t actually affordable. Invoking Tolstoy’s epiphany upon emerging from time spent in the late 1800s Moscow slums (Tolstoy wrote: “I understood that if I want there to be no more poor people, I must stop producing them), and asking what was wrong with “cutting” such wasteful subsidies and instead efficiently addressing the housing crisis directly at much less cost, this writer maintained that current “Net Zero” goals for ending homelessness in Missoula (i.e., aiming for an “equilibrium” under which one unhoused person is housed for every housed person who becomes homeless), policies of demolishing already affordable housing while subsidizing housing for the wealthy, and taxing homeowners and tenants out of housing, were examples of what Tolstoy was talking about. This writer said that for the multiple millions in public subsidy expended on the Ravara high-end housing project netting 70 faux “affordable” units out of several hundred total units, the City could have built hundreds of move-in-ready small houses. Liberal Councilor Nugent — a Berkshire-Hathaway Vice President, disagreed, citing the $42 million cost of the much different Villagio project as an example of why the City must forge “public/private partnerships and could not afford to be a developer.” This writer invited Nugent to lunch to review figures this writer said would back up this writer’s assertions.

    Gonzo investigative journalist/blogger and former Poverello Center worker Travis Mateer backed up the testimony of an ex-winter indoor shelter worker named April, who emotionally related having never been provided training to deal with the dangerous conditions and behaviors at that facility, decrying lack of funding of community addiction & mental health treatment, and stressing that shelter conditions are perilous for those sheltered, including those cast into houselessness by economic twists of fate. Mateer also recounted his predictions that contracting with Rogers International would prove to be ill-fated, referred to the unprosecuted homicide of a Poverello client by an untreated schizophrenic fellow client slain months later from a distance by police who evaded investigation, and several other examples illustrating what he maintained was a corrupt, dysfunctional Leviathan now policed by an incompetent private security business. He urged inquiry into City/nonprofit dealings having the appearance of nepotistic and conflict-of-interest-ridden relationships, highlighting the Missoula Redevelopment Agency/Blueline Development pipeline as an example.

    [The multiple eloquent, passionate, cogent and well-informed comments made by two Democratic Socialist citizens on the Rogers International matter and on specific budget amendments — one of which evoked prolonged audience applause — will be added to this story upon completion of transcript review].

    Some of the CJBAs did pass. Below are vote tallies on major CJBAs that passed, and some that didn’t, as well as the tally on a failed amendment moved by libertarian Councilor Vasecka. The political orientation identifiers noted after each Alderperson’s name are not in official minutes but rather are this writer’s additions, to-wit: “L” = liberal; “LBN” = libertarian; “DS” = democratic socialist.

    FAILED AMENDMENTS (totalling $1,912,891):

    AMENDMENT MOVED BY ALDERPERSON CARLINO (DS): Cut $630,318 for security services by Rogers International at shelters and the authorized camp site. FAILED. AYES (3): Carlino (DS); Jordan (DS); Vasecka (LBN). NAYS: Nugent (L); Savage (L); Sherrill (L); West (L); Anderson (L); Becerra (L); Contos, (LBN); Hess (L); Jones (L).

    AMENDMENT MOVED BY ALDERPERSON JORDAN (DS): Appropriate $261,573 to Fire Dept. for Mobile Support Team, from surplus ARPA funds. FAILED. AYES (4): Jordan (DS); Nugent (L); Savage (L); Carlino (DS). NAYS: Sherrill (L); Vasecka (L); West (L); Anderson (L); Becerra (L); Contos (LBN).

    AMENDMENT MOVED BY ALDERPERSON CARLINO (DS): Add $300,000 to fund the affordable housing and climate action incentives program, from surplus ARPA funds. FAILED. AYES (3): Carlino (DS); Jordan (DS); Hess (L). NAYS: Sherrill (L); Vasecka (LBN); West (L); Becerra (L); Anderson (L); Contos (LBN); Jones (L).

    AMENDMENT MOVED BY ALDERPERSON VASECKA (LBN): Add funding for one motorcycle for the police fleet totaling $45,000 to be funded by capital leases. FAILED. AYES (6): Anderson (L); Hess (L); West (L); Contos (L); Vasecka (LBN); Savage (L). NAYS (6): Becerra (L); Jones (L); Sherrill (L); Carlino (DS); Nugent (L); Jordan (DS).

    PASSED AMENDMENTS (totaling $40,000):

    AMENDMENT MOVED BY ALDERPERSON CARLINO (DS): Add $25,000 for quick build neighborhood traffic management in Public Works Mobility, from Road District 1 funds. PASSED. AYES (11): Sherill (L); Vasecka (LBN); West (L); Savage (L); Anderson (L); Becerra (L); Carlino (DS); Hess (L); Jordan (DS); Nugent (L); NAYS (1): Contos (LBN).

    AMENDMENT MOVED BY ALDERPERSON CARLINO (DS): Add $15,000 in one time funding from ARPA surplus funds for Community Zero Waste Infrastructure, Incentives and Capacity, to-wit: to fund one AmeriCorps position for that purpose. PASSED. AYES (8): Carlino (DS); Contos (LBN); Jordan (L); Nugent (L); Savage (L); Sherrill (L); West (L); Anderson (L). NAYS (4): Becerra (L); Hess (L); Jones (L); Vasecka (LBN).

    TO BE UPDATED.

    # # # #

  2. Appearance of comments seems a bit slow on the uptake here today…

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