by Travis Mateer
With my comment typed up and printed out, I walked up to the podium to make the FIRST comment of the night, since it wasn’t specific to any particular agenda item. I’ll include the full comment below, but before I do I’d like to examine why myself and another citizen got got point-of-ordered.
I thought things were going pretty good at first. I read through my prepared statement swiftly, but not TOO fast. I wanted to be heard, but was trying to remain conscious of my voice and its loudness. I ended up not doing a very good job of that, unfortunately.
Here is how my commentary began:
I think I finally determined the problem some of you elected officials have with the public: we are not the abstractions you see through the data of your surveys and listening sessions, rendered sterile and manageable through the analysis of your experts. We are real, actual humans, and your job is to represent ALL the people in your respective wards, whether you agree with them or not.
Increasingly what we disagree about are the core claims coming from the bubbles you exist in regarding the benefits of your policy decisions. Is the local bus system a better service after going free? Is Tax Increment Financing a generally good tool improving the lives of average Missoulians? Are victims of sexual assault being better served by the criminal justice system ten years after Jon Krakauer’s book? And don’t get me started on snow removal.
Your answers arrive with the stink of a pandering public relations damage control campaign mixed with fancy consultant-speak to impress Jane and Joe Smith into staying home and shutting up about what they plainly see happening on their streets and in their neighborhoods.
I’m here as an independent journalist investigating local corruption to let you know you are damn lucky the public isn’t paying closer attention, because if they were they’d see how you supposedly cash-strapped officials are doling out the funds left and right if it forwards your agenda.
Obviously I wasn’t there to make friends, I was there to make points, but when I got into calling out specific businesses and specific government institutions for specific actions, well, I think that’s where it started going downhill. Here’s the rest of my comment:
It’s easy, so I understand why you use public funds to flex for what you think is the right thing to do, but outside your bubbles people like me see businesses like the Radius Gallery getting TIF handouts to benefit their bottom line, while one of the owners of that business makes life difficult for people who don’t toe the political line in this supposedly liberal town.
I see how a litigant against the University, who is also a landlord, ended the lease of a Council member she didn’t agree with politically. I talk to reporters—not Martin “Gomer” Kidston—but the ones who have left the state after getting too close to your public/private schemes. I am more than willing to talk to reporters who are still here, working, about what I know, and have with a few, but recently the Missoulian simply lumped me in as one of Scott Billadeau’s ILK. Is this unprofessional language being used out of professional laziness, or is something else going on with John Talbot’s Missoulian?
I bet having to deal with the public, in person, make you nostalgic for the pandemic days when you got loads of emergency money, which you shoveled out in NO BID fashion, with little to no accountability, and you even got to buy a nasty motel for a pretty big price tag, and the dirty hordes just had to stay home and take it.
Well, if the resounding NO of the crisis mill levy is any indication, the public in Missoula is no longer keen on just taking it, and they made it known. Maybe you think that’s a flash in the pan. I think it’s just the beginning, and when the dam of narrative control finally breaks, maybe the public will finally see the humans you’ve helped disappear, humans like Sean Stevenson, a black man who was euthanized inside a private hospital by the supposedly public Missoula County Sheriff’s Office on January 5th, 2020. Once they see, they will have to act. If you’re not prepared for that, my suggestion is simple: get ready. Thank you for your time.
By the time I got to the actions of euthanasia at the hands of the Sheriff’s Office, Stacie Anderson was shutting me down. I walked back to my seat to grab my belongings so that I could exit, half-listening to Anderson tell her fellow Council members why she was point-of-ordering me. I stopped by the microphone on my way out for one final unscripted moment with my elected officials before leaving.
Once outside I had both a police officer and security guard come out to check on me. I asked the young officer if we needed to talk. “No, you’re ok, Travis,” he said. I remembered this officer as being the one who found my phone after the 2am Mayoral selection last fall.
I found out later that the person making public comment after me ALSO got a point-of-order for pointing out his observation that some Council members were rolling their eyes at him. This limitation of a public comment came directly from our placeholder Mayor, Jordan Hess, the multi-modal radical who must have been eager to get to the Higgins Corridor lane-reduction plan.
My assumption that the crowd was there for the Higgins plan changed after seeing most of them get up and leave after the conversation on a potential ban of single-use plastic bags was done (I watched online after leaving). When the Higgins plan came up on the agenda, there weren’t many people left. That surprised me.
Public comments were allowed first, and there was some criticism, and one supporter, but it was quite subdued compared to the earlier excitement. Aaron Wilson, the city engineer who spoke Wednesday, got up after the comments were done and did a small Q & A for Council.
While Mike Nugent made some comments that gave the impression he was considering a no vote, the final result was a predictable 10-2 vote, with John Contos and Sandra Vasecka voting no. And the plan moves forward.
The image above is from the Engage Missoula website where I was hoping to find comments about this plan, but no luck. Earlier in the day I stopped at several local businesses along Higgins for some on-the-ground perspective and one person who was NOT for this plan mentioned how someone taking their time parking would block the ONLY lane. She also wondered about where the snow berms would go.
When this plan is officially adopted, and it WILL BE adopted, the naysayers will just have to wait and see how things turn out. Will MORE people come downtown because their multi-modes of transportation are better protected, or will traffic congestion get worse, keeping more people AWAY from the hassle of coming downtown to shop? Only time will tell.
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Thanks for reading!
Public comment has been manipulated to control the narrative since early in the Engen tenure. Since most are the current Councilors were formed by/thru Engen they have maintained this approach to public input.
I have evidenced 100+ people speak out against a proposal only to see it pass either unanimously or by supermajority of Council. This has occurred multiple times.
People need to understand the process; the devision is made in closed room. Media, surveys and push polls are gathered to give the impression of public support (really just represent hand selected input usually of about 2% of population). Then Committee of Whole meets during middle of the day to discourage public input – the decision is made official and narrative officially adopted. Finally, it is given lip service at a Council meeting to give public a feeling of inclusion. To understand just how much public input is valued concentrate on Council – web surfing to find “ammo” against public, knitting, looking at phone, rolling eyes, body language, etc. – Council doesnt care about comments; only how the comments might disrupt narrative.
Engen moved comment around in the meeting, moved the flash button items to end of meetings to make people sit around needlessly and lose resolve, used Rule of Order tricks to silence and even resorted to cutting mics during Zoom time,etc.
The fix is in, the decisions made – Council meetings (and comments) are just performative theater to give the impression that the common “man” is heard.
All that said – great comment!!!
Several years ago, before Engen became the ‘silencer’, the Shitty Council had a meeting about changing the municipal codes for biking and other related things. As an avid biker, I went to hear the debate first hand, not the Gomerized version of it the corporate media would put out.
At the time, they were also talking about some scooter company that wanted to come to Missoula to put there rental scooters all over town. There really wasn’t much public support for or against it.
After public comment was over, Stacy Anderson took to the mike and lambasted the company, rental scooters in general, and then said scooters should be banned altogether because they were dangerous. She went on to tell a story about how 1 scooter went by her and her family too fast one time on the sidewalk, and that they should all be banned. I suspect, like many pedestrians in Missoula, her and her family took up the ENTIRE sidewalk, not leave a lane available for others to pass.
Several other shitty council members, got right behind Anderson, and promptly voted not to allow the scooter company. Thankfully, her rage seemed to subside by the time they actually got to discussing bike laws, and she backed down from actually attempting to ban private scooters themselves.
I wouldn’t have heard any of that, if I hadn’t gone to the meeting first hand, and as I suspected, Gomer and the rest of the corporate media completely left out crazy banning Anderson’s rant.
I have been noting the increasingly repressive regime re citizen comments. You may recall Engen actually cutting someone off and ordering them to sit down on grounds that what the speaker was saying was “inaccurate.”
The case law on this, while quite deferential to City Councils and their presiding officers, nonetheless is settled that when a public forum is provided by gov’t, there can be no content- or speaker-based discrimination or censorship beyond reasonable maintenance of order. There are quite a few federal court decisions ruling against councils and mayors who engaged in conduct similar to these phony liberals.
It’s very frustrating to have to patiently go through the red tape needed to practice law here; I wish to handle such challenges of authoritarianism pro bono as soon as I’m able. They really don’t understand the boundaries the MT & U$ Constitutions place on their actions, and they will not listen to those who try to inform them of those limitations.
Anderson targets certain people with her “point of order” nonsense. Same with Jones when she presides. It’s not OK to censor speech merely because it offends, criticizes, insults, or employs profanity.
I just shelled out $247 for the latest edition of Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure. These bozos rarely know their own standing rules, let alone Mason’s, which is the official body of parliamentary procedural rules of the City Council.
You are surely not afraid to poke the Bear 😀
Why is there only one active journalist working in Missoula? But then I’ve been around journalists my entire adult life, and have found them, generally, to be trembling puppies. Why they choose to make a living without making a difference is beyond me. Right Jule?
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