Are Downtown Missoula Businesses Revolting Against Multi-Modal Climate Change Zealots?

by Travis Mateer

During the recording of last week’s Week in Review, I had to hit pause to make sure I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing, and that’s a LONG list of downtown businesses signing on to a sternly-worded letter (PDF) telling the Mayor’s Office and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to hit their own pause button on the “SAM” projects, which includes the lane reduction scheme for Higgins Avenue. From the link:

A coalition of more than 60 downtown business and property owners in Missoula sent a strongly worded letter to Mayor Jordan Hess late Wednesday night expressing concerns over plans to revamp street configurations and disappointment with Hess’ communication with them thus far.

At issue is the city’s Downtown Safety and Mobility (DowntownSAM) project. It consists of three separate endeavors: a plan to convert Front and Main streets to two-way traffic, the plan to redevelop Caras Park and a plan to redesign a portion of Higgins Avenue with different traffic configurations.

I read the entire letter on last week’s podcast episode, which I recommend checking out. For the purposes of this post, here’s the part that references climate change ideology (emphasis mine):

This rift, which has suddenly emerged between downtown businesses and Missoula’s one-party stranglehold on local politics, is kind of amazing, and could help out the one Mayoral candidate who is desperately trying to shed his liberal skin like a snake so he can pretend to be a conservative, and that’s former Sheriff, T.J. McDermott (if he’s actually running).

To give you a sense of the worry coming from Multi-Modal Zealots (MMZs), here’s one of ’em bitching and moaning on Facebook:

Parking psychosis? That’s cute. Has John Wolverton ever tried operating a business downtown? I doubt it. But I’m sure he’s good on a bicycle. Maybe he even has those FAT tires that allows the dozen or so bicyclists in this valley of 100,000 residents to act like it’s feasible to rely on bikes during the snow months in Montana, which can span from October to April.

This seasonal reality in Montana is something the signatories of the letter are finally starting to realize, and point out, to the MMZs driving policy in this town (pun intended). Here’s more from the letter (emphasis mine):

Just because a plan has been a plan for a long time, that doesn’t mean the public, once fully apprised of the plan, is going to be supportive. In this case, the origin of the Higgins lane reduction scheme goes back to 2009, but if supporters think that fact will insulate the plan from the pressures of 2023, they are grossly mistaken.

For example, there WAS a plan to use Tax Increment Financing like a private slush fund to “incentivize” development and address “blight”, but that plan is now facing serious legislative action in Helena, with SB 523 passing a second reading yesterday on a 30-19 vote.

Yesterday I provided some video updates about TIF (theirs and mine) which you can see in the video below.

The article I reference in the video about Andy selling his new Missoula hotels to a Denver corporation should be read closely. Here’s an excerpt to show you what I’m so fucking enraged about with this announcement:

A Denver firm is the new owner of several Marriott properties in downtown Missoula, including the AC Hotel, the Residence Inn and the attached Mercantile retail center, the deal’s real estate broker said Monday.

Evermore Partners of Denver, in partnership with New Castle Hotels & Resorts, acquired the properties near the end of the first quarter of this year, according to CBRE Pacific Northwest.

“The redevelopment of The Mercantile and the development of the adjoining Marriott hotels has been a labor of love for HomeBase Partners, and we are thrilled to transfer the ownership to the next steward of such a remarkable project,” said Andy Holloran of Homebase Partners. “Missoula has been a great partner in supporting the redevelopment of the downtown core, especially the Mercantile and our hotels, and we look forward to our next chapter in Missoula.”

In the announcement, Holloran didn’t disclose his company’s next move in Missoula. But in the past, he said Homebase Partners has other projects in mind and has described Missoula as a good place to invest given its economy and vibrant downtown core.

Stockman Bank executed the sale.

If you aren’t pissed off at this, that’s because you’re probably benefitting from it in some way, so you don’t care that public money is picking winners and letting the losers deal with the increasing cost of living in this idyllic valley without a corporate welfare safety net.

Now that a downtown business revolt appears to be in full swing, let’s conclude this post by taking a look at the signatories of the letter. I hope my outreach to these businesses this week yields some financial support for Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or maybe some general donations, which ANYONE can make at my about page.

Here are businesses who signed the letter. 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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6 Responses to Are Downtown Missoula Businesses Revolting Against Multi-Modal Climate Change Zealots?

  1. TC says:

    I know exactly what downtown business owners are feeling having lived thru this process with all the same players minus Engen (tho we do have his clone). It is truly wondrous to watch the City construct narratives.
    I owned a home on Mary Ave when the MRA decided to help lil’Petey spruce up the Mall for a million $ flip. The residents were given meetings where we were “heard”, we were also told this plan had “always” been on the books, and were given “ample” opportunity to give feedback.
    Here is the reality. Im sure a plan did exist – dusty on a shelf or entirely in Ellen’s mind according to HER vision of a better Missoula. None of the residents knew of it tho. Technically, the City told a “truth”.
    We were given meetings – 3 if I recall. At the 1st all residents attended and loudly voiced disapproval. However, the City had a few plants to express support. Became evident that we would be heard but not listened to. By the last meeting residents had resigned themselves to an outcome and quit attending. City still sent their shills so could claim support was increasing. Technically, the City told a “truth”.
    We were given surveys but choices were crafted to give a pre-determined outcome. Should as this IS happening – do you prefer X or Y? When residents chose lesser of two evils City claimed they had resident buy-in. Technically, the City told a “truth”.
    Then the City disseminated this public “good” thru “objective” media like Gomer. They had their “citizen” supporters, like John Wolverton, write letters and testify at Council meetings. They then used that to illustrate the “overwhelming” support they had and justified their plan.
    The downtown business owners are screwed. The plan will move forward with the same level of public engagement and support (sarcasm). Just like Mary Ave., South Ave., Grove Street, Broadway, now the Fort. The only time the City deviates from their Portlandia plans are when it involves one of their own (Jones – University district, Sponseller in the Rattlesnake).

  2. A side note: I’m glad to see Gomer caught the misspelling of “Stokman” Bank. Good stenography requires, at the very least, accurate spelling.

  3. John Kevin Hunt says:

    Well, it’s quite a stretch to chracterize John Wolverton asdon’t know him — obviously.

    It’s more than a stretch to characterize John Wolverton as a shill for the regime. You don’t know him — obviously.

    I’d also like you to justify and defend your labeling of people as “climate change zealots.” If one isn’t not zealous ablout this, frankly then one is an enemy of humanity. and of the biosphere.

    Puzzling as well is why someone who doesn’t drive and either bicycles or is driven by someone else everywhere he goes while sleuthing for truth, would develop such zeal against multi-modal transportation.

    Next, there’s the incorrigible usage of ideological terminology (to-wit “liberal”) in a politically illiterate manner notwithstanding frequent nudges to get hip to what these regime appratchiks really are: neoliberals. They practice virtue-signalling identity politics while engaging in policies that harm the working class, make the rich richer, and so on. Haven’t you heard the joke:

    “There will be the moment when a little upturned face will ask, ‘Mommy, where do neo-liberals come from?’

    “You’ve been rehearsing this moment for ages, so you’re not totally at a loss.

    “ ‘Well honey, when a politician and a lobbyist love each other very much, they gather in dark backrooms and express their love by crafting corporate-friendly legislation. They do this while pretending to have the American People’s best interest at heart, but in reality, the only difference between neo-liberal Democrats and the GOP is gay wedding cake.’ ”

    I figured by now you’d have been long hip to the “liberal” moniker (as well as the “liberal vs. conservative” mantra) being a fake zeitgeist promoted by all of the evil players involved, first and foremost Lee Enterprises news, along with Gomer Kidston. My use of “politically illiterate,” by the way, is not intended as a perjorative; the mass of Americans are politically illiterate. It took my first “F” on a school paper, as a college freshman, to realize that I was politically illiterate (the professor wrote that, next to the “F”). It was the single best thing that happened to me as far as dissolving the bullshit paradigm stuffed down our throats from cradle to grave, and motivating me to think critically and analytically while pursuing lifelong learning.

    That phony paradigm was successful in producing five elections of John Engen.

    The effing Bear Tracks bridge fiasco is a product of the incompetent bureacracy put in place during the Engen years and the abdication of its responsibilities by the City Council. It’s a major blunder in a myriad of ways.

    The Main & Front Street brouhaha is a different matter (though tainted by the same deafness of the regime). I’m old enough to remember when Main and Front were both two-way. When the City decided to change them to two-way, the same uproar from businesses on those blocks ensued — that the change would deter customers. Having experienced both layouts, I’m not certain it makes much difference either way (though I believe the businesses are probably right this time). I’m especially familiar with the Main/Front scene because it was the locus of the incident that led me to try my first case to a jury, as a college frosh, my courtroom adversary being none other than City Attorney Jim Nugent (yes, the SAME Jim Nugent), who represented Missoula in the 1977 prosecution of City of Missoula vs. J. Kevin Hunt, on the charge of Improper Backing, to-wit: backing up my 1967 Mustang from East Main across Higgins, to West Main, in order to nab a parking space I saw open up in my reaîrview mirror. That tale is for another time.

    As long as people remain fooled by the phony “liberal city council” and “left-leaning city council” propaganda that serves the re-election of these posers and their “public-private partnership” schemes and scams, the current course of events will continue.

    We have a similar situation with the so-called ‘conservative,’ ‘libertarian’ MT Legislature steamrolling to passage measures that destroy local control, trample on the rights of the miniority, decimate our state constitution, etc.

    Democratic and Libertarian Socialists are far more committed to economic democracy, transparency, local control, responsible public spending and non-regressive taxation, than either the neoliberals or the pseudo-conservatives.

    I’m with you on most of your insights. I’m allied with you on many things and appreciate you very much. Thanks for the reporting and the muckraking. Keep it coming.

    — jkh

    • John Kevin Hunt says:


      (1) my first paragraph should be deleted (it’s correctly written in the second paragraph).

      (2) I inadvertently wrote “two-way” twice; I meant to convey that the same brouhaha by many of the same businesses ensued when the City proposed changing Main & Front from two-way years ago.

      Be well and soldier on, my friend.

      — jkh

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