Navigating Change In A “Strong” Community, Part II

by Travis Mateer

Before getting to my experience watching the STATE OF THE COMMUNITY held at the Double Tree Hotel yesterday, I’d like to say how impressively uninformative local media coverage has been thus far. What I’ve read has focused primarily on the 10 minute speeches each local leader gave the full room. For context on those local leaders, here’s the link to Part I.

I went to Twitter to see what other coverage I might find. This also didn’t produce much, except for a few tweets from Colter Nuanez, like this one:

What else might have been news worthy about this State of the community? Maybe the questions posed to these three city/county leaders and the answers they formulated. Instead, coverage like this article by Martin “Gomer” Kidston contains barely anything worth highlighting, except this claim from President Bodnar that a loss of confidence in the value of a college education is a national security problem. From the link (emphasis mine):

“We all should be concerned about the numerous polls that show public confidence in higher education has been eroding for over a decade,” he said. “This is the largest national security challenge that no one is talking about. We’ve staked our claim as a country as an innovation-based economy. Innovation requires education. We have to address that.”

I have a hard time taking Bodnar’s worry about national security seriously, considering his former position leading a transnational corporation after getting Rhodes-scholar-educated at an institution like Oxford.

Oh, but Seth Bodnar used the word KIDDO, so forget everything I just said. Anyone who uses the word KIDDO is clearly incapable of doing anything wrong, so hopefully that sex-based discrimination lawsuit will be dropped, especially if NATIONAL SECURITY is on the line!

Another lawsuit NOT mentioned, since events like these omit inconvenient realities in order to paint a pretty picture of community STRENGTH, is the Reep Bell & Jasper payday for the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office.

Is that why our newly elected Sheriff, Jeremiah Petersen, wasn’t in attendance yesterday? I can’t say. I also can’t say if our lead County Attorney, Kirsten Pabst, was in attendance, because I didn’t see her. Mike Colyer, our placeholder Police Chief, was in attendance, and that’s good because the question I helped my table craft had to do with public safety. Here’s the question I asked about our ever-expanding growth in a valley contained by mountains:

For those who support encouraging expansion, or claim it’s inevitable, how do you propose addressing gaps in our criminal justice system to ensure public safety?

The response to this question was less than satisfactory, and basically entailed Hess and Slotnick talking about the jail diversion program and specialized courts, like a “shelter court” that allows people staying at the Poverello Center to appear in court via Zoom from the shelter. Isn’t that convenient?

The mobile support team was also mentioned, as well as a “receiving center” that will be opening in the fall or winter of this year, but nothing was said about the revolving door some individuals seem to experience despite committing violent crimes.

Instead of worrying about violent crime, Hess and Slotnick were MUCH more animated when calling out the legislature for the culture war antics playing out in Helena. At one point the grandstanding even elicited applause. So it’s no surprise the Missoulian chose that aspect to focus on in their article. From the link:

Two of the highest-ranking elected officials in Missoula, both Democrats, excoriated the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature on Monday afternoon for what they say is the state lawmaking body’s push to reduce local control and discriminate against segments of the population.

Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick and Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess spoke at City Club Missoula’s annual State of the Community luncheon along with University of Montana President Seth Bodnar. They were asked by an audience member to state anything they were happy or unhappy with from the Legislature’s session this year.

Both Slotnick and Hess made an apparent reference to a proposed bill that would block gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Senate Bill 99 was introduced by Sen. John Fuller, a Whitefish Republican. Another pending bill would make it lawful to deadname and misgender trans youth.

Did I applaud when Mayor Hess referred to the bill aimed at restraining Tax Increment Financing as one of the biggest threats coming out of Helena? No, but I definitely smirked, because our leaders know there’s an actual chance SB 523 could get passed and become law.

After the event concluded I lurked near the lunch I didn’t pay for, feeling hungry, so I decided to ask if I could have a Caesar wrap. Not only did I get a free wrap, I also got the impression that my inquiry to City Club last month about hosting a criminal justice forum is being discussed, at least that is what I was told. Maybe it pays to keep the ranting and raving in check, at least in real life?

Does ranting have a place in media? Next month’s City Club topic might provide an answer, since the topic is “current media landscape”. I’ll definitely be attending that one.

If you appreciate my coverage of events like these, please consider making a donation at my about page, or you can choose to support Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF).

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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