Pushing Density And Passenger Rail In A Community Burned Out By Change

by Travis Mateer

If our elected City/County leaders continue to prioritize things like density and passenger rail over first responder capacity amidst burnout, the tourism economy everyone is pinning their future hopes on will suffer. That is why I have tailored my comment in support of SB 523 to emphasize what’s happening across Montana with drug addiction and the resulting spike in violent crime.

I have referred to the various development plans for Missoula, which all promote density, as sardine can housing plans. Here is our placeholder Mayor lamenting how the neighborhoods on the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum are unfairly protected from the sardine-can-plan by single-family housing zoning. From the link (emphasis mine):

“There is a pattern of segregation by race and ethnicity that is related to the city’s underlying zoning regulations,” explained Jamon Kimmell of Cascadia Partners. “More diverse neighborhoods are in the higher density zoning, while exclusive single-dwelling and duplex zones are significantly more likely to be mapped to less diverse neighborhoods.”

Kimmell’s firm has been hired by the city to provide an in-depth report on inequity in the city’s land use efforts as city planners prepare to undertake a comprehensive code reform process over the next few years.

The presentation was blunt in its assessment. Zoning that allows only single-dwelling and duplex homes covers 64% of Missoula’s land area, but only 30% of Missoula households can afford homes in those areas, according to Census data. Meanwhile, multi-dwelling and commercial zones represent just 36% of the city, but 60% of households can afford to live there.

Before I get to this consulting firm peddling this data, here’s more from the article about the gentrification happening in the poorer neighborhoods across Missoula (emphasis mine):

“Missoula’s zoning concentrates new housing development in lower income neighborhoods,” he said. “And this increases the risk of displacement and gentrification.”

He said his research shows that neighborhoods along West Broadway and in the Franklin to the Fort neighborhood have already experienced early gentrification and have high rates of residents vulnerable to displacement because of a hot housing market. Much of the Westside and Northside neighborhoods are currently relatively affordable, he said, but are vulnerable to gentrification. According to Census data, those areas have lower incomes, higher rates of renters and higher rates of BIPOC residents.

Displacement occurs when rising rents force someone to move out of the neighborhood they are living in, and gentrification happens when displacement occurs at higher rates. Generally, it means a neighborhood goes from being lower income and more diverse to higher income with a larger white population.

The irony here is the fact Tax Increment Financing is ALSO a contributing factor to the increasing rents displacing people across the valley, but you won’t hear ANYONE in local government claim TIF reform is needed. Instead their plan is to pray SB 523 fails because they want to CONTROL the poors by controlling the new type of housing being developed for them, which is WORKFORCE housing.

For a better idea of what is meant by “workforce” housing, here’s how it’s defined by Wikipedia:

Workforce housing is a term that is increasingly used by planners, government, and organizations concerned with housing policy or advocacy. It is gaining cachet with realtors, developers and lenders. Workforce housing can refer to any form of housing, including ownership of single or multi-family homes, as well as occupation of rental units. Workforce housing is generally understood to mean affordable housing for households with earned income that is insufficient to secure quality housing in reasonable proximity to the workplace.

What kind of firm is Missoula working with now? Here’s a screenshot of one of the dudes from Cascadia Parnters and what he’s accomplished in the wonderful Portland, Oregon area (emphasis mine):

If pushing workforce housing density doesn’t work out, maybe the service sector employees that wealth needs around to service them, thus validating their elevated social status, can commute by passenger rail to their barista jobs. To help with that effort, here’s the County Commissioner obsessed with reviving passenger rail across Montana:

Unfortunately, Dave Strohmaier can’t do this train thing all by himself, which is why he was recently panhandling officials in Helena for money. From the link (emphasis mine):

The Federal Railroad Administration is expected to release a short list of passenger rail lines recommended for restoration in July, and the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority is “all hands on deck,” according to authority chairman and Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier, to ensure a southern Montana line is on it.

The authority, which Strohmaier referred to as a subdivision of state government, requested an annual contribution of $4,000 and a letter of support from the city of Helena in an email addressed to the Helena mayor and city commission Thursday.

The letter, signed by Strohmaier, states the authority has assembled a “vibrant rural-urban coalition including 20 Montana counties and many cities, towns, Tribes, and businesses working together to restore passenger rail service across southern Montana.

Yes, for Dave Strohmaier, the effort to revive passenger rail represents an ALL HANDS ON DECK effort because there’s nothing else more pressing for this County Commissioner to deal with, so it’s a good thing Missoula isn’t becoming a lawless dystopia with a corrupt Sheriff’s Office and negligent County Attorney’s Office presiding this dumpster fire, because THAT might require Dave to address a more socially entrenched problem, a problem that could challenge his idiotic liberal ideology.

The harsh reality our elected leaders are trying to ignore is the spiraling drug crisis totally overwhelming our first responders, but those with the job of responding CANNOT ignore what’s happening. All they can do, at least the ones who haven’t committed suicide, is hope that healing from the traumas they’ve experienced is possible.

The article features Travis Gribble, a retired law enforcement official who moved to Phillipsburg, Montana, when the stress and trauma from his work got too much for him. From the link (emphasis mine):

“We want to give the families some tools, help them understand what goes through our minds when we go to a death call, or we go to a fatal car accident, a shooting, whatever that is.”

Overall, Gribble wants to change the culture around mental health in these careers, making it easier for those who need help to reach out. 

“First and foremost, I want to give first responders the courage to come forward for help when they need it.”

Gribble plans to work with Montana legislation to allocate more funding for mental health support in law enforcement agencies. 

He wants officers to seek help before it’s too late and before they are forced into early retirement because of mental health issues.

Yes, if we want to have nice things, then the ability to have laws enforced is kind of important. This means the people tasked with responding to what happens when citizens don’t abide by laws need support, and that won’t happen without money.

I’ll give a quick example of what this could look like before wrapping up this post, and it’s actually pretty simple: floating! From the link:

As human beings, we are all changed by the experiences we go through in our lives; however, when someone goes through repeated complex traumatic experiences, it has immensely profound impacts on the rest of their life. Despite achieving upper second-class honors in my university degree, trauma from various types of abuse has left me unable to work. I experience many types of complex physical and emotional health issues, many of which I will never get help for from specialist health services (not even privately) due to how complex they are.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can result from maladaptively stored traumatic experiences that become “compartmentalized” from subsequent traumatic experiences because the brain was unable to process them properly at the time the trauma happened. Complex PTSD results from repeated, and often inescapable, complex traumatic experiences. PTSD has been shown to physically reduce parts of the brain, such as change the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is an important part of the limbic system, regulating emotions. The hippocampus has an important part to play in memory, learning and emotion.

Very sadly, many people — let alone doctors — have even heard of floating, so they just don’t know of its profound benefits. Dr. Justin Feinstein from the Laureate Institute of Brain Research in USA has dedicated his career to studying the benefits of “clinical floatation,” and how floating can help with issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. His talks (which can be found on YouTube and on his website, Clinical Flotation) from Float Conferences make incredibly compelling and promising viewing.

I can say, from personal experience, that this type of therapy is amazing, but I stopped doing float sessions because I can’t currently afford to pay $70 dollars an hour, and insurance doesn’t cover this therapy, so something that has proven benefits has significant barriers for those who most need it.

What will happen with all the money floating around in Helena? I hope our legislators make good decisions with the BILLION+ surplus they have, because Montana, like our country, is at a crossroads, and bad decisions could have serious consequences for years to come.

If you appreciate the perspective I’m bringing to these critical issues, you can support Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or make a donation at my about page.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for my SB 523 update from Helena!

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
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply