Continuing My Public Commenting Campaign On A Busy Wednesday Full Of Committees Before July 4th

by Travis Mateer

The picture above is a “leaning bench”, one of two that exist ONLY near the Poverello Center on West Broadway. I wrote about this idiotic response to bad behavior around public bus vestibules when they were first introduced 4 years ago. Earlier this week I revisited that blog post, along with a few others, as Mountain Line was back in the news celebrating acquiring a bunch of money to build a NEW HOME for buses.

Because public buses need homes to!

The first comment I made on Wednesday, though, wasn’t about buses and benches. It was during the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, and had to do with County vs. City political rhetoric and the failure of homeless programs, like the Salcido Drop-In Center and the Authorized Camping Site. Here’s the comment:

One thing I said that was NOT completely accurate is that TWO teens were involved in the lethal assault against a homeless man over the weekend in Kalispell. While that might be technically true, more reporting indicates the assault was allegedly committed by just one of the young men, while the other young man was actually trying to intervene. From the link (emphasis mine):

A witness at the scene showed law enforcement a short video and officers identified the two suspects as Fleck and 18-year-old Wiley Meeker of Somers. Fleck and Meeker later admitted to police in separate interviews that they were inside a truck at the gas station when a man approached the vehicle.

Court documents state Fleck admitted to getting out of the truck and assaulting Bryan. Meeker told police he pulled Fleck away from Bryan and then left the scene. A search of a home where Fleck was found turned up a pair of boots with suspected blood stains in the garage.

After making this comment, which was less than 3 minutes and mostly tone-appropriate, I went to get some food and ended up in a tone-inappropriate conversation with a former client from the old Poverello days. My escalated tone was NOT directed at the former client, but it inspired a staff member from Worden’s to come make sure everything was ok.

Part of my LOUD conversation entailed what I’ll call “hostile nostalgia” over the previous owner of this business, Tim France, and how France refused to stop selling gut-rot booze to street people 8 years ago. I mentioned this effort in another post recently, but here’s a Missoulian article from 2015 for some better detail about how the Mayor’s Downtown Advisory Commission attempted to get Worden’s and other alcohol retailers to voluntarily stop selling gut-rot booze. From the second link (emphasis mine):

With warmer weather just ahead, the Mayor’s Downtown Advisory Commission may ask retailers to voluntarily remove certain alcoholic beverages from their shelves – a move supporters believe would help reduce problematic behavior in the city’s core, including intoxication, aggressive panhandling and disorderly conduct.

If the commission’s proposal to curb the sale of single-serve containers wins support – along with a plan to create a no-sell list naming the worst offenders – it would join a slate of tools advocates are now using to improve downtown Missoula’s reputation.

As presented to the Downtown Business Improvement District’s board of directors last week, the Responsible Alcohol Retailer Program would ask merchants to voluntarily remove Steele Reserve, Colt 45 and Natural Ice from the shelves.

And how did Tim France–who was ALSO a board member for the Business Improvement District at the time–respond?

As proposed, the program would take place downtown, where the problematic behavior is largely focused. Within the district, employees would be trained to better deal with potential issues that could arise by not selling liquor to those on the list.

Tim France, owner of Worden’s Market and a BID board member, likened the training to the state’s serve-safe program. He voiced support for the no-sell list, though he remains skeptical of the proposed single-serve guidelines.

While the spirit of the proposal is good, France said, it may penalize retailers in the central business district who sell the listed items. It may also penalize those who obey the law and simply want to grab a beer to take home after work.

Worden’s was sold to someone else in 2019, so I’m not sure who the owner is today, but the staff member who chastised me for being loud wanted me to know there were kids inside his establishment, and GOD KNOWS we want our kids to be insulated from BAD THINGS, which I guess is why this dad wasn’t happy about Missoula’s drug crisis.

From the link (emphasis mine):

The officer spoke to the 911 caller who stated he observed a female “shooting up.” He said the incident was upsetting to him because his young child had witnessed it from inside the vehicle. He also forwarded several photos of Stephenson injecting a white syringe into her left arm to the officer.

On the spectrum of disturbing things witnessed by kids, this is bad, but not as bad as seeing a masturbator on the bus.

Yes, that’s right, the ZOOM TOWN bus service called Mountain Line was the focus of my SECOND comment of the day, and it was delivered at the Public Works and Mobility Committee meeting. Having vented and snacked, I was ready for round 2. Here it is:

After this comment (which I hope “CEO” Corey Aldridge sees as an opportunity to be accountable to his public shareholders) I went walking east, on Broadway, to verify if the “leaning benches” were still there and, guess what? They were!

In an attempt to provide a dramatic reenactment of a potential scenario involving someone with a medical condition that requires a sudden need to SIT DOWN, I recorded myself attempting to use a leaning bench. I don’t think a camera on a phone held at arm’s length provides the best angle, but here it goes anyways!

Do these leaning benches look like they’re adhering to our community’s JEDI principles? If these benches DO NOT promote justice, equity, diversity, or inclusion, then they GOTTA GO, right?

I would think the answer would be an enthusiastic RIGHT! Unless, that is, we’re living in Double-Standard Town, in which case I’m sure some kind of bullshit rationale can be devised. Or maybe a survey can be conducted–something to create the IMPRESSION that public opinion matters and principled consistency exist, even if they don’t.

If you think local media matters, then consider supporting Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF), or making a donation at my about page.

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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1 Response to Continuing My Public Commenting Campaign On A Busy Wednesday Full Of Committees Before July 4th

  1. Concern Troll says:

    It befuddles me how city council has money to move and cleanup the unhoused from multiple occasions but has not reimbursed you for the cost of removing the meth shack down behind the University of Montana College. You should send the city an itemized invoice.

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