Local Media Is So Cute With Their Little Stories On Urban Camping Trash In The River And A Totally Not Conflicted Housing Deal

by Travis Mateer

City Council did NOT get a Travis-free Council meeting on Monday despite my intention to return from my forrest retreat and just chill. Why couldn’t I just chill? Because I read two articles from two sad-sorry local media outlets that I found a bit confusing and maddening, so, after a quick shower, I headed downtown to express my confusion that a property could be PURCHASED for $2.1 million dollars, then potentially SOLD to a buyer for $1 million in this kind of HOT housing market.

Huh? (emphasis mine):

The Missoula Redevelopment Agency purchased the apartments for $2.1 million and plans to sell them for $1 million, and Blueline has the first option to purchase.

“This is an investment in affordable housing,” said Ward 1 Representative Heidi West. But her Ward 5 colleague John Contos wondered about the city’s approach to the apartments. Why not hire someone to manage it instead of selling the project, he asked.

“That just seems like a lot of money to drop,” said Contos. Emily Harris-Shears, housing policy specialist, said the city is pursuing its agreement with Blueline for the first right to purchase at this time.

“I’m glad that this is kind of coming to a positive outcome for our community,” said Councilor Amber Sherrill in Ward 4.

Again, huh?

While I acknowledged the unknown complexity I’m sure exists in this deal, that doesn’t change my opinion about the conflicted relationship the Missoula Redevelopment Agency has had with Blueline. Is no one else concerned with the stink emanating from MRA?

When you look at the picture I took yesterday of Bridge Apartments, you can see the Poverello Center in the upper left corner. That means you’re looking east, down Broadway, with the Clark Fork river on the right.

After taking the picture, I watched a VERY drunk woman stumble down the street from the West Broadway Island area, barely able to walk. This was around 5:30pm, after I read the two confounding and maddening articles.

The second article comes from the Missoula Current, a publication that falsely told its readership that I shouted at City Council earlier this year (I did not).

From the link (emphasis mine):

Flowing through the center of Missoula, the Clark Fork River is an amenity treasured by some but taken for granted by others. It provides aesthetic pleasure, recreational opportunity and habitat for wildlife. As a result, it spawned the creation of at least one organization dedicated to its preservation, the Clark Fork Coalition.

The Clark Fork Coalition has spent years trying to restore and maintain the river, from advocating for federal cleanup of the upper Clark Fork mine waste and Smurfit Stone mill industrial chemicals to shepherding the removal and cleanup of the Milltown Dam and reservoir in 2008. And every spring, they rally volunteers to troll the riverbanks around town picking up trash.

A lot of time, money and effort has been spent on cleaning a river that is now being polluted by a more urban source. But the issue of homeless encampments and tents near the river is a thorny one, said Karen Knudsen, Clark Fork Coalition executive director.

“Every year, we see this happening, especially in the spring, when there seems to be a real influx of unhoused populations,” Knudsen said. “In Missoula, as we grow, the public spaces decrease, they’re not welcome in some of them anymore, and there’s just no housing for them. The unhoused are forced to exist in these increasingly tenuous areas, and for sure, floodplains and riparian areas are tenuous places, especially when rivers are rising.”

I have tried speaking to Karen Knudsen several times, but she has yet to return my phone calls. I’d love to explain to her how I have found success after funding my own effort to remove 2.84 TONS of trash from just one tiny little spot built by a drug dealer who is allegedly peddling weed laced with Fentanyl.

It’s incredibly frustrating to have the same reporter who came out to my clean-up for the story (only to have Martin “Gomer” Kidston spike it) now writing such a long article on something I’ve been working so hard on addressing.

I guess she was just waiting for more important users of the river, like people with canoes, to get horrified by needles on the riverbank (emphasis mine):

The two friends paddled under the Reserve Street Bridge where, about a month earlier, Missoula Search and Rescue had evacuated a homeless encampment threatened by rising water. Then, south of Garden City Compost, they rounded a bend and stared at the left bank. It was littered with garbage that had been carried by a surging river, everything from plastic bags and bottles to car batteries and pieces of furniture. On one beach, Moss found a green vinyl drug kit – complete with needles and a spoon – embedded in the sand.

“What we discovered was all the stuff from the homeless camp had washed down. It was creepy to be on the beach because there were (hypodermic) needles everywhere,” Ream said. “That beach that really struck me, probably because it was the first one we came to. Everything, including heavy stuff, was deposited high up on the bank. But we saw stuff on beaches as far down as the confluence of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork.”

Well, shit! Imagine how much MORE crap would be in the river if I hadn’t spent $1,200 dollars on a dumpster for Earth Day.

I’m not fishing for gratitude here. What I AM doing is continuing to ask questions, and making public comments, and reading painfully maddening local media articles so YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

I also attend committee meetings (when my work schedule allows) and guess who doesn’t have to work this Wednesday? That’s right, I’ll be going COMMITTEE CRAZY instead, because there’s a lot on the docket for the last full committee day of July, so stay tuned later this week for that report.

If you appreciate my commitment to local reporting, Travis’ Impact Fund (TIF) is one way you can support what I’m doing, while making a donation at my about page is another.

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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4 Responses to Local Media Is So Cute With Their Little Stories On Urban Camping Trash In The River And A Totally Not Conflicted Housing Deal

  1. TC says:

    Travis – Im with you!!! After reading those two stories I was so pissed. First, Blueline has become the new WGM Group. Just a means of the City to funnel public monies into private hands; only now with new and improved familial connection. That whole Buchanan connection just streamlines the whole operation.
    As for the river, I used to be a frequent and regular contributor to the ClarkFork Coalition. Both as a funder and participant of clean-ups. About 5 yrs ago I complained that their clean-ups had exceeded the ability of regular people/families. Having to tell my 6 yo son to leave that needle, dont step in shit, watch out for that broken glass, etc made the whole clean up absurd. I also asked if the CFC would speak publically regarding those facts and offer warnings to river users regarding the haz- mat that was increasing in and around the City riverscape. I was told, quite condescendingly, that City trash, needles, fecal matter, etc was inconsequential; rather it was upstream cows and ranchers from Deer Lodge that threatened our river. That was the last time I ever contributed. I guess that they now acknowledge the issue is “Thorny” represents Missoula type progress.
    Finally, as discussed before, I love the softening of terms to control narrative. My latest favorite – “urban camping”. Wish Outside or Sunset magazine (who both fanboyed Missoula) would come out with their Top 10 Urban Camping suggestions (all the faves – Boulder, Eugene, Boise, Asheville, etc)

  2. Ted Hartman says:

    I am with you on the river, and my thoughts went to you when I read the “official” story. Sorry Travis, but I rolled my eyes. When the problem becomes “official”, unlike the last (insert number) years that people have been complaining and warning them, well buddy, it just reeks of another taxpayer funded program that they promise will fix the problem that they created………………without ever fixing the problem that they create. And someone will be in it to make a buck endorsed by someone slick enough to convince you to pay for it.
    It took the Puyallup Tribe to tell Pierce County to clean up the Puyallup River. And that’s saying something about how bad it was.
    CSKT? Are you listening?

  3. Pingback: Remembering The Summer I Helped Identify A Homeless Killer | Zoom Chron Blog

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