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.
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.
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.
Thanks for reading!