Missoula’s “Authorized Camping Site” For The Homeless Refugees Of The Reserve Street Encampment Is An Unmitigated Failure

by Travis Mateer

The articles now being written about “frustrations” over changing expectations at the Missoula’s ACS (Authorized Camping Site) were entirely predicable for someone with experience working with subgroups of the broader “homeless” community.

Before getting to how current frustrations are being articulated to the public, it’s important to ask how the ACS was being pitched to the people who would end up there in the first place. The phrase “low barrier” didn’t have to translate into BUILD SHANTY TOWN HERE, but that is what appears to have happened.

After reading through the various gripes–which I don’t find valid in the first place because this site was never intended to be a permanent shanty town build–we get to the problem of ever-changing rules.

The ever-changing nature of the rules at the site provided another factor in McCullough’s decision to leave.

McCullough, Sanem and other campers expressed frustration at a lack of transparency and consistency on the part of the site’s management.

Initially, they said, there were no restrictions placed on the structures. Then the campers were told they couldn’t use pallets to build permanent buildings because those posed a fire hazard. After they dismantled the permanent structures and used coverings to provide shade, they were then told to take down the tarps and awnings above their sites.

“There are no rules to follow until we do it and break the rules,” said McCullough.

What seems to have happened, from my limited perspective, is illegal campers at the Reserve Street encampment were told they’d have carte blanche at this site because there was ONLY a carrot approach, since our local officials are terrified of bad PR from utilizing the stick the rest of us experience when we break the law.

I hope some lessons have been learned about what happens when carrots have to be over-emphasized because no sticks exist thanks to the combined forces of strategic ineptitude emanating from Missoula’s Sheriff and Attorney Offices, and the political spheres of influence they represent.

Until those lessons translate into competent actions on the ground, stories like this will trickle out:

MTN News found the site has had complications with contractors and staff changes. Limited water, shade, trash removal, and bathroom cleaning are what homeless community members and advocates say is the result.

“Trying to stay hydrated and cool, very hard. Shade’s limited. It’s not easy to stay cool, especially in this heat,” said Sean Wilde, who has been staying at the site since January. “We were expecting to have a clean place, clean environment.”

“There’s water inside this one tent that’s right over here, and there’s water stored up in the trailer where the security hangout,” Wilde said during a tour outside of the fence. He also notes that the Culligan water jugs often run out before the next delivery.

Wilde — who is also the secretary with the Hope Health Alliance, a nonprofit advocating group in Missoula — noted some people have generators and fans, while others cool off in the river or by dousing themselves in water.

County officials say water is delivered regularly, but they are working to understand the complaints, and how much additional water might need to be brought on site.

After reading this article, I reached out to the Hope Health Alliance and got a slightly better understanding of the timeline campers are looking at until new rules are instituted: August 10th. I’m hoping to speak with the other person listed at the Hope Health Alliance website to EVEN BETTER understand this advocacy group and their role in protecting shanty town.

One thing I will note about my brief conversation is that Rogers International staff apparently hang out all day in the trailer, where there’s air conditioning, hardly ever coming out to deal with problems.

I guess that answers the question I posed back in January about how Rogers would provide “security” for this site with their nice government contract. What a joke.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more on this developing story.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Kind Of Bell Have I Rung Now?

by Travis Mateer

Last month I asked the following question in a post titled WTF Is Going On Between The Jurisdictional Sheets Of the Missoula And Mineral County Sheriff Offices? Here’s the portion of the post I’m revisiting in my mind as I consider what kind of bell I rang last Thursday with my first and last contact with Rob Bell, of Reep Bell & Jasper.

Lance Jasper is an attorney in Missoula who strangely showed up at the Mineral County Commissioner hearing last November, the one where Rebekah Barsotti’s mother, Angela Mastrovito, began dismantling the false impression a real search was taking place for her daughter, and not a cover-up.

I finally spoke with Mr. Jasper a few months ago because I really wanted to know what he was up to. After a few unreturned calls, a promise to write about his stonewalling did the trick. Lance Jasper explained to me he was just showing up to encourage Sheriff Toth to ask for outside assistance. Jasper claimed he did this because he knew Toth’s Office wasn’t up to the task.

Also, Lance Jasper was present at the Johnny Lee Perry Coroner’s Inquest, but I’m not sure in what capacity.

If Lance Jasper hadn’t inserted himself into the Barsotti case last November, I probably wouldn’t have taken notice of his presence at Johnny Lee Perry coroner’s inquest this spring, and I doubt the case his law office has taken against the Mineral County Attorney’s Office, on behalf of some Mineral County Sheriff Deputies, would have been on my radar.

But he did, and I noticed, and here we are with my first and last contact with a man I’ve never met, and he’s certainly never met me, and now, sadly, our paths seem barred from crossing after I got this response from an email I cc’d him on:

I do not know who you are. Based upon the business card you left at our office, I understand you claim to operate a private blog of some sort. When I attempted to go to the blog website to determine its purpose or legitimacy, I received a security warning from my browser. That, combined with the aggressive tone of your email, concerns me. You seem to believe, mistakenly, that it is our role or responsibility to answer questions about our cases posed by third-parties who walk into our office off the street. It isn’t and we don’t.

Our office is a private workplace. I ask that you neither come here nor contact us again. 

Clearly I rang Bell’s bell, so let’s see how AGGRESSIVE I was in this aggressive email.

I’m not sure how a lawyer like Rob Bell defines the word AGGRESSIVE, but maybe my tendency to CAPITALIZE words for emphasis was interpreted as unnecessarily hostile. Oh well.

The settlement I am referencing was reported on in this Missoulian article last month. In rereading this article, the HOW I am inquiring about is reported as simply Deputies filing this case in January. From the link:

Erica Grinde, Missoula County director of risk management and benefits, said the discrepancy in the deputies’ wages “stemmed from some unclear state statutes.”

She said state legislation passed in 2021 required parity and certification pay to be included in deputies’ wages, but Missoula County failed to include those wages in the deputies’ base pay.

“The claim alleged that because those factors weren’t included it decreased the deputies’ earnings,” explained Grinde.

Deputies filed the claim in January.

So, if I had to use my imagination, I’d say that a bunch of Sheriff Deputies were hanging out discussing the finer points of state legislation when the topic of pay parity came up, so obviously they went to the specific language of the legislation referenced in the article, and THAT gave them the bright idea to reach out to competent lawyers who could get them their hard earned pay.

Is that how it went down?

I guess I won’t be getting a chance to discuss this with Rob Bell because he checked me out and saw this warning from his browser:

Well, I did some checking as well, and got a different type of warning from examining Rob Bell’s recent political contributions:

Despite this quick antagonism toward me and my questions, I would definitely recommend hiring these lawyers, especially if you’re dealing with trespassing issues. When I worked at the old Poverello Center, which was right next door to Reep Bell & Jasper, I learned a lot about what it takes to successfully trespass someone. That is why I won’t be responding to Mr. Bell’s email.

One suggestion, though. If you are considering hiring this law firm, a process of screening for conflicts of interest is usually standard operating procedure, but how this law firm defines THAT is a question for a different post.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

By Trying To Help The Flower Girl I Came To Sympathize With The Hitman

by Travis Mateer

REPOSTED with an UPDATE below.

On June 29th, at 8:22pm, I called 911 to report something suspicious. If I had been just a tourist on a summertime stroll with my girlfriend in downtown Missoula, the presence of an 8 year old girl selling roses for $5 dollars a pop wouldn’t have seemed all that unusual. But I’m not a tourist, and neither was the woman I was enjoying the evening with.

The little girl selling roses approached us asking to support her trip to Disney Land. The man who seemed to be her dad lurked off to the side, not too far away. Since both of us have experience working with vulnerable populations and identifying red flags, we felt something was off.

I had let the little girl know we would possibly be back, since I didn’t have any cash on me. It only took a glance and a few words to establish what had to be done. We walked around the block, I got some money, and we made our second approach with a plan of me talking to the guy, her talking to the girl.

She asked the girl about the man being her dad and didn’t get a response. Instead the little girl looked down and away. When asked if they were close to raising all the funds for her trip the little girl said they were close. Then, surprisingly, the little girl asked her, looking scared: “They won’t make you go on rides there, will they?”

While that conversation was happening, I was getting a feel for the man who seemed to be the father. I told him about the general safety of Missoula’s downtown streets, explaining they were NOT all that safe at night. I discussed the drug scene and made a mental note of the guy’s VERY red and glassy eyes. When I asked him about Cannabis being legal, he gave me a blank stare, so I asked him if he was from Montana and he said no, just passing through. The transitory nature of this “family’s” presence was a big red flag for me.

It’s at this point in the story where a choice had to be made. Remain as bystanders and keep walking? Or call the authorities? With a glance we knew what we were going to do, because we both felt confident something wasn’t right. But when I made the 911 call, what I described as red flags was directly contested by 911 dispatch.

Before continuing, it’s important to note that we are told if you see something, say something. Regarding the peddling of roses on the street, this Reddit thread has LOTS of people saying something isn’t right about this. Here’s an example of the comments:

Since I felt our concerns weren’t being taken seriously, myself and several other patrons of the restaurant sprang into action, but it was too late. The man and the girl had disappeared down the alley.

Seeing something and NOT being taken seriously isn’t fun, so I imagine the hitman (Nathan Jacobsen) feels my pain. Why? Because when HE called the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center to report his supposed direct knowledge that Sheriff Mike Toth and David Barsotti are involved in gun running, the response from the NTOC was similarly dismissive.

Unlike this alleged interaction between the hitman and the NTOC, which I’m hearing about second hand from a credible source, my situation had something miraculous happen. I GOT AN APOLOGY!

Maybe it was because I did some investigative groundwork the following day to get surveillance footage preserved, or maybe it was because I sent an email to County Commissioners and a contact at the Missoula police department. Regardless, it was nice to have someone in a supervisory role tell me the way dispatch handled my call was NOT appropriate.

After the apology I got the best indication yet this call was finally being taken seriously when the FBI called. Well, that’s how it showed up on my phone, but the guy on the other end of the line was Detective Guy Baker. Now the REAL action was about to begin, right?

The follow up call came a few days later, and I guess it was intended to put my concerns to rest. I was told by Detective Baker that a vigorous 6-8 hour investigation revealed the man was indeed a Russian out-of-stater traveling with his “family” from western Washington. There were two boys and a woman who appeared to be the “mother”. This family’s behavior had caused another bystander to call 911 two days after I did, and this concerned citizen took pictures, something Guy Baker suggested I could have done to make his job easier.

At the end of the day those red flags that had caused our concern were chalked up to “cultural differences”, so I guess it must be a Russian thing to avoid answering direct questions about familial ties and to express fear about the goal of your fundraising efforts. Thankfully history shows us the Russian character is strong and perseveres beyond adversity.

As for the hitman, maybe he should take a page from my book and email our County Commissioners about why he thinks Sheriff Toth is running guns with David Barsotti. Taking that step seemed to be an important factor in producing a tangible result.

Thanks for reading!

UPDATE

I temporarily removed this post at someone’s request, but those conditions no longer seem to apply, considering the hitman has resurfaced and is back on that true crime podcast talking about how he’s NOT SUPPOSED TO BE TALKING ABOUT the fact he’s talked to the FBI.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Here’s What Ross Douthat Thinks Of Montana In His New York Times Yellowstone Op-Ed

by Travis Mateer

I want to thank Ross Douthat for writing about Yellowstone for the New York Times because it validates why I’m targeting this show for narrative retaliation. When you read the op-ed, I think you’ll better understand what’s at stake with this narrative war being waged under the auspices of “entertaining” you.

Before getting into the guts of Douthat’s perspective, it might be helpful to read some of my past posts on this subject, like this one from August, 2020, titled Websleuths And The New Challenge To Authority’s Control Of The Narrative. After that one, I suggest reading my Message To The Myth Makers and then the one about me being the inevitable erosion of their narrative control.

Now, with all that context in mind, let’s take a look at what this Easterner is thinking about Kevin Costner’s extremely popular “entertainment” featuring Big Sky Country as the visually enticing backdrop to the onscreen drama. From the first link:

In the most popular show on American television, “Yellowstone,” the heroes are the rich owners of a vast, gorgeous spread of Montana real estate. The villains are anyone else who wants to live there.

I exaggerate; the show is a little more complicated than this. There are times when the Duttons, the ranch-owning family patriarched by Kevin Costner’s John Dutton, play more like HBO-style antiheroes than sympathetic protagonists (when they commit the occasional murder, for instance), and their rivals for Montanan power include a nearby Native American tribe whose aspiration to reclaim their ancestral lands is treated with respect.

But fundamentally “Yellowstone” is about the preservation of a particular vision of the West (cowboys, ranches, open spaces, families that understand stewardship and that aren’t just there for the views), and its sympathies are with the preservationists, no matter what their sins. Indeed, the Duttons’ main Native American rival is himself a sympathetic figure precisely because he, too, wants to protect the West from its coastal new-money invaders — by using casino money to rewind the Dutton ranch even farther back in time and letting his people live there in some kind of harmony with nature once again.

With the dynamic of “preservationists” pitted against everyone else firmly established, Douthat proceeds to get all butt-hurt at the idea that he and his family are a part of the damaging trend being created by Costner’s vision.

To alleviate the pain in Douthat’s ass, he takes his family on a road trip through Montana. I think the hope is this direct experience will make his op-ed less offensive to the people he’s condescending to:

Finally, if you watch the show from outside the Mountain West, as clearly most of its fans do, I recommend experiencing firsthand the territory in which “Yellowstone” is set — as my family just did on a road trip that took us through the region — and seeing how it changes your responses to the show.

My own shift was complicated. On the one hand, as an Easterner accustomed to big cities and dense suburbs, to experience the West’s mixture of majesty and emptiness is to feel more intensely what John Dutton’s various foils and rivals feel — that something extraordinary is being effectively hoarded here, with whatever admirable intentions, and that more Americans should be able to live in the shadow of such beauty, even if they are just there for the views.

Yes, the eastern entitlement of this opinion maker is on FULL display for us “hoarders” of beauty selfishly trying to keep the landscapes for ourselves. How dare us! Here’s more:

At every semiurban stop along the way, from Rapid City, S.D., to Missoula, Mont., to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, I laughed at what passes for density and congestion west of the Mississippi. Yes, there are conservationist reasons to keep the human footprint light, and yes, the water in the High Plains would probably never support the sprawl outside, say, Atlanta. I’m not suggesting that we should build an American version of Saudi Arabia’s planned desert supercity just east of the Bighorn Range. (Let’s see how the Saudi version goes first.)

A bigger Rapid City, though, or a more bustling Great Falls, Mont.? A Wyoming with, say, three inhabitants for every hundred-odd acres instead of just one? That all sounds like a reasonable and desirable future. And not just because the landscapes are so ridiculously beautiful or even because people may be healthier and thinner at higher altitudes. More population growth out West might also be good for the American republic, giving regions that often feel neglected more representation in the House and giving liberal coast dwellers less reason to complain about rural-state power in the Senate.

The more I read of this bullshit, the less articulate I feel in voicing my opposition to this dude’s entire mentality. Yes, he can laugh at the density being pushed on our little valleys as he drives his family through our towns because he hasn’t made the tradeoffs to actually LIVE here for decades, like those of us who, though we can’t claim native status, have invested decades of living here.

I’m going to avoid the political aspect of what Douthat is describing–with his liberal coast dwellers vs. rural-state power dynamic–because it’s the warning he gives specifically to Missoula that I’d like to focus on. This warning comes from what Bozeman is clearly experiencing, and the sense that Missoula is close behind. Here is the most alarming part of the entire op-ed for anyone trying to survive in Missoula (emphasis mine):

Just when these kind of thoughts had me ready to hand the Dutton Ranch over to its development-minded enemies, though, I would hit a place where significant population growth is already happening — a boomtown like Bozeman, Mont., or one of the Californian outposts that have sprung up across Idaho — and suddenly see the world from the Dutton family’s perspective once again.

That’s because growth in these places doesn’t feel like some kind of upwardly mobile Laura Ingalls-type westward migration; it feels as if an alien starship had beamed little chunks of coastal supergentrification down into the West. The median single-family home price in Bozeman costs around $900,000; the main street in a place like Sandpoint, Idaho, is a festival of liberal haute-bourgeois taste with Western flourishes. At least where I encountered it, the growing diaspora in the Mountain West isn’t bringing the mountains to the middle-class masses; it’s red-state colonization by the blue-state rich.

Not that there’s anything wrong with coastal rich people (perish the thought!). But in any city or region, whether it’s Whitefish, Mont., or Washington, D.C., the case for development and pro-growth zoning, for a yes-in-my-backyard spirit, depends, to a large extent, on the benefits to potential newcomers and migrants. That always makes YIMBYism a relatively hard sell to incumbents — and when all the newcomers seem privileged, when they make developers rich but start pricing normal people out, when they make your relatively egalitarian state a case study in zooming inequality, you can see why a politics of preservation would be as popular as a hit like “Yellowstone.”

But the problem is that preservationism in this context is likely to be self-defeating. If the rich really like your state or region, the rich will always find a way to come. What zoning limits and housing regulations really affect is whether anyone except the rich can afford your state’s nicest precincts. If they can’t, then the attractiveness of purple-mountain-majesty to coastal elites will just recreate coastal inequalities and fuel working-class resentments, in a dynamic that’s already visible in the Mountain States wherever the posh colonies give way to the alienation of Trump country.

If you look at zoning rules in Montana’s most attractive cities, they point to this kind of Western future. For instance: According to the Frontier Institute, a Montana-based libertarian think tank, a city like Missoula, which is still more middle class and affordable than Bozeman, has exclusionary zoning — restrictions on town homes and multifamily units, minimum lot requirements — that make it difficult for young families and working-class newcomers to get a foothold in the city. That suggests that Missoula’s relative middle-class-ness won’t last: If I were a Silicon Valley or Seattle exile, I would already be looking there rather than Bozeman. If I were a property speculator, I’d be buying there right now. And if I didn’t have much money to spend, I’d be drifting into the hinterlands or looking in a different state.

After reading this lengthy and rather nauseating excerpt, remember, Ross is only writing this shit because he’s become enthralled, like so many others, by the visually rich storytelling of Yellowstone. I can’t imagine a louder alarm as Missoula vomits condos along the riverfront.

Thanks for reading!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Another PPPP (Public Private Partnership Problem) Featuring Blue Line Development

by Travis Mateer

If I was a savvy developer, like Blue Line Development’s Nate Richmond, I would position myself in every possible way to siphon public money from the naive voting public that enables Zoom Town’s public sector regime.

In a recent Martin “Gomer” Kidston piece, titled Missoula to vacate Sussex, make room for housing project, some of the projects Blue Line has been involved in are listed in a manner that bolsters the positive profile of this regional player in the affordable housing game. From the link:

The project is planned by BlueLine Development, a group that specializes in affordable and workforce housing and has its fingerprint on a number of affordable projects taking place across Missoula, including the Trinity project and Villagio.

The organization has crunched the numbers and adhered to national standards on ensuring the units in Casa Loma are affordable for a period of at least 35 years. At that point in time, most modern buildings are in need of repair and the loans needed to cover the expense would be hard to secure if the terms were extended beyond that point.

The rest of the article is just the same standard political hit by Gomer Kidston on his favorite target, City Council member Daniel Carlino, who continues to make me smile by challenging the political cabal’s fig leaves, like only ensuring SUBSIDIZED affordability for 35 years.

While Gomer continues to punish Daniel Carlino for his insubordination, Nate Richmond’s plans for Midtown go unscrutinized. And why should they? Why should ANYONE criticize the noble plans of a savvy developer to build affordable housing?

Less than two weeks ago, after I wrote about the brazen bond begging for a new ice skating rink and AG facilities, a helpful reader emailed me a screenshot of Glacier Ice Rink’s board of directors and, BIG SURPRISE, there’s good ‘ol Nate Richmond as Vice President.

Isn’t that nice? It’s almost as nice as that scheme Blue Line cooked up to develop Larchmont golf course.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think these dynamics are important to consider, especially when the public is being asked to support a levy to generate 5 million dollars to replace the Federal ARPA smack with property tax methadone.

I’ll be writing more about that mill levy soon. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment