Border Patrol Union That Endorsed Tester Also Endorsed Video Featuring White Nationalists

by William Skink

Jon Tester’s campaign must have been pumped to get an endorsement from the Union that represents border agents. The official announcement came back in September, as reported by MPR:

The president of the union that represents border patrol agents said while the organization more often endorses Republicans, today they were getting behind Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s bid for a third term.

The announcement came during a press conference in Billings.

Brandon Judd of Malta is stationed along the Northern U.S. border with Canada. He said the National Border Control Council’s endorsements, including one for President Donald Trump, goes to those who support strong border security.

“The Republicans don’t own border security (as an issue),” said Judd. “There are Democrats that do support border security. There’s a lot more that run away from it unfortunately, but Senator Tester is not one who does that.”

When a Democrat acts like such a Republican there are usually ready-to-go excuses, like someone explaining to the wavering faithful that the candidate must take certain positions in the heat of the campaign in order to win, but would never act on those alleged inclinations.

So Jon Tester can strut his tough border stuff and a blog for the faithful, like the Montanan Post, won’t take him to task for it.

But about that Border Patrol Union endorsement.

It’s being reported by The Intercept, today, that the same Border Patrol Union that endorsed Tester also endorsed an extremist video featuring White Nationalists:

THE NATIONAL BORDER Patrol Council, the union representing Border Patrol agents across the country, is featured in a new video that includes white nationalists and anti-Muslim extremists. The video, titled “Killing Free Speech,” was endorsed by the union and recently shown by agents at a private screening in San Diego. The video is also expected to be shown in Texas, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., according to union representative Terence Shigg, president of the San Diego chapter of the NBPC.

The nearly hour-and-half-long video refers to Democrats as “dark and evil” and features a bevy of American and European far-right, anti-Muslim white nationalists who make a correlation between gang rapes, Islam, and immigration. The documentary also features members of the Proud Boys, a hate group designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, that often aligns with white nationalists and are known for being misogynists and anti-Muslim. The Proud Boys participated in the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in mid-October several members of the Proud Boys were arrested in New York City after a violent street confrontation with anti-fascists.

What is a “dark and evil” Democrat like Jon Tester to do? It’s pretty late in the campaign game–and I doubt many Montanans regularly check The Intercept for the latest articles–so my hunch is the Tester campaign will cross their fingers and hope that no one really notices this awkward overlap between White Nationalists, Proud Boys, and Proud Farmer Jon.

And what about the blog that increasingly represents itself as a Montana news platform, referring to its content as journalism, The Montana Post? Any Republican with a whiff of ties to extremist groups are immediately identified and outraged over, so if there are any principles at play over there that trump partisanship (pun intended), I would expect some principled request for the Tester campaign to denounce the Border Union endorsement.

If the Tester campaign does the improbable and denounces the endorsement, I may reconsider leaving that race on my ballot blank.

I’ll be dropping off my ballot sometime next week.

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The True Context Of Trump

by William Skink

As the resistance to Trump focuses on the latest outrage–this time, praising body-slamming Gianforte–the larger context of what Trump represents fails to get the attention it deserves.

Trump is a product of the failure of globalized neoliberalism.

The reaction to this failure has been a globalized ripple effect spreading from Brexit to Brazil. The latter has seen a short and dramatic paradigm shift from a popular, politically left government to an extreme right bid for authoritarian rule.

No political dynasty represents the vile forces of neoliberalism better than the Clintons, and just in time for Halloween their horror show is back on the road, groveling for money and demanding to remain relevant.

Even the DailyBeast is pleading Dear God, Hillary Clinton. Please, Just Go.

If there is not a chorus echoing this sentiment, the Clintons will suck energy (and cash) from legitimate efforts to rip the Democratic Party from their reign and the failed ideology that drove it.

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Missoula Trump Poem

by William Skink

Sorry, but this is not the poem you think it is.

MISSOULA TRUMP POEM

dump that Trump
he’s a liar
he’s a liar pants on fire

so says the hill
near dear Missoula
land of love
if you can pay

rent, deposits–first
and last–
and have good credit
no record, pets

NO! IT’S TRUMP!

he’s a liar
and Russian puppet
and pussy grabber
and mentally ill
and he didn’t win
the popular vote

then
there’s stripper boofing
and payoffs, mob
daddy slumlord
shady tax dodge
casinos, bankruptcy
casinos, towers
reality tv
narcissism, power

so dump that Trump
like he’s the problem
and not a symptom
of malignant systems

dump that Trump
elect better liars
with different genitals
and silky pliers

then
when Trump is gone
we all shall sing
of lasting peace
and new beginnings

but until that day
look to the hills
you’ll see a peach
and get clever-chills

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Will Saudigate Replace Russiagate?

by William Skink

Will there be a post-midterm pivot from Russiagate to Saudigate? It looks that way. I’m concerned this long overdue reassessment of the US relationship with the head-chopping royalty of Saudi Arabia is quickly becoming another intelligence operation against the Trump regime.

One of the most important questions that needs to be asked about the Khashoggi killing is, in light of reports that US intelligence had intercepted Saudi officials discussing this plan, why did they not act?

US intelligence intercepted discussions among Saudi officials to capture journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who recently disappeared and is feared murdered, The Washington Post reported.

The discussions, which were relayed to The Post via a person familiar with the information, occurred before Khashoggi disappeared. The officials reportedly wanted to “lure” Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia — his native country — and “lay hands on him there,” the person told The Post.

The Post said it’s not clear what the officials were planning after the capture. It’s also unclear if US intelligence warned him in any way. Ned Price, a former NSC official under President Barack Obama, wondered whether the intelligence community violated a directive that says it has a “duty” to warn potential victims of impending threats.

There is rampant speculation that Khashoggi had knowledge about Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 terrorist attack. As a long-time loyalist with insider access, this speculation is definitely plausible. If he also knew things that would embarrass US intelligence agencies, it could be convenient to let the Saudis kill him.

The US reaction–not just from the Trump regime, but the private sector as well– raises more questions than answers. Trump’s unsolicited floating of the rogue killers theory was almost immediately undermined by reports Saudi Arabia was prepared to admit Khashoggi’s death was the result of a botched interrogation, making Trump look like an idiot (not difficult) trying pathetically to make excuses for his son-in-law’s pal, MbS.

Another line of speculation sees MbS as the rogue element, so perhaps the move against Khashoggi was allowed to happen as part of a larger CIA operation to force the removal of MbS from power.

From the private sector we have Jaime Dimon and other corporate titans dropping out of the “Davos in the Desert“. Do they understand there is a bigger game being played here?

I have been disgusted with the actions of Saudi Arabia for a long time, but something about all this stinks. After the elections, and after Mueller finally admits there isn’t any thing substantial to pin on Trump with Russiagate, I suspect Saudigate will replace it as the intelligence community’s effort to depose Trump takes a new angle.

If oil jumps to $200 a barrel and the economy collapses, that will just be more fuel to use against Trump.

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Missoula Doing It’s Part To Turn Out Conservatives Next Month With Dumb Gun Ban

by William Skink

Missoula’s City Council claimed an emergency need to ban guns—both openly carried and concealed—in public places, like all voting stations and public “developed” parks. Why the emergency? Because elections are upon us, and Missoula is doing its part to turn out conservatives in Montana, ensuring the blue wave will make as impotent a splash as possible. 

I know, Missoula’s political leadership are not intentionally trying to inspire conservatives to get out and vote–that will be just one of the unintended consequences of this stupid ordinance. Will there be others?

I can hear supporters now, explaining how this ordinance merely “clarifies” what was already in place. To help supporters make this case, the Missoula Current has framed the issue with this misleading headline: City Council clarifies ban on firearms in Missoula parks, polling places, public buildings.

Here is more from the article:

The push for clarification came from the Missoula County Attorney’s Office after election officials had to move several polling places out of school buildings for the Nov. 6 general election because of construction at the schools.

Election administrators were worried that voters might think they could bring weapons to the non-school polling places, and the county attorney wanted clarity for law enforcement officers.

The same was true for Missoula’s Parks and Recreation Department, which for 30 years has prohibited guns in developed city parks as a matter of policy.

Now the policy is law, giving police officers clear authority, said Councilwoman Julie Merritt, who sponsored the amendments. Three members of Moms Demand Action agreed, and thanked council members for taking action to protect Missoula children from gun violence, be it intentional or accidental.

Clarification was the request, not the City Council response. The response by City Council was to codify pre-existing rules into law.

And now our burned-out police force will be expected to respond and ticket any violator of this ordinance. At a time when law enforcement is already stretched thin, and our safety net is shredded by budget cuts and an inundation of illegal drugs, saddling law enforcement with this ordinance will just waste more of their time, which would be better spent dealing with more serious problems.

What actual benefit will this ordinance provide beyond clarification? Will people unnerved by guns feel safer with this ordinance in place? Does anyone seriously think laws like this will stop psychotic individuals from committing acts of violence?

The men and WOMEN who spoke against this move by City Council described not feeling safe in parts of Missoula, including parks. Those in nicer parts of Missoula should pause before mocking their fear and choice of how to approach what they perceive as a potentially hostile environment.

I don’t begrudge those who have different expectations of what law enforcement can do to respond to some unforeseen threat. In the Reserve Street area by the Clark Fork, an area that has seen many incidents of violence over the years, including a homicide, the clean up effort no longer inconveniences campers by removing their semi-permanent dwellings.

I guess it’s ok to trespass under and around the Reserve Street bridge. It’s cool, though, because they are a community with things like bike repair shops, or so say the Current:

Just southwest of the Reserve Street Bridge, a homeless community resides in makeshift shacks and small tents on the floodplain of the Clark Fork River.

During summer, as many as 20 people live in the encampment.

But with winter moving in, some campsites have been abandoned. Others still show signs of life, along with clotheslines, campfires and bike repair shops.

That is a very charitable way of describing a situation that this story from earlier this summer calls into question:

Three men have been arrested in connection with what the Missoula County Attorney’s Office is calling bicycle theft ring.

Jason Edgar, Jason Silva and Kory Mckessick were arrested by the Missoula Police Department after a bicycle theft operation was discovered running from under the Reserve Street Bridge.

The emergency occurring in our community is not the threat of armed citizens in public spaces, it’s a combination of dire need and not enough support to get people the services that could help them.

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While Corporate Media Ignores Yemen And Prays For Jamal, Independent Media In Missoula Finally Has Some Good News

by William Skink

The war in Vietnam was slowly undermined over the years by the diligent work of actual reporters, like Sy Hersh. I’m reading Hersh’s memoir right now and it has me wondering if anyone like him exists anymore.

The corporate consolidation of media platforms in the subsequent decades has systematically sealed off Americans from the reality of what their tax dollars fund. The world wide web came along and threatened information monopolies for a brief time, but that window of opportunity is quickly closing.

Alex Jones was a brilliant test case of media suppression. Not many in the general public appeared aware of the dangerous precedent that was set by multiple internet platforms coordinating the suppression of Jones.

Now it’s happening again, and alternative media sites like Anti-media and the Free Thought Project are the victims. To get some decent reporting on this I have to reference RT:

Facebook is again being called out for purging political accounts too far left and right of center, after it removed more than 800 pages just in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Some had millions of followers.

Many of the affected pages were supposedly sharing links between groups using fake accounts, which then clicked “Like” on the posts, artificially upping their engagement numbers. This “inauthentic behavior” violates Facebook’s anti-spam policies and goes against “what people expect” from Facebook, the company said.

While some of the deleted pages have been known to run content of questionable credibility at times, Facebook did not expressly accuse them of spreading “fake news” – or actually provide a list of names or examples of postings at all. However, under the platform’s new policies, simply spreading “news” is frowned upon: it has recently tweaked its algorithm to prevent users’ feeds from being dominated by news stories.

There is no significant outrage or alarms being raised by corporate media over this. Instead corporate media is fuming over the disappearance of Saudi “journalist”, Jamal Khashoggi. Why put journalist in square quotes? Because Khashoggi is an establishment figure with deep ties to the Saudi power structure. Here is some essential background from wikipedia:

Khashoggi comes from a very rich, powerful and well-known family in Saudi Arabia. He was born in Medina in 1958.[3] His grandfather, Muhammad Khashoggi, who was of Turkish origin, married a Saudi woman and served as personal physician to King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Jamal Khashoggi is the nephew[8] of late, high-profile Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, known for his part in the Iran-Contra scandal, estimated to have had a net worth of $4 bn in the 1980s. Jamal Khashoggi’s cousin, Dodi Fayed, was dating Britain’s Princess Diana when the two were killed in a car crash in Paris.

The outrage now being directed at Saudi Arabia and its young, power-grabbing prince, MbS, is amazing if you think about all the things Saudi Arabia has done that did NOT illicit this degree outrage, like beheading dissidents, funding 9/11 terrorists and creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

One needs go no further than the excretion known as Thomas Friedman for this obscene juxtaposition in his Prayer for Jamal:

If Jamal has been abducted or murdered by agents of the Saudi government, it will be a disaster for M.B.S. and a tragedy for Saudi Arabia and all the Arab Gulf countries. It would be an unfathomable violation of norms of human decency, worse not in numbers but in principle than even the Yemen war. (emphasis added)

What makes Friedman and his ilk so fucking despicable is the power they have. The grinding work of real reporters like Sy Hersh during the Vietnam era is proof of what can happen when that power is dedicated to bringing uncomfortable truths to the American public.

Further proof of that power can be found in pictures, like the dead toddler that sparked real things happening in the world, as evidenced by local efforts to relocate refugees to Missoula.

Imagine what would happen if the true scope of suffering in Yemen was blasting from screens and pages across America? Imagine what could happen if Americans fully understood that, without American logistical support, Saudi Arabia could not blow up school busses full of children and genocidally starve millions of innocent people.

And imagine if we were confronted, repeatedly, with what Saudi Arabia does to spread extremist ideology across the globe, an ideology that justifies the terrorist attack of 9/11 on extremist religious interpretation.

With all the bad that is happening on the information front of a global war already happening around us, there is some good news to report.

At a soiree on Thursday, former staff of the corporate-killed Indy announced what feels like an “inevitable” effort to create a new weekly publication. From MPR:

“It’s not easy, but it feels doable to start a new paper. And that’s what we wanna do,” said Erika Fredrickson, former Indy arts editor, to cheers at the event organizers dubbed a “soiree.” The gathering was meant to take community input on what a new publication could look like and Fredrickson says it’s the first step of many to making a new, independent voice in Montana print journalism.

“I think at some point to me it felt at first like ‘we should do this,’ and now it feels like it’s inevitable,” Fredrickson said.

Derek Brouwer, a former reporter for the Indy said, “we’re seeing media consolidation around the country, and Missoula is no different as I think the purchase of the Independent by Lee Enterprises illustrated.”

Brouwer says former staff members have received hundreds of responses and demonstrations of support from community members in the last month. And he says a new publication won’t be a carbon copy of the Independent, it will experiment with what did and didn’t work in the old model.

This is very good news, one this blogger will happily promote to the dozens of RD readers here 😉

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Lee Enterprises Refuses To Make Indy Archive Available To Public

by William Skink

It was incredibly upsetting–though not unexpected–to read about the spiteful corporate raiders at Lee refusing to open up the Indy archives. This from the email in my inbox today:

The negotiations between the Missoula News Guild and representatives from Lee Enterprises were finalized at the end of September. While we hoped to get a better severance package for union members than the one Lee initially offered, one of the biggest items of concern for us was the fate of missoulanews.com and the decades of Indy stories that were on the site. On September 11, when Lee closed the paper, they also redirected the Indy’s URL to the Missoulian, leaving no way for readers to search for Indy content online.

We’re sorry to say that Lee did not choose to reinstate the Indy’s website. We suggested that it live on as a subdomain of the Missoulian, so that the many local artists who’d been covered could access reviews and features about their work, and so researchers and other reporters could refer to the Indy’s news coverage. That will no longer be an option. Physical papers are available in the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana, and there are some pages archived in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. While the loss of the Indy site is an inconvenience for the former staffers and contributors who cannot share links to their work when seeking jobs or assignments, it is an incalculable loss for Missoula.

Lee Enterprises has decided to put PDFs of the print archive on Newspapers.com (any online-only content, including blog posts are lost for good). The site is paywalled, which means anyone trying to access what was once a free paper can only do so now at $8 per month and freelancers and artists can no longer link to their work. During negotiations, the union suggested Lee Enterprises allow the Wayback Machine, an organization that archives online content for free, to archive all of the Indy and make it free to the public, like a library. Lee representatives declined, saying that the Indy archive is their property and Newspapers.com allows them to make revenue off of it. It should be noted that they could have also made money by leaving the site up and selling ads against the Indy’s content.

We’ll be wrapping things up on the union’s website and social media in the coming weeks. If you’d like to keep up with former Indy staffers in their future endeavors, you can follow the Friends of the Indy Staff on Facebook. Contributor Sarah Aswell has been editing the Missoula Tempo, getting arts coverage out.

I hope the money was worth it, Gibson.

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The Gender War That Wasn’t

by William Skink

Like most Americans, I followed the shit show hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh. In discussing my perspective I don’t in any way intend to minimize how traumatizing this has been for women. It’s no exaggeration to say millions of women are, to varying degrees, re-experiencing their own trauma due to the hearings and subsequent abhorrent actions of President Trump.

Being a male who has not experienced any type of sexual assault, I didn’t have the same, visceral reaction that many women are having. My experiences put me even further from what most people are focusing on because I have actually been falsely accused of sexual assault by a mentally ill person when I worked at the shelter, so due process is something I think is very important, because, though rare, false accusations do happen.

All that said, the extreme divisiveness this is having between men and women is, I think one of the intended outcomes. Why? Because by focusing on gender the real culprit goes unnamed: power.

Last week Eve Ensler stated on Democracy Now her belief that we are in the middle of a gender war:

Well, I think we’re in the middle of a gender war. I think Trump has essentially declared a war. And I think the fact that all of this—I was just listening to the speed at which this is all being done, the language that they’re talking about, plowing it through, ramming it through, getting it through. It all feels like this culture of rape, that we’re doing things so quickly that no one has time to think or breathe or see or feel.

I don’t think this is the right way to frame what’s happening. If this “war” is about gender, then why are so many women acting against other women by supporting Trump? What about their own status are they trying to protect?

I was thinking about this recently in regard to the University of Montana and how our Lee rag, the Missoulian, chose to cover the hefty fine levied against UM for violations of the Clary Act. Essentially UM got busted underreporting crimes to protect the image of UM as a safe campus. From the Missoulian:

“UM’s violations of the Clery Act and the Department’s regulations are very serious,” said the letter. “UM’s current and prospective students and employees rely on the institution to provide accurate disclosures of campus crime statistics so they can make informed decisions about their personal safety.

“UM provided its current students and employees with inaccurate and misleading crime statistics for calendar years 2012 through 2015 as part of its … (annual security reports).”

The Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges and universities that receive federal funds to report crime statistics so the public can assess campus safety.

In the past, UM swept rape reports under the rug. However, since a federal investigation into the flagship for mishandling reports of rape and sexual harassment and an ensuing 2013 agreement between the campus and the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, UM has worked hard to focus on student safety.

Rape culture flourished as UM leadership chose to suppress crime statistics instead of facing up to reality. UM is still trying to recover, so any negative story is a big PR problem. Luckily for UM, the very next day the headline read as follows: Survey: University of Montana students generally feel safe on campus.

Kathy Best, the female editor of the Missoulian, and Keila Szpaller, the female reporter who wrote this “article”, are doing the University of Montana a big favor by following up a critical story with this crap instead of a story about why Royce Engstrom, the president at the time of this scandal, is still getting a six figure paycheck from UM to teach.

Making things worse, if you get beyond the misleading headline you find that when the sun goes down women do not feel safe on campus:

The executive summary of the spring 2018 American College Health Association National College Health Assessment II notes that 83.4 percent of UM students reported feeling “very safe” on campus during the day.

However, at night, that number drops to 31.9 percent overall — and only 19.5 percent for women.

Faced with a frat boy on the Supreme Court, this example may not seem like a big deal, but it’s worth considering if you think there is a gender war going on. If we were instead thinking in terms of power it makes sense that plenty of women are going to choose to protect their own status and access to power instead of joining the resistance.

Pushing the idea of a gender war is counterprodutive to the electoral aims of Democrats, as well. It may turn out enraged women in support of Democrats, but conservatives are just as fired up after the perceived smear job against Kavanaugh.

Both sides benefit from keeping the focus on gender because when gender gets all the attention, Kavanaugh’s pro-corporate, pro-surveillance and pro-torture positions are ignored.

And now he’s ensconced on the highest court of the land for life.

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The Persistent, Willful Ignorance Of Greg Strandberg?

by William Skink

Mr. Big Sky Blogger, Greg Strandberg, is either being ignorant or dishonest when he claims that “Missoula Puts Up Drunks For Free For 13 Years”, which is the title of this incredibly misleading post bashing chronic homeless individuals and the housing-first programs that serve them.

Greg Strandberg is more than capable of doing research to get accurate information. It takes seconds using the Google to find out that subsidized housing programs require a portion of income for housing–usually 30%.

The title of the post is bad enough, implying “Missoula” has provided “free” housing for 13 years, but when you get into the post the ignorance/dishonesty just gets worse with crap like this:
 

I saw two stories yesterday on the Missoula Current that were kind of related.

The first involves a 12-unit wet housing complex for homeless people.

Yep, you heard right – the City of Missoula is going to use your tax money so chronically drunk people can have a free apartment.

In fact, the city is already doing this. They’ve been doing it for 13 years.

The place is called the Uptown Apartments, located across the street from the courthouse.

Currently there are 14 people staying at the Uptown Apartments, and 5 of them have been living there rent-free since the place opened in 2005.

Where does Strandberg get the notion that these folks are living rent free? The Missoula Current article says nothing about the cost of this housing, free or otherwise. So is Strandberg just making shit up? I think he is.

This isn’t the first time Strandberg has made shit up and spread inaccurate misinformation. And this post isn’t the first time I’ve tried to provide some education.

Here are some examples:

Big Sky Blogger Still Ignorant About Homelessness

Resentment As Political Strategy

Self-Promoter And Wannabe Politician Greg Strandberg Doesn’t Know Squat About Homelessness

Reptile Dysfunction Endorses Greg Strandberg For City Counsel

Beware The Opportunistic Populism Of Politician Wannabe Greg Strandberg

There is lots of good information in these posts because I know what I’m talking about, a direct result of 10 years of experience. I’ve talked to hundreds of people with varying degrees of ignorance about system overloads in ERs, jails, nursing homes, and the ones willing to listen usually came away with a better understanding of what’s happening and how much cheaper it would be implement housing first models.

Greg Strandberg is not ignorant, which makes the shit he peddles about homelessness and addiction more disgusting. He’s very obviously trying to emulate strategies of scapegoating and fear-mongering to benefit himself because he saw it work for Trump.

The drunks don’t get free rent, Greg. If you don’t believe me, call MHA and ask.
 

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Burned Out Law Enforcement In Growing, Urban Missoula

by William Skink

I was not surprised to read in the Missoula Current that local law enforcement is struggling to hire and retain officers amidst increases in crime, which is leading to significant burn-out. I saw this up close and personal with one officer I frequently interacted with during my work at the shelter, to the point of being specifically concerned that his ability to deescalate nuisance issues with challenging street people was being compromised.

Thankfully nothing happened before he was able to retire. 

It was very eye-opening to see his burnout progress, especially as I was dealing with my own burnout. I’ll make the obvious point that the last type of profession you want to see suffer from burnout is a profession that’s responsible for using lethal force.

Confronted with chronic staffing issues, which is just one factor leading to burnout among law enforcement, how should Missoula respond? Well, how do our leaders always seem to respond to challenging issues? Yes, they study it!

While the new officers will help with staffing shortages, the City Council and Police Department will conduct a study within the next year that will guide the department to proper staffing levels, assessing how many officers are needed per capita and suggest ways to increase efficiency.

A city plan to annex roughly 3,200 acres west of Reserve Street is also on the radar, Brady said, and he hopes the study will help determine the number of officers needed to cover the area.

I’m not inherently opposed to studying problems. Without accurate, up-to-date data, reacting to problems could be much more problematic and inefficient. But when part of the problem is a lack of funding, and study’s cost tens of thousands of dollars, I’m concerned that the act of studying the problem becomes the main action taken by city leaders, especially when recommendations to address problems requires more funding than we have (or have prioritized).

That is precisely what happened after the city funded a jail diversion study. The recommendations weren’t a priority for a Mayor running for reelection and trying to keep tax increases as low as possible. Here is how MC reported it in July of 2017:

In an effort to hold the line on tax increases, the Missoula City Council on Wednesday quashed a $39,000 request to maintain landscaping in the city’s greenways, and $50,000 to fund elements of the jail diversion plan, saying this year’s budget was too tight.

Yeah, the budget was tight, but Missoula’s political leadership loves studies so much that instead of funding jail diversion recommendations they managed to find money to study not producing waste:

The council picked up several other funding requests, including $10,000 for street maintenance, which it approved, and $14,000 for a Zero Waste Baseline Study, which it also approved.

Another problem Missoula has with funding essential services is the proliferation of Urban Renewal Districts and the use of Tax Increment Financing. Redirecting taxable value into URDs has been effective in developing blighted parts of Missoula, but with all this growth in URDs, the general fund is being starved.

While MRA became quite comfortable throwing big chunks of money around to help needy developers, like the Lambros clan, the only way to ensure these pockets of development can get essential services, like police, is to raise property taxes to get more money into the general fund.

Last month it appears MRA finally got a clue when panhandling developers were finally told no, they wouldn’t be getting any more TIF candy to satiate their boo-hoo cost overruns. Apparently, had Ellen Buchanan known Sailor Engen would gobble up TIF funds to cover the surprise budget shortfall, that nearly quarter million handout to the library wouldn’t have been handed out:

As part of the effort to balance the city of Missoula’s budget this year, Mayor John Engen requested $750,000 from the TIF districts. By law, that meant that about $1 million also was returned to the Missoula County Public Schools, and $500,000 to Missoula County.

“We always get a lot of requests for projects that enhance the community and don’t create new tax revenues,” Buchanan said, adding in a memo that the proposed practice “would eliminate funding for projects which are tax exempt. We have already proposed and the board approved suspending funding for new MRA initiated public infrastructure projects, such as street and sidewalk projects” in Urban Renewal Districts II and III.

Buchanan added that if she had known the city would ask for the remittance, the MRA wouldn’t have pledged in May to give the new Missoula Public Library $200,000 to help cover the costs of the top floor after a shortfall in library funding for what’s expected to be a $36 million building project.

As Missoula grows and gentrifies, and hosannas are sung to tech development and urban renewal, our first responders are being asked to do too much with too little.

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