Missoula is Perfect and Never Ever Discriminates Against Anyone

by lizard

Did everyone hear the great news about Missoula? When it comes to human rights, apparently we’re perfect because we got a 100 on the human rights campaign equality index. Here’s the proof of how awesome and non-discriminatory we are:

In an index released Tuesday by the Human Rights Campaign, Missoula’s city government got a 100 percent score for the way its laws and policies include people who are LGBT – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

City Councilwoman Caitlin Copple, who had championed some changes that put the Garden City in the “all star” category of the Municipal Equality Index, said she was elated with the news.

“I just think it’s incredible that 11 cities were able to get 100 percent, like Missoula, even though they exist in states that lack even the most basic protections,” Copple said. “I think that’s really significant and shows how much our world is changing.”

The index is in its second year and is a project of the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation Institute. It scores cities based on several policies, among them whether they have in place nondiscrimination protections in work, housing and public accommodations; relationship recognition such as a domestic partner registry; domestic partner health benefits; and an LGBT police liaison.

While Caitlin Copple expresses her elation at this good news, on a different front, she is advocating for enhancements to ordinances that have the potential to be vehicles of discrimination against the plague of transients we noble Missoulians must endure on a daily basis.

In a Public Safety and Health committee meeting this morning (which you can check out here) Copple gives some context to this contentious issue. The idea is to make it illegal to sit/sleep/lay on sidewalks in the BID (Business Improvement District) between the hours of 6am to 11pm.

In the video footage of this meeting, Copple says she supports these enhancements because she’s been working downtown since June, and has “seen first hand how out of control it’s gotten downtown”. Another reason Copple cites is a constituent’s anecdotal story of being “accosted” outside Safeway, which, if you ask me, is a pretty stupid example to cite in the context of a ban on sitting/sleeping/lying on a sidewalk.

If this ban gets passed before the end of the year, I hope its subsequent enforcement is done in an equitable, non-discrimantory manner, because it would be so sad to lose that perfect human rights score.

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  1. lizard19

    here is the Missoulian article, and Linda McCarthy wants people to know this isn’t about homelessness:

    In an interview following the meeting, McCarthy said that downtown ambassadors have had contact with thousands of more panhandlers in 2013 than they did the year before. McCarthy believes the sharp increase is related a “different type of transient” brought in by the Rainbow Gathering.

    She is adamant that the issue is not about homelessness.

    “This is about the people who choose to impede pedestrians … and impede growth and economic well-being of our community,” she said.

    “We have employees quit their jobs because they don’t feel safe. We have had businesses that chose to locate elsewhere. In the last three years we have two folks who were sleeping in city alleys who were run over by vehicles. One of our downtown ambassadors got bit by a dog owned by a transient … so there are safety issues,” she added.

  2. People in Montana need to spend more time in big cities – it really cuts down on what you feel the need to complain about.

  3. “All animals are created equal, but some are more equal than others.” George Orwell, Animal Farm

  4. Pangloss gave instruction in metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there cannot possibly be an effect without a cause and that in this best of all possible worlds the baron’s castle was the most beautiful of all castles and his wife the best of all possible baronesses. —It is clear, said he, that things cannot be otherwise than they are, for since everything is made to serve an end, everything necessarily serves the best end. Observe: noses were made to support spectacles, hence we have spectacles. Legs, as anyone can plainly see, were made to be breeched, and so we have breeches. . . . Consequently, those who say everything is well are uttering mere stupidities; they should say everything is for the best.

  5. lizard19

    from Bob Jaffe’s listserve, this comment from Bob is worth reading:

    Greetings,
    At 8:00 we started a very full agenda for the day. During the discussion for the Pedestrian Interference and Aggressive Solicitation ordinances we heard from a number of downtown interests how important this was. I got an earful on how much they love the homeless and how offended they all are by my email last night. In fact, I’m told the homeless are even offended. The homeless are a diverse group and don’t appreciate being lumped together with the folks who have bad behavior downtown. I stand corrected. A small percentage of people who struggle with homelessness sit on the sidewalk and panhandle. Some of the people who sit on the sidewalk or panhandle may not even be homeless. I’m sorry I didn’t make that disclaimer at the beginning of my statements. But for those of you who were around when we last discussed this, we spent a lot of time on that subject.
    I was told that these ordinances are not intended to target these people, but only their bad behavior. I don’t entirely agree. There are two ordinances. One addresses behavior such as panhandling and harassing passersby. The other addresses the existence of those people downtown. I’m all for strengthening the solicitation ordinance. No one likes to be panhandled or accosted in the street (I get enough of that in the council chambers). I don’t care to be asked for money by strangers whether they are ringing a bell or holding a cardboard sign.
    But I’m troubled by the sitting ordinance. I don’t really like seeing the homeless either and I would rather they not be there. But what was pointed out to me is that my experience with these folks is different from that of the elderly and the women. For me, seeing homeless guys on the sidewalk disturbs my sense that all is right in the world and maybe makes me feel guilty that I’m not doing enough to help my fellow man. But even when approached, I don’t feel threatened or afraid. The women apparently have a much different experience and feel fear and want to stay far away. That is a problem on a number of levels.
    So what do we do? We offer tons of services and have aggressive plans to pour additional resources into providing these folks with help. But a small segment of the population refuse to participate in the program. So rather than let them screw up our downtown, the present effort is to get rid of them. But they don’t just vanish, they still exist, and have to go somewhere. I could get on board with kicking them out of the retail area if I knew there was somewhere else they had to go that was reasonably appropriate. Our Parking Commissioner came to tell us of the horrors of having them hang around in the parking garage. Kicking them off the street will only exacerbate that problem. So that is the question I’m waiting to hear the answer to. Assuming they are not going to simply vanish, where are they going to go if we kick them out of downtown? Maybe there is a good answer to that question. We should know it before we move forward with this.
    The other issue is enforcement. Pretty much all of the stuff that people currently find problematic is already illegal. If we are going to successfully remove the homeless from the sidewalks, or as I was schooled this morning, “engage these folks and provide them with the services they need,” we are going to need more enforcement personnel. This is a big ticket budget item we should be prepared for because just passing the ordinance won’t yield the results folks are looking for.
    This is a tough one, and to be honest I am going to enjoy taking a break from dealing with stuff like this.

  6. lizard19

    Jason Wiener also chimed in on Jaffe’s listserve about this ordinance conversation. also, Jason will be trying to keep the listserve going after Jaffe leaves his council position. here is his comment in regards to the ordinance:

    I did go to Public Safety and Health because of the ordinances Bob mentioned. I serve on the Downtown Advisory Commission whose Crime and Prevention Subcommittee generated the suggested changes and, after discussing the draft at the commission, I declined to refer them. As Bob mentions, the ordinances will create the expectation that no one will be begged from or see vagrancy downtown. The ordinances lack the formal ability to do this; several select corners will remain viable locations for standing solicitation and the courthouse lawn as well as parks like Caras and Little McCormick will, I fear, become the locations where people on the streets with the power to move themselves will relocate to. Those who do not have the ability to move themselves will have to be handled by EMS and/or criminal justice. This is the most expensive way to deal with people on the streets and no plans exist for diverting the people the ordinance obliges the police to engage with from the hospital and jail. Finally, as Bob notes, we don’t devote nearly a sufficient amount of police resources to deliver on the promises the ordinance makes. No one proposing the ordiance raised the prospect of funding a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of additional patrols.

  7. JC

    I wonder how Copple will feel once a LBGT couple get accosted by her new law for sitting on the sidewalk and expressing their love for each other…

    Sad to see her follow in Dave Strohmaier’s nanny state path of criminalizing homelessness.

    • lizard19

      I think this is partly an unfortunate reaction to the Rainbow influx this summer, and some of our elected officials are being pressured to push this through by the business interests downtown.

      Copple and other supporters of this ridiculous ban should look more closely at this issue instead of using anecdotal fear-mongering as a reason to waste time/energy on a ban that will do nothing to curb the behavior of that small percentage of obnoxious incorrigibles.

      I also don’t think it should be assumed that once all the terrible drunk transients are sanitized from downtown the result will be some miraculous economic boom, and that’s because, beyond the bars and restaurants, the rest of the shopping options are way beyond the price range of many Missoulians.

      I guess it’s easier to scapegoat the dreaded panhandling transient than to come to terms with the big picture factors at play.

    • Pogo Possum

      While I understand and appreciate the perspective you come from Lizard on dealing with the homeless issue, I fully agree with those Council members who rightly say that this is not about homelessness, it is about addressing bad behavior.

      No one is banning homeless people or transients from the downtown. They are simply saying if you are downtown you have to follow some basic rules of conduct towards others.

      Every non-profit organization I have been involved with over the years that provides services to those in need has some type of standards or rules dealing with acceptable and unacceptable behavior by those who use their services. They don’t tolerate bad behavior from those who use their services and they don’t tolerate their employees being harassed or threatened. People who work, recreate and shop in downtown Missoula and who’s charitable contributions support Missoula’s non-profits should not have to tolerate bad behavior either.

      While Caitlin Copple and I may not agree on all political issues I applaud her for standing up and listening to the people she represents who are concerned about the survival of their small businesses and the safety of their employees and families. Some of the comments directed at her (JC take note) are rude and uncalled for.

      • lizard19

        ok Pogo, let’s talk about behavior.

        I was verbally accosted by a drunk “transient” during River City Roots Fest last year. I was sitting on the curb opposite the Rhino with my kids, who were 4 and 2 at the time.

        as the intoxicated Native American approached me, asking me what the fuck I was going to do since I was on his turf, my only recourse was to call 911, which I did immediately. he saw that I was calling the police, and proceeded to stumble down the sidewalk.

        I was shaking, but luckily my kids didn’t seem to have noticed the exchange, because they were sitting in the stroller. a woman who saw what happened rushed over to see if I was ok.

        after calming myself down, which took a bit, I found an officer and told him what happened. I explained that I had called 911 and that I wanted to know if the cops had found him and done anything. he called it in and informed me the cops talked to the guy and told him to stay away from downtown for the rest of the day, no ticket, no jail, no nothing.

        Pogo, you probably understand there are limitations to what I can share about my perspective on this issue.

        but I will share this: banning sitting/sleeping/lying (with plenty of exemptions, of course) will have virtually no significant impact on the behavior that is obnoxious, threatening, and sometimes dangerous.

        • Crow

          What did the guy being Native American have anything to do with the story, ya racist?

          • lizard19

            if you know anything about the chronic homeless population, you know Native Americans make up a significant portion of the population, and people who feel threatened by that should think a little bit about how colonizers weaponized alcohol and how alcohol continues to decimate first nation peoples.

            • Big Swede

              Small pox blankets Liz.

              Don’t leave them out.

            • Crow

              Lizard, Jan Wisniewski and unnamed Havre law enforcement officials would get a long very well with their drunken Indian stereotypes. http://missoulian.com/news/local/cultures-clash-at-meeting-between-cskt-ravalli-county-over-medicine/article_f29df52e-5327-11e3-9da7-001a4bcf887a.html

  8. What is a possible solution besides the ban? The business people want something done, is there another option?

    And I don’t get downtown much anymore since I live over by Reserve, but boy, it’s getting cold out – how many people are still causing problems? Or is this seen as a preventative measure now for next summer’s expecteddeluge?

    • lizard19

      Missoula needs a drunk tank that isn’t jail or the ER.




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