I’ll Tell You What’s “Gateway” to Poor Behavior

by jhwygirl

The City of Missoula’s attempts to criminalize homelessness has reached a ridiculous crescendo. Downtown is a mess and don’t you know, it’s all the homeless’ fault. Not the drunks – served at downtown bars – who smash up downtown businesses. Not the drunks assaulting innocent pedestrians on their way home from the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival – nope..it’s those darn homeless.

Of latest debate is the ability of people to – yeah, get this – sit downtown. Because, you know, no one should be coming to Missoula Montana and have the audacity to sit. In downtown! Of all places!

Dan Cederberg, a member of Mayor Engen’s downtown advisory committee, is quoted in this Missoulian article covering today’s committee meetings as saying that ‘the council has heard plenty of testimony that many people who sit downtown also end up harassing and intimidating people, so the act is a “gateway” to poor behavior. He said the result is a public safety issue the city must address.’

Sitting is a “gateway” to poor behavior?

Liberals and Progressives? Please phone home because your city is lost.

I’ll tell you what is “gateway” behavior to a poor downtown lacking growth: Public officials and downtown businesses and commerce organizations standing by (because, you know, sitting is bad) with nary a whisper while one of the largest and most historic pieces of commerce real estate not only in Missoula but in western Montana is eyed as a viable site for the county public library.

Let that sink in: the county friggin’ library. A non-tax paying entity taking up one of the largest contiguous parcels of downtown Missoula. A block and a half off of riverfront, and on the main bridged street through downtown?

And before the Friends of the Library come out and whine about me hating all books, I’ll pray that ya’all believe me when I say I’m a big fan of libraries and book reading. Frankly, more people should do it. Newspapers too. Everyone should read and do it often. As often as possible.

And I’m even OK if you sit while doing it!

Yeah – downtown Missoula is turning into a tax-free haven – let’s not forget the University either.

Please grow the hell up and quit blaming everyone but yourselves people.

  1. Buzz Feedback

    Characterizing sitting as a gateway to bad behavior is further proof the Cool Kids who call the shots here in CronyTown are so far up each others’ asses they can’t see the daylight.

  2. Geoff Badenoch

    Where to begin? 1978? Okay.
    What was going on Downtown? In the previous three years or so, Sears left. Penny’s left. Other national chains left for the southside. What was left? The oldest part of the city with the oldest infrastructure, the oldest buildings, the highest vacancy rate. Government offices who couldn’t leave yet. There were three locally owned hardware stores, three of four local drug stores and other local businesses that left in the next seven year. In short, Downtown was a lot old commercial spaces that hadn’t quite been fully depreciated and no one could afford to tear down. But they did get renovated by young local people who borrowed money from friends and family to get a stake in the only place to start a business they could afford: Downtown.

    They had a partner in the MRA who used the new taxes these urban neo-pioneers created to help fix streets, parks, trails, plant over 1000 trees to give their investment in themselves and the community’s Downtown a chance. These young businesspeople joined one another to energize the MDA so their collective energy could create a place the rest of the community would value and visit. Can you imagine how hard it is to compete for customers with a place like Southgate Mall? With the North Reserve Big Box stores?

    Now, after 35 years of hard work and local investment and reinvestment, these local people constitute Cronytown? That seems unfair. I saw what young (now much older) entrepreneurs accomplished together and it wasn’t a walk in the park. They invested in Downtown and they built their lives and businesses there. No one gave it to them.

    While I believe we are all called to be compassionate toward our fellow citizens, I understand why someone who has a business Downtown is protective of it and less compassionate toward those whose actions threaten what they have built. I don’t always agree with that less than compassionate view, but I understand it.

    Are they the players whose hands on the levers of the national and regional economies created the homeless situation? Are they the ones who failed to educate, medicate or empower the people who find themselves barely hanging on to the social safety net? Are they the ones who set the larger social stage we all live on? I am not convinced the people who have businesses Downtown are the bad guys here. They are fighting to survive in business only a few notches above the people who are so disconnected to the benefits of our society that they don’t have anything much to lose by behaving in ways most of us would consider unsocial and would not tolerate if happened to occur in our neighborhoods or in front of our families.

    My friend Dan Cederberg may have chosen an inartful phrase in describing sitting around Downtown as a ‘gateway behavior.’ I am not crazy about it, but I know why he and others Downtown feel that way. They are frustrated because they don’t want to be the ones telling others what they can and cannot do. The City can’t or won’t fix the situation. Families can’t or won’t. Society can’t or won’t. Downtown business people–people I know to be generous and open-hearted–are in an untenable position. They cannot tolerate the status quo and no one can, or will, change it.

    This is a tough, complicated problem. There is no easy fix. But rather than demonize the Downtown businesspeople, or without demonizing people who have no where to go, or who simply want to sit down and be present, I believe the situation requires us to think deeper than we have.

    • lizard19

      Geoff, there is more than enough frustration to go around. talk to social service providers, first responders, ER nurses, jail staff, and maybe you’ll start getting a better understanding of what’s actually going on.

      the only way the ordinance amendments could produce anything close to the results supporters are hoping for would be through very selective enforcement. supporters don’t seem to care about that, they don’t seem to care if the problems get pushed into parks and neighborhoods. they are solely concerned about the Central Business District.

      if sitting on sidewalks and panhandling is such threatening behavior (not just a nuisance) then why not apply these ordinances to the entire city? because doing that would be a guaranteed lawsuit.

      these amendments were drafted to get as much nuisance behavior banned as supporters thought they could legally get away with. the Boise case changed the legal landscape. and now they are going to potentially lose more because they overreached.

      thems the breaks.

      meanwhile, lots of good people will keep trying to improve the systems that are broken and hemorrhaging money. that’s why it’s so maddening that a part of this conversation has been veiled threats to not support the 10 year plan, what Copple called “compassion fatigue”.

      I’ll end by asking you a simple question: have you ever sat down on a sidewalk in downtown Missoula between the hours of 6am-11pm?

    • Buzz Feedback

      Yeah, it’s CronyTown.

      Make a bad loan on a baseball stadium? The taxpayers will bail you out.

      You’re from NMDC and you made a bad real estate deal? The taxpayers will eat that $400K and turn your loan into a “grant.”

      Rich guy goes to Portugal and sees some pretty lighted bridges? Maybe we should do the same thing here — let’s put that directly on the City agenda (and make sure Parks & Rec has to buck up for the maintenance.)

      Meanwhile, being the unconnected average schmuck that I am, I can’t get a fukking pothole filled in my neighborhood.

      As for life downtown, I have to laugh when the bar owners and the guy from MDA (Home of the Brewfest (TM)) get up in committee meetings and complain about drunk homeless people on the streets. I’m sure that everybody who walks out of the Rhino and the tent at Caras Park is stone cold sober.

    • I think you are completely missing my point, Geoff.

      I wasn’t alluding to cronyism, though Buzz Feedback’s reply is 200% valid. I was pointing out that community leaders are sitting back, apparently OK w/downtown crumbling away into commerce-free zone.

      Consider the loss of tax revenue & the impact that will have. The Mercantile has devalued by more than 50% according to DOR in the last year!

      While out in the county, we lost Smurfit & Stimson while community leaders, again, didn’t visibly or vocally appear to give a rat’s ass – at a time, I might add, where dear-hearted Engen, et. al., championed the $9/hr jobs & tax credit incentives for the DirectTV call center.

      Two people working those jobs full time could not afford a median priced home in Missoula, so tell me, please, what the hell we were doing? (I just started writing here at 4&20, and wrote quite a bit on that.)

      How is the city going to make up that tax revenue? Christ- MRA put how many 10’s of 1000’s of tax dollars into the awnings there on the Mercantile! Macy’s moved out within the year or so!

      Ugh. I’m stopping here. The fact that the loss in tax dollars was completely lost on you proves my point on “gateway” behavior.

      • Geoff Badenoch

        Well, I hear what you are saying, and I don’t dispute it. Changes to the tax base, your conclusion about me notwithstanding, are not lost on me. Building the tax base Downtown was something I did for over 20 years and I am probably more aware of the implications of changes in ownership and other events that affect the local tax base than the average citizen.

        I WAS responding to Buzz’s “cronytown” comment, and not your original post. I still think Buzz’s comment was simplistic and unfair to the people who started and ran small businesses in the Downtown.

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