Beyond Being Thankful
I may be a critic of the police state mentality that keeps creeping into our domestic psyche, and wonder why small towns need armored vehicles with .50 caliber guns, but that doesn’t mean I think law enforcement is not a needed component of our social organization.
While most people get to take a break from their routine, police and other first responders are on the clock, responding to the messiness that can ensue when people are in forced proximity to family and intoxicants. For that, I am thankful.
But talk is cheap. Missoula’s population and infrastructure continue to grow, which means more people to police. As demands on local law enforcement increase, Missoulians need to be aware that we get the services we pay for. If we want well-trained officers with the skills to de-escalate situations and therefore be effective protectors of the peace, then we need to pay for it.
Instead of allocating more resources to law enforcement, Missoula wants to pay tens of millions of dollars for soft ball fields with no plan for how to pay for long-term maintenance. And while any voter had the ability to vote for the Parks and Trails Bond that passed earlier this month, it’s property owners that will be forking out the loot.
This recent letter to the editor makes the case for why the passing the Bond was a mistake:
It stinks that the Parks and Trails bond passed, not because money for parks and trails is bad, and not because money for softball and soccer fields is bad. It stinks because of how it was done and what it will do.
The rider (see dirty, underhanded congressional trick) titled Parks and Trails should have been a separate bond called the Fort Missoula Complex Bond. The audacity to call it something that many people would vote for without researching is backdoor political maneuvering that has no place in Missoula. Those responsible and the organizations involved should be embarrassed.
It stinks that every registered voter got to vote for it but only homeowners have to pay for it. That shouldn’t be legal. The folks that use those fields should have bake sales and car washes to pay for their hobbies; that’s what honest, hard-working people do. They don’t slap a fake label on to get someone else to pay for it.
What are we paying for: the renovation of a beautiful, natural feeling park; removal of four functional softball fields to be replaced by five, addition of ugly, costly concrete and cinderblock structures, re-arrangement of other fields, addition of a turf field, and a bunch of lights. I guess we trust the price to be good (though it’s an outdated bid) and the plan well-thought out and fiscally smart (even though it doesn’t include maintenance/operating costs). It certainly isn’t apparent when you walk the existing complex and see the design posted. The fields are also only usable only six months a year.
Parks and Trails was a deceiving $34 million bond to build a high maintenance complex for a portion of the community that will lure more tourists to a city with growing crime, traffic and housing epidemics.
Missoula gentrifies downtown then expects law enforcement to follow around alcoholics and ticket them for panhandling so that shoppers aren’t put off by the visibility of addiction, poverty and mental illness. We fill the jails then the jail gets sued when people die from alcohol withdrawal. Some businesses sell single cans of gut-rotting malt liquor then complain when police can’t make the resulting public intoxication disappear.
It’s easy to point fingers when police abuse their authority. We see disturbing instances all across the nation, increasingly caught on camera, of police doing terrible things, with too often lethal results. Unfortunately the need for policing isn’t just going to go away tomorrow. The hard work is moving beyond the blame game and working collaboratively to improve the conditions on the ground.
To all the amazing people doing this work without recognition, thank you.