Archive for the ‘Downtown’ Category


After attending the public meeting last night focusing on the future of Missoula’s Poverello Center I came away very impressed with the format of the meeting and the positive feeling that most people came away with.  The amount of information provided to attendees that had previously not entered into the debate was substantial.  Especially interesting was the limitation placed on the pov in choosing a new site due to local zoning codes, basically most of the possibilities are within the downtown core or along commercial corridors such as Broadway, Higgins, Russell, etc.  For more information on the process, stay tuned to the City’s neighborhoods website for updates including a map of possible sites from last night’s meeting and details on future public meetings and chances for public comment.

Of course this morning I read the Missoulian article on the event and that positive feeling went away when the first quote they chose to run came from a person in opposition throwing out inaccurate  facts about the pov.

Here is the offending quote:

Despite the Poverello’s efforts to track sexual offenders, “there are 10 offenders there right now” and 85 more within a five-square-block of Lowell School, said one parent, answering a question that each group answered on sheets later shared with the audience. “And that’s just too many for this neighbor.”

Did the Missoulian bother do any fact checking at all?

A quick search of the Montana Sexual Offender Registry shows that the figure of 85 was close… for the whole zip code of 59802, which includes the pov. Rather there were a total of 81 sexual offenders residing within the 59802 zip code.  There were even more within the 59801 zip code, with a total of 83 and an astonishing 93 within the 59808 zip code.  Does that mean that a sexual predation is positively correlated with income level?

59802… looks to cover about five square blocks

When searching by the address of Lowell School I came up with the grand total of 16 sexual offenders within a very generous five-block radius and a total of 6 that have listed the pov as their residents not the quoted 10.  Is it possible that my numbers are wrong? Yes, as the registry’s disclaimer states, “Users are cautioned that the information provided on this website is information of record that is reported to the unit and may not reflect the most recent residence, status or other information regarding an offender. The unit makes no express or implied guarantee concerning the accuracy of this data,” and that for offenders with more than one address the first address is the one that comes up in searches.  Does that mean the first address an offender may have ever listed upon release?  I’m not sure.  So are my number any more accurate than the person quoted? Maybe not but they certainly are different.

Its also disturbing to see a great many of the registered offenders flagged with this note… Non-Compliant/Address Verification Overdue. It really is in red.

Is it possible that the person quoted simply misspoke? Yes, and my guess is that when they stated the statistics for sexual offenders they also included violent offenders in their numbers.  I don’t mean this post as an attack on the people who are opposed to the poverello center or the person that was quoted in the Missoulian.  My beef is with a newspaper that doesn’t seem interested in doing its job properly.  It took me all of 10 minutes to put the above information together and I’m sure I could have gotten more accurate information if I had contacted local law enforcement… like maybe a local reporter might have done.  You think that a professional that is supposed to be interested in journalistic integrity and providing unbiased fact would have taken the time to conduct the same level of verification if they are going to quote statistics in their story.


Continuing on with our annual discussion about the conflict downtown–spurred on by City Councilor Bob Jaffe’s remarks on his listserve– between shoppers, tourists, visitors and businesses vs. the homeless, transient, “serial inebriates” and the mentally ill, today’s Missoulian digs a little deeper into the details (thanks liz for your attention to this issue, and pointing out the article!):

“When Michael Van Riper was ordered to spend three nights behind bars after screaming obscenities and threatening the owner of Worden’s Market, Tim France figured he’d get a couple days of relief from the persistent menace outside his shop.

“He’s very loud, thoroughly obnoxious and obscene beyond what’s tolerable – and what’s legal, for that matter,” France said.

But hours after Municipal Judge Marie Andersen heard Van Riper plead guilty and sentenced him, the Detention Center cut him loose. The reasons aren’t clear, and the incident has the judge wondering how often the jail ships out inmates of its own accord.

“I am not aware of any legal authority by which the jail may unilaterally release Defendants prior to the completion of a valid sentence,” wrote Andersen in an e-mail about the incident.”

So it seems that Sheriff McMeekin has taken to interpreting Judges’ detention orders according to his own criteria, which seems a little… arbitrary:

“Missoula County Sheriff Mike McMeekin said the department doesn’t keep statistics on the times and reasons it chooses to let people out before they have served their sentences. The reasons vary, but McMeekin said detention officers can, in some cases, override a sentence without consulting the judge.”

While I’m all about protecting the civil rights of individuals who choose to inhabit or visit downtown Missoula, I also understand the need to have a system of accountability that works as intended for those who break laws, of which the justice system plays a major role. Sheriff McMeekin’s taking on the role of Judge just isn’t going to cut it here.

So it’s obvious that the county jail isn’t doing, and doesn’t have the resources to deal with, Missoula’s problems with the disenfranchised. They don’t want to hold people whose medical expenses they may incur. They don’t want a repeat of the Heather Wasson story, where if she had been diverted to a medical facility for treatment, she wouldn’t have died in lockup.

Missoula needs to sit down and figure out a new way to deal with the problem before it: increasing numbers of homeless, transient and mentally ill people in the face of diminishing resources available to care for and treat their needs. Last year’s panhandling ordinance working group had these words about their work:

“The working group aims to protect and improve quality of life in downtown Missoula for all people who use the area, including business owners, people who live and work downtown, shoppers and patrons of professional offices, and people who are without means and depend on social services,” said city communications director Ginny Merriam.”

Judging by the story in today’s Missoula, those efforts have failed miserably, and they need to get back to the drawing board–maybe with a different mission in mind.

In the words of Municipal Judge Marie Andersen: “we need to find a different solution.”

Get to work, Missoula.

by Pete Talbot

(When interviewed in the Missoulian years ago, 4&20 founder Jay Stevens said that to be a successful blogger, one should blog daily. Well, we’ve certainly missed that deadline. Time for this slacker to take up the slack. I have no idea where jhwygirl or JC are, which should reinforce, gentle reader, the autonomy of 4&20’s writers.

Thanks to problembear for stepping back in and providing a few posts.

Here are some underdeveloped thoughts bouncing around my brain. Consider this an open thread.)

Is downtown dying?

Missoulian reporter Betsy Cohen paints a rather rosy picture of Downtown Missoula. Despite the loss of downtown’s last drug store (A&C), Pipestone Mountaineering, Moose Creek Mercantile, et al. — and, of course, Macy’s — downtown retailers are saying everything is OK. What are they going to say, “Hey, we’re dying here.”?

I don’t have the solution. I know we welcomed every big box store, chain store and franchise imaginable out on Reserve Street. Built them big, new roads and everything.

I also know the economy isn’t helping but I’ve watched downtown survive (barely) Missoula’s economic ebb and flow through a few of these cycles.

One thought: Macy’s should give its old Missoula building to the city. It’s not like the company put a lot of money into it. Folks in the know say Macy’s sank a bunch of bucks into various suburban malls around the country but sort of ignored its downtown stores (example: the dozen pre-World War II swamp coolers on the roof of our Macy’s, meant to cool the place).

Over the last century, Missoulians have paid their dues and supported the businesses in that building. C’mon, Macy’s, you owe us. Sound like socialism? I suppose. But really, I’m all in favor of entrepreneurship and making a profit and all that, but the (Missoula Mercantile, Bon Marche) Macy’s building is more than brick and mortar, it’s the heart of downtown. We deserve it.

(I also believe that Smurfit-Stone should give the Missoula Community its mill in Frenchtown but that’s the subject of another post.)

Of oil spills and tar sands

The BP oil spill is world-wide news and an environmental disaster. Closer to home, massive rigs will be rolling through some of the most primitive and beautiful country in the nation, headed to the tar sands fields in Canada. Then there are the even bigger drums, departing Lewiston, Idaho, in the next few weeks for the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings. Is there an end, in the near future, to these affronts to Mother Nature? No. All are inexorably connected to our addiction to oil. We are as responsible for these assaults on our environment as are ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and BP.

What to do? David Sirota has a few tips for decreasing demand – nothing earth shattering but every little bit helps.

Then there’s this suggestion: a higher fuel tax. Now what sort of tree-hugging Commie would suggest this? None other than Car and Driver columnist Aaron Robinson. Car and Driver is a car enthusiast’s magazine dedicated to, for the most part, high performance vehicles (I’m a closet motorhead and have fantasies of 12-cylinder Ferraris, Jaguars and Aston-Martins). A higher gas tax, according to Robinson, would lead to better designed, more efficient vehicles; a reduced demand for petroleum and a corresponding cleaner environment; and more money in this country’s coffers.

Some (Democratic) humor

Let’s end this on a humorous note, courtesy of my cousin, Laura Mae:

“Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. Well, for example, the other day my wife and I went into town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about 5 minutes. When we came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and said, “Come on man, how about giving a senior citizen a break?”

He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. I called him a Nazi turd. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires. So my wife called him a shit-head. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more we abused him, the more tickets he wrote. Personally, we didn’t care. We came into town by bus and saw the car had a Sarah Palin bumper sticker. We try to have a little fun each day now that we’re retired. It’s important at our age.”

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