Thursday, December 8, 2011

Democracy is messy, and allegedly so is the courthouse lawn

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 11:35 AM

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In a carefully worded letter addressed to Occupy Missoula participants, the Board of County Commissioners asked the movement to relocate from the Missoula County Courthouse lawn. The letter states:

Staff has seen a significant increase in incidences of unsanitary conduct requiring even more staff time to mitigate the problem and causing increased exposure of County staff to pathogens. The nature and source of the unsanitary conduct, whether from Occupy Missoula or the adjacent population of homeless individuals, is immaterial. Regardless of who the culprits are, the situation is untenable and frankly, well above and beyond what the County should be asking of its staff on a frequency such as this.

The commissioners specifically request "that Occupy Missoula relocate their camp or use the gazebo without tents during the day." The commissioners ask for a response by Monday, Dec. 12.

Commissioners and staff are concerned that this request will cause Occupy Missoula to believe the County is trying to undermine their movement. That is not the case. The County must manage its grounds and staff in a way that is responsible to tax payers and residents. This movement appears to be long-term and focuses on issues that are beyond the ability of Missoula County to resolve. Missoula County must emphasize that the current situation inappropriately requires taxpayers to subsidize Occupy Missoula’s camp.

The full letter appears below.

Occupy Missoula Participants:

Missoula County Commissioners and staff continue to monitor the presence of Occupy Missoula on the Courthouse lawn. Missoula County strongly supports the right of any group to peaceably assemble and articulate grievances. The County respects the resourcefulness of the Occupy Missoula group and is grateful for what has been a peaceful and relatively respectful relationship to date despite frustration experienced by each entity.

Missoula County has fielded dozens of calls and emails from County citizens complaining about the presence of Occupy Missoula on the Courthouse lawn. Missoula County staff has spent countless hours developing and maintaining relationships with numerous individuals associated with the Occupy Missoula movement. Staff has seen a significant increase in incidences of unsanitary conduct requiring even more staff time to mitigate the problem and causing increased exposure of County staff to pathogens. The nature and source of the unsanitary conduct, whether from Occupy Missoula or the adjacent population of homeless individuals, is immaterial. Regardless of who the culprits are, the situation is untenable and frankly, well above and beyond what the County should be asking of its staff on a frequency such as this.

Missoula County has been patient with Occupy Missoula, but the movement’s presence on the Courthouse lawn is creating more problems than the County has the staff or money to solve. Missoula County would like to request that Occupy Missoula relocate their camp or use the gazebo without tents during the day. Commissioners and staff are concerned that this request will cause Occupy Missoula to believe the County is trying to undermine their movement. That is not the case. The County must manage its grounds and staff in a way that is responsible to tax payers and residents. This movement appears to be long-term and focuses on issues that are beyond the ability of Missoula County to resolve. Missoula County must emphasize that the current situation inappropriately requires taxpayers to subsidize Occupy Missoula’s camp. Missoula County respectfully requests that Occupy Missoula re-shape the physical presence of its movement in order to address these issues.

Please advise Missoula County of Occupy Missoula’s intentions by Monday, December 12th, 2011. We look forward to hearing from you.

Respectfully,
Missoula Board of County Commissioners

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