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Missoulian editorial: Innovative huckleberries

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Creatively arranged huckleberries to the dealmakers who crafted a way to keep 20 affordable apartments stable with a partnership between BlueLine Property Management and the City of Missoula. The city paid $2.1 million in 2021 to take over the apartment complex from the Western Montana Mental Health Center after the center decided to end its oversight of homes for people with mental illness and disability income. The city expected to be a temporary owner, but then the Missoula property market pushed itself far beyond affordable prices. Those prices and maintenance costs scared off potential buyers, given the need to keep the rents low. Instead, the new deal allows BlueLine to manage the apartments for five years at a fair profit while the City banks rents to cover the needed upkeep and eventually position itself to sell the complex at a more suitable time. Meanwhile, the residents there know they won’t see their belongings and security dumped onto the city’s overstressed housing scene. That’s what we expect from a public agency titled Community Planning, Development and Innovation.

A fistful of chokecherries to the group of senators caught on camera grandstanding over their July 28 derailment of a bill to aid military veterans suffering from exposure to toxic burn pits. A supermajority of 84 senators voted to advance the PACT Act on June 6, including Montana Sen. Steve Daines. Although the bipartisan solution had been in the works for 15 years, 30 Republican senators, including Daines, chose last week to raise an accounting objection to veteran’s health as protest for Democrats’ reaching agreement on a larger budget bill. Five days later, all the objectors stepped back in line and passed the bill, 86-11, with no accounting changes. An estimated 66,000 Montana veterans suffer from exposure to those burn pits, along with about 3.5 million fellow American service men and women. Supporting legislation to help them, then stalling the help for a wholly unrelated political tantrum, fist-bumping the successful delay and then reversing course to pass the unchanged bill — makes every claim of support for America’s veterans ring hollow. When our elected leaders campaign about fixing dysfunctional government, they might first spend some time fixing the face in the mirror.

A heaping scoop of ice cream covered with huckleberries to folks like 70-year-old Alonso Quirarte, who’s been picking Flathead cherries and other Pacific Northwest produce since he immigrated from Mexico when he was 19. There was no line in front of him of workers seeking to earn up to $700 a day gleaning the fruit trees. Anyone who thinks we don’t need more people like him might first strip a cherry tree in 20 minutes (Quirarte can do it in 15) before stripping others of their dignity.

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