Council of Commissioners Grapple with Citizens Request To Stop Feeding The Hungry In Emma Park


Hello all and welcome to KBMF’s wrap up of last weeks meeting of the Butte Silver Bow Council of Commissioners. I’m Daniel Hogan and every week we will look back at actions taken by the legislative body of our government and look forward to tonight’s agenda which can be heard live on KBMF starting at 7:30 pm.

The meeting began with Danette Gleason, County Budget Director, giving a presentation with the help of accountant Patrick Burt of Newland and Company on the 2020 Audit Findings and Fiscal Report. Council seemed to have no issues with the findings and agreed that the financial health of the county was in good order.

Most of the consent agenda that night was normal business with the main course of the evening, and the subject of this program, being a communication by Butte resident Eldon Beall to quote “enact a task force to stop the public drunkenness and to prohibit Action Inc. from feeding the homeless in Emma Park.”

Emma Park and Eldon Beall both reside in Commissioner Anderson’s District and he began the proceedings by asking Council to hold the communication in abeyance due to Mr. Beall’s inability to speak on it that night. The council had other plans, here’s commissioner Mankins-

Eldon Beall has spoken on the issues he finds with the crowd that congregates in Emma Park at previous council meeting and also through numerous letters to the Montana Standard. It is a semi regular occurrence now that someone comes forward demanding something be done about the “homeless” or the “drunks” in Butte. This was most notably illustrated in 2017 when the Butte Rescue Mission was forced out of their location on Second Street and began the search for a new location. Opinions of what to do then are the same as what to do now and no lasting solutions have been found, but not without a lack of trying.

Commissioner Sorich believes the Executive Branch should be responsible.

Commissioner O’Neill suggested increased policing.

Public drunkenness normally finds it’s way into this conversation and opinions always dance around saying when drunkenness is and is not appropriate. The open container law in Butte Silver Bow and the tourist driven economy of uptown Butte walks a fine line between encouraging public drunkenness during celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day and demonizing it on a normal Wednesday afternoon in Emma Park.

As you can hear, conflating public drunkenness and trouble making with the under served and unhoused is uneasy for most Council members. Chief Executive Gallagher was asked to weigh in and reiterated other points made about enforcement.

Commissioner Anderson maintained that the Council needed to take up this issue saying that the Butte Silver Bow Police department was doing all they could but that was ultimately not enough.

The municipal response to poverty has always been more police. Expanded social services and reforms meant to alleviate the effects of poverty are often, if not always, only considered after police enforcement is increased by expanded budgets or expended powers.

Freshman Commissioner Hattie Thatcher suggested those that are quick to criticize programs that feed the hungry should instead interact with them through acts of service in Emma Park.

The motion to place Eldon Beall’s communication on file was approved by a vote of 9 to 2