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Communication breakdown

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On Aug. 18, Indian People’s Action (I.P.A.) brought a resolution to the Missoula City Council stating that Missoula’s hospitality industry is devoted to non-discrimination (see “Hotels inhospitable to Indians,” by Jed Gottlieb, Aug. 7, 2003). The resolution approach came about after I.P.A tried with little luck to convince local hotels to sign a letter committing to non-discrimination. As with the hotel campaign, the appeal to City Council for help has stalled.

Getting a whiff of the resolution, Missoula Area Hotel and Lodging Association President Mary Erickson sent an e-mail to council members an hour and a half before the Aug. 18 meeting, asking council to delay a vote until the association could meet with I.P.A. and “ascertain what the problem seems to be.” The Sept. 4 meeting didn’t go well.

At under five minutes, the meeting lasted only long enough for I.P.A Executive Director Janet Robideau to tell the 11 representatives from the hotel industry and the Missoula Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVA) that I.P.A. would discuss the issue only at a public meeting. Then Robideau walked out.

The 11 gathered were flabbergasted, and say that they don’t even know exactly what I.P.A.’s gripe is—whether there was one, isolated incident of discrimination or a series of incidents—and more than half say they haven’t seen I.P.A.’s proposed resolution.

“We still do not have one concrete example of discrimination,” says Erickson.

Missoula CVB Executive Director Theresa Cox says that they are happy to work with I.P.A. if the organization would take the time to explain the specifics of their complaint.

“We can’t address the issue if we don’t know what happened,” says Cox. “Certainly, the issue didn’t come up with any of the hotels represented here. But if it did happen at another hotel, we want to know because we want to fix it.”

The hospitality industry says it wants to create open dialogue, but I.P.A. says the industry stonewalled them during the three months the organization circulated the letter. After the meeting, I.P.A.’s Robideau said her organization is still set on a public forum—not a private meeting between the two groups—to discuss discrimination toward Indians and other groups.

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