Missoula’s Growing Pains

by William Skink

My mom made a comment today as we talked about the mind-numbing barrage of violence that’s unfolded this week. I’m glad we moved to Missoula, she said. But then she corrected herself by saying, of course, it could happen here, but in my mom’s estimation, Missoula is a step up from bigger city living. After Seattle and Kansas City, Missoula has been an ideal place for them to move to, and not just because they have three precious grandkids to spoil.

If you can afford to live here, Missoula is great. And lots of people want to live here because just look around. I moved here 16 years ago, during the summer the Bitterroot burned and riots broke out downtown over the presence of Hells Angels and an overzealous show of force by police (mostly it was because of the police). We lived near the interstate that summer, on the north side of town. Then, with help from the in-laws, we bought a house in the slant streets for a ridiculously low price.

The housing bubble catalyst that brought on the ongoing economic crisis didn’t hurt the value of our house one bit. When we sold last year, we were shocked to hear the initial estimate of what we could ask. We were under contract within 24 hours of putting it on the market.

I’ve benefited from a growing Missoula that grows because that’s how much people want to live here, and being a non-native Montanan, I’m a part of the influx that’s lately been getting some attention. So while I’m plenty open to accusations of hypocrisy, I’m going to go ahead and chime in on some coverage of the gripes and moaning I’ve been seeing pop up as the world burns down around our beautiful Missoula bubble.

Over the holiday weekend I witnessed the great “towathon” on Kona Ranch road. This is my backyard now, so to speak, so I cross that bridge all the time, and I was frankly surprised to see the amount of tow trucks and Sheriff deputies involved in the enforcement of this no parking area. I would much prefer law enforcement catching drunk drivers and meth dealers, but maybe that’s just me. When I read Kidston’s piece, I rolled my eyes.

The gist of the story is relatively new, and pretty nice, homes have angry residents who have suffered some traumatizing inconveniences, like blocked driveways and constricted roadways, so enough noise was made by these property owners, causing Missoula County to allocate law enforcement resources to oversee car towing. On the 4th of July.

So now that this is a problem, our lawmakers are going in search of money to fix it because one of ’em lives out here:

Rep. Willis Curdy, D-Missoula, who lives on Kona Ranch Road, has seen parked cars stretching down both sides of the road for a distance of 1,000 feet. He said the road isn’t wide enough to accommodate parked vehicles.

“With all the parking that’s been taking place there, it has become problematic for emergency vehicles, and the neighbors have complained about people blocking their driveways and turning around in their property,” Curdy said. “When you have two vehicles parked on both sides, it gets very narrow, and speed is a problem out here.”

Curdy believes the problem at Kona Ranch Road is symptomatic of a larger issue. The Missoula population is growing, placing increased pressure on recreational sites and public access. He believes it’s time for city and county leaders, as well as the state, to sit down and find a solution.

“As our population grows, there’s going to be even more use,” said Curdy. “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

As state legislators prepare for the next session, Curdy plans to seek funding from the Habitat Montana Program to improve recreational opportunities, including access to popular sites like the Bitterroot and Clark Fork rivers.

Ah, now I see why precious law enforcement resources were deployed on the 4th of July weekend. Now go get that money, Willy!

If too many trucks obstructing his view is bumming Willy out, he might be sympathetic to Flash in the Pan’s KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN missive on the phenomena of hipsters killing farmers markets. And also, people with strollers. Luckily the Indy responded with a real life farmers-market-killing hipster striking back. I think we can safely file all this under first world problems.

Pete Talbot has a good post worth reading, asking how do we grow?

What I see, unfortunately, is examples of how not to grow, like bonding a vast park by Fort Missoula that the city will have to scrape pennies together to maintain now because, whoopsie, no one apparently anticipated the cost of ongoing maintenance, and there’s even a question whether the city can recoup money it expected to from park fees.

Meanwhile, the County can barely maintain its current transportation infrastructure. Now that I live out here, and now that my kids are going to be regularly riding a bus over a one-lane bridge getting twice as much traffic as it was built for, I’m discovering that behind the Save Maclay Bridge signs the real message is save my South Street property value from building the bridge where all the expensive reports have said the bridge needs to go.

The inverse of property owners compelling County resources to be expended on the 4th of July weekend is property owners preventing action when action is needed. This piece about this issue is from September, 2015:

Plans to tear out the old Maclay Bridge and send traffic down South Avenue across a new bridge are still generating sharp divisions within the Target Range community.

Although Missoula County already signed off on the plans to redevelop the west end of South Avenue to connect with the new bridge, opponents are still dug in with their insistence the Maclay Bridge could be rehabilitated.

They worry about safety along South, especially by Target Range School. But the new bridge has its backers too, who are convinced it’s the best long-term option that will solve neighborhood traffic problems and be better for the environment along the Bitterroot River.

“They are bringing essentially a new collector route through a mature, developed residential area, so it’s a safety issue,” Maclay Bridge Alliance Director Bob Schweitzer said.

“A study which was done over the last couple of years [with] a different group of scientists and engineers came to the same conclusion – that the existing bridge is obsolete and unsafe and that it should be replaced with a new bridge,” countered Don St. Peter with the Maclay Bridge Common Sense Coalition.

Both factions are expected to continue pressing their points in the coming months.

I admittedly didn’t follow this very closely before moving out here, but now that my kids travel on a bus over an unsafe bridge, well, I’m a bit more interested in why nothing is happening.

I think about growth while I sit in traffic on Reserve Street, and when I see the new bank going up downtown, and when I see another convenience store with a casino getting a facelift, I guess because business is good in the hope-for-a-jackpot market.

Basically what I think about when I think about how Missoula is growing is that it’s growing the way anything grows in America, with money, so if the money keeps coming in, what’s to stop it? People can throw tantrums over the screaming neon of the Verizon store on Broadway, or lament the imminent demolition of the Merc, or argue over light pollution from some silly project to light up bridges (even the one falling apart, I guess), but money makes things happen, so if money is talking, best learn to shut up because no one is listening otherwise.

Especially once the new bullet proof glass goes up for the clerks in Municipal Court, and the Mayor gets his escape hatch to flee from the crazies not even the jails or hospitals will take anymore.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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15 Responses to Missoula’s Growing Pains

  1. Big Swede says:

    I just don’t understand the logic that all nice places to live should be affordable to everyone.

    Here’s an idea, move to a less desirable city and sock a bunch of money away so you can afford Missoula, or Poulson, or Kalispell.

    Follow these simple stepson your preparation.

    First … get a girlfriend…
    1. Don’t marry her.
    2. Use your mom’s address to receive your mail.
    3. The guy buys a house.
    4. Guy rents out house to his girl girlfriend who has 2 of his kids.
    5. Section 8 will pay $900 a month for a 3 bedroom home.
    6. Girlfriend signs up for Obamacare so guy doesn’t have to pay for family insurance.
    7. Being a single mother, Girlfriend gets to go to college for free!
    8. Girlfriend gets $600 a month for food stamps
    9. Girlfriend gets free cell phone from US Government
    10. Girlfriend get free utilities.
    11. Guy moves into home but still uses mom’s house to receive mail.
    12. Girlfriend claims one kid and guy claims one kid on taxes. Now you both get to claim head of household at $1,800 credit.
    13. Girlfriend gets disability for being “crazy” or having a “bad back” at $1,800 a month and never has to work again.
    This plan is perfectly legal and is being executed now by millions of people.
    A married couple with a stay at home mom yields $0 dollars. An unmarried couple with stay at home mom nets $21,600 disability + $10,800 free housing + $6,000 free obamacare + $6,000 free food + $4,800 free utilities + $6,000 Pell Grant money to spend + $12,000 a year in college tuition free from Pell Grant + $8,800 tax benefit for being a single mother = $75,000 a year in benefits.
    Any idea why the country is 18 + trillion in debt?
    Welcome to the new multicultural diverse, fundamentally changed America, thanks to the ever popular and exciting, everyone is entitled to everything world.

    • Plagiarize away but be a man and cite.,

    • JC says:

      “Any idea why the country is 18 + trillion in debt?”

      1) “In a new and disturbing report from researchers at the International Monetary Fund, the world’s governments are providing subsidies to the highly profitable oil industry to the tune of an astonishing $5.3 trillion in benefits per year.”

      2) Farm subsidies:

      “American farm subsidies are egregiously expensive, harvesting $20 billion a year from taxpayers’ pockets. Most of the money goes to big, rich farmers producing staple commodities such as corn and soyabeans in states such as Iowa.”

      3) Foreign aid $35 billion: Israel: $3.1 billion, Egypt $1.3 billion

      So, as we can see, we really practice “capitalism” in ‘merika. Get rid of farm aid, oil company energy assistance, and foreign aid to parasites like israel, and all of a sudden, our national deficit takes on a whole new meaning, and we can invest in jobs in our own economy instead of enriching oligarchs.

      • Big Swede says:

        Just who profits the most? Government or the Oil companies?

        “That’s right. In the third quarter, ExxonMobil, the largest oil company in the world, earned $10.3 billion dollars. Many people cry foul at how much money was earned. However, have you ever stopped to think how much money the government collects on gasoline?

        Let’s do the math. The U.S. consumes we’ll say an average of 9.2 million barrels of gasoline per day. That’s about 386.5 million gallons of gasoline- everyday. Using numbers from the American Petroleum Institute, who tracks the average taxes paid per gallon, we know the average total combined tax per gallon in the U.S. is 48.8 cents per gallon, of which 18.4 cents goes to the Feds.

        Now, doing the math, various branches of government collect 48.8c/gal times 386.5 million gallons per day. That’s $188.6 million dollars per day. If we multiply by 365 days, we find that the government collects $68.84 billion dollars per year, just in gasoline tax. That comes down to $17.2 billion per quarter, which was nearly seven billion dollars more than Exxon earned. The government has little work to do but levy and collect the tax. They don’t refine the oil, process it, or ship it. They merely tax it. Of course, we have roads to pay for, yes, but the simple fact of the matter is that the U.S. government profits more from gasoline than the largest oil company in the world.
        Read more at https://blog.gasbuddy.com/posts/Government-made-more-profit-on-gasoline-than-ExxonMobil-in-3Q/1715-470089-653.aspx#KG4lGp6k2xDisj78.99

        • JC says:

          So? If Exxon is so profitable, then why does it deserve any subsidy at all? Simple question. I’d love for the government to subsidize me so I could make more money and pay more taxes. But that will never happen.

        • Big Swede says:

          “The truth is that the oil and gas industry receives the same kinds of tax treatments that every other manufacturing or extractive industry receives in the federal tax code. There is nothing uncommon or out of the mainstream of tax treatments about any of the provisions that have been repeatedly proposed for repeal.”

          Rest of the article. https://www.aei.org/publication/the-truth-about-all-those-subsidies-for-big-oil/

        • JC says:

          So, guess if it is okay that all businesses are entitled to get subsidies, it really isn’t a problem that people are entitled, too. Right???

        • Big Swede says:

          Maximum corporate tax rate 15% along with maximum personal tax rate of 15%

          Seems fair to me.

        • JC says:

          Why is that fair? Flat rate taxation is regressive. Particularly in this economy. Hell, just replace income tax with a VAT that exempts basic necessities, do away with the “unearned” income exemptions (tax all financial investment transactions), reform the 1872 mining act so that the people can benefit from commonly held resources, yada, yada, yada.

          the notion of a flat tax and lowered corporate tax is meaningless with all of the other BS, subsidies, and loopholes in the system.

  2. steve kelly says:

    Add “defense” ($600 B) and the “black budget” ($67-109 B), including surveillance and counterintelligence and you’re getting into some serious coin. That’s where the national debt is won or lost. War spending broke the Roman Empire, French, Spanish and British Empire too.

  3. Pingback: Dave Strohmaier Has A Bridge Problem And That Means I Have A Problem With Dave Strohmaier–BUILD THE BRIDGE! | Reptile Dysfunction

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