by William Skink
When actions don’t match up to words, people stop believing the words. In Missoula I see this most clearly with claims from city officials about affordable housing. We know it’s one of the most important issues to the people who live in this valley, they will say, yet nearly every action taken by the city seems to do the opposite to affordability.
I finally spent a little time watching the most recent City Council meeting this week. Jean Curtiss spoke (not as an outgoing County Commissioner, but as a citizen) about the impending vote from City Council to annex a large swath of tax base west of Missoula. Curtis made many good points, and one was the fact that existing housing will become more expensive because of tax increases. The great benefit of becoming city residents vs. county residents is very much up for debate.
None of the opposition mattered because the fix was already in. Attaching to city sewer is like taking that first hit of crack, you make a deal with the dealer, then you’re hooked. In this case the dealer required anyone wanting to do business in the industrial park to waive their rights to protest annexation. And it worked.
For a city that claims to be worried about public safety, there is a legitimate question about the capacity of essential services, like police, to respond to this newly acquired parcel of responsibility. Jean Curtiss made very good points about Missoula PD already struggling with current resources and an increasing volume of calls. But none of that matters when the fix is in and the luminous ones know better than everyone else.
The words “public” and “safety” have no substantive meaning when they can be used to justify lane reductions and sidewalks, but conveniently shelved when it comes to the possibility of dying on said sidewalks. And the words “affordable” and “housing” mean less than nothing coming from city officials who continue to engage in actions that have the opposite effect of the help they claim piously to be providing.