I Knew TOZ Was Hot Before It Was Cool

by William Skink

I’m going to be brash and just say it, I knew the TOZ was going to be hot before Grant Kier knew it. What the hell am I talking about? The TRUMP OPPORTUNITY ZONE of course.

This Trump-enabled investment opportunity is emitting such a savory scent that the new empty suit running the Missoula Economic Partnership, Grant Kier, is suddenly keen on using dodgy PR speak about expanding the focus of MEP beyond attracting businesses. The word “opportunity” is used like a billion times in this Missoula Current fluff piece. Here’s a taste:

Keir, the organization’s president and CEO, gave members of the Missoula City Council an economic update on Wednesday. The organization is expanding its focus beyond business attraction to tap what Kier sees as the deeper elements of economic development.

Among them, the organization looks to serve more as a facilitator between the community and outside opportunities. That includes finding ways to fund community needs and assets by attracting private capital into projects that carry a public benefit.

Opportunity funds and the city’s new opportunity zone along the West Broadway corridor could serve as one, he said.

“We think we can play a role as facilitators to try and create opportunities for the right players to come to the table and either acquire or identify capital and real estate opportunities that can help us achieve some of our collective community goals,” he said.

No where in the article is Trump’s name mentioned, because this is Missoula, and Trump’s name is poison, but Grant Kier–loser of the 2018 Democratic Congressional primary in Montana–wouldn’t be babbling about these new opportunities if it wasn’t for the nifty TOZ tucked away in the economically reckless tax cuts.

I’m curious if the TOZ tool will be included in the housing recommendations finally being unveiled this week. We already know inclusionary zoning won’t be part of the package offered to City Council. I’m curious to see what follows that early concession to developers who decry excessive regulations.

On the homeless front, I noticed a very interesting number in a Missoula Current article recently. For context, the article is about a shift in focus by the city in administering federal grants to housing projects and programs. Here is the snippet that caught my attention:

The Poverello center also received two grants, including $15,000 to fund a housing retention specialist, and $25,000 to bring 1,300 new shelter clients into the Missoula Coordinated Entry System. That program launched in 2017 to provide a clear path to sustainable housing for homeless individuals.

What I think this funding allows the Poverello Center to do is actually input data into the new HMIS system. The Pov has been asked to do this for years without the funding to do it. The number is interesting because I believe it represents the unduplicated number of clients served by the shelter over the past year. This number is more than double the 500+ figure cited by city officials to demonstrate progress being made in the 10 year plan to end homelessness.

A plan, I will add, that has a Coordinator under city leadership and no longer under the oversight of the United Way. I wonder why that is?

Congratulations on that Impact Award, Susan.

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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