A Brief Look At Ward 2 Candidate For Missoula City Council, Brent Sperry

by William Skink

It’s nice to get kudos for the work done here. A recent comment released from the spam filter offered these generous words:

Thank you so much for your reporting recently per Missoula TIF. I dont think that Missoula residents (and/or) property owners realize how much the MRA ( read – Ellen Buchanan) are breaking Missoula. The Mayor, City Council and Ellen Buchanan exist somewhere in a limbo zone between the Haves and the Have Nots. They are using their positions to desperately ingratiate themselves into the “Haves”. In doing so they are willing to sacrifice the heart/soul of Missoula to get theirs.

Tonight is a big night for Missoula. City Council will be voting on the housing policy recommendations that will greatly influence future growth (I wish we were voting on a Mayoral race with a quality candidate to challenge Engen). Some realities, like supply and demand, can’t be tweaked on a policy level. Some other realities, like skimming tax revenue to give out to various development projects, can be changed.

The role of MRA (Missoula Redevelopment Agency) is not up for a vote, since the leadership there has pledged to provide that pump-priming power the private sector so enjoys to the housing problem, but with City Council elections coming up, the role of MRA most certainly can be part of the equation of candidates.

Candidates, for example, like Brent Sperry, who is running in Ward 2 and has this to say about TIF:

Missoula’s overwhelming property taxes make it difficult for our community’s lower- and middle-income citizens, and the burden is not just carried by homeowners; it gets passed on to renters too. Many senior citizens — who helped shape Missoula with decades of their labor, volunteer services and property taxes — are now on fixed incomes and are being taxed out of their beloved city. Each tax increase is a message from city officials that our lower-income residents can be replaced by new, wealthier residents who can afford the tax burden they enact.

A large part of this problem arises from a complex tool called tax increment financing. Large portions of tax revenue are being scraped off to fund pet projects and directly benefit large corporations and wealthy developers. As a result, our essential services are underfunded and, in many cases, understaffed. Missoula is in desperate need of fiscal responsibility with an emphasis on bread-and-butter services like road maintenance and police and fire protection. As Missoula continues to see higher crime rates year after year, we need to be committing resources to ensure our community is safe.

With your support, I can become a voice to help break the tax-and-spend mentality we have been experiencing. Let’s focus on smart growth and not growth at any cost. Let’s concentrate on getting good-paying jobs and not just seasonal tourist opportunities. Let’s focus on the basics and not the frills. Let’s fund our police, fire and infrastructure, and not give millions to private developers. Let’s focus on getting Missoula back to the great community it once was.

If I lived within city limits I would most definitely be voting for Brent Sperry on just the merit of those 3 paragraphs.

I wish we had more local critical analysis of the changes intentional policies like tax increment financing have wrought in Missoula, policies obscured by technical language and sold by a self-deprecating huckster who uses humor and charm to disarm well-deserved criticism.

Until we have some resurrection of an Indy-type publication, or some other for official platform to inform locals, I’ll keep my opinion pieces (not reporting) coming as time allows.

Thank you for reading.

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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