Mayor Engen Is Losing The Narrative On Urban Renewal Districts And The Role Of MRA

by William Skink

Is Mayor Engen losing control of the narrative over Urban Renewal Districts and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency? I think the most recent example of political damage control, facilitated by the Missoula Current, titled Engen says MRA will become “more strategic” with broader focus on housing, means the answer is yes.

If I’m interpreting the pol-speak correctly here, Engen and his MRA board are feeling the heat of legitimate criticism, and part of their response is to deploy a rhetorical re-prioritazation of how MRA uses our public money to head-off calls for the outright dissolution of MRA altogether. From the link:

“I think we need a broader discussion about what’s the long-term plan here,” said MRA board member Karl Englund. “What do we want these (urban renewal) districts to do? We’re going to need to understand that both in terms of how we operate day in and day out, and how the city considers things like this.”

Engen also suggested a shifting philosophy in the role MRA will play moving forward. In the past, he said, the agency often reacted to projects that came to the city.

In the future, he said, MRA’s investments would become more strategic.

“The work of the agency over the past 15 years is much different than it was before. The projects are different, the need is different and the resources are different,” Engen said. “We have traditionally tended to react to proposals rather than make those proposals. We’re doing more of that, and I suspect there will be even more of that in the future as we move forward, based on community needs.”

Yes, 15 years of TIF money priming the pump of development has helped make the Missoula of today much different than the Missoula of 15 years ago. I’m glad our enlightened Mayor understands that. Some of those differences include the cost of housing sky-rocketing, the valley growing by thousands and thousands of people, a state government Democrats are incapable of making gains in (so the state of Montana does things to shift costs to County/City government), and more crime fueled by things like meth and cutting social services.

What the Mayor is trying to do is create some rhetorical window-dressing to save his slush fund, but he’s losing the narrative and he knows it. That’s why he says things like this, at the end of the piece:

“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding that we’re giving money to the private sector,” he said. “But we’re actually creating public infrastructure that supports private investment, that creates taxable value, that expands our base and allows us to levy fewer mills, tax individuals less, and get more done. This is a success story at the end of the day.”

Ok, if Missoula is such a TIF-enabled success story, then vote for Engen when he’s up for reelection. Or, if you understand that reality often conflicts with the rosy declarations coming from the Mayor’s office, you can prepare to support ABE (anyone but Engen) when the time comes.

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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1 Response to Mayor Engen Is Losing The Narrative On Urban Renewal Districts And The Role Of MRA

  1. Pingback: Mayor Engen Losing The Narrative, Part II | Reptile Dysfunction

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