by William Skink
Someone commenting under the name “Antman Lamp” has come to the defense of Nick Checota. Here is Antman’s first comment:
Nick – you are an honorable person and a great human. I have witnessed you and your teams build mission and values based companies that provide meaningful careers/jobs for hundreds, if not thousands of people. I’ve witnessed you do all of these things with you taking 100% of the risk and with no financial backing of any kind from your family. I was present for 20+ years and witnessed your commitment and work ethic. I also was there and know all of the facts – and knowing these facts means that I know for certain that not every source of journalistic information states the facts or the complete story. There is zero reason for anyone to take cheap shots at you or diminish your accomplishments. Please keep doing what you are doing and continue to build, create and give-back. Your proven track record speaks for itself.
I responded that there were 16.5 million reasons to diminish Nick’s hoped-for accomplishment with his Big D(rift). Antman didn’t understand this reference because he’s not from Missoula and probably has no idea about the housing crisis we are currently experiencing.
Why? Because Antman is a business buddy of Nick Checota from Milwaukee and his name, according to his email address, is Anthony Lampasona, of Catalyst Healthcare Real Estate.
Anthony Lampasona made another comment, imploring me to reach out and hug Nick Checota:
Not sure I follow your comment. If I was your friend and you were a good person – I would support you. Nick has earned the support he has done countless great things that have helped and served many of folks. Rather than mock him (continuing to call him names) and take cheap shots at him, why don’t you hug him up? What do you have to lose? You started this thread by stating by asking if his family history is a cautionary tale. It’s a valid question. Nick’s track record so far should significantly diminish the concern. Why hate things are great? Why not salute the efforts, the risk-taking and the personal and financial investment? Have you ever spent a day with Nick? Why don’t you approach him and ask to see what a day-in-the-life is like for him. You would be surprised by what you learn. Dude lives in a modest house, drives older cars, etc. He avoids most material excess and certainly he could afford it. These are honorable qualities – why the vitriol?
Before addressing the question “why the vitriol” I have a question for Mr. Lampasona: why is your developer pal in need of 16.5 million in public money to see this project through?
Maybe 16 million dollars isn’t a lot of money for Milwaukee developers, but in a little mountain town with an affordable housing crisis, 16 million is a big chunk of change that could do a lot more for this community instead of helping line the pockets of a Wisconsin developer.
While I appreciate that Nick Checota has at least one friend willing to come to his defense to better the optics for his business dealings in Missoula, the fact this guy is a business buddy from Wisconsin is interesting.
Despite the rapid gentrification and growth in Missoula, we are still a small mountain town, and stories about how people operate in this community circulate accordingly. Since covering Checota’s expanding Logjam monopoly, I have heard plenty of stories from people in Missoula, and none of them put Nick Checota in a very good light.
The use of the Tax Increment Financing to help build Checota’s event center/hotel/condo tower and the alleged public benefit of using public money is the real issue here, not whether or not a wealthy developer drives flashy cars or not.
As this project gets set to break ground this summer, stay tuned to this blog for glimpses of the counter-narrative that runs underneath the PR propaganda pushed by corporate media and our doe-eyed elected leaders who are too dazzled by development and expanding the tax base to remember their responsibility to ALL their constituents, even the ones who can’t afford to donate to their political campaigns.
William – facts seem allergic to you, feel free to email me and I am more than happy to provide you with any facts you may need. I am not a “business buddy” of Nick – I am his friend. And its really great being his friend – he’s a good dude. We do zero business together. Wisconsin developer? He’s lived full-time in Montana for more than 9 years, when does he become a Missoula Developer? Not sure your grasp on TIF financing is accurate and I encourage you to further explore this widely available (in most cities/towns/states) development incentive. Not telling you anything you don’t already know, but the $16.5MM only exists because the new project exists. In other words, if the project doesn’t exist, then neither does the $16.5MM. The $16.5MM is generated through the new incremental real estate taxes produced by the project. So its not a matter of a project getting $16.5MM at the expense of affordable housing. You seem passionate about the affordable housing issue and so am I. Rather than blaming TIF or Nick for the lack of affordable housing, let’s come up with a plan to make it happen. Do you have an appetite for the risk and the financial requirements to get this ball rolling? Could be a real game-changer for your little mountain town. Or you can continue to just fire off from behind the keyboard and perhaps something will change for the better?
I understand that the added tax revenue of an urban renewal district gets diverted from the general fund to incentivize further development, thus starving the general fund, which is still required to provide essential services, so taxes must go up up up. I’m sure plenty of people are excited at this development, but there are more and more people waking up to how this TIF tool has been abused and its role in exacerbating the housing crisis.
I just read that Missoula’s fire chief told Council to start preparing to fund a new fire station. with all the URDs and TIF-funded projects, where is this money going to come from? it will be wrung from the tax payers who will either absorb it or pass along the costs to the 50% of Missoulians who rent.
I’m not fan of TIF money or how it’s used, and how it takes away from the general fund. That said…is it Checota’s choice to use TIF funds? Here’s how the Missoullian put it last month:
“He noted that the privately owned portions of the project, including the hotel/condo tower and its parking spots, are not getting any Tax Increment Financing from the city and will be 100% privately financed. The city has an agreement in place to use $16.5 million in TIF funds to purchase the civic events center from Checota once it’s built. The money is paid back by property taxes on the project. The city is also purchasing most of the 360-space parking garage.
The developer, Checota, is paying for the huge public plaza, all the utility improvements on Front Street and is receiving no public money for the privately owned portions of the project.”
Both Checota and the city are differentiating between public and private portions of this huge development. Currently, the city is the one with the agreement in place to use TIF. I wonder if pushed, Checota would cover that $16.5 million himself. Sure, it’s a lot more than the $10,000 he shelled-out for the damaged baseball field this week, but it’s the same kind of optics.
Perhaps Checota doesn’t have a choice, and the city is pushing TIF on him (though I think if he resisted, the city would back down). But maybe he wants that taxpayer money for his project, and hopes that the press doesn’t make a big deal out of it.
Let’s not forget that Tom Winter, currently running for Congress, also wants TIF money. The Missoulian never followed up on the story, however, so I’m not sure if Winter ever took TIF money for his big townhome project next to the river.