by William Skink
Ok, I tried to be cute with yesterday’s imagined conversation between our new police Chief and our Mayor because writing the same old angry post about how the Mayor abuses TIF is getting tiring.
Well, today I am going to write an angry post about how the Mayor is abusing TIF and he apparently won’t stop his addiction to TIF until someone stops him, and that someone is either going to be a mayoral candidate or the state legislature.
With a quarter million in public money going to build showers and lockers for cops, the police station may rival the mall as the most ridiculous example of tax increment abuse I have seen.
There are multiple layers to this particular abuse of public money, so to start unpacking this let’s go back two years to when the police station was fresh and new:
The city of Missoula will receive $1 million in tax increment monies from the Missoula Redevelopment Agency to help pay debt on the purchase and renovation of a new building that will house detectives with the police department and hold evidence in storage.
The new facility, located at 101 N. Catlin Street, carries a total cost of $4.2 million. With $1 million coming from MRA in the form of tax increments, the city will issue bonds totaling $3.2 million to cover the rest.
The initial TIF payout two years ago was for a cool million, and the total cost of the facility was $4.2 million. According to this Missoulian article, the architects at MMW seemed pretty confident they had designed a facility to meet the needs of Missoula PD for the next 40 years:
“We were designing for a 40-year capacity and I think we’ve done that,” said John Wells, one of the principal architects of MMW.
If Mayor Engen were asked why the MMW design needs amending just two years later for locker/shower facilities, this is sure to be the response: CORONAVIRUS!!!
Engen wants you to think the Coronavirus is the reason he is doing things like using TIF to buy a motel and now using TIF to build showers for police. Here’s the problem I see with that: Engen is full of shit.
If Coronavirus is just the cover rationale for this use of TIF money, could there be a more accurate motivation for Engen wasting a quarter million on showers for cops?
I am going to engage in some speculation here. Maybe our new police Chief inherited leverage from Mike Brady, the former Chief who got setup with a cushy post-retirement job doing “risk assessment” for the city.
What kind of leverage, you ask? There have long been rumors that Mayor Engen got busted driving drunk, and local law enforcement helped him hush it up. While this is just a rumor, it’s a fact that Engen is an alcoholic who required a forced intervention before seeking treatment. Alcoholics aren’t known for making the best decisions while actively engaging in their self-destructive behavior, so it’s very plausible that Engen did something dangerous and illegal while under the influence.
Regardless of the motivation, this TIF expenditure is fucking ridiculous. It’s not addressing blight, it’s not growing the tax base, and it’s going to the very law and order cultural institution that is under IMMENSE scrutiny right now in our society for abuses of power too numerous to list.
I hope this is the TIF abuse that wakes enough people up in our liberal utopia to bring a long overdue reckoning to the Mayor’s office. Mayor Engen’s actions exhibit an addict’s contempt toward those telling him he has a problem with how he uses TIF. When it came to Engen’s alcohol abuse, it wasn’t until outside forces intervened that he finally stopped.
We need another intervention. 2021 is a long ways off.