The Delusional Optimism Of Local Government

by William Skink

Maybe I’m too cynical and should channel the delusional optimism of local government.

Or maybe I’m just jealous and deep down wished I had steady employment and other people’s money to play around with.

The article that triggered this reflection is informing us of the important news that the Rocky Mountain Exploration Center is “still tracking for a spring groundbreaking.”

Thank GOD!!!

With a little pandemic dramatically altering the trajectory of people’s lives, with illness and lost jobs and small businesses that won’t be coming back, it’s nice to know that, as far as the Rocky Mountain Exploration Center goes, the pandemic was just a little blip disrupting fundraising efforts (my emphasis):

“When the virus hit, it really threw off our fundraising, but we’ve gone through some reorganization and are back on track,” said Jerry Marks, the MSU extension agent for Missoula Count. “We really felt with a lot of our potential donors, that kind of declined, but the stock market has rebounded in many ways. The last couple weeks, things have moved forward in a much more positive way.”

This quote is actually a little peek into a completely different world, the world of “potential donors”.

When central banks fire up the fiat presses to inject billions and billions into the economy, they aren’t doing it to keep your average Joe and Jane housed with food on the table. Nope, the unsustainable liquidity injections are for those “potential donors” who live on passive income and the resulting optimism that their gaping greed-holes are in much closer proximity to the Fed’s money shoveling than lowly wage slaves and other paycheck-to-paycheck suckers.

While plenty of people in Missoula continue to deal with their own precarious realities, people like Jerry Marks, who play with other people’s money, are whining about how they might not be able to pony up the additional money to obtain LEED certification for this unnecessary 12.5 million dollar project:

Missoula County commissioners on Tuesday approved the architectural and engineering agreement with A&E Architects and Jackson Construction, setting the groundwork for the estimated $12.5 million project.

But whether the project will pursue LEED certification or simply build with LEED approved technologies remains uncertain. It’s likely that LEED certification could add more than $300,000 in costs to the project, leaving officials with other ideas.

“We could build to those certifications and not spend the extra money getting it certified,” said Commissioner Josh Slotnick said. “We can make our own plaque. We can do our own education.”

I guess putting the entire project on hold is just too unthinkable for our local braintrust, but look at those BIG IDEAS from Josh Slotnick! Just don’t spend the money on certification and make your own plaque. Fantastic!

Delusional optimism is a powerful psychological force, and politicians who decide how to spend money that isn’t theirs seem particularly susceptible. How else to explain Dave Strohmaier’s train pipe dream?

Reading articles like this, it’s like the pandemic doesn’t exist. This is VERY delusional optimism:

The Missoula City Council placed its unanimous support behind a growing effort between counties in southern Montana to form the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority in a push to restore intercity rail service across the state.

Eleven counties have signed on to the resolution forming the authority, which goes to individual county votes in the coming weeks. The city of Missoula is the first municipality to back the effort in a resolution of support.

“It’s a monumental effort, but if we all work together, we can bring it back,” said City Council member Jordan Hess. “Passenger rail has a lot of benefits.”

Among them, Hess said intercity passenger rail through Montana’s most populated region would provide a sustainable mode of transportation, reducing both congestion and emissions. But it also would provide a significant economic jolt to cities and towns along the route and further develop the region’s tourism.

That last paragraph hits the buzzword trifecta with SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION and an ECONOMIC JOLT and TOURISM!

But to get to these amazing FUTURE benefits, the infrastructure must be built up NOW and only then will these amazing benefits materialize:

Advocates believe the initial infrastructure costs will be recovered in economic and other public benefits. As it is in many other countries around the globe, Strohmaier said, passenger rail ought to play a larger role in America’s portfolio of public transportation.

“This isn’t about nostalgia,” he said. “This is a little back to the future and investing strategically in a greener, more sustainable and equitable mode of transportation for our friends and neighbors.”

Please recall, dear readers, that Dave Strohmaier is the County Commissioner responsible for using stalling tactics to sabotage replacing the “functionally obsolete” Maclay bridge, which I have written about here, here and here.

So, when I hear Dave Strohmaier talk about a “mode of transportation for our friends and neighbors” I think about how many times my kids went over Maclay bridge in a bus that weighs around the weight limit of the bridge WITHOUT kids in it.

The only part of our NEW NORMAL that our elected leaders appear enthusiastic about is forcing us to put a mostly worthless layer of cloth over our faces. When it comes to their pet projects and pipe dreams, it’s FULL STEAM AHEAD.

In conclusion, you might not be able to pay your rent or mortgage next month, your kids schooling is up in the air, you may or may not have a job, but at least our local braintrust is building a home for butterflies and dreaming of crowded passenger trains amidst a pandemic.

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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3 Responses to The Delusional Optimism Of Local Government

  1. Don’t forget the $15-35 million they want to expand the fairgrounds. Many of these local officials have had no disruptions to their lives. Few have school-age kids. All have kept their jobs at full pay with benefits and no furloughs. That’s all going to change. Probably after the election. We know from the budgets that the city is $250 million+ in debt (mostly long-term bonds), while the county has nearly $10 million. The county is deficit spending each year as well. This year they spent $2.6 million more than they brought in.

    But when it’s other people’s money, it doesn’t matter. Eventually the MRA money will run out. Then what? There is no idea for this and no one wants to think of it, because it can mean only two things: raise taxes or cut spending, with the unlikely prospect that the feds might bail-out the city/county. Unlikely. The state will bail-out Missoula this year with the $1.25 billion Bullock has to hand out, but that’ll go very quickly and the city/county will have their hands out for more very early in 2021. At that point – after the leverage of the election has worn-off – there will be little appetitle to keep printing money.

    I feel sorry for people that feel the stock market has rebounded; seems more like spastic death throes to me. The Robinhood day traders besting the brokers reminds me of the shoe-shine boy telling Joe Kennedy which stocks would go up that day back in the late-20s. Joe got out the next day. When will the smart people get out this time? Most probably already have, hence the rising metal prices.

    Finally, don’t forget the crazy from Seattle we’re importing. No, not the terrorists in the streets – the terrorits in office. Missoula just hired Rob Gannon to oversee city finances of some sort. He did the same in Seattle. Now he wants to bring a sales tax here. You can tell by the ‘acceptable language’ they use to cloak sales tax, “property tax relief:”

    “The taxing structure of Montana is arguably better than it is here in the State of Washington, but it’s also one that provides limited opportunities,” he said. “I would love to see property tax relief, but I’d also like to see a balanced taxing system that creates a fair opportunity both for government and residents to get the services that need. [sic]”

    • great points, all. thank you for the comment.

      I also have been meaning to thank you for the post on the Governor sitting on Covid relief money. like TC commented, that wasn’t on my radar until your post about it.

  2. Pingback: The American Dream: A Tropical Butterfly House? | Reptile Dysfunction

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