by William Skink
Back when I worked at the homeless shelter doing outreach, there were two couples who stood out.
The first couple lived in a tent at Reserve Street. They did not receive services, like food stamps, despite being eligible. While they didn’t ask for necessities, like food, they would accept the sack lunches I always had with me when doing outreach. They barely survived the winter.
The second couple was only around for a few months (the warm ones). Every time they saw me downtown, they would beeline toward me for free bus passes (this was before Mountainline was free for everyone).
One time this couple asked me for bus passes as the young woman was slurping a nice, pricey iced coffee from Starbucks. I took one look at that coffee and said “no”.
Which couple do you think represents our Mayor as he adds his name to this letter firing off the warning flares of dire consequences if Missoula, along with other Montana municipalities, don’t get a bailout. From the link:
“If we do not stabilize our economy, we could see a precipitous drop in local government revenue,” the letter signed by 33 Montana mayors reads. “These revenues fund and sustain ongoing public safety and critical services in our local communities.”
In their letter to the delegation, members of the Montana League of Cities and Towns cited a recent study by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana, which estimated a loss of 75,000 jobs and more than $6 billion in personal income across the state.
Missoula County officials have expressed concern that some property taxes will go unpaid due to lost jobs and furloughs. By June, the county had already seen a 1% increase in tax delinquencies, which accounts to roughly $2 million in lost revenue.
“It’s not insignificant for Montana,” Andrew Czorny, the county’s chief financial officer, told Rep. Greg Gianforte. “What I’m worried about is the fall. This fall if people continue to have lost revenue in their jobs, they’re not going to pay their fall taxes and it’ll create a cash flow problem for us.”
While our elected braintrust is worried about their “cash flow problem”, people who can’t pay their taxes (or rent) will be facing different problems, like EVICTION problems and FORECLOSURE problems and HOMELESS problems.
The iced coffee drink, to continue the metaphor, is the fact this same panhandling braintrust still want to build a home for butterflies, and showers for police, and a parking garage for an event center, and on and on and on.
In order to avoid this disastrous cash flow problem that threatens to disrupt the old normal these tax junkies are fiendishly protecting, they are willing to threaten job cuts, cuts to services, the whole reopening of the local economy, all while laying the financial burden on the “remaining” property owners:
Without direct assistance to cover lost revenues, local governments will be forced to cut employees and reduce services, “or shift the loss of revenue onto the remaining property taxpayers.”
“Without financial support, major cuts to municipal jobs and services will hinder the ability to safely reopen the economy,” the letter states. “There is a widespread recognition that it will be impossible to stabilize the economy without direct federal fiscal assistance to our cities, towns and counties.”
This is addict behavior and MY concern is enabling this behavior is just prolonging the necessary experience of “hitting bottom” required before true recovery can begin.
Amidst the dire panhandling requests for bailout revenue, the bad joke that is Parks and Rec want money for all kinds of things, including a collaborative parks-school community center. Even these parks requests are leveraging Covid to get what they want:
Parks and outdoor recreation have been especially value in Missoula throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with about nine out of 10 residents going to their parks and 92% saying they think parks are worth investing in, Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler said Wednesday.
Ok Donna, so what kind of money are you requesting?
Requests from Parks and Rec include $1,200,000 for completion of the Rattlesnake Dam restoration, $779,130 for construction costs associated with replacing the Northside Pedestrian Bridge, $131,250 to replace a restroom at Greenough Park, and $190,000 for aquatics maintenance to cover things like the replacement of the 50-meter pool liner at Splash Montana, as well as $100,000 to plan the process of redeveloping the Northside Park. The department is also requesting $175,000 for Clark Fork Riparian restoration, which would include the design of sustainable river access points through downtown Missoula.
If you head is spinning with all this government panhandling, you should know these are just the BIG ASKS. Parks and Rec also wants $50,000 for trailhead improvements to Waterworks Hill, $54,000 to complete Bellevue and Syringa bike parks, and $9,963 dollars to support “underfunded developed parks.
With all these requests, Mayor Engen renewed his promise that he will not raise city property taxes for fiscal year 2021, but that could all change if the city’s panhandling efforts to the state don’t address their “cash flow problem”.
Meanwhile, if you are behind in rent or your mortgage payments, you might want to reread this post about places around Missoula where homeless people put up tents, because the Mayor isn’t panhandling to keep you from being evicted, he’s panhandling so the ridiculous wishlist requests from out-of-touch government tax addicts can be honored.