by William Skink
I hope the critics of tax increment financing (TIF) are ready for the next round of propaganda pandering designed to “educate” criticism out of the conversation.
Critics like myself are at a serious disadvantage because we can’t go out and hire someone with public money the way our Mayor and his sycophants can. Case in point, our lovely city has just allocated $46,000 to hire Six Pony Hitch to streamline the propaganda messaging for MRA. From the link:
The Missoula Redevelopment Agency’s board approved a $46,500 contract on Monday to create a communication plan for the agency, largely in an effort to improve public understanding of Tax Increment Financing.
The contract will go to local communications firm Six Pony Hitch, owned by Christina “Spider” McKnight.
“Spider is very familiar with what MRA does and our history,” said MRA director Ellen Buchanan.
The public money being used for this–more money than many people make in a single year–is just to MAKE the plan, not actually carry the plan out. I hope Spider is up to the task.
One of the difficulties in parsing out this issue is how the problem is being defined by the city versus what the problem actually is in what I like to call “reality”.
The city wants you to think the BIG PROBLEM is the public’s ignorance regarding tax increment financing. They want you to think our public criticism is coming from a vocal minority who are getting all riled up because our simple little minds just can’t fathom the complex awesomeness that comes from funneling the increased tax value of urban renewal districts away from the general fund to the Missoula Redevelopment Agency.
The REAL problem is the exact opposite of what the city is claiming: people are starting to understand and pay attention to how these complicated sounding terms are hiding a pretty simple scheme of diverting public money away from the general fund to unelected people hand-picked by the mayor, and that one result of this monetary diversion is the starvation of the general fund for essential services, like schools, police and fire.
Now that we are waking up to this reality, the overwhelmed communication director for the mayor’s office, Ginny Merriam, is admitting defeat and calling for reinforcements:
Ginny Merriam, the city’s communications director, said she supported the plan.
“We realize we need outside help, much in the same way we use outside firms for engineering and planning,” Merriam said. “We can’t do everything.”
It’s particularly important to have effective communication because there’s a state legislative session coming up, she noted.
I added the emphasis because the upcoming legislative session is very important context to be aware of. When Adam Hertz debated Mayor Engen last June about TIF, he hinted at legislative efforts that may be taken if municipalities like Missoula aren’t open to reforms.
To put it more bluntly, if our elected gentrifiers and private sector developers don’t moderate their behavior, the state is going to design an intervention, a process our alcoholic mayor should be very familiar with.
Creating a slick propaganda plan to brainwash the public and keep state regulators at bay is a sign of desperation. The increase of public awareness since last October’s move to revive the riverfront project is not going back in the bottle, no matter how much money you pay Spider McKnight’s my little pony show to convince us otherwise.