When You’re Spending Other People’s Money, Every Day Is Like Christmas, Right Mayor Engen?

by William Skink

For a politician like our Mayor, who has access to tens of millions in public money through the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, every day is like Christmas.

But to continue using this money for important things like a $46,000 Spider McKnight communication plan, Democrats in Missoula were really hoping Santa would bring them a Cooney for Christmas instead of the lump of coal called Greg Gianforte.

Now that a lump of coal is our Governor, there is BIG worry from our BIG Mayor that Gianforte could derail the TIF train, and all that sweet, sweet public money might leave the clutches of Ellen Buchanan and her legion of gentrifiers to return to its rightful home in the general fund.

Here is the Missoula Current relaying our Mayor’s concern about his urban renewal slush fund:

With it being Democrat Mayor John Engen’s first term under a Republican governor in office since 2005, Missoula’s top official expects the city to play defense in areas during the upcoming 2021 legislative session.

“We’re largely focusing on making sure that we don’t lose ground with regard to local control and revenues, so those issues are always critical for us,” Engen said. “We will need to protect the revenue streams so that we’re not in a position of further relying on property taxes to operate the essential services. And then we’ll need to pay attention to the changes.”

I added the emphasis to better identify the threat Engen is making to homeowners, but let me rephrase what Engen is saying so that it’s crystal clear: if those mean Republicans in Helena take away my slush fund, I’m going to turn the screws on home owners to make their existence even MORE financially precarious.

In order to drive the fear of increasing property taxes, Mayor Engen is being very deceitful about what might happen with his TIF slush fund by framing it as Missoula losing local control of a revenue stream.

This is not accurate, but I understand why a TIF-aholic like Engen would want us to think it is.

Instead of LOSING CONTROL of a revenue stream, the abolition of Tax Increment Financing would simply RETURN the revenue currently being diverted through urban renewal districts BACK to the general fund.

And Mayor Engen DOES NOT WANT that to happen because he likes wielding his “tool” to gentrify Missoula. Here is our TIF-aholic rationalizing his addiction to TIF:

Engen, a proponent of tax increment financing, said the tool and how it’s used is often misunderstood, even by lawmakers. 

“It’s a great development tool and it’s a great investment tool for municipalities, but it’s certainly gotten a bad rap,” Engen said. “I do actually believe that it is misunderstood to a great degree. And therefore, folks want to get rid of it. But the fact of the matter is if we get rid of that tool, I believe that communities like ours will have fewer incentives for creating quality public spaces around private development.”

One of my goals in the Missoula language wars that is developing is to call public/private partnerships what they are: fascism.

But wait, how can well-intentioned liberals like our Mayor be supporting fascist policies?

To answer that, I suggest reading this fascinating article about H.G. Wells’ dystopic vision. From the link:

In 1932, Wells gave an Oxford speech championing a global order run by liberal fascists saying: “I am asking for liberal Fascisti, for enlightened Nazis”. This was not paradoxical when one realizes that the rise of fascism was never a “nationalist” phenomenon as popular history books have asserted for decades but rather was the artificial consequence of a supranational financier-oligarchy from above who wished to use “enforcers” to bend their societies to a higher will.

Identifying what our local braintrust is up to is going to be a big focus of mine in 2021, especially as it relates to homelessness and the allocation of public resources.

For the readers of this blog who have already directed some of their limited resources in my direction, I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU! With so much worry and uncertainty out there in the world, I am humbled by any amount of support people choose to give me.

And I will honor that support by continuing to do what I feel called to do: expose what they are doing, and why.

Stay tuned…

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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