by Travis Mateer
Former Missoula Mayor Daniel Kemmis wants to heal our democracy (and maybe sell a few books in the process). If you would like to benefit from the alleged wisdom of this Democrat politician, he will be presenting “Healing our Democracy: Breaking Down Divisions Through Relationships and Citizen Participation” this evening via Zoom.
I have zero interest in whatever Kemmis might have to say about Democracy in Missoula because what is happening today in our community isn’t democratic, it’s authoritarian. Let me explain.
I don’t remember voting for Ellen Leahy to be the Health Czar of Missoula, picking which businesses live or die, and I don’t recall having a say in selecting the people who decide what to spend public TIF money on, so healing democracy doesn’t apply to these areas of government power.
I think it’s important to identify where democracy DOES NOT EXIST in Missoula so we can make an informed decision about whether or not to continue allowing anti-democratic institutions, like the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, to exist.
Two years ago our elected braintrust used a million dollars in public TIF money and 3.2 million dollars in bonds for the new (at the time) police facility on N. Caitlin Street. According to John Wells, the architect for MMW who worked on this project, “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.“
No, John, you apparently DID NOT DO THAT because last summer our non-elected MRA board members were told the police department needed a quarter million dollars for showers, and last Friday that request was honored by the MRA board members no one in Missoula voted for. From the link (my emphasis):
Calling it a health and safety issue, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency this week agreed to fund renovations to the police evidence building, including the addition of a changing room and shower.
As it stands, the department has neither.
“One of the things that’s been lacking in the police department forever is adequate shower and changing facilities,” said MRA director Ellen Buchanan. “Patrol officers are exposed to a lot of things they’d rather not be exposed to as it is, but with COVID among us, it’s more of an issue and a concern.”
Thursday’s approval included $233,000 for the addition of a changing room, locker facilities and a shower – the first shower at the police department’s two locations. The city will be reimbursed for the cost once a certificate of occupancy is issued.
Why does an agency intended to address “blight” think it’s justified to use public money for “health and safety” issues? Or a $46,000 dollar communication plan? Or any expenditure by MRA with public tax money that’s diverted from the general fund, making housing more and more unaffordable?
The answer: it doesn’t matter why, because what are you going to do about, Missoula?
If you’re a Missoulian reader, you probably don’t even know that a quarter million dollars in public money is going toward building showers in a facility that JUST GOT a 4.2 million retrofitting upgrade two years ago.
No, that’s not an important enough story to report on for Lee Enterprises. I guess their reporters were too busy with more important stories, like describing what artists are doing in the brand new multi-million dollar library that the public (who paid the bill) is NOT allowed in yet.
For our Mayor and his hand-picked sycophants at MRA, it’s nice this story seems to be flying under the radar, because then they won’t have to waste any more energy explaining their actions to the demographics targeted for placation last summer.
And, if those demographics get too uppity again with their demands, our illuminated brain trust can remind them of that $100,000 dollar “seed” investment to study them.
Also, it’s important to remember that if you don’t like what our illuminated brain trust is doing in our liberal utopia, you are always free to vote Republican.