by Travis Mateer
On Friday I wrote about the Director of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Ellen Buchanan, and the result of the $46,000 paid to Spider McKnight’s Six Pony Hitch consulting firm to develop a communication plan. The supposed reason Buchanan needs this communications plan is because she doesn’t think she’s got the communication skills to explain to the stupid public why MRA’s tax incentives are good and the critics are just dumb haters.
After writing that post, another article from Gomer Kidston about MRA’s goals for Urban Renewal District II came out, but WITHOUT some critical context, which I’ll remedy with today’s post. Here we go!
First, my favorite part of Gomer’s article is the part where new City Council members are framed as being ignorant about how Tax Increment Financing works. If there was an award for condescending reporting, Gomer would win without a doubt. From the link (emphasis mine):
“Most of the projects prioritized have been talked about for years,” said MRA Director Ellen Buchanan. “What we’re trying to do is look at what happens over the next nine years of the district and what projects need to be at the top of the list. A number of them are big public projects that won’t happen without tax increment financing, and there will be some bonding required.”
The effort has the full support of city leadership, though some members of the City Council are new and don’t fully understand how tax increment works, what its benefits are and how it expands the city’s tax base.
I have highlighted two parts of this quote because there is a VERY important detail being left out of this entire article, and it has to do with what happens when new debt is taken on within an Urban Renewal District. It’s interesting that Gomer Kidston is framing new council members as being essentially dumb when it comes to TIF policy while, at the same time, omitting this little detail from his reporting.
When you understand that taking on debt through a bond can trigger a little provision that extends the life of an Urban Renewal District, Gomer’s article appears not just thin on relevant information, but downright manipulative when you consider the headline of the article: From housing to river bridge, MRA sets goals for last 9 years of central Missoula district.
Again, I’ve added emphasis to draw BOLD attention to what Gomer Kidston is doing here by allowing the Ellen Buchanan show to pretend like there are ONLY 9 years left for all these projects to be completed. That is bullshit, and I suspect Gomer Kidston knows this, because the other option is that Gomer HIMSELF doesn’t understand how tax increment works, which I guess is entirely possible.
To extricate readers of this blog from any lingering ignorance they may be experiencing as a result of reading Gomer’s shitty reporting, here is the critical context he’s leaving out from a two year old KGVO article on Urban Renewal District III and the consequence of bonding the pedestrian bridge. The dispenser of this TIF wisdom is former council person, Jesse Ramos.
“That TIF money is only supposed to be used for 15 years, so that district was created in 2000 and was supposed to sunset after 15 years,” Ramos explained, “but there’s a small provision within Montana Code Annotated which states that if you settle debt within the district, it extends the district out the length of the bond for a maximum of 40 years total. In September of 2015, the city council sold $5 million worth of bonds for that walking bridge, [built with] TIF funds, and extended that district out until the year 2040. So, all the growth in that tax base in going to be skimmed off the top until the year 2040.”
So, in summary, Gomer Kidston is claiming that new councilors don’t understand Tax Increment Financing while simultaneously omitting critical information that will ensure his readers remain ignorant of what the Ellen Buchanan show is setting up here with Tax Increment Financing and the alleged “requirement” that “some bonding” be used to accomplish these projects.
This terrible reporting is a great example of Martin “Gomer” Kidston’s role as a propagandist for GREAT LEADER and his cabal of cronies, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I got a nice comment the other day expressing dismay that a little blogger like me is where this person has to come for a more accurate assessment of what the fuck is going on here in Zoom Town. Here’s a portion of that nice comment from L. Nelson:
I am perplexed that this is the only place that I can find documented information about what the hell is going on in my home town. We used to have a newspaper, and I read Currents, but when it counts, I come here. That is a sad, sad statement. Nothing personal. Keep it coming.
Oh, I will MOST DEFINITELY keep it coming with daily posts, a weekly podcast, a documentary about Tax Increment Financing, poems, songs, and more, including additional insights provided by informed commenters who help me understand what’s happening here.
As always, thank you for reading.