Here Is What Ellen Buchanan And Martin Gomer Kidston Are NOT Telling You About MRA Plans For Urban Renewal District II

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.

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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12 Responses to Here Is What Ellen Buchanan And Martin Gomer Kidston Are NOT Telling You About MRA Plans For Urban Renewal District II

  1. JC says:

    A public initiative in Missoula to require a citizen’s vote on TIF bonding would be most useful. The city/MRA would really get their money’s worth out of their new propagandist.

    Not sure if state law allows this, or what level of locally, publicly initiated ordinance can be used. But some kind of public campaign allowing Missoulians to actually have a voice in TIF would be most excellent.

    • The one we passed in Oregon City was e enthalpy struck down because it was held to violate an obscure statute that was interpreted as preempting the city charter amendment we passed requiring public vote on all bonded indebtedness. We need to get busy evaluating the situation here, and, it’s hoped, move forward with drafting a charter amendment and petitions for a city ballot measure.

  2. TC says:

    The constant drumbeat of citizen ignorance by Queen Ellen is the definition of “gaslighting”. Their new PR will act as an abusive spouse that makes an average citizen with questions/concerns feel as if they have done something wrong by even wondering about the City/MRA actions. Make no mistake – this goes beyond money to abusive subjection. I guess the $78 K for that is money well spent (speaking of which – I’d take $50 K and 2 yrs to come up with – hire me or my crony full-time. Good work 6 Pony).
    Missoula City (and now Missoula County) have operated with carte blanche as it applies to TIF funds. Missoula has obviously grown and generated millions in new tax money. That never goes to the general fund (and in 2 districts wont until 2040 and 2050 when most readers will be dead). Because of this and increased demand for services the City will plead poverty and raise property taxes. The County has seen this and is now starting to follow that example (as most County Leadership cut their teeth first with the City). It sets up a bleak future for our children/grandchildren – most will leave or will live 4 to a studio for $2500/mo.
    I believe that the only remedy will come from the State Leg. Hopefully, next session, the Leg will outlaw TIF (like conservative CA 😉) or at least put up guardrails as Missoula, addict that they are, can’t control themselves. I believe Adam Hertz tried to do this; perhaps his Dad Greg will this time. But if Missoula is your home please contact every Rep/Sen you know and ask them to take away Missoula’s abuse of TIF

  3. The LAST people who should screw with this are the ignoramuses and fascists in the legislature. What is needed is a city charter amendment, adopted by initiative process.

    • John Wolverton says:

      Or it might could happen through a Local Government Study Commission, which will come up in 2024. But I believe – not sure – LGSC recommendations are taken up by the city council … and well, just guess how that would go. At least the study commissioners could elevate an issue.

  4. John Wolverton says:

    Good analysis !

  5. Pingback: The Missoula County JOKE Of A School Board Meeting About The Political Masking Of Public School Children And The MRA Survey I Filled Out After | Zoom Chron Blog

  6. TC says:

    Although I will not refer to them as ignoramus/fascists, I do agree with Mr Hunt that we should not count on the State Leg to better lives. I also agree that this should be changed via City charter to retain scalpel effective (rather than broad axe) local control. Finally, I agree with JC that our Charter should reflect public voting on TIF like endeavors.
    However, as Mr Hunt suggests, the State Leg is literally the LAST people that can be turned to for effective change. Missoula City/County will not do this on their own, citizen voices have been silenced, studies just waste time/money to demonstrate what’s already known. If Missoula is to change it must come from outside and from on High.
    All that needs to be remembered is the Stockman’s Bank abuse (and its interconnected web of players – husbands/wives/donors/etc). That is justification for the need to go outside

  7. John Wolverton says:

    From Harmon’s Histories – ironically a Missoula Current piece (Feb21) – about back in the day when local journalists were more skeptical of the city elite:

    “Missoulians loved humor. The Bennett opera house was filled to overflowing the night of January 2, 1895 to watch local celebrities entertain with humorous skits. Fire Chief Bob Mentrum and others were said to have given one of the best “amateur entertainments in the city during the past several years.”

    Of course one snobbish newspaper correspondent had to point out that every seat was filled “by members of Missoula’s ‘smart set,’ and an occasional delegate from the ordinary, everyday run of people,” serving as an example of the aforementioned “uncharitable joke.”.”

  8. Pingback: My TIF Debt Prophecy Is Already Coming True + Zoom Chron Episode 23 | Zoom Chron Blog

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