by Travis Mateer
My prophecy of strategic debt being taken on, in the form of a bond, to extend the life of Urban Renewal District II was declared less than two weeks ago and it’s already coming true.
Once I realized the Ellen Buchanan show was going to do a repeat of the pedestrian bridge scam, I did what I could to tell the people who SHOULD give a shit, like the Missoula County School Board, but they don’t.
MCPS heard my prophetic question at the 1 hour 22 minute mark during this 2-22-2022 School Board meeting, but it didn’t appear like it made any discernible impact.
Well, the thing I warned about is now a headline in the Missoulian, and the lack of imagination is impressive. The scheme to extend URD II will be accomplished with ANOTHER PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE. Fucking brilliant, Buchy-Poo!
You have to wade through a lot of filler about this dumb-ass project before getting to the scheming part that is this project’s TRUE function.
Here is some of the more relevant information about what’s being planned:
“There’s agreement in the working group, and there is among staff, that (the bridge) is a top priority from our perspective,” Buchanan said.
She estimated the cost of developing the bridge to be roughly $3.5 million. However, she made the estimate assuming the bridge would have to be widened using a cantilever process because trains would still need to go across.
Now, she said, the cancellation of the lease by Montana Rail Link means the project could be less expensive.
“Now everything’s changed,” she said. “We’re not going to be running trains down that railroad line anymore so is there an opportunity to do something less expensive there and utilize the structure that’s there rather than having to build on it.”
Buchanan said that most likely, all of the projects she listed would need to be paid for by taking on debt through TIF revenue bonds, which have to be approved by city council.
The bold part is the scam. IF the debt is taken on, then the life of the Urban Renewal District will be extended, which means the sweet TIF loot will continue getting skimmed off the top for MRA instead of going back to the general fund.
Since this debt should get a City Council vote, one question I have is this: what will Daniel Carlino do?
I wrote an open letter to Carlino last week, after the school board meeting, but maybe my brief hope of a Carlino awakening was misplaced.
Here’s the excerpt that implies Carlino will support this project, but there isn’t a fresh quote to indicate that his support still exists.
Daniel Carlino, a city council member, has posted on social media twice about his support for using the bridge as a pedestrian path.
Hmm, did the reporter, David Erickson, actually reach out to Carlino for this article, or did he just scroll through social media? And WHEN did Carlino make his two supportive statements about this bridge? During his campaign and BEFORE the information about the debt-triggering life-extension for this district could be added to his political calculus?
If Daniel Carlino, when all is said and done, really does support this bridge, and the debt that will keep the URD scam going, then I see no reason to explore an alliance between my hyper-localism and his political ambitions.
I’ll be interested to see how this plays out.
Since URD II was created 31 years ago and the longest a TIF district can be maintained is 40 years, this potential bond actually can’t extend this URD any further. In this instance, URD II will end 9 years from now regardless of bonding.
Excellent point, so sunset is coming regardless of new debt. Does that mean you’ll support a revenue bond for this project? And did Erickson reach out you for the article?
I’d rather use the tax increment that’s already accumulated in the district than to do a bond. I am much more concerned about bonds that would expand the life of URDs than bonds that wouldn’t. But I believe affordable housing should be top priority for TIF funds. And David Erickson didn’t reach out to me about this
Then it appears that any bonding in URD II would have to be limited to 9 years duration lest they be repaid from the general fund. Very interesting way to limit the return of tax revenues to the general fund if this is the intent.
Somehow this makes me think that the strategy actually is to prevent some funds from TIF reverting to the general fund where MRA no longer has any say over their disposition. Kinda like they’ve taken ownership of them beyond the legal duration of an URD. I think that lawyers with a better understanding of the nuance of laws surround TIF might want to see if this circumvents the law. As bonding from the general fund takes a public vote, it makes sense that a bond created out of the URD II that reverts to payment from the general fund should be put to public vote too.
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