by Travis Mateer
I’m probably getting ahead of myself with this post because here I am talking about something MORE than just a road controversy before anyone even knows there’s a road controversy. So let’s back up and begin with what seems to be a fairly innocuous sounding question put forward by a public Facebook group. Here it is:
For a visual aid, the image below was provided along with the question above. The area within the dotted-line is where the Trinity Apartment Complex (TAC?) is now nearly finished being built.
Where’s the controversy? The hint that something controversial is brewing comes from a comment by “Smith Fam” which seems to come unsolicited to the conversation. Curious.
So the controversy about the
road lane, according to this comment, is that it was removed as a part of the land transfer?
After giving up this lane, it appears that vehicular access will now be off Mullan, instead of Maple Street, so what’s the problem? I don’t think this is about a road, or lane, at all. Or even the land transfer.
Maybe “Smith Fam” is triggering the Streisand Effect. From the link:
The Streisand effect is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American singer and actress Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project’s photograph of her cliff-top residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew greater attention to the photograph in 2003.
Another comment, this one from Keith Koprivica, gives historical context that’s worth considering. Here’s the commented pasted in its entirety:
In the Nov. 5, 1996 general election, 65% of Missoula County voters authorized the Missoula County Board of Commissioners to issue general obligation bonds in the amount of $17.1 million for a very specific purpose: to acquire land for designing, constructing, installing, equipping and furnishing permanent adult and juvenile detention facilities, and to pay costs associated with the sale and issuance of the bonds.
The exact ballot language stated: “Shall the Board of County Commissioners (The Board) of Missoula County, Montana be authorized to sell general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed Seventeen Million One Hundred Thousand and NO/100 Dollars ($17,100,000) bearing interest at a rate to be determined by the Board of County Commissioners, payable semiannually, during a period of not more than 20 years, and redeemable on any interest payment date after one-half the term, for the purpose of acquiring land for designing, constructing, installing, equipping and furnishing permanent adult and juvenile detention facilities, and paying costs associated with the sale and issuance of the bonds?”
All three current Missoula County commissioners acknowledged reading this ballot language, yet Commissioners Dave Strohmaier, Josh Slotnick and Juanita Vero unanimously approved a resolution to donate a portion of the land acquired with that bond (4 acres) for the development of a low income and supportive housing project.
With this action, the commissioners ignored the intent of Missoula County voters who overwhelmingly approved the land purchase for a different reason than what it is now being used for. Intent is not just a buzzword. Missoula County taxpayers bought this land for a specific public use. The commissioners should not have just given it away for a different use.
Ironically, just two days before approving the resolution for this donation, the commissioners approved an increase of 8% in property taxes for Missoula County for fiscal year 2020.
When the commissioners determined that a portion of the land purchased by taxpayers is no longer needed for the purpose it was intended, that land should be sold, not donated. At the time of the donation, real estate professionals estimated the value of the 4 acres of land to be $2.5 million. The income from the sale of that land could have substantially reduced or even eliminated an increase in Missoula County property taxes in fiscal year 2020.
If this develops into an actual controversy, one of the questions that might help illuminate what’s going on is this: why now?
I’ll be curious to continue watching this develop. Thanks for reading!