The NON-Required Million Dollar “Skin In The Game” Contribution From MRA To Help Realize A Quarter Billion Dollar Transportation Vision

by Travis Mateer

Before attending Tuesday’s Transportation Policy Coordinating Committee meeting I already knew the Missoula Redevelopment Agency was planning on contributing a million dollars to sweeten the application for Federal RAISE money, but I didn’t know the local match was NOT a requirement for the grant. Here’s some context from Martin “Gomer” Kidston about this grant process (emphasis mine):

In hopes of presenting a strong application for a federal transportation grant, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency and other downtown partners plan to offer a small local match in hopes of landing a larger pot of funding.

Earlier this month, the City Council signed off on the preferred design for changes to a number of downtown streets, including Higgins Avenue, and Front and Main streets. In doing so, it cleared the way for transportation officials to apply for a $25 million RAISE grant.

Referring to a million dollars as a “small” local match might seem galling to anyone living paycheck to paycheck, but it really is small when we’re talking about transportation infrastructure and the quarter BILLION that could be at play to develop transportation infrastructure in our region.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Travis, you must be hallucinating this high dollar amount, because the quote above only mentions $25 million, not $250 million. While it’s true I suck at math, I assure you, dear reader, I am not adding an extra zero by accident. Nope, I distinctly recall City Council member, Mirtha Becerra, asking Aaron Wilson (after his presentation) how much the Regional Federal Grant Priorities Strategy was talking about, and Wilson said $200-$250 million dollars. And he did not stutter.

Our Multi-Modal Radical Placeholder Mayor, Jordan Hess, also didn’t stutter (because it’s a written letter) when he composed his transportation ode to Secretary Buttigieg about WHY it would be so great to give the planners $25 million dollars. The portion of the letter I’m highlighting shows how long a scheme, like the Higgins Lane Reduction Plan, is seeded, and which committees it appears in before drawing the ire of local businesses.

When our elected officials express frustration that the public just doesn’t understand the nature of the work done with their tax dollars, they aren’t wrong. But who is going to attend these boring-ass meetings to glean and contextualize with a critical eye what’s happening in these “public” spaces?

On Tuesday the answer to that question was me. I not only attended this boring-ass meeting, I also made public comments so anyone watching knew a citizen of Missoula was NOT enthusiastic about 15 minute cities, red light cameras, and using MRA money as a local match for Federal funds.

There was one thing I DID express enthusiasm for, and that’s the insightful writing of Richard Florida. I absolutely LOVE me some DICK FLORIDA! But probably not as much as our Multi-Modal Placeholder Mayor, who probably has a book by this proud gentrifier sitting on his nightstand. I’m just speculating here.

I was in such a generous-feeling mood on Tuesday I did some unusual things, like sustain an appropriate tone of voice throughout my entire commentary! I also acknowledged the limitations of the public exchange (I wanted an update on the South Street bridge project), offered to lend anyone a copy of my Dick Florida books, and concluded my second comment with a thank you.

If anyone doubts my possession of Dick Florida hard-copies, here is a picture of the gentrification sub-section of my library:

I pulled one of Dick’s books from the shelf–THE NEW URBAN CRISIS–and flipped it to the chapter titled Gentrification And Its Discontents. Here is an excerpt worth considering as it relates to today’s post:

Ultimately, gentrification is the product of forces that go far beyond the individual desires and preferences of the young, educated, and affluent who are moving into cities today, or of the artists and musicians who occupied the lofts of the 1970s and 1980s. Gentrification is shaped by much bigger and broader forces, among them the large-scale public and private investments that structure the choices individuals make, and in doing so, alter the trajectories of neighborhoods and cities.

The location of transit lines, for example, have long shaped real estate development patterns. A century ago, streetcar lines shaped the location of early suburbs. Today, transit similarly spurs gentrification by encouraging the clustering of affluence people around it.

I really enjoy having these books on-hand because they provide a unique insight into the thinking of Multi-Modal Zealots (MMZs) and their plans to transform our towns and cities in accordance with their vision. In fact, I’m so excited about contextualizing transportation infrastructure in compelling ways that I even found a way to work it in to the conversation I had yesterday with author and occult researcher, William Ramsey, which I’ll be posting tomorrow.

If you listen to just the MMZs and their titular leader, placeholder Mayor Hess, you’ll get the SAME regurgitated bullshit year after year. To exemplify what I’m talking about, here’s Hess on his most recent KGVO appearance sounding like EVERY OTHER TIME he’s appeared (like his predecessor) to complain about state legislators and property taxes. From the link (emphasis mine):

On February 22, 2023, before his monthly ‘Wednesdays With the Mayor’ program, City of Missoula Mayor Jordan Hess stopped by the KGVO studio and provided a brief preview of what would be discussed later that evening. According to Hess, this month’s discussion was all about property tax reform.

“We are solely reliant on property taxes in the state of Montana,” Hess said. “96.5% of Montana municipalities’ general fund revenue comes from property taxes compared to about 70% in other states. What we really want to talk about is thoughtful reform so that we can come up with other revenue sources and get property taxes lower. That is going to take legislative intervention though.”

This regurgitation of the state scapegoat scheme came just one day after I appeared at the Transportation Coordination Committee where my comments ALSO included a warning to Hess and company that the state legislators were NOT going to provide any of the relief they’re seeking. If you think this notion makes them sad, think again. I think our more astute elected deflectors actually appreciate having a consistent municipal scapegoat to redirect citizen anger at.

If you appreciate the style of my independent journalism, like how I’m using their Dick Floridas against them, then please consider making a financial donation at my about page. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s special interview with William Ramsey! You can already hear the interview at his RSS feed, but it won’t have the ukulele intro I just recorded this morning, so stick around for that musical magic.

And thanks 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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