This is nothing new.
Today, however, I saw something that made me shake my head a bit more than usual.
What could this be, this political development that took my breath away and got me stuttering?
Yeah, those dastardly, dubious, and devious debutantes of debauchery, the marketers.
My God, what are they up to in Missoula, you ask?
Let’s get into it.
What we’re getting at here is the Missoula County Public Schools’ attempt to get $158 million out of voters in the form of long-term bonds.
To drum up support for this unpopular measure, the schools have hired M+R Strategic Services.
M+R Strategic Services is an L Street Washington D.C. public relations firm that bills itself as “100 smart people that help nonprofits.”
I bet they help themselves quite a bit as well, mainly to your tax money.
They do this very insidiously, and never directly. See, there’s no tax money involved, at least not until the bond passes and the schools can take it.
Instead M+R makes their money from local businesses. Yes, our businesses pay for this, and this isn’t the first time.
M+R made $60,000 from local businesses for fundraising efforts to pass the $42 million Parks and Trails boondoggle last year.
The Independent reports that $11,000 was used to pay the costs of an East Coast phone bank.
Yep, the best way to get these bonds passed is for people in New York and New Jersey to call you on the phone during dinner.
Can you see why I’m frustrated with Democrats?
So $11,000 was used for the phones. Does that mean that M+R kept the other $49,000 as profit? It’s not reported, so I have to assume that.
When it comes to the school bonds this year, it’s the same story.
M+R has made about $70,000 so far for the school bonds. I’d assume that about $50,000 of that is pure profit for them, with just $20,000 going to the robo-callers in New York, er...the East Coast.
I have to wonder if any New Jersey billionaires are profiting from this phone banking that the Missoula Democrats are supporting.
I find that a little ironic considering the Montana Democratic Party is assaulting gubernatorial-hopeful Greg Gianforte as a New Jersey billionaire. Their grassroots are probably supporting New Jersey more than Gianforte has in years.
The problem is that people will vote for the school bond even though they don’t agree with this campaigning or the cost.
Or will they?
How M+R operates in Missoula is pretty high-tech. Volunteers have “iPhones with custom voter lists” so they don’t waste their time on the houses that don’t care.
The Independent points out that this is “the largest package of school bonds in Montana history.”
The main problem is that there’s little popular support, at least not enough to get volunteers to come out on their own. Instead they rely on ‘paid volunteers,’ or a “team of paid consultants who manage the message, run social media accounts and develop strategies to win the vote.”
This approach flies in the face of the age old “grassroots campaigning” where people needed to “convince their neighbors a tax increase” was worth it.
The Independent does a good job pointing out that Billings used this same marketing firm approach in 2013 to pass their $122 million school bond.
I asked the Billings Gazette today what the attitude was to that bond passage now that it’s two years later.
Matt Hoffman, the education writer for the paper, told me on Twitter that there are concerns over how soon, or perhaps how willing, Billings will pass another levy.
Remember, that was the most expensive in the state's history. At the same time, Hoffman says that he thinks "lots of people are pleased with tangible results at schools like Broadwater and McKinley."
I'd be interested to see the comments on Billings newspapers and social media accounts when education funding issues come up. Those might not be the fairest barometer, but they do give you a sense of what people are thinking.
In Billings $122,000 was raised “mostly from community businesses and funneled toward a political consulting firm” to get the school bonds passed. It relied on people on the East Coast calling Billings voters.
M+R makes a lot of money from Missoula businesses that want to see the taxpayer pay for improvements that they don’t want to spend money on. It’s smart - wouldn’t you rather pay a few thousand dollars as opposed to a few million?
Doesn’t much help taxpayers, not when we have to pay tens of millions over decades.
I’m troubled that Democrats are supporting this atrocious bond that will only turn voters against them. I think people like Diane Sands, one of the main volunteers for this effort, should know that. She already had a tight recount race last time for her Montana Senate seat - rural voters on the outskirts of our urban districts might not be so forgiving.
I’m a little ashamed to see Forward Montana, a grassroots get-out-the-vote effort, being corralled into this as well. Personally I think they have a great strategy of using pledge cards to convince voters, but this issue is bad.
I say bad because no one has been shown the line-item bond proposal.
Where is the money going?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that much of it is going to the Alex Apostle brown-nosers that still remain in MCPS’s Administration Department, but that’s just me.
I’m willing to bet if we cut out all the gravy the fat asses in the fancy desks are getting we’d cut this down to under $100 million
Wow, $100 million...used to be a lot of money.
Not anymore, now it’s probably not even enough and the schools will be asking for more soon. That’s what we do in Missoula - we ask taxpayers (working people) for more money so those making their living from taxes (bureaucrats) can make their living.
Maybe we have too many bureaucrats, huh?
- How much of this money is going to teachers, supplies, the buildings?
- Why are those buildings in such poor shape? Why has the level of technology in our schools been neglected for so long?
- Why have administrators been seeing astronomical pay raises compared to the townsfolk they live “amongst?”
There are lots of questions.
Too many for me.
I voted against the school bonds and I encourage you to do the same.
Let them come back next year with a proposal that makes sense.
Alas, I’m worried if this does fail they’ll come back asking for $200 million next year, confident they can ride the presidential coattails to get it passed.
Will taxpayers ever find relief in Missoula? I doubt it.
It’s why we say “make your money elsewhere and then come here to retire.”
Working people certainly can’t make it, not with the money-grabs we’re seeing here. And let’s not forget that the county will be asking for a new jail soon.
Ouch, it doesn’t get any easier to be a property taxpayer, does it?
Well, be like me and rent. Alas, the county’s tax base will steadily become eroded and taxes will have to be increased on what property taxpayers there are.
We’re seeing that already. Missoula is in stagnation and the only growth is the kind that comes about from the snake biting its own tail.
We’ve got problems in Missoula. That’s why I’m frustrated.