When I arrived there were already 33 people there, one of whom was speaking about some complex economic systems. I guess the meeting starts with people giving public comments.
After that we had someone from a 501(c)(3) nonprofit come up and give testimony about doing some business of some sort with the City of Missoula. Honestly, when I heard the guy speaking it sounded like someone had come in on ff the street. The guy’s words were more slurred than I’d imagine many transients would be, and I suppose this is what many nights at the City Council are like – dealing with the crazies and just maintaining the ship of state, or city, or…you know.
All of the Missoula City Councilors were present tonight except Jon Wilkins from Ward 4. After that we had 11 city councilors, and all of them had their laptops open before them.
We started with claims, which are accounts payable for the city. This is just basic office and administrative costs. One of those costs today was a $140,882.31 check for the water lawsuit.
I’m not sure, but if you were to add up all of the checks that have been approved by the Missoula City Council, you would see that the water lawsuit has eaten up a lot of your tax dollars. You’ll also notice that when the Mountain Water lawsuit checks are introduced, there is no explanation as to what the $140,882.31 in charges are for.
- Are they for more lawyers and out of state consultants?
- Are they for local lawyers and office staff and such?
- Are they for the judges and any payoffs we may need to ensure that the water company is stolen from a private company without issue?
There was a very quick chance to respond the various measures on the agenda, but no one rose to comment on any of those issues.
After that we moved on to Alex Taft from Ward 3, who talked about a few things for a few moments, and then we went to a roll call vote on Items 1 and 3 through 6.
They might as well not even vote on many measures, they might as well just break out the rubber stamp, at least that’s what I felt when the voting began. It was 11 ayes and 1 absent. Boom, all the items on the agenda were approved.
After that another round of voting began, with only Adam Hertz voting no on the issues.
This is a common trend that we see with the City Council, with all of the mayor’s pocketmen voting for the issues he wants. Hertz is the only person that ever challenges any of this, and they just steamroll him time and time again. I’ll tell you, Adam Hertz must be the most frustrated politician in Missoula.
Looking around at the various Missoula city councilors during the meeting, it’s pretty clear that most of them don’t really have to do anything other than look at their computers. What they’re looking at is beyond me, but look they do.
- I bet many are surfing social media and checking out the latest tweets.
- There’s a chance that some are watching movies or even looking at books on Amazon.
- Maybe some are shopping for Mother’s Day, or even looking at cartoons.
Really, you have no idea on any of this.
The real joy was watching Jim Nugent, the city’s attorney. He rubbed at his forehead and eyes, played with the ring on his finger, and really looked like he’d rather be anywhere else. You can tell when you sit there and look at him, at the left hand of the mayor there, that he really is nothing more than a lapdog of this corrupt and incompetent administration. He’s the chief roadblock to the ongoing recall efforts against Mayor Engen. If you know anyone that can get a recall petition past Nugent, let me know.
The talk about trees and forests went on for a long time. By that time everyone in the audience looked ready to keel over and die. The mayor wrote a few things down, but it’s awfully hard to tell with him – his face is so bunched up in frustrated anguish at times that you can’t tell if he’s about to lose his mind or just uncomfortable.
I saw a lot of playing on phones in the audience, and you really can’t blame anyone for that – the councilors are surfing the net, why not the people in the audience. I never saw any councilors writing anything down or typing anything in their computers. I suppose they have videos of all this and you can even get the transcript later on. But we all know that no one watches those videos or reads those transcripts.
At one point during the forester’s talk, I did see Adam Hertz writing a few things down as he looked at an Operating Costs slide in a seemingly-endless PowerPoint. I couldn’t help but think of those old college notebooks in my mom’s garage, the ones that started collecting dust well before the final exam.
The Forest Plan went on and on, and maybe that made sense since the 4 phases will go through 2020. The thing is…you know everyone is going to vote for this. There’s really no reason not to vote for this – it uses taxpayer money that the city already has to fund the agencies they have workers for.
Now, there could be actual work to do…like this plan to take out old trees and put in new trees. That is work, but whether it’s necessary or not is anyone’s clue. The key, however, is that it keeps those city workers doing something. They have to be doing something. we can’t just have city and state workers sitting in the offices and not doing anything, my God, not that. So we create make-work, funded with your tax dollars, and that’s what the City Council had to sit through tonight – the presentation on that make-work.
This is great, because it serves as its own form of make-work for the Council. That’s good from a taxpayer perspective – you’re getting your money’s worth out of these once-a-weeker’s – but it’s not too good from their point of view. After all, they recently tried to weasel their way out of 1 meeting a week…with the same pay, of course.
You have to realize that I’m all for laying off city workers, because we’ve got too many of them. We need to keep our tax income the same so we can keep up the make-work for those people. That would be fine if we had a viable economy in Missoula, but we don’t. Instead we have an economy that’s unsustainable long-term, one that’s propped up by those transfer payments. That’s why we need to reduce the costs of that government as much as possible.
Some people don’t like to hear that, and that’s fine. Those are the people that have no problems telling an old person that they have to move out of their house because the taxes are too high. Again, the reason those taxes are too high is because we do a lot of make-work…and my God, do we do it big.
Missoula is building parks to the tune of $42 million, creating open space to the tune of $10 million, and of course willing to throw away untold millions on a water lawsuit that even the best legal minds in the country have called a wild goose chase to rival all wild goose chases.
In my opinion, the right question wasn’t asked, and that question would have been, “how can we stop wasting money on things we don’t need so we can pay for things we might need, like this forest plan?”
We didn’t hear that, however, instead we heard about labor costs for the various phases. So instead of talking about the $140,882.31 we wasted on the water lawsuit, we spent about 20 minutes listening to a PowerPoint and then a bit more time listening to questions on that.
This is what happens when you have a rollover City Council. All they do is discuss the detractor issues, like this one involving trees. I’m not sure of anyone in Missoula that will vehemently speak against putting in more trees, but you wouldn’t guess that tonight. We spent a good 45 minutes or more on this, and not on the really money pit the city is dealing with – the water lawsuit. But really, the water lawsuit is just a symptom of an overriding problem, and that’s corruption in Missoula, and the Good Ol’ Boys Network that props it up.
At that point Ward 5’s Annette Hedahl asked about the cost of individual trees and how old they were. They’re about $130 to $170 for a tree, plus double the cost to actually plant the tree. Those trees are 3 to 8 years old. After that we had Ward 3’s Emily Bentley ask if the trees weren’t watered, would they die? This was important, as we have to hire a second tree waterer to keep up with this influx of new trees. Again, more city jobs, which come about from your higher property taxes. Welcome to Missoula!
One of the main concerns with these trees is that the homeowner has to water the trees that the city puts in front of their home. With the number of for sale signs in yards, who’s going to pay for that? We know that mortgage debt is the largest problem for most Montana families, but this was never brought up.
After that Adam Hertz brought up the 14 funding sources for this massive urban renewal plan. The forester then talked about the one funding source that had the best shot, was a special urban funding district. Guess what, that’s more taxes that some poor schmucks have to pay, for trees that we then have to hire someone extra to water.
What a mess.
Oh, and let’s not forget that one of the main funding sources for this plan is an increase in the gas tax. The City of Missoula always wants to increase that, because they have a money-hungry mayor that’s never seen a dollar of yours that he wouldn’t want to spend.
It was eventually revealed that the $170 estimate for trees was a bit off. It turned out with all the extra costs involved, it’s about $1,200 a tree. Adam Hertz figured out all the costs involved with these trees and suggested we might want to explore other options for planting these trees. But of course we can’t have that – it doesn’t create make-work for the current city workers we have. And let’s not forget that $1,200 a tree isn’t even accurate…it’ll be more with maintenance costs. Thankfully, the more trees you order, the less those maintenance costs will be.
When you rip out old trees you have to grind stumps, and this creates more costs…which is another great reason to raise property taxes yet again. And hell, if we can’t do that, let’s just create a special district so we can get the money that way, kind of backdoor-style like the milkman when you’re at work.
You’ll quickly notice at a Missoula City Council meeting that there are no discussions on giving money back to taxpayers, or finding a way to reduce their tax burden. There’s never any talk about people on fixed incomes having to move, or the serious problem we have in Missoula with tax delinquencies.
No, we talk about all the money of yours that we can spend so that we can keep this rickety bus we call Missoula running down the road. The wheels might be ready to fall off the thing might only get up to half the listed highway speed, but by God, and with your money, we keep her running.
What Missoula wants to do is create an ordinance that allows for “Sidewalk Cafes,” which will then need to get a license and of course pay the fees.
Now, this might sound like the common working procedure…if you’re in America. When I lived in China you never saw this nonsense – you saw businesses put out chairs and provide a product or service so they could make money. In China we called it business, but here in the US we just call it a chance for the government to take your money.
Hey, I’m already paying taxes and I’m already hiring workers and contributing to the economy – leave me the hell alone! But then the City of Missoula, and others like it, couldn’t get that money for more staffers…like the two women that came in halfway through our meeting and proceeded to look bored while doing things on their computer. I felt like getting up and walking behind them to look at what they’re doing, but boy, I might get the Missoula Police called on me for creating a disturbance. I’d be willing to bet, however, that both of those women are just eating up your tax dollars.
This is a common problem in Missoula, a “university town” that really relies a lot on federal transfer payments, most of which are doled out on the backs of students that will be expected to pay them back for life, or close to it. Missoula relies on that kind of economy, so creating as many government positions that take advantage of those transfer payments only makes sense. Hey, you might only have 4 hours of actual work to get that person through an 8-hour-day, but let’s not think about that – our children will pay that off while they take care of us too…I know I didn’t save for retirement!
And with that I will say goodnight – wow, that’s a lot on a subject you didn’t think you cared about, huh? Welcome to Missoula City Council politics…thanks for not falling asleep!