It wasn’t my second of the night, but my second overall – I lost my first on June 3, 2014.
Tonight the election was for the Franklin to the Fort Leadership Team. It was an election I hadn’t planned for, and that’s what I’ll attribute my loss to – lack of planning. I’m certainly not going to blame the proclivities of voters, which I believe went more towards affluence and less towards austerity.
No, I’m not talking about Greece, but I am…and I did, and…well, let’s start from the beginning.
Franklin to the Fort
The meeting was set for 6:30 at Franklin Park, and I arrived at about 6:20. Immediately I was surprised by the lack of people present. I’d put it at about 20 residents and perhaps 10 people from the neighborhood team. I was happy that Jane Kelly was on vacation, as I believe she hates my guts after our first meeting in February.
The BBQs were there, and so was the smoke of processed burgers. I had two altogether, which I felt was fine since my son Paul only had some chips, though he did have two juice packs. Mostly he spent the time playing in the sandbox, and I ferried water to him in buckets from time to time.
Besides that, I listened to the proposals of the neighborhood team. Those largely revolved around the following things:
- Highway Exits;
- Funding for City Infrastructure;
- Bike Paths;
- Urban Wilderness.
I wasn’t able to hear all of it because I had to keep my eye on a 4-year-old. I did go ahead and let my views be know, and unfortunately Ben Weiss of the Bike and Pedestrian program got the brunt of it, mainly because he happened to be talking at that point. This is about what I said:
Greg: Where is this money coming from?
Ben: That’s a good question, that’s what we’re here to discuss.
Greg: Well, isn’t it true that it’s coming from taxpayers, and maybe the feds if it’s a grant? So that’s just adding to the $17 trillion national debt that my son, and probably his grandson, will have to pay off. How are we supposed to do that? Hasn’t anyone noticed that they’re having a meltdown over there in Europe right now, in Greece, and that’ll have an effect over here? And why are we even asking for grant money when we know the City of Missoula had an $11.4 million budget surplus in 2014? Well, it’s because the city doesn’t have any money, so they ask for more. And we’ve got the schools asking for $158 million this year and we’ve got the water lawsuit to take care of as well soon. Where is this money coming from? Well, I’ll tell you where it’s coming from – it’s coming from me, people working in the private sector that have to prop up all you city workers and then this funding on top of it. How am I supposed to get that money? Look around – most of the people here are old, they’re on fixed incomes, they can’t keep taking these tax increases. And why would I want to locate my business here, in Missoula, when I know my workers are just going to get hit with one tax after another to pay for all this? Right now it takes 5.3 years of wages to save up enough to buy a house in this town – where am I supposed to get the money for that on this nickel insult $8.05 minimum wage most of these jobs we have here are paying? This is a mistake, and we need to use this money to fix our roads and see to our needs, not build trails.
After that I got into a conversation with an older guy named Ron who was from Havre. He might know some of the Havre Hocketts, which is my mom’s family. He was happy to hear what I had to say, and I told him that Havre has the same problems as the rest of Montana – no jobs.
That brought us up to the vote. They were selecting 2 new members to fill the 5 to 7 person neighborhood leadership team. I went ahead and put my name out there – the second person to do so – because, what the hell, if I’m going to bitch like that, I might as well put some skin in the game.
The other man was named Brad, I believe. He gave short speech, saying he’d moved here recently and was interested in helping his community. Then I was up. I mentioned how I was born and raised in Helena, had lived in Missoula since 2001, and wrote Montana history. After that it was a young woman whose name I think was Sara in her late-20s that went, and she said she’d just moved here over the winter but was interested in helping.
So then it was the show of hands vote. Here’s how it went:
I felt humiliated. What a showing! Beaten by two out-of-towners, big time in Brad’s case. I think he had some support going in, as a lot of hands went up quickly for him. I was then offered an alternate position, but refused. After my shunning and silent treatment in February, I decided that the position had no power and it’d be about as much of a waste of my time as going to City Council meetings.
So then the meeting broke up. I shook another hand or two and then played in the park a bit. I thought about my loss, and what it meant for the neighborhood, and larger community. More would be built, and grant money received. Things would move ahead, all paid for by those residents I saw tonight. I feel that I underestimated my audience – they may have been old, but most were not on fixed incomes I now feel. Chances are good that they want to see those improvements, and they’re happy to see taxpayer money spent for it. If it’s the feds, all the better! They’re winding down after all, and what happens in 10 years doesn’t really matter.
It matters to me though, and I expect when the annual BBQ comes around next year and it’s asked who’d been there the previous year, I’ll once again be one of the few that raises my hand.
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