And beware this site. I give you information that others don’t, plus a different perspective from what you’ll read elsewhere.
This could affect your brain, perhaps changing your way of thinking.
Many will tell you this is bad, even un-American.
Can’t think of a better reason to continue, myself.
People hate me for the same reason.
I decided to say what I think when it comes to this year’s candidate surveys.
Remember, these surveys come from special interest groups. If you do well on a survey, you might get an endorsement, or even some donations. Yep, now those special interests have got you by the balls, and they know you'll do their bidding.
I have two of these surveys to share with you today. The first comes to us from a gun group.
Here’s what I had to say to Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association:
I'm not going to waste your time by filling out this survey. I would like to make two points, however.
First, we both know that you decided to endorse the GOP candidate before this race even started. You can argue that this is not the case, and that's fine.
Next, why should I be concerned about gun rights when I have no gun rights myself?
You see, Gary, I have a prescription to medical marijuana. That means I can't buy a gun.
Now, groups like yours will get up in arms if a person with a mental illness can't buy a gun, but should a liberal pot smoker be cut off...who gives a shit?
Not hypocritical groups like yours, I'm afraid.
I didn’t even bother opening that survey to read it and see the ‘issues’ that are important to this special interest group.
The next survey comes to us from the Missoula Organization of Realtors.
I did take a look at this one and the three questions it contained. I even decided to fill it out.
Here’s what it said, and how I responded (my words in bold):
Home prices in Missoula County have increased rapidly since the end of the economic downturn and incomes haven’t kept up. The median home sales price for 2017 was $268,250, a price unaffordable for many Missoula families. These rapidly increasing prices are due primarily to a shortage of housing, particularly in more attainable price ranges. As a state legislator, you will evaluate policies that will impact housing and economic development in Missoula County.
- State law broadly outlines the process by which local governments must review subdivisions of land. Subdivision is the primary vehicle for creating lots to be developed into homes for sale. Subdivision review policies attempt to balance communities’ housing needs with protecting the environment, agriculture, wildlife habitat, public safety, and other interests. Does state law provide a framework for a balanced, efficient, and predictable review process at the local level, or are reforms needed? If reforms are needed, please specify.
In 2011, HB 460 was passed by the Montana Legislature, which amended the Unit Ownership Act, specifically local regulations of subdivisions. This means that single unit home and duplex development can occur without subdivision review in the same way traditional condos need to undergo that review.
Additionally, new zoning regulations were adopted via MCA 76-2-304 to lay out specific criteria and guidelines for zoning regulations Things like adequate light, transportation systems, compatible urban growth, and the character of the district must all be considered.
These are state guidelines, yet here in Missoula we’ve decided that simply meeting the zoning requirements is not enough. This has led to a larger, and longer, review process in the city.
Far from helping, this might be leading to larger problems. Besides the rash of in-fill that we’ve been experiencing, these new in-fill projects don’t make a dent in our affordable housing crisis. On top of this, the county is getting sued for $2.2 million right now because Judge McLean ruled last year that they had violated the Montana Standard Subdivision and Platting Act.
As you can see, the framework already exists. It’s not the state that’s having the problems; it’s uninformed county commissioners and city councilors.
- Regulatory reform may be one strategy for promoting housing affordability through state law. What non-regulatory strategies should the legislature pursue? If strategies require funding, where should it come from?
Um…where can it come from? In case you didn’t notice, the state is broke. That’s why we were forced to have a special session this year – we have no money. Besides, reducing regulations isn’t going to do diddly-squat.
Developers will continue to build their overpriced homes and condos, catering to the out-of-state, just-want-to-get-away-from-it-all retiree set. You think I’m gonna give state money so they can continue to get rich while out-of-staters continue to drive up housing prices, effectively pricing working Montanans out of the market?
- The upcoming legislature may consider changes to state law governing tax increment financing (TIF) and urban renewal districts. TIF is used within the City of Missoula’s urban renewal districts to combat blight and promote economic development. However, critics of TIF say that these urban renewal districts can be in place for many years, and TIF diverts property tax revenue away from schools and county governments. Supporters respond that TIF grows the property tax base and creates jobs, and that once the urban renewal districts sunset, the taxing jurisdictions have significantly more revenue than they would have otherwise had. Does state law governing TIF and urban renewal districts need to be reformed? If so, how?
It’s hard for me to think of a more evil, insidious, or destructive policy for Missoula than that which surrounds our TIFs.
Ever since the disastrous decision to build the baseball field, Missoula has had a love affair with TIFs, one that’s self-destructive and causes the city to spiral into a deep morass of funding problems.
You see, when you create a TIF, you don’t collect tax money for 5 years from that district. Our love affair with constantly renewing these districts ensures no tax money will ever come. There is no sunset; there is no additional revenue.
It’s a vicious cycle – the city, now broke due to no incoming tax money, must continually set up more TIF districts to get money, or just raise taxes on working people, homeowners, and of course continue to try for that local option sales tax.
None of this helps property taxpayers, renters, workers, or future generations. It does fill the pockets of a few people at the upper levels of the city and government, and that’s why I’m sure these disastrous policies will continue, unchecked, for years to come. It’s a damn shame.
It’s been three months since we last took a look at Montana blog rankings.
We’ve been tracking this data for almost 2 years now, and we always use Alexa to determine ranking and traffic levels.
Here’s what Alexa has to say about this:
“Traffic estimates and ranks are based on the browsing behavior of people in our global data panel by default. The rank is calculated using a proprietary methodology that combines a site’s average of daily unique visitors and its number of pageviews over the past 3 months. The site with the highest combination of unique visitors and pageviews is ranked #1.”
So, how have things changed over the past quarter?
Here are the 22 most visited sites in Montana news and politics:
- Billings Gazette: #16,274
- Missoulian: #16,753
- Bozeman Daily Chronicle: #23,579
- Helena IR: #36,296
- MT Standard: #38,382
- GF Trib: #44,302
- KPAX: #54,618
- NBC Montana: #62,654
- Flathead Beacon: #63,774
- Missoula Independent: #143,311
- KXLH: #198,479
- ID/MT Post: #222,758
- KFBB: #233,566
- Missoula Current: #274,002
- Last Best News: #346,142
- Big Sky Words: #351,258
- Combat Blog: #604,729
- MT Cowgirl: #2.8 million
- Flathead Memo: #6.9 million
- Reptile Dysfunction: No Ranking
- Western Word: No Ranking
- Logicosity: No Ranking
Let’s analyze this information, comparing it to the numbers from three months ago.
When it comes to the six major newspapers in the state, Billings stays at #1, Missoula is still at #2, and Bozeman is still at #3.
Billings actually lost half it’s traffic, going from a rank of around #8,000 to #16,000. Bozeman actually increased their rank by over 2,000 positions.
Great Falls did not do so well. It used to be the fourth-most-read paper in the state, now it’s the sixth. It’s rank went from around #33,000 to #44,000.
Helena and Butte saw very little changes in their rankings.
I’d also like to mention the Missoula Indy, which increased its rank slightly, and the Flathead Beacon, which lost a bit of traffic.
Next up we have the TV stations. KPAX moved past NBC Montana, which I find interesting.
About six months ago, NBC Montana switched from local city websites to one main statewide website. Despite this, a city website is now beating it when it comes to website visitors.
NBC Montana lost nearly half its traffic, going from #39,000 in December to #62,000 today. KPAX, meanwhile, also went down in traffic, but not nearly as much…and not enough for NBC to keep the top spot.
Two other TV stations are on our list – KFBB and KHLH. Both sites gained traffic, though Helena’s station went from #341,000 to #198,000. That’s an impressive jump!
Now let’s get to the blogs.
The most-visited Montana political blog continues to be Intelligent Discontent, or as they call themselves today, the Montana Post.
They have lost traffic, however. In December they had a rank of #154,000 but this month it’s #222,000. Despite that, it’s still the 12th most-visited media site in the state.
Last Best News is the second-most popular political blog, and it’s actually increased its rank by 100,000 positions.
Next up is Big Sky Words, which has also increased its rank by 100,000 positions.
After that we get Combat Blog, which went from an abysmal #2.6 million ranking to #604,000. That’s impressive.
The greatest fall has been MT Cowgirl, which went from a rank of #354,000 in December to #2.8 million today.
Most people realize that site is nothing more than a partisan joke, with boring articles that few want to click on. Its rankings reflect this attitude.
Flathead Memo is up next, with a rank of #6.9 million, far below the #4.8 million it had three months ago.
Finally we get the three sites that get so little traffic that they don’t even rank. These are Reptile Dysfunction, Logicosity, and Western Word.
RD was doing better last quarter, with a rank of #10.6 million. Even Western Word had a ranking of #12.8 million. Alas, either their content has been too boring or the quantity hasn’t been enough. Whatever the case, people aren’t visiting.
Come back on June 15 to get the next round of Montana blog rankings.