Yes, I’m frustrated by the debate cancellation, which pretty much did my campaign in.
I want to give up, dig a hole, and throw dirt on myself. But I won’t. Instead I’ll keep going.
And that means digging into these stupid budget requests by the city departments, the most recent of which will be discussed on August 4 at the mid-day meeting (so designed and set-up so regular taxpaying citizens can’t attend).
Here’s what it looks like this week:
- FY22 CPDI 1 Comprehensive Code Reform
- FY22 CPDI 2 Performance Pro Software
- FY22 CPDI 3 Increaseing Funding to Neighborhood Grant Program
- FY22 Housing 1 Affordable Housing Trust Fund Coordinator
- FY22 Housing 2 Affordable Housing Trust Fund Annual City Allocation
- FY22 Housing 3 Reaching Home Evaluation and Strategy Development
- FY22 Housing 4 Emergency Winter Shelter
- FY22 Housing 5 Poverello Center Shelter and Programming
- FY22 Housing 6 Support for the Missoula Coordinated Entry System
- FY22 Housing 7 ARPA Grants Administrator
- FY22 Housing 8 Poverello Center Supportive Housing Creation and Shelter Expansion
- FY22 Housing 9 Short Term Rental annual Identification and Monitoring
- FY22 Housing 10 Missoula Cultural Council CBO Increase
- FY22 Housing 11 Community Food and Agriculture Coalition SNAP Program
- FY22 Housing 12 Operation Safe Shelter
Yep, another 15 items from just two departments.
Remember, before this all started I’d told you that the city had a budget deficit last year of $14 million...yet this year the various city departments want over $27 million in new funding.
And that forces you to ask a very simple question:
Who are these freaking idiots?
Because even a 4th-grader can look at the city budget pie charts and see that we have a spending problem…$14 million to be exact.
Do you think your city cares? Do you think the people that you elected care?
They don’t give one flying fuck about the city finances, and you’re just a joke to them...if they even knew who you were.
C’mon, folks...we dug into their campaign finances. It’s the same set of common-denominator Dems giving to all the same candidates, over and over and....
And we put up with it.
Alright, we’ll be quick today. (Yeah...right). I'll bold what I believe each budget request is trying for.
The first item on tomorrow’s agenda is to give $850,000 to consultants to figure out how Missoula can better configure it’s coding to incentivize more housing constructs.
No word yet on who these consultants are, but I’ll bet you $10 right now they’ll be from Florida.
The Building Inspectors union and the Planners union (I had no idea either existed) have forced the city into funding $3,200 worth of a new “pay performance plan,” whatever that means.
$20,000 will be given to the Planning Department “to promote equity, inclusions, and engagement within Neighborhoods...creating greater inclusivity and diverse representation...to reworking our grants program to be more accessible and applications to be scored with equity in mind.”
Yep, the new JEDI program.
In other words, the city will take $20,000 of your money to try and make the playing field more unlevel for white people, more profitable for non-whites.
Should this be challenged in the courts for violating the 14th Amendment? You’re damn right it should!
The next 12 items on this week’s budget agenda have to do with housing. The Housing & Community Development department has 8 ideas on how to solve our housing crisis.
In June, the department put out a 10-page sob story saying they need $1 million a year from the MRA for affordable housing.
Now the city believes the answer to the affordable housing dilemma is to hire a full-time employee to administer federal funds that will dry up in a year. The expected cost of this worker is $68,000 a year.
Once this person is hired, we’ll never be able to get rid of them. I fully expect the city staff to exceed 700 by this time next year.
The city wants to divert $100,000 from the general fund to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF). “These allocations are in direct support of the City's goals related to Safety and Wellness, Community Design and Livability, and Economic Health.”
What worried me is that we’re writing into our permanent budget, non-permanent federal funds.
Who’s going to pay for all this when the Feds stop? Simple - you will, with increased taxes and fees. If you don’t like it, move - we have lots of rich assholes from the coasts that would love to take your spot.
The city spent the last 10 years trying to end homelessness in Missoula. When they started, 200 people were homeless here. When their plan ended, over 400 were homeless.
To help the city with it’s next 10-year plan to end homelessness, a consultant will need to be hired to the tune of $50,000.
“The consultant firm may assist in varied aspects of this strategy process, some of which may include: designing data collection tools, conducting evaluation, creating community input platforms, and/or performing analysis and reporting. Ultimately the goal is to emerge with strategic direction for addressing houselessness in Missoula beyond the 10-Year Plan informed by real data and input from the work of the last 10 years.”
The city failed miserably in its homeless efforts, and they know it. Now they think throwing more money at the problem will make it go away.
The Pov will be at reduced-capacity going well into 2022. That’s why the city needs $311,000 to fund next year's emergency shelter.
I find this so egregious, I’ll quote the whole damn request, complete with our city staff’s misspellings (it’s like they don’t even care):
“As the Missoula community continues to experience the economic impacts from the COVID pandemic, we are being mindful of the need to maintain expanded emergency winter shelter in the upcoming year. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control recommend maintaining decreased shelter capacity - due to low vaccination rates and higher risk for transmission among people living outdoors and in the shelter environment. Due to this, the Poverello Center will be operating at limited capacity over the winter season. To ensure we are able to meet the need for this life saving service, Emergency Winter Shelter will require increased funding for the provision of service from November through March. This request directly supports Strategic Goal 1 by providing lifeesaving services through agency partnerships to one of Missoula's most valnerable populations - unhoused neighbors. It directly respondcs to the first sub-item: "Partner with community organizations to ensure adequate shelter for people without a home during the winter months".
We need $211,000 for “shelter and programming.” Here’s what the request says:
“This funding will allow the Pov to expand community-wide outreach that supports the broader coordinated entry system while continuing to operate it's shelter to high standards. It will also allow the City to better collaborate with the agency through two dedicated seats on the Board of Directors.”
The city believes one of the main reasons we have so many homeless people is that we don’t have enough city workers to cater to them all. For that reason, 3 new city workers will be hired to help with the Missoula Coordinated Entry System.
It seems the city will fund 50% of this, the county the other 50%. That comes to $89,000 this budget cycle, but you know it’ll be a lot more next year.
Again, the city is hiring permanent workers to administer temporary funds from the federal government. Their argument is they got $14 million from the feds through the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA), and therefore need someone to figure out what to do with that money.
When that money is gone, that full-time employee will remain...for 25 years. The cost this year for that one employee is $81,000.
Veteran housing. I’m going to quote this one in its entirety, because I know we have a local writer that cares about these issues.
“The Poverello Center has submitted a $1,000,000 grant application, which will allow them to relocate their current veteran supportive housing program from shared bedrooms and a congregate bathroom to individual, private and apartments. The $2,500,000 in requested funds will be used for the remainder of the purchase price as well as renovations and repairs that are needed for the building. This property acquisition would immediately improve the quality of housing, quality of life, and supportive services available to Veterans in our programming. In addition to serving approximately 20 veterans in a better environment, this will provide up to 25 additional permanent supportive housing solutions for men and women experiencing homelessness. It will also free up additional square footage in the current shelter, which dedicated to this service today, allowing the organization to expand their shelter capacity.”
This new building will cost us $834,000 this year. No estimates of future costs were listed, or who’s back yard this place will be located at (what a surprise).
The city has AirBnB in its sights...though not really. They want $23,000 to identify and monitor all the “short-term rentals” in the community.
Personally, I believe a middle school student could do that for free on the weekend in about 5 minutes, just by going to Google.
But that wouldn’t benefit the city’s entrenched bureaucracy, now would it? Here’s some from the request:
“...creating understandable and reasonable regulation that supports sustainable and equitable development; and implementation of our adopted housing policy. This annual monitoring process will ensure we have the data and information we need to proactively address concerns, allowing Short-Term Rentals to remain a beneficial part of our community.”
The Florida firm that gave us our Downtown Master Plan made it clear that public art is critical to Missoula’s continued existence.
That’s why the Missoula Cultural Council needs to hire a new Director of Public Art.
This year, it’ll cost us $35,000.
That pushes the budget of Arts Missoula up to $237,000 a year.
Ever heard of the Double SNAP Dollars Nutrition Program? I haven’t, either.
But I guess they need more money, so the city will give them an extra $250,000 next year.
Will this additional funding help pull people out of poverty, perhaps convincing them to work a bit more to support their families?
I doubt it.
Finally, the last one. I’ll again quote this at length for our homeless advocates:
“In late May of this year, Mayor John Engen charged our incident command team with developing a comprehensive approach to addressing the growing presence of illegal encampments in our community. These encampments were presenting health and safety issues to those residing there, along with the broader community. The incident command team will be presenting a menu of options to city and county leadership in the coming weeks. The City will then work with stakeholders in the community to determine what options best meet the needs of unhoused residents and can be most successful given our resources. This plan is directly in alignment with the City's goal to partner with community organizations to ensure adequate shelter for people without a home.”
“Specific capital and program costs associated with recommended options is undetermined at this time. This request serves as a placeholder for these costs to be considered as part of the FY22 budget process.”
This will cost us $490,000 this year.
When I say ‘this,’ I mean something we don’t even know if it’s a building, a tent city, where it’s located...nothing.
But, hey...let’s throw half a million dollars at it.
Going through these numbers has made me sick.
What makes me even sicker is knowing that none of the 75,000 people living in this town will ever hear or read about these numbers.
None of our local media will report it.
- Peter Christian at KGVO is too busy with his weekly accountant to report it, and honestly, he’s too old to care.
- NBC Montana has cub reporters that are more focused on the next city they’ll be stationed in to care about ours.
- I can’t remember the last time KPAX did a hard-hitting story.
That leaves us with the Missoulian, which I’d usually say is completely worthless...but they do have a new reporter from back East named Jordan Hansen that’s actually trying. He did a very decent job discussing last week’s budget requests, though he didn’t go in-depth as I did (which you’re thankful for).
All of the things I just listed will cost the city an additional $3.3 million next year.
Your local government, in action...with your money spilling out of its pockets.
How does that make you feel?
Alright...another deep breath.
Come filing deadline, what defined the mayoral race was housing. In the past couple weeks, homelessness has almost matched it.
In reality, it's two sides of the same coin.
The city is spending this money because they don't know what else to do. It seems the debate has gone to two extremes: spend a lot of money, and create a lot of camps...or bus 'em out of town.
Certainly, there must be some middle ground.