Bozeman Responds to Governor’s Call to Cut Recreation Stimulus Funds

by jhwygirl

Late Friday I received an email from Bozeman’s current Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss regarding a recent post here concerning Governor Schweitzer’s call to cut some stimulus funds from the City of Bozeman. Krauss, it appears – as he puts forth in his letter – won’t be catering to the Fox News crowd as he defends his city’s (and eleven other Montana cities, including Missoula’s) use of stimulus funds for park and recreational infrastructure.

Let me be clear here in my position: The law, HB645, specifically places “recreational facilities” into criteria for use of stimulus funds. This was approved by a majority in both houses. The Governor had veto power over this bill. He did not exercise it. If a Republican Governor were to come by after-the-fact and start slashing stuff out of legislatively approved budgets, Democrats would be in an uproar. We’ve got laws to follow, and less than that we’re working on anarchy.

From Bozeman Deputy Mayor Jeff Krauss:

Thank you for your entry in 4&20 blackbirds. I will be appearing on Fox & Friends at 6:20 5:30 am MST Monday morning to defend those people of Montana in the eleven cities and towns who are spending stimulus funds on parks and recreation, not just from the national critics but from their own Governor as well. Chinook’s putting in improvements to their baseball field, lights and an outfield fence, Helena’s spending $498k on two different parks, Livingston, Ryegate, Superior, Dutton, and others, including Missoula, are spending money on parks and recreation projects out of federal stimulus dollars. A Governor who was paying attention to the Executive branch would know this.

Bozeman’s general fund budget dedicates an average of about 9% each year to parks and recreation. We have two swimming pools, many parks, baseball and soccer fields, tennis courts, ice skating and hockey rinks and miles of trails and bike lanes. Opposing spending on parks and recreation is no different in my opinion than opposing spending on libraries –it’s a hallmark of ignorance. Who wants to live in a city without parks and recreation and libraries and trails? Well I can tell you, nobody that elected me does. Our spending of some portion of federal stimulus dollars on recreation is completely in line with our spending of the local taxpayer dollar, and the values of those Montana citizens who live in Bozeman.

Cities and towns all over the country, and not just in Montana, spend money on parks and recreation. Back in the middle of last century there was a six year old who learned to play tennis on the municipal tennis courts, the city funded tennis courts, of Richmond Virginia. That six year old grew up to be a champion, and an inspiration to hundreds of thousands. I’m inspired by his story, inspired enough to spend money on municipal recreation opportunities. I’ll bet you President Barack Obama is inspired by the story of that six year old and what he made of the opportunity that started with his city’s recreation facilities. It seems the only people NOT inspired by the story of Arthur Ashe is some jerk on Fox News from the Wall Street Journal, and the Governor of the State of Montana.

The Bozeman Commission approved projects that were specifically allowed by a bill passed by the legislature, signed by the Governor, specifically awarded by the governor in a letter with his face at the top and his name and title at the bottom, and supported by the people of the city of Bozeman. We picked these projects right out of the capital projects we knew we had to address with Bozeman taxpayer dollars. Cities and towns in Montana have to balance their budget every year. The day that the President and the Congress present a federal balanced budget amendment for ratification to the states, I’ll be out going door to door in support of that amendment. But, for now, we followed the federal and the state guidelines and the exact bill the governor signed. Nobody from Bozeman is stepping outside the rules or playing cheap partisan political games. I’m here to support Montanans, and our values, and our city, in response to a self serving political stunt. And I’m proud to say, we in Bozeman believe in healthy minds, healthy bodies, and a healthy democracy.

Jeff Krauss

Deputy Mayor, City of Bozeman


  1. Anon

    So the American people borrowed money from their grand kids and great-grand kids to fix up parks across the State and Country. Bozeman and other cities are certainly free to spend the stimulus money any legal way they see fit. I just fail to see what the big emergency is that couldn’t have waited a couple years until the economy turns around (big assumption) and the city budgets could then afford to do this without the country having a $1.8 Trillion budget deficit. How many permanent (or even long term) jobs will these projects create? Wasn’t job creation supposed to be the primary purpose of the stimulus package?

    When I am short of money and struggling to make debt payments, the last thing I would think about doing is borrowing to put in a nice big patio and BBQ area. I guess I just have different priorities or haven’t figured out the trick of spending my way out of debt and into wealth. I was against the stimulus package initially and this does nothing to change my mind.

    • The stimulus money given to the states was intended to shore up services and keep states – most of which were already operating in deficits – upright.

      Other portions of the stimulus money – applied for via the fed – was for job creation. Increasing technology was another criteria – as was sustainable energy production….but all of that, Anon, was federally directed

      If Bozeman had spent it on roads or police, for example, would that have been better?

      I ask because, as I pointed out in the last post, there are good reasons for using stimulus to short up parks and rec, for example, instead of police or roads. Once a budget cut is made, it gets hard to reinstate that funding.

      This is more than a sound-bit issue, Anon – it’s about how Montana’s laws are implemented. I sure in the hell don’t want the next Judy Martz sitting in that office deciding 8 months after the budget’s been approved that certain things shouldn’t get the money that was legally appropriated.

      Where does it stop?

      There was a time – prior to the Constitutional Convention – that it would have been entirely leg for the Executive Branch to take that stimulus money and use it for anything they gosh darn well felt it should be used for. Those days are long gone.

      If you have a problem with stimulus money being used for recreational facilities, look to the vote on that bill and the duly elected representatives that cast that vote. Then look to the Governor, who could have vetoed the entire thing.

  2. Anon

    If Bozeman had spent it on roads or police, for example, would that have been better?

    As I said, Bozeman and all recipients of the Stimulus money are of course free to spend it in any legal way they want. Like you, I have my own personal priorities and beliefs and I believe that there are likely things with a higher priority where that money could be used. But that is not my call.

    As for your comment that “Once a budget cut is made, it gets hard to reinstate that funding”. I think one must examine why that budget cut was made – was it due to a reduction in funding (revenues)? The economy seems to go in up and down cycles. Yet, government budgets almost always seem to go up. Perhaps Bozeman will wish they had done something else with that money if the city/county receive less money from the State after the 2011 legislature is forced to dramatically trim the budget. Either way – it is their decision to make and live with.

    My duly elected representative did his job (IMO) of representing his conservative rural district and did vote against the stimulus package. That is an interesting vote to study. Several of the more liberal D’s from the Missoula area voted against it. Same for Bozeman. But I bet they voted against it for different reasons than the conservatives that voted against it. Did your Rep. vote the way you wanted?

  3. jeff

    Fox has moved me back to 5:30am but I will be making the same points. Many people made the ppint that municipal recreation facilities might be the only entertainment for many cash strapped citizens. To expand the analogy, it would be like spending a few bucks fixing up the backyard knowing that you couldn’t afford to go on vacation but had to make do in the backyard this summer.

    • Anon

      I guess that is just a philosophical difference, Jeff. If I cannot afford the vacation or afford to fix up the back yard, I certainly am not going to borrow money (from any source) to do it. And you know as well as I do that 100% of the stimulus money is borrowed from projected future revenues – what we don’t know is just how far in the future.

      I guess I am just a “cash and carry” type of person. I prefer to save the money first and then spend it rather than borrowing it and paying interest. It’s too bad more in government do not share that philosophy rather than feeling obligated to spend every penny of revenue in the “good times” and then having to cut in the bad times.

      • Anon, are there ‘essential’ public services like a strong military, a big police force, and a big interstate highway system that you think we should borrow money for?

        I’m sure the ‘fiscal’ conservatives up on the hill don’t need those public opportunities to recreate, relax and recharge, but give a thought to those who are priced out of the land, the resorts, and the clubs.

        • Anon

          Binky – the key word that you used is “essential”. I suppose that means different things to different people.

          I suppose if the government stuck to what is in the Constitution, the government would not have to borrow and our taxes would be substantially lower, pricing fewer people out of “land, the resorts, and the clubs”.

          We seemed to do just fine as a nation before the creation of the income tax, the Federal Reserve, Social Security, Dept of HEW, etc… In my opinion, Grover Cleveland (D) was a great President. One of my favorite quotes is when he was vetoing a whopping $10k appropriation for some Texas farmers. He seemed to unable to find that section of the Constitution that allowed Congress to appropriate money in that manner. Towards the end of his veto he stated “Though people should support the government, the government should not support the people.”

          Back then, the General Welfare clause was interpreted a bit differently than after the FDR SCOTUS re-defined it.

  4. Montana Cowgirl

    Wait, this guy goes on Fox and Friends to defend the use of taxpayer money to build a tennis court? Wow! What a hero for democracy. This is too funny.

  5. Montana Cowgirl

    And the money was going to go to an out of state contractor, so how is he arguing this helps Montana’s economy? This mayor is really something.

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