Missoula Spending Stimulus $ on Playgrounds

by jhwygirl

Boy, sure hope the Governor doesn’t read this Missoulian article, otherwise he’ll have to head to town to protest the expenditure.

Of course – Drudge hasn’t picked up on it yet. Neither has Fox News. So maybe we’re in the clear.

  1. Lizard

    maybe instead of having a snarky gov/mayor showdown over politically awkward allocations of stimulus funds, we should be talking about what happens when the stimulus is over and the harsh reality sinks in that no quick economic turn-around is coming.

    obama’s sniveling economic team is now quacking about deficits, warning obama more stimulus is just too dangerous. after all, wall street has already been taken care of. and basically, fuck the rest of us.

    unfortunately more stimulus focused on actual job creation and debt relief is desperately needed. stimulus money for tennis courts and playgrounds is a waste of money. energy, transportation, food, these are the areas that need investment.

    and speaking of how our money is spent, how much more money for war is obama going to ask for? yep, 33 BILLION dollars, and for those keeping score, that’s on top of 708 BILLION dollars already allocated.

    have fun playing tennis, bozeman.

    • Anon

      we should be talking about what happens when the stimulus is over and the harsh reality sinks in that no quick economic turn-around is coming.

      It is going to get “interesting”. The $280+million “surplus” the legislature left last year is under $17 million and that’s not counting any supplemental budget requests, like the ~$15 mil that DPHHS needs already. The Governor needs to cut at least $40 million right now and that is assuming things turn around this summer (ha!).

      On top of that, Stimulus funds were used to back fill the General Fund – that $200 mil or so won’t be there next time, but those agencies will have it added to their base. I wonder where the State will find that money next time.

      I agree that playgrounds and tennis courts are nice things to have. But so are jobs, a warm house and food in your belly. This is a difference in “nice” and “necessary”.

    • JC

      Speaking of stimulus, I saw Greg Mortenson–the guy from Bozeman who builds schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan–on Bill Moyers the other night. He said that for the price of one soldier in Afghanistan–one million dollars/year–he could build 30 new schools!

      That’s the choice we face there. Build schools to help the Afghanis get educated, or print more money here to perpetuate a war that can never be won with bombs.

      Mortenson talked about how he went to a province in S. Afghanistan (home of Mullah Omar) to talk to the elders about a school. He was scared for his life, as there is no U.S. military presence there (and he has already been kidnapped once, and feared execution).

      When he got there, he asked the town elders to come visit a school he had built in another province. When the elders, the “men in black” got to the school, they saw the playground, and immediately went and started playing on it. Mortenson asked them to come inside and see the school, and they said no thanks, they had seen enough. He could build a school in their village if he built a playground, and built it first.

      The elders stayed at the school and played in the playground for an hour and a half. They had pictures of all these old village elders–people who our military refers to as the enemy–with just huge grins on their faces playing like little kids.

      Controversy about playgrounds in Missoula? BFD. We could win wars with playgrounds, if our leaders would just open their eyes for a moment, and put down their guns.

  2. problembear

    As foreclosures mount and jobs dissolve I wonder what 360K could do that would be more urgently needed.

    Shelter perhaps?
    Poverello is way over capacity every night.

    Food banks are crowded…

    Motel vouchers for homeless families….

    Next to these increasing needs playgrounds are absurd.

    • Lizard

      how can four playgrounds cost that much money? i was surfing for outdoor play equipment for my kid, and i ran across some pretty impressive sets for 10,000. obviously labor is a significant cost, but 360,000 thousand dollars?

      and for those harping on the governor–are you familiar with politics? well, our governor is, and it doesn’t matter if he’s a hypocrite on this issue. he’s strumming a few populist chords on his trick guitar, and people like the tune. it might bewilder those who think in strict political binaries (democrat=spender, republican=fiscal conservative) but looking at the cost/benefit ratio, our media-hound governor made his assessment and played his hand.

      and what an easy target: bozeman and tennis is just too perfect. a lot more fun and politically lucrative than missoula playgrounds, for sure.

  3. Ryan Morton

    My understanding was that the Mayor believed playgrounds were important infrastructure. I agree that playgrounds are important socially, but not economically – so it appears questionable to spend money on parks (on top of dedications, impact fees, SIDs and taxes for parks).

    I agree there are more pressing needs for stimulus spending – like on items that might actually stimulate sustainable local business. But such logical connections seem lost on Missoula City Hall when making decisions on spending. It may even lead some to believe that Missoula doesn’t deserve money (state or federal) to spend… oh, wait. That already happens.

  4. jeff

    I DO hope Missoula enjoys its playgrounds . How does a post about Missoula spending lead to a crappy comment about bozeman, other than both, and Missoula to a muich larger degree, spent money on parks and recreation infrastructure? And in bad times public parks provide some of the only access to recreation that struggling families have. The state spends large amounts on parks.Maybe you think they should be closed? –that state stimulus spending on colored concrete pads and walkways for RVs at Canyon Ferry for example. Or is it too much to ask the governor to first look in the mirror before he checks the mote in former Mayor Jacobson’s eye? The tennis and basketball repair was her number one priority for stimulus spending.

    Missing in this “should be sent to Haiti” second guessing is the long line of public testimony and decision making.

    The legislature, democrat and republican, passed the law after much debate. The Governor signed it. He approved the projects. The city held public hearings and publicly noticed meetings on the surface selection that were actvely attended by neighborhood and recreation groups. .

    The law requires the money to be spent on government infrastructure and spent by September 30th.

    The Governor got his ap article from gouras today just as he got fox news time and a wsj article last week– he only had to throw Bozeman under the bus to do it

    He will look like a hypocrite if he does not object to the other cities and towns spending stimulus money the same way. It appears to be a good strategy for the Governor’s resume polishing. If bozeman gets him a call from newt gingrich maybe missoula nets him george w or james dobson!

  5. Big Swede

    Fox and Drudge didn’t pick this up but this post and your website made this mornings state wide talk show.

  6. Chuck

    I’m not being a smart ash when I ask what happened to that 700 or 800 thousand bucks in “Stimulus” the City of Missoula got for home weatherization? How many new jobs were created? It has to be a least 6 months since they got the cash and wonder if it’s still in the city savings account.

  7. Chuck

    ProblemBear gets it by the way.
    Between the waste on stuff like these parks and General Fund accounting tricks, and the Missoula City Engineers’ padding their hours so they can bill out the Feds Stimulus Grant money very little of Obama’s money is making it to the middle class private sector worker.
    This is not the change or hope that I believed in when I donated to and voted for the President.

  8. problembear

    when faced with limited funds the choice between bureaucratic self-preservation and using the funds where they will do the most good for the greatest need often inveigles propensity.

  9. I agree that playgrounds are important socially, but not economically

    This appears to be the very point of disagreement, isn’t it? In truth, parks and rec are important economically. How many here have heard time and again of the “scenery tax” Montana property owners (and renters) have to pay? At heart, what that glib phrase refers to is the economic value of quality of life, one of the few marketable resources that Montana can turn into ongoing jobs, without digging big ass holes in the ground or creating erosion in the watersheds.

    I agree with problembear that there are ongoing needs that may have more immediate moral import than an attempt to attract quality employers. BUT, the stimulus money wasn’t meant for that. As ANON so adequately pointed out, the stim funds won’t last forever. Go ahead and build more shelters or need based programs with it, just as soon as it is explained how these programs will be funded once the federal largess runs dry. The whole point of the infrastructure argument is “build it and then done.” Spending on parks and rec does just that. As much as we like to identify with a higher moral calling, social welfare programs are “build them and then maintain them”. That wasn’t the point of stimulus spending. Of course it could argued that maybe it should have been. But that’s a different argument, isn’t it?

    • Ryan Morton

      That’s interesting that you bring up the economic value of quality of life. Besides that it’s a circular phrase (economics are a foundation FOR quality of life – especially for marxists), it really isn’t measurable without some analysis of people’s willingness to pay for services.

      Further, you suggest that that quality of life derived from local parks is a marketable resource. For what? Outside businesses? Businesses that are already here don’t rely on local parks – state and federal perhaps (who often charge for various services like camping and entrance), but not local. So it seems you think local parks bring in outside business. This is a bit naive. Outside businesses will look to access to capital, a properly trained workforce, government related expenses (taxes, fees, etc.), price levels (wages, supplies, etc.), transportation, the regulatory environment, and more well before they look at local park service. Ultimately, though, relying on migration for economic development is a high-risk gamble.

      Even if you were right, unless an outsider starts a local business in Missoula, they don’t really add more than a temporary and short-term injection of construction dollars, wage dollars, and tax revenue to the local economy. Wage dollars often end up in the pockets of Wal-Marts and Targets (and non-local banks and non-local investing) while tax revenue is usually evened out by an increase in expenditure that may or may not be capital investment. All around, it’s not really sustainable.

  10. Ryan, it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m “right”. What matters is that the elected officials (which, yes, you too are responsible for) believe that argument. It has been shown to have efficacy in Bozeman. Research Zoot, Right Now Technologies, Simms and many others.

    Businesses that are already here don’t rely on local parks

    I truly wonder on what you base that claim, especially as mis-directive as it is. It isn’t a business that needs to rely on local amenities. For a business, the amenity is a stable and happy work pool. It is the employees who can be lesser paid in willingness to support the “scenery tax”. And yes, that does mean relying on local parks and recreation facilities. Why else do you think that every town in Montana works for or has a public swimming pool?

    a properly trained workforce

    Heh. ‘Guess Missoula is just lagging behind Bozeman on that one.

    This is a bit naive.

    Tell it to the people you’ve elected, not me. In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t like having to pay a “scenery tax”.

    Even if you were right, unless an outsider starts a local business in Missoula, they don’t really add more than a temporary and short-term injection

    That’s not true on two levels. 1) It needn’t be an “outsider”. I seriously question why you think it must be. Ahem, Dennis Washington? 2), Jobs. How complicated is that? Jobs. It doesn’t matter where people spend their money if more of them are working. How many businesses have you ever encountered that pay for construction, et al, and don’t actually employ anybody? Isn’t that right to the point of the stimulus package? It doesn’t ultimately matter where wage dollars end up, as long as they come in in the first place. More money spent at Target means more people employed means more money coming in to the local economy. This isn’t zero-sum, and never has been.

    • Ryan Morton

      It does matter where the money is spent.

      Wash. Corp. is headquartered in Missoula.

      Spending money at Target and such sends surplus value (profit) out of state.

      I can’t vouch for the businesses you mentioned. however…

      You admit that businesses aren’t drawn by parks then suggest they want a happy workforce. Besides your conflation of why businesses move here and why people move here, happiness at the workplace is affected more by the business itself (wage, management, workplace environment, benefits like health insurance that affect access to health care, etc.) not the community. Ignoring the other important factors for business would lead businesses to go out of business.

      Tell it to the elected officials… I thought I did in my first post with the comment about City Hall making questionable spending decisions.

      • Ryan, this is the only beef I have with your argument. If the surplus value comes from out of state (employment at Right Now, Simms, Target) Than it remains surplus value and adds to the economic structure. When some jerk who works at Target buys gas at an Oly’s so that he can get to Wal-Mart to buy his groceries, does that or does it not increase the flow of money, which is precisely what the economy is all about? I’m terribly uncertain what you think the economy is supposed to be. Some swimming instructor trading chickens for local ice cream so that someone else can trade for schools to trade edumacation for local PC tech support? No community is an island, any more. If you think it is, then I suggest you get a grip.

  11. problembear

    i found this site interesting for a national perspective on how the stimulus is going. not sure how accurate it really is but it is a start. if accurate, it looks like there is a lot of help on the way yet…. http://www.recovery.gov/Pages/home.aspx

  12. moreon the governor


    “This wasn’t about the people in the room,” Schweitzer said afterward.

    It’s you, gov. All about you. When isn’t it? But if it isn’t about those people who cared enough to attend the city commission meeting, in that room, then why hold public meetings?

    “This was a message to every city and county in Montana that we need to be accountable for these dollars.”

    Next time, pick up the phone. It’s easier on the taxpayer wallet than your airplane. But City of Missoula, I guess you were warned. You probably haven’t ever been accountable, ever, before. If the Governor hadn’t told you, you’d never have thought of it. And, in the end, to whom are you accountable, one man, flying around the state at taxpayer expense, or to the citizens of your town?

    • problembear

      sounds more like a personal vendetta than a reasoned articulate informative comment there moreon….

      guess i am not tickled all the time about gov schweitzer but sure beats the heck out of the chicken lady….
      the fact that he is taken seriously by most of the country and is overwhelmingly popular in montana should count for something.

      we have issues with the good governor from time to time but apparently your flint sparks aren’t finding any tinder to ignite an insurrection around here.

      now if only we could cure him of his fixation with coal.

  13. Pogo Possum

    I think Moreon hit the nail on the head when he said about the Governor: “It’s you, gov. All about you. When isn’t it?”

    I agree that Schweitzer is a bright savy politician with a tremendous sense of political presence and political theatrics. Unfortunatly, too often, it boils down to being “all about Brian” and just political theatrics.

    I have also heard the accusations (and personal stories to back them up) by both Democrats and Republicans that Schweitzer can also be a bully. Again, its all about Brian.

    I am a little suspect of the comment that he is taken seriously by “most of the country”. True, there are some special interest groups and an occasional news commentator who love him. However, some Democratic operatives tell me the national party thinks he is too much of a wild card that often comes across as a little crazy or out of control (e.g., the speech in Philidelphia to the attorney group). Inspite of all the behind the scenes predictions that Schweitzer was in line for a position in the Obama administration nothing materializede – for good reason.

    I know he claims he is the second coming of the Democratic party and can give a theatrical speech. But do a little more digging and you hear another story.

    Here is just one example. The Montana Ambassadors arranged for him to give a speech in San Francisco a few years ago to a group of former Montana residents who lived in the Bay area. The majority of those attending were Democrats or leaned Democratic. Several of my friends living in San Francisco who attended said he gave a spirited enthusiastic speech. Then the question and answer period began and it was a different story. As several people told me about their overall opinion of Schweitzer: “After you drill more than one layer deep there wasn’t much there.”

    Schweitzer is more like the excentric uncle who, while likeable, entertaining and occasionally brilliant, you are glad when he leaves at the end of the party and you are releaved that he didn’t drink too much again, didn’t break your china, avoided picking a fight with your nephew and didn’t embarrase the family like he did last year.

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