Cutting your nose to spite your face?

Calls,and kudos, for cutting the budget annoy the heck out of me. Rarely do government expenditures fall. Instead, a politically-well-calculated shift occurs – from salaries, wages, and benefits to grandiose plans and projects. The winners: the consultants, developers, and politicians who get to parse the wealth around. The losers: the government employess, the services they provide, and the taxpayers dependent on them.

Now, Missoula Mayor John Engen is getting in on the game. His State of the City address (Feb.2nd) has every department cutting, saving and reorganizing in order to match the declining revenues of city government. This is as a result of him asking for 6.5% reductions in budgets. But, 75% of the city budget is in salaries. So, that means you either fire staff or delay cost-of-living adjustments and watch some good people leave the area for better paying jobs. Either way, its bad.

How about the Mayor stop the hemorrhaging of money that is going into various civic projects? I know the out-of-town consultants and various planners will scream, but these are tough times and somethings got to give.

Let’s put some things on the chopping block:

A new Missoula County Fairgrounds.

We’ve spent over $60,000 on consultants (Crandall Arambula) to be told it will probably cost around $19 million.

The Front Street Parking Structure.

Kimley-Horn & Associates were the consultants here, and it looks like it will cost $8.2 million. I can’t seem to get a straight answer from the Missoula Parking Commission, the Missoula Downtown Association, or the city on who is going to pay the costs, but I’ll bet the taxpayers won’t be completely off the hook. After all, Crandall Arumbula got paid nearly half a million via a “public-private partnership” for the Downtown Master Plan that prescribes provision of more parking. I’m guessing that means the city is going to borrow millions to subsidize the downtown merchants.

The Missoula Events Center.

Don’t get me started on the problems with this one. jhwygirl does a nice job over here. Suffice to say that Hunden Strategic Partners got paid $50,000 for the first phase of their feasibility assessment. They’re asking for a similar amount for the second phase, when they’ll tell us how much it is going to cost and who should pay for it.

Oh and by the way, have you ever looked at who is behind the MEC? Yep, many of the same people behind the ball park, which took at least $2 million in city funding and still isn’t finished. How’s that working out for ya?

So, instead of cutting firefighters, parks & recreation, and police officers, Mr. Mayor, you should take a closer look at some the grandiose projects that all these consultants say is necessary for you to spend money researching and building. Heck, you could also borrow back the nearly $4 million that the Missoula Parking Commission has in the bank.