Is Coercing Contractors To Have Apprentice Programs A Good Idea?

by William Skink

One of the more consistent complaints from all the conversations about the housing affordability crisis comes from developers and centers on the red-tape involved in the construction process. Reduce some of that red-tape, they say, and the cost of building will go down. Do council members Heather Harp and Gwen Jones understand this concept?

In the Missoula Current today Harp and Jones are championing their idea to coerce contractors into creating apprentice programs if they don’t already have one. I’ll get to why this is a bad idea in a moment. Here’s the rationale for the apprentice program:

City councilors Heather Harp and Gwen Jones created a plan that provides a bidding preference to contractors using a State of Montana Registered Apprentice Program for city of Missoula construction projects totaling $500,000 or more.

The plan is supposed to promote job training, improve the skills of the workforce, and get younger people interested in the benefits of a job in skilled labor.

I understand the rationale, and getting younger folks interested in skilled labor is not a bad thing, but will the method of coercion being proposed have unintended consequences?

Here is how the coercion will work if enough Council member vote to approve this plan:

Contractors that use apprentices for at least 10 percent of the total labor hours on construction projects owned by the city of Missoula will be given a 5 percent preference in the bidding process.

So, why is this a bad idea?

In one of my posts last week I highlighted the perspective of Hermina Jean Harold, the executive director of Trust Montana and a community organizer for the North-Missoula Community Development Corporation. Harold thinks the housing recommendations being proposed should include inclusionary zoning because both Bozeman and Whitefish eventually realized this type of zoning is a necessary component in addressing affordability.

In Missoula our civic leadership decided NOT to learn any lessons from Bozeman and Whitefish. Because of that decision they are going to need all the voluntary cooperation from developers they can elicit.

With that reality in mind, I anticipate this coercive apprentice program will be counterproductive on two levels: it does the exact opposite of reducing red-tape while simultaneously pissing off the very people our City Council members will need voluntary help from to make housing more affordable in Missoula.

I didn’t need an article from the Missoula Current to know that at least one contractor is angry about this program. Here is a comment from the post I wrote about gentrifying Missoula’s Hip Strip:

Hi William, Why yes I do know the backlash from chalenging Missoulas policies. They have just thrown us contractors a new twist to force apprenticeship programs despite every contractoir being against this. Sorry guys I raised my voice against our nazi regime, now we all pay. Not only do we pay, but so does the poor apprentice making half the money he would have if current regs were left alone.. Yes Gwen Jones is right up there nosing around in things she knows nothing about, smug and acting like a wide eyed school girl to get what she wants.

The Missoula Current also referenced a contractor who is against this resolution. Here’s the one dissenting voice allowed in the article:

Co-owner of Shadow Asphalt Jeremy Ogilvie didn’t support the resolution. Putting inexperienced people in the field is dangerous, he said, and while having an apprenticeship program isn’t mandatory, the competition among contractors would force his company to participate.

“It’s a 10-man crew, working as one,” he said. “Just like a football team, everyone has to have their role and know when to do it and how to do it or it doesn’t work. Throwing a couple high school kids out there at the wong time just means that my guys are responsible for the safety of other people that might not understand how to work around heavy equipment.”

Having to have 10 percent of the labor work done by apprentices may also mean turning away experienced workers to meet the program requirements.

Ogilevie said that his company is already training about eight young workers to load trucks, break concrete, and on other aspects of the job that don’t involve a high skillset. They have to work up to that point, he said.

“There’s going to be a lot of unintended consequences with managing it and expenses on a small business,” Ogilvie said. “We will try to follow the rules, we will become certified if we have to, but I think it’s not going to have the outcome that you want.”

Here are some questions not answered by this article: Will this program add time and money to construction projects? Will it disproportionally hurt small businesses? And, will it actually produce the desired results?

I’m assuming the answers to these questions are important to the luminous ones who come up with these ideas, but maybe that’s a wrong assumption.

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How One Gen-X Writer Is Processing Non-Existence

by William Skink

Earlier this year a CBS info-graphic indicated I didn’t exist.

The Silent Generation exists, the obnoxious Baby Boomer Generation definitely exist and won’t shut up about it, and then there’s Millennials and Post-Millennials, according to CBS. Do you see anything wrong with this picture?

Apparently the millions of people born from 1961-1981–aka Generation X–don’t deserve to be counted as an existing generation anymore.

And this Gen X writer is A-Ok with that.

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Another Way Government Extracts More Of Your Money In Missoula, Montana

by William Skink

Thanks to this Missoulian article I am reminded of the fact there are many ways we get squeezed by the vice-grip of byzantine government processes. The article is a sticker shock warning about the coming price-tag for living in our wonderful mountain town utopia.

Here’s the technical way you will be getting fucked by Missoula’s hot market:

“It’s hard to answer about a particular property, not knowing what happened, but the (appraisal) methods are the same,” Talwani said. “It has to do with comparable properties selling for more than they did two years ago.”

The DOR also uses “cost” appraisals for commercial properties, where it calculates how much it will cost to build a similar structure, according to Missoula County Clerk and Treasurer Tyler Gernant. A third method is to calculate the income that could be derived from a property if it’s leased out for commercial purposes.

“The market’s been really hot, and the market values in looking at what your house could sell for … you can’t say it is wrong, but it is shocking,” Gernant said.

Hot market, more value, so more taxes. Tyler Gernant says you can’t say it’s wrong, which I take to mean legally wrong, and he’s right. But what about morally wrong?

There is some push-back bubbling up to the housing recommendations released last month worth checking out, and to its credit it was posted at Missoula Current. I appreciate Hermina Harold’s take on the cautious, development-friendly approach being suggested. Here’s the gist of the ask:

Recently, the Missoula City Council was handed a slate of housing policy recommendations to review, and they have work to do before the June 24 vote. The policy recommendations are skewed in the direction of developer incentives. These types of incentives largely failed when Bozeman and Whitefish tried them. Both cities have now switched over to mandatory inclusionary zoning policies.

We don’t have the luxury of time to wait and see if the incentives work and then change course. A University of Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research study from 2018 reported that when median wages are compared to median home prices, Missoula housing is already less affordable than Bozeman, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Miami.

I am asking our City Council and Missoula Redevelopment Agency to enact two regulatory policies to stop the displacement of working people: 1) mandatory inclusionary zoning and 2) Tax Increment Finance District affordability requirements.

All things considered, those aren’t extreme asks. But my hunch is they will be ignored.

It’s worth noting this “Community Voices” op-ed was quickly dropped for a big picture of people who do no actual manual labor holding shovels in yet another article about the first new build in Missoula’s TOZ.

Meanwhile, for everyone else, the squeeze just keeps squeezing.

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How Opportunity Zones Connects Missoula’s Mayor Engen to Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher

by William Skink

This past week I took a critical look at gentrification in Missoula, and today will be no different. The ever-reliable cheerleader of development, the Missoula Current, is “reporting” on the celebratory ground breaking of the first new building on West Broadway to take advantage of the TOZ (Trump Opportunity Zone). From the link: 

Two weeks after announcing its plans to break ground on a $5.8 million office building and restaurant in Missoula’s new opportunity zone on West Broadway, the firm behind the project will celebrate with a ground breaking on Monday.

Broadway Opportunity Fund plans to construct the building on 1.5 acres at 2000 Maple Street to serve as the future home of DJ&A. The larger 6.5-acre parcel was purchased by Engineer Support Services LLC in 2017 and also is expected to be redeveloped.

“Our community’s planning, programs and public investment help give confidence to companies like DJ&A who are investing in redeveloping the West Broadway corridor,” Missoula Mayor John Engen said in a statement. “In doing so, (they’re) creating jobs and opportunities and prosperity in our community.”

Yeah, opportunities and prosperity, but for who?

Cheerleaders of development gloss over the history of these zones and the people who often lose out because of them. 

In the lefty political journal, Counterpunch, Amadi Anene provides some historical context and links to reports about these opportunity zones. Anene once served as a senior adviser in the Small Business Administration during the Obama administration, so maybe he’s someone the supposed liberal/progressives in Missoula will listen to? 

This story goes back to the 1980s, when British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government introduced 11 “enterprise zones” throughout the United Kingdom. Inspired, conservatives in the U.S. under President Ronald Reagan promoted the creation of these zones in 40 states.

Even many Democrats warmed to these zones as a viable pro-market approach to urban renewal. The idea resurfaced as “empowerment zones” under the Clinton administration in 1994.

Whatever you call them, they’re spaces where businesses can delay, reduce, or even eliminate taxes altogether on the money they invest.

From Thatcher to Reagan to Clinton to Trump, the concept that became the gentrifying TOZ has had some PR name tweaks, but retained the stench of a tax-avoidance scheme, which is clear to see once you look past the language the cheerleaders use to promote these “opportunities”.

Later in the article Anene addresses the argument of the cheerleaders, which he calls “advocates”:

Advocates argue that these incentives encourage investors to direct money into distressed communities in ways that will lead to new jobs, better housing, and other businesses being willing to open up shop in the revitalized community.

There are at least two problems with that argument.

First, many distressed communities suffer from economic challenges that investment alone cannot address, including redlining and housing discrimination. These communities need systemic policy changes that get at the root of discrimination to set the stage for lasting economic change.

Second, studies across the country (as well as in the U.K.) offer little evidence that such incentives actually benefit neighborhoods in the long run.

An expansive study of 75 enterprise zones in 13 U.S. states concluded that tax incentives had “little to no impact on economic growth.” One study of a zone in New Jersey even concluded that increased economic activity within its zone came at the expense of non-zones in the nearby area — the kind of zero-sum economics that would discourage investments in the long run.

A serious lack of evidence that these zones produce the desired economic impact won’t stop a duplicitous politician like Mayor Engen from parroting the same tired rationalizations of supposed opportunity and prosperity.

If people in Missoula want to understand the changes that are happening, then identifying and understanding the mechanisms of gentrification is one important step to take.

But you won’t understand if the only info you are getting is coming from cheerleaders like Engen.

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Will Gentrification Claim Missoula’s Hip Strip?

by William Skink

Last month there was some good news on the affordable housing front when city and county officials announced a major affordable housing project to be built on land the county donated near the detention center. This housing will be targeting some of the most difficult to house individuals.  

While this project is encouraging, Missoula’s persistent gentrification is removing other affordable housing options from the housing landscape. Once the Russell Bridge is finished, for example, low-rent motels like the Colonial are sure to be scraped, especially since that part of Broadway is a Trump Opportunity Zone.

Another looming development was announced last October when the owner of the Montaignes, located on the Hip Strip, warned tenants that change is coming once all the hurdles to gentrify the hip strip out of existence are surmounted.

You may think that last part sounds hyperbolic, but just you wait and see. It’s not just the affordable residential units under threat of disappearing, but the local small businesses as well. 

Is getting rid of those small businesses the reason why Ken Duce (pronounced douche?) implied some of his commercial tenants are financially unreliable? Here’s what Duce had to say about his tenants from that Missoulian article last October:

The ground-floor retail stores include Bathing Beauties Beads, Shakespeare & Co. independent bookstore, Carlo’s One Night Stand vintage clothing and costumes, The Sports Exchange outdoor gear consignment shop, Joseph’s Coat yarn and fiber shop, and Logan’s Boot and Shoe Repair.

“The building is not a safe place to live anymore,” Duce explained. “The plumbing is constantly leaking. My partner that manages the building complains constantly about how much we spend on a constant basis with Fred the plumber. All those nice stores that are really fun to have in Missoula, they’re there because we pay their rent. They pay us almost nothing.”

Full disclosure, I am a very loyal customer of one of the businesses mentioned and had a conversation yesterday that was indicative of what development in Missoula has become. People who will be impacted by these changes are being excluded from meetings, they are being given condescending lip service from city leaders, and it sounds like they are being lied to in some circumstances.

You think Missoula is an inclusive community that supports local businesses and local artists? Sure, that’s the idea city leaders like to sell the public on, but reality can feel much different for those in the cross-hairs of gentrification.

Getting back to the article, the main hurdle keeping this project going forward appears to be parking:

Duce said the city’s planning department told him he would need 190 parking spaces because city zoning laws require a parking spot for every four chairs in a restaurant. The building is served by public transit and has some parking spot reductions “grandfathered in,” so Duce estimates that he needs to find 89 more spots to meet requirements. He told the Historic Preservation Commission that he would like them to grant a request in the future to reduce that number.

He also said he may try to get a zoning change, although he’s aware that neighbors in the area might be concerned about overflow parking spilling into residential streets. He said he’s also worked with Mayor John Engen and the Boone and Crockett Club, which owns the railroad depot building nearby and a parking lot, to see if they’d be interested in leasing parking spots. It will be a complicated process, and members of the Historic Preservation Commission said they couldn’t make a decision at this time.

Emy Sherrer, the city’s historic preservation officer, said that smaller restaurants like Clyde Coffee and Ciao Mambo on the Hip Strip were granted waivers by the previous officer in the past because they wanted a reduction of a small number of spaces. City code states that city zoning officer Mike Haynes, in consultation with Sherrer, are authorized to approve exceptions and waivers to minimum off-street parking ratios.

“Since this is such a large request, nothing has been determined/resolved as of yet,” Sherrer told the Missoulian in an email.

In another article that solicited responses from local businesses, the owner of Carlo’s One Night Stand had this to say about change along the Hip Strip:

Gilliam said modernization and redevelopment is slowly changing the character of the district.

“Pretty soon, you won’t be able to call it the Hip Strip anymore,” he said.

Yep.

To those who will be negatively impacted by this little piece of Missoula getting the gentrification treatment, I have some advice: don’t trust anything that comes out of Mayor Engen’s mouth, and watch out for City Council person Gwen Jones. I know from personal experience what can happen when you criticize the policies that turns the screws on Missoulians who aren’t developers, property owners, or donors to political campaigns.

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How Mayor Daley TIF’d Chicago And Other Cautionary TIF Tales

by William Skink

I know I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again: Missoula is not unique. Our housing problems are not unique, and the alleged solutions being proposed are not unique. 

 I’ve focused my criticism of Tax Increment Financing primarily on how Missoula has used it, but with Councilman Ramos taking his criticism to the swamp, I thought it might be interesting to see how other communities have used TIF to prime the pump of development.

Wouldn’t you know the center of political integrity in America–Chicago–exemplifies what one can achieve with TIF loot and political ambition. The article is from 2011, so it’s a little dated, but it’s still worth reading. Here’s snip:

Mr. Daley vigorously championed the use of TIF. By the end of his tenure in May, city officials had established more than 160 TIF districts that covered about one-third of Chicago. In total, the districts capture about $500 million a year, city and Cook County documents show.

The amount is equal to about one-sixth of the city’s annual core budget, although under Mr. Daley the money was not tracked or approved as part of the budgeting process, and his administration provided only a vague accounting of its TIF activities.

Mr. Emanuel has already made marked improvement in transparency by making TIF data public. He has promised to detail the flow of TIF dollars in his first city budget proposal, due in October.

Mayor Daley was an even drunken sailor than sailor Engen when it came to throwing around TIF largesse. According to the article, over his tenure, Daley spent 1.7 billion dollars in TIF money. Around 700 million of that money benefited private interests. Like Missoula, TIF money was also used in Chicago to cover budget problems–problems that wouldn’t exist if this skim & give scheme wasn’t siphoning cash from Chicago’s general fund.

Oh, that’s just Chicago, you might say, they can corrupt anything. But beyond Chicago there exists the larger question of whether or not TIF functions as advertised. Here’s a more recent article, titled Does Tax Increment Financing Really Work? Usually, No.

After describing how TIF is suppose to work, here’s the part that describes how it actually works:

Critics often charge that it funnels money out of the taxpayers’ pockets into a special fund that, by and large, works in a pretty opaque manner. While some of that money funds essential public works, much has also gone towards erecting new Whole Foods, renovating glitzy hotels, and building stadiums—the type of projects, one might argue, should not require such incentives. And the evidence Merriman analyzes suggest they may have a point. He shows that, in most cases around the country, the tool did not fulfill its main goal of boosting economic development.

“On average, [TIF] may be moving development from one part of the city to another, and changing the timing of the development, but there’s not more development than would have otherwise been made,” Merriman said.

In addition, this is a tool with several drawbacks. According to Merriman, TIFs might “capture” some tax revenue above the capped “base value” that may have been generated anyway through natural appreciation in property values if the TIF hadn’t been created. This is money that taxpayers might have otherwise paid directly towards an overlapping school district, or for public services. And while TIF is not a direct tax increase, it may lead to higher rates or service cuts elsewhere, if the city plans on bringing in the same general property tax revenue as before TIF.

It’s incredibly important to understand how all this works as the city of Missoula gears up to ask taxpayers to shoulder another bond to help address the affordable housing crisis. When you understand the skim & give scheme, that ask becomes offensive, as does the effort to put the majority cost of new sidewalks on home owners when Marriott Andy gets millions for his hotel sidewalks.

Hell, if Missoulians start figuring this out they may even want to know things like how much public money does MRA actually have in its piggy bank?

Or, maybe they’ll get radical and say, screw it, let’s get a voter resolution on the ballot to absolve MRA and its board and put control of the piggy bank directly into the hands of city council. That way, if us lowly citizens don’t like how our money is being used, we can vote the bastards out.

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Jesse Ramos Challenges Missoula’s Skim & Give Development Scheme

by William Skink

I will once again extend my gratitude to Jesse Ramos for using his city council position to bring attention to the skim & give function MRA plays in developing/gentrifying Missoula. This Missoulian feature–which I encourage every Missoulian to read– offers a much needed counter-narrative that no progressive/liberal political official in Missoula has thus far dared to articulate.

Before getting to the article I want to point out that the use of technical language, like tax increment financing, functions as average-joe-repellant, and it works wonders. When someone sees a term like this they assume the concept it represents will be as technical and difficult to understand as the term itself.

But that’s not necessarily true. I just used the term skim & give to frame the basic concept of what TIF money is, and Ramos uses similar, easy to understand language. This is an important step in getting more Missoulians aware of the dynamic exacerbating the cost of housing in Missoula.

The structure of the article is curious. Just as the basic concept of TIF money is introduced, the article uses that as an opportunity to weirdly pivot to the Trump tax cuts in order to get Ramos’ take. Not only does this allow the title of the article to reference Trump and not TIF, the ensuing analysis of the tax cuts also takes up a lot of ink before getting back to what interests me. Here’s the pivot paragraph:

Much of his criticism of TIF has been to describe it as “gifts” to wealthy corporations and individuals. That criticism sounds exactly like that leveled by Democrats against the Trump tax cuts, so the Missoulian asked Ramos to clarify his stance on national economic policy.

After looking at the tax cuts and marveling that a conservative could have consistently conservative concerns about cuts to federal taxes with no cuts in spending, the focus gets back to TIF, URDs and MRA:

Tax Increment Financing is a program used in Missoula to keep new property taxes within Urban Renewal Districts. Developers can apply for TIF money, which is paid back by the new property taxes their development generates, for projects that ostensibly benefit the public such as new sidewalks, new facades and new infrastructure. Both TIF and the Trump tax cuts are touted to spur job creation and investment, and both decrease the revenues going to the government’s general fund.

Yep, that’s a pretty clear description. New property tax revenue is skimmed from the URD and given to developers for projects that “ostensibly” benefit the public. Let’s look at the definition of ostensibly:

apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.

Perhaps not actually? Let’s get back to the article:

Ramos has criticized the TIF program as “giving money” to wealthy developers like Bill Coffee, the owner of Stockman Bank, and hotel developer Andy Holloran, who built the new Marriott hotel on the site of the Merc. The Trump tax cuts also benefited those same developers by decreasing their taxes, but in exchange they weren’t required to build new buildings in Missoula that will eventually pay property taxes into the city’s general fund or build new sidewalks.

For example, Andy Holloran received $3.59 million in TIF aid for the new Marriott hotel but had to use the money to build new sidewalks, preserve the historic Pharmacy and salvage materials. The new property taxes the hotel generates, estimated to be $186,000 a year, will not go to city schools or police through the general fund but will instead be used to service the debt on the $3.59 million and will also be used for other projects in the Front Street Urban Renewal District. When the district sunsets in 2044, the property taxes will go back to the general fund.

Advocates like MRA director Ellen Buchanan and City Council President Bryan von Lossberg say TIF aid incentivizes development that wouldn’t happen otherwise and provides leverage for developers to complete big, difficult projects in blighted areas and spur the economy.

The argument that all this development primed by TIF money parceled out by MRA would not have happened without that public investment is a convenient argument to make because it’s not provable.

Throughout the article Trump tax cuts are compared to TIF handouts. Along those lines Ramos makes some distinctions about the two:

Ramos considers TIF a tax break, where the government is choosing favorites, whereas the federal tax package was a “tax cut.”

“I called TIF worse than a tax break” at a recent City Council meeting, Ramos explained. “The difference is, it seems subtle but the difference is a break goes to a select group of individuals where a tax cut is a reduction overall.”

Ramos also criticized the fact that hotel developer Andy Holloran got TIF to build new public sidewalks downtown while Missoula taxpayers were forced to cough up for new sidewalks in 2012.

“The hypocrisy of that is ridiculous,” he said.

He also said that when the MRA approved $6.9 million in TIF aid for a new road, sidewalks, street trees and other infrastructure near Southgate Mall, it mainly benefited the wealthy Lambros family, who later sold the mall for $58 million.

“They needed that road specifically to benefit the business to get the Lucky’s Market in there,” Ramos said. “It was directly to benefit them. I wouldn’t have had a problem if the road was created because of demand, if there was a bunch of petitions that people really wanted a thoroughfare there.

“But that’s not what triggered it. What triggered it is a private developer who asked for this money. He’d already invested millions of his own money into it and then he sold the mall later because it was more valuable after that and that was my issue with that.”

Right on, Ramos!

Getting back to that unprovable argument, here are some Engen mouthpieces justifying this MRA skim & give scheme:

City officials have argued that developers would choose not to take on projects in blighted areas if it weren’t for TIF aid. Much of the development in Missoula over the last few years has been inside the six Urban Renewal Districts.

Ellen Buchanan, the director of the MRA, told the City Council earlier this year that the first Urban Renewal District in town encompassed much of downtown and TIF aid is responsible for Missoula’s revitalized and booming downtown.

“I would argue all day long that most of those projects won’t happen in those districts without the investment of the public funds,” she said.

Ramos argues that all of the development, from the new ROAM Student Housing to the Merc hotel to the new Stockman Bank building, would have happened anyway without TIF help, and if it weren’t for TIF the property taxes would be going to the general fund and school districts. Instead, he says, taxpayers must shoulder the burden while the TIF money goes to special projects.

This critical counter-narrative about how Missoula has structured its growth is not being put forward by many people. Kudos to Ramos for having the guts to call out MRA’s skim & give scheme for what it is.

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A Modest Proposal

by William Skink

I can’t get away from NPR in the morning, thanks to my better half, which is usually annoying and sometimes triggering, but this week Marketplace has had a series of interesting pieces on the aging brain’s susceptibility to being scammed.

The science is increasingly indicating that an otherwise healthy older adult who displays no other signs of cognitive impairment may still be experiencing a subtle deterioration of the ability to discern trustworthiness.

Which leads me to my modest proposal.

In addition to the minimum age requirement for the US Presidency, there should be a maximum age limit on the US Presidency. I think 70 is being generous.

If what the scientific studies seem to be pointing to is true, how can we justify placing the power of the Presidency into the hands of individuals with this kind of possible impairment?

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Montana Democrats Signal Intention To Keep Losing

by William Skink

Perennial Democrat organizer/cheerleader/true-believer, Nathan Kosted, is really lip-sticking the old pig in this gushing post about the annual gaggle of Democrats feasting at the Truman Dinner. But I’m glad I powered through my initial gag-reflex to read this little tid-bit about who Democrats thought it wise to feature as their keynote speaker:

Jim Messina was the keynote speaker and through a slew of gosh darnits and self-deprecating stories about his time in D.C. he shared some notes for 2020.

I agreed with Jim Messina on one main point he made:

“Polling sucks. Don’t Believe the Polls.”

Messina’s quote comes from experience, but it’s not the kind of experience Democrats would want to hear. Why? Because in 2015 Messina used his skill set to help Conservatives in Britain and he actually played a role in creating the conditions for Brexit to happen.

I wrote about this last year when Jim Messina was offering to volunteer his data prowess to help the University of Montana because he’s pals with Seth Bodnar’s wife. Here is one of the excerpts I selected for that post about Messina’s time in the UK:

Despite telling Politico in 2013 that he would only work for causes he believed in, Messina hopped the pond and signed on to advise U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2015 reelection campaign. The American media was left a bit confused by this sudden change of allegiance, having swallowed whole the Democratic line that Obama didn’t really mean his center-right policies. The Conservatives ended up gaining seats and winning a working majority after governing in coalition with the Liberal Democrats for five years. However, the circumstances of the election made it a pyrrhic victory for Cameron. Many of the seats the Conservatives won were taken from Liberal Democrats, who had supported Cameron’s agenda anyway. To appease the far-right U.K. Independence Party, Cameron promised a referendum on EU membership if he was reelected. The campaign to Vote Leave turned out to be far more popular than expected, forcing Cameron to actively campaign against a referendum he initially proposed. Messina was central to this campaign as well, and he assured the Conservatives that his famous data-heavy modeling foresaw Britain remaining in the EU. The result of the vote, however, was the exact opposite, with 52 percent voting to leave the EU, and Cameron resigned as Prime Minister the next day.

I guess the “data-heavy modeling” was just as sucky as the polling.

If it was just helping to enable Brexit, that would be bad enough for Messina. But it gets worse. Here’s the other relevant excerpt Montana Democrats need to be reminded about:

The same process repeated the next year in Italy, when Democratic Prime Minister Matteo Renzi proposed a national referendum to reform Italy’s parliamentary structure. Renzi hired Messina to oversee the “yes” campaign, which lost by a staggering 20 percent. Renzi also resigned the next day. Messina’s next project was to co-chair Priorities USA Action, the main Hillary Clinton SuperPAC. Five days before last year’s presidential election, Messina published an op-ed in the New York Times confidently downplaying fears of a “Brexit-style shock,” which turned out to be exactly what happened. Clinton’s campaign was “leveraging the power of data to find every last vote they can,” he wrote, unaware that the Clinton campaign’s faith in the power of data would turn out to be one of their greatest weaknesses. Trump, who ran the most amateurish major party campaign in living memory, beat Clinton’s team of world-renowned experts.

Picking this electoral loser to be a key note speaker is a weird choice for Montana Democrats. Do they have zero institutional memory? Do they want to lose? Are they that nostalgic for the Obama era that they are willing to overlook everything Messina has done since?

Another notable presence at the Truman Dinner was Max Baucus. Max represents a time when a Montana Democrat had serious institutional power as chair of the finance committee and he knew how to use that power to keep those pesky Progressives in check.

Again, I am left to wonder if Montana Democrats have any sense of the past. How clueless does one have to be to write stuff like this?

Former Senator and Ambassador Max Baucus told long tales of his accomplishments and jokes and stated for the record that when talking to Democrats:

“I appreciate criticism.”

I enjoyed having a good conversation with Senator and Ambassador Baucus. I thanked him for his work in the Senate and his work to bring healthcare to Montanans with the Affordable Care Act. It has directly impacted my family in many ways and thanked him several times for getting it over the finish line.

Sure, Max appreciates criticism. What part of Kosted’s brain is kept from properly functioning in order for him to pass along this crap without the appropriate context, like how Baucus SUPPRESSED CRITICISM of the ACA by shutting out supporters of Universal Health Care?

In September of 2017, Baucus claims to have come around on universal health care, but as
this Chicago Tribune piece correctly points out, when Baucus and the Democrats had super majority power, he knew what he had to do, and that was shutting out criticism. From the link:

Eight years ago, as a once-in-a-generation Democratic Senate supermajority debated health care reform, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., kept their focus narrow. As the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus was focused on passing a reform bill that moderate Republicans could support. At one point, he had single-payer health care supporters removed from a hearing; Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., an advocate for Canada-style universal coverage, set up a meeting to tide them over. But he did not expect much from Baucus.

“[Is he open] to single-payer?” Sanders asked rhetorically. “Not in a million years.”

Democrats are going to keep losing if they keep doing the same shit and expecting different results. It’s beyond frustrating to watch. In Montana this will mean losing the veto protection of the Governor’s office. Nationally, we’re looking at the reelection of Donald Trump.

Maybe it’s easier to just keep losing and searching for scapegoats, that way the party will never have to acknowledge how their own actions and failed strategies have gotten us to this turning point in American history.

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Did An Allied Intelligence Agency Have Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks?

by William Skink

If information came out that indicated the intelligence agency of an allied nation had foreknowledge of a terrorist attack and not only didn’t alert US authorities, but were caught documenting it, wouldn’t you think that would be a big deal?

Well, earlier this month that is exactly what happened, but the nation in question is Israel, so nothing will come of it. Still, it’s worth reading about the “Dancing Israelis” and what the FBI discovered about their moving company. Here’s a snippet from a Mint Press News piece, titled Newly Released FBI Docs Shed Light on Apparent Mossad Foreknowledge of 9/11 Attacks:

Shortly after 8:46 a.m. on the day of the attacks, just minutes after the first plane struck the World Trade Center, five men — later revealed to be Israeli nationals — had positioned themselves in the parking lot of the Doric Apartment Complex in Union City, New Jersey, where they were seen taking pictures and filming the attacks while also celebrating the destruction of the towers and “high fiving” each other. At least one eyewitness interviewed by the FBI had seen the Israelis’ van in the parking lot as early as 8:00 a.m. that day, more than 40 minutes prior to the attack. The story received coverage in U.S. mainstream media at the time but has since been largely forgotten.

The men — Sivan Kurzberg, Paul Kurzberg, Oded Ellner, Yaron Shimuel and Omar Marmari — were subsequently apprehended by law enforcement and claimed to be Israeli tourists on a “working holiday” in the United States where they were employed by a moving company, Urban Moving Systems. Upon his arrest, Sivan Kurzberg told the arresting officer, “We are Israeli; we are not your problem. Your problems are our problems, The Palestinians are the problem.”

For years, the official story has been that these individuals, while they had engaged in “immature” behavior by celebrating and being “visibly happy” in their documenting of the attacks, had no prior knowledge of the attack. However, newly released FBI copies of the photos taken by the five Israelis strongly suggest that these individuals had prior knowledge of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The copies of the photos were obtained via a FOIA request made by a private citizen.

Read the rest of the article if you want to better understand a terrorist attack that has led to multiple wars, millions of people killed and the proliferation of extremist ideology across the globe.

Or don’t and preserve your ignorance, it probably won’t matter one way or the other.

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